Saturday, December 26, 2009

Golden Spike Project - 15 days in

Two weeks and a day into the project.

The "benchwork" is complete, as described before, a simple false bottomed box to be filled with pink foam insulation

In what is typical for me, I've jumped back and forth from replicating the original article and building the Payless Mine layout, or doing something similarily "mine-oriented", to doing a logging operation, based on the general layout/ideal of the article. After a lot of back and forth and making mock-ups and all, I've ultimately decided to do the logging idea, basing the size and trackplan on the article. Track will extend at both ends for possible, probable, likely (?) expansion.

Here is my Christmas Day efforts, pieced in pink foam, with a creekbed cut through and the basic track layout. Simple HO scale flextrack, with every other tie removed. Trying to make this as simple and basic as possible, the idea that ANYONE can do something similar, no special materials, tools, etc, just a little space and a desire to try it all.

The "West End", the Bachmann gas mechanical is about the perfect size for this, although I have a couple of similarily small, 4 wheel, short wheel base Milwaukee locomotives in mind as well.

The curve in the center is some of my usual smart-ass efforts, one of the "suggestions" for track for the Gold Spike is a crossing, which of course would be of zero use here, so I added one anyways, conceptually this is the camp foreman's office and a speeder or small railbus pulls up to the office with new employees.

The "East End" of things.

An overall look at the full 6 foot length of things. Planning a small, portable sawmill in the center of the "V" here at the east end, loaded disconnects on one side, flats with cut lumber on the other

Tuesday, December 22, 2009

Seats for the Big Birney

Back to the Big Birney car project.

Plan to unveil it in some state of completion for High Wheeler 2010, first weekend in March.
Just under 75 days away, not much time !
Spent much of last weekend figuring out how to make the Brill Waylo seats. Not a difficult project, but with no dimensions or plans, have to wing it best you can. Thanks to Mal Rowe in Australia yet again (He also supplied photos and info on the St Louis #7 trucks), he sent me some good detailed pictures from the Bendigo Tram Birney cars and seats.

Here are the patterns, affixed to the base of the mold box.
All styrene patterns.

Here is the finished mold, everything gets cast twice

except the seat pad to the right.

And here is the first mock-up, not complete, still needs the swing arms in place so that the back is elevated and the seat back can be "reversed", have to play with the castings a bit to make that work right (bit of a design flaw, but easily remedied). Next steps, figure out the fix for the seat backs, cast up a bunch of parts, and put them all together. With any luck, few casts per day, should have a complete set of seats for New Years. A MAJOR step forward !

Friday, December 11, 2009

Golden Spike - The "Benchwork"

So, here we are, 24ish hours into the Golden Spike project.
Actually starting to come together in my mind as I start to make some definitive decisions about the who/how/where/why/what of it all.
First part is the benchwork. This won't be traditional benchwork as we normally view it.

The concept here is basically a box which will sit on a standard 6 foot long folding table.

Easy to accomodate, small enough to fit in most cars, and the standard 6 foot folding table, (a) ungodly common at your average railroad show, and (b) short enough that most of the kids can get an up-close and personal look. And if the little monsters can't keep their fingers to themselves, we can boost the whole thing up 1-2-3 feet by putting milk crates or some such at the corners.

So, starting with the box.

6 foot long x 18 inches wide. Standard 1x4"

A "lip" of 1x1" stock inside, the top of the 1x1" an inch down from the top of the 1x4"

A 1/4" plywood sheet on top of those "lip" pieces, creating a false bottomed box, that is approx, 3/4" deep, with approx 3 inches of "under" for all the wiring and what have you.

On top of the 1/4" plywood we'll start with 1 inch pink foam insulation and build up from there for elevation(s).

This is the rough drawing of the box concept.

FYI, for those playing along at home...

1. Get a damn life !

2. No, seriously,, my junk isn't that interesting !

3. The concept is based on an article by Richard White, "The ON30 Payless Mine Company" featured in the Sept/Oct 1996 issue of the Narrow Gauge and Short Line Gazette. Hopefully, we'll do it justice, should be able to figure this out,, I've only thought about the article and building a reasonable facsimile for 14+ years !

Best Holiday Wishes 2009

I don't normally do these types of things, but here we go anyways...

From our family to yours, best wishes for a safe and happy holiday season 2009.

Thursday, December 10, 2009

Golden Spike Project

I have not had an operating layout for quite some time. I beleive I've mentioned it somewhere here in the past, given my interest in larger scaled models and living in townhouses, I've been forced to choose between work area or a layout, and the workroom always wins.

