Posts Tagged ‘urban’

workbench 20190624

A quick coat of paint and some decals update this Chessie Bachmann GP40 just like the prototype

It may seems like I’m not making any visible progress on the Southside Industrial District model railroad, but there is a lot going on behind the scenes.

I’ve decided to put a “bookazine” together of my blog entries about the small switching layout, so I’ve been going back several years to 2011 and gathering all the resources and putting them together. The early articles I just wrote as blog entries – not to be put in print – and there was a lack of photos that accompanied them.

Also, the railroad is more complete now and I can show finished “after” scenes which just looks better.

Any modelling I’ve done, is to fill in gaps for photography or illustration purposes.

The Southside is in CSX country, but I had not one locomotive so designated – all of them are Chessie System models literally from the 80’s. But I did have some extra shells, so I painted one up over a weekend to place in pictures.

It was a quick and dirty job: the blue striping isn’t quite right and I only put decals on one side. Also for now there is no glass in the cab windows. I just wanted something to place on the background in the layout to give a rough sense of time and place.

DuPont pickup 20190624

A GP35 still wearing Chessie System colors pulls a well car out of DuPont shipping track #5 on the Southside Industrial District

So, I’ve been detailing as well as going back and cleaning up and augmenting previous articles. Also, an article on operations is in the making and on the way.

I’m finding out that making a book of even previously written material is a lot of work, but I think it will be worth it to save and reflect on the best portions of my experience.



Modeling the other side of the tracks need not send you to the poor house

Simple details help set the scene on the Southside Industrial District HO scale switching model railroad

When you model the rough side of town, there are some businesses you might consider representing. I’ve chosen to include three on the backside of my layout. Commerce Street includes a car title loan business, a soup kitchen, and an abandoned apartment building. These buildings have been mostly cobbled together from extra parts and lived as glorified mock-ups in the background of my layout for a few years now. It was time to add some window glass, signs, and details to give these shops some character.


The TitleMax building is painted a dark color with modern signage and placed on a back alley

Every depressed section of town needs a payday pawn shop. The source material for this shop came from an eBay lot that including what I finally identified as a Wathers Wallschlager’s Dealership. It is literally on a back alley on my pike, so I painted it a dark brown with no mortar to keep it simple and in the shadows. Other than that, I basically just added some signs from the internet, with some on the inside of the windows looking outward.


Some left over wall pieces and a cardboard roof covered with sandpaper make the TitleMax building


Simple details help the TitleMax building blend into the background in this alley scene on the HO scale Southside Industrial District

City Mission
This building is a deconstruction of the Art Curren “A. Frugill Co.” from a magazine article in the 1980’s. I originally built the building per the article’s instructions, but it wouldn’t fit on the current switching layout, so I took it apart and made two buildings out of it. The other building is a camping supply store on the front of the layout. Again, I didn’t have to do much more than add some window glazing, signs, graffiti, and clutter to the front of the building to turn this into a downtown soup kitchen. When searching for logos, I found a nice clear billboard, so I added that to the roof.


An Art Curren kitbash from the 1980’s gets re-purposed as the Salvation Army city mission soup kitchen

Greenmont Apartments
This, too, is a leftover from an Art Curren project. I bought 3 of the Life-Like apartment buildings for his “Flatt Iron Co.” project the I ended up not building it and using two of the kits for Silvan Foods. The final kit I used for the Greenmont Apartments. I wanted to get some extra height beyond the three stories, so I added a half story basement from the Life-Like factory, which is the same size. I also used the backs of the three stories to create another story on top. I again choose a simple, dark paint color to keep the building non-assuming in the background.


The Life-Like Belvedere hotel is used to model the back of an abandoned apartment building

The added height of the ground floor posed a problem with access to the front door. I eventually found some stairs in a junk box, but there was still not enough room to reasonably come out to the sidewalk. So, I rotated the stairs 90 degrees and left them a bit short of reaching the entrance. I decided this would be the abandoned backside of the building and the main entrance would remain unmodeled on the other side. It seems to work.


