s164.com - focused on 3/16" (1:64) scale modeling

White Mountain Central Railroad

Visit the White Mountain Central Railroad in Lincoln, New Hampshire.

Conway Scenic Railroad

Bangor & Aroostook Railroad State of Maine Boxcar fresh out of the paintshop at the Conway Scenic Railroad, in North Conway, New Hampshire.

North Carolina Transportation Museum

Southern FP7 at the NC Transportation Museum loacted at the historic Southern Railway Shops in Spencer, North Carolina.

Conway Scenic Railroad Museum

Steam and Diesel power on Railfan Day at the Conway Scenic Railroad in North Conway, NH.

Mount Washington Cog Railway

Climb to the Top of Mount Washington in the New Hampshire White Mountains on the world's first mountain-climbing Cog Railway train.

Blue Ridge Scenic Railway

Enjoy a ride along the Toccoa River in the Chattahoochee National Forest on the Blue Ridge Scenic Railway. Trains depart from the historic depot in Blue Ridge, Georgia and travel to the GA/TN State Line and return.

South Carolina Railroad Museum

Experience the history of railroads in SC and ride the Rockton, Rion and Western Railroad (RR&W). Located near Winnsboro, SC, the museum offers hour long train rides, BBQ trains, and special events!

Circus Model Builders Plan Library

The CIRCUS MODEL BUILDERS have made their entire plan library now available online!
Get started building your circus models today!

Wednesday, May 30, 2018

Lionel American Flyer ES44AC Diesel

After Lionel introduced the American Flyer SD70ACe diesel locomotive in 2012/2013 (see my Lionel American Flyer SD70ACe 2013 post for more details), Lionel completed the release of the Norfolk Southern's Heritage Series of locomotives while continuing to add to the line-up of new American Flyer diesels with the introduction of the GE ES44AC in 2013 followed by additional ES44AC paint schemes in 2014 -- see Lionel's blog posts here and here. Like the SD70ACe locomotive, the ES44AC locomotive is all new tooling in S scale with lots of advanced features including the ability to run on NMRA DCC controls (as well as other control systems) and the ability to install scale wheelsets and couplers.

At the time the ES44ACs were initially released, I acquired one of the units in the NS Southern green livery, but never had a chance to open the box due to a move that was in process. Recently two additional ES44AC locomotives -- one in in NS Central of Georgia livery and the other in NS Interstate livery -- appeared on my doorstep. It was time to get them all out for conversions and test runs. True to the SD70ACe example, Lionel delivered a nicely tooled locomotive with a lot of extra features. My modeling interests tend toward DCC control, scale wheelsets and more prototypical couplers, so I was excited to see another newer vintage diesel where all of these are supported.

If you're interested in the specific features of the AF ES44C and/or use on Lionel command control systems, please read Lionel's blog posts mentioned above and other reviews available. This post will focus exclusively on my experiences with conversion to scale wheelsets, coupler conversion to Kadee 802/807 couplers and use of this locomotive on NMRA DCC-compatible DCC systems.

Conversion to Scale Wheels

When Lionel released the SD70ACe locomotive they made an extra part (Lionel Part Number LNL6409879625 - MSRP $29.95) which is a set of 6 drop-in replacement wheelsets to convert the locomotive to scale wheels. This same part number is used on the ES44AC for the conversion, with the part description being updated to be "S Scale Wheels SD70ACe/ES44". These can be obtained from your local hobby shop (I obtained mine from Des Plaines Hobbies) or directly from Lionel Parts. Installation is not documented in the user manual, but installation is very straightforward. And if you have converted any S Helper Service diesel locomotive to scale wheels, the process is very similar.

Unscrew the ten screws and remove the metal plate covering the axle area on the front truck. If you are careful, you can leave the screws in the metal plate as you remove it. One at a time, remove the hi-rail wheels and insert a replacement scale wheelset, being careful to ensure the same orientation of the wheelset as concerns the gear placement.

Also on each truck one of the middle screws will have a small washer/o-ring under it. Be careful not to lose it, forget to put it back in, or place it under the wrong screw. In my conversion, the o-ring remained in the correct position on one truck, and on the other truck the o-ring stayed under the screw when I removed the metal plate. Repeat the process for the rear truck. One of the wheelsets in the rear truck and the replacement
set have a black band around the center of the axle, so be sure to put the replacement wheelset with the black band in the same location in the rear truck. The red arrows in the picture of the truck and the picture of the replacement wheelsets highlight the axle with the black band. The green arrow in the picture of the truck highlights where I found an o-ring in my truck. BTW the hi-rail wheelsets can be returned to the same container in which the conversion wheelsets came for storage.

Installation of Kadee 802/807 couplers

The next step is installation of more prototypical couplers. For my railroad and this locomotive I'll use Kadee 802/807 couplers. To make this change basically involves three steps:

  1. Removal of the AF electrocouplers
  2. Mounting the Kadee couplers
  3. Installing the Coupler mounting bracket on the locomotive
These steps are documented in Operation on NMRA DCC-compatible systems

More information:


Tuesday, May 29, 2018

New owners for Grandt Line?

