Thursday, January 28, 2016

Interesting New York Central System Auto Car End

We humans are drawn to the unusual. It may be our natural programming for survival to spot the unusual or different things around us. Whatever the cause, many of us manifest that in our selections and choices of freight cars. We want vinegar tank cars, auto frame loads, three-, four- or even six-compartment tank cars, the PFE reefers that had the colors in the stripes in the UP shield accidentally reversed when painted by a shop, etc. However, the laws of probability and statistics dictate that as rarities, anomalies, and oddballs pile upon one another, they become more and more unrealistic. That doesn't stop us from craving them, though.
from Standard Oil of New Jersey photograph
This portion of the end of NYC 196551 was a very small portion of a photo of a worker tending to a UTLX tank car in a Standard Oil of NJ photo. My attention was captured by the large corrugation in the top of the end. It is roughly triangular in shape. I scanned the image to focus on this car.
It turns out that it is part of a group of 1,000 cars built by MDT in 1926-1927 and 1928 and assigned to series 53000-53499, Lot 540-B and 53500-53999, Lot 572-B, respectively. They had end doors, as shown above, plus 10' door openings and a cubic capacity of 3,544 feet. By the time of this photo, the car above had been renumbered into the series 196500-196999, a transition started for this series of cars in 1941 (the other series was renumbered into 196000-196499 at the same time).
Sirman Collection
MDT also constructed an additional 1,000 cars for NYC Lines road CCC&StL in two groups in 1928 and 1929. These cars share the same basic design, right down to the 3,544 cu.ft. capacity, but had 12' door openings instead. The first group was assigned to CCC&StL 91000-91499, Lot 578-B, and the second group was placed in CCC&StL 91500-91999, Lot 585-B. Beginning in 1937, they were merged into series NYC 58000-58999, and three short years later, in 1940, were assigned to NYC 67000-67787. In 1941 and 1943, they were split back into two groups, 203000-203499 and 203500-203999, respectively. It is unclear if the 1941 and 1943 renumbering resulted in mixing of the original lots.
For both types of cars, there were additional renumberings and conversions to box cars and plating of the end doors in the 1950s. As I develop my CAD capabilities, I will put this end door car, with its distinctive corrugation, on my to-do list. It's unusual and there were 2,000 cars with this end door design, making it less of an oddball car.

Wednesday, January 27, 2016

Something simple - Espee Models F-70-6/7 flat car, Part One

The basic car with stake pockets
Every now and then, it can be nice to work on something that requires little effort or challenge, yet produces results that are on par with the other projects that are progressing in parallel. About a week ago, I ordered one of the Espee Models Southern Pacific F-70-6/7 flat car kits (ex-Red Caboose), and it arrived this past Monday. I didn't plan to do anything with it, but as we all do, I opened it up to take a peek. Well, it couldn't hurt to glue the weight into the underbody cavity. I set it aside to dry...

Tuesday night, I picked it up and before I knew what had happened, it was as you see it here... and it didn't take long to get there. However, I hit a bump in the road. I'm short one sprue of stake pockets, so my critical path to completion is blocked until I receive the sprue. However, all is not lost as I scanned the side where I already glued the stake pockets and am hard at work on decal artwork (which I will be happy to share as decals from Speedwitch once they're printed.)
The underbody
Back to the model, it's a finely rendered injection molded "flat" kit with separate sides, ends, underframe, and deck, plus details like brake parts, stake pockets, corners, etc. There are no instructions specific to this car, but there are downloadable instructions on the Espee Models' site for the TOFC variant of the F-70-7. I will chronicle my build here so that anyone interested can follow along, as I believe the photos I present here will nicely augment what is provided by Espee Models. However, I won't give a blow-by-blow, but will rather highlight things that I feel bear stressing or places where I deviate. What I show thus far is all "out-of-the-box" (or bag, as it is). I won't be adding brake piping to this model, but I will add the brake rods as they are the only part of the brake gear on the underframe that will actually be visible when the model is viewed from the side. I will also replace styrene details with metal ones where appropriate to improve durability and, in some cases, improve fidelity of detail.
That's all for now. More to follow...
B end - Note the corner braces. They are different on the right and left... well-engineered!

The view from the top with weight in place

Friday, January 22, 2016

Decal artwork

There was a good deal of discussion recently on the Steam Era Freight Cars list (STMFC) on Yahoo! Groups concerning the decal offerings of a seller on eBay. In particular, there were musings about the various printing technologies (silk screening, Alps, and some of the other more recent printers capable of printing white inks [or facsimiles thereof], as well as the creation of the artwork itself.) I thought I would provide a little background information about how I create artwork for the decals I offer under the Speedwitch line, both for model kits and standalone decal sets.

