Friday, January 29, 2021

Freight car graffiti, Part 22: autoracks

 As part of my ongoing series of posts to this blog, about applying graffiti to freight cars for an HO scale layout set in 1996, I will be describing my approach to autorack cars. But before beginning, I will mention that you can easily find previous posts in the series by using “freight car graffiti” as the search term in the search box at right. The previous post in the series is here: .

These autorack cars are very long, nominally 89 feet, and typically comprise a three-level, railroad-owned structure to accept roll-on, roll-off automobiles, mounted on a flat car (which may be called a “platform”), often owned by Trailer Train (now TTX), sometimes by the railroad. Here’s an example, in a prototype photo by Matthew Schimmel, of a Southern Pacific rack on a TTX flat car, ETTX 905167.

This particular car does have graffiti, applications which are as common on autoracks as on any car, though usually they are relatively low in height on the car. Larger graffiti pieces call for longer work periods and often additional equipment like ladders, and because autoracks carry relatively hot cargo, these cars usually don’t sit around waiting to be painted. Here is an example from my own photography, in this case showing a car with the common “outline” or “throw-up” pieces, which can be done quickly (I discussed these variations in my article in Model Railroad Hobbyist, in January 2020).

Models of these long cars have been available for some time. It was my challenge to apply graffiti to them. For the present post, I will show two HO scale racks as I received them. First, a Grand Trunk Western rack, riding on a railroad flat car, GTW 504109.

Second, a Union Pacific autorack, with a TTX platform, numbered TTGX 155147.

For the GTW rack, I applied two decals on the left side, one from Microscale set 87-243, the other from Blair Line set 2263. I then weathered the car with acrylic washes, gave it a coat of clear flat finish, and added tags with “Micron” and “Gelly Roll” pens, as in previous posts. Here is that left side, completed:

For the right side of the car, I used another Blair Line decal, this time from set 2257. As completed, with weathering and tags, it looked as shown below. You can also see the roof weathering.

The Union Pacific autorack was approached a little differently. To begin, on the left side of the car, I applied a Blair Line decal, from their set 2261. The Blair Line images are largely of smaller, horizontal graffiti pieces, comparable to the low applications I have seen in the prototype, and thus what I wanted to apply to these cars. Then I applied acrylic-wash weathering and added a variety of tags.

On the right side, I again applied a Blair Line decal, from set 2267, and a T2 decal. Then the addition of weathering and a few tags gave me the look you see below (as with all these photos, you can click on the image to enlarge it if you wish).

These cars are an interesting change from relatively smooth-sided cars like covered hoppers or most box cars, and were thus a chance to try a few slightly different approaches. As always, I wanted the final results to be era-appropriate and fit in with the remainder of the layout car fleet. I believe these cars can do that.

Tony Thompson

Tuesday, January 26, 2021

Jupiter Pump & Compressor, Part 6

 This series of posts is essentially about placing an additional structure at Jupiter Pump & Compressor, the only industry on my layout that’s imagined to be fairly large, and is thus mostly has to be modeled on the backdrop. In the preceding post in the series, I had put in place a concrete walkway around the structure, an AL&W kit for an SP power house (see that post at: ). 

As I showed in that previous post. the ground contours around the structure were blended up to the walkway edges using paper mache. Once that was fully dry, I painted it with a mixture of my usual ground color, Rust-Oleum “Nutmeg,” lightened with a little bit of Rust-Oleum “Almond” to soften it somewhat. While the paint was still wet, I sprinkled on some Woodland Scenics “green grass” to make a start on the scenery.

With that in place, I decided on a minimal sign for the building. As with many industrial multi-building plants, individual buildings may be numbered, and I chose a number to apply to this one. I also thought that I should add the company name, since this building is closest to nearby Bromela Road and thus would be seen by motorists (nowadays, of course, many industrial buildings show scarcely any signage, but in the transition era, the situation was much different). The logo here is just a black-and-white version of the color one on the main building signboard (see photo above).

