Saturday, December 16, 2017

Understanding auto industry traffic

Any layout may have certain kinds of freight traffic that are distinctive, whether using special equipment, or carrying cargo with special needs, or operated in distinctive ways. The one I am going to discuss here is automobile industry traffic, both assembled automobiles and auto parts, because I know this was a significant traffic component of Southern Pacific’s Coast Route. But practically any specialized traffic on any layout could be analyzed in the way I am describing.
     I have addressed this topic in a number of previous posts, perhaps most generally in one about the relevant part of my freight car fleet (see it at: ). I have also summarized prototype SP auto-industry traffic on the Coast Route in a couple of places, most recently at this link: . But in the present post I want to delve further into specifics of the Coast auto parts traffic.
     I have relied on three main sources of information for my particular traffic. One is entirely generic and nationwide: the Walthers book, America’s Driving Force  (Walthers, Milwaukee, 1998). The book is long out of print at Walthers but is readily available from the usual on-line sellers of used books, such as AbeBooks ( ) and on auction sites such as eBay. It’s an excellent overview, both historical and modern. I’ll come back to the contents, but here is the cove:

The book is a full 8.5 x 11 inches in size. It can be criticized as a thinly disguised promo for Walthers structure kits, and that’s true, but it also contains a wealth of information about the auto industry.
     The second source is specific SP information that I drew upon in writing certain chapters in my volumes on SP freight cars (series entitled Southern Pacific Freight Cars), the ones about cars in assigned service for automobiles and auto parts. Specifically, these are chapters 6 and 7 in Volume 3, “Automobile Cars and Flat Cars,” Signature Press, 2004; and chapters 8, 11, 12, 13 and 15 in Volume 4, “Box Cars” (revised edition), Signature Press, 2014. These chapters contain numerous details and data about SP assignments for auto parts service. To illustrate with a single example, this photo from Chapter 12 of Vol. 4 (2014 edition) shows a Class B-50-30 car newly equipped with parts racks at the Detroit plant of Paragon, whose logo is at lower right. Note that the racks, purchased by SP to GM specifications, are stenciled “SPCO.”

From SP records. I know this car was in Buick axle service during 1953-54, and the car is lettered next to the door, “return to C&O Ry. Flint, Mich.,” so we know the railroad that served the Buick plant. And there was a Buick-Olds-Pontiac  assembly plant in Southern California at the time I model (see the first post cited in the second paragraph in the present post; I will show a more complete list below).  As I will show in a following post, this is already enough information to fill out a waybill.   
     To go beyond the explicit SP information of the kind just shown, one can turn to a helpful table in the Walthers book, America’s Driving Force, on page 56:

This show the company names and locations of a wide variety of parts suppliers, many supplying parts to more than one auto company (you can click to enlarge).
     As explained in America’s Driving Force, in the early days Ford was a very integrated company and relied on few outside parts suppliers, while General Motors was almost the opposite,using many of the suppliers listed in the table above, and more. Around 1950, Chrysler was closer to Ford than to GM in its use of parts suppliers, but was changing, as was Ford, toward a wide network of parts companies.
     This topic leads me to mention my third source of information, the Internet. As in so many research tasks, Google is your friend. Because auto plants and auto parts companies have employed so many people over the years, and been located in so many communities, the history of these many plants, including an immense list of ones now closed, is readily found on the internet.
     Use of the internet information, and tables like the one shown above, give you origins of parts shipments. The other half of the traffic story is the assembly plants, to which the parts moved. Those plants would also be the origin of shipments of assembled automobiles. Two paragraphs above I cited a link to an early list I made of auto plants. Shown below is a more complete list of California assembly plants at the time I model, 1953, and a few added historical details about the plants.

As I stated, these plants are the destinations for my auto parts traffic. (You can click to enlarge,)
     One last source of information for an SP modeler of auto traffic: Fred Frailey’s interesting and informative book, Blue Streak Merchandise (Kalmbach Books, Waukesha, WI, 1991). He emphasizes  how vital auto parts traffic was to this train by the late 1960s; but in contrast, he lists a train consist of June, 1953 (page 27), with 114 cars, only 13 of which carried auto parts, most for an assembly plant in Dallas. In later years, as SP captured the General Motors parts traffic to their two Southern California plants, an entire section of the BSM was called “Auto Parts West,” all GM parts. This emphasizes that information for your era is vital to understanding this or any particular traffic.
     I believe that this description of the information sources for SP Coast Route auto parts traffic provides sound and extensive background. I will go further and show example waybills prepared with this information in a following post. I should add in closing that my focus on the West Coast, and on the early 1950s, is only my own focus. Other eras and other parts of the country can be similarly researched.
Tony Thompson

