Tuesday, December 31, 2019

Looking back and looking ahead

NC&StL XM-31 kitbash - model and prototype
2019 has been a year of change for me. The move to Brooklyn has been a good thing for me, both professionally and personally. However, it also meant a lot of weekends spent shuttling back and forth to and from Connecticut. I did not have nearly the amount of down time (= modeling time) as I had hoped. Within the last couple months, things have mostly stabilized and I now have a good working area set up and am able to regularly spend some time with modeling projects again.

I am not a huge believer in New Year's resolutions. However, I do believe that taking the time to put something down in writing makes it a lot more likely to happen. So, as an exercise in that philosophy, I have assembled a list of railroad projects to accomplish in 2020. Without further ado, here they are:


I will have a more expansive post on this in early 2020, but my goals are simple and are also quite modest. The drawing above illustrates the footprint and a smattering of industries/structures that need to be located. At this point, I do have a clean slate, with the benchwork up and insulation foamboard in place.
  • Identify the optimal orientation of structures to utilize the available space
  • Create a trackplan to support
  • Lay the track
  • Complete at least three structures
Walter E. Frost, Vancouver, BC

Freight cars

This is a more ambitious list (several of the things that I list to complete as kits are things where I created patterns awhile ago and then they have languished.) Complete the following (a number of these have appeared in my series of kitbashing clinics presented within the last two years; clicking here will take you to all of my clinic files, including the kitbash subject matter):
  • NC&StL XM-31 (kitbash)
  • FGEX 10800-series rebuild (scratchbash)
  • Oscar Mayer (NX) reefer (kitbash)
  • RF&P USRA 50-ton box car (modified Tichy)
  • PFE R-40-4 (Tichy)
  • ATSF Bx-34 AAR Duryea underframe box car (parts offering)
  • CNW PS-1 auto car (patterns and kit)
  • SAL AF-4 PS-1 auto car (modified parts/kitbash)
  • CN&L single sheathed box car (patterns and kit; prototype photo above)
  • CV 40000-series single sheathed box car (patterns and kit)
  • MILW 271500-series 50' single sheathed auto car (patterns and kit)
  • SP A-50-11 auto car (patterns and kit)
  • SP A-50-15 auto car (modified parts/kitbash)
  • SP A-50-17 auto car (modified parts/kitbash)
  • PFE plywood sided R-30-9 (scratchbuilt side pattern - 2020 St. Louis RPM project car)
  • CGW 1937 AAR box car (2017 Chicagoland RPM parts set)
  • GM&O GSC flat car (modified Exactrail)
  • LS&I PS-1 box car (modified Kadee)
  • NKP and MSC 12-panel PS-1 box cars (modified Kadee)
There are other freight car projects, but this is more than enough to get started and several I am not prepared to discuss yet, let alone list here...

American Car & Foundry photo



  • Prototype Railroad Modeling, Volume Five
  • Steam Era Freight Cars Reference Manual, Volume Four: Gondolas (this is a reach goal!)

Time to get busy...

Sunday, December 29, 2019

Shell Chemical Tank Cars - colors?

Toronto, Ontario, Jim Parker photo
Shell Chemical (as well as Shell Oil) had a West Coast facility based in Martinez, California. The area around the Carquinez Strait was a hub of petrochemical businesses and still has a large number of operations. I have an interest in modeling a couple Shell Chemical cars, including one in the scheme shown on these two cars. However, not having any color photos, I would be guessing at the scheme. I can discern (or imagine?) a difference in the hue of the reporting marks and other stencils contrasted with the "SHELL CHEMICAL" lettering. It seems likely that the name is red while the other lettering is black. The color of the tank is the other question. It appears to be gray or silver/aluminum. I am hopeful that someone can offer some definitive information, but my best source so far is the photo of a Strombecker kit produced in 1948 (see bottom). The tank wrapper in the kit has a gray tank with black stenciling and red company name. Given the kit's contemporaneous manufacture with the existence of the prototype, it seems highly plausible that the producers of the kit were basing the scheme on primary source material, meaning they might have actually viewed the scheme in question or had gathered material directly from Shell or GATC to aid in accuracy. In the absence of other information, the Strombecker model is my best resource.

