We are nearing the end of what was the “year of the camera” for us. We procured and experimented with nine different cameras and posted some of our findings in several of our blogs. There is one more review coming soon. A few of those cameras now comprise our photographic tool box while the others have been sent on to new owners. I think we are now done with our testing of cameras and in the coming year we are looking forward to reporting on several new construction builds that have been in the shops. In addition we hope to return to and complete at least one structure build that has gone incomplete for way too long.
Earlier this year, in preparation to celebrate our fourth year on line, we renewed the long term contract with our hosting service so we will continue to provide our hobby related content, free of advertising, for quite a while. Though we would benefit financially from accepting advertising we feel compelled to keep our WEB site free from such intrusions which, in addition to being annoying, also slows down loading of WEB pages on some older computer systems.
Building the this WEB site has been a learning experience for us as we knew little about HTML code or how to build or maintain a WEB site prior to putting this one together. While it has been time consuming, it has become a conduit to rewarding on line interactions with hobbyists all over the world who share similar interests. On this, the last day of 2015, we would like to take this opportunity to thank you for visiting our pages and wish you all a very safe, healthy and prosperous New Year. With apologies to Roy Rogers and Dale Evans, Happy Rails to You! See you all in 2016.
When we posted our “Portable Vallejo Figure Painting Kit” earlier this year we received several emails asking if such a box would hold the larger sized craft sized bottles. The answer was no. Well, I now have an answer for those who have accumulated a quantity of the craft size bottles of acrylic paints. This is a makeup case which we acquired at our local second hand store. (Click on any image for a larger version.)
The name on this box is SOHO. It measures 8” high (not counting handle) by 6.5” wide by 9.375” long. The inside length of the trays is 8.25" so they will hold many average length paint brushes. The lower trays are 4.375” from the inside bottom to the underside of the tray above it.
The box easily holds 30 bottles of craft paints and is shown here with some craft paints as well as three aerosol cans of spray paint tucked under the upper trays. Two small keys were included to lock the case.
There is also room for a small thin mixing tray. I just checked Ebay and found a few of these listed under the SOHO heading with prices ranging from $19 - $55.
Now back to the Bowl games.
Christmas is quickly approaching and you are still grasping for gift ideas. Well, I found one today that may be a great low cost gift for that hobbyist on your gift list. This 21 Piece 3 Volt Cordless Precision Screwdriver set by Hyper Tough is offered for sale in the tool section at WalMart for the reasonable price of $9.98 and it includes the two triple A batteries needed to power the unit.
The tools come in a nice hard plastic case with an actual hinge so it will not break from frequent opening and closing. A locking tab, which is also hinged, keeps the box closed.
(Click on any image for a larger version)
In addition to the driver and batteries, the kit includes 18 different screw and torx bits small enough to work on any brass locomotive or as shown in one of the images can be used to remove those pesky screws on the bottom of a laptop computer. The driver itself, which fits easily in the hand, is powered by a gear reduction motor which has enough torque to drive the screw and then run the blade out of the slot so some care must be taken when the screw bottoms out. There is also a small spot light which can be used to illuminate the screw when working in those somewhat dark areas.
While we have not really put this tool to the test in any daily shop work, it appears to be a useful addition to any hobbyists tool box.
Now back to the shops.
Over the past few months we have continued to experiment with new cameras and applying their features to both our model work as well as railroad related subjects. We are now working with a retro looking Olympus E-M10 mirrorless camera which features a 16mp 4/3 sized sensor. (You can learn more about sensor sizes by checking out this link. No, the bigger sensor is NOT necessarily better especially when photographing our models.) While the Olympus does not produce the depth of field that we achieve with the Pentax Q series and shown in our 07/07/2014 and 07/16/2014 blogs, it does produce a higher quality image and we like the retro look, and tactile feel we get with this camera. Basically it is about the same size and feel as the 35mm film Single Lens Reflex cameras we used from the early 1970 up till the digital era. It is shown in the lead photo next to one of our Pentax ME Super 35mm cameras from the early 1980’s. These new 4/3 cameras are a bit smaller and a lot lighter than today’s Digital Single Lens Reflex cameras and in many respects they cost a bit less. They produce image qualities that are the same or in many cases better than DSLR’s with similar features and in comparable price ranges. This is a relatively new format though and of all the digital cameras produced is the only one showing an increase in sales so don't expect to find too many deals on new or previously owned high quality 4/3 format cameras. (Click on any image for a larger version)
Here are two of the first images shot with our Olympus E-M10 and the 14-42mm zoom kit lens. The kit lens is the lens that came with the camera and is usually of good but not great quality. By the way, when looking at magazine or Internet based camera reviews, I would like to point out that those test results they publish are seldom if ever achieved with a “kit” lens. Much of the time the lens employed for the test is a high quality Pro level lens that sometimes costs two to three times what the camera itself costs so be advised. Your results may vary.
