NYC ALCO FA / FB Units

NYC ALCO FA / FB Units
Custom Painted P-2000 units

Wednesday, August 22, 2012

Empire State Express Pulled From Service Again

Greetings Blog Followers.  The New York Central Empire State Express has been pulled from service again. Followers may remember previous issues with the 8 car train that was described in a prior blog post
Sunday, November 13, 2011 Trials & Tribulations of the Empire State Express.The Corrugated Side Cars were manufactured by International Hobby Corp, are a scale 86' and have 4 wheel trucks.They have been on the roster for several years. This past year however has seen the cars pulled from service twice, this time for unscheduled uncoupling issues. The cars utilize after market McHenry talgo mount couplers that were designed specifically for this type of car. The NYC maintenance crews had the cars in their shops for several days on the prior issues and it was believed the problems had been resolved. The cars ran fine when put back into service and were subsequently cycled off the layout for about sixty days. The cars were stored in their original boxes and when reintroduced to the layout this past week they began to have coupling issues right off the bat.
The cars were removed from service for the shop crews to remove the McHnery talgo mounted couplers and install Kadee #5 body mounted couplers for more reliable coupling. The layout's 22" radius curves however proved to be too tight for this application. The cars stayed reliably coupled but were now prone to derailments on the 22" curves. After consultation with other model railroaders and owners of these types of cars one of the #5 couplers was removed from each car and replaced with a long center set coupler. This would provide more couple swing to hopefully get around the curves. This too proved to be unsatisfactory. Additional time was spent cutting off the corners of the coupler boxes to increase coupler swing. Unfortunately after several trips various cars began to derail again.
The shop forces have decided to re-install the McHenry talgo mount couplers and once again fine tune them to meet the Kadee coupler height gauge. To the shop I go......

An A-B-A lash up of Fairbanks-Morse "Erie Builts" lead the Empire State Express toward Empire City 

The Empire State Express on the lower track while a coal drag waits for clearance

Seven of Eight cars of the E.S.E. are visible as the train progresses to the lower level
 
 The E.S.E. heads toward Empire City Station

Rounding the final curve before Empire City Station

The Empire State Express arrives on track 3. On track 2 is the Commodore Vanderbilt and on track 1 is the Mercury

For today's passenger power we have an A-A consist of Alco PAs assigned to the Mercury, a single EMD E8A assigned to the Commodore Vanderbilt and the A-B-A consist of FM "Erie Builts" on the ill fated Empire State Express
  

Saturday, August 18, 2012

Pacemaker Freight and Early Bird Service

The New York Central System introduced it's "Pacemaker" freight trains in 1946. Named after the Central's high-speed New York to Chicago "Pacemaker" passenger train the service was skillfully marketed and aimed at recapturing L.C.L. (Less than Carl Load) traffic. The "Pacemaker" trains featured distinctive specially designed boxcars painted in a flashy vermillion and gray livery with "Pacemaker" written on the sides in script. The cars were equipped with high speed trucks that used stabilizers and bolsters to reduce incidents of in-transit damage. As "Pacemaker" service expanded the box car fleet grew to 1,000 cars.

The "Pacemaker" fast freights originally operated on an 11 hour schedule from Manhattan to Buffalo / Niagra Falls. Carrying the symbol NB-1 the "Pacemaker" left Manhattan at 7:45 PM and arrived at Buffalo 6:50 AM the following morning.  By 1950 "Pacemaker Service" reached most Mid-Western cities within the Central's service region.

In 1954 the New York Central introduced the "Early Bird" trains aimed at recapturing carload traffic through improved scheduling. New York to Chicago service was promised in just 29 hours, "on time a day earlier" than previous trains. A cartoon bird dressed in an engineer's cap and carrying a pocket watch was featured on the sides of some of the "Early Bird" freight cars.

