A “new” project


With the chemically blackened Bachmann 2-8-0 loco wheels back in place, we’re about to take a test run around a lap of track.

I’m working on a bash of a Bachmann HO 2-8-0 steam locomotive model.  I started with a complete teardown of the loco and tender per an Iain Rice article in a 1999 Model Railroader magazine.   I probably went too far with this bash–more on that in another installment.

Objectionable to me for some time has been the tread width of HO model rolling stock. I had wanted to try a loco with Code 88 (.088″ wide wheels) which is a lot closer to the prototype width than current NMRA RP25 spec Code 110 wheels.

This series of Bachmann steam loco models has driving wheel centres that are recessed some 20 to 30 thousandths of an inch from the outside edge of the tyre.  Hmmmm–what if I could remove some of the tyre width and thereby get closer to scale wheel width?  I don’t have a lathe, and don’t care for having to requarter drivers after doing this work.


And then a method for doing this came to mind…

As I had the loco somewhat disassembled anyhow, it was a simple enough matter to remove the drivers as well.  I’d thought of many methods to narrow the tyres, and finally settled on the method seen above.  A sheet of scrap lumber is clamped to my workbench. A V, or “bird’s mouth”, is cut into the edge of the wood to allow the wheelset’s axle to nest into the wood sheet and hold it while I file down the tyre.  There is NO need to disassemble any wheelsets.

I used a small fine-cut Stihl brand file with blank safe edges on it.  To protect against wayward file strokes damaging the crankpins, small pieces of styrene tube were slipped over the crankpins and secured with CA.

I found that .088″ tyre width was arrived at just before my file began to polish the wheel spokes.  I found the best procedure to file to about .092″-.090″ and then carefully lightly file to the required width, checking with my digital vernier caliper as I went.


Bachmann driver tyre partly filed down on my wood block.  I worked over a small garbage can so that the metal shavings created could be brushed into it as I went along.

Careful filing and only holding the wheel being worked on helped maintain the driver set in quarter; a concern that I had when contemplating this work.

With all four wheelsets and a lead axle reduced to approximately .088″ width, the assemblies were cleaned up and dipped in A-West chemical blackener.  A minute’s or so dipping resulted in a nice greyish-black cast to where I’d removed metal from the wheels. The wheel was withdrawn from the solution, and immediately rinsed in plain tap water.

The wheelsets were re-instaled in the loco frame and the loco running gear assembly married up to the tender.  I ran the loco on my son’s old 4′ x 6′ Code 100 brass tracked oval for a few minutes to check things out on DC.


With no operating issues found, it’s time to move on to detailing this model.


Keith Hansen


As with many interests, in the model rail hobby we make many friends and acquaintances over the years.  Keith Hansen was a gentleman whom I’d only had the pleasure of meeting a few times.  We first met when I’d shared some photos and info with him for his first book, Last Trains From Lindsay.  Published 1997, this tome runs to almost five hundred pages and covers the railways of the Lindsay, Ontario area VERY extensively.  Demand was such that Keith had it re-printed.


Keith’s work was superb.  Here’s just one example from his book.


Keith went on to write a volume of comparable size on the northern Alberta Railways; I understand that this book was equally well received.  While he was doing research, I’d fixed him up with a cab ride on a BC Rail assignment via a train crew friend in Fort St. John, BC–Keith thanked me profusely for that and remarked what a great night he’d had.

Keith shared much information that he’d gleaned over the years with others. Much of what I know about the railways of the area is due in no small part due to Keith’s generosity.  Growing up in Lindsay and elsewhere in eastern Ontario, his father was a Bridge and Building foreman with CN.  I expressed an interest in modelling CN in Lindsay and the CN Campbellford Sub.  Keith responded by sending me every CN Bridge and Building document for the structures and bridges on this line, such as these two pages out of over fifty that he’d sent—


Keith was an accomplished O scale modeller as well; I got to see his layout during a visit to his place in the bush near Campbellford back in 2000 or so.

I was to find out that Keith was not the only person that he’d shared his research with; many were the beneficiaries of his generosity.

Last Friday I read that Keith had passed away that day after a short illness.  To Keith’s family, my condolences and sorrow for your great loss.

To Keith, for your research that you’ve generously shared with me–

Thank you.

Der Gras-Master


First time with the Noch Gras-Master.  It’s definitely a learning experience!  The alligator clip from the applicator to the pin pushed into the scenery base completes the electrical circuit to make this work. 

Over the years, I’ve used dyed sawdust and ground foam to model grass on previous layouts.  I never was terribly impressed with the realism of either or both together.

Ground foam “grass” looks like–ground foam!

To me, dyed sawdust doesn’t look very real, either.  

Perusing UK magazine Model Rail almost a decade ago, I noticed that a large number of the layouts presented used a technique for modelling grass that I had read about briefly but never seen the results of.  Static grass has been used “across the pond” for some time now.  We North Americans are just catching onto this technique.  The military modelling community uses static grass as well.  I’m building a new layout, so I feel that it’s time to try some more advanced scenery techniques.

One of UK modeller Chris Nevard’s small OO scale layouts.  Here’s an example of how static grass looks a lot more realistic than dyed sawdust or ground foam.  What’s not to like?

The scenery base is covered with a thinned coat of PVA, or what we North Americans call white glue.  A static applicator is used to impart an electrostatic charge to flocking while it is being shaken from the applicator to the scenery base. The applicator has a reservoir at its base to hold the flocking which is shaken out of a screen.  The static applicator is grounded to the scenery base via a wire from the applicator clipped to a pin in the scenery base.  This causes the flocking to be attracted to the applicator, but the white glue/water mixture holds the flocking to the scenery base.  Thus the flocking winds up standing vertically on the scenery base as the glue sets.

One of the most popular and effective applicators is made by Noch GmbH in Germany.  A pricey little thing, but as it says on the box “we im original” or “as in the original” to we English speaking/reading types.  I’ve seen jury-rigged applicators for flocking, but I know that my luck building one would consist of fighting with the machine if I made mistakes assembling it.  Not to mention that the static charge generated by the electronics in the applicator is in the neighbourhood of 20,000 volts.   The Gras-Master is NOT a cheap device, but my time fussing with copying it and getting it to work is worth something, too.

Here’s what I use to apply electrostatic grass–


White glue, a dollar store paintbrush, flocking and the applicator.  The base is Styrofoam insulation and obviously does not conduct electricity.  But wetting the base with water and white glue makes it conductive enough for us to apply the flocking.  I painted the base with Home Hardware chocolate brown outdoor latex paint to avoid having the viewer presented with obvious blue foam under the “grass”. 

A few years passed, and my dear wife asked me, “What would you like for Christmas?”  Well, then…

On Christmas morning, I unwrapped a Noch Grasmaster 2.0.  A few days later, I got to try it out.  Here’s the result.


First time using the Gras-Master!  The static grass in this image is that supplied by Noch with the Gras-Master.  The yard office will eventually wind up at the Midland’s Belleville Yard.  I don’t care for the grass colour, but I made this small project to learn how the applicator works.   I’ll try applying other grass on top of this to see if things improve colour wise. 

More experimentation is called for.  I’ve some different colours of Woodland Scenics flocking on hand to play with as I explore the possibilities using this new tool.

An excellent tutorial on using static grass by Kathy Millatt is on YouTube—

A Happy New Year to everyone, and thanks for reading my blog!