Tuesday, December 3, 2013

2nd Generation EMD Power In the Works

While thinking about new projects I began contemplating, "What is the most broad-reaching locomotive model for North American modelers?"  I.e. what locomotive model spans the most roads, geography, and time frame?  Although I have no conclusive evidence, I think the EMD GP40 (and the -2 version) should come close.    Quoting Wikipedia:

"1,187 GP40's were built for 28 U.S. railroads; 16 were built for one Canadian carrier, Canadian National; and 18 were built for two Mexican carriers.. the GP40 was discontinued and replaced by the GP40-2, which has a modular electrical system and a few minor exterior changes...  Standard GP40-2 production totalled 861 units, with 817 built for U.S. railroads, and 44 for Mexican roads."

So nearly 2000 GP40's were produced and ran on roads from the B&O and PRR to modern day roads CSX, NS, UP.. not to mention Canadian and Mexican carriers.

The initial 3D renderings are now done.. and although it will be (by necessity, due to hood width clearance issues) a dummy, we will soon have a T-gauge GP40 model.  Now to get those Blomberg trucks ready for the T-Gauge  UK wheelsets...

Sunday, November 17, 2013

A New Forum

Fellow T-gauger Doug Kightley has taken up the challenge and has created a new discussion forum: 

Sunday, November 10, 2013

Rhaetian Railway Allegra ABe 8/12

Here's a project I did at the behest of a fellow who models the Swiss railways in the Alps: the Rhaetian Railways "Allegra" or  "ABe 8/12".  The prototype runs on the meter-gauge Bernia Railway (and some others) with extreme grades and curvature.   

(Photo from Wikipedia)

The model was created using 3D printing for the lead "A" unit shells, while the "B" or middle unit was scratch-built from an A unit.  The decoration was done with the technique I call "full-side decal" where basically the entire side is one decal.  I paint the bodies white and print the decal on clear decal stock.  Some added details such as the pantographs were scratch made from etched brass parts from an ship-detailing kit.  The power chassis is the 35.5mm Eishindo chassis, and all units are powered.

If you are interested in purchasing a shells, they will be available on the CCE Shapeways site, and feel free to contact me if you are interested using the decal artwork for your own model.


Thursday, November 7, 2013

Changes in the T-Gauge Landscape

"Due to circumstances beyond our control.." the main forum for T-gauge modelers, "Talking T Gauge," which has been hosted by David  K. Smith has been taken down.  This was the place for news and updates from other T-Gaugers around the world.  The forum recently took on a life of it's own with some (in my opinion) immature behavior being displayed by users, but this is not the reason for the forum being shut down.  In any case, after checking with DKS, it appears to be a permanent loss--or at least semi-permanent.  This is sad but comes with the territory.  T-gauge is not a huge commercial market, and there are only a few of us carrying the torch.  I'm debating whether to start a new forum, and if there is another "home" for T-gauge please spread the word.  

Sunday, August 11, 2013

Rolling Stock Updates

My T-gauge reputation to date has mostly been my rolling stock models, and rest assured although work and family have taken much of my time lately I've been working on a few projects. 

A couple notable ones:

1. A 60' Harriman-style coach such as were used by the SP for commuter trains.  This shell can be powered with the 39mm Eishindo mechanism.

2. Custom made Rhaetian Railways "Allegra".. part of a commissioned trainset.  Graphics are nearly ready, I hope to post pics soon of that.

A few refinements of the MP36PH and Bombardier Coach projects have been done.  

Oh.. did I mention an EMD GP9 is in the works.  Afterall, the B&O/Chessie layout absolutely demands a few Geeps!

This should be an exciting fall as projects come along.!  

Sunday, June 9, 2013

Little Steps

Some progress to report this weekend.  I finally finished ballasting the track.  Next up will be adding and experimenting with bridges/abutments and terrain.  Pine Creek will pass under the railroad in a coupIe of locations.  One thing evident in the pictures is the ability to create nice, broad curves in T-Gauge, even in a small space.

