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An Old Man Contemplates an Old Man's Layout

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  • Dan, nice bash with the ore cars. ~mike
    O scale builds: Choctaw Lumber Kitchen, Dining Room, and Buffalo Canyon RR Caboose


    • A Re-Bash For The Snowplow/Track Cleaner

      The truck bolster on the snowplow/track cleaner that I bashed a while ago, using an old AHM (Rivarossi) HO plastic snowplow, recently decided to go away, quite literally. The rest pf the plow casting seems to be okay, with only the bolster part crumbling into dust, a growing problem with old plastic parts that are gerontological.

      The original bash was an operational success as well as a scenic one, when it is prototypically parked in the weeds, awaiting its next call to duty. However, due to trackage limitations it needed to be a single trucker and therefore a caricature. To make it even more compact it also had no coupler and was just pushed along by whatever was behind it. It was a simple premise, but one that worked well.

      As extra yard trackage has recently been added to the layout for the display of rolling stock, the broken plow was re-bashed into a double trucker, but without the added bulk of an enclosed body. Although prototypes were built using old loco tenders, for this re-bash an HO log buggie was adapted. Nicely molded in plastic, it was part of a logging set made to a classic American design, a product of Mehano.

      The only major work involved removing the coupler pocket at the “front” of the car to clear the slope of the plow and shortening the length of the code 100 rails, originally intended for supporting a matching Barnhart log loader, that run the length of the body. Serendipitously, with just a bit of file work, the plow and the car interfaced nicely and were super glued together.

      To give the re-bash a bit more weight and to bulk up the truck proportions, the original plastic wheelsets were replaced with 36” Bachmann HO metal ones and a Kadee was mounted at the rear, using the molded on coupler pocket.

      Overall, the re-bashed snowplow is sixteen scale feet long, making it a good addition to the current roster of rolling stock and it still does its thing, effectively cleaning the rails whenever the need arises by using a truck mounted Woodland Scenics Dust Monkey hidden under the plow blade.

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      • Dan, the snow plow is looking good. ~mike
        O scale builds: Choctaw Lumber Kitchen, Dining Room, and Buffalo Canyon RR Caboose


        • Thanks Mike,

          I thought that the red stone cars would be the last layout bash, but then the plow broke, so we have a re-bash.

          As much as I like doing them, I really don't think that there will be any more bashes or re-bashes, but I have been wrong before.

          All the best to everyone.


          • Nice job on the plow
            Follow along as my dog and I travel the country in our van.
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            • Eliminating the mulch volcanos under the layout’s model trees.

              I think it was Chicken Little, aka Henny Penny, that was startled by a falling acorn once upon a time, but on my present layout, it ain’t model acorns that are falling, it is entire trees.

              For stability, most model trees have bases shaped like the much despised mulch volcanos that are used with prototype trees. These bases are added to the bottom of the model tree trunks, but they are not good enough, for my lightweight movable layout, which is mounted on swiveling wheels instead of to bedrock, is prone to seismic episodes. Gluing the tree bases to the surface of the layout grass mat just creates unwanted, but prototypical bald spots when the trees fall over again.

              As the layout is built with pink foam, the recommended practice of drilling a shallow hole in the surface of the prepared scenery and sticking in the trunk ends, minus the bases, also does not work, as the holes quickly enlarge due to the vibrations and the larger trees, which are ten inches tall and are very top heavy, will eventually fall over, while the smaller trees, which are seven inches tall or less, tend to twist and lean.

              As the layout is small, the right of way clearances are quite close and when a smaller trackside tree decides to twist or lean toward the track, the branches get entangled with the rolling stock and there are derailments.

              What is needed to keep the trees vertical and in place is an artificial tap root that will go down deep into the pink foam. It is made from a one and three quarter inch long steel T-pin with the head cut off, but mounting it securely to the bottom of the trunk proved to be problematic.

              Speaking from bitter experience, the trunks of the Woodland Scenics trees are made from a soft, gummy plastic that will seize upon and break the tiny drill bits that are required.

              Instead I mount a headless T-pin in a sturdy pin vice which is mounted in the chuck of a regular variable speed electric drill. As the tree trunks are slippery and the forces needed are considerable, it is a two handed job. I hold the trunk with an eight inch pair of lineman’s pliers that I had on hand. The wire cutters that are built into the plier jaws also make easy work of cutting off the T-pin heads.

              The rough cut end of the spinning T-pin, when put under a good bit of pressure, will slowly chew its way into the trunk and when it is about a half inch deep, it will seize - permanently. As the steel T-pin is far more flexible than a tiny drill bit, it will not break off when it is seized. Instead, it will just spin in the jaws of the drill mounted pin vise.

              So far, this method is working, but just in case, an alternate method is being considered, using a length of miniature brass or aluminum tubing, suitably sized to hold the metal tap root, that will go all the way through the pink foam, which is four inches thick where the bigger trees are mounted. That should hold the arboreal equivalent of an elephant.

              All the best to everyone.


              • Dan great job on both the bash, re-bashes. Always nice to see modelers who aren't shy about "re-purposing" what they have on hand.
                Owner, General Manager, and all around "chief cook and bottle washer" of the Caz Coal-and-Wood Railroad


                • Thanks Larry,

                  Just when I thought there was nothing left to bash, now I'm bashing scenery!

                  Will this madness never end?

                  I certainly hope not.

                  All the best


                  • Nice plow Dan!

                    For trees I drill an 1/8" hole through the foam into the plywood. I then add a K&S 1/8" hollow aluminum sleeve. Length depends on foam depth. I then add a serrated drywall nails to the tree base and glue in. I use a bit of glue on the stump base plus some scenic foam etc.