With my more recent activities within our local NMRA chapter, the itch to have somewhere to run trains has become more pronounced of late. I'm developing a plan where I have offered to repaint the entire house next spring, in exchange for taking our spare bedroom/mini-office and converting that to a full office with an around the walls shelf type O scale layout. I suspect the Mrs may have gotten the better of the deal here, but as long as everyone has what they want, good deal.

Anyways, all of that is a bit down the road, and the need to re-sharpen those layout skills makes sense before committing to a bigger layout. With that in mind, I noticed in one of the more recent NMRA newsletters mention of the Golden Spike Award.

In essence, the Golden Spike Award is designed to promote building and completing a layout, with some specific modeling prerequisites.

The qualifications for the Award are as follows :
Rolling Stock (Motive power/cars) Display six (6) units of rolling stock, scratchbuilt, craftsman, or detailed commercial kit

Model Railroad Setting (Structures & Scenery) Construct a minimum 8 square feet of layout, and construct five (5) structures, again scratchbuilt, craftsman, or detailed commercial kit

Engineering (Civil & Electrical) Three (3) types of trackage required (turnout, crossing, etc) All must be properly ballasted and installed on proper roadbed. All installed trackage must be properly wired so that two trains can be operated simultaneously. Provide one additional electric feature such as powered turnout, signaling, turnout indicator, lighted building, etc

Seems very doable, and I have set for myself a goal of designing and building and (hopefully) accomplishing this award, within one year (12/10/2010). What I have in mind at present is a small (6 foot x 18" inch) ON30 layout. The concept will be based at least for the start on an older Narrow Gauge Gazette article. (more on that later)

So,,, I'll hit Publish Post and start the clock ticking,,, as if I didn't have enough other projects

Did I mention back-dating 4 Ken Kidder brass Shaker Hts 300 series cars back to original AE&FRE 300 series, including details, custom paint and decals,, that's my Christmas project !

More to come

Sunday, November 29, 2009

Boxcab for a friend - Fini

Some quick paint, lettering, finished... Sure hope he likes it !!

Saturday, November 28, 2009

Fox River Trolley Museum 11/28/09

Fox River 304 just south of the main museum campus at Castlemuir

A busy afternoon at the Fox River Trolley Museum in South Elgin, Ill.

The museum spent a busy day rearranging their collection in order to provide indoor storage for recently acquired Fox River #304, a car original to the museum's mainline/right of way.

First things first of course, which included a number of test runs down the right of way, the first real runs of the car since it got back on home rails 11/3/09. The car operated smoothly and the ride is noticeably smoother than with the heavier interurban cars. As was noted,, "What did you expect, after all, the car was designed to ride on these rails !"

Fox River 304 headed south on the mainline

After the runs, time for work. The most notable highlights of the day's plan called for clearing the western most track of the museum's small three track carbarn. That track held, until earlier today, Chicago Surface Lines RPO mail car #6, Chicago Aurora & Elgin line car #11, and Johnstown Traction streetcar #362. The museum has made the decision to deacession the 362 so that room and resources can be better spent on the Fox River car.

The first car out was the mail car. The mail car is a small single truck car which has not had motors in it for sometime. The car has been pushed by manpower out of the barn numerous times over the years, and is often manned by the South Elgin Post Office for special events with a special RPO cancellation. Once out of the barn, it was switched to another track out of the way.

Chicago Surface Lines RPO Mail Car #6
Next out was CA&E line car #11. This was a noteable event in and of itself, the line car has not been outdoors or touched by sunlight in some 25 years. Even more exciting than seeing it outside, it operated under it's own power ! The car needed to be stingered as that track of the barn is not currently powered, but it moved under it's own power via stinger to get to live overhead, and then up went the pole, and it motored without problem to the north end of the property.

CA&E Line car #11
Pole up, and under way
Things were going smoothly at that point, and apparently too smoothly. Next out was the Johnstown car, which also has not seen the light of day for roughly a quarter century. Fox River #5, the line's only diesel locomotive which the museum brought back to home rails a bit less than 10 years ago, pulled the car out, only to have the south truck jump the rails at the first switch.

The AE&FRE #5, and Johnstown #362

An hour was lost getting the car back on track, but things seemed to move smoothly after that.

The Johnstown 362 will remain outdoors until a new home can be found for it, while Fox River 304 is safe and secure within the carbarn. A lot of effort by the folks at FRTM who included Ralph Taylor, Fred Lonnes, Joe Hazinski, and Chuck Galitz, along with several others. These folks will continue to need your support to rehab the 304 (as well as CA&E 458 which should be coming soon). Contact the museum through their website

Friday, November 27, 2009

Boxcab for a friend

I'm the sort of idiot who never (and I mean, never) takes time off from work. An extended holiday weekend like this one for Thanksgiving gets almost as close to a vacation as I typically take. So, I usually look at the time off as a chance to really be able to focus for an extended period on a given modeling project, or two, or three, or nine, or twelve, well, you get the idea.

