Sunday, June 17, 2018

More tank car unloading

In previous posts to this blog, I have described how I represent tank car unloading on my layout. In particular, I have several locations where tank cars would be bottom-unloaded, that is, unloaded by gravity, through a bottom outlet connected to a hose. I showed some details of the modeling (for example, at: ), though most of the previous cases that included hose unloading were at places where I had made duckboards as walkways for workmen (my duckboard modeling method was shown in this post: ).
     But I have some locations on the layout where I don’t think duckboards are as likely an arrangement. One of them is at my cannery in the seacoast town of Santa Rosalia, which receives vegetable and other edible oils by tank car, to use in fish canning. It has a loading dock for boxcar shipments in and out, but doesn’t have (yet) any indication of how tank cars would be unloaded. Shown below is a high-angle view of the industry as it now is, with the loading dock at right.

One plan would be to add a short concrete pad just to the left of the loading dock, and a coil of hose, along with a pipe connection of some kind.
     But the two doorways to the left of the loading dock certainly call out for a sidewalk of some kind, since employees using those doors would likely prefer not to work on or regularly pass across the dirt outside. Accordingly, it seemed a better plan to make a wider concrete walkway, extending along the side of the cannery building, to include both doorways and to connect to the foundation of the loading dock, represented as concrete also. To make a sidewalk, I used a piece of Evergreen styrene sidewalk, part no. 4518, with half-inch squares.
     The styrene piece is simply painted a concrete color (using paint modified years ago from Floquil Concrete, which I thought too dark and too gray). Note the small green metal door to the right of the double door. That might well enclose the pipe connection.

In this photo, you can see the difference from the rather bare appearance in the top photo.
     Prototype photos of tank car unloading hoses tend to show pretty short hoses. To illustrate, shown below is an SP photo of tank cars unloading locomotive fuel at San Luis Obispo, and it’s evident that these hoses are not particularly long. I do usually tend to model them longer, but probably unnecessarily so.

This photo also illustrates duckboards (see comments in the first paragraph of the present post), though I am not modeling those in this case.
     The next step is to make a hose to be stored on the concrete pad. I usually use no. 22 wire for this, with a black insulation, because black hoses are so common. If the last 1/8-inch or less of each end is stripped and painted a bronze or brass color, it will definitely look like a hose connection, especially in a location like my cannery, which is back a ways from the layout edge. For a more foreground type of location, I can slip a piece of brass tubing over the wire end. Here are a couple of wire “hoses” with ends painted with Floquil Gold, but any gold- or brass-color paint would do the same.

There is also a good Tamiya color, Dark Copper (color no. XF-28), that I use for some fittings like these.
     I chose the coiled-looking one in the photo above to add to the Cannery unloading spot. Having it there definitely reinforces the idea that tank cars can be destined here for unloading. You can click on the image to enlarge it if you wish.

     I like there to be some logic to the appearance of industries, especially with respect to how freight cars would be loaded or unloaded at each one. This is a theme that can be noticed in a number of my posts about model industries, and this particular one is just another in the series.
Tony Thompson

Thursday, June 14, 2018

Sugar beet loads, Part 2

In much of the Far West in the transition era, sugar beets were an important and lucrative crop. This was certainly true in the area I model, the Southern Pacific Coast Route, along which sugar beets moved in both directions, due to sugar factories in both northern and southern parts of California. So although the particular mythical branch line I model does not lie in beet-growing country, it certainly does see mainline traffic in beets. (I touched on some of these traffic aspects in one of my posts that presented parts of an interview with Malcolm “Mac” Gaddis. That post is here: ).
     In accord with the idea to include sugar beet loads in my mainline trains, I devoted some thought and effort to making my own removable beet loads, using fenugreek seeds. My results were not quite as successful as I’d like, but they wee all described in an earlier post (if you like, you can find it at this link: ).
    Recently I came into possession of some of the old Chooch molded-resin loads which represent sugar beets. They show a reasonable size of the model beets, though they are not quite as irregular as real sugar beets, and overall have a good look. They came two to a package, and as noted on the label, part 7241 is for Red Caboose HO gondolas.

These loads are indeed sized for the Red Caboose cars, but in a way which is not realistic. Namely, they are made to sit on top of the car, representing a car loaded so high that beets lie on the top chords. Beets in such a location would, of course, soon vibrate off the car. Here is a look at the stock load, and you can see the ledge or offset that sits on top of the car side. (You can click on the image to enlarge it.)

