A journal following the history, design, construction and operation of Bernard Kempinski's O Scale model railroad depicting the U. S. Military Railroad (USMRR) Aquia-Falmouth line in 1863, and other model railroad projects.
©Bernard Kempinski All text and images, except as noted, on this blog are copyrighted by the author and may not be used without permission.

July 25, 2011

It's down and dirty!

Whistle Cheat Sheet
Marty McGuirk and his son Jeff stopped by on Sunday after the Manassas Battle re-enactment. Jeff had not seen this layout before, though he did visit once before when I was building Tennessee Pass in N Scale. After a quick introduction, I handed them a throttle dialed in for McCallum, a coupling staff and gave them a verbal train order and switch list. I left them alone to operate while I made some operator cheat sheets for the whistle signals.

After they were done, Marty and Jeff gave me a back brief on their session. The McCallum did not run perfectly, and one or two cars were dragging brakes. Clearly more tuning is in order.

Given that both Brian, Marty and Jeff had trouble with McCallum, I took it to the wood shed and gave it a whupping. OK, not so much a whupping as more tuning. In the shop, I lowered the front end by trimming the spring. This returned the normal weight distribution on the engine driver wheels and now it tracks much reliably, especially at the tight curve into the turntable. But, now the rear pilot wheel was shorting on the valve guide. To solve this I painted all the parts with a coat of clear nail polish. Then I glued an insulating pad on the inside of the valve guide. I also added an insulating ring to the front of the cylinder on the same side. Viola, testing now shows no shorts or sparks on the front end. Sometimes the pilot truck axle dragged on the insulating ring when taking a tight curve, but a touch of oil helped. Lesson learned for future layouts, keep the curve radius over 36 inches.

I also noticed an occasional spark from the bottom of the tender when I tested the loco in a dark room. The culprit was intermittent contact with those dang wiper screws. Three coats of nail polish on these screws have help solve the problem, for  now....arrrg.

All the handling of this locomotive has resulted in a few spots on the finish that needed touch up. There was a CAA glue glob on the cab roof that required sanding. Since the finish was no longer perfect I decided to weather McCallum to make it look like an in-service machine. I used washes, chalk and dry brushing to achieve the look I wanted. It's fairly heavy, but not overly done. The stack, flat roof and surfaces that get walked on got the heaviest treatment, along with the underside.

McCallums's wood pile had some holes where you could see into the tender. To fill those I went to the yard and pruned some dead branches off a mountain laurel that is not enjoying our heat wave. I made some short lengths of wood to match the ones on the tender and filled the appropriate gaps. Then I gave the wood pile a black wash, some dry brushing and touch up paint to blend it together.

I gave the model a shot of dull cote, taking care to keep the glass clear. Then I put a wire brush on the wheels to clean off the overspray.

Back on the track McCallum is now running much better. Nearly as good as Haupt, which currently is my best runner with DCC.

Factory painted wood pile in front, newly painted in the back.
While I had the paints out,  I decided to paint the cast resin wood pile on Haupt so it would look more realistic. I also added a few twigs from the mountain laurel to make it look different from Whiton's wood pile, which uses the same casting. I was very happy with how the casting came out.  This photo compares the factory painted pile in the foreground with the newly painted and detailed pile in the back. I used a dark charcoal wash, follwed by brunt sienna, burnt umber and clay bisque paints. All got blended and applied in layers so I can't specify an exact formula.

I also put a new car in service. This is Flat Car Number 24 with SMR arch bar trucks. The SMR trucks do not have working brakes, and adding them would be difficult, at least if I used the cast brass ones. I would probably have to take the cast brakes off and use wood ones that I would have to make. But the SMR arch bar trucks are quite nice and I wanted to have some on the layout. So far none of my flat cars have working brakes. I need to decide how I will handle that issue in operation sessions.

Finally, I inspected the freight cars for dragging brakes. I oiled some of the journals and they did run much smoother. Just like a real RR, my journals will need occasional attention with oil.

A dirty Scot- the weathered McCallum
I later engraved three whistle cheat sheets and attached them to the back of each throttle with double sided adhesive. Now all you have to do it look at the back to the throttle if you forget your whistle signals. They are slightly different from what most modern operators are used to. These whistle signals came from the USMRR Rule Book of 1863.

One other point about the links that I have observed. The cars seem to track better in reverse with shorter links. SMR and I made links in two sizes. Given my tight radii, I thought the longer links would work better. But I think these create too much sideways thrust when backing and can result in derailed cars. The shorter links seem to do better when backing up, however, they are a little harder to manipulate when coupling.  I need to evaluate this further.

1 comment:

  1. Bernie,
    I much appreciate your pursuit of working models. Although an older entry perhaps, your comments on fine tuning are very relatable. Nearly completing the W&A trackwork, my full attention will be sounding the locos. However... Paul Maynard of Lin's Junction, (he installed my original decoders), mentioned a new sound system by SoundTrax; speakers are placed at key points under the layout vs sounding each loco. I am inclined to go hear it. Most likely I will go with individual decoders.

    Love your work!