At the outset, I must state that I am fanatical about the accuracy of lettering. It needs to do two things. First, it must capture the “look and feel” of the prototype it represents. While I know that many people in the hobby value many different things, to me lettering is part of what makes a prototypical car. Lettering was different across railroads and I don’t just mean the slogans and emblems. The three-inch and two-inch letters and numbers that make up the stencils for capacity and dimensional data were quite different from railroad to railroad. The vast majority of decal and rolling stock purveyors just pull up their standard serif or sans serif “fonts” to make this lettering. I get why they do it. It’s quick and easy. It just doesn’t work for me. The railroads’ characters were highly stylized; the decals should be, too. If a decal proprietor is cranking out half a dozen new decal sets per week, I just can’t see how they are getting this right. I do grasp that what I value may be valueless or far less important to others.

The second thing is that the lettering must fit. Before I started making decal artwork, I cannot tell you how many times that I got a model all ready for lettering only to discover that the stenciling in the kit decals spanned across a greater space than it did on the prototype or overlaid a tank band on a tank car, when it didn’t on the prototype. This is usually because the characters weren’t correct (see previous paragraph), making the spacing of the characters incorrect, making the problem cascade into one of incorrect fit of the lettering. Again, if there are a lot of sets coming out per week from a producer, I don’t see how this detail is being observed.
A fairly typical decal subject
With my rant out of the way, I’ll explain how I do it and why it takes longer (a lot longer). I work from very clear photos of the car side, from closeup photos of the actual lettering (I am fortunate to have lots of photos like this for a great many railroads), and, ideally, from actual railroad drawings of characters, emblems, medallions, etc. These are scanned at extremely high resolution (12800 pixels per inch, usually) and imported into Adobe Illustrator, after any cleanup and squaring up in Photoshop. Illustrator is a very powerful vector graphics tool for drawing.
A piece of the Pere Marquette single sheathed auto car scanned to be used as the basis for artwork
The actual drawing part of things involves creating each character from scratch, carefully “tracing” (electronically drawing) against the high resolution scans. After all of the necessary letters, numbers, emblems, etc., have been drawn, they are re-sized to scale, HO most frequently in my case. Most people would think that is the bulk of the work. That is just part one.
The "MA R" characters as drawn using the previous photo
All of the artwork must then be laid out against a scan of the model and fitted to represent the layout as stenciled on the prototype(s). This involves much careful spacing, followed by a lot of copying, pasting, and reorienting to create multiple groups of reporting marks, capacity data, and reweigh, repack, and brake test stencils. None of this is done by “typing”, but rather by moving the objects (characters) around to create the various data sets. It is extremely time consuming.
The completed model using the artwork created as described herein
Once a set is complete, it then must be laid out for printing in a way that maximizes the amount of lettering in the minimum space, while not overcrowding. Remember, empty real estate on a decal sheet equals lost money. Most frequently the artwork is laid out to incorporate multiple sets that are part of a large sheet. 

The next step is to send the artwork to the printer. All colors (except white and black) must be specified as a Pantone color for printing. I approve the artwork, quantities, and cost estimate, and then wait. The waiting game can be difficult as I want to see how everything looks as soon as I finish the artwork, but it takes weeks for the silk-screen decals to be printed. Upon receipt of the large sheets by me from the printer, I cut the sheet into the individual decal sets.

The last step is to create the instructions/data sheet. This is another area where I endeavor to separate myself from the pack by offering enough prototype reference material to allow the modeler to accurately letter their fine creation. 

On the horizon, I am testing some single print sheets that will allow me to print in much smaller quantities with much faster turnaround. The other good news: once I have the artwork created for a road, I can use that as a lever for future sets. Also, if the test is a success, I will be able to provide custom decal services for HO and other scales. Stay tuned!

Friday, January 15, 2016

Prototype Rails/Cocoa Beach 2016

Floridian and airbrushaholic Bill Welch's fine models

I thought it appropriate to start the blog and the year with a short post about Prototype Rails (Cocoa Beach). As usual, it did not disappoint. Mike Brock, Jeff Aley, Marty Megregian, Greg Martin, and the others who keep the gears in motion deserve kudos. Things always move smoothly, even when they don't. My general sentiment is that the event seems to have become a "large" event. There seem to be more attendees than ever and there are tons of clinics from which to choose. Even with its size, the event boasts a laid back feel, due likely to the hosts, the location with its weather (warm and rainy this year) and the fact that most people are exhaling after the holidays. I cannot recommend it enough and hope that if you have not yet attended, give it a shot next year. The welcome is warm, the beers are cold, the cookies are placed out on schedule, the clinics are great, and the modeling is top notch.

Eric Thur brought some of his creations
More of Eric's excellent work
Craig Zeni's rolling stock for his NYO&W layout
Al Brown, a "local" displayed some beautiful models, including some kitbashes
The "Shake-n-Take" table, where the group kitbashes that are a crowd favorite at Cocoa Beach are displayed
Ross Dando of Twin Star Cars displayed an "in the works" Rock Island flat car (kit coming) plus details including the springs for the Chrysler trucks. The flat cars to the right are his handiwork, too.

Gary Laakso, an almost local from Boca Raton, builds resin as fast as anyone (until he got a kitten that likes to help)
Bill Darnaby has built more resin tank cars than anyone, I would bet. He does need a lot of cars, though, to populate the Maumee Route
John Barry brought the basic carbody components from the 2014 Shake-n-Take project, USRA rebuilds