Friday, November 28, 2014

More on Associated Oil tank cars

I have previously posted about the history of the Associated Oil Company and its tank car fleet. Two of the posts show various parts of the fleet. One of the 8000-gallon cars was shown in the first post on Associated history (see it at: ) and more of the cars were discussed in the second post (at: ).
     Preparatory to modeling one of the later Associated cars, I showed some additional prototype information on the fleet (the post can be found at this link: ) and then presented my model (which is shown at: ). That model represents a car from the AOX 800 series, acquired in the late 1930s.
     The basic facts of the Associated fleet prior to its intermingling with the fleets of Tide Water Oil ownership were as follows. The first cars owned by Associated copied a Santa Fe design; there were 40 of them, 9500 gallons in size, all of which were traded to SP in 1906 as part of their acquisition of the second car group. That group was more than 300 cars of 12,500-gallon capacity, just like and acquired at the same time as the Southern Pacific Class O-50-2 cars, numbered AOX 153–457. Thirdly, there was a group of 8000-gallon cars, numbered 113–152, acquired in the ’teens. All three were illustrated in the posts with links at the top of this page.
     In addition, after 1920 or so, a group of 8000-gallon cars appeared in the Equipment Register, numbered 458–482 (this group grew slowly during the 1920s, eventually reaching 25 cars). In the mid-1920s, 8000-gallon compartment cars 483–495 appeared. Until recently, I had never seen a photo of any of these cars. But Richard Hendrickson gifted such a photo to me, and it is shown below. He did not know the location, date, or photographer. You can click to enlarge.

Clearly shown is AOX 461, either white or light gray in color, lettered much like the AOX 147 car shown in the first post cited at the top of this post, although that car was black. Of perhaps even greater interest is the three-compartment car behind AOX 461. Unfortunately, the car number is not visible, but on the car end the AOX reporting mark is very clear. This must be part of the AOX 483–495 group, and it too is painted a light color.
     Sometimes after an extended search for photographs of a particular subject, if you have been thorough and creative in your search, you begin to think you have found about all that is out there. Then something like the photo above surfaces, filling in gaps in your knowledge, and you realize that there always remains the possibility that you have not discovered all that exists on your topic; and with the knowledge you already have, you know immediately the significance of such a photo. For me at least, this is one of the joys of railroad research.
Tony Thompson

Tuesday, November 25, 2014

A terrific new tank car model

Tangent Scale Models has just released an outstanding model of an acid tank car. Most acid cars were visibly distinctive in having a different design of dome, taller and narrower than the usual 2-percent dome (which means 2 percent of the tank volume). Acid cars were generally manufactured with a specific tank lining to resist a specific acid, such as rubber linings for hydrochloric acid, and accordingly were not used interchangeably for different acids. Each of these Tangent models is lettered for a specific acid. For information about all the cars in this first run, you can browse their website at: .
    Tangent has modeled an 8000-gallon car, about as large as acid cars were in the transition era; in fact, due to the density of some acids, many cars were 6500 or 7000 gallons. Tangent’s model is a welded car, the dominant method of tank car construction after about 1950, so these models are really only suitable for post-1950 modelers. Here is a photo of one of the models, in phosphoric acid service and lettered for Stauffer.

     I mentioned the distinctive acid dome. Here is a side view of the Tangent dome (a better view of the upper part of the tank with this Dow Chemical paint scheme is in the following photo; this is a hydrochloric acid tank).

The models are equipped with a representation of steel grid walkways and dome platforms, as was required for tank car construction after 1948, and these steel walkways are molded in a tough engineering plastic, permitting them to be reasonably close to scale size yet tough and durable. This high-angle view shows how good-looking they are. (You can click to enlarge.)

     A couple of years ago, I kitbashed an acid tank car of 7000-gallon size, which differs primarily in the tank diameter, and the height of the dome. Here is that model, posed next to the 8000-gallon Tangent car, both lettered for Stauffer (my model is weathered, but the Tangent model shown is not yet weathered). If you would like to know how I made the 7000-gallon car, a full modeling description was published in Railroad Model Craftsman in the issue for January 2012, with additional comments in a blog post, at: .

