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...