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

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 gearbox cleaned. All pickups and contacts cleaned and adjusted. All … Continue reading NYC 5341


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 offer a rough concept for a small switching layout: 12” x 48”; well actually about 61” including the staging.  I call this Switching in Four Feet (S4F).  I wanted to see how small I could go (within reason) for apartment sized spaces.  And since operating is very important to me, it is designed with that in mind.  I doubt that this is an original idea although I have not seen it before (my sincere respects to … Continue reading SWITCHING IN FOUR FEET

NYC 5330

New York Central 4-6-4 Class J1e Hudson 5330 (Alco, May 1931) at the coaling tower.  This is an older Broadway Limited Imports Paragon model – the second of three such for Fillmore.  The J1e subclass was the last of the original Hudsons.  30 were built for the New York Central (5315-5344) and 10 for the “Big Four” – the Cleveland, Cincinnati, Chicago & St Louis Railway (6620-6629, later as 5395-5404 in the NYC 1936 system-wide renumbering). Here is a summary of the work done to make her Fillmore-ready: Engine & Tender Chassis Locomotive chassis and gearbox cleaned. All pickups and … Continue reading NYC 5330

NYC 5326

  New York Central 4-6-4 Class J1e Hudson 5326 (Alco, May 1931) is simmering on a Fillmore inspection pit.  This is a Broadway Limited Imports model – a much older Paragon issue (maybe around year 2002?).  This was a used model with extremely dirty wheel sets and a grimy drive.  The drivers appear to be made of sintered metal infused with copper and there looks to be much more copper showing on the treads than on other Paragon Hudsons I have.  This could be wear resulting from high mileage. Here is a summary of the work done to make her … Continue reading NYC 5326


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 live in a condominium apartment.  I have a rectangular open space (9 feet wide by almost 19 feet long) in what would be my living/dining room.  Fillmore is 16 feet long, including my two staging modules.  The remaining distance is for an aisle at one end to get into the engine terminal side of the layout.  I am very lucky to have this rather extravagant space on hand!  Many railroad modellers have much, much less to work … Continue reading ENGINE TERMINAL IN EIGHT FEET


So I finally have ATS receivers mounted on some of my locomotives.  It was an interesting project where I learned about Automatic Train Stop on the New York Central and 3D printing via Shapeways.  Also, while doing my research, I discovered that I could add an additional prototype operation which was actually performed in New York Central engine terminals that served locomotives from a main line which had ATS. Even though the checking of the ATS electrical circuits was part of the routine inspection performed inside the roundhouse, before an engine left the ready track, the ATS was tested again.  … Continue reading ATS PT3


As Fillmore Avenue Roundhouse (set in Buffalo, NY in 1942) is on the NYCS mainline from New York City to Chicago and was fully equipped with General Railway Signal Company’s intermittent Automatic Train Stop system, all mainline locomotives visiting Fillmore ought to have a tender truck mounted ATS receiver.  Switchers at Fillmore do not need this detail. This is one item that is almost never included on a locomotive model, whether New York Central or other.  It is a relatively small part, so perhaps it is usually missed when researching a particular prototype.  None of my models have one, so it … Continue reading ATS PT2


One entry in the Special Rules section of the New York Central 1937 Edition RULES FOR THE GOVERNMENT OF THE OPERATING DEPARTMENT book is most interesting.  It is under the fireman’s responsibilities: Rule 943: If engineman fails to regulate speed of train when approaching a signal indication or other condition requiring that speed be reduced, they must communicate with him at once, and, if necessary, stop the train. The pressure on enginemen to meet schedule, particularly on the top passenger trains, must have been tremendous.  They were only human and it is a natural tendency in all of us to … Continue reading ATS PT1


