Friday, December 20, 2019

4-pack for the Holidays

4-Packs are standard fare for many items, and in the world of craft beer it usually means something worth trying.  Today, though, it's a 4-pack of locomotives - four of a kind all finally programmed and weathered up for service.

Rapido's B36-7 as you have seen before here and other places online is a real work of art, an incredible model in looks, sound, and operation.  The detail and paint are fine and as good as any paint on the market.  I took extra time with the programming and the weathering to make sure those lived up to the high bar established by Rapido, and so here we are:

TV14 at CP282, Onondaga NY, September 1995
I am really thankful for these long-awaited models, they fill a huge hole in the Onondaga Cutoff roster as well as the roster of any Conrail, Seaboard, or CSX intermodal modeler.  I followed my usual protocol with the weathering - masking windows and lights first, then a dark wash of thinned dark brownish-gray paint to highlight the doors and give some depth to seams.  That cures overnight, then a overspray of dullcoat, followed by airbrushed dust and mud on the underframe and an overspray of beige to fade some of the paint.  Once that cures, I finish with powdered pastel chalks and some dry brushing.

Finally having a small group of these means that we finally get the 'fleet' feel for these machines.  With 60 B36-7's on the roster, they were somewhat common on mainline trains.  However, add in that these were mostly focused on the routes that hosted intermodal trains and they suddenly seem very common for the Chicago Line.  Nearly every piggyback or intermodal train in the early 1990's had one or more of them in the consist.  

This was a pretty great way to spend some late nights finding some 'peace' after the craze of work during the holidays.  The kids are wired each night and it feels like we are always moving at 100 miles per hour - it's too fast, and it needs to be manually, mindfully slowed down sometimes.  Weathering is a time-consuming but satisfying process that slows down those moments we need to really appreciate things sometimes.  

Teddy at 5, Pete nearly 3, Susie at 7-1/2. 
The Abeles, December 2019
As 2019 draws to its close, I have a lot to think about.  It has been a bewildering year.  We Abeles are finally coming out of some of the craziness of having an infant or baby in the house continuously for the last 7-1/2 years.  Raising kids is awesome, demanding, incredible, and it is hard work.  My wife amazing, smiling and happy and hard working on these kids so much of the time.  Each day, each of these little people develops, grows, and is becoming a person you can speak with, laugh with, and enjoy.  For sure, then, we also have hard days, dark days, sad days.  We all can do better.  And whether a good day or a hard one, it's a blessing and should be appreciated.  

Merry Christmas, Happy Hanukkah, best wishes from us to you all into 2020!


Friday, December 13, 2019

More B36-7 Goodness

Conrail modelers have had an amazing run of luck with manufacturers lately.  In the last few years, we have racked up beautiful, superdetailed models of H58 boxcars (Tangent), PS 4785 (ScaleTrains) and now PS 4750 (Tangent) covered hoppers, insulated 50' boxcars (Moloco), high-cube auto parts and appliance cars (Exactrail), coil cars (Exactrail, Tangent), all of which are incredible but are in some ways outdone by the locomotives - ScaleTrains C39-8's and SD40-2's, Athearn Genesis GP38-2's and GP40-2's, Atlas GP40-2's, GP40's and GP38's, and now the incredible Rapido B36-7. 

This is an embarrassment of riches compared to the 1990's and 2000's when we were kitbashing and hand-painting models!

As seen in the review from last month, the models themselves are amazing.  After all four were programmed, I speed matched them to a test engine (Kato 6345 seen 4th out above) and then added all four to a consist for some break-in runs.  

I did have some challenges programming these, with the new ESU Loksound 'V5' decoders.  My usual approach of JMRI (Java Model Railroad Interface) wasn't as useful as it had been.  In the end I had to make the investment in the proprietary 'LokProgrammer' which isn't cheap and is yet another thing to manage, but in the end, it did work, and is intuitive after a few hours of fiddling.  

Admittedly the sight and sound of these consisted makes up for most of that frustration.  

I can write the LokProgrammer experience in a future post, too, which may help keep that for posterity and maybe help someone else who was befuddled by the need for it.

