Sunday, January 22, 2017

The First Rolling Stock

This weekend I've spent some time building a few flat cars for the up and coming railroad.  The first car has just been completed so that I have a model to work with rather than just plans.  My design is based on a set of plans for pulpwood car #420 of the two foot gauge Sandy River and Rangeley Lakes Railroad found on page 36 of the March/April 1991 issue of the Narrow Gauge and Shortline Gazette.  Someday I'll have to do a post about the Gazette and an index of the issues I use for inspiration of my own designs, but that won't be for a while.

In the meantime, here is my finished flat car and I will make 3-4 more just like it.  Now it's somewhat crude since this is my first scratchbuild of a freight car, but I like the looks of it and they are simple to make.  All that is needed now are trucks and couplers.

Friday, December 23, 2016

Which season?

As I'm making decisions for models, structures, etc... an important question came to mind, which season to model?

There are four seasons in a year, Spring, Summer, Fall, and Winter.  Summer is by far the most modeled season, nothing new there. Fall and Spring in Montana are, for the most part, rainy, damp, and wet.  Winter here is quite cold in some places and quite mild elsewhere.

Summer is also the season most talked about in model railroad magazines, forums, scenery tutorials, etc..  Fall is probably a distant second theme, with spring coming in third and winter for fourth.

For this project, and all future projects, I always feel like I have to somehow break ground, try things that haven't been done to death, take the path less traveled.  And so, I've decided to model winter, and the unique challenges that come with that season.  For the modeler, there is the intricacy of snow drifts, types of snow, and how to make everything function well covered in white powder.  For the real railroads, there was the matter of keeping the tracks clear, locomotives protected, and keeping the railroad running.  Even a backwoods line had those problems.

From my experience with Minnesota logging outfits, most logging was in fact done during the winter, and I dare say that similar practices were used here in the Northwest.  After all, the need for timber was a constant thing in this state.  The mines didn't stop in Butte during the winter, neither could the railroads that supplied the area with materials, logging outfits included.

And so this will be my first railroad to feature snow!

Tuesday, November 29, 2016

Meet Crown Peak No. 1 (A Quick Look)

Finally the first locomotive for the railroad has arrived!  Crown Peak No. 1 is a Bachmann On30, outside frame 4-4-0 American.  She's a small engine, locomotive and tender having a length of about 48 scale feet from coupler to coupler (12 inches) and standing at only 10 feet tall (2.5 inches) at the cab.  Here are the initial photos:

 This engine came with plenty of optional details so that anyone can customize their engine to fit within their railroad.  You can choose the pilots (cow-catcher, platform), the smoke stacks (mushroom spark arrestor, standard straight stack), and the method which the engine will be fired (coal, oil, or wood).  You can also choose between spoke and solid pilot wheels.
Full left view

Left engine view

Right engine view

Rear engine view

Front engine view

Full left view, wood load in tender.

Thursday, November 24, 2016

Prototype inspiration, an MOW crew car!

The prototype had all sorts of funky stuff to draw inspiration from, and one such example sits in the Fort Missoula Museum.

The Museum has a large outdoor exhibit of railroad artifacts, among them being this:

The second photo is actually reversed, since Shays were built almost exclusively with their drivers on the right side of the engine, not the left as shown in the picture.

This car was used to transport crews on the Blackfoot railroad route, as well as a mobile office.

I'll have to draw up plans for this thing at some point.

Sunday, November 20, 2016

Planning the railroad (or how to make a saw carriage that moves)

I've decided that the best thing to model first would be the saw mill and shop areas of the logging railroad. But rather than having a stationary saw mill, I'd like to make an O scale mill where all the moving parts move.  For the most part, getting the belts and wheels to rotate is fairly straight forward, the only complicated part is properly positioning everything (wheels can be made from styrene, or purchased, and the belts can be rubber bands).

What's hanging me up is the back and forth motion required for the saw carriage.

You see, the saw carriage would hold a large log in place and push it through the circular saw and then would be pushed back to repeat the process.  This process was powered by the belt system and operated by a lever that would be controlled by the saw operator.  Thus, I need a simple back and forth operation in the span of a length of lumber.  Typically, lengths would be 8, 10, 12, 16, and 20 feet.  I want to be able to cut 16 foot piece of lumber which in O scale ends up being 4 inches.the carriage needs to move twice that length plus about 2 inches to clear the saw, so I need a 10 inch movement total.

