Saturday, October 22, 2016

Open-car loads: bulk materials, Part 2

I have written a number of posts about loads for open-top cars, including one a few years ago about bulk materials like coal and ore (you can read the post here: ). I came back to this topic in two recent posts about chromite mining and how to model it. (The following link is to a post which also gives the previous link: .) I did receive a couple of questions via email about the loads, and wanted to say more about how I make these.
     The first point to recognize about loads like this is where they will sit in the car. A model with slope sheets can have the load sit on the upper part of the slope sheet. A flat-bottom car like a gondola will need a platform to raise the load up to the proper height above the floor.
     Then there is the question of weight. Usually my model freight cars are weighted so that they can run all right when empty, meaning that I don’t then want my loads to add too much weight. Thus many of my load platforms are balsa or other lightweight material, and the shape of the load is created by paper mache or similar light material also.
     Occasionally, though, a car may benefit by added weight in the load. One example is the resin ballast hoppers once sold by Bruce’s Train Shop in Sacramento, which are awfully close to weightless unless you can add weight somewhere. I have used weighted loads for this purpose.
     Several of my loads use a styrene strip as the base for the paper mache, as it is an inert material with respect to a water-containing material like paper mache. The balsa or other platform can go underneath, usually glued to the styrene with canopy glue, an excellent adhesive for dissimilar materials like styrene and wood. (For anyone not familiar with canopy glue, my brief description and comments about it may be of interest; that post can be found at: ).
     The photo below shows the bottom of two load platforms after the first construction step. I have glued a platform or base to the gray styrene strip, which was sized to match the open-car interior for which the load is intended. The foreground platform is lead sheet, since this is a load that will sit on the slope sheets in the ballast hopper described above. The lead is from a sheet of roofing material. The longer load is for a 40-foot GS gondola.

     The next question is how to represent the load shape. Typically I apply paper mache (Sculptamold or equivalent) to the styrene top of the load platforms, and shape it to whatever kind of loading process I imagine to have been used, accounting of course for the slumping that would have resulted with any car motion. Here are both of the above platforms, seen from above, with the paper mache step completed. You can see that the shorter load, intended to be ballast, has a higher “hump” at one end than the shape of the rest of the load.

     To try and show what I mean by load shape, the gondola load, the lower of the two in the above view, is seen in the photo below from a lower angle. This is intended to represent ore dumped from a truck dump, and the car having been moved between truck loads to distribute the load more evenly.

      The next step is just like ballasting track. The paper mache part of the load is coated with white glue (or matte medium), the desired bulk material is sprinkled on, and if necessary, more bulk material added and more adhesive sprayed or dripped onto the load, until the desired coverage is attained. Here is my ballast load, made by this method. I used the same ballast that I apply to layout track.

     The load fits nicely into the car and matches with about how full prototype photos of SP ballast cars usually appear. The model is lettered for SP Class H-70-11, which is what the model was constructed to depict.

     This method for making bulk-material loads for open-top cars is simple, fairly quick, and works well. Loads made this way have held up for years of layout operation. If you don’t have enough loads, or enough of the right kind of loads, or the right loads for specific cars, try making your own. It isn’t very hard, and you get what you want for your cars.
Tony Thompson

Wednesday, October 19, 2016

Waybills, Part 53: car slips and tickets

In several previous posts, I have discussed the use of Empty Car Bills and related kinds of “simplified” waybill documents. A relatively recent example (see it at: ) added information about some Northern Pacific documents. The present post shows some Reading Company documents like this, of an interesting character. These documents were loaned to me by Rob Mantler, who has my gratitude for his generosity in sharing.
     Some of the tickets are for empty cars, as I have shown earlier for a considerable number of railroads (you can find many of these posts by using “Empty Car Bill” in the search box at upper right). These are interesting in that they are filled out.

The two cars here are Reading 36604, a 52-foot gondola, and RDG 115352, a 50-foot single-door box car. The latter slip has added interest with both a “from” stamp (Newberry Junction) and a “to” stamp (Sunbury PA). Another interesting aspect of these two tickets is that they are a different format from the Reading Empty Car Bills I showed in a previous post (it can be found at this link: ).
     The most interesting “car tickets” in Rob’s collection are those for cars which clearly were loaded, so these are not bills for empties. These may represent a transition between the days of conductors working from original waybills, to the electronic data and switchlists of today. All are dated in 1967. Here is a group of four such tickets. (You can click on the image to enlarge it.)

