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

Wednesday, September 6, 2017

Tuscarora Timber Co. M-2

Really, I'm not turning into a diesel guy. 

I'm not, I'm not, I'm not, I'm not, I'm NOT!!!!

Okay, maybe just a bit. 

I blame technology. That is, sound technology. Particularly the latest generation of DCC sound/motor decoders. In this case, the catalyst for my indulgence is the TCS WowDiesel decoder. I had heard these decoders on a friend's HO railroad, and liked how they sounded; most notably how they responded to changes in load as the loco was going up and down grades with varying lengths of trains. It was really dynamic. Combine that with an admitted appreciation for the gurgle of an old Alco diesel. (I used to live next to the Livonia, Avon, & Lakeville RR, whose roster is comprised entirely of old Alcos.) I just had to try one of these decoders on my large scale railroad. The question became, which loco? 

I already had a center-cab, and I really didn't want anything larger. (At least I didn't at that time, but that's a story for a future entry.) I didn't really want to have to do a whole lot of actual building for this project, since I was really just looking for some kind of moving object into which to plug a really cool sound decoder. So, I hearkened back to my early days in large scale, remembering a little 4-wheel diesel critter I used to own. This isn't that one (or the same model), but the source for inspiration. 

It happened that Trainworld had LGB White Pass diesels (27630) on sale for around $100. This model is based on a 30-ton Davenport diesel originally built for the Sumpter Valley Railway, but made famous as D&RGW #50. LGB painted it to resemble a small Plymouth owned by the White Pass Railroad (though I can't find any photos of it in the blue/white paint of the model.) 

The model is accurately scaled to the prototype in 1:22.5, but the prototype is deceptively large. The result is that the loco scales out remarkably well in 1:20.3 (the scale to which the TRR is built) for a number of small industrial switchers. Because of this, I did next to nothing cosmetically to this loco besides removing a few details and replacing the couplers. 

I did add an air tank to the top of the hood to "clutter it up" just a bit. 

Control of the loco comes from a TCS WowDiesel decoder, which is powered by a Tam Valley Depot DRS-1 Hi-Power receiver. I put a 14.8v Li-Ion battery, all the electronics, and a 2" speaker under the hood of the locomotive. 

The stock front grill was a solid bit of plastic. I drilled out the space between the bars and placed some wire mesh behind it. This allows the sound from the speaker to escape. 

The charging jack (seen from the back side) and power switch are located inside the cab. 

I added Kadee #1 scale couplers and replaced the unrealistic-looking plastic airhoses with new ones from Old Iron Designs. While I was repainting the loco, I managed to lose one of the front steps, so I added a replacement from my scrap box. I forget what it came off of, but it fit quite nicely. If I had two, I would have replaced the one on the rear as well. 

I like the aesthetic look of Kadee's newer, more prototypically-styled couplers. The problem is that the knuckle on these is just a fraction of an inch smaller than that of the older style. As a result, it has a tendency to slip through the Accucraft 1:32 couplers if there's any excessive drag. Not a huge deal as this loco is primarily used for switching, but I do run it around the railroad just to have something running from time to time, and every once in a while it will come uncoupled from the train.

I replaced the stock headlight lens with a watch crystal. The original was frosted (not very prototypical) and stuck out in front. The watch crystal is clear (as one would hope from a watch crystal) and fits inside the headlight housing for a much more prototypical look.

For reasons unknown to me, the controls on the prototype are on the fireman's side of the loco. I thought about moving them, but--again--this was supposed to be a quick-and-dirty conversion so I could play with new sound and control technology. So, I left it as is, sticking a 1:20 engineer figure in the seat.

The lettering is vinyl, cut on my wife's Cricut machine. Vinyl is nice to work with, but finicky when you start getting into small lettering. The "uscarora" and "imber" part of this logo is around 3/16" high, which is really about as small as you can go with any consistent success.

The paint is Scalecoat 2's "Great Northern Green," with black roof, hood, and underbody. The orange is BNSF orange. Weathering is a mixture of grimy black and brown washes with some weathering powders applied while the paint was still just a bit damp. This holds the powders better than applying them to fully-cured paint.

LGB gets a lot of criticism from scale folks for their over-sized flanges. They're also notoriously difficult to file down without removing the wheels and doing a whole bunch of extra work. I cheated. I took a Sharpie to the edge of the flange. Because the wheel is tucked behind the frame, the Sharpie has the effect of hiding the edge of the flange in the shadows of the locomotive frame.

I'm loathe to describe myself as a diesel lover, but this was definitely a fun (and simple) project. The TCS WowDiesel decoders are seriously cool with regard to how the sound responds to changes in speed, load, and grade. It's not just "train go faster, motor sound gets louder" kind of thing. The sound of the motor changes so that when the loco is going downgrade, it drops to idle and coasts. When the tracks level off or go back up hill, the decoder senses this change, and the motor sound will rev up in response. The result is a locomotive that runs around the railroad reacting to its environment. It's a dynamically changing sound as it travels around, so it doesn't get remotely boring to watch or listen to.


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