THE BLACK RIVER VALLEY MODEL RAILROAD WEBSITE
The thumbnail of the Pennsylvania E8 locomotives at right will lead to a short multi-image description on how they were made. Both units are Proto2000 models and both were in Atlantic Coast Line livery when they started out. I stripped, modified, painted, decaled and detailed both shells to make the locos you see in the thumbnail. Enjoy!
Here is the latest addition to my Santa Fe passenger consist. The model is an old Athearn BB kit with metal trucks and zinc flywheels I putchased at a local train show last month. A careful inspection, cleaning and lubrication yeilded smooth operation. I installed a Digitrax DH123 decoder and modified the headlight to put out the fire in the cab. I added a Walthers detail kit for the windows, ports and handrails and will apply some Details West MU and air hoses one day. With the application of some numbers in the number boards the model will be complete. SF #333 is the third powered unit in my four unity ABAA Santa Fe passenger consist. Only the B-unit has sound. The thumbnail at left will lead to a larger images of #333.
The Farmer's Market shown at left is a combination of the existing Tourist Scene and portions of Woodlands Senics Farmers Market Scene. I added the fruit and vegitable display, a couple of extra vehicles and a few human figures to give the scene more life. Athough crowded, the scene works for me. The thumbnail at right leads to my Team Track scene at night. I added a couple of light fixtures to the ends of the crane gantry to brighten the night-time scene. The changes helped but I think I need a couple more pole mounted lights.
Here are two views of my lighting project. At left is a view of the trackside loading dock and personnel access on the north and west sides of the Redwing Flour Mill. I added the light above the personnel door and installed another under the awning above the loading dock. The photo at right shows the light on the west side personnel door again and the light above the truck loading dock on the south side of the building. Together the new lights brightened the scene considerablly. Maybe a couple of pole mounted lights in the truck yard are still in order.
Behind the thumbnail photo of the undertable speakers at left is a video posted on YouTube that demonstrates my undertable diesel sound decoder installation. In the past I have had several inquiries about this installation and recently on the Model Railroader forum a request for a video demonstration. This video is the result. I appologize in advance for the less than stellar narration. Please keep in mind that I turned up the sound on the decoder to ensure that it would be heard/recorded by the video camera. It is not normally so loud. In addition, the deocoder was not synchonized with the locomotive as it could have been with some simple programming of the decoder. I rarely take the time to do so since we are always changing locomotives, particularly when the grandsons are operating the layout. If you have any questions about the installation after watching the video, contact me via the E-mail link below. Enjoy!
I intended to add several signs to the sides of the Farmers Union grain elevator and wharehouse for some time now. During the past week I finally took action.I have been collection the varous signs posted by tomkat-13 on the Model Railroader Forum for years. All of the signs used on the elevator and adjacent wharehous/feed store came from him. The thumbnail at left shows the signs and their locations on the grain elevator itself. The thumbnail at right does the same for the wharehouse. Just click on the thumbnail of choice for a large image.
The Pennsylvania RR RPO #342 at left is part of a six-car heavy weight consist I purchased used at a trains show in February of this year. Except for needing a few new couplers the cars were in remarkably good condition. I think they are either Riverossi or IHC cars since they are so light, have truck mounted couplers and have plastic wheel sets. The cars track well and look good behind my grandsons Bachmann Spectrum Pennsy K-4. The Performance of the loco will be improved when I get around to applying a little "Bull Frog Snot" to improve traction.
At right is the thumbnail for Southern Pacific Combine #3050. This car and its brothers, a couple of coaches and an observation car, are all Bachmann Spectrum models. They were purchased used at a train show at Lakeland Community College in early February 2012. All of the cars have suffered from rough handling and some of the diaphragms are missing, but the price was right. I have had to fill in some oversized holes and install new coupler pockets but the cars track well and look really good with my grandson's GS-4 Southern Pacific locomotive. Next will be replacement diaphragms, proper weighting and lighting.
