Monday, December 31, 2018

Allis-Chalmers HD 21 Crawler/Dozer

Wheels of Time recently introduced HO and N scale models of the Allis-Chalmers HD 21 Crawlers with optional dozer blades. The HD 21 was introduced in 1954 and became the best selling crawler in the company's history. Obviously, given the quantities produced and the time period covered (manufactured through the 1960s), they are an optimal subject for freight car loads and any number of scenes. There is a wealth of information available online to help add even more detail and understand the nuances covering the production variants over the years.

The Wheels of Time models are fairly simple. They consist of high-quality resin castings that appear to have been mastered using CAD and 3D printing. There is a minimum of parts: single "body" casting plus left and right treads and exhaust. An optional blade and hydraulic cylinders are available as a separate enhancement. I opted for just the dozers as even those push my late 1951 era by a few years, but they looked too good to pass up (I am hoping that when the prototype police visit, they aren't as well-versed in dozers as freight cars!) The hydraulic blades weren't adopted until 1960 (the blades were operated by cable and winch prior to the adoption of hydraulics.)

I paid $22.50 each and also ordered one decal set for $7.00. They were ordered via a pre-order program. Wheels of Time is currently accepting names for a wait list for follow-on orders.

I will build up the pair that I purchased and provide details here. Stay tuned (it may take awhile, though, as I have no shortage of projects...)

Sunday, December 30, 2018

Down by the Feed Mill by David Hanks

There are many things in railroading, both prototype and model, that are dripping with character and nostalgia. Right at the top of the list are the elevators and mills that to this day generate carloads and revenue for the railroads. Many towns had elevators and even more towns had mills, either to process grain for various forms of human consumption or to provide feed for the livestock that was present on seemingly every farm, regardless of size, either for production for consumption or just to have a few animals on hand for eggs, milk, and meat.

I like to have more than a cursory understanding of the things I am attempting to model. To educate myself about the grain industry, I purchased Jeff Wilson's The Model Railroader's Guide to Grain (2015, Kalmbach Books,) part of the excellent Guide to Industries Series from Kalmbach (all authored by Jeff Wilson, as far as I know.) In my online research, I also stumbled across Down by the Feed Mill by David Hanks. I had my local independent book shop order a copy, although it may be ordered directly from the link (and Amazon, as well, although I prefer to support the publishers and local book shops whenever possible.)

I knew as soon as I opened the book that it was money well spent. It is a gorgeous homage to the ubiquitous feed mill. Granted, Mr. Hanks focused on mills located in the southern half of Michigan's lower peninsula. However, that in no way diminishes this book's value. It includes beautifully reproduced art quality images of mills as well as many photos of the inner workings of these interesting structures, providing an education in the function of the mills.

The book is broken into a few sections. The first focuses on three old mills, the second profiles four repurposed mill structures, and there is a gallery section with an incredible number of images, followed by an informative section with a wealth of general information about mills.

I highly recommend this book not because it will help my (and your) prototype railroading pursuits, but because it is a beautiful dedication to one of the foundational elements of our communal history. It is simply a fantastic book to have present on a coffee table.

Down by the Feed Mill: The Past and Present of America’s Feed Mills and Grain Elevators

by David Hanks
208 pages, hardcover with dust jacket
copyright 2017, David Hanks
published by Schiffer Publishing
ISBN: 978-0-7643-5293-5
240 images, color and black & white

Saturday, December 29, 2018

Prototype Rails 2019

Two weekends from now, the 2019 iteration of Prototype Rails or "Cocoa Beach" as it's known in the RPM community, will be held on January 10 through 12. I am extremely excited as I was unable to attend last year's festivities because of the whims of Ma Nature. The event has a flavor all its own, with a relaxed atmosphere, good (or better) weather than what most attendees are dealing with in early January, excellent clinics, diverse restaurant options, a wonderful hotel, and numerous other attractions in the area if you're seeking to make a vacation out of the trip.