The camera settings for these images were ISO 100, Aperture Priority mode, front shot at f3.5 and side shot at f14 to increase depth of field. I underexposed by –0.7 exposure compensation to compensate for the fact that I did not have a polarizer or Neutral Density filter on either of which is almost a necessity when shooting out of doors here in Arizona in our very bright sunlight conditions. Both shots were processed using Lightroom 2 to reduce them in size to facilitate posting to the Internet.
Check out the first video we shot using the Olympus E-M10. It is a compilation of hand held segments shot at the Scottsdale Stillman McCormick Ranch Train Park and combined using Movie Maker. Check out Take a Ride on the Train. This video automatically gets down graded for posting but if you have a high speed connection click on the HD at the bottom of the frame to watch is in near HD format. The original file is much sharper and looks really good on a television but is almost 450mb which is too large for posting purposes.
In all we are really impressed and pleased with the images and video produced by our Olympus E-M10. It is significantly smaller and lighter than our DSLR’s with similar focal length and quality lenses. This means it takes up less valuable space when packed in the trunk on our space restrictive motorcycle trips. During hikes etc, we can carry it around all day without feeling like we have a brick hanging off the end of the camera strap.
OH! If you need additional impetus to convince your significant other that the new camera will not only be used for railroad related projects, here is a non railroad related image that was achieved using existing overhead office lighting, one white bounce card held under the subjects chin to bounce light up into her face and the Olympus 40-150mm kit lens mounted on the E-M10. This image was captured during an employee shoot I did for a local company and was processed in Lightroom 2 to add the darkened vignette around the subject.
Now back to our regularly scheduled program.
Today I set out to ACE Hardware to procure a few small items I needed for several home related projects. Three doors away from the ACE is a second hand store. Monies derived from the sale of items donated to this store and it’s other branches go to fund several hospice related organizations in my area. Whenever I am in the area, I peruse what they have to offer and it is seldom that I do not come out of that store with some gem. Several weeks ago at this second hand shop I saw a mildly used corded variable speed Dremel for $5. If we did not already have a good selection of Dremel rotary tools it would have come home with me.
(Click on any image for a larger version)
I noted a lot of activity in the second hand store and realized it was under construction. Merchandise was in a disarray as they are moving walls and apparently redoing all of the displays. While looking around I found among the clutter this hand built, very sturdy, wood machinist tool box. ( Note the 1 foot wooden rule in the top compartment to give a sense of scale. ) Due to the store construction, items such as this were 75% off their marked price which brought the price of this gem down to, drum roll please, $7.50.
As I had not planned on buying anything this size I was on my usual two wheeled mode of transportation. This is not my first time bringing large items home on the motorcycle. A few bungee cords (two have already been removed when this image was taken) and I was ready for the short ride home.
In addition to regular visits to this second hand shop, a visit to the local Goodwill store produced the wood box that became the basis of our Portable Vallejo Figure Painting Kit. I would highly recommend that whenever you are near one of these resale shops stop in and take a look around. You never know what you might find.
Now back to the shops,
As Gods, Masters, Kings or however you want to designate your position over your model railroad we have the power to control all that goes on and is represented in the miniature worlds we create. In building their particular vision of the world, seldom do we see modelers represent any of the violent actions that we might encounter in real life such as labor strikes, murders, robberies, muggings, rapes, car jackings, home invasion or child abductions just to name a few. In most cases our model railroads represent a sort of utopia in which, rotting wood, rusty metal, a loaded truck with a flat tire or a derailed passenger car might be the worst scenario ever encountered by those who inhabit our miniature worlds.
