Getting back into it; Civil War era

MVP Jun 6, 2018

  1. MVP

    MVP TrainBoard Member

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    TL;DR version:

    After a ~20-year hiatus from model trains, I'm getting back into it, thanks to my two sons--6 and 3 years old. I've seen one or two fellas on here say they're modeling the Civil War era. Just wanted to throw my hat in and say that I'm planning on starting down that path. I'll try to post some photos as I go along, but this will essentially be my personal progress thread. Warning: It'll be a slow one, as I work two jobs, have two young children, and limited funds for anything but a slow and steady path forward.

    The backstory:

    I inherited a large box of old n-scale stuff from my uncle in the mid-90s, which is where I first starting using n-scale. And since that stuff was old back then, it's reeeally old now. The oldest is an Arnold 0-6-0 Wabash switcher from 1966, and the second oldest is a Bachmann F9 PennCentral from 1971. Over the years I added some new track, engines and cars, but not a whole lot since I was given so much to start with. Plus we never had much extra money. My dad built me a nice train table that could fit either the 027 set I had, or a larger n-scale layout. It was great.

    Since I started loving trains around 2 years old, I had always wanted an American 4-4-0 like "The General." The Great Locomotive Chase was (and probably still is) my all-time favorite movie. I grew up and live near Paterson, NJ, which many of you already know about in terms of locomotive history. It was very cool when I found out that both the General and the Texas were built in Paterson (though by different companies).

    For Christmas one year my parents got me the Bachmann 4-4-0 Old Timer set. I was in heaven. But as many of you know, there was extremely limited Civil War era stuff available in n-scale, so I was limited in how much I could really do. And again, money was always an issue.

    Skip 20 years, to today:

    As most boys tend to be, my sons love trains. And now that they're old enough, I built a small 3x3 train table and cleaned up the n's as best I could to get them running again. Most of the stuff we have is of the diesel era, except for the Arnold switcher and the Bachmann 4-4-0 set. My boys also love The Great Locomotive Chase, so I decided to start looking for some new engines of that era.

    Back in 2015, my older son got an Atlas catalog when we saw Santa at the Maywood Train Station. Atlas had been promoting their HO Erie Lackawanna series, and that station has a static S2 and caboose. But in that catalog was the Atlas Civil War era 4-4-0's. I didn't realize at the time it was a limited run, but my son loved looking at them in the book. And now recently that we've pulled out the n's, he went back and looked at that catalog reminding me that he loved the U.S. Military R.R. engine. I told him we'd save up for it.

    About a month ago, I ordered a Bachmann F7 Erie-Lackawanna, the first new model train I've purchased since the 90s. It was like new, but a Plus, so its gears were cracked and I didn't realize it. Fortunately I didn't pay much. If I get around to replacing the gears, great, but if not, I have a nice Christmas tree ornament.

    A few weeks ago, I found on eBay a set of two engines, the Jupiter and the No. 119 in their original white boxes with the manuals and all, for just $50, so I jumped on them, figuring at that price it'd be worth it no matter how they run. Turns out, they're great. A little hesitation here or there, but overall like new. They even successfully navigate the old turnouts and crossover nine times out of 10.

    I haven't told my oldest yet, but I ordered the Gen. Haupt from Streamlined Backshop and it's currently getting a decoder installed for when we make the switch to DCC. I can't wait to show them. I also just bought 4 W&A R.R. boxcars from some train store for a really great price.

    What's to come:

    My plan is to make the switch to DCC at least a year or two from now. DC works great for what we want, and the boys are happy. I'm going to build a shelf layout along two walls in our basement, and will need it to be transportable, as we plan to move in about 2 years. I'm debating whether or not to commit to the W&A RR, or somewhere else during the Civil War. We lived in Northern Virginia for a few years, so that's very tempting to do a U.S.M.R.R. layout or something along those lines.

    I've rambled on long enough. As I have more thoughts or questions, I'll keep it mostly contained to this thread.

    Thanks.

    -Mike
     
  2. bremner

    bremner Staff Member

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    the 4-4-0's are limited on space, good luck with the dcc conversion. Check out Micro-Trains for freight cars
     
  3. MVP

    MVP TrainBoard Member

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    Thanks. Yeah, since I'm not qualified to do a decoder install on a 4-4-0, SBS4DCC has an installation specialist who is doing it for me. He's cutting off the top of the tender to get it in--he has all the tools and expertise that I lack--and I'll just model a new top. I want to make it a wood burner anyway.

