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Author Topic: Old Timers' Reminiscing  (Read 33052 times)
CNE Runner


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« on: April 16, 2012, 04:23:17 PM »

Thanks to Desertdweller for the suggestion of this thread. We effectively 'hijacked' the Track Cleaning thread on the HO board and [probably] need to walk down Memory Lane here. I'll start:

Do you remember: Athearn Hi-F drive? How about flex track that had brass rails, fiber ties...and the two were stapled together? Did you have Atlas controllers 'daisy-chained' together? The HO Model Railroad that Grows book?

For more on these 'memories' (and others) check out Track Cleaning on the HO board.

As I mentioned on the other thread, my dad and I actually constructed the Great Northern Pacific (as it was called in the HO Model Railroad...) - through construction of the fold-down yard. I remember our station was the Revell Mainline Station that is still available on eBay (nope, just slapped the thing together...including the gray plastic people...as patience eluded that eleven year old). Dad managed to 'commandeer' an old kitchen table from one of the neighbors (one of those that had a porcelainized steel top) for our 'bench work'. This worked fine until we needed to do some wiring. Wiring was extremely difficult as we laid the 4'x 8' plywood directly on the table (no space underneath...live and learn). 'Had many of hours of fun running that line. How many of you remember making trees out of twisted wire/clay/lichen?

The only thing I kept from my original O-gauge (Lionel of course) set was the 224E locomotive and tender. I don't know what happened to the other cars.

Ray
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"Keeping my hand on the throttle...and my eyes on the rail"
richg
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« Reply #1 on: April 16, 2012, 05:08:05 PM »

Probably happened because many of us graduated from high school without the benefit of Google and Wikipedia.

Rich
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ebtnut

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« Reply #2 on: April 16, 2012, 06:26:55 PM »

I commented on some of those memories on the former thread.  Yes to Hi-F drive (my first HO loco). Remember the fiber tie track too.  Our orignal club layout had a ton of it laid down.  The club also used screen wire and Permascene for the scenery (really didn't like that stuff).  My first layout was about 6 x 8, which meant having an access hole in the middle.  The control panel was dual cab control with DPDT block switches and an MRC Dual Loco power pack.  At about the time I finished junior college (in 1965) the roster IIRC consisted of:  Mantua Pacific; Hi-F PRR F-7; Olympia Ma & Pa 4-6-0 (first brass - $29.95); Athearn Little Monster 0-4-2; Athearn USRA 0-6-0; Ken Kidder 0-4-0T HOn3 Mudhen (brass - $9.95!); Gem EBT 2-8-2.  Only thing left from those early days is the EBT Mike. 
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Johnson Bar Jeff

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« Reply #3 on: April 16, 2012, 09:44:44 PM »

Brass for $29.95 and $9.95?!?!?  Shocked Thud!

I guess I'm just a (comparatively) young whippersnapper (I'll be 54 in three weeks). By the time I came along brass was a lot more expensive than that.

My grandparents got me my first HO set when I was so little I literally and seriously cannot remember not having it. It was a Revell U.P. 0-6-0T with a pulpwood flat car, a flat car with a log load, and a caboose--I still have the set, though I had to replace the log car (via eBay). I've been in HO all my life, and it's only now, in middle age, that I've expanded a bit, adding some larger scales to my model railroading, with a small roster of O-gauge rolling stock, and also a few pieces in On30.

And thanks to Ray for starting this thread.  Smiley
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RAM

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« Reply #4 on: April 16, 2012, 10:25:18 PM »

What kind of drive did Athearn Little Monster 0-4-2; Athearn USRA 0-6-0 have?
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Desertdweller

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« Reply #5 on: April 17, 2012, 12:22:33 AM »

Thank you Ray for starting this thread!

My N-scale model railroad, although it uses E-Z Track track and turnouts for all mainline and major secondary tracks,
is really very "old school".  Any model railroader from the 1950's would understand it immediately.

My trains are all controlled by one MRC 2800 Tech II dual pack.  This pack has smooth electronic throttles and individual pilot lights and overload lights.  It has a circuit breaker that resets automatically.  It has its own on-off switch and has operated silently and perfectly for 25 years.

Three other power packs are used.  Two are Bachmanns with "wall warts".  These power my turntable drives and engine terminal switches.  The third is an ancient Bachmann pack that powers all my other turnouts.

All power packs are plugged into a pair of power strips with surge protectors.  One strip is plugged into the other, so all power to the layout can be turned on/off with a single switch.  The red pilot lamps on the Bachmann power packs conveniently show if the power is turned on.

DC block control is handled by 11 Atlas Selectors, ganged in groups of two and three on four control panels.
I have a panel for my mainline blocks and turnouts; a panel for my passenger terminal blocks and turnouts, and two panels for block and turnout controls for my three engine terminals.

