Wednesday, October 30, 2013

Train Show: Gibraltar Trade Center (11/2/2013)

I'm hoping to make it out to the train show at the Gibraltar Trade Center in Mt. Clemens, MI this weekend. I can't remember the last time I went to a train show, it has to have been at least 15 years now. I used to go to them as a kid with my dad, back when I was actually into trains. With all the time that has passed since then, I really have no idea what to expect. The ad below calls it one of "Michigan's largest" shows, so we'll see how it goes if I can make it.

Ad for The Upcoming Gibraltar Trade Center Train Show
I know all about the location itself (Gibraltar Trade Center), I've been going there for sports card shows for the last few years and it's got a pretty nice show area set up in the back, so they would definitely have room for the 400 tables described. Here is a pic from their website:

Photo of a Typical Train Show at Gibraltar Trade Center
What I am hoping to get out of it is everything I need to complete the nursery wall layout. I still need to find some passenger cars, buildings, track bed, grass mat, and various pieces of scenery. 

Tuesday, October 29, 2013

New Rolling Stock: San Jose Sharks Boxcar

Talk about the best of both worlds. This boxcar combines my two main hobbies: trains and hockey. I found this when I was going through my old room at my parents house recently and thought it would be a nice addition to my collection of rolling stock.

San Jose Sharks Boxcar
I don't know if this one will ever make it onto the layout though. I'd like to lean more toward modeling after prototype railroads and I'm not sure if something like this even exists in real life. What I might do with this one is use it to practice painting and decals.

Monday, October 28, 2013

New Locomotives and Rolling Stock: A Bunch of Free Stuff from My Dad's Basement

Well, I finally got my first locomotives and pieces of rolling stock since deciding to get back into model railroading just a few months ago. I was at my parents house the other day and my dad had come across some of his old HO stuff in the basement and said I could have it. Gotta love free stuff, right? 

Here's a look at all the stuff together:

Locomotives and Rolling Stock from My Dad's Basement

Of the eight locomotives on the top, all but one are powered. The UP switcher closest to the right is actually a dummy model. I don't know yet if they all work, but most appear to be in pretty good shape. The UP furthest to the left is probably the worst of the bunch with one of the trucks completely hanging off the bottom and most of the handrails broken in some way.

The Athearn blue boxes in the lower left are for the three UP units on the right and there was one empty box full of random parts. The other two boxes were a for one Mantua flat car and a Cox Ontario Northland locomotive that's looks like it had never been used. The one Bachmann box is for the Tootsie Roll boxcar shown in the upper right corner.

So all together not a bad haul. Some of these may or may not end up on my layout whenever I get to building it. The other idea I has was to use some of these to practice painting and decals.

Sunday, October 20, 2013

New Project: Nursery Wall Layout

Before I get to building a full size layout for myself in the basement, I have another small side project to work on. My wife and I have decided to go with trains for the theme of our new nursery, which means I wanted to work in some kind of layout. At first I wanted to do an around the room running setup, but found that would not work out so well. My other option was to do a non-operational display layout on one of the walls. 

Now that I have taken some measurements, I've decided to go with a six foot long layout that will be mounted to the wall. I plan on using five pieces of Atlas 9" straight snap track for the center of the layout along with one piece of Atlas 18" radius snap track at either end. The idea we came up with for each end is to create a false tunnel entrance so it looks like the track leads into the wall. Beyond that, I still need to decide a few things like what locomotive and rolling stock we are going to display as well as what kind of scenery we'd like to have. 

This project is officially under way now that we hit up one of the local hobby shops the other day (Empire Hobbies) and bought the code 100 Atlas track we needed (plus a few extra pieces for myself) and a nice pair stone tunnel portals from Pre-Size Model Specialties. 

(2) Cut Stone Portals, (2) Atlas R18" Snap Track, (10) Atlas 9" Snap Track
Before I start cutting any wood for the shelf that this will sit on, I thought it would be a good idea to sketch out what I wanted this thing to look like. Here's something I threw together in SCARM (Simple Computer Aided Railroad Modeler) as a starting point. It's got the basic track layout, the two portals, and some possible spots for buildings and trees.

2D Track Plan Generated with SCARM
To get a better idea of what this might look like, I used the 3D viewer option in SCARM. Here's what the rendering looks like. It's pretty crude, but definitely helps bring the track plan to life.

3D Rendering Based on 2D Track Plan from SCARM
We aren't looking for anything too complicated here, just something that would look nice on the nursery wall and be a little bit more than just a picture. I've still got some figuring out to do, but this is the general concept and will serve as a guide for the building process.

As a self-imposed deadline, I've got until around December 1st to get this thing built and hung on the wall. In the mean time, I need to decide which era this layout is going to be and what we want as far as a locomotive and rolling stock. 