When you put this load into a Red Caboose gondola, sure enough, the load looks significantly too high.

     The image below shows the look we are striving for: fully loaded but not onto the car sides. This is a Southern Pacific photo, taken in 1948 near Salinas, California (John R. Signor collection). The loads of beets await unloading at the Spreckels Sugar plant in the background. Though some of the cars are the obsolescent beet racks, many are the new composite GS gondolas (like the model car shown above). The loads stand above the car side, but are nevertheless are entirely inside the car sides.

     It seemed to me that I needed to remove the protruding edges of the Chooch load and allow the load to sit down inside the gondola. I used a heavy rasp to remove the excess resin at the edges of the casting. This gave a better fit (as I show below) but did expose white resin along the sides. Since I want these sides inside the car, however, they may not even need to be touched up.

But when the trimmed load is set into the car, it sits down too far. Some cars may have been partially loaded like this, but usually they were quite full, as you see in the Spreckels photo above. The photo below illustrates the problem, though at least it is realistic to have the load entirely inside the car.

So I used a couple of shott lengths of scale 10 x 10-inch lumber to glue spacers onto the bottom of the load. The height of these spacers could have been a little higher or lower, but this size does give a reasonable look.

     With the spacers shown above, I was pleased with how the car looks when the load is put into the car. This corresponds, to my eye, with most prototype photos from the days of the beet gondolas without side extensions, such as the photo at Spreckels, above.

     With these adjustments, I will go ahead and produce a set of beet loads for my layout. As I mentioned, these only pass by on the SP main line, but they are a characteristic part of Coast Route traffic, and I want to include them.
Tony Thompson

Monday, June 11, 2018

Completing a Sunshine tank car

The title here, about completing a Sunshine kit, might seem lik an odd one. But it reflects a problem that emerged in the last days when Sunshine Models was still in business. Some kits were packed with the very last parts in inventory, and occasionally those parts weren’t quite the right parts. That is what happened with a very late kit I bought, kit no. 87.4, for a General American Type 30 tank car, 8000-gallon capacity, with Rohm & Haas Chemical Company decals.
     The problem was that the dome casting in the kit I received did not fit the hole in the tank body, but was substantially too large. Here is a photo of the model, assembled and painted by Dennis Williams.

The diameter of the opening in the tank body is about 0.62 inches, while the dome supplied has a diameter of 0.72 inches, not close to fitting. (The 0.72 inches happens to be the diameter of the Athearn tank car domes.) Probably it is the correct dome for the Sunshine 10,000-gallon tank car. Anyway, after looking without success through all the tank car parts and kits I have on hand, and after asking some of the “usual suspects” who might know where to find the correct Sunshine dome, and striking out, I decided to just make one.
     An easy route to a new dome was available. I have a piece of Plastruct tubing on hand, which is nominally 5/8-inch diameter (Plastuct TB-20); its diameter measures out at 0.634 inches. So I can just remove a modest amount of material, and it should fit into the hole. It may also appear that an advantage of this use of Plastruct tubing is that Plastruct makes matching end caps, including an elliptical style, that match the tubing diameters. More on that in a moment.
     How tall should this dome be? The regulations specified a minimum volume for expansion domes at 2 percent of the tank volume, 8000 gallons, so the dome should hold at least 160 gallons. Given the dome diameter, set here by the Sunshine body casting, which is 54.8 scale inches, we can use the formula for a cylinder, with length taken as the height of the dome above the body (shown as dimension H in an explanation of this calculation, available at: ). Why the height? Because the dome volume was figured in excess of the shell-full volume, that is, filled up to the top of the horizontal shell. We of course will use the cylinder formula to find the height H in this case. The result, which is the minimum dome height, is 15.6 scale inches.
     I cut a piece of the Plastruct tubing, and sanded it down slightly until it fit the hole. Here is a photo of the piece of tubing inserted into the Sunshine model’s tank hole, with the dome casting I received next to it. You can see the diameter discrepancy.

This tubing piece is about 18 scale inches high at the tank top, thus exceeding the required minimum height.
     The dome top is the next step. The Plastruct part that matches tubing TB-20 is VHE-20. The rise of the ellipse on this cap is quite a bit too large, but the part is made of a pretty soft acrylic plastic and as such, is easy to modify to the shape you want. Nevertheless, modifying the Plastruct cap to a lower profile by filing and sanding turns out to be a long process. I got partway and began to wonder if this was the right approach, because the top would remain so rounded. Here is a look at the candidate dome at this point.