I will be presenting a clinic on kitbashing and also co-presenting a photography clinic with Bill Welch. The photo included here will feature prominently in both clinics; I will be discussing how I kitbashed this 45' Missouri Pacific flat car and will also discuss how I photographed it (hint: depth of field can be a challenge when photographing subjects in miniature.)

I hope to see you there. If not, I will be posting my clinic files here after the meet...

Thursday, December 27, 2018

Kadee Lake Superior & Ishpeming 40' PS-1 Box Car LS&I 2236... or my latest "ready-to-run" project

I was so satisfied with the results of my Santa Fe Kadee PS-1 that I thought I would add another that, excepting weathering, would be a more ready-to-run project than the Bx-57 proved to be. I had seen photos of LS&I PS-1s from Kadee and liked the look of the black ends and red and white diamond emblem. Although they are no longer available, I easily tracked one down on ebay. As soon as I received the car, I opened the plastic box and compared it to the one prototype photo in my collection (which I had not really looked at too closely until that moment.) Imagine my surprise when I discovered I had another "not-so" ready-to-run project on my hands! Time to make more lemonade out of lemons...

The sides require some detailing changes. I must add roping staples, that look to have been welded to the bolster tabs rather than riveted, although that must be confirmed. I also need to add tab sections at the lower corners. The placard boards on the model are in a different location than they were on the prototype so I will repeat my efforts as on the Santa Fe car, with Southwest Scale doors and new placard boards.

On the ends, I will have to make a few changes, as well. There were push pole pockets at the lower corners that will be scratchbuilt. The uncoupling rod bracket was different on the LS&I cars. Finally, the lower portion of the right ladder stile had a "jog" in a different location. I am hopeful the new early PS-1 cars from Kadee have ladders with this feature. If not, I will ignore that subtlety. 

Stay tuned as I modify this otherwise beautiful model.

Are we having fun yet and when will I have an actual ready-to-run car???

Monday, December 24, 2018

Finishing NP 10975 - Rapido Northern Pacific 10000-series Double Sheathed Box Cars, Part 2

I posted a brief writeup of the Rapido Northern Pacific 10000-series double sheathed box car almost two months ago (link to that post here). Since that time, I have made a few upgrades to that model and painted, lettered, and weathered it. This post describes the details associated with all of that. As I stated in the original post, it is an extremely fine model right out of the box. The changes highlighted here are ones that simply suit my tastes.

Most of the upgrades were performed on the ends, with the majority of those specifically on the B end. I replaced the running board supports with styrene to create more realistic details. I replaced the original retainer with a Precision Scale retainer valve with 0.008" wire "pipe". The brake staff was secured to a pivot support. Finally, I reworked the push pole pockets to create a more dished, stamped look, as on the prototype.

On the A end and the doors, I replaced the handles with ones fashioned from 0.010" wire, filed flat on the outer surface. The last upgrade was the replacement of the stock wheelsets with 0.088" tread width sets with 1.005" long axles.

The preparation and painting of the model followed my normal regimen. All metal and engineering plastic surfaces were lightly blasted with 200-grit aluminum oxide. I primed all surfaces, using Tamiya surface primer for the first time (link to my thoughts on it here). I painted the sides Rust (no. 4675) from the Model Master Acrylic line of paints. I masked the sides and painted the roof, ends, underframe, truck sideframes, and wheelsets Tamiya acrylic flat black. In preparation for decaling, I applied a light coat of Future (now Pledge) floor wax, creating a glossy surface.

I lettered the car* using decals I created myself and had printed by PDC of Canada specifically for this model. I reserved part of the capacity data, the reweigh location, the brake test, and repack stencils to be added during the weathering process. I also added a few chalkmarks prior to weathering.

I weathered the model using PanPastel and Bragdon powders. On the roof, ends, and underframe, I used brown, light grey, and Payne's grey. On the roof, I also interspersed this with some "blobs" of light grey paint applied with a Q-tip to simulate the beginnings of paint failure on some of the panels. I used the same powders on the sides, but applied them progressively: first, I applied small pieces of masking tape over the stencil areas referenced in the previous paragraph followed by powders that were then sealed with clear flat. I removed the masking from capacity, reweigh, and brake test stencils and added those along with more chalkmarks, another clear flat coat, followed by more weathering and yet another clear flat coat. Lastly, I added the repack stencils and more chalkmarks. Everything was sealed with a final flat coat.

