Sunday, December 27, 2015

BNSF 749

Just before the dawn sets on another year, I have finished one last engine. BNSF C44-9W #749. The prototype had some front end damage along the way and BNSF took a few years to get it into the paint shop. I modeled it as it looked in 2008, with the patched nose, the orange A/C unit and a nice coat of road grime.
I hope to get it out for a natural light photoshoot tomorrow, but the Vegas weather is cold and windy, so we will see.
I installed an MRC sound decoder in it, it runs and sounds great! This was an interesting build, it was challenging, but it got me fired up to finish my own -9s. 

Thursday, December 24, 2015

Ops Session #1

Last week Ken Borowski made it to town and I hosted my first ops session. Ken has helped me understand and appreciate ops over the last half dozen years on his Clinchfield Blue Ridge Subdivision. Ken knew going in this was the first run, so I had paper ready to take notes for fixes.

Mechanically the layout performed well. I had a couple of switch points that weren't getting juice, a little cleaning/soldering will remedy that. The engines performed well and I had no rolling stock issues. The session lasted 2 hours and 15 minutes. When I get everything tuned in, I think it will consistently run between 2 and 2.5 hours. It's amazing how busy you can be with only 44 feet of main line.

 I added an additional 18"of track in Hinckley to extend the interchange track. It gave just enough room to get the BNSF/SCXY space to swap trains.

The scenery at Tiller is in need of some improvement. Buildings are coming.

Items learned:
1) More Labels. I will be labeling all of the switches and derails. I also need to tune my instructions and maps for operators (i.e.: There are Hazmat rules: buffer cars between the engine and HCl cars and flour cars need to be cleaned before they are spotted for loading). Just because these things are in my head doesn't mean operators will know.
2) Get The Derails In. There are 4 derails I need to install. 2 for the Ardent Mill, one for Tiller and one for Zinpro. They will all be key operated and functional. Details to come. Opening and closing derails is an important item that shouldn't be overlooked.
3) I Need More Cars. Not really more, just the right ones. I have Trinity Hoppers filling in for PS Flour Cars. I have my pre-order in, all I need is for BLMA to get them here.
4) I Need More Sound: I have sound in the SD40M-2s. I already ordered the sound decoder for the GP set. It is more fun to run with sound, how did I overlook that pair getting it. When switching the flour mill, there are 2 grade crossings to contend with. The airhorn must be used.
5) I Need More Track: I had a small extension off Tiller to allow switching, it was only 2 feet long and that is not enough. I'll build another corner (4 feet of track) and that will let me add another straight module with a short run around and maybe part of Peterson Mill in North Branch. This will also add more industry as there will be places to spot fertilizer cars, magnesium chloride cars and defect sand cars.
6) Unit Trains: The Skally has started sending a large amount of the sand out in BNSF Unit Trains. I have some BNSF -9s I am working on to handle this duty. They will be dropped in Hinckley and the SCXY crews will bring them to Rush City, where they will start the session.
7) Build More Buildings: It looked odd to spot cars in fields. Tiller and Zinpro are labeled, but the buildings are not there. I need to either build some stand in buildings or get cracking on building the styrene versions. This session did jump start me to get cracking on my Tiller sand tower. The loadout shed should be a one day project. It shouldn't take much to make the unloading stand for Zinpro either.

8) I'm sure there is more, I'll have to go over my notes again to see what I find.

I think I have a couple of weeks until my next ops session, I'll see what I can get fixed before then.

Three in a row!

I made it into N Scale Railroading again! My BNSF GP50 write up is my most in depth yet. It was fun transforming an out of date Kato into a modern day beauty. Now back to the layout work!

