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Trolley Modeling in N Scale

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Happy World Cat Day ~ Saturday, August 08, 2015

Which seemed a good time to assemble this new Tama Train kit.

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My Train Just Stopped at Atherton ~ Thursday, July 23, 2015

Which is supposed to be weekends only.

Some people got on. The conductor said "you must be very important people".

They don't look like it particularly.  One is an old man who doesn't speak English.

We passed as train "in the hole" at the RWC yard. Maybe it broke down and dropped off some passengers at a non-standard location?

It is a mystery...

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Progress on Double-Tracking in Mountain View ~ Thursday, July 16, 2015

Some interesting equipment here. I like the improvised ballast hopper.

Also notice the special wire draped over the overhead and clamped to a rail. This must be to keep workers safe in case the power is accidentally turned on--by producing an instant (and probably spectacular!) short circuit that would blow a circuit breaker somewhere.

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Seen at the LEGO Store ~

A very cool modern articulated streetcar.

Unfortunately only available as part of a rather large and pricey kit.  But it shows what can be done in the medium.
Of course, as this blog post makes clear, even in Lego city not everyone is on the side of progress.

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The Seashore Trolley Museum ~ Monday, July 13, 2015

The Seashore Trolley Museum, in Kennebunkport, ME, is the world's oldest and largest. Naturally we had to visit.

To start with, the entry building has a nice reconstruction of the front end of a trolley, where one can see how controllers work.

We rode on Boston Type 5.

and this Connecticut Company open car, which suited the weather that day.

There are four or five barns like this one, full of classic electric car types that every traction fan needs to see.

This is an elegant private car, the City of Manchester.

You're not actually supposed to go up here, but the sign was turned so that the kids couldn't see it til they were actually up there. Now you know! :)

Give a kid a camera, and you're going to get some selfies. And maybe some nice scenic shots, too.

Tucked in the corner of a barn was this surprise: a cable car from Dunedin, New Zealand:

The museum also has old trolleybusses and a few subway cars from NYC and Boston.

This picture is not very exciting, but there is a place in my layout where I want to build a curved wooden-paved grade crossing just like this.

Finally, a classic steeplecab, which I took numerous shots for future modelling notes.

Incidentally, if you visit on a hot day, we recommend a visit to The Scoop Deck in nearby Wells, ME. They have a lot of flavors (I'm not kidding), serve cones that are decidedly not skimpy, and seem to function almost like the center of the community.

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The Maine Narrow-Gauge Railroad Museum ~ Sunday, July 12, 2015

When we were done with the "business" part of our trip, we headed up to Maine for a week of actual vacation.

Maine is famous for its 2'-gauge railways, and the Maine Narrow-Gauge Railroad Museum has preserved a nice collection and operates trains on the Portland, ME, waterfront.

Portland is a pretty nice city and worth a visit in its own right.

The museum will be moving to a new location at some point in the future, so now is a great time see the trains and Portland all in one visit.

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Trains at Hyannis ~

Hyannis, MA, is the terminus of two passenger operations. The "T" operates the Cape Flyer out of Boston's South Station, providing a way for people in the city to spend a weekend on Cape Cod. The Cape Cod Central Ry also runs dinner and excursion trains from Hyannis. Riding these trains didn't work into our schedule, but I got some pictures at least.

Here's the Cape Flyer, using the same kind of equipment as the MBTA's commuter trains.

Here's some interesting pieces of equipment around the Cape Cod Central's yard: an E-Unit, and RDC, and a dome car:

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Giant Metronome ~

This was the first year I was actually responsible for designing and building (as opposed to just re-assembly) of our team's props. It probably would have made sense to stick with basic backdrop-type shapes for my first attempt at this, but that would have been dull. To go with our musical-themed program, we decided to built kettle-drums, which you have already seen (and which were challenging, but basically an exercise in 3D geometry), and a giant working metronome. This involved some mechanical engineering, which being employed in the software field, I have no business messing around in, but the idea was too cool not to try...

Actually, just making the large frame to support the metronome, which we decided to make a kind of bay-window shape to give the skaters an enclosed place to do a quick costume change, was a bit of a challenge. PVC pipe is ideal for ice skating props in a lot of ways, particularly in that it's light and cheap; but it turned out to be a bit too flexible (maybe I should have used 1" instead of 3/4") and the first version of these bay-window frameworks flopped all over the ice in the first practice where we tried to use them. A lifetime interest in truss bridges paid off here, though, and with some additional interior members and diagonal reinforcements, the frames became much more stable.

I had several ideas about how to make the giant working metronome swing. My first idea was to just put a weight on the bottom of the swinging beam and let it swing naturally as a pendulum, but even with a fairly good bearing (recycled from an old bike wheel) it slowed down too rapidly from friction to make it through a whole show. I thought about giving the beam an extra push on each cycle with a solenoid (maybe one on each side), but my Dad suggested a design that looked more promising, which is easier to show than describe:

One complexity is that, since I didn't want the mechanism to show, I put it on the inside of the prop and used the pivot to drive a larger, visible metronome on the outside.

In the end, it all came together and worked flawlessly for the duration of the six-minute show.

Here's a few more technical details in case anyone wants to try something like this:

  • I used a motor with built-in reduction gearing. They are easy to find on Amazon.
  • For the pivot I used a very long bolt, and secured the pendulums on both sides with lock nuts.
  • For the pivot bearing I used scooter/skateboard bearings. (I chose a diameter of bolt to fit).
  • The visible pendulum beam is made out of spray-painted yardsticks, which you can get pretty cheap at any hardware store, because they will probably have the name of the store on them. This is convenience source of lightweight wood that I will keep in mind the next time I'm working on benchword for a layout.

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2015 Skating Trip ~

This year's Theatre on Ice national competition was in Hyannis, MA; our team had a musical theme. Wini was costumed as a piano.

We built some interesting props this year. Here you can see some kettledrums. The framework is PVC pipe; the kettle of the kettledrums are plastic umbrellas turned upside down, with the handles cut off. It's all covered with shiny red fabric material, precisely sewed by our costumes creator.

In the background you can see a giant metronome, which I will describe in more detail in the next post.

Here's a peek in the props tent. Nathan is checking out a competing team's chocolate factory prop. This was for the St Louis team, who you may recall built a rideable trolley prop for last year's show.

There are a few perks to being the sibling of a skating-team member, so as going to the beach,

Or getting to have a snowball fight on a hot summer day, thanks to the Zamboni dumping the ice it scrapes into the parking lot.

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