Thursday, 14 December 2017

Santa Fe refrigerator cars service

After my previous post I discovered this "educational documentary" from 1956 which is about ATSF refrigerator car service. Watch it in full-screen for best viewing.

I love those ABBA FT and F7 sets!


Tuesday, 12 December 2017

Installing Microtrains trucks on Athearn reefers

Ever since Athearn released its models of ATSF 50' ice reefers I've been wanting to get some for the GC&SF. But unfortunately, I haven't been able to locate an online retailer with any suitable cars (ie those with either the "Ship and Travel" slogan or the straight line map) in stock.  From time to time such cars have shown up on ebay, but only as single cars, and the S&H to Australia pushed the total cost way above my budget.

Back in October I finally found a seller with 4 "used" cars for sale at a price I could afford, and I got my order in. It took a woefully long time for the cars to reach me in Australia, as the seller used ebay's Global Shipping Program. It took TWO WEEKS just for the cars to travel from the seller in New Hampshire to the GSP centre in California!!!

But eventually the cars arrived.

The cars are much nicer than I expected them to be, and are a very good match for my Intermountain 40' ATSF ice reefers. Three of them look 'as new', and the fourth was lightly weathered. Nothing to complain about on that front.
Athearn ice reefer in centre, Intermountain 40' ice reefer to the left, and Atlas PS-1 boxcar to the right.

However, the trucks used on the cars rolled very poorly, and the couplers (Accumates, or an Accumate clone) have a long extension which makes the car-to-car separation look very long. The fact that these cars are relatively low in height seemed to exaggerate the look.
Intermountain 40' ice reefer to the left, Athearn 50' ice reefer to the right.
The Intermountain car has MTL trucks and the Athearn car has Athearn Accumates.

I decided to replace the Athearn trucks with Microtrains trucks, but that proved to be a little more difficult than I anticipated. The cars have a post that extends through the hole in the truck, and that post is much narrower than the mounting hole in the MTL trucks.

I did some research, and found a Trainboard thread in which a poster named Christoph said "I put a short piece of a drinking straw over the cast-on Athearn bolster pin, then it just fit into a MTL truck. I reused the Athearn screws, and everything can be reversed if you wish so." I wasn't able to find a straw that was the right size to fit in the manner described, but then it occurred to me that I didn't need a closed ring of straw.

I cut approx. 2mm from the end of the straw, and cut it in half. Then, by trial and error, I trimmed it until it fit.

Then I installed the MTL tuck and tested that it swivelled properly.

As the screw-head is only slightly larger than the mounting hole in the MTL truck, I added a washer that MTL used to supply with their trucks (I'm not sure whether they still supply them.)

Then I installed Microtrains standard wheelsets, and the cars were ready to roll. Here's an "after" photo to show how the car-to-car separation now looks:
Comparison of models of ATSF ice refrigerator cars. Intermountain 40' reefer on the left,
and Athearn 50' reefer on the right. Both cars now have MTL trucks installed.

After doing some test running, I've added the cars to the GC&SF fleet where they'll be earning their keep at the next operating session.


Friday, 8 December 2017

Video action on the GC&SF

I made a couple of hand-held videos during last Tuesday's operating session.

This first one is the Texas Chief heading north at Big Canyon.

This is a northbound Fast Freight at Davis.

Tuesday, 5 December 2017

Operating session for 5th December 2017

The crew came together again today, for one last operating session in 2017.

The session started off very well, but two-thirds of the way through the 'morning' half of the timetable we started to get behind schedule. I stopped the fast-time clock a couple of times so we could catch up, but we slipped further behind. Then we had a derailment in the hidden lead to the north staging yard. I pulled the derailed locos and cars out by hand and pushed the rest of the train through to the continuous-run connection track (which isn't used during operating sessions.) Then I called lunch, so I could sort out the problems while the crew had lunch and refreshments.

The afternoon half of the timetable ran a lot better. We had to finish the morning part first, so we didn't complete the schedule. Nevertheless, it was a good session.

Here are some photos from today.

John F operated the Ardmore yard. He left his glasses at home, and borrowed a pair of mine. They worked, .. sort of.

Chris is building the Davis to Pauls Valley local freight at Davis.

Bill has a north-bound passenger train approaching Big Canyon.
Chris has the local freight holding on the siding at Wynnewood while he plans his switching moves.
Rod is rolling through the town with a through-freight.

Darren has the Ardmore local freight. Here he is switching cars at Gene Autry.
The tracks under Darren's hand are the South Staging tracks, and the continuous run connection.

Dennis has the southbound gravel train which will exchange its empty gons for loaded gons
at Dougherty and Big Canyon.

Pauls Valley Yardmaster John C is sorting cars while he has a break from arriving trains.

Rod and Peter are preparing to cut cars out from their south-bound fast freight at Ardmore,
as Yardmaster John F. determines which cars are to be added.

