Wednesday, September 28, 2016

New book: SP and PFE lettering guide, freight cars

Just published is a new book from the Southern Pacific Historical & Technical Society (SPH&TS), entitled Southern Pacific Freight Car Painting and Lettering Guide, subtitled “Including PFE,” and is authored by Dick Harley and myself. I was responsible for the 95 pages on SP cars, and Dick Harley not only wrote but did the drawings for the 80 pages on PFE cars. John Signor did the SP drawings and designed the book. It is available (or soon will be) on the SPH&TS web site, which can be found at this link: . Click on “Company Store.”
     The book is a companion volume to the 2013 book by Jeffrey Alan Cauthen and John R. Signor, entitled Southern Pacific Painting and Lettering Guide, also from SPH&TS, subtitled “Locomotives and Passenger Cars.” Though currently out of print, the Society reportedly intends to reprint that volume.
     Shown below is the front of the dust jacket of this book, which is 11 x 8.5 inches in size, bound on the short side.

     As a single example of what is inside the SP section of the book, I show below a page for the gasoline tank cars, painted SP’s depot color, Colonial Yellow, over the entire tank. The drawing shown is for a tank car with circumferential joints in the tank top, and some cars of that type were indeed painted yellow for gasoline service, but the Class O-50-12 car in the photograph has a longitudinally jointed tank. That class was delivered entirely in this yellow scheme.

     I also want to show a representative page from the PFE section, in this case the 1951 change to move the SP emblems toward the B end on both sides of the car.

This is a good example of the refinement of the PFE information, which can be much more fine-grained than is possible for the SP section; many SP car classes had their own specific drawing to suit their physical dimensions, but it would not be practical to show every one, even if all of them were available. Instead, the main features for each era have to be shown as representative drawings for each car body type.
     This guide, which continues to the end of the SP in 1996, and to the end of joint SP and UP ownership of PFE in 1978, is clearly indispensable for any SP modeler, and will be of value to both UP and SP modelers who need information on PFE cars. Those who model other railroad prototypes may not wish to invest in an entire book to letter a few of their models correctly, but will certainly want to locate a friend or acquaintance who has this book for them to consult.
     Dick Harley, John Signor and I are proud of the book, and I’m sure many will greatly enjoy it, and more importantly, will enjoy using it as part of their modeling.
Tony Thompson

Sunday, September 25, 2016

Understanding your industries

Practically all model railroads include models of various industries. But what do I mean by “understanding” them? I just mean that you need to know more than the utter basics, both in how the industry itself is modeled, and in what cargoes go in, or out, or both, Of course, if it’s a model of a lumber yard, you would ship in lumber. If it’s a coal dealer, you ship in hoppers (or GS gondolas) of coal. If it’s a produce packing house, you ship out refrigerator car loads of perishables. But there is more to each of those industries, and there are others with considerably more complication.
     Before saying more, I should emphasize that if you don’t use, or want to use, waybills containing much information, you may not need any understanding of industries. There’s a warehouse on your layout, say, and you route box cars to and from the warehouse. That may be all the story you need. But lots of industries have more complex situations, and these can be interesting and rewarding, both to research and to operate on the layout.
     For one example, I have a printing company on my layout, called Caslon Printing, which is represented only by a building flat. What might be inbound and outbound here? What work is being accomplished by this box car?

The model, by the way, is a modified C&BT Shops kit, with replaced and upgraded details, lettered with decals for Southern’s New Orleans & Northeastern subsidiary (NO&NE).
     The most obvious inbound load is paper, which printers use in staggering quantities, and this wider-door car might well be carrying inbound paper. But printing plants serving regional rather than merely local customers will print and ship much of that paper out again. Glossy products like catalogs, brochures, advertising inserts for magazines or newspapers. and mailers of all kinds can represent pretty heavy loads. So this box car might equally easily be in the process of being loaded outbound. Other inbound loads can include ink, type, printing and binding machinery, solvents, and other necessities of printing. Some plants even ship out scrap paper.
     Caslon Printing is just a building flat, but it can represent a wide variety of loads inbound and also outbound, Any industry like this can be researched — it is amazing how much industrial and company information can be found via Google — and I find it fun to learn about this kind of material.
     Another example from my layout might be the fish cannery at Santa Rosalia. Naturally canned fish and fish products are loaded outbound, and things like empty cans are received inbound. But some kinds of fish are packed in oil, so that another inbound load can be vegetable oils. Here is a tank car from El Dorado Oil Works (edible oils, not petroleum products), being unloaded at the cannery.

