Tuesday, April 13, 2021

Redetailing a C&BT Shops box car

 In the late 1980s, a new manufacturer of HO scale freight cars emerged onto the scene, called C&BT Shops. The models were produced from all-new tooling, and many of the car bodies were very well done. 

However, as I know from having lived in Pittsburgh at the time, and being acquainted with Dick Schweiger, the proprietor of C&BT Shops, there was a problem: molds for the detail parts sprues hadn’t been made before the original toolmaker passed away. The unfortunate result was good car bodies but very poor detail parts, created by a replacement toolmaker of distinctly less skill. 

It occurs to me that there must be modelers today who have never seen a C&BT kit. I show below one of the original kit boxes, which also serves to illustrate the era when C&BT Shops came onto the scene. The maroon and gray colors were very fashionable in the early 1990s, and the elegant “look” of the box was a considerable contrast to the ubiquitous kit boxes of the day from Athearn or Model Die Casting.

At one point early in C&BT’s existence, Dick Schweiger gave me some discarded car bodies, surplus because they had been used to try out some variations in pad printing of lettering. Dick gave them to me rather than throwing them away, because I said I could use them as fodder for kit conversions. The body I am working on at the moment had smeared lettering on one side.

The core idea of any project to “rescue” these good C&BT car bodies, in essence, is to firmly propel all the kit detail parts into the wastebasket, and replace them with a variety of superior detail parts available today. In my case, I didn’t even have to discard any parts, because all I had was the donated car body. But I did make the same kind of fresh start, adding all new detail parts.

My first step was to fill all the attachment holes, intended for ladders and grab irons, with modeling putty (I use Tamiya gray). Then I added wire grab irons from Westerfield, and decent-looking ladders from my parts box (not sure of the origin). Here is the car, on “interim truck support blocks,” with its overly-heavy New York Central lettering, which I won’t retain.

Next came sill steps, and brake gear on the B end of the car. I used A-Line “Style A” sill steps, and some AB handbrake parts from the parts box. With all side and end details complete, I added a representation of a metal grid running board from Kadee, part 2001, attached with canopy glue, and was then ready for paint. 

First, I lightly primed sides and ends with Tamiya Fine Surface Primer, a nearly white color, to neutralize the existing lettering. It’s not necessary to make the color entirely uniform, only to lessen the contrast between body color and lettering.

Then I chose the Oxide Red color of Tamiya Fine Surface Primer as a body color. This paint has good covering power, so can easily color the entire car uniformly. It also has a light gloss, suitably for many decals.

This completes the modelling work on this project. I think it is evident on this car body what superior detail and proportions it has, things that are easier to see when the original kit’s clunky details are replaced. I have not decided which of several pending decal applications I want to use on this car, but it is ready for the next step. I’ll choose trucks to match the prototype being decaled.

Tony Thompson

Saturday, April 10, 2021

Waybills, Part 84: weigh slips

 In several previous posts in my series about prototype waybills, I have pointed out the way many railroads indicated the results of weighing a car on a scale. The scale mechanism printed out a slip with the gross weight on it, the scale operator wrote down the light weight of the car (stenciled on the car side), and subtracted the light weight from the gross to obtain the cargo weight. The slip was then pasted onto the waybill.

For an example where the weigh slip is prominent (because it has yellowed less than the underlying document), you may wish to look at Part 82 of this series (see it at: https://modelingthesp.blogspot.com/2021/02/waybills-part-82-deciphering-waybill.html ). For more examples of a variety of ways that car weights can be reported, both Part 80 (that post is located at: https://modelingthesp.blogspot.com/2021/02/waybills-part-80-scale-weights.html ) and also Part 78 present examples (see that post here: https://modelingthesp.blogspot.com/2021/01/waybills-part-78-car-weights.html ).

I thought it would be interesting to explore making versions of such slips for model waybills. The simplest way is simply to select a weight slip from a prototype waybills, adjust and copy it, size it to fit whatever model format you use, and paste in place. You can of course play with the weight numbers too if desired.

I will illustrate with part of a Southern Pacific waybill from the Andy Laurent collection. Here is just the part with the scale slip, for a load in Rock Island car 21433, a 40-foot steel box car with 10 ft., 6 in. inside height.

The first task, as I mentioned, is to improve the contrast of the digital image and cut out the slip from the background. This provides the slip by itself, still in the form of a Photoshop tiff.

