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

Thursday, May 31, 2012

Tuscarora Railroad #4

Okay, I try not to be the kind of model train guy who buys something just because he likes it. Yes, that's a perfectly legitimate reason to buy something and I know plenty of folks who have good collections of stuff they like for precisely that reason. And therein lies the conundrum. That's a dangerous road for me to go down because there's some really cool stuff out there that I can see myself liking. I really do try to limit my purchases and acquisitions to models of prototypes that ran on the East Broad Top or Tuscarora Valley railroads. It makes it a whole lot safer to walk into the hobby shop, knowing I can appreciate the models on the shelves, but not have to bring them home.

The problem is, there's this one locomotive, see... and I've always kinda liked it, see... but I can appreciate when I see others running it, right? I can look at it in the case at the hobby shop and admire it. I don't need to own it... right?        RIGHT???????

Here's the story... A while back, Accucraft comes out with this really neat looking mogul. It catches my eye because it looks a lot like Tuscarora RR #2, which I built from a Bachmann 2-6-0. I think to myself, "wouldn't it be neat to have a live steam version?" But two things keep me from doing anything. First, at that point, I was concentrating my energy on building models of specific EBT locomotives, so another TRR locomotive didn't really fit my plans. More to the point, I had already ordered Accucraft's EBT mikado, so another live steamer wasn't in the budget (and I prefer not to sleep on the couch). So, it gets filed into the "someday, perhaps..." file.

Then, in my quest to build more EBT locos, my mind goes back to this mogul, and ponders whether it would be possible to convert it to a model of one of the EBT's larger moguls. A-ha, now I can "justify" buying the loco (someday) because it's going to become an EBT mogul. Yet at this point, I'm still waiting for Accucraft to deliver my EBT mikado, so it gets filed back into the "someday, perhaps..." file.

Fast forward to last Fall, when the planets aligned and my long-awaited EBT mikado showed up. All of a sudden, my dormant interest in live steam sees a new fire. I find myself out at the track at the Colorado RR Museum almost weekly, breathing the butane fumes and burning my fingertips. I unearth the cobweb-ridden steamers sitting idly on my shelves, bringing them back into operation. Then, I walk through Caboose Hobbies, and that Accucraft mogul that had been sitting in the glass case not catching too much of my attention all of a sudden drew me like a moth to a flame. Thoughts of a live steam EBT #5 began to bubble up once again.

I decided to put one of my older live steamers (a Roundhouse 0-4-0 rebuild) on the block. I hadn't run it but maybe once or twice since I moved out to Colorado, so I figured if I could give it a new home where someone would run it, I could use that money towards something I might be able to run. As luck would have it, a fellow steamer in Florida had an Accucraft mogul which he felt could likewise use a good home, so a deal was quickly struck.

This is what arrived--a demonstratively well-used, well-cared-for Accucraft mogul that had been somewhat customized with a wood cab and new stack. A test run a few days later (boy was that a hard wait), proved it to be a solid performer.

So, what to do with it. I immediately went to my idea of converting it to EBT #5. Alas, there were a few problems, not the least of which being the larger drivers needed would not fit, but also the boiler was simply too small, and it wouldn't have looked right regardless. So, back to my idea of a live steam version of TRR #2, which would have been nice since I had just scrapped my original TRR #2 for parts to build EBT #7 (which is still being worked on. I'll update that shortly.) Well, this loco is just enough smaller than my "post-wreck" TRR #2 to where I couldn't tell the tale that they were in fact the same locomotive. So, with those two options off the table, and neither the EBT nor the TVRR having a similar locomotive, the notion of Tuscarora Railroad #4 came to life. After about a month in the shop, here's what emerged:

Around 1913, traffic on the Tuscarora Railroad was flowing rather well. TRR #3 was handling most of the freight duties, while TRR #2 carried the passengers. That left TRR #1, a diminutive 2-4-2 set out as spare for when the other locos went in for servicing. The EBT had just sold locos #1 and #3 to the Tuscarora Valley Railroad, so--while technically still available for back-up duty--they were now playing back-up to the TVRR's locos instead. Also, the EBT had just sold #7 (also a regular on the Shade Gap branch of the TRR) to the Ohio River & Western. With fewer locos to "borrow" in times of need, the TRR looked for something used that they could get fairly inexpensively. They purchased a Baldwin mogul (c/n 4562, built 1879) originally built for the Utah & Northern Railway from a used loco dealer. Once in Pennsylvania, they dubbed the locomotive #4, and it set out for a long career far from its original stomping grounds.

(Real history insert--this loco was sold by the Sugarman Iron & Metal Co. in 1913, not to the TRR, but to the Nevada Short Line Railroad, where it became their #1. That loco is now preserved at the California State Railway Museum, and is the prototype for Accucraft's model.)

"Builders Photos"

In terms of significant physical changes to this locomotive, there are surprisingly few, and none that I did. The previous owner took the liberty of replacing the metal cab with a wood cab from Bronson-Tate, and replaced the original diamond stack with a straight stack from an Accucraft C-19, complete with spark arrestor. I discovered when I steamed it up that the spark arrestor was causing performance issues, so I took it off. Looks better without it, in my opinion.