Southern Pacific GS-4 #4449, at left, is a Bachmann locomotive that belongs to my oldest grandson. It was a Christmas present in 2004. To please him I installed the guts from an IHC steam sound car in the tender. Although it produced only white noise it satisfied the boy at the time. With the acquisition of a Southern Pacific passenger consist at a recent train show, it was time to upgrade the sound.
I removed the sound car components and installed a Soundtraxx DSD-101LC sound decoder and a 1-inch speaker in the tender. I fabricated and installed soft brass electrical pick-ups, thumbnail at right, on the underside of the tender and wired them to the decoder. The hardest part was isolating the motor and installing the electrical leads to and from the decoder.
When 4449 was placed on the track with its short consist of heavyweight passenger cars, there was a lot of slippage. After checking all the wheels on the cars and the locomotive and lubricating everything without much improvement I decided to try a little "Bull Frog Snot" on the locomotive's drivers to see if it would improve the loco's adhesion. The photo at left shows the result of the "Bull Frog Snot" application on the rear drivers. I'm happy to say there was a dramatic improvement in the performance and now SP GS-4 #4449 happily travels the BRVRR layout with its heavyweight consist without noticeable slippage.
I purchased this Proto 2000 SW8/900/800 loco in NYC livery from a vendor at the NMRA Div. 4 train show in Berea, OH, on October 1, 2011. The price was just too good to pass up. It is shown here during its DC test run. The gearing is a little gummy so they will need cleaning and lubrication. It still needs some detailing and I'm not fond of the handrails on the hood. A little tinkering and a decoder will make this little gem into a welcome addition to the BRVRR.
A new photo of the West End of the BRVRR layout. There are not many notable changes, but I was trying for a better image of the down town. I have a bunch of new trees that are looking for a place on the railroad. Any suggestions.
I've been tinkering with my Team Track scene again. I added a covered load with tie-downs to the flat car and moved the derrick a little farther out on the loading platform. Not sure if I have it right yet, but this arrangement looks good to me.
I have been working on a small repair scene near the Farmers Union grain elevator. Shockers Electric is replacing a broken ventilation fan for one of the grain bins. To do so they needed a truck with some kind of crane or hoisting equipment. To give them one, I used an Athearn White Freightliner tractor kit that has been on the shelf for some time. I shortened the chassis by removing the rear axle and then primed and painted the cab with Testor's Flat Dove Grey. The cab and chassis are shown after basic assembly in the thumbnail at left. I fabricated the truck body from some .030-inch styrene I had on hand. When the glue was dry I painted it with the same Dove Grey I had used on the cab. I built the hoist from some styrene shapes and painted them with Testor's silver. When the truck bed had dried I applied a light coat of artist's acrylic grey and streaked it with brown. A Sharpie with a fine point provided the seams between the boards in the truck bed.
I made a 'broken' fan assembly from a few pieces from a Walther's Roof Top Ventilation Kit and painted it silver. I mounted the fan in the truck bed and installed the dunnage 'wedges' made from a few small pieces of scrap balsa. A couple of figures from my 'People' box give the scene a little life.
The A-unit Pennsylvania F7 #9822 at left has been lying around for years. It is an Athearn BB kit that I detailed with a Walther's dress-up kit. I made the train phone antenna from stantions from an Athearn handrail set for a GP40-2 and a couple of pieces of .015 music wire. The air hose is a A-Line detail part I think. The drive is original Athearn. After installing a TCS T1 decoder and modifying the head light to put out the 'fire' in the cab, I decided to add a B-unit with sound. The Brunswick Green and five gold striped livery proved to be a problem though. I stripped the paint off of an Athearn BB F7 B-unit, at right, I had on hand and painted it with custom mixed Floquil Brunswick Green to match the A-unit. This took some doing, but I finally got it right I think. I applied stripes and numbers from Microscale Decal sheet ##87-39 and handrails from a Walther's "dress-up kit". I weathered the shells and trucks with Bragdon dry powders and sealed everything with a couple of light coats of Dulcote. The sound installation consists of a Soundtraxx DSD-101LC decoder and a 1-inch speaker with enclosure in the B-unit. As a part of the installation I put a small 14-16 volt structure light across the motor leads on the decoder to aid with programming. I coupled the booster to the A-unit with a drawbar and installed a Miniatronics 2-conductor wire set to couple the locomotives electrically for 16-wheel electrical pickup. The locos operate together quite well.
