Thursday, July 30, 2015

Modeling SP stock cars

For many years, there was no realistic way to model SP stock cars, short of scratchbuilding or extensive kitbashing. Then the Westerfield resin kits came along, with masters by Frank Hodina. Since Frank made those masters before anyone told him that “everyone knew” you simply couldn’t cast stock car sides in resin, he was unaware of the “impossibility” and made them anyway, and Al Westerfield produced kits from them. Those kits are time-consuming to build (and are still available), and were a landmark because at last there were accurate SP stock cars. Then, of course, as probably everyone knows, Red Caboose did one SP stock car class, S-40-5, in styrene. This post is mostly about those cars.
     Below is a prototype photo of a car from Class S-40-5, taken at Dunsmuir in 1928, from the Shasta Division Archives. End lettering is so faded as to be almost invisible, though the car has been repainted since its construction in 1916. Trucks are Vulcan.

     The Red Caboose cars are in large part beautifully rendered from the prototype. One reason they chose this particular car class is that there was a good drawing available. The entire class of over 900 cars (a large class as stock cars go) was built with Vulcan trucks. And here lies one of the issues with the Red Caboose model — most model cars were assembled with T-section trucks. Some later SP stock car classes did receive such trucks, but I know of no photo nor SP Freight Car Ledger entry showing an S-40-5 car with T-section trucks. So an early fix applied by many modelers (including me) with the Red Caboose model was to substitute Vulcan trucks. I have mostly used the Kadee No. 515 trucks for this, a sprung metal truck. Kadee has not yet released this truck in a HGC or High Gravity Compound version (which are better looking by far), so for the time being, the 515 truck is the one to use. I usually replace the Code 110 wheelsets with Code 88 wheels on my cars.
     I should also mention that those who have attempted to operate the Red Caboose cars with their original trucks have had a lot of problems. These appear to stem from the fact that the trucks are designed to be equalizing, with the side frames able to rotate somewhat relative to the bolster around an axis parallel to the bolster long dimension, and in practice that rotation is insufficiently free. Trucks get cocked so all wheels don’t sit on the same plane, and that’s an automatic derailment waiting to happen. Two solutions have been tried that I know of: to try and free up the rotation part, or to give up on rotation and glue the truck parts into a rigid, single piece. I know one experienced and skilled modeler who tried both, and did not feel either one was successful. But others claim good results with the glue approach. As I mentioned above, though, I use a third solution: replace the trucks altogether. My current standard for car trucks is to discard all Red Caboose rotating trucks immediately.
     Here is one example of a Red Caboose stock car I own, SP 73557, shown in a train on the layout. It has Kadee Vulcan trucks.

     I have a single Northwestern Pacific stock car from the Red Caboose fleet; NWP only received 60 cars in Class S-40-5, but there is evidence that these cars roamed the SP throughout California, so it seemed all right to have one. It’s shown below next to an SP stock car, which has the very nice detail that Red Caboose included, the long letterboard from when the road name was spelled out (as in the photo just above). But the SP car shown below has not had its T-section trucks replaced yet, nor does it have a reweigh date, so it’s not quite ready for service.

     I also have a single Westerfield stock car in service, modeling Class S-40-8. Though that class had only half as many members as S-40-5, and the body was very similar to the -5 design, one difference is that there were open slats at the top of the ends. Ends on Class S-40-5 are entirely closed. The -8 class was built by Pullman, mostly in 1924, and was delivered with T-section trucks from American Steel Foundries (not Bettendorf). By the 1950s, though, photos as well as Car Ledgers show that some cars received replacement cast-steel trucks with U-section sideframes, and I modeled my car that way.

