Tuesday, December 10, 2019

Fixing lumber loads

I  have written a number of posts about lumber loads for open-top cars, both on the prototype and for model freight cars. (You can readily find those previous posts by using “lumber” or “open top cars” as search terms in the search box at right.) What I am going to focus on in the present post is a project to correct the lumber loads on a friend’s layout.
     I will say more about the problem(s) to be fixed in a moment, but I will begin by stating that these loads were made from the cast resin lumber stacks produced by Fine N-Scale Products or FNSP, and yes, they do produce these stacks in both N and HO scales. I first discussed these lumber loads awhile back (see: https://modelingthesp.blogspot.com/2019/01/lumber-on-flat-cars.html ), and I observed that they are really too narrow for modern flat cars. The way to make them useful is to put a wider spacer between the lumber stacks, as I showed in that post.
     I followed up that first post with some additional investigation, exploring whether the narrow lumber stacks of the FNSP kit would be suitable for gondolas, since gons are narrower than flat cars (you can read that post here: https://modelingthesp.blogspot.com/2019/01/lumber-in-gondolas-part-2.html ). The post showed that they can indeed be used in gondolas, and it’s one good way to use these nicely made resin castings of lumber.
     But let me return to the problem with my friend’s loads. An example is shown below, with the FNSP lumber stacks simply glued onto a Red Caboose model, an accurate rendition of Southern Pacific Class F-70-6 or -7 flat cars.

The model shown has two problems, for  me. First, operationally, the loads are glued down, which means there are no empty cars to return to the lumber mills, but the cars have to operate in both directions with their lumber loads on the cars. Second, visually, the stacks entirely lack side stakes and cross-ties, which secure prototype stacks to the car, and they have their edges well inside the inner edge of stake pockets, so that you cannot very well add stakes to such loads even if you accept them being glued down. This is the narrowness issue of the FNSP lumber stacks.
     Obviously the first step was to remove the stacks from each car. I slid a razor blade under each stack and gently sliced through the glue areas. Then the deck could be cleaned up, distressed to show use, and finally weathered. You will note in the photo above that the deck is painted body color, but SP did not paint flat car decks. Thus this deck needs to be stripped, re-colored and weathered. My method of doing so has been described already (here is that post: https://modelingthesp.blogspot.com/2014/10/my-acrylic-weathering-method-part-6.html ).
     But to return to the lumber stacks, they were first cut apart in the center, and larger center spacers used to widen the complete stack. The spacer needs to be 10 or 12 scale inches wide. I showed this in the post cited in the second paragraph of the present post, and show again below how this looks when the stacks are assembled using scale 10 x 10-inch stripwood.

Here I have applied two different colors to the stacks.
     With the spacers inserted, it remains to add “stickers” (as they were called) under the stacks, as well as dividing the stacks into two, one atop the other, in some cases, and then using stripwood for stakes and cross-ties. The stakes are carefully placed so they are exactly at the stake pocket locations on the destination flat car, in my case entirely the Red Caboose models. The finished stacks look like this, and of course are separate so they can be removable. Stakes vary in height, as did the prototype.

     Next, I want to show these stacks in place on one of the Red Caboose flat cars, carefully placed so that their side stakes line up with those on the flat car. In most operating situations on layouts, these will not particularly move around on the flat car deck during train movement. Here is an example.

You can see here that I have placed the stacks on the same car you saw in the first photo of this post, so that there is no distraction with the different appearance of a properly weathered car.
     These modified lumber stacks (widened and with side stakes) are steadily being made ready for service on my friend’s layout, and all the old glued-on loads have now been removed from service. This makes operation more realistic, because empty flat cars can move in the reverse direction of loads, and when the cars are loaded, the loads look much better. But I have a bunch more of these to do yet, so it’s still a work in progress.
Tony Thompson

