Category Archives: Freight

Everything to do with freight railroading

Site seeing: October 03

I love the size, and the presence that O scale models have. While cruising around on the MRH forum the other day I came across the blog of Jack from France (SVJRR) whose modelling is just outstanding. And so onto today’s site.

Site 1: O scale – Updating some Atlas/Roco cars

Image 1: Jack’s completed rebuild and respray of the Atlas/Roco 1970s Boxcar

Jack, whose English is very good for those who might be worried, steps you through a tutorial on how he updated some of the 1970’s Atlas O Scale cars (actually made by Roco in Europe) into modern-day equivalents.

As I have around 10 of these cars sitting quietly in my stash his tutorial came about at exactly the right time. The work is simple (and not surprisingly mirrors the work I am doing on the Gondola build at the moment.

I know that the cars are not exact matches for specific prototypes, although they are very close, but they allow you to get up and running quickly with little effort beyond grabs, steps and a repaint.

Site seeing: 02 October – the pigs ear from a silk purse edition

EDIT: Not sure what happened to all the text in this post, the problem was on my end obviously! Here’s take two of this post.

Site 1: Athearn BlueBox Gondola Build

I posted back on August 30th about the new models I bought at the Caulfield Exhibition – found in the bargains bin. I found going through the three models that one of them had, after being stored poorly, suffered some pretty nasty damage. There was a wicked bend throughout one side of the casting, and the other side had been sheared fromthe base along most of its length.

But for $10.00AU I am not complaining and aimed to instead see what could be made from the remains of the kit, or if it could be saved (somewhat) and made serviceable.

If you head on over to the build’s main page tomorrow (AEST time) you’ll be able to see part 1 of the build process.

New models – Athearn Blue Box 50′ Gondola

At the recent Caulfield model railway exhibition I managed to find three Athearn 50′ Gondolas (undecorated) for $10.00 each. They came from Casula Hobbies‘ back room clear out pile. These kits may have sat there for a week or ten years; apart from the covered tops being missing they were complete.

My understanding is that these kits are completely freelance, designed by Irv Athearn to fit in the same box as the 40′ box car and use the frame from the 50’ flat car.  This frame also causes a problem in the side of the Gondola should be straight if you use the drop frame.

For my purposes – I really don’t care. They were 10 bucks each, look interesting and will fit in nicely on the layout as end of life cars, specifically in use for scrap loading. Besides which as a mid to late 1970s layout, a riveted car with a worn wooden floor, full of rusty scrap will look really nice.

The interior of the car at the moment is the standard riveted plastic with horrible ejector pin marks (photos will be forthcoming). I do have some wood siding that I’ll use to replace it though.

For this model I’ll make the following changes:

  • Kadee 70-ton Friction bearing trucks with 33″ wheels
  • Metal grabs, stirrups, coupler release lever
  • Extra weight
  • Kadee #58 couplers

The paint scheme: boxcar red with HVL markings. These cars are considered to at the end of their usable life, and as home road cars.

 

Site seeing – August 22nd

Over on Gene’s P48 blog I’ve made mention of the build he’s had going on for some time. In fact the list of articles for the Wilson Reefer build is can be found by following this link to Gene’s website. You can skip to the last part and see the painting directly using the link below.

Site 1: Reefers in Paint

With Gene’s build being complete the paint is now going on. I’ve really enjoyed watching the build and some of the techniques that Gene has used.

An industry you can model – Kensington Grain Siding (Victoria, Australia)

On June 02, 2015 I made mention in a post of a grain silo operation close to the CBD in Melbourne, Victoria that allows for interesting operation, and would keep a model railroader busy and interested for the length of a short operating session (around a half an hour).

Image 1: G529 stabled in the dead-end siding at Kensington. The grain hoppers and the switch engine are down by the flour mill (courtesy of wongm’s rail gallery – LINK)

A little background

For those of you not in Australia let me give you a little background on the site from image 1 above. The photo above is from the grade (level) crossing at Kensington station. The station buildings are directly behind the photographer.  G529 is sitting at the north end of the site on a dead-end siding used for second units or for red-carded (bad-ordered) cars.