I also proceeded with adding some vegetation to the area around the building. In this area of the layout, I am using somewhat olive-toned and dark green foliage mixtures, rather than any bright greens. Other layout areas, imagined to be farther inland, show classic California “golden grass,” but as this area is not far from the seashore, vegetation is different. 

The Woodland Scenics products I am using in this area are Dark Green foliage, a wonderful material I use a lot for small shrubs; Burnt Grass extra coarse turf, again representing small plants; and Light Green coarse turf, mixed with a little Green Grass fine turf, for grass-like plants. I normally dab some irregular areas with matte medium, and apply various combinations of the above materials to the dabs. This provides enough adhesion to hold them in place.

In the scene above, the man with the wheelbarrow is an ancient Campbell figure. You can just see the plant switcher between the buildings. 

This completes the scenic work right next to the new building. The surrounding area continues to need further vegetation and refinement, but that’s a topic for a future post.

Tony Thompson

Saturday, January 23, 2021

Waybills, Part 78: car weights

 As you can readily tell from the title of this post, identifying it as the 78th post on a single topic, I have been writing extensively over the years about waybills and all their ramifications and implications for use in model railroading. You can readily find a list of the previous posts in the series by using “waybills, part” as the search term in the search box at right.

My subject in the present post is an interesting detail on prototype waybills, the identification of a loaded car’s weight. This may happen in a number of ways, as I detail below, but it’s important to remember that even though tariffs were all on the basis of weight (with a partial exception which I mention below), most cars were not weighed on a railroad scale.

The primary reason the railroad didn’t need to weigh a car is because of weight agreements. A shipper might have an approved and licensed scale, so that items placed into a railroad car  could be weighed before placement, and the total added up; or the cargo loaded could comprise identical manufactured products, such as step ladders — just count the ladders and multiply by the unit weight — with some allowance for dunnage. 

These agreements are usually indicated on a waybill with a stamp giving the issuing authority (a regional Weighing and Inspection Bureau, or WIB) and the agreement number. I’ve written about model versions of these stamps (see that post at this link: ). An example of a waybill with such a stamp is below (from the Andy Laurent collection), the round stamp halfway down the right edge. 

But not all cars have their loaded weights determined this way. Many cars were in fact weighed on railroad scales. Usually that was shown on the waybill with a copy of the weight slip from the scale pasted right onto the waybill. An example of such a slip is shown below (a scale at Cedar Lake Yard on the CNW), again courtesy Andy Laurent.

The gross weight appears to have been printed out by the scale equipment, though the tare or light weight must have been entered by the scale operator. This kind of form can readily be made into a blank for use on model waybills, as was done for weight agreement stamps. 

But sometimes the relevant weights were all typed onto the waybill, evidently at West Yard on the LS&I, for a load of lumber. Note the allowance for dunnage (stakes) and the weight agreement stamp for the LS&I scale.

These kinds of weight data presentations can be quite obvious on waybills, such as the Canadian National perishable bill (yes, it's on the AAR-recommended pink paper), shown below — again, Laurent collection. The weight slip at middle right appears to be a carbon copy, with the original presumably preserved at the scale location. This bill is for a cargo of blueberries from Chicoutimi, Quebec, to Sturgeon Bay, Wisconsin.

Model waybills need not look like the example above to be fully realistic, but this example does show that prototype waybills, by the time they reached their destination, were far from pristine.

I mentioned that there is a significant exception to this focus on weights. It is tank car cargoes. They rely on gallonage, and the “shell full” gallonage, which is stenciled on the ends of the car, is the amount when the horizontal cylinder of the tank is just full, easily observed from the manway during filling. But the actual tariff is by weight. Each kind of cargo has a conversion factor, such as 5.64 pounds per gallon, and the weight is then calculated to the nearest hundred pounds. But the car is not normally weighed, nor in many cases is its light weight even shown on the car.

I continue to explore ways to make model waybills look more like the prototype ones, at least for inbound loads that have passed through many yard offices on their way to destination. Weight data are just one part of that.

