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!