Wednesday, December 13, 2017

Layouts at Great Lakes Getaway, Part 2

I introduced this topic in a previous post, saying a few words about this event, an operating weekend, and describing two layouts, those of Doug Tagsold and Mike Burgett (you can see that post at the following link: ). I visited and operated on more layouts tha those two, however, so this post is to say a little about two others.
     The day following my session at Mike Burgett’s C&O (described in the post just cited), I had the distinct privilege to operate on Jack Ozanich’s Atlantic Great Eastern in Battle Creek. Jack’s railroad is freelance, and is set entirely in the state of Maine; it also is set in the season of late winter, when little snow may be seen, but trees are bare and the grass and other ground cover is brownish gray. It is a striking and rarely seen scenic treatment. Jack permits photos, but asks that there be no “aerial”or overall views, only views that could be seen from ground level. Here is such a shot, typical of the main line away from towns.

Some will know that this layout was featured in the 2005 issue of Great Model Railroads, from Kalmbach, with numerous excellent photos.
     My job at the AGE was South Dover yardmaster, which had both the good and the bad feature that Jack was serving as the engine terminal hostler there. Good because he was happy to clarify the tasks in my job, and tirelessly answered my questions; but bad because I was right under his eye, and he is, to say the least, a stickler for correct prototype operation. I did make some mistakes in what I was doing, and Jack was quick to point that out, letting me know in no uncertain terms that I was wrong. But I really enjoyed the job, and in a way, having Jack right there was an important part of appreciating the layout for what Jack wants it to be, and how he wants it operated.
     The second layout in this group was Bill Neale’s Panhandle Division of the Pennsylvania Railroad, set in 1939.  I was especially eager to see and operate on Bill’s layout, because his article about his waybill system, published in Model Railroader in February 2009, was what first got me thinking about prototypical waybills. It wasn’t the waybills themselves, which weren’t especially prototypical, but his use of clear plastic sleeves, as used by baseball card collectors, that got me thinking. My first article, about the preliminary version of my own system, then appeared in Railroad Model Craftsman in December 2009. So I wanted to visit the mother ship, so to speak.
     Bill’s layout is a superb accomplishment in a 22 x 25-foot room, well described in Great Model Railroads 2010. The job I drew was assistant yardmaster at Weirton Yard, under the direction of yardmaster Henry Freeman. Henry is justly renowned among model railroad operators as a very accomplished yardmaster, so I was in good hands. Here is an overview of the yard.

My job was to help Henry and also switch adjoining industries. One of those was the nearby Weirton Steel plant, and an early task was to pull the empty coal hoppers and take them to the yard. I quickly realized my switcher couldn’t pull them. Henry’s and my engines together succeeded, and to my amazement there were 24 cars out of sight in the plant. (A brief look at the track plan shows that the plant tracks actually connect to a large staging yard!) Later in the session, we delivered 24 coal loads back into the same track in the plant, as you see here, with the plant at left.

Of course the product of the mill is steel, primarily in rolled form, and shipped both as coils and, for thicker sections, as plate. Here is one end of a long string of plate loads in the yaed.

     Situated as it is, the layout has locations in Pennsylvania, Ohio, and West Virginia, including the Pennsy’s massive bridge over the Ohio River. Bill has modeled a nicely compressed version of that bridge, though I didn’t get a decent photo of it (the Great Model Railroads article has a good view). Bill is also known for his trackwork, sometimes complex, as in this example at Steubenville, Ohio.

     I really enjoyed both the Neale and Ozanich layouts, and feel it was a privilege both to see them and to have a chance to operate on them. This operating weekend was well organized and everyone seemed to have fun, as I certainly did. I look forward to returning to GLG in future years.
Tony Thompson

Sunday, December 10, 2017

Produce shipping boxes, Part 7

In a previous post, I showed one way to make a stack of produce shipping containers, wooden crates in this instance, with customized labels on the box ends (you can see it at: ). I also mentioned the individual orange crates made by 3-D printing a design of Ken Harstine’s, available from Shapeways. The crates as you receive them are shown below, still attached to the support rods as they were printed. You can see that the two bottom boards are separated slightly to make an opening, and the same is true on the sides of the crates, as was prototypical. An actual orange crate was shown in my third post on this topic (it can be found at this link: ).

     The crates still being attached to their support makes it easy to paint them. I began by priming with Tamiya Light Gray primer. Then for the “wood” color, I used two different paints. One was Star Brand paint, color no. STR-12, “Natural Wood,” the other was Tamiya XF-59, “Desert Yellow.” These are quite similar colors, the Tamiya perhaps a little lighter and more yellow, but not distinctively so.

