Wednesday, February 10, 2016

Additional recent car projects

In a prior post, I showed several recently completed freight cars, none of them noteworthy for any special construction or detailing aspects, but of interest as a way to show the kinds of projects I have been working on. I think each adds to and improves my freight car fleet (that post can be found at this link: ).
     I have always wanted to model one of the Katy yellow box cars, and delayed doing so for some time, but finally did buy the Speedwitch Media kit (their no. 105.5) and here it is, moderately weathered (by my modeling year, 1953, Katy had discontinued this paint scheme and was back to repainting box cars in conventional mineral red). The car, MKT 95267,  was caught in a freight at the Nipomo Road crossing, just entering Ballard on my layout.

     A few blog posts ago, I described a modified Athearn “chemical” tank car, which I converted to an insulated ICC-103 type by adding a Tichy expansion dome (you can read my description at: ). In that post, I showed the completed car, SHPX 13146, prior to weathering. Here is the car with weathering added, and a few chalk marks, shown made up into a train at Shumala. Note the car has both a placard for its load, and a route card attached to the edge of the wood running board, as was often done with tank cars.

     Another recently completed tank car was this next model, a superbly designed and executed resin kit from Southern Car & Foundry, modeling a car which has had two end compartments added after the car was built, thus the smaller domes at each end. Moreover, it is a Standard Tank Car Company (STC) design, with its distinctive STC bolsters. It was built by Dennis Williams and finished by me. The paint scheme of NATX 3403 exactly follows a prototype photo, including Du Pont’s typical light gray paint (a color rendered incorrectly on some models as silver).

     As I did in the previous post in this series, I  include here a ready-to-run car, since I do add those to my car fleet when needed. The one I show here is an InterMountain covered hopper, lettered as Santa Fe 1946-built Class GA-65, which like other Santa Fe covered hoppers of the time, was a distinctive car because the Santa Fe ordered it with inverted T-section roof seams (the ribs on the roof). When InterMountain announced this version of their fine covered hopper model, I ordered one at once. As I have chosen to do the weathering, the car is depicted as serving in cement service, with some staining evident on the boxcar-red sides (in-service photos of these cars show that actually I have if anything underweathered it). It’s shown at its on-layout destination, the California Division of Highways facility in Ballard.

Unfortunately, InterMountain misnumbered this model as ATSF 181974, using a number within the 1942-built GA-58 class (of which Class GA-65 was essentially a carbon copy). Since the bodies are identical, for now I will live with the clash between car class and number.
     (For more on Santa Fe cars of this type, you may consult Santa Fe Open-top Cars: Flat, Gondola and Hopper Cars, 1902–1959, Volume 7 in the Santa Fe Railway Rolling Stock Reference Series, by Richard H. Hendrickson, Santa Fe Railway Historical & Modeling Society, 2009.)
     Lastly, for awhile I’ve intended to buy one of the Rocket Express double-door 40-foot box car kits, and as it happened, one was among the kits I inherited from Richard Hendrickson. It’s kit RI-1. Dennis Williams built and painted the model, and I did the lettering and weathering of RI 160368. As has been observed by several authorities on the Rock Island, cars like this had black roof color into the 1950s, so I have done the same. In this view, it’s being switched at Shumala.

     These additional projects may be of interest for a variety of reasons. It’s my intent that they typify the way I choose and prepare freight cars to join the active fleet on my layout.
Tony Thompson

Sunday, February 7, 2016

Running boards, Part 3

In the previous posts on this topic (the first can be accessed from the previous one, at: ), I addressed the topic of how prototype wood running boards appear in service, and a little on modeling the observed variations in appearance, using Prismacolor color pencils.Variations shown so far were modest, and in this post I want to take up more dramatic variations. I should hasten to observe that these dramatic cases were relatively rare, and ought not to be present on more than a few cars in a freight car fleet. I will illustrate this post with a couple of examples of Bill Welch’s work.
     At the Cocoa Beach 2016 meeting concluded last month (see my post discussing that meet, which is at: ), Bill showed a number of models with differentially weathered running boards. Some of the cars had more heavily distressed group of planks in the running board, as with the photo below, showing a Wabash automobile car, WAB 46017, built from a Sunshine kit. The descriptive note with this car stated that it was still “in progress,” so weathering seen here may eventually be softened. But already in this state the model does emphasize the wood nature of the running board, and certainly shows variations. I think a few models in this condition would be a good addition to any fleet.

