Tuesday, October 2, 2018

Model Railroader Calendar 2019

You might want to pick up the Model Railroader Calendar 2019. March is a photo of my soon to be disassembled and replaced N scale layout featuring the Palm River Bridge in Tampa. You can see all the months in the image below; Rod Stewart has the June image.

Get it here: 
Model Railroader 2019 Calendar

South Central Florida Express (SCFE) GP16 Intermountain

Even though it is HO scale, I'm tempted to buy one of these South Central Florida Express (SCFE) GP16 models by Intermountain when they become available...to do some Florida sugarcane modeling...maybe make a little HO SCFE switching layout.

Friday, June 29, 2018

N Scale Flex Track Comparison Guide

Here is a breakdown of the main N scale flex track options available as well as some other options. I personally most often use Micro-Engineering code 55, not because it is perfect but because it has the most features I want relative to what is available. Recently, I’ve started using Central Valley Model Works (CVMW) N Code 55 Curvable Mainline Ties with Micro-Engineering code 55 rail when appropriate. CVMW ties are pretty much the best bet available currently for nice looking N scale track. I’d probably use Peco code 55 if the tie spacing was prototypical for the United States. Atlas code 55 is nice but the spikes cause issues with some of my older locomotives. The ideal track for me would be code 40 Peco style track (where the rail is actually code 80 but half of it is embedded in the ties and thus very sturdy) with prototypical US tie spacing, prototypical tie width, and small spikes. Kato Unitrack is also nice track just not very prototypical. I like to use Kato Unitrack for hidden track when appropriate and practical. If Kato made code 55 Unitrack with prototypical US tie spacing and spikes plus also left the ballast off the roadbed allowing users to paint the track and apply their own ballast I’d likely use a lot more Unitrack than I do. At the very least, I’d use more Unitrack if Kato made some little Unitrack code 80 to code 55 flextrack transition tracks. Those would be easier and more reliable than fabricating transition tracks out of Peco code 55 track (see below).

Micro-Engineering code 55
  • Long 36”
  • Small spikes
  • Prototypical US tie spacing and tie width (close enough anyway)
  • Somewhat hard to bend into smooth curves
  • Plastic flashing is somewhat common
  • Somewhat fragile

Atlas code 55
  • Easy to bend into smooth curves
  • Prototypical US tie spacing and tie width
  • Short 30”
  • Spikes are too big and interfere with wheel flanges on older equipment. But not really an issue if you just have newer equipment made in the last decade or so.

Atlas code 80
  • Cheapest
  • Easiest to find
  • Easy to bend into smooth curves
  • Not prototypical US tie spacing or spikes
  • Short 30”

Peco code 55
  • Long 36”
  • Uses code 80 rail embedded in the ties…making it sturdy
  • Not prototypical US tie spacing or spikes
Peco code 55 track can be used to make transition tracks from code 55 to code 80. All that is required is a file.

Central Valley Model Works (CVMW) N Code 55 Curvable Mainline Ties.
  • Unlimited length
  • Ties can be painted and ballasted before the rails are applied making variation in tie color easier to achieve (especially if a masking template is constructed) and the rail can easily be painted a slightly different color than the ties
  • Long stretches of Micro Engineering code 55 rail can be soldered together before being applied to the ties
  • No glue required to attach the rail
  • The ties vary a bit in length which is true to a lot of prototype track (especially older track) but not necessarily true in all cases
  • You still have to buy Micro Engineering code 55 rail


Kato Unitrack
  • Reliable
  • Reconfigurable
  • The rail is code 80
  • Not prototypical US tie spacing or spikes
  • The ballast is part of the track which can be a pro or a con, but it is a con if prototype accuracy is the objective.

Kato N Unitrack vs. Micro-engineering code 55 Flex

3D Printed Track?
Finally, I just wanted to mention that I played around with 3D printing some code 40 track. I did this because there is some track I wanted to put on my layout to make it true to the prototype, but I didn’t need it to be functional. So, at about 10 cents a foot, this 3D N scale code 40 track does the trick just fine, especially since it allows me to make custom track such as very long turnouts in code 40 rail that aren’t commercially available. As technology gets better, dead rail battery powered locomotives on cheap 3D printed track may be a viable solution for some applications.

Code 40 N Dummy Track 3D Printed in PLA

Originally posted 1/10/16. Updated 3/19/18.

Wednesday, April 18, 2018

N Scale U36B Solutions

I have two parts available on Shapeways for turning Atlas U23B models into reasonable facsimiles of a U36B or U33B. The first solution requires cutting off part of the U23B radiator and fitting a whole new flared radiator over the cut section.
The second solution simply requires gluing flared radiator wings onto the sides of the U23B radiator.
I use method two for my own models just because it is very easy and can easily be applied to a factory painted model. I paint the flared radiator wings the proper color. And I attach the flared radiator wings with Elmer’s white glue so I can wet them and remove them if I ever desire to do so.
If you aren’t satisfied with the second solution due to the existing U23B radiator, which is too narrow and doesn’t extend to the flared section, I provide a choice of two vector images (white background and gray) that can be printed as a decal or on paper to represent the radiator screen and to cover the existing U23B radiator. To use the radiator graphics, scrape the grab iron on the top of the existing radiator off with a razor blade. Print the screens (ideally using a laser printer), glue the screens down with Elmer’s glue if using paper. You could print the graphic with the white background on colored paper. Or you could use the dirty gray screen graphic.
Get the parts at Shapeways here and here. As always, with parts in the Frosted Detail materials, don’t skip the step of using a soak in Bestine (or Doc Edington’s brand) to properly clean the parts of support wax.

Sunday, October 2, 2016

Postcards from Bone Valley: Great Model Railroads 2017

Note that you can see the acrylic glass reflecting the camera in this picture, giving a sense of what the layout is like live in person.
I got to see a copy of Great Model Railroads 2017…since my small N scale Bone Valley layout is featured on page 52. Unfortunately, my layout only got four pages in the issue. That resulted in a trimmed up article and a measly three layout photos included in the article (two of which are redundant). So, I’m posting some stuff that wasn’t shown in the article here. There were also a few errors to the article added by the editor. One thing is that it said Atlas is releasing the U36B in N scale; I have not heard anything about that, only HO. As you can see from this layout plan that I made when I wrote the article back in the beginning of 2015 (which at the time I didn’t intend to be in Great Model Railroads), there were a whole lot more pictures (A thru L) that could have been included than just three. Anyway, as the maker and owner of my layout, the photo-scarce article doesn’t quite do it justice. But this is just step one in what is to be a bigger layout, so there will be more in the future.