Monday, November 30, 2015

BNSF 9838

I hope everyone is recovering from Thanksgiving. I managed to get some projects wrapped up over the weekend. One was BNSF SD70MAC #9838.
 This started out as a standard Kato 70MAC.
I gave it the full detailing, including rebuilding the electrical cabinet behind the conductors side of the cab.
This one must have had a warm engine at some point, because it discolored the upper stripe around the prime mover. The fading makes this one look like it has seen its fair number of days on the rails.
The fan details, I love them.
Here we can see it leading the SUPNTW. Soon it will be on it's way to Chicago!

Monday, November 16, 2015

November Update

Going by post count, you'd think that the Skally was sitting dormant for the last month. That couldn't be further from the truth. I figured I would lump a whole bunch of updates into a single post.

Normally this is the time of year where I start to try to figure out how I'm going to get a dozen engines built over the next month, but I'm not doing this year. I'm focusing on finishing 2 engines for my friend Harz S., an SD70MAC and a C44-9W. I try to be efficient when I paint, so as I paint the 70MAC, I am throwing a bunch of other engines I needed in orange into the booth, to get the best bang for the buck. The -9 is a silver and red warbonnet, so it will be in paint later. Here are the future BNSF engines (green will be the next color 3 of them get hit with, one will be a swoosh).
I'm also working on some rolling stock projects. I have some special graffiti projects that will be unveiled later this year, but for now, here are the ones on deck. This HiCube was an Exactrail advertising car. I stripped the paint and tried my friend HK's new method of Rustoleum painting. The decals are Highball. I know it is the wrong model of HiCube for the number, but most people will never notice as it rolls down the Hinckley Subdivision.
My friend Mike P. has been showing me his weathering techniques. He helped teach me on my new Exactrail gondola. All I have left to do is seal it up with some Dullcote.
The layout expansion continues... I built a second corner. This one is 125 degrees, to coresponds with the angle of my Hinckly Modules. I hope to run the track power bus line tomorrow and then get the fascia on. It will be getting its own legs, the tool box just happened to be in a nice spot for test fitting the module.
On the structure side I started building the Skally engine house. This will hold all 4 SCXY engines, just like the prototype. It is a scale 280 feet long, just like the real thing.I'm trying to figure out how to make the doors operable. I'm sure an idea will hit me.
So I am rocking right along. I may move the Willy's (the 1948 CJ2A) in the garage so I can get more of the layout strung together, but that will have to wait for a nice warm day.

Tuesday, October 13, 2015

2 Down, A Bunch To Go...

Two locomotives have made their way from the workbench to the completed file. I times it out so I could paint them at the same time. The first was Clichfield 919. This was a fairly easy build that took some basic details and an odd conversion to get the fuel tank right (the shell sits on the frame backwards).
Next out was BNSF GP50 #3158. This was a labor intensive build that I am glad to be on the back end of. It was fun, but now it is time for something else. I have a whole slew of BNSF engines I am going to try to get done this month. I'll keep you posted as progress happens!

Back To Back!

I'll try to get some more updates going about the layout and loco builds pretty quick. I'm just a little short on available time right now (only 4 days off in October).

If getting published in the last N Scale Railroading wasn't enough, my next article got published in the Nov/Dec 2015 issue. So if you are interested in the full MILW GP20 build, pick the issue up.

Thursday, August 20, 2015

Another Day in Print!

Some of you may have noticed my SD60F build in the newest issue of N Scale Railroading! I'm pretty proud of this article. I hope you enjoy it too!

Tuesday, August 11, 2015

Car Forwarding

I know I've been a bit busy lately, so here is a quick update on what I've been working on. Now that all of the trackage is coming together, I have been figuring out a way to purposefully move cars around the layout. I got the Mac App Switchlist. I've been entering car and industry information and running some sample switchlists. I want to thank my friend HK for helping me tune these to look more prototypical. If any of the Skally guys want to let me know if I'm sounding crazy, please do (Tavis: I'm still working on those clocks for you, the first attempt was not good enough).

