Painting and sound questions.

I've dabbled in this hobby for a long time but it looks like now I can get seriously into it, meaning build a layout. So I have a few questions.
I have several Athearn freight cars, box and 34' coal hoppers. I like the kits but am not happy with the shine on the delrin and the wheels. I've already painted the weights because you can see them on the coal hoppers. I have the underframes, trucks and wheels sets drying after a thorogh cleaning.
Couple questions here:
Does Delrin take paint well?
What about the trucks, any problem getting paint on the inside? I have a can of black primer that dries to a nice flat, not quite black that I've used on other models as is. Should I tape and protect the inside, or maybe just hand paint them. I feel the black will be hard to cover with a brush as it may be difficult to tell where the wet paint is and where bare plastic is.
What about the wheels? I was going to just shoot them, too and then polish the needle bearing before snapping them back in. Is there a better way to change the appearance from glossy to mat?
I also just bought a Genesis Mikado. Wow! A real improvement over what I'd had before. Quite and runs real good at slow speeds though I'm not sure if the top end is as fast as possible, but than again these were for slow freights, right?
Anyway it runs and looks good except for the driving wheels and the push rods. I'm new at this aspect but I'm pretty sure prototype steam engines didn't have bright silver wheels and pushrods.
How can I darken the wheels without affecting electrical conductivity?
Also this thing has a DCC wire. I've already decided against DCC at least for the foreseeable future. So can I use it for a sound card? Could some kind and knowledgeable person give me a rundown on sound options today. I'd ask the guy at the shop but I know he wants me to buy what he sells, which may be the best or not. Some unbiased advice going in would be nice.
How about add on smoke units?
Thanks! Frank
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On 8/26/2007 10:02 PM Gray Ghost spake thus:

I can answer that one for you: no (as you no doubt suspected).
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Reasonably well. It will chip off here and there if you knock the trucks around, though.

Don't get any paint in the axle recesses of the trucks, on on the tapered tips of the axels that fit into those recesses, or in the mounting-screw hole. (In fact, why bother painting anything that can't be seen as the train rolls by?)

Why are you painting the trucks and wheels black? Go peer at the nearest real freight train and you'll find that trucks and wheels are commonly dirt and rust colored unless they're brand new.

Steam freight engines usually spent most of their lives at around 35-40 MPH. Less -sometimes much less- pulling a train uphill, and somewhat more -if the loco was designed for it- on long level straights. Speed was not usually an issue except on special high-speed freights, and they were often pulled by passenger or dual-use power, such as the Southern Pacific's GS (General Service) types.

Nope. The outside faces of the wheels were usually painted black all the way to the edges, and the steel rods were commonly left unpainted, the better to detect any cracks that might develop. Both the wheels and the rods rapidly accumulated a layer of dirt and grime; sometimes becoming almost the same color of dirty grey if the engine wipers were lazy or on strike. Note: period makes a difference here. As the steam-to-diesel era progressed, many roads cut back on the upkeep of steamers that they knew were going to be scrapped in the near future. Mid-'50s steam engines were usually far dirtier than the same locos twenty years before, but this varied from road to road, and from freight to passenger engines too. (Old photos of steam engines from the road and era you favor will give you a good idea of how grubby the engines from that era usually were.)
In fact, you can model your locos any way you wish: John Allen's famed "Gorre & Daphetid" was postulated to be a small depression-era road that was barely hanging on. His locos -except for the passenger stuff- were mostly painted to look filthy and worn, but even here there was variation; the older locos were the dirtiest while the newer ones looked better kept, as would probably be the case in real life. On the other hand, modelers who most enjoy modeling first-class passenger trains such the "Superchief" or "Daylight" can leave their engines quite clean and shiny and yet be prototypical. Prototype railroads nearly always kept their best-known passenger rolling stock clean as a whistle.

Don't paint the treads of the wheels! Sparkling-clean is what you want!

I'm the wrong guy to ask on that one.

