All model railroads pass through phases… Like the heady days of youth, by far the most exciting one is planning and design.  The research, the joy of discovery; so much to consider!  The scramble to acquire all that is needed.  Then, the benchwork, the first laying of track, the initial model building. Eventually, like in one’s early mid-life, things get settled down while the construction continues.  Although still very stimulating, the layout work becomes more routine as the many modelling tasks are slowly checked-off one by one.  Planning becomes more infrequent.  Precise execution is the main objective. Then, as in … Continue reading Farewell

NYC 3010

NYC 3010 (ALCo Schenectady, November 1940) is a member of the L3a class of modern dual service (passenger & freight) 4-8-2 “Mohawk” locomotives (3000-3024, all ALCo built).  In the era of my interest, these locomotives represent the largest and most modern type found on the NYC mainlines. This model is from MTH circa 2009 and has been a Fillmore original.  Originally NYC 3006, she served as the lead photo for the Model Railroad Planning 2015 article – incidentally, the same photo that appears at the header of this blog.  After the recent shopping, she emerged as NYC 3010. This prep/build … Continue reading NYC 3010


When I originally conceived Fillmore, even before it was formally Fillmore, I thought I would operate and leave the locomotives and rolling stock in place, ready for the next operating session.  Now, post ops, I find I remove all locomotives and rolling stock from the layout, placing them into soft-foam lined Reboxx boxes and storing them in a cabinet. Why I do this, I’m not sure.  Perhaps it clears the layout for testing the next completed locomotive.  Perhaps it is legacy from when the layout was not completed and I had to clear it in order to continue work.  Maybe … Continue reading FOLDING UTILITY TABLE

NYC 3036

NYC 3036 (Lima, November 1940) is a member of the L3b class of modern fast-freight 4-8-2 “Mohawk” locomotives.  While L3a dual-service locomotives were being delivered by ALCo, the Railroad obtained twenty five of these very similar freight-only engines.  Ten locomotives were manufactured by ALCo (3025-3034) and fifteen were constructed by Lima (3035-3049). The Lima L3b’s differ visually from L3a’s primarily at the front end.  An Elesco feedwater mixing drum was placed on top of the smokebox, semi-sunk-in with a smooth fairing.  L3a’s had a Worthington 5-1/2 SA feedwater heater in the same place.  The coupler was not droppable as on the … Continue reading NYC 3036


The New York Central Hudson.  If there was no Hudson in HO, there would be no Fillmore.  I don’t even think I would have a layout. The lead photo shows the completed J1 Hudsons which now have been upgraded with Tsunami 2 DCC/Sound. There are three J1e’s (5326, 5330, 5341) and one J1d (5366).  In my era, the J1d and J1e sub-classes are easily identified by having a stepped running board with an air tank on both the engineer and fireman’s sides.  There was also a small run of J1c’s (for the MCRR) that had the balanced tanks, but the … Continue reading THOROUGHBREDS


I have been using Nano Oil (nano-oil.com) in my locomotives for the last few years.  I think it’s a quality product. Early on as I was investigating Nano Oil, I read some advice that described applying a drop of 5wt Nano Oil first, then followed by a drop of 10wt Nano Oil.  The idea being the lighter oil wicks the 10wt into position.  At the time I was preparing my Walthers 0-8-0 Switchers and this is how I applied the oils. However, after a period of time I started to notice the locomotive boilers and even tender tanks starting to … Continue reading OILING AROUND


I have had to be creative to maximize operations.  The reason for this is because I do not have the full compliment of locomotives prepared, yet.  However, the terminal must operate and operating sessions are 2-1/2 hours long. Using real time (no fast clock) a normal busy through-put of locomotives is four per hour.  It takes one hour to go from inspection pit to roundhouse.  The longest servicing stop, the ash/wash pits, requires about 25 minutes and there is an additional five minutes safety factor.  So, with two roundhouse inbound leads, each hour we can service four locomotives (ten engines … Continue reading OPERATIONAL TRICKERY

NYC 3001

NYC 3001 (ALCo Schenectady, October 1940) is a member of the L3a class of modern dual service (passenger & freight) 4-8-2 “Mohawk” locomotives (3000-3024, all ALCo built).  She still exists at the National New York Central Museum (Elkhart, Indiana), one of only two large NYC steam locomotives that have been preserved. They were often used in fast-freight trains (69″ driver diameter).  However it was their great power, more so than the famous Hudsons, which made them very capable in heavy passenger service, with especially excellent acceleration for schedules with many stops and starts. The model is from MTH circa 2009 – they … Continue reading NYC 3001


You may know very well when starting to build a layout there are a mountain of tasks to do.  There is much to consider.  We prioritize them as best we can.  Many things are left unrefined as one needs to move on to the next task.  Fillmore was/is no different. As I was collecting appropriate locomotives, my natural inclination was to think that they all will run fine even though there was a mix of DCC/sound systems.  The main ones were QSI, Paragon (Broadway Limited Imports), and MTH’s quasi-DCC/DCS system.  They were adequate for what little running I was able … Continue reading PROGRESS


We don’t operate often, only once a month, so it is easy to forget some of the detailed operational minutia.  On occasion a new operator will work Fillmore too.  To help on both counts, I’ve added key operational actions at each service station. Here is the one at the first station, water & inspection… -“DISPATCH LOCO” is a Digitrax command for releasing the DCC address.  Since the Staging Master, representing the road crew, drops the locomotive at the inspection pit, he must release it for the hostler, after turning on and off the locomotive-equipped tender water fill effect. – Fault … Continue reading OPERATING REMINDERS


Today we operated.  It wasn’t the best of sessions.  I wanted to get some thoughts down while they are still fresh…. It was a modified black board and era – June of 1944 (two years ahead of normal operations) and the recently completed EMD FT’s (NYC Class DFA-1a & DFB-1a, delivered June 1944) were incorporated into the scheme.  We were short one operator.  The blackboard, shown below, was quite aggressive, particularly in the last 45 minutes (11:45 to 12:30) of operation.  There was new power added – NYC 3000, a newly completed L3a 4-8-2 Mohawk.  And we were not sharp. … Continue reading AN OPERATING SESSION


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