In this view, the row at left is the Star color, the row to its right is the Tamiya color. I think both are fine for this application.
     At the same time, I built a couple of “box stacks,” representing a stack of shipping boxes in each case, which I could use with printed labels in groups such as 4 boxes wide by 4 boxes high. They were built the same way as the ones described in the previous post that was cited in the first sentence at the top of the present post, using the same Novelty siding. But the present stacks are only one box deep instead of two. As the conventional citrus box is one foot square on the end, I made my styrene “stacks” to multiples of one scale foot. These too were primed with Light Gray, then painted with either the Star Brand or Tamiya wood colors.

Again in this view, the Star color is at left, the Tamiya color at right. The flat area inside the box is simply a piece of styrene to add more gluing surface for the box labels.
     Having prepared the box stack parts shown above, I checked them against my label size in HO scale. Unfortunately, they don’t match exactly. It seems to me that in this situation, you have two choices: rebuild your stacks to match the accurately scaled HO labels, or modify the array of labels to have dimensions matching your styrene box stack. It seemed easier to do the latter, at least as an experiment, so I went ahead.
     In the photo below, the left stack was mounted with Silver Moon labels (development of that label was shown in my sixth post, which is at this link: ). On the right, the stack has the Summer Girl label, a generic style label, not printed as being for any specific fruit or vegetable, and I chose to modify it for my Guadalupe Fruit Company (see the post at: ). Here are both of them.

     These box stacks are, as I mentioned, pretty unreadable at HO size. I do like to include them on my loading docks at packing houses, but they are more for flavor than anything else. Here is the stack of “Summer Girl” boxes at Guadalupe Fruit in my layout town of Ballard.

     I should perhaps mention that Classic Metal Works offers a stack of boxes that are dimensioned to fit their light-duty trucks, their part no. 20212. These oddly have the side and end appearance out of sync with the top surface, that is, the box size would be different on top vs. sides and ends, but maybe the manufacturer hoped that that won’t be noticed. These too can have custom labels pasted to them, but after experimenting I decided not to pursue this approach.
     I like the overall look of these stacks of boxes and will be pleased to have them on my loading docks (subject to the “flavor” comment made above), but frankly I doubt most shippers would have put lots of produce out on the dock until empty cars arrived. I will probably use them sparingly on the layout.
Tony Thompson

Thursday, December 7, 2017

Another year of this blog

This blog was begun with its first post on December 8, 2010, so this post completes seven years of the blog. Because I model Southern Pacific, I entitled the blog “Modeling the SP,” and SP topics continue to form the core of the subject matter. But modeling a particular railroad does not mean modeling nothing else, so many of the not-directly-SP  projects that I carry out, all aimed at reproducing some aspect of prototype railroading, also show up on the blog, as I believe they should.
     Each year on the anniversary of the blog I have posted a brief summary of results to date, and commented as seems appropriate. Every single anniversary post has exclaimed about the remarkable (to me, anyway) level of interest, as indicated by page views. The Google application I use for this blog, called Blogger, collects and keeps such statistics, and they continue to be interesting.
     After the first couple of years, in which page views essentially doubled each year over the previous year’s annual totals, page view numbers naturally flattened out, and annual increases could no longer sustain an annual doubling. But they do continue to show gently increasing numbers of page views each year. After a couple of years, adding about 170,000 page views per year, they jumped last year to above 200,000 annual page views. (I showed the graph Blogger provides, in my anniversary post last year. You can see it at this link: .)
     This trend is not ending. Early in the morning on July 5 of this year, my blog reached 1,000,000 page views, yet another astonishing (at least to me) milestone. As I write this post, the total page views are over 1,080,000 page views for the seven years. That means that again in the past year, there have been more than 200,000 page views. I certainly never dreamed of such numbers when I started, and even ten percent of that total would have surprised and staggered me. So for loyal readers out there, I do know about your collective support, and I continue to be gratified as well as amazed by it. (Incidentally, I have set Blogger so that it does not count my own page views. Thus the foregoing numbers are all people other than myself.)
     Some time back, I added “reference pages” (as the Blogger application calls them) about my weathering process. Links to them can be found at the upper right of the screen, at the top of each blog post. As I hoped, these are receiving numerous page views. I also continue to place documents occasionally on Google Drive, where they are accessible to the entire internet, not just to those who link from this blog. However, some documents seem not to have entered readers’ consciousness, since I often get questions neatly answered by some of those docs. For example, I added a commodity table for tank cars ( ), which shows you which commodities go in which car types, and what kind of placard each requires, but questions to me continue to indicate that this document isn’t much recognized. Nothing for it but to keep mentioning the existence of resources like this.
     Though I had not intended it when I began the blog, a lot of the content has proven to be about projects of various kinds on my layout. Although I do model SP, many layout projects are not directly about the railroad, but about my efforts to reproduce the “look and feel” of SP railroading in Central California in 1953. That is how I would look at this photo of the Guadalupe local switching at Shumala:

