Tuesday, July 7, 2015

Modeling highway trucks, Part 3: more trailers

I began this series of posts with a discussion of straight or box trucks (see: http://modelingthesp.blogspot.com/2015/07/modeling-highway-trucks-part-1-box.html ). The second post was an introduction to modeling of semi-trailers, particularly Western ones (and that post can be read at this link: http://modelingthesp.blogspot.com/2015/07/modeling-highway-trucks-part-2-semi.html ). In this post I will continue with more modeling of semi-trailers.
     A point I have not raised earlier but worth mentioning is capacity of these trailers. The Classic Metal Works (CMW) 32-foot Aerovan trailer, shown in the previous post (link above) has a single rear axle, all right for local delivery and other light assignments, but not likely for heavier intercity work. A dual-axle bogie like the ones under the Ulrich trailers would be more appropriate. But there is a better source.
     Modelers of a certain age are almost certain to own a few of the old Athearn 24-foot trailers. Though simplified, these are decent models of short trailers for anyone who is not really a truck modeler. Here is a pair of them.


The paint scheme shown postdates my modeling era of 1953, so the lettering shown is unwanted for my layout. This lettering comes off quite easily with a Q-tip and some rubbing alcohol.
     But to anyone who knows trucking, there is one glaring oddity about this model: its dual-axle rear wheels. That application was rare in short trailers like this, which were used mostly for pick up and delivery, and perhaps resulted from Athearn wishing to make the model look more substantial. A single axle would be much more typical (Paul Koehler is one of those who pointed this out to me). Of course I just mentioned the CMW trailer that should have two axles instead of one, so why not swap?
     A razor saw makes short work of removing the Athearn bogie flush with the underframe of its trailer. Then I used a razor blade to carefully cut the mounting posts of the CMW trailer single-axle bogie. Each can now be glued to the other trailer. I used Plastruct “Plastic Weld” cement for a secure joint.
     This bogie exchange permits a more realistic set-up of the Los Angeles – Seattle Motor Express (LASME) rig I showed in the previous post, now using an Ulrich Kenworth tractor, as would be typical for over-the-road hauling. The 32-foot CMW trailer now has two rear axles. At the same time, the revamped Athearn 24-foot trailer with a new single axle looks better behind the CMW 1941-46 Chevy tractor, a lighter hauler and appropriate for, say, city delivery.


     I stripped the paint from some of my Athearn 24-foot trailers and repainted them other colors, such as white. The Coast Truck Lines trailers shown below was made with another Graphics on Demand lettering set (you can visit them at: http://store.graphicsdemand.com/ ), with the trailer converted to a single axle and hauled by a CMW Chevy tractor. (It’s not yet weathered.) This single axle is from a CMW trailer, but it is even easier to simply slice off the forward axle on the original Athearn bogie.


     I said a little about paint schemes in the previous post. To expand on that, here are three of the original Ulrich trailers I’ve collected. They are lettered for Illinois California Express, Garrett Freight Lines, and Denver Chicago Trucking Company. All three represent active motor carriers in the 1950s, which I model, and all were Western companies or served the West. At least one side of each trailer will be kept as it is, though a couple of them may get other lettering on the “other side” of the trailer.


I’m pretty sure the blue roof on the Denver–Chicago trailer is the product of someone’s imagination, but it’s easy to correct.
     These model trucks are not intended as exact models of their various prototypes, certainly less rigorous than my railroad freight cars, but they supply one part of the highway vehicle fleet that shows on the roads of my layout.
Tony Thompson

Saturday, July 4, 2015

Modeling highway trucks, Part 2: semi-trailers

In Part 1 of this series about models of highway trucks (it is available at: http://modelingthesp.blogspot.com/2015/07/modeling-highway-trucks-part-1-box.html ), I discussed a few models of van or box trucks. In this post, I want to talk about semi-trailers.
     The first issue for a modeler of semi-trailers is era. In the 1950s, when I model, the length of tractor-trailer combinations (not trailers alone, as is the case today) was regulated, but separately by each state. Western states tended to permit longer vehicles and also heavier ones. One result of limitations on total vehicle length was the development of the cab-over-engine or COE tractor, which minimized tractor length, thus permitting longer trailers. The common trailer length in my modeling year of 1953 was 32 to 35 feet, though both longer and shorter trailers were in use. There is a wealth of historical information on the Internet about this topic, and I would encourage interested modelers to explore there.
     In HO scale, the extensively produced Ulrich metal semi-trailers and tractors have long been liked by modelers. They were also produced for awhile by Walthers, and accordingly are very commonly available used, at swap meets or on-line sales such as eBay. This cast white-metal trailer is 32 feet long. Ulrich made both Kenworth conventional tractors, and a Mack COE tractor, along with other trailers, including a tank trailer and a stake-bed trailer. And by attaching the Kenworth cab to a dump body, and adding a dump trailer, they made a familiar type of gravel carrier,
     I will illustrate one of the kinds of used Ulrich models you can find with this photo, lettered for what I believe to be an imaginary circus.