On my train layout Empre City has been included in the expanded "Pacemaker" freight service and the "Early Bird" service. The New York Central's Terminal Yard train master often combines both the "Pacemaker" and "Early Bird" freights into one hotshot train when possible and gets them across this division with time to spare. Take a look as this train runs across the upper level of my layout through Empire City. Also beware of the Sharks that have come swimming into the city.

 

Sunday, August 12, 2012

Going Big

This month I came upon some Athearn 85' Trailer Flat Cars and some Athearn 86' Auto Parts Boxcars at prices that I could not refuse. The prototype cars were introduced in the mid 1960s and they are right on for my targeted modeling range. These are the first Athearn Blue Box freight cars that I have purchased with a length greater than 57 scale feet. Most of the past reviews I have read on the 85' flat cars and 86' boxcars were not positive as they were reported to be prone to derailments even on very broad curves in excess of 24" radius. Well the price was right and with some tinkering I thought I could get these cars to be reliable runners and then added to the fleet. Here is how I made that happen.
 85' Trailer Flatcar
#1. Clean the rust of of the metal weight and wash the plastic parts with soap and water. Allow to air dry.
#2. Spray paint metal weight, underframe, body bolster and draw bars flat black.
#3. Straighten metal weight as best as possible. 
#4. Attach metal weight o flatcar with adhesive. I used thin double sided tape.
#5. Attach under frame to metal weight with adhesive. Again I used thin double sided tape. 
#6. Add Kadee #27 couplers to the draw bars.
#7. File down hooks on draw bars where they meet the trucks. The draw bars are designed to swivel and make contact with the trucks when installed straight out of the box. Not doing this eliminates the free play the trucks need to swivel freely on their own. 
#8. Attach body bolsters. After building five cars I noticed that quite a few body bolsters needed some filing to fit over the molded on body bolsters. 
#9. Optional I added 33" Intermountain metal wheels to the trucks. This gives the cars a bit more weight.
#10. Attach trucks with 2-56 x 1/4" screws (provided in kit). Again after five cars I noted that on a few I had to use screws from my parts inventory for better truck control. 
#11 Test with Kadee height gauge. Adjust as necessary.
#12. Road Test.

86' Auto Parts Boxcar        
#1. Clean the rust of of the metal weight and wash the plastic parts with soap and water. Allow to air dry.
#2. Spray paint metal weight, underframe, body bolster and draw bars flat black.
#3. Straighten metal weight as best as possible.
#4. Attach metal weight to floor with adhesive and the two short screws provided in the kit.
#5. Add Kadee #27 couplers to the draw bars.
#6. File down hooks on draw bars where they meet the trucks. The draw bars are designed to swivel and make contact with the trucks when installed straight out of the box. Not doing this eliminates the free play the trucks need to swivel freely on their own.
#7. Optional I added 33" Intermountain metal wheels to the trucks. This gives the cars a bit more weight.
#8. Attach trucks with 2-56 x 1/4" screws (provided in kit). Again after five cars I noted that on a few I had to use screws from my parts inventory for better truck control. 
#9 Test with Kadee height gauge. Adjust as necessary.
#10. Road Test.

Here are some of the finished cars






So far the cars are running reliably on 22" radius curves, which are the sharpest on my layout. The above consist also negotiated the #4 turnouts in my staging yard with no problem.

Monday, August 6, 2012

PRR 50' Express Reefer Cars

About two years ago I found some used Athearn 50' Wood Express Reefer Cars being sold for the princely sum of $1.00 each. One car was lettered for the Great Northern and painted in a Pullman or coach green scheme. The other car was bright yellow with a green roof and ends. I do not remember the road name or reporting marks but the car advertised bananas. The Great Northern car was in very poor shape cosmetically and the paint had this permanent white haze that I could not get rid of. The Yellow/Green car was just ugly. The cars were placed in the "project cars" box and designated for future repainting. They sat in the box until about two weeks ago when I rediscovered them while looking for something else.
Now I have more than a few of these cars in various paint schemes on the active roster and they receive their fair share of run time. With an eye on keeping the costs down I checked on hand supplies which revealed that the only decent railroad spray paint color I had on hand was a can of Krylon Walnut brown which is a very close match to the Athearn Pennsylvania Railroad brown. A check of in stock decals showed a Microscale Pennsylvania RR diesels decal set. So the PRR won out and the project cars were ready for stripping, cleaning, repainting and decals.