Realistic operation, following SP practice, is very much part of the goals for this layout, and I continue to work toward improving it.
     Every year, this anniversary gives me the opportunity to think, once again, about the goals of the blog, and whether they are being accomplished. I continue to believe I am doing what I set out to do. I simply wanted to pass on methods, ideas, techniques, and prototype information, when these were beyond routine. I saw no point in describing, for example, spiking a length of track, or following kit directions exactly. I intended to reach a little beyond that level.
     I have also realized that my posts have another relatively simple component. I can explain it this way. When academics analyze how information is transmitted within and among technical groups. they always discover the presence of individuals who are called “gatekeepers.” Gatekeepers may control access to information, but more importantly, they increase its circulation. What gatekeepers do is notice new information or ideas that may interest someone in their contact group, whether it’s of value ro them personally or not, and they pass the word. That is part of what I hope I am doing, in writing this blog. I intend to keep doing it.
Tony Thompson

Monday, December 4, 2017

Operating with “sure spots,” Part 3

A “sure spot” is a specific car location along a siding, or within an industrial plant, at which cars must be spotted. This can range from a particular warehouse door for a particular commodity (whether loading or unloading), to various requirements for specific unloading capabilities, such as tank car top-unloading, or covered hoppers, or even coal hoppers to be spotted above specific pockets on a coal dealer’s coal trestle.
     As I’ve pointed out before, these spots are sometimes called out in waybills, particularly when a shipper regularly ships something to the same consignee — they will have communicated about how the cargo needs to be handled at destination. Or the local agent may know what is needed, or the local train crew may already know from experience where certain cars are spotted, or a warehouse foreman may tell the switch crew what is wanted. I’ve discussed these points in Part 2 of this series; you can retrieve it at this link: .
     In the present post, I want to expand on the topic I introduced in Part 2 (just cited above), about the use of “information cards” so local train crews know a little of what a prototype crew would know from experience. I have prepared tentative cards for each of the areas where crews may need to have the information, but am not including any maps, because on my layout, crews already have that in their timetable.
     I will show just a single map, so that it is clear what is being discussed. This is the same map found in the timetable which crews use, for the town of Ballard. (You can click on it to enlarge.)

The upper part of the map is the south side of Ballard, because the map is drawn as the town is seen from the operating aisle (in other words, north is at the bottom of the map). There is one industry with complex spotting rules for its four doors, Peerless Foods (top left of map), and then two industries on each side of the main track for which information would be useful. I will begin with a card for the north side of town (lower part of the map):

The corresponding card for the south side is a little more involved, as there are some complications to the spots for Pacific Chemical Repackaging.

Lastly, I have designed a separate card for Peerless Foods. Most waybills for Peerless in my system do specify door spots, but not all, so the description of the car’s cargo can be used to determine the correct spot, with the aid of this card.

     The other towns on the layout are less complex. For example, the mainline junction town of Shumala can be covered in a single card, including the packing house at East Shumala:

     These will be tried at the next operating session on my layout. I hope they prove as helpful and thus successful as the ones Al Frasch uses. The Frasch design, of course, is the basis for the cards shown in this post, and I thank Al again for both the inspiration and for permission to use the idea.
Tonyh Thompson

Friday, December 1, 2017

How’s your HVAC, Part 2

In Part 1, I introduced the idea of modeling rooftop equipment enclosures, typically installed to house HVAC (Heating, Ventilation, Air Conditioning) machinery, on the roofs of model buildings (you can read that post at this link: ). In the present post I want to show some options for additional detailing, and the painted results.
     First, adding some details. Most enclosures like this have screened openings, and a few have what appear to be exhaust stacks. For stacks, I had materials at hand to model them, in the form of brass 3/64-inch tubing, K&S no. 815036. (I cut the tubing lengths with a cut-off disk.) To add short lengths of this tubing to the emerging HVAC enclosures, I simply drilled a no. 56 hole, and inserted the 3/64-inch tubing, secured with canopy glue. This tubing is the same as I used for my blue flag receptacles on the layout (see the post about that modeling, at: ).
     I also added some rectangles of the same 0.010-inch styrene sheet used to close the ends of the enclosures, to resemble access hatches on the enclosures. These are common on the prototype. The next desired addition was screens. The pieces of diesel locomotive shell have excellent grilles on them, but I wanted to add more.
     One easy way to add screens or grilles to an enclosure is etched metal screen. One I have used, and very much like, is one of the many mesh screens from Scale Link. I am using their 1-mm diamond mesh (Part F11) on several of my new HVAC enclosures. You can buy these from a number of sellers, including the excellent Model Dockyard (you can see their line at: ); their part number for the F11 mesh is SLF11.
     With the preliminary modeling work done on the three enclosures cut from the diesel shell, I sprayed on what I think of as a “witness coat,” using Tamiya light gray (AS-26), to show up any shortcomings in the modeling parts so far. As you can see below, I did need to use a little Squadron Green putty to fix a couple of problems. The enclosure on the left has the Scale Link screen. (You can click on the image to enlarge it,)

     Once the putty is dry and sanded, another coat of gray can be added. Shown below are all three of the finished enclosures.