As is typical of my particular brand of stupidity, one project begets another, which begets another, and so on.

I was looking through old back issues of the Narrow Gauge Gazette for a different project and came across an old favorite article. The article, from the Nov/Dec '92 issue describes an ON30 boxcab locomotive. It's based on a prototype from a Mexican narrow gauged mining company's operations. Neat little thing, single truck, single pantograph.

Anyways, I've been thinking about something like this for a friend. I semi-promised this person a long time ago that I'd build something for him, time and other things had put us both on different paths, but the last couple months I've run across him on a frequent basis and some of our mutual current interests will continue our seeing each other. All of which simply served to remind me that I had promised him something so long ago. As luck would have it,, this is the perfect thing.
So, I had come across the article on Monday, had the idea percolating in my noggin for the last couple days, and got up bright and early on Thursday to start. All sheet styrene, an old NWSL power block (gauged for 45mm), bunch of Ozark Miniatures handrails and grab irons. Slightly modified/Americanized LGB pantograph. Oversized and also somewhat modified Bachmann couplers, not my choice but since this is for someone else, built to his needs/standards.

Still needs a few finish details, and paint of course. The "lettering" is just a test sample for sizing of some custom decals I made and will print up and apply once we're done. The person this is for , his name is Allodi, hence the Allodi Electric. Numbered #34, because in lieu of any set numbering pattern, as a die hard Chicago Bears fan, what better number to use than that of the late, great Walter Payton ?

Not bad for roughly two days work, of course it helps a heck of a lot to have everything you need lying about with no other set purpose for it all. Follow up before the end of the weekend (and hopefully better photography) once it's complete and painted.

Monday, November 23, 2009

Back to Modeling without Deadlines

With Trainfest firmly in the rear-view mirror, it's time to settle down a bit, build and model what I feel like modeling, not something that needs to be finished for the display.
(I get back in that mode late January, but that's another post)

So, first challenge up, our local NMRA Division's monthly meets typically feature a modeling contest. The November contest was interior detailing, structure or rolling stock. Now this is something I don't normally do, model interiors. Many people will often comment on my models (especially the 1/2" scale models), wondering why they have no interiors.

It all goes back to my father's modeling when I was young. Now here was a guy that had a beautiful string of the typical Walther's heavyweight coaches, all with full interiors. Yet, after he finished showing it off upon completion, no one ever got to see enough of the interior thru the car windows to appreciate it. And picking it up, removing the roof to see,, that wasn't happening. So, I would see all the effort that went into building the car and I'd see just as much effort going into an interior.. in my mind it became a simple math question, 10 hours to build the car, 10 hours for an interior,,, or 2 cars built in the same amount of time
(Random numbers, your build time may vary !)

I have to admit as I become older and more interested in specific prototype modeling that I find myself drawn to fully completing cars and structures with interiors, although the full plunge is still a bit off. So anyways, this was a good excuse to experiment.

I had a number of odd goodies that I've collected over the years, mostly props for model photography, so I started putting them in a pile to see what I had to work with. Seemed pretty obvious pretty early on that a typical MOW/Speeder shed would be good. I had an Ozark Miniatures velocipede which would take the place of a speeder, and that was it.

The structure is all sheet styrene. "Typical" design, roughly 10x20 feet. It's in 1:24 scale, which neccessitated taking the velocipede apart, altering a few details to scale it down to size, and extending the boom arm to proper 4'-8-1/2" track gauge in 1:24.

It's sitting on a temporary foam core base (with a hollowed out center) to accomodate the wires for the interior lights (HO scale streetlamps)

The interior details are a mix of Ozark Miniatures detail parts, and various odds and ends, some details from other scales, other things modified, some items scratchbuilt. Single biggest challenge was the pile of dirt next to the broom,, it's a pile of black pepper dropped into a few drops of ACC, between the ACC fumes and the pepper, I thought I was literally going to die.

All in all a fun project, definitely something different, at least for me. And for the record, nope, didn't win. We had twenty members at the meeting and I beleive 10 entries, including one Z scale rendition of the famous "Nighthawks" painting. I know I wasn't in the top 3 (heck I didn't even vote myself as one of the top three!), and I don't really know or care where I fell in the 4-10 range. It was the challenge and I enjoyed it. Besides, I was going up against at least one MMR, if you don't push yourself against the best, you'll never have a shot to be the best.

That was this week,, long holiday weekend coming up,, see what we can knock out

in the next couple days !

