01 December 2010

Hills and landscape

I'm done painting clouds on the backdrop. Overall it came out not too bad. It's now time to think on how to paint the hills and the landscape. I still need to do some research to understand what one would see standing in the area I want to model. I've just played a bit with Google Maps and Earth.
Anyway, these are four photo I took last Sunday with my iPhone, so the quality it's not perfect.

See you soon...

08 November 2010

Clouds Done, ehm almost

Yesterday I finished painting the left backdrop section and made few retouch on the right one. Now the sky and clouds are almost done. The backdrop of the central section still needs to be completed, though.

Overall I'm rather happy with the result. It could be much better for sure but it's been fun and it could have been much worse than that considering that this is my first time I try to paint something.

Here I added few (not really good) photos of the two completed sections.

More Backdrop Painting

See you soon...

01 November 2010

More Clouds

Today I painted some more clouds on the backdrop of the right layout section. I tried to use a wider palette of colors adding some black to give more deepness to the closer clouds. Don't really know if I'm making any progress from my first attempts however painting clouds is fun and very relaxing.

Here are few shots of today's work.

See you soon...

31 October 2010

New Rolling Stock

After quite a long time a couple of Picasa web albums of my last two shipments of new rolling stock. Some very nice TOFC cars from Athearn and a bunch of SP and UP insulated boxcars from Red Caboose.

You can have a look here:

New Rolling Stock

New Rolling Stock

See you soon...

04 October 2010

Ballast Tests

After quite a long time I'm back to my blog with few updates. I did very few work lately on my layout, just a couple of "side projects".

Using few pieces of scrap wood I built a small rack to hold few glass containers (jars?) I used to hold the various kind of Woodland Scenics ballast I bought some time ago along with few mix test I did to find the right ballast color for my railroad.

After that I wanted to experiment with ballasting track so I took an old (almost 30 years old) piece of HO sectional track and a piece of my code 55 N track. I glued them on two pieces of scrap wood and start testing to ballast track and also to find the right colour/mix of ballast.

Ballast on the left is with the tan fine ballast while on the right is a 50%/50% mix of grey and light-grey.

Here on the left is all grey ballast.

Here you can see all three tests: grey on the left, tan in the middle and the 50%/50% mix on the right.

That's it for now, see you soon...

23 August 2010

Cork roadbed

After a couple of weeks of vacation I'm back home and at work :(
So, it's time for a quick update of my recent work on the layout.

Before the break I tested a kind of a jig I made to cut cork roadbed strips from 2 millimiters roll I bought quite some time ago. I found two 5'-long scrap pieces of wood that have an edge cut at 45 degrees. So, after reading a very good tip on Enzo's blog, I decided to try myself and made few strips.

They look quite good and even if the process of cutting is rather time consuming I can get a lot of strips at a very low price. I don't remember exactly how much the cork roll did cost but it was rather cheap for sure.

Here are a couple of pictures of the jig and one of the first strips I cut.

See you soon...

30 July 2010

Post #100 !

Warning: rather long post this one

I just realized this is going to be my post #100!
So, I decided it might be interesting to take a break and look back in the past two and a half years of this blog to see what happened so far. This could also be a chance to translate a little part of my older posts for those not understanding Italian.

So, let's start.

My very first post was in February 2008. I just started again interesting in this hobby and was browsing and reading the Web to get up to date with what happened in model railroading in the last twenty and more years. Two of the three assumptions I made in that post were correct: to build my layout in the garage and use NMRA-DCC. The scale, however, changed along the road from HO to N.

March went cleaning up the garage and working on the electrical power lines to have them suitable for a layout. I had a good idea of laying two separate electrical lines one for the room lights and one for the power sockets. This revealed to be a good choice. In the meantime the crazy idea of a liftable layout begun to take shape.

Work on the electrical plant continued in April. Also, I could make to visit perhaps the most important Italian model-related show. It was very fun to see a lot of very nice layouts, models and a lot of people and groups involved in modelling from RC airplanes to boats, from trains to slot cars.

An unexpected problem came out, then. Humidity coming off the ground would damage the bottom part of the walls and the stucco would come down to the ground creating a lot of dust. I decided to take away the damaged stucco and put terracotta tiles I had left from previous work to resolve the problem. This took a long time to complete since I never did something similar in the past by myself. I had to learn how to lay the tiles and to work with the special glue -actually it's like cement not glue- required to apply the tiles to the brick wall.
That work took all the summer, fall up to the end of November when I finally completed laying tiles on the walls.

