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


We all have a small collection that has nothing to do with our main layout.  These models just make us feel good when we see them even though they are hardly, if ever, operated.  One part of my collection is the EMC/EMD E6 Cabinet, pictured below. These are all Broadway Limited Imports models of the higher quality finish offered beginning in 2012, I believe.  I have a rule to put some control over my model railroad spending: I only buy locomotives and rolling stock from the years 1937 to 1945.  This is reflected in the mostly U.S. pre-war (1940-41) as-delivered … Continue reading EXCESS AND THE RAILROAD MODELLER


My friend Riley Triggs visited Fillmore on Monday past.  Riley is a great visionary whose mantra to designing, building, maintaining, and operating model railroads is one of simplicity.  His Port of New York layout (HO Scale) has impressed and intrigued me ever since I first saw his blog about it (PONYRR).  Some of the leading-edge features include: battery powered radio control, 3D printing of significant proportions, satellite layout locations (small terminals located in a different room fed by a car float operation from the main layout), a flexible approach to temporarily laying track to test operation, and prototypes (Hoboken Shore … Continue reading Riley!


This post is dedicated to my friend Gerard Fitzgerald, Fillmore’s BIGGEST fan and, more importantly for me, someone who understands my railroad modeling ramblings…. Gerry lives far away, but I had recently “ceremonially” invited him to join us on our yearly Niagara Falls Excursion.  I promised to let him know all about it – I brought my point-n-click camera (I ALWAYS forget to bring a camera), bought new batteries for it on the way, made sure I didn’t forget it in my truck, and started clicking away right when I got to GO Port Credit station.  But I made a … Continue reading MCRR BRIDGE


Further to my posting of yesterday, I offer what I think is an improved design…. One thing I did not like about my previous version, now called Staging Cassette Mk1 (See CATEGORY: TECH – LAYOUT CONCEPTS “STAGING CASSETTE Mk1”), was how thick the foam was.  To recall, the foam on the inside of both hinged sidewalls squeezes into the models and holds them in place while handling the cassette.  Even though I wrote that thinner foam could be used with wood strip spacers behind it, I didn’t entirely like this solution.  However, it would be workable. In noodling this some … Continue reading STAGING CASSETTE Mk2


Model railroad blogging is a very small universe.  At least, this is the impression I have from doing it the past 20 months.  Most know and enjoy Chris Mears’ blog, PRINCE STREET.  His posts are very thoughtful and focus in on, usually, modeling in small spaces.  Dropping in for a look is worthwhile. Last week Chris presented a clever concept for a functional layout design that is very interesting.  Here is a link to what he calls “The Matchbox”.  I like this neat little idea!  Staging is managed with cassettes, which Chris acknowledges is nothing new.  We’ve seen them offered as … Continue reading STAGING CASSETTE MkI

NYC 5426

UPDATE: This model has been upgraded with Tsunami 2 DCC/Sound. New York Central 4-6-4 Class J3a Hudson 5426 (Alco, October 1937).  5426 was originally delivered as a standard non-streamlined locomotive.  In preparation for the 1941 edition of New York Central’s new lightweight Empire State Express, two J3a Super Hudsons (5426 & 5429) were selected for a stunning streamlined makeover similar to the Dreyfuss Hudsons of 1938 (they were most commonly found on the flagship Twentieth Century Limited).  The appearance of these Thoroughbreds certainly complimented the modern stainless steel Budd equipment found in the two new sixteen-car coach and parlor car … Continue reading NYC 5426


In my era of interest, the 1930’s and early 40’s, the standard railroad coupler in North America was the Type E.  It was found on both freight and passenger cars.  Here are two pictures from the 1941 Locomotive Cyclopedia: When lightweight high-speed passenger equipment was introduced a new coupler was too, effective March 1, 1940.  The Tight Lock Coupler (later called Type F) was designed to eliminate free slack in the contour (vertical plane).  It has a tapered protrusion on one side that engages in a tapered pocket on the mating coupler.  It can couple to a Type E and has … Continue reading TIGHT LOCK COUPLERS


Pictured above is the upper level of the engine terminal staging elevator prior to operations many, many months ago (there have, unfortunately, been no ops since!) .   There are eleven locomotives squeezed in place.  This is obviously the maximum amount for staging.  However the lower level, which contains the terminal service trains (coal, ash, etc.), has plenty of extra trackage where some more locomotives can be staged. In practice, though, the lower level is typically used to get traffic off the layout in an emergency.  This usually means that the elevator is up to let off/take on a service … Continue reading PRE-OPS