This model is an 8000-gallon InterMountain tank on a cut-down Athearn underframe, with custom decals. Again, knowing a little more about the work of this industry helps with freight car operation as well as contributing interest. Research can even tell you what the commercial fish species are in the region you model (see my post about this, which you can find at this link: ). Then the outbound waybills can include regionally correct kinds of fish.
     These are just two examples, but I have enjoyed learning about many of the industries I have modeled on my layout. And if nothing else, the cargoes on my model waybills represent realistic shipments, inbound and outbound, for each industry. I would encourage any modeler to try and learn more about industries he or she models.
Tony Thompson

Thursday, September 22, 2016

Great Basin Getaway, 2016

The Great Basin Getaway or GBG is an alternate-year operating event in the Salt Lake City area, consisting of a number of fine layouts which are operated by visitors. This was the 27th year this event has been held (but mostly in alternate years), so it is a kind of “senior” event among operating weekends. Lee Nicholas has long been the mover and shaker of this event, and headed it up again this year. I had not previously attended, but was invited this year and found it an excellent function.
     This year’s dates were September 8 to 10, and we were blessed with warm instead of searing hot weather, as can easily happen along the Wasatch front in September. I carpooled with three others, driving from the Bay Area to Salt Lake, and arriving a day early, we could go railfanning before the start of GBG. We chose to drive up to Soldier Summit, the old D&RGW main line, where there weren’t many trains running, but we did make a most interesting visit to the Utah Railway shop at Martin. Seeing a lineup of their big Morrison-Knudsen MK-50-3 units was impressive.

And just look at the surroundings! What a location. It was a fun day.
     The first layout on which I operated was Gary Peterson’s Salt Lake Southern. A large and beautifully scenicked layout, it ran very smoothly. The first job I was assigned was the local to Lander, Wyoming, which had a whole bunch of industry spots and required careful planning to carry out all the car placements in limited space. A bonus to this job was the opportunity to watch mainline trains traverse the two-turn helix to the upper level, an “open” helix in which trains could be viewed during almost all of their time climbing up or down, a nice feature for engineers, who don’t have their train disappear for multiple minutes. You can see into the helix at the upper left of the photo below, with the train descending on the lower line as it leaves the helix; the upper line is near the top of the photo. In the foreground is Lander, where I was working.

Of course I can’t do justice to this extensive layout with a single photo, and this one is just an example. It was fascinating to walk around and see all the working areas and, later in the day, to run a train over the whole main line.
     My second layout was the Utah Colorado Western layout of Lee Nicholas, in Corinne, Utah. This is a nationally known and justly renowned layout, and I felt privileged to operate there. Like the Peterson layout, it is quite large and beautifully scenicked, but has quite a different flavor of its own. I really liked many of the skillfully designed industrial structures on the layout, for example Utah Steel, as shown here:

The backdrop here is typical of the layout, well conceived “hazy” features in the distance. Another example of beautifully rendered scenery is this corner scene. The coved corner is close to the center of the photo.

All in all, a terrific layout, certainly one of the best I’ve operated on.
     I didn’t have the pleasure of operating on Rob Spangler’s Western Pacific, but was able to visit during an open-house evening. Rob has done a terrific job with his scenery, and I really enjoyed the chance to see this layout, which is well along but continuing to develop. In the photo below, I deliberately show the room corner and the lower deck, just to show how nicely the layout is presented. The scenery on the upper deck is absolutely first class.

     My third layout operating session was at Pat Bray’s Southern California switching layout. It includes SP, Santa Fe and UP, along with the Harbor Belt Line at San Pedro. There are four busy yards and lots of industries, so the various operating jobs involve transfer runs as well as local switching. It was a lot of fun. Shown below is Pat Bray at right, talking with one of the other operators, Bill Decker, at left. In the foreground are the orange groves at Pat’s town of Highgrove.

