Welcome to My HO Model Railroad Blog
This Blog is about my HO Model Railroad Hobby and how I model the Southern Pacific from my memories of the mid 1950s era as a teenager. I wrote a short synopsis of my back ground that can be found by going to my About Me page.

My layout is set in the mid 1950s in the Southern New Mexico/West Texas area. I grew up in El Paso Texas during the end of the Steam Era and lived in Alamogordo, NM during the 1960s & 70s. My wife and I are both retired and now reside in Bakersfield California. We have lived on both ends of the Southern Pacific Cab Forward Southern Route.

This is a simple track layout drawing of my Model Railroad.

You can click on the colored text to follow the links.

I moved the About Me & My Layout articles to their own page because they seldom change.
Updated December 5, 2014

To go to my current Locomotive Inventory click here.
Updated September 14, 2015

To go to my additional pages scroll down to the bottom of my Blog, there are links to navigate my blog as well as other model railroad interests.

You can send comments or ask questions at melsmodelrailroad@gmail.com

Thanks for taking the time to visit my Blog!

August 9, 2014 Remotoring a Rivarossi Cab Forward

I updated this post to the newest version of my Brass Frame.

I added 16 pictures of the new version to the end of the original post.  The finished Cab Forward runs much better than a new Rivarossi Cab Forward.  Even without adding additional weight the drawbar almost doubled.

The shell fits much better too, with the new brass frame it only needs the top center screw to secure the shell because of the better alignment from the new frame.

I plan on making brass frames for all of my Cab Forwards and AC-9s.  This project took a total of 10 hours and $4 for the brass to make a perfect running Cab Forward, not including the dual Canon EN22 motors.  I found 20 EN22 motors at $1.19 each about 8 years ago, should have bought 40 at that price.

I updated my CAD drawing to lower the front drive wheels to the correct position.  My original drawing has the drive wheels .053" closer to the bottom of the boiler than the original Rivarossi.  The corrected drawing is at the bottom of this post with a link to my Google Drive full size PDF.


Over the years I have remotored over a dozen Rivarossi Cab Forwards and created several posts on remotoring them.  This post is a new angle on remotoring.  After thinking about the dual Canon EN22 motor Cab Forward modification I had an idea bonk me on the head, "Why not make a new frame to fit the two Canon motors?"  I decided to do my thing on my CAD to see if it was easily doable.

I began by making a drawing of a Rivarossi Cab Forward "out of the box".

After about three days of dinking around off and on drawing several versions I came up with a scheme that I thought should be rather easy to do.

The picture above is a preliminary concept to see if it was a doable project.

After three or four days playing around with several versions the drawing above is the one I liked the best.  The inline shaft alignment should result in better efficiently with less mechanical problems.  After I drew up all the components to scale it was simple to move things around on the drawing.

By using K&S Brass Strips there is very little cutting.  The motor shaft alignment recess is easily accomplished by using .062" thick brass strips, three layers equal .186" and the shaft recess needed for alignment is .184".  Because of the curvature of the boiler in the Rivarossi shell the bottom brass strip works out to ½" wide by 4 7/16" long.  The second layer also needs to be ½" wide by only 1½" long, the top two strips are ¾" wide by 1½" long.  The wider top sections will give a larger working area for the Rivarossi gearbox.

After cutting the brass strips to size I used vice-grip pliers to hold the various pieces together to drill and tap holes so that I could keep them inline for soldering.  I used a 150 watt soldering iron to solder the brass then a sharp metal file to trim it up into a nice looking frame.

I have finished the brass frame and installed it in the Cab Forward shell and test run it with it's tender and both run terrific, very smooth with no wobble.

The picture above shows the brass frame in the shell wired to DCC specs.  In this version I'm going to install the 1.4 volt regulator in the tender with the sound decoder.  I'm going to use the green wire on pin 3 of the NMRA connector for the Marker lights to turn them on and off with DCC Function 3.

 I will add more to this post after I complete the wiring and add 8 ounces of lead bird shot to the boiler for added traction.

Added August 10, 2014

This dual motor conversion of a Rivarossi Cab Forward works so much better than the original that I'm going to make a second brass frame to experiment with.  The locomotive runs so unbelievably good I'm going to replace the frame in one of my kitbashed AC-9s also.

