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Monday, 27 August 2018

It has been a year

Well that was an interesting year. I started this blog on Aug 17 2017. I was not  100% sure how it would go but with some help from my buddy Brian, (Tech Adviser) it has gone well. I have received 2500 page views from about 25 different countries although I am never sure how many of those are bots.  I gave up on the "follow me" button for the reasons I posted about so I have no followers per say -that I can see- and have never received any comments which is all good, but I have received personal comments from enough people who follow it and like it. Having said that I guess there are some likes and 68 followers from having it on Facebook.  Brian talked me into putting it on there and he updates the notifications whenever I post something. I also got a plug from the NMRA 6 Div and the cover in the Feb 2018 Highball which was really nice.

I was not sure how hard it would be to write on a regular basis as I am by no means a professional writer. I took some guidance from Tony Thompson's blog as far as length and set up go. So far it turns out  that I have lots of things to write about that I hope are of interest to others.   Those of you who follow my blog can tell I sort of take the summer off from trains.   Summertime posts were not as regular but will start picking up speed again after September once I have put away the golf clubs, fishing rods, boat and finally close up at the lake. I will start curling and coaching and make time to go to the gym which eats up not as much of my time and get back to modeling. I did manage to start some posts in draft on rainy days out at the lake and as a result of that that I have 17 sitting in draft almost ready to go.

I did manage to get four of my NMRA  AP  awards completed in the last year.... Civil, Scenery, Electrical and Dispatcher AP's are all finished and I plan to finish Cars or Structures this winter.

If anyone has questions by all means email me

So from myself and my staff all the best in the coming year
Brian- Tech Support
Anita- Spell Check and Grammar...she is getting really good at train lingo
Doug-  Author

Wednesday, 15 August 2018

How I make my paint and brushes last


Surprisingly these two topics have come up multiple times over the last year when I have been at a hobby store or in a group of modelers, so I thought it was worth writing a post about it.
Model paint is very expensive given the amount you get.  Especially when compared to buying  a pint or quart of custom mixed acrylic from Home Hardware which is about the same price as a small bottle of hobby paint. Shaking and power mixers are the biggest mistakes most people make, it introduces air in to the paint, this only applies once the bottle has been opened. The air remains in the paint causing it to to set up faster.
I commented in the post My First Engine that I have paint that was opened 21 years ago and it is still usable. There are a few things I do. I only stir my paint until it is mixed thoroughly and there is no blob on the end of my stir stick. I never leave the bottle sitting open when I am using it. I fill my air brush or transfer some to a secondary pallet or container, wipe the threads on the bottle so paint can't dry on the lid. This will cause the bottle to become hard to open in the future.  Before putting the paint away I add a few drops of the appropriate thinner to replace what may have evaporated. I also go through my paints once a year, opening each bottle and checking it's condition, again I will add some more thinner if needed. The evaporation of thinner will happen because the seal on the lid is not as solid as when it was new. 
The vast majority of of my paints are acrylic and the clean up is so nice. I have never had any problems with acrylics on any surface, as I stated above my first project is 21 years old, has been handled a lot and the paint job still looks good.  Note: I now use Iwada Medea Airbrush Cleaner,         ( thanks to Joe for this tip ) to clean my airbrush and it is absolutely amazing. CAUTION:  I only spray it through my brush inside my paint booth as I do seem to have an allergy to it as it makes me sneeze. The cleaner appears to be some kind of soap and water.  I just spray it into the rag I have by my paint booth. I built my own paint booth and will cover that in a future post.

FYI I also use my paint booth if I have a lot of CA work to do especially if I am using a gel to glue larger resin parts together as I have a reaction to too many vapors from the CA.

Some of my brushes also date back to the 1990's, I have lacquer thinner in old clean glass paint bottles.  I  clean a brush with soap and water ( acrylic ) first by putting a little soap on the palm of my hand and gently rub the brush in the soap and then run a little water and continue to rub the brush until it is clean and rinsed. I then twirl it against the inside of the bottle that has the lacquer thinner in it.

This last step completely removes any paint that may remain from the first step.For solvent based paints I just clean the brush in the lacquer thinner. Now say you have had a bad day having left your brush with paint on it and it has hardened on the brush. Open your bottle of  lacquer thinner and let the brush rest in it for a couple of minutes then swirl it against the side of the bottle, all of the paint will be removed from the brush and in most cases will come out looking like new. You may have to perform this more than once. Put a little thinner on a rag and you can clean the ferrule of the brush.

