Sunday, April 29, 2018

A new bad-order card

Awhile back, I showed the interim bad-order slip I had created for use on my layout (you can see that slip in an earlier post of mine, which is at: ). I say “interim” because I had always intended to find a more prototypical bad-order card, and substitute it when that became possible. Now it has happened.
     Luckily for me, it is a Southern Pacific bad-order card, printed on manila card stock. The original is 8 x 3.5 inches in size, and contains some interesting blanks for information to be filled out. (You can click on the image to enlarge it, if you wish.)

The red stripe makes it eye-catching in the prototype, and should do the same in model form.
     The back also has a bunch of interesting blanks to fill out:

I won’t use the back for my layout bad-order slip, but it’s interesting just the same.
     My concept here is, first, to reduce this to a size compatible with my freight car paperwork, which is handled in baseball-card-collector sleeves, 3.5 inches high. Second, I assume this slip in use will be inserted into the sleeve atop any waybill or Empty Car Bill that is current for that car. I went ahead and made some copies of the above image at 3.5 inches long and printed them out on a color laser printer at my local copy shop. Here is one of them, being inserted into a sleeve of a waybill.

     This worked fine, in that it fits neatly into the paperwork sleeve for the affected car, and has the same advantage as the prototype slip: it really gets your attention. One way to use this would be to direct crews to set out any car with such a slip, where it is out of the way, exactly as the prototype would have to do.
     I will be replacing my previous bad-order slips (a link to a description of them is in the first paragraph of the present post) with these red-stripe versions. I not only like the look, but they are in fact the prototype SP bad order cards, so they fit in perfectly for use on my layout.
Tony Thompson

Wednesday, April 25, 2018

Stauffer Chemical in the Bay Area

I have long been interested in the Stauffer Chemical Company, in part because they owned a fleet of tank cars to transport various chemicals, and also because they had West Coast operations, and even identified each location with separate reporting marks for assigned cars. In the 1953 Official Railroad Equipment Register, there were six different reporting marks for Stauffer component companies: SCHX, for the Eastern Branch (66 cars); STLX for the Southern California Branch (49 cars); STAX for the Northern California Branch (45 cars); STIX for the branch in Indiana (14 cars); STNX for the branch headquartered in New York (7 cars); and STHX for the Henderson, Nevada branch (41 cars). That’s a total of 222 cars
     A few years ago I corresponded with Decker McAllister Jr., a Professional Engineer who had worked for them, and he was kind enough to send me an account of their inbound and outbound traffic. This kind of information, of course is absolute gold for those of us interested in traffic and waybills. Below is his account, sent to me in writing.
     “I used to work at Stauffer (the boric acid plant in San Francisco, circa 1950) and at Stege (Richmond, with five plants). I have been kicking myself that I didn't get photographs or draw plans. For the most part, these were multi-story, steel-reinforced brick buildings, built right out to the clearance limits of adjoining track. They had been built around the turn of the century.  Many walls curved to follow the track shape. These buildings had character — they were ‘hung’ with Redler conveyoers, pneumatic conveyors, piping, Cyclone dust collectors, loading platforms, etc.
     “The boric acid plant received borax ore in covered hoppers and sulfuric acid in tank cars (STAX). Boric acid was loaded out in 100-pound sacks and in barrels into box cars (2-3 cars per day). Soda ash (Na2SO4) was loaded out in 100-pound sacks. (I worked most jobs, including freight car loading.)
     “The Stege works included a bunch of activities. One plant was the only carbon disulfide (CS2) plant west of the Mississippi (plant was called Wheeler, Reynolds & Stauffer, WR&S). Charcoal was received in box cars (from Tennessee). Liquid sulfur was received in insulated tank cars equipped with steam heating coils. Also, WR&S owned 4 tank cars (WRSX) and also shipped CS2 in drums in box cars. (The CS2 was used in mining operations to make xanthate flotation agents, and in agriculture [strawberries] to disinfect fields on a yearly basis.) Storage tanks were located under water in big ‘swimming pools.’ The CS2 was ‘water pumped’ since it was toxic, flammable, and heavier than water.
     “There were two sulfuric acid plants at Stege. One, the wet process, burned pyrites (delivered in gondolas) with Herreschoff roasters. Cinder was shipped out in the scroungiest, most beat-up hoppers and gondolas the railroad could find. The sulfuric acid was shipped out by drum or carboys in box cars, and in tank cars. The other plant, a Leonard-Monsanto (vanadium catalyst) plant, burned elemental sulfur that was received by box car (frozen solid, from Canada), truck and tank car.
     “The superphosphate fertilizer plant received phosphate ore from the San Francisco Chemical Company at Garfield, Utah, in covered hoppers. The fertilizer was shipped out in 100-pound bags by truck and box car. Cars were switched and spotted at night. We also received those special flat cars with the 1-ton cylindrical containers of chlorine. I dare say that we had 20 to 30 cars per day, all types.
     “Also produced at Stege were alum, ferric sulfate, vapam (metam sodium, a soil fumigant), and insecticides.”
       Over the years, a variety of Stauffer tank cars have been photographed, including SCHX cars with home points such as Roanoke, VA and Chester, PA. Shown below is an STLX acid car from the Bob’s Photo collection (used with permission), photographed at Los Angeles in February 1954.