     These 8000-gallon Tangent models doubtless look “too small” to many modelers, accustomed as we all have been to the Athearn “chemical” tank car. The Athearn model is about 11,000 gallons in size and thus a much larger car, and is also an insulated tank, making tank diameter even larger than implied by the gallonage. Here is a comparison of the Tangent model to a stock Athearn car.

The Athearn car, as many modelers know by now, has an immensely oversize valve bonnet and platform, but that is the not the point being made here, only a comparison of tank diameter and length.
     It may occur to some that Tangent now has an excellent 8000-gallon welded tank, and a General American underframe to go with it. They can offer in the future different domes for a wide variety of other tank cars. Let’s hope that possibility is one that Tangent will want to pursue.
     This Tangent product is a much-needed and very welcome prototype, distinctively different from most other tank cars, and because acids are among the most widely used chemical products shipped in tank cars, can find wide application in layouts set in all parts of the country. It is a superb model, and I endorse it without reservation.
Tony Thompson

Saturday, November 22, 2014

Interim truck support blocks

I’m not sure my title for this post is very clear. What I mean is, blocks which can be temporarily attached to a model, in place of its trucks, during construction and painting. The blocks then support the model instead of trucks. In the past, I have often used old or discarded pairs of trucks for this purpose, but that isn’t always a good approach. So here I describe something I learned from Richard Hendrickson, a very effective little trick to solve this problem.
     The idea is to make a block which has a screw hole for the truck screw, enabling it to be attached just one would attach the trucks, and with dimensions about as tall or a little taller than the final truck dimension would be. These can certainly be wood, and my first one was indeed made from basswood, but styrene is easier, quicker, and more durable.
     Shown here are a couple of ways to shape them, details not at all important, though the approximate dimensions should be observed. Mine are about 1.25 inches long (car body width), which is the long dimension here, and about one-fourth of an inch high as well as wide.

Note that one pair is notched at the appropriate distance for the handbrake rod to pass above the block, for models on which that detail is included.
     One advantage of using these during assembly of a model, is that couplers can be installed, yet these blocks allow the model to be set upright, and neither the couplers nor sill steps nor any underbody brake rigging will touch the work surface. You can see that in this photo. The car can rest on the blocks, keeping the couplers and detail parts up out of the way.

     I have used these also during airbrushing of models, when all the car except the trucks is supposed to be one color. (And maybe you have already painted wheel surfaces an appropriate grimy or rusty color, which you don’t want to overspray with the car body color.) Here’s an angle view of a Branchline model in progress with these blocks installed. Couplers will be added after painting.

I should emphasize again that I did not invent these blocks. I saw them in use in Richard Hendrickson’s shop, liked them, and made some copies for myself. There are additional views of these blocks in use on models still in work, in Part 9 of  my series on weathering freight cars (you can see those views at: ).
     Though a simple part to make, these blocks have proven very handy for my modeling, including painting. You might give them a try.
Tony Thompson

Wednesday, November 19, 2014

A summary of my acrylic weathering method

I have had a couple of readers contact me and ask if there might be a way to make available an integrated or overview document, describing my method of weathering with acrylic washes, other than having to search through and read serially all the separate posts I have published on this topic. I thought this was a good suggestion, so I explored how to do that.
     It turns out that Google’s Blogger application has a feature permitting “permanent” reference pages to be appended to a blog. I have taken advantage of that, and have pulled all the 10 separate posts making up my presentation into two documents, one on the basic method, and the other on specific car types and other details. Essentially nothing is omitted from the original posts, except repetitive or duplicative material, along with the now-redundant links to individual posts in the series.
     You will now find these pages available under “Reference pages” in the upper right corner of the blog page, and either document can be accessed by simply clicking on its title. The two documents have these titles:

Weathering with acrylic washes: basic technique
Weathering with acrylic washes: specific car types

These correspond to blog posts in the series, as follows. The first document is drawn from posts 1 through 4, and the second is from posts 5 through 10. Both documents can of course be downloaded, printed, or otherwise used as desired by the reader.
     For completeness, it seemed appropriate to include in the first document the handout Richard Hendrickson and I developed when we first presented our joint clinic on weathering. That has been done, and it is also shown below, for those who may not have seen it. You can click on the image to enlarge it.

