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Gulf, Atlanta & Eastern - into the second decade


Barry Ten
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I added some more fading, then some acrylic weathering (also using LifeColor paints) to the SD70MAC. Some of the railings had popped out of their holes when I took these shots, which tends to happen with handling.

 

conrail6.jpg.aa6fb9e35bc128e84ad3fd5e3fc37106.jpg

 

conrail7.jpg.c5ca497b1a3b202dc7b52f9455514533.jpg

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These three 70 foot refrigerated cars have entered service after rather a protracted delay!

 

southern1.jpg.c80d1fe0d08f8eb1bec9d0b396f1c415.jpg

 

I bought them for about five pounds each from a second hand stall at a model show in Pontypridd, about ten years ago. They're Walthers models which caught my eye because I liked the marking, and also hadn't seen them running on any other layouts.

 

Unfortunately they came with truck mounted Rapido couplers and as I couldn't find an obvious way to replace them, the models set in their boxes for the next decade.

 

However, realising that body mounted couplers can work just as well, even with train-set curves, I decided to go down the simple route of just fixing on new Micro-Trains couplers. I cut off the old ones, and glued the replacements to the underframes. A bit of test running showed that the cars still ran reliably, even when coupled to even longer 89 foot vehicles.

 

I found that they wobbled a bit, so I added shims under one truck on each car, leaving the other free to move. This helped stabilise them. I then added a touch of weathering (not too much as I liked the look of them as they were) and they were ready to enter service. I suppose it's unlikely that you'd get three different cars running next to each other but for now I think they look quite good as a block.

 

southern2.jpg.021365862ccc48e0250fed093196aad3.jpg

 

The details are quite sparse but they look fine in a moving train. I used to have some etched footsteps for jobs like this (replacing the chunkier mouldings) but I must have used up the last of them. Never mind, it's taken ten years to get this far so there's no rush.

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Here's another blast from the past, this one even more ancient!

 

These two 86 foot box cars are very different models. The one on the right is a Trainworx model of relatively recent vintage. It's got lots of fine etched detail, including separate grab rails and end catwalks - typical of modern N.

 

The other one is a Rivarossi model which I think could well date from the 1960s. I got it very early on in my dabblings in N, and it's stayed in its box ever since. Again, it was the problem of dealing with Rapido couplers, plus a gradual realisation that it looked toylike next to the better models I was able to buy once I started finding specialist American N.

 

southern3.jpg.4f262a8e26564aed0b0489c885048c7a.jpg

 

Not to be daunted, though, I took another look at it and found that body-mounted Micro-Trains couplers worked fine. There are no problems getting it to stay coupled to other cars on the 11 inch radius hidden curves; in fact it could probably go a bit tighter without any difficulty. Whether it would couple up to another 86 foot with body mounted couplers is debatable, but as it's the only one in my collection it won't have to. I do have 86 foot cars with body mounted couplers, but they're on mounts which allow them to swivel a bit, which probably helps a little.

 

Since it ran well, I decided to spend an hour or two adding some finer detail in the form of footsteps and end handrails, formed from 0.33mm brass wire. I also added end platforms using the Micro-Trains rooftop walkways, cut down to length and trimmed to fit. Not as good as the etched ones on the adjacent car, but better than nothing. Finally, a dose of weathering took away the toylike effect and I think it sits quite well next to the much more finely detailed Trainworx vehicle.

 

southern4.jpg.00f75ce8226948d2b63c18eecddc1b57.jpg

 

I did notice that the Rivarossi car is a bit wider than the Trainworx one, but it looks OK in a train.

 

Overall I'm glad to have finally got this model running - it's only taken about 20 years. I've even kept the Rivarossi pizza-cutter wheels as they didn't seem to cause any problems.

 

Edited by Barry Ten
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Just a snap to keep the thread rolling.

 

intermodal.jpg.71461e212527b37dba974d9675296168.jpg

 

Most of the scenery here is getting on for 12 - 13 years old. I recently gave it a spring clean by going over everything with a damp sponge, just dabbing it onto the foliage and then wringing it out into a bowl. It didn't seem to make much difference on a scene by scene basis but by the time I''d done the whole layout, the water in the bowl was getting murky so I guess it must have picked up some dust and dirt along the way.

 

I'd also noticed that more recent bits of scenery done with Woodland Scenics products look a bit more vibrant, which I'd put down to fading of the older areas, but a friend tells me there's been some variation in colour with the range as well.

