altivo: Trojan horse image (wheelhorse)
The modules for Rails 'n' Tails are finished. Here are some photos:

Working or raiding?

Bears working in the honey yard above. Or maybe they are just raiding the honey. We aren't sure.

Completed crossover

Here's that crossover again, with the addition of a 1954 Ford Hy-Rail truck pulled off the tracks to left of the tower, a fox signalman on the deck of the tower, and a bear in the back discovering that he's too large to fit into the outhouse door.

Not quite dry lot

Detail of the quick corner module, a southwestern desert cowboy camp scene. Here we see a run-in shed and corral, with horses, windmill-driven well, water trough, and two coyote cowboys conversing at the fence.

Now to load the car. Catch you at FCN or on the other side of it.
altivo: Horsie cupcakes (cupcake)
But not all that warm. Temperatures in the 50F range, dropped quickly to the low 40s at sunset. Tess got to go out for a couple of hours, which made her happy. I hope she didn't eat too much grass.

Gary did a whole lot of mowing, which generally means he's avoiding something. I figure it's schoolwork.

I put a second light coat of paint on the locomotive shell I'm doing up as a Detroit, Toledo & Ironton model. As it dried, I thought I'd need a third coat, but I'm not so sure now. With the addition of some dust or mud in places where the base orange color is thin, it should appear quite realistically rusty and dirty judging by the color photos I have of similar locos.

Then I have decals to apply with road numbers and logos, and finally a light coat of a clear, non-glossy protective finish.
altivo: Trojan horse image (wheelhorse)
So off to Rockford in a drizzle this morning, where we braved an overly crowded parking lot to finally find a parking spot that would allow us to open the doors on the car. Show was interesting but not much new. Gary got to talk to some more exhibitors about landscaping and also played with an airbrush after watching a demonstration using one to "weather" a box car. Until now he was convinced that using an airbrush meant the same as using a paint spray gun or spray can: paint all over the place. This convinced him that it really does give you very much finer control.

I did buy a heavyweight passenger train RPO car based on one made by Pullman back in 1914. This is a smaller car but has larger doors and windows for my ambition of lighting the inside and staffing it with furry characters as postal clerks.

It was cooler today, but still warmer than average for this time of year. Looks like by Monday we'll be back to more or less normal for a day or two, but then it's supposed to warm again.

Falling asleep sitting still, guess I'd better get up and do something. It's too early for bed.
altivo: Trojan horse image (wheelhorse)
This morning we went to an open house at the Lake County Model Railroad Club. They weren't charging admissions, but they were holding various raffles. One required a donation of canned goods to the local food pantry, so we took along some canned soups to trade for a raffle ticket. The trains themselves were pretty impressive. The club has been there for 40 years, in the cellar space below a barber and a coffee shop on Main Street in Wauconda. They say they have 350 feet of HO rail installed and operating, but I'd guess at somewhat more than that if you count the sidings and turnarounds. The tracks and tables wind around the space and through the middle, with narrow aisles between them. Much of the humor we enjoy in model railroad displays was present, such as "Dan's Fill Dirt and Croissants" (a scale earthworks with scrapers and trucks, and just a quonset hut for building. I enjoyed finding a sign on the side of a building reading "Play Furt Banjos" and then down the line and around a corner the actual factory building of the "Furt Banjo Makers." I was also amused by one of the club members who said they meet every Friday evening and guests are welcome but "Don't come on the first Friday because that's the business meeting and all you'll see is a bunch of old men arguing." Their membership is not all old, though. There were at least two members participating in operating the trains and explaining the layout who were certainly under 25 and one of them perhaps even under 20.

On the way back, stopped to pick up Gary's new glasses that he ordered last week, then for lunch, and finally to pick up various supplies and grocery items at three different stores along the way. Sounds inefficient, I know, but each of the places is best for some things and not so brilliant for others, and we were going to pass them all so I wanted to take advantage of that rather than making a special trip later.

Came home, put stuff away, took care of critters, and it was time to make dinner. Tonight I did stuffed sweet peppers, something we like but don't often do. (One of the stores had a good price on bell peppers, which is what this dish uses. It isn't authentic Mexican by any means, even though it does use some Mexican style ingredients.) It turned out well.

