Monday, June 29, 2015

New Products of Interest

In today's world of model railroading with limited runs and time sensitive pre-ordering, it can be easy to miss out on items made for your favorite railroad. I know I've done my fair share of trying to hunt down a old release that I missed out on.

So every now and then I'll bring to attention a new release that may hold interest to HO Scale Nickel Plate Road modelers or that which may be included in my layout.

As a disclaimer, nobody so far is paying me for this, although they are welcome to! :P

Walthers has announced a few new items in HO Scale that are of interest to Nickel Plate Road modelers as well as Appalachian railroad modelers.

Walthers Fallen Flags Passenger Series

For the NKP passenger modeler we have new runs of the Pullman-Standard 10-6 Sleeper and 52 Seat Coaches, and completely new in NKP paint, a 70' ACF Baggage car and a P-S 5 Bedroom-Lounge car representing a very loose version of the "City of Chicago" and "City of Cleveland".

NKP Pullman-Standard 52 Seat Coach

NKP Pullman-Standard 10-6 Sleeper

NKP ACF 70' Baggage

NKP Pullman-Standard 5 Bedroom-Lounge

Also finally a long awaited re-release of the old Proto 2000 ALCO PA-1 in the NKP's beautiful Bluebird paint. Now part of their Walthers Mainline brand, these can be ordered with a Soundtraxx sound DCC decoder or as a DC/DCC ready version.


I've always read that the original Proto 2000 PA-1's were a challenge adapting to DCC operation due to their motors pulling way more amps than what was typical for a HO scale engine. I never did a DCC conversion on mine, but the Bluebirds I still have could pull the paint off a wall, so I'm not surprised at this difficulty.

Yes I still have NKP Bluebirds, even though I'm modeling the 1950's Wheeling district where there were no passenger trains on the timetable. I just couldn't bear to sell off all my passenger equipment when I changed focus from modeling Bellevue or Cleveland's E. 55th St. yard areas.

However, I did find evidence of 1950's NKP passenger action in the Adena area in the form of a special business trip to Hanna Coal Co.'s new Georgetown Preparation Plant, so I'm glad I did hang on to some of my passenger equipment.

As for Appalachian modelers, Walthers has a new Truck Dump model in their Cornerstone Series.

Walthers Cornerstone Truck Dump

Walthers Cornerstone Truck Dump
Many of the coal mines in the Wheeling District were actually truck dumps and not your traditional mine tipple where the coal comes from a nearby drift or shaft mine. In the areas surrounding Adena and Dillonvale, these truck dumps tended to support nearby stripping operations, where the coal was trucked a short distance to the truck dump and loaded into rail cars.

I know I can definitely use this kit as a starting point for a few of the mines I'll be representing on the Adena layout. As for the passenger cars it's tempting to get one of the P-S 5 Bedroom-Lounge cars as the "City of Cleveland" even though it's miss in terms of prototype accuracy.

Sunday, June 28, 2015

"We're famous!"

"We're famous!" is what Brendan said when I showed him an email from Dennis Snyder containing a photo of an article written by Carol Bednar in the southeastern Ohio newspaper "The Times Leader". The article covered our NKPHTS W&LE Chapter's trip to the Adena area back in April and detailed the railroad and coal mining history in the area. But the real surprise was the large group photo of us in Adena taking up almost half the front page of the lifestyles section.

The first time your name or photo gets printed in a newspaper (hopefully for good reasons!) is always a neat experience. For Brendan this was his first time, so he was really excited about it!

The W&LE Chapter Tour shares the Lifestyles front page with Scooter the cat.
Our next trip down to that area I'll be sure to get him some sunglasses, so we aren't recognized and mobbed by crazed fans and the hounding paparazzi.

But seriously, thanks to The Times Leader for sending us a copy for the scrapbook, and to Carol Bednar for writing and submitting a fine article.

Also for those interested in the community and history of Adena, Carol runs a informative website called

Wednesday, June 24, 2015

Wordless Wednesday #29

W&LE mainline looking north at MP 190.57, near the old Hurford Branch connection 11-29-2014 Chris Ellis photo

Thursday, June 11, 2015

Train Work

I'm not sure who started it, my son Brendan or my wife, but when I'd head downstairs to the basement to do any sort of model railroading activity they called it going to do "train work".

I sure wish I was paid for that kind of work...

Anyways, not all train work is actual train work. Aside from building a pile of freight cars that have lingered for too long on a shelf. I've been working on building a computer for my workbench.

After buying my first computer back in 1999, I've always built my own PC's. I picked each component that I wanted, not what Dell or at the time Gateway wanted. I'd assemble all the parts and then install the operating system and needed software myself. Building and troubleshooting my own PC's was a good learning experience that has lead me to nearly completing a 2 year degree in Computer Science, with an emphasis in Cisco Networking.

