Category Archives: Customizing Locos and Rolling Stock

New SJ L5 steam locomotive build kit from FR: Part 2

Not long ago I posted about FR’s recent release of the class L5 steam loco for SJ, it is a build kit, and I just received mine today! The kit is a well designed precision kit, it provides a rarity for Z modeling.

The kit comes packaged in a plastic container with numerous parts enclosed along with visual instructions. It is a kit that requires a Marklin 8801, 88956 or 8803 for motive power along with modification of the side rods and painting the wheels black. The cylinders were placed within the locomotive chassis in the prototype thus the cylinders are removed for this model.

Note: Marklin tender is not required for this kit which provides the correct prototypical tender for the loco.

For those experienced with building rolling stock in Z or working with nickel silver this kit is self explanatory, but for the inexperienced modeler this kit should not be the first. Accumulating some experience with building etched metal buildings should probably come first for new modelers: gaining soldering experience with bigger parts first will be invaluable for assembling the small parts in this kit. I am in the process of learning to do these kits starting first with the excellent non powered Behnke kits offered by Scandinavian Galleries Quality Toys. Behnke kits do not provide instructions and careful interpretation is required to fully understand how they go together, but they are excellent kits that combine gluing, soldering and bending of small nickel silver parts; they provide a good place to start before tackling the very interesting L5 kit.

The packaging of the L5 kit separates parts according to their purpose instead of throwing everything together thus taking care of the guesswork. The beautifully cast metal boiler and cast plastic tender trucks are included with etched nickel and add-on parts such as the buffers which are brass. The tender also includes a tiny circuit board to allow it to pick-up power with its three axles.

Note: The age old technique of picking up additional power from the tender’s wheelsets is a very effective way to increase performance of small steam locos through turnouts and the like!

Some of the add-on parts are super tiny so I highly recommend a very fine tip soldering iron as well as 5 minute epoxy which work hand in hand on models. Until I build this kit I won’t exercise a preference for using glue over solder and vice versa for specific steps, suffice to say solder will be used more.

Paint finish will be applied with airbrush and water based paint followed by decals provided.  A finish coat of clear water based acrylic is always required otherwise the finish and decals would wear.

The kit is FR Item #46.140.91, it is currently available.

What you need to complete the locomotive: 1. Marklin 8801, 88956, or 8803 2. water based paint best suited for airbrushing 3. patience 4. time 5. soldering iron and/or 5 minute epoxy 6. tweezers 7. Xacto blade for cutting parts from sheet 8. time 9. patience 10. magnifying binoculars

Be the first kid on the block to own an L5 SJ steam locomotive in Z!

Stayed tuned for my future post on the completed L5 along with some tips on building the kit.

 

Shapeways: New Directions in Z Modeling

3-D printing is all the rage these days, any manner of thing seems to be offered by this new technology. And now Z items are available through the company Shapeways. I hadn’t even thought about searching for such things but a few months ago I came across the Shapeways website. My Wife and I had a day off in some far off land so I had time to check out the 12 pages of Z gauge offerings by a number of designers, and I found it very enjoyable and ordered one. The item I ordered was a German class 701 catenary maintenance locomotive, it arrived packed in a sturdy box by the time we got home from our trip.

It is interesting to order from Shapeways, items are printed on demand with the disclaimer that the order maybe cancelled if Shapeways feels the item is too delicate to print so presumably not everything is available. The item I ordered was printed, and I am very happy with the finished shell. The plastic is translucent with a slight texture that will take paint well. Because of the translucent material lighting the loco will be disappointing unless a solution is made by masking (later problem to work through).

The locomotive came in two parts including the main shell and service platform. Detailing and design is quite excellent including warning beacon lights and roof top observation window. Shell has the same specs as the standard Marklin railbuses so adding a chassis and motor will be easy. A small hole is included in the roof to accommodate the single arm pantograph. Challenges for completing this project include painting and thus masking for three separate painting phases: safety yellow, gray and silver. Note: I find it easier to paint the dark color first inside and outside shell, finishing the roof as the final paint is what I do. Brushing the silver hardware for windows and black paint for buffers plus any touch-ups before following up with the final matte clear coat. Much easier to airbrush using water based paint diluted to flow through the airbrush used. Attaching the work platform permanently with 5 minute epoxy only, but the cool loco is designed for a pivoting work platform secured with a screw.

The prototype well depicted by the 3-D printed model as can be seen with two paint schemes by Marklin and Trix, and the roof observation hood as seen in the third photo of the prototype:

photo: Trix N scale class 701

photo: Marklin HO class TVT 6219 Esn

photo: prototype class 701

Notes on Shapeways products for Z: many curious items are offered including autos and loads as well as buildings, locos and rolling stock. These are projects that need to be completed and some that are offered will be more successful than others.