Left: The back of each story was removed and used to create a fourth story. Wall sections from another Life-Like kit were used to make a split basement and give more height. Right: Boarded up windows, broken glass, screen mesh, and graffiti all contribute to making Greenmont Apartments feel abandoned.

I also wanted to add some tell-tale signs of an abandoned building. I used a few different modeling devices to achieve this. I boarded up some windows and doors, both from the inside and outside. Other windows were covered with screen mesh. Still other windows were broken, or left with no glazing at all. I added a few awnings, but not on every window. Everything was weathered with dry brushing, washes, and powders. Some graffiti and event posters can be found near the street level. A couple of construction workers sit on the steps eating their lunch, while a pick-up basketball game has started near by.


More graffiti and event posters on the side of Greenmont Apartments. A basketball hoop will be added later.

These building were really cheap to do. They were mostly leftover walls and items from the scrap box, but even the complete structures I bought would be considered budget purchases. It is amazing what a few signs can do and just goes to show that you don’t need to spend a lot of money to give your town a bit of that “lived in” character.

Windows, signs, and details help a background building blend in

Homemade signs and scrap box pieces bring an old downtown store front into the 21st century on the Southside Industrial District HO scale switching layout

All across the country, Main Street is coming back to life. Turn-of-the-century buildings are being renovated by boutiques as well as the big national chains seeking that homey feeling. It is not different down on the Southside, where model kits meant for the transition era are being brought into the 21st century.

The Southside Industrial District is a modern era industrial switching layout set in an office park on the what is now the outskirts of a major metropolitan area. The region has seen better days and now new and old exist side by side as the District tries to survive.


In this overall view of the Southside Industrial District, the old time five and dime department store stands out in the background, lacking proper windows, signage, and details

I had been photographing my layout and the unfinished retail store in the middle of Commerce Street kept appearing as a big white blob in the background. I’ve known for some time that I wanted a modern dollar store to go in there, so now was the time to jump in and do it.

The model itself I’ve had for a while from a winning lot auction on eBay. I had to lookup the specific building and it turns out it is a “JC Nickles” from DPM. I has been sitting on the layout for several years now with side walls (mostly unseen) from what I think is a Gruesome Casket Co from IHM and a red sandpaper roof. I had already painted and lightly weathered the model to my liking.


The original DPM “J.C. Nickels” from an online auction lacking windows and detailing

The first step was to add glazing for the windows, which up until this point, had made the store front stand out and look incomplete. I found some clear plastic and sprayed one side with a matte finish to cloud up the windows. This makes them look dirty in the industrial setting, as well as hides the fact that the building is empty on the inside.

Next I searched the internet for signs for the type of business I wanted. I grabbed a few, as well as window signs and stickers, resized them for the appropriate space, and printed them out on a color printer with regular paper. I looked at real photos of stores and got signs that were typical. I even shrunk down the current week’s ad flyer! I simply affixed the posters to the back of the windows looking outward with white PVA glue that I knew would dry clear.


Signs captured from the internet and printed on a color printer. Printing several sizes of each sign gives some flexibility when it comes time to add the signage to the building

The main sign is mounted on a piece of styrene cut to fit and glued in place with super glue. The canopy is from a scrapped Tyco #7885 freight depot from the 1970’s (that was a good investment!). A slightly newer Suydam Purina Chow feed mill donated the roof vents.

As suspected, the yellow sign was too bright and dominated the background. I toned it down by smudging some black and white acrylic paints over it with my finger. I found a few figures and placed them on the sidewalk in front of the building to set the scene.

DG04 crop

The finished dollar store in place with details and figures. If you zoom in, you can even see the store hours on the front door window!

It was nice to have a straightforward project for once that was completed in a week of stress free modeling in the evenings. By identifying some easy wins I was able to gain some motivation to head down to the basement. I even had a couple of quick operating sessions to keep my skills fresh.

So, if you are having trouble making progress on your layout, find a quick and easy project that is fun to give you some momentum.


Rich Erwin freshens up the Southside Industrial District and addresses some nagging scenery issues


So, after a house move and some space prep, the time had come to clean things up a bit. I wanted to fix a couple of dings as a result of the move, enhance and correct some benchwork, and  tackle a couple of nagging issues with the scenery (paved areas).

