Thursday, April 18, 2019

A Walk in the Weeds

Old B&B right-of-way in the center of picture with the also abandoned standard gauge railroad to the right. Note the rock retaining walls
Last weekend, I had the good fortune to travel to Massachusetts to participate in a walk through a portion of the city of Billerica. The reason for this trip was due to a book I published in 2012 entitled George Mansfield and the Billerica and Bedford Railroad. It chronicled a very short-lived narrow gauge railroad running between the two cities in its name and it was the first two-foot gauge railroad in the country. After the rails were removed in 1879, much of the railroad was relaid as a standard gauge road but there is a little over a mile of roadbed still visible between the housing developments and that is what we were searching for.
The intrepid explorers scramble around downed trees following the old B&B roadbed through one of the rougher patches on the line.
Ben Rockney and Marlies Henderson of Massachusetts did the on-the-ground searching and came up with a good half-day of roadbed hunting. We found pieces behind people's houses, in their front yards and a good series of cuts in a normally overgrown, inaccessible canyon. A lot of vegetation has grown up since the railroad's demise. It was truly a Walk in the Weeds.

The raised planter near the swing set is actually a portion of the
Billerica and Bedford grade
    It was a great time and a chance to see parts of the old railroad which I was not able to when I was researching the book. Thanks to all who participated and, especially, to those who arranged the Walk.

Tuesday, April 9, 2019

A Pair of Warehouses

Waverly occupies a lonely place in the San Joaquin Valley with nothing there except for the P&D warehouse.
In taking a break from engine terminal project, I was looking for something which would improve the railroad but not take a lot of time. I found it in two grain warehouses, one at Waverly and the other at Charleston. The Waverly warehouse "vacant lot" had bothered me a bit since it's about the only unscenicked portion in that particular aisle. I decided to do Charleston at the same time since it would be about the same size and construction.
The doors on the left side of the building were used to unload wagons. Similar
doors trackside were used for car loading.
 Peterson and Dake owned the grain warehouse in Milton and also operated the Waverly warehouse. I had a bit of information from insurance maps and railroad records but no photos so I freelanced the building from what little I knew. I used board and batten siding (Evergreen) with a shingled roof. Loading doors adorned both sides of the building for the loading/unloading of wagons and freight cars. For the roof, I chose to use up some of my pile of Campbell shingles just to have a slightly different look from my usual Minuteman Models variety. The Campbell shingles are gummed but I knew they would not stick to styrene so I opted for an illustration board roof I bought from the local Hobby Lobby. I also opted to save my tongue in the moistening process and rigged up a damp sponge. The shingles went on nicely and, while they do not have the newly-applied look of the MM shingles, look like they've been on the building for a while. The structure was then painted to match the Milton structure and similar decals were printed and applied.
Grube's Warehouse is the only industry at Charleston and is butted up against the backdrop.
Over at Charleston, the only information I had was the dimensions of the building. The available space required a slight shrinkage of the building but it is in keeping with the siding length. Evergreen grooved siding was used with Grandt Line doors and the Campbell shingles-on-illustration-board roof. The lettering was freelanced.
 Both of the areas still require scenicking to finish the sites and that will be completed in the next week or so. Waverly also has to have a small oil loading facility to service the new Waverly tank car a friend of mine donated to the railroad. 

Friday, March 29, 2019

Revising Turnout Controls

The three push buttons on the fascia control the position of the stub turnout on the railroad. 
I like the manual control of turnouts. It fits with my era and it simplifies the wiring considerably. Every turnout on the railroad is controlled by a Blue Point controller with a manual push-pull (except for the staging yards and the interlocking plant). I had previously modified two of the Blue Points to work with my two three-way stub switches at Copperopolis and Farmington. The one at Copperopolis has always worked fine but, for the last few months, the Farmington turnout has not worked well. I have tried several times to readjust things but could not make the "fix" work. My operators were getting perturbed as Farmington can be a busy place.I finally had to find a permanent fix.
    My solution to the problem was to remove the Blue Point and replace it with a Tam Valley Depot ( Dual 3-way servo decoder. This device is designed to work with either a 3-way turnout or a 3-position semaphore. You can easily adjust the position of the points (or blade) and even adjust the speed of the throw. In the case of a semaphore, the unit can be programmed to put a "bounce" as the blade changes position.
The servo motor controlling the turnout is at the upper
right of the photo while the control board is at the lower
left. Using servos to control turnouts is very simple and
easy to install.
     The installation was a two-man job with one person under the layout adjusting the track position and another on the top telling when the tracks were aligned. My friend, Mark Davidson came over and, between us, we managed to get everything adjusted. I am very happy with the results and, now, you only have to push one of three buttons to align the turnout.
     By the way, each of these controllers can handle two turnouts/semaphores. For those interested, I used another Tam Valley Depot device, their Dual Frog Juicer. It handles both frogs in the turnout routing power accordingly.

