HO scale

Yonder Gallops the Gift Horse

Shown: brass-railed Atlas code 100 flextrack, and code 175 rail.

The appearance, some fifty years ago, of nickel silver rail has been hailed as one of the hobby’s great milestones. Not only did it present a more realistic appearance than the brass rail of the day, but when it tarnishes, it still conducts electricity reasonably well. Aside from cost, there was no drawback to choosing nickel silver over brass. Because cost plays a bigger role in the hobby than anyone cares to admit, it took another decade or two for brass rail to vanish from the market, but vanish it eventually did. You can’t give the stuff away now.

Okay, I’m lying. You can. Somebody just did. (more…)

Mennonite boxcars are a thing. Who knew?

I picked this one up at a show last spring, new in the box and unassembled, for $6. After I finished building it, I did a little Googling around and discovered the surprisingly complex history of Mennonite Central Committee boxcar models. I wonder if I could persuade Quakers into doing something like this.

It Followed Me Home

This bobber caboose—I think it’s Tyco, but I’m not sure—was in a train-show vendor’s dollar box, for good reason. It had apparently taken a hard drop to the floor, and suffered damage to the steps, undercarriage, and roof overhang. One chunk of step was completely broken off, and dangling by the end rail. A coupler was busted, too. For a few bucks more, I could’ve had a similar caboose in mint condition, but I went with this one.

It got a new Kadee, naturally. A Number 27 was a perfect fit. I’ve been addressing body and chassis damage with bits of styrene, and some Squadron green putty here and there. I’ve got a little more sanding and shaping to do before it’s ready to paint, but the hard work is done now.

It ought to look cute with the Dockside, don’t you think?

The Joy of Cheap, Gaudy Boxcars

I overpaid for this ’80s-vintage Model Power boxcar at the train show in Cicero last December. I mean, look at it: crude, heavy molded-in detail, exposed assembly tabs, graphics printed directly on raw plastic. I paid $5. It’s not worth a nickel over $3. But still, that color! Oh, the color! Glorious, gaudy traffic-cone-orange plastic! It practically glows in the dark. Just what I need for the Windlenook project.

So I handed over the whole $5, took it home, pried off the shell and the horn-hooks, and proceeded to spend way too much time installing Kadee couplers. I had to do a surprising amount of surgery to both the underframe and the shell to get everything to fit properly, but it’s back together now. It’s prone to wobbling, however, and I’ll probably spend way too much time fixing that.

But the color!

Windlenook Gets Its Joystick Throttle

When I took the Windlenook project on its very first outing to the Maker Faire last November, I had to hook it up to an old MRC power pack. I’d attempted to get an Arduino-based joystick throttle working at the last minute, and couldn’t get it to respond. I finally revisited the throttle circuit after New Year’s, and discovered that it was just a few code errors away from working. Oh, well. (more…)

Cute

“Cute.” How I hated to hear that word used to describe trains, as I was growing up. Trains weren’t cute. They were big. They were grimy and smoky. They made noise. They hauled thousands of tons across the countryside. (Or, in my world, they were models that represented such things.) But I picked up a vintage Varney Dockside at the RIT show last month, and it’s… (more…)