Empire Belt RR ALcos

Empire Belt RR ALcos
Custom Painted FA / FB Units

Monday, November 30, 2015

Upgrading a Bachmann 89' Tri-Level Auto Transporter

Greetings All,

This past week the N.Y.C.T.L. Purchasing Department successfully procured a used good condition Bachmann Penn Central 89' Tri-Level Auto Transporter (Auto Rack) with 14 of the original 15 cars included in the box. The purchase order stemmed from my October entries regarding Automobile Industry Traffic on the New York Central see here:

Of particular interest during this research were New York Central Trains ML-12 and ML-9. Thanks to the fine work of Emery Gulash I was able to view these trains on the New York Central Odyssey and Penn Central Green Frog DVDs. Spurred on by the DVDs the N.Y.C.T.L. mechanical and paint  shops went on an improvement program of the Bachmann 89' Tri-Level Auto Racks that I had owned for 15 years and ran maybe a handful of times. See here for that blog entry

That brings us to our current project, the upgrading of this newest auto rack to join the fleet. Follow along for the step by step process used to get this car mechanically layout ready.

The project car as purchased

The Bachmann car shown above was made in Hong Kong and sported a long X2f coupler which was different from the other Bachmann Auto Racks I have. Those had a long tongue on the truck that used a standard sized coupler which was held in place by a small screw. Some ingenuity was going to be required here. I considered body mounting the couplers but the 89' length and 24" radius curves made me apprehensive to do this. I wanted to talgo mount the couplers similar to the other 89' auto racks in my fleet.
Kadee's longest couplers were too short. Enter the McHenry #MCH53. These long couplers were just a bit longer that the horn hook couplers currently on tje model. It looked like I had enough room to screw the coupler further back on the talgo mount.

A horn hook coupler and truck assembly to the left. A McHenty 53 knuckle coupler mounted on the truck on the right. 

A view from the bottom of the trucks

The coupler box lids were removed. The center pins and coupler box was carefully cut off and the mounting area was sanded smooth. The McHenry couplers have two ridges on the bottom and these were sanded smooth as well.  

The newly installed coupler and truck have been attached with a screw eliminating the press pins

The proof is in the pudding or in this case the Kadee Height Gauge. 

Testing the new auto rack with the original Bachmann PC auto rack.
Note the Hong King car's version of jade green is a shade different.
The GP30 shoved the two auto racks around a 22" radius curve without

Now off to the paint shop to paint over the yellow railings and ramps.

Thursday, November 26, 2015

A Train Day for the Ages!

Happy Thanksgiving All,

Every now and then the stars line up and all is right in our model train worlds. I'm happy to report that this happened to me last weekend. This entry is a bit longer than normal and I wanted to make into two parts but to fully enjoy the scope of the Train Day for the Ages and do it justice this is the best way for me to present it.

Last weekend I attended the Greenberg Train Show at the Cobb Galleria in Atlanta with my friend Engineer Ed. This year's show was a rousing success for us both and we both left with our arms laden with bags of trains and train related items that we absolutely positively could not live without. As with all train shows there were some good deals and there were some items with price tags so high that I must gave missed out on something.

After the show and a bite to eat Engineer Ed and I enjoyed a nice operating session on the N.Y.C.T.L. We ran several trains, made up some outbound freights and spotted and pulled cars from numerous industries. Derailments were few and there were no injuries to railroad personnel or civilians.

Here are some pictures of the latest must haves that I now have  

The train show haul

The best purchase for me was this Penn Central set of DVDs. Four DVDs, all six volumes and a bonus hour of PRR action. The timetable to the left was given to me for free by a vendor. Note it is the Penn Central New Haven Region dated February 2, 1969.  

A Bachmann Penn Central 89' Tri Level Auto Rack in very good condition
 but missing one of the fifteen cars.

An Athearn BB NYC bay window caboose with no numbers. I have several of these in my fleet so a I would be looking to renumber it anyway. I don't think the NYC actually had this style of bay window caboose but it good enough for the N.Y.C.T.L. 

An Athearn 50' Express reefer with knuckle couplers and metal wheels. The reporting marks are CMSTP&P, Chicago, Milwaukee, St Paul and Pacific, the proper name for the Milwaukee Road known under reporting marks MILW. I don't know if this is a ready to run car or custom built and painted. The coupler box lids were the traditional BB metal but theses were also held on with screws. A red Kadee fiber washer to eliminate coupler sag and some Testors dullcote were all that was needed to get this car in service 

Two Roundhouse 40' New Haven boxcars with different numbers.

