My Grain Fleet

Three tracks of grain
Three tracks of grain

I recently gathered all of my grain fleet into one place on my layout, at the Cargill elevator tracks at Helene.

It turns out that I have a lot of grain cars!

The Cargill switcher
The Cargill switcher

A grain elevator would never get this congested “in real life” but it was interesting to see all of my grain hoppers and grain boxcars in one place. As my layout is a prairie railroad, I need a lot of grain cars.

The cars are a mixture of higher end cars like Intermountain, mid-range cars like Bachmann, and the low end Model Power type cars. I wrote about the differences between my grain cars before. I’d like to replace my Model Powers with some better cars… all in good time.

Even the grain boxcars made an appearance.

Grain boxcars
Grain boxcars – and a helicopter?

The grain boxcars are used on the Minnedosa line, to simulate shipments from light prairie branch lines. The elevators that are actually on my layout don’t use them.

The helicopter is from when my nephew was over last weekend. He likes to see the trains, and he jams papers, toy cars and whatever else he can find into the lumber cars, hoppers and flatcars as they roll past. He’s 4 so I’m totally OK with him doing that, under supervision. None of my cars are very fragile. 🙂

He also likes to drive trucks along the road by the grain elevator. Again, I’m totally OK with this!

After I took these photos, I ran a few extras to distribute the cars to the CP and CN staging yards in preparation for an operating session to deliver them to the appropriate elevators. It’s taking some time to get everything in position, but soon I hope to run a session! It’s been a while.

ALNX 396400 – A Comparison

I was out railfanning this morning along the CN Redditt subdivision. I photographed an eastbound freight train and snapped a few photos of the rolling stock. One that I photographed was ALNX 396400:

ALNX 396400 near Anola 2016/03/13
ALNX 396400 near Anola 2016/03/13

When I was processing them in Lightroom, I recognized the road number as being the same as a model I have! Here’s the model, posed similarly:

ALNX 396400 model
ALNX 396400 model

You can see that they aren’t the same at all! The model is a Bachmann Silver Series car, which is a lower price, decent quality car.

Now here are the two of them, stuck together for easy comparison:

ALNX 396400 Comparison
ALNX 396400 Comparison

To be very critical, they don’t look a whole lot alike. The detail just isn’t there on the model in comparison with the prototype, and the lettering is larger than the prototype.

On the other hand, you can buy one of these for $15.99 Canadian and they are good operators, with metal wheels and Kadee couplers. They’re certainly better detailed and much better runners than the Life-Like cars! It would not be fair to compare it to, say, an Intermountain car, because you can buy two of the Bachmann cars for the price of one Intermountain car.

I don’t want to sound like I’m crapping on the Bachmann car. For the price it is a good deal and I would be glad to buy more like it.

I was tickled pink blue to see the prototype of one of my cars!


Car Knocking

BNSF car on measuring device

On real railroads, a car checker / carman (or “car knocker”) would inspect cars as they passed through yards to ensure they were in good operating order, and “bad order” cars that were not. These rejects would be repaired on the “repair in place” (RIP) track or be forwarded on to another location if heavy repairs were required. The “knocking” came from the hammer that the carman used to bang on the wheels to see if they were OK.

On my layout, I inspect all of my rolling stock to ensure it meets certain standards. Once it passes these standards, it is permitted to be on the layout and should operate well. In general I use the NMRA standards for weight and coupler height.

As you can see from the top photo, I mounted a piece of track and a coupler on a scrap piece of wood. This is not my idea – I read it in Model Railroader.

Length/weight check

The length is marked off and the corresponding weight is listed underneath. The NMRA RP-20.1 recommends a car weight of 1 oz + 1/2 oz per inch of length, for HO scale.

The BNSF car above is about 7.5″ long so it should weigh between 4.5 and 5 oz.

I use the Kadee HO coupler height gauge to check the couplers. The couplers should meet at the same height – the BNSF car is just a tad high but within tolerance in my opinion. Also, the trip pin under the coupler has to clear the shelf of the gauge. If it doesn’t, it has to be bent or clipped. Make sure you check both ends of the car!

Coupler Height Check

I use a common kitchen scale to weigh the cars.

Weighing a car

When a car derails or otherwise has an issue on my layout, I check it and if it needs work, I fill out a Bad Order Form. This provides a record of what is wrong so I can remember later!

Bad Order Form

You can even route the car to a nearby yard for repairs if you like. A RIP track is a great traffic generator.

On my layout the CEMR shop in Winnipeg does the car repair, so any cars requiring repair get sent there. I’ll provide some photos of that facility once I add some more scenery.