     A final point on enclosures like these: though most of the ones you see on roofs appear to be maintained, occasionally you do see a few with rust stains, and certainly soot and other dirt falls out of the sky onto these things. A few “new looking” ones are fine, but most should be at least a little dirty, and a rust stain or two won’t go amiss. I used Pan Pastels for this job. One of the things I like about their weathering colors is that they use the conventional art names for colors, such as Burnt Siena, Raw Umber, Neutral Gray, etc. Thus these fit right into the spectrum one is familiar with for tube acrylic paints and artist’s pencils. Pan Pastels may have originated as cosmetics, but the material is terrific for weathering, and their applicators are very nice to use. Here are these three enclosures, lightly dirtied and with a touch of rust.

     Although the origin of these enclosures as diesel locomotive parts can be recognizable, most HVAC packages on the roofs of model buildings tend to “look right” because of their general appearance and where they are, reducing the recognition factor. Here is a single example from my layout, on part of the flat roof extension of Caslon Printing, and certainly it is my hope that the HVAC enclosure blends in, rather than calling any attention to itself. The road here is Alder Street.

By the way, since I haven’t mentioned it for some time, I will point out that the flat for Caslon Printing started life as a KingMill flat, and it had to be modified to make the loading doors sit next to the track, as I showed in an earlier post (you can find it at: ).  That’s the origin of the flat roof.
     I am happy with these HVAC enclosures developed from a diesel shell. But scratchbuilt enclosures are also effective for rooftop use, and I have a few of those on the workbench too. They will be shown in following posts. I should also mention the very useful Walthers detail set, their part number 933-3733, Roof Details. I will show some of its parts also.
Tony Thompson

Tuesday, November 28, 2017

Layouts at the Great Lakes Getaway

One of the many fine operating weekends held all around the country is the Great Lakes Getaway, held in the Detroit area and featuring some superb layouts. I was very much pleased to attend this year.
     One of the layouts I had the pleasure of operating was Doug Tagsold’s Colorado & Southern. It is essentially in 1:72 scale, kind of halfway between HO at 1:87 and S scale at 1:64. Doug uses HO track and many HO structures, but also uses some S scale figures.  An advantage of 1:72 is that it is a military modeling scale and accordingly has really a lot of accessories available. But the scale complication fades into insignificance when you look at the stunning scenic job Doug has done. I will show a few of my snapshots but for anyone wanting a deeper look, there is video on Marshall Stull’s blog, which can be found at: . Doug’s era is 1925.
     One thing I really liked about Doug’s layout is the use of actual Colorado photos for backdrops, instead of the snowy Alps backdrops sometimes used for Colorado layouts. This photo at Idaho Springs is a good example.

My job at this session was to operate the local from Denver to Silver Plume. This train works through Idaho Springs and Georgetown to the end of track at Silver Plume, then return to Denver. But before reaching the local switching to be done, it is a long run from Denver to Idaho Springs, with gorgeous scenery along the way, as in this view of my train.

It is easy to understand Doug’s statement that this layout, the latest of several he has built, reflects his realization that his heart is in Colorado.
     The second layout I operated on is the remarkable Chesapeake & Ohio of Mike Burgett. Mike is a professional signal engineer for CN and that is reflected in his 1964-era layout depicting parts of the C&O Clifton Forge Division. It would take an awful lot of photographs to convey the superb appearance of this layout, so I will just show a few views. It is a double-deck layout, and the trackwork is everywhere impeccable and, naturally, fully and accurately signaled. The photo below at Alleghany shows this. The railroad here is double track and also has eastward and westward sidings on either side of the two main tracks. The sidings have darker ballast.

     A complex piece of trackwork a little east of Covington also is a good example, shown in the “aerial” view below. The train here is on the eastward main, if I recall correctly, and will continue to its right onto the lower track into Covington, en route to Clifton Forge.

The photo above shows how the main tracks divide here. From track level at the left of the photo above, one gets the view below, and you can see some examples of the signaling involved.