Weathering is up next.  These are going to add a tremendous amount of variety to operations on the Onondaga Cutoff.  The layout has benefited from all this top-quality rolling stock.  The roster is nearing a state of completion, with the only major exception being modern-tooled and DCC-equipped six axle Dash-7's.  If a manufacturer announces C36-7's, C30-7A's and C30-7's, I'm going to need a loan to finish off the fleet!


Monday, December 9, 2019

Long Winter Evenings

As the Holidays come and go, we're reminded of good memories and challenging ones, of time with friends and family, and perhaps a nostalgia of times gone by.  Model Railroads can be great time machines and the Onondaga Cutoff is no exception.

Here's a view, courtesy of regular operator Doug Watts, showing Conrail B23-7 1987 idling on the fuel pad at the Onondaga Engine Terminal shortly after 5 a.m. at the most recent operating session. Doug's camera captured the background sky with the light of the coming dawn, and it's looking a lot like the 1990's in this image!

With that sleepy image, I wish you all a Merry Christmas, Happy Hannukah, or best wishes for your holiday of choice.  It has been an up and down sort of year for me and my community but a decidedly 'up-year' for the Onondaga Cutoff.  Persistence pays off!


Tuesday, November 26, 2019

Rapido B36-7: Looking Great

Just a few days ago, a nice box arrived in my mail with three beautiful Rapido boxes inside.  A fourth is coming soon:  the arrival of the long-awaited, much anticipated B36-7, a staple on any Conrail route with intermodal trains in the 1980's and 1990's, and one of the critical models for operations on the Onondaga Cutoff.

Before traveling for a few days, I had time to unbox one of them, Conrail #5054, one of the neat engines that remained in original paint until the end of the 1990's.  Here we go:

This is an absolutely incredible model to see firsthand.  The color is perfect to my eye.  The overall look captures that husky-yet-soft appearance, and the dimensions I could verify check out.  The Conrail-specific stuff is amazing - cab signal box, marker lights, ditch light placement, battery box doors, horn placement, all perfect.

The model was reported by Rapido to come with too many snubbers from the factory, and indeed that was the case with this one.   A gentle but firm twist with a hobby knife for a few seconds and they popped off.  Rapido on one of their recent videos also said they would offer replacements if you aren't satisfied.  The photo above is after their removal.

I programmed the address to 5054, and started to test the lights.  Ditch lights are installed on this one, and they and the headlight look great.  Nice and bright, LED but 'day glo' or whatever these are called these days.

Next, we turn on the marker lights, which glow beautifully red just like the prototype.  Conrail did not use marker lights like other railroads by this date, and so elected to use lights that could be off or lit red only.  Rapido captured the look perfectly!

Sounds are the best I've heard from the factory, crisp and chuggy like the real GE's.  Amazing.  Operation is smooth and steady.  

My only complaint besides the obvious issue of the extra snubbers would be the programming of the decoder; the lights should all be controlled independently of direction.  Instead, the markers are lit on the trailing end only, and the head and ditch lights on the leading end only.  But, I can change these with the right CV's and will do so once I hear back from Locsound.

More to come as the others get unboxed and weathered up; what a great step forward for Conrail modelers!

Finally for tonight - my best wishes to you all for a happy and healthy Thanksgiving.  I believe we have a lot to be thankful for here and am looking forward to the future!


Thursday, November 21, 2019


After a few late nights and some help from my son Teddy, we have reached the wonderful 'finished but not complete' stage of things at Doelger Brewery!   The last few episodes discuss the process so I won't dwell long on it here.  With the glue cured and the scenery in place I added a few more tufts of weeds as well as some extra grit and the place is off and running.

Here's a view of the Barley Track, where inbound dried grains arrive in covered hoppers and are unloaded into the grain silos before roasting into malt.  Once malted they are stored until needed for the brewing process.

The metal 'sarcophagus' protects workers and the product from harsh Central New York winters.  Next is the brew house, which boils water and cascades it over the malted barley and oats to extract the flavors and sugars from the grain, which are in turn cooled and put in fermentation tanks with yeast.  Yeast eats the sugar and creates alcohol and carbon dioxide.

I added more lighting and a detailed interior to the structures so at night they would appear to be maintained and in use.

Finalizing the brewery trackwork allowed me after 8 years (!) to finish the scenery around Euclid Yard, and detail out the track and roads.  The scene came together well!