Tony Thompson

Wednesday, January 20, 2021

Freight car graffiti, Part 21: more box cars

 In a series of posts, I have been describing a number of 1990s freight cars to which I have applied different kinds of graffiti. To find previous posts, you can use “freight car graffiti” as the search term in the search box at right. It might also be of interest to look at my article in Model Railroad Hobbyist (MRH), in the issue for January 2020 (you can visit their website at: ), in which I discussed the topic more generally.

In the present post, I want to describe the same kind of work on two more 60-foot box cars to extend this series. This follows on to a previous post about the same kinds of cars, and takes a broadly similar approach (see that post at this link: ).

The first car I will talk about here is a Santa Fe double-door waffle-side car, ATSF 37545, shown below as it came to me (with only the very lightest weathering by its owner, Seth Neumann). 

I began with this car by applying some graffiti decals, though not excessively large ones; my observation of prototype waffle-side cars is that they must be a challenge for the “artists” to paint and thus don’t get as heavily marked. (The models are similarly more effort to decal.) On the left side, as you see below, I applied graffiti from Microscale set 87-1533 and 87-243, then weathered the car and added some tags.

On the right side, I again chose a medium-size graffiti piece, this one from Blair Line set 2262, along with the usual weathering and tags.

Finally, as this car has a painted roof rather than the usual unpainted galvanized roof, I decided to depict some paint failure, with corresponding exposed galvanized surface, using gray paint. Then I added the beginning of rusting in those areas (you can click on the image to enlarge it if you wish). 

The second car I want to present is a car from the Railbox family. Railbox was always a subsidiary of Trailer Train, which gradually built more and more of these free-running box cars. The “TBOX” reporting mark was introduced in 2003, and is thus mildly anachronistic on Seth’s 1996 layout, but when well dirtied, will not call attention to itself. (If TTX history is of interest, I recommend their own website, at: ). Here is the car in its original appearance.

My approach here was to add graffiti, and to plan on somewhat heavy weathering. The left side of the car was given graffiti from Microscale sets 1523 and 1533, as you see below, along with weathering and tags.

For the right side of the car, I used Microscale set 87-1533 and a smaller T2 decal, following as usual by a protective coat of flat finish, acrylic-wash weathering, and tags.

These two cars have been interesting additions to the weathering and graffiti applications I have been developing. I think these will be sound additions to Neumann’s freight car fleet.

Tony Thompson

Sunday, January 17, 2021

Another simple resin kit

 I have in the last several years written a couple of blog posts about simple resin kits, as requested by a few folks who admitted to some intimidation with resin. (Years ago, Al Westerfield named this response “Westerfear.”) I understand, because even opening the box of the classic resin kit can be pretty daunting to a modeler of limited experience. 

But there are some good introductory resin kits out there. The present post describes yet another example, hopefully showing how simple these kits can be. And if you have never built one, I very strongly urge you to build one of the simple ones, with a one-piece body, that will help increase confidence in tackling this type of kit.

The one being described today is a good example of what resin does for us: it’s a reproduction of a very specific car, one that would be awfully unlikely to ever be produced in styrene. It happens to be a Funaro & Camerlengo kit (F&C), their kit no. 6940, for a Pennsylvania Railroad Class F33 flat car. Actually, it’s a well car, a kind of flat car with an open center to permit carrying the absolute maximum height cargoes.

Below is a prototype photo (image PRR no. E11326) from the Pennsylvania Railroad Technical & Historical Society (PRRT&HS) archives. It shows the all-welded construction, the short-wheelbase Buckeye trucks, and the double brake staffs, reflecting a double brake system. Lettering shows the 250,000 pound capacity. This car was built in October 1938; the class eventually comprised 16 cars. (You can click on the image to enlarge it if you wish.)

This photo, by the way, is from the really useful PRRT&HS book shown below, and I include mention of it here because of the interesting cover photo of a well car of another class (Class F49) with a good example of the extreme-height cargo carried by cars of this type. This excellent softbound book is still available for $20 from the PRRT&HS (see all their current books at: ).

