Sunday, October 1, 2017

Athearn Blue Box DD40 Rebuild

Athearn Blue Box DD40 Rebuild

Making my MP40

I've been working on this MP40 for a couple years now.  Lately, I made some 3D printed parts to help me out.

I need better pilots and a better cab stand, so I used a Mecreator 2 to make these basic parts and they turned out pretty decent.

I used PLA to make the parts and found out that PLA is hard to sand.  In the pictures below, you'll find that the surfaces are a bit rough and the accuracy is not that great.

This project is mostly a learning project and not meant to win any contests.  I do have several more DD40's that will build on this concept and their accuracy should be much higher.

The next step from here is to use wood filament rather than PLA.  Parts printed with wood should be much better for finishing.

First up we have an orange box Athearn DD40 dual motor that needs quite a bit of restoration:

A top view of the MP40 Hercules:

 The rear, you can see how the 3D printed parts are very rough and will require quite a bit more work to get right.  Also the air enclosure.  It's big, but rough around the edges:

MP40 Hercules

 The xy milling table, a very handy tool.

Friday, September 15, 2017

Researching the Chicago and Northwestern Railroad in Iowa and Minnesota

Researching the Chicago and Northwestern Railroad in Iowa and Minnesota

Tools and Techniques

The Fairmont Subdivision Part 1

The question on a Facebook group was "How does the line from Vesta MN to Burt IA tie into the Fairmont Subdivision on the CNW?"

I remember an issue from the 1990's of the Northwestern Lines dedicated to the Fairmont Sub...but I don't have it handy, so once I pull it out of my archives we can see what it said.

Using I checked the status of the rails to confirm that the track at Vesta had been razed, probably a very long time ago.

In CNW System Timetable 1 from 1972, the track at Vesta runs to Wabasso and then west to Marshall.  Sometime before 1972 the line from Vesta ran to Butterfield, which would have made it part of the Fairmont Sub.

At Fox Lake MN that line continued to Burt IA and on to Algona.  The CNW Burt Sub ran from Eagle Grove to Ledyard, but at Burt Yard limits were in effect all the way to Ledyard in 1972. In 1981,according to CNW System Timetable 5,  the Burt Sub ended at Bancroft.

Today, using Google Earth Pro with the railway overlay turned on, you can see the line ends south of Bancroft where the river bridge was taken out and is now used for the storage of grain cars.  OpenRailway shows this as the Jewell Sub of the Union Pacific.

You can still see the roadbed for the tracks that ran from Burt to Fox Lake.

Back in Vesta, in 1972, Yard limits were in effect from Marshall to Vesta on the Wabasso Sub.  In 1981, it was all gone.

What we need to do is fill in the blanks from Vesta to Burt and then figure out how that line tied into the Fairmont Sub at Fox Lake....

We also need to tie in the Chicago Milwaukee and Omaha sub that ran from Lake Crystal MN to Burt IA.

So here's our first working map:

Next up, we'll consult the timetables....

Sunday, July 2, 2017

Tyco Super 630 C630 Power Torque 3D pilot stl file free

Tyco Super 630 C630 Power Torque 3D pilot stl file free

Making a pilot for Tyco locomotives can be a challenge.  You need a solid hard point to mount couplers, preferably with a 2-56 screw.

This simple stl file fits right place and allows you to drill a hole to attach couplers....

Here's the link:

Tyco C630 3D Pilot STL file

Thursday, June 1, 2017

Matchbox and Hotwheels Trucks Compared to HO Scale

Comparing Matchbox and Hot Wheels to HO Scale

Part 1 - Matchbox F550 Super Duty and Hot Wheels F150

You see a lot of questions but very few answers when it comes to using Matchbox and Hot Wheels with HO Scale.  Some people do it all the time and others don't want to have anything to do with it.

Before we get started, I want to direct you to watch the Hot Wheels restoration video, which is probably the best video out there for beginners in this area.

Credit goes to Angelo Bonsignore for getting me started on the path to restoring my old Hot Wheels.

His channel is here:  Angelo Bonsignore YouTube

The specific video you should watch is: How to restore Diecast Cars

Once you've seen that it can be done with very good results, then the trick is to find models that can work.

Specifically I'd like to find models that are available today for the classic price of $1 at every place that sells toys.

Recently I picked out a Matchbox F550 Super Duty and a Hot Wheels F150 Pickup.

The first thing that is easily noticed is that the F150 is much bigger that the F550.  Some of this is due to the bigger wheels, but overall the body is bigger on the Hot Wheels model.