In the meantime surfing the web I discovered the two model railroad podcast I'm still following now: The Scotty Mason Show and the Model Railroad Podcast from Ryan Anderson. That begun to put new ideas in my mind and while learning a lot about model railroading I also started to like US railways and their model more and more.

In fact, in December I posted my very first version of the layout project. Many things have changed since that initial project, however some points are still valid today. By the way, that project already saw the "switch" to N scale and the decision to model a US railroad.

January 2009 was dedicated to designing the benchwork initially thought as a set of sections made out of wood beams kept together by means of nuts and bolts. At that stage I didn't know it couldn't work because the entire structure was too flexible and couldn't stand the stress when raised from the floor to the ceiling.

Then I started to build the benchwork and fixed the guide rails on the side walls. By the end of February I reviewed my layout project and posted version 2 with many more details about era, prototype, locale, etc. I also decided I wanted a layout oriented towards realistic operation even though most of the times I'll be the only operator to play with it.

Benchwork construction continued while I found a pulley set that would fit my needs to lift benchwork sections to the ceiling. Actually the pulleys were designed to lift and hang bicycles but I thought that they would serve my needs. I then started to fix them to the ceiling and did the first test to lift the sections.

During May I bought my very first piece of N-scale rolling stock. A pair of wonderful Intermountain Southern Pacific EMD SD40T-2. They come from Denny Turani, a nice guy I got to know on the Internet who decided to sell most part of his collection. The locos are equipped with DCC decoders from Zimo and are nicely weathered. I was very excited when I first saw them and could appreciate the very nice level of details an N-scale loco can have.
During that period I also bought the whole series of DVDs from Joe Fugate's website and one from Scotty Mason's on Dick Elwell's Hoosac Valley Lines. Great DVDs, very well done. I could learn a lot from them and still learning.

Construction and assembly of benchwork continued in the next month. I also discovered a very interesting group of guys: the Italian FREMO N scale group. On June they held the annual meeting and I planned to attend for the first time as a visitor. Unfortunately I couldn't go to the meeting because of family problems. However, I got even more interested in realistic operations and started to think to be part of the FREMO group building one or two FREMO modules.
My second purchase was some Microengineering code 55 and code 40 flextrack pieces. I bought them online from Model Train Stuff and since then I never had a problem and they offered a great service with good selling prices.

In July I stared my personal YouTube channel. Not very much to post there yet, though. I also continued my shopping season with a DCC system: a NCR PowerCab and few accessories I bought online from Litchfield Station. I'm very happy for my PowerCab. It's very easy to use yet powerful enough for my needs, at least for now. And it came also at a very interesting price.
At that time I realized that a sectional benchwork made of wood wouldn't have never been strong enough to stand the stress of raising and lowering. So I changed idea. Thrown away all the wood sections and bought 10 feet L-shaped iron beam usually used to build metal shelves. I also used gussets to keep the benchwork square to the legs.
I realize now how my way into this hobby is to jump here and there maybe to keep my interest alive. In fact, after a lot of benchwork re-contrstruction I tested my DCC system for the first time with the two SD40T-2. I was really amazed how they worked thanks to the programming of Danny. Excited by that I bought a bunch of other locos from LifeLike, Atlas and Bachmann as well as the first batch of cars.

Layout designed continued refining the second version thanks to a lot of very useful info from Byron Henderson. So, the plan begun to take the current shape. In the meantime benchwork was still my main focus and continued to replace wood sections and to attach pulleys to the ceiling. At the end of September another big change: I switched this blog to English, so since then you can follow what happened directly.

I've always been interested in Fast-Track's products and thought they were very good, so I decided to give them a try and in October I did my first order of everything needed to build code 55 #6 turnouts.
As soon as I received all the stuff I made my first attempts at building turnouts and was rather surprised to see I could build quite good turnouts. I really liked Fast-Track's jigs and all the rest and more recently I bought what's needed to build #8 turnouts as well.

I shot a short video of the status of the bencwork constructions and posted on my YouTube channel along with photos of my growing rolling stock collection on my Picasa albums.
I also purchase plywood pieces for the "by then" lower level of the benchwork. During November I received my order to Duncan McRee's Tam Valley Depot for some servos and DCC controllers to move turnout points automatically. Then, I started another completely different kind of project: digitizing a loco. I used a drop-in replacement decoder from Atlas for the Atlas U25B and I liked it a lot, so much I decided to digitize the LifeLike non-DCC ready loco by myself. A much more complicated project.

In December I did a short video testing my TVD servo decoder and nothing more while my rolling stock kept growing. In fact, beginning of the new year I received two new awesome Kato NW-2 that I then digitized using drop-in decoders from Digitrax again. I also shot a longer video of me digitizing the loco.