I hope these two “Reference page” documents are helpful to those interested in the acrylic wash method of weathering.
Tony Thompson

Sunday, November 16, 2014

My acrylic weathering method, Part 10, conclusion

I have now completed my individual descriptions of aspects of the method I use with acrylic washes to weather rolling stock. Links to the first five segments, in which the basic method was presented, were given in Part 6 (which is at this link: ). Parts 6 through 9 covered special problems and details of the method, and links to parts 6 through 8 were provided in my Part 9: .
     The present Part 10 is an effort to summarize all this material, and show comparative examples of some of the work. In Parts 2, 3 and 4, I showed work in progress on a Red Caboose box car, lettered for Southern Pacific, and I have had some viewers observe that the car does not look very weathered to them. Here is that car as completed, including a paint patch for the reweigh date.

But though it may look like little has been done, here is that same car at right, alongside an unweathered box car from the same source.

This photo illustrates one strength of the acrylic wash method, that it can provide an overall “dirt” level and create a faded look. The level of dirtiness is something you can choose during application, and if it turns out not to be as much as you wanted, you can always repeat the application. The car shown above at right, SP 96606, has a post-1946 paint scheme though built early in 1942, and accordingly is not represented as terribly dirty.
     That brings up an important point. For nearly all freight cars, the level of dirt seen on a particular car would scale with the time in service since it was last painted. It is thus necessary to recognize a car which has been repainted, even one of considerable age. Here is another comparison; you can click on the image to enlarge it.

The car on the left is a Class A-50-14 automobile car, built in 1941, and still has its original paint scheme, with the SP initials as reporting mark. On the right is a Class B-50-15 box car, built back in 1925 but with a post-1946 paint scheme. So even though the car on the right is 16 years older than the car on the left, its paint scheme is actually newer, and thus a little less dirty, than is the auto car at left.
     Another example of moderate weathering is the car on the left in this next image, a model of one of the 100 box cars the NWP obtained from the USRA. Photos document that NWP tended to keep its equipment painted and in good repair (evidenced also by the fact that 98 of those 100 cars remained in service by the time I model, 1953). Both models are the Accurail double-sheathed USRA car, with the one on the right unweathered.

Finally, I will show the three models I have built of SP’s famous black Overnight box cars. The prototype cars did not seem to show dirt too badly, though as this photo from the late 1950s shows, eventually they got dingy. (Photo from the Bruce Petty collection) That’s an EXPLOSIVES placard on the door, reflecting the car’s assignment to ammunition service.

Here are my three models, varying in amount of dirt from right to left, but none of them terribly dirty.

     These examples illustrate some of the ways I want my model freight cars to look (of course, previous parts of this thread did so also). These four cases are not extensive, but I think they illustrate the general results of my weathering method. I will add comments on additional specific points as they come along in future modeling.
Tony Thompson

Friday, November 14, 2014

The SPH&TS meeting, San Luis Obispo, Part 2

I described some of the features of this annual meeting of the SP Society in a previous post, concentrating on the model display (here’s a link: ). In this Part 2, I will describe some things ourside of the meeting.
     On the way down to San Luis Obispo, my wife and I enjoyed one of the really pleasant lunch spots at Paso Robles, the Firestone Walker brewery. They have a nice Tap Room and a good, diverse menu, along with some excellent beer varieties. This was not my first visit and I hope far from my last.