Note that the two cars are both General American designs. The car shown at top, SCMX 840, is a GATC "Type 30" design, of 8,103 gallon capacity, built in November, 1936. SCMX 2061, below, is an interesting car. The insulated, pressurized ICC 105A 300W tank was built in May, 1943 and is in service hauling Anhydrous Ammonia. It had a capacity of 11,161 gallons. The frame is a GATC postwar design and was likely married to the tank in September, 1950, assuming that occurred when the car was last reweighed in September, 1950.

Pittsburg, California, October 26, 1952, Col. Chet McCoid photo, Bob's Photo

Sunday, December 22, 2019

Marty McGuirk's Mystery Box Car

A little over a year ago, Marty McGuirk posted this photo on the Central Vermont from Bob's Photo, as he was trying to identify the box car two in front of the locomotive (the one directly in front is an ex-auto car on the Illinois Central.) Marty's initial take was that it was a Louisiana & Arkansas 1932 ARA box car, given the best-guess reporting marks on the car of "L&A" and the height of the car. However, the straight side sills nixed that supposition. 

Here's my best guess. The L&A had several individual cars on the roster. I believe they were ones that the L&A ended up owning/keeping for reasons likely lost to time. I am fairly certain this car is L&A 10202 and that it is an ex-PRR X28A. Every one of the dimensions in the Official Railway Equipment Register matches the PRR's same dimensions for the X28A class. This mystery car has flat riveted ends and roof and straight side sill, all features of the X28A. Given the available information (and the absence of other contradictory info) I am going with L&A 10202, the only car in the Louisiana & Arkansas series L&A 10202-10202. What do you think?

Saturday, December 21, 2019

More on Lettering

San Diego, Sept. 5, 1955, Col. Chet McCoid photo, Bob's Photo

One of my early posts on this blog was about decal artwork from prototype lettering and I had a follow up post about the vagaries of lettering for the same road. Tony Thompson has had a couple of posts recently about lettering, as well, on his Modeling the SP blog. Recently, I again had reason to mull the subtleties of lettering. In the process of creating artwork for a decal set for CNW Emergency box cars, I noticed a peculiar difference in the lettering on the cars built by Pullman-Standard versus those constructed by American Car & Foundry. The Pullman cars followed standard CNW lettering, while the numbers on the AC&F cars (see '79350' below) were clearly non-CNW standard, using a more condensed type. The capacity and dim data also used a non-standard type, which can be clearly discerned in the builder's photos (not included here.) The reason is not clear. However, with the set, I make clear that I can only vouch for the set for as-built Pullman cars or repaints. This is just another illustration of the fact that even for the same cars on the same road, the lettering is decidedly not the same. Buyer (or modeler) beware!

Pullman-built lettering above and AC&F-built lettering below

Tacoma, Feb. 19, 1955, Col. Chet McCoid photo, Bob's Photo

Tuesday, December 17, 2019

More Prototypes for Universal 5700XL Hand Brake with M2049 Hand Wheel

PFE R-40-20 45819, Baltimore, Maryland, Sept. 28, 1951, Col. Chet McCoid photo, Bob's Photo

I have been doing some additional sleuthing and have found several more prototypes that can use the Universal 5700XL Hand Brake with M2049 Hand Wheel as created in HO scale by Kadee. Here they are, with photos in some instances. This list is still a work in progress. 
Previous post may be accessed via this link.

  • Chicago and North Western Modified 1937 AAR Box cars nos. 71000-71998, 76900-77414 and 80252-81450 (all even nos.) Also, CNW 73154, even though the Hawkins Mod. '37 AAR data indicates that it shouldn't have this hand brake.
  • Chicago and North Western 50-foot Express Box cars nos. 68000-68048 (even) 
  • Chicago and North Western Hart Ballast Hopper cars nos. 13501-13999 (odd)
  • Chicago, Minneapolis, St. Paul & Omaha Express Box cars nos. 20000-20048 (even)
  • Erie Hopper cars nos. 28600-28899
  • New York Central Lot 694-B Automobile cars nos. 62300-62599
  • [I am quite certain that there are a lot more New York Central System (NYCS) box cars that used this power hand brake, as it seemed to the design of choice for the NYCS from the late 1930s to the mid-1940s; I am basing all listings upon photo sources and other verifiable materials.]
  • Pacific Fruit Express R-40-20 Refrigerator cars nos. 45701-46200
  • Pacific Fruit Express R-40-23 Refrigerator cars nos. 5751-6000, 7001-7500, and 47703-48202
  • Pacific Fruit Express R-30-21 Refrigerator cars nos. 64135, 64973
  • Pacific Fruit Express R-40-18 Refrigerator car no. 60417… maybe
  • Pacific Fruit Express R-40-24 Refrigerator car no. 68057
  • Pacific Fruit Express R-50-5 Refrigerator cars nos. 200367, 200375 (likely the entire series 200301-200375)
  • Union Pacific B-50-17 Box car 180931 — Ajax with Universal M2049 wheel
  • Union Pacific B-50-36 Box car 195381 (likely others, too)

