Friday, February 7, 2020

Alco RS-3's On The Berkshire Line - Part 2

The first of the four RS-3's, number 555, is painted in the mid 1950's red-orange and black Herbert Matter designed "McGinnis" new corporate image scheme.

A basic weathering coat has been applied, when the other three are painted will finish up weathering on all with some Pan Pastels.

Remaining three will be in the paint booth soon for warm orange & green delivery schemes.

Sunday, February 2, 2020

MRP 2020

Model Railroad Planning 2020 by Kalmbach Media contains a more in depth article about the multi shadowbox theater design basis of this layout than was originally offered at the beginning of this blog.

Editor Tony Koester removed my nonessential blather for a good read, illustrator Rick Johnson rendered a beautiful two page track plan of the layout.

Check it out!


Sunday, January 26, 2020

Alco RS-3's On The New Haven Berkshire Line

Alco RS-3's on the Berkshire Line

During the late 1950'S eight Alco RS-3's were assigned to the Berkshire Line. Six assigned at the southern end of the line for trains originating or thru trains requiring engine change at Danbury CT, and 2 assigned at the northern end at Pittsfield MA.

A page from the 1957 NH Engine assignment book shows these 8 RS-3's within red lines.

Also from this engine assignment page surrounded in blue is the notation that RS-2's (#'s 0500 - 0516) may be MU'ed with the RS-3's (#'s 517 - 561).

Model RS-3's

Like the "signature" structures that have already been modeled for this layout, the RS-3 was the "signature" locomotive of the Berkshire Line during the era of the layout and a requirement to accurately portray Berkshire Line.

The Shoreliner magazine that members of the New Haven Railroad Historical & Technical Association receive had an article in 1986 about modeling the New Haven RS-3's (now out of print). The text and reference photos from the article are useful for all scales but mainly focus on upgrading the then recently released Atlas RS-3 in HO scale with detail parts available at the time to better model the features of the NH RS-3's. Some of these detail parts are indicated on the drawing below from the article.

                                                       Copyright NHRHTA Inc. Reproduced by permission.

Two of these first run Atlas/Kato RS-3's were purchased at that time and the details suggested in the article were added including cutting off the hood ends and replacing them with single headlight hood ends from a Stewart RS-3 kit. Painting them in a green and orange scheme with Accu-paint and decals from Accu-cals the results were pleasing enough that two more were purchased and the same upgrades made.

Subjectively I never thought that these Atlas RS-3 looked proportionately correct when comparing them with prototype photos and measurements, but nonetheless they ran great in DC and a little better with the capability to change CV's after switching over to DCC in the 1990's. These four RS-3's from the 1980's have soldiered on for many years on prior layouts but the original design body shell has fallen into disfavor personally when compared to the newest accurate and well detailed diesel offerings available from several manufacturers today, therefore they have been seldom used on this layout where RS-3's are the required "signature" locomotive.

Improving the RS-3's for use on this layout

The Bachmann Trains display at a train show a few years ago had an example of their HO RS-3. Liking the way the body shell looked proportionally compared to the Atlas shell a powered unit was purchased in NYC livery thinking it could be used at the B&A interchange at State Line MA on the layout.

The Bachmann shell measures very well against the dimensional specifications indicated on a 1950 New Haven Railroad diagram, a part of  that diagram is shown below.

            Copyright NHRHTA Inc. Reproduced by permission.

Using the body shell from the NYC unit to explore the possibilities of mounting Bachmann RS-3 body shells onto the four Atlas powered chassis on hand appeared promising and a less expensive way to achieve RS-3's that looked correct. Bachmann periodically has a sale on their parts, during one of those sales four NH body shells with a single headlight were purchased.

Adapting the Bachmann shell to the Atlas chassis is not that difficult but does require modifications to the chassis casting if a more detailed fuel/water tank injection molding from Bachmann or Athearn is desired and some notching to the removable chassis weights for sound decoders and speaker. These modifications can be accomplished with hand tools.