Repainting 8135 coaches for the SJ: Part 3

This is the 3rd and final post on the repainting and lettering of the Marklin Dompfeil train set (8135) for the SJ.

Before (Marklin 8135):

After (SJ coaches using FR decal set):

At the start of this project I had never repainted a train car before or operated an airbrush thus much was learned.

SJ coaches in z scale have been extremely limited, FR released a type litt AB8k 1st and 2nd class in a single release of 30 only, FR 46.299.00 was based on a German built coach that was used on a ferry service. In order to accurately represent this coach FR modified a Marklin coach that was shortened by one window.

photo: FR 46.299.00 (edition: 30 total) – SJ type litt AB8k 1st and 2nd class coach

For those interested in SJ modeling in z there are numerous locos and freight cars by FR, but scant few passenger coaches until FR released a decal set several years ago intended for the Marklin 8135 coaches, these German built coaches for the Dompfeil train set were likewise used on the SJ.

The process of producing a set of 4 coaches started with disassembly of the coaches followed by stripping, in this post the final stages are documented including masking, painting, and lettering.

Identifying the sections to paint include the undercarriage, sides, and roof. The roof is a clip on part, it does not require masking unlike the shells. Painting two colors of the same part requires masking, I decided to start with the undercarriage and vestibules color, I sprayed the entire shells with this color with no masking.

Before applying the brown paint I masked off the vestibules and undercarriage. The masking material is similar to common masking tape, but it is markedly thinner with a slick surface, it also comes in a variety of widths. I chose masking tape of 6mm width manufactured by Tamiya.

After paint is dried the masking tape is removed, for areas not protected by masking retouching maybe required, I chose to paint the buffers with a brush as the final stage of painting, masking these seemed an impossible task and fine brush work produced great results.

The FR decals in the set are applied by rubbing onto the cars, they differ from other decals that are applied with water. The decals provided had alignment marks to make positioning easy, my burnishing tool was an artists’ burnishing bone, but a soft tipped lead pencil should work fine.

After decals are applied a final coat of clear lacquer is sprayed on to protect the finish and decals. And reassembly follows as the last step.

Notes on airbrushing: I purchased an Iwata Neo airbrush with an Iwata braided hose for just over $100. Several airbrush air compressors were available from the store I purchased the airbrush from with prices ranging in the $220-$300 range, I chose to use a Porter Cable pancake compressor I use for air tools. A fitting is available to connect the braided airbrush hose to this type of compressor for a few bucks. The only difference between an air tool compressor and a specialty airbrush compressor is one of noise, the airbrush compressor is very quiet while hearing protection is required with the pancake compressor. PSI (pressure per square inch) is a determined by testing on a piece of paper, I set the compressor gauge to 20 PSI which worked perfectly, others I researched recommend 15-20 PSI. Air brushes require cleaning after painting, cleaners are available or water can be used for acrylic paints. When the spray is clear the nozzle is clean, other parts should be cleaned as well. A cleaner between paint colors is also required.

Notes on paint: the consistency of paint should be the same as skim milk, most paints may require thinning with water to gain this consistency. I used Testors acrylic paints that I mixed to customize the color, they are railroad based colors that did not require any thinning. The clear coat I used is made by Iwata, it was the consistency of white glue and required thinning to spray. Acrylic paints dry quickly and can be layered on layer without skinning as can be the case with enamels or the combination of the two. The very best results will be achieved with 100% acrylic paints. Careful attention should be applied in mixing paints for airbrushing, straining maybe required to avoid clogs and poor paint results. For safety use a mask and gloves.

Notes on applying decals: as with much detail work careful consideration applies to attaching decals, they are transferred from a sheet to the model with burnishing tools. Best results are achieved with a level flat object, I use a specialty artists’ burnishing bone. Pointy tools will not work! Acrylic paints should be allowed to dry overnight to provide a hard surface for decal work. And very delicate handling until final spray coat of lacquer. I used clear lacquer with a satin finish which is consistent with Marklin’s coach finishes.

For close to two years I had the decal set and a second Marklin 8135 for this project, but I was reluctant to start due to lack of expertise. Plus I was apprehensive to strip the paint of mint Marklin coaches: after stripping there was no going back. I discovered that air brushing is easier than I thought producing a superior paint finish. Now I feel the airbrush is as important to the railroader as the soldering iron. Future uses for this new tool include weathering track, cars and locos.

Good luck and have fun!