The car is gray with a black band and underframe. The lettering scheme you see here, it must be said, is one that had many variations, and the various elements seen here appeared in a range of combinations, sometimes with white lettering on black, as is evident in different images. Very noteworthy in this photo is the stenciling on the center sill, which reads “built 11-29” and under that, “rebuilt 1-54.” (You can click on the photo to enlarge, if you wish.) Since the underframe is obviously riveted. this “rebuild” almost certainly involved a new, welded tank on an old underframe, a very common procedure with tank cars.
     A paint scheme of this general kind was used by Broadway Limited on their nice ICC 105A chlorine tank cars, recently released and still available many places. This represents a car leased by Stauffer from Shippers Car Line. (Photos demonstrate that Stauffer also leased cars from General American.)

This  model is “out of the box” and needs weathering, placards, route cards, chalk marks, etc.
     In a post a couple of years ago, I also showed Tangent’s acid tank car model, with decoration for Stauffer (that post can be found at this link: ). And to round out the story, even earlier I built a scratchbuilt tank to go on a modified Tichy underframe; that project was described in Railroad Model Craftsman, in the issue for January 2012, pages 61–66. Here is that model:

     Having Decker McAllister’s recollections enables me to understand some of Stauffer’s traffic and accordingly, to make a few waybills for my own layout, using the various Stauffer tank cars I have. I wish I had this kind of information for more industries!
Tony Thompson

Sunday, April 22, 2018

How’s your ballast?

Modelers take a wide variety of approaches to ballasting track, and of course the prototype exhibited a wide range of track conditions, from pristine, fresh rock ballast on main lines, to spurs submerged in mud or overgrown with weeds. But one thing to remember if you model the transition era or before: most railroads had assigned section gangs along main lines, and those gangs did a great deal of work maintaining the line. This included keeping rails properly set and aligned, but also often included careful work with ballast.
     The photo below is from the Southern Pacific employee magazine, the SP Bulletin, in an issue from the early 1950s. It accompanied an article about how important good crushed rock ballast was to dependable mainline operation. But noteworthy in this view is the pronounced and very straight ballast edge.

Not many of us have achieved this kind of ballast appearance on our main lines. I would submit that this is not an unusual appearance on a Class 1 railroad in that era.
     Of course, as I mentioned, many other kinds of track appearance can be found with a little looking. It was very common for there to be a footpath running alongside the track, worn by the use of those track gangs. It isn’t evident in the photo above, but the John C. Illman photo below does show an example. It was taken from a vestibule on Daylight No. 99 near Gato, milepost 330, on the SP Coast Route, on March 18, 1951 (love the semaphores!). That’s the Pacific Ocean at left, of course.

The speed limit at this point was 65 mph for the Daylight, and doubtless it was moving pretty close to that speed. The locomotive is GS-5 no. 4458.
     In many other places, of course, ballast wasn’t particularly neat and could be fairly dirty. The SP company photo below shows the Daylight west of Santa Barbara, running on a main line with barely elevated dark ballast, and with a siding at right that is almost submerged in the surrounding soil (You can click on the image to enlarge if you wish.)