It is headed in the right direction, and I think it could eventually work. But I decided to keep it for the moment as a backup, and to go ahead and try a simpler approach first.
     For this approach, I first cut and sanded another piece of tubing. Then I simply used a piece of sheet styrene (which happened to be greenish), glued it to the piece of tubing as you saw above, and sanded it to the outer diameter of the tube. This piece was then sanded to curve it toward the dome edges. This is easier and quicker than filing down the Plastruct cap. Here are the two caps, with a grab iron already added on the left. These are to be added on both sides.

     Now the excessive “rise” of the Plastruct cap is avoided, but at the expense of having almost no rise at all. The prototype dome tops are convex over their whole diameter, whereas I can only really taper the edges of a flat plate.
     Although either of these domes would probably pass muster on a black car, as this one is, I still did not entirely like what I was accomplishing. I went back to an earlier idea, to see if any of my inadequate kit domes might be close enough to use. From that perspective, I could make the smaller Tichy dome, from the original Tichy USRA tank car kit, do the job. It is a little too small in diameter for the Sunshine body opening, but it appeared that a shim of something like 0.010-inch styrene could fill the gap. The dome could then be set into the tank body and have a scale 16-inch height, just the right size. This looked like the best bet to me.

You can see part of the white styrene shim at the base of the dome. The top of this dome has bases for both the safety valves and the manway, both of which are included in the Tichy tank car detail set, and which can readily be added.
     Now that I have a solid approach to this dome replacement, I can proceed with the detailing of the dome, painting, and then lettering the car. I will show those steps in a future post.
Tony Thompson

Saturday, June 9, 2018

Hendrickson auto car, Part 5

This project amounts to the completion of an automobile car model that Richard Hendrickson had started but not completed. I eventually tracked it down as a model of a Santa Fe Class FE-25 car, a rebuild with modern steel sides and roof, but with re-used corrugated ends and underframe. Photos of the model as it came to me, and prototype information, are in the first post on this topic (you can see it at: ). That post also provides a link to my comments appreciating Richard’s life and contributions after he passed away in 2014.
     The most recent post in the series about this model showed how I approached the completion of the car’s underframe, including coupler pockets (that post is at this link: ). In that post, I simply showed the fitting of the coupler pockets to the auto car underframe. To attach each pocket, I softened both the end of the underframe, and the mating end of the coupler pocket, with styene cement, so that they could be directly bonded. I then placed a small dot of CA on the steel weight, where the coupler pocket would rest, and pressed the coupler pocket end against the softened frame end while gently pressing the pocket down into place on the steel weight to spread out the CA. This made two good bonds.
     But it seemed to me that even with these two good bonds, the separate coupler pocket could have the problem of inadequate strength when subjected to pulling forces when the car is operated in a long train. Thus I decided to make splice pieces of styrene, to strengthen the joint between the end of the underframe in place, and the newly added coupler pocket. I used Evergreen scale 1 x 6-inch strip for this. In the photo below, the splice is the white strip on the frame.

The same interim truck support blocks are still on the car, as you see at the bolster.
     The second problem is to match the end ladders that Richard had applied, with ladders having identical rung spacing. After looking at a lot of stashed ladder sprues, I came up with a match: Grandt ladder set 5124. I’m sure these are right, because the rung style and detail matches Richard’s installation, as well as the rung spacing matching. I will show those below. But there is a complication: the Santa Fe side ladders had 8 rungs, and the Grandt ladder only has 7 rungs. I will have to add one rung. But here is the Grandt ladder, added in stock condition, photographed so that you can see the rungs lined up between side and end ladders.

     The eighth rung was added by cutting up another Grandt ladder from the same set, and adding it at the bottom of the previously added ladder. What is needed is about 6 scale inches of added height, plus that final rung. Below is shown my added rung. The slightly visible gaps in the ladder stiles will be filled before painting. This arrangement captures the prototype 8-rung ladder appearance.

