Thursday, December 31, 2015

CN MLW RS18s First Day of Operation

Yesterday was finally the occasion to test the new pair of kitbashed Atlas MLW RS18 in duty. Generally speaking, the performance was flawless from start to end. No loss of power, very low speed and such. Still, some decoder fine tuning is still required and I'll have to center the headlight LEDs which shifted while moving some internal part a few weeks ago. Also, the electronics required to removing a fair amount of weight in each unit, reducing their pulling power. Some wheel slipping was observed while using only one locomotive on a 14-car train. It was a trade off we were well aware of and, anyway, these locomotives will always run in pair.

Now, time to railfan this pair of locomotives while they pull a few trains over the CN Murray Bay Subdivision during a normal work day.

Train #522

First, let's follow the train #522 running westward from Limoilou (Quebec City) to Donohue in Clermont. This train pulls empty newsprint boxcars, woodchip, kaolin slurry and acid. It is expected to make a stop at Montmorency Falls to spot a loaded cotton boxcar at Dominion Textile. There are rumours about the imminent plant closure by the end of the year and traffic is slowly dying there.

Today's engineer is Jérôme Langlois-Lavoie. The crew picked up their power - a pair of RS18, namely units 3681 and 3623 - on LimoilouYard engine track once leading to the now gone shop and turntable.

The locomotives quickly run through D'Estimauville station with their assigned caboose. They are expected to pick up their train on the siding near Domaine Maizerets. We were lucky enough to capture the pair crossing Rivière-aux-Taupins' bridge.

After leaving their caboose on the main, the motive power move further east up to D'Estimauville Avenue turnout to pick up the freight consist.

It was only a matter of time before 522 departing D'Estimauville reached Villeneuve. The small yard was empty and the engineer decided to speed up the train up to 25 mph as soon as he left the yard limit. I guess to driver's of this car was a little bit nervous when he found out the train was running faster than expected! Almost an accident in the making! Who can believe we are in 1985 and people are still taking chance agains the train!

After this speed stunt, 522 slowly crawled through Montmorency Village until reaching the famous falls to leave a boxcar to Dominion Textile. The parking lot was quite empty for a Wednesday... the rumours about the plant closure could be true...

522 then continued its long travel accross the fertile meadows of Côte-de-Beaupré until reaching Les Caps and definitely entering Charlevoix. We got lucky enough to have a glimpse of the train serpenting along the dramatic cliffs at a very low speed. Accidents and landslides aren't unknown to this area.

A few hours later 552 arrived in Clermont and left the cars in the yard before crossing the bridge over Malbaie River to pick up the outbound cars at Donohue paper mill. Their switcher is actually out of service and meanwhile CN is performing the time consuming task at the plant.

It's always a good thing to have some relatives working at the plant. Uncle Rosario was kind enough to get us permission to roam the plant property and take pictures of the locomotives. No way to know if such an occasion will happen in the future.

Here the pair of RS18 is running over the woodchip and tank cars sidings to pull out the empties.

We were lucky enough to see a pair of kaolin covered hopper cars leased by JM Huber Corporation. They are fairly new visitors to Murray Bay Subdivision. Until recently, Donohue only received kaolin slurry in tank cars.

Later, the locomotives switched the newsprint warehouse to pull out the loaded cars. My uncle told me they would be delivered to the famous New York Times. Yes, that famous newspaper is printed on Donohue's finest product!

We left the property before the crew completed their task. It was now 3 PM and we had to go back to Quebec City before the supper.

Rolling Stock Drawers - Identification

Two weeks ago, Jérôme decided it was tiem to identify each drawer of our rolling stock cabinet. Finding a type font wasn't as easy as one-two-three and he decided to look at this problem differently.

At least, it was decided each drawer would be attributed to a specific customer: Ciment St-Laurent, Dominion Textile and Donohue.

Jérôme's idea is quite simple and works quite well while looking as good. He merged a silhouette of a rail car with the customer's logo in color. These identification cards were printed on heavy paper and inserted on the metal holders when recently installed.

In the case of Ciment St-Laurent, the plant require the use of two drawers. One is for covered cement hoppers while the other one is for open hoppers of coal and gypsum. One identification card show an open hopper, the other one a covered hopper.

As you can see, we need to find a logo for the last two unassigned drawers. They mainly store cars bound to the team track in Clermont.