All 40 turnouts are powered and remote controlled.  28 of these are E-Z Track turnouts.  The rest are Atlas.
Turnout control switches are ganged on each control panel.
Two of my three engine terminals have their own turntables.  I used Atlas powered turntables.  I used an Atlas Controller for each turntable, but, since these tables use an auto-reversing feature, the controllers are not really needed.

I use a third Atlas Controller for my reverse loop.  It is really needed here.

Some of my loco parking tracks have killable sections for loco parking.  I made my own controls for these, using small SPST slide switches from Radio Shack, mounted in Radio Shack Project Boxes.

DCC was ruled out by me, as I have over 60 operable locomotives, many of which were made before DCC technology and therefore could not be used with DCC without a lot of work, including milling frames for installing receivers.  I feel a lot more comfortable with DC anyway, as I've expressed in other postings.

My railroad's track arrangement is old school, too.  It is basically a double-track dogbone.  The rearmost main line in the rear of the layout is hidden behind a view block.  The inner mainline loop feeds into my double-ended passenger terminal.  It also serves my three small yards and engine terminals.

One of my engine terminals consists of a single, double track run through engine house and a small yard along side it.  Another engine terminal uses a six-stall Atlas roundhouse and turntable, and three open "garden tracks".  There is a small yard there, too.

My third engine terminal is a large shop complex.  There is a single-track backshop with its own track off the mainline.  This is a Walthers "Locomotive Rebuilders" building.  The main loco shop consists of two Kato two stall "long engine houses" side by side.  One of the buildings has a run-through track leading to the Atlas turntable out back.  This is the only track serving the turntable, as it is used only for turning equipment.
The fourth building is a Walthers Car Shop, a three-track building.  Two of the tracks are run-through, connected to the small yard in front.  The third track is a non-powered stub that is used to hold wheel sets and trucks.

A small foundry adjoins the backshop track.  There is one more spur track that runs alongside the car shop.  It is used to store a short passenger train.

My passenger station is the centerpiece of the railroad.  It uses a Walthers "Union Station", with Heljan brick "Country Stations" kitbashed into wing additions on either side of the main terminal building.

Two stub tracks serve the terminal opposite the main line and platform tracks.  One serves the dining car commissary and REA building, both Walthers kits.  The other stub serves the terminal mail annex, a modified Walthers furniture factory.  The far end of this stub track is used for business car parking.

The reverse loop is inside the dogbone at the right end of the layout.  Although the terminal is a run-through design, no trains operate right through it.  Trains enter the terminal either from the north or the south, turn on the reverse loop, and depart in the direction they arrive from.  This is prototypical for the operation I am modeling (Denver Union Station).

Les
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Johnson Bar Jeff

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« Reply #6 on: April 17, 2012, 09:22:03 AM »

Quote
DCC was ruled out by me, as I have over 60 operable locomotives, many of which were made before DCC technology.

That's sort of my position in HO. I've got fifty years' worth of DC locomotives, many of which have sentimental value or are otherwise dearly loved.

Of course, I've also got fifty years' worth of rolling stock with horn-hook couplers, but that's another matter. ...  Cheesy
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phillyreading

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« Reply #7 on: April 17, 2012, 09:46:45 AM »

I got a minor start in H.O. about 12 years ago, and I don't forsee going to DCC at anytime in the future, too expensive for me. Angry Also still use some horn & hook couplers in H.O.

Going to DCS in O gauge was enuff major league expense for me, $300.00 or so for the base & handheld remote then another $80.00 for the accessory device to control switches and signals by remote control. MTH sells all their engines with PS-2 in O gauge, so you just have to buy the remote control unit.
Also with DCS and TMCC in O gauge trains, you need to supply almost full voltage from your transformer to use the command control. If you have an accidental crossing of a command control engine onto a non-powered siding you will have an accident if you have an engine parked on the siding that is non command control. Angry Huh?
That is why I still prefer conventional running with my trains.

Lee F.
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CNE Runner


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« Reply #8 on: April 17, 2012, 10:15:41 AM »

It was so obvious that I had forgotten about X2F (hook-horn) couplers. On the Great Northern Pacific I remember using plaster-soaked newspaper over balled (and taped down) newspaper. Once the plaster-soaked paper dried, one removed the supporting 'balls' of paper...'worked quite well as I remember.

My first locomotive was the Lil' Hustler (still available today from Model Power). I think my 'version' was made by Tyco; but I'm not sure. I do remember that it only picked up power on one axle (it had two) - so stalling was a constant problem. I recollect that little switcher could only haul a couple of cars...and on the flat at that.