The common subject of the five books shown above is the town of Pullman, Illinois which evolved in the 1880’s as a result of needing housing for the employees of the Pullman Passenger Car Company. The dark blue book in the rear on the left is titled “The Town of Pullman” and was written by Mrs. Duane Doty. Published in 1893 this visual and descriptive tour of the town of Pullman offers readers a view of the towns’ and factories’ utopian environment as seen through Mrs. Doty’s “Rose Colored Glasses” point of view.
With the construction of the town that was named after him George Pullman attempted to do on a larger scale that which we do in miniature. Mrs. Doty does a good job of describing that town and in minute detail, it’s inner workings. Within her book previously lost details of how the Pullman passenger cars were built abound. Do you know how the paper centers were constructed for the paper passenger car wheels, or how the passenger cars were painted or the process for plating the hardware?
While George Pullman had the foresight to provide and display to the public the best in living conditions, learning opportunities, entertainment and shopping experiences, and strove to keep undesirable influences such as bars and brothels out of his town, he failed to provide these benefits at a price that could be afforded by those who worked in his shops and lived in his community. He also diffused attention from being focused on the North Eastern portion of town which concealed the brick yards, the eighty plus wooden shanties and the relatively unskilled workers and their families who occupied them. These homes and their residents were in stark contrast to the manicured lawns and brick homes that were occupied by the many skilled and semi skilled workers employed in the Pullman Car shops. (As noted in our 02/05/2015 Blog Titled “The Painting of Pullman Passenger Cars” this book is available as a free download from Google Books.)
Yes, his water treatment and sewage disposal plants were far superior to anything available at the time in the nearby city of Chicago. Yes, he did provide for an extensive library. Yes, in building the Arcade, complete with shops, a bank and a 1000 seat theater, he did produce one of the first enclosed shopping experiences later to be known as “malls” in the country. Yes, he did encourage a sort of farmers market in which farmers sold locally grown, fresh produce in the town market. And yes, George Pullman did take into consideration the spiritual needs of his employees by building a church. However the costs of membership or use of these facilities was beyond the meager financial means of his employees and contributed to the pent up frustrations that led his workers to rebel.
In the rear on the right is “The Pullman Strike” published in 1942. In stark contrast to Mrs. Doty, Almont Lindsey digs up and exposes all the dirt, anger, harsh living conditions, some of which contributed to deaths within the town of Pullman and resulting workers aggravation that led to the Pullman strike of 1894. To say these books are the black and white of the situation is an understatement but they do demonstrate how differently the same scenario can be reported when seen from different vantage points.
Below these two historic books are the Postcards from Pullman series of fictional novels written by Judith Miller. Over the course of these three novels Judith follows the intertwined stories of numerous characters associated with the town of Pullman. The story line takes place over a period of approximately two years and follows one major character, Olivia from England to America where she ends up in the town of Pullman. Anyone even remotely familiar with the events that led to the Pullman strike of 1894 will recognize that Judith has sprinkled just enough fact related material into the story line to add creditability to her characters and bring them to life. If Mrs. Doty showed the utopian view of Pullman and Alamont Lindsey delineated the dystopia that evolved, Judith Miller takes a more neutral, grey stance on the subject while not ignoring the atrocities that led to the strike.
In her Postcards from Pullman series, Judith Miller takes a look at the town of Pullman, in the 1893-1894 time period, as seen through the eyes of her fictitious characters. Through these characters we see the town, it’s residents, it’s apparent beauty and it’s hidden and not so hidden secretes from different perspectives. She also touches lightly on relevant subjects such as social class distinction. One such distinction of the time “The girls who wear heels shop at Marshal Fields, the girls who scrub floors trade at the Boston Stores” compares those who would today shop at Macy’s, who now owns Marshal Fields in Chicago, to those shopping at say a Wal-Mart. Judith has peppered this work of fiction with just enough actual and near facts to make the intertwined story lines quite believable. While she suggests the underlying reason for the Pullman Strike, without going into all the gory details that have been presented by historians such as Almont Lindsey, Judith does not paint the rosy picture of Pullman that one might get by reading Mrs. Duane Doty’s book.
