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Monday, December 28, 2009

Seasons Greetings!...

...and a happy strands of LEDs on sale for cheap for all your modeling lighting needs time of year!

I picked up a strand of 70 warm white LED's for like $5. That's less than 8 cents per LED!


Monday, November 30, 2009

Tour the Southern California Traction Club

The SCTC displayed it's HO trolley modules setup at the NMRA L.A. Division meet at the South Coast Botanical Garden in Palos Verdes CA a couple weeks ago. This is my first show with the club. I pretty much spent the entire time video taping the layout in action, amassing about an hours worth of video. I was able to distill that video down to about 8 minutes for your viewing pleasure:

The Southern California Traction Club modules feature spectacular cityscapes, fully detailed scenes, long mainline running, multiple trolleys operating from live overhead, and a whole lot more. So sit back and enjoy the ride. Yes sir! Enjoy the ride!


Monday, November 23, 2009

Niles Project ~ Headlight and Retrievers

Apparently, in the early days of trolleys, headlights were not standard equipment.

Since nighttime photographs were difficult and therefore rare, no photographs in my collection depict any of the Niles cars with headlights. For years I figured that either the cars didn't run at night, or they ran without headlights. But studying my collection closer reveals:

1. A bracket. And some wear and tear just above it. It could very well have been a headlight bracket and that it was often used.

2. A builders illustration including a headlight. It also depicts how the headlight sits low and rests on the front bumper (?).

3. Historical conformation of just such an arrangement. Pacific Electric 1001, which still exists today, sports a same sort headlamp. It fits onto a braket and you can see how a cord extends from it and has to be plugged in.

Precision Scale Co. Incandescent Headlamp For Interurban Cars #31004 seems to fit the bill quite nicely. The sprue on the back has to be cut off and then I filed the back for a good fit on the car. While I'm at it, I'll add the retriever fabricated from a 3/64" brass rod.

So now we are good to go with some night time running. Yes sir! We're good to go!


Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Birney Project ~ Boom! Boom! Out go the lights!

Dammit! My worst fear has come to pass. I blew out all the light bulbs. F!

Deciding to take the plunge into the world of DCC, I managed to blow out all 10 light bulbs. I thought it was going to be a simple matter of replacing the Utah Pacific Constant Lighting Unit with a decoder. But no. Apparently a resistor is needed between the bulbs and decoder. The total rating of the bulbs have to be under 100 millowatts and how bright the lights shine depends on the resistor. The size resistor needed can be determined from the website of the manufacturer of the decoder, but not on the instructions that come with the decoder. I didn't know that so... pffft! Blown bulbs.

This disaster blew the wind out of my sails. I focused on other aspects of life for a while. Then, after a sufficient time of pouting, I'm back. Birney has been disassembled, blown bulbs ripped out, and new bulbs installed.

Sorry about the lack of posts for a while, but I'm back on track now. Yes sir! Back on track!


Monday, October 19, 2009

Birney Project ~ Hold Down Hooks

Fabricating New Trolley Pole Hold Down Hooks For The Birney.

Trolley poles pointing downward is a bad thing. The hold down hooks are too short. So I'm going to fabricate some new hooks that are taller and more prototypically correct.

Using a cutoff disk on a Dremel, I cut off the old hooks.

Since the trolley poles are wired to the leads of the motor, the hooks need to conduct electricity from the brass body of the car to the pole. So I had to remove paint from where the hooks will be soldered to the car.

To fabricate the hold down hooks, I started with .010" x .030" brass bar stock folded in half.

Using a nail (I found a nail that was the same diameter of the old hook loop) I looped the brass around getting a nice curve by using pliers and a screwdriver to work the brass into shape.

Add a reverse curve in the brass so that the apex of the loop is in line with the main shaft of the hook. Solder only the loop, the reverse curve and part of the neck together.

Then bend the legs out and fold in the feet that will be soldered to the base. The hook assembly is now done.

Solder the hook assembly to the roof boards and trim the feet. Give it a tug to confirm a good connection. Now its time to paint the hooks and while I'm at it, I'm going to right a wrong...
Roof boards were never the same color as the roof. Roofs were usually of canvas or thin sheet metal, so you don't want to step on it or you'll fall right through or bend the heck out of it. So roof boards were installed so that workmen maintaining the cars could stand on the roof without damaging it. They were usually made of wood and were painted a contrasting color so the workmen could see where to step out of their peripheral vision. My hands are pretty steady, but not at this tiny scale. So I masked off around the boards.
Brushed on some Scalecoat Roof Brown on the boards and painted the hooks black. Some weathering will kill the shine on the boards.

Now that's more like it! The car looks much better and the horizontal poles are getting a much better electrical contact with the hooks now. Storing the car with poles on help keep the connection from oxidizing. Got to do everything you can to keep good electrical connections throughout if you want to keep them doggies rollin'. Yes sir! Keep them doggies rollin'!