In my experience the "smoke" droplets tend to settle out onto the rails, which does not improve their conductivity. (Should this have changed in the recent past, I'm sure someone will correct me. I haven't seen anyone use smoke in the last twenty years or so.)
Pete
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P. Roehling wrote:

The RC airplane folks have a paint made especially for Delrin and similar engineering plastics. Your local hobby shop should have it, if it caters to that hobby.
[..snip Pete's advice, with which I concur]

Good estimate of a steam loco's top speed: size of driver in inches max operating speed in MPH. EG, a loco with 60" drivers would run at 60MPH. Many could and did exceed their "design speed", but that could and did damage the track and sometimes the engine, too. The tricky bit in steam engine design was to balance the the weight of the drive rods, hence the weights cast or bolted into the drive wheels. A steam engine would be perfectly balanced at some speed, and unbalanced at either side of that. At lower speeds, the unbalance didn't do nearly as much damage as it higher speeds.
Note that we look at our trains from rather large distances, measured in scale feet. The further away, the slower it looks. So 60MPH can look quite slow.
[...]

I assume you mean it has a DCC plug (IIRC, Athearn uses nine-pin plug.) AFAIK, there are no DC-compatible sound cards available at present. You'd also need a controller capable of triggering the sound(s). Some locos come with DCC sound decoders that can be used on a DC layout, but that's another story.

I concur, in fact I'd make it a stronger recommendation: Don't bother with smoke units. Apart from the goo Pete mentioned, smoke does not scale down well, and all you get is a wimpy, wispy plume of something or other that's hardly visible. I've seen O-scale locos with smoke units, they look a lot better, but still not good enough to my eyes. A poor illusion is worse than no illusion at all, I think.

--wolf
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A recently deceased friend of mine was an S.P. steam engine fireman (later an engineer) back in the late 1940s; mostly on cab-forwards. He allowed that the engine crews he knew were universally *thrilled* when the diesels replaced steam because those big freight locos would rattle your back teeth out at anything above 40 MPH unless they'd just come out of the backshop after a rebuild. Each of those massive axles, rods, and cetera had a bit of slop in the bearings and as the loco built up milage it also worked those clearances looser and looser until each driver revolution was accompainied by a "WHAM!" that jolted the entire engine. Cab-forwards were even worse because they'd develop two seperate "WHAMS!" per revolution as the rear engine slipped in and out of synch with the front one.
Working on a not-to-well maintained cab-forward must not have been as much fun as we all imagined it must be when we were kids...
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P. Roehling wrote:

That slop also caused that clanking sound you hear in recordings of steam locos.
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Perhaps it is just the effects of time but I don't recall clanking sounds from the steam locomotives that were around where I lived in the 1960's. This was in the West Midlands (UK) and most of the steam engines were ex Great Western and perhaps they just didn't make that sort of sound! Tony
wrote

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Tony wrote:

Er, I recall the clanking sound in some of the GWR locos that came through Stratford on Avon in the 40s and 50s. But the LMS locos always clanked - sometimes that was louder than the steam exhaust!
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Tony wrote:

That 'Clanking sound' was a low speed phenomenon. The sound of 'gravity' causing the rods to take advantage of the extra 'slop' and drop to the bottom of available travel.
At higher speeds (5mph +) centrifugal force would keep the 'slop' always to the outside of the driver circumference. So no 'Clank' at speed.
Chuck D.
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Actually doing thw work is rarely as much fun as one imagines.
Paul -- Excuse me, I'll be right back. I have to log onto a server in Romania and verify all of my EBay, PayPal, bank and Social Security information before they suspend my accounts.
Working the rockie road of the G&PX
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I knew I was getting old, but I hadn't realized that my memory was getting *that* bad.
I've apparently forgotten what "thw work" is!
Pete
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Use your imagination! *8^) My fat fingers mistyped "the". So make that "the work". Paul -- Excuse me, I'll be right back. I have to log onto a server in Romania and verify all of my EBay, PayPal, bank and Social Security information before they suspend my accounts.
Working the rockie road of the G&PX
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On Sun, 26 Aug 2007 23:38:33 -0700, P. Roehling wrote:

Or, for the finest istance, NKP's Berkshires.
--
Steve

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Gray Ghost wrote:

For cars, especially Athearn's of which I have a fair number, I spray the entire undercarriage with dark gray auto primer from a rattle can. This blends the weight into the bottom and flattens the plastic gloss. Remove the trucks, mask the couplers, and use 1 inch masking tape to mask off the car sides. Lay the car upside down and give the car bottom a decent coat (covers everything, but not so thick it forms sags or runs) and let it dry. Incidently I always secore the weight with some bathtub caulk to prevent it from sliding around. When I pick up a car with a loose weight I can feel it banging around and it makes me think the car is coming apart, so I always stick them down. I spray the trucks with red auto primer that dries to a rust red color, typical of the prototype. The paint sticks well enough to the delrin trucks which don't get the handling or bending that delrin handrails get. I remove the wheels and mask off the insides of the sideframes to keep paint out of the axle bearings. I brush paint the faces of the wheels with grimey black.

The treads of prototype wheels are shiny bright from rolling unless the unit has been parked for a week or so, at which point they start to rust. A major objection to plastic wheels is they show a black tread rather than a shiny one.If this happens the railroad is in trouble, they don't have enough traffic to keep the rolling stock rolling. Rods were unpainted to make crack detection easier. The bright steel would darken in the weather to a light gray-tan but they were kept oiled and always looked like oily metal to the eye.

I have never seen HO steamers with smoke. I suppose they exist, but nobody at the club has one. Ancient memories of Lionel steamers with smoke never encouraged me to look for smoke in HO.

David Starr

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Gray Ghost wrote:

No the connection is for DCC. There are DC sound systems still out there but they are less than satisfactory compared to DCC sound.

Smoke units are available for HO but (always a BUT) on that engine it would be very hard to install one, if a smoke unit is installed and you don't have fluid in it it will burn out, smoke makes the and scenery oily.

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grey snipped-for-privacy@yahoo.com (Gray Ghost) wrote in

Thanks everyone for the advice and food for thought.
Incidentally the era I'm planning on is WWII early to mid 1940s. I'm a military modeler, too, and it seems a good way to blend the interests. I picture some kind of interchange on the east coast, coal, ore, other raw materials going to the factories, tanks and other fighting vehicles heading for sea ports. Perhaps a military base nearby where troops and equipment can meet rp. I picked up some of Walthers Pullman Troop cars (a 3 pack for $45) and a troop kitchen car is on order. Already looks nice behind the Mikado. Plus normal civillian traffic, freight and passenger. Figure it allows for a busy yard and potential for long drags of coal and ore cars and flats loaded with Shermans.
Early research has been a little slim, I've got 2 books lined up at amazon, I figure those will hopefully reference some railroads directly and provide a starting point. Big issue is getting correct era cars, I've already traded away several and a SW1500 to the LHS as they were much to modern.
Thanks! Frank
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Gray Ghost wrote:

You'll find that the most common car was the boxcar. Almost all merchandise went by rail - trucks were used almost entirely for short haul and delivery from railhead to customer and vice versa. There was no FedEx or UPS - what was too heavy for the Post Office went by train (that's what all those baggage-express cars were for.) Also, passenger traffic peaked around 1944-46, so run lots of passenger trains, too. Most of it was heavyweight cars, although some streamliners and lightweight cars were built in the 1930s.
From the point of view of diversity in railroad operation, the period you've chosen is ideal. There was little change in RR operations well into the 50s, even though more and more traffic went to the highways after 1945. For this reason John Armstrong's "Trackplanning for Realistic Operation" will give you the fundamentals. Easy reading and very informative. Highly recommended.
Should be good modelling subject. Have fun!
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thanks for the positive thoughts and ideas.
I beleive that is one of the books I already have. It was quite enjoyable and interesting and will be shortly getting another thoro read.
Frank
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