Rapido has produced a beautiful model of a very significant prototype that belongs on most layouts. Bravo and I can't wait to see what is next from north of the border!

*the lettering layout doesn't exactly follow the standards for this car. The arched Northern Pacific and capacity data are slightly shifted to reflect photos of car NP 10975. Variations in the layout of lettering on actual equipment are not uncommon... remember, the shop crews were humans, not robots!

Thursday, December 6, 2018

Airbrushing - getting started

Airbrushing is one of the tools at the gateway to advanced modeling. However, many of us who have never experimented with using an airbrush look at it as a skill shrouded in mystery, requiring some innate talent and/or voodoo. Nothing could be further from the truth, particularly for the painting most model railroaders do, with single (or maybe two) colors with minimal masking and no real embellishments (if you really want to be impressed, look at some of the World War II aircraft schemes, including Luftwaffe schemes with various blotches/mottling or the Italian scheme with green “smoke ring” camouflage - link to decal for the less adventurous who don’t want to airbrush these devils, but illustrates what military modelers can do!) For what we as railroad modelers do it is simply a matter of spraying paint.

First, the intent of this post is to recommend a quality, but reasonably priced airbrush. I own and use an Iwata Medea N4500 Neo Gravity Feed airbrush. New ones can be found on eBay for approximately $50. It is extremely well-made and uses metal parts rather than plastic (an important consideration for me). It is a “double action” airbrush, meaning that the “trigger” controls both air and paint flow. This is a little more complicated than a single action airbrush, but I started using a double action airbrush when I was 10 years old and never felt like it was too difficult. I am certain you can learn to use it easily too. The one other thing I will say that is attractive to me about this model is that it disassembles easily, allowing the entire mechanism to be cleaned hassle-free. This is important because airbrush longevity and smooth operation requires a good cleaning regimen after each use. It takes only a few moments, but the impacts on operation are worth the diligence. One note: I have owned more expensive airbrushes, including the Iwata Revolution and Eclipse models and they are more difficult to clean and offer no advantages for the type of painting we do. My recommendation: buy the Neo and use the savings to invest in a quality airbrush compressor (buy an airbrush compressor and you won’t need earplugs because you’re trying to airbrush with that Campbell-Hausfield 100 HP compressor that you use to power your nail gun!)

If you’re read this far and are still curious, then take the plunge. All that’s required to learn is some paint (I recommend either Model Master acrylic or Tamiya acrylic paints,) thinner (most paints are too viscous out of the bottle; I thin these two brands using the manufacturers’ thinners at about 60% paint to 40% thinner,) an air source (I recommend this compressor,) and something to paint. To learn I suggest practicing on plain sheets of 0.040” white styrene. The point is to understand air pressure settings, distance from the object being painted, paint flow relative to the trigger, and how slowly or quickly to move the airbrush to avoid adding too much paint to one area at once. That’s it. I will post more in future on this topic, but it’s one of those things where it’s easier to learn by doing than reading.

Wednesday, December 5, 2018

Wordy Wednesday - Chicago, St. Paul, Minneapolis & Omaha Postwar AAR Box Car CMO 37836

In 1945, Chicago and North Western subsidiary Chicago, St. Paul, Minneapolis & Omaha purchased 400 AAR-design box cars of the postwar iteration from American Car & Foundry. The cars were assigned to series 37500-38298, even numbers. At first blush, the cars hewed closely to the design, with 10-panel riveted sides, Murphy rectangular panel roofs, 4/4 Improved Dreadnaught ends, and Youngstown corrugated (first 200 cars, shown here) or Superior panel steel doors (last 200 cars) and riding on ASF A-3 Ride Control trucks. Their most distinguishing characteristic was the Duryea Cushion underframe, with deep crossbearers that are visible in this photo, and Universal brake adjuster, a portion of which is also visible just to the right of the AB valve. However, the most interesting detail to me is the extreme compression of the truck springs (see below), no doubt due to a heavy load. It’s not something one sees often, let alone notices.

