Friday, June 19, 2020

June T(scale)eenth

As we celebrate the Juneteenth Holiday here in the USA, I am also celebrating some new modeling developments.  Here's a run-down of what I've been working on at CCE Models over the past few weeks...

K-36:  I received what seems to me to be the "final" body shell for the K-36, which has fine detail but more rugged construction and some other improvements. Note the headlight, number boards, piping and even a whistle.  Drivers are 3D printed, but leading/trailing and tender wheelsets are all T-gauge standard wheelsets.  It's primed, but waiting on the etched detail set to arrive before it can be finished (cosmetically).  The etched detail set includes rods, handrails, ladders, window frames, visors, and some other stuff.  So this will make at very nice display or free-rolling dummy model.  The challenge now becomes "can it be powered".  I think so...eventually.  I will have to keep the pencil sharpened and engineer a drive for it over the next year or so.

Ford F-7000 MOW Truck:  I completed this design in both T and Z scale.  It came out better than expected actually.  It's a kit with cab, dump bed, frame, and crane as the major components.  There are also decals (for Penn Central) that are being printed for this model as well.  It's planned to reside on the Sharonville Engine Facility diorama.


Trees:  I think that I shall never see, a thing as lovely as a T-scale tree..  Thinking ahead I am realizing I will need numerous trees for various dioramas so I wanted to practice up on how to make a decent-looking T tree.  Some time back I bought a large bag of the cheap model trees that are made in China (simple twisted wire and foam) with the idea I'd use them at some point.  They are about 2-3 cm high and come in a fairly garish bright green, so the first thing I did was paint the foliage using a couple rattle cans of flat green (NATO green and a slighty lighter color) to tone down the foam. Then I used cheap brown acrylic craft paint to coat the trunk again, then used some brown and black pencils to give it a little texture. Then I did two different finishes to the foliage.  First I dusted some white chalks from above to lighten the upper surfaces, then sifted "yellow grass" ground foam turf (Woodland Scenics) to simulate new growth and leaves with the light brightening them.   I'm pretty happy with how it turned out and will be thinking about how to do fir trees and sagebrush for the Rio Grande dioramas/modules.

The Larch

Decalmania!:  I spent a great deal of time this month working on vector graphics for decals.. some of the subjects include CN diesels, VIA diesels and passenger cars, PC diesels and cabooses, PRR and Amtrak GG1's, L&N diesels, TTI u-boats, and GATX tank cars.. 

PRR and Amtrak GG1 set

What's coming... expecting a series of etched frets with details for various models (both new and old) and some lineside details such as this Calvert switch stand in 1:300 scale.

Photo by J. Ehernberger

Until next time,

Tuesday, May 26, 2020

May Modeling

Here it is, close to the end of May already!  Where does the time go?  At least with pandemic "Shelter in Place" orders us modelers have something good to do, and I hope you've found this time productive.  I know I have!  Here are a few updates on some old-- and new-- projects.

D&RGW K-36:  The K-36 Mikado project continues.  This has been a fantastic learning experience for me.  Not only is it in a new scale (1:300 although it uses T-gauge track) it's my first steam locomotive.  Steam locos have so many details compared to diesels, so I have had to learn more about them in general, the whys and wherefores of the various piping and fittings, air compressors, crossheads, drive and connecting rods, etc., but also enhanced my techniques to be able to produce a good model.  For example, the K-36 will have several add-on etched parts.  It also needed accurate decals (along with the 30' boxcar), none of which are available and are in white-which cannot be printed on an inkjet at home.  So I've "upped my game" in several areas.  I have taught myself Inkscape in order to better draft etch and decal artwork for a custom printer. 

As of 5/26 the second iteration of prototypes has been received and further refinements to the model design have been done.  Here's the latest version sans cab (a victim of my "constructive destruction" process to identify weak spots).  It's also missing stirrup steps on the tender, back up light, number boards, and some piping all for the same reason.  No worries, these areas have been addressed along with some other refinements. 