Operating trains on this layout is a real pleasure. I did the Covington yard job to start, a local switching job which is completed by returning to Clifton Forge yard. I then ran some through trains, and thus had a chance to run over the entire layout, staging to staging. A great experience.   
      I will come back to the other layouts I was able to operate, but these two are good examples of how high the standard is in this area. This was a great meet, fun to experience, and attended by many of the best-known operators in the nation – not that I am one of them. I just relished the chance to enjoy these fine layouts and the company of all the attendees.
Tony Thompson

Saturday, November 25, 2017

Unloading covered hoppers

Covered hoppers can be unloaded in a variety of ways, most relying on gravity to move the cargo through the bottom outlets. The outlets can dump into a bin below the tracks; into the receiving opening of a auger unloader; or into a receiving transfer arrangement into highway trucks or trackside bins. All these method may rely in part on auger components, simply a screw rotating inside a tube, as shown below. Naturally rotation of the screw moves material along the tube.

The choice among the unloading options just listed depends in part on the product being unloaded, and on the scale and frequency of the unloading to be managed.
     Car unloading can involve simply dumping into a pit below the tracks, and the mechanism for moving the cargo from the pit can be anything from an auger to a conveyor belt (below ground, of course). Thus a grid or array of bars between the rails can be a complete unloading arrangement if desired (and if the destination is into a structure). It might look like this:

     But there are also a variety of ways that an auger mechanism can be arranged and be evident from above. One of these is with a portable auger, than can be moved from car to car, for example unloading into trucks. These can be quite steep, more so than a conveyor belt:

     But what I want to do on my layout is indicate an unloading spot, and rather than just make a dump pit, I want to indicate directly that there is an auger mechanism. My idea to do this was inspired by a Clark Propst clinic about his own layout, in which he showed a photo of such an auger in a 1949 photo of a cement company, with the receiving bin visible above the auger in the track. Clark was kind enough to send me a copy of the photo, which looks like this:

     The unloading spot is quite narrow and the means of connecting the car unloading gate to the auger box is evident. Here is that area, expanded from the photo above:

Note that there is a flat top to the device, but that the round auger tube underneath can be seen, as can the shaft end of the auger itself.
     I am going to try and model this, and will take up that project in a following post.
Tony Thompson

Wednesday, November 22, 2017

Produce shipping boxes, Part 6

In the previous post in this series, I showed how I have modified various published labels for shipping boxes, and a few labels from my own collection, so that the product named on the label, along with the name of a packing house on my layout, fit their use on my layout. The most recent of those posts was the preceding one, Part 5 (you can find it at this link: ). The subject of modifying existing labels from various sources was introduced at the very beginning of the series, in Part 1 (that post can be found here: ).
     I have had several requests to expand on my box label modifications and show more examples. I have continued to work on these, in part because I am still not sure which ones will ultimately work best in HO scale. But I do know to focus on the ones with really bold lettering or graphics or both, so that they can stand out in a very small size. Here is one example, originally a box label for Valencia oranges:

The conversion involved removing the lettering for oranges, along with the “California Red Ball” emblem from Sunkist, and of course the packing house name, Canoga Citrus Association (the stated location, Owensmouth, later was renamed Canoga Park), and replacing with my Guadalupe Fruit name.

  This is a bright color and large graphic look, thus I expect it to work well in HO scale.
     Most of the label producing companies offered a label style which did not feature the packing house name, but simply showed a brand image. These could readily be overprinted with the packer’s name if desired. Here is one example of a bold graphic image, with the packer name hardly evident (it is along the label bottom; you can click on the image to enlarge it).

It is easy to simply remove the packer lettering and not replace it, since it would be too small to read under almost any circumstances. This label could then serve on shipping boxes for any of my packing houses, since it doesn’t identify either a house or a type of produce.
     There are some irresistibly handsome citrus labels in existence, and I just had to do another one of these for my lemon packing house, the Coastal Citrus Association. Here is the original label, which in fact was used for lemons:

Note, again, that this label has really bold lettering, and the large yellow moon image to make it even more distinctive. This one only required me to rearrange the letters in the existing name, San Fernando Heights Lemon Association, to make the name of my layout house, and then to do the same to the place name to convert it into the town name on my layout, Santa Rosalia. Here is the result.

     These are fun to do, not at all difficult, and will likely serve my needs on the layout. I will return to the use of these in HO scale in a following post.
Tony Thompson

Sunday, November 19, 2017

How’s your HVAC?