     This version is interesting because of the boards which might be unpainted replacements, though pretty dirty. I decided to try representing a single board as a fresh, unpainted replacement, and obtained the result below. I used P-B-L’s Star Brand “Natural Wood” paint, their number STR-12 (for their website, visit , click on Online Catalog, then pull down the top center menu under Categories to no. 22, Paints / Cements, and scroll through the list). I like the outcome you see below, but don’t intend to add more, as I would think this kind of appearance would be rare.

     I think most shops replacing a plank in a running board would have paint handy and enough time to daub a coat of body color onto the new plank. I tried that type of appearance on an InterMountain PFE Class R-40-10 car, as you see here, with a fairly dirty roof. The older planks have been given somewhat different colors using the Prismacolor pencils mentioned previously, and just one plank was simply overpainted with boxcar red right from the bottle.

     Finally, in Bill’s exhibit he included what I would call a pretty extreme (though certainly possible) example, a car with not one but several missing planks in the running board and the lateral boards. It is a Wright TRAK kit for a ventilated box car, built as Seaboard 89728, and it looked like this. In fairness to Bill, he did explain that he does not consider the kit quite finished, so what we see here may be modified later.

As I have mentioned, any car with the defects as we see them here would be sent to the local repair track as soon as the defects were noticed. Safety appliances were required to be kept in repair. (AAR Interchange Rule 21 required owners of cars to pay for running board repairs, although carried out on foreign lines, and cars with unrepaired running boards should neither be offered nor accepted in interchange, Rule 32.) But this kind of thing could perhaps be seen in service. Omitting just a single plank might be more realistic.
     To conclude, lest this post showing some more extreme running board depictions should seem as though I’m urging that modelers do more of the same, let me show something done by Bill Welch that I think more pleasing and much more common. Shown below are two Georgia & Florida box cars, built from Sunshine kits, with colored pencil highlighting of individual planks in running boards. I like the subtle effect Bill obtained here. (You can click on the image to enlarge.)

       I have been working my way through a number of my freight cars with wood running boards, and finding, as I mentioned in a prior post, a bunch with weathered or distressed running boards, but a substantial number with just plain roof color. I am steadily correcting many of those cars, often with something I hope is as subtle as Bill Welch’s Georgia & Florida box cars, shown just above. Thanks for the ideas, Bill.
Tony Thompson

Thursday, February 4, 2016

Modeling an SP O-50-9 tank car, Part 2

About a year ago (see: ), I began a project to model one of SP’s distinctive tank-car classes, Class O-50-9, which had circumferential top sheets and elbow safety valves. Until fairly recently, there were no decent options to model cars bigger than 6500 gallons with elbow mounts, because the kind of elbow mounting arrangement used for the two safety valves required for such sizes were paired in a single elbow mount.
     All that changed with the introduction of the Owl Mountain Models parts for both single-valve and double-valve elbow mounts (their part numbers 1001 and 1002). You can see these parts on the Owl Mountain site if you like (visit: and scroll down to these safety valves). That got me started on Part 1 of this thread, which is the post cited at the very top of the present post. I dug out an Athearn single-dome tank car kit, lettered for Firestone as you can see in the prior post, and proceeded to strip off all unnecessary rivets and also the dome walk on one side. Then I raised the dome height to the correct size in the way I have shown elsewhere (my method is shown clearly in this article: ).
     At that point, I wrote up and posted the description cited at the top of the present post. Next, I wanted to install the Owl Mountain safety valve part. This is very easy, as it only requires a no. 46 hole in the side of the dome. As I usually do with dissimilar materials, like joining this bronze part to a plastic car body, I used canopy glue (if not familiar with this very useful adhesive, you may wish to read my remarks and discussion, which is at: ). In the photo below, you see this part, along with a grab iron on the walkway side of the car’s dome, made from 0.012-inch brass wire. Note that a riveted flange (at the dome surface) is supplied as an extra part with the elbow safety valve.