     A highlight at San Luis Obispo was a visit to the newly opened Railroad Museum in the old SP freight station. They have done a superb job of retaining much of the look of the old interior, while placing exhibits which convey the story of SP’s place in town history. Of course there was also at one time another railroad, the Pacific Coast narrow gauge, and they have not neglected it. In fact, right outside the museum is a preserved PC box car, shown here with me in the foreground.

     A real highlight inside is an HO scale layout, still in the early stages but progressing very nicely. Already completed is a fine version of the PC pier at Avila (just a few miles from San Luis), as shown here. Andrew Merriam has done much of the backdrop work as well as contributing to the modeling.

Incidentally, the prototype of this pier still stands, though repaired and modified over the years, and one evening a group of us went there to the restaurant which now stands on the outer end of the pier (under the roof you see above) and had an excellent meal.
     The layout naturally does not neglect the Southern Pacific, though to date there is only the beginnings of familiar San Luis scenes. What is present, though, is of very good quality, as you can see in this view.

     The visit to San Luis Obispo had, as you can see, many attractions beyond just the headquarters hotel for the convention. It’s a very pleasant place to visit. I emphasized the same point in describing my attendance at the spring 2014 convention of the Pacific Coast Region of NMRA in the same city (you can see it at: ).
Tony Thompson

Monday, November 10, 2014

An excellent book on weathering

One of the discoveries of my visit to the marvelous National Railway Museum in York, England (see my description and photos of the museum itself at: ), while in the museum shop and naturally in the section on modeling, was an outstanding book on weathering of rolling stock. I purchased it at once, and want to pass on the information about it.
     The book is by Tim Shackleton, and is recent; the book was published by Ian Allan Publishing of Harsham, Surrey in 2013. Here is the book cover:

This is a 96-page soft-cover book, on heavyweight glossy paper with superb photo reproduction, so the book is a pleasure to use, whether just to browse or to study the individual projects. The cover does feature two passenger cars, but the interior is evenly divided between freight and passenger equipment. But it’s all British, I hear you say. True. More on that below.
     As it happens, Shackleton has also written a book on locomotive weathering, which looked every bit as nice, but I chose the one of more interest to me. This is the cover of that book:

Each of the books cost £16 (which is currently about $25, an extremely reasonable price for these well-made books). They and a whole bunch of others in the current Ian Allan series on modeling topics, can be purchased on line from their site, at: . The books can be delivered by surface post or air mail; the charges vary with package weight but charges start at £5 or £8, respectively, and they will calculate the cost for you (read the section on “Postage” on their site). They are quite experienced in worldwide shipping and you can trust the arrangements.
     What is inside? As mentioned, the prototypes are of course British, and some details of weathering patterns or freight car hardware are naturally different from U.S. experience. Many other details, however, are universal and apply perfectly well to U.S. modeling. But the key point is the clear demonstration of how to achieve the various weathering effects shown. Here is just one example of the results, on a group of wood and steel coal gondolas after long service.

     The illustrations of how the work was done are extremely clear and well photographed. I have not seen better illustrations of this kind, and Kalmbach’s model railroad books, to name one source of this kind of material, rarely come close to this standard. Here is one of the photos:

     I realize many people may shy away from a book about different prototypes. But I can assure you that you will find dozens of excellent weathering tips and techniques in this book that can help with any project. I cannot recommend it highly enough.
Tony Thompson