When my laptop that I used to program DCC Decoders died, I knew I needed to something more permanent for my workbench and the future layout. Luckily I upgrade my main PC with higher performance parts every few years, so any cast off components can still make a pretty decent computer, especially for a basement workbench.

My new PC was built in one evening mainly with parts from my previous PC build and a spare PC case. A dying monitor was also reused by soldering in new capacitors, saving some more money in the process. Only a new hard drive, an inexpensive video card and about eight replacement capacitors for the monitor were purchased totaling maybe $110, if I remember to send in the rebates.

These are the parts that went into this build
  • Intel Core 2 Duo E8400 @ 3Ghz
  • MSI P35 Neo2 Motherboard
  • 4GB of Ram
  • 1TB WD Blue Hard Drive
  • EVGA Nvidia GeForce 730
  • An extra MSI DVD-RW
  • A spare PC Mini Tower Case
  • Surplus old mouse and keyboard
  • Resurrected Samsung LCD monitor
No more trips upstairs to look something up or access my photos and research files. Now I have a capable computer for the workbench and also for connecting to my NCE DCC system with JMRI. Mentioning the JMRI software is almost worthy of a whole new blog post to describe what it is and can be used for, but in short I'll use it to easily program the DCC decoders in my engines and possibly control the few signals that were used on the section of the W&LE District I'll be modeling.

The new basement PC at home on the corner of my workbench. My large main work light is turned off to make a photo so all washed out.
And yes some train work did get completed in the process of building the basement PC. While installing Windows and other software like Adobe Photoshop Elements, Chrome, Google Earth Pro(now free!) and of course JMRI, I got some work done on the last of my PRR hoppers.

The last few were a very cheap eBay win(?) of three built PRR H-21a hoppers with upside down parts and glue marks everywhere. I thought I might be able to improve them and give them a good weathering job to hide any remaining imperfections. So while software was installing I began popping off the upside down parts and sanding down glue blobs.

Tips for car building: 1 beer limit, read the instructions and easy on the glue!
During this train work the new PC on the workbench started proving it's worth when I thought to research these hoppers I was building. I know enough about the Pennsylvania freight car fleet to know that anybody modeling almost any railroad should have some Pennsy in their car roster. But the specifics like while the Pennsy had a lot of H-21 hoppers, it hardly had any H-22 hoppers left by the mid 1950's was a surprise to me.

Of course this was discovered after already building my two PRR H-22 kits...

Anybody want to trade for 2 built PRR H22 hoppers?

Wednesday, June 10, 2015

Wordless Wednesday #27

The east Adena wye switch which began the Adena Branch to Neffs.  4-9-2014 Chris Ellis photo

Tuesday, June 2, 2015

Time Consuming

Life often pulls us in many directions, and often our hobbies are given the scraps of time that remain. If any time is left for those pursuits at all.

For example, I was happy to see that Dennis Daniels's pursuit of modeling the Illinois Central Gulf  has returned from those stretches of time where plans get put on hold. Dennis's great article in Model Railroad Planning 2015 profiling his layout had recently interested my son, and as we sometimes do, we try Googling for videos or a blog on layouts found in the magazines.  As luck would have it, Dennis had just posted his first blog update in well over a year. Hopefully more updates will follow as the ICG comes to life again in his "bonus room" (a Southern term I'm guessing).

I know how time can get away from you like that, so I'm hoping to adopt a tip I've seen a lot in various forms recently.

"Do something every day even if it's only for 15 minutes"

Now obviously that may not be practical every single day ever, but if I can do it more often than not, then that's a step in the right direction. Fifteen minutes may not be enough time to work on certain projects, but it can be enough time to clean up or organize your layout room or workspace. Even spending that time to evaluate progress can be beneficial.

The weather this past weekend helped create way much more than 15 minutes spent on the layout. For part of Saturday and all of Sunday, wave after wave of very heavy rains passed through the area. With that unexpected free time I had a good opportunity to reclaim some shelf space by building 21 Stewart 70 Ton Offset Hopper kits. While the rain fell outside, I spent several hours total to complete them all.

The ideal "Temporary Dining Room Table Workbench". Warning: Do not attempt use for more than three days!

While what I really needed to do was continue building shelving supports along that wall to show some promised layout progress.  I just felt like building some kits, so I was actually doing something for the layout at least! The pile of hopper kits on the shelf wasn't getting any smaller (actually growing) and that space needed to be cleared for the layout to pass through.

To make something a habit you must keep doing it obviously, so what did I do today?

I spent maybe 20 minutes removing part of my Pine Valley Yard mockup to reclaim my real workbench to free up the dining room table and avoid looming trouble. The elevation of the mock up needed to be higher anyways, and building kits at the dining room table puts you just one spilled bottle of glue or paint away from sleeping in the garage!

I think that was time well spent.