Wednesday, October 16, 2013

Layout Ideas: Detroit & Mackinac (Rolling Stock)

In my last post I showed off some locomotives available in HO with Detroit & Mackinac paint schemes. There wasn't much to choose from and they are nearly impossible to track down. This post however, will focus on D&M rolling stock, some of which is available through various online retailers.

We'll start with a common 50' box car. There were plenty of these on the D&M roster with varying groups of road numbers. From what I've seen online so far, most of these box cars were the dark red color shown below. They typically had the "Detroit & Mackinac" text in white on the right side and the "DM" on the left with the road number just below that.

50' Box Car, Detroit & Mackinac #2275
Here is a look at the model I found from Athearn. At first glance, it looks to pretty close to the prototype shown above. This one is even in the 2200's just like the one shown. The main elements all seem to match up, there is just some small text here and there missing on the model. The one thing that may be off is the roof on the model. It is shown as grey, but the prototype looks to have a dark red roof. Maybe its just the lighting, but definitely something I would like to confirm.

Athearn RTR 50' Box Car, Detroit & Mackinac #2217
Up next we have another box car, this time a 50' double door round roof box car. This one appears to be the same color scheme as the first, but the condenser "DM" on the left side has been replaced with a more spread out "D & M" lettering.

50' Round Roof Box Car, Detroit & Mackinac #3418
Here is a look at the model I found from Bowser on the Walthers website. It looks to be pretty close to the prototype other than the color of the roof and a few small markings on either side of the doors. It would be neat if the doors opened, but I don't think that is the case.

Bowser 50' Double Door Box Car, Detroit & Mackinac #3433
Now we have a covered hopper car. These are a bit shorter than the 50' box cars and come in a black and white paint scheme. I like the way they have the large "D" for Detroit and "M" for Mackinac, it makes it pretty easy to identity them. The one shown here is pretty beat up and would make for a great looking weathered model.

Covered Hopper Car, Detroit & Mackinac #6126
Here is a look at the model I found, this time from the Athearn ready to roll series. This one also looks very much like the prototype other than a few small details. This one would just need some weathering and it would be good to go.

Athearn Covered Hopper Car, Detroit & Mackinac #6114
The last one we have for today is a 2-bay offset side hopper car. These were open on the top and came in a black paint scheme with white lettering. These are pretty nice looking if you ask me, especially with the way the rivets are visible all along the side.

2-Bay Offset Side Hopper Car, Detroit & Mackinac #7033
Here's a look at the model I found from Atlas. Overall, it is pretty close to the prototype, but there are some differences with the text. The placement seems to be lower on the model and the "Detroit & Mackinac" font seems to be much smaller. Then there is what looks like a large white placard on the mode that is not seen on the prototype.

Atlas Trainman 2-Bay Offset Side Hopper, Detroit & Mackinac #5006
That's it for now. There are some other pieces out there, but I will save them for another day. If I ever happen to land one of the locomotives, these will not be far behind, especially the 50' box cars as I remember seeing tons of them as a kid when I would watch the D&M trains roll through northern Michigan.

Monday, October 14, 2013

Layout Ideas: Detroit & Mackinac (Locomotives)

When I first decided to get back into model railroading, I really wanted to come up with a layout based on the Detroit & Mackinac Railway. One of the reasons was the fact that I kind of grew up around this railroad at my family's lakefront cottage in northern Michigan, right along the D&M branch between Tawas and Alpena. I remember always looking forward to seeing the trains come through town and at the rural crossings closer to the cottage. It was one of the things that really helped get me interested in trains in the first place. 

While doing some research over the summer, I came across some HO scale models of D&M locomotives and rolling stock, which brought back a lot of good memories from my childhood. My first thought was I need to have these for any layout that I put together. I mean how neat would it be to base a layout on an area that I actually visited frequently when I was younger? 

Well, that was the plan until I discovered that it was virtually impossible to find any of the D&M locomotives for sale. I did find plenty of pictures of them and links to other people who had them, but none that were available. At first I figured it was no big deal and I would just keep looking. Well, fast forward a few months and there was still nothing to be found. 

There were however several pieces of rolling stock available, but it wouldn't feel right to just have a few boxcars with the D&M paint scheme. I wanted to have the actual replicas of the trains I saw in-person as a kid. Since it appeared I wouldn't find what I was looking for any time soon, it was at that point I decided to put the idea of a D&M themed layout on the back burner. Who know's, maybe a few of these will surface someday and I can get back to what I originally wanted. 

Until that happens, I thought I would put together a kind of wish list post showing everything that I have found so far featuring the D&M name. Let's start with the locomotives.

The first one is D&M #381, an Alco C425. Here is a look at the prototype. It's an amazing looking piece of equipment if you ask me. I love the black and gold paint scheme, especially the little bit of red trim along the center stripe. The striped nose is pretty neat too, definitely hard to miss.