I was on the fence as to what color I should paint it. At this point in history, the "typical" TRR paint scheme consisted of stained wood cab, plannished iron boiler jacket, and black paint with gold trim on the tender, frame, and domes. The wood cab had been painted, and I wasn't sure I'd be as sucessful as I'd want to be in stripping off the paint to be able to stain it. (Yeah, I could buy a new cab, but where's the fun in that?) So, the shop crews took a page out of the EBT's playbook, and went with a dark olive green on the cab, tender, and domes, aluminum (silver) trim, and a plannished iron boiler jacket. Anything had to be better than that uber-glossy black on the original model.

For the lettering, the shop crews took inspiration from the Pacific Coast Railway, which they also visited while out used-loco shopping. They liked the simplicity, and having the railroad name on the side of the cab instead of the tender harkened back to the old-time practice of naming locomotives. Not entirely by coincidence, the EBT had a locomotive named "Tuscarora," though by this time it no longer wore that name. The crews thought this a nice homage.

Accucraft did a good job with this model, and there was nothing really "out of place" that I felt needed to be changed. That's not to say I didn't do some minor tweaking here and there, adding some finer detail than what Accucraft put on the model. I'll start at the front, where the headlight got a proper reflector installed. This came from a Bachmann headlight I had in the scrapbox. Because the light sticks out so far from the boiler on this one, and wires running to it would be very obvious, I decided not to add a working light to this loco. Besides, it being live steam, I'd typically run it only in the daytime, when crews would not necessarily have an oil-burning headlight lit anyway.

The number plate is made from a tie pin I bought from the Friends of the East Broad Top's Company Store. I drilled out the center and just screwed it onto the stud that held the original number plate. (It's a soft metal, but seems (so far) to hold up well enough to the heat.) I also added proper lubricator lines to the steam chest.

The front pilot is the one that came with the locomotive, but I narrowed it by about 3/4" and lowered the coupler pocket so the coupler sat at the right height. Side steps and lift bar brackets are Trackside Detail castings. Had I known they were that short, I would have built some myself, but I'll wait for these to get bent and banged up beyond recognition before swapping them out. The coupler is an Accucraft 1:32 scale coupler, which measures just right for a 3/4-sized coupler used on a number of narrow gauge lines, including the EBT and TVRR.

This is a steam locomotive, and it does get oily--and this loco gets very oily during a run. (I'll have to consider putting a restrictor or something in the lubricator, maybe.) But in my opinion, the oil adds to the effect of the weathering. It's really the kind of effect you can't get any other way.Of course, after today's run, the deck is a lot more oily. The weathering powders have pretty much been absorbed into the oil. Not much one can do about that. It's a steam engine, and steam engines get oily.

If you've ever ridden behind a coal-fired steam engine, you know about cinders. Likely you've gotten at least one in your eye (every steam fan has to do that--it's a rite of passage). Well, they collect on the top of locomotives, too, especially around the smokestack, and along other edges and hard-to-clean places. I tried an experiment with weathering this loco. Typically I'll stipple black paint along the top of the boiler to simulate the cinders and soot that accumulates. I took it a step further and sprinkled coal dust over the wet paint just to see how well it would stick. Son-of-a-gun, it sticks pretty darned nicely, thank you. I do use the thick acrylic paints for this, so it's got some body to it to adhere to the coal dust. (Yeah, I know it's missing a screw. It stripped out when I was re-attaching the headlight.

The boiler was "painted" to look like a plannished iron boiler jacket. Since I didn't want to disassemble everything to use my normal technique of painting it with a buffable spray paint, I tried the same technique I used on EBT #12, of rubbing powdered graphite onto the boiler, then sealing it with acrylic. The hitch in the giddy-up this time round was that the original finish on the boiler was so glossy and smooth that the graphite couldn't even take hold on the surface. I went in and scuffed the boiler with some fine steel wool, and also used a very small drop of acrylic paint spread around the boiler surface as a kind of carrier for the graphite. this took a bit of practice to get right, but the "mess ups" were easily cleaned with lots of water for a do-over. After a day, I went back and sealed everything with a clear acrylic (Future acrylic floor polish.) I just diluted it about 50:50 in water and brushed it on with a broad (1") artists' brush.

More coal dust, weathering powders and a bit of oil creeping out from under the cab. For the coal dust on the running boards, I brushed white glue along the interior edge against the border, and sprinkled the dust in place. Also, you can see the effects of the acrylic wash I use for weathering. I brush this mixture (a random blend of brown and black paint mixed with lots of water) over the boiler and whatever it is I want to weather. If I want it to look dirty, I leave it as is. If I want it to look cleaner, but with some dirt in the cracks and crevasses, I wipe it off with a paper towel. It's hard to see in the photos, but I sanded the tops of the brass running boards to give them some slight wood grain. I thought about replacing them with wood, but figured this was good enough and it had the advantage of having a great deal of strength.