The two lines under wire are the UP (left-hand line to Melbourne) and the DOWN (right-hand line from Melbourne) lines to the outer suburban terminus of Craigieburn, a fast growing suburb 26 Km to Melbourne’s north. Grain trains come north from Tottenham Yard and back into the sidings. When they leave they have to do a long looping route north, then west before returning to the yard once more. A fair bit of this is on the suburban Craigieburn passenger line. This situation occurred because of changes to rail lines for the Regional Rail Link that has taken freight lines out of service.

The single slip allows access into the site from the DOWN line. On the mill site there are two spurs with the left road running over the under track unloading auger; the right is a passing siding. The switching problem on this site is that the turnout at the end of the two roads only has enough room for two grain cars, and one locomotive at a time.

Site Overview

Image 2: An overview of the site (courtesy of Bing – LINK)

Operation

Generally the train has two locomotives. While a single locomotive can handle the work, and would be easier on the crews when switching, the extra power helps clear the path for the passenger services on the Craigieburn line. Melbourne’s rail network is greatly used by the it’s citizens and the infrastructure is congested requiring new signalling to allow greater train density. Anything that holds up one train has knock-on effects that can and do regularly impact on the rest of the network. So any freight movements using passenger routes tend to be over-powered.

Image 3: A track diagram showing the grain siding and signalling at Kensington (courtesy VicSIG)

1. Arrival

The shift begins with the loaded grain train arriving early on the north-bound suburban tracks. The train pulls into Kensington stations up platform road, before informing train control that they are ready to reverse into the facility. Train control (under CTC) unlocks the shunt signal 7, switch 8 and switch 9 to allow the movement and the train reverses into the site, putting the grain cars onto the ‘left-hand’ unloading road. On completion of the move the crew contacts train control once more and the switches and signals returned to normal.

2. Set up

The crew has to unload one of the locomotives. Without the room to run the power around at the switching end on the unloading road one loco is usually parked on the ‘B’ siding at the north end of the site. Image 2 below shows the problem on-site with the short headshunt (switching lead).

Image 4: The switching problem – the short headshunt (courtesy of wongm’s rail gallery – LINK)

3. Switching / Shunting

Prior to unloading beginning the mill staff remove the metal grate covers to allow grain to begin unloading into the under-track auger. With only one loco for shunting (switching) the operation is fairly straight-forward:

  • The first two cars unload at the under-track auger
  • When unloaded the train pulls forward to two car lengths to begin the unloading process again and handbrakes are applied
  • The loco cuts off the two empty cars, pulls them to the headshunt, before pushing back onto the passing siding
  • Handbrakes are applied on the two empty cars before the loco cuts off and moves back to the headshunt
  • The loco reverses onto the loaded cars, and the cycle repeats until all the cars are empty.

With all the cars emptied the mill workers cover the auger pit with the metal covers. The loco eases off the unloaded cars, runs into the headshunt, and backs through the unloading road back to siding B. Here it picks up the previously stabled locomotive and once MU’d they back onto the empty cars; with the air pumped and they wait for train control to authorise their return to the running lines.

Modelling

Operation of this layout design element offers a lot of opportunity. Whether a small train or a large one the work to be done, including air brake operations and taking time to switch back and forth would give a lot of interest for those so inclined. I can see this being a great industry especially for the modular railroader. Across two or more modules, you’d have the best of all worlds with action on the main, and then a lot of switching action on the modules.

Being self-contained the industry is a real winner and could be transplanted anywhere.

Resources

There are a couple of videos available below for you to get an idea of the action at Kensington.

In the second video you can see the operation under way with the switching in this case being handled by BL class # 32.

You can find out more about the locomotives using the resource links below:

  • V/Line G Class Locomotives: Link
  • Australian National BL Class Locomotives: Link
  • V/Line X Class Locomotives: Link

Feedback?

If you have information that you can share about operations at the site, please let me know. I’ve found everything that I can about the site and its operation, but there is nothing like a driver or someone else knowledgeable of the site sharing what they know. Leave a comment, like and subscribe to the blog if that suits you.

Site seeing March 18

So much for catching up! I had promised to catch up on my posts after a long week of the flu; Sun Tzu was right – no plan survives first contact with an adversary (or a past time).

Site 1: BobbyPitts44 build of a flexiflow car

Over on the FreeRails forum (Link Here) there’s a brief discussion on the work done to take what is essentially a 1960s era toy freight car and turn it into a scratchbuilding masterpiece.