Monday, October 05, 2009

Niles Project ~ Turn the Seats Around

Turning The Seats on Suydams' Niles Cars So That They All Face Forward.

George Huckaby of the Southern California Traction Club picked up one of my Niles cars and said "You know what people never do with these cars is change the seats so that... oh! You did it! You changed the seats so they all face forward!"

Suydam, for whatever reason, positioned the seats so that they face the ends. Since my cars are going to be working cars, I want them all to face the same direction, like the real deal did.

The seats pop off easily with the pry of a knife. I found this out after spending a lot of time and butane trying to de-solder them. Everything else was coming unsoldered but the dang seats! Turns out they're glued on. So... yeah, pop them off with a knife.

Next, I soldered the seats back on so that they all face the same direction (though I could have epoxied them on, that would have been faster), being careful that the seats line up with the windows and clear the side wall of the shell.

So! Now that I have everyone facing forward, lets move forward, Yes sir! Let's move forward!


Monday, September 28, 2009

Niles Project ~ Make that Four!

Another Niles Car Joins the Roster!

I came into possession of another Niles car. That makes four, two more and I'd have the entire SDERy roster of Niles cars (which I don't think I'll do)! Hollywood Foundry is going to make a mint off of me!

Car #110
Sight Seeing Car:

This car will be painted Chocolate Brown (Floquil Roof Brown is a ringer for this) with either silver or gold lettering (I got to find out which).

I'm excited about this purchase, but now I have a whole bunch more work ahead of me. Yes sir! A whole bunch of more work to do!


Tuesday, September 22, 2009

3rd Dandyversary

Three years and smellin' strong!

Boomin' along here! It's been a good year for this blog. This blog is now attracting crowds averaging 4.12 people a day! (That .12 guy is okay but those other 4 guys scare me). The biggest draw? Well, according to Google analytics the #1 search term that lead people to this blog is... "bending wood". And to those people, I truly apologize. I'm not exactly an expert carpenter. Oh! And let me tell you about the revenue stream from ads... averaging .5 cents a day its not exactly a stream. More like the dry wash near my house. A tumble weed blows through occasionally. Yes sir! This blog is the envy of cyberspacemen everywhere.

But to you, my loyal followers, I hope that you do derive some sort of value from this train wreck of a blog. Even if you are laughing at me rather than with me. If your learning from the stupid mistakes I'm making here, then the world is a better place. I have made a difference.

In all truthfulness, I'm actually having a blast maintaining this blog (and my happiness is whats really important, right? Right). I find that feeding the ferocious appetite of this blog keeps me focused and moving forward on my projects. Which is good, cuz I've got a lot to do if I want to get anywhere near completing this layout to the ridiculous standards I have set for it.
In addition, the fact that, according to Google analytics, the second most common search term that lead people to this site is "painting brass" is encouraging. To those people. I hope you found what you were looking for. I hope to hit on more useful topics in the future.
Finally, ad revenue. I have a couple of ads here and there. I try to prevent them from being overpowering. Hopefully they will compliment the content and provide a link to materials related to my articles. The money from ad revenue (of which I have received ziltch to date) will be put back into this blog to make it bigger, better, stronger, more entertaining and useful. And maybe a swimming pool.
So rest assured that more good stuff is on the way, I don't intend on stopping any time soon. This next year is looking good, the Niles project is well underway and is going well. I have a YouTube account set up so that I can start adding videos to this blog. And I'm learning a ton from they guys at the Southern California Traction Club that I intend to share with you on this site. So here's to a great big beautiful tomorrow! Yes sir! A great big beautiful tomorrow.


Monday, September 14, 2009

Niles Project ~ Turning Radius

The Factors That Limit The Turning Radius Of The Suydam Niles Cars.

Previously I mentioned that there were a couple of factors that limit the turning radius of the trucks. Here is an illustration of that:

The side frame of the truck on the left is contacting the motor. Hopefully the new BullAnt motor will eliminate this problem. While the truck on the right, the drive shaft is contacting the wheel (or gear when rotated the other way). There isn't a whole lot I can do about that. Fortunately, this truck has a tighter turning radius than the other.

So with the new turning radius of the left truck and the possibly already sufficient turning radius of the right truck, hopefully this car will get around my curves. I'll have to keep my fingers crossed. Yes sir! Keep my fingers crossed!


Monday, September 07, 2009

Niles Project ~ De-PE'd

Re-San Diegoifying Suydam Niles Cars by Removing their Pacific Electric Details

These Suydam cars are a hybrid between the San Diego details and Pacific Electric details. The trolley poll positions are correct for San Diego, but the trucks and a couple of details are PE.

