Tuesday Train #218

While BC Rail no longer exists as an operating railroad (the BC Government still owns it all, but its all leased to Canadian National), some locomotives still hard at work for Canadian National still carry BC Rail’s colours. Seen here is 4605 leading a CN Manifest freight (I think I heard him calling as Train 570) through Halton Hills Ontario on October 24, 2020.

A quick “kick shelf” in the corner

Two of the switches where I have installed my bullfrogs are located in the corner of the tightest part of my layout, the entrance to the closet where I took the door off to extend my layout into the closet for the CPR Staging. Since I installed the switches a few months back, I have caught the pulls to throw them a number of times. Not hard enough to do any damage, but hard enough to make me pause and consider my next move and how to not damage them as I move away.

In thinking about other layouts, I was thinking about how my friend Trevor had brass switch stands on little jut out shelves, and figured a small piece of 1×4 cut to size would angle off the corner so it would be harder to catch the levers but wouldn’t unduly take away any more room for movement for me or any future operators getting into and out of the closet.

A quick corner shelf, just enough to keep me from bashing the switch pull levers.

This was a simple little project, I held a 2′ long piece of 1″x4″ pine in place, traced the arc of the benchwork, marked the width of the board off and cut the 2nd line with my jig saw. Then I clamped it in place, pilot drilled 4 holes into the fascia, and mounted. I am not going to glue the shelf, I haven’t decided if I am going to paint it, or just seal it with clear shellac, but for now, it is in place and doing its job of protecting the switches (and becoming yet another place for me to throw things in close reach as I do scenery!).

Tuesday Train #217

Canadian Pacific ES44AC No.8868 leads train 113 west (north) through Caledon Ontario kicking up the leaves on a nice fall day (October 16/2020). While I was at this spot waiting, I had to call in broken crossing signals to the CPR police as they were active but not off long before this train arrived and while there was no traffic. The maintenance crew had fixed the signals and was waiting on this train passing to confirm they were now working.

A photo cube for project photos

For years when taking pictures of models I have built, I have just bodged something together with bristol board sheets. Its worked, but frankly, it has never been the perfect solution. In one of those enough is enough moments, this week while looking for sometheing else photo gear related, Amazon served up a bunch of photo box options. Looking through them, I settled on one that was $45CDN and offered a $9.00 off coupon (who knows, I don’t understand Amazon’s algorithms). It came with a photo box, six backgrounds of different colours, a carrying case for when its folded flat and has built in LED strips. It also had a tripod clip for a cellphone, which was what I was actually looking for so I can use my cell to take videos when I am out photographing trains by putting it in the clip. I also have a Bluetooth shutter release for the phone, so in theory I could also mount it at a different angle to take pictures remotely now. Time will tell.

Back to the item at hand. The booth is a heavy plastic formed piece that clips together when you fold it out, and folds flat for storage in its case. There are six heavy foam sheets for the backdrop in different colours (white, black, red, blue, green and yellow). The LED strips provide a good base of lighting, and I will experiment more, but will likely use my flash still with my SLR for taking finished project photos for posting.

A new photo cube for taking product photos from Amazon. Not bad for $36. It will do what I need for taking pictures of models when I finish them.

First impressions, is it perfect? No, but for the price, it will do what I want for a while. This is one of those things I’ve said I should buy for years, and I haven’t, so now I’ve effectively bought a starter set. If I find I am making a lot of use out of it and finding limitations, buying a more expensive one might make sense. This is a lesson I have learnt over the years for a lot of things. I have bought tools, if I was unsure if I would use it a lot or like it, I maybe bought a cheaper version, and then have gone back and bought better tools. While I strongly believe in buying the best tool for the task, I am also a realist in terms of budget. For something I am not sure about, a $36 outlay vs. $100 is a smart investment, even if I do go back and buy a more expensive replacement later. This to me is the equivalent of training wheels. In a year or two if I do replace this, I will have more than gotten my moneys worth from it, and if I don’t, the money saved will hopefully mean many other projects or tool purchases happen, its a balance.

Just some quick shots with my iPhone of models that were close at hand. I think once I get out the SLR and the Tripod, this will do just fine for taking pictures of models as I complete them.

Now I need to actually get off my rear and finish some of the half built freight car kits on my workbench to have something worth photographing! Back to the workbench for me!

Upgrading a Fleets worth of Couplers

Last weekend I pulled a kind of silly looking “Hospital Train” across my layout. I had all my rolling stock stored in the CPR Staging in the closet, but I finally reached a point where I wanted to finish the “base level” upgrades to the freight cars. They all have Code 88 semi-scale wheels that have been painted, but most of them still had a variety of couplers from the manufacturers. I am going to use Kadee #58 Scale Head Couplers on everything for consistent operations and looks, so I needed to get on with swapping out the old couplers, and cutting off the magnetic trip pins for manual operations.

15 freight cars coupled on my layout, its silly looking on a layout designed for a maximum locomotive and 3 car train!

It was just easier to pull them across the layout than to carry them around the room. For any new kits I am building, they will have these couplers from the start. I was actually surprised, I had installed 58’s on maybe 1/4 of my cars, but not taken the pins off. There is now only one car I haven’t changed the couplers on. I have one Intermountain car where the coupler box seems to be glued shut from the factory. I didn’t feel like forcing it. Worst case I can cut it off and replace the coupler box, but for now, I know its the only car that doesn’t have a scale head, so it can be a future problem.

The next task, was to start looking at improving my uncoupling tool. I’ve noticed a few spots can be dark, so I wanted to steal an idea I’ve seen from 7mm UK modeller Brian Dickey, a flashlight attached to the coupling tool. To do this, I found a two-pack of mini-flashlights on Amazon, and ordered them. I have since taped a piece of styrene tube onto it, and mounted a Kadee uncoupling tool into it. So far, it seems to be doing what I want. This is definitely a version 1.0! I need to get a slightly smaller tube (I had to wrap some tape onto the coupler skewer to get it to stay in place), and do something a bit nicer looking than some black electrical tape, but, as a proof of concept, it works!

Mini LED flashlight modified into an HO Scale Uncoupling tool. Puts light where you need it to see between cars.

I realize sometimes, or at least think about the fact that there are probably people who are new to the hobby sometimes who stumble across my blog. I hope, that you don’t see things like this and get discouraged. You don’t need to change all your couplers to have a layout. This is a choice I am making for a variety of reasons given my interests. Sometimes people in this hobby, as in life can be judgy of others. I know I am guilty of it. I sincerely hope that people who are new to the hobby and learning see my posts, the good things, and the bad, and find motivation to continue to explore how they can and do enjoy the hobby. I know I look at some of my friends work and blogs and constantly wonder how my modelling can reach their levels, and the answer is surprisingly simple. Keep working at it, make mistakes, don’t be afraid of the mistakes, and don’t let something that doesn’t work define or deter you. I make mistakes constantly. I could probably write as many posts about the things I screw up as what I’ve been doing, though that probably wouldn’t help my motivation as much as posts about getting something done do!