Tuscarora Railroad

The Tuscarora Railroad is a 1:20.3 garden railroad located in suburban Denver, Colorado. The railroad is based on the East Broad Top RR which still operates today as a tourist line in Orbisonia, PA (south-central PA). Be sure to check out Garden Railway Basics , Kevin's book on building and maintaining garden railroads for information on how the TRR was built.

Location: Denver, CO

Friday, September 14, 2018

"Little 6"

"Have I got a deal for you!"

While the exact quote has been lost to history, that's the sentiment behind the meeting between the TRR management and Southern Equipment & Iron, purveyors of fine used locomotives. It had been a few years since the TRR acquired #5 from SE&I. Truth be told, the TRR really wasn't much in the market for a new locomotive. They had 5 serviceable locos, which allowed them to always have one in reserve to cover for routine maintenance, and they had both the East Broad Top and Tuscarora Valley railroads from whom they could borrow a locomotive if dire need came up. But credit to the SE&I sales force--when something came along that seemed well-suited to one of their customers' needs, they didn't miss a beat trying to move it.

Such was the case with a small Baldwin 2-6-0. It came to SE&I from a mining operation on Michigan's Upper Peninsula. They had unexpectedly stopped operations, and their equipment ended up in SE&I's inventory. It was a small loco, with only 12,000 pounds of tractive effort; about 2/3 that of the larger consolidations on the TRR's roster.

Well, the salesman earned his paycheck that day. He somehow convinced the TRR brass that they needed a new locomotive. Number 6 arrived, and began sharing passenger duties with #4, the railroad's other smallish mogul. Passenger trains on the TRR were not high-tonnage affairs, so the little locos were quite well-suited to the task.

"Little 6" soon became a common sight on the railroad. It was a bit sluggish when asked to pull freight, but she was easy to fire and a fairly smooth ride.

Finishing the Model

The genesis of TRR #6 is described here. Like the TRR management, I wasn't really in the market for another loco for the railroad, but this one presented itself at the right time, and I had an itch that needed to be scratched.

I decided that the paint on this loco would follow along the lines of TRR #5, with a planished iron jacket, black paint, and gold lettering. It's simple but elegant. I figured the TRR, having just bought #5 recently, would have kept the same theme going. The planished iron jacket is simulated by using Testor's buffable metalizer paint "Gunmetal." It's very close in finish to Russian/planished iron jackets, and reflects the light equally well--especially outdoors.

Don't look too hard at the builder's plate and smokebox number plate on this loco. They don't match. At all. I actually meant to keep the stock LGB builders plates on the side of the boiler, but forgot to mask them off when I primed the loco for painting. Oops. So I filed them down and added new ones from my scrap box. I forget which loco these came off of, but they're "Baldwin" builders plates dated 1912. The #6 on the smokebox is from Alco loco works, and dated 1890.

The pilot deck is littered with coal dust to give the look of cinders everywhere. The pilot bearing is painted with Vallejo engine oil paint to give it an oily look.

The Vallejo engine oil paint also gives an oily/greasy look to the valve gear. Oh how I wish I could turn down the flanges on those drivers, but oh well. A little black Sharpie along the outside edge will tone them down visually if I find it too distracting.

Black acrylic paint was stippled along the top of the boiler to simulate soot from the smoke stack. Washout plugs have hard water deposits dripping from them.

A single airpump adorns the fireman's side of the loco, with tank under the cab. There's a second tank on the rear of the tender. The running boards were widened along the length of the locomotive.

I moved the cab of the locomotive back around 5/8", so I built a new floor in front of the firebox.

A proper deck plate between the cab and tender fills the gap so the fireman doesn't fall through.

Clutter on the back of the tender gives the loco a very utilitarian look. I didn't like the original location of the headlight as I had it mounted on the wood backboard, otherwise blocking the engineer's view as he would look back. So I moved the light and lowered the backboard. I also had side boards originally, but I moved the battery pack inside the tender itself, so I could get rid of them since I didn't need them to hide the battery pack. The speakers in the boiler left lots of room in the tender for the electronics.

With that, Tuscarora Railroad's "Little 6" is ready to head out on the road once again, so I'll close with a few more photos of the loco.