     As the siding in the above photo suggests, secondary tracks were often not very visibly ballasted, and the same was certainly true of yard tracks. Below is a Malcolm (Mac) Gaddis photo from April 1954 at San Luis Obispo, with Consolidation 2803 and Alco switcher 1467 at work. In the center background is the familiar Juillard-Cockcroft brick building (which still stands). The point here is the appearance of the yard tracks, with the dirt surface of the yard about flush with the tops of the ties, and weeds visible in the nearer tracks to the camera.

      These examples are all drawn from the SP Coast Route in the transition era, as many viewers will realize, and typify the kinds of track appearance I have tried to achieve on my layout. If you too want to have track and ballast that look prototypical, this is the range of things that you want to duplicate. Look at a selection of photographs from your modeled area for inspiration.
Tony Thompson

Thursday, April 19, 2018

A Southern Pacific fire-service car

A couple of years ago, Albrae Models released some beautiful brass models in HO scale of SP fire service cars (which, as Albrae notes, were called “water cars” by SP). They did two different cars, following prototype photographs carefully, with the two cars having rather different overall appearances. (SP practice with such cars was enormously variable and rarely can you find two alike.) You can see the Albrae web page about these models at this link: .
     (A word on the nomenclature: from early in the 20th century, cars obviously equipped with hoses, pumps, pray nozzles, and so forth, and clearly intended for fire-fighting duties, were lettered as “water cars.” This can be seen over a range of these years in my Volume 5 on tank cars, in the series Southern Pacific Freight Cars [Signature Press, Berkeley and Wilton, 2008]. In the very late years of SP, some such cars did get lettered as “fire service,” but this was the exception even then, and certainly not the rule.)
     I purchased one of the cars with wood-plank walkways, painted Smoke Gray, the SP maintenance-of-way color after 1959. But since I model 1953, of course, this wasn’t going to work. I simply airbrushed boxcar red onto the entire car. I then substituted solid-bearing trucks for the roller-bearing trucks supplied with the model, another essential back-dating detail. Then a coat of gloss permitted application of SPMW decals from Microscale set 87-155. In all candor, this is not a great set, seemingly based on only a few prototype cars, with some odd-sized letters and numbers, and missing a lot of what a modeler might want for MW models. But it does have nearly everything that was needed for this tank car.
     The decals were protected with an overspray of Dullcote, then I used my standard acrylic-wash weathering procedures (see the link to my weathering pages at the top right of this blog page, or you can go directly to them at: ). These cars stood out all year in the sun and weather, but were returned to the shops annually to be checked over and to make any repairs that were needed. After all, a fire service car needed to be in complete working condition to do its job! These annual visits, at least in the transition era, seemed to result in paint jobs from time to time, unlike most MW equipment, so photographs show that these cars were usually not particularly faded or dirty.
     In later years, the cars seemed somewhat more neglected, and often exhibited very visible rust stains, very evident of course on the light gray paint. Here is an example, SPMW 5493, from a series of photos I took at Roseburg, Oregon, in 1994.

Note here the rust staining on the tank, and the cloth cover on the hose reel, not sure why. In this case, as was standard for SP water-car conversions, the dome has been cut off; thermal expansion of water does not require an expansion dome or safety valves.
     For another example in the same string of fire-fighting equipment on the same day, here is SPMW 7894:

This is a different tank car body, with circumferential rivet seams, and has a different walkway, with two different widths; it also has a lot of what is presumably oil and grease staining below the water pump, as well as a very rusty tool box.
     And shown below is a third car from that string, SPMW 5898, even more rusty; this would most easily be modeled with the excellent rust-streak decals from Weathering Solutions (see my post about their decals at this link: ).

Note here that all three cars have different topside arrangements, in location of the tool box, water pump, and hose reel. But all three are lettered “water car.”
     My own model, being boxcar red, will not show this rust staining nearly as much. But I did try to show some such markings.