The photo is yet another low-angle, late-in-the-day flat light gem from Col. Chet McCoid that quite literally sheds light on so many details. Also note the gas storage tanks at both left and right. San Diego, California, November 19, 1954, Bob’s Photo

Thursday, November 29, 2018

Tamiya Liquid Surface Primer

Serendipity seems to make frequent visits to my hobby. Something I will be working on will make its way to the various lists that I follow, wholly unrelated to any activities or prompting by me. Such was the case within the last couple weeks. I recently purchased a bottle of the Tamiya primer shown in the photo above and within a couple days there was a discussion about primer and priming models on the Steam Freight Car list (my thoughts on that debate below). It is a rather thick surface preparation mixture, similar to the Mr. Surfacer products from Gunze-Sangyo (I am a raving fan of these products). When I looked at the bottle shown here, it noted that it could be thinned with Tamiya Lacquer thinner. I decided to give it a shot. I thinned it heavily with Dupont Lacquer Thinner, a premium thinner that I had purchased in a gallon container many years ago from an auto body repair shop. The ratio I used was about 60% thinner to 40% primer. I used it to prime an undecorated Rapido NP double sheathed box car. It sprayed beautifully, with excellent coverage and a flawless surface finish. It will be a go-to primer for my efforts.

On the subject of priming models, I fall decidedly into the yes category. A coat of primer does two things for me. It creates a neutral base that eases the coverage of the final color, be it freight car red or brown, some flavor or reefer yellow or orange, or even plain black. The other benefit is that it makes all details "pop" or stand out. This helps to reveal any and all surface defects and imperfections that need to be addressed prior to applying the main color(s).

Wednesday, November 28, 2018

Wordy Wednesday - Shell Filling Station

Shasta County, California. Filling stations close up as the tourist trade decreases, June, 1942, Lee Russell
As I begin my preparations for construction of a modest switching layout, I have been taking increased note of things that will be valuable references. It is little surprise that anything that will aid in my construction and detailing of structures and the scenes in which they’ll reside gets attention. I stumbled across this photo on the FSA-OWI photo site hosted by the Library of Congress. It is a defunct filling station in northern California (extreme northern, relatively close to Oregon, where I am modeling). Granted, the gasoline sales portion of the station and the accompanying equipment appeared to have been removed by the time this photo was recorded in 1942. Note that in the background at left is what to all appearances is a functioning gas station.

Nonetheless, there is still a great deal to be gleaned from this photo. Architecturally, the photo illustrates a large portion of the structure of the overhang that sheltered patrons while pumping gas. Details include the embellishments at the junctions of the roof line, support post beams and other areas. These were not only attractive features, but also served to tie together and strengthen the structure at critical points. As was quite common, the roof line of the shelter (and the shelter itself) was oriented to bisect the 90-degree angle created by the intersection of the streets.

Details abound. The large SHELL sign atop the shelter would be a great touch to add to a model, including the support wires, extending to the roof eaves. The Quaker State lube service sign is another add-on to accent the scene. Finally, while every window in this scene has one, likely due to the “hibernation” of the station’s gas dispensing operations, the signs promoting the Russell Bros. Circus in Redding (California) on June 27 are a great detail that adds “life” to this scene, and could be similarly replicated on a model, albeit in maybe one or two signs.

The great thing is that there are numerous commercially available 1920s vintage gas station kits that follow this general design, but that could be easily and minimally modified using a photo such as this one to make it “one’s own” so that visitors to the layout will appreciate its uniqueness rather than mentally noting that the gas station is the same one seen on many layouts. 