In the photo below toothpicks point to the part of the Atlas chassis casting that needs to be removed on both sides if a wider more detailed tank molding is to be used. The chassis at the bottom has the modifications made, this was done with just a hacksaw and file. The wires showing were later moved with the instillation of a sound decoder.   

The Atlas model has body shell mounted couplers so provision to mount couplers onto the Bachmann shell can be made by adding some styrene blocks under the body shell ends with taped holes to mount coupler boxes as below.

To provide room for the new sound decoder and speaker the removable weights on each end require a notch cut into both, a notch on the cab end for the decoder seen on the left and a larger notch into the weight on the prime mover end at the right for the speaker. Again a hacksaw and file were used for this.

The latest 5 series ESU LokSound decoders are used with their # 50321 speaker. These already great running 34 year old Atlas/Kato chassis run even better than before and sound very realistic with this decoder speaker combination.

The detail parts suggested the the 1986 Shoreliner article have again been fitted to the Bachmann shell. Additionally the large and small tool boxes that are attached to the water tank on the prototype were fabricated with styrene and glued to the appropriate sides of the tank. Windshield wipers will be added after glazing is installed.

The Bachmann shell lacks some detail that has been added, this includes the doors on the hood ends, correct drop steps, crankcase vent and grab iron detail as seen in the photos below.

Painting will be next step. Four road numbers that have photographic evidence of operating on the Berkshire during the era of the layout have been chosen.

The model pictured above will be painted first in the NH McGinnis black and red-orange mid 50's scheme, this will be road number 555.

Newly painted 555 in the McGinnis scheme at Danbury. Model 555 will be weathered to show some use to a degree somewhere between the below photo and the second photo taken a decade later.

           Tom McNamara photo, Copyright NHRHTA Inc. Reproduced by permission

Number 555 is near the Scovill brass plant at New Milford CT. Note that the water tank has been removed because the steam boiler is now dormant in this 1960's photo leaving a void underneath the center of the loco, that feature may be impossible for modelers of that era to replicate because of the chassis well for the motor.

           Copyright NHRHTA Inc. Reproduced by permission

The remaining three will be painted in green and warm orange delivery schemes.

Will post photos after painting.

Wednesday, August 28, 2019

Classy Hi-Rail Vehicle

During the tenure of New Haven railroad president Patrick B. McGinnis the railroad purchased a 7 passenger Cadillac limousine for shorter duration inspection trips when the use of a business car and locomotive were unnecessary.

This 1954 model year Cadillac was fitted with a center headlight, rear marker lights and retractable rail wheel bogies at the railroads Readville shops.

Pat's Caddy

Registered in Connecticut with state issued vanity plates "NHRR" at first, Patrick B. McGinnis later had the plates changed to his initials "PBM".

          Charles Gunn Photos

I have read in the era of declining revenues this limousine had become an embarrassment to the railroad and was sold.


To my knowledge there is no correct 1/87 model for a 1954 cadillac limousine, therefore my modeling attempt can only mimic the prototype.

Praline' (now Busch) Cadillacs were used as a starting point. These 1/87 models are 1950 Cadillacs that are close but lack two design features that were standard on the 1954 model year, a wraparound windshield and front bumper bullets as below. The wraparound windshield became standard in 54. The bumper bullets were added to the front bumpers on 1951 Cadillacs increased in size yearly and were most prominent on the 54-57 model years. These bumper bullets are also known in automotive lore as "Dagmars" *.

2 = 1

Two production Praline' Cadillac models were combined to imitate the stretched body of a limousine, a hearse and a series 62 coupe sedan. Today Busch markets these as a 1952 model year but are actually a 1950.

The front 2/3 of the hearse and the rear 1/3 of the coupe were spliced together to form the limousine style body. The joints were backed up on the inside with .005" styrene. Similarly the rear quarter windows were backed up then filled with a light weight catalyzed automotive glazing compound leaving only the center window.