    As for the cars, I have the 4 boxcars on the way now. And today I ordered 3 W&ARR passenger cars. They're all the same number, so eventually I'll want to change them. The Micro-Trains freight cars are next up, but I'll need to pace myself if I want to stay out of trouble. Plus, once I get any of the MT cars, I'll need to convert to or from the link and pin. I'll probably want to go to link and pin, but it could get a little expensive quickly. Again... have to pace myself.
     
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  4. bremner

    bremner Staff Member

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    Good plan on paying a pro..the Atlas 2-6-0 and the Athearn 2-8-0's are nice too...
     
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  5. badlandnp

    badlandnp TrainBoard Member

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    This ought to be fun to watch! As another source for Civil War era stuff, check out GHQ's gaming pieces. They have a lot of figures.
     
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  6. MVP

    MVP TrainBoard Member

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    Yup, I saw that site. Great stuff. Wish I knew about them back in the 90s.
     
    Last edited: Jun 7, 2018
  7. brokemoto

    brokemoto TrainBoard Member

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    The B-mann eight wheelers in the plastic boxes are the better versions. Some of the last issues in the cardboard boxes were allright, but I do not know how to tell the later and earlier cardboard box versions apart; if you get the plastic box, you are allright. They require quite a bit of break-in time. In addition, use metal frog turnouts to minimise stalling.

    Atlas eight wheelers and moguls are out there in cyberland at dealers as NOS or at shows. The moguls do have their contact problems. The eight wheelers are much better.

    If you do not mind moving up to the 1880s, the Athearn and MDC offerings are superb. The Athearns are copies of the old MDC designs, with a few improvements. Athearn bought out MDC a number of years back. All of that stuff is out there at dealers as NOS, on FeePay and at shows. The Athearn/MDC power will operate satisfactorily on plastic frog switches.
     
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  8. MVP

    MVP TrainBoard Member

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    The two 4-4-0's recently purchased have been surprisingly good runners. I'm able to get good slow-speed creep from the Jupiter after running it for a bit, and the No. 119 gets there after about 10 minutes of running. And I'm on an old (really old) Throttlepack 501. So when I eventually upgrade, the power control will be much better. Most of the turnout problems have been due to the turnouts being less-than-perfect condition. If bent properly straight, there are no derailing issues with the 4-4-0's.

    I'm looking forward to trying out the Atlas "Gen. Haupt" when it arrives. Eventually I'm going to want to re-letter the Bachmanns to U.S.M.R.R. or W.&A.R.R.

    I'm not interested in the 1880's. I'll have a small 20th Century table available for the more modern stuff. But when I do get to the main/big layout, it'll be of the Civil War.
     
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  9. MVP

    MVP TrainBoard Member

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    I'm so bad. I told myself I'd take it easy for a while building up my inventory. But... I just dropped $70 for an Atlas P.R.R. 4-4-0. At that price, I really couldn't resist. It appears to be brand new in box.

    [​IMG]
     
  10. randgust

    randgust TrainBoard Member

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    I've made some modifications to the Atlas 4-4-0's that make them champs on pickup, by adding a weight to the front of the tender as a coal load extension and one in the locomotive cab. I do sell those.
    I had the Bachmann 4-4-0 first run and was thoroughly disgusted at the tender wheels; derailing, shorting out across switch frogs, etc. The Atlas is beautiful; fragile, but beautiful.
    If you can get DCC to work on stuff this small, good for you, but I decided a long time ago that really small stuff with marginal pickup to begin with is a really bad idea. Unless you've got a compelling reason to do it like a true multiple-operator layout, it adds an unnecessary level of complication and failure.
    The MT link-and-pin system is OK except for the complete lack of vertical flexibility. You'll want to carve/ream/shave just a hair out of the inside of the couplers to increase that. As is, they make a rather rigid train vertically.
    If you put MT archbars under the Bachmann 'old time' cars it dramatically improves appearance, performance, and rolling quality.
    I've now had three of the Atlas 2-6-0's, they are 'OK' but also need help with tender weight to improve pickup. I've converted one chassis to tender drive and an 8-wheel pickup tender, and it's a complete performance champ now as well.
    There's some really nice Shapeways stuff out there for civil-war era truck sideframes and a couple passenger car bodies. Definitely worth a look.
    I do resin and brass kits for the little 7-ton V&T ore cars that date back to 1864. Those are the appropriate cars behind the V&T 2-6-0.
     
