Friday, January 20, 2023

My new column in Model Railroad Hobbyist

The January 2023 issue of Model Railroad Hobbyist or MRH has just come out, and my latest contribution to the series of columns by a group of authors, “Getting Real,” is included. It’s entitled “Modeling Southern Pacific Heavyweight Passenger Cars.”  

(A reminder: older issues of MRH are available online, to read or download, for free, at their website, . However, since they introduced the “Running Extra” part of the magazine a few years ago — which includes the “Getting Real” columns — that part of MRH has to be purchased. You can buy any single issue, or subscribe for considerably less cost per issue.)

Some will recognize that I have written several series of blog posts about SP passenger modeling, and indeed, many links to those posts (or to the concluding posts of each series of them) were provided in my talk handout of 10 days ago (for my talk at Cocoa Beach 2023). You can see all that material by going to: .

That handout, reflecting the talk, contains material on both heavyweight and lightweight passenger cars. For the MRH article, though, the heavyweight information filled the available space. So the primary distinction between the new MRH article and the thrust of the talk handout is the lightweight cars. 

One reason for writing the MRH piece was so that the information about heavyweight cars, though to some extent duplicated in prior blog posts, is now all brought together in one place. It ranges from the original Thomas C. Hoff method of modifying Rivarossi (or AHM) “1920 Pullmans” to floor plans other than 12-1 (12 sections, 1 drawing room), to modifications such as adding air conditioning and diaphragms and improving couplers, and to painting and lettering.

I did include a more extensive discussion of interiors for heavyweight sleepers than I have done in previous blog posts. I also took new photos of some of the completed cars, photos that haven’t appeared in any blog, such as this view of SP 12-1 Inyo, pictured at the depot in my layout town of Shumala.

I also made mention of the excellent heavyweight Pullman kits, originally produced by Branchline Trains (now owned by Atlas Model Railroad Co. and available ready-to-run from time to time). The example I included is Rock Bay, an 8-1-2 floor plan, which I built from a kit. These make beautiful models, though requiring more time to build than an AHM conversion, and really not looking significantly better in a passing train than the AHM modification (their greatly superior underbodies aren’t very evident in a passing train).

In the photo above, you may note the more olive tone in the paint, compared to the preceding Inyo photo. Inyo was painted with a lightened Pullman Green, accomplished by adding some light gray to paint, so that it would look in indoor lighting, like Pullman cars looked in sunlight. Rock Bay presents a good version of SP’s standard Dark Olive Green color, and in model form represents a recently painted car, as was true of many of the Pullmans purchased by SP in the 1948 divestiture sale.

For a prototype example, shown below is one of the 12-1 cars SP purchased, Marblehead, photographed by Bruce Heard at Oakland in 1958, on a day that was either cloudy or had a marine layer overhead at the time of the photo — note how soft are the shadows. This is the kind of look for both car sides and roof, that I have tried to accomplish in my modeling.

In the article, I didn’t have space to say too much about how these passenger cars are operated on my layout, but commonly in an operating session, at least one passenger deadhead extra does run. An example is below, with a single baggage car at the head end, followed by a Pullman-owned 8-1-2, Rock Pass, a 14-section tourist sleeper, and SP 12-1 Serra in Two-Tone Gray paint. It’s on the siding at Shumala, perhaps clearing a mainline train.

This was an interesting article to write, in that a great deal of photography and modeling descriptions could be mined from existing blog posts, but at the same time gaps in the full story had to be filled in, and in a number of cases, new and better photos needed to be taken. Overall, I feel like the article does what I wanted it to do.

Tony Thompson

1 comment:

  1. Great work as always. I know there have been two companies produce Daylight cars but I'd love to see some passenger cars common during the last days of SP passenger service before Amtrak. That and ex-SP cars painted for Amtrak such as what appeared on the San Francisco Zephyr, a train I rode a couple times in the mid-1970's as a teen.