 I've broke the line into 2 jobs. The North job will run from Rush City to Hinckley and back. The South job will run from Rush City to North Branch and back. I haven't included the new tank car loadout in Rush City, as I don't know what it will look like yet, that will come later. Here's what I have so far:
North Switch List (Sample):
South Switch List (Sample):

It's a work in progress, but I think this will help crews get things where they need to go.

Friday, July 17, 2015

Reality Check Friday

Railfanning in Vegas is... different. Around town there are some great spots around town. South of town there is one of the coolest spots, Sloan. The old tunnel has been abandoned in favor of the new cut through the side of the hill here. Because of the grade, the trains are easy to pace.
South of Sloan is Erie. This passing siding provides a long trailing or approach shot. Here is looking South at the departing Ringling Brothers Red Circus Train (I saw an elephant).
Looking North at Sloan is a great banked corner with desert landscape all around. I was standing on the shoulder of Las Vegas Blvd. when I took both the Erie shots.
This is Aware country. His tags are everywhere from here to L.A.. I've seen some great shots and am looking forward to more.
Arden Yard: Home of the Vegas SD40Ns. These SD40-2 rebuilds are everywhere and pull all the locals in town. Maybe someday they'll try some more creative paint schemes.
This last shot is how I often see Vegas. This shot summed it up well. It's open, airy and a little on the dirty side. One of the Locals was heading North on Monday. The crew gave a friendly shot with the airhorn, that helped.
Vegas is more than the casinos and the lights. It has many faces, and there is one that will match whatever mood you are in, you just have to know where to look.

Tuesday, July 14, 2015

Skally Changes

It was so nice when I was a half hour south of the Skally, but now it would take me a three hour plane ride to get there. Google finally updated the satellite maps and Rush City was as I had seen it last, just more complete. I was there as the engine house was being built. An old NP well had been found and was being capped on the day I was there last. So there wasn't much for surprises there. The Ardent Mill (new name as of last year) look the same as ever, with the new engine house and speeder shed in this picture. This picture has north to the left.
The surprise came on the south end of Rush City. My friend HK had asked me about a siding south of town and I thought he meant the tiny spur to Federated Coop. I couldn't have been more wrong. There is a new passing siding (2400 feet long I'm guessing) with a long passing siding (2000' maybe) turning West to the south end of the commercial park. There is a crossover so the siding can be accessed from the main. Interstate Energy will be building a new propane transfer station on this site. Propane will come in by rail and be shipped out by truck. This photo is orientated with North at the top.
I am planning a trip back to MN next year, but I'm not that patient to see what's going to be built.

Friday, July 10, 2015

MILW GP20s and GP40

I bet you didn't know the Milwaukee Road used to have trackage rights over the Skally Line. It is true! I can only image what it would have been like to watch MILW rebuilds slam the Hinckley diamond back in the day.
I just finished a few units for a friend and I thought I would post some pics on here for everyone to see. For the GP20's (MILW 981 and 957) I modified two Atlas GP9s by chopping the noses, adding etched grills and a whole slew of other details. The drop steps were removed and the solid handrails were built for the ends.
I have scratch built the Horst Air filters for other engines, but I chose to use some that I found on Shapeways. They aren't cheap, but they saved me some time. These GP20 took more than a little research as the great MILW had no consistency from engine to engine. I think that made these even more fun. I had fun creating the rusted fuel tank on MILW 957. It's these details that really appeal to me.
The GP40 (MILW 2058) was detailed out, getting the same handrail treatment as the GP20s and then it was weathered to look like it did in the Mid-80's. It was starting to rust and plenty faded by then. The shortened fuel tank was another MILW feature added to this unit.
I hope these serve my friend well!