Does an island layout have to be isolated? Avant-garde railroad modeler David Barrow had a brilliant series of Model Railroader articles in the mid-nineties.  He proposed, and practised, building layouts out of sectional table frames (“dominos”).  In the October 1997 issue (“South Plains District Revisited”), he wrote about using a staging trolley to move trains between two separate benchwork’s.  Having a short layout in two or more corners of a room, or in different rooms, may be one’s only choice for space.  A staging trolley allows traffic moves between them – another case of where not having a mainline between … Continue reading STAGING TROLLEY


I am not a layout designer, but don’t we all dabble a little in it?  One of a small series of my hypotheticals…….. I have a passing interest for the trackage found along the Buffalo waterfront.  There, great grain elevators tower over a myriad of rails.  Many still silently stand today.  But this is just window dressing for a rough concept, which would, at least in North American terms, occupy a small space (6 feet x 8 feet).  The aim is to maximize the visible layout and minimize the staging. At the end of this posting there is a link to … Continue reading STAGING ELEVATOR


I have built this staging turntable before so it isn’t really a concept.  When I was with the Credit Valley Free-mo Group, being a self-serving steam guy, I wanted a means of turning my Erie USRA Heavy 2-10-2 locomotive at the end of a run.  So I built a double-track staging turntable. This device is handy for any size layout.  It can represent a non-modeled portion of a railroad – an engine terminal, a wye, a balloon loop.  Its relatively small size, dictated by the largest rolling stock to be turned, might be useful to the compact modeller allowing operations … Continue reading STAGING TURNTABLE


I am not a layout designer, but don’t we all dabble a little in it?  One of a small series of my hypotheticals…….. Does operating between two towns require a mainline? If a very limited space precludes a mainline run, one can still switch between two places – Compact 2-Place Switching (C2PS).  Presented as a bi-level shadow-box using a staging traverser with an elevating feature –  this type of operation is possible in a very small space.  For example, the upper level could have a small interchange yard and perhaps an industry and the lower level a destination industry or … Continue reading COMPACT 2-PLACE SWITCHING


The device that makes operations possible in the compact concepts S4F and CYS is the Staging Traverser.  This eliminates an unlimited number of turnouts and tail tracks. I would make this out of poplar dimensional lumber. Poplar is harder than pine but still easy to cut with hand tools.  In my experience, I find that it tends to be straighter and less warped than pine, although it costs more.  It looks very nice with a couple of coats of Varethane. Note that the end of the layout needs to be extended down to interface with the traverser (pictured below). The ball bearing … Continue reading STAGING TRAVERSER


I am not a layout designer, but don’t we all dabble a little in it?  One of a small series of my hypotheticals…….. Does a switching layout need industries to be a switching layout? Structures take up valuable space!  This rough concept is inspired by fine railroad modellers who like to build plastic/resin/wood, kit bash, and or scratch-build highly detailed and prototypically correct freight cars, who have very limited space for a layout but still wish to operate.  This is called Compact Yard Switching (CYS).  One needn’t bother with industries if the layout design is a classification yard, or more … Continue reading COMPACT YARD SWITCHING


  The cultural differences in the various scale modeling interests has always fascinated me.  On 22 July 2016, I wrote a post about how our hobby is quite different than other kinds of scale modeling (aircraft, military, ships) in that we railroad modellers can and do revisit our models, retro-fitting/upgrading them as we desire (just like the prototypes were are trying to emulate). In that post I described the changes I made to class J1d Hudson NYC 5366 long after it was built (the post can be found in CATEGORY: TECH-LOCOMOTIVES “BACKSHOPPING 5366 PT1“).  Having learned a thing or two … Continue reading BACKSHOPPING 5366 PT2


I am not a layout designer, but don’t we all dabble a little in it?  One of a small series of my hypotheticals…….. Does a model railway need to occupy a dedicated space? An alternative for limited space that also gives a bit of a mainline run – not much of one, of course, but something 🙂 .  I call this Model Railroad To Go (MR2G).  This is just two narrow four foot long sections coupled together with just enough staging to hide a train away from the layout.  The key feature of this design is that it can be … Continue reading MODEL RAILROAD TO GO

NYC 5341

UPDATE: This model has been upgraded with Tsunami 2 DCC/Sound. New York Central 4-6-4 Class J1e Hudson 5341 (Schenectady, July 1931).  This is an older Broadway Limited Imports Paragon model – the last of three for Fillmore.  When the Class J3a “Super Hudsons” began arriving in 1937, some J1e Hudsons were bumped from the New York-Chicago mainline.  This happened to 5341 in September of 1937 when she was transferred to the former Michigan Central Railroad for passenger work west of Buffalo. Here is a summary of the work done to make her Fillmore-ready: Engine & Tender Chassis Locomotive chassis and … Continue reading NYC 5341