Trolley Modeling in N Scale

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Fremont Heisler Revisited, via BART ~ Tuesday, December 25, 2012

Nathan and I took another trip to the East Bay the other day. We rode BART from Union City to the end of the line at Fremont. The BART tracks cross over the mainline tracks used by Capitol Corridor just east of the siding where the Heisler mentioned in the last post is stored, and if you look quickly, you can get a glimpse of it.

I had my camera ready. The first shot was not too successful:

(No doubt Facebook will choose this for a thumbnail)

My second did a little better:

Zoom in, and bingo!

Notice the cylinder. That's a Heisler, all right! (Read everything you ever wanted to know about them here).

The Fremont BART station is not exactly in a really happening area, but it's close to a large park, which we did not let the recent wet weather keep us from enjoying:

Just a couple more presents to put under that tree!

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Fremont Heisler ~ Wednesday, December 19, 2012

Nathan and I spent Sunday in the Niles district of Fremont.

Niles is notable for several rail-related reasons; it's the western end of the Niles Canyon Railway, which we didn't visit today, but which is running a Train of Lights this time of year, which is pretty cool. It also has a city plaza anchored by a restored depot, which is now the home to a train museum and model railroad, which we did visit.

You also can't hang out very long without seeing a Capitol Corridor and/or UP freight train go by.

(The Caboose is part of the depot museum; the heavyweight passenger car is the chamber of commerce).

We took a meandering route home to try to track down something we'd seen once from the window of a Capitol Corridor train--an old Heisler parked on a random siding. We found it, but it's hard to get a good view without trespassing, which we didn't.

You can see it a bit better on Google Maps (click satellite view). Note the tender sitting 20 or so feet to the left. Click here, or search for "Copa de Oro Drive, Fremont, CA".

On the way, we passed a few interesting things, such as this Historic Farmhouse, now a museum, and fenced-off equipment yard containing a touristy trolley (obviously not extremely historic but it looks like it legitimately ran on tracks) probably from some defunct park,

which is still at least providing some shelter for one occupant;

and nearby is a Plymouth "critter".

The Heisler is probably Pickering Lumber #1 or #5, both property of the Niles Canyon Railway but not stored at the main museum site (probably #1, considering that #5 has been run in recent history, and the engine we saw is pretty rusty).

When we told Wini about our adventures, she thought it sounded like a "Thomas" story. Indeed... Rusty the Heisler was shy and hid on an out-of-the way siding behind a tree where nobody could see how rusty he was. But one Christmas nobody in the Island of Sodor had a Christmas tree because none of the engines could make it to the top of the mountain where the Christmas Tree farm was--because only a geared steam engine could make it up the grade. It ends with Rusty getting a new coat of paint and being the most fabulous engine of all...

Fremont is really a web of tracks. Here's an excerpt from a Historical Rail Atlas.

The Heisler is right between the two tracks at "Shinn

Merry Christmas!

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A Well-Lit Caboose ~ Monday, December 03, 2012

We caught up with the Toys-for-Tots Train at Menlo Park last night. Fortunately the heavy rain from earlier in the day had stopped. We donated our IKEA train set, got a cookie and cider, heard carolers, saw Santa on the train, etc.

The West Bay Model Railroad Association, which operates a train layout in what was originally the Menlo Park freight station, also had an open house nearby.

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Across L.A. by Transit ~ Friday, November 23, 2012

While my wife and mother-in-law drove from Redondo Beach to Pomona, to visit my sister-in-law, the kids and I took the scenic route.

The basic transit itinerary is Metro Green Line -> Metro Blue Line (modern version of the P.E. Long Beach Line) -> Red Line Subway -> Union Station -> Metrolink San Bernardino Line (that's Google's option #3 with the blue square). We made a slight diversion in the middle to ride Angels Flight, and walked through some interesting parts of downtown to Olvera St.

Sculpture in front of the Museum of Contemporary Art, apparently made of Airplane parts. I have a movie pitch: the sole human survivors of the zombie apocalypse are holed up in MOCA with a toolbox, and have to re-assemble this into a working airplane to escape...

My sister-in-law recommended we meet up in Claremont, near Pomona, because it's a nice place to walk around. The station is classic Santa Fe depot.

... and if you're ever in town looking for coffee or something tasty, Some Crust Bakery is a block away and highly recommended.

Happy Thanksgiving!

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Toys for Tots Train Next Weekend ~ Saturday, November 17, 2012

After missing a few Christmasses, CalTrain's Holiday Train is on again this year, as seen in this adwrap:

You can see Santa riding a caboose, carolers, and bring a toy for the Toys-for-Tots drive.

I usually donate a wooden train set from IKEA; they're cheap and pretty nice.

The train is running on the evenings of the weekend of December 1st-2nd.