After thinking about it, I have four solutions:

Option 1 is to have a vertically mounted DC electric motor power a large wheel (actually 10 inch diameter, not 8 inch).  This wheel would then move a piston via the piston arm.  The result would be turning the single rotational direction of the motor into a back and forth operation at the piston.  The piston itself would be mounted to the underside of the carriage.  To adjust speed I would have to adjust the voltage to the motor.  This option is simple, but I would need a lot of space to make it work, about 10 x 22 inches.  I can be done, but that's pretty big!

Option 2 would work for a higher rpm motor because rather than directly driving the wheel via a friction wheel, this set up uses a worm gear.  The downside is that the wheel would in fact need to be a large gear with hundreds of teeth.  It is possible, but would be time consuming to construct something like this, and would probably have to be done with a large plate of steel. Also, it doesn't reduce the necessary area for this machine to work as I would still need a 10 x 22 inch space.

Option 3 is much more compact and utilizes what is called a "self reversing screw".  Rather than explain it's operation, here's a video from ABSSAC Industries:

 Rather than using a wheel or gear to make a piston-type motion, the self reversing screw works by running in a channel carved into a rod.  When the block gets to the end of the channel, it is forced into the second channel, running the other way.  This operation is bullet proof, except I would need to find someone who can make such a machine in either metal or through 3D printed plastic.

And finally here is Option 4.  Rather than using mechanical means to reverse the screw, I could use electric means via a time delay polarity reversing circuit.  Ever couple of seconds (or however long the time is set for) the circuit board will reverse the polarity headed to the DC motor, thus causing it to run in the opposite direction.  The motor would power a long screw which would basically be a piece of all-thread that is 3/8 or 1/2 inch in size and long enough for the saw carriage to move.  The all-thread would be moving a nut up and down it's length which would then be attached to the log carriage.

Options 3 and 4 take up much less space, requiring about a 2 by 12 inch area to work properly.  option 4 may just be the cheapest of the 4 presented.

Saturday, November 19, 2016

Kicking around two ideas

What should I choose?  That's the hardest question in this entire build.  With my first locomotive on the way it's time to sit down and think about what I would like to model first, and I have two options that I've narrowed myself down to:

Firstly I thought about modeling a logging camp.  These camps were temporary and would consist of one or two sidings and a passing track for trains to meet and for cars full of supplies to be dropped off inside the camp.  A good example photo that I found is this one from

The tracks went right through the middle of the camp, kinda dangerous in the morning for the men on their way to the cook shack!

Such a design would be light on track, heavy on scenery, and would allow for a lot of creative scratch building.  The camps varied quite a lot from a line of tents to temporary hard wall structures and even modified railroad cars!  Not only that, but these camps were always located a short distance from where the men would be felling trees.  If I were to expand with more modules a natural scene would be a log landing, a place where logs would be loaded onto flat-cars and shipped down to the mill.

In places like Minnesota, these camps would be set up over the winter and taken down in the spring, thus clearing large tracts of land over the course of the winter.  In the Glacier area of Montana, these operation would likely have gone on all year round.

There's plenty of info on the logging camps themselves:

One of the more well known railroads, the Big Blackfoot Railroad, ran two Willamette shays, one of which is still in existence at the Fort Missoula Museum!

Obviously, modeling a logging camp has a lot of potential!  But the other idea I had was to model a log landing into a river with basic engine services.  Many of these railroads, especially those located in the Swan River Valley, the Blackfoot River, and the tributaries of the Clark Fork and Flathead River were dozens of miles from other railroads and thus did not have connecting track.

As the articles above explain, these logs would often be dumped into a river and sent downstream to the mill.  This was possible on the deep, fast rivers like the Blackfoot, but perhaps not as efficient on smaller streams.  And when a river couldn't be used, the railroads would be.  Sometimes, in the case of the Big Blackfoot Railroad, the railroad hauled logs from the landing down to the river and would be dumped on a spot of the Blackfoot that could cleanly float the logs several miles to the mill.  Eventually though the Milwaukee Road bought the Big Blackfoot and connected it's tracks to the mainline at the mill.

So really it is quite hard to think of what I would like to model!