From the other side of the car (the left side), where the dome walk has been removed, the photo below may provide a better angled view of the whole part.

     The next step on the car body is the addition of the two overlapping sheets of the circumferential sections on the car body. Dividing the body length into five equal parts, each segment would be about seven and a half scale feet long. But the prototype photos (see previous post in this series) shows the sheets did not come right up to the base of the dome, which they would have to do with if all segments were of exactly equal length. I elected to make all four segments other than the center one, exactly seven feet wide, which is close to the dimension scaled off prototype photos.
     To represent these sheets, I decided to cut the two outer or “overlapping” sheets from 0.005-inch styrene sheet, using one of the old 3-hole “sheet protector” plastic enclosures. Gluing these sheets to the styrene tank car body would seem to call for styrene cement, but unless used very sparingly, this cement easily shrinks and distorts sheet as thin as this. Instead, I glued them to the body with canopy glue (see the post about this glue cited above). The sheets were held tightly to the body under rubber bands, and I wicked a little styrene cement under the sheet ends, on each side of the body, at the bottom. Here is the first sheet being added.

Though the added styrene sheet is transparent, you can see its width by the reflection against the black area along its top, under the rubber bands, in the photo above. I allowed it to dry overnight, then repeated the process for the second sheet. This method of attachment worked well.
     The new circumferential sheets are now ready to receive double-row rivets at their edges. The Archer Fine Transfer product to use (see: is one explicitly designed for tank car double rivet rows, their part AR88031 (for the application process and discussion, see my post at: ). But there is one thing to be careful of with Archer rivets, and that is to handle the model as little as possible after riveting, until a coat of paint, or Dullcote, or something, is added to protect them. Accordingly, all additional work on the tank body should be completed before applying rivets (and promptly thereafter, paint).
     This brings me to the end of this post. In the final post in the series, I will complete the car (underframe modifications are the same as for several other Athearn tank car projects I have described previously), along with paint and lettering.
Tony Thompson

Monday, February 1, 2016

My column in the February MRH

The latest of my “Getting Real” columns in MRH (Model Railroad Hobbyist), which has just appeared in the February 2016 issue, is about tank cars. It describes their prototype design, construction and use up through the 1950s. (A “second section” of the column, expected next month, will address modeling.) As with all issues of MRH, you can download it at any time for free from their website, which is: .
     Putting this column together was an interesting exercise, because it took me back to the time, 30 or so years ago, when my good friend Larry Kline and I dreamed up the clinic topic of “Tank Car Basics,” because we recognized that many modelers had only the most fuzzy understanding of how a tank car is constructed, and how and why it is used for particular cargoes. Larry and I used to like to visit tank car loading or unloading sites whenever en route to a convention or other railroad activity. At one of those stops, C.J. Riley, the third member of the Iron City Ferroequinological Society (ICFS) took this photo. That’s Larry on the left, me on the right.

I have commented before about ICFS and our activities; see for example this post: . In my memorial to Larry, who passed away in March 2014, I included this same photo as a good memento of us together (you can read it at this link: ).
     When we first combined our slide collections to create a talk (yes, talks were given with 35-mm slides in those days), we planned it so I could give one half of the talk, Larry the other half. At that time, Larry had been developing additional tank cars for his O scale layout, and as few prototypes as there are in model form in HO scale, there are far fewer in O scale. But gradually Larry lost interest in the talk, so I took over presenting the whole thing whenever it was scheduled at a convention, and it was given intermittently for years, up to today. But I decided it needed to be in text form somewhere too, thus the MRH column.
     Minor point: the good folks at MRH managed to omit the Appendix from my column (it’s a summary of landmark dates in tank car history, and is mentioned on page 17 of the column). Accordingly, I insert it here, in case you noticed the mention and wondered where the Appendix was. You can click to enlarge it.