Next weekend there is a show and sale at Harper College in Palatine, both days, We may go to that as well if we can find time.


Feb. 15th, 2012 10:06 pm
altivo: Plush horsey (plushie)
It's raining fairly hard. This is definitely unusual so early in the year, even though they say it will turn to slushy snow later.

The usual long, tiresome midweek, now survived and bed beckoning to me. Tomorrow only a half day of work but I have to drive Gary to the optometrist in the afternoon because they will dilate his eyes so he can't drive himself.

Gary painted the wooden bases of the t-trak modules and last night we put the tracks back on. Now we're ready to start landscaping them.

Can't stay awake any longer. Good night.


Feb. 4th, 2012 11:12 pm
altivo: Horsie cupcakes (cupcake)
Normal. Shopping, chores, cooking...

After dinner I tried some experiments with polymer clay to see whether I really can construct N scale figures. Two bears clowning and a horse engineer sticking his head out the window... They are recognizable, and I cured them in the oven without them melting into a puddle which is what I really expected. The figures need to be a bit tinier, but I'm getting the idea of how to construct and assemble them.

No photo because I used dark colored (bear fur) clay and there isn't enough contrast to see the details. I don't know if I can use different colors of clay at this tiny scale. I expect to have to paint them instead. May try that with the samples tomorrow if I get time.

Also dismantled a GP7 loco shell in preparation for painting. Oh jeez, so many tiny parts. But figured it out and separated out all the necessary bits. Some get painted black, some orange, and the couplers don't get painted at all. Neither do the windows, which fortunately can be snapped out and don't have to be masked individually. I do plan to hook up the airbrush and start this paint job tomorrow.

Also got the necessary decals in the mail to apply heralds and numbers to the two engines after they are painted, and today finally found some semi-gloss clear acrylic overcoat to apply once the painting and detailing is done.

Bed is calling now.

Late again

Feb. 2nd, 2012 11:50 pm
altivo: Running Clydesdale (running clyde)
Should be in bed. But we finished putting the track onto our t-trak modules tonight and then wanted to test them. They work. What started as a two block project has turned into eight because someone couldn't imagine not being able to test and be sure they were functional.

T-trak are like mosaic squares of wood with train tracks running across one edge. They can be snapped together to form larger arrangements for club meets or shows. These are just bare wood at the moment, but the base tracks and wiring are installed and working. Next we add ballast and paint the wood, then scenery and buildings are added.

Testing the t-trak modules

The photo above is a little dark, but shows the train crossing a double slip switch that lets it transfer from the inner track to the outer on the oval. After a complete circuit, it will change back to the outer track at this point.

DT&I freight, ca. 1970

Above you see the entire test train rounding a sharp curve. This is an EMD GP-35 locomotive in normal Detroit Toledo & Ironton paint for the 1960s and 70s, pulling two older boxcars, a gondola, and a steel caboose.

And now, to bed. Work tomorrow. Oh, yeah, the Woodstock groundhog did not see his shadow. We had dense fog at dawn today, and it lasted into the afternoon. I find the groundhogs to be no more and no less accurate than the National Weather Service, which is pretty pitiful when you come right down to it.


Jan. 29th, 2012 08:40 pm
altivo: The Clydesdale Librarian (Default)
Well on Friday night I predicted a "slowdown" for the weekend and said I was looking forward to it. What we got was in fact a "snowdown" with additional snow each day. Nothing significant, but enough to cover up the ground and roofs each day with new clean white flakes. A total of perhaps an inch or more, not enough to be a big deal, but certainly pretty each morning.

Actually, it has been reasonably warm too for January, with temperatures just below freezing down to about 24F or so.

Gary had a workshop to attend in Chicago, was gone much of the day. I wasn't sure when he'd get back, so I made dinner in the crockpot. It was pretty successful: meatloaf made from ground turkey with onions, garlic, green pepper, etc. and roasted with tiny potatoes and carrots for about 8 hours. Smelled tasty and was ready when he did get home about 7 pm. Now we have three days' worth of leftovers in the fridge so he won't have to cook much this week. Salmon patties from last night, and pizza from Friday, together with the meatloaf will carry us through Thursday. That's my half day of work so I can cook again when we get that far.

