Greg Amer

Seaport Maintenance

 Posted by Greg Amer at 4:44 pm  Consctruction, Industry, Structures  Comments Off
Jan 112021


I’ve been working on the Seaport Maintenance facility. I engraved and cut the exterior brick structures on my Cricut Maker.

Nov 152019
 November 15, 2019  Posted by Greg Amer at 2:59 pm , , ,
Oct 192014

I spent a good portion of my modeling time this summer modifying and super-detailing three Peco turnouts. I replaced the frogs with Details West #8 Manganese frogs, filed new guard rails, added fish plates and rail braces. The process was fairly simple, but time consuming.


Peco Turnout modified with Details West Frog

Peco Turnout modified with Details West Frog

Unfortunately, my gorgeous manganese frogs don’t work. The Details West frogs appear to conform to NMRA S 3.2 Trackwork Standard Scales, the depth of the flanges are .025″, but the NMRA S 4.2 Wheels Standard Scales allow for a wheel depth of .028″. It appears that wheels are allowed to be deeper than flangeways.

So I have to rip these turnouts out. I’ll replace them with Peco Electrofrog turnouts. I’m super-detailing each one with fish plates, frog bolts and point bolts. The first one has been installed.


Peco Electroforg Turnout

Peco Electroforg Turnout



It’s been a real long time. I spent the summer focused on 1:1 trains and couldn’t find the interest to continue on with The Industrial Lead. But the last couple of weeks I’ve been back at it. I’ve given up on Proto:87 and handlaying track in HO. I laid all my track (save one stick of ME code 70) and soldered half of it.


I think I’ve known for a couple of months, but I didn’t want to admit it. Proto:87 isn’t going to work with The Industrial Lead layout. My initial tests were  positive: I set up a simple test track with Peco flex track and a modified Peco turnout; I ran an SD40-2 and a car or two with Proto:87 wheels a dozen of times; then I launched into a hand laying frenzy.

When I got to actually having an operational track ( it just didn’t work. Proto:87 just did not stick to the track. I ripped out my hand laid track and relaid it with Peco flex track and I switched to a four axle locomotive to see if I could make it work. It didn’t. The problem areas are the curves and any elevation changes.

It’s been over a year since I diverted to the Proto:87 experiment, and I think it’s time to move forward with the layout. It was fun experimenting and trying new things, but I’m losing patience and I’m pretty much losing my kids interest. It’s time to get this layout operational.

Nov 052013

Hard Times for Hand Laying

I’ve hand laid a 3′ section around a 24″ radius corner. There are some minor dips in the track. Proto:87 cars run fine. A 6 axle loco with P:87 wheels won’t make the curve. It’s obvious now why you need smooth flat track or some sort of working suspension. The 6 axle loco really suffers here, because a minor dip on one axle will cause the other two axles to raise. Generally what is happening is that the center axle raises and the rear axle kicks out (no significant flange to keep it on the track). Possible factors for the problems:

  1. Tight Radius.
  2. Not flat track
  3. Incorrectly gauged wheels or track (I think I’ve got the gauges right though)

How do I Proceed?

Now I’m faced with a decision on how to proceed. I think I need to give something up to get something working. My options as I see them:

  1. Test again with 4 axle locomotive. I’m thinking the 4 axle loco will be more forgiving. I need to order some wheels to do this.
  2. Switch to flex track. It is easier to lay smooth track with and I’ve successfully tested 24″ radius curves with flex track and 6 axle P:87 locos.
  3. RP-25. My 6 axle loco with RP25 wheels works just fine.

Tie Plate News

 Posted by Greg Amer at 12:53 pm  Proto:87, Track  4 Responses »
Oct 252013


Cosmetic Tie Plates

I received the Proto 87 Stores cosmetic tie plates this afternoon. I was hoping to use them with code 70 rail on the lighter weight sections of the layout. The feature that got me interested in them was the 4 holes for spiking and the absence of the simulated spike heads typically found with Proto87 Stores tie plates. I was disappointed they are too small for code 70 rail. The base of the code 70 rail extends over the spike holes. I did check a small piece of code 55 rail and they do work with that. (so maybe I’ll be going to code 55 :) Or maybe that’s just too far down the rabbit hole.

Turnout Tie Plates

On another related tie plate topic. I decide to drill out extra spike holes in some of the special turnout tie plates. I used a #76 bit in my Dremel Workstation and just did my best to line it up with the simulated spike head and drill right through it. It worked out pretty well. I can’t see doing thousands of these, but some key tie plates on the turnouts shouldn’t be a problem.

Wandering Track

Finally, regarding the section of track I spiked down earlier this week (see Sleight of Hand), I need to rip it out. I messed up and let it wander, which wouldn’t be a problem, but if it continues it’s current course will wander right off the homasote. So my first 12″ section will be redone, kind of a bummer, but I want it done right.

Considering a Code Change

I mentioned earlier a possible code change on my light weight track. My initial plan was to use code 83 on the heavy track and code 70 on the lighter track. I’m considering changing this paradigm to code 70 and code 55, which would be closer to prototype. My actual prototype uses heavy track that is about 6″ tall and lighter track that is about 4 3/4″ tall. Checking Andy’s Prototype and HO Model Rail Sizes reference page puts it solidly at code 70 and code 55. The only concern I have is outlay of cash.

Thanks for reading Greg

Sleight of Hand

 Posted by Greg Amer at 12:21 am  Track  5 Responses »
Oct 242013

A break from building turnouts

I decided to try something more relaxing: hand laying track.

Why did I think this was going to be a real chore?