  • Burlington Refrigerator Express 74000-74499 and 74500-74697 Emergency Refrigerator cars
  • Fruit Growers Express 38000-38199 and 38200-38265 and 38266-38373 Emergency Refrigerator cars
  • Western Fruit Express 66400-66499, 66500-66549 and 66550-66624 Emergency Refrigerator cars
  • Fruit Growers Express 38375-38499 Refrigerator cars
  • Fruit Growers Express 38500-38634 Refrigerator cars
  • Fruit Growers Express (FOBX) Overhead Bunker Refrigerator cars


Friday, December 13, 2019

Late Steam Era 36-foot Box Cars

Jim Gerstley
Several months ago, I mentioned that I would post a list of 36-foot box cars that would be useful prototypes for late 1940s to early 1950s modelers (meaning that these cars were still operating in reasonable quantities, either in gross numbers or as a percentage of the road’s fleet.) Without much fanfare, here is the list, along with some photos, and HO scale model references where known.

Al Armitage photo
*Canadian National Dominion/Fowler Patent single sheathed box cars - the CN's cars including subsidiaries are too numerous to chronicle in a sentence; it is sufficient to say there were over 33,000 cars with many subtle detail differences; HO scale models from Speedwitch K104 kits (five-foot door opening), Westerfield, True Line Trains/LifeLike Canada, AccurailMainline Modeler, November 1985

Roseville, Calif., Oct 24, 1952, Col. Chet McCoid photo, Bob's Photo
*Canadian Pacific Dominion/Fowler Patent single sheathed box cars - like the CN, the CP had a massive fleet, with over 33,000 cars for itself and subsidiaries; too many to delineate in a sentence or paragraph; HO scale models from Westerfield, Accurail (six-foot door opening only); Mainline Modeler, June 1985

George Sisk photo, Charles Winters Collection
*Other Dominion/Fowler Patent single sheathed box cars, including Erie, NYS&W, NC&StL, PGE, Wabash, Soo, and others - Westerfield, AccurailMainline Modeler, April 1986

Delaware & Hudson double sheathed box cars profiled through the link included herein - models may be kit-scratchbashed or old Funaro & Camerlengo kits; Railroad Model Craftsman, November and December 1987

Bob's Photo
Erie single sheathed box cars (different from the Erie's Fowler/Dominion cars and more numerous in the late Steam Era). These cars were built by Standard Steel in 1921 and assigned to 93000-93999. They featured hat section pressed steel structural members as shown on Erie 93132 above. - no models at present

Harry Zillmer photo
Illinois Terminal 8100-8199 series single sheathed box cars built by Mt. Vernon in 1928. Note the Dalman Two-Level trucks (without Barber Lateral Motion devices) - Sunshine Models kits

Paterson, New Jersey, ca. 1947, Sirman Collection
Louisville & Nashville double sheathed box cars. Over the years, the Louisville & Nashville had thousands of such cars, with many subtle and not so subtle differences in characteristics. By the twilight of Steam, they were concentrated in two series: 8000-8999 and 10000-11999. Note the extensive damage to the door frame and roof at left edge of door in photo above - Sunshine Models

Missouri Pacific Lines double sheathed and rebuilt box cars. MP had cars as shown above well into the late 1940s and 1950 with many rebuilt into distinctive all-steel cars like MP 120050 shown at the top of this post - Sunshine Models; Railway Prototype Cyclopedia, Vol. 14.

Bob's Photo
New York Central System (NYC, B&A, P&LE) double sheathed box cars - Funaro & Camerlengo (general site link - search by road for specific kits), Accurail. F&C had a kit for this B&A car with Dreadnaught ends (I had one and gave it away to a friend recently as I have no need for more than one B&A car and my one is a USRA-design steel car.) 

Al Armitage photo
Southern (Mobile & Ohio and Lancaster & Chester) double sheathed truss box cars. These were incredibly numerous (almost 15,000 cars) and some of the last truss rod cars built - WesterfieldFunaro & Camerlengo; Railroad Model Craftsman March 2004
*Russ Pinchbeck and the late Stafford Swain presented a clinic about the Fowler/Dominion cars on the RPM circuit circa 2003 and included a detailed handout.