All the t-trak module bases are glued and set. Now they need to be sanded and given a primer coat. One is to have a short steel span bridge with a river or lake under it, and furries fishing and canoeing. Another gets a bee yard with bears tending the hives and extracting honey. A third will have the train passing a schoolyard with furry children and teachers on the playground, and the fourth is probably going to have a honey processing plant with bulk honey being loaded into tank cars and packaged honey into box cars for shipment. Gary also gave me an N scale stable building and half a dozen horses in the same scale that I can use to occupy one of the square corners of the layout.

I'm also hoping to prepare passenger cars with furry passengers, conductor, and a post office clerk preparing to snag a mail bag in passing. I'm not so sure I can manage my original design to place a horse engineer at the controls of an N scale GP-7 locomotive, though. There just isn't enough space in the cab of the locomotives. Though they have windows that could be used, the interior space is almost entirely occupied by the internal mechanical parts. I need to do some experimenting with that.


Jan. 16th, 2012 08:32 pm
altivo: 'Tivo as a plush toy (Miktar's plushie)
Definitely coming down with some virus now. Fever, headache, congested, the usual stuff. Explains weird dreams and congestion last night I guess.

I have Wednesday off work anyway, but must get through tomorrow somehow. Weather for Tuesday looks nasty too, freezing drizzle, falling temperatures, changing to snow and may get all the way down to 0F overnight.

Gary finished his wiring job today and the switch box works. It allows two power controls to share control of four track segments, and reverse the direction individually for any block. Now we can run the inner and outer loops of our experimental layout in opposite directions and at different speeds if desired. Next, to build a reversing loop or wye into the design.
altivo: The Clydesdale Librarian (Default)
didn't spend any money. Well, except the admission fee. The exhibits were good, though. Even a furry in a lion suit (Lenny the Lionel Lion.)

So sleepy. Can't write more just now. Zzzzzzzzz

90th egg

Jan. 6th, 2012 08:54 pm
altivo: Geekish ham radio pony (geek)
Yes, the duck laid her 90th egg this morning. In 90 days. She did skip one day, but another time she left us two eggs in a single day. One egg was lost because it was laid with almost no shell, and one got frozen because she laid it outside in the yard when there was snow on the ground and the temperature was in the teens. All things considered, though, that's a pretty darn good record. Most have been left right in the nest box where they stay clean and are easy to find.

Gary got the fittings needed to set up the compressor for me, right at Ace Hardware. Hope to get a chance to try it out over this weekend. Guild newsletter has to come first, though.

The last (I think) N scale purchase for a while arrived today. It's a 50 ft. gondola with droppable ends. This type of car was used to transport automobile frames into the River Rouge plant when I was a kid. I remember seeing long trains of them, maybe 70 or 80 frames to a car standing on end and slanting slightly against each other. DT&I had custom braces built at the ends of the cars to support these. The car is already painted with DT&I number and logos. I just have to figure out a way to make the stack of frames and the end braces. Haven't found a photo of the real thing yet, but did find an article explaining how another modeler did it.

First paycheck of the new year today, and as I expected, it's smaller yet again. Health insurance went up once more. I think state taxes have increased as well, And when the Republican congress inevitably refuses to continue the tax break, federal taxes will go back up as well, making it shrink even farther. "There's no inflation" my ass. Bernanke should try living on an ordinary person's shrinking take home. Shrinking pay, and shrinking food packages, both constitute inflation just as much as actual price increases do. And if the price of gasoline continues to increase at the present rate, the economy is going to start sliding downward once again. The oil companies export refined gasoline and other oil products, which helps to keep prices higher here at home of course.

I will probably commit to FCN in the next few days. That will be the first con I've attended since 2008 if I do it.
altivo: (rocking horse)
Cleaned and checked, they passed their exam this morning. ;p

Gary drove me to Park Ridge, which is quite close to his mom's house, and dropped me at the dentist. They went shopping while I was at the dentist, then we met back up for lunch. Then we left her off at her preferred supermarket and went to a nearby hobby shop to get glue and paint. Back to pick her up at the store, then help carry in the groceries for her before heading home to the farm.