Saturday, December 7, 2019

Completing the ninth year of this blog

As we reach December 8 again, I reach another anniversary of this blog, which I began with my first post on December 8, 2010. That’s nine years ago, and as always on these anniversaries, it seems an impossible span of time, looking back; but as the saying goes, “time flies when you don’t know what you’re doing” (see: https://modelingthesp.blogspot.com/2019/01/too-much-or-too-little-planning.html ).
     I have continued to post something roughly like every third day, subject of course to innumerable constraints and intervening issues. That amounts to around 120 to 125 posts a year, and such a total obviously implies, over nine years, that I must have done something in the vicinity of 1100 posts by now. In fact, the number, including today, happens to be 1115 altogether. To me, that’s even more strikingly large a number than the nine-year history.
     The other aspect of writing this blog, at first mildly surprising and eventually completely amazing, is the page views that the blog receives. In recent years, it has run around 200,000 views a year (not counting my own visits), and this last year it was once again in that ballpark, totalling more like 225,000 views. The total now, spanning the entire nine years, is more that one and half million page views. Wow.
     But enough on performance. It has been an interesting modeling year. One of the projects I really enjoyed doing on my layout was the installation of “pull-outs” for speeders along the track, something I described in a series of posts (concluding with this one: https://modelingthesp.blogspot.com/2019/01/track-car-turnouts-part-4-installation.html ). These are very familiar in the prototype but are seldom seen on model railroads, so I was happy to add them. The photo below is a depiction of a double-track arrangement on the Southern Pacific, similar to what I had shown in the posts for other railroads (SP photo, negative N-2009-1, Shasta Division Archives). The location is the Sierra Nevada.

     Other projects that were satisfying included the Union Oil gas station that I kitbashed from a City Classics kit (the concluding post about that project is here: https://modelingthesp.blogspot.com/2019/03/union-oil-gas-station-conclusion.html ). This not only filled an empty spot on the layout but was a scenic feature I had long wanted to include. I still enjoy it, every time I notice it on the layout. Here’s how it looks:

     A long-postponed project that finally moved ahead in the past year was the activating of the “back track,” called Track 7, in my layout town of Ballard (see this post: https://modelingthesp.blogspot.com/2019/03/putting-my-track-7-into-service.html ). This permitted several industries already located there to be switched, such as Santa Maria Tool and Machine, a machine shop housed in this Quonset hut (built from an old Tru-Scale kit: https://modelingthesp.blogspot.com/2016/04/quonset-hut-machine-shop-part-2.html ) and with a scratchbuilt loading dock.

     Another long-running series of posts began with upgrading the Roco model of a U.S. Army flat car with six-wheel trucks, and extended into creating a variety of loads for the car, including a number of examples of armored vehicles (see this one: https://modelingthesp.blogspot.com/2019/09/roco-flat-car-part-8-additional-armor.html ). A photo from that post is repeated below, with an M4 Sherman and an M7 howitzer gun carriage being shipped on the Roco car.

It was interesting to me to research this car as well as the loads, and to complete HO scale versions of them. That combination of research and modeling is one of the things I like best in the hobby.
     It’s been another fun year for me in doing this blog, and of course even more so in the research and modeling that lies behind many posts. I look forward to what may come in the next year.
Tony Thompson

Wednesday, December 4, 2019

Prototype freight car lettering

As modelers, many of us are interested in, and often strive to accurately reproduce. the lettering on freight cars. I am certainly in that group. In that light, I thought it might be useful to describe a little of how the prototype does this lettering.
     Certainly in the 19th century, and in some instances such as billboard refrigerator cars in the 20th century, this lettering (and decoration) of freight cars was done by people with the skills of sign painters. That is, it was done essentially freehand, though certainly guided by drawings or sketches, and the lettering was intended to be of sizes that were standardized, first by individual railroads, eventually by the Master Car Builders for all railroads.
     With the rise of standards came the widespread use of stencils to reproduce the desired characters. Many of the smaller stencils were thin sheet metal. An example is the 1920s photo below of a Class A-50-6 automobile car about to be lettered after repainting at Los Angeles General Shop (SP photo, Steve Peery collection).

Note that the stencils are shaped to fit between the side posts and braces, ensuring that the letters are at the correct height, and that the lines to go above the initials and below the car number are also present. The “half ladder” being used is interesting too.
     Naturally the railroad emblem or medallion was even more suited to stencil reproduction, and in this 1922 photo, you see one in use. Note that the frame hangs from the roof edge, guaranteeing correct height. The photo was taken at Los Angeles (SP photo, Jim Seagrave collection)

Here the painter is using stencil paste and a brush with short, stiff bristles. You can just see the brush in his right hand, in a “fist” grip. (Click on the image to enlarge it if you wish.)
     By the 1930s, hand-stenciling with stencil paste had been largely superseded by spray painting, at least for new or major lettering. This was an especially valuable tool for larger stencils, such as the Santa Fe slogan shown below. This photo is from the ATSF Annual Report for 1951.