     Since I have a stock pen at East Shumala on the layout (see, for example, ), I do need a few stock cars to come and go, and also one or two to be stored there. SP documents from the 1950s advise agents to store any empty stock cars, pending a request for them for loading, since there was a system-wide surplus of stock cars at the time. In most of my operating sessions there is indeed an empty stock car or two at the end of the stock siding.
Tony Thompson

Tuesday, July 28, 2015

Modeling highway trucks, Part 4 — more examples

In the previous post in this series ( ), I showed some trailers I had modified, and in the present post I want to show more, along with a van truck. These are in addition to the earlier work.
     I have received very helpful comments from a couple of modelers who are far more knowledgeable about semi-trailers and trucking than I am. One point made is that the Athearn 24-foot trailer is undersize (too narrow and a little too short in height), probably made that way so it would fit onto the Athearn flat car and operate on a range of model layouts. It is also awfully plain and far from typical of many 1950s trailers. One approach to easy but effective modifications to these trailers can be found in Art Curren’s article in Model Railroader (November 1990), pages 120 and 121. Though not about superdetailing at all, Curren shows simple ways to get different trailer appearances.
     One can also be critical of the Ulrich van trailer as being rather simplified, especially with its totally smooth sides. Since I am mostly trying to get broadly realistic tractor-trailers on my layout roads, this isn’t vital to me, but I do realize that truck parts like correct mirrors, air-line connections, landing gear and other details can certainly be added to make a more detailed and more accurate vehicle. I will concentrate on tractors in subsequent posts.
     Those concerns aside, I proceeded to make up a few more trailers from both Athearn and Ulrich. As I have pointed out in previous posts, I find the many prototype photos at Hank’s Truck Pictures very helpful (see: ). Though many of the older photos are black-and-white, they do at least permit finding out if a company’s trailers were white or silver, by far the commonest colors in the 1950s. And again, I have depended greatly on the decorations available from Graphics on Demand (you can visit them at: ), with Ken Goudy’s extensive prototype research behind these graphics.
     One truck type I wanted on the layout was beer delivery trucks. Graphics on Demand has a number of 1950s regional beer truck graphics. One I chose was Acme, and applied that graphic to one of the Athearn trailers. The tractor is a Classic Metal Works (CMW) 1941–46 Chevrolet, shown on Nipomo Street in my layout town of Ballard.

Acme Beer has an interesting history (there is a fine summary at this link: ) and as a San Francisco company fits well into my Central California modeling location. In 1935 they had added a brewery in southern California (Vernon) and continued operating both the San Francisco and Vernon breweries until 1954, when the plants were sold to Liebmann Brewing of New York (Rheingold Beer). Liebmann sold the Vernon plant to Hamm’s in 1957, and closed the San Francisco brewery in 1958.
     One of the trucking companies I wanted to include was California Motor Express, or CME. Luckily Graphics on Demand carries their earlier decoration, before they went to a graphic that looks like a truck. Here is that trailer behind another CMW tractor, on Bromela Road in Ballard.

And yes, in both the foregoing photos you can see my interchangeable billboards in action. For more on that idea, you can read this post: .
     I have also been working with a couple of Ulrich metal trailers, 32 feet long, to add some of these kinds of graphics. In the next photo, you see a trailer decorated for Oregon Nevada California Fast Freight, pulled by an Ulrich Kenworth tractor. It's shown on Pismo Dunes Road on my layout at Shumala. (You can click to enlarge.)

The tractor does lack side mirrors at this point.
     I have shown previously a delivery truck for my wholesale grocer, Peerless Foods (it’s shown in this blog: ).  Since a number of the grocery items handled by Peerless are refrigerated, I wanted to add a refrigerated truck also, and used the CMW Chevy van of this type. I simply added a Peerless sign to one side, as you see here, on Bromela Road, with the Union Oil dealer at right,

     Another truck I wanted to have is a Bekins trailer. My uncle Joe worked for Bekins for years, and in addition to their moving-van type trailers (often with lowered floors), they had conventional trailers too. My model is the Ulrich trailer and Kenworth tractor. Here again, the decoration is from Graphics on Demand, shown on Pismo Dunes Road.

