Z Scale NP Style Crossbucks

rray Jul 1, 2022

  1. rray

    rray Staff Member

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    So, How are you all today? I'm doing good today, enjoying the summer heat in my garage, and looking out at the neighbor's immaculate front yard, and thought to myself, I should go pull a few weeds. Then I thought NOT!

    I have been looking for suitable crossbucks for my Lester Modules, and found nothing NP style, so I decided to make my own. I went down by the UP tracks and took a good look at one, and made some quick measurements, finding them to be about 9 feet up on a 4" x 4" post, and the cross is 4 feet wide, but the cross was perfectly symmetrical and at 45 degrees.

    So I went searching NP photos and found the NP cross is about 25 degrees, and the posts have a black and white candy cane stripe. NP crossbucks were different than the modern UP style:
    Image00.jpg

    From the photo above, and this photo, it looks like the cross was all on one side of the post, and the stripe goes all the way up, making for a very striking crossbuck. Also, the modern UP crossbucks have the number of tracks placard almost centered between the lower blades of the cross, where the NP style has the placard about 2 feet or so down on the post:
    Image0.jpg

    So, I have to make my own if I want prototypical looking NP crossbucks. Fortunately I wave some .025" square half hard brass wire I bought from Amazon's jewelry maker supplies, which is stiff, and scales to 5.5" which is as close to the 4" post material as I am going to get, and I also have a small sheet of .004" thick Phosphor Bronze, which is springy and suitable for making tiny signs. And, I have my trusty Chinese Fiber Laser to cut the signs out for me, so I lopped off 3/4" lengths of the square wire with my Draadsnijders:
    Image1.jpg

    A little squirt of low temp solder paste and my 250W American Beauty makes quick work of attaching the signs to the posts:
    Image2.jpg

    And the signs stick pretty easily to the posts, without too much solder mess:
    Image3.jpg

    These crossbucks look large in these photos, but I can assure you they are tiny:
    Image4.jpg

    I cleaned them with a stiff brush and alcohol to get all the oils off, then painted them white:
    Image5.jpg

    Next I went to work drawing up and printing some decals. This is about the resolution limit of my Alps for legible text, using 1.5 point Arial Bold font for the #tracks and 2.0 point for the cross text. I also made a .020" wide by 1.2" long black rectangle for the candy cane stripe, and printed out a 1/4 size sheet of decals. Probably a lifetime supply:
    Image6.jpg

    Then I applied the decals to one of the crossbucks, melted them to conform with Micro Sol, and sealed with Dullcote, to prove that I could do it:
    Image7.jpg

    And there you have it, a fairly durable NP Style Crossbuck in Z Scale!
     
  2. HoboTim

    HoboTim TrainBoard Supporter

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    Crazy!!!! Just plain Crazy!!!!!!
     
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  3. JoeS

    JoeS TrainBoard Member

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    Fantastic! But how did you cut the decals out? I never seem to have any blades even new that can cut straight.
     
  4. rray

    rray Staff Member

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    I used a sharp blade on the self healing cutting pad with bright light and an optivisor. :D
     
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  5. JoeS

    JoeS TrainBoard Member

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    Your hand is steadier than mine :)
    When I cut mine out of paper I used blade and literally took 5 tries to get one cross buck. Ugh.

    what’s a self healing cutting pad?
     
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  6. Kurt Moose

    Kurt Moose TrainBoard Member

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    Those are beautiful, perfectly done!

    I got a pic somewhere of one in Phillipsburg, MT that's still standing, even thought the tracks are gone.
     
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  7. rray

    rray Staff Member

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    That green mat in the photos above is supposed to be a self healing cutting mat, meaning the knife blade cutting through material and into the mat won't damage the mat. You can get them at any art shop, fabric shop, or hobby craft shop. Knife blades stay sharp longer too.
     
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  8. Curn

    Curn TrainBoard Member

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    Looking good Rob! I remember a time when you would laser cut your decals too.
     
