To paraphrase Vane Jones, "Knowledge is of little value until shared with others."

Tuesday, July 24, 2012

AEFRE 49 - #4A The Flat Car with Decking

Please excuse the delay in getting back to this model. There were a number of items to be taken care of on my layout plus other models. As my wife once said, "It's only a hobby. There's other things in life to do." Work will proceed as time allows.

The flat car with decking will be comprised of a brass frame, for strength and weight, with a styrene outer framing and decking.

Remember the following rules:
In O scale; 0.020” scale = 1” prototype. After a while this will come naturally to you.
To completely cure (dry) either plastic glue and ACC requires 24 hours.
Plastic glue interferes with ACC and vice verse.
If you forget the rules you will have trouble!

Styrene flexes; therefore the main part of the frame has to be made from brass. Since the prototype locomotive is no longer in existence all dimensions have to be taken from drawings, photos, and the modeler’s experience.

My son is an expert carpenter and woodworker, he answered my questions regarding the dimensions of lumber used by examining photos. This took the guess work out of building the model.

To start off, immediately the fact the trucks have a 78” and not a 72” wheel base has to be taken care of. The trail truck was screwed onto the body bolster provided with the trucks. It was then placed on a sheet of paper. An arc was drawn from the outside corner of the truck frame on the paper. The arc was compared to the side and bottom scale drawings of the deck. It looks like an additional scale 9” has to be added to the end of the frame at each end for the trucks to clear the foot boards.

This is not a lot when one considers the side frames themselves are wider than the prototype. In O scale the prototype gauge is 5’ and not the standard 4’ 8-1/2”. This additional width causes problems in almost every O scale model.

The central framing will be of brass. I make non-scale drawings for almost every part of a model to be scratch built. It helps me to understand what has to be done plus the size of the material to be used.

The drawings are my “imagineering” of the model. Sometimes drawings are made and then not followed for one reason or another. Only the drawings or parts of drawings which were followed are included. No two drawings are to the same scale.

Also, since these drawings are for my use, they are not always the best. However, I do try to make the lines straight and the drawings clear enough.

The “I” beans are 3/16” x 3/32” x 7-5/16” with the end piece being solid brass 3/16” square x 1-3/4” long. To help with the spacing of the “I” beams this jig was made of styrene. Since the jig is made of styrene it cannot be on the brass during the soldering process. Once the “I” beams are in place using the jig, place a heavy weight on them. Square everything up before soldering.

A very effecting soldering flux is 0.1 M zinc chloride dissolved in 0.1 M hydrochloric acid. This is the material in almost all soldering fluxes. If you become friends with the local high school, community college, or college chemistry teacher; you might be able to get this solution made. One liter of the solution will last you a life time. Be cautious! The solution is caustic!

The pieces of the brass frame were soldered together using 6% silver solder. A propane torch was required to provide enough heat. The joints are butt joints; therefore, a fillet of solder is required on each side of the “I” beam for strength. Be careful not to file away too much solder. If done correctly there will be no excess solder.

After soldering the brass, clean it off immediately in mild soap and water. Rinse the brass well.

Don't put the propane torch away just yet. There's more soldering in the next post.


Thursday, July 19, 2012

Mitch Markovitz, Artist & Illustrator

You may or may not have noticed the addition of Mitch Markovitz to the area on the right side of this page titled "Related Web Sites". Mitch is one of those individuals this hobby needs. His talents are in the areas of being able to draw and paint pictures of prototype trains.

It's difficult to state everything Mitch has done. His work appears in the book "Moonlight in Duneland" edited by Ronald D. Cohen and Stephen G. McShane. As you page through the book you'll recognize many of Mitch's works. There are 10 pieces of Mitch's work in the book. He also wrote one of the chapters of the book. 

Mitch wrote a book on drawing and painting pictures of trains. The title is "How to Draw and Paint Trains Like a Pro" The book is a gem. Mitch takes you though the steps needed to make a drawing of a train. The "Forward", "Acknowledgements", and "Introduction" explain Mitch's credentials to draw beautiful illustrations of trains.

Mitch starts with the tools needed then how to get an inspiration. Once you have the inspiration, then perspective, drawing unusual shapes, and proportion come into play.