The signboard and retriever are really the only things that need to be removed. The Point Loma car (on the left) had a different pilot, so I removed that too. As you can also see on the Point Loma car, the removal of the signboard left a mounting slot and holes on the roof.

To fill in this slot, I used Squadron white modeling putty. Its readily available, really easy to use, and dries fast. I simply squeezed a small amount out onto a piece of card and applyed with a small screwdriver. After it dried I sanded it down flush.

As for the trucks... In San Diego the cars had a 6 foot wheel base while the model sports the PE 5'4" wheelbase with 30" wheels. I'm afraid that if I go with the longer wheelbase, it might jeopardize the turning radius that the car can make. As-is, the trucks are making contact with the motor on my curves. The new BullAnt motor should eliminate this problem, but the drive shaft from the motor to the truck is what is going to limit its turning ability now. Another factor as to whether or not to change the trucks is if the side frames are available commercially. Because if they're not...

Well, the tearing down of these cars went easy enough, a lot easier than the Birney! Now its time to build them up. So far this project is moving along just fine. Yes sir! Moving along just fine!


Monday, August 24, 2009

Niles Project ~ The Grand Plan

The Three Prototype Cars That These Models Will Represent.

Overall the cars will look the same. They will all be painted San Diego Electric Railway mission yellow with mahogany trim (Apparently the SDERy shops did all the painting for the various traction companies around San Diego). The only thing different will be the lettering schemes. Each car will represent the different company names that they ran under in San Diego.

Car #107
San Diego & South Eastern
(Monogram style) :

This model will become SD&SE #107 (I have other plans for #105. See below) with the nice monogram logo on the sides.

Car #109
Point Loma Railroad:

This model volunteered to become the Point Loma car when it lost it pilot! Originally I was going to go with the 402 number, but I have since decided to use its original number to help separate it from the SDERy class 5, 400 series cars that would come later.

Car #105
San Diego & South Eastern
(Wells Fargo style) :

Okay, I'm going to use a little modelers license here. #105 didn't become a combination car until it was in the hands of the PE. But I'm going to do a "what if". SD&SE #101 (non-Niles car pictured above) was involved in an accident and was rebuilt into a combination car. But "what if" it was #105 that was in the accident instead? I'm mean, why not? It became a combo car eventually.

So that's the big plan for these cars. I think its a good plan. Yes sir! It's a good plan!


Monday, August 17, 2009

SDERy Niles Cars

With their signature arched windows (even the clerestory windows were arched!), cars built by the Niles Car & Manufacturing Co. were actually a rarity in Southern California. But six of them, built in the "California Car" style with an enclosed "all weather" section in the center and two open sections on the ends to take advantage of the fair southern California weather, did manage to make their way here.

The National City & Otay Railway, in 1908, ordered the six cars from Niles, numbered 105 - 110, to run on the 13 mile electric portion of NC&O's steam line from San Diego south to National City, Chula Vista and eventually Otay. Before the company took possession of the cars, the NC&O and Coronado Railroad were consolidated to become the San Diego Southern Railway.
Cars 105, 106 and 107 were retained by the San Diego Southern, but cars 108, 109 and 110 went to the Point Loma Railroad Co. The Point Loma line came under control of the San Diego Electric between 1909 and 1910, who changed the cars numbers to 401, 402 and 400 respectively. The numbers weren't changed on the cars themselves until 1911.

Around 1910, the Point Loma Railroad had car 110 repainted a chocolate brown and it became a very popular Sight Seeing Car. It ran over much of the San Diego Electrics lines, far from Point Loma.

The San Diego Southern lasted only a short 4 years before merging with the San Diego & Cuyamaca Railway to become the San Diego & South Eastern Railway in 1912. Note the nifty SD&SE monogram on car 105 (above). Car 105 would last the longest of the six. By 1915, San Diego Electric decided that their class 2 cars were more economical than the big interurbans and so retired the Niles cars.

All of the Niles cars were sold to the Pacific Electric in 1918. PE renumbered them 413- 418. Then 413 (ol' #105) was renumbered to 419, and ran under that number until 1933, when the other Niles cars were scrapped. 419 for whatever reason was spared and swapped numbers with PE 474.

Pacific Electrics spec sheet for the Niles cars.

#474 was spared yet again when it was rebuilt by the Pacific Electric as express car #1300. Car #1300 (old #474, and older #419, and yet older #413, and originally #105) was finally scrapped in 1941.

In 1970, Suydam imported HO scale brass models of PE 414 and PE 13oo Niles cars. Of which I have three. I think its time to get these trolleys tricked out next. Yessir! Tricked out trolleys!

Monday, August 10, 2009

The Three Niles Cars

My Next Victims! Bwahahahahaha!