First the benchwork. I reassembled the layout on its base legs. Since the new space isn’t finished yet, I had a pretty good inkling that I would be moving the layout a fair amount while things got sorted out. I turned the layout over, being carful to damage as little of the scenery as possible. Then I added 1/4″ center post casters I picked up from a big box home construction store. Flipped the layout back over and we were ready to go. The locking casters made a big improvement and maybe my best move yet.


The District in its new space with rolling casters and an upgraded backdrop


Next up was the backdrop. For whatever reason, the current backdrop had about 1/2″ gap down the center. I don’t know if I originally measured wrong or what, but it had been like that for 3 or 4 years. Now was the time to fix it. I got a new 8′ section of 1/4″ Masonite and cut it to fit. It was long enough for a single piece to span the length of the back of the layout. I attached 1×3″ bracing to the back with Gorilla glue and painted the smooth side the same sky blue as the side boards. I attached it with clamps and drilled holes to match the existing holes in the frame. One quarter inch bolts with washers and wing nuts secured the backdrop to the benchwork frame.

On the backdrop I use photos of real scenes to fill the space between buildings. I still had the original backdrop and reference photos, so I peeled the photos off the backdrop and re-affixed them to the new backdrop. Another step done.


Painting the backdrop



The sidewalks at the back of the layout needed attention, so that was my first modeling chore. It was pretty straightforward. I use .060″ styrene cut to fit for the raised sidewalks. and I scribed in expansion marks every 1 inch. I then added curbstones with a width of 1cm, rounded the corners at the intersections, and beveled for crosswalks and driveways. I follow that up with spray painting the sidewalkes with textured sandstone. I carved in some cracks and applied a dark wash for weathering (and to bring out the detail) which completes the work before I glue it in place.

On to the pavement issues. The paved areas consist of several materials. Most was either painted styrene or cardstock. At one point I used thin black card which was essentially black poster board without a sealed surface. This was mostly used in the Du Pont area. In an Georgia garage with no climate control, this thin and unsealed stock had warped in a few places, especially around the track rail. Also, on the west (left) side, there was no pavement under the track or up even with the railheads.


Pavement redo with styrene at Du Pont


First on the list was the cardstock at Du Pont. I pulled the paper layer off, being careful to preserve the shape as a template for the new material. The bottom layer, even with the top of the ties, remained. I used a .030″ styrene stock and traced the piece of card on the styrene and cut to fit. I sprayed a base coat of black primer and then highlighted areas with gray to represent traffic patterns. I added some arrows and street markings with oil pastels and traffic templates (made for UK roads). Of the three sections, I replaced the two closest to the front of the layout and left the back section intact, as it is mostly hidden and in the best shape.


Finished Du Pont section complete with road markings. Note the weathering indicating traffic patterns.


The paving on the west section was next. I did some research and wanted to try some differing techniques to see which provided better results. Three sections to process (plus between the rails), so for each I would try a different material. On the back section by Sylvan Foods, I used black foam core with the paper backing removed after soaking in water. The pieces were cut to fit and sanded. The resulting texture was a nice rough one, simulating a paved surface.


Plaster used to fill in the space between spurs on the west end of the Southside Industrial District. Wax paper and painters’ tape protect the track work.


For the area between the tracks of National Transfer and Storage and Sylvan Foods, I took a page from the old-school plaster playbook. I needed 1/10 of an inch, plus the height of the ties, for code 100 track, so I applied in layers, let dry, sand, repeat. Finally I painted a coat of black/gray acryllic mix and added some chalk for weathering. This took a couple of weeks not necessarily would I call it messy, but I did feel that doing each layer was burdensome – having to repeat the cycle of wait and sand, wait and sand.


Weights assure a good bond for the foam core paving onto the benchwork top


Finally back to foam core for the base under the National Transfer and Storage. I made it a little larger and shaped and sanded to fit the existing access road.