Monday, November 26, 2018

Completing the Kadee Santa Fe Class Bx-57 40' PS-1 Box Car

The first installment on the Kadee Santa Fe Bx-57 illustrated some of the changes effected to replicate the differences on the prototype. It is worth reiterating these major details. Of note, the Bx-57 class employed US Gypsum expanded metal brake steps and running boards, while the model was equipped with Apex Tri-Lok running boards and steps (Kadee has since produced the correct US Gypsum parts, resulting in a “drop-fit” replacement for the running boards; the brake step is a Plano etched metal part using the Kadee supports after carefully removing the Apex Tri-Lok step.) The Bx-57 also used the “upside-down” version of the Improved Youngstown door, while the model uses the more common version; a Southwest Scale door was substituted, along with scratchbuilt placard and route card boards. 
Kadee did replicate a few quirks of this class. Counter to usual Santa Fe practice, the Bx-57s did not have transverse-mounted brake reservoirs. Also, this class had the “SHIP AND TRAVEL Santa Fe all the way” slogan on the left side and the name train slogan on the right (Super Chief on this car) which was counter to Santa Fe painting and lettering practice. Kadee replicated these details faithfully, as well as the Royal Type F brake regulator, Ajax power hand brake, and ASF A-3 Ride Control trucks.
A note about the body color and paint matching is in order. As I replaced the door, I had to closely match the Kadee body color. I used three Tamiya colors to arrive at a satisfactory match. The mix is 50% Red, 25% Hull Red, and 25% Red Brown from the Tamiya acrylic line. As an aside, I love the ease with which Tamiya paints airbrush so this mixture will be my go-to Santa Fe Mineral Red-Brown for all future projects.
The brake test stencil on the reservoir
I replaced with wheelsets on the trucks with Kadee 0.088” tread width replacements. As I was modeling a car approximately 16 months old, I lightly weathered the car with a single application of Bragdon’s light gray powder, which mostly disappears under a clear flat coat (Tamiya). I added chalkmarks (a combination of pen and ink [a forthcoming post will cover this technique] as well as Speedwitch decal set D135) both before and after the weathering. I also applied a fresh paint patch over the repack stencil and added a late 1951 repack stencil. The door latch hardware (to the left of the doors) was salvaged from the original doors. I had to scrape off the ‘L’ and ‘R’ stencils to accommodate the door hardware so I added new ones from a Santa Fe box car decal set prior to weathering. I added a brake test stencil to the reservoir (even though I replaced the brake equipment, the original reservoir lacked this detail, too.)

After all of these subtle enhancements, I painted the angle cock/air hose parts black and gray. I added a final flat coat over everything. I polished the treads on the wheelsets, replaced them in the truck sideframes, and attached the trucks. Lastly, I added bits of paper for route cards. With that ATSF 31382 was ready for service. The PS-1 from Kadee remains one of the finest models ever produced in any scale. I look forward to adding a couple more from other roads to the fleet.

Wednesday, November 21, 2018

Wordy Wednesday - Union Starch & Refining - General American 1917-design Tank Car GATX 6719

Bob's Photo

General American 6719 is an interesting study. It was a General American 1917-design tank car built in January, 1921. It features many of the traits typical of the design, most notable the five “radial” courses to the tank. However, this car is different since it was modified to incorporate several changes. As expected, it was equipped with AB-schedule air brakes, replacing the KC-schedule brakes. Additionally, the expansion dome was fitted with a replacement safety manway and frangible disc vent. There is what may be a fitting or plug on the side of the dome. There are also what appear to be two patches, either as repairs or to strengthen parts of the bottom sheet of the tank. Finally, there was a chalkmark on the side of the tank noting, “syrup” which was undoubtedly a common load given that the car was leased by Union Starch & Refining, a producer of corn products, including corn syrup.

This car could be converted from a Tangent model using a safety manway from another manufacturer (Tangent, Tichy, Intermountain or others) and a frangible disc vent from Owl Mountain.
Photo by yours truly
Happy Thanksgiving!