The first of these cars (the center one with all the tarnish) I bought some 25 years ago (good lord how time flies!!!)!!! But despite my best efforts and determination, I could never get it to run properly. I wired it for overhead. I made modifications so that it could take tighter radius curves. But it still ran way to fast and jerky. I later discovered that a gear was slipping. How on earth do I fix that?! So it languished, not a favorite of mine.

In the mean time, I collected the other two knowing that someday, I will have the skills and know-how to get these cars running finely.

Well, that someday is finally here. With the recent advent of the BullAnt Loboy trucks and the success of my Birney car, I think the time is right to finally get these cars built out once and for all. Yes sir! Get 'em built out once and for all!


Tuesday, July 21, 2009

San Diego Electric Railway Birney #301

Modeled from a Brass H.O. scale Ken Kidder Birney car.

I wanted to see what it would take to completely "trick out" a brass trolley model from top to bottom. With full details inside and out, a fine motor and gearing, lights, paint and decals. A streetcar that runs every bit as good as it looks.

Well let me tell you... it took a LOT! But after a year of tinkering and futzing, I think I have finally produced a trolley model I wouldn't kick under the table:

Compare to the prototype photo of SDERy #301 that I worked from.

This is what I started with. An eBay basket case birney just begging to be rebuilt.

So, in a nutshell, this is what was involved in rebuilding this little guy:

But If you want a more detailed play-by-play of its construction, here is the table of contents for this project:

Table of Contents

1. Sizing up the Ken Kidder Birney for rebuilding into SDERy #301

2. Stripping off the old paint

3. Opening up the Destination Signs

4. Drilling out the Marker Lamps

5. Opening the Windows

6. Fabricating Marker Lamp Holders

7. Sizing up the BullAnt Drive Mechanism

8. Installing the BullAnt

9. Fabricating the Seats

10. Installing the Seats

11. Painting and Detailing the Seats

12. Final Brasswork

13. Painting

14. Fabricating the Route Number Box

15. Installing the Trolley Poles

16. Disaster Strikes!

17. Wiring for Trolley Pole Reverse

18. Making the Decals

19. Applying the Decals

20. Weathering

21. Window Glass I

22. #301 Visits the Southern California Traction Club

23. Prototype SDERy Birney Survives!

24. Hold Down Hooks

25. Out Go The Lights!

26. Going DCC

27. Installing The Decoder

28. Phun With Fysics

29. Adding Weights

30. Window Glass II

31. Test Run

32. Inaugural Run

33. Short and Sweet

EDIT: The content below has since been addressed. SDERy Birney #301 is Done! Done Done! Huzzah!

It was important to me to be able to say "This Birney is DONE" without following it with "except for...". Well... as originally planned it IS done. Though I wasn't able to follow through on the side window glass yet. But I am hard pressed to see any evidence of glass in the prototype photo. I can see glass in transom over the windows, but not in the windows themselves.

Additionally, I have been talking with George Huckaby of the Southern California Traction Club about this model and he had some ideas for improving it.

One would be to build new pole hold down hooks so that the poles are horizontal when down, as opposed to pointing downward as they are now. Pointing down = bad, horizontal = good. This would also improve the electrical connection between the pole and the hook.

George has also talked me into the possibility of adding a DCC decoder to this model. I thought the Birney would be too small for a decoder, but the TCS M1 decoder is looking like a really good candidate. Its for N scale that can also work in H.O.! It will also solve the lights not lighting issue!

So for the most part, SDERy Birney #301 is DONE! But look for improvements in the future.

And there you have it. What it takes to build one "tricked out trolley". Yessir! One tricked out trolley!

Tuesday, June 30, 2009

#301 Visits The Southern California Traction Club!

The Southern California Traction Club set up their fantastic modules at the Orange Empire Railway Museum over the Fathers Day weekend.

I brought along #301 to show to them and ask general questions about traction modeling. The members were immediately taken with the model and put it on their track. It was the first time I've ever seen the trolley run! Pretty darn exciting.

Above, #301 passes by the SCTC car yards. Displayed in their yards are the pre-production models of the San Fransisco "F Line" PCC Streetcars by Bowser. SCTC was instrumental in the development of these models. George Huckaby’s “Hollywood” car 717 stands ready on the curve. George Huckaby photo.

Three things were immediately apparent about the Birney. One, it runs really slow! I might have overdone the 30:1 gear ratio a bit. Second, the motor/gears are really noisy. But the club members assured me that all that will quiet down as the car is broken in. And third, as I suspected, the lights didn't light. But over all the car performed really well. My thanks goes out to the SCTC for indulging me like that.

I am really impressed with the clubs modeling. The long straightaways obtainable by lining up the modules look like they go on forever.

The clubs modular layout is about at its limit with how much bigger it can get. So now they are concentrating on detailing the scenes.

Impressive. So impressive in fact, I joined the club! That's right, I am club member #13. Yessir! Southern California Traction Club member #13!