The completed scene includes pavement made out of five different materials: card stock, foam core, styrene, craft foam, and plaster


So now these nagging little projects are done, I can get on to the next thing. We often forget that track is scenery, too, and with just this little bit of effort, the layout feels more complete, and has a more finished appearance. On to detailing the city!

Morden Station

Morden Station

The year has started off well with some good progress on my London Underground scene. I’m calling it Morden Diorama and using it as a proving ground for the upcoming exhibition layout based on the London Underground. More on the layout later in the year as progress develops.

I’ve chosen to model the London tube station “Morden”, which is at the end of the Northern Line. I purchased a cardstock kit of Morden station from Kingsway Models in UK – a firm that specializes in cardstock models and London Transport. The kits are OO scale which is 1/76 ratio, but uses the same track gauge as HO.

Working on Morden Station Diorama January 2016

Working on Morden Station Diorama January 2016

The kit comes with the pieces pre-printed on cardstock. I spent most of 2015 assembling the building – lots of cutting and gluing. Most of the model is finished, however I’ve got some details to add to get it to a higher level of completion.

I placed the building on a foundation of 0.06 styrene atop a standard sheet of black foam core purchased from a big box store. Using Google Maps, I determined the placement of sidewalks, medians, and pavement of the surrounding area. Again, I modeled all of these with 0.06 styrene. Some were painted with grey primer, while others were covered with texture sheets including a herringbone pattern for one of the walks.

Applying road markings to Morden Diorama

Applying road markings to Morden Diorama

Next came the road markings. I deliberated long about the method to use to create them. The straight lines would be simple enough to mask off, but other markings, especially text on the road, would be more complicated. I knew free hand would not yield clean and crisp results, and cutting a template from printed text would be just as difficult. I settled on some vinyl sheets of road markings from the UK manufacturer Scale Model Scenery. They were the perfect solution.

After watching my wife apply various media to black foam core, I settled on oil pastels. You can color over the template like crayons and then rub them in with your finger to fill in all the nooks and crannies. I works surprisingly well. With the ability to zoom in on Street View of Google maps to get correct placement, you can get a pretty convincing final effect.

Street View from Google Maps outside Morden Station in London

Street View from Google Maps outside Morden Station in London

That’s how far I have made it to date. Still to do are the hardware – railings, guardrails, lights; figures; and vehicles and some minor details. Then as a stage 2, I plan to model two levels below ground somewhat like the urban sculptor Alan Wolfson. Though not prototypical, I’ll model the station platforms and passenger cars (carriages) under ground.

So far, doing the research and modeling has been a fun project and should give me some good experience for the upcoming London Underground exhibition layout. Check back for progress updates.



2015 Progress 1

Southside Industrial District in shadowbox relief.

When 2015 started, I had three major goals to achieve for my HO industrial switching layout.

  • Create a shadow box (or proscenium) arch valence for the front of the layout benchwork
  • Convert an old Athearn diesel switcher to battery powered radio control
  • Build a cardstock model of the UK Underground station at Morden

I am pleased to say I made major progress on two, while considering the proscenium arch completed. Scroll down through the blog to see construction articles. More on the London Underground coming in 2016!

The proscenium arch

Southside Arch

Full frontal industrial switching

Battery powered radio control switcher

2015 Progress 2

Southside Industrial SW1500 #703 works the Dupont plant on the edge of the District

Radio control installed and working, but still some work to do on the shell – hand rails and weathering.

Morden Underground Station (OO Scale)

2015 Progress 3

Morden Station on the Northern Line of the UK Underground

While the bulk of Morden station is complete, I’d say the entire diorama is maybe 40% complete. I still have detailing to do like street markings, figures and general clutter. I’m also going add a couple of levels below grade to show some underground passenger service.

Rather ambitious, but I hope to get it done with a little help from my friends.

Beatles test with Morden Station

Zebra crossing dress rehersal.


Battery Powered Radio Control Comes to the Southside Industrial District


For several months now I have been reading about using battery powered radio control to run HO locomotives. This seemed a good fit for my industrial switching layout that had recently been moved to the less-than-perfect climate of the garage. My research piqued my interest and I thought I would give it a try on an aging model I had nearing its end of life.