Three Bachmann 50' boxcars for future projects.

Kadee #37s, underset medium shank. These work great on a lot of the BB cars. Instead of adding a bunch of washers to the bolsters to raise the car height so the couplers meet the Kadee height gauge I use these. The #27 works just as well but costs a little more. 

Ol Reliable Kadee#5

Post op session photos

Prior to the session I downloaded and printed some switch lists. Using clipboards and pencils I filled these out prior to the session hoping to make the session go smoother and feel more realistic. This would be the first time using this type of forms.  

A close up shows the form was for the Lehigh Valley Railroad. I fit two such forms on a single piece of paper and just folded the paper over. I wrote in the cars at industries we would be switching in order of the anticipated switch moves. Pick ups were listed at the top, drop offs were listed on the bottom. A car type legend is also on the bottom of the form.

To make up some outbound trains in Terminal Yard / Staging I put together train cards for each train. Cars were blocked for their respective destinations. In doing this I just took numbers from cars already in the yard and decided where they needed to go. Blocking assignments were figured out and writing it all down definitely helped me put these trains together    

The North Side at the conclusion of the session. An inbound freight has arrived and the road power, the ALCO FAs have been cut off and placed on track 1 for fueling. The yard power and local engines were the GP30s

Engineer Ed did a fine job keeping the yard fluid all afternoon. Freight cars are blocked for local industries and points beyond the layout. This is how we basically started the session. E.E. broke up the inbound into two trains, one for the local industries paying close attention to the freight car blocking and one to to go outbound. Once he pulled and spotted cars at the local industries the pulled cars were placed into the outbound train.    

On the East side of town Gervais Pipe and Fitting got four flat cars of pipe and Cargill received two covered hoppers.

United Technology received four 40' boxcars.

Over on the West Side Superior Furniture received two 40' boxcars. 
(I really need to get an interior in this building!)

Reliable Machine works received one 40' boxcar

Over on the shelf side we switched out Wonder Bread. 
The B&O boxcar was a hold so it had to be pulled and replaced.

Four 50' boxcars to University Lumber and Millwork to the left 
and two 50' boxcars to Berk Enterprises on the right.

Heileman Brewery received the NH car on the left at door#1 and the NYC car at door #2. The NYC cars at doors 3 and 4 were holds that needed to be pulled and re spotted. All these cars were from Train #1 that I made up with the blocked cars in Terminal Yard. The outbound cars were taken on a scenic ride back to Terminal Yard / Staging.
There's that cat in the car again! I move it around on the layout and it always seem to pop up when I report getting prototypical and serious. 

Terminal Yard / Staging has inbound trains on the right, various freight cars in the middle and two passenger trains on the left. This was at the end of the session. Yard power is the ALCO RS1 in the middle.

GP20s on the point of an arriving train.

An A-B-A- NYC F7 lash up brought in the train from North Side yard. The turnouts on the right connecting tracks 1 and 2 are for locomotive escape. This train was so long that the yard power will have to pull the caboose and a car from the rear so the road power can escape without fouling the yard lead. The tracks beyond the turnout on track 2 is where I keep the cabooses. Building out bounds on track 2 lets me couple up the train with a caboose ready at the rear. Not prototypical but it works well on the N.Y.C.T.L.

Yard Power sits on track six. The cleaning car and caboose were used as handles and for the ground crew. Cleaning the track while switching the cars worked well.   

After Action Report
#1. The time spent on preparing the switch lists and train cards turned out to be time well spent. I really liked the way they worked out and would definitely use them again. Car cards and waybills may be in the future as well.

#2 The operating sequence seemed to work well. For additional switching action at North Side Yard I might incorporate a "blocking sequence" into that outbound train as described in op session photo#5. This would add some more time and action for the N.S.Y. switch crew but that may be an enjoyable thing. We'll give it a try next time.

#3 A DC Controller gave us some problems during the course of the day. That will be replaced before op session #3.

#4 Andy Sperandeo was right when he said that yards work best at about half of their capacity. North Side Yard and Terminal Yard performed well following this advice.

