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!