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Trainfest 2009 - Follow-up

Trainfest 2009 is done, and a heartfelt thank you to everyone who stopped by.
A long weekend came to it's conclusion about 8:30 Sunday night when I finally unloaded the last of the display items into my garage so at least my car was empty enough to go to work the next morning. Still work to do this week to take things out of the garage and put them all away where they need to be.
All in all, a very successful weekend, a good show, no damages enroute either way (always a concern when your models and memorabilia travel), and no little monsters grabbing things when their parents aren't watching. "Jimmy, if you grab one more train and throw it on the ground, we're going home,, 3 is enough young man !"

The Fox River display got alot of attention as it was center located, plus all the recent FRTM excitement with the AEFRE 304 coming back to home rails. Note to self for next time,, identify it as "Interurbans of the ILLINOIS Fox Valley". The same Fox Valley extends north into Wisconsin, and a bit of confusion ensued.

Equally, many people assumed this was a display affiliated with the Fox River Trolley Museum, a semi-obvious assumption given the content, and some of my personal former involvement, but again, for the record,, no, this is not part of FRTM, but specifically what I have come to identify as my own personal "Traveling Hysterical Society". Having said that, I am a member of both FRTM and IRM, and happy to help share the word any way I can.

The "Connecting Lines/Fox River Park" part of the display
The CA&E section

I especially want to acknowledge two groups of people.

First is The Metro Milwaukee Z scale group. A very nice group of folks, with some simply fascinating tiny trains. I would have to give up my beer,, no way my hands could ever be steady enough for that stuff. At some point Saturday I thought I saw one of their cars on the floor, turned out to be a piece of lint.

Tiny, Tiny, Tiny. I'm kidding of course. Nice folks and they were gracious enough a couple times to help out this one man band by baby-sitting the IoFV display while I made a quick bathroom run. Many many thanks !

Next, to all the various people that visited, and ESPECIALLY all of the various groups that were also part of the show, and people that I've know only by name/email over the internet, that were gracious and complimentary,, thank you to all, not only for your comments and appreciation, but also because your words are truly from a "jury of my peers", and your "insider" knowledge and experience made your appreciation that much more special.

I would name names, but I'm afraid to accidently forget anyone. All of you, you know where to find me, please keep in touch ! And again,, Thank you all.

Friday, November 13, 2009

Trainfest 2009 - Set-up

At the end of a long day, here's a bit of a taste of the display at Trainfest.
Managed to escape (well physically anyway, still have the cellphone/electronic leash) from the office a bit after 2 PM for the high speed journey north to the land of cheese.

We had two 6 foot tables at HighWheeler, now just 9 months later, I had asked for three tables (2-8 foot, 1-6 foot), ended up with 4, and as you can see, they're jammed packed. Maybe the wife is right and I do have too much crap.... nahh.

Let's see,, four 1/2" scale cars, and a total of nine O scale, two sceniced O scale dioramas, lot of photos and memorabilia,, I just can't wait to pack all this S**tuff back up again,, geezus

Show starts in just 12 hours and 16 minutes, so perhaps I should get some sleep.

Sunday, November 8, 2009

Fox River 304

Tuesday, 11/3/2009, will long be remembered as a VERY special day at the Fox River Trolley Museum in South Elgin, Illinois. After a 74 year absence, Aurora Elgin & Fox River Electric #304 was delivered by Silk Road Transport and returned to home rails.

The 304, was one of 7 double truck, lightweight interurban cars built by St Louis Car Company in 1923 for the Aurora Elgin & Fox River Electric. The cars are unique in many ways, one of the more obvious is the arch window design, a design feature that was definitely outdated by 1923.

The AE&FRE gave up on interurban passenger service in 1935, and all seven cars were sold to the Cleveland Interurban Railroad (later Shaker Hts Rapid Transit)All seven were refurbished and several cosmetic changes occurred (whistles moved from the roof to the upper dash, trolley retrievers moved from the lower dash to a center window mount, roof vents/ventilation changed, interior lights changed, etc. )

The cars served in Cleveland until 1950 when they were retired. Two cars, the 300 and 301 came back to the midwest in 1950 being sold to Milwaukee's Speedrail operation. They only lasted a year (not long enough to lose their Shaker Hts blue/grey paint scheme) and were scrapped in 1951. Car 305 was destroyed, but in 1954the remaining 4 cars were acquired by Gerald Brookins and formed part of the foundation for what became the Trolleyville museum.

Over the years, the four remaining cars in Ohio dwindled to 3, then 2. The 306 was sold to IRM, and the 302 was scrapped for parts (some of which went to IRM as well) The 306 operated briefly at IRM, and was taken apart starting in 1982 in an effort to restore/backdate the car to it's Fox River days. That project unfortunately was never completed and the car remains today in a half complete/half dismantled condition at the back of IRM's Barn 4. That left the 303 and 304 in Ohio.