I found interest in Mrs. DeVault who’s is one of the sub characters. She represents the type of person just about everyone would wish their mother or grandmother to be and brought back fond memories of my grandmother and Sunday afternoon chicken dinners. Some of Mrs. DeVault’s recipes, as well as those of Pullman’s Florence Hotel are presented at the end of the books.
I believe this set of three books would make an excellent gift for the spouse or significant other of anyone interested in railroading. I must caution that the mystery, romance, historic, storyline bridges across all three books so if you intend to finish the story you must read all three books. I must also mention that the story line is somewhat influenced by a religious theme and the romantic aspects and lack of violent action sequences may disappoint some readers expecting colorful details of the shootings, brawls or other violent actions that erupted during the Pullman strike.
As one who has previously delved into the history of Pullman and who spent many hours in that town during the 1970-1980 era I felt this series was a must read and I would recommend them to anyone interested in the town of Pullman, it’s historic strikes or the Pullman Passenger cars and their operation. However as previously noted, be prepared to acquire and read all three books in the series. My next trip to Chicagoland will definitely include a return visit to the town of Pullman and hopefully include enjoying a Sunday brunch at the historic Florence Hotel.
As I look around my current living environs in Scottsdale, Arizona what I find to be ironic is that the people living in the town of Pullman were offended by their landlord establishing rules that governed what plants/shrubs could be planted in the front of their homes, what colors could be displayed and other rules including the restriction that no horses could be left on the streets or on their property. Today people pay hundreds of thousands of dollars to live in communities that are governed by Home Owners Associations (HOA’s) that compel them to adhere to rules with similar restrictions and besides their mortgage payments are forced to pay month HOA fees to do so. Have we really evolved as much as we believe? Is another uprising on the horizon?
Now back to the shops,
We have recently embarked on the task of populating our mini world with some of the many cast metal figures we have acquired over the years. This has necessitated painting of said figures which is a task I do not particularly relish. Kudos to those who enjoy this aspect of the hobby, you have my total admiration and even more so if you can do this without eye strain or worse.
(Click on any image for a larger version.)
In some of our photo’s you see figures that we painted years ago using various mixtures of Floquil solvent based paints. Now that this former staple of the hobby is no longer available, what supply of Floquil we have on hand is slated for use in painting of structures, rolling stock and locomotives that come out of our shops. With the scarcity of these paints, I am not as quick to open what bottles we have remaining and expose the contents to the air for long periods of time and chance it going bad quickly.
After watching a few video’s and after several conversations with a local modeler and friend who offers John Allen inspired figures of his own creation at his Bosco Figure WEB site I started to accumulate a supply of Vallejo water based paints. A master set of 16 colors was ordered from an Ebay seller then I found a sale on certain colors at a local Hobby Lobby shop. The bottles started accumulating quickly and I looked for a place to store them. With a bit of house cleaning and rearranging, a portion of a drawer in Stanley, our Personal assistant, became available and it was deep enough to hold our supply of Vallejo paints. However, painting of figures is not a task that requires any of the tools or glues housed in our shops so what if we wanted to work in a different area? Maybe outside on a nice day which provides a brighter environment than working under our shop lights, or to take on the road when you are pressured to spend a day out of town visiting the mother in law.
I am not particularly fond of plastic boxes. I have a good appreciation of wood, even manufactured fake wood products are better than plastic. While scrounging around in my local second hand store I got the idea to look for a small jewelry organizer box and a few days later I found one for $7 at my local Goodwill store. This jewelry and or personal item organizer originally was a three drawer mini box. It measures 11” wide by 6.5” deep and about 7.5” high.
I temporarily disassembled the second drawer and knocked the bottom of it out. I reassembled the sides of that drawer and in the process glued and clamped the second drawer to the top of the bottom drawer. This netted one drawer deep enough to hold the Vallejo paints.
Then I added two dividers and glued them to the bottom and sides of the drawer but made them only about an inch high. These dividers hold the paints in place when the box is moved from location to location but are not high enough to impede my fat fingers from retrieving any of the bottles. I did not add a third divider because it would have taken up too much room and eliminated one row of paints. In the future that last row may be filled by additional bottles of paint but for now I put a spacer behind that last row made up of napkins from a local fast food establishment. These come in handy when cleaning and drying brushes after a paint session and keep the bottles from moving around when the box is transported.
