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 An Old Man Contemplates an Old Man's Layout

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T O P I C    R E V I E W
Dan Posted - 08/09/2017 : 3:40:42 PM
Over the years, I had become complacent about the scenery streaming past the Pullman windows on the train ride of life. I hardly noticed being switched down the Old Fart Branch until the train slowed for a flag-stop station that had an unusual name. Its sign board read "Superannuate." What really got my attention was when I checked the schedule and the next station stop would be "Elderly" followed by the one at "Geriatric." For all intents and purposes, the latter will be the end of the line.

This prompted me to take a look at where I am now and where I will most likely be in the near future. I am currently living in a house with space for building a layout. However, all too soon, i will be downsized into a modest senior's apartment or, in a worst case scenario, into a care facility.

Therefore, if I am going to build a layout, I had better start now, but I do not want it to be a major project. I think "unpretentious, but fulfilling" would be an apt description. I envision a small, semi-permanent layout, one with graceful curves and prototype operations, that can easily be relocated whenever the need arises.

While dreamers of big layouts yearn for homes with suitable basements, I am hoping for a senior's apartment with a walk-in closet that can accommodate the proposed layout. If that does not work out, the layout is going to occupy prime living space.

To be ready for either situation, it should emulate a piece of furniture. Actually, a real piece of furniture, a suitable "bar height" or "pub height" table, is a layout option. However ADA compliant doorways, which are thirty-two inches wide, can limit the size of a table-top layout.

Layout height and ADA doorways are both mentioned because, as one gets older, debilitating medical conditions can occur at any time. Therefore, to compliment the interior of the new apartment, the layout should also be handicapped accessible, for the lack of a better term.

Ideally, the layout should follow most of the ADA recommendations for wheelchair use. This means that it can be operated, without assistance, from a sitting position using a seat height of nineteen inches. In addition, it should have a clear access path, thirty-six inches wide, to the operating position.

The average wheelchair eye level is forty-seven inches. According to the recommendations of the NMRA, our layouts tend to look better when viewed from near eye level, so an appropriate layout height would be about forty inches. This height also allows a comfortable forward reach from a wheelchair, thereby providing easy access to the front of the layout.

Having been around full sized trains for most of my life, the urge to build a large layout never materialized. My previous attempt to build an On30 layout was four feet wide by two feet deep, with nine inch radius curves. While the layout itself could not be considered a success, it was a learning experience and a test bed for different types of layout construction.

The layout sat on a pedestal made from the bottom three shelves of a plastic storage unit that was approximately thirty-six inches wide by eighteen inches deep. It was fitted with furniture casters for ease of moving it around. The lightweight, but sturdy pedestal proved so successful that current plans are to adapt it to the new layout.

Diminutive Davenport gas-mechanicals, manufactured by Bachmann, were the motive power on the old layout. However, work on the layout ground to a halt, literally, due to the "Great Gear Debacle." Quite frankly, Bachmann's attitude toward the problem and their products put me off the hobby for a while.

Over the years, Bachmann attempted to make amends with a new Whitcomb double truck, diesel-electric locomotive plus re-engineered versions of two of its smaller steamers; the 0-4-2 and the 2-6-0. They are all good runners and, so far, there are no reported signs of mechanical vicissitudes. While under-the-layout sound and pulse-power DC was used before, the decision was made to switch over to DCC and on-board sound for the new layout.

To accommodate the 2-6-0, which requires curves of fifteen inch radius, the size of the layout will be increased to four feet wide by three feet deep. This will require a somewhat larger pedestal, three feet wide by two feet deep. The lower shelves of a steel wire shelf unit, factory equipped with wheels, will provide an acceptable, living space substitute for the previous plastic shelf pedestal.

The heart of the new layout will be a single, two inch thick slab of FOAMULAR XPS rigid foam insulation - aka the pink stuff. An extra thickness will be glued around the edges, forming a socket that will hold the top of the pedestal. As the layout and the pedestal will need to be moved separately, the two will be held together by just the force of gravity.

Although XPS is not rated as structural, the six inches of foamboard overhanging the pedestal on each side should not pose a problem. What may be a problem is, while most foamboard glues will attach fascia boards and backdrop supports to the laminated edges of the layout, these decorative attachments will be subjected to mechanical stress when moving the layout. Therefore, a more secure mounting method needs to be devised.

