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Monday, June 21, 2021


Successfully Strung a Span Wire Between Two Electroliers - Without Blowing out the Lamps!

This is a big relief since the brass Electroliers are ground for the 3 volt DC streetlamps AND act as an anchor for the 15 volt AC overhead.

The fear being that the 3 volt LEDs are exposed to the 15 volts running current. But since each have their own power source it doesn't seem to be a problem.

Now that all of the Electroliers are in I would really like to install the span wires between them. The overhead in the intersection is a bit bouncy without them. After the success of a little test rig I have commenced stringing the span wires.

These old wooden temporary poles and span wires can finally be removed. The poles were on the building property line and with them gone now, I can finally get to building the buildings.

Trying something new here.  The rule has been Nickle Silver wire for the contact wire and Phosphor Bronze for the span and pulloff wires.  But for these new span wires I'm trying 30 AWG High Quality Polyurethane Enameled Copper Wire. This wire is softer and much easier to work with. The phosphor bronze I was using just loves to pierce the skin!

I found the Polyurethane Copper Wire much easier for wire wrapping and its easier to straighten than the phosphor bronze.

Hmmm... seeing my wire wrappings up close in photographs I see that my wrappings are kind of loose. I need to work on tightening my wire wrapping skills.

Yes sir! Tighten my wire wrapping skills.


Monday, June 07, 2021

Horsing Around

 Horse Trading and Harnessing

Comparing HO scale harnessed horses and adding duct tape reins. 

After finishing construction of the Berkshire Valley Models Buggy (right) I needed to add a horse. But the horse that Berkshire Valley offers (left) is rather heavily harnessed for such a light buggy. So I looked around at other HO scale harnessed horses.

It wasn't until after I ordered horses from Knuckelduster Miniatures that I noticed that their horses are identical to Berkshire Valley's horses! (They do come in two poses though). So choices are limited. Taking a look at the Jordan Highway Miniatures (out of biz sadly) horses (left) I noticed that they are more lightly harnessed. So I swapped out the horses with the Highway Miniatures Delivery Wagon since heavier harnessed horses would work better with that.

So I painted up the Jordan horse and attached it to the buggy. But after the previous blog post, the lack of reins bothered me. I considered different materials for the reins (thread?, tiny brass or styrene bar?) But as I was repairing a black leather seat with black duct tape it occurred to me this might make for great reins material.

I laid a piece if duct tape on a piece of glass and sliced off a very thin piece.

And stuck it on. The bottom and sides of the duct tape is white, so a little touch-up paint is required. But I really like the leathery look of the duct tape. Note to self: start with the driver and work towards the horse. Its easier to trim the reins at the nose of the horse rather than inside the buggy.

It was a little tricky installing the reins. But it took me longer to write this blog post than it took to install the reins, so... yeah. But I'm pleased with the results. We'll see how this holds up long term.

It occurred to me that duct tape might be a viable way to add harnesses to ho scale farm horses like these from Woodland Scenics. Then we can press these guys into service! (Except for the pony of course - I'm not heartless!)

Then there are also some well done draft horses available on Shapeways. I'll probably give these a try at some point.
So there are some good options out these these days for a variety of harnessed horses.

Yes sir! A good variety of horses these days!


Monday, May 24, 2021

Recolorizing a Berkshire Valley Models Buggy Photo

Build a Berkshire Valley Buggy.  Take Photo of Buggy.  Decolorize Photo of Buggy.  Have AI Recolorize Photo of Buggy.

Artificial Intelligence is getting kind of smart.  I came across a site for colorizing old black and white photographs and I wondered how well it would colorize "old" photos of my layout:

Recolorized. I just finished building this Berkshire Valley Models Buggy in HO scale so I thought it would make a good subject for trying out AI colorizing.

Original Photo. This is the photo I took on the layout. It's interesting to compare it with the AI photo (top). Since I gave the ai a black & white photo (below) it had to guess the colors. It nailed the horse color. It assumed the street was concrete and colored it grey. I kind of like what it did with the brick color. It guessed the mans jacket was red rather than green. And really didn't do much with the yellows.

