Saturday, April 8, 2017

Oh Lord! Stuck in 'Groveland' again!

Mascoutin Valley Railroad March/April Update:

TOMA!  TOMA!  TOMA!  (Toga! Toga! Toga!)

I’ve been bitten by the module bug.  Hard.  I’ve been looking at my current layout and the state that it is in and realized that even though I tried to build it in a modular fashion, it really wasn’t modular.  I lacked the discipline to not allow “scope creep” in and ended up building a bunch of bench work and having this daunting massive layout in front of me. 

I’ve made enough progress on the layout, where we have the track laid down, and I was able to start running trains.  And I started to see some of the flaws in the design.  It is really important to take the advice of others especially when it comes to layout design.  You never think of how trains flow around the layout or having more than one person standing in an aisle when you’re designing and constructing.  I lost myself in the moment and the short term goal of getting something running.
Possible Yard Designs
The Rebirth Begins

Check out this video of the "rebirth" in progress MVRR Layout Update 003.
So it is back to the drawing board.  I’m thinking of a redesign where I construct a layout of modules, Free-Mo Modules.  The appeal of being able to work on one small section at a time vs. having a whole room sized layout along with the portability to potentially take my stuff to shows is a what put me over the top on the redesign.  I think that the most important part of the  

Track Plan of the yard for the first modules

Free-Mo Module Yard Design

MVRR Layout trackplan version 2.1.

Overall layout design

What's next?

Next steps build some modules!  I'm pretty excited to get started transforming my layout into a more modular set up.  It should be an "easy" transition where I just have to lower the frame work and build some boxes for the modules.  The goal for May is to have one section of one module build.  That is if yardwork doesn't creep up on me.

Be sure to check out my Facebook page!  Even though spring is upon us there is still time to work on the layout!!! Who knows you may even see a few pictures of the fish I catch when I'm not working on the layout! I am posting updates about once per week so check it out and please provide feedback!

You can find my Facebook Page here.  Make Sure to give it a 'like' to keep up with my progress!

Please post question and comments!  I will get back to you!

Thanks for reading!  Until next time keep 'er in Notch 8!

Thursday, January 5, 2017

Over the Hills and Far Away

Talking about Backdrops

Hello Everybody!  I hope everyone had a good Christmas!  I certainly did.  Over the Christmas Break I've been working on two things:
  1. Finishing the Track Loop for the entire layout.
  2. Working on the Backdrop on the Iron Ore Pellet Plant Module.
So since we've already covered track work, I'm going to talk about painting my backdrop and the process that I developed to create mine.

I do want to caveat that this is a method that worked for me.  There are many methods to make a backdrop that are very effective and have very good results.  Remember, I'm no Bob Ross! I will post some links to some videos that do things differently so you can see what you like, and what you can do.

What Type of Backdrop?

There are all sorts of ways to create a backdrop for your model railroad.  Hand Painted, Photo backdrop, Airbrush, Bob Ross...all sorts of ways. 

I chose to combine hand painting and using an air brush.  I want the backdrop to be just that, part of the background.  I wanted it to add depth, but not over power the scene.  Remember the TRAINS are the main players on my stage so I didn't want a high fidelity photo backdrop stealing the show (even though when done well the photo backdrops do look amazing). 

Below are some links to some videos that better show how to paint or display photo backdrops

Trial and Error

So one day I woke up and said, Hey I'm going to paint a backdrop on my model railroad and its going to be right on the money the first time I try it.  FALSE!  It took me many failed attempts before I actually got a method and result that I liked. 

  • Trying the Bob Ross Method - Hand Painting Everything
Using acrylic paints I started with painting the whole scene white.  While the white was blended in the blue, top down so the sky would get lighter as it approached the horizon.

Here you can see me trying to add gray as the far background to simulate dormant deciduous trees in November.  Added some green for pines and the some brown to simulate earth or falls from trees on the forest floor. 

Here's a close up, the one thing its lacking in my opinion is depth, and detail.  More detail than just "blobs" of color.

  • Airbrush

Hand Painted the Sky using the same "Bob Ross" Blending Technique.  I used the Airbrush to add a stripe of white to simulate the horizon line.

Started adding the background.  Using a "stencil" I made from cardstock.  Mixed Green and Gray at various levels to create the depth.

Started to add the middle ground. Same technique using stencils. More Green Less Gray.

Added the open pit part of the mine in brown.  Just to give the impression that the pit is visible in the background.

What's next?