The actual General store building has been completed for a couple of weeks now as witnessed by the photos and descriptions below. I decided to enhance the scene with a new fence and a few details to bring it to life. First I added a bit to the ground cover in the parking lot and around the back of the structure. Then I added the wooden fence, left thumbnail, to separate the team track/industrial area from the street end. The fence came from the Walther's Team Track kit. I added a few signs printed on my home computer to the front and back of the fence to give it some character. I made the gates at the end of the sidewalks movable with soft copper wire hinges. Then I painted and placed a group of trash cans from my bits and pieces box along the back wall of the store. Right thumbnail. Still a little way to go but the overall effect is pleasing I think.
My team track scene started with a Walther's kit. I've moved the derrick around a couple of times but there was never any life to the scene. I recently decided to change that. I glued some 44-links to the inch chain to the top of a crate from a Scene Master Kit and attached it to the hook on the overhead crane. I positioned a flat car near the loading dock to provide an origin for the crate and a semi-trailer truck on the opposite side of the dock for a destination. I placed several working man figures from Woodland Scenics and Preiser in various positions. With a piece of black thread, a bit of copper wire and a scrap piece of styrene I made a control box for the crane and attached it to one of the figures. A couple of more short lengths of the chain were used on the trailer for added detail. Next is the scattering of bits of wood and paper around the scene to give it that 'lived in look' but it is already a distinct improvement over the sterile scene from before.
After building Santa Fe FP45 #5945 I had every intention of weathering #5941 to match. Well, I finally got around to it. I removed the window glazing where I could and masked off the remainder. Then I applied some Bragdon dry powders to the body shell and the trucks together with some lightly brushed Floquil rust and oily black paints. I sealed the surfaces with a couple of light coats of Dulcote and then reinstalled the window glazing. The results are shown in the thumbnail at right. Just 'click' for a larger view.
As a part of my layout beautification project I finally filled in the last area of painted ground on the layout. The area around Berea Tower has long needed some attention. I finally got around to improving the ground cover with Woodland Scenics mixed green foam. I added a couple of sections of roadway, two rail crossings and several signs. The roadway is made from heavy artist's board painted with flat black latex. The RR Crossing and Stop signs are printed on heavy paper and glued to posts of 1/8-inch brass. After the photo at left was taken I painted some Railroad Junk from a Preiser grouping and placed some barrels near the building and a few paint cans and small crates under the stairs to the tower. A few pieces of Woodland Scenics coarse foam for foliage and the scene was done. Big improvement I think.
As part of my effort to make the BRVRR layout more appealing scenically I decided to place a few railroad ties along a portion of the mainline to simulate a future maintenance project. I made the ties from a piece of 1/8-inch hard balsa which I cut to length. I colored the ties with a black Sharpie and let them dry overnight. I then placed the ties along the mainline near the West end of the layout. They were placed randomly and glued into place with a dab of Aleene's Tacky Glue. I put a piece of scrap rail, weathered with Floquil Rust among the ties, but haven't decided if I'm going to add more rail or remove what I have in place. I achieved the purposeful cluttered look I was looking for I think.
I have wanted to stripe the front and rear of my NYC RDC#53 for quite awhile. The arrival of the needed decals from Microscale meant that I had to take action. After removing the body shell, removing the window glazing and taping of the top and sides I sprayed a coat of reefer white Testor's paint on the front and rear panels of the body shell. Once the paint had dried I applied black 8-inch (scale) stripes from Microscale sheet #91152 to each end. It took a little fiddling to get the right match on the entry doors, but I finally worked it out. Next I applied a few strips of 8-inch wide red barricade stripes to complete the design. A few touches with red and black Testor's enamel finished the stripe application. A liberal application of Bragdon Enterprises weathering powders and a couple of coats of Dulcote finished the job. For a larger image of my RDC click the thumbnail photograph at right.