     That is some of the background for my February 2016 MRH column. As I stated, Part 2 on modeling is expected to follow in the March issue.
Tony Thompson

Friday, January 29, 2016

Shumala engine terminal, an update

It has been some time since I have commented on progress with the engine terminal at Shumala. It was described in 2011 as it then was, in a post which also described plans for it (see it at: ). Among those plans was to build the Banta Modelworks kit (which represents SP’s roundhouse at Port Costa, California), and I have now completed that structure. I’m very pleased with how it turned out. For more on my build of the kit, you can work backward from the concluding post in a series (it can be found at: ). You can see it in the background of the photo below.
     I have also added a long-planned caboose service building alongside the caboose track, using the body from a Westerfield kit. It too is at the engine terminal (a project description is at: ). Another principal feature of the terminal is the 88-foot turntable, built from a Diamond Scale kit, which has worked well in operating this terminal.
     But recently I have received two different emails asking specific questions about the Shumala engine terminal details, so thought I would expand a little on the foregoing posts. I mentioned in the first of the prior posts cited above, that both a water storage tank, and a fuel tank, needed to be in place as sources for the fuel and water columns at the terminal. Those can be seen at the left of the photo below, with the 65,000-gallon water tank (Overland Models brass) alongside the roundhouse, The oil tank further right is scratchbuilt.

On the turntable is 2-8-0 SP 2829 (Sunset brass, Max Gray tender), and on the garden track next to the roundhouse is 4-6-0 SP 2344 (Precision Scale). In the foreground is Alco S-2 SP 1389 (Atlas), just forward of the fuel and water columns.
     Note also in this photo the red Associated Oil Company delivery truck near photo center, which has just fueled the diesel — the SP has not build diesel fueling facilities here yet. In the background at right is part of the Associated Oil dealership here, described in an article in the March 2014 Model Railroad Hobbyist (downloadable for free any time from their site, ) and also mentioned in a prior post (that one is at: ).
     At lower left is a single caboose on the caboose track, where there are often two; this suggests that the Santa Rosalia local is still out on the road, using that second caboose. And at the upper left, just in front of the 65,000-gallon water tank, can be seen an SP tank car delivering Bunker C locomotive fuel for the steam power.
     This terminal still lacks a sand house, and I have a project started to build one from scratch. More about that when it happens.
Tony Thompson

Tuesday, January 26, 2016

Running boards, Part 2

In the previous post in this series (see: ), I discussed the arrangement of prototype wood running boards, and indicated some of the issues related to how models should represent prototype appearance. In the present post, I describe modeling approaches.
     To start, it is easy to add a scribed cross-groove to any undivided running boards on a model. In the photo below, a scriber is being used to do so on a Red Caboose ice-service refrigerator car.

     Next, variations in appearance can be added. As I mentioned in that previous post, there are several possible patterns of appearance on a prototype running board. First, individual planks may vary in how weathered or faded they look, though all were originally applied and painted at the same time. Second, replacement boards may be freshly painted (or even unpainted), then weathered or faded to varying degrees. And third, a plank may even be missing. In this post, I experiment with the first case.
     If working to improve an existing model, the easiest way to vary the color of individual planks in running boards is to use color pencils. My experience with different brands of these, available at any art supply store, is that Prismacolor pencils are definitely superior for modeling. There are a great range of brownish-reddish colors, and several similar gray colors.
     For grays, I usually use French Grey 30%, French Grey 50%, and Warm Grey 20% (I don’t know what the percentages indicate, but there are lots of them); for the reddish-browns, I use Sienna Brown, Chestnut, Dark Umber, Light Umber, Burnt Ochre, and Chocolate. These can be very lightly stroked over the painted and weathered running board surface of a previously completed model. For a model not yet weathered, more color could be applied, as weathering will then soften and blend it somewhat.
     Shown below is the same Broadway Limited New York Central box car depicted in the prior post, receiving a little grayed color with Prismacolor 30% French Grey.