     This was a superb weekend, one of the better operating visits I have made. My thanks go to the organizers, who presented a smoothly running weekend (including one heck of a banquet), and also to my carpool mates. With all of us confined to one automobile for all those hours, it’s most impressive we are not only still on speaking terms, but even remain friends!
Tony Thompson

Monday, September 19, 2016

Asphalt tank cars, Part 3

I introduced this subject with a post describing the use of prototype cars and showing one example of a model asphalt car I recently completed (see it at: ). A followup post showed additional photos of California Dispatch Line (CDLX) prototype cars and additional models of those cars (that post can be found at: ). In the present post I show additional information about asphalt cars.
     The previous posts might have given the impression that I am entirely focused on CDLX cars, and though I do have a number of such cars on my layout (including some representations of their considerable fleet of wine tank cars), my interests go beyond that. Another Western car owner which handled a lot of asphalt was the Richfield Oil Company, and photos exist of their cars. Here is one example, from the Bob’s Photo collection, an image taken at Los Angeles in February 1957:

Note the route cards stapled to the edge of the wood running board near both left and right trucks.
     The ROX car shown above is a 10,000-gallon (nominal size) tank car, and is an older design, conforming to ARA Class IV (the predecessor of post-1927 ICC Class 104), and is an insulated car, ARA/AAR Type TMI. As such, it is closer to the Proto2000 (now Walthers) insulated tank car I am using for these asphalt cars. For more on that model and how to buy it cheaply, see either of the two prior posts on this topic. The car shown is an American Car & Foundry Type 25 car. Richfield owned a number of AC&F tank cars, which happens to be the builder represented by the Walthers tank car. Thanks to Ted Culotta for help with the tnk car photo.
     For this model, I used an old Champ set, HT-243 for Richfield. It has much though not all of the data shown on the car above, but has lettering for 8000-gallon nominal capacity. I simply substituted from another decal set (Champ tank car data set HD-13) for the correct capacity of about 10,000 gallons. I also used another asphalt tank car set for the warning notice about application of steam to heater coils, located to the right of the ladder. The number I chose for the car, ROX 176, falls into Richfield’s 171–180 series, all 10,000-gallon cars of ARA Spec. III and equipped with heater coils.

Though the model structure is not yet complete, I will include a Richfield bulk oil dealer in my layout town of Santa Rosalia, and of course this car can be delivered there.
     I like the way the car has worked out, though of course it will look different when weathered. I look forward to achieving (hopefully) the streaks of spilled product you see in the prototype photo at the top of this post. I will show my weathering efforts on this Richfield car, and on earlier cars, in a future post.
Tony Thompson

Friday, September 16, 2016

Car flow for an operating session

When giving one of my occasional talks about waybills, or sometimes in response to blog posts about waybills, I get questions about how car flow is managed. By “car flow,” I don’t mean mere car movement, which of course is controlled by waybills or Empty Car Slips. I mean the overall patterns of car movement. As one questioner aptly put it, the issue is not how or why a car moves, but which car, and when.
     One key part of my approach to answering this question is to describe my creation and use of a “distribution schedule,” giving the frequency of car deliveries to each industry or car spot. A previous post described my distribution schedule, how it was devised and how it is used (you can read that post at this link: ). But use of this schedule is only part of how I set up an operating session, as I described a little briefly in an earlier post (see it at: ).
     There is always some carry-over from a prior session, cars spotted at industries which can now be picked up, whether freshly loaded or unloaded. Cars which departed in the last mainline local train from my branch are usually returned to storage, and new cars need to be selected as the new inbound cars. These can be cars called out by the distribution schedule, or may be cars that I simply want to cycle onto the layout after a time in storage. They do of course need to fit with the various industry destinations on the layout.
     Because I have a number of packing houses, there are always a whole bunch of PFE reefers on the layout, both spotted at those houses and also at the ice deck or in arriving or departing trains. These too I like to cycle, so that all my entire PFE fleet gets operated and the same cars do not show up time after time. In addition, in all but the winter I would diversify the reefer fleet with a couple of cars of other owners, such as ART and FGEX, just as PFE did to cover its needs.
     To show a single example, here is PFE 64739 being spotted at the ice deck in Shumala for what was known as “initial icing,” that is, the first icing after loading of the cargo.

