Monday, September 19, 2016

The Beginnings of the Milton Business Block

The Milton Hotel is on the right side, followed by the Brown store and post office, harness shop and Breen's Saloon/barber shop.The balconies and awnings are just temporarily attached until painting is completed and the board sidewalk is installed.
As I had mentioned, the next step in reconstructing Milton was to build up the business blocks. There are very few pictures of this area but there are three good Sanborn insurance maps. Between all of these, I think I have a good shot of getting a decent reproduction of the town.
This long view shows the wood baseboard with pads attached to create a slope. Structures will eventually stretch from the lower left to the right end of the base.
The first five buildings are the Milton Hotel, the Brown store and Post Office, the harness shop, barber shop and Breen's Saloon. Since these structures will be up against the backdrop, almost all of them have been shortened. The street itself (San Francisco Street), was on a slight slope. To reproduce this, I used a 1x4 base board and glued pieces of wood of varying thicknesses to hold the buildings and provide a slight upgrade. The structures themselves are all built of styrene with Tichy and Grandt Line windows and doors as close to the originals as I could get. Some of the windows have had panes cut out to shorten them to prototype length.
The first business block can be seen at the left in this 1890s photo. Breen's Saloon is on the left with the Milton Hotel at the right.
These five businesses mark the end of the first block. The second block will contain the Pioneer Livery, Big Tree Saloon, Frank Brown's store and a boarding house. The third block will house another boarding house and the Tornado Hotel.

Wednesday, August 17, 2016

Down by the Milton Tracks

Overall view of the Milton trackside. From left to right are the loading platform and crane, Hunter, Bunds & Walker, the depot, L. Beysser warehouse and the Peterson & Dake Warehouse. There is much finishing to be done e.g. staining platforms, adding baggage. Compare this view with the prototype one below.
Looking from the same end of the siding as above, the prototype view shows much of the activity surrounding Milton in the early days. In the background are the Milton Hotel and some of the commercial buildings. Note the privy on the platform.
The first phase of the Milton townsite construction is mostly completed. That was the building of the structures along the siding in town. These consisted of the Peterson & Dake Warehouse, the L. Beysser freight forwarding warehouse, depot and freight station, the Hunter, Bunds & Walker Warehouse and the loading platform. None of the buildings are as yet fastened to the layout since they will be removed so that the structures in the background can be installed.
The Peterson & Dake warehouse takes up most of the other end of the siding. I don't know if the business name was painted on the building side as I have no photographs of that part of the building but I think it looks good.
Milton in 1871 in a view that will not be seen on the model. The P&D warehouse is to the left with the depot building at the right. The P&D general store is at the center.
The layout of the town is according to both Sanborn insurance maps and railroad station plats. The buildings' appearances were derived from photographs of Milton taken around the turn of the century or before. The occupants of the various buildings changed over the years. I have tried to label them per the 1893 town directory I have. The names used give more of a feeling of reality than any fictional names I could have devised.

Monday, August 1, 2016

The Beginnings of Milton

The Milton depot contains a freight, ticket office and the P&D store as well as an advertisement for a local health center. The platform will be continued in both directions from the building.
Milton was the easternmost terminal of the Stockton & Copperopolis. Up until 1887, it was one of the busiest towns on the railroad both with goods shipped and received. Everything going to the Mother Lode mining towns north of the Stanislaus River went through Milton. Almost nobody went to Milton. It was simply a transfer point.
    There were several freight forwarders who would undertake to move your goods to their final destination and several stage lines as well. The best way to reach Yosemite Valley was through Milton. The Yosemite traffic ended in 1887 when the Southern Pacific built the Raymond branch. It was a closer trip and you could stay in your Pullman all the way to Raymond. When the Sierra Railroad was completed in 1897, it reached all the way up to Sonora, the heart of the mining district so almost all the freight now went via the Sierra and Milton became a very sleepy town.
    In 1895, there was still an active town with all of the stores occupied. The Sanborn map company visited there in 1890, 1895, 1908 and 1912 so there is a lot of documentation regarding what was in town. I also have enough photos and, more interestingly, enough layout space to model virtually the entire business area of the town to scale.
     My first structure, fittingly, is the S&C's depot, built in 1871 along with the several warehouses strung out along the siding. The depot building had a large freight house and shared the structure with a small store run by Peterson & Dake. They also owned a grain warehouse located on the siding (my next structure). P&D were also the Western Union Telegraph and Wells, Fargo & Co's. agent.
    My building is all of styrene except for the Minuteman Scale Models shingles and was modeled full size. Few photos of the building are available so some features had to be based on common practice and available plot plans. Next project will be to continue the platforms to define the siding area before continuing on with the actual structures.