  11. Hardcoaler

    Hardcoaler TrainBoard Member

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    You're probably aware of it, but Arnold Rapido produced two Civil War era passenger cars in the 1970s, both in Union Pacific and Western & Atlantic:

    http://www.trovestar.com/generic/index.php?Collection=4&Body+Style=ARN-PA-OTCB&Brand=Arnold
    http://www.trovestar.com/generic/index.php?Collection=4&Body+Style=ARN-PA-OTCO&Brand=Arnold

    Arnold also produced a variant of their 0-6-0 to match these:

    http://www.trovestar.com/generic/zoom.php?id=94823

    Mine had a turned brass tall stack. In addition, Kadee once produced a conversion kit that made the Arnold 0-6-0 into a 2-6-0. This was actually a nice running little engine.
     
  12. MVP

    MVP TrainBoard Member

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    The two Bachmanns I recently picked up are pretty good for what they are. No derailing, very little pickup issues. I’m not upset I got them. And money is always an issue so for $25 per engine, it’s worth it.

    I’m eventually going to get some of the Shapeways stuff.

    Keep in mind that I’m not going all-out serious model railroading here. It’s for my own and my sons’ enjoyment, even if there are some annoyances that come with the era I’m going for.
     
  13. MVP

    MVP TrainBoard Member

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    Funny you should mention those passenger cars. Look what was waiting for me when I got home from work... IMG_1119.jpg

    I have some of the MT civil war freight cars on the way, too.
     
  14. Hardcoaler

    Hardcoaler TrainBoard Member

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    :) That's a great find MVP! Despite their 45+ year age, these still look nice I think, truss rod underframes, window glass, vented clerestory roof and nicely proportioned.
     
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  15. MVP

    MVP TrainBoard Member

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    There was a bit of trouble, I think due to the plastic wheels. But I haven’t investigated thoroughly yet. They don’t spin as freely as I’d like. Would love to replace them with new ones. But they are attached using pins that are molded into the bed, not the normal kingpins I’m used to. Hmm...

    Otherwise they’re in great condition. Almost no visible wear. And they’re *heavy*, which I was a little worried about. But both the Bachmann’s pulled all three with only minor slipping.
     
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  16. MVP

    MVP TrainBoard Member

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    From another thread. Figured it was relevant here too.
    49E27FE7-5B1C-4B4E-A8C9-2ADB99CCBC0F.jpg
     
  17. MVP

    MVP TrainBoard Member

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    Thoughts, particularly on scale? They’ll look better once I get them all on the same link and pin couplers, and correct trucks (like the USMRR boxcar in the center). The Arnold passenger car seems just a little too big to scale, even if I swap out the trucks. The stock trucks on the Arnold are causing some detailing issues on those cars, too. Any comments or suggestions welcome. I’m sure many of you out there have dealt with these a lot longer than I have. IMG_1158.jpg
     
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  18. vince p

    vince p TrainBoard Member

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    Actually that passenger car is about right I have a Penn Central video showing the General and a car like that running under steam in Detroit in the mid 60's.

    Going to be listing an undecorated Atlas 4-4-0 bnib tested with a 9 volt battery never run on track.

    I just got back from a friend trying to sell a bunch of my older n scale stuff I forgot he had.

    Anyways like what your doing back to my dark side.
     
  19. MVP

    MVP TrainBoard Member

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    Thanks. Yeah, I've been really obsessing the last 24 hours, trying to confirm the size of the passenger cars. I've seen some references to the prototypes being about 50' long, which makes these Arnold cars pretty darn close, if not exact. That's a 26' USMRR boxcar, for reference. And I've looked at a few films, including the ones of the General in 1962, and even put in The Great Locomotive Chase last night (for the 500th time) to double check. There are a few scenes with a good view of the passenger cars, but not many.

    glc044.jpg Screen Shot 2018-06-11 at 9.03.00 AM.jpg


    Obviously not the movie, but still a great reference shot:
    0134299ca59e2cb29276c09466370acd.jpg
     
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  20. Hardcoaler

    Hardcoaler TrainBoard Member

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    Charlie Chaplian's The General (1927) has a great many vintage train scenes in it and is a treat to watch as well. Lots of period equipment in the scenes, though I don't know how authentic it all is. :)

     
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