The word coming out of the O/S Scale West + Narrow Gauge meet from this past weekend is that new owners for Grandt Line have been found. While this blog doesn't normally deal in rumors, this is important enough information to the hobby that we're passing it along. If this turns out to be true, this will be Great News for the hobby. Stay tuned!

Wednesday, May 9, 2018

Shinohara to cease track production

This has been sent out by Scenery Unlimited:
"Shinohara, a brand leader of track and turnouts in many scales—including S— for three decades or more, has announced it will stop production of its products, although a Japanese company has plans to take over the Japanese market at last report. The brand has been known world-wide for precision and quality for a long time. Its North American distributor for the S and Sn3 scale line, Scenery Unlimited, expects to have only a small amount of stock on hand when the firm finally closes its doors, largely because the announcement came so suddenly. “This is a very unfortunate circumstance,” says Don Heimburger, president of Scenery Unlimited, “but Shinohara is planning to retire and there appears no recourse.” Scenery Unlimited will continue to sell its remaining stock of S and Sn3 track and turnouts until they are gone."
This reduces the choices of track for the scale side of S standard gauge as well as Sn3 modelers. Fortunately there are other companies with offers in the market. But none the less it is a loss for S and the model railroad market in general.

Monday, April 30, 2018

Passenger Car Detail Parts Available again

Some years back Ladd Houda designed and introduced a line of passenger car under body detail parts. They were most recently marketed by The Supply Car, but again dropped off of the market. They are now available again from Pre-Size Model Specialties.

Pre-Size has introduced 24 new detail parts for S scale passenger cars. The parts are produced in high-quality resin. These new items are numbers 530 - 557. See them on the Pre-Size Model Specialities web site.


Sunday, April 29, 2018

Circus Model Builders Plans Library

Have you been thinking about adding Circus models to your S layout? Have you wondered where and how to get started? There is an organization similar to the National Association of S Gaugers for circus modelers -- CIRCUS MODEL BUILDERS. If you have not already done so, check out the Circus Model Builders web site.

The organization is comprised of modelers dedicated to preserving and modeling circuses. CMB produces an excellent publication for its members -- Little Circus Wagon (LCW). Much as you see in the model railroad press, LCW has included plans in each each issue. And these plans were available from the CMB Superintendent of Plans for a small fee.

Now to promote circus modeling even more, the CMB has made their entire plan library available online and at no charge for personal use. Visit their web site, select the PLANS link and find the plans you are looking for. Over 400 plans are currently available!

If you're been putting off starting those circus models, now is the time to get started!


Saturday, April 28, 2018

Railway Prototype Cyclopedia News!

Among others, model railroaders have for a number of years used the great reference series of books titled Railway Prototype Cyclopedia to expand their knowledge of the prototype. Created by Ed Hawkins and Pat Wider, each volume includes in-depth articles including many photographs, diagrams, rosters and other items. And we have eagerly awaited the new volumes. Two recent observations are:

  1. In what is great news for modelers and others, Volume 20, which was apparently the most popular volume and has been difficult to find for a long time (a recent copy on an auction site went for $150), has been reprinted by Ron's Books. See their web site if you are looking for a copy. The article from Volume 20 that drove that volume's high demand was Patrick C. Wider's 85 page article on Flat Car Loading Practices. The article synopsis is:

    The article contains 46 diagrams that show how many types of loads are restrained and tied down to flat cars. Also included are 126 photos of flat cars with all types of loads such as various steel products including pipe, auto frames, road construction and farm machinery, transformers and circuit breakers, boilers and vessels, rolling stock underframes, trucks and wheels, forging presses, locomotives, damaged freight cars, street cars and busses, lumber products, stone, containers, military equipment, and trailers on flat cars. Captions describe the flat cars photographed including the cars' histories (car number series, builder, and build date). Additional text details the A.A.R. rules for securing the various commodities.

  2. The website for Railway Prototype Cyclopedia has disappeared. And along with the web site, the PDF for the RP CYC Index file has disappeared. Fortunately snapshots of the web site are available on the Internet Archive (aka Wayback Machine). A copy of the Railway Prototype Cyclopedia Volumes 1-34 Index has been retrieved and is linked here.

For those not familiar with the Railway Prototype Cyclopedia, here's how the publisher described it on their web site:

What is Railway Prototype Cyclopedia?

Railway Prototype Cyclopedia, or 'RP CYC' for short, is a continuing series of soft cover, perfect-bound books that provides invaluable information in a single source with a focus on railroad equipment built or in use during the 1920s through 1950s. This was the "Golden Age" of railroads when steam locomotives and first generation diesels ruled. Volumes 1-5 are each 96 pages in length, Volumes 6-10 and 13-15 are each 105 pages, Volumes 11, 12, and 16-30 are 113 pages, the combined Volumes 31-32 has 265 pages, and Volumes 33 & 34 each have 193 pages. In many cases the back inside cover is used as an additional page for tables. Each volume uses 80-weight enameled paper and a perfect-bound textured "leatherette" cover. Included are articles on freight and passenger cars, locomotives, and structures. Some articles include information about selected scale models that relate to the subject.