The scenery will also need to be secured so the separated layout can be turned vertically to avoid running afoul of ADA doorways. With track, scenery and attachments, the layout itself will weigh about twenty-five pounds; light enough to be easily handled by an old codger and a codgette.

To facilitate moving, the layout wiring should be easily disconnected from the DCC supply mounted on the pedestal. The wiring should also be suitably modified to facilitate operating from a wheelchair. For example, a rare but annoying problem is when a locomotive enters the frog end of a turnout with the points set against it, thereby causing a short circuit that brings operations to a halt.

If the turnout motor is DCC controlled and powered from the DCC track supply, the loco must be physically moved beyond the turnout to clear the short, something that cannot always be done from a wheelchair. However, by putting the track power and the turnout controller power on separate feeds and providing a convenient means for disconnecting the track, the power can be restored to the turnout controller and the points reset. As the tracks will be electrically isolated from the DCC supply, a DC power supply can be connected and used to run the trains.

An unintended bonus for senior citizens is a part of the layout construction. If an episode of unsteadiness (you know the type - "I've fallen and I can't get up!") occurs in the presence of the layout, it may result in some serious scenery damage. However, the forgiving nature of the foam insulation and its loose mounting to a movable pedestal should minimize the damage to the senior citizen.

Speaking of unsteadiness, an unintentional quirk is also a part of the layout construction. When using the pedestal, the Rock of Gibraltar stability of a traditional layout will be replaced with the equivalent of San Andreas quaking. While initially disconcerting, the lack of rigidity will not affect layout operations.

If running trains is desired in a care facility, one must keep one's options open. Speaking from experience, a layout without a working locomotive is a diorama and a boring one at that. However, a locomotive without a layout can provide both sound and motion stimulation to an active imagination.

Perhaps a test stand thing-a-ma-jig, with roller assemblies for under the drivers, complete with scenery and a bit of backdrop, would make a minimalist layout for the above situation. One that is about fourteen inches wide and four inches deep will accommodate the 2-6-0 and its tender. In anticipating future needs, the scenic thing-a-ma-jig can be built concurrent with the layout. In the interim, it can serve as a picturesque programming track.

15   L A T E S T    R E P L I E S    (Newest First)
Dan Posted - 05/10/2019 : 7:52:32 PM
I followed through on my project of converting the old Bachmann Whitcomb sound decoder into a stand alone unit, mounted under the layout. As the layout is easily convertible between DC and DCC, I also took advantage of that situation. I used the pulse width modulated motor outputs (+ and -) from the Whitcomb decoder to power the layout tracks. In this way, I have many of the control and sound advantages of a DCC setup without having to convert my mute DC analog equipment.

When running equipment that is set up for DCC, but no sound, the layout is converted back to DCC (a simple switching of connectors, which takes about thirty seconds) and the trains are run as usual, but using the under the layout sound. The sound and operating parameters are generic, but this is generally not a problem with critter sized stuff. Even the Stanton powered rail bus bash operates and sounds pretty good.

The Bachmann SoundTraxx Whitcomb variant is reportedly rated for a one amp motor stall current with the motor outputs protected from spikes and overloads during operations (I have not tried to blow it up - yet!). In theory, the unit will shut down if a prolonged short happens on the tracks. Once the short is cleared and the unit cools down, a matter of a couple of minutes, everything should work again. The operative term here is "should." I have run some of my old HO DC locos, with their pre-can motor, current hungry motivators, around the layout, one at a time of course, and there have been no operational problems, but also nothing has derailed.
railman28 Posted - 04/24/2019 : 12:41:24 PM
Nice little bus. It reminds me of the V&T's Carney.

Dan Posted - 04/24/2019 : 12:30:34 PM
Rail Bus Serendipity - Phase 3

I recently read that another of the reliable old suppliers, North West Short Line, will be closing soon. I have long had an urge to fiddle with one of their Stanton Drives, so I figure that it is now or never for using one to power the rail bus. As each Stanton is custom assembled when it is ordered, without a doubt there will be a manufacturing backlog, so I bought a prebuilt one via eBay and it arrived in just a few days.

As advertised, the HO Model 1210 Drive (with a seven foot wheelbase) came wired for DC operation, but it is changeable to DCC with only a bit of work. When I wired the layout, provisions were included for an easy conversion from DCC to DC and back again, so testing the unit, as received, was not a problem. The Drive weighs just three quarters of an ounce, so extra weight is required to generate enough traction to shove the hard riding rail bus around the layout. As the layout is level, two ounces proves sufficient for this task, plus it also eliminates problems with low speed power pickup.