A couple years back, the Trolleyville museum had to move from it's home in Olmstead Falls, Ohio (a Cleveland suburb) Many options were looked at, and eventually they decided on what was (in my opinion) a very ambitious option, to move the entire collection to the downtown Cleveland lakefront and open a trolley museum there. This option had the backing of the city of Cleveland, and was envisioned as a lakefront attraction that would add to those that already existed, including the Science Museum, Cleveland Browns Stadium, and the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame/Museum. Excursion trips were planned on the Cleveland RTA. As I noted, a very ambitious plan. As part of this move, they were reorganized as the Lake Shore Electric Railway.

Ultimately the economic downturn of the past couple years doomed the LSE. Cleveland, part of the so-called "Rust Belt", an area that relied heavily on steel production and the auto industry has seen hard times, harder than some of the rest of the US. Certainly no extra money (personal or government dollars) for "luxuries" like trolley museums. Facing a mounting debt and no chance for any relief in the immediate/near term future, LSE made the difficult decision to close their operations and auction off all assets, including their collection of 30 trolleys, streetcars and interurbans.

One man's mis-fortune is often another man's gain. Such is the case here in Illinois. Both FRTM and IRM (Illinois Rwy Museum) successfully bid on several Chicago area interurbans which will be returning to their home state. IRM was successful in getting a Vera Cruz Mexico single truck open car, 5 CA&E interurbans, and in late breaking news, an ex-Twin Cities Rapid Transit PCC car (More on these acquisitions in later postings as the cars are delivered, currently only the Vera Cruz car is at IRM, having arrived 11/1/09)

The demise of the LSE operation was a chance for FRTM to finally realize a long held dream, to return a Fox River car to home rails. The Fox River Trolley Museum operates the majority of it's mainline over former AE&FRE right-of-way.

Getting one or more of the last remaining Fox River cars was not easy. The Northern Ohio Rwy Museum (amongst others) also had an interest in one or more of these cars. Ultimately, the 303 went to NORM where it will be restored as a Shaker Hts car (and in the short term operated sans-overhead with a generator car), and FRTM got the 304.

FRTM 304 loaded and passing the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame/Museum, heading west back to Chicago (Photo courtesy of Steven Heister, Northern Ohio Railway Museum)

Local ABC News station Channel 7 in Chicago was on-hand when the car was off-loaded, and the emotion in the voice of lorignal ong-time FRTM member Ralph Taylor is very evident. This is a special event, many people don't realize just how rare an event it is to have a museum operation where a "home" car returns to home rails.

The video is on YouTube...

Of special interest is the fact that the car was unloaded using AE&FRE #5, a GE center cab diesel locomotive that was bought by the Fox River Line in 1945, long after the passenger cars were gone. This unit served the line until the early 1970's, and when the Fox River Line's freight service ultimately went away like the passenger operations, it was sold to a local quarry operation. After roughly 30 years of service there, FRTM managed to get the diesel back to home rails as well, and it was only fitting that AE&FRE 5 helped to unload AE&FRE 304.

Fox River 5 and Fox River 304 pose together,

something that was never possible until this week

While the car looks to be in relatively good shape, there is still much to be done to preserve this car and keep in in good condition for future generations. A later report will detail some of the restoration efforts. In the interim, the Fox River Trolley Museum needs our support to pay for this car, transport back to South Elgin, storage, restoration, and ongoing maintenance

You can contact FRTM directly through their website

Saturday, November 7, 2009

Trainfest 2009 - Milwaukee, WI

Time once again for Trainfest in Milwaukee.

Now in it's 38th year, Trainfest, billed as the largest model railroad show in the United States, typically hosts 20,000+ visitors each November over a two-day weekend.

200,000 square feet of displays, over 50 layouts of all shapes, sizes, scales, etc, over 130 manufacturers, distributors and retailers.

This year, Interurbans of The Fox Valley makes it's debut at Trainfest. I was tentatively set to do this last year, but work schedules interfered, the good news is that I was so irritated that it hardened my resolve that such a situation would NEVER occur again, so here we are.

Anyone who's seen the display this year, don't miss it this time. One of the commitments I've made to myself is that the display will continue to change and grow with every showing, and the current version is nearly double what the last public showing was. We will be occupying roughly a 10x16 square foot space and I promise to fill it.

For anyone that hasn't seen it yet, scroll through some of the other postings to get a flavor of what I'm talking about. I've combined my personal collection of memorabilia and railroadiana with models in O scale and 1/2" scale of the CA&E, AE&FRE, and several connecting lines, all telling the story of interurban service in the Fox Valley area.

