Some weeks ago an acquaintance was giving an informal clinic on using Pan Pastels down at the local train shop (Credit Valley Railway Company).  He is a very fine railway modeller and his freight cars looked outstanding.  Besides the usual Pan Pastels used for weathering, he also uses Pearl Medium – Black COURSE #014 to refresh/enhance coal loads.  The model on hand showed this to be effective.  I thought that this was a rather creative idea. Basically this is a black powder with glitter added.  Last Saturday I decided to give it a try, first on a removable coal load … Continue reading ALL THAT GLITTERS…

NYC DFA-1a & DFB-1a

NYC 1600/2400/2401/1601 (Electro-Motive, June 1944) was the first of two, four-section (A-B-B-A) 5400 hp FT locomotives delivered to the New York Central Railroad.  They were classed as DFA-1a (A-Unit) and DFB-1a (B-Unit). Originally EMC (so named until January 1st 1941 when they became EMD) designated the A-Unit and B-Unit as: first section and second section, respectively.  Why did they do this, after all there were cab-equipped A-Units and cab-less booster B-Units in their passenger Model E line already in service? The first & second sections together were considered one 2700 hp locomotive, the Model F.  It was designed in two … Continue reading NYC DFA-1a & DFB-1a


New Year’s.  For me, and I think many, a time of renewal.  A chance to clean up and be ready for the future.  One morning during the holidays I decided to give Fillmore the yearly maintenance it deserves. Beforehand I had decided that I would give it a good going-over that may take the better part of the day.  It would be at a leisurely pace; just doing whatever needed to be done without looking at the clock.  It would be a big  job, after all – you know cleaning (ugh). But my grandiose plan was totally unnecessary because it … Continue reading YEARLY LAYOUT MAINTENANCE


  I think weathering any model is largely a matter of personal preference.  For me, I like a more restrained approach.  I will lean more towards something plain – I think this enhances plausibility and the chances of acceptance by the viewer. My preference is more of what I would call a grimy/oily look. Pre-war, the New York Central Railroad maintained their locomotives in very good condition.  There certainly was no rust or heavily weathered areas.  Color photos from that time (my favourite are from Emery Gulash and from NYC Company Photographer Ed Nowak) show this, so I think my mild weathering treatment is prototypically appropriate. … Continue reading WEATHERING STEAM LOCOMOTIVES


Back in the Summer I started to have second thoughts about how I modelled the coach yard….. I’m usually of the mind for spreading out scenes; less is better.  Dull and mundane is better still.  Whenever I thought about the Railway Express Agency platforms, I felt it was too much, too close to the passenger car servicing building.  Too busy.  Too “model-railroady” – you know, cramming something into every bit of available space.  However, whenever I uncovered the layout and looked at it, it didn’t seem all that bad. But, I couldn’t let go of that thought and now the … Continue reading NEW COACH YARD

CRI&P 628

The ROCKET!  The Chicago, Rock Island & Pacific is often forgotten as a diesel pioneer.  Their EMC TA locomotives set the thinking towards having an independent locomotive and separate lightweight cars – the earliest streamliners had operationally inflexible articulated train sets. As the Rockets, Kansas City-Oklahoma City [1937] Texas Rocket Fort Worth-Houston [1937] Chicago-Des Moines [1937] Chicago-Peoria [1937] Minneapolis-Kansas City [1937] Denver-Kansas City [1937] Kansas City-Dallas [1938] Rocky Mountain Rocket Chicago-Denver/Colorado Springs [1939] Choctaw Rocket Memphis-Amarillo [1940] Zephyr Rocket (with CB&Q) St Louis-Minneapolis [1941] became more popular, with train lengths increasing, the little EMC TA’s could not handle them.  Sometimes … Continue reading CRI&P 628


There are two ALCo HH600 switchers at Fillmore.  They are Atlas models factory equipped with DCC & sound; that means they have QSI decoders.  Over the years I have had a bumpy relationship with QSI decoders, however they were working okay in these engines until after the operating session last December. NYC 675 was on the layout and used for a refuelling operation as part of the engine terminal blackboard operations.  When I was putting away the layout, this engine did not respond although it was running (sound was on).  I tried a number of things and ultimately tried resetting the decoder … Continue reading HH600 UPGRADE

ATSF 12 & 12A

The next-to-last locomotives for upgrading to Soundtraxx Tsunami 2 DCC/Sound, LEDs, and Sergent Couplers were ATSF 12 & 12A. The model is from Broadway Limited Imports, of about 2012. Along with Union Pacific, Chicago Burlington & Quincy, and Baltimore and Ohio, Atchison Topeka & Santa Fe was a diesel pioneer.  Perhaps their greatest contribution to the application of the diesel-electric locomotive was in mainline freight operations just before and during the Second World War.  They were the largest operator, by a wide margin, of the EMC/EMD FT (320 units of 1096 produced). And they were nearly the first to operate EMC’s new … Continue reading ATSF 12 & 12A


The engine terminal side of the layout operates quite well.  I have nine more steam locomotives to build/prepare and the service train only needs a drop-bottom gondola for sand delivery.  I am very happy with how this has turned out. The coach yard, not so much… All the diesel switchers are currently non-operational: the two ALCo HH600’s, incredibly co-incidentally, had their decoders pack-up on the same day after an operating session.  These are very nice Atlas models with factory-installed QSI DCC & Sound.  I’ve had it with QSI anyway.  I will install Soundtraxx Tsunami 2 ALCo decoders to get them going. I have … Continue reading A SHAMBLES!