Alco C425, Detroit & Mackinac #381
Now here is a look at the model I found from Atlas. It actually looks a lot like the prototype. The overall look is there, its just missing some of the minor details. These are things like the small American flag log above the front steps as well as the snow plow on the front end.
Atlas Master Line Alco C425, Detroit & Mackinac #381
Up next is D&M #181, another Alco C425. This one is pretty much the same as #381 other than the obvious difference in road number and the lack of red trim along the center stripe.

Alco C425, Detroit & Mackinac #181
Here is a look at the corresponding model from Atlas. It appears to be identical to the #381 model other than the road number. It actually even has the red trim that is not shown on the prototype. I wonder what the reason was for the difference there.

Atlas Master Line Alco C425, Detroit & Mackinac #181
There are actually two other C425's out there, but I cannot find pictures of the models, so here is a look at the prototypes for D&M #281 and #1280. These both look just like #381 with the red trim along the center stripe. Overall, these four make for a great looking set of locomotives.

Alco C425, Detroit & Mackinac #281
Alco C425, Detroit & Mackinac #1280
That's it as far as HO scale locomotives that have been produced in the Detroit & Mackinac paint scheme. Any information on where to buy any of these would be greatly appreciated. I think I will leave the rolling stock for another day, at least there is more there and some of it is readily available.

Friday, October 11, 2013

Layout Ideas: Locomotives

Part of the planning stage for my layout will be deciding which locomotives I want to add to my roster. Since I am not focusing on any one railroad in particular, there will be plenty to choose from. That being said, I thought I would put together a quick list of some that have caught my eye recently.

While the road numbers are not exact, these all match pictures taken of prototype locomotives that have passed through the state of Michigan at some point. Ideally I would like to get some of these and renumber them to match what I can find on the website.

The first one is an Athearn GE AC4400CW in a Canadian Pacific paint scheme. Aside from the red and white striped band around the platform and the position of the ditch lights, this one looks pretty similar to the prototype. Of course there are some smaller details missing like the wiper blades and the hoses on the front end, but overall its a pretty nice looking locomotive.

Athearn GE AC4400CW, Canadian Pacific Railway #9502
The next one I came across was an Athearn Genesis EMD GP38-2 in a Norfolk Southern paint scheme. This one appears to be much closer to the prototype than the one above. The only detail that sticks out right away is the blacked out circles underneath the number boards on the front end. In the model they appear to be white.

Athearn Genesis EMD GP38-2, Norfolk Southern #5029
The third one is this MTH EMD SD70ACe in CSX's "dark future" paint scheme. From what I can see in the pictures, this one also looks pretty close to the prototype. I was even lucky enough to find one only six numbers off for the road number.

MTH EMD SD70ACe, CSX #4847
The last one I have for now is an Atlas EMD GP38-2 in a Grand Trunk Western paint scheme. This one is quite a bit different than the prototype in the picture. A few things I noticed include the lack of ditch lights, wiper blades, and the yellow stripe along the side on the model. Overall it's not a bad looking model, unless you want it to be 100% accurate, but for $49.99 that can't be expected. 

Atlas Trainman EMD GP38-2, Grand Trunk Western #5812
I hope to have a few more posts like this in the future before I get to buying locomotives for my layout. For now these are all just ideas and they may or may not end up as a part of my future layout.

Tuesday, October 1, 2013

Layout Ideas: Choosing a Theme

Now that I am fully moved into my new house, I can start thinking more about what theme I want my future HO scale layout to have. While I still don't have the time to start actually building anything just yet, it definitely can't hurt to have some ideas in place beforehand. Plus, I really don't want to just blindly start building something then get halfway through just to change my mind anyway.

Originally I thought about doing something solely based on the Detroit and Mackinac railway, but several weeks of finding little to nothing in terms of locomotives or rolling stock for sale has made change my mind a bit. Rather than focus on one small railroad, I thought I would come up with a layout based on Michigan railroads, which opens up all kinds of possibilities. 

Here are some of the criteria I've been thinking of going with:

I've stated this above and in my first post, but just to be thorough here, I am going with HO. This will not be changing since I've always been an HO scale modeler and there is just so much out there in terms of locomotives, rolling stock, scenery, supplies, etc.

A typical HO scale locomotive from
Time Period
The era of choice would most likely be anything from the 1980's through present day. This allows a lot of flexibility as far as choices of railroads as well as types of locomotives, rolling stock and scenery. Plus, I grew up fascinated with trains in the early to mid 90's, so this kind of works out perfectly.

Pictures of various trains in Michigan from
When I say location, I mean the real life areas I would like to model after. For me this means the state of Michigan. I don't plan on modeling any specific city or anything, but I would like to maintain the look and feel of my home state. This will likely mean a small town feel along with some industry and metropolitan areas. Other than that I would just like to get some nice wooded areas.

Layout Size
In the space I have set aside for myself, I can really do anything from a simple 4' x 8' rectangle to a complete around-the-room style layout. I am kind of leaning toward doing a small starter layout, this way I can get a feel for what I'm doing before going all in with a big layout.