The timing worked well too to now give me a week or two to make some running repairs on cars that have been waiting for time, just ahead of the arrival of the magnificent Rapido B36-7's later this month.  One of the great pleasures of this hobby is that we can swing from the open, creative process of scenery to the linear, mechanical process of rolling stock maintenance.  

I will get some early photos of the B36-7's up here.  2019 is really turning into quite a year and we have a lot to be thankful for heading into the holidays!


Wednesday, November 13, 2019

Moving Forward - Doelger Brewing Co. Scenery

Scenery is one of those things that really comes in streaks on a layout.  There are a lot of moving parts that need to be organized in a way that we don't end up having to re-do work, and more than that, there is the constant fact that what you are installing is what people will see.   In  many cases, their first impression of the whole layout is based on scenery.  So - I want it to be as effective as possible.

Now that the Doelger buildings are placed, I feel the urge to finish up the scenery here and move on.  It will feel great to have this scene completed.   So, with the structure finalized, and the concrete slabs cut from styrene sheet, it was time to paint them, weather them and install them.  I scribed lines in all of them by dragging an old, worn out x-acto #11 blade across using a straight edge.  I positioned the blade upside-down so as to get a wider crack, suggesting construction joints in the slab.

I sprayed the styrene black first, then after a few minutes over-sprayed that with beige paint, and finished it up with 'pebble texture' overspray from Rust-Oleum, available at big-box stores.  I sealed the whole thing with Testors Dullcoat.  This gives an even, but random, pattern of tiny beige bits that appear to my eye to do a nice job simulating worn concrete.

Nothing in Central New York lasts forever with their bitter winters, so concrete pours of different ages will appear different colors to the eye.  I used more, and less, of each of the sprays on different slabs so as to suggest concrete pours of different ages.

Each slab was lined up using some scrap styrene below on the ties to adjust the final height, ensuring the modeled concrete was below the top of the rail but high enough to appear flush to the eye.  This helps with rail cleaning and operations - we want the wheels on the cars to hit the rail, not the concrete.  Special care was taken to ensure the flangeways on the inside of each rail had sufficient concrete.  

With the slabs glued in place, I test ran a few cars again with no issues.  So it was time now for some ballasting along the track and edges, and installing cinders and weedy grass around the track areas.  As usual, I sprayed the area with isopropyl alcohol and spread diluted white glue in the areas where I wanted the grass and cinders to stick.  I added static grass first with several different colors and lengths mixed together, and went back to add an overcasting of the cinders.   Weeds were glued in separately afterwards, and the whole thing left to dry overnight before I use a small vaccuum with thin fabric over the nozzle to pick up all the product that didn't stick.  This way, you have patches of attached static grass, and can reuse the fibers that didn't stick.  

Another challenge when doing modern buildings (and yes, I still count the 1990's as modern, compared to most other model railroads around!) is that so many industrial buildings have been modified over time.  The majority of those did not use the same architecture as the original structure - modern industrial structures make extensive use of sheet metal and corrugated siding, as opposed to brick and mortar.  So, for the grain unloading area at the brewery, I selected a more modern structure to be built around the malt house where inbound dried grains are roasted to become malt.  

Yup, that looks rather out of place, doesn't it?  Well, lots of things in life look out of place.  The nature of things is to change.  So, capturing that notion in model form is part of the goal!  Many modern industries in the Northeast are an incongruous mix of old and new: old buildings exist of course, but if all your old buildings look perfect and unmodified, you have a rather unconvincing industry.  A modern, successful business would add to their facility in the most cost-effective manner possible and Doelger is no exception.

A few more lights are in place, and with some final placement of static grass and clean-up, I will have the 'final' views of Doelger coming soon.  Stay tuned!


Thursday, October 31, 2019

Progress is Brewing

The old adage is true:  any progress is infinitely more than no progress.  As we have discussed before in this blog, one of the constants of model railroading is that you won't ever finish anything if you don't manage to make some progress.  Even with life keeping me hopping on multiple fronts in the last month or two, I force myself to get down into the layout room each night and do something.  Anything!

As you saw last month, the latest project is to finish up the 'permanent' buildings for the Peter Doelger Brewing Company at Euclid.  The next step was adding some lighting.  