I selected my sentimental favorite – an Athearn blue box SW1500 (actually an SW7) that I purchased new with my hard earned yard mowing money around 1978 or 1979. For some reason I painted the shell Conrail blue, but never got around to decaling or detailing it. It’s seen a lot of use and wear over the years and is still used in most of my industrial switching operating sessions.

This project actually started a few months ago and consists of two major phases: first, upgrading the 70’s motive power of my Athearn blue box SW1500, then adding the radio receiver and batteries to fit within the shell.

Needless to say my 36-year old locomotive was running a bit, ah, stiff. In actuality, not too bad considering, but the sintered wheels needed frequent cleaning – sometimes after only 40-50 minutes of running. There are plenty of web sites showing how to pimp your blue box loco, but even the most extreme tune ups either tweak the motor or replace it with one essentially the same size.

I might have been able to fit the receiver and batteries in the SW1500 cab, but I wanted to try the latest generation of self contained power trucks. There are a couple of choices available, including Bull Ant and Stanton drives. After doing a little research, I went with a Stanton power truck available from Northwest Short Line because I was seeing some good things on the Internet.

Phase I – repowering the Athearn loco. You can skip these steps if you are tuning up your motor or replacing it with a full size motor.

I started by taking the shell off the Athearn unit. Then I took the motor out by disconnecting the universal. For the Stanton replacement, you won’t need this any more. I also removed the truck I would be replacing with the power truck. I choose the rear truck under the cab because there will be more room there. As for the other truck, you’ll need to make it free rolling. Do this by removing the top of the mechanism case and removing the worm gear. Replace the cover to the case.


Removed parts from the Athearn SW1500 including the motor and the rear truck to be replaced


Northwest Short Line (NWSL) has quite a range of products for powering your locomotive. For the Stanton self powering truck, you’ll need to select the wheelbase, wheel diameter, and tread thickness. Their catalog walks you through how to do this. Luckily, since I was replacing a currently operating power truck, I simply measured my existing hardware and used their ordering chart to select the proper part number.

Stanton power truck

Stanton power truck

At this point you’ll need to find a way to attach the Stanton truck to the frame. I’m not a mechanical engineer and this was a challenging part of the project. The Stanton drive comes with a “king pin” centered in the middle of the drive to attach to the frame. The trick is to find a cross member in the proper place and at the right height to place the drive. After test fitting the apparatus, it was also obvious that the drive was to tall to move freely under the frame, so I ended up having to remove part of the frame. Basically, I needed to make the hole bigger and I did that with a Dremel tool. After a few trail and error grinding episodes, I was satisfied that the drive would fit.

Athearn frame milled out to make room for Stanton power truck

Athearn frame milled out to make room for the new mechanism

Now came time to attach a cross member through which I drilled a hole for the king pin. I did that by using a sheet of .060 styrene. More trial and error was used to attach this to the frame using various adhesives. I finally got a secure placement I liked and test ran it. Seemed to work. Then I added the shell to the frame. Uh-uh. No go. The shell fit snuggly to the frame with no excess room to attach the styrene sheet. What to do?

From this point on, I worked with the shell attached to the frame so I knew exactly how much room and clearance I had to work with. I came up with a system to get the sheet of styrene to span to ridges on either side of where the cab attaches to the rest of the shell. See the photo. It turned out that the front edge of this ridge is right where the hole for the king pin needed to be and there wasn’t enough room at the end of the styrene piece. So I cut off the two front corners at a 45 degree angle and was able to slide the styrene a bit closer to the front. That gave enough room to add support around the place where the hole would be.

I placed the shell / frame over the truck so the king pin touched the styrene. I marked the spot and drill the proper size hole according to the instructions. The fit was a little tight, so I widened the hole just a pinch with a nail slightly larger than the hole, as well as a smidge extra using my hobby knife. I secured the styrene to the shell using 2-part epoxy on the inside, and Testor’s liquid cement for styrene on the outer joint.