 Added August 15, 2014

After several hours of testing both a Cab Forward and a AC-9 using my home brew dual Canon EN22 motor brass frames I have come to the conclusion that dual motors with inline motor to gearbox alignment does away with all of the "Rivarossi Wobble".  Both run extremely smooth without any wobble.  I'm currently installing my third dual motor brass frame in a Rivarossi Cab Forward.  

Updated CAD drawing January 14, 2018

This is a more accurate drawing of the Brass Frame.  The front Rivarossi trunnion mount on the original drawing was .053" higher than with the original Rivarossi frame.  The detent corrects the error to +.01". 

A actual scale size PDF is available on my Google Drive, click here.

Updated Brass Frame January 23, 2018

The following pictures are the new version of the brass frame with the modification to lower the front driver assembly mounting bracket.  My original brass frame was off by .053". 

A few pictures of other things I did to complete the Cab Forward.

The Rivarossi Cab Forward ladders are part of the headlight mounting bracket.  I used Athearn Caboose ladders to make the Cab Forward ladders.  I attached the ladders to the Rivarossi shell so that the grab irons don't have to be removed to remove the shell.  Now the shell can easily be removed with one boiler screw.


December 2017 Update - Hickory House Scratch Build

December 28, 2017  I finally received my Tichy order – Update at the end of this post.

Having to spend several weeks convalescing in my recliner I decided to attempt another scratch build of a 1930s home for my layout.

I searched the Antique Home Site and come up with the Hickory House.  It has three bedrooms on the second floor and I modified the storage area to become a large model railroad room.

The numbers in the circles are the room/bulb numbers.

My wife and I really like the wrap around front porch and I even added a porch above the rear porch as a veranda off the Train Room.  As we no longer have our kids living with us we will use bedroom 3 as a hobby room also with access to the veranda.

The study on the first floor can double as a guest room.

I made full size HO drawings on my CAD to use as templates to make the walls.

Cutting the Midwest basswood siding was very easy using the templates.

I really like the Campbell/Northeast Scale Lumber corner posts for wood construction and Midwest basswood siding.  I make my own corner posts on my Dremel Router using 3/16" x 3/16" basswood strips.


I have Tichy windows and doors on order. 

This house has 14 lights installed, nine 4mm 12 volt 70ma bulbs and five 2.5mm 35ma bulbs.  I will drive the lights with a Arduino UNO Random Light Controller 

The construction has gone very smooth.  I'm going with basswood for the interior walls.  I the past I've used card stock for the interior walls.

By using basswood for the interior walls they are much firmer and more precise as well as easier to work with.  That works out much better when using micro connectors for the wiring.  The basswood wall inserts are easily removed and the connectors work smoothly.  Using card stock the walls couldn't be removed because they had to be glued in place.

The connectors on the porch roof worked out extremely well.  The 2.5mm 35ma bulbs work very good for the porch lighting, I went with 4mm 70ma bulbs for the interior lighting. I operate all my 12 volt lighting at 8½ volts for longer life as well as at a lower voltage they look much more realistic.

 I had a problem with the veranda light, I didn't want to mount it the the roof and the .01" wires are puny at best.  My solution was to fill the gap between the wires with 527 glue shown in the picture above.  That took care of the flimsy wire mount.

I have a problem preventing my wiring from looking like a bowl of spaghetti, honestly it looked much better before I fixed my first screw up.  

My first go-round with the power connector wasn't very good, I used a 16 pin single row micro connector.  The screw-up was it calls for a large hole in my layout to pass the wiring.  Rather than remove the single row connector I added a second double row 16 pin connector in parallel.

Now instead of a 1¾" oblong hole in my layout a ¾" round hole will pass the connector from the Arduino.  I can still use the single row connector for testing the bulbs.

This picture is the lighting connector wiring for houses wired for my Arduino Random Lighting Controller.  It randomly turns all 14 lights on and off simulate occupancy in the house.

The numbers are the room/bulb numbers 1-14, switched ground.   16 is lamp voltage (8½ to 9 volts), 15 is ground.  The Red connector is for connector alignment.

I use a 16 conductor flat ribbon cable between the Arduino Expansion Driver board and the house.

I had to install the door in the picture above because it took up the entire wall section and the wall was too frail without the door in place.  The reason for the large areas without windows is it's the kitchen and bathroom area and I will make custom windows for them when the Tichy parts arrive.

One problem with lighting up structures is eliminating light leaks.  I use 1/16" x 1/8" basswood strips under the inside edge of the roof to prevent light leaks.  The basswood also gives the roof some additional stability keeping it in place with out any glue leaving the roof easily removable. 