Sketching, light source, colors, terrain, people, items unique to trains, lettering, plus other topics finish off the information needed. I once had a chance to watch Mitch "make a drawing from scratch". Wow! He made it look so easy.

Western terminal of the proposed extension of the Blue Line to Utopia.

Even if you have no ambition to produce illustrations of trains on a commercial basis, there are 3 solid reasons for obtaining this book. If you have any intentions of painting a model, you must have some thing to copy the paint scheme from. It can be a picture, painting, another model, or a drawing you  made of the prototype

Having a drawing you made yourself is particularly true if you are painting the model with your own paint scheme and colors. Once you have the original drawing, photocopies can be made for multiple attempts at designing different paint schemes.

If you are planning on making a layout, the 2nd reason for having Mitch's book is for you to be able to make drawings of what different scenes on your layout will look like. This may mean the difference between having  a toy like  vs. a more prototypical looking layout. Making a drawing of the scene is the step between having a mental idea with a visual in your head and  the physical construction of the scene. Making the drawing in perspective with an actual disappearing point is the physical activity which takes a mental activity to tangible item(s). The more detail you can put into the drawing the better. Mitch's booklet will help you do this particularly where the scene involves train related activity.

The final reason to obtain Mitch's book is to see and enjoy the many illustrations Mitch has placed in the book. Some of them will stretch your imagination almost beyond belief.

Click on this link and enjoy what you see.
You may want to buy what Mitch as for sale or commission Mitch to make an illustration just for you.

My wife and I commissioned Mitch to make a watercolor for us. The scene is a Chicago and West Towns lightweight street car at the intersection of Lake St. and Harlem Ave. The CWT car is in front of the Oak Park Marshall Field store circa 1947, the year the line was abandoned in favor of buses.


Saturday, July 14, 2012

Automatic Block Signals on the Chicago and Utopia Railway – Part 2

While Circuitron products have been used on my layout, there are other electrical methods to "wire-up" the electronics for block signals. You'll have to look them up yourselves. My goal was to cut through the fog of signaling and the difference between automatic block and interlocking home signals. 

Automatic block signals have a number plate on the post or just below the signal head for low signals. They have their own rules governing the meaning of the signal colors.

Walthers at one time had a number of O scale signal products. The items were well built and completely in scale. A modeler could have an operational block signaling system using the Walthers products. Below is a copy from the 1958, 2nd printing Walthers catalogue.

When Walthers dropped their O scale product line, Keil-Line Products purchased the soft metal castings part of product line. Over the years John Keil has upgraded many of Walthers castings. Today Keil-Line’s track side signals have colored plastic lenses installed with white bulbs. When looking at my signals you may notice the color of the bulbs does not always match. The lighted bulbs do not photo well.

Contact information for Keil-Line Products is: 6440 McCullom Lake Rd.; Wonder Lake, IL 60097; tel/fax815-728-0595; email   A catalogue cost $2.00. Unfortunately John does not have a web site to display his products.

Keil-Line signals are superior to the old Walthers items. However, I had a number of Walther signals, so I stuck with them. An explanation of how my signals work if they are not powered by Circuitron  DT-2 boards and why, if need be, the particular aspects (colors) were chosen.

Besides Keil-Line an other source of signals is NJ International, Inc. (NJI) and Atlas   Both NJI and Atlas products are more expensive than Keil-Line. Old unused NJI products have shown up on EBay. NJI has both old and newer styles of signals. Atlas tends to have newer signals which may not be applicable for you trolley era.

An individual who has trackside signals is the Irish Track Layer  John has interesting items.

On my layout the track side signals do not operate the trains. That is, they do not stop trains to prevent accidents. The motorman is responsible for the control of the train.

This is the drawing of my layout with a red letter next to each signal. The red letters are the key to the explanations. I’ve not placed any numbers on the white number plates on the automatic block signals. Getting the white plate on the signal was enough of a problem.

The signal heads are either 2-lights or 1-light. The colors many be red, yellow, or green. The colors mean -

  • red - stop and wait 5 minutes before proceeding at 1/2 normal speed and prepared to stop if track is occupied.
  • yellow - proceed at restricted speed usually 15 mph.
  • green - proceed at speed described in rule booklet.

  • red over red - stop and stay.
  • yellow  over red - proceed at restricted speed usually 15 mph.
  • green over red - proceed at speed described in rule booklet.

