Thursday, September 14, 2017

Mid September Update (Railcar Fleet - Part 1)

Just like that summer is a few days away from being a memory. This time of year I know alot of you begin ramping up work on your model railroads. Around here work on the physical layout infrastructure was non-existent, however there are plenty of other items to address on a operating layout to keep it in good working order. This month I am going to take a different approach then my normal all things update and instead focus on the railcar fleet. Follow along as we look at part 1 of Fleet Management, Fleet Statistics, and Fleet Projects.

Operating a roster 226 cars take work.... literally. I don't know how the guys with 800+ cars do it. The past few months have seen quite a few cars added to the roster with a few leaving, it is important to maintain a good record of that change. Cars that were added needed inspections and a waybill holder with car information. Similarly cars that went to new homes whether trade or sold needed to be removed and their waybill card discarded.

Identification stickers printed using excel database of cars added. Each car notes reporting marks, car number, car type, and pool (if applicable). The stickers are affixed to the plastic card shown. These cards then hold the blocking waybill for each car while in operation. 

Not to bore anyone with numbers, but using all of the data from the master database i collected for the active fleet, I was able to look at different charts to tell a story about the mix on the layout. Lets take a look at a few graphs.

First and foremost our data is based on 226 active cars as of September 1st, 2017. We can see the mix of Home Road, Foreign Road, and Private car is roughly split in thirds. Of note the private fleet is the largest which makes sense with growing private owned cars on the rail network in 2017. 

The car type analysis should not be a surprise to anyone since the main commodities hauled are agricultural products (covered hoppers), aggregate/sugar beets (open hoppers), and paper/forest products (boxcars). The "Other" category includes centerbeams, airslides, and reefer type cars that are more "boutique" in the work they perform. 

Going forward what type of trends can we expect to see... 

  • Increase in private ownership cars. Very much a modern era trend. 
  • Decrease in foreign and home road boxcars as older Per Diem era cars age out.

We all that storage spot where good projects go to be put on hold.... Yep I have one of those as well. One Saturday at the end of August I took fifteen minutes to walk through each car and what was needed to restore it to service. All of these cars operationally could operate with metal wheels and good couplers, however their "story" needed to be changed before they were to operate. 

1. Foreign Road Freelance Boxcars:
First project was patching three 50' high cube boxcars for freelance model railroads of good friends that will roam the Michigan Interstate. 

  • NEKR (Northeast Kingdom - Mike McNamara)
  • NNE (Northern New England - Mike Thidemann)
  • WN (Washington Northern - Kevin Klettke)
Patching was done using brown or green sharpie paint pens. Easy to use and fast drying highly recommend. Reporting marks were done using Microscale Railroad Gothic / Compressed Gothic sets of different sizes. Reflective decals are by Microscale, and the grafitti decals are a mixture of Microscale and Blair Line. 

2. Utility Pole Bulkhead Flats
These two MDC kits had been painted by Fred Fogelsinger about two years ago. I had just discovered them one evening going through boxes of train stuff in the garage. Using the CN bulkhead decal set from Highball Graphics I was able to put together all the data required with MCTR reporting marks. The last thing left to add are the PC&F log bunks from Details West and utility pole load from JWD. 

3. 20,000 Gallon Tank Cars
At a train show a few years ago I picked up each of these Athearn R-T-R 20,000 gallon tank cars in the BNSF scheme for $10 each. No box and a little use.... works for me. Well not needing them in diesel fuel service I proceeded to change up the cars to fit geographical needs. Using a modellers license I used the Highball Graphics CGTX 23,000 gallon tank car set. Instead of using black paint or decal solution to remove the print, I instead used a hobby knife with a flat blade and pulled across the logo and marks giving appearance like it had been "sanded off" by the shop shown in photo below. 

4. Plastic Hoppers
The same train show where i found the tankcars also produced two Walthers plastic pellet cars. However the reporting marks on the cars were duplicate to what was already on the layout. In the interim this was not an issue since I would only keep one car on the layout at a time. But needing more pellet cars provided an opportunity to update the reporting marks. I selected Highball Graphics CCBX (Union Carbide) decal set. While I did follow some reference photos of cars close to the ones represented by the decals, some modelers license was used. Graffiti decals are from Microscale and Blair Line. Seeing plenty of examples from the prototype photos, I decided to give drybrushing a try for weathering. Using Andrea Color acrylic paints of various brown and gray, I was able to give the cars some needed character.  