     It isn’t car flow as such, but because I track seasonal produce harvests with the current calendar (I have described my approach to this in this post: ), I also cycle waybills to make sure crops are seasonally appropriate, and that suitable cars (in ventilator service, for example) are provided.
     Because I have tracked the car flow of previous sessions, I can also compare my distribution schedule with overall patterns. If a bulk oil dealer, for example, has not received a box car of consumer packaged material such as motor oil and lubricants, it may be time to add such a car to the car flow. Another example is inbound box shook and printed box labels for the packing houses, as you seen in the view below of switching the lemon association at Santa Rosalia on my layout.

And last inbound and outbound cars need to be balanced at a number of my industries.
     Finally, I do try to occasionally include something fairly exotic. This may be anything from a freight car from a very small railroad, to a vivid paint scheme like the Celanese tank car shown below, to a dramatic load on a flat car, such as a Euclid scraper or a couple of large diesel engines.

The tank car is not exotic in its cargo, just in its color. Practically all tank cars in my era were black, most with a modest amount of lettering, so even a perfectly legitimate chemical cargo becomes exotic in a bright paint scheme like this one. But most tank cars on my layout, like the prototype, are black.
     I should emphasize that the foregoing examples of unusual or exotic car movements are very much the exception. Most inbound and outbound cars on the layout are fairly mundane paint schemes and predictable cargoes, which is how it should be. Although I feel free to introduce variations that appeal to me, my distribution schedule is the framework for all my car flow.
Tony Thompson

Tuesday, September 13, 2016

Asphalt tank cars, Part 2

A few days ago I posted an introduction to the topic of asphalt tank cars. That post can be found at this link: . In the present post I want to say a little more, including showing some additional models.
     In my modeling area, the California central coast near Santa Maria, the most obvious source of asphalt is the Western Asphalt company right in Santa Maria. They leased tank cars from California Dispatch Line (reporting mark CDLX) and they were rather boldly lettered, as shown in the previous post on these cars. Often the cars got really seriously dirty (and of course caked in spilled asphalt). The photo of CDLX 1068 in the previous post showed that, and here is an even dirtier example, CDLX 1089, a photo from the Richard Hendrickson collection.

This is an older Standard Tank Car Co. tank car with safety valves “fore and aft” rather than grouped together at one side of the dome, toward the B end, as was common. This is the right side of the car, and has no dome walkway on this side.
    As mentioned in the previous post, California Dispatch had a large series of insulated tank cars of 10,000-gallon capacity, their series 1005–1199, nearly all of which were insulated and a number of which were lettered for asphalt service. Shown below is another one, freshly painted CDLX 1095 (Richard Hendrickson collection). Its steam piping is visible on the end of the car.

Note that on this clean car you can see the directions for application of steam to the heater pipes (between the reporting marks and the ladder), the “asphalt only” notation to the right of the ladder, and beyond that lettering, toward the right end of the car, is the notation, “leased to Shell Oil Co.”
All these lettering items are contained in the former Jerry Glow decal set, now available from Tichy as their set no. 10039. Unfortunately, Tichy chose to identify this as an 8000-gallon car, which it is not, but the lettering is readily substituted.
     I used another one of the same Walthers (ex-Proto2000) tank cars that were shown in the previous post, to use this decal set, even though the model is a Type 21, the shorter and fatter tanks common before the mid-1920s. The photos above do show a longer and slimmer tank, though of the same 10,000-gallon capacity. Thus I did not use the same car number on my model. It’s shown below, with the Tichy decals except for the gallonage on the car end.