Before continuing, I should emphasize something important. A well car simply had its opening to accommodate tall loads, but not with the weight resting inside the well. In that sense, it’s the opposite of a depressed-center flat car, where the weight should rest in the low part. So a well-car load usually is supported by a frame of some sort across the well, with weight supported on the car ends, or as shown in the cover photo above, by the sides of the well.

The F&C kit is essentially the complete car body, the unique trucks, and a few detail parts. Here’s a photo of the resin body as you receive it. The “nubs” over the bolsters will be removed.

This body is all but weightless as a resin casting, so my first step was to add some weight. I placed a sheet of lead, 1/16-inch thick, underneath the entire length of the car’s well (this lead was purchased from Small Parts; today I would choose McMaster-Carr). I didn’t plan to model the underbody details anyway.

The trucks are interesting, in duplicating the short-wheelbase Buckeye trucks of the prototype. The resin in which these are cast is tough and flexible enough to flex and accept insertion of wheelsets when assembled. 

The two trucks, with one sideframe assembled to the bolster for each truck, are shown below in their original white resin — I thought this might be a little easier to see than when they are painted black. Pins on the back of each sideframe mate with the holes in the bolster ends (visible at upper right).

I plan to use Kadee wheelsets for this car. 

Other steps, following kit directions, were to install wire grab irons, resin molded corner steps, and brake wheels, and then paint and lettering. These will be described in a following post.

Tony Thompson

Thursday, January 14, 2021

Modeling a Celanese tank car, Part 2

In Part 1, I showed prototype photos of tank cars operated by the Celanese Corporation. One intriguing feature is that although most of them were painted a medium green color, color photos of these cars show a range in tone from pea-soup green to almost lime green. Many had paint bands around the tank at the dome, in various colors, but some did not. To view that post, use this link: . 

The previous post did show several prototype Celanese cars, but only supplied a sampling of the wide range of appearances of these cars. Here is an additional example, from the Richard Hendrickson collection of tank car photos (now at CSRM). It is GATX 77414, a 10,181-gallon insulated car, as we know from the Tank Car Capacities Tariff , and the ORER (Official Railway Equipment Register) supplies the AAR car type, TLI, meaning a lined and insulated tank car, not a high-pressure car. 

In the previous post, at the link shown in the top paragraph of the present post, an overhead color view shows GATX 77460 (as well as I can make out the car number), and it too is the same sort of car, a nominally 10,000-gallon size and a TLI type. 

I decided to start with the prepainted model shown below. The green is a little odd, but hardly any prototype Celanese tank cars in photos look the same as any other Celanese car, so I will live with this. It does have the Celanese name in script at the left, and the word “chemicals” in sans-serif letters at the right. This looks like a good starting point, so my plan is to save the lettering.

Comparing the two photos above, the Athearn tank is clearly longer, and indeed, being more than 11,000 gallons in capacity (as we know from its dimensions), that’s no surprise. These tanks can be shortened, though the process is neither quick nor really easy (you can see my earlier post at: ), referring to my article in Railroad Model Craftsman, July 2011, pp. 65–71. And the idea for that project really goes back to Mark Fedderson’s fine article about something similar, in Mainline Modeler: “ICC-104 Insulated Tank Car,” October 1985, pp. 63–69.

But I didn’t intend my model to be a meticulous match to a prototype, but merely to represent a typical Celanese car. For that, I can use the stock car body. Accordingly, I began with the first task with an Athearn “chemical” car (as they call it; the term is meaningless), which is to remove the immense valve bonnet, too large even for S scale and misshapen for O scale, and to replace it. The Athearn platform is also removed and discarded.

If one is modeling an ICC Type 105A pressure car, then of course replacing the Athearn valve bonnet should be done with a scale-size bonnet.  But if that’s not the case, if one is modeling an insulated Type 104 or 103, as I am doing with the present model, the appropriate replacement is instead a conventional expansion dome. You can see what I mean in the photo at the top of the present post.