The Kenworth tractor is missing its exhaust stack, but that is easily replaced with tubing. Likewise the missing mud flaps on the trailer are easy to add with sheet material of several kinds. Since I’m not modeling any aspect of the circus world, I stripped the trailer paint, then repainted it flat white.


     A word on colors and paint schemes. There are lots of period photographs on the Web of historic semi-trailers, though in black-and-white photos it can be hard to discern colors. Many trailers in the early 1950s were lettered over natural aluminum, though many others had a base color of white or other colors. Some trucking companies apparently operated both white and silver trailers together. One of the excellent sources of photos, which I’ve used extensively, is Hank’s Truck Pictures (at: http://www.hankstruckpictures.com ). This site is organized according to trucking companies, a very helpful arrangement.
     An excellent source of lettering for trucks, for eras ranging from the 1940s to today, is Graphics on Demand, in Wenatchee, Washington. They are not water-slide decals, but are very thin adhesive vinyl sheets, which work fine. Applying them is a little like a dry tranfer, with the same kind of burnishing process. You can see their extensive HO scale line at the following web link: http://store.graphicsdemand.com/ . I have purchased a couple of batches of graphics (mostly from their “Motor Carriers” section), and am very pleased with the prompt service and fine product.
     Here is the former circus trailer, as redecorated, with the same Kenworth tractor.


This scheme for West Coast Fast Freight can be documented at Hank’s Pictures (link to: http://www.hankstruckpictures.com/kg_wcff.htm ).
     Just for a comparison, I wanted to decorate one of the fine Classic Metal Works or CMW 32-foot Aerovan trailers. These have a side door, as was common in the 1950s for delivery service. The trailer does have a prominent pair of ridges down each side, which I thought could interfere with the addition of graphics, so I tried removing them on one trailer. I simply used an X-Acto chisel blade.


The removed ridges show as gray stripes in the photo above. I touched them up with Old Silver, which made a good match in tone, though somewhat brighter a silver color than the CMW paint.  
     I lettered one side for Los Angeles – Seattle Motor Express, a company which operated up and down the West Coast before being purchased in 1959 by National. The other side, with the delivery door, I lettered for Lucky Lager beer, which by the late 1950s was the best-selling beer in the West. This is all Graphics on Demand lettering. The tractor is the CMW 1941–46 Chevrolet, and its LASME door emblem is from the same Graphics on Demand set as the trailer lettering.


     Joining these two trailers is a Pacific Motor Trucking scheme, custom painted by Jim Elliot on a Tyco ribbed trailer and an International R-190 tractor made by CMW. Jim used the Microscale PMT decal set for this vehicle.


     With these trailers completed, I can put them on the layout, and can in some cases mix and match with some existing tractors I have. In a future post, I will show more trailer development, along with some comments on tractors.
Tony Thompson

Wednesday, July 1, 2015

Modeling highway trucks, Part 1: box trucks

Although the freight movement we want to depict on a model railroad is mostly via railcars, it is still the case that our model roads and highways should contain highway trucks. I have approached these truck models in a couple of ways, and thought it might be useful to describe a bit of what I am doing.
     One category of model trucks would be delivery trucks. These are normally what the industry calls “straight trucks,” “box trucks,” or “van trucks,” of a range of sizes. These have been available over the years in many forms (Varney did them back in the early 1950s, and in that era and ever since, many manufacturers have offered these vehicles). Among the fine truck bodies of this type have been the recent Athearn van trucks. I like to choose familiar national or regional company names for such vehicles. Here is a Bekins-lettered Athearn box truck, on Bromela Road in Ballard on my layout.


     In recent times, the excellent HO scale vehicles from Classic Metal Works or CMW (“Mini Metals”) have provided still more variations, including what for me is most useful, versions of the 1941–1946 Chevrolet truck. Here is their van truck, lettered for the wholesale grocer on my layout at Ballard, Peerless Foods, but shown here on Pismo Dunes Road in East Shumala. This was modeled by just adding a sign to the side of the stock truck, but it ties into an on-line industry. (You can click to enlarge.)