As most readers probably know, the HVAC of the title refers to Heating, Ventilation and Air Conditioning. And what does it have to do with modeling? I am simply thinking of the roofs of model buildings. Even before World War II, it was commonplace to have fan housings and other equipment atop buildings, but with increased use of more extensive ventilation schemes, not to mention air conditioning, these rooftop facilities increased in size and, often, in number. Most layouts provide us with quite an excellent view of the roofs of our model buildings, so we do need to be conscious of what ought to be there. This post is about deciding what and how to fix the glaring absence of HVAC on most of my roofs.
     A simple addition that is suitable for many industrial buildings is one or more ventilators. There are a variety of these in the prototype, and a corresponding variety in model form. An example from my layout is the shipping building for my lemon packing house, the Coastal Citrus Association. Located near the Pacific shore, the climate is usually mild and air conditioning would not be needed. Instead, ventilators can do the whole job. As shown below, I added a cylindrical fan-driven ventilator at left, and a traditional “wind turbine” at right. This may be enough for this industry.

Note the field boxes of lemons in the open doorway.
     But what most people envision for rooftop HVAC would be cabinets or enclosures of more significant size, usually containing motor-driven equipment for air filtration, air circulation, and air conditioning. For example, shown below is an image from the internet, showing a typical rooftop unit in the foreground.

Note also that there are a number of other units in the background, typical of many modern roofs. All visibly exhibit some of the typical characteristics: air intake opening, fans on the top surface, grilles on one or more sides, and painted a light gray or beige color. Some of these are doubtless manufactured packages, but custom units are common too.
     There are several ways to model such units. Obviously a simple styrene box can be the basis, and addition of fans, grilles and intakes is fairly simple. One source of good fans is diesel locomotive shells, but you don’t have to cut up a shell; Athearn sells a set of good-looking fans, their part ATH11692, which are 48-inch pan-top fans, with multiple sets of fans in the package. Of course, if you start by cutting up a shell, you also get grilles. Let me illustrate.
     I happened upon a cut-up shell for sale cheap at a hobby shop, and bought it, pretty much an impulse purchase, thinking of possible HVAC projects. I’m only vaguely familiar with more modern diesels, but this looks to me like it may have been an SD39 at one time (apparently a dynamic brake section was cut out). But the parentage doesn’t matter: this is just raw material for HVAC cnclosures!

There are two fans at left, grilles on the sides, and another grille toward the cab, under the air filter box. These can be easily cut apart and added to a plain styrene box, but more simply, can even stand on their own. I simply used a razor saw and cut oversize, then used a file to clean up the parts. With the cab cut off, all three salvaged segments at bottom, and other removed parts in the middle, here is the state of things at this point.

Shown below are the rear two fan sections, plus the air filtration box and grille from right behind the cab, cut apart and prepared for making into HVAC enclosures:

These are already a large enough size to be the foundation for an HVAC box of modest size. I simply close the open ends with pieces of 0.010-inch styrene sheet.

The resulting unit can be further detailed, as I will do presently.
     I will return to this project with some other HVAC enclosures, as well as the ones cut from the diesel shell above, along with detailing of them, in a future post.
Tony Thompson

Thursday, November 16, 2017

More about operating with “sure spots”

I introduced the topic of operating on a model railroad layout with “sure spots’ in a post last year, with the idea of showing some ways these spots can be identified (see this link: ). To repeat the definition of a sure spot, it meant spotting the car at one particular location at an industry, such as on a particular track within an industrial complex, or at a particular loading dock, or alongside a particular loading door or unloading appliance.
     When I first had operating sessions on my layout, I didn’t worry much about this, intending only that switch crews get the right cars to the designated places. And of course I assumed that elementary logic would dictate that car doors kind of line up with loading docks or building doors, and that tank cars line up with unloading hoses, and so on. It didn’t take long to discover that “elementary logic” is sometimes in short supply, especially if crews feel rushed. I do tell my operators the widely-used mantra, “this operating session is not a race, so take your time,” but people often feel that they are expected to finish in minimum time, and thus rush ahead in spite of that mantra.
     When I researched how prototype sure spots are identified, I introduced both schematic maps of each town, including the sure spots (as you can see in the post cited in the first paragraph, above) and also began to put them on some waybills. I had learned from experienced railroaders that sure spots are sometimes called out on waybills, especially when a shipper repeatedly sends a particular cargo to a consignee; the consignee will notify the shipper how they want the cargo delivered. Also, a consignee may let the local railroad agent know what spot they want, and the agent can tell that to the local crew when they arrive (I use agent messages for such information; see:  ).
     Barring the waybill designating a sure spot, or the agent transmitting that information, the crew may simply arrive at the industry and send a brakeman to talk to the dock foreman to find out where he wants the car. But this is a little harder to include on a model railroad. Finally, the crew ordinarily knows from experience what is going on at an industry, and knows, for example, that top-unloading tank cars always are spotted by the unloading equipment for such cars. But I wondered how to convey this kind of knowledge to my local switching crews,
     Before the VanRail operating event last September, a number of us en route to Vancouver, B.C. had a pre-event operating session on Al Frasch’s excellent layout on Whidbey Island. Al has a kind of information card for each industry or industrial area, which I found very helpful when operating, and inspiring as an idea for my own needs. With Al’s permission, I will show a couple of his cards.