I began by disassembling the model shown in the photo above. Then the Athearn bonnet was sawed off and the area filed flat, as were the “ribs” Athearn molds onto the top of the tank to align the platform. Then the model is ready for a dome to be added, as I have shown in earlier posts (for example, summarized here: ). The model at this point is shown below.

Next comes adding an expansion dome. In previous projects like this, I have used the excellent Tichy dome, but decided here to use an ancient molding from Detail Associates of a complete dome. Its disadvantage is that it has a flat bottom, which doesn’t exactly sit down onto the curved tank top. I had to carve and file a lowered area on the tank to accommodate it, then use modeling putty to fill gaps. This isn’t elegant, but will be covered by the dome platform. 

For this kind of job, I really prefer the Tamiya “Basic Type” gray modeling putty. For years, I relied on Squadron Green, a good product, but Tamiya putty is smoother to apply, has less shrinkage, and once fully set, is relatively hard and can be filed and sanded. Simply a better product. For this model, I knew there would be a gap under the dome sides, and also had to fill the two dimples on the top of the tank (you can see them at the center of the former ribs across the tank top in the photo above).

I applied the Tamiya putty to fill most of the desired areas, but knowing that there would be some shrinkage, did not really try to accomplish final contours in the first application. After allowing several hours for the first application to fully set, I cleaned up around the areas where putty was present, and made a second application. The model then looked as you see below.

It is still not quite in final contour, but it is close at this point, and likely will just need a light additional coat of the modeling putty in a few spots.

At this point, I need to turn to the dome platform. Nearly all the Celanese insulated cars of which I have seen photos had these platforms, and I want to add one here. I will take up that part of the project in a future post.

Tony Thompson

Monday, January 11, 2021

Freight car graffiti, Part 20: a couple of hoppers

 My series on freight car graffiti extends back over the past year, ever since the article of mine on this topic was published in Model Railroad Hobbyist (MRH), in the issue for January 2020. You can obtain a copy of this or any issue of MRH at their website, , but now that the series of “Getting Real” columns, to which I contribute, is contained in companion “Running Extra” issues of MRH each month, these are no longer free. The price varies from time to time; individual issues have recently cost $2.99.

Previous posts in this series are easily found by using “freight car graffiti” as the search term in the search box at right.

The present post addresses two different sorts of hopper cars. The first one is a “Golden West Service” car. For those who don’t know, this is a former Southern Pacific car. In the late 1980s, SP was very short of funds, and had many freight cars in need of repair. The SP pursued a strategy used by many companies short of cash: selling the cars to someone else to obtain money, then leasing them back. In this case the purchaser was leasing giant Greenbrier. 

The Greenbrier cars were refurbished and repainted in a blue scheme and given new reporting marks of working railroads. These were the marks of various short lines that received compensation for the use, including Ventura County Railway (initials VCY), Coe Rail (CRLE), and the Galveston Railroad (GVSR). The car shown below is an Ortner-type hopper car, thus has a car number beginning with “6,” as did all Golden West hoppers. 

The model of GVSR 637720 as I received it from owner Seth Neumann already had the interior weathered, as you can see above.

For the left side of this car, I used a single Blair Line decal from their set no. 2262. You may also notice that I have added a number of tags with a fine-tipped “Micron” pen, as described in my post about tagging generally. You can find that post here: . I have given this car larger graffiti pieces, as is typical of these rock, sand and ballast cars in the prototype.

For the right side of the car, I returned to my Blair Line decals, in this case set no. 2261 (you can see their line at this site:  ). I also added a few tag legends from Microscale set 87-243, along with the “Micron” pen tags. Both sides of the car were also weathered with acrylic washes after decaling.

The other car for the present post is an SP covered hopper, SP 493502.  This is a conventional hopper, and is shown below as I received it from its owner.

Decaling for this car took advantage of the light body color. As I have reviewed in a previous blog posts, some brands of decals are relatively transparent and thus take on the hue of the body color beneath them (see my review at this link: ). 