A busy evening (below) at Fillmore Avenue Roundhouse, Monday September 16th 1940… Here’s how operations would work with EMC 103/103A on tour with the New York Central System: Fillmore can easily be back-dated to September of 1940.  Just in time, though, because in the summer of 1940 the New York Central changed the font style for the lettering on their locomotives from Roman to Gothic (sans serifs).  This change was made very quickly in railroading terms.  Whereas in most railroads a mix of old and new lettering could be seen for many years, repainted when shopped, the NYCS re-paint seemed … Continue reading EMC 103/103A OPERATIONS


Not quite La Grange in November 1939 – my EMC 103/103A is seen under final assembly (below).  They’re almost ready: first section of 103 (on the right) only needs glass installed. The portal glass was masked for painting with tacky putty.  There are some definitions moulded in the glass for internal body structural members and these were painted in the interior colour – Testors Model Master acrylic RAF Sky Type ’S’. The toothpick and piece of .030”x.080” strip styrene were used to form the putty and make the straight edges respectively. Next, the diaphragms were mounted on both sections.  On … Continue reading EMC 103/103A ROLLOUT


A big part of this build was to see if I could paint the wave striping and nose logo using masks, as opposed to using decals.  I previously had much trouble getting the stripe decals to conform with the sharply raised boarding ladders and rivet strip details.  I had, however, an advantage in knowing that the decals would fit.  If I had not known that, I would have decal’d an unpainted plastic first section shell to see how they are sized.  My plan was to mask and paint the stripes and nose logo using the decals as patterns. Here’s how … Continue reading EMC 103/103A PAINTING PT2


Going back some years ago when I built my first EMC 103 (only as the 2700 hp locomotive) I used the full decal striping from the Microscale set (87-613).  I had a very difficult time getting the decals to conform over the boarding ladders and rivet strips without deforming.  After much fussing around, I got what I thought was a respectable result for the time.  However, I did wonder what sort of outcome would be had in painting the striping instead of using the decals.  I was about to find out…. All four car bodies were mounted on blocks for … Continue reading EMC 103/103A PAINTING PT1

EMC 103/103A DCC PT2

Looking more like the ghosts of O&W power past, EMC 103/103A is on the Fillmore programming track… Right out of the bag the locomotives ran very well.  I did notice, however, the speaker in the second section was overpowering (louder than the one in the first section).  So I modified the speaker enclosure in each second section by removing the extension ring, making them the same half-height as the speaker in the rear of the first sections.  The result was balanced sound from both sections. Next, I used my Broadway Limited Imports Address Changer to program the addresses: finally settling … Continue reading EMC 103/103A DCC PT2


The Broadway Limited Imports Address Changer has made the typically cumbersome (in my experience) programming of decoder addresses so easy.  It is very worthwhile, especially so for a layout with lots of locomotives like an engine terminal. In the past it was a frustrating experience every time I tried to program a locomotive with a four-digit DCC address.  Even with a power booster, I found that I had the most success working out the math for doing the long-form way.  A tedious and time consuming procedure that wasn’t always successful, especially if I did the calculation wrong. Now, the Address … Continue reading ADDRESS CHANGER

EMC 103/103A DCC PT1

I labelled each chassis with the respective road numbers for ease of identification.  The DCC install is pretty simple…. The motor wiring was redone with orange and grey 32 Gauge wires from NCE.  These connections were reinforced with my usual application of liquid connector coating.  A small drop of 10 weight Nano oil was applied to the motor shaft bearings.  Then the motor assembly was installed in the chassis, the trucks mounted, the universal shaft/worm gear (with an application of Nano Grease) and truck retainers snapped on. Following this I soldered a 1/4 Watt 680 Ohm resistor directly to the … Continue reading EMC 103/103A DCC PT1


Before taking the chassis apart I first checked to see how the Soundtraxx Tsunami 2 PNP decoder would fit.  It is easily accommodated inside where the Stewart board was, even locating into the two pins on top of motor mounts.  I also had a look around to see if there was enough clearance for all of the wire connections.  This was good too.  My last diesel DCC decoder install (some years ago) was using a QSI unit.  It had a large capacitor (a drum about .20” diameter x .30” long) dangling from wires.  The Tsunami 2 does not have this … Continue reading EMC 103/103A CHASSIS