My choice of car number, SPMW 7715, was based on the need to find an SPMW number for a tank car with circumerential rivets at the time I model. This car, SPMW 7715, was converted to MW water service from SP 48396, a member of Class O-50-8, car series 48200–48399, built in 1918 by Ralston. (I used the 1956 MOW roster from the SP Historical & Technical Society.) Ralston is an unusual builder for tank cars and so much so, that in fact Ralston subcontracted the construction of the tanks, and only built the underframes for these cars. But they were pretty standard SP 12,500-gallon tank cars.
     It has been fun to research these cars and to decorate one to serve on my layout. I have an “outfit track,” as SP called them, on which various SPMW cars are spotted at various times, along with contractors’ work cars and occasionally a Western Union work car. This adds variety to the routine round of freight cars moving to and from industries, and conveys even more Southern Pacific spirit in the look and operations of my layout.
Tony Thompson

Monday, April 16, 2018

Hendrickson auto car, Part 4

This series of posts is about a partly completed model of an automobile car that I inherited from Richard Hendrickson. It is a considerably altered model from any of its components, but I was able to identify it as intended to represent Santa Fe’s Class FE-25. The most recent post in the series about completing this model showed how far I had gotten at that point (see it at: ). Only a couple of problems remain, and here I’ll deal with the first one.
     This problem is that a full-length Athearn steel weight was glued into the car, and at this point, with the underframe work completed, would hardly be practical to remove. With it in place, I would either have to drill and tap the steel strip for 2-56 screws to attach coupler boxes, or else attach an Athearn-like coupler box arrangement (referring to the type with the steel clip cover). I do know that Richard was okay with the Athearn boxes, and used them on several models. Here is how this car looked at this stage; note that Richard left the stub of the original black underframe extending to the left of the temporary truck support block.

Other added details like sill steps are readily visible here, as well as the scratchbuilt side sill.
     The reason for the state of the model that you see above is easy to determine. I had an Athearn gondola underframe of my own (that was Richard’s basis for this auto car underframe) sitting in my parts collection, and when it’s compared to what Richard did, you can see what resulted. First of all, the model of the automobile car is just a little longer than the gondola underframe. I set the gondola part on top of the auto car to show this.

If Richard had installed the gondola underframe without change, the coupler pockets would not reach the end sill. This means, of course, that the truck-to-end sill dimensions are different on the Athearn gondola and on the Athearn 50-foot automobile car (the basis for this car body). Note also that the middle crossbearer of the stock underframe was removed, as the corresponding Santa Fe underframe only had the two outer ones.
      In addition, the crossbearer shape is fairly different on the auto car, compared to the gondola, and obviously Richard simply cut down the Athearn crossbearers to match the strongly tapered shape needed for the auto car. You can see that in this angled view with the extra frame alongside.

With these observations in mind, I think it is pretty clear that Richard intended to add coupler pockets from a second gondola underframe. I decided to do the same here. (I only describe all this because it may be of interest to others using parts like the Athearn underframe.) I went ahead and cut off the coupler pocket ends from the Athearn gondola  frame:

     When fitted to the underbody of the model, the coupler box now comes right to the car end, as it should. This confirms my judgement that Richard intended to follow this same procedure.

     This car is proving to be an interesting challenge, not only to use my own knowledge and ideas to complete the model, but to try and grasp what Richard was probably going to do. I wouldn’t feel a need to slavishly follow his exact path (if I knew it, that is), but since I don’t know it, I have the experience of mixing my and his approaches to finish the car. I will continue with this project in future posts.
Tony Thompson

Friday, April 13, 2018

Pacific Coast Region convention, 2018

I occasionally write about my experiences at conventions held by various regions of NMRA (the National Model Railroad Association). This is not because they are earth-shaking events, but because I think they represent the best of what the NMRA does. These conventions encourage modelers throughout a geographical region to come together in several ways: socially of course, but also as model contestants or exhibitors, audiences at clinics, shoppers in vendor rooms or swap meets, and participants in layout tours or prototype tours. These all enhance and enlarge our mutual information and enjoyment of the hobby.
     During the first week of April I attended the Pacific Coast Region (PCR) convention for 2018 at Rohnert Park, California, a suburb of Santa Rosa. We were headquartered in the Doubletree Hotel there, a striking facility in several ways, including the dramatic fieldstone wall behind the breakfast bar.