On the left side of this model, I used two decals, one a Dave’s Decal (set 6028) and the other from Blair Line set 2263. As you see it below, the car is also weathered and has received some tags. You can see the roof weathering here too.

On the right side of the car, I chose to add only one large decal, again from Dave’s set 6028, then added some small decal tags from Microscale set 87-243 and also a few with “Micron” pens.

Because of their differences in body color, these two models were approached in quite different ways, but have a certain overall similarity in degree and color of weathering. This would be typical of cars like these which tend to operate repeatedly in the same region of the country. They should fit right in on the owner’s layout.

Tony Thompson


Saturday, January 9, 2021

My latest column in MRH

My latest column in the “Getting Real” series has just appeared in the January 2021 issue of MRH, which is Model Railroad Hobbyist, in the “Running Extra” edition. My topic this time was building a Southern Pacific sand house, for the engine terminal in my layout town of Shumala. A sand house has been needed here for some years. 

I began with an advantage: plans for the “standard” SP sand house are contained in the book, Southern Pacific Lines Common Standard Plans, Volume 4 (Steam Age Equipment, Dunsmuir, CA, 1995). I reproduced those plans in the MRH article, and they were very helpful, in calling out timber sizes and other details throughout the structure.

But examining numerous SP sand houses around the system did not reveal a single one that matched the drawings (of course there might be one I didn’t find). Presumably, this is because a “standard” design like this is intended as a starting point, providing general features of a structure which is then adapted for each place it is built. I decided to do the same.

The nearest SP sand house to the “standard” drawings seems to be the steam-era one in Eugene, Oregon. The photo below from the Bill Decker collection shows it at left in March 1955, with F units at right.

As I describe in the article, starting from the SP plans, the entire model structure was built from styrene strip and sheet, with Grandt Lines (now Tichy) windows and door. Shown below is the nearly complete structure, with windows in place to fit, but door and roof ladder not yet installed.

This was then painted, with the walls becoming boxcar red (SP standard for this type of structure) with black door and windows, and dark gray rolled roofing with some tar patches. The building was then weahered to some degree. All this was described in the article.

. An important decision in finishing the structure was to decide what kind of  sand delivery method was used. Many SP sand houses had overhead bins of various kinds, so that sand was delivered by gravity to locomotives. But many others used compressed air to move the sand, and then there was no bin; the delivery pipe simply ran from the house to an overhead delivery point. The Dunsmuir sand house illustrates this (and clearly shows the timber construction), in a photo from the Shasta Division Archives of SP materials at Dunsmuir.

I scratchbuilt a similar piping arrangement with styrene rod and brass support braces to complete my model. It’s shown below, with the sand delivery parts unpainted (they were later painted gray).  The rest of the model structure can be seen clearly, including the roof ladder at the left corner.

Finally, the structure was placed on the layout. It accompanies fuel and water columns that are located between the inbound and outbound engine tracks to the turntable and roundhouse, and completed my engine servicing facilities (awhile back, an article of mine on model engine terminal components was published in MRH, the issue for April 2017). The view below shows the other end of the model structure that you see above, and has a red fire cabinet installed.

At lower left in the photo above is a portion of one of the caboose service buildings. The locomotive is a Key brass model, and is the San Diego & Arizona Eastern no. 103 that I showed in a previous post (you can see that post here: ). The prototype of this locomotive was assigned to San Luis Obispo for some years in late steam days.

This was a fun and interesting challenge as a project, was basically easy to build, and is a long-awaited component of the engine terminal in my layout town of Shumala. I’m glad to have it.

Tony Thompson

Tuesday, January 5, 2021

Freight car graffiti, Part 19: more examples

 In the previous post in this series, I described the application of graffiti to relatively modern 60-foot box cars, for a layout set in 1996. (You can find that post, if you wish, at this link: .) Previous posts on this topic can be found by using “freight car graffiti” as the search term, in the search box at right. 