As you can see quite a few fun projects adding nine more cars to the fleet in part 1. The graphs help paint an overall picture that not only provides a story of your operations, but can also help establish discipline when it comes to selling or acquiring equipment. If you have 90 boxcars for one industry but you are short 10 covered hoppers for three industries, then maybe your focus should not be on that $10 Athearn R-T-R FMC boxcar at the next train show but instead a Athearn R-T-R Pullman Standard 4750 covered hopper. 

Towards the end of September we will reflect and bid farewell to the Alco RS27, Alco C424, EMD GP15, and EMD CF7 fleets. Not wanting to leave out whats on the workbench right now, we will wrap up Part 2 of Fleet Management, Statistics, and Projects.

Thanks for stopping by.


Wordless Wednesday #97

Wednesday, September 6, 2017

Wednesday, August 30, 2017

Wednesday, August 16, 2017

Monday, July 31, 2017

Late July / Early August Update

The inevitable dog days of summer, 95 degrees by 11:00am here in Texas. I think for alot of modelers this time of the year finds little time for model railroading as they are tending to outdoor matters such as house chores, recreation, vacations, or that summer modeling slump. Luckily through channels like Facebook I can see plenty of model railroading on going through topics like Front End Friday and Run By Sunday. In this post we will not talk about social media, but we will look at a tasks accomplished in July. Find a comfortable spot and a cold drink as we walk through my update that I barely squeaked in for July, but on the flip side got a good start for August. 

You could say the power is out of proportion..... Both look sharp in new paint! 

Recently released from Fogelsinger Rail are Michigan Interstate's two business coaches "Lake Erie" / "Lake Huron" and a stunning EMD F7A / B set. I have to say the equipment turned out really nice and the time spent to develop a scheme for the F7s that was classy while consistent with the rest of the MCIS diesel fleet looks great. Believe I went through around 8 versions with alot of friend feedback before arriving on the final scheme. The equipment is expected to be released from contract shop in early August arriving via Lake State Railway transfer. From there the equipment will head to Mt. Pleasant MAC Shop for delivery inspection and placement into service. Company officials expect the equipment to be ready for fall festivities including Halloween, Thanksgiving, and ultimately Christmas. 

I can honestly say that I have attempted my first time at weathering railcars with a variety of mediums and overall impressed with the finished products. If the first five cars turned out this well, then there is only room to improve my skills and produce even more realistic effects. Up until now I have contracted out my weathering of locomotives and cars, but even with me getting into the art I still expect to continue to job out 3 cars for every one I complete because of one specific thing; "Uniqueness". Just like every car is unique, every person who has weathered for me also has a technique different then the next person. This in my opinion provides for a nice mix of cars that bring alot of character to the railroad. 

For my instruction I used the multiple instructional sources "Done In A Day" by Pelle Soeborg and various "How To" articles from Model Railroader. Future work I will try some of the techniques showcased by Matt Snell and others from MR, RMC, and MRH. With the web content out there, there is no shortage of great articles describing tips and tricks. My suggestion and like others have said, use a few test cars that you dont mind screwing up on. In my case I have 3 Accurail 4600 hoppers that will never see service again so they made for good test beds to perfect my technique.  

Materials used: 
- Various Modelmaster & Polly Scale Acrylic paints 
- Vallejo matte (for rust adherence)
- Pastels (earth tones and grays) and Bragdon dark rust
- Testors dullcote
- Microscale FRA224 yellow reflective striping / graffiti decals
- India ink / black craft paint (Asphalt spill on tank car)
- 70% isopropyl alcohol

All of the cars got a fade, some more than others and from there using photos from the book and online just enjoyed the art. One really neat effect is the rooftop rusting that has a neat texture. Enjoy photos of the completed work, mind you that I did this in my garage with the door open in the heat of a Texas afternoon. Not only did I weather, but lost some water weight as well..... model railroading can be a healthy habit!! 

 NS boxcar was my first car to try out the airbrush wash "fade"

 Patch out and roof rust. On the SRV boxcar I actually used a Q tip with window cleaner to remove the light fade over where the reflective tape is located. This gives the effect that someone cleaned the paint before applying the reflector.. I have seen this on many cars. 

Canadian Wheat Board car that has seen better days.... not many years left.

 Overall view of the five car batch completed last Friday

 Worn out railcar with a fresh tag..... Must have been transiting the DVE out east. 

 Load of asphalt enroute to Interstate Asphalt's Bay City Terminal.

The fade and rust effects turned out really nice. 

Earlier this summer I had shown you a few 89' flats wind wind blades that I had done for a friend as a model. Well beings I model modern day I felt there was a great opportunity to bring wind energy business to the MCIS. Since those comments I worked out the plan to build a wind blade unit train. For the layout the train will consist of 10 (68' flatcars). These shorter flatcars are a good selective compression with the shorter 102' blades, additionally for you guys with smaller layouts and tighter curves the shorter railcar truck centers and overall bolster to bolster length of the blade from root to tip fixture allow for better curve negotiating. With 10 cars that will allow for 5 blades to be hauled, beyond the 10 cars I may add hub / nacelle cars or an additional 2 blade cars for a total of 12. But for now we are focused on 10 cars for the late fall operating session. 