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On 22/02/2021 at 04:50, Barry Ten said:

Here's another blast from the past, this one even more ancient!

 

These two 86 foot box cars are very different models. The one on the right is a Trainworx model of relatively recent vintage. It's got lots of fine etched detail, including separate grab rails and end catwalks - typical of modern N.

 

The other one is a Rivarossi model which I think could well date from the 1960s. I got it very early on in my dabblings in N, and it's stayed in its box ever since. Again, it was the problem of dealing with Rapido couplers, plus a gradual realisation that it looked toylike next to the better models I was able to buy once I started finding specialist American N.

 

southern3.jpg.4f262a8e26564aed0b0489c885048c7a.jpg

 

Not to be daunted, though, I took another look at it and found that body-mounted Micro-Trains couplers worked fine. There are no problems getting it to stay coupled to other cars on the 11 inch radius hidden curves; in fact it could probably go a bit tighter without any difficulty. Whether it would couple up to another 86 foot with body mounted couplers is debatable, but as it's the only one in my collection it won't have to. I do have 86 foot cars with body mounted couplers, but they're on mounts which allow them to swivel a bit, which probably helps a little.

 

Since it ran well, I decided to spend an hour or two adding some finer detail in the form of footsteps and end handrails, formed from 0.33mm brass wire. I also added end platforms using the Micro-Trains rooftop walkways, cut down to length and trimmed to fit. Not as good as the etched ones on the adjacent car, but better than nothing. Finally, a dose of weathering took away the toylike effect and I think it sits quite well next to the much more finely detailed Trainworx vehicle.

 

southern4.jpg.00f75ce8226948d2b63c18eecddc1b57.jpg

 

I did notice that the Rivarossi car is a bit wider than the Trainworx one, but it looks OK in a train.

 

Overall I'm glad to have finally got this model running - it's only taken about 20 years. I've even kept the Rivarossi pizza-cutter wheels as they didn't seem to cause any problems.

 

I have this car in ATSF as well .It looks slightly under scale next to my Trainworx and Bluford stock.Must tone that mineral red a bit and weather the roof.Also the white excess height band around the top end sill is way to thick ,just abit of striping to correct.

Edited by dairy farmer
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On 01/03/2021 at 09:33, dairy farmer said:

I have this car in ATSF as well .It looks slightly under scale next to my Trainworx and Bluford stock.Must tone that mineral red a bit and weather the roof.Also the white excess height band around the top end sill is way to thick ,just abit of striping to correct.

 

I never tried seeing how it scaled up compared to the others, except that it's a bit wider, but I was surprised at how much shorter it is when put next to a Trainworx one. For some reason my eye just doesn't register the difference when they're running one after the other in a train. Ignorance is bliss.

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I suppose this could be said to belong here as well, but over on my blog (see link below) I've been documenting a few experiments in finescale N, courtesy of Finetrax track kits.

 

Over a couple of evenings last week I built my first N turnout (a B6) using the Finetrax parts and assembly jig:

 

code40.jpg

 

 

 

 

It went very well but before I got on with the others I wanted to test it both mechanically and electrically. So yesterday I threaded some

chairs onto the flex track bases and made a small test module:

 

code40a.jpg

 

 

The track base is foamcore which over time on the GA&E has proven to be very stable, even if just used in a single layer. The idea here is to build a small module which will then be incorporated into a slightly larger (but still) small single-board layout, closely based on my old 4mm layout Paynestown.

 

The Dapol Pannier shown above acquitted itself well through the turnout, as did a Bachmann 44-tonner, so I've got the confidence to push on and finish the five other turnouts.

 

I'm not about to stop using Peco Code 55 turnouts on the GA&E but being able to build these slightly more finescale-looking turnouts does open up some other possibilities so I think it will be a useful exercise. The main visual benefit is the tighter gap between the switch and stock rails, I think.

 

 

 

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High time for an update on the GA&E. This week I've been fiddling with some steam engines.

 

This Bachmann 2-10-2 spat out its return crank early last year, a known fault with these otherwise nice models. It had happened once before but I just put it down to chance. The second time, I knew it was going to be a recurring problem. Once the rods have fallen off, the quartering immediately goes to pot. I fixed it by getting all the wheels back in check then epoxy-ing the return crank back into the centre driver. The fault is caused by a splitting of the driver moulding around the hole for the crank. Over the last week, I've been given the model a damned good thrashing by asking it to haul lots of trains around the layout in both directions, with up and down grades. I'm pleased to report that the crank pins have stayed put and the loco is now running very reliably.