The one on the left, for CNW 24108, a 40-foot box car, is a load of lumber from Klickitat, Washington. Next to the right is Lehigh Valley 63108, another 40-foot box car, carrying rock salt, though the ticket doesn’t indicate if it is bulk salt or bagged (I would guess the latter). Next to the right is N&W 89608, a 45-foot gondola, carrying ties for the use of the Reading Company, and destined to a work train at Belt Bridge (as I read the ticket). Last, on the far right, is Union Railroad 8208, a 42-foot gondola, carrying steel beams from Bethlehem Steel to Penn Iron Works in Reading. All these tickets are interesting in part because they give business names of shippers and consignees.
     Here is another group of four tickets, equally interesting. One in particular, at the right of this group, deserves detailed attention, as it is a use of a ticket like this that I would not have expected.

But before taking up that ticket on the right, let me describe the other tickets in this group. First, on the left, is a Texas & Pacific car, no. 19408, a 52-foot gondola, carrying steel bars from Republic Steel in East Buffalo to Textile Machine Co. in Reading. To its right is a ticket for Central of Georgia 1808, a 2003-cubic foot covered hopper, carrying soda ash from Solvay, New York to Berkshire Color in Reading. Then next to the right is the ticket for WM 34008, with a load of pallets of steel wire from American Chain in Monessen, PA to a steel fabricator in Reading. This car is interesting because it was a 50-foot single-door box car with DF loaders installed.
     That ticket on the far right is for a diesel locomotive being hauled dead in train, from Newberry Junction to the Reading engine house in Reading. Locomotive 5308 was an Alco Century 630, and in October 1967, date of this ticket, was evidently in need of repairs. Most railroads bought small orders of this Alco model, including Reading with 12 units, of a total production of 70 locomotives. It is interesting that a car ticket, just like any other car in a train, was made out for this move.
     I should also note in passing that all these documents are roughly the size of an 8.5 x 11-inch waybill, folded in half the long way, permitting their easy combining into a stack of folded waybills. Obviously these “car tickets” appear to substitute for waybills, but perhaps there was not one for every car, but a mixed set of documents. And as one observer mentioned to me, the pigeon holes in cabooses were this size also, so even if there were no actual waybills, these tickets could still be handled in the usual way by a conductor.
     I really enjoy seeing documents like these, and appreciate the loan by Rob Mantler. Every one of these sets of freight car documents enlarges our knowledge of a vanished time in railroading.
Tony Thompson

Sunday, October 16, 2016

Modeling mining, Part 2

In the first post in this series, I wrote about ways to find out whether there was any significant mining in the area you model, and some examples of what I have learned about chromite mining in the locale of my own layout. (You can read that post at: .) In the present post, I discuss modeling options and challenges.
     The first issue can involve layout planning, as to whether a mine can be included on the layout, and what it should look like. Most chromite mines were not very big or very deep, so did not have grand hoisting works, giant breaker buildings, or mammoth stamp mills. In fact, most of them trucked their ores to rail loaders, as in the Castro Chrome Company loader of which I showed the photo in the previous post. In that case, the truck distance was about 6 miles from mine to loader. Other mines described in the California Division of Mines report I showed previously had similar or longer distances of truck hauls. So my first conclusion is that a truck dump would be a good way to load chromite ore in my area.
     Second, what kind of ore would it be? I mentioned in the previous post that fairly pure chromite is a glossy dark brown or black color. But by the era I model, most of the high-grade or massive chromite deposits had been mined already. That means that mining would consist of disseminated ore, usually with some of the country rock with it, or reprocessed mine dumps, where modern methods could find additional low-grade ore discarded during mining of high-grade ore. There was also the reclaiming of what is called “float,” meaning ore chunks that have eroded from the top of an ore body and moved downhill in water courses. With a dense mineral like chromite, the float can readily accumulate at slower-moving parts of stream courses.There was extensive float recovery in the area I model, so that kind of ore might also move to truck dumps.
     I now plan to add a truck dump on the layout to permit loading of chromite ore. That modeling is not yet underway, but I have a couple of locations in mind. There is currently a Walthers kit for a truck dump (Cornerstone kit no. 4058) and I might use components of that kit for the dump. I’ll return to that in a future post.
     There was a company called Monarch Mining at one time in the central coast area, and it was involved in the chromite traffic. I can use Southern Pacific GS gondolas, as Mac Gaddis mentioned in the post cited in my previous post on mining, and showed in the Castro Chrome photo, or perhaps I could use an ore car or two in Monarch lettering. (I should mention that I have no evidence that Monarch in fact ever owned any railroad cars.)
     In a previous post (at: ) I showed a car lettered for Monarch. In the car, as described in that post, is a load intended to represent disseminated chromite ore. The actual material is crushed green shale, but it has the right hue to pass as the serpentine matrix rock of many chromite ores. Here is a repeat of that photo:

This is an O-scale Gilpin Tram ore car (offered as a kit by Grandt Line), simply given HO scale detail parts and trucks.
     I mentioned in the previous post, cited in the first paragraph at the top of this post, that chromite ore is pretty dense, 280 pounds per cubic foot. This sounds like a job for an ore car like the Mesabi ore jennies, 70-ton cars only 20 or so feet long, with cubic capacities ranging from 850 to 1250 cubic feet. But in fact iron ore is not as dense as chromite; 70 tons of chromite would only occupy 500 cubic feet. So even an ore jenny would not be filled with pure chromite, to stay within load limits. But disseminated ore, containing matrix rock as well as ore, would be less dense, and an ore car could be portrayed as entirely full.
     I still own a couple of kits for the old Model Die Casting white metal ore cars, and built up one of them to letter for Monarch Mining. I chose the reporting marks MMCX for this (there was no user of this mark in the year I model, 1953).

     My loads for cars like this have been shown previously (for example, in the post at this link: ). I make a base and apply paper mache to it to form the shape of the “heap” of bulk material for the car. Usually with these loads I leave a small gap at one end or one corner, and keep handy a small hook-shaped piece of wire that can be simply hooked under the load and lifted free of the car. In the photo below, one load is in the ore car, and two more are on the ground, one still just paper mache without the “ore” glued to it yet. At bottom right of the photo is a short wire tool for lifting loads, for example from the notch visible in the right end of the ore load in the foreground.

To illustrate the use of the wire took in lifting loads, the photo below shows this in progress.

     This technique with the wire tool is a simple and dependable process, and it allows loads to be built which fill the car. One sometimes sees quite undersize loads in use on some layouts, presumably for ease in removing them, but instead I would prefer to use a tool like this (or a magnet to attract a piece of iron glued to the bottom of the load), and have full-size loads.
Tony Thompson

Thursday, October 13, 2016

Modeling mining in your locale

There are areas of the country, and thus types of layouts, where mining is naturally a dominant industry. Coal in the Appalachians, in Illinois, and other areas, iron ore in the Mesabi Range, copper in the Southwest, precious metals in the Mountain West, and a few other examples, come immediately to mind. But there are lots of other geographical areas where mining is a minor part of the picture. I model the Central Coast of California, and there is certainly no giant category of mining or mineral development in that area. But is it zero? This is a question that can be asked anywhere, not just for my area, and I discuss in this post ways a person might acquire answers.
     The first point of reference is of course the geology of the area you model. Many parts of the U.S. have quite complex geologic histories, and I can think of no more eloquent evocation and elaboration of that history than John McPhee’s Pulitzer Prize-winning volume, Annals of the Former World (Farrar, Strauss & Giroux, New York, 1998, available in paperback). One reviewer called it “geopoetry . . . from a master stylist,” as eloquent as you will find. But this may be deeper than you want to go, and in any case, complex geology alone does not identify the presence of ores. An ore is not just a mineral, it is a mineral that can be economically mined and refined for use. It is an economic definition, not a mineralogical or geological one. So to know about the presence of ores, you need further sources.
     For decades, the U.S. Geological Survey (USGS) and, in many states, State offices of geology or mining, have studied and reported on ore occurrences. These reports are available in hard copy, even now in many cases, both new and used, and many are now on line in digital form. I can illustrate with two such reports which deal with my own layout locale (research will show you whether your own area has the same resources).
     First, part of an older series of USGS guidebooks, USGS Bulletin 614, Guidebook to the Western United States, Part D, The Shasta Route and Coast Line (yes, following the line of the Southern Pacific tracks named), by J.S.Diller and others, from 1915. This contains lots of classic guidebook material, but includes summary geology too. These guidebooks are readily available on line from used book dealers. My copy is a little worn, but intact and useful:

For the region near and south of San Luis Obispo, this 1915 guidebook mentions chromite as the primary mineral being produced, This led me to follow up on the subject of chromite.
     I then found a second and in some ways more valuable source, a California Division of Mines publication, Bulletin 134, Part II, Chapter 2, of July 1953; it is part of a series entitled Geological Investigations of Chromite in California. Part II of Bulletin 134 covers the Coast Ranges of California, and Chapter 2 is about “Chromite Deposits of the Southern Coast Ranges of California.” Authors are George W. Walker and Allan B. Griggs of the USGS. (I’ll say more about what “chromite” is in a moment.) Like the book shown above, it is 6 x 9 inches in size and is paperbound, and includes a number of maps. It covers exactly the area in which my layout is set.

Also of value, though more general, was The Central Coast Geologic Guidebook, Bulletin 61A, Division of Mines, State of California, Sacramento, 1937. One additional article of value for me was one entitled “Chromium,” by Roland D. Parks, published in Mining Engineering, page 469 in the issue for May 1952. Any engineering library near you is likely to have this journal, a source for information about mining of many metals and minerals.
     The great majority of chromite mined in California has been in San Luis Obispo County, and my layout is situated in the southern end of that county. Again, chromite is the major ore mineral found in this area. There were once small pocket mines for silver in this area, but that was in the 19th century, and that kind of mining was long gone by my modeling year of 1953 (coincidentally the year of the report shown above). By 1953, as in 1915, chromite was the mining mineral of significance.
     What is chromite? It’s the primary ore for production of chromium and chromium compounds, all over the world. It is a mixture of ferrous oxide, FeO, and chromium oxide, Cr2O3, nominally with one molecule of each oxide, thus sometimes written as FeCr2O4. But in nature, the ratio of FeO to Cr2O3, is variable, and in addition other elements such as aluminum and magnesium can substitute for the chromium. Accordingly, the quality of an ore can be quantified as the ratio of Cr to Fe, as well as the percentage of Cr2O3 in the ore. Most California ores were good quality, that is, with ratios of Cr : Fe of around 3 : 1.
     In California deposits, the ore was described as either “massive,” meaning large lenses or blocks of the chromite mineral, up to several tons in size, or “disseminated,” meaning individual mineral grains scattered to various degrees in the matrix rock. The latter ore type, of course, required further processing to separate the chromite from the waste rock. The surrounding rock is usually either olivine, a typical intrusive igneous mineral, or if the original igneous rock had been metamorphized, that rock has been transformed to serpentine. Both those rock types are greenish, so that disseminated ores would have such a color. The chromite itself was glossy black or dark brown, and quite dense.
      In one of my posts containing part of a Mac Gaddis interview, he mentioned chromite shipments near San Luis Obispo (here is a link: The California report shown above has a photo of the Castro Chrome Co. loader at Goldtree siding. Here’s a scan of that 1943 photo (you can click to enlarge):

Though I can’t include that location on my layout, I show the photo to suggest the kinds of resources that geological reports can contain.
     In the view above, incidentally, are three Enterprise GS gondolas, likely SP. In the interview cited above, Mac did mention the black ore which was so dense that the load in each 50-ton gondola was not very deep in the car. Chromite weighs about 280 pounds per cubic foot, which means that loading a 40-foot gondola one foot deep would give a weight of more than 90,000 pounds.
     Well, that’s the background to the mining in my locale. Yours may be entirely different, but do be aware that there are resources to help you find out about it. I will return in a future post to modeling options for the chromite traffic from the area I model.
Tony Thompson