Over and above the display, anyone interested in the CA&E and Fox River Line will have plenty to talk about these days with the Trolleyville cars already making their way back to Illinois.

Lots of pictures of Fox River 304 back on home rails for the first time in 74 years is one tease I will offer !

Assuming I'm reading the map correctly (A large leap of faith), our display will be roughly dead center up the middle of the display hall from where you enter, approximately 1/3 of the way in.
We are set to be directly across from the Glacial Garden G-Scale Railroad set-up, and across the aisle from the Milwaukee Electric Traction Club, a jury of our peers !

Trainfest is Sat and Sun, November 14, 15th, 2009
At the Wisconsin Exposition Center at State Fair Park, in West Allis, Wisc.
(Just immediately west of Milwaukee)
Check their website for more informatin, times, directions, and discount admission coupons.

Trainfest is presented by the WISE division of the National Model Railroad Association and the Model Railroad Industry Division HMA.
Enjoy your hobby more and join the NMRA !

Hope to see you there.

Monday, October 26, 2009

Show Schedule

Starting to get some interest and attention for my traveling display,

I'll publish a show schedule, and update as the given dates get closer with more details. None of these shows are a one man operation, there will always be far more to see and enjoy than just my humble display.

November 2009
Trainfest 2009
Wisconsin State Fairgrounds, West Allis, WI (Milwaukee)
Sat, Nov 14th & Sun, Nov 15th CONFIRMED

December 2009
No Shows
CONFIRMED (Thank you Mrs. C !!)

January 2010
Great Midwest Train Show
Dupage County Fairgrounds, Wheaton, IL
Sun, Jan 10th TENTATIVE

February 2010
Great Midwest Train Show
Dupage County Fairgrounds, Wheaton, IL
Sun, Feb 14th TENTATIVE

March 2010
High Wheeler 2010
Harper College, Palatine, IL
Sat, Mar 6th & Sun, Mar 7th SCHEDULED

March 2010
Great Midwest Train Show
Dupage County Fairgrounds, Wheaton, IL
Sun, Mar 14th TENTATIVE

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Another Quick post, getting ready for Trainfest

Another shorty post, lots of prep work getting ready for Trainfest 2009 in Milwaukee.

Couple weeks ago, as part of the push at IRM to raise funds for the new ex-LSE museum cars and their return to Chicagoland, a very generous member of the museum offered up a number of personal brass O scale models for sale, with all the proceeds going directly to this specific IRM fund.

One of the cars offered, was an MTS O scale, 14 bench open trolley. A beautiful car, and it fits in with my overall IFV theme as cars such as these were used in great numbers by both the Fox River Line and it's smaller connecting cousins.

While I'd already made a decent sized donation to the IRM fund (first of a planned total of 4 donations, so now I'm on record, and therefore on the hook), as well as to FRTM for their new acquistion, this was too good to pass up, a beautiful car and the money is going to bring some real treasures to IRM. A great thanks and a tip of the hat to the donor of these models who has preferred to remain anonymous, although I know who you are, and you have my personal thanks, for the car, and the efforts to IRM, past, present and future.

Once the car was in hand, the question became how to paint it. This car is pretty unique, it is apparently completely soldered together. Had it been able to be disassembled on even a minor level, I could have done the painting justice, as it is, the amount of masking needed to do the job right is frankly beyond my abilities and patience level. Having said that, I figured I'd give it a basic color scheme, hope for the best, and see how it looks. One man's opinion, it's not bad, could be better, but could be a hell of a lot worse too. I can live with it as is until someone offers us a repaint solution.

Friday, October 16, 2009

Model Railroading vs Railroad Modeling

Having returned to a more "public" and involved level of modeling of late, old friends and new acquaintances are often curious about the way that I describe my current modeling pursuits.

I most often will describe what I do as "Railroad Modeling" as opposed to the more traditional, "Model Railroading". So what's the difference you may ask, really not much more than semantics in reality, but being the anal retentive type at times, it seems an important distinction.

I think of model railroading as what most model railroaders do, someone actively involved with model trains, and the building of an operating layout (or participation in a club type environment) The trigger here is the word "railroading", which to me indicates operation or at least planned operations.

I've lived in a townhouse (actually 2 different ones) for the last 21 years. Both are slab construction, no basements. Both have/had a one car garage suitable for storing a single vehicle if you had no specific need to get in or out of it, or storing all the typical junk a homeowner has (ladders, tools, gardening supplies, lawn chairs, holiday decorations, etc, ad infinitum), but not both. In both cases, the homeowner junk has always won out, thank god for remote car starters in our Chicago winters. In the end, the garage, not an option (Even now that I got rid of my motorcycles !)