The Great Northern car showing some heavy wear and tear. The car actually looks better in the photo than in person.

Roof and end view prior to stripping

The GN car was also in pretty rough shape on the inside. The metal weight, coupler box covers and wheel axles were extremely rusty. To remove the rust the weight was wire brushed, sanded and then spray painted black to protect against future rust. The coupler boxes were sanded with a fine emery board and painted flat black. Unfortunately I forgot to photograph the green and yellow car prior to stripping the paint. This car had been glued closed so after soaking in 91% alcohol I was able to open it up. The weight and everything else received the same treatment as the GN car.

Upgrades to the cars included Kadee #27 couplers (medium under set shank) and Intermountain 36" metal wheels with their faces painted burnt umber. After paint and decals the cars received a coat of Krylon clear satin. They are now in revenue service.

Here is the newly painted PRR # 1120 on it's maiden voyage.

Here is the newly painted PRR # 2743 on it's maiden voyage.

Head End Traffic on this Pennsylvania passenger train is being handled from left with a smooth side Rivarossi baggage car and 3 fifty foot express reefers PRR #2743, PRR #1120 and PRR #2701. A point to remember with these reefer cars is that they often hauled "dry" shipments as well as "refrigerated" shipments.


     

 

Sunday, August 5, 2012

Al's Victory Service

A new addition to the layout is Al's Victory Service, a Wather's gas station kit. I painted the kit gloss white, added the decals and pencil lines then sprayed it with Testor's dullcote. The doors and four of the gas pumps were painted red. I added some interior detail like the lift, a couple of mechanics, customers in the waiting area with a bench and some appropriate auto repair signs. It was a fun kit to build and detail and is a perfect addition for all of the 8 cylinder muscle cars on the layout. Right now the station resides behind the Alogonquin Hotel.

A mechanic is hard at work on an exhaust pipe in the left bay while another mechanic gets ready to open the hood of the car in the right bay. A waiting customer can be seen sitting on the bench behind the large window waiting room windows

Muscle cars take advantage of the cheap leaded gas 

 A shot from the corner shows the detailed waiting area and the restroom door.

 A closer view inside the garage. Originally I had left the garage doors on but even with all their glass they blocked the interior detail so I opted for the open door look.   

Friday, August 3, 2012

Upper Mainline Track Work Completed

The upper mainline track work on my NYC train layout has finally been completed. The next step is to begin he wiring process for the double track main line. After that the lower level Railway Express Building and track needs to be installed before the upper level can connect to Terminal Yard and the remainder of the layout.

Upper level main line track is ready for wire. Track at upper right will connect to main line to Terminal Yard behind mountain tops at left. This will be done after completion of lower level R.E.A. track work and building which can be seen at lower right. Almost there with so much more to do.

An A-B-A set of PRR C-Liners stand guard on the upper level as the passenger trains call in on the lower level.

Looking at the upper level notice the police car on the left making the turn on two wheels. Looks like a crime scene further up on the left near the building cacross from the C-Liners.

Several freight cars await pick up on the upper level viaduct. It is amazing how they got here when the track does not yet connect to the yard.

Upper level industrial area. 

 Cargill Grain Elevator, Redwing Milling and a Caterpillar sales and regional offices building
 Empire City
 Empire City close up

 Bridge at left will connect upper level with tracks to Terminal Yard.  Upper and Lower mainlines as well as reverse loop track are in place. Track connecting Terminal Yard to lower level is under upper level.    

Close up view of tracks
 R.E.A. tracks are at bottom left.