Got back in time to do barn chores and put the outside critters to bed, then Gary had choir practice. When he got back from that we had leftovers for supper.

And that was a longer day than it sounds.

Three items came in the mail. One was a set of three passenger cars for the railroad. The second was an "RPO" cover, a letter mailed in Springfield, Ohio, in 1950 with the cancellation text "Transfer Clerk RMS Springfield OH." The "RMS" stands for "Railroad Mail Service" and means that the letter was carried and probably sorted by a railroad post office car. At that time and place, the train could only have been a Detroit Toledo & Ironton run, either train 1 or 2. Both were mixed freight and passenger, and carried mail. The locomotives in 1950 were 2-8-2 steam engines, as DT&I was just beginning to experiment with diesels for switching in its larger yards.

The third item was the pressure regulator for the air brush compressor. While I believe I understand how to connect and use this, some sort of instruction sheet would certainly have been appropriate. It has none. It also has female threaded connections for both input and output, which are going to require some brass couplings to adapt it to the compressor. I imagine those are readily available, just have to find them.

The passenger cars are two regular coaches and a combination REA/RPO and coach. Existing photos indicate that these are similar to those used on DT&I mixed trains 1 and 2 during the 40s.


Dec. 29th, 2011 08:19 pm
altivo: Geekish ham radio pony (geek)
Gary took me on a whirlwind tour of hobby shops near his mom's house this morning. I hadn't intended to buy anything, but at the third one I found some DT&I rolling stock that I couldn't resist. It seems that Henry Ford's stodgy little railroad had some people with whimsical paintbrushes, at least during the 60s and 70s.

I got two 80 ft. auto parts box cars, with double steel doors. One was painted bright magenta, the other pea green. According to the papers in the box, these cars were actually used and were painted in those two schemes and also in sky blue. Also picked out a rebuilt USRA 40 ft. box car from the World War I era for use with my steam locomotive, a nice C&O caboose, and a kit to build a steam loco service station with coal tipple, water and sand towers. Photos of the cars soon, as the colors are startling.

Then we went and picked up Gary's mom, had lunch, and brought her back to our house for New Year. I remembered to take the turkey out of the freezer and put it in the fridge too.

In the mail I got another caboose, this one already custom painted to match the DT&I scheme for steel cabooses from the 1960s. They had red sides, but yellow on the ends and cupola, and a dark roof. The detail work and lettering on this one are amazing.

And I ordered the air brush through Amazon. They had the model I want in stock, and priced at less than half of list. Couldn't turn that offer down. I'm also getting a bleeder type pressure regulator and some cleaning brushes. The kit includes the air hose, some acrylic paints, and an instruction booklet of some sort. We already have a compressor that should work, though I may need to get a reducer for the outlet connection.

And that's it. Christmas money spent, season of greed ended. ;p
altivo: Geekish ham radio pony (geek)
Tired of it yet?

Gary wanted to try another hobby shop, this time in Janesville, Wisconsin. That's a bit of a drive, but since he was willing to do the driving, we went. The reason for picking this one? Their name was stamped on a 2002 copy of the Walther HO catalog that he had. He called them, they were open today, and had a different address. They did have the 2012 Walther catalog (which is actually a comprehensive illustrated guide to available train model parts, cars, locomotives, and accessories) for N and Z scale, too.

As it turned out, they didn't have any Kato track, as he had hoped. We need a couple of wiring parts, and Kato uses a custom connector plug. But they had piles of used rolling stock and locomotives at attractively cheap prices. Gary was drawn to a little Diesel switch engine for just $5, and when placed on a test track it did work, but fitfully. He also found an 0-6-0 tank engine switcher for $3, but that one was dead, or apparently. Fortunately I spotted another just like it that "sort of" ran. So we bought them, the catalog, and a couple of cattle cars I picked out. I also got a bottle of orange paint that will do for the GP7 to approximate the right color for DT&I livery.