Wednesday, November 14, 2018

Wordy Wednesday - New Haven 0-8-0 3430 at Hartford

This photo has always been a favorite of mine for a few reasons. Given my affection for freight cars, the nice string of interesting cars is an immediate draw for me. However, as compelling for me is the location. I grew up in the Hartford area so I have always had an attraction to its railroad-related history. Of particular interest has always been the large Morgan Street freight house and the tracks near it. This train is making its way from Hartford towards its crossing of the Connecticut River and its duties in East Hartford. I will post an exceptional photo of the Morgan Street freight house and yard in a future installment. That photo alone should provide all the motivation one needs to replicate it as a switching layout. The photo is reproduced below with numbered callouts to aid in identification of the subjects. Interestingly, the locomotive and every identifiable piece of rolling stock with the exception of the MILW gon, P&LE box car and the flat car was or is available in HO scale (references noted in parentheses) 

1 — New Haven Y-3 0-8-0 — The New Haven had 10 USRA versions of the 0-8-0 followed by an additional 25 copies purchased after the war, nos. 3400-3434. (W&R brass or Proto 2000)
2 — Chicago and North Western Emergency box car with Youngstown doors and Viking roof (Sunshine Models or Intermountain)
3 — Milwaukee Road composite gondola; class not known
4 — Pittsburgh & Lake Erie  ‘late’ tall New York Central USRA-design steel box car
5 — Santa Fe Bx-38 Emergency box car (Sunshine Models or Intermountain)
6 — Delaware Lackawanna & Western rebuilt steel automobile car (Yarmouth Model Works)
7 — Seaboard Air Line G7 composite gondola (Sunshine Models)
8 — Southern Railway 1937 AAR box car (IMWX, Red Caboose or Intermountain)
9 — unidentified flat car with tractor load
10 — Canadian Pacific Fowler box car (Westerfield)
11 — New York Central USRA-design steel box car (Westerfield or Broadway Limited)
12 — American Refrigerator Transit wood refrigerator car (Sunshine Models)

Tuesday, November 13, 2018

"Personalizing" Scrap Loads

Ever have that moment when you are at a layout and you see that same load that is on every other layout you've visited? Me too. I decided that I would try to minimize my reliance on the same cookie cutter loads that everyone else has. I want a scrap load, but the options are limited. How to be different? Personalize your load. I have been gathering scrap material for several years to complete a "stock" scrap load. The bag shown above illustrates this material. It is the spiral material from drilling resin, which simulates scrap material from large machining of metals, sprue bits that look like raw metal, wire and other various shapes that also resemble scrap metal. In the aggregate, these can all be added to the top of a commercial scrap load to make it unique. Give it a try.

The load above, which I made years ago, could use some toning down, as well as signs of oxidation. However, it effectively replicates scrap metal from machining operations such as milling. I didn't do such a good job "containing" the silver overspray. My next effort will be much better. I will show the results here. The car is a Westerfield model of a PRR GRA.

Wednesday, November 7, 2018

Wordy Wednesday - Santa Fe Refrigerator Despatch ARA-inspired refrigerator car SFRD 24132

These two photos were finds on ebay several years ago. They were undoubtedly recorded to document the shifting of the lumber load on the adjacent flat car, either by a curious photographer or for actual railroad purposes.

The Santa Fe purchasd large quantities of ARA-inspired refrigerator cars (based upon the ARA design for the double sheathed wood box car, which the Santa Fe ordered in classes Bx-8, -9, and -10.) The first group was assigned to class RR-5, 900 cars built in 1927 by American Car & Foundry and Pullman Car & Manufacturing, car nos. 23451-24350 (there were 100 nearly identical cars with divided ice baskets in class RR-6, nos. 24351-24450). SFRD purchased an additional 1,900 similar cars between 1928 and 1931, classes RR-7, -8, -9, and -11, nos. 24451-26350. 

In the period immediately prior to the US involvement in World War Two, many of the cars received improvements, including AB schedule air brakes and new Murphy rectangular panel roofs. Not all cars received these upgrades. Note that SFRD 24132 shown here still had a staff-type hand brake to go with its AB brakes and new Murphy panel roof.

