Last fall we found that carpenter ants had invaded a Bachmann box in our storage building. We put out baits that should have killed them, but this spring the ants were still vigorously there. So we moved the box to our patio, to eliminate the “hill” and rescue the model trains. Here is the box, with ants on the outside, and after slicing the shipping box open:

Them-1 Them-2Them-3

After stripping away the boxes, the ants’ “hill” was revealed. Inside the foam enclosing the Bachmann train set.


We used a vacuum to reduce the number of ants.


The foam was so thin after ant-excavation that the vacuum tore it apart.


Then, the remaining box went into a trash bag, and several days later to the dump.

Capra Carbone


Capra Carbone (9)Capra Carbone (6)Capra Carbone (8)Capra Carbone (11)

This little  soft goat cheese is a lactic type goat’s milk cheese with a covering of salt and fine powdered charcoal and salt.

The history of ash in cheese making goes back hundreds of years to its use as a method to protect the surface of young cheese. As years passed, they later discovered that it also greatly improved the surface molds and how they grew on fresh cheeses for ripening. In earlier times, this was ash from the burning of grape vine clippings in the Loire Valley of France which was even then noted for their wealth of fresh goat cheese. 

We refer to the cheese as Ashen Goat, or Capra Carbone.  I’m still looking for a good name.

SC&F Logging Disconnects

Seattle Car and Foundry Co. Logging Disconnects



This kit is for 3 pair or 6 of the above disconnect. It comes with 12 side frames, 12 end frames, 6 log bunks, 12 log bunk stops, 6 brake wheels, 6 lock pawls, 24 journal lids, 6 wood cross beams, 6 wood longitudinal beams, 12 Sierra Valley Wheelsets, 6 pair Accucraft couplers, 30+ brass square nuts, 150+ brass NB’s and sufficient brass rod.


First step is to clean up all the flash on the metal casting and sand the wood parts. I then drilled with a # 56 drill and placed all the brass NB’s. The longitudinal beams need to have 1/8" cut from each end. The beams are a bit too long for the couplers to fit into the coupler pockets.


Next step was to drill the end frames for the couplers. I measured the metric screws supplied with the Accu couplers.  They measure .075". I drilled out the end frames at the depressions with a # 49 drill (.073"). Then carefully screw the brass metric bolts into the holes. The castings are soft enough and the bolts tough enough to thread the holes. Also you must remove the lower bolt from the draft gear so that the coupler will slide into the pocket.


Next, drill the axial holes with a # 30 (.128"). Do not drill the hole to deep or you will have to much slop in side to side play of the wheels. I drilled the holes approximately 1/8" to 3/16" deep. You will need to test fit for proper fit. The corners are the most tricky part of the assemble. Laid out here is how the parts will go together.


The next step is to drill the holes in the corners. I drilled through the the center of the cast nut on the top strap of the side frame, down through the top and bottom straps of the end frame and only half way through the bottom strap of the side frame. You do not want to drill too deep as you will destroy the nut / bolt casting at the bottom of the end frame. I loosely assembled the side and end frames and wood beams and held the parts together with a rubber band. Then off to the drill press. The brass rod is .060" diameter and I used a # 52 drill (.062").  There will be overhang of strap material which will be sanded off after gluing. A little clamp helps hold things together.


After drilling all 4 corners, assemble the unit with wheels and insert the brass rod through the corners. The brass nut is threaded and too small for the brass rod to penetrate, so I drilled it out also with the # 52 drill.  The first corner maybe a bit tricky, but work out your method and do all 4 corners. When finished, should look like this.


After sanding the corners and the protruding brass rod.


And to finish up the disconnect, drill a # 52 hole through the depression in the center of the log bunk. Press a length of brass rod though the hole and put a nut on top. Sand flush. Drill a #52 hole in the center of the longitudinal wood beam and press the log bunk assemble into the hole. Glue the log bunk stops on either side of the log bunk. Glue the journal lids on the journal boxes. Drill a # 52 hole through the brake wheel and lockpawl and side end of the longitudinal wood beam and install. Screw the couplers into the end frames and your done.



Wooden Howe Truss Bridge, part 2

See part 1 here.

The SPJRR Howe Truss Bridge kit usually has stringers for track laid during the construction of the deck. I decided to take a different approach. I wanted a more realistic depiction of the type of stringers real railroads used on wooden bridges and trestles. And, I was going to take advantage of the much more detailed track-work possible in 1:20.3 scale by hand-laying track, including using tie plates under the rail. I also plan on having custom old-style fishplate castings made for each simulated rail joint at 18” intervals (about 30 scale feet, slightly under the prototype 33 feet, but nicely divides each 6-foot piece of rail into four sections).

The rail I am using is Llagas Creek code 215 aluminum. I “blackened” it with JAX Aluminum Blackener, and then painted it with a light coat of red oxide primer. Tie plates and spikes are Ozark Miniatures items.

Tie jig 1

I made a jig out of styrene to assure correct tie spacing, shown here with the first run of spiked ties. Note the stops at each end to position the rail in the center of the deck.

Tie jig 2

Here it is, positioned for another run of ties. It takes me about 2 hours to spike each foot section.

For stringers, I’m using 3/8 x 1/2″ lumber, which scales to about 8×10″ for 1:20.3, which looks good but is not prototypical. I searched for spacers that would work in brass, because the weathered patina looks really nice, but no luck. So I made “packing washers” by 3D printing through Shapeways in plastic.


I had custom Brass Rods made to secure the stringers by SPJRR, because I like brass. Here are the bags of parts, and the packing washers on a bamboo skewer ready for painting (in red oxide) and then painted. I used sharp scissors to separate the pieces, which worked better than an X-acto knife.

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After attempting to use a hand drill to drill the stringers, which was a total fail, I purchased a small drill press, and that was very successful. I made a jig to center the piece, and set the hole positions. There was one near each end, and two in the center to mate with other staggered stringers.

Stringer Drilling JigStringer-4

Within about 1 hour, I had made the jig and drilled all the stringers. Note the hand-drilled pieces in the back, which will be used as center pieces.


The stringers are best assembled with the center always overhanging both outside pieces, so you’re never trying to fit a stringer between existing pieces. Note the spacers on each of the rods on the piece ready to attach.


Here’s the finished stringer sitting on the bridge, with the track resting on it. It’s going to look great!

Stringer on Bridge