Friday, November 7, 2014

The SPH&TS meeting, San Luis Obispo, Part 1

The SPH&TS (Southern Pacific Historical & Technical Society) has just concluded its 34th National Convention at San Luis Obispo, California, covering October 29 through November 1. It is the second meeting we have held there, and both have been well organized, well run, and fun to attend. An extra highlight was visiting the new Railroad Museum, located in the old SP freight station at San Luis. A superb job has been done with exhibits and with a marvelous model railroad display too, and I will say more about that in Part 2.
     One of the activities I had been asked to help with was the long-traditional “Wall of Trains” exhibit which is almost always displayed at the annual meeting. (I have mentioned and shown this exhibit before, in describing the 2012 meeting; see it at: .) It’s a stair-stepped set of display tracks, about 16 feet long, and containing 11 tracks. At table height, it is indeed an imposing sight. I had been asked to bring a train for one of these tracks, namely a reefer train with traditional 2-10-2 power (fitting the conference theme this year, “Decks over Cuesta”) that would fill a track.
     This turned out to require 25 reefers, along with the Westside model of a Class F-5 locomotive and a brass caboose. It was tough to photograph the entire thing, but here is the head end. The train is the fifth track up from the bottom.

The rest of the consist can be seen below, showing all 25 reefers but not quite reaching the locomotive. I inserted five foreign reefers into this train, in accord with the fact that PFE used that many foreigns in peak harvest season. I chose an ART, a BAR, an FGE, an MDT, and a URTX Milwaukee car. See if you can spot them in the train (you can click on the image to enlarge.)

Three tracks above my reefer train is Andrew Merriam’s very nice beet train, with all gondolas depicted before the days when side extensions were added (that’s my era too).
     The contest room in which the “Wall of Trains” was displayed was also where quite a few fine models were exhibited in the contest. Because of the conference theme about Decks, there was a special contest category for such engines, and a whole bunch of fine locomotives was on display, including the diorama at right.

     As part of the “display only” part of the contest room, Dick Harley showed a number of his in-progress PFE models, to accompany the talk he gave on modeling the PFE wood-sheathed ice reefers. It was interesting to see the models in this form, and they perfectly complemented his presentation. Note the Microscale decal sheet shown — Dick did the artwork for the recent re-issue of Microscale set 501 (both 87-501 and 60-501).

     There is also a traditional contest category at SPH&TS meetings, the “What If” category, in which we have had everything from cab-forwards with F-unit fronts, to AC4400 locomotives in Black Widow paint, to Alco PA engines in Two-Tone Gray paint. This year the winning entry was Jim Elliott’s diorama of what would have happened if PMT had continued into the container era. In this intermodal terminal, we see both containers and trailers in Daylight colors, and even the stack cars are so painted. It was a popular winner.

     It was a fine meeting, most enjoyable for me and I think most others. I just wish all the cities to which we go with our convention were as pleasant and interesting as San Luis Obispo.
Tony Thompson

Tuesday, November 4, 2014

New grade crossing, Ballard —Part 3

In my previous post on this topic, I had completed the rough paving, along with the ties and paving between the rails. You can read that post here: .
     My next task was to complete soldering of all rail joints which required solder, and to drop and solder feeders to the ends of the two sidings. I used to rely on rail joiners for electrical transmission in many locations, but have since learned the lesson of the “subtle open circuit” which can develop at such locations, and now solder most joints. Also, as most modelers know by now, DCC power is more demanding of consistent voltages, so voltage drops through a series of rail joiners can be bad.

     With the soldering done and all rail sides painted brown, and electrical continuity verified throughout with a multi-meter, I used the same dirt to ballast the new track which was used elsewhere in Ballard. This dirt had been collected around home plate of a softball diamond, and much of it was very fine, just what I wanted. I screened out the oversize bits and was left with a (former) peanut butter jar of good, natural dirt. That’s the ballast in this area.
     My personal ballasting method is to apply the ballast material dry, spreading it just as I want it to be arranged. Here is how the area looked at that point.

     Once the ballast distribution looks good to me, I wet it thoroughly, using a misting sprayer with “wet water,” containing a few drops of dish detergent, and take the time to make sure that all areas are truly wet and that the water penetrates deep into the ballast. Then I use an eye dropper to apply a mixture of two-thirds water with one-third matte medium, the results of which I have found I like best. Tedious? Yep, but my philosophy is that I don’t mind tasks like that, as long as they only have to be done once.
     With that done, I could come back with acrylic paints to make the replaced paving a better color (the raw paper mache look is visible in the photo above). As I mentioned in Part 2 of this series, I wanted this new paving to differ in appearance from the rest of the roadway, to suggest a repaired and repaved area. I also used acrylic washes of brownish and grayish colors to give some variation to the color of ballast and ties.
     Once that was complete, the area looked like this. The ground throw for the switch at left has not been installed yet. The one at lower right is for a switch in an upper track, operating a long throw wire through a brass tube buried in the scenery.