So, I've been relegated to taking over a standard 10x10 foot bedroom for my modeling efforts.
In most scales, 10x10 doesn't give you much to work with, when you're doing 70% of your modeling in 1/2" scale, and a typical interurban car is over two feet long, if you opt for that operating layout you get a few short runs and a lot of turns. Not very believable in my view, sort of defeats the whole purpose of modeling something like the car itself as prototypically as possible.

With that in mind, I've turned my focus to strictly railroad modeling. Much like the modeler who goes to the local hobby shop and either buys a kit to model a car, truck, plane, boat, etc (or buys the raw materials to build it from scratch), the model is built with the ideal as a static, stand-alone display item, not intended to be driven, flown, floated, etc. Similarly I build my railroad themed models in the same way, as static models.

Having said that, I have built all of my cars so that the "dummy" trucks on any given car can be removed and power trucks can be installed fairly quickly and easily. Similarly, power can be run from the roof mounted trolley poles or pantographs to the the trucks for overhead operations.

This allows me a couple of advantages.
First, I'm not laying out sizable chunks of cash for motors, gear boxes, etc. Quite the practical stance to take not having a regular place to operate anyways, at least in my humble opinion.

Secondly, being in large scale for more than 4.9 seconds, everyone is faced with the ultimate question we all have to face,, what scale/gauge are you modeling ? Most people are mixing any number of scales (1:20.3, 1:24, 1:32, 1:29) and running them all on the LGB 45mm track standard, which then, dependent on your scale, gives you a variety of track gauges as well. Which is fine, do whatever makes you happy !!

My swap out method allows me to have the "proper" 1:24 scale trucks with appropriate 4 foot-8-1/2" gauge, yet should the urge arise, be able to swap out a power truck either for the scale/gauge combination, OR, something that will allow my car(s) to run on LGB track as well.

Have to be careful about that last option, 1:24 scale equipment, especially full-sized is well,,, big.

Traction equipment is typically narrow enough that it's not an overly obnoxious or objectionable sight to anyone except the most pure among us when it's riding on track that scales out to somewhere in the 42" range as opposed to 56.5 inches, but you really need a couple of S L O W test runs to check those clearances.

So that's pretty much it in a nutshell, fully admit it's 99.7% semantics, but as always, the devil is in the details. I honestly think everyone should at a minimum consider building something in this manner, ideally in a different scale than you're currently in. It's a good way to flex your modeling muscles a bit, and open you to some similar, yet slightly different ways of doing things. Give it a shot, what do you have to lose ?

And now, time for me to do some real modeling so I have something legitimate to post and publish here,, although this has been a pretty decent way to kill about 30 minutes at the office on an otherwise quiet afternoon !

Thursday, October 8, 2009

Trolleyville/Lake Shore Electric Collection

Some of the rarest and near/dear to my heart traction equipment is finally making it's way back home to Illinois. After an aborted attempt at moving the old Trolleyville museum from Olmstead Falls, Ohio to a new site (and reorganized as the Lake Shore Electric Rwy) on the Cleveland lakefront, the largest number of ex CA&E and Fox River Line cars were made available for sale.The winning bids were announced just a week ago on Oct 2nd, and the results are stunning.

The Illinois Rwy Museum will now be home to CA&E wood cars 36 and 319. Car 36 is from the first order of AE&C cars, and is a sister to Car 20 at the Fox River Trolley Museum. It is believed that both of these cars operated on both the first day of operations in 1902 and on the last day in 1957. Car 20 by virtue of it's number is "older" than the 36, (much like twins, one had to come first), and I believe these cars are the oldest operating interurbans in the US.

IRM will also be home to CA&E Pullman 409, the only remaining car of the first order of steel cars for the CA&E. St Louis "curved side/fishbelly" cars #451 & 460, from the last order of steel cars for the CA&E (and the last "standard" interurbans built), will also be coming to IRM.

This will give IRM a car from each of the CA&E's original steel car orders, a Pullman, a Cincinnati (#431 already at IRM), and two of the St Louis cars.

IRM will also be getting a single truck open trolley, originally from Vera Cruz, Mexico. Similar cars ran on many of the Fox Valley streetcar and interurban lines in the early 1900's.

Not to be outdone, the Fox River Trolley Museum will also become the new home for one of the CA&E St Louis cars, #458. Even more significant will be the addition of former Shaker Hts Rapid Transit car #304, one of the original Aurora Elgin & Fox River Electric cars, which will be returning to home rails for the first time in 70+ years. It is important to note that it's quite a rare achievement for a museum to operate "home rail" equipment.
Sometime in the not-to-distant future, this scene below will be recreated in real life as a Fox River car again travels south down the mainline alongside the Fox River, passing under the
former Illinois Central mainline at Coleman.