This is one of a pair of Mini-Metals trucks which are part of my grain elevator scene that I have been tinkering with over the past few months. First I painted the 'canvas' trailer covers a more realistic tan. Then I made a folded tarp and side boards for one of them. A load of grain was fashioned from a small piece of poster board and ground corn meal to fill one of the trucks. Later I added a driver rolling up the tarp on the loaded trailer. Just recently I applied a few Breckler Farms signs to the trailers and tractors. The name comes a family friend in Wisconsin. Since the driver looked a little silly on the side of the trailer I provided him with a ladder for access. The tractors and trailers still need a little more detail and weathering, but they are getting there.
After I installed a Soundtraxx DSD-101-LC decoder in my Santa Fe FP-45 #5941 a few months ago, I was so pleased with it that I began looking for another FP-45 to pair it with. Unfortunately, after several train shows with no luck finding one in Santa Fe Warbonnet livery, I decided to make my own. I purchased the Athearn BB FP-45 in Milwaukee Road livery shown at left above. After stripping the paint and cleaning up the shell, I sprayed on a coat of Floquil silver as a primer. Photo at right, above. For the red paint, I made a mask out of 'Scotch Tape' and sprayed on a couple of coats of Floquil, Santa Fe red with my trusty Badger air brush.
As part of my project to improve the scenery on the BRVRR I have been on the lookout for a bargain on trees. I found a package of Heki pine trees on sale at a local hobby shop and snapped them up. They range in size from 1-1/2 to 4-inches. They are simple 'bottle brush' trees of green bristles on a wound green armature and needed a little TLC to make them suitable for use on the layout. I sprayed them with hairspray and sprinkled on Woodland Scenics fine ground foam in several shades of green to give them some body. After they dried, I sprayed them a second time to ensure the ground foam stayed in place. Then I proceeded to plant them by drilling a 1/16-inch hole in the table top and inserting the wire armatures. I spread them around the layout where ever I could find an empty spot and where the trees wouldn't interfere with train operation. The thumbnails at the top show where I planted some of the trees. Just 'click' on the thumbnail for a larger image.
I am always looking for heavyweight and streamlined Athearn passenger cars. The slightly shorter cars look better on my railroad than true scale cars. The NYC had thousands of baggage cars that were often used as mail/express cars. This NYC Baggage car started as an undecorated kit. I painted the body Pullman Green, the top black and added decals from Microscale. A coat of Testor's Dull Cote sealed the whole thing together. The interior is lighted with a single bulb with wound wire pick-ups applied to two axles on each truck. I use a piece of plain white copy paper inside of the shell to diffuse the light a little. With the addition of Kadee #5 couplers the car was complete. A worthy addition to my passenger car fleet.
I created this Crane Repair scene to fill in a large area behind my engine terminal facility. The area was previously just painted a 'dirt' brown and needed filling in. The small tool shed/office is the structure part of a Bachmann Steam Whistle Freight House that I bashed a little to reduce its size. The crane is part of a Scene Master grouping as is the compressor. I made the spare ties from basswood and 'painted' them with a black Sharpie. The spare rails are sections of old flex-track painted roof brown. The spare wheel-sets are on a custom made rack of flex-track. The figures came from Bachmann and Woodland Scenics. All in all I am pleased with how the scene turned out. I think the 'yard' area needs a little more mud though.
As part of the Crane Repair Scene and the General Industries building, I added some building profiles and hill scenery to the East End of the layout. The buildings in the skyline were cut out of a digitally printed background that I purchased a train show more than a year ago. I mounted the scene on black foam-board and then cut out the buildings I wanted to use. A few of them are mounted on front of some of the others to give the scene some depth. The brick structure in the center, to the left of the General Industries building, are flats, mounted on foam core, of the Will Hall Building, from Illinois Main Street. Although not visible in this photo, I mounted a forested hill scene on foam board and mounted it to the left of the area in the photo, behind my viaduct and roadway bridge. This end of the layout now looks much better than it did with a plain blue background.