I may still tinker a bit with the backdrop here.  Add some Pine Tree groves and a few poplar trees in the foreground.  I think we're going to start the scenery on the first portion of the Iron Mine.  I've been playing around with some designs and am thinking that once that area gets built up its really going to be a special/signature scene on my Railroad. 

Be sure to check out my Facebook page!  Its prime model railroad season!!! Work on the layout, locomotives and rolling stock is in high gear! I am posting updates multiple times per week so check it out and please provide feedback!

You can find my Facebook Page here.  Make Sure to give it a 'like' to keep up with my progress!

Please post question and comments!  I will get back to you!

Thanks for reading!  Until next time keep 'er in Notch 8!

Tuesday, November 15, 2016

Ch ch ch ch Changes!

Hey everybody!

Its been along time since I've posted and we've had a couple of changes of here at the Mascoutin Valley.  Big Changes!  I was going to provide a tutorial on creating cheap and easy method for pulpwood log loads but I figured I'd catch everyone up to speed as to why I haven't posted much lately.

New Engineer in Training

Welcome Henry Aaron Dorsch!  He's the newest edition to the Mascoutin Valley Railroad.  Born August 9th, 2016.  He has been a wonderful addition to the family!  He is a healthy baby boy who is already learning the basics about model railroading!  ;-)

Henry (3 Months) and his best buddy Barnaby.

Layout Update

Trackwork Complete at the Mine

Track is complete and switch machines operational.  I've run a couple of trains over the tracks to test operation theory and the quality of the track work.  No derailments!  I still need to do more testing with different types of rolling stock.  But for now it looks like all my locomotives will run right through the mine!

So here is a picture of Iron Ore Pellet Plant Module with bullfrogs installed.

Fascia Painted with Bullfrogs installed.

First Ore Jenny

I've started creating my Mascoutin Valley Ore Jenny Fleet.  I stripped down some old MDC/Roundhouse Jennies and repainted them in "ugly green."  They don't have to be pretty, they are going to get weathered pretty heavily. 

Here's a picture of the production line for the jennies. 
Stripped down and repainted Jennies.

Here's a finished one - Weathered up.

MVRR 102 - First Road Specific Ore Jenny

Next Steps

Start scenery and structures for mine!  Look at this sweet mock-up I made with cardboard!  This mock-up may result in being the skeleton for the structure of the mine.  I saw a technique recently that used cardboard as the walls and then styrene was a "laminate" over the cardboard.  This could save me tons of time!

Iron Ore Pellet Plant - Styrofoam Stock Pile and a 12-pack represents the Pellet Plant
At some point I should post a revised track plan.  I'm pretty good with the one I have now, just need to finish it in Adobe Illustrator and make an electronic file to upload.

I want to thank everyone for reading and following along.  Its going to be interesting how Henry fits into the railroad!

Be sure to check out my facebook page!  Winter is coming so that means its "back to the basement!" Work on the layout and equipment will be at an awesome rate! I am posting updates multiple times per week so check it out and please provide feedback!

You can find my Facebook Page here.  Make Sure to give it a 'like' to keep up with my progress!

Please post question and comments!  I will get back to you!

Thanks for reading!  Until next time keep 'er in Notch 8!

Tuesday, August 2, 2016

Locomotive Breath - Part 4

Its been 6 months!  Six Months to make one locomotive model.  I'm sure that this is extremely slow, but this hobby is not my full time job.  Though some days I wish it was!  Locomotive Breath - Part 4 is finally here!  We put the finishing touches on Mascoutin Valley GP7 #217 and get it on the layout. Without further ado lets get to it!

Pictures for Parts Placement

For the final detail parts I had to reference the pictures of the prototype (real thing) to get the location correct.  I will admit this is not a 100% replica of CNW 4133, but it gets us in the ball park.  After all I'm sure the crew at the Mascoutin Valley engine shops added their personal touch to this GP7 to make it special just to the MVRR.

Around the Horn

The horn on CNW 4133 was located in the center of the nose right in front of the cab.  The manufacturer of the model would have you put the horn in the left center of the nose.  Well that didn't work for me!  I have a picture of Wisconsin Central 4133 (ex CNW 4133).  She looks rough.  Notice the placement of the horn on top of the nose, in front of the cab.

WC 4133 (ex CNW 4133) with Horn Location Identified

Below I'm going to show where the model manufacturer puts the horn.  Subsequent pictures below show how and where I attach the horn.  Please note the super expensive clamp holding the horn in as the cyanoacrylate (CA) dries.  Hint: its a wooden railroad tie!  I had thoughts of leaving it in there.  The Mascoutin Valley couldn't have one of its star players on the bench.  Especially if it had a broken horn due to smacking it into a low hanging tree limb!  Put some lumber in there and prop it up!
Where the Manufacturer Suggests where the horn goes.
Drilling new Horn Mount Location
MVRR #217 Horn Assembly featuring the fancy prop to hold it up while the CA dries.