As the loco came from Accucraft, it had brake shoes on each of the three drivers. I don't know if this was prototypical or not, but it made the loco difficult to carry. Also, it left this great empty void between the two drivers, and I could not figure out any logical way any kind of air brake mechanism could have been attached to the brake rigging as modeled on the original. So I grabbed the brake rigging off of my now-scrapped "old" TRR #2, and JB-Welded it in place. It now matches photos of similar 2-6-0s of that era.

I have yet to figure out what Accucraft thinks is the need for an oil drain that sticks down 1" from the bottom of the cab, but it sure can be unsightly. This air tank was originally on the other side of the cab. I removed it, cut an opening in the middle to hide the lubricator drain, and screwed it in place on this side of the locomotive. Now the lubricator drain is much better hidden, and almost looks like it could be quasi-prototypical. The cab step is taken from the Bachmann 2-6-0 that was "old" TRR #2. Between this loco and EBT #7, there's not a whole lot of that loco left.

I love the Bronson-Tate wood cab on this loco; it's got lots of detail that really sets it out. Unfortunately, it also had the window pillar centered in the cab, right in line with the lubricator cap. Even without glazing in the windows, it was still a bugger to get the cap off. I can't abide locomotives without glazing in the windows, so something had to give. I moved the pillar up to 1/3 from the front of the cab, which gives me just that much more room to reach in to unscrew the cap. Despite its prominence in the photo, it's really not all that obvious when you see it running on the railroad. I also didn't bother "dirtying up" the pressure gauge on this loco. For whatever reason, it doesn't stick out quite as much as the one in EBT #12 does, at least to my eyes. That may change, and it's certainly easy enough to fix.

The lettering is a water-slide decal I did on my Alps printer, while the striping is vinyl tape that I cut to the proper width. I actually hate decals, but I've discovered that if they don't want to seat properly, you can carefully poke some holes and brush dilute clear acrylic (Future) over the decal and the acrylic will get between the decal and the surface, creating a solid bond.

The roof was originally smooth, so I covered it with rectangles of aluminum duct tape to simulate a soldered tin roof. This was then painted a dark grey and dusted with coal dust while the paint was still slightly damp. I rubbed this into the paint with my fingers to get the finish. It's since been coated with a nice layer of oil, which over time will get dusty and dirty; this cab roof will only get better-looking with time.

If there was one thing that really bothered me about the tender, it was the width of the floor. It stuck out from the side of the tank by around 3/16"! That really made the tender look toy-like to my eyes. So that was pretty much the first thing that got changed (even before I ran it for the first time!) I made a new floor out of styrene, sanded in some wood grain (60-grit sandpaper is your friend), and scribed some individual planks into the top. Sure looks better than the flat brass plate they had originally. I also removed the ginormous air tank that was on the tender. In 1913, the EBT (who leases their rolling stock to the TRR) hadn't added air brakes yet, so there's no need for the TRR locos to have larger tanks--they just need enough for the locomotive.

Originally, the Accucraft tender came with a water-tight bath in the middle of the tender for a tender-mounted butane tank, though they actually put the tank in the cab instead. Since I get around 35 minutes on each tank, and the cab keeps the tank plenty warm, there was no need to move the butane tank back to the tender, so I decided that I'd just use that space for the R/C gear, and model something I rarely have a chance to--a half-full tender. The tool boxes are resin castings I picked up a while back at the hobby shop, the shovel is from one of Bachmann's locos. The bunker extensions are basswood.

The R/C gear sits in a drawer under the coal load. There's not much in there--just the receiver and a 4-AAA battery clip. The two sockets for the servos are along the bottom, barely visible under the coal (look under the power switch).

Slide the drawer in, replace the fireman (held in place by a pin in his foot that goes through the floor), and no one's the wiser that there are electronics in the tender. The engineer and fireman come from Scale Humans. I'm okay with painting figures, but I'm not very good at sculpting them.

While I'm on the subject of R/C, here's the servo that controls the Johnson bar. It's mounted on a small block of oak that's screwed to the floor of the cab. The zip tie runs through the block and helps keep things stable to the top.

The throttle servo is mounted on an oak block that's clamped to the throttle itself. This arrangement gives me around 120 degrees of throw on the throttle, which is quite ample for this locomotive. The servo is held in place with a metal clamp that goes over the top (not shown in the photo).

Tenders are often catch-alls for whatever is needed to keep the locomotive running, so I have no trouble throwing some miscellaneous junk in the back of the tender. There's also more coal dust spread around the back and along the floor at the base of the tank.

I added safety chains to the trucks, and also new steps at the back of the tender. (From an Accucraft Ruby--at least I kept it in the family.) Curiously, Accucraft didn't model a row of rivets along the bottom edge of the tender. I haven't a clue as to why not. Honestly you don't really miss them, even from fairly close up.

The more I run this locomotive, the more I like it. It's "just the right size" for my railroad, and has proven very controllable even on my 2% grades. I can settle it down to a nice, sedate 15 mile-per-hour trot and it doesn't mind one bit. I had it running out at the Colorado Railroad Museum today, having it in steam for nearly 2 hours straight (with stops for fuel, water, and oil.) With the R/C, switching cars with this loco is every bit as easy as it is with my electric mice. All in all, I think the decision to add a locomotive to the TRR's roster has proven to be a very good one indeed.