     These additional trucks have added to the variety on my layout, and I have been happy to be able to represent some Western trucking concerns as part of this project. I have a few more to do, which I’ll report one of these days.
Tony Thompson

Saturday, July 25, 2015

Waybills, Part 42 — flexibility

I have discussed a number of times in this blog my ideas about how to maximize both convenience and flexibility in a waybill system. You can search for specific parts of these topics using the search box just to the right of this paragraph, and with search terms including “waybills,” which is in the header for all the posts. You can also obtain the first 29 posts in this series in a PDF assembled by Mike White and available from a link on this blog post: .
     My most recent post about waybills explored the idea of “overlay” bills, and you can read it at this link: . These are an important part of my flexibility ideas. The core concept here is that in the transition era, there were many cars that can be termed “free running,” that is, they could be confiscated for loading on any road, not just on their owner’s or lessor’s rails. The primary group of this type was box cars, but many gondolas and flat cars were also free-runners. What that means on a layout is that a particular loaded car could arrive from almost anywhere in the country, and in turn could be reloaded outbound to almost anywhere (for the moment I ignore Car Service Rules, which I have also covered in prior blog posts).
     If a person is using car cards and separate waybills (or car sleeves and separate waybills, as I practiced at one time), the movement of cars just described is easily reproduced. Any waybill can be put with any car card (even steel beams in a tank car, if you don’t pay attention), and flexibility is as complete as you could wish. But the problem with those systems is that the waybills are not particularly prototypical (though Jeff Aley and others have made advances in the right direction). If you want realistic waybills, and I recognize that not everyone does, you need a different system.
     Several people have been developing various realistic systems in recent years. Dan Holbrook was really the pioneer here, as far as I know, and more recently Tony Koester, Ted Pamperin, and I have been among those trying to implement several refinements in these ideas. Here are a few of my current waybills, set alongside the corresponding freight cars on my layout, during an operating session.

Actually, I prefer that operators not “decorate” the layout like this, but I know that making this arrangement can be a big help in making sure all cars and bills match up and are accounted for.
     The good news with “modern” waybill systems is that a very prototypical and realistic waybill can result, but the bad news is that it is for a particular car. If you wished to depict that same load arriving in a different car, you need an entire new waybill for the same load, but in that different car. In the old car card systems, only a single waybill for any given load was needed; in the realistic systems, you could need (in principle) as many waybills for that load as you have suitable cars, so that any one of your free-running cars could handle the load. If I roster, say, 100 box cars, you can see the dimensions of the problem.
     That’s where overlay bills come in. They allow more flexibility, though not as much as in the car card systems. I commented on that in the post which is linked in the second paragraph, above. Here I want to talk about the patterns with which I use these. Since I have lots of PFE cars and lots of outbound perishable loads, overlay bills work very nicely with these cars and loads. I have also created a lot of overlay bills for outbound boxcar load, naturally all SP waybills like the perishables, and again, it gives me good flexibility. But there are still further issues to confront.
     The first problem I have found with waybills tied to specific cars is to implement my system of car movement scheduling. Waybills are all very well by themselves, but which ones are chosen, at which times? Answering that calls for a schedule — though of course you can just pick and choose by eyeball if you wish. My system, which is a version of what is properly described as “demand-based car flow,” was described earlier (see this post: ), and I even devised an approach which can allow randomization of the sequence of waybills if desired (that post is at: ).
     My scheduling method gives me the needed waybills, by industry, for an upcoming session. If the waybills are filed by industry, these are quickly pulled from the file, and now the question is, where is the corresponding freight car stored? The answer, for this system, requires a master list of all car locations. Alternatively, if the waybills are filed by car reporting mark and number, there needs to be a list of waybills and associated car numbers (what I have called a “pairs list” in prior blog posts, such as this one: ). Then the needed car would be found from a master location list. Either way, there has to be some paperwork by the layout owner so that cars and waybills can be found and put together. (Unless, of course, all cars can be accommodated in plain view on the layout. That is not my situation, having a considerable collection of cars stored in various places.)
     Currently I am using a file box designed for baseball card collectors (logical, since I used baseball card sleeves for my waybills), and waybills are filed by industry or siding. You can see this below from the tabs in the file. (You can click on the image to enlarge it.)