Sunday, January 21, 2018

Tuscarora RR #6

Oh, the ubiquitous LGB mogul. First introduced in the mid 1980s, it was the first true US-prototype locomotive made by LGB. As a result, pretty much everyone who was modeling large scale at the time bought one (or two, or three...) It has been a staple of LGB's product line-up ever since then, being produced in at least two different styles (1880s above, or a more modern 1920s version with round domes and coal load), and color schemes too numerous to mention. It's next to impossible to find a large scale modeler who doesn't have one of these locos. 

To LGB's credit, they did a very good job on the model (though that red boiler, ugh!) It scales out very favorably to the Denver, South Park & Pacific prototype in LGB's stated scale of 1:22.5. At that scale, the track gauge scales to 1 meter (39.4") If you're modeling 36" gauge on the same 45mm track, the scale works out to be 1:20.3. Therein lies the genesis of Tuscarora RR #6.

I have had more than one person who is modeling 1:20.3 tell me they were selling their LGB mogul because it was "the wrong scale," thus unsuitable for their railroad. (Some more emphatically than others.) If you've been reading my blog for any time, you know I'm something of a student of narrow gauge equipment, particularly when it comes to size. If there's one truth to narrow gauge railroading, there's no such thing as "too small." So, germinating in the back of my mind for quite some time has been the notion to take an LGB mogul and "upscale" it to 1:20.3--without doing a thing to it, just to illustrate that point

Now, here begins something of a conflict for me. Because the LGB mogul has been so wildly popular, it seems to be omnipresent on pretty much any railroad one visits. I cuts against the grain for me to have a loco that "everyone" has, so I can't very well just take a stock mogul, put a fresh coat of paint on it, stick a slightly larger figure in the cab, and call it good. It's still going to look LGB mogul-ish to me. At the same time, my usual way of disguising an otherwise widely-recognized model is to change the cab, give it a new tender, or other significant cosmetic changes. That normal course of action runs afoul of my desire to do as little cosmetically as possible to show the stock mogul fits in very well with 1:20.3 equipment. So, the search for a middle ground began...

Enter Waynesburg & Washington RR #4. The W&W ran in southwestern PA, and operated a fleet of moguls. Drawings for this loco are published in "Three Feet on the Panhandle." When I compared the overall dimensions of this loco to the LGB mogul measured in 1:20.3, I discovered the two were nearly the same size. Critical dimensions I was looking at were the height from the rail to the top of the cab, and from the tender deck to the top of the cab--places where humans have to be able to move around. Those were nearly identical matches. (In fact, the LGB cab measures 4" wider than the W&W prototype.) The tender is virtually spot on as well. Pretty much all of the major measurements (length, width, height, wheelbase) were within 3". 

There are some (significant) differences, most notably the drivers. The W&W loco rode on 41" diameter drivers, whereas the LGB mogul's drivers scale to 36". The boiler on the W&W loco is slightly narrower, and also straight, where the LGB boiler has a slight taper on the middle course. The domes are also in different places. 

There's nothing one can do about the drivers, and changing the boiler to match the prototype would violate the "do nothing to it" principle of the project. That, and the slightly larger boiler offsets the slightly smaller drivers, so it's kind of a wash there. Excluding those two things, the task became to turn the LGB mogul into a model based on W&W's #4.

After a few months' worth of on-and-off work, this is what I ended up with. The biggest change to the overall loco was extending the smokebox and moving the cab back to give more room behind the backhead per the prototype. 

Here's the mogul next to my C-19. It's actually not that much smaller in terms of overall size. Shorter, definitely, because it's got one less driver. but beyond that, there's not a whole lot of size difference.

The extended smokebox came off of a surplus Bachmann 4-6-0. It was a little smaller in diameter than the mogul smokebox, so I put a small filler piece of styrene in the bottom of it to spread it out. 

The completed smokebox extension, installed on the original. The bolt is one of four which holds the smokebox extension onto the original, with the joints filled in with green putty.

Here's a shot inside the smokebox, shopping the styrene spacers which hold the smokebox door in place, and also the speaker, one of two that are installed inside the boiler. There was a lot of space inside this boiler, so I figured I'd mount the speakers inside so the sounds come from the locomotive itself as opposed to the more typical placement of having the speaker in the tender. The green clay acts as a sealer for the speaker mount.

The old style cowcatcher was not going to work for the era I'm modeling, so I built a new pilot beam. The cowcatcher itself is surplus from a Bachmann 4-6-0. I have a fair number of these in my parts box, and it allows me to give my locos something of a family resemblance with them all having similar-style cowcatchers.