     The entire event began with a reception at the nearby Bear Republic brew pub, a pleasant event with excellent beer and food. Shown below is a snapshot of this event, with Chris Palermo at far left (who organized the event), and next to him, long-time PCR stalwart Bill Scott. Behind them are Mary and Gus Compagna, equally long-time active PCR participants. It was fun to kick off the convention this way, and . . . in case I forget to mention it, the beer was excellent.

     A focus of these meetings is always modeling, and in addition to a goodly number of quality contest entrants, there were also a bunch of models that were entered for exhibition and therefore not judged. James Keena brought several, all very nicely done models. Here is one:

This is a reworked Train Miniature plastic car, with the underbody support truss moved back under the body where it belongs, and upgrades of several details, along with nicely done paint and weathering to depict PE 6241, a Hart convertible gondola of a type once prevalent on the SP.
     There was also an extensive clinic program ( I gave two talks myself). A noteworthy presentation was Jim Providenza’s “24th anniversary” presentation of his clinic on Realistic Operation, a talk which has motivated countless modelers, in PCR and beyond, to focus on how their layout is or could be operated. Here is Jim standing in front of (and slightly discolored by) his title slide.

     Last but (for me anyway) far from least was a chance to have lunch and, yes, an excellent beer, in the form of a visit to the Russian River Brewing Company brew pub in downtown Santa Rosa. Though fairly small, this brewery has achieved a kind of cult status in some circles with its outstanding IPA creations in limited editions, both Pliny the Elder in bottles, and (for a few weeks every February) an even better IPA called Pliny the Younger.
     It not being February, we were nevertheless happy to settle for “the Elder,” and Ray DeBlieck even picked up a 12-pack, You can see he was pleased with his purchase, and there’s a good reason. Except at the brewery, retail shops have such limited supply that purchasers are normally limited to two bottles. That makes a 12-pack quite a score.

     This was neither a great nor an ordinary PCR convention, but somewhere in the middle — one that could be truly enjoyed and even savored. Savored . . . well, yes, Sonoma County is perceived in the greater world as wine country, and rightly so; but nowadays it is beer country too.
Tony Thompson

Tuesday, April 10, 2018

Proposed paint schemes

Every modeler with a little experience knows that railroads, over the years, have occasionally done test applications of paint schemes for freight cars, passenger cars, and locomotives that ultimately were not adopted. Sometimes these only take the form of an artist’s rendering, but other times they may be painted on actual rolling stock as a test. But when disapproved by management, they disappear. Still, their often exotic appearance has an irresistible appeal for many modelers.
     Some of these proposed schemes are well known. For example, the Southern Pacific considered painting its new loader-equipped box cars, that had Hydra-Cushion underframes, in the same scarlet and gray paint newly being used on locomotives in 1958. They went as far as to paint one car, and spot it at the Beale Street team track, a couple of blocks from SP headquarters in San Francisco, as you see in the photo below (SP photo from the Shasta Division Archives).

But this was not to be; executives did not approve the scheme (perhaps not surprising, as passenger car and locomotive paint schemes were considerably simplified in this same year of 1958). So SP box cars continued to be painted pedestrian boxcar red, with the special equipment lettering in yellow, as shown by this additional member of SP Class B-50-47, at the same location as the above photo (and also from the Shasta Division Archives), a few months later.

Cotton Belt did paint one group of box cars in this scarlet and gray livery, but parent SP did not. So even though the scarlet-gray box car is very attractive, it is not a paint scheme that ever saw service, beyond that single test car, SP 651596, which did run for several years in that paint.
     Another example that perhaps deserves emphasis is the “curved corner” paint scheme tested by Pacific Fruit Express. As shown on the model below, it had a kind of streamlined appearance, with the top corners boxcar red and the bottom corners black, and the PFE name in a script lettering. This paint scheme is prototypically accurate, even to the car number; and in fact this is the only car on which this paint scheme was ever lettered.