I've selected exterior lights to highlight the facility at night, and included some signs with logos from the actual brewery to help set the place.  I found the lights on ebay from a small manufacturer in China, so for about $28 total, I got 15 wall-mount lights, with pre-wired micro LED's mounted in brass fixtures.  They are really nice and just what I needed for this building. They arrived 10 days after I ordered, shipped to New Jersey in a small box.  

As each was installed, I turned the system on to check to make sure that light was working.  Each has its own current-limiting resistor and I think the color of the light is spot-on for my purposes.  It makes for some dynamic night scenes!

I started to envision the concrete sidewalks and concrete apron for the grain tracks as well, since the kit didn't include any pre-molded.  I decided to make these out of styrene sheet, taking a nod from Jason's success with roadway surfaces around the layout.  The areas between the building and the industrial guardrail along the M&E main track would be prime candidates and offer a different texture for the eye of the viewer.

I measured, measured, and measured, then cut.  Then test fit, then final cuts.  It is slow work but the results will be worth it with a well-weathered concrete walkway down the entire facility, including the barley unloading tracks which will be completely 'encased' by the modeled concrete.

Now it's off to trick or treat with the kids!  Happy Halloween!  Plenty more OC progress coming next month!


Wednesday, October 30, 2019

A Visit to the Chicagoland RPM....and Legendary Operations

In a mark of just how busy these last few weeks have been, I’m making a rare blog update from the phone, making use of the commute home.  While most of this month had been good stuff I’m running right about at capacity these days, hoping that I’m not overlooking anything of consequence!

The month began with unprecedented good news when a project I’d suggested and worked hard on came to fruition:  three ‘Heritage Engines’ were released to the world by NJ TRANSIT on October 2, 2019.   

Then, I had the good fortune to be able to attend the famous Chicagoland RPM (railroad prototype modelers) meet at Naperville, IL this year.   The RPM is famous for is clinics and model displays, and for the list of accomplished modelers that attend.  For me, it was also a chance to operate with groups on Bill Darnaby’s famous Maumee Route, and Bob Hanmer’s well-regarded GN/DM&IR layout.  

First up was the Maumee, a railroad I’ve read about for decades in Model Railroader, Railroad Model Craftsman and the rest of the hobby press.  Bill has created a masterpiece of operation, plausibility and detail.  The Maumee represents a fictional road crossing northern Ohio, in the mid 1950’s.

My first run on the route was passenger train #18, and I was too new to even think of taking a photo of that run.  Making your first run on a timetable & train order railroad that is new to you is a nerve-wracking experience!   But the second run, an eastbound extra empty coal train, allowed me to grab this view of the Ohio countryside.  Wow!

Bill’s attention to detail is truly amazing.  Each interlocking tower is built and detailed with the full rod system laid out for the viewer.  Here’s Miami Jct with the Maumee main crossing the NYC Water Level Route.

Another amazing junction is at Edison, with diamonds and a siding.  Bill has his operators use modeled Armstrong levees to line their route and indications through the plant.  Incredible execution of a great idea.  It was an honor to participate!

After a day at the RPM and exploring some of the area, we did another session at Bob Hanmner’s home with his Great Northern/Duluth, Missabe & Iron Range layout.  This layout depicts the neat trackage rights agreement between both roads in central-eastern Minnesota during ore season.  Here, Jerry Dziedzic and Joe Binish enjoy some commentary during the session.

I love this spot, a big DMIR bridge and ore train behind a massive 2-10-4 steam engine.

The RPM itself was a great one too, and a special treat was the local modelers displaying their work.  Here’s two beautiful Elgin, Joliet & Eastern SD38’s.  

And, finally, a really neat Metra F40C.  These models reminded me of a trip with Jack in 1997 to watch trains around the country.  We traveled by Amtrak and had an amazing series of adventures that in hindsight were almost utopian in their storyline.   It was a great way to close out a great trip, made despite the usual chaos and headwind of middle age.   Special thanks as always go to my wife Kristen and children Susie, Teddy & Pete for the time away!   They were all waiting for me upon arrival at the airport which itself is a dream come true.

More to come!  Lots to share as 2019 continues to be a banner year!


Friday, September 27, 2019

On Temperance, and Permanence

Model railroading is a curious hobby of fascination and vision, and one that involves an interpretation of time and purpose.  While the trains take center stage, it is their movement that sets this hobby apart from the majority of other modelmaking hobbies, and the operation of these models in concert with each other and with a plan of some sort that brings life to it.