First let's check the measurements of the Matchbox F550 compared to the listed specs of the real thing:

Ford F550 Super Duty
Matchbox F550 Super Duty
Percent Difference
Wheel Base
Tire Size

This model is scores an actual accuracy of 98% average.  This truck is worth trying to make it into a better model.  With that high average it should fit nicely into most scenery.

Next up the Hot Wheels F150 Super Cab:

Ford F150 Super Cab
Hot Wheels F150 Super Cab
Percent Difference
Wheel Base
Tire Size

The total average accuracy of this model is 121%, which in general is going to big too big unless it's an isolated scene.

What we've learned in this part is that a closer look is needed at Matchbox and Hot Wheels.  Even though the F150 is too big, there are other trucks from Hot Wheels that need a closer look.

One of the next things we'll need to do is make a mold of some of the best wheels we can find to really dress up some of our findings.

Saturday, May 6, 2017

Walthers Northern Light and Power

Walthers Northern Light and Power

While we're working on the AHM GP18 rebuild, there's also some structure making going on....

I picked up 2 Walthers Northern Light and Power Buildings at a train show for $10.  Now these 2 buildings were on sale cheap because they're HO scale and I was at a show that was mostly O gauge.

Both of them had all they're parts welded on with orange tube testors glue.  I used and wood door shim and a hammer to dismantle as much of the buildings as I could.  All the windows came off nicely using this method.

I painting all the remaining parts with brown primer and then used the airbrush with Rustoleum Sunrise Red.  Then I used a wash of Testor's black gloss with a lot of mineral spirits.  The buildings are turning out nice.

One of them had an addition of interior details.  I have to wonder why you would model an interior, but not allow it to be seen by welding on the garage doors and frosting all the windows.

I decided that I needed windows that you could actually see through.  So I fired up 123d and made some windows and printed them with my 3d printer.  They turned out pretty nice....

Let's take a look:

That's how you do it.....

OK let's look at the new window frames that let in a lot more light so you can view the interior....

That's how you do it......

Friday, April 21, 2017

HO Scale AHM GP18 total rebuild Part 1

HO Scale AHM GP18 total rebuild Part 1

Stripping the paint and making some parts

We're going to take an old school AHM GP18 and totally rebuild this guy and make some 3D printed detail parts to pimp out our build.

The AHM GP18 from back in the 1970's was many kid's first locomotive, mine included.  I've always loved this model for that reason.  They are super easy to find for very little money, but have a reputation of being unreliable.

There are 2 reasons for the unreliability.  First, this toy was meant to take abuse at full power being reversed at full speed over and over again.  For that task, this engine was pretty good.  The motor takes a lot of full power abuse.  It wasn't expected that it would be used for slow speed switching with short moves and delicate situations.  The motor likes to get lots of power to get going and stay going.

This leads to the second weakness, power pickup is poor, using small wipers.  The wipers are on alternate sides, so you don't get power from all the wheels.  Dirty wheels and wipers lead to jerky operation and no real slow speed ops to speak of.

We're going to do a real budget build on one of these to include a new motor with good slow speed and low power operation. We'll also fix the power pickup problem.

We're also going to make a couple 3D parts from scratch and handrails from brass wire make this an interesting locomotive.

Hopefully by now you have the skill to tear this thing down to bare bones.  Carefully remove the 3 screws you will find on the underside, 2 by the cab and 1 on the fuel tank and take it apart.  Remove the sideframes and truck clips carefully with a small flat head screwdriver without breaking anything.  Pinch the motor clip from underneath carefully to release the moter.  Cut all the wires since we're rewiring it anyways.

You should be taking pictures before you do stuff so you know how it was in case you need to put it back together, but I'll have pictures and instructions here to help you.

Take apart the trucks without breaking the tabs.  Use very gentle pressure on the plastic tabs and clips to do this.  You might have one that was oiled with something that made the plastic brittle and things break off.  DO NOT PANIC.  We'll deal with broken parts later.

Use Dawn dish soap to wash everything to remove all oil, dirt and grease.  Don't lose any gears down the sink.

OK, you can see it apart.  That yellow motor is the possible replacement from ebay for about $2.  Don't know if that one will work yet, but we're trying it.  I started cutting off the handrails.  There are side pieces that will be glued to the shell.  They are removed by gently scoring the line where they meet the frame many times with a knife.  After each score, bend slightly back and they will eventually come off nicely.

We'll go in depth on the gears in another part, for now we want to strip the paint.

This paint is tough to remove, so I used the EZ strip method from the previous blog post.  Go review the 5 methods before stripping the paint.  On this particular shell, the yellow is very tough to remove, so EZ strip was the way that worked.  There were 2 spots where I left the stripper in place for about 5 mins and it started to melt the plastic.