Saturday, July 23, 2016

An Entire Op Session Somewhat Condensed

As I have mentioned before in this blog, the S&C holds monthly prototypical operating sessions. The railroad normally takes a crew of 10 people to operate. The jobs consist of a dispatcher, operator to copy train orders and operate the interlocking machine, and a yardmaster for Stockton Wharf. Sessions last about three hours long, the morning session covering 5:30 a.m. to 2:00 p.m while the afternoon session runs from 2:01 p.m. until the last train is in (usually about 10:30 p.m. or so). We are not running a night session but that may change when management decides to paint some of the locomotives it has stored in boxes.
Here's the Replay camera. The computer mouse is in the photo just for a size comparison. The nifty little clamp above the camera dates from the 1940s and is very good for holding small cameras.
    Last Saturday, July 16, we had July's session but with only nine folks in attendance. It turned out to be real good especially since I got to try out a new camera. It is the Replay Prime X which is a neat little video camera designed for use by people with more active hobbies such as skydiving, Motocross, skiing, etc. It has a variety of clamps so it can be attached to a tripod, bicycle handlebars, stuck on a wall and so on. For some reason, it didn't come with an attachment to fit on a model railroad car. For last week, it didn't matter since it was just a test so I clamped the camera to the fascia just above Peters and recorded the entire 3-hour session in time lapse mode. Here's the results in only a minute and a half.

   The experiment also allowed me to get familiar with a new video editing program. The video isn't all that great (it was only a test) but it proves that the camera can be used for other railroad purposes. My next job will be to attach it to a car so I can photograph while the train is moving.

Thursday, July 21, 2016

Switch Engine for the S&I

A combination of 3D printed boiler/cab on a HOn30 mechanism produced this nice little switch engine for the yard at Holden. The track sliders can be seen between the drivers. They will eventually be painted. to hide them.
Although my narrow gauge feeder, the Stockton & Ione is not yet ready for operation, I ran across a blog post about a fellow who used an HOn30 Japanese mechanism and a 3D printed body to build a light Porter 0-4-0T. I purchased the chassis and the body parts and built up one of these little locos. I weighted the boiler and tank with tungsten putty and installed a Soundtraxx mobile decoder (I wanted sound but there is just no place I could find to put a speaker).
The Ione can easily pull two cars plus a little more. 
There were a few problems to overcome, however. The first was that the wheels were gauged for HOn30. I first thought about replacing the 2mm axles with longer shafts but found that I could simply pull out the wheels on the existing axles to HOn3 gauge. The second major problem is electrical pickup. The chassis comes with wipers on all four wheels which is just not enough. I added some track sliders between the drivers and that helped quite a bit but the engine still stalls every now and then. The more I run the engine, the better it runs so it might just need some more running.
     Overall, the performance is very good. The engine can pull 2 cars with ease and a third one on level track, just about what the prototype would be expected to do. It does run very well with the mobile decoder and some momentum built in.