Temporary structures 'place hold' on a layout so as to get operations started, and give crews some visual cue of why the cars they are moving are placed there.  Such has been the case with Doelger Brewing on my Minoa & Euclid. Here's an overview of the temporary structures:

These are pieces of different kits I'd had from other parts of the layout, and several building flats that were in boxes people had donated to me over the years.  Cobbled together they make a scene look industrial, and with a sign or two that is all that was required to deliver the visual clues I was looking for.

Author Tony Koester has reflected in his writings over the years on the sense of purpose in operations, giving the railroad a sense of time and place in the greater transportation network that makes railroading in general so compelling.  Tony has made the argument that temporary structures pending the permanent models add a great deal to operations, and I agree.  

So, as the brewery continues to be part of the operation I have finally begun construction of the 'permanent' buildings for the industry.  These are from the Heljan kit for the brewery, to which I will add some modern structures and additions.   First step was the brick mortar, which was applied by painting all the brick sheets with acrylic paint in a mortar color, and then wiping the brick faces clean.

Once dry, window frames and doors are installed.  Window glass will come later, once weathering is completed.  I like how the paint is uneven, suggesting bricks laid in different courses by different masons.  The windows 'pop' with the drab brick around them.   Finishing details will include painting random bricks different shades, and I think it will be convincing. 

Since the structures will be lit, I sprayed the interior side of all walls with a dark gray color so as to prevent light leaks, and used magnetic clamps to hold the glued seams square while they cured.

Testors plastic cement worked very well here so far, and with the clamps I am getting nice tight joints that are so far lightproof.  I will use shadowboxes inside the structures so that certain windows are lit and others dark at night.

For the interiors, I am also planning to install a brewhouse, so that you can see through the large windows into the tanks and kettles for the brewing process.  I think that will be especially striking at night.

The architecture part of model railroading is one of many subject areas, and each offer areas to learn and explore.  More to come as this process continues!


Monday, September 16, 2019

Rapido Visits, Again!

A nice surprise on September 9 was another evening visit from Rapido Trains to the Onondaga Cutoff!   This time around, Josh and Jordan of Rapido reached out to see if they could visit as part of a larger trip doing some research on upcoming projects.

They were mum about most of those, of course, but I did get to hear about Jordan kissing a Rohr Turboliner later that same week.

If that Turbo comes to be, you can bet you'll see one on the Onondaga Cutoff - Amtrak used those regularly on the Chicago Line between New York City and Niagara Falls in the 1990's!

No matter who I've met from Rapido, they have all been fun, informed, and wacky in that happy model railroader / railfan kind of way, and it feels like I've known these guys forever.  The three of us share some modeling interests, especially Jordan and I who have a lot in common in Conrail and in SP interests.   After a tour of the 'OC' we took a few photos of the guys in the layout room.

Employees from Rapido all seem to love layout visits, and Jordan is a Conrail fan. Here's a group shot of all three of us next to CP282.  Rapido's presence on the layout is growing.  Later this year Rapido's much-anticipated B36-7 models are due, and several are headed to the Onondaga Cutoff to bolster the 4-axle fleet.

Speaking of 4-axle GE's, here's my custom-painted B23-7 #1931 working the Cazenovia Industrial Track a few months back.  I put a few photos into Helicon to stack them resulting in a nice depth-of-field, and I liked the result enough that I wanted to share with it you all here.

This caps off a busy summer on the Onondaga Cutoff and I'm excited for the fall.  Next targets include some work to finally finish up the Doelger Brewing complex - as always, plenty of things to come here soon!


Wednesday, August 21, 2019

Maintenance Modeling

We've touched on this before here, but one of the interesting parts of railroading that many modelers could emphasize more is modeling the maintenance crews that keep the railroad in good repair.  Every era has them, and with the evolution of mechanized maintenance as well as 'personal protective equipment' (PPE) and safety rules, including some maintenance can help set your era as well.

On the Onondaga Cutoff, Conrail uses custom machinery to help crews maintain track, signals, structures, bridges, and the right-of-way.  Thanks to some custom resin-cast truck cabs and masterful build jobs by my buddy Mark, and to the modification of several of Bachmann's HO scale ballast tamper and hi-rail utility truck, we can model track outages during some operation sessions which adds tremendously to the variety in the operation.

