Monday, June 27, 2011

Waiting for the Mails.. .

Oooh! Should be an exciting couple of weeks by the postal box.

  • Ordered a new Canon 60D body,which should be here by week's end. Will sell the Rebel XTi, still in great condition. Gotta get ready for Oz 2012, ya know. . .
  • New screen for the netbook. It sorta cracked getting jammed in the overhead bin coming back from Arizona in March;
  • AR Kits correcting my order for some freight bogies, and adding a few more to boot;
  • Mess o'fun stuff from IDR: some new underframes for BCW as well as a couple wagons Lance Lassen wanted to include on my order also;
  • And, finally, a set of Austrains FS/BS. . .and thanks to Eva Wong at Tom's Hobbies for being quick on the mark to send them to me so quickly after a month of inquires to Austrains were either gobbled up by the internets or not yet responded to. Once more, Eva and Tom's come through with exemplary customer service.
Now, I only have to find some time to put this stuff to use!

Lookin' fine for a 53-year-old!

This Budd's for ME!

Speaking of cameras and Australian trains. . .I managed to get out for an afternoon trackside to photograph a new commuter rail operation about 30 minutes north of my house, connecting the mid-sized city of Denton to a light-rail route into downtown Dallas. Eventually, this new operation, called the "A-Train", will be rostered with new, ugly "Diesel Multiple Unit" cars (ugly? Well, I'm just crass enough to say they look like dildos!), but until these are delivered, trains of leased Budd RDC diesel cars are handling the commute.

In the late 1950's it was the "Budd Car" that figured to be the savior of money-losing passenger train operators in the US and Canada. Nearly 400 of the diesel-powered Rail Diesel Cars--in five variations, including an unpowered trailer--were produced, the majority for eastern US carriers New Haven, Boston & Maine,and Canadian Pacific and Canadian National. Many had long careers as commuter carriers; some on medium-haul intercity services replacing more costly to operate locomotive-hauled trains. At one point, New York Central--I shit you not--strapped a pair of surplus turbo jet engines to one in order to set a world's rail speed record. By the 1970s, though, most US operators had retired their fleets, although they proved popular in Canada for nearly two more decades.

Where's the Australian connection? Budd built three for Commonwealth Railways in Australia; some look-alikes were also built down undah for NSWGR.

The cars operating on the "A-Train" --10 cars, in five, two-car sets--are all former CN and CPR cars leased from another North Texas commuter hauler, Trinity Rail Express. TRE has surplused them since acquiring a fleet of locomotives and cars based upon (and in some cases acquired from) GO Transit in Toronto. The "A-Train," then, has become the largest RDC-only passenger operation in the world. Quite a testimony to the self-contained, self-propelled passenger cars, the youngest of which are over 53 years old!

I won't walk across the street to photograph most of what passes for US railroading these days--but those Budds in Denton? Oh yeah.

Equally at home from Canadian forests to South Australian bush to the suburbs of Dallas. . .

Friday, June 17, 2011

Old-school modeling! It's in the can!

Sure, the K wagon is $20--but three of these, along with the colorful Kodak film can--make a pretty spiffy oil tanker for less than $99 a three pack! And: bonus! It matches the diecast truck!

Sometimes I think we modelers today have it too easy. There's paint that's mixed to perfection for virtually whatever color your railway used. Detail parts a'plenty. And that fine ready-to-run equipment? It's so good, anymore, that it truly invites the winghers to take broadsides at even the finest efforts, nit-picking, I suppose, for the sake of nit-picking (and let's face it--the Internets give us each a place to be experts).

Something, perhaps, is lost from the old days of modeling. Remember? Well, it was before my time, but I've heard that folks used to whittle locomotives out of left-over pieces of firewood, make turntable pits out of old hubcaps fromVolkswagens, and laid track using old clothespins and stolen chrome trim strip from Chevrolets.

So I'd a bit heartened to see this revival of the resourceful modeler in recent popular modling magazines. In keeping with the reduce-reuse-recycle ethos of the Green Movement, modelers today are using everything they can from the rubbish bin to enhance their modeling. Plastic caps for paint cans? Sure! Bridge abutments! I have a friend who uses his wife's tampon applicators as pipe loads on flat cars (though make sure you ask her at the right time of the month to use them).

I'm inspired, most of all, by the growing movement to feature old film canisters. What could be more old-school than that? It's using remnants of a bygone technology! It's environmental sound! And what nostalgia! I used to have literally dozens of plastic Kodak film canisters rolling around in my car--I couldn't get rid of them fast enough. A few, of course, were kept for storing loose nuts, screws, Kadee couplers and, back in the freewheeling 80s, a bit of herbal relaxation (which could, in a pinch,be used as realistic ground cover, as long as you got rid of the seeds).

Imagine my amazement when I discovered a few of my dad's old Kodachrome canisters from the 1950s--even better than the two-tone grey plastic version, these were in bright Kodak orange and red--what a shame not to use them! And given the recent discussion about the accuracy of the new Austrains four-wheel tank wagons, why not put one to use atop a very nice IDR casting K wagon. The color scheme? Well, I'm sure it's a "what if?", but It almost could pass for Golden Fleece!!

What resourcefulness have you employed lately on your model railway?