Chris is picking up cars at Wynnewood. The local is a long train today.

The gravel train has arrived at Dougherty, where Dennis has to do some set-outs and pick-ups.
But first, he will have to split the train to make room for the local freight when it arrives.

Just on cue, here's Darren with the local freight.

The Davis - Pauls Valley local has arrived at Pauls Valley,
and Chris has cut off the locos to ready them for the return trip to Davis.

Dennis has pulled a cut of loaded gondolas from the Dolese siding,
and is now pushing in a cut of empties for loading.

Here, Darren has the south-bound refinery extra. He's preparing to pull a cut of loaded LPG cars
from the refinery at Wynnewood before swapping them for empties.

Yardmaster John at Ardmore yard.

Peter and Rod, with the north-bound livestock express rounding the
big curve between Davis and Wynnewood.

The south-bound Kansas Cityan at Davis, with Chris at the controls.
Much later in the day, and Rod and Peter are at Dougherty doing some switching with the afternoon
Ardmore local freight, while Darren prepares to collect some loaded gons with the north-bound gravel train.

Train 15, The Texas Chief heads towards Davis with Bill at the controls.
Dennis has the afternoon Davis - Pauls Valley local freight, and once again it's a long train.

Bill is receiving his orders for his next assignment. The sheet to the right of the clip holding the train orders
is the crew call board, with the trains listed in their order of departure. Above the call board are the train graphs
from which I derived the timetable.

We didn't make it right through the timetable today (or even come close). But it was still a very enjoyable day. A big 'thank-you' to the guys who came over.

Regards to all, and thanks for looking,

Wednesday, 8 November 2017

Adding more greenery ...

Since my post last week I've been working on the base scenery around some of the industries at Wynnewood, and adding some trees at Davis. In both cases there is still more work to be done, but I can see a noticeable visual improvement.

At Wynnewood I installed bases under several of the buildings, that will hold them in place but also allow them to be lifted from the layout when it's necessary. Then I added grass around Musgrove Lumber, Wynnewood Engineering and the Tyler & Simpson store. I also repaired/improved the gravel surface at the refinery entrance.

Down the line at Davis I added a little more greenery, including a number of trees that I upgraded from plastic trees that I bought on eBay.

Thanks for looking,

Friday, 27 October 2017

Johnstone Construction Co.

My project for this month was to complete the structures for Johnstone Construction Co.. I've been disappointed with the way a couple of the previous buildings looked once I placed them on the layout - just structures sitting on "bare plywood." So this time I went a bit further than I usually do, and added some scenery around the buildings.

So here it is ... Johnstone Construction Co.

The road that heads into the back drop in front of the brick building was originally intended to run off into the distance, but I've now decided to make it a dead end (with suitable signage at the back drop), and extend the road that runs along to siding into Davis.

I also did a little more work on Pitmon Oil, which is just across the road from Johnstone Construction Co., and here's a photo of the (not quite) complete scene.

Thanks for looking in.


Saturday, 30 September 2017

Wynnewood Engineering, Wynnewood

I finished the main structure for this industry, but before I can do the base for it I have to relocate the industry siding as it is now too close to the building. I also have to add signs and a few more small details to this building (and most of the others that I've scratch-built.)  Those will be jobs for another day.


Wednesday, 16 August 2017

Pitmon Oil & Gas, Davis.

I started building these structures about six months ago, and this week I finally got around to finishing them. I'm not happy with the walkway on top of the vertical tanks, and will replace it as soon as I find where I put my etched metal walkways for safe keeping.


Wednesday, 2 August 2017

Ardmore Airforce Base

A few miles to the north of Gene Autry is the site of the Ardmore Industrial Airpark and the Ardmore Municipal Airport. This facility was originally built as a military airfield, and operated as the Ardmore Army Air Field from 1942 until 1946, when it was turned over to the City of Ardmore for use as a civilian airfield. With the advent of the Cold War, the military resumed control, and operated the airfield as the Ardmore Airforce Base from 1953 until 1959.

In March 1959 the facility was again turned over to the City of Ardmore and has since operated as the Ardmore Industrial Airpark and the Ardmore Municipal Airport.  However, in my reimagined version of history, in 1960 the airfield is still a busy Airforce base.

The following map from 1965 shows the arrangement of the original rail siding, which was located in the south-west corner of the airbase.

This photo shows where original siding left the ATSF main track and crossed a low trestle bridge before entering the airbase:

This photo from 1954 is the only photo I've found that shows any part of the rail facilities, which are barely visible in the lower left-hand corner. Almost all of the buildings in this photo were removed before the Airforce turned the base over to the City of Ardmore in 1959.

In the tight space that I have available I will include a two-track siding, a long warehouse, and facilities for unloading flat cars and tank cars. These photos show what I have so far:
This photo shows the warehouse as viewed from the aisle. Viewed from this angle,
the rest of the airbase would be located behind and to the right of the warehouse

This photo, and the next one, were taken from a higher elevation to better show
the building and 'concrete' surface.