Wednesday, July 8, 2015

Turning A Corner

I did it, I made the first 90 degree corner. This will allow my to hook all the Skally Modules together in my train room (garage). This corner has FreemoN compliant trackage, so it will also work for me at shows. This one will go between Tiller (North Branch) and Rush City. It is a 22" radius, with 4" of straight track on each end. I built the benchwork and set the landforms one day, laid and painted the track, added the fascia and applied the ground foam on day 2 and ballasted on day 3. All I have to do underneath is build the legs and add the bus line wiring. Up top I need to add static grass and trees. Life is easy when you don't have switches to worry about. 43" more mainline are good to go.
I raided the hill about 3/4" at the back of the module and lowered it 1/4" at the front. The hill will have trees and i will use a short static grass up front. This should give me a good photo backdrop for roster shots.
I will build one more 22" corner to match this one and then I will build one larger (30" or so) corner to connect to the future North Branch Peterson Mill module set I'm planning. It's not much, but it is progress. I'll post more pics once I plant trees.

Thursday, July 2, 2015

Silicon Valley FreemoN at NSE

I had the great pleasure at NSE of hanging out with and running trains with the Silicon Valley FreemoN and Sacramento FreemoN groups. I had been planning on brining a couple of modules, but the space they were given at the show was pretty limited, so I will take the Skally Line to NorCal next time. A special thanks to Steve, Ryan, Rick, Spuds, Eric, Lawrence and the rest of the crew. A fantastic group all around.
 From Lockhart, Texas with it's cool operating crossing gates to Wye Knot, the layout looked great.
My eldest sister should get a kick out of the construction site by the CalTrans Station. Cool mirrored buildings!
 Passenger trains ruled the day, but there was a fair amount of freight traffic too.
The scenes varied from scenic to urban and they all flowed well together.
 I wish my photos did the layout justice.
Again: thanks to the FreemoN guys for the great hospitality. I'm looking forward to meeting with them all next time. Check them out at or search for them on Facebook.

Tuesday, June 30, 2015

Anything you can do I can do better.

Well, not me, but Trainworx sure is on fire with some new releases. I just got back from the National N Scale Enthusiast Convention in Sacramento, California, where I got to meet up with the Silicon Valley FreemoN group (great bunch of guys, more on them in my next post), as well as a host of other people I have been in communication with for a while, among the notable mentions: Rick and Marshall from Modutrak, Kirk Reddie and Sandy Smith from N Scale Railroading, Mike Fifer of Fifer Hobby and Matt G. from FVM. I could go on and on, the people made the event worthwhile.

I did make sure to stop and visit Pat Sanders from Trainworx at the show. Pat makes some of my favorite detail parts and I had to get one of his new semis before he sold out. I also picked up some more parts. Pat is raising the bar. When I got home I actually tore a plow off of a GP40 I am working on, just so I could replace it with the new Trainworx 179-1 weed cutter. Here is why:
You can see the Sunrise weedcutter I had on there. It is huge compared to the more accurate Trainwork version. Score one for Trainworx!
Now my semi comparison: There hasn't been a whole lot as far as modern trucks go in N Scale. Trainworx is changing that in a hurry. I picked up the most generic of the first run trucks. I wanted to use it as a wheat hauler on my layout. I'm glad I did. I'm going to compare it to a couple of trucks I had already. Here it is with a Shapeways semi:
You can see the Trainworx is far superior in every way. First off, it comes finished. The grey truck I picked up finished, and it was ok, you can see the details on the new truck make it look like a toy. The Trainworx truck even has lenses on the front lights and a steering wheel.
The paint on the Trainworx semi is crisp and sharp, even the mudflaps came decorated.
This was a detail I was not expecting, the TW Kenworth W900 has a detailed engine compartment. This makes it useful for a variety of scene options: maintenance at the shop, broken down on the side of the road, or just getting checked over by the driver pre-trip.
Here you see the W900 next to my Kato semi, which I upgraded with some decals. The Swift truck seems lacking now, I'll have to go back and upgrade it.
I posted on Facebook some of the trucks that are coming out soon. The next truck is a Peterbilt 379 with a livestock trailer: I am looking forward to it. These trucks will add to the scene and really help set the location for the Skally in farm country.