Tuesday, May 28, 2013

Track Progress

Had a little time to work on the track this weekend, I put down some additional ballast and playing around with the technique a bit. It's pretty forgiving-- I'm finding some bits I didn't like I can patch up.  Little scraps of roadbed can be rolled up a-la playdoh worms and spread where needed.   The ballasting is being affixed after arranging with a brush with a shot of dullcote, then a few drops of thinned matte medium after that has dried.  

This corner is Etna, BG tower will sit in the corner closest to the camera.  I need to add the ex-PRR industrial track to the Tippins Machine Works, which will be a 70-degree (or so) crossing.  The crossing will be non-functional.


Monday, May 27, 2013

A New Tool (or Toy)

I've been using my cell phone camera (a Samsung Galaxy S) for most of my pictures.. (err. well I can't remember the last time I used my old Canon PowerShot for anything!!)   The camera phone resolution is good enough for web use, but the macro feature isn't all that powerful.  After reading a post on the T-Gauge.net Forum in which a member was showing photos in need of macro focus, I did a search on Ebay and  found this.  The price was right so thought I'd check it out.  It's a small add-on lens to the phone camera, which is secured by means of a magnet in the lens itself.  You can attach a self-adhesive metal disc that holds the lens in place on the phone as well, although mine has a metal plate that works.  Here are some test photos.  
Above, the up-coming Bombardier Bi-level coach, to be paired with this:

The FP7/9:
And some closer views of the "experiment" track:

While I think I need to do a little more experimentation to get the best results, it's an improvement over the standard camera in my phone.  Now to complicate matters, I just ordered a new smartphone (Nokia 928).  This has a really nice Carl Zeiss lens on it, and it may have a good macro feature already.  It does have a much larger sensor (i.e. more megapixels) We'll see!

I have been working ballasting the P&W layout so will update the blog with that and more macro photos soon.

Tuesday, May 21, 2013

Modelers Perogative and Track Laying

As I got down to work beginning to lay track, I started to balk at the idea of so many slightly ambitious sub-projects on this test layout-- the Allegheny River Bridge in particular.  After all, I really just want to validate T modeling techniques and get a nice roundy-round layout that I can use to demonstrate the scale, perhaps at a few shows in the region.  Truth be told, I haven't worked on a layout in over 20 years either, so many of my skills are pretty rusty.  e.g. soldering, scenery, etc.   I was starting to feel as if I'd bitten off just a tad too much.

So, as is my right as a model railroader and lord over the lair, I tore up the basic scenery and went back to a flat-top design for the little 2x3 layout.  I have retained the basic shape, and will still incorporate some hills and dales.  What will be omitted is the Millvale/Willow Grove area which will likely become just single track running through some hills; Instead of a backdrop/divider, there will be a central ridge with a tunnel at one end.   Willow Grove, I'm thinking, may become Wildwood (further west on the real P&W), and I might even put a coal load-out there.  I'm still going to try model the Etna area near BG tower as well. 

Anyway, another track technique update:  I put down the roadbed and finalized the loop!  See below picture-essay.  

One thing that is pretty annoying about T-gauge flex track is the "twist" it tends to develop when curved.  It torques for some odd reason.  I had thought the aggressive tack of the roadbed would be sufficient but even that wasn't enough.  I have therefore popped a screw in to hold it temporarily.  The ballasted roadbed with a layer of matte medium I HOPE will be enough to hold it in place.  Or else, I will resort to more mechanical restraints for the pesky trackage.

AMI roadbed cut into 12mm wide strips:

Roadbed down.  Note: It is NOT firmly pressed in place yet!

Pre-painted track laid in place (again, not firmly pressed down yet):
Aligning the track and the roadbed.. 
The prototype railroads use a tamper/liner for this.  I use an x-acto knife. 
At this point, the ballast is be sprinkled in place and the entire system tamped with a finger.  I ended up sealing with some thinned matte medium.  I also had sprinkled some black weathering powder on the system.  A little touch up on the rail is needed.   I think it looks pretty decent as some weathered mainline rail.