Both of these cabooses (cabeese) were constructed from Athearn BB kits. I modified them a little by applying .005-inch clear styrene for window glazing and installing metal wheels. I then weathered them with washes of acrylic paint and Bragdon Enterprises weathering powders. I think I got a little carried away with #24524. Then I lightly touched the grab irons, hand rails and steps with yellow paint to add some highlights. For a larger image push the thumbnail of your choice.
Because I've always wanted to do it, I fabricated and installed interior lighting on both cars. I used a simple wound brass wire pick-up system for #24524 and a modified Kadee coupler-spring pick-up for #24534.
To make the wound brass wire pick-up I used on Caboose #24524, shown at left, I just wound .010-inch brass wire around the metal axles on each truck. Then I soldered a length of thin decoder wire to the pick-up and threaded it through a 1/16-inch hole I drilled through the bottom of the chassis and weight. After doing the same for the other truck, I soldered a Model Power #381 12-16 volt, .03 amp bulb to the leads. I left the leads a little long so I could tape the bulb to the roof of the caboose body. To ensure good electrical contact, I added 1 1/2-ounces of lead weights over each truck. After installing Kadee #5 couplers and snapping the body onto the chassis, my caboose was completed. 'Click' the thumbnail at left for a larger image.
I didn't have another set of metal axled wheels for Caboose #24534 so I used a slightly modified Kadee coupler spring for a pick-up with the Proto wheel set already in place. To make an electrical pick-up that would brush the inside of the wheels, I bent the coupler spring tabs out away from the spring base to form the pick-up 'brushes'. Then I drilled and tapped a hole for a #2 screw through the cross member on the truck. After trimming the edges of the spring/pick-up to fit without interfering with the bolster, I attached a length of decoder wire to the pick-up and cross member with a 1/4-inch long #2 screw. 'Click' the thumbnail at right for a larger image. After attaching the wire, assembly followed the same steps as I used with the wrapped-wire pick-up.
Both methods of electrical pick-up work well. The cabooses track well and I haven't had any trouble with binding. The lights stay illuminated with very little flicker so I consider the project(s) a success.
Here is a picture of NYC Caboose #24524 as it rounds the curve near the Farmers Union elevator. NYC F7A #1855 pass on the outer main line. In the near darkness that the photo was taken in, the interior lighting in the caboose looks pretty good. Push on the thumbnail at left for a larger image.
I dropped and damaged my Proto 2000 NYC E8 #4040 a few weeks ago. I replaced a coupling, but it still makes strange noises. I decided to replace the chassis on this well worn locomotive and fix the old one when time allows. A quick phone call to Trainworld yielded a new A/B set of powered P2K locos. The thumbnail at left is a photo of a new Proto 2000 E8 chassis as it arrived. Although this is really a B-unit chassis, the important thing to notice is the circuit board at the rear. This circuit board is much thicker, about 3/32-inch, than the one in my old E8 chassis and has a NMRA medium socket. I plugged the decoder into the 8-pin socket and mounted it on the right top of the circuit board. When I attempted to put the locomotive's shell on the chassis, it wouldn't fit down tight and level at the rear. Investigation showed that the new circuit board was too thick to allow me to mount the decoder in its customary place. An alternative had to be found. In order to fit the Soundtraxx DSD-100LC decoder above the rear truck I decided to remove the circuit board. To mount the decoder I made a small platform to replace the circuit board out of .040-inch styrene and held it in place with the original screws. Then I hard wired the Soundtraxx decoder to the chassis and mounted it on the styrene platform with double-backed foam tape. This procedure gave me plenty of clearance to mount the decoder without interfering with the locomotive shell. The thumbnail at top right shows the decoder in place on the platform and the chassis ready for the installation of the shell.
Farmer's Union grain elevator is a recent addition to the Black River Valley Model Railroad layout. It is actually a replacement for the more modern Black River Valley COOP on the layout. The new model, like the old one, is from Walther's. I think the wooden rural grain elevator fits into my operating era better the concrete structure it is replacing. Most of the weathering is finished and lighting has been installed and tested. It was necessary to relocate the elevator's siding to allow for more structures on the town site. The large Walther's grain bin I intended to place with the elevator proved to be too large. Instead, I fashioned two smaller bins from a tin can, a piece of .030-inch styrene and some odds and ends from my scrap box. I think the smaller bins fit the scene better. Still to come are more vehicles, people, and shrubbery. I am pleased with the progress so far.
