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T O P I C    R E V I E W
Coaltrain Posted - 10/13/2010 : 09:14:03 AM
This is the first official post for my new layout I am building in On3, the Slater Creek Railway. I became a fan of the Manns Creek Railway while researching information on coke ovens for a project on my HO railroad, the Roanoke and Southern. Shortly after discovering the MC an article on building MC hoppers in On30 by Sam Swanson was published in the Narrow Gauge and Shortline Gazette. For fun I built one hopper with the intent of it being a static display. One thing led to another and I built the car to have operating unloading doors controlled by a DCC decoder. Wanting to see the car in action I started to consider building a layout in On30, but since I had only one small space to model railroad in would mean that my HO layout would have to be torn out. My HO layout met all my goals, was published in Model Railroader, and was complete, so I decided I missed layout building and decided that I would tear out the HO layout and try a new modeling adventure.

While I really enjoy modeling prototype railroads and their equipment, and swore that the next time I would model a prototype RR, I decided to once again do a fictional railroad. My reason is I like to have a little freedom to take pieces that I like of other railroads and put them together to form my own railroad that I believe will give the viewer a good idea what form of railroading I am modeling would be like, which I do by carefully picking features of railroads that do what my railroad does. I would do not pick "one of everything" to be on my layout, rather I pick features that would have been typical of railroads that are in my area and do the same work.

I liked many of the features of the Manns Creek railroad, I liked the area where the MC was located, but I wanted to be able to do a few things differently. I wanted to have a couple Rod locomotives, I know the MC did have some at one time but I want something a little bigger than they had, and I wanted to have a few different pieces of rolling stock and do a little more than haul logs, lumber, and coal. So using Google maps I searched around the area of the MC to find a location that I could place my railroad. I found another creek a little further up the New River called Slater Creek, located along the New River at a town called Thayer on the C&O.

From what Google showed Slater Creek looked a lot like Manns Creek and was close enough to each other that I could say that coal was discovered in Slater Creek canyon as well. Actually there was a coal mine there at one time and my story is that as that coal was mined out a narrow gauge RR was built up Slater Creek to reach new seams of coal. I am using many pieces of the Manns Creek on my railroad, one of which is the car shops which I plan on building to scale.

Now I know that some of you expected me to build this layout in On30, so did I, but just recently I decided to switch to On3. I switched to On3 after having a conversation with a fellow HO modeler, who after listening to me describe what I was going to do, what scale I was going to use, and how I was going to scratchbuild almost everything and he asked me why I was going to build it in the wrong gauge. I told him all the reasons why modelers choose On30 to represent three foot gauge railroads but he said that if I was going to hand lay all my track, scratchbuild all my rolling stock, and maybe even scratchbuild a locomotive or two why would I not just build it in scale three foot gauge. I decided that he was right, all the reasons to model in On30 did not really apply to my situation, so I switched to On3.

Here is the final track plan of the Slater Creek Railway. My room is very small so I had to pick a few key scenes that I wanted to model. the first scene along the top wall (by the room door) is the coal dump trestle. I struggled for a long time with this section because I wanted to have a place to dump the coal that could justify the need for lots of coal. The MC first dumped coal into a bin that was used to feed their coke ovens, later as demand for coal increased they built a sizing plant just above the coke ovens. In the later years the coke production decreased and most of the coal went to the sizing plant. I decided that I only had room for one place to receive coal and figured that the sizing plant would be the better choice. I had a hard time fitting in the sizing plant because in O scale the structure would be huge. I condensed the sizing tipple as much as I felt it could but it was still a huge model that took a lot of layout width, pushing the narrow gauge track way to the back of the layout. I decided to try flipping the sizing plant so that the standard gauge loading tipple would be at the back drop and the narrow gauge coal dump house would be at the front edge of the layout, which puts the operating track close to the front where it is easy to reach and watch the hoppers unload coal. Flipping the tipple around also allowed me to use trees to hide the fact that the entire tipple is not modeled, cutting down on the layout width required.