I’m not a layout designer, but don’t we all dabble a little in it?  Another in a short series of space saving designs with operations in mind… For those with limited layout space, a previous concept (COMPACT TWO-PLACE SWITCHING) has two scenes stacked one on top of the other.  In TWELVE FEET SWITCHING IN SIX, offered below, it is all one level, but the inactive scene is hidden when operating.  This is done by means of a folding shelf, or rather, half of the layout folds away during operations and for storage. The designed rail height from the floor is … Continue reading TWELVE FEET SWITCHING IN SIX


I am not a layout designer, but don’t we all dabble a little in it?  Another in a short series of space saving designs with operations in mind… The interchange of traffic on railroads is essential.  A small layout based solely on the interchange of cars from one railroad to another is rare.  By its nature it would be a layout created for the operator. Taking the dynamic redeploying layout and staging concept in a different direction, I offer Railroads Interchange in Twelve Feet.  Of course, if more space is available then the layout and staging trolley can be increased in length, … Continue reading RAILROADS INTERCHANGE IN TWELVE FEET


When experimenting with the OLD OUTHOUSE, one takeaway from it was how impressed I was with the Dark Grey Wash.  It flowed nicely.  I guess acrylic washes have come a long way – I’ve avoided them due to past experience long ago.  Since then, I use enamel washes (enamel paint thinned with Varsol). EMC 103/103A was a bit incomplete.  I did not like the appearance of the side and roof grills.  I decided to give these areas a Vallejo Wash treatment.  Since the olive paint on the Model F Demonstrator is quite dark, I decided to apply their black wash. … Continue reading VALLEJO WASH


I am not a layout designer, but don’t we all dabble a little in it?  Another in a short series of space saving designs with operations in mind… I think a yard as a layout is overlooked as a model railroad option.  Personally, I love the idea.  It is a great way to provide for lots of operation.  It is a “universal industry” that can accept any type of car.  It is simple and quick to build and scenic.  Those freight car aficionados who enjoy building detailed models can not only display their work in a natural setting, but can operate … Continue reading DOUBLE-ENDED YARD IN FIFTEEN FEET


Six thousand horsepower for fourteen lightweight passenger cars! Union Pacific’s premiere Los Angeles to Chicago streamliner, the City of Los Angeles, in 1941, was powered along the entire route by a single EMD E6 A-B-B trio. In the 1930’s Union Pacific were pioneers in lightweight diesel-powered streamlined passenger trains.  Ironically, this forward thinking in dieselization did not extend to freight operations.  UP watched all of their main Western competitors dieselize their fast freight trains with EMC/EMD FT locomotive sets prior to and during World War 2.  It seems as though their situation was similar to New York Central’s:  pre-war, the UP … Continue reading CITY OF LOS ANGELES


The DCC system at Fillmore is by Digitrax.  At the time, it was packaged as the Empire Builder Duplex Radio starter set (5 Amp) and I later added a second 5 Amp Booster.  It has served me very well.  The Command Station is Power District 1, the Booster is Power District 2, and they are labelled as shown below. To manage the track power requirements, due to the high density of DCC sound-equipped locomotives, I took some time to consider how I would divide the two power districts that the command station and booster naturally provide.  Here is the result: … Continue reading FILLMORE POWER DISTRICTS


As I work through the cabinet collection, the next E6 locomotive to be upgraded with Soundtraxx Tsunami 2 DCC/Sound, LEDs, and Sergent couplers is Kansas City Southern #4.  Like all EMD E6 locomotives previously described, this too is a Broadway Limited Imports model (circa 2013?). After upgrading eight such BLI units, this one went very smoothly and very quickly – a Friday evening to remove the coupler & modify the coupler box, carefully lift the body, disconnect the wiring (& snip the connectors off), remove the factory decoder, mount the new decoder, and a Saturday evening to solder the connections, … Continue reading KCS 4


Here’s what I do to set up for an operating session…. We operate on Sunday mornings, and mid-week prior I review the blackboard (engine terminal schedule).  The blackboard is just a dressed-up spreadsheet that I broadcast on my flat screen tv.  I save a copy of each one we use, so I have a number to choose from. But I find it is an evolutionary process and I typically take the latest one, copy and modify it.  Here is an example: On the blackboard, we’ll begin at 10:00AM and operate until 12:30 (with a ten-minute break at 11:00).  There is no … Continue reading SETTING UP FOR OPS