One of our most important priorities, RP CYC provides high quality, large format photographs of the prototype equipment and scale models. Every photograph selected for publication is large enough for you to see as much detail as possible. Photographs include those taken by the builders as well as in-service mainly during the 1920s through 1950s and occasionally the 1960s. The articles are also supported with technical data including applicable plans, diagrams, and comprehensive roster information.

Our Goal:

We want you to use RP CYC as a primary source of information and photographs for accurate scale modeling or historical purposes and to keep each volume on your bookshelf for handy reference.

If you have never looked at this reference series, I highly recommend it! While most volumes are sold out at the publisher, copies can occasionally be found on dealer shelves, or secondary markets like BookFinder and eBay (and of course Volume 20 (along with some other volumes) at Ron's Books!).

Some additional information:

Railway Prototype Cyclopedia Release Dates

Vol 1 July 8, 1997
Vol 2 June 30, 1998
Vol 3 February 10, 1999
Vol 4 February 2, 2000
Vol 5 November 29, 2000
Vol 6 September 28, 2001
Vol 7 May 20, 2002
Vol 8 February 15, 2003
Vol 9 September 26, 2003
Vol 10 April 14, 2004
Vol 11 February 15, 2005
Vol 12 September 27, 2005
Vol 13 March 18, 2006
Vol 14 October 23, 2006
Vol 15 April 23, 2007
Vol 16 October 23, 2007
Vol 17 April 16, 2008
Vol 18 February 14, 2009
Vol 19 October 24, 2009
Vol 20 May 17, 2010
Vol 21 Nov 12, 2010
Vol 22 July 14, 2011
Vol 23 October 18, 2011
Vol 24 April 2, 2012
Vol 25 October 18, 2012
Vol 26 March 26, 2013
Vol 27 October 17, 2013
Vol 28 April 2, 2014
Vol 29 October 20, 2014
Vol 30 September 25, 2015
Vol 31-32 April 25, 2016
Vol 33 October 29, 2016
Vol 34 March 29, 2017


Sunday, August 20, 2017

Pickles for your Model Railroad...

A recent inquiry from a prominent S scale modeler about Pickle cars prompted me to to do some additional research.

Since Pickle Cars, Vinegar Cars and Salting Stations are a unique industry for a model railroad layout, and there are regular inquiries about this industry, I thought perhaps it might be useful to summarize some of the major resources available to modelers.

Without a doubt, the major resource available is the book Pickle & Vinegar Makers of the Midwest - The history and operations of two fascinating industries by David J. Leider. Self-published in 2015, the book is 140 pages chock full of prototype information, excellent prototype photos, drawings and plans along with some references to the modeling press. The book features chapers ont eh midwest pickle industry, the manufacture of pickles, pickle transport, vinegar history, vinegar manufacture and factories, vinegar transport along with numerous charts, tables and plans, including car data from selected issues of the  ORER. If you're looking for THE reference on these industries and the railroad cars that served them, then this book is what you need. The book is currently available on Amazon as well as directly from the author.

If you're interested in the industry, but not at quite that level of detail, then obtain a copy of the article The Pickle Industry and Railroading, also by David J. Leider, published in the December 2011 issue of Railroad Model Craftsman.

Also an excellent reference is the article L.C.Forman Co. Pickle Tank Car by Harold W. Russell, MMR, which includes pickle tank car drawings along with prototype photos. The article was published in the NMRA's Scale Rails magazine, December 2009 issue.

For a more complete bibliography of references, please see our new Pickles & Vinegar for your Model Railroad page. There you will find additional references in the modeling press, including articles on building both pickle cars and salting stations.


Featured Post

MotorMax 1:64 Dioramas

These came out a while ago, but over the last week, I have run across two variations of this products that I had not seen before -- Bustling...


An active modeler in 1:64 scale (S scale) since 1998 and a relatively new On30 modeler, Michael's primary interests are in model railroading, structure modeling and control systems for model railroading. Michael is a life member of the National Model Railroad Association (NMRA), a member of the National Association of S Gaugers (NASG) and the Bristol S Gauge Railroaders.

Michael and his wife Deane Louise co-own Pine Canyon Scale Models, a manufacturer of S Scale and O scale structures.

Michael is a past chair of the NMRA's Digital Command Control (DCC) Working Group and was a contributor to the NMRA's DCC Standards activities. Michael continues to play an active role in the use of NMRA DCC in S Scale model railroading.

Michael previously served as the NASG National Secretary and Librarian for the NASG's Russell M. Mobley Memorial Library.


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