Tuesday, December 29, 2015

MLW RS18 Madness - Part 8 - The End?

All good things must come to an end and I'm proud to say I finally can see the light at the end of the tunnel with this mad project. Weathering was the last step and I did it yesterday. It was quite a straightforward process and I surely di not try anything too much artsy.

Since RS18 are the backbone of the fleet, I didn't want they to be garish rust buckets. Most pictures of the 1980s show them as well-maintained and rather clean locomotives except the proverbial ALCO sooth cavering every square inch of horizontal surface. Most typical wear was white paint peeling off on railings, dark streaks on the running board and some whitish dirt on the long hood on a few units. Trucks were generally clean and not too dusty (at least on pictures of engines assigned in Quebec then).

I believe a good weathering process is about reproducing what happens in real life. My first step was to fade the as if it was degraded by UV rays. A very diluted tan color wash was sprayed over the models until satisfaction.

The second step was to build up the ALCO typical dirt on the roof. Working with prototype picture, I was able to find out the short orange hood roof was almost black and the sooth was running down along the vertical sides with rain. A wash of India ink/alcohol was used to mimick this effect realistically. Also, a very thin coat of this wash was sprayed all over the model to dull it a little bit just like the prototype.

When dry, I used a special wash used by Warhammers' modellers called "Null Oil" to add som dirt in the long hood panel lines. It is a very potent stuff and I was careful enough to dilute it a little bit prior to use. It was particularly effective on louvers. Only unit 3623 got that wash over the orange paint. It almost ended up in disaster but I was able to save the day.

The next step was to use AIM weathering powder to give some texture to the roof, trucks, pilots and fuel tank. Prior to this, the trucks were sprayed with Krylon black and camouflage brown spray paint, giving them a nice warm black shade.

Finally, oil paint and odolourless solvent were used to add streaks to the running board. An easy job done following prototype. Each locomotive received different streak patterns and colors to make sure it was too uniform.

Unfortunately, at this point, I sealed my weathering job with dullcote. In a matter of second, all the textures were lost and the models looked almost brand new albeit with color variation effects. To counter this, I sprayed a new tan color wash over everything. The wash was very thin and thus didn't really affect the overall coloration. In fact, it helped to blend everything together. Finally, a last coat of weathering powder was added and I kept it as is.

New headlight lenses for the Miniature by Eric castings (on Atlas locomotives) were done using Woodland Scenic Water Effects. A few weeks ago, I bought my first bottle of Micro Krystal Klear in a shop but quickly realized the seller sold me an old bottle. The content was like a marshmallow and couldn't be worked into a good shape. I've heard a lot of good comments about Micro Krystal Klear, but it seems I'll have to find a better supplier.

This anecdote just make me realized almost every time I got a truly defective product, it was when shopping directly in a brick and mortar shop... and often from well-established ones. What did I learned? Online or real, it's all the same. At least, when I shop online, I don't feel the seller's trying to force a product I don't need into my throat. I never loved that pressure they put on your shoulders, this angry attitude if you walk out of the shop without buying anything (been there, done that). I don't miss those annoying peddlers at all with their so-called experience and worthless opinions.

Hey! Enough ranting and enjoy the models!

Thursday, December 24, 2015

MLW RS18 Madness - Part 7

The Proto 1000 RS18 is now repainted, dullcoted and reassembled, ready to be weathered.


I feared the discrepancies between P1K and Atlas would be noticeable, but when lashed up into a consist, they looks great to together.

It must be noted that most freight trains on Murray Bay Subdivision in the late 70s were often pulled by three RS18. Both in Zebra or CN noodle scheme. I still have three Atlas model that are underway to become RS18 (noodle scheme), but I'm not in a hurry to complete them as I have enough on my plate for 2016.
I've been discovered! Too much power to handle!
A Merry Christmas and Peace to All Men of Good Will!!! Which is even truer in this bloody 2015 year.


MLW RS18 Madness - Part 6

New Power For Christmas

I'm glad to announce the RS18 kitbash project ended yesterday. Units are now painted, dullcoted and assembled. Weathering will be the next step but so far so good. I'm actually wondering if I should add the side glass deflectors located on the cab. I'm afraid gluing them could do more harm than good if not done correctly.

The Proto 1000 unit should be ready this afternoon... Stay tuned!