The chassis of both vehicles were cut at the same separation lines as the body, then glued together matching the length and wheelbase of the limousine.

The rail wheels were made from the chrome headlight moldings that originally came attached to the model, styrene flanges were fabricated and glued to the backside to represent rail wheels. A styrene axle keeps the wheels in gauge.

Two brass rods are attached to the axle, these rods then pass thru corresponding holes drilled in the bottom of the limousine chassis at both ends but are not permanently attached so the rods can move in or out to raise or lower the wheel bogies to make contact with the rails or not. 

Below is the completed model. Antenna, spotlight, half opened drivers and vent window add some detail interest. As all vehicle models on the layout most chrome plating is covered over with silver paint and the overall color finish is semi-gloss for consistency and to eliminate an out of scale shiny look when placed on the layout.

Roof mounted marker lights, A/C intake vents, bumper exhaust portals, and Pat's "PBM" vanity plate bring up the rear.

A note about the license plates, the only pictures I have seen of the limo have the small silver and black Connecticut plates that were issued thru 1956. Blue and white now standard size plates were issued for all Connecticut autos beginning in 1957 so these modeled plates are one year off for my modeling era.

MV lenses replace the headlight moldings that became the rail wheels, lenses also are attached to the fog lights, spot light and one for the railroad added center headlight. Front and rear bumpers have slots cut in them as the prototype to clear the rail wheel bogies when in the up position. No attempt was made to add the Dagmar* bumper bullets or wraparound windshield, the shame of it all.

Below the rail bogies are in the up position

Rail bogies are in the down position with limo on the rails at the Canal street crossing to Danbury yard. Looks quite regal!


Cadillac front bumper bullets of the 50's became known as "Dagmars", this term comes from the attributes of a TV personality of the same era. Reportedly she was amused by the tribute.

Friday, July 12, 2019

Signal Station 199

Finished Model

Below are several photos of the finished models of Signal Station 199 interlocking tower and accompanying coal shed. Both structures have a light coat of preliminary weathering to be finished when the structure is blended into the Berkshire junction diorama.

These two photos show the rear of the structures, this is the side that will face the operators aisle.

Below is the rear and east facing sides.

The rear and west facing sides.

The next two photos are of the track side of the structures. This is the side of SS-199 that usually appears in photos of the prototype, but unfortunately will be difficult to see once the structures are placed on the layout.

The east and track sides.

The west and track sides.

This is a seperate photo of the base plate with retaining wall that will prototypically entegrate the structures into the track grade embankment.

The final photo shows where SS-199 will be placed into the layout.

Much terrain and scenery work along with other details will finish the Berkshire junction diorama in the coming months.

Sunday, June 9, 2019

Signal Station Interior

Signal station 199 interlocking tower will be the only modeled structure group located within the Berkshire junction diorama of the layout.  When in place this stand alone structure will be at at eye level where a viewer will be able to look into the operators room, adding basic interior details based on the prototype would be a visual enhancement.

The 1959 photo below with operator Jack Lynch on duty offers an idea what may be seen thru the windows and to model.

              J.W. Swanberg photo, Copyright NHRHTA Inc. Reproduced by Permission

A Rudimentary Interior

The most prominent feature to model would be the interlocking machine levers. In the prototype photo these levers have different colors. Not knowing what these various colors indicate I learned by asking on the NHRHTA forum that...

yellow = approach
red = signal
blue = lock
black = switch
gray = spare

LASERkit #388, a 13 lever interlocking machine kit was built to place in the tower. The actual number of levers that were there in the late 50's can not be seen in the prototype photo or the complete lever color sequence. The levers below were colored painted as best as could be determined by the photo and the number of levers in the kit.

A basic desk, electric box and shelves have been built into the corner and the interlocking machine installed into the floor. A chair and operator figure has been added since the photo was taken.

Simple interior lighting will be added to the tower once it is in place on the layout.