East of the Blue Ridge

Chronicles of an On30 quarry railroad


Module Mogul - 5

Once the decals were set, I removed the masking from the headlight, whistle, and windows.

I sprayed the locomotive and tender shells with matte finish fixative. Once that was dry, I began to apply Bragdon weathering powders. I had no experience working with the powders, and experimented with applying them wet, dry, with brushes and Q-tips, and cosmetic sponges. The weathering effect ended up being heavier than I anticipated. Going back over areas with a light coat of black weathering powder toned the colors down.

I sprayed the locomotive wheels and running gear with matte finish fixative, and applied Bragdon powders lightly. With the boiler off the mechanism, I was able to turn the drivers, which was absolutely necessary. The running gear, wheels, and tender trucks got a wash of ScaleCoat Mud, Dirt, and Rust. I reassembled the locomotive and tender, and gave everything a thin wash of Tamiya Buff and Deck Tan, applied wet on wet. This final wash bleached and blended the colors, and added highlights to details. I repeated the Buff washes until I was happy with the effect.

I found a black craft foam sheet that had an adhesive backing. I have no idea where it came from, but I cut a piece to a tight fit inside the coal boards and between the tool boxes.

I removed the backing to expose the adhesive, and sifted coal directly onto it. The craft foam’s tight fit between the tool boxes holds the coal load in place. It can easily be removed to access the decoder underneath.

I installed a Firebox pilot, and made the electrical connections between the tender and locomotive. Surprisingly, she still ran!

Several coats of matte finish fixative did not completely dull the acrylic gloss clear coat. The boiler still has a little shine.

Module Mogul - 4

After all the electrical and electronic revisions were made to my Bachmann 2-6-0, I reassembled the locomotive and tender for a test run.

The JRD On30 Module Group participated in a Greenberg Train Show in the Richmond area, and there the Mogul ran fine.

When reassembled, the Tsunami sound decoder rides very high in the tender. I installed boards around the coal bunker in order to more easily hide the decoder under a coal load. I used card stock to determine how high the boards would have to be.

Coal bunker boards in front and around the perimeter of the coal pile were integrated with a pair of tool boxes.

I decided to only attempt very basic detail revisions to the locomotive. I removed the pilot, the airtank that sat on top of the boiler, and the marker lights from near the headlight. I also cut the handrail back to the first supports on the smokebox.

The generator from a Bachmann On30 Shay was installed directly behind the headlight. Then I spraypainted the locomotive and tender with dark gray auto primer after masking the whistle, windows, and headlight. After the primer dried, I sprayed them with a coat of clear acrylic gloss.

Custom decals were printed for the JRD On30 Modular Group by Jeff Damerst at Shawmut Car Shops. The decals were easy to apply on the gloss clear coat.

Gold decal sheets were set up for locomotives and passenger cars, white decals for freight cars and cabooses.

Module Mogul - 3

Harold’s tutorial on installing DCC and sound in a Bachmann 2-6-0 explains how to modify the locomotive’s circuit board, and where to solder new electrical connections.

The issue then becomes feeding the new wires from the connections in the boiler out to the tender. The boiler is an extremely tight fit on the drive mechanism. Harold drilled a hole down through the weight in the firebox to provide a route for the wires. I decided to use files and Dremel grinding discs to cut grooves along the top and down the back of the firebox weight for the wires. The six wires include two each for track power, motor leads, and headlight leads. The wires were grouped into the “black” set and the “red” set and fed out of the back of the locomotive below the cab.

Corresponding wires were fed forward in the tender, exiting through the floor on either side of the drawbar. The electrical connections between the locomotive and tender were made using connector sockets I ordered from Digi-Key Corporation.

Fred Miller wrote an excellent article about using these connectors that appeared in the NMRA Mid-East Region newsletter. They are inexpensive, easy to work with, and the perfect plug set for this application.

Module Mogul - 2

Adding sound to a model locomotive puts a premium on electrical contact.

Intermittent breaks in the current flowing from the rails to the locomotive are always aggravating, and a sound system only accentuates these lapses to the point that they can become infuriating. I followed Harold’s advice and added electrical pickups to the Mogul’s tender trucks, but I did not do it the same way he did.

I found electrical contacts to the tender trucks to be somewhat difficult. The tender balances on the center bolsters of the trucks as they swivel and rock along the track. Adding electrical wires running up from the truck wheels into the tender interferes with the balance of the tender and restricts the movement of the trucks.

I decided to add only one set of pickups to each truck. One truck would pick up power from the positive rail, and the other from the negative.

The electrical contact scheme I eventually settled on was to use Kadee phosphor bronze coupler centering springs as wipers making contact with the inside of opposite pairs of wheels in each truck.

Leads were soldered to the Kadee springs, threaded up through holes in the floor of the tender, and connected to the Tsunami sound decoder. A qualified success! This arrangement did provide power to the decoder, but there were frequent dropouts as I rolled the tender along the track. I hoped that these additional electrical pickups, along with the factory installed pickups on the locomotive wheels, would increase the reliability of operation.

After wiring the tender trucks, I purchased a Bachmann caboose that had electrical pickups to power an interior light. I intended to remove the pickup system from the caboose and use it to replace the Kadee contacts on my tender. When I looked at how the caboose pickups were done, they were so similar to what I had installed on the tender that I left my tender pickups as they were. If I had had the caboose trucks initially, I would have definitely modified their electrical pickup for installation on the tender trucks.

Module Mogul - 1

On30 owes much of its popularity to an O scale trainset released by Bachmann that runs on HO gauge track. The locomotive included in the set is a small 2-6-0, which has been the starting point for countless customizations, chop jobs, and kitbashes over the years.