I am not an artist.  I don’t recognize the many different colors that a given object displays.  I admire those who do and can translate that into creating a realistic model.  Painting something that represents unpainted wood has been something of a challenge for me. I recently tried the Vallejo paint kit NEW AND OLD WOOD EFFECTS to see if I could achieve decent results.  The kit is just paint, of course, but at least the colors provided are chosen by accomplished model builders/artists – something that I think I could never get a good handle on.   A bottle … Continue reading OLD OUTHOUSE


Way back when I had my first two Fillmore operating sessions, everything was working just right, until my guests arrived!  Go figure – if anything’s going to fail that’s the time when it is most likely. I run Digitrax Duplex Radio.  During the first operating session the signal was very intermittent and it was the same for the second one, only not as bad.  When testing the layout, I did not have any trouble maintaining contact with the locomotives I operated. I sent off an e-mail to Digitrax and received a very typically fast reply from Rich suggesting that there … Continue reading RADIO BACK-UPS


Here’s how I make rod-style coupler cut levers for freight cars.  To achieve some consistency, I made two jigs from styrene (shown above).  In retrospect, their function though could be combined into one jig. I generally use .010″ Tichy phosphor-bronze wire.  The first thing I do is run some 400 grit paper along the length while rolling the wire – this roughness helps the paint to bite onto the surface better. Next I cut a length (longer than I need) and put a 90 degree bend into it. The first fixture has a groove for the wire built-up with .015″ … Continue reading CUT LEVERS

SOU 2801

The next cabinet collection E6 locomotive upgraded with Soundtraxx Tsunami 2 DCC & Sound, LED’s, and Sergent Couplers is Southern 2801.  This is a Broadway Limited Imports model from the last batch offered in 2015 (I believe).  Funny thing though, in comparison to the Milwaukee and B&O units previously upgraded (earlier offerings), the wire colors were not the same.  Oh, the actual colors (gray, black, brown) are the same, but they are attached to different electrical components!  But the installation is very easy to figure out. SOU 2801 was delivered in March of 1941 (EMD s/n 1215).  She was lettered … Continue reading SOU 2801


Railroad modeling can be enjoyed in small spaces…for some ideas please see CATEGORY: TECH – LAYOUT CONCEPTS.  Effective mini-layouts can provide hours of entertainment for a keen operator, but having space for building the layout, let alone space for the layout, can be a challenge. I live in a condominium apartment, a one bedroom with a “den”.  It would be a messy proposition to build a layout in an apartment living room or bedroom.  I am lucky to have access to a hobby room in our building. Our hobby room is half garage, half kitchen.  There are large wooden tables for benchwork. … Continue reading THE APARTMENT RAILWAY MODELLER

B&O 63

I think the Baltimore & Ohio EMD E6’s are the most handsome.  The 63 set looks fabulous in their elegant streamliner paint scheme.  As I work through my Broadway Limited Imports E6 collection upgrading the factory decoder with Soundtraxx Tsunami 2, new LEDs, and Sergent Type E couplers, I find that it takes about 4-1/2 hours to do a fully powered A-B set (I batch prep’d all of the LED assemblies and couplers ahead of time).  A nice clean job to do.  Once I had the first Tsunami 2 locomotive programmed using JMRI DecoderPro, I copy that file to program any … Continue reading B&O 63


Things don’t always go smoothly here…I make lots of mistakes. When my model of the “FT Demonstrator”, EMC 103/103A, was completed last February, I was quite happy with it.  However, after it was on display in one of my cabinets I began to notice some things.  The first was that the Imitation Gold was a bit too “lemony” for my liking.  This, in spite of making a paint chip, was disappointing since I spent quite a bit of time working out the colors.  It goes to show that one really doesn’t know how the model will look until it’s done. … Continue reading EMC 103/103A REVISITED


A big part of this hobby for me is reading.  And I love to read railroading in bed – what could be a better way to wind the day down?  Taking a large book to bed, like say the 1941 Locomotive Cyclopedia, isn’t just awkward it’s downright hazardous lest I nod off… I recently designed, and built, and tested, and modified, and tested, and modified again a book stand so that I could take heavy books like the Locomotive Cyclopedia to bed.  Even better, I built it from leftover benchwork materials (11mm birch plywood & dimensional pine).  This works for me … Continue reading BOOK STAND

MILW 15/15A

My favourite diesel passenger locomotive is the pre-war Electro-Motive E6.  My last post on “Excess” got me to thinking more about my E6 Cabinet Collection, and the locomotives in two other Cabinet Collections too.  The collections are limited and mean something special to me.  They are representative of the era I enjoy most (1938-1945, especially the years 1940-1941).  There is only so much space in the cabinets and 95% of it is used or spoken for.  So, I guess, I’m not going to be buying much, if anything, in the future.  While this goes against the prevailing model railroading culture … Continue reading MILW 15/15A