Eric Hansmann's blog Notes on Designing, Building, and Operating Model Railroads has much good information about 36-foot cars (particularly the NYC System cars produced by Accurail) as he is a 1920s-era modeler and his need for these cars is obvious!

Below are a few models. From top to bottom, Westerfield, Speedwitch, Westerfield

Sunday, December 8, 2019

Chicago & Eastern Illinois Gondola

Zanesville, Ohio, April 7, 1956

This photo has always appealed to me. The low angle of both the lighting and photographic perspective afford a great view of the numerous details, including the distorted plate steel of the sides, as well as the weirdly arranged AB brake components (it is rare to see brake components arranged with the piping facing out towards the side of the car, rendering it vulnerable to damage.) Additionally, the load of large diameter pipe makes for a compelling prototypical lading to replicate, including the banding, wire, and hardwood dimensional lumber containment pieces. Lastly, as a rebuilt car, it represents an interesting modeling subject. It started life as a Caswell-type gondola before rebuilding with tight, solid wood floors, elimination of the GS drop doors, and replacement Dreadnaught ends.

The photo below illustrates what the cars looked like prior to rebuilding. I do not have photos of the cars as built, but it is my assumption that the Wine door locks were not in place when the cars were new circa 1912. This car was reweighed at the Danville shops in June, 1927.

In late 1951, there were 251 of the rebuilt cars in the 95000-95299 series plus an additional 45 cars in the same series, but equipped for auto frame loading. The 90000-90199 series had 200 rebuilds like C&EI 95643 shown above except they still had drop doors and Wine door locks. There were also still 327 cars like the one below in series 92000-94499. The cars that were still of composite construction could be kitbashed using Intermountain bodies with Westerfield Wine door locks and angle stock for the part attached to the drop doors that the locks secure in place. That totals 823 of these interesting gons in service in late 1951.

Pine Village, Indiana, circa 1928, Allen and Son photo

Tuesday, December 3, 2019

Types for Lettering on Structures and Other Layout Signage

One of the things I am always on the lookout for is interesting types (“fonts”) that I can use to create specialized lettering. I have been particularly attuned lately as I have become more focused on structures. “Simple” sans serif types of the 1930s and 1940s have a more stylized look than the basic computer "fonts" of today. When I see a model structure that is to represent a period (e.g. late 1940s) structure, yet uses Arial or Helvetica for the sign that has the name of the business, it doesn’t look correct to my eye; it has a simple, anachronistic quality that screams, “I’m a model!”

The photo above of Utah Ice & Storage Co., May 9, 1928, by Harry Shipler/Shipler Commercial Photographers, is from the Utah State History project hosted by the University of Utah's J. Willard Marriott Library. While the PFE R-30-2 (at right) and R-30-13 reefers are interesting, my attention was also drawn to the lettering on the building at right in the image (for a better view, click on the image and note the red rectangle around the lettering.) I replicated the characters by tracing using a tight crop of the image, as shown below (the 'J' is a composite of the 'I' and 'S' while the 'O' is derived from the 'C'.) I plan to use the characters to letter a structure of an ice plant on my proto-lanced layout of Jefferson (based on Medford,) Oregon.

The two photos below (March, 1957, Chula Vista, Calif., Col. Chet McCoid photos, Bob's Photo,) illustrate another example of an interesting type that can be used for structure lettering. I initially purchased the photos for the subjects, a PFE R-30-9, above, and R-40-4, below, but stumbled upon the sign in the background. I found the style of the lettering compelling and I have need for a feed mill/ag supplier in Jefferson. So, after cropping, I pulled the images into Illustrator and created the "Willis-Burr Co." as seen below. I will finish the lettering for the details (Fertilizer, etc.) at a later time, but what's here illustrates my point.

The options for lettering are limitless and I have several others to be generated. Note that there are many font purveyors with period types available for download that can be used for these purposes. I tend to favor fee-based fonts over free downloads as I don't trust freeware to not have other malicious software embedded into it (my own cautious nature.)

Speaking of decals, I have two new sets for freight cars. They are D215 for the Virginian's 1916-built single sheathed box cars and D216 for the Minneapolis & St. Louis's ARA-design single sheathed cars built in 1930. Both have "cuts" in the lettering to accommodate surface details as on the prototype.