I also made a video to demonstrate the free-rolling nature of the drivers.  These are 3D printed acrylic, however I also have brass versions coming.  It will be interesting to see how they compare, but the 3D versions are actually acceptable to me (surprisingly). 

As a side note, the 1:300 scale 30' D&RGW boxcar final version was test assembled and custom designed decals (from CCE Models) are applied.   My only "beef" is that I used 0.15mm wire for the truss rods.. I need to find some finer material because they are a little too beefy.  Again, a set of custom decals was made for this, and will be included in the kit from CCE Models.

Metra Gallery Cars:  I completed a test model of the Metra (ex CB&Q) Budd gallery cab car.  This is a powered model and will go with the MP36 model that is not yet decorated (soon..!)  Window glass is accomplished using my clear decal film technique.  There is also a coach version (does not have the engineer's window and horn).

GP40-2W:  As mentioned in a previous post, a fellow modeler who is working on a Canadian prototype layout requested some rolling stock appropriate for his needs.  I designed a GP40-2W (based upon the existing GP40-2 model) and it's now available.  Also, I designed some "tiger stripe" Canadian National decals in order for it to be accurately decorated.

CN-Via CO7/8 Coach:  The aforementioned modeler also requested a very common coach found around Toronto, and being intrigued by the challenge I obliged.   The model comes with a rudimentary interior.  On the list is a set of appropriate decals for VIA and CN.

DOT-111 Tank Car:  Tank cars being so common I have wanted to model one in T for some time, however until I got into the etching of parts for the K-36 it sat on the back burner.  Here is an earlier design--the current is somewhat modified from this--that illustrates what is nearing completion.  The prototype is loosely based on those made by Greenbriar (but very similar to others) with a capacity of 29,000 gallons.  The etch kit will come with optional end shields which are applied as required for transport of crude oil.

Other Odds-and-Ends.. Sharonville diorama received a little work, but has been somewhat neglected due to all the design work and rolling stock work.  I did some tests of "snow scenes" and found that deep snow can be effectively modeled in T using common spackling paste--painted with matte white after it dried and received a light sanding.  Very light snow "a dusting" can be achieved with a light spray of white primer (I use Tamiya Fine Surface Primer).  You can see the deep snow effect in the D&RGW boxcar picture above, or here just after painting:

Whew, reading over this I'm going to be challenged to keep up the pace.  But it's all good fun!  Until next time-- Jesse

Wednesday, May 6, 2020

A T-Gauge Public Service Message: Replacing Tension Springs

(Note: I will provide a post on the many projects underway at a later date).

You aren't a real "T-Gauger" until you've shot one (or several) of the tiny bogie tension springs into the cavernous void while trying to replace them.  Well, here's the technique I use to facilitate re-attaching them.

Of course re-attachment assumes you have either a.) gotten down on your hands and knees and searched the expanse for the little buggers, and by some miracle found it,  b.) gave up and then weeks later found it sitting among several paint jars along with dust, spilled ballast rocks, and dead flies, or c.) broke down and bought the replacements, which are packaged in excruciatingly small quantities-- giving rise to further anxiety over then losing these and having to order more.

Step 1:  Locate the spring (see above)

Step 2:  Thread a bit of wire--a pliable strand from some typical wire is good--through the coils of the spring, not through the round ends.

Step 3:  Create a loop with the wire, and add a bit of tape so you can see it and add some weight.  It's also useful to help hold it.
Step 4:  Install the spring on the chassis, securing both ends.  To do this, you'll want some tweezers to aid the process.  Don't panic--you won't be able to shoot the spring across the room anymore or if you do, you'll be able to see it.  The wire loop stays inside the spring.
Step 5:  Cut the wire with some snips and remove.

And there ya go.