 

USRA2-10-2.jpg.529c4509a7c2ccf6409121d5584b8da0.jpg

 

I have another 2-10-2 which has not been run as much. I decided to give it a similar test this week and almost immediately the same fault happened on it, with the familiar splitting around the crank pin hole. I fixed it the same way as the first, and to be sure I did the repair on both sides. Since the fix, it's been very happy on heavy trains, so I'm as confident as I can be that this is an effective remedy for these models.

 

Bachmann seem to be slowly revisiting their 2000-2010 steam locos with upgrades such as onboard sound, so presumably the 2-10-2s will get their turn eventually. In common with the other Bachmann steam locos I own, the Consolidation, Light Mountain and Ten-Wheeler, they are capable of superb running provided everything is adjusted and correct.

 

 

Edited by Barry Ten
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I've also been doing some work on a Model Power USRA pacific which is meant to represent one of the Southern's very similar Ps4 locos. 

 

pacific2.jpg

 

Excuses for the poorly seated tender body in this shot from nearly 10 years ago. I substituted a Bachmann tender chassis for the better pickup arrangement, and the model still needed some adjustment at the time.

 

I liked everything about the model except the cast handrails, which to my eye are a nasty throwback to the 70s and 80s, all the more so when all the other details are so fine, and often done with separate mouldings.

 

Biting the bullet, I ordered some N handrail knobs and wire from N Brass Locos, and very good the service was as well. The new handrails just needed the old ones filed off, new holes drilled, and the job's a good 'un ... or so I thought.

 

The first order of business was to dismantle the Model Power loco to get at the body shell, and also extract the can motor embedded in the casting. These things are incredibly fiddly to take apart (and reassemble, as I discovered) and I was forever in terror of breaking or losing a tiny part, or that it wouldn't run as well when back together. I put all the bits into a glass jar until I was ready for the reassembly.

 

Removing the handrails was time-consuming but went reasonably well. I had to work carefully around the cast boiler detail and then file and sand back the casting as well as I could, until as little trace remained of the original. I then started re-drilling the holes - and that's where I rapidly run into trouble! My small drills wouldn't touch the alloy this thing is made from. All I managed to do was break several. I kept going up a size until I found a drill that would consistently cut the metal but not break, and this resulted in holes that were much too large for the handrails.

 

sou3.jpg.8255308244c44da7ea91807c6e8a1947.jpg

 

I was intending to fill them with plastic padding, but over on Wright's Writes (one of the best bits of Rmweb) Jerry Clifford mentioned that he used brass tubing in similar cases. Unfortunately I didn't have any of the right diameter, but I did have a good selection of plastic rod, so small bits were inserted into the holes and cleaned back. I still needed to redrill them, but this was (relatively) easy compared to going into metal. I say relatively as it was still a pain. What's up with drill bits these days? All the small ones I seem to find (0.5mm or thereabouts) break if you so much as look at them, and the tips don't seem to have any "bite", so they wander all over the place before beginning to dig in.

 

Anyroad, the holes were made, filled, re-drilled, and the handrails prepared. I'd never worked with 2mm handrails before so I was a bit anxious, but if anything they worked better than some 4mm products I've found, with the wire going through the knob very painlessly. I think this is because there is a decent working clearance, rather than the wire being a tight fit, so any burrs don't make a problem threading the wire. I was worried about dropping them (I had 24, and needed 16 to do the loco) so I first prepared a length of wire by adding a 180 degree crimp at the end, to stop them sliding off. I threaded on eight and then crimped the other end as well. One the knobs were secure on the wire, I trimmed back their stalks with a Xuron cutter - far easier than trying to do them individually. I then offered them up to the loco and inserted them into the holes, back to front, with a dab of cyano to secure them. I added a few bends, trimmed off, and voila: one side of the loco done:

 

sou4.jpg.d5d6b343abf6e61b02749df438b1d05e.jpg

 

Onward!

 

 

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Progress:

 

sou5.jpg.a07f1792d058854aa0cfd0fb8fa0e6ba.jpg

 

sou6.jpg.47cec56198f91b7a0e43f3b05250a47e.jpg

 

Why's it green when it used to be black? Because these Ps-4 pacifics spent most of their days painted green, except for a small number at the start of their lives. Given that I had to repaint it anyway, I thought I might as well do a proper job.