While the forum does not have a lot of information on the build, luckily his Flickr site does. Everything is back – to – front, but there is some really amazing work there to be viewed.

View the Flickr site (Link here)

It’s great work and well worth a view.

Why I chose not to design my layout – part 2

Introduction

In my last post (Why I chose not to design my layout – part 1) I discussed some of the reasons for ‘eyeballing’ my new layout and not ‘designing’ my new layout. This time around I wanted to clarify any uncertainties around the design process, and continue on with some meta-data about the design to help me clear my vision of the layout and the eventual role I’d like it to take in the future.

The Mod. 1, Mark 1 Eyeball

There is nothing better than eyeballing a space, and understanding how all the elements fit together. Obviously it makes the process easier if you understand what you aim to make, and have a sense of perspective on the amount of track you can reasonably have within the bounds of the layout space.

The layout’s story

My layout’s story revolves around switching within an industrial park. Service delivery is the primary focus of the layout and thus switching is the primary activity of the layout. With the design I wanted to be able to have a train:

  • arrive from the class 1 partner (interchange track),
  • be brought into the industrial park (switching yard),
  • switched into job lots for delivery within the park (customers), or to off-spot storage (storage yard),
  • run out to the customers needing switching that day, switch the site and then return to the yard,
  • have outbound cars switched and readied for delivery to the class 1 partner, and finally
  • have the outbound cars switched to the interchange track

Because I expect to have multiple small operating sessions each week, independent jobs that allow me to complete a little part of the operating session (between 30 – 50 minutes) each day I need a layout that supports that kind of operation.  Should I manage to get a couple of people over who want to operate a full session, we can simply pick up the next job sheet and continue on from where we started.

Why the design I’ve come up with?

A multiple industry layout was always my goal since I decided to build another layout in 2003. You can see some of these layouts in the Layout Design Gallery (Offsite Link), or directly from the ‘Resources’ section below.

I read about the Modesto & Empire Traction in Model Railroader many years ago, and have a lot of research on them. But as we don’t own our own home I am loath to build something bigger than my current proposed layout even semi-permanently at the moment. So I’ve gone down the path with my own module design, that can be added to over time. Another influence was the Progressive Rail layout that MR did several years ago. Again too big for me, but there is a core of the operation that I can mimic in the space I have.

In the next post ‘Why I chose not to “design” my new layout – part 3’ I’ll review my ideas on the operational aspect of the layout; the proposed paperwork that I want to use. It’s getting late and Sons of Liberty is on the Tele tonight. From Ballarat, on a cool and clear evening – good night.

Resources:

Multi Industry Switching Layouts

 

Moving cars …(without a locomotive) — Part III

Over on Chris Gilbert’s new layout thread I’ve posted a suggestion for a car  puller. Using nothing more than a map pin. You can view my response here: Offsite Link

As always happens you post one thing and then find another site with an even better idea. Rails West has already done all of the hard work and provided not one but three posts all about car pullers.

Moving cars …(without a locomotive) — Part III.

via Moving cars …(without a locomotive) — Part III.

Enjoy your reading on car pullers.

Site seeing – February 15

Introduction

Today’s site seeing adventure is for those of you interested in railroad operation, in this case dispatching. Today’s link came across the wire thanks to the ‘Ry-ops-industrialSIG’ SIG group on Yahoo! Groups.

Site 1 – Train Dispatching

Today’s link points to Train Dispatching by J. G. Lachaussee. It has two separate sources of the same article (one from Scribd – the other directly on the site.) The article is as published in ‘The Sandhouse’ – A Publication of the Mississippi Great Southern Chapter of the National Railway Historical Society.

I’ve had a quick read of it and found it to be really interesting to see the information presented by a long time dispatcher himself. You can read more of the article here: <Offsite Link>

The article is by J. G. Lachaussee; published in the November 2011 issue of The Sandhouse.

Site 2 – Scribd

A while back I began a short history of the 40’ Hi-Cube Boxcars that rode the rails for a short period from the late 1960s through to the 1980s. So far I’ve only completed the SP and SSW part of the document and have not yet completed the other owners or operators or the modelling section for the final eBook.

There seems to be an inordinate amount of modelling interest in these very specifically operated cars; the model manufacturers have made a lot of them over the years. In fact there are more models available than those produced by the car makers themselves.