The roof is made from two layers of .02" thick card stock to hold the shingles, at this point I'm undecided as witch type of shingles to use.  I have both Campbell 800 shingles and Plastruct embossed Styrene shingle sheets on hand.

I use "EcoSwift" Chipboard off eBay for my card stock.

I decided to use the Plastruct Stryene shingles.  The Styrene is much easier compared to the Campbell shingle strips.

I ruffed up the Styrene shingle roof with 80 grit sandpaper to put some grain into the shingles then shot it with Rust-Oleum Grey Automotive Primer so that the Crafters Acrylic paint would adhere to the Styrene.

I'm still struggling with making the Styrene look like wood.

Next is some detailing work.  I used Tichy railing for the front porch and Grandt Line railing for the veranda porch.  

 The upper railing on both is Evergreen .08" square Styrene strip.  I glued some short .02" round Styrene rod to the back side of ends of the .08" strips as a stability pin to anchor the top railing to the walls.  The .02 rods slip into .02" holes in the walls.

Everything is removable in this build to make modifications easier down the road.  With all the new high-tech goodies available now days I'm leaving my new projects open for upgrades.


I used Tichy Turned Wood Porch Post for roof supports.

I'm back to waiting on parts to finish the windows and railing. 

I use .02" Styrene rod as pins to anchor the trim in place. By using pins to slip into holes the railings are easily removable.  The Tichy railing posts have a .02" pin in the bottom of each post making them removable too.

 This shows the pin that holds the upper tailing in alignment.

Here it's Styrene to Styrene joint.

Using pins for the railing is the way to go, don't know why I didn't think about doing it that way years ago.

I have always ended up breaking the railing while working on the structures.  With this method the railings are easily removed and replaced. 

Ever missed a spot while painting that was in a very hard to get to area?  While doing some spot touch ups to kill some light leaks one area was not doable with a regular brush so I made a difficult to get to brush.

Ye old soldering iron to the rescue.  I bit of heat to the plastic brush near the bristle end and a twist with long nose pliers and I  have a 90° angle brush.  Now I don't have any light leaks.

While I'm waiting for the windows to arrive I decided to add a garage to the Hickory House.

I had started building a garage several years ago and didn't like how it was going.  I was going to add it to my Swiss Chalet but I had run of of Batten board siding so I used Clapboard siding.  It didn't look right so I put it in the scrap wood box.

The Hickory House is Clapboard so I resurrected the garage.

This is the floor plan and wall templates for the garage.

 I used the same Plastruct Styrene shingles.  I've done a little better finishing the Styrene.

These two pictures are of my preparing my layout for the Hickory House.
I'm getting better at finishing Styrene, checkout the shingles.

The base is ⅛" plywood with wadded up mailing adds soaked in Elmer's glue stuffed under it for filler.

Again I'm stuck waiting on windows.

I did over haul the lighting in both structures, there are a total of 21 rooms and porch lights that are driven off one of my Arduino Lighting Controllers.  The Arduino UNO only has 20 ports so bulb #21 is driven from a diode matrix.

While waiting on the windows and door I started the scenery around the two house base plates.  I decided to go with Paper Mâché for the scenery base.

This is the first picture taken under my new LED lighting in the garage.  I have used WS Earth Undercoat on the Paper Mâché and Elmer's All Purpose White Glue mixed 8 parts water to 1 part Elmer's to make the gravel road mud.  The 2" putty knife works very good to trowel the mud into a very good looking road.

Now that I have removed the fluorescent lighting and installed LED lighting the scenery wont fade anymore, big improvement.  Fluorescent lights putout UV rays and ultra violet rays dings the color over time on everything.  Once I get scenery looking good it wont fade anymore.

December 28th update

I finally received my Tichy order.  It took over 24 hours to paint, make the window curtains and install everything.  This is the first time I've used white for the trim on any of my scratch builts. 

I installed the stairs and finished painting the trim.  I replaced the two front railings after breaking them during the process. 

Here are some closeups of some of the Hickory House occupants, all but one are hand painted.

More as I progress on this addition, next is installing the house on my layout. 

I finished the garage and its ready to be installed on my layout.

 Even without the interior lights on you can see the fellow on the second floor.

I corrected my error, I removed the ribbon cable pigtail and installed a recessed connector.  The recessed connector lets the garage sit flat on my workbench for easy access for painting and future maintenance.

Next will be to install both the Hickory House and garage on my layout.