 

In 1925, when most US steam locos were black, Fairfax Harrison (Southern's boss at the time) visited the UK, and was taken by the look of our passenger loco liveries. Upon returning, the instruction was issued for the Ps-4s (when were then only a few years old, with other still under construction) to be adorned in Virginia Green henceforth. They kept this scheme until the end of steam in 1953, along with most of the passenger-rated steam locos on the Southern. I don't have the right paint, but eye-balling a couple of other locos in the same livery, I decided that Railmatch Malachite would be a fair approximation, and that any variations in hue would be exceedingly minor after a dose of weathering.

 

Decals for Southern steam in N have been a bit hard to come by, but luckily Microscale do a sheet for the lined green passenger scheme of the Crescent Limited locos, which will suit this one fine. And better still, a newish firm, K4 Decals, seems to be covering some of the major gaps for both locos and freight cars, which should be a great help in renumbering and individualising SR stock.

 

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Here's a moderately amusing development. Cast your eyes up the page to the picture of the Model Power pacific before I started hacking it about. Notice the missing window glazing on that side of the cab, compared to the picture above of the other side, where it's present.

 

Initially I thought I must have lost the glazing last week while taking the loco apart, but in the fact the first picture above shows that it was missing a good ten years ago, probably being lost after the first round of tweaks I did to the engine. I looked in the box just in case it had popped off in storage, but no sign of it. So, no chance of finding that bit, right?

 

I started looking at the materials in my stash with a view to scratchbuilding a new window frame, when it occurred to me that there was a bit of scrap on the layout that might do the trick. It's a piece of boxcar walkway that must have dropped off at some point and has been lying beside for the track for, literally, years. I never moved it because it looked just like the sort of junk that might end up by the roadbed, and besides, I thought one day I might find the boxcar it belonged to. Could it, perhaps, be repurposed for the new window frames? It was the right colour, and from memory had about the right size and shape ... I was on my way to examine it when a weird thought occurred - could it indeed be the window frame itself? And it was!

 

A dab of glue and it was popped back into position. Two mysteries solved for the price of one.

 

 

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Glimmers of progress on the layout in recent weeks. My mojo for this project seems to peak and dip every 6 - 9 months. I've barely touched it since early in the year, then had a welcome spurt of enthusiasm this autumn. Perhaps it's because I had a good run of progress on various 4mm projects, so felt ready for a change.

 

One of the things I've started revisiting is the station area in Paynesville. A while back there was some discussion about whether the spacing between the two main tracks was enough to allow a paved area and the possibility of two passenger trains pulling in at the same time. The consensus was that it was a bit tight between the rails, but after some reflection I decided on a compromise: there is a paved area, so passengers can get on and off from the other side of the train, but it's not intended to allow two passenger trains to arrive at once.

 

sou8.jpg.0ac6d505c0576eac4b6611ade077bd0e.jpg

 

It just gives a bit more flexibility in handling longer passenger trains. Now a six coach train and loco (as above) can stop within the paved area, without passengers having to jump down onto ballast. It also allows me extra scope for a bit of detailing, as I can add a few passengers, luggage trolleys and so on scattered along the platform.

 

The train in the picture is the Con-Cor Crescent Limited set which I think is largely fiction (I don't think the Southern had a dome car of any kind!) but it looks pretty enough for now. When it comes to Southern passenger stock, one can't be choosy.

 

 

 

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Back to the Model Power USRA Pacific, which is passing as a Southern Ps-4, I've begun adding lining and numbers. This is using the Micro-scale Crescent Limited sheet which I've had in my stash for years, so I'm glad to have used it finally.

 

sou10.jpg.b5161733746470528a4b4f2870432154.jpg

 

sou9.jpg.3efb11161068d080d76fc4a283b4cb43.jpg

 

What's left to be done is the lining around the domes, and a set of numbers on the front one. It's all very fiddly and time-consuming since the rectangles have to be made up from individual bits of lining.

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I've completed most of the work on the pacific, and added some weathering. I think this brings the green nicely into line with the other locos wearing the same livery. These locos were for prestige trains in their heyday, but began to get a bit grimy near the end of their lives after the war. I'm not sure if the tender top should be red, but I've left it for now.