 Automatic Block Signals - Note the white number plate under the signal head(s).

Letter A – low 2-color head red and green. The low head signals were chosen since the location is on a secondary track, a siding to go onto a mainline track. The signal is “powered” by a Circuitron board.
This signal is on a large concrete base. Normally it would be a small base. It looks like a number plates needs to be installed on the base.

Letter B – ground level 2-color head, red and green. Location is between 2  main line tracks where the traffic is 2-way. Traffic on the track to the right is going away while traffic on the left is moving toward us. This signal head is normally on a mast. A ground level signal head was chosen for clearance of models. Visitors bring models to run. I don’t want them damaged. The 2 tracks are close together. The signal is “powered” by a Circuitron board.
Many modelers have used this size of signal in yards to show the direction in which traffic is routed at a turnout.

 Letter D – 2-color head on a mast, red and green. The signal is “powered” by a Circuitron board.
The sides of the signal's head have been filed off the same as on the CSS.

Letter E – two, 2-color heads on a mast, red and green, the upper head is for the main route, the lower head is for the divergent route to the left. The signals are “powered” by Circuitron boards.
This signal shows stop for the main route and the diverging route to the left. The low green light is for the turnout indication.
Letter G - two 2-color heads on a mast, the upper head red and green is for the main route to the left. The lower head of yellow and green is for the divergent route.

The red and green aspects of the upper head are “powered” by a Circuitron board. The yellow and green aspects of the lower head are controlled by the position of the turnout. A small electrical lever switch was installed next to the turnout.

The reason for choosing yellow instead of green was, the divergent route is not protected by a Circuitron board (signals). There is no way of knowing if any cars are on the track. The motorman needs to proceed at a slow speed expecting the track to be blocked.
At this location the divergent route is the track directly ahead. It is the start of a yard lead to trolley barns and open track storage.

This photo shows the small electrical lever switch which is activated by the throw bar of the turnout. Note the clutter normally seen at turnouts. The name "Kanary" is for George Kanary a fellow trolley modeler. His work is fantastic! All the areas where turnouts are located have the name of a modeler. This makes it easier to describe a location to another modeler or visitor. 
The lever switch needs to be camouflaged better.
Interlocking Home Signals

Letter C – ground level 2-color head, red and green, PLUS a fix red signal. Although this should be signal heads on a mast, the ground level signals were chosen for clearance of models. The red and green aspects of the signal are “powered” by a Circuitron board.
The round item in front of the signal is a battery vault. Keil-Line has many items which appear in and around signals.

Letter F - a 2-color head, red and green AND a fixed red signal on a mast. The red and green aspects of the signal are “powered” by a Circuitron board.

Letter H – two 3-color heads on a mast, red, yellow and green interlocking home signal. The 2nd signal is in the distant left. These 2 signals are for the foreign railroad. The red aspects are always shown.
Both signals are NJ International products.

The following photo shows the clutter found in and around signals. Like on a model layout, the prototype railroads have miles of wires for signals. Cabinets plus wiring and battery vaults are needed. When included on a model layout the scene become more real to the viewer.

Like anything on the layout, things are never done. I was unable to get the grade crossing lights to work. Also, as I was preparing to write this post the need to install 1 signal and rebuild another near the CRT station were noticed. Then, the lack of a signal showing the mainline vs. diverging routes for train traveling in a counterclockwise direction was noticed. It looks like the west bound interlocking home signal needs to be rebuilt. This drawing shows the location of the needed signal work.

With the extremely high temperatures the Chicago has been experiencing, work on the layout on the 2ndfloor of the garage can only be done for short periods of time. There is an A/C unit for the layout. But I don't want to run it continuously. This means the additional changes in the signals will happen over time.

Now I think we can get back to the AEFRE #49! I had no idea the work on the layout would consume so much time.


Sunday, July 8, 2012

Automatic Block Signals on the Chicago & Utopia Railway – Part 1

While working on the layout to correct malfunctioning turnouts and fine tuning the upgraded electrical control system, a couple of non-working block signals were noticed. At the same time a second try was attempted to get the 2 grade crossing warning signals operational.

This caused me to reevaluate the block signals on the layout. Of course, this lead to more work than originally expected to be done on the layout. Here is a written explanation of my layout’s block signals!