My set of self-made turnouts kept growing with #8 and #6. In February I posted the next to last version of my layout project, called version 2.1. Then I felt ready to digitize the GP38 following a very good tutorial found on the internet. It wasn't so easy but it's been fun and the final result is rather good, I think. Version 2.2 of the layout project was posted thanks again to some very useful suggestions from Byron and few other guys on the ITA-USA Model Railroad forum. I also taped together a 1:1 scale print of the layout did a test fit on the real plywood. Not too bad so far.

Following a very good post on the DIY Photography blog I built a very simple light tent and started using it to take picture of my cars and locos. Photos started to be much better than those taken directly on the plywood.
Then, It was the time for backdrop. Having discarded the idea of a double deck layout backdrop installation and painting was the next step in line to be done.

Again another jump into a completely different project, I laid down the wires for the DCC bus all around the three sections of the benchwork. In May I continued backdrop preparation and started experimenting how to paint a realistic sky with clouds. I looked for some tutorials on the web and YouTube and started my first attempts. I've never been very good at painting or drawing and this was a hard project for me.

By the end of June I completed the required set of turnouts and kept trying to paint the sky and clouds. I was improving my skills but not quite done yet.

And finally here we are at the end of July. Still a lot of work to be done, a lot of completely new projects to face and a lot of fun. It's been about two years and a half since a started again this hobby and it's been a great fun. I learned a lot of new things, from building benchwork to painting skies, from shooting videos to having a blog and a twitter account.
I also knew a lot of new guys -at least electronically- and hopefully shared and helped someone to know and enjoy this hobby.

So, that's it for now and really looking forward to post #200!

See you soon...

05 July 2010

Well... I did it!

I've been thinking when I would have made my first mistake. Well, I did it.
Actually, I made a lot of mistakes so far, building wooden benchwork sections to be connected together is an example -I replaced them with metal L-shaped beams.

However, this is the real first error I made because I felt to confident in my model railroad knowledge and went on without double checking my steps.

Recently I purchased a very nice Atlas EMD GP35 along with a DCC decoder: a Digitrax DN163A0. Well, that's the wrong drop-in replacement decoder for that loco. It's too long to fit into the split frame of this loco. In fact, the right decoder is a DN163A2.

Not a very big problem, I just have to wait to purchase a new decoder and hopefully recycle the wrong one on a new loco. At least now I have a reason to buy me another new loco.

See you soon...

23 June 2010

New locomotives and rolling stock

Yesterday I received my last order for a new diesel locomotive and a bunch of cars.

The loco is -guess what- an Atlas Southern Pacific EMD GP35 in the Kodachrome color scheme, if I'm not mistaken. Along with it I also bought a drop-in replacement DCC decoder from Digitrax, a DN163A0.
In addition to that I bought three Athearn covered hoppers and two Athearn mill gondolas. All very nice and well done.

Here's the usual collection of photos of the new entries.

New locomotives and rolling stock

See you soon...

14 June 2010

Clouds in the Sky

Some clouds are forming in the sky. Well, that's not a problem, no rain is going to pour in the future.

No kidding, I made another attempt at painting a fading sky and some clouds. I think this time I got better and I'm rather happy with what I've got. I still have to work some more on it to paint more highlights and shadows and correct some areas where the sky color doesn't fade gradually from blue to white.

However, these are few shots. Take a look and comment if you will.

Here I faded the blue to white directly. The greater color difference is more visible and gives more depth than with a whiter blue as did before. The test cloud is better as well. Still not yet what I like.

Right side of the left layout section. A little too much white on the bottom I think. Clouds look better than the second test though.

Left side, other clouds that need to be completed with more highlights and shadows. It' getting better...

Front view of the left layout section. I thought different types of clouds would make the sky more interesting.

Here you can clearly see there's too much white on the bottom of the right hand side.

Some test on the plywood for the ground color.

See you soon...

09 June 2010

Another attempt at painting backdrop

Last week I did another try to paint the sky on the backdrop. During last weeks I searched on the web for some how-to's and tutorials on how to paint realistic sky and clouds. I found many interesting sites and video. One I remember is the YouTube channel from Tim Gagnon where I found some well done videos on that subject.

Unfortunately, what seems easy and straightforward for Tim and artists in general turned out to be very hard for me. Anyway, I'll keep trying maybe I'll get something acceptable.

So far, I tried to paint a fading blue sky where the top is deep blue and the bottom fades to white in order to give the idea of the haziness and humidity that's more concentrated on the lower layer of the atmosphere. I think i did better that the first attempt but there's still a lot of space for improvements.