And now, show time!

Wednesday, December 23, 2015

MLW RS18 Madness - Part 5

In my ever ending quest to provide correct motive power to our layout, I acquired two years ago a Proto 1000 CN Zebra RS18.

The model is notorious for its wrong proportions here and there. That's true, but it is barely noticeable under normal circumstances. Yet, one wonder how a model can be so off from the prototype when correct data was readily available to the manufacturer.

That said, the most disheartening mistake made by Proto 1000 (Hobbycraft Canada) was the paint job. Yes, it is nicely done with correct and complete lettering, but the orange is bright and miles away from the real thing. Also, the lettering was quite gray-yellowish. It is well-known CN don't use pure white but a very light gray, but they overdid it too much.

Since I'd like to run this model with my other RS18, the discrepancies in colors can't be overlook. After pondering this issue, I decided to remove all the lettering and repaint the orange parts. It was also a good occasion to fix a painting error on the battery boxes toward the long hood. To remove the lettering, I used the tried and true trick of soaking the letters with Solvaset then wet sanding them. Leaves no scar and take care of everything.

The operation took aboutone hour, but now the locomotive fit perfectly my other units. When the paint will be dry tomorrow, I'll repaint the grab irons light gray, then decal and dullcote the model... and back on track after some weathering. I'm not sure if I'll install a keep alive in this unit, but it is quite likely to happen.

Tuesday, December 22, 2015

MLW RS18 Madness - Part 4

At some point ,you ask yourself when it is right to stop adding details. Some people won't stop until they get a perfect reproduction of the prototype. While this may be tempting, it must be noted my little RS18 project is plagued with many inherent unprototypical features that would need a lot of time to make right. However, even if this is only a pair of locomotives for a layout mainly dedicated to operation, I feel there's thing you can't let go unchecked.

Diesel locomotives ends are probably the area we see the most on a model. You can't cut corner there. It's like painting a portrait and messing up the eyes...

When I bashed my models, I didn't care about the classification lights located over the numberboards. I knew I would have to do it at some point but had not idea how to do it. Later, I painted the model and decalled it. I thought I was too late to put the classification lights. However, I was quite dissastified not having them.

My first idea was to simply drill holes and add MV clear lenses. While the idea was interesting, I don't have enough MV lenses on hand and the classification lights wouldn't had their characteristic steel rim.

The other option which I implemented was to scrap off details from discarded Atlas shells. It was surprisingly easy and after a coat of paint, it looked just like the real thing. The lights were then glued directly on the model. The mess was minimal and as you can see, orange paint touch ups are going to be minimal. Next step will be to add a touch of aluminium paint over the lenses. According to prototype pictures, the lights were very dirty in the mid-1980s.

A New Switcher for Donohue

A few months ago, I acquired a brand new sound-equipped Atlas S2. This is a fine model, but we quickly shelved it when we found out the locomotive had serious electrical pick up problems. I means, it couldn't run more than 4 inches with losing power and sound restarted.

ex-CP 7091 picking up empty kaolin and acid tank cars

Since we are actually upgrading our locomotives roster, I asked Louis-Marie to check out if something was wrong with the engine and to repair it if possible.

The repair was quite straight forward since there wasn't no mechanical problem. In fact, the locomotive was extremely dirty... Wheels, pickups, etc. everything was covered in dirt making the locomotive as unreliable as possible. After the cleanup, it ran just as expected from Atlas, crawling flawlessly at very low speed. This is definitely a great improvement over the original Atlas locomotive that was itself a pure gem to operate back then.

Now, I'm quite puzzled. The locomotive was brand-new when I bought it from a trusted seller I've known for year. The was no clue it was handled by other person than myself since it left the factory and I know it wasn't displayed in a shop or used as a demonstrator. On the other hand, the amount of dirt was spectacular for a brand new model...

Pulling the empty woodchip roofless boxcar

Anyway, now locomotive CPR 7091 is now performing its duty at Donohue, replacing the venerable GE 44-ton now out of service. By pure coincidence, the model is exactly the same locomotive (model and roadnumber) that was sold by Merrilee to Donohue back in 1985. Unfortunately, I must admit I'm a little bit uneasy to repaint it and kitbash the cab to reflect modifications done by Merrilee prior to the sale.

Spotting two kaolin hoppers near the unloading facilities