     So the good news is that this at least does represent a single real car. The bad news is that the scheme was disapproved by management after a brief test, and PFE records indicate that after its application in June 1938, it was removed before October of that year. So if you model the particular four months in 1938 when this prototype existed, you are fine; otherwise it is definitely what we call a “foobie.” (A definition of that term can be found in a previous post about a similar subject: ). But I would hate to tell you how many layouts I have visited that had this PFE model in plain sight.
     A more exotic example, perhaps, is shown in a pencil sketch sent to me some years ago. It depicts a tank car of the Union Oil Company, painted orange and lettered in blue (the company’s colors for many years), including the company’s “76” trademark. But as far as I have ever been able to determine, no Union tank car was ever painted this way in fact.

The orange here looks faded toward yellow, but close examination of the original clearly shows that it really is orange.
     My good friend Richard Hendrickson used to hate discovering images like this, fearing not only that some manufacturer would quickly decorate models this way, but that modelers everywhere would snap them up, and we would be seeing them on layouts for years to come — even though no prototype ever existed, even briefly. (Kind of what happened with the PFE curved-corner scheme.) Let’s hope this one doesn’t have that history.
     Better known, but still totally bogus, is the Union 76 paint scheme decorated by Athearn on numerous models over the years. It’s shown below on the grossly oversize Athearn three-compartment tank car, a car body which has no known prototype anyway.

In a way, the imaginary paint scheme is kind of perfectly suited to the imaginary tank car body . . .
     I often say to people that my advice is, “don’t model the unusual, model the typical,” but the subject of the present post goes beyond that — these aren’t just unusual paint schemes, they truly are, in practical terms, non-existent ones. Anyone with a remote interest in prototype modeling would, I hope, never allow any fellow modeler to see that they owned one of these beauties.
Tony Thompson

Saturday, April 7, 2018

Layout goals

Layout goals can be fuzzy or specific. For many layout builders, goals are pretty general and not especially focused. In most cases, that’s no problem. But the ambitious ones among us frequently do have very specific goals. The point of this commentary is to offer some observations about how those goals differ, and why one might care. The point is very much not to rank or critique these goals relative to one another.
     One type of goal is to reproduce with great accuracy a particular place or group of places, say for example Potomac Yard in Washington, D.C. and its environs. This kind of goal obviously calls for a great deal of research and exploration of all kinds of resources, just to find out what was at the chosen place or places in the year or era of interest.
     It usually also calls for considerable modeling effort, since few if any structures will be buildable without scratchbuilding. In addition, the effort usually also requires good judgement in making the many compromises required by the inevitable selective compression to get a layout into a manageable size. And ordinarily the same efforts in research and model building will underlie the rolling stock that will have to be acquired to populate such a layout. This type of layout can be visually stunning and often represents superb modeling, though operation is not always a major part of the product.
     At what could be called the other extreme is the layout built with focus primarily on an operating goal, such as sufficient running distance and towns to permit challenging timetable and train order (T&TO) operation. Or perhaps combinations of single and double track, controlled by a CTC panel, or in a more modern era, track warrants or the equivalent. Achieving this kind of goal can result in a superb operating experience for visitors.
     The “operator’s” type of layout has been entirely freelanced in many cases, but can reflect prototype locations too, though often freely interpreted so as not to conflict with the operating goals. Even a prototypical layout location may be part of a layout with challenging operation, for example the Pennsylvania Railroad heading westward from Harrisburg up the Juniata River. (That kind of layout set in the transition era would have to reproduce phenomenal traffic densities, of both freight and passenger trains, to be prototypical in operation.) Layouts of this general type are definitely fun to operate, but may be less appealing to the casual visitor, who sees only the physical plant.
     My model railroading goal has always fallen between these two extremes. I want to reproduce the railroading itself, as it was conducted at the time I chose, particularly on the freight side, both as far as operating arrangements and also with regard to equipment. I find locomotives interesting, as do most modelers, but freight cars are an even greater interest. I have a reasonably large freight car collection, nearly all of it appropriate for my modeling period. The layout, of course, should display these freight cars in appropriate context. Here is one of my PFE refrigerator cars, spotted at the Coastal Citrus Association in my town of Santa Rosalia.