As another example, the photo below shows a Red Caboose SP stock car, getting a little variation in its running board paint color using Prismacolor Burnt Ochre. Some gray has already been added, and if the gray seems too vivid, it can be overcoated and softened with the reddish color.

     Using these colors, the running board of the PFE ice service reefer shown in the first photo of this post was given a variety of varied looks. The scribed lines, which sometimes look light in color even if the styrene of the material is boxcar red, can be darkened with the sharp tip of one of the darker Prismacolor pencils. (Note that ice hatch are removed and the locations of the openings are blanked off, as PFE often did with ice service cars; ice bunkers inside the car were also removed.) You can click on the image to enlarge it if you wish.

      I have been working my way through my freight car fleet, finding neglected running boards which need some variation in color. I have added this kind of weathering / coloring haphazardly for years, but obviously never consistently, because I am certainly finding a number of cars with running boards which need dividing into planks, or need color variation, or both. I will also explore more vivid variations in running board appearance in a future post.
Tony Thompson

Saturday, January 23, 2016

Waybills, Part 48: Multi-compartment tank cars

I recently received a question about tank cars by email, and it’s a very good question. I was asked, “How was a multi-compartment tank car waybilled?” As it happens, I was shown such a prototype waybill some years ago, and though I don’t know if that example was universal or even typical, I do at least know that one example.
     (For a thorough and complete discussion of prototype tank cars with multiple compartments, see Richard Hendrickson’s article in the February 2015 issue of Model Railroad Hobbyist, available free to read or download at: .)
     In the example I saw, each compartment’s cargo was separately identified, and the gallonage shown. Multi-compartment cars normally had the gallons capacity of each compartment stenciled on the dome, along with an identifying letter (A, B, C, etc.), and usually the B compartment was at the B end of two- or three-compartment cars. That’s the scheme you see in this photo of a three-compartment GATX car (obviously converted from a single-compartment car, as testified by the smaller expansion domes at each end). The photo is from the Richard Hendrickson collection; you can click on the image to enlarge it.

The nearest end compartment is “A” and it is at the A end; the center compartment is “C.” Note that there is no gallonage stenciled on the car end, as would be normal for a tank car, because, as mentioned, each compartment’s capacity is stenciled on its expansion dome.
     Another scheme for identifying compartments is shown in the photo below, of a six-compartment GATX wine car (from my own collection). At the B end, compartments are B-1, B-2 and B-3; at the A end, they are A-1, A-2 and A-3. The endmost compartment is number 1 in each case.

     The particular model I am working toward at the moment is a Southern Car & Foundry two-compartment car, kit 2001. This represents a Standard Tank Car design, with its distinctive bolsters, and is similar to a Richfield Oil tank car of which I have a fuzzy photo. Here is the model, ROX 792, photographed being switched on my layout at Santa Rosalia; its dome walkway is on the other side.

     The waybill format I was shown, as I mentioned at the top of this post, is like the one shown below, and it is for the Richfield model shown above. It is for a load from the Richfield Oil Company refinery in Watson, California (now Carson), which was located on the Pacific Electric, to a bulk oil dealer in the town of Santa Rosalia on my layout.

     When this car is made empty, it returns to the refinery on a conventional freight waybill for privately owned tank cars, like the one shown below. These normally include the language shown, “record rights, reverse route.” The notation ”L / C” means “last contained.” Note also the common practice of the return “shipper” being the local agent, not the original recipient.

     I have a number of multi-compartment tank cars in my fleet, and will develop waybills for them along the lines described in this post.
Tony Thompson