Some of the old “car sleeves” remain in this file, as you see by car type in the foreground area. But of course they are not part of the problem I’m discussing.
     So far my efforts to marry the waybill file, shown above, with an incomplete “master roster” of all stored freight cars, is working all right, but that roster needs to be completed. At some point, I will likely publish another post to show how that works.
Tony Thompson

Wednesday, July 22, 2015

An operating weekend

This past weekend, I hosted two operating sessions, one on Saturday, one on Sunday. These were invitational (from a list of acquaintances and fellow operators), and of course, fun is really the first goal of such a session, both for me in making it happen, and hopefully for participants in doing it. But I did have additional things that I wanted to come out of the sessions: primarily further testing of layout changes and improvements, as well as exercising my operating scheme and waybills. I should emphasize that these goals were secondary, but I did have them in the back of my mind. And last but not least, I wanted to repay some of those whose layouts I’ve had the pleasure of operating on in the past
     As seems to work on my smallish layout, I assign two crews of two each, one to start switching at Shumala, the other at Ballard on the opposite side of the layout, and when each each crew is done, they will have made up a train to go to the other side. When those two trains run, the two crews can exchange sides to switch out the cars that have just arrived at the new destination.
     On Saturday, the crew which began at Ballard was Jim Providenza and Paul Weiss, both of whom are certainly operating experts as well as experts at layout maintenance — the latter point leading to suggestions on their part about solutions to some of my glitches. In the photo below, you see Jim (foreground) holding the throttle because he’s engineer on the local, but looking ahead to see where the next car pickup is, while in the background Paul, who was conductor here, appears to be nudging a stalled locomotive.

     On the Shumala side, meanwhile, Clifton Linton and Lisa Gorrell were at work. As you can see, Cliff has the paperwork and is planning switch moves (he made good use of switch lists to organize the job), and Lisa is engineer of the diesel switcher.

     Most everything went well. The waybill scheme was effective and there were only a couple of cars which acted up during operation (all were pulled off for maintenance). Locomotives worked well, but we had some electrically balky turnouts, only some of which we could diagnose. It is always baffling when a turnout which worked fine in the morning when I made one last pass over the trackage, starts acting up in the afternoon when guests arrive. (Yes, I know, there’s a well-known adage that “guests cause sleeping gremlins to wake up,” and my experience obviously provides more data in support of that saying.) Just one of those things.
     But  it was well worth the experience to get expert advice, especially from people like Jim and Paul, both of whom have torn out track on their own layouts at times, to rebuild and make it better.
     For simplicity, I’ve only shown the Saturday crew, though I re-staged overnight and a different crew operated much the same session on Sunday. Once again, I got good advice on trackwork maintenance from experienced layout owners who were there, as well as helpful comments on the operation scheme. So in addition to the fun of putting the layout to work, both days I identified  problems as well as solutions on the layout.
     In a way, I was a little discouraged that we did find problems, which I hadn’t found in advance, but as Jim Providenza reminded me, the layout in its present form has been operated in a formal way relatively few times, and as he put it, “remember, it’s still early days.” So I have some fixes to implement, and next operating session, at least some of the demons will be exorcised. And not to forget, we will continue to have fun doing all the switching. That part worked just fine.
Tony Thompson

Sunday, July 19, 2015

Automobiles in HO scale

There have been HO scale automobiles for decades, and of course I can’t begin to provide any kind of overview or summary of these. Instead, I will just mention a few recent projects of my own. Today, modelers are very familiar with the generally fine replicas made by Classic Metal Works or CMW (“Mini Metals”) and by Acme. In this post, I go beyond those.
     Below are a selection of kits and complete vehicles, somewhat randomly selected, from my stash of vehicles. I am including light trucks here. From left to right, they are, in the top row, a Stoney Mountain model of a 1938 GMC box truck, a Sylvan Scale Models 1948–53 Chevrolet tank truck, a Greg’s Garage 1946 Pontiac “Streamline,” and the Williams Bros. set of three 1940 Ford coupes. Below are a Jordan 1929 Ford Model A Railway Express truck, a CMW 1936 Ford sedan, and a later Greg’s Garage model of a 1941–47 Dodge truck cab and chassis. The Sylvan line is especially large and impressive and well as accurate, and I recommend them if you don’t already know them (you can visit them at: ).