First time I used a whiter blue on top of the flat paint already dried out. Now, I used the whiter blue on top of a still-wet blue paint. It's better but still not much sense of deepness. Maybe I should use white paint instead of a whiter blue paint in order to have a greater difference in color between the top part -that's blue- and the bottom that's should be almost white. Let's see how it goes next time.

I also painted my very first cloud. To me it is awful. However, watching at Tim's videos once more I realized I had to wait for the first layer of white paint to dry before adding the additional layers to create brighter areas and shadows. May be next time I'll get something better.

See you soon...

08 June 2010

How I built my #8 turnouts using Fast-Track tools

I just wanted to share how I managed to build #8 turnouts using tools and jigs I bought from Fast-Track. Actually, it's nothing new at all neither any advanced techniques. However, I thought someone might be interested to see how I built those turnouts saving some money and -hopefully- having some fun.

First of all, many of what I'm going to show is either borrowed or adapted from the great documentation, instructions and videos Fast-Track made available on the web. So, I strongly suggest anyone interested in having a look at them.

Second, the idea of building turnouts using templates printed on papers is not new at all. Many have done this before as Joe Fugate for his Siskiyou Line Forum or Evert's thebige61 YouTube video channel, to name a few.

So, it looks like there's no reason to write this post neither to read it. Anyway... I did it.

Let's start. I begun printing a #8 turnout template using the PDF file available on the Fast-Track site, then I cut the left-hand one and taped on a piece of cardboard.
Then, I took some PCB ties and cut them to length and gapped according to the template. Each tie is then glued onto the template with a very small bead of glue.
This step, actually, could be avoided but I found it much more easier to work with a turnout that is fixed on the template rather then align ties and all the rest each time something moves away from its correct position.
That's a picture after these steps

Then, I used the QuickStick ties as a reference to cut to length a piece of rail. This is going to be the first stock rail, the straight one. Now, I placed the rail in the exact final position and marked the part that needs to be filed away in order to give place to the point rail to come close to the stock rail.

I put the rail in the StockRail filing tool and filed it.

Now, I placed the stock rail again on the ties and using the filing jigs to keep it in the right position I soldered the ties.

Pay attention not to put solder where the points need to move or the guard rails needs to be soldered, just solder on the outside of the rail.
This is what I ended up with.

Now it was the time for the diverging stock rail. Again I cut it to length, marked the part to be filed and used the filing jig as I did before.

At this time having one of the Fast-Track jigs makes the difference. In fact, from now on each rail we're going to put down needs to be in gauge with the others. So, I had to use a MicroEngineering code55 gauge to keep the second stock rail at the correct distance from the first one while soldering it to the first tie.

As you can see I started on the throwbar side of the turnout and then soldered all the other ties aligning the stock rail to the template.
That's the turnout with the two stock rails soldered.

Using another piece of rail I made the first point rail. I put it in the #8 frog-point filing tool and made the first point, the curved one in this case.
Building all these turnouts I found useful to file a bit more of the base of the rail then what you get with the filing tool. In fact, for small angle turnouts (I think #8s and above) it helps to have a little more clearance between the stock and the point rails and this can be easily obtained filing the base of the point rail further down the wing side.
Then, I put the point in the exact position and marked the point where it has to be bent and where the wing rail end. I cut it to length and filed the wing rail as per the Fast-Track instructions.
That's the point rails ready to be soldered in place.

Here you can see a detail on the wing rail and the notch used to exactly bent the rail.

I soldered the point in place keeping it at the right distance from the stock rail using the ME gauge.

I did exactly the same for the other point rail and that's the result.

At this point I build the frog using the frog-point filing tool again and then the frog helper tool I bought to solder the two frog rail at the exact angle. Since I have the #6 turnout building jig I decided to get the #8, #10 and #12 frog helper. If I ever wanted to build larger number turnouts I already have the frog tool. I don't think I'll never build smaller turnouts than #6.

And now comes the difficult part. It's time to solder the frog rails and to make sure each rail is in gauge and the frog point was close enough to the wing rails to have a smooth transition of truck wheels. Oops, I forgot to mention that I used a MicroTrain truck with low profile metal wheels to check every step of the building process. I think is very handy to test how the truck goes through the points and frog area before having soldered all ties and rails.
With a little patience that's the outcome.

Note that at this point I hadn't soldered the wing rails yet. Once everything is in place and you're sure wheels go through the turnout flawlessly you can solder the wing rails. It's a little bit easier to make small adjustments with the wing rails still unsoldered if that's the case.

I was almost done at this point. I cut to length the two guard rails using the template as a reference, bent them and filed. Finally I soldered them in place.