In modeling the 68' there were things that I wanted to capture. The first being a smooth steel deck, a side mounted hand brake, and a hodge podge fleet of cars with various pasts. Knowing how it can be to find a out of stock Atlas Trainman product I was lucky to come across a stock of seven 68' flats at Spring Creek Model Trains in Deshler, NE. Yep bought them all with 2 being DODX marks and 5 being ARR marks. I also recently purchased a TTJX on ebay and have a supplier for the last two cars. So hodge podge fleet.... check. The next item was the smooth steel deck and I had two different ways to complete this. One i sand the deck smooth or two I purchase one of the laser cut steel deck overlays on the market. I decided with the sanding option so lets take a look at how I got the smooth steel look and how the blades are setup on the car. 

First and foremost I build the root and tip fixtures in the kit to allow me to mock up the blade on the railcars. 

Once I was satisfied that the mockup would work, I then used my Dremel Oscillating sander to make quick work of the planked deck. Foreground before, background after a few passes. Ultimately took a couple minutes per car to get the smooth deck. 

With the deck sanded smooth it ended up being the molded gray color of the car. So after a quick coat of dullcote, I proceeded to weather up the deck to show some use but more or less cars had deck re-conditioned for wind service. 

 Satisfied with the base level of weather another coat of dullcote to seal the chalks. Additionally I used a black sharpie to mark out the reporting marks which will be replaced with "LHRX" marks in the near future using Railroad Gothic Alphabet sets. 

Finished product with root and tip fixture mounted to the railcars. The blade is removable, however once in service it will be temporarily secured in the root fixture with a small amount of white glue. 

With cars prepped and fixtured I spent a few evenings testing the blades clearance around the layout. If you decide to have this type of load on your layout, it will a trial and error testing to see what works best. To allow moving of fixtures if necessary I mount them to railcar using Elmers extreme glue stick. It holds well but can be removed with a knife if necessary. 

 Testing the blade just east of Bay Yard. For operation on the MCIS all blades will be configured root-tip-root-tip. So while the train is traversing forward the large square fixture will lead with end of blade following. 

Checking scale clearances, in this case in the curve we have 6' between the blade tip and signal mast

Look forward to seeing the unit wind train on the layout later this fall. Not only will it be something to see but for the operators, it will come with a HIWI bulletin to govern movement when meeting trains or passing lineside restrictions that are "close clearance".

Last item to note for this update are some changes made to better accomodate industries on the Bay Industrial Spur. Interstate Asphalt and Fort Mackinac Corrugated changes locations. This allows me to model half of asphalt storage tanks (with contents inside) and also creates a partial view block for the area. 

Interstate Asphalt will have three spots and Fort Mackinac will have four. While the industries have not been fully developed, the changes made will be tested out by the operator of the Y-BA04 "Bay Industrial Job" during my late fall session. 

 View east down Bay Industrial Spur (Interstate Asphalt on right, Fort Mackinac Corrugated to the left)

 Another view looking northwest toward Graystone Cement. Interstate Asphalt in the foreground. 

Checking reach in clearances to access switches for the three industries. I may end up cutting the tanks down some for better reach. However this job is handled by two operators so one would be on the inside of the layout left of the tanks and other operator right of the tanks. 

I think you can agree, the month produced great results in a host of areas. Another great way to help combat that summer modeling slump is having a host of different projects. In this case no scenery work at Grays Lake was complete, but progress was made in other areas. I hope to get back on scenery work at Grays Lake this month. Check back later in August to see what becomes of that task. Thanks for taking the time out of your day to read my update. I hope everyone has a safe rest of summer.


Thursday, June 29, 2017

Late June Update

Just like that the month of June is coming to a close. While I did not get any work done on the Grays Lake scene this month, I have plenty to show for other projects that did get completed this month along with new equipment additions to the St. Clair Sub so lets take a look.

MAC Rail (Car Shop)
I had a friend sometime ago that he would like a model of wind blades on railcars similar to what you can find operating on the prototype.  Luckily American Model Builders created a fantastic kit that is easy to build and in a few days you create a very nice model of a wind blade railcar setup. While in California I ran across the blades in a 3 pack at Railmaster Hobbies, so sure enough I picked them up for his display.

