M&K Junction Railroad

M&K Junction Railroad
Another train of eastbound coal crosses the Cheat River

Wednesday, October 24, 2012

Don't Call It Cork Anymore

I picked up some Midwest cork roadbed (O scale) last Friday and I have just gotten around to using some of it today.  The last time I bought some cork roadbed was in the spring and at that time I had to scramble to find some as Midwest was not shipping any and my open house was approaching and I needed some badly.  I bought all that a nearby (if you consider 30+ miles nearby) hobby shop had left and I was glad to have it.

It's no secret that Midwest has been incorporating ground rubber (rumored to be recycled tires) into their roadbed in ever increasing quantities for some time.  I had no problem with this and the roadbed that I bought in the spring appears to be about 30% rubber.  This roadbed was still firm and held spikes and tack nails well.

When the owner of the hobby shop opened the box of the new Midwest cork (BTW the same hobby shop) the smell of rubber hit me right away.  The roadbed was a mottled black in appearance indicating to me that the "cork" roadbed was now predominately rubber.  Taking some strips out of the box, they were as limp as wet spaghetti. I made a comment that there's not much cork in it and the hobby shop owner suggested that "maybe they'll deaden sound better".  

I lay roadbed strips offset so that the joints do not line up together under the track. So here is a picture of a strip of the new (top) roadbed laid next to a strip of the old bought in the spring (bottom).

The track in the background also has the old roadbed bought in the spring.  

The following are close ups of the old roadbed followed by the new.

As you can see the rubber content is now in the 40-50% range.

In using the new roadbed, I don't like it. It's too soft.  It's nearly as soft as some foams or carpet underlayment.  The split down the middle does not separate cleanly, it leaves a jagged edge; nor is it cut on an angle to simulate the ballast edge.  In building my track I put a layer of foam down first then I put a layer of cork on top for its firmness and its ability to hold fasteners.  I don't think that this new "cork" will make the grade.  I'll have to find an alternative.


Friday, October 19, 2012

Getting Back in the Groove

This spring, summer and early fall I have been in a funk because I was unemployed for the first time in my professional life due to the closure of the company where I worked.  Searching for a job became a full time occupation consuming 5-6 hours of almost every day.  The steady trickle of computerized rejections and the paucity of interest only deepened my malaise.  Add to that the reluctance to spend any money that was not absolutely necessary and it's easy to see that I was able to accomplish little on the layout.

I could have assembled some of the scores of kits that I have laying around, and I did do a couple; but guilt at not spending all of my time in the job search kept me from doing more. I've had three job interviews within the last month and had tentatively landed a job and that's helping me get my modelling mojo back.

Here's one of the cars that I assembled this summer:

It's a Red Caboose 10,000 gallon welded tank car.  This car is definitely not a 'shake the box' kit and took some time and skill to assemble and I broke several of the fine parts and skipped the installation of some others as being beyond my ability. This kit has exquisitely thin plastic parts that have  essentially scale dimensions of as small as a scale inch.  However, it's these same small parts that make proper assembly without breakage very difficult for someone with 'ham hands' like me. 

Red Caboose and Intermountain produced superb O scale kits that can still be found unassembled, largely because of the difficulty of assembly.  But they are not the best cars to have on a still uncompleted layoutThe fine detail does not fair well with even moderate handling  In future when I assemble more of these kits I will substitute wire for all of the scale grabs and piping as it's just too easy to break these parts in asssembly or even after the model is on the layout.  In fact, there's almost nowhere on a model tank car of this level of detail that you can grab it without breaking something. 

So until the layout is at a higher level of completion, and cars do not have to be occasionally moved by hand, I'm going to concentrate on R-T-R cars, Weaver kits (which are shake-the-box and more rugged), the dozen or so die-cast hoppers that have yet to be converted from 3 rail to 2 rail as well as the few pieces of brass rolling stock that I have. 

Unfortunately, the job offer was rescinded after I "signed on the dotted line"; but I have some indications that another offer is pending.

Tuesday, October 16, 2012


After several false starts going back to August, my latest 3D printed models have finally arrived.  Chief among them is the PRR "K" braced, two-track catenary pole. O scale, of course. It's a beauty even though I had to make the cross section of all of the beams thicker than the published minimums to get it past Shapeways' (the 3D printer) screening software.