Monday, October 10, 2016

Trainline issues 1–41 on DVD

The Southern Pacific Historical & Technical Society (SPH&TS) magazine, Trainline, has been published quarterly since the mid 1980s (in the early period, frequency was irregular). Back issues in hard copy remain available for many of the issues and can be purchased on the Society’s website, which can be found at: , and click on “Company Store.” In the 1990s, the SPH&TS Board of Directors tended to reprint older issues when they sold out, so that they would remain available, but more recently older issues have been allowed to go out of print.
     A long-contemplated project of the SPH&TS now has its first result: a DVD containing the first 41 issues of Trainline in digital form, and of particular importance, a very complete index, which is searchable, to facilitate finding information on particular topics across all these issues. Publications Director Ken Harrison is to be commended for bringing this project to fruition. It is planned that more issues beyond no. 41 will be digitally archived in this way if the first archive volume sells well. (The current issue of the magazine is no. 129.)
     The price of the DVD is $24.95; here is a link to the ordering page for it on the Society website: . The issues  on the disc are in PDF format and require Adobe Acrobat Reader 6.0 or later for access. If you don’t have a copy of this Reader, you can download it for free at: . The PDFs are compatible with Windows and Macintosh (and other) operating systems. The DVD package insert looks like this:

      An attractive image was also placed on the disc itself:

     Through the years, Trainline has contained an immense amount of information about the Southern Pacific, from all eras. Though modeling information has been in the minority, the quality of that modeling information is also excellent. This publication is naturally of greatest interest to SPH&TS members and SP modelers generally, but in addition I hope that the general modeling community may wish to avail themselves of this resource. I think they would all find it interesting and rewarding, and the price is certainly modest.
Tony Thompson

Friday, October 7, 2016

Choosing a model car fleet, Part 13: more on box cars

Back in 2011, I wrote a series of posts on my car fleet planning, divided by car type (you can find them all by using “choosing a model car fleet” as a search term in the search box at right; or you can consult the list of the entire series in this post: ). One of those posts, the one relevant to the present post, was a broad commentary about box cars, and it is at this link: .
     I have discussed in a number of prior posts the suggestion originated by Tim Gilbert and Dave Nelson, referred to as the Gilbert-Nelson idea, that freight cars observed in many situations scale with the size of each car owner’s fleet. I give some background and elaboration of the idea in the following post: ). I continue to follow that idea in choosing foreign-road cars, especially box cars, for my layout.
     A second, additional idea I have tried to follow whenever possible, when choosing which freight car of a particular railroad’s fleet, is to select a “signature” car whenever possible. The idea of signature cars essentially identifies distinctive and numerous cars owned by a particular railroad. There have been two of my columns in Model Railroad Hobbyist (MRH) going into this in much more detail, so I won’t discuss it further here. They were in the issues for April 2013 and March 2015. (You can download these and any other issues of MRH for free, at their website, .) There was also a blog post on the subject, which can be found at this link: .
     Here is an example. In the second of those MRH columns on signature freight cars, I identified two cars for D&RGW that I have in my fleet, a single-sheathed box car and a 46-foot GS gondola. But in the late 1930s, D&RGW began to add a number of all-steel box cars, which were built with some distinctive features, such as straight side sills, 12-panel sides and Duryea underframes. I decided to add one of those to my fleet also. There was a Sunshine kit for one group of those cars, kit 96.9, which builds into a car from the number series D&RGW 68000–68399, delivered  in 1939 with wood running boards. Here is a photo of that model in completed form.

