We need a crane!


Part 9

Paint and Finish! I’m in the home stretch now! Of course this is where it is the easiest to mess everything up by not being patient enough with paint application, drying times, and over weathering!

My railroad has a standard paint scheme that is applied to locomotives and cabooses. I decided to use a modified version for this crane. Most prototype MOW equipment is painted in basic and simple schemes but every once in a while, a local shop will show a little extra pride and finish a favorite piece of equipment in a more flashy color. That is the case for this crane. While the tender is the basic MOW re-lettered black the crane is two tone dark red and grey with quad white stripes and company logos. The boss is mad about the wasted paint and labor, but the crew is proud! The CEO isn’t as upset, since this is a maintenance crane and not a wreck crane. The A&D doesn’t letter wreck equipment, in case a picture of a wreck cleanup ever shows up in a local newspaper… no company logos on the front page!

The cab is dark red with white quad stripes and lettering. The frame and trucks are grey. The boom and associated machinery is flat black. On this project, I am using rattle cans. I warm the well shaken cans by running warm tap water over the cans until the can is warm to the touch. If you shake the can and can feel a temperature change, the can is not warm enough. It seems this helps mix the paint with the propellant as well as thin the paint to allow a more even flow. I also don’t scrimp on the spray paint to begin with. The extra bucks at the hardware store for premium paint equals better paint and more importantly better nozzles! The $7 Krylon paint has MUCH better nozzles! The .99 cent cans have crude nozzles that seriously screw up paint flow. This leads to spatter and thick blobs. I also regularly wipe the nozzle off to keep any build up from falling into the stream. I hold the can about a foot from the model and make several light passes or “dustings” allowing the paint to set between shots. It can take several hours to get complete coverage. I also start by painting the cracks and crannies first and the open flat areas last. This helps control the paint thickness. Of course, all spray can painting has to happen outside with a box fan blowing from behind me! You don’t want to breathe this stuff! (You also should pay attention to the “down range” area from your painting! My wife didn’t like the new feathered colors I added to our brand new car! It wiped off with some Windex, but I was a little worried at first!)

After the paint has dried (can’t smell it), I’ll start the decaling. It’s getting close now!


Looking really great, Rick! When this visits the A&O it will really mess with the Dispatcher when it plugs the long single track stretch from Linnwood to Mount Union. And it won’t be long before all of that rail is laid!

When the paint dries, what are your thoughts about the rattle cans you used?


Part 9.1

This is the first O scale model I’ve painted in the standard A&D quad stripe paint scheme, and I have to admit, I’m pretty happy with it! Locomotives and caboose will use a larger stripe but the overall effect is the same. On this crane I did the stripes as individual pieces. That was a serious task! Keeping all those stripes straight and square was like herding wet cats! I think I will be drawing art work for custom decals for my locos and hacks.

While waiting for decals to set, I also solved the crane hook problem. As with several original features of this model, the hook dangling at the end of the boom was very much a toy. It looked to be about two times too big. I salvaged the pulley, and the actual hook itself but scratch built a new snatch block from styrene and NBWs. I didn’t follow any particular prototype, but rather aimed for an “it looks right” effect.


PART 9.2

I have also begun the final wiring for the lights. I plan on two spot lights facing forward, two red lights facing the rear, a step or truck light below the cab doors and a 4-light “rotating” beacon. All of these lights are surface mount LEDs wired with .004 magnet wire. These LEDs are available pre wired but I feel I need to torture myself and do all the work myself! Of course the costs are much lower this way and I can insure I get exactly what I need. The beacon is actually 4 LEDs driven by a small circuit from a company called Ngineering (ngineering.com). This circuit “flashes” the LEDs in a pattern that looks like they are rotating; a pretty cool effect. The spot lights are salvaged from the original MTH parts that came with the crane. I drilled out the insides of the housings. The LED is glued to the inside of the housing with the wires passing out the back. I used white glue for this that way I could always remove the LED down the road if it needed replacing. The inside of the housing will get silver paint and a Details Associates HO scale 14 inch lens. The rear red markers are traditional red LEDs turned down and fitted in the marker light openings. The step lights will be surface mount LEDs glued under the cab body and wired with the appropriate resistor to reduce the golden white color and brightness. My plan is to have the beacon and step lights always powered. Since this model is battery powered, the whole system can be “on” even when the sound is turned off. When the layout’s DCC system is turned off this crane is still on. By having the beacon always lit, I will have a visual queue that the crane is still powered! (The battery power for the crane can be turned off by toggling function 5 on the decoder or by unplugging the battery. If there is any voltage above 5 volts on the rails, the battery keeps turning back on automatically in order to charge/condition the battery. When operating on a traditional DCC layout, the only way to turn off the battery is to unplug it, as there is always power to the rails! I might look into a manual cut off switch!)


