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.

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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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