Most of these cars were rebuilt into all-steel cars between 1950-1953, classes RR-49, -50, -51, and -53, but that is a different story...

References: Santa Fe Railway Rolling Stock Reference Series -- Volume Two, Refrigerator Cars, Ice Bunker Cars 1884-1979, Jordan, Hendrickson, Moore, and Hale

Sunday, November 4, 2018

Kit stash musings

"Looking south in the 'C' Yard of the Southern Pacific yards," Los Angeles, ca. 1960, B. J. Mahoney, U.S. President's Railroad Commission photographs, Kheel Center for Labor-Management Documentation and Archives, Martin P. Catherwood Library, Cornell University
A couple weeks ago, there was a discussion on the Resin Freight Car Builders list about the quantity of unbuilt kits in peoples’ stashes. One extremely valid point raised is that for many of the resin offerings, it is wise to buy when kits are available as there is no guarantee they will continue to be available. Sunshine Models is a case in point. However, the opposite perspective is, when does one have enough kits? Many of us keep collecting long after rational thought dictates applying the brakes. I have devised a solution that allows me to stick to a game plan and ignore all of the shiny new objects, except those odd ones that truly strike my fancy. All others are strictly off limits.

My solution was to create a spreadsheet and identify at the highest level how many of each car type I thought necessary to meet my plans. I began by creating categories for box cars, automobile cars (1-1/2 and double door cars), gondolas, flat cars, refrigerator cars, tank cars, hoppers, and covered hoppers.

If you are following my lead, you may have already diverted (ore cars, anyone?) However, if you are still following you will likely choose a different path now. At this point, I assigned high level quantities for each car type. My choices are/were dictated by my selection of railroad and region, as yours will be, as well.

I followed the decision about overall quantities of car types with allocation by railroads and/or leasing lines. Given my choice of the Southern Pacific in southern Oregon in a timber and agricultural region (which I wrote about previously), I selected significant numbers of SP box cars, automobile cars, flat cars, and gondolas, as well as Pacific Fruit Express reefers.

With my home road car selections filled in, I moved on to the primary interchange lines’ and regional partners’ cars. These included major players such as Santa Fe, Milwaukee Road, Great Northern, Northern Pacific, and Union Pacific, as well as Spokane, Portland & Seattle and Western Pacific.

Next, I moved on to the “monsters” that had to be addressed. These included Pennsylvania Railroad box cars, automobile cars, gondolas, and flat cars. Ditto for the New York Central. I also had to include Baltimore & Ohio house cars.

With these selections made, I then began to fill in the gaps by judiciously arriving at the cars I wanted from all the other roads. While some of these warranted multiple cars for the same road, this was also where I could exercise my whims and choose those shiny resin cars as well as the signature cars. However, the counterpoint is that I often had to limit my choices to one or even zero cars from roads in which I was interested. However, this discipline is what keeps the shelves more “modestly” stocked (I am aware that 390 cars would seem immodest to some; had I not gone through this exercise, the total could easily be double that number). It also allows the flexibility to add that must-have car when it comes along (the must-haves shouldn’t be every monthly release from Kadee, as that defeats the purpose of this exercise!)

One thing, of course, is that this entire process is not set. If the landscape of available freight car models changes, I can adapt accordingly. However, having a plan keeps me from straying too far in my purchases.

Additionally, different cars will see different levels of utilization. Many of the SP and PFE cars can be used in every session, since they will be ubiquitous and not stand out among the field of cars. Other cars, such as the ITC 36’ single sheathed, Rutland double sheathed, and Soo ‘Sawtooth’ box cars, Oscar Mayer and Grand Trunk reefers, as well as the McKeesport Connecting gondola and Owens-Illinois ‘Duraglas’ covered hopper, should be run more sparingly as operators will naturally remember them as they are more unusual prototypes.

I hope that my process can help you arrive at some realistic (and finite) goals for your fleet.