Guess what. It’s fun to lay track! And it’s even more fun building track in place on the layout. After spending the last nine or ten months unsuccessfully building what is essentially hand laid sectional track, its nice to have a success. I think I’m going to rebuild my turnouts in place also.


I’m using Kappler HO Scale 8′ 6″ Cross Ties. I glue them to the roadbed with tacky glue, I’ve also had success with matte medium. I’m also gluing in some Fast Tracks PCB Cross Ties at key points.  I use the Proto87 Stores Switch-Works Straight Track Fixture to space the ties. I sand them to a uniform height. I distress the ties with a wire brush and an exacto knife. I stain the ties with alcohol and sepia colored India ink (Video – Finishing and Staining Wood Ties).


I’ve switched to using Proto:87 Stores longer HO spikes and quickly exhausted my supply. I’ve ordered several more frets. They are awesome, they drive all the way through the tie to the homasote roadbed! They are much easier to handle than the small spikes. I’m not bothered with gluing tie plates in place before laying rail, I simply slide them under the rail and spike! I was previously using the small spikes (because they are so short they do not penetrate through the full thickness of the tie.) and I bought several thousand of them, but the small size makes them difficult to handle.

Tie Plates

I’ve been using the Proto:87 Stores heavy duty tie plates (8 hole), but they are a bit of a pain to deal with, mostly because the fret contains several variations of tie plate. Most of the variation has to do placement with simulated spike heads vs. actual holes that spikes can be driven through. There are a couple of plates per fret that do not have any simulated spike heads, I wish I could order a whole fret of them.

I ordered some Proto:87 Stores cosmetic medium duty (4 hole) tie plates to use on the lighter weight track portions of the layout like the Odom Lead. I haven’t received them yet, but the picture shows they omit any simulated spike head and have a full 4 holes open for spiking. I wish this type of fret were available in a heavy duty 8 hole tie plate.

I plan to use some 8 hole tie plates from Monster Model Works on the SIG Runaround Track. I’ve ordered a package and can’t wait to try them out. They are thicker than the Proto87 Stores tie plates (.003″ at the rail base slot) vs. Monster Model Works tie plates (.008″ at the rail base slot), so they can’t really mix and match with the Proto:87 Stores plates, but I see no reason they can’t be used separately on discrete sections of track.

The advantage I see to the Monster tie plates is that the will be easier to handle. The Proto87 Stores tie plates bend easily, slip easily while spiking & while easier to slide them underneath the rail, the slim profile also makes harder to compensate for any uneven ties.


So now, I’m anxiously awaiting more supplies (spikes and tie plates). In the meantime I may have enough time to lay in some more ties while I wait.



Finishing & Staining Wood Ties

I’ve already glued my ties to the roadbed. I used Kappler 8′ 6″ wood cross ties (KP00SS86-HO) I purchased from Proto87 Stores.

I sand my wood ties to flatten them all to the same level. I used a sharpening stone to good effect. I also use a small emery board to hit individual ties that are a little too high.

I distress the ties using a wire brush and Exacto knife. The wire brush helps leave the impression of a grain. I Scribe damage lines and marks into the ties with an Exacto blade.

Finally, I stain the ties using a mixture of sepia colored India ink mixed with isopropyl alcohol. I don’t have an exact mixture ratio, but If the stain coloring dries too light, I usually go over with a second coat; if it dries too dark I lightly sand it off and re-stain.

Staining Wood Ties

Staining Wood Ties

Turnout Burnout

 Posted by Greg Amer at 11:15 pm  Proto:87, Track  9 Responses »
Sep 252013

I have to admit I’m getting tired of trying to build the perfect turnout. Am I too focused on perfection? I keep looking at the turnouts I build and see something that is not right.

I’m currently working on a #9 turnout that relies a lot less on jigs. There were a couple goals I wanted to add to this turnout.

  1. Gauge Built – .
    Until now I’ve used the Proto:87 Stores Switch-works jig to build my turnouts. But that is problematic, because the heavy duty tie plates I want to use do not fit the jig. So I build the turnout with medium duty tie plates, them replace them with heavy duty plates before installing rail. Another problem is that I have a #10 jig and want to be able to make multiple size turnouts without having to buy extra jigs.This turnout would be built using a Details West #9 Manganese Frog. I laid out the ties and the straight rail tie plates using the Switch-Works jig, then sited the frog with track gauges and build the rest with track gauges. It’s a much slower process.
  2. Uniform Spiking – .

    My prototype turnouts have very uniform tie plates and spiking; every tie plate is spiked and all of the spikes are on the same size. I’ve made an effort to select the correct tie plates so that the spikes all end up uniformly on the same side. Since the Proto:87 Stores tie plates have various hole patterns, selecting the tie plates is a slow and tedious process.Further slowing the process is the necessity to glue tie plates before spiking. If you don’t glue the tie plates, they slide when you spike the rail.Spiking is hard to do uniformly. Getting the correct angle to have a uniform spike head showing has proved to be difficult. This occurs because spiking pliers (although extremely small) are too large for the spikes. Another factor is the glue hardening and tie plates not being properly aligned.

The process has been painstakingly slow. The gauge is great, but the spiking and tie plate uniformity is not perfect. I did have one major breakthrough: locating the points in relation to the sharp curve in the stock rail. I also gave up on the Proto:87 Stores point hinges and decided to use rail joiners soldered to PCB ties as point hinges, and it looks ugly.

I’m close to being finished, but I’m still not satisfied.

I still need to finish spiking the closure rails, maybe redoing the points, shim the frog to make it Proto:87 and guard rails.

© 2012 Greg Amer
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