Altered shell modified to accept the Stanton power truck

Altered shell modified to accept the self driving truck

It ended up that the top of the king pin clears the styrene surface by the smallest acceptable margin. Just enough for the nut to whole the whole thing in place. A thinner piece of styrene would help this problem. A run around the test track confirmed proper placement and let me adjust the height of the shell by a small tweak to the lower nut of the king pin.

You’ll want to add some weight to account for the removal of the motor and the rear Athearn truck. There is plenty of room in the center well where the motor used to go. I used pennies and quarters glued together with super glue. You can use your favorite method of adding weight.

Modified Athearn shell with weights

Modified Athearn shell with weights

Remember, the Stanton truck comes wired for DC out of the box, so at this point we have finished the first phase of replacing the stock Athearn motor and are ready to go. Go ahead and test your locomotive on track or your layout. Be sure to check the vertical clearance with the truck and the shell, as mine had little margin for error. Make certain the trucks move freely through curves and turnouts. Correct any running problems now because adding battery power won’t fix mechanical issues. You’ll just have a battery powered engine that has problems through curves and turnouts.


Phase II

The next phase is to add the radio receiver. There are many options, but like I said, I went with the DelTang system. The Stanton S-cab system, which is a combination of radio control and DCC, looked promising. However, I wanted to keep it simple and not have to be tied to DCC. It looked like I could get up and running fairly quickly, even though I would have to forego sound initially, which was alright by me.

DelTang radio receiver. Photo: DelTang

DelTang radio receiver. Photo: DelTang

DelTang is manufactured in UK, so you’ll have to find a US importer. I went with the On30 Guy, who has excellent information on his website. He even packages together a starter kit, which is what I went with.

The starter kit comes with a transmitter for up to 12 different locos (dubbed the “Selecta” feature by DelTang), a receiver, two LiPo batteries, and on/off switch, connectors and instructions. Recharging LiPo batteries must be done carefully, so I also procured a charger for specifically charging packs of multiple LiPo batteries. The entire was just over $200, including shipping. You could probably order the batteries and charger cheaper from different sources on the internet, but you’ll also have to factor in separate shipping charges if applicable.

Fig. 1. Wiring up a basic radio control receiver to a motor and battery

Fig. 1. Wiring up a basic radio control receiver to a motor and battery

The simplest configuration for wiring up any receiver is four wires: two to the power source and two to the motor. See Figure 1. The basic configuration for wiring a DelTang to rechargeable batteries is a bit more complex, and the straightforward instructions from the On30 Guy walk you through it. You’ll want to include a recharging port and an on/off switch. More advanced options include directional lighting and switch options, which I chose to omit. You can check the DelTang website for advanced features and even programming.

Fig. 2. Suggested DelTang wiring schematic

Fig. 2. Suggested DelTang wiring schematic

A single cell LiPo battery is 3.7 nominal volts – not enough to run an HO engine. You’ll need to make a multi-cell pack or wire in a step-up regulator. I chose to create my own two cell battery pack wired in series (2S). Again, On30Guy to the rescue with all the 411 you’ll need on how to do this. See Figure 2.

Fig. 3. How my DelTang receiver is wired

Fig. 3. How my DelTang receiver is wired

Being a micro electronics application, some of the wires and connections are quite small. You’ll need soldering skills, understanding of basic electronics, and knowledge of how to read a circuit diagram. I coerced my friend Ian Currey to wire it up for me. It took him a couple of hours. See Figure 3.

Deltang receiver wired up to Stanton drive and battery cells

Deltang receiver wired up to Stanton drive and battery cells

At this point the receiver, battery, and motor (Stanton truck in my case) are all wired up and must be attached to the frame. Per alterations mentioned above, my power truck, in fact, attaches to the shell, which must already be clipped onto the frame when the rear truck is attached. You’ll also want to have any weights added to the frame at this point.  Now’s the time to test your circuitry along with the transmitter. Just lay the unit on its side and go through the binding function and the other transmitter features. You’ll want to read the DelTang documentation to check out all the features of the transmitter and chip, including binding, “Selecta”, momentum and reprogramming for center-off “yard mode”.