The car is spotted at Pismo Marine Service in my layout town of Santa Rosalia.
     Eventually D&RGW had 2400 cars of this general appearance, including six-foot doors, though cars delivered after the series shown above had steel running boards. Another distinctive feature is the 12-inch lettering on the reporting mark initials, which AAR had recommended to be 9 inches. But that was only a recommendation, not a requirement, and D&RGW, like several other railroads, chose a different size for reporting marks. In fact, the retention of the ampersand in reporting marks by D&RGW also ignored a recommendation of both ARA and its successor, AAR, to eliminate that character from reporting marks. Again, only a recommendation.
     Another railroad of special interest for an SP modeler, though not of much Gilbert-Nelson significance, is the Cotton Belt (St. Louis Southwestern, SSW). Owned by the Southern Pacific after 1932, the Cotton Belt continued to follow its own shop programs until the 1960s, and in particular rebuilt a considerable number of older box cars to more modern configurations. But they only owned 5185 freight cars in 1953, similar to Western Pacific at that time, and far down the list of railroad freight car fleets ranked by size.
      Many of the individual SSW rebuilt car groups are very interesting freight cars. Sunshine Models produced kits for a number of them, in particular kits 52.10 and 52.11 for the wood-sheathed rebuilds with “kitbashed” steel ends and 10 ft. 2 in. inside height. These cars originated in a purchase by SSW in the 1920s of 2500 wood-sheathed box cars from American Car & Foundry. They had Hutchins roofs and Murphy corrugated ends, and were only 8 ft. 6 in. inside height. They looked like the USRA cars built a few years earlier, though the USRA cars were 9 ft. inside height. The Cotton Belt’s 8 ft. 6 in. height was obsolescent even when the cars were built, and in the 1930s, Cotton Belt began to rebuild them.
     Most of the cars were rebuilt with 10 ft. 2 in. inside height, which at the time was pretty large. The contemporaneous standard car was the 1932 ARA box car, 9 ft. 4 in. high inside, and even the 1937 AAR standard box car was only 10 ft. inside. The increased height meant that Cotton Belt had to add an extending panel to the re-used steel ends. Sometimes these panels were sections cut from surplus Murphy ends, but some were made from sheet with welded-together carlines as stiffeners, giving quite an unusual appearance. (Kit 52.10 models the Murphy added panel, kit 52.11 the carline panel.) By 1938, over 1000 of the original cars had been rebuilt this way; by 1948, more than 2000 had been rebuilt, making these cars a “signature” car of the Cotton Belt.
     My Sunshine kit 52.11 was assembled by Dennis Williams and lettered and weathered by me. It’s shown on the house track in my layout town of Shumala, with a clear view of the extended steel end with its carline-reinforced panel. (You can click on the image to enlarge.) Cotton Belt did paint boxcar ends black in this era.

     These two cars, from D&RGW and SSW, are ones I found interesting to add to my freight car fleet, and do represent cars with a “signature” quality, even if not perhaps the first cars a person might choose for that category from either railroad. Both are often present in my operating sessions.
Tony Thompson

Tuesday, October 4, 2016

New Kadee two-piece trucks

For some time now, Kadee has been re-releasing their various HO scale truck types in a different design they call “two-piece,” meaning a split bolster. They are molded in a “High Gravity Compound,” or HGC, meaning higher density to increase truck weight to almost match metal trucks. Most important, from an appearance standpoint, they have truck springs molded instead of “working” or “real” springs. The news for me, and any other SP modeler for the transition era or earlier, is that they have finally extended this program to three older trucks: Andrews, T-section, and Vulcan. These were all used by SP early in the 20th century and thus are essential for SP modeling as late as the transition era.
     The trucks are available with either the formerly standard wheels, 0.110-inch wheel treads (Code 110) or newer “semi-scale” Code 88 wheels. These just have different Kadee stock numbers. Below is their announcement for the trucks with Code 88 wheels. The 1571, 1572 and 1573 trucks are simply 571, 572 and 573 with Code 110 wheels.

Note that these have ribbed-back wheels.
     As I mentioned at the top, the real advance for me is that these trucks avoid that terribly obvious open sideframe when “real” springs are installed. I mean this kind of thing, using the sprung Kadee Vulcan truck:

As I’ve said in a number of places (most recently in my Model Railroad Hobbyist column in the September 2016 issue, which you can download for free any time at, real truck springs look nothing at all like this, and one simply cannot see through them in this way. And of perhaps greater importance, these springs do not effectively cushion any model freight car that weighs less than half a pound, which is why I put quotes around the term “real” springs. They are mechanically cosmetic and visually incorrect.
     The Kadee Andrews truck is the early-design Andrews, with a long tie bar running under the whole sideframe, which SP used on several car classes. The T-section truck, from Bettendorf or other manufacturers, was very widely used by SP in the 1920s, for several different kinds of freight cars. And the Vulcan truck was also used by SP on several classes, particularly for stock cars and cabooses. That’s why I need and can use all three of these new trucks. Shown below are packs of all three, with Code 110 wheels, which I may well swap out for Code 88 wheels before putting these under freight cars.

     I was really pleased to see these trucks released, and will be using them on future models, as well as to replace some of the older Kadee “sprung” trucks under some of my freight cars. I would advocate their use by anyone with appropriate freight car models which should have these particular trucks.
Tony Thompson