     With these details having been completed, the car is essentially ready for the paint shop. I will turn to the painting and lettering issues in a future post.
Tony Thompson

Wednesday, June 6, 2018

More sags in track to fix

As I described in an earlier post, there are a few areas on my layout where track has begun to sag gently below its intended profile. Given that parts of the layout have been in place over 30 years, I suppose this is not really unreasonable, though I don’t understand what may have caused these sags. The real point, of course, is to correct them, as I showed in that previous post (see it at: ).
     In that post, I used an ordinary carpenter’s wood chisel to drive under the track and into the roadbed, forcing it to rise. Carefully choosing the insertion points allowed me to entirely fix the problem in the area I illustrated. But in one of the comments to that post, Dan Smith suggested I would have been better off to use what is called a “splitting chisel,” because it doesn’t have as great a diverging blade (or as Dan put it, it’s not as “wedgy”). This was an intriguing idea, so I bought such a chisel. It’s shown below.

This is a Gedore tool, made in Germany by a well-regarded hand tool company, and can be found for sale on any number of internet tool sales sites. As Dan mentioned, it’s often in the range of 10 to $12 for a well-made tool like this.
     I did note right away a distinct difference between the two kinds of chisel. The wood chisel has a very sharp edge, and thickens considerably behind the edge. The splitting chisel has a 45-degree edge, not really sharp at all, but doesn’t thicken. One thing I wanted to watch in my next sag fix was to see which chisel did a better job for my problem. Obviously both chisels have their place, but which one would work better on these track problems?
     One annoying sag that needed to be fixed had developed at a point near where another sag was previously fixed (see link in first paragraph of this post). The previous sag was in the main line; this one is on the beginning of the branch, and not surprisingly, at a similar point in the benchwork, suggesting some structural origin. Anyway, although a short sag, it does affect steam locomotives, which can get all their drivers down into the sag, reducing tractive effort. It definitely needs fixing. In the photo below, you can see the sag beneath the ruler.

     As in the previous project, I began by driving a chisel underneath the track. But the splitting chisel, not being sharp, really cannot be used at the beginning. Instead, I again used the wood chisel to start an “incision” under the track. Once it was started, I tried extending it with the splitting chisel.

This kind of works, but I have to say that there is no real advantage to the splitting chisel. The reason is that the wood chisel actually isn’t driven so far inwards that its thicker blade comes into play. I did work with both tools, but found I could do all I needed with the wood chisel. Once again, I was able to use the wood chisel by hand (once the incisions were made) to wiggle enough under the track to get everything pretty much lined up and the sag removed.
     I then had to re-ballast and clean up the area of work, but that’s not anything different than any other track ballast work, so I won’t show that. Here again, I was able to remove the sag, essentially by wedging under the track to raise it up where needed. I have a couple of other areas on the layout that need attention also, and will now proceed to work on those.
Tony Thompson

Sunday, June 3, 2018

My Ballard track arrangement

In the early days of my blog, I posted a broad summary of my layout design and goals, including the source of my track plan for the town of Ballard (see that post at: ). I designed that track arrangement as a modificativon of a published town plan, West Agony on Terry Walsh’s West Agony & Inchoate Railroad. The plan, and a switching problem to illustrate its complexity, was published in Model Railroader magazine (“Problem at West Agony,” Model Railroader, Vol. 27, July 1960, pp. 22–25). I chose it because I intended that my town of Ballard would be a switching-intense location.
     Recently I had a question about this town plan, and thinking about it made me pull out that old MR article and re-read it. It really took me back, to when I intensely studied how this town worked and how it might be switched. 
     In fact, that Model Railroader article was clothed as a switching problem (and an interesting one), but to me the track plan was the star. Here is the plan from the magazine, with the switching problem details omitted except for the train shown in town. (You can click on the image to enlarge it if you wish to see details.)

The excessively whimsical industry names did  not charm me, but the author stated they were intended partly to serve as mnemonic reminders for train crews for which industry did what.
     Terry Walsh’s town was laid out in a space 2 feet by 7 feet. I was able to go further and utilize a 34 inch by 8 foot piece of plywood. But largely my plan follows Terry’s pretty faithfully. Though schematic, the map below (from the timetable used by my visiting operators) shows haw similar the overall plan is. This schematic is compressed horizontally, and my actual shape is more like the shape you see in Terry’s map, above. The main thing I omitted was the switchback tracks to industries in the corners, a feature I try to avoid.