Due to the storage in the top of the box, the top drawer does not go all the way back. As such, it is now used to store small brushes appropriate for painting figures. That top storage space can hold a little paint mixing plate, several bottles for water, maybe a tube of glue, paper napkins or whatever.
Yes, I know that we could have just found a suitable cardboard, plastic or similar box for practically nothing. However, I find that providing our tools and supplies with a proper organized home tends to stimulate the creative juices and I need all the inspiration I can muster for this task. In the future I may add a handle and replace the missing knobs but for now our portable paint work station is complete.
03/19/2015 UPDATE: Due to some questions I received such as “where would the handle go” or “how would you keep the drawers from opening up”, here is an update to how I modified the Figure Painting Kit.
Using the meager tools available at this time, I have cut an opening in the vertical face plate for a hand hold. The original one remaining drawer knob, see the original photo, was removed, drilled and tapped. A threaded bras rod was inserted. The tip of the brass rod was threaded as was the bottom plate. When being transported the rod is dropped down and screwed into the bottom plate. That keeps the drawers from sliding open.
As I have stated in the past we find use for practically everything. Can you determine what we are now using for drawer pulls?
Now, to get back to work on one of our projects.
During a conversation with a modeler who found interest in our standard gauge Drovers Caboose build, he mentioned that he had an interest in a HOn3 version. While spending some idle time in the shops I started contemplating what HOn3 caboose kit could be used for such a project.
(Click on any image for a larger version)
I made four copies of the Grandt Line catalog page showing the narrow gauge passenger car window part #5069 and the Combine/baggage car side door, part #5071. I cut out four windows and one door and played around with them on a copy of the LaBelle HOn3 D&RGW Long style Caboose LaBelle kit # HOn3-37 which resulted in this cut and paste elevation drawing.
On the cut and paste elevation, the windows are a bit undersize but it provides a glimpse of how this freelance Narrow Gauge caboose would look. As with our standard gauge version I personally would install a belt railing under the windows. This image shows the actual castings positioned over the side view.
Allowing room for the baggage door to be slid completely to one side has necessitated that the door not be centered under the cupola. A bit of work with saw and or file could enlarge the cutout in the roof former, shown as part #11 in this isometric view, to allow the cupola to be located over the door if that’s your preference.
Maybe someone will have sufficient interest in such a project to build it and share the result of their build with us.
Enough of this day dreaming. Time to get back to the shops for some actual work.
There has been a lot of discussion in the Model Railroading community about the quality, or lack of, in the models being built in China. The issue is not with the visual aspects but with the operational drive train components. Specifically gears that crack and render the model inoperational. There is also concern that the manufactures and importers are not doing enough to cure these problems.
This past weekend I attended a local swap meet where I procured one of the Southern PS-4 Pacific’s sold through the Franklin Mint. This is a model of the locomotive that is in the Smithsonian. While I do remember these being advertised in the Hobby related magazines I do not remember their costs.
The five color paint scheme applied to the model is a bit gaudy. It’s heavily applied and mutes some of the details but the model has significant heft. When I first picked it up what impressed me was that unlike many plastic models this locomotive is quite heavy and solid feeling. The boiler and tender are both heavy cast metal.
(Click on any image for a larger version)
Upon returning to our shops we found that the tender is drilled out possibly in anticipation of installing sound. The screws holding the frame to the tender shell are under the trucks which means that in order to get to them, the trucks themselves must be removed. Sounds like a bit of work but there is one good design point to this.
The truck mounting screw is under the center axle meaning that if it gets loose it can never drop completely out of the truck. Hence you will never lose that truck mounting screw.
Removing the boiler is similar to a brass locomotive. One screw at the back of the cab then unscrew the front truck mounting screw. We found that the boiler was stuck to the chassis but by inserting a small bladed screwdriver between the bottom of the boiler and the top of the steam saddle where it meets the boiler and twisting severely, we were able to separate the components. Once the front of the boiler is lifted clear of the saddle it has to move forward to disengage from a tab holding the rear of the frame to the cab. Upon inspection we found that apparently the paint had not been completely dry when our model was assembled at the factory and the chassis and boiler had fused together which made it difficult for them to be separated. The boiler and cab are very heavy.
Upon removing the boiler we noted the relatively large can motor attached to the gearbox via a flexible coupling. What really impressed me, hence the title of this blog, is that ALL the gears in the box are BRASS. No potential for broken plastic gears here. WOW!!!