    Another example, from the CMW line of ’41–46 Chevrolets, is the tank truck, one of which I have decorated for Associated Oil, using the “Flying A” logo. This truck would of course be occupied in making deliveries from my rail-served Associated dealership in Shumala, another on-line industry. It’s seen here on Nipomo Street in Ballard on my layout.


This truck, of course, has a correct “commercial” California license plate for 1953. I discussed this and other California vehicle plates in a prior post (see it at: http://modelingthesp.blogspot.com/2012/12/vehicle-license-plates-trucks.html ), along with a broader discussion of automobile plates (you can read that post at: http://modelingthesp.blogspot.com/2012/11/vehicle-license-plates-in-ho-scale.html ). More on this topic will be appearing in the forthcoming August issue of Model Railroad Hobbyist or MRH, available free for on-line download.
     Lastly, I should mention SP’s own subsidiary, Pacific Motor Trucking or PMT, with its trucks painted in unmistakeable Daylight colors. This particular model was painted by Jim Elliott, and it can often be found at the depots on my layout, making pickups or deliveries. It’s another CMW truck, this one a White Model 3000 cab-over, a model introduced by White in 1948. It is shown on Chamisal Road in Shumala.


     The larger highway trucks, almost always semi-trailers, are also quite interesting, and I will address them in a future post.
Tony Thompson

Sunday, June 28, 2015

Tank car “dome” platforms, Part 4

In the previous post in this series, I showed both a prototype photo, and a model under construction, for an insulated, pressurized tank car (ICC 105) for Brea Chemicals of Los Angeles. (You can find that post at this link: http://modelingthesp.blogspot.com/2015/06/more-on-tank-car-dome-platforms-part-3.html .) One part of the project, which ties it to previous modifications I have reported for the Athearn “chemical” tank car, was the use of part of the Atlas platform part, their no. 9170013, to make the walkway alongside the valve bonnet (not an expansion dome, but nevertheless sometimes called a dome).
     At the point I stopped my modeling description in the previous post (link provided above), the bonnet and walkways had been added and primed. Now I needed to add ladders which reached all the way to the upper walks, not merely to the level of the tank handrail, as Athearn provides. Luckily in some recent Athearn “chemical” tank cars, the full-height ladders are included, so I harvested a pair of them for use on this model. They are stamped metal. I simply re-bent them slightly to reach my walkways. In the original white color, they can be seen clearly.


But as was evident in the prototype photo in the previous post (link given above), the tank handrails and ladders were black on the Brea cars, though the walkway was the same silver or silver-gray as the rest of the tank. I handpainted the model that way, as you see here.


     With trucks attached (semi-scale-tread width wheelsets added) and Kadee #158 couplers installed, the model was ready to weather. I wanted to do this in two steps. First, I oversprayed with Dullcote, and weathered the entire car with my usual acrylic tube paints, in wash form; for more on that, you can look at my Reference Pages on weathering, linked through the list at upper right of the blog page. This turned out pretty well. Here’s the car being switched at Shumala at this point.


     The second process I wanted to try was something I had watched Richard Hendrickson do, but had not tried myself. The idea is to mix a really dilute dirty black in plenty of solvent, so that airbrushing this mix from above the model just shadows the top surfaces. Let it dry a few seconds, and decide whether it needs another pass; repeat until satisfied. This technique makes a really nice representation of that “dirt from above” look, getting that area dirtier than the sides. This is especially effective on light-colored cars like this tank car. But my photos do not differ much from what is shown above, so for now I will leave the Brea tank behind. If I have a car which shows the “dirt from above” look well, I will post it later.
Tony Thompson

Thursday, June 25, 2015

A fishing boat for my Santa Rosalia waterfront

On my fictional SP branch, I imagine that the track ends at a town called Santa Rosalia, located at the mouth of the Santa Maria River, and that a few fishing boats work out of there. Accordingly, it would be a nice feature to have such a boat moored at a dock. I have already said a little about my waterfront ideas for Santa Rosalia in a prior post (you can read that initial post at: http://modelingthesp.blogspot.com/2014/07/constructing-santa-rosalia-waters-edge.html ), and more recently showed my progress in modeling along the new waterfront ( http://modelingthesp.blogspot.com/2015/06/santa-rosalia-waters-edge-part-2.html ). A local fishery in turn could support a cannery (though probably not the shipping of much fresh fish). I have already gone ahead and created a model cannery, as described in an earlier post (see it at: http://modelingthesp.blogspot.com/2015/05/kitbashing-santa-rosalia-cannery.html ).
     But if there is to be a fishing boat modeled, the first question a person might ask (and I would say, ought to ask), is what kind of small fishing boats were or are used in this area? As it happens, I found a photo some time ago which clearly shows several such boats, in an image supplied by the Morro Bay (California) Visitor’s Bureau. It of course emphasizes a vivid sunset and the monumental Morro Rock, but that fishing boat in the center foreground is a clear example to work from. Morro Bay is just a few miles up the coast from my supposed location of Santa Rosalia.