As the Stanton Drive has a gear ratio of 15:1 and does not have flywheels, it tends to abruptly start and stop on DC, but this is to be expected. Eventual conversion to DCC should improve its operation. As the rail bus trailer will not be used for switching cars, excellent performance is not required. All that is needed is go and stop with smooth running in between. At one time, I had considered using a better running unit from an old two motor Bachmann HO 44 tonner, but converting one to DCC is a chore, plus they have mechanical issues similar to the contemporary On30 Davenports.

After a brief break-in period, the bus and Stanton combination smoothly circles the layout at about 6 mph on DC, slow enough to observe the individual spokes on the bus drive wheels. This is a realistic minimum speed and a good cruising speed is about double that. All that remains to be done is to install the Stanton Dive inside the body of a prototypical trailer. As running the rail bus is not a part of regular layout operations and the Drive is self-contained, as well as rather expensive and soon to be scarce, it will be removable, so that it can be used for other applications.

For making the rail bus trailer, serendipity struck again with another simple bash. The wheels on the Stanton Drive are 36" in HO, which look a little big for narrow gauge industrial use, especially on a diminutive rail bus trailer. Hiding them behind the side frames salvaged from a damaged Bachmann On30 wood side dump car will go a long way to visually correcting the situation.

One of the layout Matchbox vehicles, the 1932 Ford Model AA, came with a removable hollow plastic, box type body fitted to the metal truck bed. This now surplus truck part matches the width of the rail bus body and its length is nearly the same as the dump car side frames. Furthermore, its height is somewhat shorter than the height of the bus body, so the resultant trailer bash will be a good size match for the smallish rail bus.

With a minimum of razor saw work, the box trailer will have sufficient interior space to contain the upper part of the Drive, the needed extra weight and a DCC decoder, but no sound. For that I have the original Bachmann On30 Whitcomb decoder and sound unit that was previously replaced by a Tsunami2.

The surplus unit will be bashed into a DCC controlled, under the layout, universal sound system for use with the present rail bus, along with a Bachmann Davenport that I coaxed back to life , and any mute little critters that may show up in the future. As I find DCC a pain in the butt to program, they will all sound the same; however, as they will be operated one at a time, the use of generic sounds should not be a problem.

Questions and comments are always welcome.
Dan Posted - 04/15/2019 : 7:38:18 PM
Rail bus serendipity - Phase 2

While the repurposed steam loco bottom plate from the damaged blue bus was reusable, several lessons were learned from its initial adaptation. For example, the rivet that attached the loco drawbar to the bottom plate was subsequently drilled out. The resulting hole was enlarged to accommodate the vestigial stalk of the rear rivet on the yellow bus body, which formerly held the model together. The serendipitous stalk provides a convenient as well accurate locating and mounting pin for attaching the bottom plate to the bus body.

On many Matchbox models the wheels spin loosely on the axles, but the bus models are different. The axles on the blue bus are made from steel wire with the ends burred and they are partially inserted into the plastic wheel hubs forming a rigid assembly. The wheels are a hard plastic and when the axles are removed the hubs sustain considerable damage. The yellow bus also has steel wire axles, but with shallow concentric ribbing in place of the burring. The wheels are made from a softer plastic and the axles extend all the way through the hubs, so when the axles are removed only a slight hub damage is the result.

Over the years, whenever I scrapped a dead locomotive I saved the mechanical parts and this proved handy for the rail bus bash. On the blue bus, I built a bearing box out of some scrap styrene to fit the reused wire axle, but it soon became apparent that something better was needed. For the yellow bus, I use a piece of shafting slightly larger in diameter than the ribbed ends of the original wire axles, and this runs in a pair of salvaged small bronze bearings.

The bearings are super glued to the underside of the bottom plate, being centered on the arch of the bus body wheel wells. The wire axle for the original 38" diameter rubber tires was 16 mm below the top of the arch for a floor height of about 27 inches. The replacement flanged wheels are 28" in diameter and the axle shaft is now 12 mm below the arch, for an appropriate rail bus floor height of about 18 inches. Although fabricating the above requires tedious hand work (actually, much of it was done using just the finger tips), a smoother running rail bus was the result.