Siding: FR’s Ra 987 electric locomotive is a compatible loco for this coach set, it is based on the prototype from the mid 1950’s:  FR 46.132.01 was produced in a limited series of 32 total, it is still available from quality-toys-trains on Ebay.

 

Rewiring Marklin 8871 and 88711: ICE trains go fast!

Marklin’s 1990’s releases of the TEE 8873 and ICE trains 8871 and 88711 suffer from a design flaw: poor electrical connections caused by the couplers and a train set wired in parallel. Similar to those old Christmas lights when one bulb went they all did, these Marklin train sets suffered a similar fate that was corrected with the further releases of the TEE variations. The ICE train sets changed in another way instead of having two powered units as did the 8871 and 88711 the 88712 and 88714 included one powered unit located in the middle of the train this being a coach.

A simple solution to to correct the poor performance of the three TEE and ICE trains is to bypass two diodes located on each circuit board of the powered units. There are four diodes located on each circuit board, two affect the lights (LED’s) and two are near the motor. Bypassing the diodes near the motor with a soldered wire is all that is needed to allow the locomotive to move forward and reverse thus allowing each powered unit to work without the former wiring constraints.

Note: no need to bypass the diodes on any other TEE train version released after 8873.

Note: 30 gauge wire is recommended for wiring circuit board, tinning the ends of wires is recommended before making the soldered connections.

The early ICE trains use an interesting light bulb with a red and a clear bulb soldered to a circuit board similar to the traditional mini-club bulb. The red bulb is hooded to direct the light better, but unlike the LED’s the light is rather dim unless the loco is cranking! Note: very fragile bulb and no longer available, but if you are good at soldering you can make your own.

The couplers as mentioned are faulty for electrical connectivity, but work great when both powered units are rewired: coach lights no longer flicker. The couplers for the two ICE trains are susceptible to damage due to the untethered ends of the copper strips, great care should be taken to prevent bending. A good recommendation is to stock up on parts as they become available on Ebay. The original couplers for the 8873 are infinitely more resilient than the couplers used on the first two ICE trains.

Note: save old loco light bulbs that don’t work, new ones can be easily made by using the original circuit board for soldering news bulbs to them, generic bulbs are available at train shops in the correct size.

Siding: the 5 pole motor replacement for the 8871 + 88711 is 211907 which is one of the more expensive motors for upgrade, and you will need two. I have not made the upgrade to 5 pole with my sets, the original 3 pole motors work exceptionally well at low speed and throughout the range, but the 5 pole motors would be much quieter.

Siding: removing the tight fitting shells from 8871 and 88711 is more easily accomplished with synthetic guitar picks of .70 mm thickness or thinner.

Repainting Marklin 8135 coaches for the SJ: Part 2

Part 2 is completed: stripping the old and prepping for the new. Marklin’s 8135 Dompfeil set is the subject of the repaint and older SJ coaches will be the end result.

I am using the FR label kit for the repaint which includes dry transfer lettering, lettering will take place in Part 4.

Following Part 1 which was disassembly this post concerns stripping paint from plastic train shells. The stripper is 91% isopropyl alcohol available from any drugstore, its cost for this project $4.00.

I first placed all parts to be stripped (4 coach shells and 1 roof panel) in a small plastic dish and submerged them in the alcohol. In about 1 hour the paint appeared to be softening on the shells. Using a toothbrush I applied little pressure to remove the paint and decals, it would take numerous attempts with time in between to remove the finish, but it eventually started coming off with the toothbrush. The roof which was yellow in the original set was much more difficult to strip, it required an overnight soak in the alcohol. The silver painted roof panels I did not strip these I will simply spray over, I stripped the warm white panel due to the thickness of the paint which was heavier than the silver paint.

Note: use of eyewear and gloves is highly recommended. The fumes from the alcohol is very strong thus a well ventilated work area is best, take frequent breaks to avoid breathing in too many fumes, the plastic parts are not affected by the alcohol, they will not melt.

For paint that was in small crevices or around roof details I made use of a toothpick, soaked in alcohol, it worked well to dislodge hard to get at paint.

Following the stripping I washed each part in mild Dawn dish washing liquid and rinsed well.

After inspecting each dry part I repeated the stripping to remove paint on some of the window frames.

photo: before

photo: after

The next step is painting which will include constructing a spray booth out of cardboard box, matching paint chip FR included in kit, and constructing armature to hold the parts for painting.

Siding: the Dompfeil coaches are the same ones made in Germany for the SJ, they featured aluminum roof panels: early ones were painted gray and the late ones were shiny silver. For these coaches I am modeling the earlier ones to be pulled by an Ra 987 Express locomotive.

photo: FR – 46.132.01 – Statens Jarnvagar SJ (Swedish State Railways) Serie Ra 987 Express locomotive. Limited Release of 32 locos total.