Life will imitate art !

The other remaining Fox River car, #303, will remain in Ohio at the Northern Ohio Rwy Museum, preserved as a Shaker Hts car. The Connecticut Trolley Museum will be the new home for CA&E 303, and the Electric City Trolley Museum will be the new owners for CA&E St Louis car 453.

I saw the ex-Fox River cars at Trolleyville, but never had a chance to ride them. Sometime next spring, the chance to finally ride a Fox River car should be realized, to realize that dream on the actual Fox River Line is something I honestly thought had little chance to happen. Likewise the CA&E St Louis cars and the CA&E Pullman, I saw them at Trolleyville, but never had a chance to even get inside them, much less ride them. Now they'll be less than 30 minutes from home. (My home that is !)

Both IRM and FRTM will need extensive funds to help with the costs of purchase, rigging, transport, track space, indoor storage, restorations, etc, etc.

IRM is accepting donations online at in increments of $25, accessed through the online store. Both IRM and FRTM also accept donations (no amount too small, every bit helps !) at the following addresses.

Illinois Railway Museum

PO Box 427

7000 Olson Rd

Union, IL 60180

Fox River Trolley Museum

PO Box 315

South Elgin, IL 60177

And with that, I'm looking at the calendar with only a little more than 30 days until Trainfest in Milwaukee. I've acquired a couple new pieces to add to the Interurbans of The Fox Valley display and I need to finish up some of the summer projects to be ready. Can't guarantee I'll be any more timely in posting the updates, but at least when it's all said and done I'll have plenty of new things to show here. Keep tuned.

Sunday, September 13, 2009

AEFRE 49 Update

Had a chance to get a little work done on the
AE&FRE 49 motor this weekend.

New trolley poles from Light Rail Products
(Major effort to get them together, but well worth the
price and effort. Maybe I should read the
directions next time, see if there's an easier way)

Sitting on Baldwin MCB trucks which aren't correct, still
determing if it's worth the effort to scratchbuild
the proper Peckham trucks or not (Probably will)

Monday, September 7, 2009

The Workshop

The Workshop, where all the magic, I mean tragic, happens.

After a couple of months of the workshop being a dumping ground for the latest magazines, and myriad other junk, followed by a fevered last couple days of hacking and slashing defenseless styrene to start a couple of 1/2 inch scale box motors, the workshop was in dire need of a clean-up and re-organization.
The lovely wife, always at the ready with a pithy comment or three, advised that I take a couple pictures as it "rarely looks like anything could actually be accomplished in there". That, along with a couple requests to show what the den of inquity looks like, produced the following :

We own a townhouse, nw suburbs of Chicago. About 1/2 way between O'Hare and IRM if anyone cares. It's a three bedroom, which is more than enough for the wife, myself and the dog. Unfortunately, it's on a slab, no basement, and we have way too much crap in the garage to make a workroom, so I grabbed one of the bedrooms. Standard 10x10 foot bedroom, packed to the gills. One of the things I actively try to keep in mind in my modeling is the concept of modeling big things, in a small space, the idea being, anyone can do this if you have just a simple bedroom, you don't have to have the master workshop we all dream about.

The view in from the hallway, most of the library on the left, the all important sound equipment to the right rear. Large scale Fox River car on the left, large scale CA&E Pullman in the back.

Much of the library, research tools can not be undervalued, EVER ! I've put a lot of effort (and money) into building my library over the years. Almost all the CERA bulletins, almost any significant traction book you can name that's been published in the last 50-60 years, lots of photos, etc.

A peek past the door, the rest of the library and research materials (Mostly covered by boxes). The 1:6 scale Birney in semi-hibernation, waiting for the next burst of inspiration. Much of the walls here are bare, normally the walls are covered almost completely, but a lot was taken down for the displays and I haven't gotten around to putting it all back up. (Re-arranging some too !)

The actual work area. Tucked the worktable into a former closet.
O scale collection on the left, lots of "White Ghosts" (unfinished styrene projects, mostly 1:24) above. The current projects, the two CA&E box motors
on the table in the foreground.
Amongst the "White Ghosts",, North Shore line car 606, CSL Big Pullman, Toronto PCC, a section of Chicago elevated track, a North Shore Line "Insull Spanish" station, CTA 1-50 car (waiting for trucks from the new Aristo PCC !), a Sand Springs 68, couple others. Some day...

(Wife's note - This is a historic photograph,,, no empty beer bottles in sight)

The actual worktable. Couple more projects and nonsense in view,, AE&FRE workcar, AE&FRE "cab on flat" work motor, 1:6 scale Indian motorcycle. Too many toys, not enough time !