Sunday, May 12, 2013

Improved T-Track Technique using T-Gauge Ballast

I previously wrote about using uncured butyl rubber (AMI instant roadbed) for my T-gauge roadbed.  I was not 100% happy with the end-result because it seemed like the texture was not quite granular enough.   It looked--in a word-- a little too "rubbery".    

Recently, the fine folks at T-Gauge UK has begun offering some super-fine gray ballast.  I purchased some with the idea of testing it out on my roadbed. The uncured rubber roadbed is pretty sticky, and the ballast can be pressed into it easily.  My test turned out very positive.  I will definitely be using this technique.  First, the ballast gives the roadbed a nice granular, rock-like look.  Second, it does not need as much painting/tinting to look better. 

The roadbed is cut and placed as in the original procedure.  Track is pre-painted as well, and pressed into place.  

The ballast is simply sifted on with a folded piece of paper--and tamped with a finger.
The shoulders are also tamped with a finger and with the sanding stick--also as in the original technique.  Then the excess is vacuumed up.  Finally, the whole kit and kaboodle is sprayed with some Testors dullcote (don't forget to clean the railheads).  Very simple--very easy.  The picture speaks for itself.  

And another view: 
Note the nice texture--this is what was missing on the original technique.   Finally, here's one with the 50' boxcar--which incidentally has a powered chassis installed.

Monday, April 29, 2013

P&W Update

It's been a while since I posted an update!  Between business demands and spring having "sprung" with it's associated diversions, I haven't done much modelling.  However, a rainy day allowed me to do a little work on the P&W layout.  

Most of the framework has been cobbled together, a bit sloppily--but it will do.  The next step is laying the basic trackwork.  I will use my butyl rubber/AMI roadbed technque.  But first, I need to get the flextrack arranged and 'test fit'.  Also, I want to solder most of the joints to provide more reliability in operations.   So this weekend I bent up the track for the basic kidney-shaped oval and did a few solder joints.  I'm using MicroEngineering Code 55 rail joiners by the way, they seem quite snug on the T-gauge rail.  After painting and some weathering they should be relatively inconspicuous.
The big trench here in pink will be a back channel of the Allegheny River, spanned by the through-truss shown in the following picture.  This is an N-scale bridge but seems appropriate for what was a pretty massive mainline double track bridge.

BG tower will sit at about the location of the white push-pin, and there will be a crossing there as well.  Access to Willow Grove yard will be via the ramp seen at bottom-right (even though the prototype is not on a curve).  My debate now is what do do about the turnouts, which I will probably render as dummy only in this iteration.

Here's an overhead shot of the "kidney shape" layout.   I'm surprised at what can be done in 2x3 feet, it seems about the equivalent of a 5x10 in larger scales based on how the curves appear.   The sharpest curve on the layout will be in the bottom right, which I plan to partially conceal in a tunnel (Schenley Tunnel).  A scenic divider will split the layout top/bottom.  You can see the contours of hills on the Allison Park/Etna side (top).
Hope to show some more consistent progress in the near future.  Roadbed and bridgework will need to be done next!



Friday, March 22, 2013

New 50 Foot Boxcar

The 50 foot boxcar is one of the most prevalent pieces of freight rolling stock found in North America.  When I got into 3D printing of T-gauge models, the 50-foot outside braced boxcar was the first model I made.  Since that time, the original has "lost it's shine" as they say!  I wanted more detail and more options.. so earlier this year a re-design was done.  The model was made hollow, which makes it a candidate for powering.  This is important because in T-gauge, the locomotives typically will struggle to pull more than 3 pieces of un-powered rolling stock.  If the goal is modeling 20-car freight trains--or there-about--powered revenue equipment is needed.   In addition, the choice of doors was improved by offering three types:  A plug door, a "Youngstown" door and a "Superior" door.  These make it possible to model a wide variety of boxcar prototypes.  Thirdly, the roof detail was improved.  Other details--such as a brake wheel or grab irons--can be added by the modeler.  I've contemplated making etched brake wheels just for this reason!

Here's the model from Shapeways, after washing in warm soapy water and a gentle scrub with stiff bristle artists brush, then a few thin coats of "Mr. White Surfacer 1000".   Note the un-finished door parts on a sprue in the background.