     I should mention again that this car started life as the silver upper-body convention car model offered at the 2011 NMRA National Convention, and was simply repainted black. For anyone wishing to do the same with these convention cars, a special price, for a limited time only, is $10 for the car, $7 shipping within the U.S. Go to the 2011 convention store (still open at: ) to buy the cars, as long as supplies last.
     As I mentioned in the previous post, my discussion of Western Asphalt cars may remind some of an Overland brass model from some years back (their OMI-3229). The model included decals for Western Asphalt, though one has to correct the Overland decals, which have the reporting marks as COLX, instead of CDLX. I fixed the error with a touch of white paint. Here is a photo of my model. Note that the reporting mark area is dirtier than the other lettering, in accord with the prototype photo shown in the previous post.

It is not very evident in this shot of the entire model that there is a representation of a lot of spilled asphalt. Shown below is a closer-up view to clarify that. (You can click to enlarge.)

     One obvious question is how these tank cars could be unloaded, or at what kind of facility. A few photos and a complete drawing of an older facility was included in the Model Railroader issue for October 1978, pages 100 and 101, by H.R. Lloyd Jr entitled “A bulk tar storage facility.” This was a city-owned facility in Ann Arbor for road tar, and had a boiler to provide steam to help with unloading into storage tanks. Unloading was by gravity from the tank car’s bottom outlet. I have also seen a fuzzy photo of a tank truck alongside an asphalt tank car, evidently at a team track.
     I have enjoyed researching and lettering these asphalt tank car models, and have incorporated them into my layout operating scheme, both as deliveries to the California Division of Highways facility on my layout, and also as team track deliveries. In both cases, I assume they would be unloaded into tank trucks, either to go to road repair jobs or to an asphalt plant for mixing with aggregate. I have been told that some bulk oil dealers also handled asphalt, and that could be an additional destination for these cars.
Tony Thompson

Saturday, September 10, 2016

Waybills, Part 52 — in-transit bills, model

In a previous post, I tried to explain what the in-transit privilege consists of, and the way it is billed on the prototype (you can see that post at this link: ). I followed that post with an additional post to explain some of the complexities in commodity quantities in the paperwork for in-transit billing (at: ). In the present post, I will show some ideas about how a corresponding model waybill might be prepared. Since extremely few modelers want even to pretend to do the record-keeping involved in complex in-transit situations like the wheat-to-flour or lumber shipments shown in the two previous posts, I will attempt to offer simplifications.
     I will begin with the actual in-transit waybill form recommended by AAR (the Association of American Railroads) and used by virtually every railroad. This form is taken from page 120 of the book that is the authority on these matters, Railway Accounting Rules, published by the Accounting Division of AAR, the 1950 edition. (You can click to enlarge, but I show the relevant parts at larger size below.) Its form number is AD-134, the “AD” referring to the Accounting Division.

You may note that much of what is in this form is the dimensions, all in the typesetter’s unit of picas, so that forms prepared by all railroads would be the precise same dimensions.
     There are two parts of this form that differ from the standard freight waybill (AAR Form AD-98), and those parts are the header and the section at the bottom, “Inbound Billing References.” First, the header, because that part is easy to add to our model waybills. It just shows the usual title block, including railroad name and code number.

If not familiar with code numbers, you may wish to read my post at: . These were simply a compact and standard reference for each railroad, using numbers assigned by AAR.
     Next is the lower part, the “Inbound Billing References.” I showed such a section filled out in the previous post (link at the top of the present post). Here is the prototype blank section.

As modelers, we can immediately see that some of these sections, such as Bureau No. (the left column), and the Rate and Charges columns (last four on the right), are things we probably don’t care about and will omit from a model form. Even those changes give something simpler:

I should note that this 1950 form segment is simplified from the older form shown in the previous post, a 1920s form, because the 1950 version puts point of origin, originating railroad, and date all into one column. My own version is somewhere in between.
     I will now show an example of a model form which incorporates these two elements. Since any such transit waybill would be issued by a railroad, I have made my example for the Southern Pacific, which would be the source of most transit waybills used on my layout.

You can see that I made a simplified “inbound reference” section at the bottom, and used the Transit header at the top. Much of the rest is the same as my standard model waybill.
     To show an example of how it might be filled out, Here I show an outbound boxcar load of paint thinner in consumer packaging (cans), and the starting point is acetone (used as paint thinner for some kinds of paint). It is the inbound acetone that results in the claim of in-transit processing benefit. The inbound reference part of this bill is pretty simplified and I may go further with it.