Greg’s Garage was originally in Saginaw, Michigan, when founder Greg Brown ran it, and later was in Burtonsville, Maryland under new ownership. Stoney Mountain makes a variety of products and is on the web at this link: . The advantage of all these vehicle kits is that they provide variety. I model 1953, but as I well remember from my teenage years, there were still plenty of cars around from previous decades.
     Several of these kits are resin castings, using clear resin so that the windows look open but the body is a simple, one-piece casting. The Williams cars are hollow moldings, so window glass, if desired, would have to be added (perhaps with Microscale “Krystal Klear” or canopy glue). The Stoney Mountain kit is opaque resin, so a choice of dark window color has to be made.
     These models can generally be brush painted (for the clear resin ones) or airbrushed. A key point on finishing, especially automobiles, is the chrome trim. It is so small in HO scale that it really is not possible to do with a brush, even the very smallest size. A great tip I learned from building a Sylvan Scale Models kit is to use a toothpick to apply the silver paint. Simple and works great.
     I of course apply 1953 California license plates to my autos (along with a few out of state plates), as I have described before. One blog post on this topic is at: , and I have more discussion of it in my upcoming column in the August 2015 issue of Model Railroad Hobbyist.
     I will just show a few examples of vehicles on my layout. I didn’t include any Magnuson Models vehicle kits in the photo above, though I have built their 1948 Ford coupe and the 1953 Chevrolet. I especially like the latter car. My dad bought one new, and it was the first car in which I was allowed to drive by myself. So I felt obliged to paint it in the two-tone green and yellow scheme that my dad’s car had. Here it’s on Chamisal Road in my layout town of Shumala.

     One make of model car that is easy to build is the Williams Bros. type, which are simple moldings. Though not superdetailed, they do have interiors and open windows. Here is one of the 1940 Ford coupes, on Nipomo Street at the town of Ballard on my layout.

In the background is one of my interchangeable billboards, the concept and construction of which I described briefly in a prior post (see it at: ).
     I mentioned the familiar CMW vehicles above, and to many modelers they are attractive because they are ready to run (with, perhaps, the addition of license plates). The same is true of Oxford Diecast, which has produced several nice HO vehicles that I could use. And there are several European makers which occasionally produce a North American vehicle.
     Another maker worth mentioning is Alloy Forms, producers of metal kits, at one time, and ready-to-run vehicles. Here is their 1948 Ford convertible, a very nice model car to park in a prominent location, like the parking area at my Ballard depot. I especially like the period whitewall tires.

Behind the convertible is a 1949 Studebaker “Commander,” also from Alloy Forms.
     I mentioned the Greg’s Garage kits above, which are clear cast resin and require only painting and the addition of the wheels which come in the kit. Here is the 1946 Pontiac “Streamline,” shown at the section house on my SP main line. That’s a Dyna-Models 1947 Ford pickup truck behind it.

     The point I hope I am making is that there are really a lot of HO scale vehicles out there, past and present, and the kits are well worth a look. They offer access to automakers and years not otherwise available.
Tony Thompson

Thursday, July 16, 2015

Extending Bromela Road

In my layout town of Ballard, the road which passes the depot is Bromela Road. This location can be seen on schematic maps, as I showed in my column for Model Railroad Hobbyist in October 2014. Here’s the current Ballard map; Bromela Road is at right. (You can click to enlarge.)

I built a new grade crossing into this road to serve an additional industry (described here: ), with the completion shown in a following post (a link: ). That’s the spur at lower right, to the Standard Oil dealer.
     In the map above, Bromela Road crosses the main and siding tracks, then makes a vaguely defined turn to the left between tracks 5 and 7. It was always my intention to make some kind of extension of the road along that alignment, but it’s never really come together. Partly to prepare for my idea of adding a truck dump alongside Track 5, I decided to go ahead with building this road extension.
     I chose to use styrene for this roadway, a material I like. I have shown my method with this material earlier, when building Pismo Dunes Road (see: ), and would not repeat it, except that in the case of the Bromela Road modeling, I needed to generate a smooth transition between two levels of scenery. Pismo Dunes Road is level on my layout.
     I began by taking a sheet of newsprint and working on the layout itself, I cut out a a variety of road sizes and shapes until I was happy with the way one of them fit the space. Then I used the paper pattern as a guide to cut a piece from my large sheet of 1/16-inch styrene and primed it with Testor’s Aircraft Dark Gray.