I decided I would remove some of the writing on the slip, so as to have a nearly blank one that could be adjusted for various scale locations, dates, and different cars being weighed. I also modified the numbers at the extreme upper left of the ticket, which are the date of adoption of an SP document, followed by the amount printed in units of a thousand (M). You can click on the image to enlarge it, if you wish.

With this adjustment, the slip can now be sized for a particular model waybill. For example, it would work well on the “half-page” 5 x 7-inch bills used on Paul Weiss’s Central Vermont layout. Like all the waybills I make, they are tiffs. Here is the nearly blank scale slip, applied to a Southern Pacific waybill of this size, inbound to the CV. 

When the waybill with this addition is printed out, it can be handwritten to fill in the missing info in the scale slip. Additional notations are also included, of the kind commonly seen on prototype waybills.

Whether adding scale weigh slips will appeal to many, or even be practical for many modelers’ waybill forms, seems unlikely in most cases. But the process described above does show one way to include these interesting (and entirely common on the prototype) features of a waybill.

Tony Thompson

Wednesday, April 7, 2021

A new chassis for an RSD-5

As a modeler of the steam-to-diesel “transition era,” I want my motive power fleet to include models of all the diesel power that operated in my modeling locale. One of these is the Alco RSD-5.

Since I model the area of the California coast south of San Luis Obispo, I rely on my interviews with Malcolm “Mac” Gaddis for information on the operation of those RSD-5 engines in that area (to read that interview, you can see my post at this link: https://modelingthesp.blogspot.com/2011/08/san-luis-obispo-operations-3.html ). Happily, that RSD-5 operation took place in my modeling year of 1953.

Although the RSD-5 was first produced at Alco with all hood doors louvered, as was the case with the preceding four-axle model RS-3, a number of buyers of the RSD-5 ordered the engines with air filtration openings in the long hood. SP was one of these. When the 14 locomotives for Pacific Lines, SP 5294–5307, were delivered in the spring of 1953, they came with the standard Alco exhaust stack, but SP soon replaced these with a large, water-cooled spark-arrester stack. 

The photo above is by F.C. Smith (courtesy Guy Dunscomb) at Bakersfield in February 1954, by which time SP had decided the best use of these units was as Tehachapi helpers. You can clearly see the square filtration openings near the top of the hood on this left side view.

For a view of the right side of these engines, below is a detail from a Stan Kistler photo of SP 5301, descending Tehachapi with the Mountain Local. It’s a better view of the water-cooled spark arrester. The engine here is running in reverse of normal practice with the early RSD-5s, which was long-hood forward. The air filter areas stand out in this view.

 I have long had in my locomotive roster a Stewart/Kato model of an Alco RSD-5 roadswitcher. It always ran very well, back in the DC days. That original body shell had been molded with all louvered doors on the hood. I had sliced off the door louvers and approximated the filter openings, and applied a water-cooled stack from Rob Sarberenyi. I added the full “Tiger Stripe” orange diagonal striping in which the locomotives were delivered. Here’s a view of the model, passing the roundhouse at Shumala on my layout.

But when I set out to add a DCC decoder to this locomotive, I found that something had gone wrong in the motor. It would only operate intermittently and made some unpleasant noises in doing so. I spent some time contemplating repowering the chassis, but was a little worried that there was awfully little room to add a speaker for sound. Then I had the idea, why not simply buy a modern RSD-5 chassis, with DCC and sound installed, and put my shell onto it? I decided to try.

I purchased a new Atlas RSD-5 model, with the intent of replacing the new shell, fully louvered, with my old shell. The new chassis is almost identical in shape to the Stewart/Kato one that I had, so this swap does work. Below is a photo of the new chassis. Its air tanks on each side will have be striped in orange, since you can see in the photos above that these tanks should include the stripes.

I pulled out my old sets of Microscale decals for the SP “Tiger Stripe” schemes (set 87-71), and applied Microscale “Liquid Decal Film” to them to ensure they would apply all right.

The application of the stripe decals is more tedious than difficult, though the end moldings take awhile for Walthers “Solvaset” to snuggle the film down over the contours. The walkway sides are much simpler to decal. Note in the foregoing photos that on these Alco diesels, stripes slanted down toward the rear (short hood) on both sides of the locomotive. I mention this because the pattern was different on SP diesel switchers from some other builders.