     Is Morro Bay relevant? I have spent some time with a very interesting and topical report about the fisheries of central California, entitled “Commercial fishing grounds and their relative importance off the Central Coast of California,” submitted in response to the California Marine Life Protection Act, with principal author Astrid Scholz, then of Ecotrust (it’s 40 pages and is available at the website of the California Department of Fish and Game: http://www.dfg.ca.gov/mlpa/pdfs/agenda_workshop041807_report.pdf ). This 2006 report clearly shows an important fishing ground between Point Buchon on the north, and points Sal and Purissima on the south, with the mouth of the Santa Maria River right in the middle. So the Morro Bay boat shown above would work in the same fishery as would my purported Santa Rosalia boat.
     Other California fishery studies contain fishing boat photos, broadly similar to the one shown above. Here is one example, and like the photo above, the cabin is fairly long.


    Here is another image, a boat with a shorter cabin and a different rig, with a net reel amidships. Naturally there are a wide range of boat details, even in this one fishery.


    I have long admired the fine models of boats offered by Frenchman River Model Works, and seemed to remember that they offer a small boat generally like this. And indeed they do, their kit no. 81. You can see it on their web site: http://www.frenchmanriver.com/Pages/HO/Boats/fishing/fishing.html . I was sufficiently impressed to go ahead and order the kit. The cabin is shorter than many Central California boats, and I could change the cabin in the direction of the Morro Bay boat shown above, but with so many variations among individual boats, I don’t think it will be necessary.
     A couple of days after I placed the order, the kit showed up via Priority Mail, which is excellent service. The kit can be built two ways (cabin forward or cabin aft), as this flyer shows (you can click to enlarge).


As visible in the prototype photos at the top of this post and in other observations, the “cabin forward” orientation, left photo in the model images above, should be my choice.
     I opened up the kit, and immediately found that the parts are very nice, major parts cast in a brown resin, accompanied by some white metal details, all with little flash and fitting well together. I proceeded to put together the basic elements, as you see here, so I could use the model to help me proportion my waterfront elements.


The basic hatches, body details, and cabin are shown unpainted. I am considering  perhaps raising the profile of the bow, after looking at the two California prototype photos above, but haven’t decided. Then, when more details are attached, the plan is to airbrush white or light gray as a base coat. I will show addition of details, along with painting, in a future post.
Tony Thompson


Monday, June 22, 2015

Bay Area Prototype Modelers 2015

On June 20, the annual Bay Area Prototype Modelers (BAPM) meet was held in the multi-purpose room of St. David’s Church in Richmond, California. An all-day affair, the large room with tables for model display was supplemented with a clinic room in which several talks were given. Even though it was a very nice, sunny day outside, about 100 modelers showed up for a pleasant day of viewing and discussing models. Most years, I attend this meet and always enjoy it. The 2012 meet was covered in a prior blog post (you can see it at this link: http://modelingthesp.blogspot.com/2012/06/bapm-bay-area-prototype-modelers-2.html ).
     One of the most interesting displays was presented by Robert Bowdidge, showing how he has produced several SP cars for which there is no commercial source. These included the CS-35A flat car, the F-50-4 flat car, and the W-50-3 Hart convertible ballast car. All were made with a home 3-D printer. The photo below shows his display of completed cars, and he also showed a partially complete car so that the printing process could be appreciated. I tried to take close-up photos of details and did not get very good results, but the models certainly are superbly detailed.


     One of the most striking displays of freight cars at the meet was the group of weathered and graffiti-ed reefers by Tim Keohane. Here is just one example.


     Rickey T. Hall brought quite a few specially-painted locomotives, all beautifully done, and I was especially struck with this group of Bicentennial paint schemes for Santa Fe, Southern Pacific, and Western Pacific.


     Paul Chandler was at the meet, and brought his completely scratchbuilt Burro crane, which is motorized. The photo probably does not do justice to the outstanding quality of detail on this model.