The paper pattern (top) is shown alongside the primed styrene piece. There is a deliberate narrowing of the road, to force a little perspective.
     Once the primed styrene was ready, I mixed up a generous batch of Sculptamold to act as a glue for the roadway piece, spread some under the path of the road, and pressed the styrene into it, adjusting to get a smooth vertical curve. I then weighted each end of the styrene so it could set up. In the view below, I think you can detect that there is a grade in the road, climbing toward the background scenery level. Most roadway edges were also blended with Sculptamold.

Weights here are a small anvil at left, and a slice of a lead ingot at right. In the center of the photo, the first stage in making the truck dump ramp can be seen.
     With this step completed, and the roadway well glued to its location, I made another batch of paper mache, this time the Brandt’s Taxidermist’s material, which with its finer grain makes a smoother surface. (There are many comparable paper mache products for taxidermists, all over the Internet; here’s just one example: .) I completed blending the road shoulders, and also faired the new roadway onto the adjacent road areas.
     With the contours looking all right alongside the roadway, I painted all the shoulders with Rust-Oleum “Nutmeg” and the roadway itself with gray primer. Now the road was looking much better, even though the “asphalt” color still needs improvement! To me, this primer color is too bluish and needs to be warmer. But the smooth road contour as it climbs upward is what I wanted.

The track in the background is simply lying in an approximate location of where Track 7 will eventually be.
     All that remains now is scenic treatment of the shoulders, and better road paint. The truck dump also needs development, but that is still a ways off.
Tony Thompson

Monday, July 13, 2015

Constructing Santa Rosalia — final structure

I have shown a number of parts of the construction of my layout town of Santa Rosalia, the end of my SP branch line. You can readily search for them using the search box directly to the right (this page), and the term “Santa Rosalia.” The last time I showed the under-construction status was in this post (link: ), in which I showed the the corner of the room, into which the branch extends. Here is that photo, repeated. Right in the corner is my future harbor area.

You can see that there is some space at the right edge of the layout as shown here, reaching to the edge of the doorway. I decided to use that space. First step was to glue a splice plate underneath the existing plywood track board.

With that done, I experimented with newsprint to make a suitable shape of the new layout addition. Below is the final paper pattern, lying atop the 5/8-inch plywood sheet from which I would cut out this piece. You can see at right the pencil outline of the pattern that was traced on the plywood.

Once this plywood piece was cut out, the next step was to glue it atop the splice plate attached earlier. As before, I used yellow carpenter’s glue. You can see how the structure now fills all the space over to the doorway.

     With the plywood base installed, I used the same paper pattern to cut a piece of 1/2-inch Homasote to match. As always with Homasote, I used a Utility knife for this. Cutting Homasote with any kind of saw is a good way to generate lots of fluffy dust, but otherwise undesirable. Here is the result.

     As things have progressed with the Santa Rosalia harbor area, and with other aspects of development, such as the cannery and the depot (see for example the post at: ), I’ve completed painting the area with my favorite “ground” color, Rust-Oleum “Nutmeg,” and currently it looks like the photo below. Against the wall are the fish cannery and (at left) Pismo Marine Services (these two buildings, both kitbashed, were described previously at: ). The Common Standard no. 22 depot (an American Model Builders kit) is in the center. The house track curves behind the depot.

The white Xerox copy in the foreground is the plan of the Peco three-way switch that will be placed there.
     Track laying is progressing in Santa Rosalia (see a prior news item on this: ), and the placement of roads, additional industrial buildings, and scenery will be happening soon.
Tony Thompson