During my junior high years, my parents bought me a Varney Consolidation locomotive kit. This was 'way beyond the abilities of a 12-year old and required the assistance of my father (who had been a machinist earlier in life). I seem to remember that it ran fairly well (anything ran well compared to that Lil' Hustler).

As mentioned, in the other forum location, much of the scenery was grass mat (which looked like a miniature golf 'fairway'). What trees there were had to be handmade from twisted bits of wire, clay, and lichen. We had a good supply of lichen growing on the edge of our woodlot; so that wasn't a problem. What was a problem was the fact that we neglected to soak the first batch in glycol antifreeze. Lichen gets very stiff and will disintegrate unless soaked in glycol...I remember having to clean all the 'lichen dust' off the layout before installing new (glycol soaked) material.

Many of us, 'in the day', left model railroading as our interests turned to other pursuits (girls and cars...not necessarily in that order). I sold the layout to another friend and didn't get involved with model railroading until the early 1980s - when I had an almost 20-year 'fling' with tin plate collecting (Lionel, K-Line, MTH, Williams).

After retirement (in 2000), I quickly realized that I would never have the space for a tin plate layout and sold the majority of my [rather extensive] collection at auction. Believe it or not, we still are selling the remaining few pieces (and one remaining set) at train shows.

In 2004 I built a fold-down layout in our garage (the Sweet Haven Harbor) in HO scale and began amassing rolling stock. Within 3 years or so I was fed up with the troubles I was experiencing with turnouts from a large train retailer and decided to tear the entire layout up. From the 'wreckage' of the Sweet Haven Harbor came the Newburgh, Dutchess & Connecticut that was loosly based on a railroad that crossed my dad's farm (torn up in the late 1930s)...and constructed using Peco turnouts.

Dealing with the climatic conditions in the garage - as well as the constant setting up and taking down of the layout made model railroading difficult at best. I folded up the ND&C one last time and walked away (it is still hanging on the garage wall - needing only a cleaning and a hook up of the DCC controller). Carl Arendt's website served as an inspiration for the Monks' Island Railway and I haven't looked back.

Do you remember those books of printed structure pictures (much like paper dolls)? One carefully cut out a structure, glued it to some card stock (read: cereal box) and assembled/glued it into a structure for ones layout. I remember my layout sporting a paper water tank (my dad made a spout out of welding rod that one could, carefully, move up and down to 'water' a steam locomotive).

'Lots of memories after 67 years. Keep 'em coming,
Ray
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Len

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« Reply #9 on: April 17, 2012, 11:00:23 AM »

What I remember from back when (mid-70's) was my first "High End" (at least for those times) power pack.

It was an MRC Control Master X, with the old style copper/bronze outer case. It had direct or "flywheel" drive, with variable momentum control, a built in reverse loop switch, a circuit protector, as well as overload lights and an emergency stop switch. It had a transistor type output, rather than a rheostat, so it worked with newer motors as well as the old open frame style. The coolest thing was the outer shell could be flipped, so  you could mount the unit on top of, or under the table edge, and the labels would be rightside up, and readable, either way. I really loved that built in reverse loop switch.

Len
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Johnson Bar Jeff

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« Reply #10 on: April 17, 2012, 11:27:57 AM »

It was so obvious that I had forgotten about X2F (hook-horn) couplers.

I know those couplers are frequently reviled, but I suppose "in their day" they must have been an improvement--at least appearance-wise--over the old Mantua "hook and loop" variety; you still some of those from time to time on really vintage stock on eBay.

Quote
During my junior high years, my parents bought me a Varney Consolidation locomotive kit. This was 'way beyond the abilities of a 12-year old and required the assistance of my father (who had been a machinist earlier in life). I seem to remember that it ran fairly well (anything ran well compared to that Lil' Hustler).

I understand Varney engines were good locomotives in their day.

Quote
As mentioned, in the other forum location, much of the scenery was grass mat (which looked like a miniature golf 'fairway').

And how about "mountain paper"? You made it wet and crumpled it up and supposedly you could shape it any way you wanted and it would stay.  I've still got an unused roll of that stuff stuck in a closet somewhere.  Cheesy

Quote
From the 'wreckage' of the Sweet Haven Harbor came the Newburgh, Dutchess & Connecticut that was loosly based on a railroad that crossed my dad's farm (torn up in the late 1930s)...and constructed using Peco turnouts.

Dealing with the climatic conditions in the garage - as well as the constant setting up and taking down of the layout made model railroading difficult at best. I folded up the ND&C one last time and walked away (it is still hanging on the garage wall - needing only a cleaning and a hook up of the DCC controller). Carl Arendt's website served as an inspiration for the Monks' Island Railway and I haven't looked back.