The black & white photo the ai had to work with. I took the original photo into Photoshop and took out the color and then uploaded the result to the MyHeritage site. And just like the old timey photo tinting studios from back in that day, it had to make educated guesses with the colors.
Interesting results. And I can assume this technology will only get better as time goes on.

Yes sir! The technology will only get better!


Monday, May 10, 2021

Street Track and Overhead Cleaning Part 2 ~ Wet vs Dry

Cleaning the Overhead with a Conductive Contact Cleaner and Keep Alive Decoders to "Track in the Dirt and Track out the Clean".

In the last post I wrote about the tools and cleaners I've tried and the ones I'm actually using. This post I'll address how I'm using them to clean the hard to reach track and overhead.

Car № 107 got its decoder before the availability of KeepAlive decoders. So if the track isn't perfectly clean its lights will flicker.

Some years ago there was a lot a debate over "Wet vs Dry" track. Some of the cleaners (like DeoxIT) conduct electricity so why not just leave the track wet with the stuff? If the track get dirty the trains will still run. While others argue that dry, shiny track is the way to go. Personally I find that starting out wet and working my way towards dry works out best for me.

Attack plan. First of all, I start with a general cleaning of the easy to reach outside loops leaving the hard to reach intersection for last. I'll run a car on a loop and address any stalls or hesitation issues until the loop is running well. Then I'll move on the to next loop until they are all running well. Then its time to attack that intersection!

As you can imagine, the intersection is the last place I want to try to retrieve a stalled streetcar. That overhead wire is like a cage. So clean track and overhead is quite desirable there. Cleaning the track through the overhead with the Double Headed Cotton Swabs is straight forward enough. But that overhead! So to clean it I developed a "trick". Let the cars themselves clean the overhead:

This is where having cars with "Keep Alive" decoders come in handy. First I'll give the capacitors in the decoders time to charge up (~20mins) while they run around the outside loops. Then I'll place a drop of DeoxIT on the contact wire just before the intersection. Then throw the turnout to route the car into the intersection. The pole will collect the DeoxIT and spread it on the wires as it goes through the intersection. The "Keep Alive" will keep the car moving through the dirty overhead until it reaches the clean track of the next loop. Each time the car traverses the intersection the trolley pole collects dirt from the contact wire and then spreads it to the clean contact wire of the outside loops. All I do is keep cleaning the track and contact wire on the easy to reach outside loops. The cars track in the dirt to the outside loops and track out the clean into the intersection. And of course, I'll clean the cars wheels and poles from time to time.

Once the track and overhead is clean enough to run my cars that don't have the "Keep Alive" decoders well I'll begin the process of drying the track. Leaving the track and wires wet with DeoxIT will just collect a thick layer of gunk and when that dries its difficult to get it off. In the photo above, the upper rail is covered with some gunk that the cars tracked in from the intersection. While the lower rail has been polished dry. That dry, polished track and overhead throughout the layout is the ultimate goal.

San Diego Electric Railway wagon outfitted for overhead wire maintenance.
So to recap:

DeoxIT on double ended cotton swabs for a general cleaning of the track and overhead as well as the poles and wheels on the cars.

Let the cars track the DeoxIT around on the rails and overhead until the layout is running smooth.

Use the double ended cotton swabs to begin the process of drying and polishing of the track, overhead, poles and wheels.

The longer the layout runs for the cleaner it gets.

I've been using that method for years. So of course as soon as I write a major blogpost about it a "new" product comes along that's highly recommended. I'm going to give this NO-OX-ID "A Special" a trial and see how it compares to my usual method. If I find significant improvement with it I'll let you know.

Yes Sir! The cleaner it gets!


Monday, April 26, 2021

Street Track and Overhead Cleaning Part 1 ~ What I'm Using.