In the background is the SP water tank, and at left is the Richfield bulk oil dealership, a model I described  modifying and building in earlier posts (see the final one at: ).
     Another goal I have always had is to convey accurately the era of my modeling and my layout environment. I chose 1953 as my modeling year, and have been careful with not only freight cars and paint schemes on rolling stock, but industries, highway vehicles, and even advertising such as billboards. All these factors combine to emphasize the 1953 year. As an example, here is the Chamisal Street crossing of the SP Coast Route, in my mythical town of Shumala. The SP depot is at left.

Southern Pacific modeling has always been taken pretty seriously on my layout. This depot, for example, is scratchbuilt from the SP plans for its Sylmar depot, as I described in some detail in one of my columns in Model Railroad Hobbyist, the issue for November 2012 (you can read any issue of MRH on line, or download it,  at any time, for free, at their website, ).
     I don't model a specific prototype place nor specific buildings, though my layout is set in a particular area of California. I greatly respect and admire those who choose one particular town or towns and attempt to reproduce actual buildings and track arrangements. But that's not my area of interest, and in any case the very large amounts of selective compression required in most cases bothers me.
     Instead, by choosing a rural area with small towns and small industries, such as packing houses and bulk oil dealers, I can get closer to realistic sizes of buildings. To approach my goal of reproducing railroading on the Southern Pacific, I don’t feel I have any need for strict devotion to particular structures or specific towns. Instead, in what can be an even more challenging goal, I try to capture a more general spirit of the time and place. One example is conveyed by this photo looking up Willow Lake Road in Santa Rosalia, with the familiar SP depot design, Common Standard No. 22, at left, and the offshore fog bank evident beyond the waterfront, on the horizon at right.

     I always enjoy visiting layouts with obvious goals, even ones that are not entirely successful, because there are always fascinating insights into how the builder approached, and tried to solve, the various challenges that arose in the process. I hope visitors to my layout have the same feeling,
Tony Thompson

Wednesday, April 4, 2018

Modeling SP passenger cars — Part 8, more baggage cars

In this post I want to continue with my comments on the cars needed for a Southern Pacific mail train, specifically the “Coast Mail,” which ran in daylight hours on the main line portrayed on my layout. My first post in this series (see it at: ) described the operation of this train. In this post, I describe additional baggage cars.
     The main source of my 60-foot baggage cars is the old Ken Kidder brass models. Some of these have inaccurate roof vent arrangements, and I have either modified the cars that are wrong, or have chosen to live with them. I introduced the topic of these cars in a previous post in this series (which can be seen at this link: ). I went into more detail about the Kidder roof arrangements in a post about modeling one of SP’s 60-foot arch roof coaches (read it at: ).
     The most common Kidder baggage car has 5 unevenly space Globe vents on the roof center line, then three more Globe vents spaced along both sides of the center line, 11 vents in all. This is closest to the early Harriman-era steel baggage cars, such as Class 60-B-1. But photos of these 60-foot cars over the years show that roof vents were often rearranged when roof work was done, especially the removal of electrical conduits along the roof, and in many cases Utility vents were installed in place of Globe vents. These kinds of changes are amply illustrated in the “bible” of this topic, published by the SP Historical & Technical Society, Volume 3 in the series Southern Pacific Passenger Cars, and subtitled “Head-end Equipment” (SPH&TS, Pasadena, CA, 2007).
     The photo below shows the stock roof of a Kidder baggage car of the kind just described. I have largely chosen to leave these as they are, rather than rearrange vents or replace Globe with Utility vents, though those would be very appropriate modeling changes.

I will have to admit to feeling that these cars, because they will operate only in passing trains on my layout’s main line, don’t need to meet the same criteria as my best models. To repeat the way I classify my freight cars, either they are suitable for all service (including switching, where operators have a chance to peruse their details), or they are classified as “mainline” cars, meaning cars which are less well detailed or have other stand-in qualities, and enjoy mainline operation only. These Kidder baggage cars are definitely mainline models. This is SP 6048.