Here Foreman Lee is starting up the tamper, which was left overnight on blue-flag protected track in Onondaga Yard.  The boom truck will drive over in support of the tamper operation.  Ballast tampers on the prototype are used to groom and adjust the ballast beneath and around ties, keeping track level and the ride smooth for passing trains.

As the sun rises and the machine warms up, the crew gets set to head to the worksite.  This involves paperwork for permission to occupy track - a 'Form D' under the Conrail and 'NORAC' (Northeast Operating Rules Advisory Committee) rules, akin to a train order, since maintenance equipment cannot be relied upon to shunt signal systems.  These are normally given verbally via the radio, and it's fun to hear that conversation on the radio during a session - it adds nice variety and 'audible scenery' to the atmosphere.

Consider modeling some maintenance equipment for your railroad!


Wednesday, August 14, 2019

Warm Nights on the Railroad

One of my primary goals in layout construction on the Onondaga Cutoff is to capture the atmosphere I remember from the 1990's on a healthy, busy Conrail. The second definition of the word is as follows:

Atmosphere noun: the pervading tone or mood of a place, situation, or work of art

Being a professional railroader, and just as significantly being a life-long fan of sitting trackside, has acquainted me with the atmosphere around the tracks. It's exciting anytime but the mystique builds into the night. Add in some warm air, sounds of summer or early fall, the expectation of things to can almost feel the emotion in it.

A few recent images, in my opinion, capture it pretty well. These are taken all in the same few minutes during a recent operation session, and all show train ELSE (Elkhart, IN to Selkirk, NY) waiting and then beginning to work at Onondaga Yard.

For just a moment you can feel like you're back in time, 25 years ago, trackside on Conrail's Chicago Line, while the cicadas and crickets and tree frogs make a racket. For me, I was in love with the railroad and with a wonderful girl; my brother and sister and parents were doing well. The band I was in was playing good music, friends were close and camaraderie all around.  The summer was full of excitement and promise, problems seemed far away and pale in the distance. All of those emotions are tangible again here. The sounds and the feel of locomotives, the smell of warm creosote ties and diesel exhaust, the weight and humidity in the air- these are things that we can almost sense just in allowing ourselves a few minutes to gaze at the images.

Enjoy the last days of the summer, and may your memories bring you back to the atmosphere of good times remembered!


Wednesday, August 7, 2019

On the Cover of Model Railroader!!!

Continuing with the theme of balance in the wake of a challenging few months, I am thrilled to announce that the Onondaga Cutoff has been featured in an article published in Model Railroader magazine! 

While I knew the article was coming, I had no idea that it was in consideration for a cover shot, and so that will live as one of the best surprises I've had, ever.  I am still in a state of shock weeks after the author copy arrived in the mail.  I'm so thankful to be able to contribute, and hopeful that perhaps somewhere a young person will see this and be inspired as I was so many times in my youth.  Coming from a non-model railroad family, this magazine was a wonderful source of excitement for me when I was able to get my hands on it. 

Regular readers will remember the article published in Model Railroad Planning ('MRP') 2018, which gave an overview of the layout and its origins.  That one got the train rolling, so to speak, and I was able to build on that momentum to develop several article concepts for the main magazine.

This article is the first of those to be published.  It is part of the September 2019 issue of MR, on the shelves now, which has several articles coordinated around the idea of running model trains over '24 hours' including simulated dusk, darkness, and dawn, as well as with the lights on.  One of the early goals for operating trains on the 'OC' was to simulate a rolling schedule on the railroad, including round-the-clock operation and the challenges (and mystique) that changing light conditions bring to prototype railroad operations.  This has proved very popular with operators on the OC, so my writing is centered on getting your room and layout surfaces lit for operations, with photos and some ideas to help it come together.   

As a subscriber for some 35 years, it's one of the life goals I have had, and now it's on the books!  Thanks for your support.  This is a wonderful hobby to share.  More to come as always, but this highlight will remain for a long, long time!

Thursday, July 11, 2019


After a memorable and exciting month of June on the Onondaga Cutoff, with an operating session ahead of a visit from Rapido Trains and subsequent video, July appeared to be much more quiet.  Summer usually allows for less layout time in any case, but also evenings allow for some time to catch up on projects. 