Hell's Bells

One of the other features of CNW 4133 I wanted to capture was the bell location.  You can see it in the photo of WC 4133 by the front of the fuel tank.  I took a fine drill bit and put a hole in the shell.  Then I mounted the bell in the location with CA.  Take a look at the picture below notice the bell in front of the tank.

MVRR #217 Engineer's Side.

Final Product

With a little bit of touch up paint and a final dusting of weathering MVRR #217 is ready for service!
Here are a few more shots of the finished product.

MVRR #217 Bill of Material

Manufacturer Item # Description QTY
Life Like P2K N/A GP7 Undecorated W/O Dynamic Brakes 1
SoundTraxx 827101 Tsunami EMD 567 1
Unknown N/A C0603 Surface Mount LEDs 5
Details West RB-126 Rotary Beacon Western Cullen Type 1
Details West BC-244 Axle Bearing Caps 4
Details West SA-124 Spark Arrestor "Super" Non-Lifting Non Turbo C&NW 2
Detail Associates 1101 Lift Rings 3 1/2"  12
Details West PL-155 Snow Plow C&NW 1
Details West SR-284 Speed Recorder 1
Kadee #158 Realistic Head Whisker Coupler (Pair) 1

Next Time

So what's up next?  Here is a little video that will give a hint as to what the next post is about!

I want to thank everyone for reading and following along.

Be sure to check out my facebook page!  As the dog days of summer kick in, work on the layout and equipment continues! I am posting updates multiple times per week so check it out and please provide feedback!

You can find my Facebook Page here.  Make Sure to give it a 'like' to keep up with my progress!

Thanks for reading!  Until next time keep 'er in Notch 8!

Wednesday, June 22, 2016

Let the Good Times Roll

I know this isn't 'Locomotive Breath Part 4' but I had to post about a major milestone on the Mascoutin Valley Railroad.  We have trains rolling over layout for the first time!!  Once the track was laid down on the first module it was time to get it wired up!

Wire Used

I used two types of wire.  14 AWG solid wire and 22 AWG stranded.  The 22 AWG was stuff from the old layout I used to have when I was a teenager back in 1995! The 14 AWG wire was my 'Bus' wire.  For those who don't know (and until recently I was one of these people) a 'Bus' wire is a main heavy duty wire that carries electrical current to all the little 'feeder' wires that connect to it.  I like the analogy the 'Bus' is the spinal cord of the train layout.  It connects to the Command Station or Brain and feeds impulses to the track through feeder wires which can be thought of as 'nerves'.  I used two colors, black and red.  I always keep the black wire closes to the aisle.  Its important that the black wire always goes to the inside rail and the red wire always goes to the outside rail.  If they get mixed up you will create a short in the circuit where the polarity of the electricity is fighting itself.  To prevent confusion my feeder wires are also red and black.  To connect the feeder wires to the bus wires I used suitcase connectors.  See the illustrations below to see what I'm talking about.
Showing the 'Bus' wires connected to the feeder wires.

Simple Tap Splice Connectors that I got at Ace Hardware.
A feeder wire soldered to the rail, bent to mimic a 'Rail Spike.'

Finished Product

Here's a little video of the track powered and wired up for DCC!  Enjoy!
Next time we'll finish off Mascoutin Valley GP7 #217 in my fourth installment of Locomotive Breath.

Be sure to check out my facebook page!  Even though its summer time I'm taking baby steps in completing the first module. I am posting updates multiple times per week.  Also get a preview of the materials for the next blog.

You can find my Facebook Page here.  Make Sure to give it a 'like' to keep up with my progress!

Thanks for reading!  Until next time keep 'er in Notch 8!

Saturday, April 30, 2016

Locomotive Breath - Part 3

I hope everybody is enjoying the spring weather!  I'd like to apologize to everybody for the delay in posts.  I have been model railroading during the blog drought however, just working on a buddy's locomotives.  Back to my project, Mascoutin Valley Railroad GP7 #217. Now we're on post 3, the DCC install and lighting affects.

Lights, Beacons, Numberboards!