The BEST way to keep track and overhead clean is to simply run your trains! But oftentimes we need a little extra help to get to that point first.

After spending years trying everything to clean track and overhead, I've seem to have finally settled into a pretty good technique.

As you can imagine, cleaning track under the overhead wires can be quite challenging. But clean track and overhead is imperative for smooth operation. So what to do?

I used to reach under the overhead with a Bright Boy track cleaning pad. But this has proven to be rather destructive, my elbow inevitably bumps a line pole somewhere, slightly bending it enough for the span wire to sag. Unsightly!  And with more and more delicate details being added to the layout, well, my big ol' clumsy paw is just too much. The city now has ordinances against such practice!

The Bright Boy is also too abrasive. It scrapes the paint from the streets revealing the bright white plaster underneath, ruining the realism of the scene. (If I had to do it over again, I would add a grey tint while mixing the paving material (Durham's Water Putty) so if it does chip, it would still have the street color). So at some point I'm going to need to do some touchup painting on the streets- with the overhead in place!

So- except for extreme situations, the Brightboy is out!

So what to do then? Well, one of the benefits of being a member of the Southern California Traction Club are members who have experience of such things.  John McWhirter for one has a great way of cleaning the clubs track and overhead which I have adopted for my own layout:

Double Headed Cotton Swabs. These are perfect for reaching through the overhead to clean the rails. The cotton heads are tightly wound so I'm able to scrub the track without them getting all fuzzed up like Q-Tips do.

Apply drops of the cleaning solution to the ends of the swab for cleaning rails and then apply drops to the sides of the swab to clean the contact wires.
The swabs fit nicely in the girder channel scrubbing the contact surface well.
Slide the side of the swab to clean the contact wire. I'll pinch the wire between my thumb and swab for extra tough spots.

I picked these up at a (now defunct) electronics store, but they are readily available on line. They come in packs of 100 for heap cheap.

For the cleaning solution, DeoxIT works very well for me and seems to be widely available.  Many model train manufacturers also offer track cleaning solutions. A nice property of these contact cleaners are that the solution conducts electricity!

Which brings us to- Wet VS Dry track and overhead. But I'm out of time right now so I'm going to end this here and tackle this subject and the cleaning process with the next post.

Yes sir! Wet VS Dry contact surfaces.


Thursday, April 01, 2021

My Old San Diego Trolley Layout - Part 2

 Happy Fools Day Everyone! Let Us Celebrate this Day With Some More Legerdemain!

This is Part Faux of one of the most popular posts ever on this blog:  My Old San Diego Trolley Layout Part One.

So here are some more pictures of my old, too good to be true layout when I lived on Neverwas Street years ago:

4Pulling in to the Transit Center.  Boy I went through a lot of red paint! Sorry about the crooked photo, its a little tilt shifted. Okay- its a lot tilt shifted!

The "layout" at a glance. Basically a double cross uh- double track loop with some sidings and a small yard with a car house. The numbered arrows correspond with the location of these photographs - more or less.

5. Yards and Car House. A lot of these models are 3d prints from Volkmar Meiers Shapeways shop. Isn't that right Volkmar?

6. Rounding Seaport Village station curve. Why I didn't just paint Seaport Village instead of this parking garage I'll never know. I'm a stickler for realism I guess! I don't know why I painted it right on the wall either!

7. Crossing Broadway past the Power House. Left turn at the bathroom and closet. And beyond credibility.

8. And as the last car zips along private right-of-way and disappears around the bend, we are reminded of this quote by Christian Nestell Bovee:

"No man is happy without a delusion of some kind. Delusions are as necessary to our happiness as realities".

Happy April Fools Day everyone!

Yes Sir! Happy Fools!

Monday, March 29, 2021

Turnouts Turnouting

 These were snap switches for so long that its actually nice to watch them throw in a more prototypical fashion:

This animated GIF is a large file, give it a moment to load

Yes sir! 

Nice to watch.