Suitable HO spoke drive wheels, without crank pins or counterweights, are darn hard to find (the 57" drivers from an old Penn Line GG1 electric loco come close, but the centers are cast solid), so the plastic wheel centers from the busses are reused and modified. They are fitted with 52" metal tires salvaged from the drivers of a dead Rivarossi 2-8-0. The reused tires are equipped with the smaller version of the then standard European flange, as are the wheels of the rail bus pilot truck.

Except for the difference in plastic compounds, the wheels of the blue and yellow models are essentially the same. The wheels have a large square flange molded onto the center of the rim to hold the original rubber tires in place. Serendipitously, the Rivarossi tires are just the right size to fit over the bus wheel centers when the square flanges are filed down. The thru-the-hub axle mounting of the yellow bus wheels makes this a relatively easy task.

The wheel centers are mounted, one at a time, on the replacement axle shaft, which is then clamped in the chuck of an electric drill. This is the only power tool used in the bash. Just enough material is filed off the centers to make the mounting of the metal tires a slight force fit. For the rail bus bash, the secret of good layout operation is to make sure that the mounted metal tires are square with the axle shaft, even if the wheel centers are not, and the tires of both wheels are in gauge all around their circumference.

Due to slight discrepancies that are inherent with hand bashed wheels, the rail bus tends to wobble a bit. While it is not quite reminiscent of the waggle dance that is performed bu honey bees, the wobble is noticeable above slow speed. A simple way around the the problem is to use the bashed bus as a static display, at which it excels, but I want it to be quasi operational; propelled around the layout by a small four wheel powered trailer. As the completed bus bash weighs just 3.3 ounces, the pushing requirements will be modest and rail bus power pickup problems should be eliminated.

However, during experiments with manually pushing the blue bus around the layout, its bearing block equipped unpowered drive axle demonstrated an unexpected propensity to intermittantly bind on the curves, causing the wheels to slide. To partially address this problem, a once maligned anachronism is employed for the bashed drive wheels of the yellow bus. Just as the replacement axle shaft and the bronze bearings attached to the underside of the bottom plate considerably enhance its tracking qualities, the unpowered wheels are encouraged to keep turning by using the traction tire equipped drivers of the old Rivarossi loco.

For a cheap and easy rail bus bash, the results don't look too bad, although it still needs some detail parts, like a bell and a horn and, eventually, a powered trailer. It also needs a new paint job, so it waits in the queue behind the rest of the Matchbox vehicles.

Questions and comments are always welcome.

Dan Posted - 04/07/2019 : 6:24:19 PM
Rail Bus Update:

While conducting a Google image search on On30 rail bus models, the posted Forum photos of my early and incomplete attempt at constructing one were there for all the world to see! The unexpected and unsolicited world wide exposure of the previous attempt is somewhat embarrassing. Hopefully, I can do better with my present efforts, in spite of setbacks.

The blue bus shown in the more recent photos took a tumble off of the workbench and landed on a concrete floor. The resulting damage provided an opportunity to buy the yellow 1923 version of the model (designated Y-16). While the basic bus bodies are the same, the running gear is quite different, with the yellow version equipped for winter operation. There are skis attached to the front wheels and an odd looking, but practical, mini half-track assembly at the rear.

According to the info sheet packed with the yellow version, "The Post Bus was developed jointly by Scania and the Swedish G.P.O. to provide postal and passenger services in scattered rural areas." That sounds like a suitable mission for an On30 rail bus bash. Each prototype bus weighed 5,280 pounds and could carry a working load of twelve passengers plus the mail (a total of about a ton). They were powered by a four cylinder, 214 cubic inch gasoline engine that developed 36 horsepower. This also sounds suitable for an On30 model.

The info sheet further states that Matchbox introduced the model in 1988 and confirms that the scale is 1:49. With 60,000 units in the initial issue of this version, they are not rare today. Despite claims to the contrary by some eBay dealers, with asking prices to match, by exercising patience and perseverance, one can be found new-in-the-box, as a Buy-It-Now with free shipping for less than twenty-five dollars. As they are now over thirty years old, the original rubber half-track treads may be deteriorating, but new replacements are available on eBay. As the assembly would not be used on the rail bus bash, their condition does not matter, but this unique prototype drive might prove of some use in a logging operation.

All the best to everyone.