Wednesday, April 22, 2020

April Fooling Around

I hope that all of my readers are safe and well during the pandemic.   I'm hunkered down and doing quite a bit of design and modeling.  Here's what's new:

Sharonville Engine House Diorama:
The engine house is installed on the base, ballast laid, and basic weathering done.  I used trusty DAS modeling clay to set the engine house and turntable pit into the base. 

I used a blend of fine grout for the ballast, with liberal application of chalk powders (light gray, white, brown) to blend it. 

The turntable has been painted and test installed--looks rather "new" as it is not weathered yet.  

Windows were installed on the engine house using MicroScale Krystal Klear.  I need to paint over a bunch of the panes as the prototype has about 20% broken out/replaced with wood.  The doors (open ones) had to be sanded down to thin them a little.  So far, I'm pretty happy with how it's turning out.

Moving from the model to the prototype, here's a picture I took in Sharonville in the late 90's after the engine house was razed.  The building would've been on the left-hand side of the picture where the shed is.   Turntable is still there, on the left, but just outside of the picture.  There's still a nice assortment of Conrail (and early CSX) locomotives on the pad. 

1:300 Narrow Gauge Project:
Several items are in process right now. 

The K-36 is progressing, I had a test model made of the locomotive to test my assembly concept (frame attaching to boiler) and also how much detail could be printed on the model. 

I got some answers--some of the finest detail didn't make it, but nothing I can't work around.  For example, the number boards and bits of the air compressor didn't make it, but the headlight did (although I later broke it off in cleaning).  This is how the process goes and I'll revise the model to take it into account this either by simply omitting the part, beefing it up, or making them as add-on parts. 

My biggest dilemma now is how to get the counterweights and rods animated.. I'm not sure it's going to be possible on the first "real" version.  The tender is almost completed as well.  Here's how it looks on the rails, next to the first iteration of the 30' boxcar:

 And a rendering with the tender.

I also designed a #8 dummy turnout base to go with the "Wider Sleeper Flexitrack"  which is the 1:300 3-foot gauge track.  It's a dummy because the mechanism would be too complicated for now, and I just wanted something to visually approximate a turnout on a "roundy round" type layout.  In theory, I could do nearly any type of turnout-- wye, three-way, etc. in the same way.  "One of these days" I'll think about making a working one.. when the mechanisms catch up. 

Here's how it looks before rail is installed:
    Next comes the rail:
And with paint:

Other Stuff:
A T-scaler out of Canada requested some Canadian prototype equipment.  Some may need to be done from scratch, but he mentioned the GP40-2W.. since I already have a GP40-2 I thought, okie dokie!  Here's the rendering, and next time I should have a first iteration model to show ya. 

Until next time, stay safe and stay healthy!

Saturday, March 21, 2020

March Madness

Sadly, we would typically be watching basketball this time of year, but for now the madness is confined to panic-buying of toilet paper at the grocery store.  Keep calm and carry on, eh?  I find myself recommending to others they try scale modeling (whether railroads or other such as plastic aircrafts kits, etc.) to pass the time at home.

As for myself, I have several projects in the works.

First and foremost is the exploration of narrow gauge using T-gauge track.  Last time I mentioned a custom 2-foot gauge Z scale dump car based on the Gilpin Tramway.  Here is the finished model:

It rolls on T gauge "pin point wheelsets" from  The brake wheels are 3D printed, but the staff is 0.15mm brass wire.  Couplers are true link-and-pin, they would have a loop of wire used and these cars would need to be semi-permanently coupled in sets (3 or 4 I'd think).

What's even cooler--I received a shipment of the "wider sleeper" version of the flextrack.  Here's how it looks before (from the box) and after (installed with ballast and painting).  Very reasonable looking, and I'm planning on making some dummy turnouts to work with this track soon.

This lead to the discussions of 1:300 scale 3-foot gauge (a much more common narrow gauge) such as the former D&RGW lines and current Durango & Silverton and Cumbres & Toltec Scenic RR.