All my industry names are included in the map for anyone interested. I do manage to include 15 industry spots, where Terry had nine, with my long back track and greater town width.
     I especially like the long “double” track across the diagonal, giving both a run-around and space to switch. Another feature is that everything on either side of the double track can be switched from one end. Operators often use this to their advantage for efficient switching.
     Photos show also how similar the towns were. Here is the view of West Agony as it appeared in the magazine (Terry Walsh photo), obviously taken from the west end of town (see map). This town was accessible on both sides.

     My own town of Ballard from a similar perspective looks like this (coincidentally also from the railroad west end of town). One side of my town has a backdrop along it.

     Finally, although most layout articles in magazines include no photo of the modeler, or only a small portrait view, in this instance the magazine cover featured Terry himself, photographed with West Agony in the foreground. Terry was one of the fine Dallas, Texas area modelers inspired by and mentored by Cliff Robinson, and probably deserves more recognition than he has gotten. I regret I never met him. Here is part of that cover.

     It was fun, years ago, to dream of someday having a layout town something like West Agony, the switching of which I had, in imagination, spent lots of hours doing. Then came the fun of actually building such a town, my layout’s Ballard. Now it’s just as much fun to be able to switch that town, whether doing so myself or watching visiting operators do so, and thus bring  it to life as I had wanted to do. Thanks again for the ideas, Terry Walsh.
Tony Thompson

Thursday, May 31, 2018

Still more open-top car loads

I have written several posts about making and using removable loads for open-top cars, both bulk materials like coal, ore and sand, and then also materials like pipe and lumber, that have to be restrained by spacers and stakes. And then there are various kinds of crates and other packages which can be interesting loads. These previous posts are readily found by using the search term “open-top cars” in the search box at right.
     In the present post, I want to show a few more examples of different kinds of these loads. I have mentioned pipe loads in several earlier posts, including showing how I make most of them from drinking straws or coffee stirrers (see, for example, this post: ). I have deliberately arranged these various loads with different kinds of stake restraints, following prototype photos, with some additional guidance from the AAR Loading Rules booklets. (Either I don’t fully understand those rules — certainly possible — or else those rules were not always obeyed). Here is an example of another of these pipe loads, also made from plastic straws.

The gondola, SP 160185, is a Tangent model of SP Class G-70-12 which, having been built in 1953, the year I model, is portrayed as almost clean.
     As I have mentioned in previous posts, there are some good commercial loads that can either be used as-is, or modified to fit particular cars. Shown below is a Chooch molded load depicting coils of wire. It did not fit into this gondola, and had to be cut and trimmed so that it would work. It is seen here in Reading 25034, a re-detailed USRA gondola from Walthers, modeling Reading class GML.

Another example of a commercial load, modified to fit some of my freight cars, is this cable reel set, though I have owned it for so long I no longer remember the manufacturer. Here the gondola, NYC 707698, is again a re-detailed Walthers USRA steel gondola.

     I have shown girder loads before in this blog, and continue to enjoy them as excellent examples of loads the railroads were (in the transition era) uniquely equipped to carry. I have made a couple of such loads by kitbashing Atlas bridge girders, and recently adopted one such load for a 65-foot mill gondola. The bracing is one of the arrangements shown in the AAR Loading Rules. Such a load has no reasonable destination on my layout, but instead moves in mainline trains that simply pass by on the SP Coast Route.

The gondola, a model of PRR Class G26, is built from an E&B Valley kit. You may note that the car’s top chord has some bends and dents, as was common in mill gondolas; these were accomplished with gentle use of a warm soldering iron.
     Sometimes upright girders like the one shown above were more extensively braced. Richard Hendrickson built such a set of bracing for one of his loads that I inherited, as you see below. It is a girder from a Central Valley bridge kit.

This girder was built to be overlength even for a 65-foot gondola, and thus to overhang one end of the car. An idler flat car would be coupled here, of course, during car movement to destination. Richard built two of these girders, so that he could model a group of cars loaded with bridge components (I showed the entire group in a previous post, which is at: .)

This gondola, CRP 89065, is a Precision Scale brass model. The CRP was a Central of New Jersey subsidiary.
     Lastly, I will show a pair of crates, made to ride on a flat car. They are marked for Lucifer Furnaces, a company in Pennsylvania. The flat car is an upgraded Athearn 40-footer, with new Tuttle sill steps, wire grab irons, and a vertical-staff handbrake. You can click to enlarge the image.

     All these loads are part of the variety I like to include in my open-top cars. In the transition era, which I model, there was such a preponderance of house cars that these visible loads make a nice change from the remainder of most trains.
Tony Thompson