#5 Making up trains in Terminal Yard / Staging was a lot of fun. The blocking of cars destined for the local industries and for points beyond gave the train a nice prototype feel. The "points beyond" worked well. When the outbound cars were added this made for a substantial 20 plus car train.

Thanks for taking the time to read this post through to the end. I know it was a lot of material to sift through but it was that kind of day. Special thanks to Engineer Ed for his fine work and companionship.

Happy Thanksgiving All    

Saturday, November 21, 2015

Thanksgiving Holiday Mail, Express and Passenger Surge

Greetings All,

Another Thanksgiving is closing in on us fast. On the New York Central Train Layout this means increased 1/87th scale mail, express and passenger traffic on already crowded trains. To cope with the holiday traffic surge the N.Y.C.T.L. has once again placed in service some of it's older stored locomotives, added extra trains and added additional equipment to existing scheduled trains. Let's take a look and see some of the increased rail action.

New York Central ALCO PA and PB pressed into service to handle a heavyweight passenger train with numerous head end cars of mail and express packages. 

A nice shot of the PB and first head end car, a NYC express reefer

Head end cars abound on this train of heavyweight cars 

An RPO and baggage car in the NYC Pullman green paint scheme.

NYC ALCO PA 4211 is out of storage and assigned a train of lightweight corrugated side passenger cars.

The ALCO PAs meet up as they enter and leave Empire City Station. A and B units are Athearn Blue Box units. The A-B consist on the right has the older metal side frames and gear towers. They were refitted with the newer gold flywheel Athearn motors several years ago. They do look quite nice in an A-B-A lash up

The BIG Es! NYC 4040 and 4088 lead a long string of HW and LW cars with a nice bit of head end traffic.
These are straight DC P-2000 models. 
They are the pride of the NYCTL passenger fleet

A compilation of the action

Saturday, November 14, 2015

The Numbers Game

Greetings All,

Some recent events are the inspiration for this week's blog entry. As I move my layout era from late New York Central to early Penn Central and back I have learned that all is not as it appears to be. With the merger of the New York Central and Pennsylvania Railroads there was a little thing like sorting out the numbering of the soon to be 4,000 plus locomotives (1,802 NYC and 2,277 PRR) that the PC would inherit.  A minor item that I paid absolutely no mind to for a very long time. In fact much of my early custom painted New York Central units bear no numerical resemblance to their NYC prototype counter parts. In the early paint jobs I did not pay particular attention to the locomotive numbers. But as my knowledge about the NYC and PC grew and I found more and more resources to access I learned more and more about the prototype numbering. Just ask PC Ralph. He can testify to the amount of unsolicited help I provided (annoyed) him with on this matter. Thankfully he's a nice guy and still communicates with me.

1969 is one of my favorite years for many reasons. I want to model the NYC because I lived in NY and it had a glorious history. But in 1969 the NYC was no more. Sure there was plenty of NYC equipment in NYC colors still roaming the rails so I would combine my NYC fleet, my oldest son's PRR fleet and my NH fleet into one huge railroad called the Penn Central. I figured I'd just run all three together and call it the early Penn Central with a colorful mix and match of the three predecessors. Perfect! Well maybe not so perfect. First their is the lightning stripe issue which is quite obvious at an immediate glance. Secondly the reclassification and renumbering of the PRR-NYC units leading up to the merger was totally overlooked and never given a thought. Thirdly what units from the NYC - PRR and NH actually made into the PC?

So looking back on the many modeling projects I have done. Some with accurate numbers and some not I've come to conclusion that the numbers matter only as much as I want them to. Admittedly I cannot look at a lightning stripe NYC unit and consider it part of an early PC consist. Not happening. Some of the inaccurate numbering on my NYC units don't bother me all that much either. I respect those who follow a strict prototype accuracy in all their modeling endeavors as I have learned this takes a lot of work not only on the research but on the models as well. As my own knowledge increases I do try to stay within the prototype numbering ranges but I may number outside the lines once in awhile. Especially in the case of fantasy units that neither the NYC, PRR, NH or PC ever owned but that I have in model form.

Let's take a look at some old project photos and apply some of our new numbers knowledge.  