Dan Posted - 03/29/2019 : 1:17:22 PM
Rail Bus Serendipity

Back when I was buying vehicles for the layout, I also kept watch for something from which to bash a rail bus. I found the Matchbox Y16 and YET04-M models (different variations of the same vehicle) to be possible donors. As things turned out, large dollops of serendipity facilitated an easy bash into a small rail bus.

Their prototype is the Scania Vabis 1922-23 Swedish post bus. Despite its country of origin, with the possible exception of the horse collar shape of the radiator covering (it was knocked slightly askew in the photos), it looks rather "Americanized." The prototype busses were fairly small and as a result, although the model is proportioned in 1:49, at first it seemed too small when placed on the layout. To double-check, I found several prototype images on line, including some showing these unique vehicles in their natural habitat. Using the images I was able to verify that the model closely matched the size and proportion of the prototypes.

The bus model is built in multiple layers of cast metal and molded plastic construction. First there is a frame that has the suspension members and the four wheels. Then there is a chassis that has the fenders and the running boards. These cast metal pieces were not used on the model. Next there is a cast metal lower body with the engine hood attached, which also has a molded plastic insert detailing the interior of the bus. The upper body contains the window details and it is molded in plastic with a clear plastic insert for the window glazing. On top of everything is a molded plastic roof.

The inherent small size of the model provides a great advantage. Along the bottom of the lower body, between the rear wheel well openings, is a longitudinal brace, the width of which is a good match for the back-to-back dimension of a pair of HO gauge drive wheels. Therefore, the only major body work needed to accommodate the thirty inch gauge conversion was to slightly narrow the body brace and to remove the remains of the drilled out rivet heads that once held the model together. Both were easily done with a couple of dozen swipes of a small file.

The running gear was next and it was also a surprisingly easy build. As a basher, it is always a thrill to pick up a part from a box of junk, hold it up next to the project du jour and it not only fits, but it works better than was expected. The part was the bottom plate from a long dead HO AHM Genoa 4-4-0 to which the pilot truck is permanently mounted. Attached to the rear end of the plate is the old drawbar between the 4-4-0 and its tender, which was left on as it may prove handy. This slightly modified assembly now fits nicely under the longitudinal brace of the bus body.

Originally, the pilot truck was flexibly cantilevered from the portion of the plate that rigidly retained the driving wheel axles, so that it could move in whatever direction was needed. This was a benefit for running the loco on uneven track with small radius curves (such as sectional track laid on a carpet), although it made the pilot overhang somewhat ridiculous. A drop of ACC rigidized the cantilever so the pilot truck now works similar to a body mounted one. In this way, the height of the front of the bus body can be adjusted by slightly bending the pilot truck end of the cantilever arm up or down, which proved to be quite handy for the fitting of the classically bashed rear driving wheels, but more on them later.

The photos show a "paste-up" of the rail bus model with the major components taped and glued together for the photos. For a size reference, a photo shows the bus with a decade newer 1932 Ford Model AA truck. In O-scale the bus is seven feet six inches high to the railhead, sixteen feet six inches long to the front of the pilot truck and six feet wide.

Dan Posted - 03/21/2019 : 12:15:50 PM
An experimental bash from the days of yore.

Some cars were needed to go along with the On30 loco, but nothing suitable was available. HO and HOn3 was all the range at the time and O-scale narrow gauge modeling, mostly D&RGW, was the realm of the craftsmen in the hobby, while those working in On30 were just dabbling in a semi-destructive way. Using the criterion of bashing HO standard gauge equipment to make what was needed, an experiment was carried out using two ore jimmies marketed by AHM. Although the cars were a usable length, three and a half inches, at just an inch and a quarter wide, they were too narrow for On30 use.

The main reason that these cars were used for this project are they were already on hand, they were all plastic and they were inexpensive; cheap enough to sacrifice to the razor saw gods. Varney and Roundhouse also made similar cars, buy they cost quite a bit more and they had one piece cast metal underframes, which complicated things considerably.

For those who are too young to remember, most AHM freight cars of the time featured well detailed plastic bodies that were equipped with truck mounted couplers and wheels with pizza-cutter flanges. As a result, the trucks were going to be replaced and body mounted couplers, link and pins as I recall, were going to be installed.

After stripping off the trucks and the separable underframes, a narrow slab was sliced off of one side of the body of each car, so when the remaining large pieces were put together, the molded on details would match. The underframes were modified in a similar fashion. This made an On30 car that was seven feet wide by fourteen feet long and about six feet tall at the railhead.