They’ve lived in model form for longer than they ever did during their prototype railroad days. If you’d like to take a look at the first part of the eBook please go to: https://www.scribd.com/doc/103033209/A-Very-Short-History-of-the-40-Foot-Hi-Cube-Boxcars

Now it is time to go model with my 10-year-old son.

Updating Athearn Blue Box Railbox XAF 10 cars

 Part 1 – No plan survives first contact with the enemyThe basic blue box car

It has been some time since I’ve had the funds or the time really to do much of anything in the modelling realm.

I’ve simply not had the funds to bring a lot of the work I’ve had underway forward to completion. Thanks to the Taxman and a payout due to being laid off, I’ve been able to order some extra parts to complete most of my Railbox cars.

The most important of all the parts has been a set of Microscale decals.

I ordered these from Microscale in the US and very quickly in the post I received 3 packets of Microscale (87-1291) HO scale RBOX & ABOX decals. Microscale’s service was fast and excellent after ordering directly from their website. They decal two cars of each type and come with all the car data you need for the cars.

RBOX_Microscale_Decals

I have a lot of these cars to re-work; at last count I believe about there were 10 in total. I have enough to cover 6 cars for now. With my layout that I’m building (currently set in 1978) there’s latitude for the Hunter Valley to have bought some similar per diem boxcars. These cars I’ll complete last as I have to produce or manufacture my own decals for them.

Updating the Athearn Blue Box model

The Athearn model is, except for the roof pattern used, correct for the XAF10 series cars. The kit does not have the detail that modern-day kits come with as standard, but they were only $7.50 when I bought them and even after the upgrade process will top out in real dollar terms at less than I can buy the newer models for now. To keep the costs down I’m making most of the add-on parts. To be fair I love scratch building. It has always been my favourite part of the hobby.

Let me say this before the rivet counters jump in: I know that the roof panels on these cars are wrong, I can live with that. At the height above the floor the new layout will be, they really won’t be all that obvious,even if they may be easy to see.

When money is tight these simple upgrades make all the difference. What other issues remain I can live with. There are some issues though that I just cannot live with. In order of descending importance they are:

  • Trucks – I replace these on all of my Blue-Box cars. In this case they’ll be the 70 ton roller bearing trucks (fully equalised) by Kadee. I love these trucks, and with proper weighting they run like a dream floating along and bending to the poor track of the HVL (we are a ribbon in the weeds kind of Shortline you know). At around A$15.00 per pair they are not cheap, but they work so well I’ll eventually fit them on my entire fleet as I can afford to.
  • The body side the grab irons just irk the hell out of me; moulded onto the body side and just begging to be milled and replaced with brass wire – the image below shows the experimental car with these.modifications. While the grab-irons on this model look over sized I am certain that once they’re painted they’ll stand out a lot less. If they don’t then I’ve since sourced some really fine brass, and if they aren’t fine enough I can always get some fine copper wire, tin it and then fit them for prototypical accuracy

Modified_Bluebox_Boxcar

  • The stirrups on the car ends are OK, but I can do better using brass wire, brass strip or as shown in the image above good old-fashioned staples (which have proven to look great but will need to be drilled, glued and then have NBW castings glued through them and into the body to stay on – every one of them has been knocked off  – even with careful handling and using the best super glue)
  • Updated Kadee knuckle couplers (I prefer the #58 which have a much finer head casting). From these I’ll  be removing the magnetic glad hand as I do all of my uncoupling with a skewer, and because I’ll be adding air hoses and glad hands (these magnetic units which look really great as you can see in the YouTube video below. They are now available from P.W.R.S. at: http://www.pacific-western-rail.com)

Remember how I said no plan survives first contact?

If I were a purist, or a glutton for punishment, I could rework the car ends. There is much that could be done by milling the ends and cleaning everything up and starting again. I just can’t be bothered. The ends are good enough, and because they’ll be in between other cars, and generally not focused on I’m not going to worry.

The coupler box used on the model is wider that the real one used on the real car, but again, this is between the cars during normal operation and really, I just don’t think it matters. I’ll live with it.

In part 2 I’ll provide a historical context to the build, and then in part 3 I’ll move on to reworking the basic car into something better for your railroad, and mine.