I took the turnout away from the paper template and was the time for the last step: the throwbar. Thanks to a tip I read somewhere -I think it was from Enzo's blog "The Valley before Silicon" or forum, I don't remember- I bought HOn3 1/32" thick PCB ties to be used as throwbar instead of the regular N scale ones. HOn3 are wider and it's much easier to drill a hole for the actuating wire with respect to the narrower N scale PCB ties.
I filed the two sides of the throwbar to be sure it would fit freely inside the wooden protecting ties, marked where to cut the gaps in the copper cladding and drilled a hole with a #60 bit.
Then, I used the QuickStick laser ties to keep the turnout, the throwbar and the ties in the correct position and soldered the two point rails to the throwbar. I used a piece of tie to keep the points away from the stock rails while soldering.

That's the final result.

I cut the gaps in order to isolate the frog area as explained in the Fast-Track instruction.

I finally tested that no shorts were present between rails, frog and point and I was done.

Clearly, it took a little longer and it was a little harder than using the turnouth building jig. Though, I hadn't to build a lot of turnouts and in the end I found it relaxing to hand build turnouts.

See you soon...

06 June 2010

Turnouts Again

I'm done with turnouts. Yesterday I completed my last left #8 turnout so now I have all I need for my layout, hopefully.

I also checked again all turnouts for shorts between the frog area stock rails, guard rails and point rails and all seems OK now. Actually, I had to fix a couple of turnouts where the two rails that go towards the frog where shorting. I couldn't file the copper cladding on the PCB ties where the two rails are soldered because they're too close to each other so I decided to cut that tie with the saw I used to open the gaps around the frog area. That solved the problem.

Here's a shot at all the turnouts divided by number and type.

See you soon...

31 May 2010

More Turnouts

A couple of weeks ago I received my last order to Fast-Track for the frog-point filing jig for #8 turnouts and the frog building jig for #8, #10 and #12 turnouts. I also ordered few more quicksticks for #6 and #8 along with PCB ties and code #55 ME rails.
Now I've got all I need to build all turnouts for my layout plan. This morning I glued quicksticks to the turnouts I built some months ago and fixed a couple of frogs where wheels were bumping. I also built another #8 and a #6 turnouts.

I don't have the switch building jig for #8 but I found rather easy to build turnouts using paper templates if you have the frog-point filing jig and the building tool for soldering the frog points.

So far I've built a total of four left and four right #6 turnouts and one left and two right #8s. I still need to build seven left #8, three left #6 and one right #6 turnouts, staging included.

See you soon with some shots of these turnouts...

New Rolling Stock

Three weeks since last post now. Still not very much time for the hobby...

Last week I received my last order of rolling stock. I bought the new coil cars from Red Caboose, the whole set of nine cars. They looks very well done with fine details and lettering. Obviously I've got SP ones.
I bought two new Bachmann flat cars also. They are clearly not as good as the more expensive cars from ExactRails or BLMA. For example the brake wheel is clearly oversized and lettering is not very detailed. However, I think they show a good quality/price ratio. In addition they feature metal wheelsets.
Lastly I ordered a MicroTrain wheathered SP box car, very nicely detailed and with opening doors.

Overall I rather happy for my new rolling stock. Along with cars I also ordered a 100-pack of 33" metal wheelset from Fox Valley Models. This time those with a 0.54" axis length. This axis fits MicroTrains and McHenry trucks so works well on all Intermountain, Fox Valley and BluFord Shop cars. I replaced wheels on the new MicroTrain box car that came with large flange wheels (see the picture below for the difference between wheelsets). Now it' much better with metal low-profile wheelset. Next, I'll have to replace wheels on most of the cars I have.

Here are some photos of the new cars.

New Rolling Stock

See you soon...

10 May 2010

More on painting backdrop

Not very much work done this week. Just a couple of hours on Sunday morning.
I wanted to give the backdrop a little more realism so I tried to paint the lower side with a fading white-blue color to represent the haze and humidity present on the lower layer of the atmosphere. I poured a part of blue paint I used so fare for the sky color into some white paint left over from the painting of benchwork legs, braces etc. I got a whiter blue color I put on a scrap piece of backdrop using an almost dry brush.

I'm not very convinced of the result and I need to experiment more on how to obtain something better, however in photo it doesn't look too bad. By the way, if you have any suggestion... would be much appreciated.

Here's the shot I took on the sample backdrop

I also worked on some cars substituting the plastic wheel-set with Fox Valley Models CNC-machined metal wheel-set I purchased recently. I still need the ones with shorter axis since I've got the 0.553" that fit Atlas trucks but not Intermountain and MicroTrains ones.

See you soon...