Below, see the .pdf of my roster spreadsheets for reference. A keen observer will note that some reporting marks are merely placeholders for to be determined prototypes/models and other prototypes are listed where there are yet to be produced models (I do have plans for those).

Friday, November 2, 2018

Rapido Northern Pacific 10000-series Double Sheathed Box Cars

The Rapido Northern Pacific 10000-series double sheathed box cars have been eagerly anticipated by HO scale modelers since they were announced a couple years ago. Their arrival is yet another example of a signature car being produced in injection molded styrene, although this is the most esoteric, with previous cars such as the B&O Wagontop and Milwaukee Ribside box cars representing highly recognizable prototypes. The NP cars are no less significant, but are certainly more subtle. The fact that they even exist in a medium other than resin reminds of moments when my late friend Richard Hendrickson would say, “these are the good old days.” We are being confronted with riches we never imagined.

The roof is the finest version of the NP style produced to date
Certainly the most distinctive feature of these cars and for that matter, most NP house cars of the 1920s, was the trademark radial roof, with extremely narrow seam caps. Rapido has quite faithfully and delicately replicated this characteristic. Accentuating the roofs are finely rendered "wood" running boards (note: I prefer styrene over wood, particularly laser cut wood).

The lumber door detail is captured nicely on the model
The car body is no less well-detailed. Rapido expended great effort to correctly simulate the grooves on the double sheathed wood siding. The result in convincing. The doors, including the top tracks for the hangers and the guides are nicely recreated in scale, as well. The Murphy ends with seven corrugations in the top panel over eight in the bottom are nicely detailed. The lumber door in the A end is faithfully replicated.

Note the spring-like tensioning device that was common on NP brake arrangements
The difference-maker in a car at a $50 price point is the detailing. The cars feature wire grabs, with the lower ones on the side and end ladders incorporating the hybrid “straight-drop” configuration of the prototype. The two grabs at the left of the side and the hybrid grabs appear to be of a different material and are also about 0.002" thinner diameter wire, approximately 0.011"-0.012" vs. 0.013"-0.014".

The Miner 'Ideal' lever style hand brake is extremely well done. The pipe from the pressure retaining valve is large
The Miner ‘Ideal’ lever hand brake is a thing of beauty that I hope will be made available as a separate part. One area of criticism (and it is common with most manufacturers’ models) is the pipe for the pressure retaining (“retainer”) valve. It should be about 0.008". It is significantly more pronounced on the model, no doubt in the interest of durability and moldability. It is an area I will improve. The sill steps are exceptional, being fashioned from metal, and following the shape and contour of those on the prototype.

Note the finely rendered sill step and the hybrid "drop-straight" grab iron
The trucks are the only other area where I can express reservations. While they include separate brake shoes and generally follow the prototype, the detail is a little soft in comparison to the offerings of Tahoe Model Works, Kato, Kadee or Tangent. I would like to see this area improved on future Rapido offerings. The truck mounting is also a little "wonky". Even with the screws fully tightened, the trucks had a loose quality. Perhaps the integral screw-washer arrangement as well as the mounting post mitigates this in operation. Nonetheless, it doesn't seem all that "tight". I hope that my concerns are overcome in practice and operation by clever engineering. One other nit: I would encourage manufacturers to lead the push to 0.088” tread wheelsets. They operate the same as code 110 sets. Make the change!

The AB brake system as added to these cars circa the 1940s is faithfully replicated. While the styrene piping and rodding are compromises, they are rendered as delicately as can be expected. A nice touch is the NP tensioning mechanism visible as a spring-like device in the detail photo included above. Rapido has done a good job at capturing the layout of the prototype. Kudos here!

Rapido is to be commended for producing a fine model of a significant prototype. If online comments are any indication, they are already sold out. I hope it is an indication of success.

I purchased a pair of undecorated models and am waiting for decals (one model to have and a just-in-case extra). I will highlight the finished model in a subsequent post after I paint, letter, and weather it. I will also document the changes and enhancements I make. Yes, there are a few to be made...