I've added some freight cars to show the overall size.

I scribed lines in the 'concrete' to represent expansion gaps, using a pattern that I saw on a derelict WW2 airfield in an episode of Midsomer Murders. The airfield used in that episode was RAF Oakley Airfield at Worminghall.

I tried to make the scribed 'expansion gaps' show up darker against the grey concrete by rubbing on darker chalks, but the chalk simply made the surface darker while making the lines appear even lighter. Some time in the future I'll try applying a wash to the surface, but that can wait for now.

Now I just have to figure out how to represent the rest of the airbase. Perhaps a few storage tanks, a building flat or two, and maybe a backdrop photo.


Wednesday, 19 July 2017

Operating session on the GC&SF

On a bleak, wet, wintery day, what could be better than to have some friends over to play trains...?  Yes - yesterday was  Operating Day on the GC&SF.

Due to unexpected illnesses we were a couple of operators short today, which made it challenging to keep up with the timetable during its busier periods. Nevertheless, we managed to get through most of the trains called for on the schedule:

Brendan ran one yard and I operated the other. Between fielding general questions and running the yard I had a very hectic time, and I'm very glad that I changed the system so that the Lindsay, Ringling and Frisco locals are operated by guys from the 'engineers pool' instead of the yard operators (as they used to be.)  Brendan, on the other hand, was so far ahead of the game that he had time to run a through freight!

Here are some photos that I took during the session:
Rod with the Ardmore local, doing some switching at the Ardmore Air Base just north of Gene Autry.

Peter has brought the Frisco (SLSF) local into Ardmore, and is now doing a run-around move
to get to the other end of the train.

Chris preparing to exchange empty cars for loaded gons at the Southern Rock Asphalt plant at Dougherty.

Bill with the Pauls Valley local at Pauls Valley. The monitor in the background
shows the North-end Staging yard tracks.

Dennis is taking Train 38 (a northbound fast freight) through Dougherty, where
Chris is still at work swapping empties for loads.

Chris and the gravel train have now moved to Big Canyon where they'll do some more switching.

Graham and the southbound tank-car train are passing through Davis.

Bill and Brendan watch as Rod sets out stock cars at the Pauls Valley stock yards.

Hmmm .... (I have no idea what Peter is thinking.)

The locos on the northbound Chicagoan have just separated because somebody (I wonder who, Graham)
forgot to line the turnout for the mainline after using it.

Bill, Peter and Rod taking an unauthorised break!

Brendan and a very tidy yard at Pauls Valley.

The front gons on the gravel train derailed on the turnouts at Dougherty. I'll have to do some testing,
but we suspect that the derailment happened because the empty cars at the front of the train are
very light compared to the loaded cars at the rear of the train (just out of the picture).

Graham is waiting for the northbound tank-car train to pass through Davis so he can finish
building the Pauls Valley local freight.

Pauls Valley has two GP7s assigned to it, and Brendan has MU'd them together.  Here he is using the pair
to add cars to a northbound fast freight.

Graham doing some switching with the Pauls Valley local, at Davis.

Chris, with the tank-car train arriving at Wynnewood.

Chris cutting off the way-car and buffer car, before spotting six empty LPG tank-cars at the refinery
for loading. He has already moved six loaded cars to an auxiliary track to make room for the empties.

Chris also took a bunch of photos, and emailed them to me so I can include them here:
Bill preparing the morning Pauls Valley local freight (which actually starts from Davis.)

Brendan switching the head end of Train 40 (a northbound fast freight) while I add cars to the rear end.

Graham with the afternoon Pauls Valley local freight, at Wynnewood.

Extra 172 North (the tank-car train) holding in the siding at Davis so that Train 40 can overtake it.
I love my MTL FTs!

Three Santa Fe box cars sitting on the siding at Ardmore Construction. During the '50s there were several
building supply businesses in Ardmore, and Ardmore Construction is just a generic representation
of those industries. The buildings are temporary stand-ins (albeit very old stand-ins.)

The starting line-up at South Staging. L-R: Train 5 (The Ranger), Train 40 (a morning fast freight),
Train 16 (The Texas Chief), X2856N (the livestock extra) and Train 40 (an afternoon fast freight.)

Stillwater Milling at Davis. The H16-44s will soon be called to work on the Pauls Valley local freight.

Another shot of the FTs at the head of the tank-car train, at Davis.

The Pauls Valley local freight at Wynnewood, where it is about to do some switching.

Although we had a few minor glitches, I'm very happy with the way the layout operated, and especially with the way the guys ran things. Thanks for coming over guys - as Graham would say, "I love your work." Also, a special thanks to Brendan for taking time out from running the Pauls Valley yard to assist the newer operators, and to Chris for allowing me to share his photos.

Thanks for looking in.