Well, let's just say July found a way to balance out all the positive excitement that was around in June!

Following the fun, the layout was a bit of a mess, with trains and throttles out of position after setting things up for the video shoot.  I was flying high and excited about the upcoming video, looking forward to seeing how Rapido would present the OC.  I decided to do some video of my own to pass the time.  I didn't check the main lines first - while throttles and tools were out of place, I didn't recall any fouling the main.  I chose a big manifest train from staging and a 5-unit consist to lead it.  As it passed through the hidden trackage back behind Iroquois Paper, I heard the unmistakeable sound of something plastic hitting a concrete floor.

I went over to investigate and saw the missing throttle on the floor, and next to it something we all dread: a locomotive had hit the ground.  Trucks were off, parts all over.  As I got close to it, my stomach dropped and heart raced as I saw the cab crushed, and saw for the first time which engine it was.  This wasn't just another engine.  Nope: this was my 6577, my only proper C30-7A.

Conrail rostered 50 of these based in Selkirk, NY, and they were daily across my modeled territory.  Never available commercially except in brass, and in need of several of these, I proceeded to make my own.  Regular readers will remember that this is the one with its own blog post in December 2015.  The one I researched and kitbashed and painted and detailed over 60 hours a few years back.  Not an old blue box engine with details.  Not something used only now and again.  Now it was destroyed due to my own heady haste.  This was a huge loss for our operation and the theme of the railroad.

In checking the scene I discovered what happened: the locomotives on the train I was moving ran into the throttle, which had been left on the main track above locomotive storage tracks due to my rushing around during the Rapido video shoot .  The throttle slid off the main track, falling down and knocking 6577 -of all engines- off the railroad where it fell to the concrete floor.

As you can see, the damage was extensive.  The cab was destroyed.  Details were all over the place.  The body pieces, glued together in the kitbash, were now cracked apart once again.

I was heartbroken.  What to do?  Well, the frame wasn't bent.  Mechanism went back together without too much hassle.  There's that.   And, after I had done this job, CMR Products developed and now offers a C30-7A shell in HO as a polyurethane casting.  While not up to modern injection-molding standard, with proper prep and painting, it would work for me.  Still though...all that time and effort...

After consulting with the guys closest to me on the OC, I started to think about rebuilding using the existing shell.  I had a spare cab for another project that would fit the bill.  Parts could be reused.  The shell could be carefully re-glued.  Inspired by what Conrail's Juniata shops had done, including rebuilds of several C30-7A's that were accident damaged, I decided to do the same.  


This would take some doing.  I cleaned up the replacement cab, modified the headlight and number board housings based on the old cab, and removed the details from the crushed cab for installation on the new cab.  I scrachbuilt flag holders and rain gutters from styrene and glued them in place.

It still is upsetting to see that perfect decal work on the old cab here, but now there is some hope at least!  Number board holes were filled with white styrene and the cab was washed.

I had a can of the same ScaleCoat CR Blue I had used to paint the original model, which was fortunate.  A coat of paint now and we are getting closer....

While that cured I refitted the loose details including steps and handrails, and I took the opportunity to install an iPhone speaker in place of the 'sugar cube' speaker I had used originally.  It makes a huge difference in sound.  I also carved a new headlight lens assembly and light tube.

In the time since I'd done this model the first time, I discovered ShellScale Decals, who do perfect Conrail GE number board decals.  These are much closer to the actual font GE used on these than what comes with the Microscale set.  

Once the decals cured, it was time to move the wipers from the old cab to the new one, and give the dullcoat treatment before window glass installation.

A bit of pastel chalk weathering helped blend the fresh cab into the weathered body.  After installing the new light package, I installed the new cab and attached the handrails.  Well, the brighter headlight and proper number board font are both big improvements.

Now completed and back ready for service, the wreck-repaired 6577 poses for a broadside at Onondaga Yard:

I'll admit that this came out better than expected.  As time goes on I'll add a little more blend to the weathering, but for now this turned out to be a successful rebuild in a situation that looked hopeless to start.  Like the real railroad, sometimes the mechanical shop guys can 'pull a rabbit out of a hat' and get something that looked pretty bad up and running again, adding to the bottom line.  

So, next time you see 6577, you'll know the full story.  

Oh - and I added a guardrail along that storage track, too.  

Enjoy your summer months!