     To go the other extreme from mainline cars, I also included in a previous post some remarks about the imported brass head-end cars, then forthcoming from The Coach Yard (those remaraks can be found at: ). Those cars were from the consist of the “Coast Mail,” and as I mentioned, I had made a purchase reservation.
     Unfortunately, though, my reservation got lost at The Original Whistle Stop, and the cars all were quickly sold out, so I didn’t get one that way. I share some of the blame for the problem, because instead of checking up on progress and making sure I was in the queue, I trusted in the system. Lesson learned, I suppose. But eventually I did find one of the cars from that train, the handsome baggage-horse car, Class 70-BH-1, for sale elsewhere. I promptly purchased it, so now I can add that car to my train. Here is a photo of this fine Coach Yard model.

The only real need here before the car operates is to paint wheel faces grimy gray. Otherwise this paint scheme, a relatively new “pool” scheme in my modeling year of 1953, can be operated in a pristine condition.
     A brief word on paint schemes (for much more detail and excellent illustrations, strongly oriented to modelers’ needs, see the SPH&TS book by Jeff Cauthen and John Signor, Southern Pacific Painting and Lettering Guide, Locomotives and Passenger Cars,  SPH&TS, Upland, CA, 2013). It was during 1954 that SP decided to eliminate the Dark Olive Green paint scheme used for much passenger equipment for decades, and instead use a Two-Tone Gray scheme, much like the Lark and (former) Overland schemes.
     But prior to this time, there had been a practice of painting “pool” equipment in one of the passenger schemes, but without train logo. For example, a relief lounge car for service in one of the Daylight trains (Coast, San Joaquin or Shasta) would be painted in Daylight Red and Orange, but without train logo. That is essentially what the photo above, of SP 7216, represents for my 1953 era, though of course it’s a pool version of Two-Tone Gray, not Daylight.
     Getting more of my rolling stock in place to operate a “Coast Mail” on my SP main line on the layout is progressing nicely, and I will likely report in a future post how the train turns out.
Tony Thompson

Sunday, April 1, 2018

Representing screened doors and windows

I have frequently thought through the problem of modeling a window screen or screen door in HO scale. The problem, of course, is that true scale screen would be made out of human hair-size filaments and would have a mesh size too small to be recognizable, But screened openings are certainly prototypical for some structures and even for caboose doors or for bunk cars. So how do we model them?
     The answers that have been offered over the years range from just using a clear but clouded material, to make it slightly less transparent, to simply using an oversize screen so as to suggest what is really supposed to be there, even if far too big. Modelers have seized upon many different kinds of fine screens for this purpose, as a quick check of the indexing of any model railroad magazine will tell you.
     I had simply avoided this topic for years, on account of not having a solution I liked, until recently, when I replaced the coffee filter basket in my coffee maker. These screens are relatively fine, and here was one right on my kitchen counter, begging to be tried out. Otherwise, it was headed for the trash can. I decided to give it a try.
     First step was to use some strong shears to cut the screen away from its frame. This worked fine, and I think any solid pair of scissors would work too, though perhaps at some cost in the sharpness of the scissors, Here is the frame with its screen cut out.

     Next I wanted so see how this material would stack up when used as a window screen for something on my layout. I happened to have a candidate on my work bench. Work has been progressing slowly on an old Train Miniature work car, being modified to serve as an SP car on my layout, and it was an opportunity to try the coffee screen.
     I had bought the car at a swap meet, with a number of changes already made by a previous owner, including wire grab irons (good) and filled window openings (not necessarily good). I simply cut a rectangle of the coffee screen to fit an open window, and glued it in place with canopy glue (if that adhesive isn’t familiar to you, and it should be, you may wish to read my write-up from a few years ago: ). Here is how it looked, as installed in the opening to the right. (You can click on the image to enlarge it if you wish.)

The screen is pretty shiny here, but with a coat of flat will look better, though still rather silvery. Better still might be to airbrush the screen with a flat light gray.
     Of course, the one advantage of real screen is that it can let some light through, if there is any light on the other side of it. In this work car, there will be little, so probably the screen will look better on an internally-lighted structure or comparable application. I have a couple of test applications to try on some of my layout structures. But I think the real conclusion is that I like this coffee filter screen well enough to use it on future projects.
Tony Thompson