I purchased a Bachmann 2-6-0 because it seemed perfectly suited for use on the
James River Division On30 modular layout. Perfect in appearance only, because in order to run the Mogul, it had to have DCC installed. And since the modules are often set up for public exhibition, it would be more interesting for the locomotive to have sound capabilities as well. The Bachmann 2-6-0 is currently not available with these options.

Harold Minkwitz posted a tutorial on installing sound in a Bachmann Mogul. I downloaded and printed his instructions, and followed them fairly closely.

After making sure the Mogul I purchased ran well, I disassembled the tender and removed the boiler.

I cut out the molded coal load, and drilled holes in the floor of the tender.

I trimmed a piece of basswood to size, cut two round holes in it, and silicon caulked the speakers to it and the assembly to the floor of the tender.

I wired the speakers, then temporarily connected them to the sound decoder. The power leads from the decoder were connected to a power pack to make sure everything was working up to this point.

New Saddletanker

Through email correspondence among the members of the James River Division On30 Module Group, I was made aware that Paul Dougherty of Rickety Rails Models had a locomotive for sale. Paul is a master at working with brass. He has built many Backwoods Miniature conversions with unique variations.

Considering how well suited one of Paul’s small saddletank steam locomotives would be for the Piedmont & East Blue Ridge, I contacted him, and purchased one of his fine creations.

The little 0-6-0 came painted, weathered, and with sound already installed. It is amazing how Paul has fit the electronics and speaker into this small locomotive. It runs and sounds great.

Immediately upon taking delivery, the new locomotive was put to work. It looks right at home doing the dusty work of hauling stone in the hills of Nelson County.

Good News - Bad News

I currently have four locomotives in running condition on my model railroad

From front to back: The steam locomotive, No. 3, is a Bachmann HO scale 0-6-0 saddle tank with a Backwoods Miniature detailing kit to convert it to an O scale 2-6-0. The boxy black loco, No. 12, is a Bachmann model of a Davenport gas mechanical. Next in line is yellow No. 12, an AMS model of an old Pymouth HLC diesel. And last is big No. 25, a Rich Yoder model of a GE 25 tonner.

I have divided the work on the railroad into three jobs, so four locomotives is about the minimum number necessary to keep everything running at once. Old number 3 is a spare that only runs occasionally. The smallest internal combustion locomotive, number 12, normally works the Mill Job. The middle sized Number 18 usually works the Quarry Job, and big number 25 is the regular power on the Winwood Turn.

I put a Lenz Gold+ Superpak decoder and stay-alive capacitor in the AMS Plymouth. Reassembled and placed on the track, she immediately ran slow and reliably, and was ready for service.

I also put the same decoder/power unit combination in the Yoder 25 tonner.

I had dreaded opening up this, my first brass locomotive, but the decoder installation was relatively easy. There is plenty of room in the carbody for both the decoder and capacitor, leaving the enormous cab open for square-dances or sit-down dinners.

The easy decoder installation was definitely good news. I reassembled the locomotive and it ran slow and silent. More good news! Then the bad news began.

The locomotive would not travel more than a few feet on my layout before derailing. It derailed everywhere, on curves, straight track, and turnouts. The power unit kept the locomotive running even when derailed. I found the sight of it bumping along on the crossties particularly disconcerting.

The wheels were slightly out of gauge, but I was not sure I could adjust them, or if that was the cause of all the problems. A fellow modeler suggested I email Southwest Narrow Gauge with news of my dilemma, since they are well known for their custom work on locomotives for modelers all over the world. SNG responded to my email quickly, making a few simple suggestions. That was enough for me correct the wheel gauge myself, but that did not solve the tracking problem. I also added a little weight, but the locomotive seemed to be adequately heavy already.

Starting on the locomotive service track, I ran the 25 tonner along until it derailed, then carefully studied the track to find the cause.

Two tools that came in very helpful in this investigation were a small wooden block and a flashlight. The wooden block was just wide enough to span the gauge of the rails, and the same length as the wheelbase of the locomotive. The flashlight was a compact LED hiking light that was small enough to sit on the track and illuminate under the locomotive.

The flashlight made it easy to see when one of the locomotive’s wheels lifted off the track. The block could be slid along the track to find places where two corners were high and two low, allowing the block to rock. Common problem spots were rail joiners, joints in the Homosote roadbed, and points of turnouts.

The 25 tonner was soon slowly making its way along the line, with a trail of track laying tools behind it. Uneven rail height was the cause of the majority of problems. I always lowered the high rail, and never tried to shim up a low rail. One turnout had to be lifted and taken back to the bench for adjustment. The curved route through a few other turnouts posed problems with relentless picking of the points. I had to file a slight notch in the stockrail in order for the point to be absolutely flush before this beast would stop picking the point.

The silver lining to this dark cloud of frustration and tedious investigation is that all this track tuning is transferable, in that all other locomotives and rolling stock are tracking better as a result.

Arkansas Railroad Supply

As trackwork progresses, I am spending more time thinking about the operation of the layout. This will require more rolling stock than I currently have on hand.

I was fortunate enough to have the opportunity to purchase some models from Bill Davis. Bill is an outstanding modeler whose work is often associated with Tom Yorke Studios. I purchased this Porter Diesel model from Bill.

It is a Tom Yorke resin kit built on a Bachmann Trolley power truck. Bill did an incredible job of detailing and finishing this model.

I purchased one of these kits myself along with a Trolley donor, but have not started on it yet. I will be using Bill's model as a reference.

I also picked up this little flatcar from Bill. It is the first in a large fleet of flatcars that will be hauling stone on the East Blue Ridge.