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Splicing the Hyde St Rope ~ Saturday, November 10, 2012

Last weekend, we visited Chinatown. Today, Nathan asked if we could go back--he especially wanted to go back and pet this cat, which hangs out in front of a Grant Ave. shop.

Afterwards we walked up Washington to the Cable Car Barn/Powerhouse/Museum. It turned out to be a good day to visit because the crew was in the middle of splicing in a new cable (it was a bad day to ride the Hyde St line, since that was the cable that was out of service).

This is how they've been doing it for over a century.

Note that the core of the wire rope is actually a regular fiber rope.

Later we walked up over the top of the Hill (Nob? Russian? I've never actually gotten them all straight),

caught a random bus, and ended up here:

A modeller always needs some paint or glue or something, right? It's a pretty good shop. Nate got a balsa glider kit.

We moseyed back to the F line, rode to the Ferry Building, took the T to CalTrain, headed home.

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An Anniversary Year for Muni and BART ~ Tuesday, October 02, 2012

BART celebrated 40 years of operation last Friday. There are some interesting historical photos and videos on their website, include a folksong apparently commissioned to herald the new system.

We have to give BART credit giving new generations a cool, modern view of electric railroading.

This is also the centennial year of the San Francisco Muni, and they too have been busy putting their photo archives online. Some are also in display at SFO:

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Canadian Boxcar ~ Wednesday, September 26, 2012

Ever since I attended a conference in Montreal (and brought back maple candy) Nathan has been a fan of Canada. So we decided to make a Canadian boxcar. We decided to repaint a boxcar from a Tomytec ED101 set. 4-wheel cars are easy for him to put on the track, and its kind of surplus in my collection anyway.

The sides were spraypainted a flat white base, and the ends brush painted red.

The next part was harder. Some cut out maple leaf stickers served temporarily while I figure out how to paint them:

The pinewood derby section of our local hobby store is full of patriotic stars and stripes decals, and I'm sure any hobby shop in Canada is full of Canadian flag and maple leaf decals, but we live in California and didn't want to have to order something and wait for them. So I printed out images of the Canadian flag (there's a good, high-resolution one on Wikipedia) onto a piece of paper with a strategically placed piece of Tamiya masking tape, and cut out the leaf.
I put one of these DIY stencils on each side of the car, and masked everything. Before putting on red paint, I spraypainted everything white again, and dried this, to hopefully make a seal around the cut-out edges.

I applied the red paint by dabbing with a relatively dry brush, to try to minimize paint creeping under the tape through capillary action. This all worked fairly well--just a little bit of leakage, mostly in the grooves between the molded boards.

A "just for fun" project is a good way to try out some new techniques.

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Book Shopping in San Mateo ~ Saturday, September 15, 2012

B Street Books in San Mateo is between the CalTrain station and a couple of our usual destinations, Central Park, Talbot's Toyland (great toy/hobby/game/bike shop), and Yogurtouille, and conveniently kitty-corner from Peets.

It's a pretty good used book store, where I've found everything from a 19th century collection of German comics to kids books. Right now, thanks to a couple of estate sales, they have more train and trolley books than they can fit on their shelves. Prices are pretty reasonable, so I picked up a couple. The most likely to come in handy modelling is "Cars of Pacific Electric vol I", which has pictures and blueprints of the PE's city and suburban fleet; also, "Curious George Takes the Train".

This would be a challenge in N scale. Someday!

Incidentally, this is what B Street in San Mateo looked like about a hundred years ago. (From my collection of trolley-themed postcards).

In other trolley news, we rode the J line to Dolores Park, and saw a Milano on 30th St on the way back to the barn.

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San Jose Railroads Car 124 ~ Monday, September 10, 2012

We've made many visits to the San Jose History Museum in Kelly Park, San Jose. The history museum has a carbarn and most weekends operates a Birney around a block of restored buildings (which I imagine were brought to the park when they were threatened by redevelopment) and replicas, including old turn-of-the-last century homes, a firehouse and a (functioning!) ice cream parlor.

The museum has a longer stretch of track that runs outside of the museum, down the edge of the park, all the way to the (back) entrance of Happy Hollow Zoo. They put wires up over this track a few years ago, and have a few other cars in the barn that can operate along it, but we've never managed to hit them on a day when they were operating anything other than the Birney on the short inside track. Operating the bigger cars and the long route takes a crew of two, and they only do it on special event days.

This Sunday the museum hosted an early car show and ran San Jose Railroads "California Car" #124:

The rubber-tired vehicles on display were nice, too. In addition to a lot of well-preserved examples of standard classic models, there were some more unusual vehicles, not available as N scale kits, but many of them suggesting interesting kitbashes.

There were also antique motors and machinery chugging away:

Inside the barn were the familiar yellow Birney, a single truck Brill from Portugal, and a restored San Francisco horsecar, which I learned from volunteers had just recently been tested with authentic horse power.

There are several varieties of miniature trolleys, too.

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