After we got back home, fed horses and sheep, and then fed ourselves, I put together a 30 inch straight piece of test track with a bumper at each end and started cleaning and oiling the locomotives. Both came back to life, and even their headlamps are working. They run credibly going forward, and somewhat better going backward. I suspect wear on the motor brushes and probably the contact brushes that pick up power from the wheels. The 0-6-0 also suffered from some previous bad repair, as someone had put the rear axle together backward. Once that was corrected, and the side rods synchronized, it runs fairly well.

Here are photos of each:

0-6-0 switch engine

Unidentified Diesel switch engine

The steam locomotive has no tender, but it is supposed to be that way. There is a small coal bin visible on the back of the cab, and a large "saddle-like" tank that sits over the top of the boiler to hold extra water and keep it warmed ready for use. Such engines were more agile for switchyard work, but generally not suited to long hauls on the road because they didn't carry enough fuel and water.

I also picked up a book on locomotive and rolling stock maintenance and repair that may come in handy if we keep buying cheap used stuff.
altivo: Geekish ham radio pony (geek)
Here are the two cabooses mentioned a couple of days ago:

N scale cabooses

Neither is quite right for the DT&I, at least not in the target period of 1952-1960, when they used mostly wood sided cabooses with center cupolas. I'll keep looking for one to match that, but these are the right size at least. The Pennsylvania RR was nominally the owner of DT&I during this time period, so a borrowed PRR caboose is not entirely impossible.

Also just won a white tank car for $2.99 on Ebay. This is for Gary, to fit with his plan to make a t-track module with a bee yard on it, and bears harvesting the honey. We'll put his logo on the car, with the words "Pure honey. Consumed globally, produced locally."

Acquired the last needed ingredients for fruitcake and cookie baking, I hope. It got above freezing today and most of the snow melted. The duck is still laying eggs, too. She hit number 70 today. Gary thought she missed yesterday, but tonight we found that egg buried in the snow and frozen. Blizzard casualty!

Haven't bought eggs for several weeks, but picked up a dozen today because Gary goes through so many with the baking projects.
altivo: (rocking horse)
One is PRR and the other is ATSF. Both are metal cabooses when you look at them closely, because you can see the rivets holding the flat panels together. The PRR was owner of DT&I from 1929 until it was dissolved to form Conrail, and the lines did have interchange so I may leave that one alone, at least for now. I still need to find a wooden caboose with a center cupola and four windows on the lower level for use with the steam train. The other metal caboose I intend to repaint in the bright yellow and red scheme the DT&I used in later years. I think the interior walls used to be aqua, too, but it looks like it will be too much bother to get inside there and paint those. Photos this weekend, maybe. They're cute little guys.

Tomorrow is the great Christmas bird count. First time in several years that we've had no snow on the ground for it, and I'm sure that will affect what we see (or don't see.) It's going to be cold, but not nearly as cold as the last couple of years. I just hope the wind stays down.
altivo: Geekish ham radio pony (geek)
We went to Rockford to look at trains this afternoon, rather than Chicago. The first place we tried was no longer there. A different hobby shop, which did have a few trains but mostly gaming figures and plastic models, seems to have replaced it. The owner told us that the original place closed back around 2008. So much for using Google to find train dealers.

However, the second try was Midwest Rail Exchange in Loves Park, and they are very much alive. Not a large shop, but all they stock is HO and N scale train stuff. I got enough track to start playing around, and Gary insisted on buying two more box cars since they had some with DT&I logos. We got a 60 ft. metal body auto parts car, and a 40 ft. wooden box car with the old round DT&I logo from the steam days. The latter has real sliding doors on both sides which Gary found particularly delightful.

The mail today brought the locomotive I purchased with [personal profile] casey382's advice, and a covered triple hopper gondola car, also with DT&I paint job. The two cabooses are still in transit, but probably will show up tomorrow or Saturday.

Here's a photo of the train as it exists so far, assembled and running a brief locomotive test so I could do the Ebay feedback.

Birthday train

And here's a closeup of the engine. Note that it isn't yet painted, but I'll be doing it in DT&I's orange scheme from the 1950s, with the steam era logo that appeared on their GP-7's (the first Diesels they bought.) The US quarter is in the photo for scale. It's just under an inch in diameter, or 24 mm for the metric folks.