All in all, it made an interesting representation of a mythical single pocket hopper car, but it did not have the look that was desired. Something similar to the present day Boulder Valley Models #351, sixteen foot ore car was preferred, but of course, nothing or the sort existed at the time, except as a craftsman kit in HOn3.

What I needed to invent was an "embigulation device" that would inflate those miniature models to the proper size. As I had bigger fish to fry in the world of trains, the development of such a device was put on hold. This was a good thing as, today, it is not required.

Philip Posted - 03/18/2019 : 09:56:27 AM
Stance and proportions look good.

David Clark Posted - 03/15/2019 : 12:37:59 PM
Those are some cool units. The rail buggy could be a sweet-looking machine. I always admire those who can work in brass. I suppose that, like most skills, practice makes perfect (or better). My wife hates it when I "clean up" my hobby room or storage area - it always results in me going over past projects or reading long-lost articles or magazines (to see if they need keeping, of course). At the end of it the area doesn't change much and little gets tossed but a whole day disappears. Love to read about your adventures.
Dan Posted - 03/15/2019 : 12:12:04 PM
Hi Philip,

Thanks for the reply. I am seventy going on a hundred, or at least I feel that way.

The whitewash for trees is the same as for the other uses. It was applied to discourage insects from crawling up the trunk. Modern chemical sprays have taken its place.

I found the plastic radiator insert for the rail bus hood way in the bottom of the old box, under one of the bottom flaps, so I might take that as an omen to try and complete the rail bus, at least as a static model. I may replace the ungainly four wheel truck under the front with a pair of large wheels as are at the rear, in the manner of the Bachmann Evans railcar. Getting the proportions and geometry right while combining O-scale with HO trucks and wheels was always a problem in the earliest days of On30. The largest wheels that were readily available were from period Athearn diesels equipped with the rubber band Hi-F drive. Some really strange looking things were created on the workbenches of the time.
Philip Posted - 03/15/2019 : 11:12:09 AM
Interesting facts about pickling lime. I wonder if any modelers have tried it? I remember tree being whitewashed, same mixture?

Your rail buggy is neat!

If I may ask, how old are you?

Dan Posted - 03/15/2019 : 09:26:07 AM
As sometimes happens, my trip down memory lane came to smashing, crashing halt when a massive chunk of present day reality made its presence known. So it is back to being a septuagenarian On30 modeler, vexed by the vicissitudes typically experienced by those of a certain age.

Nevertheless, the present year is 2019 and my excursion back to when On30 modeling consisted entirely of scratching and bashing, has made me very grateful for my current gaggle of Bachmann R-T-R locos and rolling stock. Barring another Great Gear Debacle or some other unforeseen manufacturing miscalculation, I should have enough equipment to last until the end of time; well, the end of my time anyway.

However, before that time runs out, I need to finish up the layout, so as scenes from memory lane fade into the distance, quite possibly for the final time, I'll return to work on it.

All the best to everyone.
Dan Posted - 03/06/2019 : 9:29:20 PM
Discovering several blasts from the past!

While rummaging around the inside of a musty, long forgotten box found in a secluded spot of the basement, I ran across several blasts from the past. Why they may not look like much when compared to present-day On30, they represent the status quo from nearly a half century ago, when there were only two model building options - scratch or bash.

The first group of photos shows an early attempt at On30 scratch building when I was a mere pup who had been in HO scale for just a few years. The following canine reference applies to my present situation; you can't teach an old dog new tricks, nor can you get him to improve his mediocre scratch building skills. Thank heavens there are now kits and R-T-R in On30.

A passenger car was built from Northeastern Scale Lumber products and the postage mark on the corresponding shipping label, dated July 14, 1971, indicates that this modeling effort occurred some forty-seven years ago. Built without using a plan or even a specific prototype car as a guide, it turned out to be about three quarters of the size of the current Bachmann On30 passenger cars. An old dime store kid's water color kit supplied the paint for the car and, as the photos show, my hand painting skills were atrocious back then and they have not improved.

The car was completed from the railheads to the roof line, but I just could not get a standard railroad roof to work and an arch or monitor roof would not be right for the design of the car. The project was set aside until the problem could be resolved, but it now appears that it never was. Eventually, the car was robbed of its useful parts.