VT 11.5 TEE Railcar: Improving Performance

Improving performance can be a bit of a misnomer when the talk circles around modifying a Marklin Z loco or other article in the mini-club line-up. Upgrading 3 pole motors to 5 pole motors is a significant boost to performance, but other improvements may deserve further research and discussion with other railroaders and their experiences.

One improvement I have heard about for many years is actually one I heartily suggest, Glenn and Sandy Stiska of Florida rewired several sets for me in the late 1990’s with this same repair. The modification I am talking about is the addition of two wires to each powered end unit of the VT 11.5 (8873) and the 2 ICE trains including the special release “Amtrak.” For many years this modification has been used with multi-train sets with more than one powered unit. Wired in parallel these early sets were poor runners because they relied on something close to perfection, if the electrical chain was broken between head loco, coaches and end unit the train would not go.

The 8873 used an early conductive coupling which connected the coaches to the powered end units that has since been redesigned: all railcars now use a new flat conductive coupling versus the early spring copper one.

photo: 8873 powered end unit with first generation coupler on left and 88731 Max Liebermann with next generation coupler on right

The original wiring included a pair of diodes for each circuit board which dropped the voltage to each powered car and only allowed each powered unit to go in one direction a contributing factor for stalling the train and/or flickering coach lights if power was interrupted which it readily did. The solution is to bypass the diodes by soldering a wire around each diode thus making it possible for each powered end unit to go in both directions.

A fine point soldering iron is recommended for the repair and just enough wire because too much would interfere with installing the shell.

Try this repair if you have a set of this type that does not run well, the results will blow you away!

Six versions have thus far been released with the last being the “Blue Star Train” with its very striking paint scheme.

Siding: removing the shell of the 8873 is accomplished by removing coupler if it is present and carefully inserting a small screwdriver in the coupler box, if the shell does not easily pop up it maybe stuck to chassis due to hardened oil which will require finessing to unseat it from the chassis, removing the shell from all other VT 11.5’s will require lifting the front of the shell and wriggling it around the permanent coupler. Caution: do not pull on a permanent coupler, it is not removable unless circuit board is removed first.

 

 

Customizing and Repairing: Rotary Snowplow Train Set

I recently purchased a customized 81361 Rotary Snowplow trainset, this being the first customized Marklin Z in my collection. I would not have bought it if I knew it was a used set, it was described as new. My impulse to buy outweighed good judgment, but it turned out well. The silver lining was how nice the customizing was, it was carried out by someone with knowledge and love of trains. And the former owner applied a great deal of precision in the work they did.

Precision is the word best applied to working in the “Z Scale World”, much of what we do in this small scale requires planning, patience and skill sets unique to the hobby. My best tools for working on the railroad are tweezers and magnifying goggles which I am wearing right now!

Another silver lining aside from the excellent look and operation of this train set is learning something new, in this case wiring and weathering a rotary snowplow train set.

Modification: in order to improve power pick-up to the motor the tender’s wheels are used in combination with the loco’s driving wheels to receive electricity from the tracks. This is accomplished by soldering two wires to the leads and running those wires to pick-ups that connect to the tender’s wheels. Word of caution with this modification: tender pick-ups have to make good contact with the wheels without preventing them from turning. This modification also requires exposing two wires from the loco cab to the tender, for some this maybe distracting. And this modification may not even be deemed necessary by most otherwise Marklin would have built it into the original design.

Weathering: not so much weathering but bringing out the texture of the cutting wheel. Carbide cutting blades are used to cut through large snow drifts in the prototype, in this model a dry brush with silver paint was used to highlight this part of the cutting wheel. Great care is required accomplishing this feat, but the result is interesting. If you are new to dry brush practice first on something inconsequential before taking on this project. And don’t forget magnifying lenses either in goggles or desk top magnifier.

Repair: the materials Marklin uses for the trains is the best available and correctly chosen, in this model the plastic hinges and couplers can over time require adjustment. To tighten a hinge on the snowplow doors simply remove the door and with careful handing of tweezers gently pull the hinge sides closer together, they get loosened up over time, but the plastic is flexible enough to allow very gentle pressure to tighten. The unique coupler that attaches snowplow tender to steam loco is another example of the aforementioned, apply gentle pressure with your fingers to reduce the size of the coupler end thereby making a tight connection with the loco. Without a tight connection between snowplow tender and loco the train will uncouple.

Maintaining your collection is part of the fun of owning it, and we all become better in time. And it is a good time to better understand the workings of our trains.