Resurrected Projects


Last week I was invited to to an operating session at my friend Mike’s and while operating a job at one part of the section I got to thinking this would be a good area to have a dedicated industry switcher. This part of the layout is the second level so with a pretty good grade to get to it so you generally need two engines but once up the hill you a long consist is a hindrance.

I was also thinking “hey, I think I’ve got a switcher that’s currently sitting in a box I should dig that out for future ops sessions”. And I was pretty sure it had a decoder installed as well because I found some really tiny decoders. Well it turns out I have two SW1s (And I think at least one SW1500 but that’s another story) but this was how I found them:

Oh dear.

Well it turns out I’d converted one to DCC and found a significantly smaller decoder for the second one. But why were both disassembled? Well according to my blog the first one had a broken drive shaft (evidently common on this particular version of the SW1) and I had fixed it and then DCC converted it. I switched to the DZ126 decoder for the second because it was so much smaller and worked really well so I started converting the second one to the same decoder. So one was apart because it was mid-DCC install. But why was the other one apart? Well it turns out it now has the same fault the original did. Fortunately I have leftover parts from the first one to fix the second.

In my searching of boxes I also found I have some decals to letter Soo 320 (the black one) so maybe I’ll finally finish it.

Upgrading SW1 Drivelines


A while back my Soo 320 project SW1 broke a horned ball on it’s front truck drive, while searching for parts I found NWSL had instructions for upgrading the rear truck drive which was somewhat notorious on these models.


It’s basically a rubberish straw, for a closer look:


The NWSL solution is to create a cardan shaft between with the standard horned ball/cup arrangement on either end. You start by cutting a 0.250″ long section from a 2mm diameter shaft.

Press fit the cups onto the shaft making sure they are aligned


And finally installing horned balls on the motor and truck shaft and you’ve go an improved drive (some fiddling about may be required)


As I have two SW1 (which you ¬†might have guessed¬†from the pictures it was at this point I started working on the second one. I made it as far as pressing the cups on a shaft when it slipped out of my pliers bounced off my forehead and landed somewhere in the room… yet to be found. I don’t expect to find it until long after I’ve given up and cut another one.

Weekend Update 24

Trains, Weekend Update

As I was collecting things I’d done over the last couple of days for a weekend update I realized I’d worked on a lot of different things.

The biggest achievement size wise was the completion of the first siding on the shelf layout (and cleaning it off enough to take a couple quick shots)

Next up was working on my Soo 320 switcher project. I started with some new hand rails in a lighter wire and painted with a white primer (hopefully sticking to the brass better).


With them drying on the first coat I turned my attention to lights… or at least that was the plan. I ran some test runs to make sure it was running well first and had some pickup problems. This involved completely tearing it apart and making a mess of things but I was starting to see light at the end of the tunnel when this cracked…


Lovely, I’m poking around looking for a donor mechanism or replacement parts. Although the pickup on this locomotive in particular (but to an extend all of them) works way better on the non-weathered rail. It’s all ME code 83 but some of it is the pre-weathered and it gets better when I run a cleaning car over it but it’s still not perfect. Is this common on the pre-weathered rail?

While I was working on the SW1 pickup and had the trucks torn apart I took some Vallejo Matt Varnish (70.520) and painted the faces to give it a flat surface for some weathering powders which I did when dry. It’s not a terribly noticable effect but I like it.


Speaking of track cleaning car, I’ve got a cheap Walthers (I forget which line it comes from, but I paid less than $10 and in a brick and mortar hobby shop and it wasn’t on sale.. and it come with metal wheels) boxcar with a piece of masonite under it. I decided to have a little fun and spuce up the wheels and trucks. The trucks got the vallejo steel metalic colors treatment and Matt Varnish, while the wheel faces got a black varnish and Matt Varnish. Then brushed rust colored Bragdon powders on.


I didn’t cover it with anything (as that tends to turn the powders into a solid paint color) so we’ll see how it lasts with handling.

I also got the RaspberryPi running again with JMRI, I’ve got it hooked up to my Digitrax Zephyr with a PR3 but I don’t think I’ll be installing any UP5s (at least any time soon) and just using Engine Driver on my phone. I do prefer the tactile buttons but the price of wireless is just so much cheaper than Digitrax.

I’ve got a couple interesting projects coming in the next week, and I have some time off after Christmas that should make some fun projects (let’s just say I’m super excited!)

Project: Soo 320

Project, Trains

Photo taken by and Copyright Louis Becker. Photo used with permission

Photo taken by and Copyright Louis Becker. Photo used with permission

This has been something I’ve wanted to do for quite a while, ever since I saw the above picture. It’s fairly intertwined with the Raging River project as the picture has inspired both projects. When I first set out I hadn’t really anticipated doing Soo 320 but kept an eye out for SW1s just the same as it would be an easy paint job. It’s also an interesting prototype because it’s supposed to be the Soo Line’s first diesel locomotive in 1939 and it’s still in commercial use today, currently for ILSX (Independent Locomotive Service) and at the time of that picture was in use in Minnesota. When the repainted somewhere around 2010 they painted it in it’s delivery paint scheme. This makes it a perfect paint job because if I were modeling the 40s it’d be correct and as I’m modeling modern era it’s currently active (last I heard) in this scheme and is owned by a leasing company so the idea of it showing up just about anywhere is plausible!


I picked up this Walthers SW1 in GN paint off eBay a year or two ago with the intention of at sometime in the future putting a decoder in it at minimum and maybe repainting it. My original plan was to pick up a decoder this month but my a replacement airbrush took up my hobby money for the month so instead I’ve started prepping for paint.

First up is new hand rails, the set that came with it was not in the best condition and upon closer inspection of the prototype picture I realized they were quite a bit simpler.


This is the cap side grab for comparison, having brass (and styrene for that matter) on hand is very handy! The front grab is very similar, just a little bigger.


With the front and back done and test fitted, these will be painted white and I’ll reuse the original plastic end rails which are white and black. I’m not entirely sure I’ve got the geometry I like so I might see how how it looks painted to see if I try to readjust or remake them.

Check for more posts on this project here