                    Seem to hold up well. The cat was rubbing the heck out of them and the tree survived. All my tree structure are balsa rod.


                    • AAAAAARGH! Will someone please help me! I can’t stop bashing things!

                      Every industrial layout needs some sort of heavy lifter. I have always liked the three leg derrick design, but they require huge amounts of real estate to set up in O-scale or in any other scale, for that matter.

                      A Crow River Products No 309, O-scale Utility Crane, aka a Pillar Crane, was bought some time ago to fit into a much smaller space on the layout. However, as it contains over thirty pewter castings, it qualifies as being a kit for a craftsman to assemble, which at this stage of my life, I no longer am and, in hindsight, I probably never was, so where do I go from here?

                      The answer, of course, is another bash. Based on historic images, it takes the biggest pieces of the kit and makes them easier to put together, while using up stuff that is already on hand. For example, the grey timber base the crane sits on is the bottom from a Bachmann HO coaling tower that I previously bashed into an abandoned (as well as bottomless) On30 rock bin.

                      Unfortunately, the proportions of the pillar assembly in the kit were oversized for this application, so it had to be left off, which dramatically altered the look of the crane. However, the large pillar top was reused as the bearing cap for the pivot point of the bash.

                      The original kit is supposed to be electric motor powered through multiple sets of exposed gears, with all of the machinery in front of the pillar, hanging from the boom, but due to my current catcher’s mitt hands, something different and considerably easier was required.

                      The piece de resistance for this bash is a Bachmann HO scale log skidder, a smaller version of the excellent O-scale model. The skidders are pretty big machines, so the HO size is a good fit for this welterweight On30 lifter (about a five tonner). Serendipitously, the fragile winch assembly literally peeled away, without damage, from the log skidder base that it was glued to.

                      When this complex assembly is mounted to the crane deck, the winding drum next to the boiler will slew the boom right or left, while the one in front of it raises and lowers the hook. The height of the boom and the diameter of its swing are both fixed and this will determine the position of the crane on the layout. As this may not be on the paved part of the factory yard, the timber base was fitted to the crane to keep it and the operator out of the mud.

                      An O-scale Tichy steel barrel (I got a gazillion of them) is mounted horizontally between the boom arms at the front of the crane deck, as a feedwater tank while another in mounted vertically to the timber base as the fuel supply for the boiler.

                      The boiler overhanging the rear of the crane deck is prototypical. Although the boiler may look undersized, it would be adequate if of the quick steaming, liquid fuel fired, flash or monotube design.

                      The photos show the basic bash fitted together and it still needs some work. For a size comparison, standing next to it, with his hands in his pockets, is the crane operator, all six feet of him.

                      Click image for larger version

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                      • Great looking bash Dan!


                        • Art Imitating Life – Well Kinda Sorta

                          Tucked between pages 34 and 35 of Linwood Moody’s book on the Maine Two-Footers, published way back in 1959, there are some images of one of my favorite lilliputs, the Monson Railroad, in its final years of operation (circa 1941). For the record, the other favorite lilliput is the Kennebec Central.

                          A close third is the Huntsville and Lake of Bays portage railroad in Canada. When Bachmann came out with its great little Porter in On30, I gave serious thought to modeling it, but things did not work out at the time.

                          The Monson opened in 1883 and for the next sixty years the railroad was a bastion of antebellum technology, with link and pin couplers on everything, steam brakes on its two locomotives and hand brakes on its assortment of cars, which slowly trundled to and fro over six miles of thirty pound rail equipped exclusively with stub turnouts.

                          One of the photos show the remaining Monson crew; engineman, fireman and conductor, each equipped with a shovel, transferring a load of sand from a standard gauge gondola car into one of a narrower gauge.

                          This down-to-earth image, embodying the concept of dignity of labor, no matter what your position in life, always struck a chord with me, so could something akin to it become a part of the present layout? The answer is kinda sorta…as part of an industrial bash/vignette.

                          As most of the factory spur is normally hidden, which makes switching cars an interesting task, this scene only pops into view when the layout operator makes an effort to see around the office end of the factory building. It is one of several industrial action scenes hidden behind the factory, which makes that effort worthwhile.

                          The simple bash uses the ends and sides of a Bachmann eighteen foot, high side gondola, complete with plastic coal load (the rest of the car had been used for other bashes) to make a modest, ground level storage bin for near the end of the factory spur. The photos below show the bash with three Woodland Scenics working guys posed inside, but this time in the act of shoveling coal.

                          As on the rest of the layout, the trackside clearances on the spur are very tight, as the NMRA HO Mark III Standards Gage in another photo shows, and what looks like short stilts holding up the bash are four common sewing pins with their heads cut off, glued to the inside bottom corners of the coal pile. When everything is accurately located and the coal pile is gently pushed down, the bash is held securely in place, but it can be easily removed and repositioned if needed.

                          I have also done the same with other minor structures close to the track. For the medium size structures I use a close fitting, but unattached “floor” inside the bottom of the structure, which is secured to the layout with either sewing pins or T-pins.
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                          • Somehow I missed your post on the crane bash.
                            It looks great.
                            Same with the cars and little people in your last post.
                            Follow along as my dog and I travel the country in our van.
                            FaceBook link:


                            • Philip
                              Philip commented
                              Editing a comment
                              Oh man we'll have to dock your pay Rick! Get a shovel!

                          • Thanks Rick and Philip - your comments are greatly appreciated.


                            • Intensive labor among men has a way of building unity and cohesion. Something lost in this fanfare of modern class division.

                              That giant sheet steel track gauge is blocking productivity.

                              Carry on sir!