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  9. rray

    rray Staff Member

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    I cut decals sometimes, but it's very easy to ruin 2 or 3 sheets trying to get the decals aligned, so when I'm doing decals for myself I don't bother laser precutting them.
     
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  10. Zscaleplanet

    Zscaleplanet TrainBoard Supporter

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    Really nice! And very much needed in Z-scale. I’m surprised no manufacturers have picked up on the need for small detail accessories such as this. I know Micron Art offered something for a while but the appearance was just not there.
     
  11. BoxcabE50

    BoxcabE50 HOn30 & N Scales Staff Member TrainBoard Supporter

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    I certainly remember these. Saw then almost every day.

    BTW- That steamer in your first photo is interesting. Appears to be getting set up for post-steam era display.
     
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  12. CNE1899

    CNE1899 TrainBoard Member

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    Rob,
    Fantastic work as usual! Love the prototype photos!
    "thought to myself, I should go pull a few weeds. Then I thought NOT!" You are focused like a laser!

    Scott
     
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  13. rray

    rray Staff Member

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    I decaled some more crossbucks today:
    Crossing Signs.jpg

    And planted a couple on my module. These are 4 track crossing signs, and what I did was to plant 1/4" length of K&S 1/16" brass square tube to act as a base, and after the glue dried, i can slide the crossbuck posts in and out for easy track cleaning:
    4 Tracks Crossing.jpg
     
  14. CNE1899

    CNE1899 TrainBoard Member

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    Rob,
    Nice idea for making them removable!

    Scott
     
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  15. JoeS

    JoeS TrainBoard Member

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    That is a great idea for removing them!
     
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  16. rray

    rray Staff Member

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    I have only built modular model railroads since the 80's, probably because I like to move things around alot, but one thing I learned well, was from the school of hard knocks.

    Whenever we do train shows, there is no guarantee that you will be the guy cleaning track on your own modules. People get in a hurry, and start going to town with the cleaning, and often all the details next to the track get broken off, sometimes structures too close to the track get damaged, and sometime your track rails end up getting peeled from your modules by people making adjustments or taking their modules down in a hurry to head home.

    So over time I have developed solutions to these issues. One is re-enforcing track rails by using solid thick wire feeders near the edges of the modules. This causes the damage to tear up the other guys rails instead of mine when someone carelessly disconnects their module from mine without removing joiner tracks first.

    Another is making all my details next to the tracks are removable. Jeff taught me that. By putting those structures and details in a box for shipping and moving, and setting them up after the tracks have been connected and cleaned, people won't damage his structures.

    I just expanded on the ideas by making my tracks go to the edge of the modules aligned perfectly with dowel pins right under the mainline rails, so I don't need track joiners, by making my structures and details near the tracks removable and magnetically aligned, and by making sleeves embedded into the module for small details like telephone poles, crossing signs and signals, etc., so possible damage can be mitigated. Also, since stuff is not glued down, I can change the era of my layout by swapping things in and out as needed.
     
  17. HemiAdda2d

    HemiAdda2d Staff Member TrainBoard Supporter

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    Absolutely brilliant work!
     
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  18. MMR283

    MMR283 TrainBoard Member

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    Excellent work as always! Using metal for the cross bucks, makes them more durable and less chance of breaking apart if accidentally bumped. The decals really add a great look at making them looking real!
     
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  19. wazzou

    wazzou TrainBoard Member

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    Cool project Robert.
    I'm sure you know, but maybe not, that the NP's posts were round. I don't know if it matters but I thought I'd let you know.
     
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  20. rray

    rray Staff Member

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    I did NOT know that! I have never seen one in real life. I looked around at both Issaquah and Snoqualmie in 2004 when I visited, because I wanted to measure one as well as photo. That's OK, I will make more. I want to be as close to accurate as possible, and I am still honing my micro sized sign making process. I made a mess of stop signs for my detail box today.
     
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