 

sou1.jpg.a8ce7baead3360ae709a5148a0dffee6.jpg

 

I've also - at last - been able to do some renumbering of freight locos, beginning with this 2-10-2 light Sante Fe. Getting the right size numerals has been the problem. As mentioned, a new firm (k4 decals) has begun to fill some of the gaps and I was pleased to be able to order some Southern freight loco decals. The old number (5210) was removed with T-cut and gentle burnishing, then I applied the new identity.

 

sou2.jpg.280b79a1473cd54775e3bdc70f6e80c6.jpg

 

Doing the small numbers on the cabside and dome was a test of patience, and I drew the line at the tiny numerals on the lamp at the front of the smokebox. Not a hope in hell! I think I'll just paint over the existing ones in red as I'd rather have no numbers than wrong ones. This would be a good niche for a manufacturer to supply a sheet of pre-made-up numbers for common loco types.

 

Once decaled, the loco was weathered using acrylics in the same fashion as its stablemate, another 5210 (see a few posts above). The K4 decals need a little care in their application as the gold effect can flake off, but any damage is easily masked by a weathering coat. 

 

Incidentally, the repairs I did to the return cranks on the two 2-10-2s is holding well after extensive running, so I'm confident that it's a good fix for this known issue with these models. Weathering really brings out the finesse of the models, too. I would have done it years ago except I was stuck, waiting for a solution to the decal problem.

 

A new addition to the fleet is a heavy Mike, just in from Broadway Limited:

 

sou3.jpg.5176d76d6eaba721cec3ac73575ad560.jpg

 

This is a cracking model and pulls like stink. I did find it was finnicky about my fiddle yard trackwork in a couple of locations, but a little tweaking (of the track) sorted that out. Once I'm satisfied that it's a keeper I'll move it onto the weathering queue.

 

Cheers!

Edited by Barry Ten
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Another addition to the steam fleet.

 

sou5.jpg.fdedd5d0f85d4d2ff590bf0c9ab9df15.jpg

 

This Bachmann Consolidation is an old model that was initially in Missouri Pacific livery. About ten years ago Hattons were selling off some American stock at dirt-cheap prices, so I picked up two of these for a song, and then had them converted to DCC. Not much then happened. My plan at the time of purchase was to renumber them into a freelance GA&E railroad in keeping with the theme of the layout, but while I cooled on that idea, I still couldn't get anywhere with obtaining suitable decals. Happily, as mentioned in previous posts, that's all changed in recent weeks so the first of these 2-8-0s was moved into works for renumbering as a Southern example, inspired by this photo:

 

https://hawkinsrails.net/mainlines/sou/steam/sou747a.jpg

 

Cards on the table time: as with the Ps-4 pacific, it's an extremely broad-brush approach to prototype fidelity! The Southern's Ks3 Consolidation numbered 747 is broadly similar to the Bachmann model, but there are notable detail differences such as the type of cylinder, possibly the tender (I can't tell if it's a short or medium USRA type in that photo I linked to), and doubtless much more! However my philosophy is that if I don't accept this "squint and it looks OK" approach, I won't get very far in equipping a reasonably useful range of steam locos for the layout. And that's the point: the Consolidation isn't on the layout to replicate a specific prototype down to the last rivet, but to do a job. That job happens to be running the local switching turn from Paynesville, GA, to Preston, SC, so reliability and pulling power are the watchwords, not whether every detail is in the right place. To add to that functionality, it also needs to be able to run tender first, since there's no turning facility at Preston. The Bachmann model only has a dummy front coupler, so I milled out a recess in the pilot (what we Brits call a cow-catcher) and inserted a micro-trains coupler, greatly increasing the loco's usefulness. I also replaced the Rapido-type coupler at the back.

 

sou4.jpg.851e3c177ae66e5292d3ce61508f345b.jpg

 

Bachmann have since upgraded these late 1990s models with DCC and then DCC and sound, as well as knuckle couplers on the tender, but the basic product still holds up very well. They can need a tiny bit of tweaking to get the best out of them, I've found, but once they run well, they run very nicely indeed.

 

 

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This week's project has been to start putting LEDs into the roundhouse. Although I didn't intend to light the layout buildings, the roundhouse was an exception as it was hard to see which locos were on which roads. Now it's pretty easy to look through the windows and identify the engines.

 

I thought a moody black and white shot would be a bit of fun.

 

southern.jpg.cc101381ee78783e9c85812f9a610b55.jpg

 

Cheers!

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