An item which catches the eye of the visitor, probably more rapidly than other features on a layout, are the changing lights on track side block signals. Up until recent times I thought the red  and green of block signals were just like traffic signals – red = stop and green = go. Then I found out this was not true. The color of the light controlled the speed of the train. If you ask what speed was each color, you need to look up the speed in the rule section of an employee timetable.

Before going further please recall I am and never have been an employee of a railroad. Therefore my comments are those of a modeler who has taken license to make the “rules and regulations” governing the use of track side signals to enhance the appearance and appeal of my layout.

After reading “All About Signals” by John Armstrong, 1957 Kalmbach Publishing Co., and “The Compendium of Signals” by R.F. Karl, I learned about track circuits, ABS, CTC, and more. However, I was just as confused as ever.

When reading the rules and regulation books for the CA&E, CNS&M, CRT, and CSS&SB; I noticed the section on signals had items common to each railway. But at the same time there were differences between each railway. You may have noticed each railway, besides based in Chicago, had been controlled by Insull at the same time in the 1920’s.

If you recall my layout was to be able to operate both 2-rail as well as trolley (3-rail =both rails grounded) models. Over time electrical gremlins kept coming up and now the layout is trolley operation only.

Trying to have a block signal system which accommodated both 2-rail and trolley operations is difficult. Of the “commercial systems” available, Circuiton’s optical light controlled seemed to be the best for my application. Circuitron's DT-2 boards were used for block controls. At the same time, I wanted to use 2 lights, red and green, instead of 3 lights to indicate block occupancy. Tossed into the mix was a desire to use the old Walthers signals I’ve had for many years. They had been used on a prior layout.

To help “pin down” specific, needed information please allow me to share with you information in the rules and regulation books of a couple of Insull’s railways. Taken from the 1926 "Chicago Aurora & Elgin Rules for the Government of the Operating Department" book are these for single track operation. The signal heads are 2 lights red and green.

BTW – The CA&E used 3 light signal heads for double track plus other signals for special situations.

My layout is a single track with a passing siding. The drawing below shows the “mainline” passing siding plus the sidings for the barn, storage and freight. Also, there is a grade crossing with another mainline railroad.

Either "click on" and/or to print out the drawing above to be able to see all of the parts. An explanation of the signals along with a photo of each signal will follow in the next post along with a copy of a page from an old Walthers catalogue.

The next railway book to be shared is the 1946 "A. A. Sprague and Bernard J. Fallon Trustees for Chicago Rapid Transit Company Rules and Regulations Governing Employees Engaged in Operation". These are the pages for all the block and interlocking signals.

My layout, the Chicago & Utopia Ry. (C&U), has an Automatic Block Signal system. If you look at “Automatic Block Signals”, page 94, of the CRT book you will notice a number plate on each signal. This is an important clue as to the type and operation of the system. The plate can be either vertical, as on the CRT, or horizontal. The number can be either miles or some other unique notation for the location of the signal. Any signal with a number plate is part of an automatic block signal system.

What is important is the meaning of each color light or aspect. For 2 colors, green means proceed. Red means stop for a prescribed length of time and then proceed at a speed with the length of time and speed as written in the rules of the employee timetable. The waiting time may be 5 or 10 minutes with a speed no greater than the distance in which the train can stop upon seeing an obstacle on the track.

Turn to page 92 of the “Interlocking Home Signals”. You should notice there are no number plates which mean the signals are absolute. You need to know what the rules are as posted in the employee timetable. Also, note there are 2 signal heads which on the CRT means diverging routes. The upper signal is for the “main route”; the lower head is for the “diverging route”. The “main route” could be straight ahead or curve off. The meaning of these on the C&U may be slightly different than page 93.

Turn to page 91, Interlocking Home Signals. With the railroad grade crossing on the C&U, interlocking home signals are used to protect this crossing. A signal of red over red indicates a stop and stay. In order to move the motorman must contact the dispatcher for orders.

While I know there are specific AAR rules on signal aspects, my explanations are over simplified to suit my situation – a modeler who wants operating block signals for catching the eye and interest of visitors. The block signals do not control the operation of the model(s) on my layout. The motorman is responsible for the operation.

The next post will show you the block signals on my layout.