Tuesday, 26 June 2018

NMRA PNR 6 Div Meet

Hi all

 My wife and I spent the past weekend June 22-24  in Blairmore Alberta which is in the Crowsnest Pass area for the the NMRA PNR 6 Div meet. We had a very good time along with 39 other participants from Saskatchewan, Alberta and British Columbia.
There was a meet and greet in the park on Friday evening.
Saturday started off with 2 tours beginning with  Frank's Slide and the other was a tour of the Bellevue Coal mine. There were a few showers in the morning but it didn't deter us from having a good time.The afternoon consisted of 3 clinics and in the evening we enjoyed a presentation by Riversdale Resources proposal for a new coal mine.
Sunday morning consisted of 2 clinics followed by lunch at the Crowsnest Museum in Coleman. The afternoon was spent doing model railway home layout tours in Lethbridge Alberta. There were 7 possible stops we made it to all 7. Each was different and interesting and they all had gracious hosts. Thank you to everyone for letting us in to see their work.  Thank you to everyone that worked to put this event on.
The next event for me is Northern Rails Sept 7-9 in Edmonton and Camrose. This is an operations event.

Thursday, 31 May 2018


I participated in my first ops session back in 2007 at my buddy Norman's layout, who I had never met before. Now I can't imagine having a layout and not running ops or getting to run on others. Even if you never run an ops for other people you should run your trains this way for yourself. It gives purpose to your layout. This will be the first in a series of post on operations.

 There are some design features that will make things work better for operations that can even be added into an existing layout. Those of us that run ops sessions spend a lot of time talking about how to make the experience better for the operators, especially new operators and promote the hobby.   Those discussions include topics like fast clock speed, amount and types of trains, TT&TO  ( Time Table and Train Orders), signals, paper work, how busy are the yards, use of basic railway rules, use of decoder functions like lights, horns and bells, labeling,  all the aids to help people operate. In a nut shell anything that people struggle with really needs to be addressed to enhance their enjoyment.

The purpose of having operations is to add more interest to your layout rather than running trains round and round. Almost everyone starts out with the around and round concept in their head myself included. I do have the ability  if all I feel like doing is rail fanning. Back in 1995 I never envisioned having ops sessions. Now I can't imagine not having them.  It helps if you have had exposure to operation sessions at some point and not everyone has that opportunity. You then move in to your own ops sessions with other people to run trains prototypically.  Most people have not had exposure to that either. I have said in other posts I have been very fortunate to have access to engineers, dispatchers and other railway people that are in the Edmonton area, as a bonus they mostly have worked for CN which works well for me. If it becomes too much work for your new operators they will loose interest and not likely return for another session. Most new people are very intimidated and apprehensive to participate because they do not understand what is going on. This reaction looks similar to asking someone to public speak. In my opinion that is why the paper work generated by JMRI works well as it alleviates some of the stress. I will operate on 4-6 different layouts in a year, one of which is the EMRA in Edmonton which is one of the largest layouts in Canada. It is not possible for me to have all those layouts in my head like I have my own. This is an important point to remember is that you understand how your layout runs crystal clear but not everyone else understands it as easily. When I ran ops on my layout for the first time for 2014 Northern Rails my wife thought I was going to crack, especially in the last 2 days leading up to that event mostly because all of these people some of which had traveled hundreds kilometers. I had never even met most of them before and they were going to be operating on my layout.  I am a confident public speaker  and have held high pressure jobs and I still found it very stressful. "Hey" my definition of stress is "fear of the unknown" . I guarantee every time you feel stress that it is generated by some unknown thing. Think about it, the better prepared you are the less stress there will be and you can keep most of the gremlins at bay. It has never been that stressful since.Below are some of the topics I will cover in future posts.

Fast clock speed see my post Fast Clocks

Amount and types of trains

TT&TO or signals, train order and clearance paper work

How busy are the yards

General maintenance of locomotives, passenger and freight cars

Basic railway rules

Use of decoder functions, engine cards

Labeling including signage on the right of way

Aids such as maps, descriptions, aprons, train line up sheet,

Wednesday, 18 April 2018

My first locomotive

This is the first locomotive I ever researched, detailed and painted way back in 1996. At this point in time I was still leaning the difference between an GP and SD, what a dynamic brake, sand hatches, steam gen details were...hard to imagine now.
It was the first
  • thing I ever stripped
  • thing I had air brushed
  • time I tried and did weathering
  • time I had used AC for modeling
  • time I had ever done wet slide decals
  • time I had done any extra wiring

I bought this Athearn SD7 second hand as an SP that is old enough to have metal side frames. I stripped it and then added grab irons, lift rings, hoses, sunshades, wipers, chain in the end walk, a set of Microscale decals, MV lens for the class lights and 1.5V grain of wheat bulbs for the headlights. An interesting  note is that the bottle of paint that I used for this project is still usable even though it  is 21 years old.!  (I will explain  how I keep my paints and brushes alive that long in another post).  Back then I  had a Badger airbrush and this engine was painted with acrylic paint. This loco has always been a little noisy but it still looks good. 990 gets to run as loaner power every once in a while. It is a little old to be used as a demonstrator in 1959. It had a decoder installed in 2006 but still no sound. 