Lights!  The lights I am using in all my locomotives is the 0630 Size Surface Mount LEDs.  I bought 20 of them pre-wired on eBay.  These suckers are small but they put out a ton of light!  Look at the picture below.  That's a toothpick tip and the little yellow thing is the Surface Mount LED.  They are tiny!  That is why I got them pre-wired.  Imagine having to solder those wires on the LED?  Nuts to that!

Surface Mount LEDs are Tiny!

I choose to put the SM LED right in the sockets for the lights.  I then put the lenses over the LEDs on the exterior of the sockets.  A lot of patience is required to get the tiny LEDs in the sockets.  This is by far the hardest part of the whole project.  Persistence is key!  These things look sharp when they are installed and the heartache and pain is totally worth it.

Holding the LEDs in place while the glue dries.  Good thing A ModelersLife was on to pass the time!

The Rotary Beacon is a Details West "Western Cullen" Rotary Beacon.  I looked at pictures of a real locomotive to get the placement on the roof for the beacon.  I referenced CNW 4133 again.  The picture had the beacon smack dab in the middle of the cab roof.  So I drilled out a hole large enough to fit the beacon base into the cab and then threaded the SM LED through the hole I created and glued it to the the lens.  Note: I used Testors Clear Parts Cement so it would not fog up the LED or the beacon lens.
Drilling Out Beacon Mounting in Center of Cab.
 Below is a picture of the beacon on the cab.  This will be a cool lighting effect I can't wait to see it rolling down the track with the beacon on full blast!
Finished Beacon with Surface Mount LED inside beacon lens.

Since I put the LEDs in the sockets for the forward and reverse lights, I had to do a custom job to get the numberboards done.  You may ask what do numberboards have to do with the DCC install?  Not much, but I don't want to go tearing off the shell after the DCC install just to put in numberboards.  I'll be patient and put them in prior to installation so I don't have to go back in there and re do everything or damage what I've done.

So we're sawing!  I used a razor saw to cut the numberboards off their molded on lighting piece they came on in the kit.  Once the boards were off, I painted them white.  Takes some patience here as well.  As many of you may know white paint never goes on in one coat.  It took 3 or 4 coats to get to my liking so the number decals will stick properly and look good on the loco.

Good enough!

Time for Tune Up

Before installing the SoundTraxx Decoder we want the locomotive to be running good.  So I give it my own personal tune up before installing the decoder.  I learned this tune-up technique when I was 13 and it still works to this day!

The cleanliness of your commutator is often over looked.  It is important that this is clean of carbon so your motor runs efficiently and smoothly.  Also dirty commutators can increase unwanted noise.  It should be the goal of every model railroader to have silent motors in their locomotives!  I clean the commutator first with 400 grit sandpaper.  I just hold it on the commutator and rotate the flywheels.  I don't push too hard.  Don't want to leave grooves in the metal.  After I get the heavy gunk off, I hit it with q-tip dipped liquid track cleaner of all things.  Or 91% rubbing alcohol works too.  Or Acetone.  Same method, just hold it against the commutator and rotate the flywheel.  You want the cleaner to evaporate quickly and not leave any liquid or residue.  Once dry hit the commutator one more time with a dry paper towel or q-tip.  Note:  Do not run your engine until the commutator has dried!!!  Liquid may be BAD for your electric motor.

Sounds Chips - no Frito Lays here

What is a decoder?  A decoder is a microchip that deciphers signals from a DCC command station that is being put in my locomotive to make it go forwards and backwards, light up and play sounds!  There are hundreds of decoders out there that do all sorts of things.  I chose the Soundtraxx Sound Decoder for EMD 567 Prime Mover.  The sound file that is installed on this decoder matches the motor that was in EMD GP7s.  There are two types of decoders/chips you can get from Soundtraxx that have sound effects - Hard Wired or Drop in chip.  I chose a hard wired option.  Never again! I'll explain why later.

First thing you have to do is isolate the motor from the frame.  The frame is this big piece of grounding strip that if your electrical power contacts hit it will fry your decoder! Next I had
solder hard wires to electrical pickups inside the trucks.  I solder wires directly to the pickups on the wheels so I get good conductivity from the track to the decoder.  I  used red on the right side and black on the left side of the locomotive.  These wires will be hooked up directly to the wires on decoder.  Red to red, black to black.  I match all the colors on my decoder to the NMRA DCC decoder wiring standard.  That way if someone else had to repair my locomotive other than me they could look inside and know what wire does what function.  Take a look at the wiring diagram below or follow this link to Mr. DCC University for a more detailed description:

Starting to Get the wiring done on the decoder install

Its important to plan a little bit and know how to route your wires inside the shell so you don't have spaghetti junction.  That's why I'll never do a hard wire decoder again...too many wires!  Wire Routing is a fine art and it takes patience and trial and error to get it right.  If you get I tend to do...walk away and go listen to 'A Modelers Life' Podcast.