PART 9.3

Finishing the lights! I have to admit; wrangling electrons does not come as easily to me as Bob or Craig make it look! My original goal was to wire up three spot lights (2 forward for headlights and one for a reverse light) a pair of rear marker lights as well as two “step” lights under the cab and engine room doors. I also wanted a rotating beacon built up of 4 separate surface mount LEDs and controlled by circuit to look like it’s rotating. Well, the reality of my skills and will power took over and things changed a little! So now the crane has it’s three spot lights, the two rear red marker lights and a simple single LED beacon. The “step” lights didn’t happen at all! The beacon is a single SMD LED inside an amber colored plastic dome. The beacon effect is provided by the Tsunami DCC decoder’s Hyperlight FX using function 6 set to the Western-Cullen D312 Rotary Beacon effect and compensated for the LED.

I made a simple circuit board to hold all of the resistors protecting the LEDs. I am using a total of 6 LEDs with 4 of them being SMDs. These four LEDs use SMD resistors. The rear markers are made from a pair of recycled 3 mm square red LEDs I found in my electronics parts box. These two use the larger cylinder style resistors. I don’t know if there is any actual reason to use this combination of resistors, it’s just what I had, and it works! All of the LEDs are wired through the resister board using the decoder’s blue “common” wire. I also made a simple plug so I can separate the cab with all of the lights from the chassis and the attached decoder. All of the resistors were tested and matched to the decoder’s 12 volt (regulated by the system battery) head/tail lights and function leads.

If you have been following along with this build, you will remember that this crane uses a S-Cab battery powered R/C system to provide control. The S-Cab radio is mounted to the Tsunami DCC decoder and powers the decoder (and drive motor too) with a 3.7 volt LiPo battery (stepped up to 12 volts). Even though S-Cab system is a full DCC system, it only supports programing a small handful of CVs. These CVs do not include the the CVs for the Tsunami Hyperlight FX. In order to set these CVs correctly, I had to switch the decoder to traditional DCC control (through the rail) and use my NCE system to program the decoder CVs. The control function switch is a custom option added by Neil Stanton, the proprietor of the S-Cab system. After programing, I switched the control function back to radio control and everything works!


Shots of the beacon and the plug.


PART 9.4

The next step; installing the windows. The original MTH windows were tossed way back in step one. They were a single piece of clear styrene molded to fit the inside if the body and attached to the roof of the shell. I made individual windows from the clear plastic packaging that one of my son’s Christmas gifts came packed in! I glued the windows in place using Future (floor wax) liquid acrylic applied with a fine tip paint brush.

For the large windows on the cab, I tried something else. The design of these window openings allowed for a nice flush fit. I decided to simulate a more modern looking aluminum trimmed window. To simulate the aluminum trim I used metal ducting tape. This is the stuff used to seal HV/AC duct work. It comes in a roll like traditional duct tape, but it is an adhesive backed metal foil. I have used this stuff for several model projects in the past. (I made a canvas top for a military model, small squares for mirrors, and I used it to make layout backdrops and light valances “light tight”.) I trimmed a section of duct foil from the factory cut sides and laid the window on it so the two over lap about a scale inch. I than trimmed the extra foil away from the window. Do this for all four sides. After all the trimming is done, I glued the windows into position with the Future acrylic. I think it looks right.


Top notch Rick. She looks most excellent!!!


PART 9.5

I’m going to call this one pretty much “a wrap”! I added a few final details such as the maintenance step on the front of the cab (to clean the windshield) as well as a windshield wiper. I finished the fuel drums for the tender by painting them a shade of blue and using white decal around the middle portions. A red brakeman’s flag was added to the forward end of the tender to serve as a marker when reversing. I spent a little while studying pictures and have strung a few cables for the boom. These aren’t totally correct but I think they convey the purpose. I used a .4mm stainless steel 7 strand wire I found in the beading section of Wal-Mart. With a little rust wash, these are very convincing scale wire rope cables. I used small crimp beads to make joints. I’ll add a couple pictures of these cables soon.

When I did the test run on the “mother ship” in David’s basement, I noticed that the crane seemed to “buck” or “cog” when going down a steep grade. This was most noticeable when pushing the tender. I placed a call to NWSL and talked with the support guy (Dave). After going over what could or couldn’t be the problem, Dave suggested that he believed the problem stems from the excessive play in the couplers. To prove his theory, I have disabled the side to side swing of the couplers between the crane and the tender. The crane coupler is pinned with brass rods inserted in holes drilled through the coupler box on either side of the coupler shaft. The tender coupler is centered by stuffing small pieces of rolled up foam rubber into the coupler box on both sides of the shaft (Dave’s idea). Finally, I made a small “T-bone” from styrene strip that I insert between the coupler knuckles while the couplers are joined. This “T-bone” keeps the coupler slack from running in and out, and is removable. To uncouple, the “T-bone” has to be lifted out. I’ll test this to see if there is any improvement or restrictions. I did notice during the earlier test that the crane coupler swing was too much when pushing, so Dave at NWSL might be on to something here.

Hopefully not too far in the future, I’ll be able to get some video of the crane to share. I also need to make up the locomotive car card to for use during operating sessions.


I’ve really enjoyed this article. Marvelous work on the modifications. Really neat. I hope you guys didn’t mine me bumping this thread up. So cool.