A slightly higher view of the pilot, showing the wider pilot deck, new boiler stays, and air line. (Hose to be added after the loco is painted.) 

Cylinder lubricator lines added to the tops of the cylinders, along with snifter valves (bottom right corner)

The original smokestack was not going to work with this model. This one came from a Bachmann C-19, with a new flange added to the base of the LGB smokebox. The stack is just a press fit, so in the event it hits a low-hanging bridge or tree branch, it will just pop out and avoid damaging the loco.

I went back and forth on the headlight. I liked the older box-style headlight, and it matched the prototype, but I felt a more modern look would set this loco apart. I've got a bin full of Bachmann headlights, so (again) it gives a "family" look to the fleet of locos. (Even though historically, headlights varied greatly from loco to loco on any given roster, so the "family" argument with respect to headlights is more modeler's license than based on prototype practice.) Who knows--I may still change my mind on that. I also drilled out the stock handrail stanchions, and bent new brass handrails that run around the front of the loco, right under the headlight bracket. Often, the wires for the headlights were run through the handrails, so I didn't bother running anything that looks like conduit.

The LGB mogul had the sand lines molded into the boiler itself. I removed them and replaced them with new sand lines bent from wire. I have not put the boiler bands back in place on the model yet. They'll be added once the painting is complete. 

The original steam dome was (to my aesthetic sense) too narrow. So I covered it with a steam dome off of a Bachmann 4-6-0. I thought about replacing the forward dome as well, but I liked the contrast. If a locomotive was in a wreck, it was common for domes to be replaced with whatever was on hand as opposed to what would have been "original." This gives the locomotive a little bit of a visual backstory. 

The cab was moved back about 3/4" to make more room in the cab for the crew. This necessitated a new boiler jacket section on the back. I also extended the running boards. The LGB running boards (as well as those on the prototype) tapered in a little bit about halfway down the running boards. I decided to keep them the same width along the entire length. It does add a bit of visual weight to the loco, but it's more for crew safety. A new air pump and plumbing complete the side of the boiler. 

A new generator will provide power for the lights. (scrap box surplus)

More random details. I'm not 100% sure what this would have been on the prototype; some kind of air reservoir for the brakes or something near as I can tell. It looked cool, though. A little more modeler's license. While in this section, I replaced the stock air brake cylinders with slightly larger ones from my scrap box. Apparently my brake arm got pushed a bit forward. It probably shouldn't be rubbing against the wheel tread.

I mentioned I moved the cab back a little bit to give the crew some more room behind the backhead. This meant opening up the back of the stock cab. I didn't (and likely will not) go too crazy on the cab interior detailing. I'll have an engineer sitting on the engineer's side, and the fireman will likely be standing right behind the boiler. 

I made a deck plate to go between the loco and tender.  Can't have my crews falling onto the tracks, even if they are plastic. I also cut off those weird walls that extended from the front of the tender tanks. I'm not sure what they were supposed to represent. My guess is that they were a concession by LGB to bring the tender visually closer to the locomotive, but they went all the way to the front of the tender deck, so the crew couldn't actually get into the loco! Well, they're gone now, so our crews have free and ready access.

I didn't do a whole lot to the tender, but made some minor tweaks. First, the toolboxes were in dire need of wood grain, so I availed myself of a razor saw and sandpaper. I also made new water shut-off valves for the ends of the tender tank. Styrene half-round strip creates a finished look to the edge of the flange along the tender side.

I went back and forth on where to mount the back-up light on the tender; even if I wanted one at all. I figured for the era I'm modeling this loco to represent (20s - 30s) it would have electricity, so the crews would likely have easily installed a light on the back of the tender. I didn't want to make a tall stand to put on the back of the tender next to the water filler. In the end, I did what I figured any reasonable railroad shop crew would do--go digging through their spare parts bin to find something that worked. I found this headlight bracket and mounted it to the hungry boards on the tender. Voila! Instant tender light mount! In hindsight, I probably could have mounted it on the other side so it's not blocking the engineer's view to the back. I may still change that. I can't center it--it sticks out too far to where it would interfere with the water hatch opening.