Here's a little video with a 'Run By' of MVRR #217.  Still needs details and sideframes :-P


That's it for this time! Part IV we'll add the rest of the parts and details to the locomotive.  And with any luck it will be a completed model!

Be sure to check out my facebook page!  I am posting updates multiple times per week.  Also get a preview of the materials for the next blog.

You can find my Facebook Page here.  Make Sure to give it a 'like' to keep up with my progress

Thanks for reading!  Until next time keep 'er in Notch 8!

Saturday, March 12, 2016

Locomotive Breath - Part 2

Locomotive Breath - Part 2

The second post of this 4 post blog series.  The name of this Blog Post is 'stolen' from the title of a Jethro Tull song!  The title also deals with me making the first locomotive for the Mascoutin Valley Railroad!



I envisioned the Paint Scheme for the Mascoutin Valley locomotive fleet to be Green, White, and Gray.  I chose Badger Flex C&NW Green for the main paint for this locomotive.  I used a Binks Wren A airbrush to apply the paint to the model.  This airbrush is about as old as I am.  I did not dilute the paint and ran it through the Airbrush @ 25 PSI.  The airbrush gummed up a little bit because the Badger Flex paint is an acrylic paint that was getting blown through the gun with out being thinned.  I "de-gummed" the airbrush with a microbrush and kept painting.

Pictured: Binks airbrush, and Green painted Locomotive Parts



Once the paint dried it was time to to put on some decals.  I made the custom decals for the Mascoutin Valley using Adobe Illustrator.  It took me about a week to settle on a decal design.  I ended up making a newer or more modern decal and I also made a classic or "Old School" Mascoutin Valley Logo.  Once I settled on a design I needed to find someone to make the decals for me.  I used Precision Design Company

Just a quick note about Precision Desgin Company.  They had incredible customer service.  Top notch quality.  And quick turnaround.  I highly recommend them.

I also used some striping and basic lettering from Microscale sheets.  I applied the decals using MicroSet (Blue Bottle) soulution to keep the decal wet when I was attaching it.  Once the decal dried.  I used many coats of MicroSol (Red Bottle) to get the decals to soften and adhere to irregular surfaces.  Patience is the trick here, multiple coats will get the decal to do what you need.

Adding Decals, MicroSet still wet on the model.

Detail Parts


Exhaust Stacks

The original exhaust stacks were replaced with Spark Arrestors from Details west.

Details West SA-124 Spark Arrestor "Super" Non-Lifting Non Turbo C&NW

I removed the existing stacks with an Xacto #17 blade.  Not removing too much material I went slowly and sanded the remaining material down with fine sand paper. I removed the Spark Arrestor from the sprue and left a little "nub" on it for mounting it to the roof.  I drilled a hole in the middle where the spark arrestors need to go and used the "nub" as a guide to attach the spark arrestor to the roof.  I put a little CA in the hole and plopped it in there making sure it sat flush and perpendicular on the roof.  The next series of pics shows the method of attaching. 
Existing Stacks removed and guide hole drilled.

Spark Arrestor with a "nub" left as a guide.

Spark Arrestors installed!

Snow Plow

 The Snow Plow was pretty easy.  I did, however, have to make a bit of a modification to the front of the sill/frame.  I used an Xacto #17 blade and chiseled off the front details of the sill so the Snow Plow would seat correctly.

Details West PL-155 Snow Plow C&NW

I drilled a couple of holes in the face so the pegs on the back of the plow would align and seat properly.  I have a youtube video that better illustrates how I attach the snow plow to the frame.  I talk more about my YouTube Video below.
The Sill now ready to accept the Snow Plow.

New Media



We're through step two and the model is starting to come together.  To be more descriptive and to add content to the blog I've created a two videos and stuck them on YouTube.  I've got two videos out there and a review of a boxcar I recently purchased.  Now remember I'm just starting out on YouTube and I am learning.  You can find my YouTube Videos here:


Posting updates multiple times per week.  Also get a preview of the materials for the next blog.  
You can find my Facebook Page here.  Make Sure to give it a 'like' to keep up with my progress

The next post we'll look at Doing Digital Command Control (DCC) Decoder Install.  The installation will focus on hard wiring in a microchip and adding cool lighting affects.

Thank you for reading!  We've hit over 300 reads!

Till next time, keep 'er in notch 8!