Flipping the coal sizing plant will allow me to model the Manns Creek Rays stone engine house close to the front of the layout where it can be viewed up close. I also located a storage track here so I can have a place to store a few freight cars or work equipment. In the later years the MC did not use the stone engine house, they had built a new wood engine house at a different location, so I am going to use the stone engine house to store a passenger car and something else, maybe a locomotive used at this location, not sure yet.

The one strange feature of the flipped sizing plant will be the scenery, which will fall as it moves toward the backdrop. The narrow gauge track at the front of the layout will be at the top of the hill and the scenery will fall 16" actual inches as it goes to the backdrop. I don't know how this is going to work out, I hope it gives the operator a feeling of being high on the side of the mountain but we'll see, this will be a bit of an experiment.

Where I did have to deviate from the MC is where I located my switch back and which direction my RR leaves town, a forced compromise caused by the constraints of my room. My SCRy travels clockwise around the room as we leave the coal dump trestle, across Slater Creek and around a tall rock cliff and out of sight. As the tracks turn to the right wall they will be running along the wall of my layout room where my work bench will be located under the layout, this is the one spot there the benchwork supporting the visible track can be thin and high to provide enough room for a workbench. In the middle of the right wall there will be a turnout, one leg will continue along the south wall without an elevation change to a three track storage yard, the other leg will turn along the south wall and start a stiff grade up to my switch back located in the far left lower corner of the room.

At the switch back I believe I will have some room to model either a mining camp or a lumber camp. I think I can get a siding in here but I am not sure yet how I want to do it so I am leaving that off until I get to that point. the track plan makes it look like the switch back continues on behind the furnace and connects back to the coal dump area, which is how I intended it to be to give me a running loop, but a furnace duct passes too low to allow this and the switch back track will stub end in the wall as far as I can go. Instead the staging tracks that are located under the switch back will come back together and travel behind the furnace to form the running loop.

From the switch back the tracks will climb a slight grade to the car shop and foundry. There will be a spur on this slight grade that goes back next to the switch back to a coal mine. I am going to have a small earth loading ramp and dirt road on the mine spur where just about anything can be loaded or unloaded from railroad cars, like mining equipment, building supplies, and whatever else I can imagine.

The car shop will be the MC car shop located at Cliftop and it will be built to scale with full interior. The tracks around it follow the prototype pretty much to scale. Just pass the car shop will be a run around and a strip coal tipple, also built to scale from the MC's tipple at Cliftop. The strip tipple will be built to actual load coal into the hoppers. I am a little concerned that the tipple will somewhat block the view of the loaded hoppers but I may be able to work the scenery around it to make it work better.

Just past the run around tracks is the new wood engine house, also built to scale to match the MC's engine house at Cliftop. The engine house can hold two geared locomotives. And just as it does on the MC, there is a company store located at the end of the engine house spur. The company store will also be built to scale and have three stories above the road level in front with the scenery falling away to form what we would call a "walk out" lower level, which has a set of doors to allow the narrow gauge track to enter the basement for freight car to be spotted inside for unloading.

I know it seems like operation may be limited, but this layout was meant to be a test to see what I think of O scale narrow gauge modeling. I wanted to have it be a place for me to have some very detailed structures get a taste of this new gauge / scale. I would like to move someday to a get a larger modeling space and if I continue in this scale I can use the structures and scenes from this layout on the next. I made some changes to the room since my HO layout was torn down, one was the enclosure built around the furnace, that somewhat reduced the size of my layout space but will provide a nicer room to model in. I got very tired of the narrow aisles of my HO layout and I decided to run the layout only around the walls of the room to give the largest open space for people in the middle. I also wanted to make sure I had a running loop to be able to test and break in equipment, something I really regretted not having on the HO layout.

Well, that got a little long. I will be starting to benchwork soon, I am still doing the room remodeling. I did install the tracks behind the furnace already because once the walls are completed around the furnace because it was easier. I will be able to reach the tracks from one side if there is an issue but there was no way to install them if I had not done it first.