The second group of photos shows the remains of my initial attempt at making an On30 locomotive about the same time. Unlike the passenger car, this model was completed and it ran well on a small switching layout equipped with momentum features supplied by a British made, state-of-the-art Hammant & Morgan transistorized throttle. Even back then I was an operations geek, which is good as I didn't consider myself to be much of a loco builder. However, I may have set my expectations a bit high for as a teen I devoured the landmark series, "Thornburg Builds a Wabash Mogul" in Model Railroader magazine. Over the years, I have learned to lower them to R-T-R levels.

As with so many loco projects at the beginning of On30, it started out as an HO scale Mantua Booster (the one with the side tanks), the boiler of which consisted of a hefty chunk of metal. Its cast on accoutrements; headlight, stack, domes and cab were carefully sawn off and their remnants filed down. Cast brass O-scale parts were used for the replacements.

Kemtron was about the only O-scale parts supplier at the time, with many of their popular parts perpetually backordered, or so it seemed, so I used what I could get. A steam dome was notched and fitted to accommodate the cast on front corners of the boiler's Belpaire firebox, while a seemingly oversized stack occupied the top of the smokebox. A now missing O-scale bell was mounted to the boiler casting in the space between them. The stack had also come loose while in storage, so it was reattached for the photo, but it came out a bit crooked. I ain't the man or the modeler that I used to be.

As the model was to be an "inside the plant" industrial loco, which tend to be caricatures, neither a tender nor a cab mounted fuel bunker would be needed. Originally, a cab was made out of cardboard, but for a loco this heavy, a far sturdier one was soon formed and soldered together using hand cut sheet brass pieces reinforced with short lengths of code 100 brass rail.

My next attempt at On30 scratch building was a rail bus, which involved various materials, as shown in the third group of photos. Around that time, the line of Lesney old time cars in approximately O-scale called 'Matchbox Models of Yesteryear" was coming on the market and one was acquired for experimentation. The hood, radiator and headlights grace the front end of the bus (apparently, the plastic radiator insert turned to dust as it was not found).

Two of the wheel centers from the Matchbox car were combined with the flanged tires from a defunct set of HO drivers and they were mounted to the underside of the chassis that supported the rail bus body. In anticipation of making the rail bus powered, the chassis was made from brass shapes, carefully aligned and soldered together. The front truck assembly in the photo was temporarily put together for the shot.

The wood bus body scales out to be thirteen feet three inches long by five feet six inches wide by six and a half feet tall at the side windows. This time it was to have a much easier to build peaked roof, but my interest in On30 was rapidly on the wane as I was spending more and more time working on the really big stuff, 12" to the foot. Unbeknownst to me, that interest in On30 would not pick up again until after Bachmann introduced their line of R-T-R equipment, so everything was stored away for the interim.

railman28 Posted - 02/23/2019 : 3:58:55 PM
I just hope you had it's memory wiped and stored someplace safe.

Dan Posted - 02/23/2019 : 10:47:35 AM
Photographic Memory

The new digital camera seems to be working out for taking photos of the layout and this stimulated an ancient memory from back when dinosaurs roamed the earth.

Along with just about everyone else at the time, I was a railfan photographer, using an SLR to take color slides in the then popular 35mm film format. The well heeled ones flaunted their Hasselblads and their Rolleiflexes, along with an occasional Brontosaurus. Or was that a Bronica?

For those who found themselves on the other side of the railfan tracks, one way to acquire an SLR was to buy a camera that was previously used. In my case it was an East German made Hanimex Praktica. Compared to newer SLRs, constructed from exotic light weight materials, the older Praktica weighed a ton and I referred to it as being a photographic brick.

On a routine failfan trip, I stayed in a Motel 666 to save some money. While I was out to get a bite to eat, the room was broken into and the camera was stolen, but this was not as bad as it seems. The reason for this is, after years of riding as well as chasing cinder spewing steam trips, the camera controls and the lens has acquired a crunchy feel (the medical term is crepitus) and that is not a good thing.

Nevertheless, although the camera had become a photographic Albatross around my neck, its past performance was no less than admirable and, in its own way, it continued to be so after it was gone. I collected its remaining monetary value from my insurance and invested that amount in a modern replacement.

A sincere "Thank You" to whomever it was that stole the Hanimex Praktica, lo these many years ago, and you are welcome to the hernia that you, no doubt, sustained while trying to carry it from the room.

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