DO NOT USE EZ STRIP ON THE FRAME.  It melted a section of the walkway right away.  The rubbing alcohol method works on the frame, but it takes 2 days or a little more.

I'm going to make some beefed up fans and exhaust mufflers using the 3D printer.  We'll save that for another part of this project.  At this point I glued on 2 of the battery box covers I cut off the frame, but the 3rd piece has nothing to attach, so we'll make something to glue it a little later.

We'll get to the paint in another part, so at this point you should have your shell ready for painting.  Make sure to wash it with both the tooth brush and a soft cloth with soap to get all the stripper off.

Stripping paint from Model Trains and Locomotives 5 Methods

Stripping paint from Model Trains and Locomotives 5 Methods

How to remove paint from models

There are several methods to remove paint from models.  Each method has it's own risks and effectiveness.

I strip a lot of old locomotives and a few freight cars - here's how I do it:

Method 1 91% Rubbing Alcohol

I use a tub with a top, tupperware is good for this.  Pour in as many bottles as it take to submerge the shell you want to strip.  Highly effective on newer paints that are much thinner than the old school toy paint jobs...
Let soak for as long as you need to, sometimes days or weeks, but in the case of modern paint jobs it can be as short as an hour or 2.

I had a locomotive that was primered with gray auto primer in there for a few weeks.  I noticed that the paint wasn't coming off, but it was bubbling a bit.  I took it out and placed it in front of a fan and the fast drying action caused all the primer to flake off.  That would be a rare case, but you never know unless you try it.

The rubbing alcohol method usually leaves the plastic intact with no damage, but I have has shells that developed striations, very rare though.

It must be 91% rubbing alcohol.  Use this method first unless you know the paint really well and know it won't work.

Method 2: 8% (or higher) pine oil

Pinesol will NOT work for this, it doesn't actually contain real pine oil.  Fortunately the bargain brands at Walmart say on the bottle that they contain about 8-9% pine oil and they are much cheaper.

I use a 5 gallon tote box to do this.  This method can take weeks to work, but sometimes overnight will do the job.

I keep the oil, which is very heavy, in the tote and on top of a 4 wheel dolly.  Even with the lid on, I put a large bath towel over the box to keep it from stinking up the place.  This method works pretty good on toy type paint jobs, but takes quite a while.  The make it work faster, clean the shell each day with dish soap and a stiff tooth brush and put it back in.  I often put future projects in here and leave them for sometimes months until I'm ready to use them.  I haven't noticed and plastic damage from this method.

Method 3:  Brake Fluid

For really tough paint jobs, brake fluid soaking can often do the trick.  There are shells that can be attacked by the brake fluid, but in general it works pretty good.  I've soaked many shells for weeks in brake fluid and it will remove some of the toughest paint I've ever encountered.  But, try method 1 and 2 before you resort to the brake fluid.

I double bag the shells and don't submerge the shells, I let the fluid spread through the bags.  I place the bags in a tupperware container, but don't seal it up.  Just roll the bags shut around the shell.  Check within in the first hour, then everyday until you are comfortable with this.  Works best on toy paint.  Frequent cleanings help, but this method increases the risk of melting a shell.

Method 4: EZ strip

I got this stripper at Home Depot.  There are many others that will melt the plastic, especially the citrus strippers.  EZ strip will also melt the plastic so you have to actually sit down and do this one by hand a little at a time with a tooth brush.  Frequently spray with a soap and water mix like 409 or spray and wipe and then wash in dish soap with a tooth brush.  Many small applications will do the job.  Don't turn your back on any section with this stuff applied or it will melt the plastic.

Many washings with dish soap in between small area applications of EZ strip.  Very effective, but very high risk.

Method 5:  Oven Cleaner

This is how we did it back the 1980's.  I say don't use this method, I've melted shells many times doing this. But, if you must know how, then what you do is heat the oven to 100 and use a cookie sheet.  Spray the shell with oven cleaner and put it in the oven for a couple mins at most, take it out, wash it and do it again.  Takes off most paint, but melts plastic more than 50% of the time.  You can do it without using the oven in a plastic bag, but that almost always leads to striations in you plastic.

Bottom line:  don't use the oven cleaner method, too much risk.

There are also model products you can buy to remove paint, I don't use them, but I've seen that they are generally very good and effective.

So why go through the trouble of these other methods?  Simple, they are much cheaper and the first 2 are just fire and forget methods - drop the shell in and come back when you're ready for it.  Otherwise, you can buy the good stuff and do it right now.