Friday, March 15, 2019

Beneath the Turntable

The turntable drive with worm and worm gear above. The Mercotac connector and its adapter are below.
After my posting on the new turntable, one the followers of this blog inquired as to what the drive mechanism for the table looked like. It is fairly simple with no indexing other than your eyesight (it lines up every time unless you're crosseyed!). The table itself has a 1/4-inch tube running from the center down through a brass bushing in the center of the pit. Below the benchwork, there is a brass worm gear driven by a steel worm. I use a 30-tooth gear but there is nothing critical about that. It's just what I chose. Both of these parts are from Boston gear. These gears tend to get fairly expensive so I searched ebay until I found some which met my requirements. I was going to use a plastic gear but they were not in stock and I would have to have ordered about 10 of them to meet their minimums.
    The shaft for the worm is just 3/16" steel rod I bought from the local hardware store. It runs through two brass bushings which are installed in 2-inch corner braces. The shaft is held in place by two shaft collars. Both the collars and bushing were obtained from McMaster-
Carr is a great supplier of hardware and other items used by industrial folks. They do sell to individuals and ship the same day. I can order a part on Sunday and have it by Wednesday. I suggest that they be checked out for the odd item which might be needed.
The Boston Gear U-joint connecting the drive with the rotating
The shaft is connected to a Boston Gear universal joint. I use these just in case my alignment is not dead on. You can change the position of the crank a bit by doing this. The shaft goes through a plastic bushing glued in the fascia and is driven by a crank wheel. My wheel was made on my lathe simply because I did not like the ones I could get commercially. If you are less fussy than I, a suitable handle can be purchased at the hardware store or through McMaster-Carr. I should mention that my hardware store had the brass bushings as well as the plastic ones in their normal stock. They just did not have the quantity I needed (I have two more turntables to build).
The complete Mercotac unit at the left with the components
at the right. The top part on the right will have wires soldered
to it for the rails and will press into the adapter in the middle.
Power still has to be routed to the turntable track. I did not use a pit rail because I found a rotating connector made by Mercotac in Carlsbad, California. It is designed for rotating electrical connections and works very well. I used their Model 205 unit. It is a two-pole unit to which you solder two wires. These go up through the central turntable shaft and solder to the rails on the table. At the bottom end, the connector snaps on to the main body of the Mercotac unit and track power can be soldered to its leads. I did have to turn another parts which has a hole to fit the 1/4-inch turntable shaft on one end and another to fit the press-in connector unit on the other. It attaches to the shaft with a set screw.
    I should mention that both the brass worm gear and steel worm had to be tapped for a set screw to hold them to their respective shafts. This was not a big deal as the brass was easy to drill and the steel worm already had a pilot hole which just needed to be slightly enlarged.
Turned rotating wheel with nylon crank handle.
  I use a reversing unit to change the track polarity on the table. I have used units made by DCC Specialties and Tam Valley Depot and both work well.