The blades represent a 102' model. Current prototype wind blades are 150' to 200' in length, but in our selectively compressed hobby these are the perfect size with plenty in/out swing. As for the rail car a combination of Athearn Genesis and BLMA 89' flats fit the bill. The blades and root end assembly are resin castings while the tip sling fixture is laser cut wood with a literally plastic swing. In the near future the Michigan Interstate will be moving wind blades, however to make "More with Less" I will be using the Atlas Trainman 68' flat which will compress the empty car space and operate better on my 28 degree curves. More to come on wind energy service on the MCIS in another post. 

MAC RAIL (Locomotive Shop)
There was no shortage of work being done in June, it just was not on the layout. Over the month MAC Rail released four locomotives that had undergone various sorts of work. 

Overview of the "High Bay" with BN2627, MCIS4005, and a bowl of cake getting worked on....

MCIS 4005 showing off its new Econami decoder and Railmaster DS1240-Box speaker. In this install i actually cut the top off the rear weight and then point the speaker downward over the trucks. The rear LED mounts right on top of the speaker. The front weight over the trucks is added back once the decoder is wired up. 

MCIS 4005 (GP40-2)
Internal: Soundtraxx Econami & Currentkeeper / Railmaster DS1240-Box Speaker / 3mm LED
External: Replaced broken cab sunshade and added BLMA air conditioners

MCIS 4571 (SD40M-2)
Internal: SBS4DCC Athearn LEDs / Truck & Gear Rebuild
External: Replaced handrails / Added all weather windows and non-op ditch lights

Following many online tutorials for Athearn engines I took apart each truck, filed off rough flash on each gear, cleaned with warm soapy water, re-assembled, lubricated with Labelle, and tested. The grinding sound did reduce tremendously and will get better the more running I can get on the engine. While apart I also checked gauge of the wheels and hard wired the track pickup wires to the brass tab on the truck tower. This work improved the reliability to the point where it can be run well with other engines that are sound equipped.

All Athearns are the same.... 

BNSF 3136 (GP50 for customer)
Internal: Soundtraxx Econami & Currentkeeper / Railmaster DS1425-8 Speaker / SBS4DCC Athearn LEDs 
External: Replaced ditch light bulbs with SBS4DCC 0402 LED

BN 2627 (GP40 for customer)
Internal: Soundtraxx Econami & Currentkeeper / Railmaster DS1240-Box Speaker / 3mm LED
External: Added Monster LEDs Stratrolite Beacon

That wraps up MAC Rail work for June, the rest of the summer looks to be steady with probably one sound install upgrade per month supplemented with existing fleet lighting upgrades on Athearn models. I strongly recommend Streamlined Backshops Athearn LED upgrade kits as it really makes putting LEDs in a snap. Basically each individual light has its own surface mount LED so it is very bright, and they can be wired into series so connecting them to whatever decoder is simple. 

Layout Car Fleet Additions
In my last update post I had touched on a new Athearn 60' TOBX purchased. Wanted to provide a up close look at the car in its pre-weathered from factory look and also showcase a few other purchases and Freelance Model Railroad trades that added to the overall layout roster. 

 TOBX 889088 (60' Plate F Double Door Boxcar) 
As part of the TTX national pool, we will see this car in overhead and online service carrying building products.While already weathered I do expect to do a little more to bring out its character. 

 DVE 6005 (50' Plate F Single Door Boxcar)
This car belongs to Jamie Isett's Delaware Valley Eastern. It seems Fort Mackinac Paper has secured business on the east coast so this boxcar will be busy hauling paper rolls from the mill at Cheboygan, MI. 

 DELC 90105 (5161 Cubic Foot Covered Hopper)
Owned by Matt Curll's Delmarva Central, this car loads out corn on the Michigan Interstate at either Cooperative Elevator or Michigan Agricultural Commodities for use as chicken feed out east. 

 QTTX131003 and QTTX131004 (66' Heavy Duty FM Flat)
Cars were recently came purchased and will find themselves hauling HIWIs of either the wind turbine or power gen. nature. As Michigan Interstate gets into hauling wind energy these will critical cars for the heavier wind turbine nacelles. 

DODX41089 and DODX41089
While marked up for DOD use, these cars will be re-purposed into wind energy service flats hauling the American Model Builders 102' wind blade. Using two 68' versus 89' flat will greatly reduce the overall size of the train and for my layout size better "Selectively Compress" the intended wind blade on flatcar. During this conversion an additional 8 flats will be purchased to allow for a train to carry 5 blades. 

That about sums it up for my end of June post. In just a few days from now we will be in July getting ready to celebrate the Fourth. With MAC Rail work tapering off some I do plan to get back on the Grays Lake scene. Until my next update, have a safe Holiday.