An interesting challenge in the lettering is the letter “F” for the forward (long) end of the unit, on each walkway. The standard drawing, as shown in Southern Pacific Painting and Lettering Guide (Locomotives and Passenger Cars), 2nd edition, by Jeff Cauthen and John Signor (SPH&TS, 2019) shows this letter as orange on tiger-stripe switchers. But photographs of Pacific Lines engines in this scheme often show a white or silver gray “F,”  including some delivered in 1952.

Moreover, one shortcoming of the Microscale 87-71 sets I have (possibly corrected by now) is that the decal set only has black letter “F”s. I used a Microscale F-unit set, 87-201,  for the letter “F” which, in current sets, is correctly light gray, not silver. Here is the newly-striped walkway part, installed on the chassis. Couplers and some handrails remain to be re-installed.

I have already verified that this locomotive operates nicely on my layout. It will now take its turn on some local freights in future operating sessions, further illustrating the steam-to-diesel transition underway in my modeling year of 1953.

Tony Thompson


Sunday, April 4, 2021

Freight car graffiti, Part 25: more examples

 For this 25th part of my series on post-1990 graffiti on freight cars, I have two different car types to discuss, a box car and a covered hopper. I have presented a wide variety of car types in prior posts on this topic, and they can be most easily found, if you are interested, by using “freight car graffiti” as the search term in the search box at right. 

I’ll begin with a 60-foot box car, this particular one owned by the Cotton Belt, St. Louis Southwestern, a property of Southern Pacific. This particular model, SSW 62649, was shown to illustrate the paint scheme, in an earlier post at: https://modelingthesp.blogspot.com/2020/12/freight-car-graffiti-part-17-60-foot.html . Here is the model before adding any graffiti:

I wanted to use one of my paper overlay graffiti on this car. This is a technique I described in my article about graffiti in Model Railroad Hobbyist, in the issue for January 2020, and in a previous blog post (see it at: https://modelingthesp.blogspot.com/2020/01/my-latest-column-in-mrh.html ). 

In this case, I used a graffito seen on a wall in my area (photo of it below), then it was cleaned up, sized for HO scale, printed out on a high-resolution color laser printer, cut out, sanded from the back to make the edges thinner, and pasted down with canopy glue.

In addition, on the car’s left side, I added a decal from Microscale set 87-1523, some light weathering, and a few tags using “Gelly Roll” pens. This is how it looked when completed.

On the right side of SSW 62649, I used decals from three Microscale sets, 87-243, 1534, and 1536, along with the usual weathering and tagging.

The other car I will present here is a large, four-bay covered hopper, ACFX 97604, operating under lease from American Car & Foundry’s lessor, ACFX, and lettered for Polysar resins..

The large, smooth sides of this model are as attractive for large graffiti pieces as are the prototype covered hoppers, because they offer a large, unimpeded canvas for “creative expression,” as we may term it (certainly the prototype “writers,” as they call themselves, would use the term).

On the left side of the car, I applied the large piece (“can’t be stopped”) from Microscale set 87-1535. The smaller piece at the right (the word “look”) is a paper overlay, taken from page 136 in the excellent reference book, Freight Train Graffiti, by Roger Gastman, Darin Rowland, and Ian Sattler (Abrams, New York, 2006), and applied as I’ve described earlier (see citations in the third paragraph, above).

Of course, the model as you see it above is weathered moderately, and some tags added with “Gelly Roll” pens.

On the right side of the car, there is again a paper overlay, this one created from a prototype photo of this piece on a similar car (I showed it in a blog post about the Cocoa Beach RPM meeting in 2017; a post you can see here: https://modelingthesp.blogspot.com/2017/01/cocoa-beach-2017.html ). I have adjusted the size of the image, along with squaring it up in Photoshop, for this overlay (at right, reading “artists making foamers mad”). The two smaller pieces are from T2 Decals, Graffiti Set #1 (you can see their growing line of graffiti decals at: https://t2decals.ecrater.com/c/135116769/graffiti-decal-series ).

These two cars gave me another chance to apply paper overlays, a technique I now feel fairly comfortable with. I like that it allows inclusion of graffiti I have photographed myself, with minimal effort. And I think both these cars benefit from this flexibility.