     It is always interesting to see younger modelers at these meets, particularly when they too have brought excellent models. Jonathan Izen was one of those at this meet, and brought two really nice models of Richmond Pacific motive power (from the roof of the building we were in, you could probably see the RP’s trackage). This SW1200 was formerly MoPac 1268. Even the cab-side logo was crisp and readable.


     Nearby was another outstanding group of models, these by Henry Baez. Among my favorites in this group was the flat car loads. In this photo (you can click to enlarge), the hold-down clamps are beautifully modeled.


     As I often do, I brought an entire SP train of 15 freight cars, pulled by a Consolidation and trailed by a cupola caboose. Here is an overview of it.

     I always enjoy this kind of RPM meet, because there is just an amazing amount of conversation among the different tables, modelers asking things like “how did you do that” or “what’s the prototype” or “is it a kitbash” and so on. Looking around the room, you can watch everyone appreciating what they see, and in most cases learning a few things at the same time. As hobby experiences go, it is one of the most positive ones I know of.
Tony Thompson

Friday, June 19, 2015

More on tank car “dome” platforms, Part 3

I have posted a description of my efforts to create a properly sized platform on an Athearn high-pressure tank car, surrounding the valve bonnet (it is sometimes called a “dome” but is not an expansion dome). That post can be found at: http://modelingthesp.blogspot.com/2015/05/another-approach-to-tank-car-platforms.html . My changes used an Atlas tank car part. In this post, I show another way to improve an Athearn “chemical” tank car, also using the same Atlas part.
     The part is Atlas no. 9170013, and to repeat a photo from the previous post, looks like this.


In the previous post, I used the leftmost part of this molding (the entire left handrail  plus the space between the two handrails), and mated it with the same part of a second molding (reversed) to make a full platform with handrails. (If this description is confusing, please see the post cited at the top of this post, as it shows the process.) What was left over was the righthand side of the Atlas part in the photo above (that is, the entire handrail section at right). I use the grid walkway part of that section in the present post as raw material for a “dome” walk.
     But before I begin with the modeling, let me show what prototype I am aiming at. It is a General American car leased to Brea Chemicals, which was part of the Chemicals Division of Union Oil Company, with a plant manufacturing ammonia and other fertilizer constituents. The plant was at Brea, California, thus the name. This photo is from Richard Hendrickson’s collection, but I don’t know photographer, date, or location.


Note that the car has only a short walkway alongside the valve bonnet (a photo of a different Brea car shows a longer walkway), and has a ladder reaching all the way up to the walkway. It’s possible that the ladder was only on this side, but by the time this car was built in 1948, the usual practice was to have ladders and walks on both sides. It’s evident that the tank handrail and ladder are painted black.
     Here is an Athearn kit (custom decorated) that I have had for some time, with the bonnet sawn off and the site filed flat, some paint touch-up, and addition of the bottom part of the Frank Hodina bonnet (see prior post). Also visible are two pieces of white styrene, which are pieces of scale 4 x 4-inch strip, cut in half the long way, diagonally (making a triangular cross-section), then glued down on the wide side, so that the upper surface of the strip is close to horizontal.


The purpose of these little white pieces is to support the walkways which go alongside the bonnet.
     The two walkways are cut from the unused part of the Atlas platform shown at the top of this post. Here they are, applied atop those styrene strips, and with the Hodina bonnet completed.


     During the work shown above, I was also fixing the Athearn underframe, in the way that I normally do. Removing the three sets of bottom outlet details, drilling the coupler pocket post and cover so they could be tapped 2-56, then cutting off the pocket covers so they become separate pieces, are all essential here. Also, the vertical-wheel handbrake arrangement furnished by Athearn, a rare prototype arrangement for tank cars, is removed and a brake staff of 0.019-inch brass wire installed. I usually add a Tichy tank car brake wheel, as I did here.
     The Athearn bottom sheet, designed for their three-compartment car, also needs cleaning up. All rivets on this part should be removed, though I sometimes leave the ones on the center anchor. All other rivets definitely go. The bottom sheet in my custom-deocrated kit is black, and the prototype photo above shows that it should be black, though the prototype one is located very low on the tank. I chose not to try and reproduce that location.
     I could now assemble bottom sheet to tank, and underframe to tank body, and did so. Here is the model at this point, with primer on the bonnet and walkways. You can just see the brake wheel on the near end (click to enlarge if you wish).


I will show how I handled the ladders, and will complete the rest of the model, including weathering, in an upcoming post.
Tony Thompson