15   L A T E S T    R E P L I E S    (Newest First)
Coaltrain Posted - 03/04/2021 : 7:25:35 PM
thank, the grease bucket was used to get proportions of the air tank, i just forgot to take it out, but I will print some and decal them for Esso
Chris333 Posted - 03/03/2021 : 3:24:15 PM
3D grease bucket for the win!
Michael Hohn Posted - 03/03/2021 : 09:35:01 AM
Its always a pleasure seeing progress here.

You seem to be testing the limits of technology. It will be a big help to those who follow.

Coaltrain Posted - 03/03/2021 : 09:00:47 AM
Well....progress IS being made on the shay. This has been much harder than I would have thought it was going to be and I am wondering if building in brass would actually be easier. The CAD part is not hard because I do it for a living and I have for 30 years. The hard part is breaking parts down for best printing and then getting them orientated on the printer and supported so they print as desired, then cured without warping, then assembled into a model. There are lots of parts that are printed, check for flaws, then checked for fit, then adjusted and printed again, and sometimes again. However, in the end there will be the ability to just print parts as needed.

The frame is assembled but it was not easy, building the trucks were easier. There is just a very slight back bow that I believe the boiler will straighten it out when mounted.

I made lots of progress on the boiler details and I am just a few moments away from being able to print it for the final time.

here are images of where the frame is at, sorry for all the sanding dust and poor images, it is really hard to show it in the unpainted stage.

here are the images of the boiler CAD model. one detail that I wanted to include was the seams that run down the lagging, which I have not seen on any production models yet I see it all the time on real locomotives.

Chris333 Posted - 02/23/2021 : 8:01:07 PM
Would even shorter pieces printed separately help the warping?
Philip Posted - 02/23/2021 : 11:13:22 AM
Easy getting sidetracked in the 3d world. Awesome work!

Dutchman Posted - 02/22/2021 : 08:34:16 AM
The firebox and ashpan looks very good, Jeff. Hopefully one of your plans for the frame will work out.
Coaltrain Posted - 02/22/2021 : 07:22:20 AM
to say that printing the frame has been a challenge might be an understatement. I am trying plan C at the moment.

Plan A = Resin veneerse with brass reinforced I-beams
Plan B = All Resin
Plan C = Resin print veneers and laminate on PLA
Plan D = Brass skeleton with resin veneers
Plan E = all brass

Plan A failed because of the thickness of the I-beams over resin were very thin and the attached running boards warped. however I may be able to try this again with a new curing method that seems to be warping less.

Plan B failed because of warping of the I-beams. I also got some warping in the running boards but the biggest issue is the frames are hump backed.

Plan C (the current try) is that I am printing a PLA subframe on a FDM printer that I will laminate veneers of resin over them. I wanted to try full 3D printing before I give up on it because there are advantages of all 3D printing if it works. Why I think this will work, because my FDM printer has a 12" bed and I can print the subframe in one piece, the resin printer will only do 4" max and the resin frame would have to be in three pieces. I got this idea because my original test frames that were printed in PLA are very straight and strong. PLA is not good for details but it is strong, and if I make highly detailed resin veneers I can laminate the sections over the PLA. The PLA will give the print the strength and the resin will give it detail. This is an adaption of Plan A, which was a good plan but when I tried it the resin I-beams were too thin. I could try it again but I like the idea of a completely printed frame because the accuracy of the frame will not be dependent of my fabrication skill and the printed frame will exactly match my 3D digital model and any parts I design for it will fit perfectly.

here is what print testing looks like

here you can see the warping frame rails

Coaltrain Posted - 02/15/2021 : 08:09:27 AM
I started printing parts for the frame. so far I have the firebox and the ashpan printed, and as I type this the front portion of the frame is printing.