After inspecting all the components we replenished the gears and all the moving components with the proper lubricants. Our inspection did uncover one negative flaw. The wheel gauge of the lead and trailing trucks was a bit narrow. This showed up when running the locomotive through our scratchbuilt unforgiving code 70 turnouts.
We appreciated the design of the drawbar providing what appears to be a very positive electrical and mechanical connection between the locomotive and the heavy tender.
During a bench test with the locomotive blocked up, the motor pulled .2 amps throughout the voltage and RPM ranges. We felt that was quite good and contributed that to a good quality motor.
In operation the locomotive does produce a bit more noise than those with plastic or nylon gears but it was not objectionable and we contributed some of that noise to the heavy weight. That noise and the heft of this model brought back pleasant memories of the first Lionel locomotive I received at the age of 4.
Remember that first Lionel locomotive you received? The heavy metal cast one that you had difficulty in lifting and that your father had to put on the track? This is an HO version of that concept. This is the sort of model that can be handed down for a few generations and unless it is abused will continue to operate well into the future. In my opinion this is the way that all of the operating mechanisms in our locomotives should be made if we expect them to last.
Duly impressed, we now return to the shops.
Ol’ Harold received a new Pentax Q10, 12.4 mp digital mirrorless camera for Christmas. Among it’s many features, the small size of this camera allows the photographer to get into some really tight spots and get quality shots that may be impossible to achieve with a larger camera. Nakomis General Store
(Click on image to get a larger version.)
The Nakomis General store was built by Ol’ Harold from a HSM/Classic Miniatures Silver Plume Store kit. It has a rather complete detailed interior including merchandise, clerk and patrons. Unfortunately due to the position this structure occupies on the railroad that detail cannot be seen by the naked eye. In fact it was almost forgotten until this image was captured. Nakomis General Store Shoot Setup
Here is the setup Ol’ Harold used to capture the Nakomis General Store Detail. First the two story station in Nakomis, near the tracks, had to be partially dismantled. This necessitated removing some wiring and a few trees. A temporary backdrop was put into position behind the store to block out undesirable background distractions. Next the Pentax Q10 was worked into position. A series of test shots were taken and did not produce the anticipated images so a mirror was placed behind the camera. In this manner Ol’ Harold was able to see the LCD screen on the back of the camera and make the necessary adjustments to properly compose the photograph. This arrangement would not be possible with a larger camera.
Note the distance of about 6.5 inches between the front of the lens and the structure. Such configurations usually result is very shallow depth of field but the small sensor size, not to be confused with the number of pixels, of this camera provides a good depth of field even when the camera is that close to the subject. In general, cameras with small sensors provide greater depth of field than cameras with large sensors which is why, though I have a small arsenal of Digital Single Lens Reflex (DSLR) Cameras with larger sensors, I have been experimenting with the Pentax Q series of mirrorless cameras. See our 07/07/2014 Blog titled “Welcome a Little “Q” Into Our Family” and 07/16/2014 Blog titled “The Pentax Q10 Goes on a Railroad Photo Excursion” for a bit more information on the Q series cameras.
While Ol’ Harold is getting familiar with his new Pentax Q10 (I can’t wait to see what he generates once he finds the Q10’s “special effects” features) check out his recently produced Gallery of Fall River Line images many of which were produced years ago but never published.
In addition to the Fall River Line, visit the new NB&FHRwy Gallery of images. Master wheel knocker Greg Rich is responsible for this fine railroad as well as the photography. While the FRL which is now celebrating it’s 37th year in operation, represents shortline railroading in the Fall of 1927, the NB&FHRwy represents a similar concept in the Fall of 1928. At the beginning of each Gallery the respective owners have provided a brief explanation of what they are trying to achieve through their presentations.
Both of these Galleries as well as one for the Scottsdale Model Railroad Historical Society were produced using Adobe Lightroom 2. While this is not the most current version of that software we chose Version 2 because it was reasonably priced, it was relatively easy to learn and most importantly it operates efficiently on our Windows XP powered computers. The WEB module component of this software facilitated easy and quick structuring and uploading of these Galleries.
With apologies to Ansel Adams we now return to the shops