GP-7 closeup

When I got a small loop of track assembled and under power, we were pleased to find that the locomotive runs smoothly and quietly both forward and reverse. The headlights on front or back activate appropriately depending on the direction of movement. The cars make amusing teeny little clickety clack sounds as they pass over the track joints. I've only ever seen N scale equipment running in noisy environments, so I was really pleased with the actual sound in a quiet room.

Gloomy day

Dec. 13th, 2011 10:09 pm
altivo: From a con badge (studious)
Just the weather, that's all I mean. Supposed to start raining tonight and continue all day tomorrow. Bleah. No looking at the meteor shower for us.

At lunch time I was able to locate a couple of potentially useful CAD programs for experimenting with track layout. These let you specify the brand and scale of track you are using for your model railroad, and then provide a menu of all the standard curves, switches, straight pieces, etc. So you can click and drag to assemble anything and see how it will fit in a given space and whether you come out even when closing a loop or whatever. Very handy. Also found some sample layouts on our preferred manufacturer's website that use some amazingly clever tricks and arrangements. Some fairly complex layouts that fit in just 2x3 feet or a bit larger.

Received a birthday gift of cash in the mail today that will probably end up buying track pieces for this project.

Farrier comes in the morning to trim hooves, and I'm back on the old Wednesday schedule (no split shift, yay!) so I'll be here to hold them for him. Not a bad birthday present, that. Gary wants me to go with him into Chicago on Thursday to visit hobby shops near his mom's house. He's as enthusiastic about this as I am, or perhaps even moreso.

Anyway, need to find bed for now.


Dec. 12th, 2011 10:59 pm
altivo: Trojan horse image (wheelhorse)
Nice birthday present from [personal profile] casey382 who pointed me to an Ebay listing for a new Atlas GP-7 locomotive (unpainted) at a good price. Nabbed it immediately. I found a photo yesterday that was taken in 1956, right on target for the period I want, showing a DT&I GP-7. The scheme is simple and should be quite workable.

I acquired two cabooses of the appropriate design this morning for $10 total including shipping. They will need repainting, but the 1940s scheme is plain red with simple logo and numbers. The 1950s is a two or three color scheme but still pretty simple. I'll probably do one in each. I can pick up some more cars as I go along. DT&I had a slogan "We have the connections" and they certainly did, so a mix of cars from connecting lines is entirely appropriate. Those would include C&O, Wabash, Pennsylvania, and several others in the mid-1950s.

Need to get some track, of course, but that's easy enough. Time to actually think about a layout for it. I want to set up to run two trains at once, one with steam and one Diesel. I'll have spent a little more up front than I intended, but not a fortune by any means. By using materials we have at hand, The total may come in under $150 to get this going and hey, it's my birthdday AND Christmas this month, so...
altivo: Trojan horse image (wheelhorse)
On the spur of the moment this morning, we decided to spend the afternoon at the Great Midwest Train Show in DuPage County. Bit of a drive, but it was a huge model railroad flea market and fun to browse. Here's the point where I'm supposed to admit that I bought a bunch of stuff I didn't need, but the truth is, neither of us bought anything. Still, we had fun and saw a lot of interesting things.

Now, here's a picture of two N scale boxcars with Detroit Toledo & Ironton RR markings:

DT&I Boxcars

But I didn't get these at the show. I bought them off Ebay last week for $4 apiece. We saw two or three just like them at the show, offered for the same price. I saw no other DT&I rolling stock, though. If I had seen some appropriate items without markings, I might have bought them to customize myself, though. These two cars need some detailing to make them stand out better, but all that requires is a fine brush and a little thinned down paint. I'll photograph them again when I'm done with that.

I was really hoping to find a bargain on an N scale locomotive, but no such luck. I have very specific ones in mind, and again I want to be able to "brand" them for the DT&I. I'd like a good steam locomotive, and for the post-WWII era I'm after, it should apparently be a 2-8-2 heavy Mikado style engine, at least as far as I can tell from period photographs. I'd also like a GP-7 or GP-9, or even a pair, and preferably the earlier 7. Most of the Diesels we saw were later, heavier models, but the Geeps were what DT&I used at that time period.

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