This prep work does two things:  1.) It fills in some of the roughness of the 3D printed surface;  and 2.) It provides a white surface, good enough to decal on with my home-made clear decals.  

The surfacing paint is actually a very thin putty mixture;  It can be gently sanded between coats to make a more smooth surface as well.  The white color is needed because the ink-jet printer used for my decals cannot print white (nor can any other normal ink-jet).  Therefore, the white lettering or graphics are clear on the decal, and the background (the model) must be white and seen through the decal.  Many of the colors printed also need a white background to look proper.

Next, the door was installed.  I used the plug-door choice.  The part was held in place with a bit of thinned Krystal Klear (I really like this product for my T-gauge modeling!)  I used this as an adhesive so if I wanted to change it--a quick soak in warm water would release the door.  
Note: Evident here is the bottom sill being just a bit too thick (back to the drawing board to fix).  In the meantime a little sanding will fix that!

I wanted to model a plug door boxcar, and the P&LE would be an appropriate "fit" for my Etna layout.  Here's the prototype: 

After a bit of trial and error getting the size and spacing right, I got the decals straight.  The application consisted of three parts;  The left panel, door, and right.  Micro-Sol was used to get the decal to snuggle between the ribs and into the door.  Any exposed white areas were touched up with a bit of green made from PC Green, mixed with some blue and reefer white to get the right shade of green.  The roof still needs to be painted of course.  

Here is the decal artwork if you want to make your own!  Feel free to use for your own non-commercial uses.


Tuesday, March 19, 2013

BG Tower has some details added.

BG Tower needed a few items to complete it, such as the staircase.  Scratch building a staircase in 1:450 scale was a daunting idea, so I turned to our ship-modeling friends for some help.  Gold Medal Models (outstanding products!) makes a detail set for the USS Arizona in 1:429 scale that includes several detail parts that will work in T, among them several stairways. These aren't -exactly- what I wanted being based on an all-steel prototype, but close enough and good for effect.  
Above you see the length of stairway and a platform.  The prototype rests on a couple wood beams;  I found some scrap brass to create these.  Note: on the final model I installed "X" braces made of thin styrene.  If I was smart I would've installed them at this stage.  I added them later.

Some very finicky work with super glue and all was installed. 

I also needed a smoke jack;  The construction drawings call for a masonry chimney, but BG actually just has a steel tube flue.  I used a cut-off shaft from a thumb tack, and a small bit of brass shaped with a ball-point pen to be somewhat concave ACC'd on top.  The figure is part of a 1:450 Queen Elizabeth 2 sailor set, repainted into blue from his dress whites.
When installed, the ground level will go up to the top of the white foundation.  

Monday, March 4, 2013

Mountains of Foam

The layout is slowly progressing.  I've added a backdrop/divider along the middle of foamcore, and started roughing in the hills using the tried & true foam layering technique.  I'll be shaping them a bit and covering with a thin coat of drywall mud/spackle as it moves forward.

  This is the Etna-Allison Park segment, with Pine Creek winding through the scene.  At the right side of the image, I'm hoping to recreate the Bryant Road area, a somewhat iconic scene on the P&W.  Here's a Google Earth image of the area:

Here's an image from track level:

.. and on the model from approximately track level at the same location:

It needs a bit of shaping of course, the hills will be more rounded and flattened.  And covered in trees of course!!

Sunday, February 24, 2013

BG Tower and Techniques

My layout will require a great number of structures.  I also hope to model the prototype relatively faithfully.  I have been concerning myself lately with how I will accomplish this in light of the dearth of T-gauge structure kits.

I considered 3D printing and brass etching, both of which would require a great deal of design work, plus the manufacturing would need to be done by a third party with a slow turn-around time.  On the other hand, there are a variety of ready-to-print structure plans available, such as those from ScaleScenes or Model-Builder.  These can be re-sized into T-scale and printed in my own work-space.  The printed structure technique actually makes a great deal of sense in T, because at a 1:450 reduction,  texture and relief is less visible.  They are "pre-decorated" and inexpensive to boot.  