As a proof of concept of the 3-foot gauge on T track, I designed, test printed and built a 30' D&RGW boxcar.  I now have the final revised version of the model printed, and on deck waiting to be built/painted, but here's the test model with piece-by-piece assembled decals...

The finished model has brake wheels, truss rod underframe (there is a bending jig attached to the base of the kit to properly bend wire).  And based on my experience with the test model's decals--it will need custom decals because piecing together letters was wayyyy to fiddly;   I don't have the logo or really a good rendition of the dimensional data either.  But the proof of concept worked--I'm moving forward with some modeling in 3-foot gauge.

So, the custom decal set will also include decals for a K-36.  Yes a D&RGW narrow gauge Mikado is in the works.  Design work is well on the way--see below.  I am hoping to make it a powered version.. but that may take more time. 

This kit will also include a bending jig to add stand-alone wire piping to the model, which will go a long way to making it look accurate.  This is really another proof-of-concept since I haven't done this before.

Lest you think I've gone 100% off the narrow gauge cliff, I'm still working on the Sharonville diorama (currently having ballast and ground cover added), and adding some pieces of rolling stock.   I did a custom-painted C&O F7A for a client.  Here it is almost finished, the final model has a yellow pilot--I just forgot to get the picture (duoh!). 

Well, enjoy your "social distancing" time at the workbench, and please stay safe and healthy out there! Hopefully we are back to (semi) normal by summer. 

Until next time,

Monday, February 3, 2020

February Status

I wanted to post an update on the status of several projects discussed in the previous posts, so without further ado, here we go!

 Conrail C40-8W:  After a verrry long wait for the etched handrails needed to complete this model (they were mis-addressed and floated in the postal system for a month or so..) I applied these delicate details and wrapped up the model.  Well, sort of, because it's un-weathered and it's begging for at least some fading.  Overall I think it turned out great.  Decals were by CMR Products.

Oh, can you tell on the same frets as the handrails I had some PRR signal gantries etched.  A little delicate to assemble but they look excellent.  These are designed for the Princeton Jct. module planned for later this year.

There is also now a standard cab C40-8 available as well, although the etched handrails are not an exact match due to the large AC and battery boxes on the conductor's side of the 8W.

Sharonville Engine Facility Project:  Slow but steady progress has been made on the Engine House, which is getting weathering and interior details.  Engine shop details can be an exercise in futility, since there is so much "junk" ie tools, supplies, parts, etc. that are in these facilities.  I could literally spend a year just adding details.  So far I've made a boiler, air compressor, wheel lathe, and various parts and tanks, as well as interior wiring and piping, table, shelves, inspection gantrys, and a bench (painted NYC jade green).  This is all "protolanced" as I have never seen an interior photo of this facility.  I'm just guessing what they may have had laying around and the configuration.  I also made 55 gallon drums-both lone and in groups on pallets, fuel oil (or kerosene) tanks, and scale wheelsets which will be added.  (note, these detail parts are available as 3D printed items from CCE).

The yard and turntable pit area are also progressing, with about half the track being laid.  Track is CCE scale roadbed which has prototype tie size and spacing and CCE dummy #10 turnouts (permanently lined straight with 3D printed diverging rails).  All of this takes Code 40 rail in slots so it's closer to prototype rail height. 

The turntable pit and engine house will be added soon as they integrate the rail.  My technique for installing the track is to first pre-paint the roadbed--you can use primer since it will be painted again later--it's just hard to work with when it's clear.  Next, slide the rails onto the roadbed/ties and test fit/trim.  Then when it seems right, spread a very thin layer of Amy's Tacky Glue and use the T-pins to hold in alignment.  You have some time to adjust the track with this glue.  It will all be painted rail brown after dried, then the ballast can be applied.   