Tony Thompson

Thursday, April 1, 2021

Waybills, Part 83: interesting examples

 Over the years, a number of people have been kind enough to share with me copies of prototype waybills in their possession. By far the most extensive of these have been bills from the collection of Andy Laurent, and I am grateful to Andy for his generosity in sharing these. This post gives examples of two interesting waybills. 

Incidentally, if you would like to examine earlier posts in this series, the simplest way to find them is to use “waybills part” as the search term in the search box at right.

To begin, let me show a waybill from a very small railroad, the Raritan River. It was a 20-mile railroad in and around South Amboy, New Jersey,  and owned no freight cars in interchange service. It interchanged with both the Pennsylvania Railroad and the Central of New Jersey in South Amboy, and largely provided local switching service; in 1953, it listed 8 locomotives in service. 

Despite its small size, and unlike many small or switching roads, the Raritan River did issue waybills. This is an example from the Laurent collection; note that like so many bills, it’s creased down the center from conductors folding it. (You can click on the image to enlarge it if you wish.)

Note several interesting things about this waybill. First, the load was shipped in a New York Central box car, no. 41192, a 50-foot single-door car of 50 tons capacity. The cargo is shown as a carload (C/L), and comprised calcium silicate and asbestos in flat sheets; and it is noted that the shipper counted and loaded the cargo (SC&L). The car was weighed at Parlin, New Jersey, with the weight is given as 72,700 pounds. Notice that the original freight charge has been corrected by hand.

It was interchanged to the CNJ at South Amboy, and routed to Taylor, Pennsylvania for transfer to Erie Lackawanna. Via EL it went to East Buffalo, New York for interchange to C&O (Pere Marquette District) and taken to Ludington, Michigan for car ferry transportation across Lake Michigan to Kewaunee, Wisconsin and the Kewanuee, Green Bay and Western, and finally to the Ahnapee & Western for delivery to Algoma, Wisconsin.

Here’s another waybill that was interesting, at least to me. It’s from the Oregon Electric Railway. The OE began operation in 1908 as a connection between Portland and Salem in Oregon’s Willamette Valley (as locals always say, “Willamette” rhymes with “dammit”). Only two years later, in 1910,  it was purchased by the Spokane, Portland and Seattle, and the line was extended to Eugene in 1912. Though electric operations ended in 1945, the OE survived well after the BN merger, still as a wholly owned part of the BN system.

Many railroads with such subsidiaries had the local agents use the big road’s waybills, but many did not. The OE is an example, as you see in the waybill below.

This waybill illustrates a number of things. First, of course, is the OE header at the top. Second, the cargo of plywood from U.S. Plywood’s plant in Eugene, to the Algoma, Wisconsin Division of U.S. Plywood, is only shown as a carload (C/L), and the notation on the bill states “do not weigh,” in light of the Weight Agreement stamp (large round stamp at upper right). The load is being shipped in C&O 16186, a 50-foot double-door box car. Such a car is a free-runner, of course, and thus it’s not peculiar that a C&O car is being loaded in Eugene, Oregon.

Routing is as follows: OE to Willbridge, Oregon, thence SP&S to Spokane and interchange to Northern Pacific. Then NP takes the car across its Northern Transcon to interchange with C&NW at Park Junction (Minneapolis), thence to the Green Bay & Western at Merrilan in central Wisconsin, then to Green Bay, and via the KGB&W and Ahnapee & Western to Algoma.

Of course, as a modeler of the western U.S., I felt I really needed to have an OE waybill for use in layout operating sessions. This is simple to do, just graft the OE header seen above onto the standard AAR waybill form (admittedly not exactly the same as the OE form). Here’s how it looks in my model form when filled out (note the weight stamp is literally exactly the same, even the agreement number):

I feel like I have learned a lot about how waybills looked and what information was used in filling them out, by examining a number of the bills Andy Laurent was kind enough to share with me. And I expect to continue to learn in the same way. Sometimes, as with the OE bill shown in this post, I even gain another model waybill, but the Raritan River feels just a little too remote for me — maybe I’ll wait and see if it grows on me <grin>.

Tony Thompson

Monday, March 29, 2021

“Vaccinate to Operate”

 The title above says it all (a phrase a friend used recently). Yes, like so many, I’ve been eagerly awaiting the situation where enough people would be vaccinated that we could break the long pandemic “outage” and have a layout operating session. This past weekend, on my layout, we got there. 