The back of the tender looked a little empty, so I found a toolbox to sit under the rear air tank. I thought about taking the air tank off, but I don't have a whole lot of air storage capacity on the loco--just an identically-sized tank under the fireman's side of the cab, so I figured crews would appreciate having enough air to do something silly like stop the train. 

The rear coupler is an Accucraft 1:32 coupler. I'll have a chain dropping from the cut lever to the pin so it will become operable. (The front coupler is a Kadee #1 scale coupler because of the draft gear I had to use. The hose for the air brake will be added once the loco is painted.

Here's a look inside the tender. Battery, fuse, Tsunami2 control board (motor, lights, sound), and Tam Valley Depot wireless receiver. This receiver works with the Airwire throttles. 

That's where things stand for the moment. Painting will come later in the Spring once the weather warms up. I haven't entirely made up my mind which paint scheme I'm going to use on this loco--whether I'm going to go with the planished iron boiler jacket with black cab and tender and gold lettering, or the later dark green boiler jacket with black cab and tender and silver lettering. But I've got a few months to work that out. 

Tuesday, September 19, 2017

Big Diesel Power

The M-8

If you've been following my latest posts about new diesels on the roster, and wondering if Colorado's legalization of marijuana has had any influence, I can assure you it has not. (Though if the wind is right and my neighbor is in his back yard...) What has influenced me, however, is some work I had done a while back for my dad's railroad. That, and a trip to the Georgetown Loop Railroad.

This is what started this whole madness. This is an NW-2 that I "upscaled" from 1:29 to 1:22 for my dad's Woodland Railway. Dad always liked diesels--this style in particular--and the he used to have (a custom-built job from the 80s) gave up the ghost a while back. So I found a USA Trains NW-2, widened the frame, and built a new cab for it. Quick-and-dirty narrow gauge NW-2.

But, I'm not a diesel person. And I've already got a center cab diesel (M-1) and a smaller switcher (M-2). And there's no reason a small lumbering operation would have a diesel this large. So I don't need another diesel.

Then I took a trip up to the Georgetown Loop Railroad. Sitting up at Silver Plume, a rather nice-looking (can I say that about a diesel?) 75-ton Porter (yes, the small steam loco folks) diesel sitting on the tracks. Georgetown Loop #1203. It resonated with me, bringing me back to the NW-2 I had built for dad. For some reason, its pair of 3-axle trucks stood out to me. But I don't need another diesel. I don't ... need....... 

Not long after that, I found an LGB White Pass diesel a friend was selling for a ridiculously low price--one of those "I have no clue what I'd do with it but I'd be stupid to pass this up" prices. Except it had 3-axle trucks, so it wasn't exactly "I have no clue..." It was pretty much immediate once I saw it what I could possibly do with it. Yeah, just tattoo "sucker" on my forehead. I bought it, and I was on my way to having a third diesel on the roster.

Coincidentally, I had found a stack of Short and Narrow Rails magazines at a swap meet for another ridiculously low price. Inside one of these issues, I found an article by Ed Cass on the Georgetown Loop Porter (though pre-dating its arrival on the GLRR). It showed the loco as it appeared working for US Gypsum, its original owner. In addition to photos and a brief history, the article has measured drawings! Fantastic!

Except for one little thing.

Okay, maybe "little" isn't the right word. One B-I-G thing--the size of the locomotive. When I saw the loco at Georgetown, it was on a track by itself. With no rolling stock coupled to it, I had no sense for how big this loco was. Nearly 40' long, 9' 6" wide, and almost 14' tall! It was going to dwarf pretty much every piece of rolling stock I own. As much as I preach "anything goes" with narrow gauge railroading, I knew this was going to be visually too large for my railroad. But by this time, the creative juices were flowing, so it was too late simply to abandon the process and walk away.

Plan B:

Well, I have this LGB diesel with 3-axle trucks, and it's got this long hood with doors, louvers, and other details. The louvers on the side of the White Pass diesel are very similar to those on the side of the Porter. Prototypically, these elements by themselves don't really have much of a scale to them (within a certain range). Measuring the hood with a 1:20.3 scale ruler worked out very well in the "plausibility" department. So, I have a workable hood and a frame that need only be widened to be more in scale. All I'd need to do would be to build a new cab. This was sounding vaguely familiar.

The Process:

I squared the ends of the frame, and moved the long hood back about 5/8". This required doing some minor cutting to the frame and drilling new holes to hold the long hood in place. Nothing major.