Adventures in Narrow Gauge:  Another modeler had contacted me to make some narrow gauge trucks (the arch bar trucks mentioned in the previous post).  This expanded into making a piece of rolling stock for the railroad, the Gilpin Tramway or Gilpin Railroad.  This has now expanded into my designing a Zn2 Shay locomotive (in the CAD stage) and doing serious research into Maine 2-footers like the Sandy River and Rangeley Lakes RR...THIS has expanded into discussion of ZZn3-- 1/300 scale 3-foot gauge using T-scale track, which would be the likes of the Durango & Silverton. or D& I'm sure tempted.  Lesson here:  NARROW GAUGE IS A MODEL RAILROAD RABBIT HOLE!   Be warned!   Anyway, here's a picture of the first iteration (since revised a little) of the main ore car type used by the Gilpin Tramway:

I hope everyone's doing well and as always if you have any questions please feel free to contact me at 

-- Jesse

Monday, January 6, 2020

New Year's Updates

Happy New Year !  to all the T scale enthusiasts or otherwise curious spectators who read my Blog.  Despite all the family and friend activities over the past weeks, I have managed to do some modeling and wanted to pass along some updates on projects and new designs.  In no particular order, then, here we go:

Sharonville Engine House:  The engine house is taking shape.  Walls have been assembled and a base constructed out of styrene around the 3D printed inspection pits.  I am building it with a rudimentary interior, so I have also added I-beam trusses (Plastruct) and 1mm square supports, along with an interior wall where the office/storage area will be.  Door were added, and they are movable (although only anchored to the top).. I might revise the design somewhat to allow better hinges.  I also purchased some pico LED's (the verry tiny ones) in order to add a few lights, and have added a coat of black paint on the interior walls to act as a light barrier. 

The structure fits into a foam base that is made out of styrofoam (not the good dense kind, but it will do..) glued onto scrap 3/4 inch plywood.  The whole thing fits on a 8x14 inch sheet of paper!  The turntable pit outline, engine house outline, and associated trackage centerlines were traced onto the foam.  First, I printed the current Google Map of the location to scale, which shows the remnants of the old trackage and building as well as the still extant turntable.  Then, I rubbed some black chalk on the back of the paper, lay it on top of the foam, then traced the lines with the rounded end of a hobby brush.

"Excavation" was done with a hobby knife, and the turntable pit is test-fit.

Metra MP36 and Gallery Cars: The first iteration models aka pre-production samples are in-hand, and as of this writing I have actually revised the gallery cars to allow better mechanism fit.  I also designed a new prototype-size front (dummy) coupler that can be dropped-in, since the CCE one looks a bit too chunky for these sexy engines, and won't be used anyway.  This can be used on any CCE model with a standard CCE coupler pocket--for photography, etc.
Matt at Circus City Decals did a special batch of the Milwaukee Road MP36 and the gallery car decals for me as well.  The registration on the MP36 stripe decals was very slightly off as you can see in the pictures, but I think I can still work with them by trimming.  The rest of the decals are fine, especially the white logos which there's no way I can do at home.  Note that I talked to him about the registration and it's (unfortunately) a limitation of the equipment.  I might yet try printing my own stripes since they are are fairly dark.  Improvise/adapt/overcome.

Custom Narrow Gauge Arch Bar Trucks:  These arch-bar trucks were custom made for a fellow who models in Zn2 scale (2 foot gauge 1:220 scale) that runs on T-gauge track.  He is a fantastic modeler and whatever he puts on top of these you can rest assured will be superb.

Other news: I'm still waiting on a shipment of etched parts for the C40 and turntable which shipped around Thanksgiving from the UK.  They were somehow lost in transit but then found (mysteriously and/or coincidentally) after I started tracking them.  So, there should be some cool tiny parts on display soon, since this includes handrails and a PRR signal gantry for the upcoming Princeton Jct. model.  I also have the redesigned Amfleet coach (with scale size corrugations) in hand and will be doing a test painting of it soon.

As always, if you have any questions, requests, or comments please reach out to me at