     I have only made a couple of waybills like this, and will continue to experiment with how well they work, how well I like them, and how well crews in operating sessions can interpret them. Of course the material at the bottom of this waybill is only “typographical scenery,” as Al Kalmbach once referred to such things, but is part of the overall appearance of a bill like this.
Tony Thompson

Wednesday, September 7, 2016

My column on trucks in the September MRH

The September, 2016 issue of Model Railroad Hobbyist (MRH) has just been released. This month it’s again my turn to appear as a columnist in the column series, “Getting Real.” My topic is trucks, both the prototype at the detail level, and also modeling them. You can download this or any issue of MRH for free at their website,
     Regular readers of this blog will recognize that I have been posting about truck modeling for several months, and I provide links to those prior posts below. But the material in the MRH column is almost entirely distinct from the blog posts, even though the information naturally is very much parallel. The column contains significantly more information about prototype trucks than do any of the posts, but perhaps a little less about modeling.
     Here are the links to previous posts about trucks:

and in addition to those links, I should mention the excellent Richard Hendrickson document on HO scale model trucks, identifying which one match which prototypes; I presented a Google Drive link to that document in this blog post: .
     I have further ambitions for modeling freight car trucks in the context of wheelset changing or truck repair, and will be posting more on these topics. But in the meantime, the MRH article should provide good background.
Tony Thompson

Sunday, September 4, 2016

Asphalt tank cars

Tank cars are endlessly interesting, at least to me, and one distinctive type is the asphalt tank car. About 85 percent of the asphalt consumption in the U.S. goes into paving, in which about 5 percent asphalt is mixed with 95 percent stone aggregate to make what engineers call “asphalt concrete.” (You can read much more about this in a Wikipedia entry for asphalt.) Asphalt itself can be a natural product but nowadays most asphalt is a residue of petroleum refining, and is very viscous, even semi-solid, at room temperature. Thus tank cars used to transport it typically either have heater pipes, or are insulated to keep the product warm as long as possible.
     In the Far West, asphalt is extensively produced from California crude oil, which contains an unusually high proportion of asphalt. Many oil deposits around the world are based on paraffin wax rather than asphalt, but of course asphalt is readily produced from asphaltic oils. Moreover, the asphalt produced in California (and the Gulf Coast) is not only consumed locally but may be transported far afield. My favorite illustration of this is the photo below, taken by J. Bowie at Chattanooga, Tennessee on July 28, 1948 (photo in the Wilber C. Whittaker collection, from whom I obtained a print). It shows a California Dispatch Line tank car, CDLX 1068, rather clearly lettered for Western Asphalt of Santa Maria, California.

Spilled asphalt is evident around, below and on the dome. You can click on the image to enlarge. Note, incidentally, that the reporting marks and number are much dirtier than the lessee’s name.
     As it happens, CDLX had quite a few tank cars like this in asphalt service, though only a few of them were assigned to Western Asphalt. Here is a builder photo from AC&F of another asphalt tank car owned by CDLX. Being new and clean, minor lettering can be seen much better.

     An avenue to model such cars is the AC&F Type 21 insulated tank car sold ready-to-run (RTR) by Walthers from time to time (originally a Proto2000 model). This is a good representation of an older Class ICC 104 tank car (for more on such cars, see my column in Model Railroad Hobbyist, MRH, in the issue for February 2016; you can download this or any issue for free at their website, ). I said a little about these models and their availability from a non-Walthers seller in a post about wine tank cars, which can be found at this link: .
     I simply took one of the convention tank cars mentioned in the post just cited, which have silver upper bodies, and spray painted it entirely flat black, then added Testors Glosscote for decaling. The former Jerry Glow decals for a Western Asphalt car are now available from Tichy, their decal set no. 10013, which is for a 10,000-gallon car. Happily, the Walthers Type 21 is exactly that size. The Tichy decal set lacks the tank testing data seen at the far right edge of a tank body, and I added that from another decal set on hand. Here is the model with decals applied (needs heavy weathering, of course, which will follow).