Evident are the many slender connectors holding the interior parts of the stencil in position. A stencil like this, once spray painted, would be touched up by hand to cover all those connectors.
     With new cars, it was common to make up a stencil for all the capacity data, since presumably every new car would have the same light weight. The photo below, depicting the lettering on what would be UP 101604, shows that the first four digits of the car number, not yet applied, are on a single piece of heavy stencil paper. (UP photo, Clark Bauer collection)

The two men are not wearing any protection against paint dust and vapor.
     Finally, an example of Pacific Fruit Express technique, showing a painter adding end lettering with one stencil having both the initials and the first digit of a series of car numbers (resting on the coupler). He then adds each additional digit by separately stenciling it from a set of all ten digits. The painter’s “eye” was vital in the lettering being aligned and properly spaced. This photo is a PFE’s Los Angeles shop in 1946 (PFE photo, author’s collection)

     These examples show that the prototype took pains to get the lettering in the right place and entirely standardized as to characters, though of course mistakes were possible. The famous example below (D.F. McFall collection) shows a case of the second and third stencils for the word “Maryland” getting interchanged during lettering.

     Understanding how the prototype applied car lettering helps us recognize the places we really need to get the lettering exactly right on models, and where the prototype offers us some leeway. I will return to this topic in a future post.
Tony Thompson

Sunday, December 1, 2019

SP 200-ton flat cars, Part 2

In Part 1 of this series, I showed prototype photography of Southern Pacific’s 200-ton flat cars, which in the transition era were all four-truck cars. All were built using General Steel Casting’s one-piece cast steel underframes, which included side and end sills. Only decking needed to be added, along with brake gear, trucks, and couplers. That post can be found at this link: https://modelingthesp.blogspot.com/2019/11/southern-pacifics-200-ton-flat-cars.html .
     I now want to turn to modeling these cars. For many years, there has been an HO scale model of this type of car, produced by Athearn. It was not a great model, but close to the right length and appearance. One of its big drawbacks was how high it sat on the span bolsters. Below is Athearn’s own catalog photo, and you can see the height of the side sills above the trucks.

Just for comparison, shown below is a photo of the prototype from the previous post. Toward the left of the photo, you can clearly see how close the top of the truck sideframes are to the side sill, and can compare that appearance to the Athearn model shown above.

     The Athearn model can be improved considerably in appearance by sanding or filing down the span bolsters in thickness, removing material from the top of the bolster. This is not difficult and the function of the span bolster is easy to retain. You could easily do this with an existing model.
     Years ago, I did that work on an Athearn model, and the resulting span bolster is shown below. You can see that its top is only about as high as the wheel diameter, just like the prototype (a prototype photo of a span bolster assembly is included in the previous post, cited in the first paragraph of the present post).

     The completed model was then lettered for SP 44095. As you can see below, the car does sit down low over the trucks, as it should. But this model still suffers from a serious problem. The car body is unaltered from what Athearn produced, and the side sills are much too deep. But because the overall appearance is all right, this model has served on my layout for some years.

     Now comes news of an actual correct model of the General Steel Castings four-truck flat car, in the form of a kit from Funaro & Camerlengo. It actually has prototype dimensions! (The SP version is kit 8471.) I will report on the kit, and building it, in a future post. I am also interested in sufficiently big and impressive loads for such a car to carry, and will report on some of those prospects, too.
Tony Thompson

Thursday, November 28, 2019

A small personal note

Since it’s Thanksgiving and a day devoted to family events rather than modeling, I will indulge in a very small personal note.
     I happened recently to be looking at some old magazines at a neighbor’s house, and among his stacks were copies of Science magazine, the publication of the American Association for the Advancement of Science or AAAS. Back when I was on the faculty at Carnegie Mellon University in Pittsburgh, I was a member of AAAS and received Science weekly. It covers every nook and cranny of the world of science and engineering research, and many of the professional articles are opaque to any but those in the article’s particular field. But they also have news relating to research and research funding, which was the main value to me.
     It’s been years since I had any reason to even look at a copy of Science, much less continue to belong to AAAS, so looking at old issues was kind of nostalgic. But I happened to pick up one from the late 1960s, and boy, did it take me right back to my days as a graduate student. Why? On the back cover was an ad for the Siemens transmission electron microscope, the model 101, that I had learned on when I was a student. Here’s the ad (click to enlarge if you want to read the text):