I found a couple of Classic Metal Works Mini Metals 'Covered Wagon' trailers at a recent train show. Since the BRVRR layout can always use more vehicles I couldn't resist. Once I had the trailers, I had to get tractors to pull them, of course. I ordered some green Undecorated IH R-190 single screw tractors to pull my new trailers. Two of the 'sets' are shown at right approaching the Farmers Union elevator. They still need a few more details, but make a nice addition to the layout.
I have put off making signs for the businesses in Berea for a long time. I finally took the plunge. Barron Oil Company is named for the fuel distributor in the small town in Michigan where I grew up. The Barron Oil sign was made on my home computer and printed on plain white paper, glued to the frame and backing that I made from styrene. As an afterthought, the framework supporting the sign on the roof of the building is a little too large. It will do for now.
One of these small signs marks each of the driveways into Barron Oil, my fuel supply company. They were made the same way as the larger sign on top of the building. Printed on white paper and glued to a styrene backing. The posts are styrene strips painted with a Dark Green Floquil and a brush.
Judy's Bar and Grill sign was made on my home computer like those above. The difference here is that I chose to suspend it from a pole. The sign support is made from styrene shapes glued together. The sign itself is glued to a small piece of manila folder to give it some substance, and glued to the support pole. Looks pretty good, if I do say so myself.
Michelle's Fashions sign is like those above. Made on my computer, printed on white paper and glued to manila stock. No styrene backing. This sign is glued right to the structure with 'gel' super glue. Works for me.
Period trucks and cars are hard to find. I have been buying small trucks and cars when I find them to populate the layout with vehicles. These two Texaco trucks are IMEX Model Company vehicles. I added license plates made on my home computer. The splash guards, mud-flaps when I was a kid, were made from manila folder stock and stained with a black Sharpie. I glued them to the frame of the trucks with super-glue. Together, the plates and flaps add some much needed detail. Next is a little weathering and a coat of Dulcote to take off the shine.
Another of the IMEX model trucks. This time a Fowler Produce Company open bodied truck. It got the same treatment as the Texaco trucks mentioned above. This vehicle will hang around the team track scene on the BRVRR. Does anyone know where I can find HO scale models of produce crates? I have looked high and low and have come up empty.
As the BRVRR locomotive fleet grew, my desk/work bench and bookshelves became more and more cluttered. After several mishaps because of crowding I decided to take some action. The 'Loco Rack' in the photograph is the result of my efforts. It is made out of 1/2-inch red oak plywood and measures 32 1/2-inches x 42 1/2-inches x 2 1/2-inches deep. All of the joints are glued and screwed. Despite its fragile look the shell is quite rigid. There are still 4 or 5 locos on the layout. The Challenger, N&W #611 and everything below them belong to my eldest grandson Zachary.
I finally got around to 'finishing' the office for my team track scene. I applied a few decals to the outside, installed the window glazing and put in and interior light. As a final touch, I 'opened' the door and placed a supervisor figure on the front step. The photo at right is the result. There is still some weathering to do, to take the gloss off the structure, but it is nearly done.
The same scene at night. I kind of like the effect of the open door.
I have been looking for some scale lighting for my switch yards, team track scene and for general lighting on my town site. I made the yard light in the photograph at left by following a tutorial I found on the 2 Guyz and Sum Trains site. This light and its brothers are made from a 3 mm LED, a piece of brass tubing, a panel washer, a resistor and some wire. The tutorial explaining the construction of my yard lights on the 2 Guys site was just one of many helpful ideas they have posted there.
The hardest part of model railroading for me is landscaping the layout. It is always a chore for me. I have been intending to camouflage my programming track as an abandoned siding for a long time. I finally took the plunge. The photo at right is a view of Grafton Tower with my programming track in the background. There is still some cleaning up to do and the scene needs more people and maybe another vehicle, but it is light years better than dirt colored foam board. Yes, I know the ground throw is too large.