the normal procedure for resin printing is to design the part, import it into a slicer program, add supports to hold up areas that are "floating" and then print. I tried printing the firebox and ashpan a few times using the standard procedure and I was not getting good enough results. I decided that I needed to also design my own supports and not use the slicer program supports. The slice supports work fine for your average details but I needed the parts to be more accurate because the need to be assembled with tighter tolerances. The slicer supports are good for supporting what they call "islands", or small patches of the part that are floating for part of the printing process, once the islands attach themselves to the main model then the part will continue to print fine. in the case of a random detail there can be some deforming of the part caused by sagging in the "islands" and it really does not matter. I am supporting large flat edges so I designed supports that would support over an entire edge rather than small points. I designed the supports so they would break away with just a small amount of material to sand away, and I am putting those areas on non-visible surfaces.

the other benefit of modeling my own supports is that the supports are in the model, and if I need to make small adjustments to the model I do not have to go through all the effort to put supports back on the model. For example, normally after you import into the slicer you may spend a considerable amount of time adding supports, then print the part. After the part is printed it is not uncommon for a part of the model to need to be adjusted to get it to print better or you just forgot a part. If a part needs adjusting you have to go back to the part modeling software, fix the issues, export again, import into the slicer and then redo all the supports that you put in the first time. by having the supports in the 3D model they will export with the part and all I have to do is just import into the slicer and print.

I can see the day coming that 3D modeling software will have an option to design supports for all these reasons I stated above.

here is the firebox and ashpan print. I threw on some gray paint on the firebox and did a quick grime wash. I am going to add some rust this week.

Coaltrain Posted - 02/06/2021 : 11:45:17 AM
big day today, the cab main parts were developed and checked against the original Lima drawing. now that I have the parts all worked out I can move forward with all the final detailing, and then let the resin flow!

I have to make the cutout in the cab side for the cylinders and then correct the cylinder shield yet.

here is the CAD model laid over the actual Lima drawing.

Philip Posted - 02/03/2021 : 11:01:28 AM
Good stuff! The building end is symmetrically perfect!

Coaltrain Posted - 02/03/2021 : 07:59:30 AM
made a little more progress on the Shay, this time it was the rear sandbox and the fireman side running boards. One big issue I have is that the California State Railroad museum did not have the cab or the exact tender drawing. I have a tender drawing that is close that I have been able to learn details of construction but I did not have the exact width measurements. The frame drawing I have is what is called a "tabulated drawing", meaning that it was used to create several different size frames using a table of dimensions depending on the plan number, and I do not have a way to link the Plan drawing number to the order number. The only way I know is to guess at the plan number date and compare it to the order number date. The MC shay 8 was a special shay that had some modifications to it and I could not get some dimensions, one being the width of the tender, from the tabulated drawing. To solve the mystery I used Sketchup and did "photo match" to get the best guess I could, turns out that #8 is 6" wider than the plan calles out.

I am really confident in the 6" width compared to the standard width because I have used several different photo angles measured against known dimensions. I also had the drawing of the running board support and it was sticking out farther than the standard tender drawing showed, so that is how I knew something was different. When you look at photos of the real #8 there is just something different looking to it than other shays, part of it is the huge stack, but there is a more bulky look to it, which I now am sure is the combination of the large diameter boiler and the 9' wide cab/tender.

with the recent discover of the wider cab I am going to have to build a new cab, but that is ok because I have learned a better way to build parts for this type of modeling that makes the parts more stable and flexable.

As you can see this is just as hard and time consuming as actual modeling, just in a different way. I was thinking maybe there needs to be a name other than 3D modeling for this kind of work, maybe digital scratch building or something like that.

one detail to point out that often gets missed is that on shays the running boards on the fireman's side hang out past the side of the tender and form a toe board to allow the fireman to go from the cab to the rear of the tender without climbing down from the locomotive. this "bump out" also extends along the side of the cab for the same reason. my running boards do not stick out as far because my digital model's running boards are what I am calling "sub running board". Another detail is that the MC shay had metal running board, which you can see how bent and dented they are. I am not sure I would want to slide alongside that tender on a rainy day while crossing Glade Creek on those running boards

rear view of sandbox

Coaltrain Posted - 02/01/2021 : 3:21:58 PM
Originally posted by jbvb

Are you going to model the broken strap on the closer footboard? Clearly no state inspector or union steward was in the area, as it looks like it had been broken for quite a while.

funny you should ask, I was thinking about it, but there is an issue with modeling "weathering like that" because it was not always that way. If I were to pick a specific era I would for sure model it that way if it was broken in my era. That photo was taken on the last day the locomotive ran, actually it was a while after it last ran. The photo was taken during the one and only fan trip. Most photos of #8 do not show the broken strap.

