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!

Tuesday Train #215

A Canadian National GMD-1 apparently assigned to Guelph for switching the industrial sidings in 2020. Will wonders never cease! This loco was built in 1960 as CN 1075, and rebuilt in 1989 when it became 1408. There were 101 GMD-1’s built, 96 for CNR, and 5 for the Northern Alberta Railway. Many are still out there working for short lines or private operators, some made it Cuba for their second act. CN still has 15 on the roster in 2020 according to the Trackside Guide.

Making a Scene

So I regularly trade text messages with a number of other model railroaders, sometimes about trains, sometimes not. I sent the overview picture below last night after snapping it while ballasting track, and as I looked at it, while I see all kinds of things that need doing, I also see my vision for the layout starting to really emerge, unfinished scenery or not. It was a feel good moment, of “hey, it really is really happening”. It made me smile on a Thursday night, and I felt like sharing that with friends.

Birds eye view looking east on Liberty Street taken while ballasting track behind me. This is not the normal layout view a guest will get.

One of my friends in the text chat, a very astute observer and excellent modeller asked about the white poles, and if they were telephone/power poles. They will be when I get them done. They have a fair bit of work needed still, at this stage, they are cut to height and in place to make sure I didn’t create any pinch points where trains couldn’t actually get past them. I very nearly did, but all appears good.

His question was, were they really that close to the tracks? And my answer, amazingly was yes, they pretty much were. That prompted me to send him a couple of the Toronto Archives pictures from the 1970’s (ish) period, after when I am modelling, but things like the tracks and streetpoles didn’t move much. They are still basically in the same locations today for the street poles at least (the tracks are sadly mostly gone!)

Left, Toronto Archives Picture (series 1465, Folder, 0051, Item 0007), on the right, as close as I could get my hands in to recreate the view looking east on Liberty Street at Jefferson Avenue.
Left, Toronto Archives Picture (series 1465, Folder, 0037, Item 0023), on the right, as close as I could get my hands in to recreate the view looking west on Liberty Street at Hanna Avenue.

I then sent the two layout shots as well.The two comparisons above I think nicely capture what I am looking to achieve on my layout in recreating Liberty Village. Even though I am modelling an earlier era when more of the tracks were still in use, the Toronto Archives Pictures really do help to set the scene. Most of the buildings have been restored or altered now, and the tracks are gone as I said. While some of the details around the edges are wrong, the feel of the area is very much the same in the few pictures I’ve ever found that might be 1950’s vintage.

Its urban, its what I wanted my layout to be. As reasonably accurate and prototypical recreation of a little part of the City I call home, and amazingly to me, it seems to slowly be emerging. Still lots of work to do. Won’t be done by Christmas as one of the other modellers on the group chat teases, but I might just be running solo test operations by then with all the track ballasted and the switch machines in to find all the places the trains don’t want to run right!

Public Safety Announcement – Buy a Fire Extinguisher

So first off, no, we have not had a fire or anything else at our house. But we did have an altogether too close to home adventure this summer, in the courtyard of townhouses we live in. We very nearly had a major fire as one of the houses across the courtyard from us had their barbecue go up in flames. Our BBQ’s are all fed by natural gas lines from inside the building, so no propane tanks to explode, but a steady fuel source feeding it.

I’m saying buy an extinguisher as I was out warming up our BBQ, when I noticed the smokey smell, and turned to see the plumb of thick black smoke wrapping up the walls across from us. At first, I thought it was the building on fire as there was so much smoke. The PSA is that we discovered we were the only people of about a dozen houses that have any kind of home extinguisher, as I quickly grabbed the one inside our front door closet that is positioned to be close to the BBQ, and ran across the courtyard and had the fire out by the time the fire department arrived. I went out and replaced our spent extinguisher with two new ones, and our neighbour bought a replacement for the used one as a thank you.

With that, we now have three, one under the kitchen sink, one in the ground floor front closet near the BBQ on our patio/terrace, and the one below in my layout room/workshop. Will a little extinguisher like this put out a catastrophic fire? No, but it might just save your life and let you get out and will put out a small fire. Discovering how many people don’t have them was to put it mildly, shocking. I think the one I used was one of the first things we bought after taking possession of our house just in case something ever happened with the BBQ or in the kitchen.

Fire Extinguisher. Do you have one? No, then go buy one. No really, that should be your weekend goal.