It was interesting to find how much was needed, after a year or so of not operating (except small sessions with my granddaughter). Getting ready was a bigger deal than I’m used to. Projects all over the layout needed to be completed; some unused track needed to be cleaned; locomotive wheels likewise; and literally all the rolling stock on the layout and staging had to be re-evaluated for the next session. Like I said, interesting . . .

One project was to move my small scrap yard from the back of the layout to the foreground. The dark colors of the scrap pile were just a distant smudge before. Now it can be seen for what it is, tucked between Corralitos Lane and Laguna Street.

This little industry was described in an April Fool’s Day post last year, which if you’re interested, you can read here: https://modelingthesp.blogspot.com/2020/04/adding-off-line-industry.html .

But here we are. After carefully reading the CDC guidelines for vaccinated adults, and discussing them with knowledgeable people to make sure I was reading them right, I invited my usual operators list, but making it clear the invitation was just for those who had been fully vaccinated. Dates were March 27 and 28. With full crews signed up for both days, we went ahead. 

It is hard to convey how much everyone enjoyed these sessions. It was great fun for me to prepare the sessions and help solve problems during them, and everyone who operated was just so pleased to finally have a chance to do again, something we all enjoy. 

The two crews the first day were as follows. First, Ed Slintak (left below) teamed with Richard Brennan. If you know Ed, you realize this is his pandemic beard. They are pictured as they started work at Ballard.

The second crew comprised Seth Neumann and Steve Van Meter, shown later as they took their turn to work at Ballard. Seth, seen below at left, is holding waybills, and Steve, who was engineer, holds an uncoupling pick. 

The next day the previous session was essentially repeated with a new crew. This time, we decided to pose for a group photo (my wife was good enough to take the snap). Below, from left, it’s me, Chuck, Hakkarinen, John Sutkus, and Jon Schmidt. We’re standing alongside Shumala on the layout.

We really did have fun, the crews and me both. What a pleasure to operate again, sans masks, etc. We were just to glad to start feeling that the light at the end of the tunnel really is daylight.

Tony Thompson

Friday, March 26, 2021

B&O covered hopper, Part 2

 In the previous post about this model, which represents B&O’s Class N-34 “wagon-top” covered hoppers, I showed the prototype and the mostly-completed model I had purchased, along with the first and probably most challenging step in completing the model: adding the sill steps. That post can be found at this link: https://modelingthesp.blogspot.com/2021/02/a-b-wagon-top-covered-hopper.html .

As I mentioned in that previous post, the model as I received it had a cast-resin running board attempting to depict a metal-grid running board. Partly because it was broken, and partly because nearly all the prototype cars kept their as-built wood running boards all their lives, I removed the remnants of that “grid” board from the model, resulting in this (in this photo, sill steps are not yet applied):

Next, I carefully cleaned up the roof running board supports so the running board would lie flat. Then I installed the kit’s “wood” running board parts with canopy glue.

To complete the running boards, I added corner grab irons with Tichy part 3028. With these, I don’t use modeler’s eye bolts at the corner, as they are way oversize for what the prototype looks like. Instead, I just insert a short length of wire at the corner. 

Second, I installed supports under the ends of the running boards with scale 1 x 3-inch styrene, and added a route card board above the left-hand truck on each side, using scale 2 x 6-inch styrene strip, all attached with canopy glue. (You can click on the image to enlarge it if you wish.)

Next I needed to address the missing locking bars. A complete arrangement here would not only involve the long locking bars parallel to the roof edge, but two hold-down bars on each hatch, and a handle bar on each side. I decided not to do all of that, as this is largely a main-line car that will be seen only in passing trains. Following the principal that there merely “should be something in that area,” I used plain brass wire for the long bar and handle.

Finally, I had to match the existing paint to touch up all these detail additions. What was a pretty reasonable match (perfection not necessary because I will be adding weathering and cement staining) was Model Master “Light Sea Gray,” FS36307 (a Federal Standard color). As you see below, color looks good overall, and now the sill steps are visible — when they were their original black, they were hard to see.

I’m still delighted with my bargain purchase of this West Shore Line model of a B&O wagon-top covered hopper, an interesting and distinctive prototype to include in my fleet. Adding more and better details just adds to the value, in my own estimation.

Tony Thompson