Monday, 2 April 2018

CN Wood Trestle Part 1

I scratch built this from CN plans that came in a bundle from the CN Lines. The bridge is a wood deck 174' long and 36' high. When you come down the stairs in to the basement this bridge and the associated scene is the first thing you see.This type of bridge was relatively common in the prairies, although there are many different types.They usually cross some type of small creek or river.

This bridge is built from scale wood from Northeastern and Kapple. I used the drawings and some pictures that I had taken of similar bridges. I used the pictures for for details that the plans didn’t show. I partially drew it out in Cad so I knew what it would take to cover the span.

I laid the cork road bed up to were I wanted the bridge to start on both sides. I then laid a piece of wood the same depth as the deck would be across the span. From this I could tell were the bents would be placed and how long they would be. This also gave me the opportunity to mark out the creek. It also gave the opportunity to check this against my drawing and make the changes needed.
Then I created some other drawings in Cad to use as gluing templates for the deck and the bents. The wood was all stained before I started the build. I then taped wax paper over the printed paper so the wood glue would not stick. I assembled the deck and bulkhead and then set it in place to ensure the length and height was right and it also made it possible to measure and check the height against the numbers I had in the CAD drawing. The ME bridge tie strip was then cut and glued to the deck and was put in place and checked again. The deck on its own was remarkably strong without the bents. The bents were built and the bolts added to the bracing. I then glued the bents to the deck. This was done with the deck upside down. I had to build some clamps the would hold the bent straight until the glue dried. The bent main posts were left intentionally a little long Once all the bents were glued on the bridge was put back in place and the spots were marked where the posts touched the scenery. I put a little bit of lipstick on the end of each post which left a mark easily. I didn't care if it was on the end of the post because it would be buried in the scenery, then I drill holes in these spots for the posts to slip into.
Once all this was done the bridge was removed and replaced a few times as the contours for the scenery were touched up. What I should have done was finish all the ground cover in this area first before installing the bridge permanently because it was hard to work under the bridge once it was installed.

I add then added the main rails code 83 and the guard rails down the middle using code 70 ME rail and glued them in place.

  • 1/8th wood dowelling for post
  • Northeastern 12x14” cap
  • 6x10” longitudinals and bulkhead
  • 4x6” bulkhead bracing
  • 3x10” bracing
  • 3x10 waling
  • 8x16” stringers
  • track ties are ME bridge ties
  • rail is ME code 83 for main rails and code 70 for the guard rails
  • bolts are from Tichy

This is what it started out as back in 2006

This is taken Jan 15 2007

This was taken Jan 8 2008. It is just sitting in place with the holes drilled for the bents.

Oct 28 2008. It has been installed permanently by this point and the rails are in place

May 17 2016 by this point the fascia is done and there is water in the creek

Jan 29 2017 the backdrop has been painted.

Oct 25 2018 all the scenery (34 sq Ft ) has been completed around the bridge

A car derailed on train 202 to Regina and took out part the safety stand and a repair crew had to come out and fix it. Thus the new wood.

Sunday, 25 March 2018

Keeping your tender coupled

This seems to be a problem with my steam tenders. They pick a point and come off the rail and by the time the engineer has it re-railed the tender has uncoupled from the draw bar. Unfortunately the engineer doesn't always notice  and now we are pulling the tender and cars with the decoder wires. Even I have been guilty of this. Some of mine come off easier than others. I have wanted a fix for this for some time and could not come up with an idea that would  make it easy to uncouple the cars when you needed to. I do not uncouple them often but I  did not want to make it a chore. I tried a couple of different sizes of styrene tube but by the time I got it to fit it would not stay on very long. I was looking at a piece of wire on my bench the other day and thought maybe it would work if I stripped the insulation off. The loco I was working on required an ID of .09" to cover the pin on the tender. I came up with a 12 guage wire and stripped off a piece, expanded it with an awl and I could slide it on as a tight fit. It is cut to be about 3mm long and I coloured it black with a sharpie marker. If I need to take it off I can just pop it off  with a flat blade screwdriver. The next tender needed  something smaller so I went down to a 16 guage wire. Things are easy once you get there.

This is before painting. There is still room for the draw bar to move up and down.

It has been a year

Well that was an interesting year. I started this blog on Aug 17 2017. I was not  100% sure how it would go but with some help from my buddy...