I still need to dirty the paving in the traffic lanes, but overall this grade crossing is pretty much what I set out to accomplish.
Tony Thompson

Saturday, November 1, 2014

My acrylic weathering method, Part 9 (continued)

The previous post in this series, the first part of Part 9, introduced some details of the weathering process (not necessarily involving acrylic washes), and also provided links to all the previous posts in the series. It can be viewed at this link: . The present post continues with details of the weathering process, and is thus the continuation of the previous Part 9.
     I mentioned in the second post in this series, that streaking of car sides with the wash, even though less evident after the whole process is complete, can be subtly effective. Here I mostly mean streaking caused by drainage of water off the car, especially the roof. Here is another view of that being done, again prior to final weathering, when streaks like these will be somewhat muted. This is a Richard Hendrickson photo, from the weathering clinic we jointly designed and created, and then presented at several meetings, but what you see here is identical to my method. Subsequent weathering layers will subdue what may look like stark streaking at this point.

The same kind of streaking can be done on car ends, to represent the dirty water thrown up by the car wheels in wet weather.
     Once the weathering is completed to your satisfaction, you should in most cases add a reweigh paint patch and lettering, and if you are meticulous, also a repack stencil and even a brake reservoir stencil. For more information on the reweigh requirements for freight cars, you might wish to consult the article I wrote for Railroad Model Craftsman, a corrected version of which can be accessed at: . As for the brake reservoir lettering, which is often neglected, I posted a summary of how that was indicated on freight cars at this link: .
     One way to do show all these lettering modifications on a model is just to brush-paint an irregular patch over the NEW or weight date, and prototype photos certainly support such an appearance, or you can make a careful rectangle, most easily with decal sheet of boxcar red, black, orange, or whatever car color you have. This is another Richard Hendrickson photo, showing the decal process. Note the paint patch on the reservoir, to accept that stencil also.

     The other detail I add to almost all my cars is the route card, which was also discussed in the post just cited. Here is a small square of paper being applied to a PFE refrigerator car, in the common location near the door. Another common location was near the bolster at the bottom of the car side on wood-sheathed cars. On steel cars, of course, the route card would have to be tacked on the route card board, but on wood cars, clerks could and did place them all over. Most route cards appear to have been white or manila in color, but there are photos which clearly show pink, yellow, blue and green, so occasional cars having route cards of those colors would be realistic.

This car also has a reservoir stencil to indicate brake system servicing.
     Prototype photos frequently show that fragments of prior route cards remain on the car side or route card board, sometimes torn partly away. This is easy to reproduce with irregular little pieces of paper, as in this example.

Note also the “compressed gas” warning placard on the placard board, and the scuffing to the right of the door where the paint has been scraped.
     Once those kinds of details are added you should in most cases also add chalk marks. These marks were made by clerks or switchmen, and certainly were not graffiti, but were intended to provide information to switching or train crews. I have written about this aspect in an earlier post; you can see it at: . 
     Here is the process of making these marks on a model, again using a Prismacolor pencil sharpened almost to a needle point to accomplish HO-scale handwriting. In another Hendrickson photo, you can see this process, and visible here are the reweigh and brake reservoir stencils also. The route card board on the car door has already received a small paper square as a route card. You can click on the image to enlarge it.

     These details are among the things that make a routine sort of weathering job jump up to a higher level, and these details can really make a difference. In a forthcoming Part 10 I will wrap up all the features of my acrylic weathering method.
Tony Thompson