     For anyone wishing to do the same with these convention cars, a special price, for a limited time only, is $10 for the car, $7 shipping within the U.S. Go to the 2011 convention store (still open at: ) to buy the cars, as long as supplies last.
     This Western Asphalt car may remind some of an Overland brass model from some years back. The model included decals for Western Asphalt which were pretty good, except that Overland made the reporting marks as COLX, instead of CDLX. It’s easily fixed with a touch of white paint. I have such a car and will show it in a future post.
     This car will join two other asphalt cars on my layout, since I model an area near Santa Maria, California. They can be unloaded at the California Division of Highways facility on my layout, or at team tracks, where I know asphalt was unloaded also. I find them an interesting addition, not just to my car fleet, but to my operating patterns as well.
Tony Thompson

Thursday, September 1, 2016

Trackwork wars

This title, “Trackwork wars,” may remind some readers of an ongoing series in this blog, called “Electrical wars.” (You can use that phrase as a search term in the search box to the right of this post, if you would like to see some of those posts.) The two topics are, of course, linked, in that layout electrical problems can result from trackwork issues, and vice versa. My initial post on the electrical side made that point (you can read that first post at this link: ). In the present post, I will concentrate don the track part of the issue.
     In the past, I have always laid track with care, sighting along the line of track frequently, almost obsessively, to make sure the rail path flows smoothly and that all rail joints have a smooth transition also. I have usually also been very careful about vertical curves, ensuring that all transitions between level and gradient track are smooth too. But recently I added some track in an area which is difficult to reach (the experienced layout builder reading this is already saying “uh oh”). Sure enough, that trackage turned out to have some problems.
     The area of problems is where my old layout trackage in the town of Ballard had ended, and where I added a new track alignment to curve into the next town on the branch, Santa Rosalia. The photo below shows the area before the development of Jupiter Pump & Compressor, with the main line to Santa Rosalia at the bottom of the photo.

The main problem area is the track to the left of the bridge, bottom left in the photo above, which can be seen to have an inconsistent curve, and the curved switch on the bridge itself. I worked on the area for some time myself, and had made it a little better, but steam locomotives still tended to derail in this area at all but creeping speeds.
     Here is a closer-up view. At lower right can be seen the irregular and too-sharp curvature of the track heading for the bridge. The Jupiter plant switcher is in the background.

The obviously “in work” area at photo center is the area that will support the lead to Ballard’s Track 7, where the gradient needed to be adjusted from the previously built track base. (For a schematic map of Ballard, see this post: .) I will say more about that project in a future post.
     A couple of friends who had operated on the layout volunteered to consult on, and if necessary work on, this track problem. Jim Providenza and Paul Weiss arrived with a sobering quantity of tools and materials and set to work. Paul quickly pulled the ties from under the problem area at the right of the photo immediately above, including part of the turnout itself, and gently re-aligned it to let the rails curve naturally and smoothly. He then checked the track gauge and soldered each rail to a PC board tie. He also found that the trackwork in the whole area was not in a single plane, but needed some shims to be brought level. Here is how it looked when he finished. You can see how much smoother the curvature is, though it could be improved still more by hand-laying one or both of the adjacent switches to get a smoother curve. That may eventually be necessary.

Again, the area just above the trackwork will be the Track 7 lead.
     Meanwhile, Jim was hard at work with a very valuable step: checking all rail gaps to make sure they were open, and placing styrene strip in them to prevent them closing. This filler also ensures a smooth running surface for equipment operating over this track. An example of the finished product is shown below, just at the Nipomo Street crossing in Ballard.

The styrene fillers here look like white spots on the rail, just to the right of the road crossing, and of course will be painted rail color.
     Once the track corrected by Paul was checked again for gauge (it was right), I added ties under the rail and ballasted it. Shown below is a low-level view, akin to sighting along the rail, to show that it curves smoothly and has a slight easement. Ballast is freshly applied and needs a little cleaning up.

     It is good to have this problem addressed, and I greatly appreciate the help of my friends in taking this on. I have an upcoming operating session and will regard the session as a working test for the corrected track segment.
Tony Thompson