Monday, August 29, 2011

Critter Progress Update

Well, with all the other stuff going on I have been able to spend a few minutes at the work table this past week. Progress continues, albeit slowly, with my critter.

Using the Atlas HO scale S-1 power chassis, I've been spending some enjoyable hours scratch building the super structure for what will be a On30 logging switcher or possibly, with my newly developing layout scheme, the Pier 1 harbor docks switcher.

I don't claim to be an expert scratch builder and this little guy, although a far cry better than attempts at loco conversions from years past, will never pull in a blue ribbon at the modeling contest. But it's not being build to win contests. It's being built to operate and convey the hardscrabble life that early gas-mechanical and Diesel locomotive had in industrial settings. I would never attempt to scratch build a loco in HO scale for my Big Island Rail. Creating a cool, funky 'critter' for a imagined railroad. So far it's been a very fulfilling project and a test of my building and problem solving skills, for sure. Plus, the big challenge is building an locomotive with very few commercially produced, store-bought parts. There isn't a hobby (model train) shop anywhere to be found for miles. And with a very limited budget for trains right now, I've been searching my parts and junk drawers for everything and anything that would work on this engine.

As much as I'd love to spend a hundred bucks on this rebuild with all the "right" detail parts, etc., I'm almost imagineering a proper locomotive with shapes, forms and a few on-hand parts to convey that feeling described above. I have borrowed (scavenged) a few HO scale parts for the project, including air tanks and a pair of SP style barrel headlights which look right on scale with this loco. Everything else is styrene sheet stock and shapes ( "L" angle "I" beams, etc.).

For the loco "crew" I am re-purposing a 1/48-scale (?) Germany Army military seated figure for the engineer. I mean how many logging Hogheads carry side arms? Well, I'm actually going to have a rifle in the cab...just never know when you might encounter a big 'gator sunning itself on the tracks! The brakeman will be a commercially available O-scale figure left over from my On3 modeling days. He'll be leaning back against the cab bulkhead.

With the open cab of this critter, I had to build a three-sided box over the chassis to hide the motor and DCC stuff. It looks OK but does cut down on the spaciousness of the cab's interior. The cab has received a first coat of industrial green that looks pretty good and will hide some of the "flaws." I plan to add a lot of details parts to the interior, like the rifle, oil cans, chain, water jug and tools to help pull the eye to those items and not so much to the big motor box inside. Plus on a logging loco, the more clutter the better, right?

There won't be any "glass" in the window frames of the cab, since in the hot and humid environs of the swamp, the more air circulation the better. I might add some "screen" material to the openings and a tarp or two to help keep the rain out.

I'm installing the handrails now for the side walkways and the front and rear platforms and hand grabs for the cab. So far it's looks pretty good. I've also added some "nut/bolt/washer" details to the frame and pilots, some angle stock to the engine access doors for hinges and an exhaust stack from scrap and a hood air intake (winterization hatch) from one of my HO scale Diesels.

I'm itching to get it finished so I can get a coat of paint on the body. Not sure yet what color...yellow? Maybe orange-reddish? Something that kinda stands out in a realistic way...and certainly not black.

Then all that's has to be done is lengthen the headlight wire s to mount them in the headlight castings, (maybe put a light in the cab?) and install a sound unit and speaker (still scratching my head on how to get that speaker in the cab roof) and my On30 logging/Harbor switcher is ready for revenue service on my new layout!

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