Frame and shell ready to accept receiver and motor with battery pack

Frame and shell ready to accept receiver and motor with battery pack

I attached the shell to the frame, and then positioned the truck with kinpin under its anchoring hole. All the while, I was stuffing the electronics into the shell. The batteries went the farthest forward, then the receiver. The SPDT on/off switch and charging port were kept close to the cab for easy access. Finally the truck was secured to the shell via the kingpin and bolts.

Fitting components into the Athearn unit

Fitting components into the Athearn unit

You can quick check the receiver again by turning on the unit and making sure nothing came loose during the last step of the install. If everything is still OK, you are good to go. Place your loco on your layout and take her out for a spin. Turn the transmitter on first, then the receiver. The one thing I noticed right away was that to change direction in low-off mode, you have to turn the rheostat completely off (to the left) before the change of direction is applied.

The repurposed Athearn loco ready to roll

The repurposed Athearn loco ready to roll

Most sources on the internet rate the battery life at about 2 hours, maybe sometimes as much as three. For me, it didn’t seem that long, though I can’t say for sure. I ran the engine 10 – 20 minutes at a time on switching duty. I didn’t keep strict records, and furthermore, I can’t confirm what the starting charge was the first cycle, so I had no way of knowing how long the first charge lasted.

Regardless the duration of your charge, at some point, you’ll need to recharge your batteries. All the literature states that LiPos can be a bit tricky and care must be taken. You need a charger specifically for LiPo batteries (or whatever type you use). The On30 Guy sells, and I purchased, the iMax B6 charger. Its versatility can make it overwhelming, but Geren’s instructions at the On30 Guy and a trip to the inter-webs gave me all the information I need. You’ll need to fashion a custom lead to monitor the balance charging per Geren’s tutelage. I also needed to fashion a power lead from a couple of cannibalized power supplies. Another session with my friend Ian and I was off and running. Worked like a charm. Following the instructions, I recharge the 2 cell battery while it is still within the shell of the locomotive. Currently, I remove the cab to charge, as well as to power up.

Custom power lead for charging and monitoring multi-cell LiPo battery packs

Custom power lead for charging and monitoring multi-cell LiPo battery packs

Sideframes, details, decals, and weathering complete the model. Possible upgrades include directional lighting, reprogramming for “yard mode”, a magnetic on/off switch, and exposing the port for charging. Look for a progress report in upcoming posts.

Balance charging the newly fitted R/C locomotive

Balance charging the newly fitted R/C locomotive

I’m really happy with the results of both the insertion of the Stanton drive and the conversion to battery powered radio control. This is my first non-DC setup and I love the slow running which is ideal for switching chores. Another plus is that living in the humid southern United States, I don’t have to worry about cleaning dirty track or locomotive wheels since my layout is located in my garage. Wiring reverse loops, turntables, block control, DCC power districts, power frogs and layout shorts are a thing of the past. Fuggetaboutit.

Category First Unit Next Unit
Stanton power drive $85.00
Stanton shipping $6.00
Dremel tool $35.00
DelTang Starter set $156.00
Balance Charger $40.00
On30Guy Shipping $12.00 $10.00
DelTang Loco set $60.00
total $334.00 $70.00


It’s been a long journey and I’ve learned a lot. The sidebar above shows the approximate cost of the rebuild, along with a comparison of the cost of converting a second model. Assuming the cost of the Athearn engine to be a conservative $15.00 in the late 70’s, you can see I’ve got upwards of $350 invested in this little switcher. Without any motor refitting, subsequent conversions will only be the cost of the DelTang receiver set – about $60.00.

Most of the other members of my engine fleet have acceptable mechanisms, so I don’t anticipate repowering those. But with one R/C conversion under my belt, I hope to follow up with more and expand my radio controlled roster. Don’t be surprised if someday you see a remote control critter running around the Southside Industrial District – one that was bought with hard earned “yard” money.
Radio Control Conversion links
Athearn Tune Up –
Free Rails RC Forum –
Stanton Power Trucks –
DelTang –
On30 Guy –
How To Charge a LiPo with iMax B6 –