As mentioned in Part 1 of the Couplers posting, the standard-length Sergent Type E couplers are too short for coupling the second sections together (back-to-back) when American Limited diaphragms are mounted.  I imagine the same problem is encountered when using standard-length Kadee couplers, although I did not try them. Fortunately, Sergent Engineering offers extended-length couplers: in .100” and .130” sizes.  I ordered one set of each; there are six couplers in each set.  They need to be assembled.  My previous orders have been for factory-assembled standard-length couplers (and I see that they are no longer offer this option). This will … Continue reading EMC 103/103A COUPLERS PT2


One of the goals in this build of EMC 103/103A is to successfully operate Sergent Couplers, where diaphragms interfere with using the usual coupling/uncoupling tool.  Sergent offers a special tool (more to follow below) for aligning/opening-jaws/uncoupling for diaphragm-equipped passenger cars. When I built my original 2700 hp Demonstrator and NYC 1600/2400 I was not concerned about the back-to-back coupling of the second sections to make an A-B-B-A configuration, as these were intended to be A-B sets.  At that time my standard coupler was the Kadee #158 “scale” coupler with the trip pin/glad hand snipped off.  I had no trouble coupling … Continue reading EMC 103/103A COUPLERS PT1


The Stewart trucks were dismantled for cleaning, painting, weathering, and lubrication.  I find that the Stewart FT was well thought out when designed, however, the sideframe mounting pegs are quite weak and prone to breakage.  This happens in the thin sections shown in the picture below. Therefore, I avoid touching the sideframes and I have some spares in case an accident happens.  These parts are currently available from the Bowser retail website.  There is some assembly required to the sideframes by adding a hanger and the two brake cylinders.  These simply press into holes provided. I assembled all of the … Continue reading EMC 103/103A TRUCKS


As I was mulling over the Pullman Green issue, I came to the conclusion that it might be a good idea to pursue the lead offered in the Paint Shop article of Model Railroader (November 1989).  It stated that this color was adopted by the Great Northern as the green in their Empire Builder scheme.  After all, there are color photographs available of locomotives in this post-war livery. Another bit of info, right under my nose, is the color of a Stewart model of a Great Northern first section I happen to have for my future ATSF 104 A-B-B-B build.  … Continue reading EMC 103/103A COLORS PT2


Here are some more resources that I have on The Model F Demonstrator: 1941 LOCOMOTIVE CYCLOPEDIA – this mega-volume has a rather small but interesting section on EMD, and some general info on the Model F (with EMD colour art pull-outs).  What I like most is that it is representative of the times.  We see how others saw locomotives and their appliances, especially the latest in steam, back then.  A very interesting and large last section is provided on locomotive backshops and the modern engine terminal.  Not a book to take to bed with you though 🙂 CLASSIC TRAINS SPECIAL: … Continue reading EMC 103/103A RESOURCES PT3


The following pictures show the modifications and details added to make the somewhat unique 103/103A Demonstrator.  The carbodies are primer’d with Tamiya Fine Surface Primer “L”.  It goes on very fine and was of great help to see any imperfections particularly where I had removed the vertical rivet strips.  It also helped balance the base color for the very light Imitation Gold color; three body shells are moulded in black and the fourth is in light grey. I did try to remove the moulded side air-intake grills and replace them with Detail Associates etched parts.  While these look neat, they … Continue reading EMC 103/103A CARBODIES


One distinction of the demonstrator’s construction was its carbody rivet strip arrangement.  The rivet strips on the sidewalls near the four portholes are different than on subsequent production models.  Fortunately I found this change to be very doable, although great care was needed. In the photo below, the vertical rivet strips marked with a blue arrow had to be removed.  The red arrow points to a yellow line that represents a rivet strip that must be added. I carefully removed the lower strips first with a Micromark chisel (Micromark), taking little material with each left and right pass (it is … Continue reading EMC 103/103A RIVET STRIPS