For the present post, I chose two quite different car types, to illustrate a few points. One of them was this Union Pacific “waffle side” double-door car:

I decided that the yellow color would lend itself to showing some rust streaking, and I wanted to try two ways of portraying this. One way is with Weathering Solutions rust-streak decals, and I applied those on one side of the car. On the other side I used acrylic paint, mostly Burnt Umber, and brush-streaked the car. I also added rust patches on the roof and especially at roof edges, place I have noticed rust development on prototype cars. 

The left side of the car shows my efforts with paint only (and a small decal from Microscale set 87-1523). I was not entirely happy with this, though it certainly captures some prototypical examples I have seen. The car also has an overall application of grime, from washes of acrylic tube paints.

 For the other side, I used the Weathering Solutions rust streaks, along with a small graffiti piece from Microscale 1534, and some added rust from the Burnt Umber paint, and grime overall. In both photos of the finished car, you can see the rust patches on the roof.

Another car I explored techniques with was a pressure-differential covered hopper, the model shown below. These cars can carry a variety of powdered or granular materials, using air pressure as an aid in unloading for cargoes that tend to pack tightly in transit. 

The approach here was a little different than with the UP box car, in that I didn’t want to suggest as much rust, but more of an overall dirty finish. In addition, a light-colored model like this is an excellent substrate for Dave’s Decals (their site is at: ), which are somewhat transparent and thus will tend to take on the color of the underlying car side. I have discussed the pros and cons of these and other decals in a prior post (see it at: ).

In the photo below of the left side of this car, the large decal is from Dave’s set 6028, and the smaller one from T2 decals (you can view their offerings here: ). There are also a variety of smaller tags.

On the other side of the car, I just used a Dave’s decal, and as I did on the other side of the car, some spillage from the roof hatch area. Here again, tags have been added.

These two cars ave been interesting challenges to get certain effects, without going too far beyond my previous experience, both with graffiti application and weathering, and they have done just that. I want to do more with rust patches, since these are often seen on freight cars of the last 30 years, and I have some additional challenging model car bodies to experiment with. Those will be treated in future posts.

Tony Thompson

Saturday, January 2, 2021

Ending the year, operating

As the long and difficult year of 2020 came to a close, we celebrated it (in part) in our family with a relatives-only operating session. Once again, our granddaughter was visiting for the week between Christmas and New Year, so we operated. This was my layout session 58, and it took place in the layout town of Ballard.

As she had done previously, my wife Mary acted as conductor for this session, and organized all the work, according to the waybills provided, and the agent’s message on spotting of empty cars. (Awhile back, I wrote a post about how I have used of agent’s messages in operating sessions; it can be found here:

In the photo below, Mary holds such a message, while at left, the engineer is consulting the pack of waybills for the arriving train. You can see a number of waybills tilted up alongside the car they accompany. (This is okay while setting up the session, but I prefer that waybills not be on the layout once operation begins.)

Once the work had gotten organized, switching began. In the photo below, Mary is behind the engineer, who is backing today’s power for the branch train, SP 2829, into the Western Packing spur to pick up some refrigerator cars that have been loaded. Waybills  being worked are lined up in the “J strip” on the fascia, left foreground. For anyone not familiar with these strips, I’ve written a post on the subject. You can find it at this link: .

With the work well underway, one spot that was made was an Anchor Petroleum tank car to the Standard Oil of California spot, as you see below. This is one of the newest paint schemes released by Tangent Scale Models, and the car is newly introduced into the freight car fleet. (This car is also visible in the train shown in the first photo, above.) Behind the spotted car is the tankage of Ballard’s Union Oil bulk dealer, and a Union tank car is spotted on the parallel spur that serves that dealer.

As work progressed, the experienced crew made very few extra moves. In the photo below, switching is nearly complete and the engineer is preparing to finish the work and reassemble the train for departure back to Shumala. She is very careful and skillful with the NCE throttle, and could provide guidance to some of the more energetic engineers that have operated here over the years.

This was a good session, enjoyed by the crew and carried out quite smoothly. It has certainly been fun to be able to operate at least a little bit during 2020’s long shut-down of normal activities, and I’m grateful that some of my family wanted to do these sessions.

Tony Thompson