I had this initial unit printed in what Shapeways calls "White, Strong and Flexible" (selective laser sintered nylon) for two reasons, the machine that produces these has a large enough capacity to handle this model and this material is one of their cheaper materials.  The resulting pole is very flexible and practically indestructible; but would not be suitable for hanging tensioned wire because of the flexibility.  It's OK for scenery purposes.  It appears that Alumide (an aluminum filled polymer) or ABS will be the better material for these.  ABS should be strong and rigid enough to hang tensioned wire.

The next step will be to reduce the cross section to the minimum that the process will accept, add additional rivet detail and test print in Alumide and ABS.  Thereafter these will be available for order direct from Shapeways and/or iMaterialize.  After that more styles of these poles will be designed and made available; including multi-part designs that can reach heights approximating some of the prototypes which could be quite high.

Also in this order from Shapeways are the regular power tower insulators.  These tiny parts showcase the potential of 3D printing at the small end of the size spectrum.  These are too small to make by hand with the proper cross section and it's unlikely that the market in O scale is large enough for someone to invest into a set of injection molding dies to produce these.

The photo above shows two individual insulators plus three on a 0.039 inch wire placed through the central hole in each one.  These will come as, probably, 100-200 on a sprue and will also be available direct from Shapeways and/or iMaterialize.  

Here's a picture of three insulators on the 0.039 wire, painted with primer.  Before painting, with the insulators on the wire, I spun the wire in a drill while I touched the insulators lightly with fine sandpaper (400-800 grit) to clean up any irregularities left from the 3D printing process.

As I move into producing these and other models I have to say a word about pirating the designs.  Someone could buy some of these and then use them as masters to make a silicone rubber mold and cast these in resin. Please do not do that.  I have scores of hours into researching and designing and spent more dollars in test printing these models to get them right.  If these are widely pirated, there will be no incentive to design and debug any more models. 

Wednesday, October 10, 2012

Coming Attractions

Here are some O scale products currently at the 3D printers for test prints:

These are the insulators used on power towers, in exact 1:48 scale.  Heres a view of one and twelve of them stacked up.

O scalers will not have to use beads any longer, but can have better-looking scale insulators.

Here's something for PRR (and PC, Conrail and Amtrak) modelers in O scale.  I am planning a series on PRR 'K' braced catenary poles.  The single and double track, low poles (without overhead high voltage power lines) will be first.  Here are pictures of the two track.

And here's a detail picture:

These poles will be printed as one-piece, saving hours of cutting and soldering or gluing.

This pole, which is off at the 3D printers now, is a prototype.  The final pole will have thinner cross sections and will have complete rivet detail in the 'K' braces.  Eventually these will be available in nylon (flexible), Alumide and ABS.  These are intended to be cosmetic, scenic details and not host operating catenary.  But the ABS version may be strong and rigid enough to withstand the forces associated with active wire.

The following products are not yet ready for the 3D printer, but should be ready soon.

The unique style of high voltage insulators used by the PRR.  The two-view below shows the ridges on the bottom as found on high voltage insulators.  These will be present, if these are not too small to print.

Rain caps for PRR catenary (for 1/4 inch columns) for those who are building their own catenary out of brass column.

These should be a real time-saver for catenary builders.

 Finally another little gem along the lines of my B&O CPL dwarf signal.  Here's the PRR dwarf signal:

I'm really having the devil's own time getting the visors (hoods) right; that's delaying this going off to the printer.  These dwarfs came in two 'handedness'.  I'll eventually do the other one too.

I'm also having problems with the reliability of my 3D printing service (Shapeways); and that's not helping these test prints along.


Sunday, October 7, 2012

New Product

I have been developing a number of new products and here is the latest.  It is a heat sink kit that fits SoundTraxx Tsunami's TSU-1000 (the universal fit decoder) and allows the decoder to output significantly more current, my testing indicates that 3 amps is not a problem. For O and larger sales.

The Tsunami is sandwiched between thermal pads and heat sinks and a fan rides atop the part of the Tsunami the produces the most heat.  All parts are included in the kit, except the Tsunami, of course.

Here are some larger photos of the kit assembled to a Tsunami.

In this last photo you can see the Tsunami in the center of the sandwich.

Step-by-step photo illustrated instructions for assembling the kit are included on a CD.  This kit will not fit the Tsunami plug-and-play decoders (BW1000, KT1000, GN1000, AT1000).  This kit has been thoroughly tested but it has not been approved by SoundTraxx and use of this kit may void your SoundTraxx warranty.

The first run of kits has been sold out.  The second run of kits should be ready by Thanksgiving.  Contact me if you are interested.