The frame was widened with strips of styrene, and new ends built up.

The original deck was filled in with putty

Two-sided tape put in place to hold new diamond safety tread decking in place. This would be reinforced along the edge with solvent cement.

So, with a cab that borrows heavily from the Southern Pacific's "Little Giant," a very Alco long hood, and 6-axle trucks which harken back to the original inspiration for this loco, it's (almost) ready for the paint shop.

That's where the dilemma came in. How to paint it, and also which railroad to letter it for. My first thought was to call this "M-3" and letter it for the Tuscarora Timber Co., continuing that roster. However, a lumber company running trains on lightly-constructed tracks would probably not have such a large locomotive. Plausible, but not likely. The Tuscarora Railroad--by the era represented by this locomotive--would have been out of business. I had also thought about lettering it for my dad's Woodland Railway, but that paint scheme is too similar to the Tuscarora Timber Co. scheme, just a lighter shade of green.

I played around on Photoshop with some color schemes, and kept coming back to dark green with maroon and gold. It's very reminiscent of the East Broad Top's tourist-era paint scheme for their M-1 and M-5 locomotives. I'm usually not a big personal fan of "fantasy" locomotives for historical railroads, but every rule has an exception. So, the East Broad Top got its "M-8."

 I removed some of the winterization features on the long hood of the stock loco, replacing them with simple screens. A spare exhaust stack from a Bachmann 45-ton diesel made for a suitable exhaust on this loco instead.

There was a lift-off box on the top which I kept, using it to hide the power switch and battery charging plug. 

 The grab irons are from Phil's Narrow Gauge (sadly out of production). The number boards are temporarily done in black ink. I'll get some rub-on numbers and replace the hand-drawn lettering in short order. The lenses on the headlights are watch crystals.

I used an Accucraft 1:20.3 coupler pocket on the front, but modified it so I could fit the draft gear from their 1:32 coupler inside of it. (The 1:32 coupler scales out perfectly for a 3/4-sized coupler in 1:20.3.) Functional cut levers are made from welding wire. 

 New air tanks are made from wood dowel wrapped in styrene. The fuel filler is plastic tubing with a screw stuck in the end of it.

 Step detail. The diamond tread is from JTT products.

LGB's flanges are notoriously deep. Rather than turn them down to a more prototypical appearance, I simply colored the ends of them with black permanent ink. The wheels are hidden behind the frames, so it's very difficult to tell.

The handrails are bent from old wire hangers. I used the original handrail stanchions from the White Pass loco, but lengthened them to a more prototypical height for the larger-scaled loco.

Stanchions on the front and rear were made from brass angle irons. 

The window shade is bent from sheet metal. Since it sticks out from the side, I wanted it robust enough to handle hitting rocks, branches, and other things that would go "bump." 

The cab interior is patterned after an illustration of an Alco diesel control stand from the 1950s. I didn't model every last knob, button, and dial, but did include enough to give it the flavor of a locomotive cab.

The engineer is an action figure I got from Wal Mart. (About the only good thing to come from the 4th "Indiana Jones" movie. He stands about 6' 2" tall in 1:20, and can be posed in any number of positions. (I have a few of them.) A little super glue fills in the joints once you've got him posed how you want him. The conductor's origins are long forgotten. He was formerly a fireman on EBT #3, but he fit well in this cab, and with the cab being so large and open, I really needed two figures inside.

And some more photos:

The lettering is vinyl, cut on my wife's Cricut cutting machine. The vinyl has some thickness to it, and in certain light, you can see the edges which show the relief of the lettering, but for the most part it's hard to tell. I could have used decals, but I really hate applying decals. I figured my disdain for applying decals outweighed the inconvenience of occasionally being able to tell the vinyl has some thickness to it. (Besides, prototypes today are using vinyl, so it's a prototypical material for lettering!)

The loco is controlled by a TCS WowDiesel DCC decoder, fed by an Airwire receiver for battery power. It runs super smoothly and sounds bloody fantastic! The TCS is sensitive to changes in load, so as the loco runs around the railroad encountering grades up and down, you hear the sound of the motor adjusting in accordance.

I think at this point, my "diesel itch" has been properly scratched. There may be a doodlebug sometime down the road (EBT's M-1?) but that's a ways off. Plenty of other projects to keep me busy in the mean time.