Tuesday, March 5, 2019

Wagons and Cuspidors

Both wagons are built from the same Glencoe Models  kit.
After working several weeks on the engine terminal project, I felt that I needed a break but still wanted to do some modeling. Going through a box of wagon kits, I found a few inexpensive wagons which I had acquired along the way. They were not in the same class as the Jordan wagons and my first impulse was to throw them out. I reconsidered just to find out what they might look like with a little work. Background models are needed as well as foreground ones and, with Jordan kits pretty scarce, I thought that I should not pass up any substitutes.
   The models are made by Glencoe Models and a box gives you a stagecoach and a covered wagon. I removed the top cover from two of the covered wagons which gave me a couple of freight wagons and then assembled two more wagons with the covers. The stagecoaches I assembled per the instructions minus the horses (they looked more the size of ponies). After painting, I applied some old Art Griffin stagecoach decals and they turned out fairly respectable. They will still be background models, though.
Glencoe Models stagecoach with Art Griffin decals. 
A slightly tipsy gent with his cuspidor. The 
spittoon will ultimately be painted to resemble
   Another project I have been accumulating parts for is a saloon with a detailed interior. I was able to find a nice bar, back bar, tables and chairs, an upright piano, bottles and even beer mugs. The one vital piece of any bar, though, I could not find, a spittoon (or cuspidor if you are more genteel). SS Ltd. had one but it was not what I had in mind. I wanted a more typical style like the one I have in my crew lounge. The only alternative was to 3D print some. I had doubts that such a small object could be reproduced but gave it a try and ended up with a lifetime supply of spittoons! I still have to figure out how to get the "misses" around the spittoon modeled.
   Now to get back to more serious model railroad stuff.

Wednesday, February 13, 2019

Engine Terminal is Now Awaiting Scenery

Still roofless, the roundhouse awaits final track testing. The pit for the coaling station is at left center. The short tracks on this side of the turntable are for MOW equipment storage, extra wheelsets, etc.
After the last few weeks, I have been working on the new Oakdale engine terminal. It has been a bit of bear to do that since there is very restricted room to work. To top that off, all the electrical has to be accessed by ducking under the railroad. When I was building the railroad, I left the fascia off until I was finished with wiring which made it an easy job. Now, the fascia is on the work area and it is not practical to remove it so I duck under.
Since the locomotives to be stored here will be primarily coal burners, cinders are produced and need to be dropped and carried away, hence the depressed ash pit track. In the background, Crown Flour becomes a new industrial site with probably another one to its right.
The trackwork went down easily enough except for the ashpit area which required the benchwork to be revised to accommodate the depressed track. Similar depressed areas were made for the coaling tower's coal dump.
Two curved turnouts allow locomotives into the yard. The box car in the background is sitting on the main line.
The power to each track is controlled by this
panel. This will help prevent overload of the
DCC system with several sound-equipped
engines all drawing current.
One of the side projects has been the complete replacement of light bulbs over the railroad. When I first installed the lighting in 2008-9, the best bulb available was the CFL but I always thought that the light was too yellow. Your eyes adjust to it but it wasn't right. I finally found a relatively low-cast LED 100W-equivalent bulb and unscrewed and rescrewed all 75+ bulbs with these 3000°K units. The railroad looks quite a bit better. My operating crews have not seen it yet but I like it.
      The coaling tower and sand house have both been constructed as has the yard office. Now I just have to get some scenery going so I can get this area finished.

Monday, January 7, 2019

A Roundhouse is Built. . . Almost

The partially finished roundhouse. Its roof pieces lie on the structure at the left side. Tracks from the rest of the railroad will enter in the wide space between the other turntable tracks. 
Since finishing the new turntable at Oakdale, I have been working on an old Model Masterpieces kit of the Colorado Midland roundhouse at Colorado City. It is a kit with sides made from cast dental plaster and looks terrific. Unfortunately, the looks are outweighed by the trouble to put the darned thing together. The window openings are considerably smaller than the nice window castings, the side pieces are of different thicknesses and so on. In short, it takes a lot of fiddling and trimming to get the kit in a reasonable state to be assembled. It finally happened, though, with the original 4-stall kit plus two of the 2-stall add-on kits coming together for the final structure.   
     The track was laid out according to the plans with each track being 10° from its neighbor. A few additional "garden" tracks were also laid for MOW equipment, spare parts and so on. To complete the interior, which will be hard to see, I laid down a layer of cinders. Before putting the roof on, though, I need to wire the tracks and make sure the electrical is all working.
The current plan for the electrical switches. As can be seen, there is not a lot of room for the panel. The wheel at the right controls the turntable rotation.
Since there might be in excess of eight locomotives in this area at once, I decided to put individual shutoff switches for the stalls. This, of course, requires a panel of some sort to visually indicate what each switch does. There is limited space on the fascia on the railroad at this point so I am struggling a bit to find a good place to put a panel. I have found a place but I may try to size things down a bit before committing.
Two of the switches which will be needed to access the engine terminal area.
Before doing all that, though, I still have to lay track from the existing railroad down to the turntable providing areas for the coaling tipple, sandhouse, ashpit and water spout along the way.