The EMD GP7s of both the NYC and PRR were numbered into the NYC's 5600-5900 series as the NYC had the most GP7s. Custom painted Athearn BB NYC GP7s 412 and 505 wear a modified NYC paint scheme. These units should be considered  a fantasy scheme as the lettering, emblems and numbers do not match the prototype. To me they look fine as is and I'm not losing any sleep over it (at this time anyway) 

The PC EMD GP9 renumbering centered around the PRR's 7000 numbering range with the 7500 series indicating passenger equipped units. New Haven GP9 #1218 shows it's dynamic brake and passenger train equipment. The New Haven contributed 30 GP9s to the Penn Central in 1969. The 1218 would be numbered 7548 upon it's arrival to the Penn Central  

Speaking of the New Haven here are two Athearn BB F7A units that I refurbished in 2011. I touched up the paint, added new numbers, cleaned them up and added draw bar to couple the two back to back. Both units were originally numbered 0272. The 0 was used early to eliminate number confusion among the steam fleet and the new diesels. So using 210 and 215 looked like a pretty good idea. Turns out the 215 was an electric locomotive called an EY2 according to the Fallen Flags website. OK, no big deal. After awhile I learned that the New Haven did not roster any F7s either. They were not big EMD buyers at all except for the FL9s and some GP9s the NH was pretty loyal to ALCO, FM and GE. Oh well....

NYC EMD E8A #4020 in the the NYC cigar band scheme. This is an accurate paint and number for this unit. The PC E7s and E8s were numbered into the NYC 4000 series topping off at #4319. The 4020 would be renumbered 255 after being acquired by Amtrak.

PC E7A 4210 appears to be a correct;y painted PC unit. This would be former PRR 5850.

Penn Central E8A 4317 looked to be correctly painted until today. New information has uncovered photos of this unit with the "PENN CENTRAL" placed higher on the car body between the rear two portholes. I researched the PC E8s prior to painting and until today thought this was correct.
New knowledge and old models...

A mixed bag of EMD GP30 motive power showing two units in NYC paint, a PC unit and a unit in PRR livery. The NYC purchased 10 GP30s numbered 6115 - 6124. They were later renumbered 2188 - 2197 for the merger. Then PRR owned 52 GP30s and only two were renumbered, PRR 2250-2251 became 2198 and 2199. The NYC units did not have dynamic brakes but the the PRR units did. On the GP30 the units looked the same with or without the dynamic brake feature. My NYC units show a 2700 and 2600 series numbering. Close but no cigar!

Penn Central 2232 sports the red "P" that was applied to some PC units early in the merger. This unit is accurately painted with number and logo. However it is accurate for only a few years as the 2232 was repainted with the traditional white PC prior to the Conrail takeover. 

The FA1-FB1-FB1-FA1 project was formulated to provide car body cigar band motive power for the late NYC and early PC. The painting and numbering was researched and is accurate for these units. However additional information revealed that only one NYC FA1, #1009, renumbered to PC 1309, made it to the PC. All others had been retired. Dang!  

The cigar band ALCO consist rolls towards North Side Yard with FA1 1012 in the lead. 
These units run so well they are constantly given priority freight assignments regardless of era.

Terminal Yard showing some PC power in the proper numbers. SD40 6282, GP40 3180 and 3175 sporting the very rare orange C 

PC GP35s 2252 and 2327 are both painted in accurate PC schemes and both had dynamic brakes. Whew! These were projects that luckily turned out to be accurate. Note the very early layout photo

The SD35 -SD9 -SD35 paint project resulted in the SD35s in correct paint and the SD9 with a small PC. The prototype 6922 sported the big PC emblem.  

NYC GP20 2103 has been renumbered into the 2100 series for the Penn Central merger. The NYC contributed the 13 GP20s to the PC roster. The numbers are in the big PC style. The prototype had the smaller NYC numbers.

The NYC purchased 15 GP20s and the NYCTL has 3 of them on the roster, 2103, 6107 and 6109.
These are great running P-2000 units and they are given top line assignments.
As luck would have it NYC GP20 #6109, second in consist, was built in August 1961.
 And it was wrecked in December 1963! 
This numbers knowledge is killing me!

In conclusion I found the numbers game is constantly changing for me. On the one hand it's nice to have accurately painted models and find prototype photos of them and to learn of their history. On the other hand for me obsessing over the topic gives me a headache. In the end I'm painting and running toy trains on a toy train fictional layout no matter how accurate or inaccurate the numbers or whether or not the prototype had such units. If they look good then they are good. I'm having fun with the hobby and that's what matters most in a hobby. That's my story and I'm sticking to it.