Friday, July 1, 2016

The Storey is Finally Complete

The Storey sits on the Copperopolis turntable ready for her next assignment. The engine was the Virginia and Truckee Railroad's No. 3.
The second engine of my two-locomotive project is now out of the shop and ready for service. The Storey, another Virginia and Truckee locomotive, was constructed very similar to the Ormsby. It uses the Porter Mogul frame plus the boiler and cab. The motor and gearbox were replaced along with the drivers (now 48"), cylinders, stack and domes. The driver spacing was altered and, thus, new siderods had to be made as well. I thought that the original mogul tender was too small so I used a larger one which was originally from a PFM Reno locomotive.
The new motor was mounted on two pieces of brass box beam to raise it to a height suitable to connect to the gearbox. A torque arm was connected between the gearbox and the motor to prevent alignment problems. The two cylindrical items on top of the gearbox are tungsten weights. The cylinders are from a Model Engineering Works Tahoe.
The gearbox used was a Northwest Short Line 36:1 box with no idler gear. This was connected with the new motor with NWSL U-joints. A torque arm was installed to keep things aligned. Tungsten weights were used in the boiler, cab and on top of the gearbox to get enough weight in the locomotive.
    A Tsunami TSU-750 along with a sugar cube speaker were mounted in the tender.
With the Storey and Ormsby sitting side by side, it is easy to see the size difference between the two locomotives. The Storey was more the size of the later Baldwin engines bought by the V&T.

Friday, June 17, 2016

Ormsby Now in Service

The Virginia & Truckee's Ormsby sits on the Oakdale turntable. On lease from the V&T, the locomotive will add some power to the S&C's fleet. The number "2" on the headlight lens is for night running so the engine can be identified by an approaching engine. The long rod reaching from the cab to the front of the boiler operates the cylinder cocks.
The Ormsby finally rolled out of the shops today and is in service on the railroad. The past couple of weeks have been spent in installing the decoder, tuning it and finishing the small details. I decided to try the relatively new Soundtraxx Econami steam decoder and am very satisfied with it. It has considerably more options in bells and whistles (literally) and a much better single-tone whistle than the Tsunamis. You can also set the cylinders cocks open at the start of a run and time when they will be closed. Synchronization for engine chuffs is much, much better as well. I'm happy with it and the price is right.
A torque arm was added and screwed to the 28:1 gearbox. It attaches to the motor with silicon caulking. 
 The motor for the engine is a 12mm diameter Sagami which just barely fits within the boiler. I used a NWSL 28:1 gearbox and connected it directly to the motor. Lettering for the engine was developed using Adobe Illustrator and then printed on decal paper. The distinctive Union Iron Works builder's plate is a decal applied to an etched brass backing plate. Engineer and fireman figures completed the engine while a wire rope and hook completed the tender gear on the rear.
To get enough clearance with the small driving wheels, the bottom cover of the gearbox had to be removed. Electrical wipers are installed on the left-side drivers to get more pickup.
  One problem occurred when I tried to run the engine; it bumped along the track. A close examination showed that the gearbox cover on the bottom was hitting the ballast and the rails at turnouts due to the small driver diameter. The bottom of the gearbox was cut away and the problem was solved.
     Ormsby only has 40" drivers and is about 15% smaller than the other engines. That's the way the prototype was and why these engines sadly did not last into the 20th century.
The Ormsby alongside the Calaveras. It is easy to see that difference in size between the locomotives.
Most of the moguls I use on the S&C are V&T prototypes and have 48" drivers. This engine is quite a bit smaller than the larger ones  but I liked the looks of it and the fact that it was built in California unlike the remainder of the engines which were built in the East.
    One of the unexpected pleasures of this little engine is its pulling power. I tried it out with a few cars and kept adding more until I got to 15 and it was still pulling well on level ground. I can't complain. Part of this happy result was undoubtedly due to the tungsten weights I used instead of lead. Woodland Scenics makes a line of these weights designed for Pinewood Derby cars. They were just the right size (3/8" diameter) to fit in the boiler and under the cab roof.