I like this one because it is similar to a situation I have on my layout, where an industry has a plant switcher. That means that the branchline locals only pick up and set out cars on the lead into the plant, and switching within the plant is handled by the plant switcher. This is exactly what Al has described for his Cherry Point refinery.
     Another of his cards also mirrors a situation I have, in which particular unloading doors are assigned to particular products. His is a wholesale grocer, Pacific Fruit and Produce:

     I decided to try creating some cards along these lines for my own layout. Though with some reservations about the rather electric magenta header of the example above, I decided to try it out, with this result.

My Pacific Chemical Repackaging industry does have specific spots for certain kinds of loading and unloading, and the three spots are defined here. Note that only Spot 1 is at a building. But I am not quite satisfied with the language, and will continue to work on this one, as well as creating others.
     So although this idea still needs development for my layout use, as I see it, I am definitely grateful to Al for the stimulus to work on this problem. I hope to get some “information cards” like these into the hands of my operating crews one of these days. Further progress will be reported as it happens.
Tony Thompson

Monday, November 13, 2017

Small project: running boards for SP auto cars

Last summer, I showed the work I was doing to upgrade some of my existing freight cars, namely Red Caboose or Innovative Model Works 40-ft. Southern Pacific box cars. These model cars had wood running boards, though the prototypes in SP’s late-1930s box car classes in fact were built with steel grid running boards. I applied the Kadee parts instead, as I showed in a brief post (you can see it at: ). Now I need to do the same for some automobile cars. The idea to do so was stimulated in part by the comment to me by a couple of experienced modelers, that they didn’t know Kadee sells a 50-foot running board as a detail part.
     Here’s the background. In January and February of 1941, a class of 50-foot automobile cars, Class A-50-14,  was delivered to SP. These 500 cars had the recently-introduced W-corner-post Dreadnought ends, and 10-foot, 6-inch inside height. They were also the first SP automobile cars with steel-grid (Apex) running boards, and all were delivered with Equipco hand brakes.
     The nearest model to the SP cars is the Proto2000 automobile car. It has the right doors, roof and ends, and also the correct pattern of side panels (four panels to the left of the double doors, six panels to the right). Overall, this is a pretty accurate car for SP modelers. But the car does fall short in a couple of specifics. It has a wood running board and Ajax hand brakes, both of which are not accurate for the SP cars, though readily corrected. I will fix both those features in the project described here.
     The Proto2000 car also has single rivet rows securing each side panel, while in fact the SP cars had double rivet rows (one row with double the spacing of the other row). Such double rows are an indication of the use of hat-section internal posts instead of angle-iron posts; the hat-section posts made for a stiffer superstructure. As my models are painted and decorated, and in most cases already weathered as well, I will not be adding the additional rivet rows to make these cars more nearly correct.
     The first step in this project is to remove the incorrect “wood” running board and the brake wheel. This is easily done by sliding a razor blade underneath, and simply slicing off the attachment posts of both the board and the brake wheel. I use lots of these single-edge blades for a multitude of modeling tasks.

Once the old running board is removed, as you see below, the clean roof is ready to accept the Kadee Apex 50-ft. running board, part no. 2011 in boxcar red. The car below is not yet weathered.

The running board was attached with canopy glue.
     An omission from the Proto2000 auto car models is the route card board. You can see its location on the right-hand door in the prototype photo below, from the book, Southern Pacific Freight Cars, Volume 3: Automobile and Flat Cars (A.W. Thompson, Signature Press, 2004). This is a detail of a photo in the Steve Peery collection.(You can click on the image to enlarge it.)

I added one of these boards (shown in a prototype drawing at this link: ), by simply gluing on short lengths of scale 1 x 6-inch styrene strip.
     The Proto2000 brake wheel, an Ajax type, is incorrect  for these cars, and was sliced off. It was replaced with the right brake wheel, an Equipco, Kadee part no. 2021, just one member of the excellent brake wheel selection from Kadee. (By the way, you can see the Kadee parts selection at their on-line store: .
     With all those changes, and touching up the paint on the route card boards, my unweathered model looked like this:

     I am gradually correcting my various Red Caboose, IMWX and Proto2000 models which were produced with wood running boards but should have metal ones. For the cars that should have Apex running boards, whether 40-foot cars or 50-foot cars, the Kadee parts provide a very easy fix. I am also correcting hand brakes where necessary, along with other details like route card boards. In most cases, I also replace fragile plastic sill steps with metal ones. It’s all part of being consistent about freight car standards.
Tony Thompson