Some of the commercial structure designs can be used as-is or modified for my layout, but I will still require quite a lot of custom buildings.  Not that this is a bad thing!  In fact this is one reason I like T gauge;  I enjoy the challenge of figuring out how to build something new and unique.  I've gotten quite handy with photo editing software, due to my work on T-gauge rolling stock, so making my own structure artwork seemed doable..   

One reason I wanted to build BG tower was to get some practical experience modeling both printed structures, plus creating my own plan.  I had a copy of the B&O standard plans to refer to, plus some photos of the landmark spot from my railfanning days in Pittsburgh.  At 12x12 feet, BG is a small structure as well and relatively uncomplicated.  So I decided to model the tower as my first project.

First I created the design from the plans and photos.  This required about 6 hours of photo editing work, inclusive of making test prints.  I used the prototype photo as my "pallet" for textures and colors, doing a lot of "cloning" and cut/paste from the photos.   I am modeling the tower as it was in the 70's, so the paint was faded and appearance rather weathered.  Here's a pic of the work in progress:

I normally just print my rolling stock art on letter paper to test the size and appearance.  Here is the finished design image:  (Free to download for non-commercial use.)

The material for the walls and roof was the subject of some consideration.  At first, I just printed on plain copier paper for a test model, and frankly it looked pretty good!  

However, I knew thin paper wouldn't hold up over time--to changes in humidity and bumping as I work on the layout.  I considered thin styrene sheet, which would be relatively strong, and which I could  possibly print on directly, or apply a "sticker" or decal of the design to.  My experiments yielded the following:  Styrene sheet cannot be printed (easily at least) in an inkjet.  Clear stickers didn't seem crisp and sharp enough when applied to the white styrene sheet.  I tried printing directly on post-card weight cardstock and I was happy with it.  The jury remains out on the decal technique because I was happy enough with the cardstock.  It seems like less trouble than styrene+decals would be.  However, for a structure with more textures, that may be a good alternative... stay tuned!

The cardstock walls remained flat and unbowed, printing was crisp and bright.  I'm confident that with proper sealing there won't be issues with bowing or warping.  My biggest concern was the corners.  My technique is to cut out the structure as a long horizontal strip, and fold along the corners.  I lightly score the outside of the corners to make a crisp fold, and brace the inside with square or angle stock.  The only issue is the white exposed strip on the outside of the corner itself; and that the edge is not really sharp.  Painting cures the exposed white strip of card;  Experimenting a bit, I found I can also flow a fine line of cement along the outside edge to fill it in.  I used thinned Krystal Klear actually--just because I had it on hand.  Even though it's actually a bit rounded, it looks better than the un-filled edge, and when painted looks fine.  Here's a photo where the technique is visible in the reflection on the roof hip, galvanized iron hip roll on the original prototype.   All vertical edges were filled this way, and all edges on the roof. 

Below is one more photo of the mostly finished structure;  It still needs a staircase.  I am hoping to use etched brass from a model ship detail kit and add various other details such as a smoke-jack and train-order board.  A shot of Dullcote will seal it up.

All-in-all I'm quite happy with how it turned out and the technique!  As I do more I'll post updates.  


Tuesday, February 12, 2013

A Small Structure Project Begins

Ok, that's an over-used pun in this scale..My apologies.   

This past weekend I received from the B&O RR Historical Society my copy of the B&O Standard Plans for MOW & Construction, an important resource material for my B&O theme layout.  Since one of my "must haves" is a model of BG Tower in Etna (below), the plan book will be particularly useful--it contains a section devoted to B&O towers.

The plan book contains all sorts of other goodies to make sure I've got things right--bridge, tunnel, road and ROW plans, etc. 

I also took a couple dozen photos of the area in Etna around the old Tippins Machine works, which was served by the B&O and PRR.  I plan to also model this complex although in a compressed way.  This is the site of the old tower--right where the telephone pole is currently.

Here's a photo looking RR east, from the site of the old station, towards what was "RC Etals" if I recall correctly.. Maybe the M fell off?

Finally, a photo of the Tippins plant from Bridge St., showing the typical curtain wall construction.