     This shiny instrument was advanced for its day, though rapidly outpaced by new Japanese electron microscopes that were making major strides in both capability and ease of use. I will never forget peering into those little apertures at the bottom of the column, near the model’s left hand in the ad, and trying to interpret what I saw.
     But after receiving my Ph.D. and moving into a job in industry, I soon was able to make use of a JEM-100B microscope, produced by JEOL in Japan (originally standing for Japan Electron Optics Laboratory, but eventually the initials became the official corporate name). What a revelation! Suddenly I went from a ham-handed beginner who could barely make the instrument do what I wanted, to a skilled and capable microscopist. By no means an expert, mind you, but definitely capable. I actually began to enjoy transmission electron microscopy or TEM. And as I’m implying, it really wasn’t me making a giant improvement, it was a case of a far easier to use and more capable instrument.
     But it was just seeing this ad, with the unmistakable image of the Siemens TEM, that took me back to those days, both good and bad. Today there are immensely better TEM instruments, but I’ll never forget my struggles with the Siemens Model 101.
Tony Thompson

Monday, November 25, 2019

Waybills, Part 66: the Guadalupe local

I received an interesting question from a person who had watched my recent TSG video, showing how my layout is operated. (I posted earlier some comments on that video, along with a link to it on YouTube, at this link: https://modelingthesp.blogspot.com/2019/11/a-new-video-of-my-layout.html .) The question had to do with how I convey to operating crews in a session, how the Guadalupe Local train is made up.
     In the TSG video, the Guadalupe Local arrives in Shumala at about the 18:15 mark in the video. Its local function is described, to set out and pick up cars to and from the Santa Rosalia Branch, but it isn’t explained how that works.
     This Local is one part of the typical pattern of Southern Pacific train operation. I described this pattern awhile back by using examples from the Coast Division, one part of which I model. That post was intended to show all the variety of ways SP ran freight trains, not only through trains (division point to division point), but also turns, locals, and haulers. (See it here: https://modelingthesp.blogspot.com/2019/04/patterns-of-sp-train-operation.html .)
     When the Guadalupe Local arrives at Shumala, the local crew does the switching of cars into and out of the train. (This was a labor agreement to protect local switch crew jobs.) How does the Shumala crew know what they are dealing with?

In the photo above, you see the 9-car train just halting at Shumala, and the Consolidation power will cut off and pull ahead to make space for the local switch crew to work. To sneak a peek at what is coming, note that there is a gray covered hopper in fourth position in the train, followed by a tank car.
     The Local’s conductor hands the train’s waybills to the switcher’s crew. On the front end of the train will be some cars for Shumala and for the Santa Rosalia Branch. But behind them will be cars for Guadalupe. It is not evident from looking at the rear of the train where the division might be. At the left of the photo below is the same covered hopper seen above.

(On the prototype, the conductor would have exited the caboose and gone into the depot to hand the set-out waybills to the agent, who in turn would have handed the waybills for the pickups to the conductor. But my layout doesn’t have a depot interior for this event.)
     So in our operation, the switch foreman now has the waybills, which are in train order, and finds these two for the fourth and fifth cars in the train:

     Since the waybills are in train order, he expects (and finds) that all cars behind this tank car are also going to Guadalupe. Some are loads and some are empties, but all are destined to Guadalupe. That means that the switcher will pull off only the front four cars of this particular train.
     Then there are usually some cars that the Guadalupe train will pick up, and the switcher places them in the train. The locomotive of the Local then returns to the train, the switch foreman hands all the waybills for the continuing train to the conductor, and the Local proceeds (railroad) eastward, leaving the switcher with its cut.