I was just looking at photos about the weld patches in the stack and they look like they were fixing that all the time because there are so many different patterns.

I am also wondering if I want to model the bent side walkways or not. Manns Creek #8 was unique in that it had metal walkways as opposed to the more common wood versions.
jbvb Posted - 02/01/2021 : 1:21:43 PM
Are you going to model the broken strap on the closer footboard? Clearly no state inspector or union steward was in the area, as it looks like it had been broken for quite a while.
Coaltrain Posted - 02/01/2021 : 11:10:51 AM
lots of digital scratch building and a little printing. I have spent a lot of time working on frame and firebox details, getting close to being able to print the frame. I still have stay bolts to add to the sides of the firebox but I had to wait until I worked out the frame attachment, which are almost done.

the frame has been another challenge. first the frame has to be able to be printed, and depending on how the part is orientated the frame will need to be split up. I decided to print the frame horizontal, which requires the frame to be split in three pieces. I made the split in the firebox area and I made to long ends (front and rear) with a filler piece at the firebox, which will mostly be hidden behind the cab steps and the cylinders. Because the frame is split I decided to make a 0.015 slot down the middle of the frame rails were I will have a long piece of brass to stiffen the assembly. A real Shay's frame looks like it is made from I-beams but they are actually two C-Channels placed back to back, so that made a natural split in the frame for the brass. I decided to print the inner frame separate from the outer so I can print the inner frame pieces, attach the brass, then attach the outer frame pieces. this assembly procedure allows me to use the brass as a way to send power to the trucks without having wires coming out of the boiler.

The pilot has been a lot of work. the big project has been designing the coupler pocket. My first design criteria was that the coupler has to function, meaning that it has to self center. the second criteria is that it has to accept a Kadee coupler that is full sized (meaning not chopped and pinned). The third criteria is that it had to look like the prototype, maintaining scaled dimensions as much as possible but allowing adjustments for the first to criteria to be met.

the first coupler pocket design was made to use the Kadee box unmodified. Kadee couplers work really well in their own box, however I had to widen the prototype pocket way too much and the final printed casting was pretty gross looking. I decided that I would have to reduce the pocket by eliminating the Kadee box, which would save a lot of space. I also eliminated the centering spring of the Kadee, so the coupler will need the box protrusion shaved off the bottom of the box. Second, to get as much swing in the coupler as possible the rear shank needed to be shaved to 45. Using a slightly modified Kadee I was able to match all dimensions of the prototype, with the exception of adding a box behind the prototype pocket where normally there were a pair of 45 gussets.

To get the coupler to center I blocked the long slot with a piece of styrene and modified a Kadee HO centering spring, it all worked well and I may plan to etch my own centering spring, however the modification to the HO spring is so easy that the effort to etch springs may not be worth it.

I spent a great deal of time adding details to the pilot beams. Manns Creek #8 had some interesting features that I wanted to include. First they added some C-Channel to the outside of the lower wood pilot beam. I am not sure if these were left overs from another shay, they have lots of extra holes that are not being used and the front beam is narrower than the rear. Shay 8 had a wider frame than some of the older shays which is why I think these channels used to be the inner channels of an older shay.

I hope to be printing the frame parts within the next week.

here are the coupler pockets, you can see a PSC casting on the left, my final pocket in the middle, and on the right is the one that used a full sized Kadee box (yuck)

here are images of the final box printing.

here is a photo of the prototype front pilot, you can see all the holes and that it is shorter than the rest of the pilot.

here is my digital model that I plan on printing.

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