I remember you writing posts about the ND&C on this forum. For some reason I'm glad to know you haven't scrapped it.  Smiley
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ebtnut

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« Reply #11 on: April 17, 2012, 12:59:43 PM »

The Athearn Little Monster and USRA 0-6-0 both had gear drives, using the same motor that was in the Hi-F diesels.  The Little Monster was a very poor design.  As an 0-4-2, it had the motor in the back of the cab, which made it tail-heavy.  To compensate (sort-of), the designers put a piece of phosphor bronze spring material between the trailing truck and the engine frame to counter-balance the motor weight. You can imagine what that did to the pulling power Sad.  The 0-6-0 was actually not a bad loco for its time and price.  I am told that Atheran tried to make their B&M Pacific as a Hi-F drive model, and a very few may have made it to market.  That didn't work out at all, and they redesigned it with a gear drive, probably similar to the 0-6-0.  I've only ever seen two of these Pacifics, both in one collection.  BTW, the Varney Old Lady and Casey Jones were decent models in their original kit format.  The models were identical except for the mechanism (2-8-0 vs. 4-6-0).  I once took a Casey Jones mech, cut off the frame ahead of the center driver and built a new frame extension, and bashed up a 4-4-0 using the Kemtron Wabash Mogul parts.  Wonder whatever happened to that? 
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mhampton
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« Reply #12 on: April 17, 2012, 01:31:22 PM »

The oldest train I have any memory of owning was an old Marx set that ran on 027 track.  The cars were stamped sheet metal and the locomotive (seems to me it was an 0-4-0) & tender were plastic.  Nothing close to any real scale, but cherished memories none the less.  I'm not sure whatever became of it, but I probably ran it to death.
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ebtnut

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« Reply #13 on: April 17, 2012, 03:43:15 PM »

My first toy train set was also a Marx.  It was a pair of Southern Pacific F-units (one a dummy), 3 or 4 cars and a caboose, all lithoed metal.  A few years later I graduated to an American Flyer S scale set with a New Haven Pacific and standard heavyweight passenger cars.  All that stuff is long gone. 

On the subject of couplers - When I started in HO the horn-hook couplers were the train set standard.  I used them for a number of years until the club I was a member of convinced my to go with Kadees.  I saw a lot of equipment that still used the old Mantua loop-and-hook, which was sort of the de facto coupler standard in the '40's and early '50's.  Quite a few modelers just used dummy couplers.  They at least looked prototypical.  This was in an era when many folks were content just to get the trains to run reliably.  Real operation was the province of a very few.  Operations pioneers John Allen and Whit Towers, among others, used the Baker coupler.  This was another loop-and-hook style that was a little less fussy than the Mantua.  Neither of them looked anything like a real coupler.  It took Kadee to make a reliable working coupler that looked like the prototype. 
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Desertdweller

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« Reply #14 on: April 17, 2012, 07:07:42 PM »

I had an Athern Hustler.  I think the Hustler and the RDC were the last Athern models to use the rubber band drive.

The RDC was a lot better performer than the Hustler.  Although the Hustler was a diminutive 4-wheel design, the motor was just as big and powerful as in any Athern unit.  Coupled with the Hi-F drive, it gave a power-to-weight ratio about the same as a Sidewinder Missile.  This was very unfortunate for a locomotive intended for low speed switching.

I built an unusual loco out of a pair of AHM 0-4-0ST Docksiders.  I had to move the motor to the opposite end of the frame.  This reversed the direction of the worm, so I had to reverse the motor wires, too.  Then I took the from from the second 0-4-0, and mounted it on a pivot in the front part of the powered frame.  This resulted in a 0-4-4-0ST.

Horn-hook couplers were an attempt by the NMRA to develop an industry standard coupler.  In the 1950's, car manufacturers either equipped their cars with proprietary designs that would only mate with like couplers, or just left couplers out of the kit and let the modeler choose, buy, and install whatever type they liked.

Horn-hook couplers were made to common dimensions, so in theory they could all mate with each other.  In reality, each manufacturer used their own materials and production methods, and the couplers would not work together well at all.  A major problem was different systems of springing the couplers to center them.
They looked nothing like real couplers, but could uncouple using mechanical ramps.  They depended on side force to stay coupled, so did not perform well.  They worked best if all couplers in a train were made by the same company, something that seldom happened.

Horn-hook couplers were an unpatented, common design, adapted by the manufacturers voluntarily.  The KayDee knuckle couplers, which did work well, were protected by patents which did not expire until sometime around ten years ago.  So, the many knuckle coupler designs on the market now could not be sold until the KayDee patents ran out.  KayDee was able to protect their market until then.  Some manufacturers did offer Kaydee couplers on their equipment as an extra-cost option.

Les
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