    The Local is now proceeding to Guadalupe (off layout, in other words, back to staging) and the Shumala switcher has its next batch of cars to sort. This is a simple process, relies on waybills for the crew to do its work in switching out the local, and gets the Guadalupe train on its way fairly quickly.
     Sometimes the train is not so well blocked, and the Shumala switcher will have to pick out the cars to be removed from the train, but ordinarily the San Luis Obispo yard has prepared the train so the work goes as I’ve just described. This is just one of the waybill-based features in an operating session on my layout.
Tony Thompson

Friday, November 22, 2019

How about a simple kit?

I get emails from time to time, essentially asking the question that is today’s title. I don’t believe that many of my blog posts are about terribly complex projects, but I decided to choose something all could agree is simple, and show what I did. This won’t be particularly revealing to experienced modelers, but hopefully will show that even with a very simple kit, there are enhancements you may like to make.
     I chose a kit from my modest remaining stash (some years ago I sold, traded, or gave away a large part of my own personal “hobby shop,” a possession familiar to many of us). It is an Accurail box car, one specially decorated for Western Pacific by 5th Avenue Car Shops for sale by the California State Railroad Museum. I happen to serve on the Museum’s Collection Committee and like to support the museum’s activities when I can, so I bought one of these. It is in fact simply different lettering on an existing 4100-series Accurail kit. Currently Accurail markets WP kit no. 4117, with the as-built lettering (shown below).

The car sides and bracing pattern are indeed similar to the WP prototypes, 1000 cars built by Pullman in 1916, numbered 15001–16000. But there are three issues with what you see above. First, you can see the kit’s fishbelly underframe,, which the WP cars did not have. Second, you can see an outside metal roof, whereas the prototype had an outside wood roof, covered with asphalt roofing sheets. And third, the prototype rode on Andrews trucks throughout its life, not the AAR trucks shown. Finally, in 1947 WP began renumbering some of these cars as 26001–26125 and adding the then-current lettering scheme. Here is a prototype photo of WP 26072:

This image is from Jim Eager’s book, Western Pacific Color Guide to Freight and Passenger Equipment (Morning Sun Books, 2001), and is a Robert Larson photo taken at Oakland, California in April 1970. You can discern all of the three differences from the Accurail kit that I mentioned above.
     As it happens, the Accurail/CSRM kit has exactly the lettering of this prototype photo. Trucks and underframe can be changed to match the photo. The roof would be a bigger challenge to file smooth and add a representation of tarpaper, but a few of these cars did get outside metal roofs in later years, so the kit roof could be retained. So I decided to go ahead with this project.
     Viewing it just as a kit, this is of course an extremely simple project, the directions for which require only installation of center sills, insertion of brake components into shaped holes, and mounting of a vertical-staff brake wheel. But I did decide to do a few things differently, both in terms of how I like completed kits to perform, and in terms of this specific prototype.
     First, I almost always change the Accurail car weight, because I don’t like covering the screw holes in the underframe with the full-length weight. I simply use a hacksaw to cut the weight approximately in half, then glue the halves to the floor with canopy glue Here is how it looks.

     Second, for this car, the prototype did not have the Accurail fishbelly center sill (5th Ave. Car Shops inserted a notice to this effect in my particular kit). You can either cut it down to about 1/8-inch height, or just use 0.030 x 0.125-inch styrene strip. I chose the latter. With brake gear installed but no brake levers or rods yet, it looked like this.

The white additions will of course be painted dark gray.
    To install Kadee #158 whisker couplers, I sliced off the post on the underside of the coupler box lid, drilled out the post location, then tapped 2-56 all the way through the box and floor, so I can install the box lid with a screw. For trucks, I used some cast white metal Quality Craft Andrews trucks I had on hand, installing suitable Reboxx semi-scale wheelsets. Last, the brake staff was cut to length, and placed with CA, as was the brake wheel. A coat of flat finish completed preliminaries.
     For weathering, I used my acrylic wash methods (to see a thorough description of the method and its uses, consult the “Reference pages” list at the top right of this blog post). I also applied some slight color differences to individual boards, in both the side sheathing and the running board, using artist’s “Prismacolor” pencils. Lastly, the usual route cards, reweigh and repack stencils, and occasional chalk marks were added to complete the car.

     This is indeed a simple kit, and was enjoyable to complete. I likely don’t have as many Western Pacific cars on my layout as I should, so this will be a useful addition to the fleet.
Tony Thompson