Saturday, March 18, 2023

Greetings from Morocco

1909, untitled, location not recorded, Lewis W. Hine (1874-1940)

Way back last autumn, I agreed to travel to Morocco with my partner, Laura, to attend a yoga retreat outside Marrakech. We made plans to stay a couple days in Madrid en route and wouldn't you know it, while attending the Museo Nacional Centro de Arte Reina Sofía, primarily to view Picasso's masterpiece Guernica plus other works by acclaimed (and not so) Spanish artists, I stumbled upon this photograph. Not only was it American and railroad-related, but it perfectly illustrated one of the problems with shifting loads and box cars with wood ends. The prototype is from the SP family of roads, although I don't have my references here with me in Morocco (!) to add more info. As you can see in the image, the end of the right hand car had been breached recently and no doubt would have required repair very soon. 

Below is an image of me and a group of Moroccan boys from a tiny village we hiked to, after I played a little goalie for them on their soccer pitch in the foothills of the Atlas Mountains.

Friday, March 10, 2023

Flat Car Friday - Santa Fe Ft-7 95057


This week's image is from Epping, New Hampshire, ca. the late 1960s and contains a nice load. The car is Santa Fe FT-7 no. 95057. The FT-7 class continued the Santa Fe's use of GSC cast steel underframes, begun with class FT-W in 1951. The FT-7 class was different in that the 100 cars were 70-ton capacity and 60 feet long. The underframes supplied by GSC were finished by the Santa Fe (addition of brake equipment, trucks, decking, etc.) in 1956 and assigned to series 90900-90999. The car shown above is loaded with International tractors. The adjacent car looks to be a Northern Pacific or Burlington car (although I can't make out the lettering to make a definitive determination.) The machines loaded on it are International-Harvester. Both were part of International-Harvester (Farmall tractors were part of I-H, too.)

There will not be a Flat Car Friday post next week

Thursday, March 9, 2023

Update on Etchings from Presentation

 During my presentation at the latest Hindsight 20/20, I alluded to the fact that due to the shipping delays in receiving my test etchings due to the Royal Mail hack from late December, I could not inspect and assess what I had received. I spent a few more hours looking at some of the parts, and have a few photos to share.

The first photos are of the ladders for PFE R-40-25/-26 reefers. The primary difference between the two is the -25 class used traditional ladders with treads (rungs) riveted to the ladders stiles while the -26 used Wine-style ladders where the rungs had bends that fit into holes in the stiles, that once attached to the car held the rungs in place. What is displayed here is the -25 riveted style. Compare the prototype photo, above, to the etchings shown below. The sill steps were attached to a bracket that was also integral to the bottom of the ladder stiles, with the entire assembly attached to the bottom face of the side sill in two locations.

The next group of photos are of etchings for a Chicago and North Western PS-1 auto car. Common to all but the earliest PS-1s, that arrangement featured an integral ladder stile, sill step, and bracket attached to the bottom of the side sills, similar to the R-40-25 shown above. [the prototype photo below illustrates this arrangement on a Maine Central PS-1 box car]

There was an interim style of end ladder on PS-1s, with a "jog" in the lower portion of the right stile. Early PS-1s had straight stiles, while later ones had the same "jog," but with two wider bottom rungs, as opposed to one. [note: I could've done a better job bending the little jog to make it straight!]

The last parts I will highlight are two types if zee bars. Most PS-1s had crossmembers that were 4" zee bars. An etching to replicate that is shown in two views. The other simulates a 3" zee bar that will be used to replicate the stringers between the body bolsters and end sills. The photo illustrates the cross section. Etchings such as these have many applications as zee bars were quite common. Until I have more to report...

Wednesday, March 8, 2023

Larger Etching Bending Tool - RP Toolz Piranha

In my presentation about etchings, I mentioned that I was in the market for an etching bending tool with a longer bending edge. In the past, I have used a small "Hold and Fold" from the Small Shop. I first visited their site looking for a larger version of their tool, but found that it has been discontinued. My next stop was UMM-USA where I found just the thing, the RP Toolz "Piranha" 195mm photo etch bending tool. I ordered it ($60.99) and it arrived within a few days. Not only do I love its longer working edge, but I have also found it to have stronger clamping than the Hold and Fold, making it easier to bend some of my recent creations that have long edges, but relatively narrow bits to grab to facilitate bending. The top piece can be unscrewed and rotated 180 degrees, as well, providing some flexibility. I am 100% satisfied with the Piranha. I highly recommend it. If this is too large for your needs, UMM-USA does have other options. Just use the search tool at their site.

In the next couple days, I will share a few updates to etched parts I referenced during the presentation

Tuesday, March 7, 2023

Scratch that Etch presentation

The link to the presentation about creating etchings, "Scratch that Etch," can be found here. I have also uploaded the video of the presentation to youtube at the following link. Enjoy!

Friday, March 3, 2023

Flat Car Friday - New York Central 70-ton AAR Flat Car


While this image is far from great, it does display two things that I'd like to see more: loads of crates and NYC 70-ton AAR flats. Crates are a fairly simple load to create from styrene stock or the old Sunshine export crates load, if you have one. They are easy to customize by creating your own lettering and printing decals in black stenciling or having them printed by a third party, such as PDC. They are also simple to secure using Chartpack or similar tape to simulate the banding.

I also rarely see models of the NYC 70-ton AAR flat cars in HO. It cannot be a lack of offerings since Intermountain has produced quite nice replicas and Sunshine also offered kits that still appear on the secondary market and do not fetch exorbitant Sunshine prices since there is a good styrene alternative. Protowest also briefly offered resin kits for the 70-ton AAR flats, although they are a bit crude, in my opinion. Fine decals are also available from National Scale Car. With a fleet of 1,000 cars, they are significant flat car prototypes that warrant inclusion in just about any model fleet.

I plan to take my own musings to heart and complete one in the near future.

Wednesday, March 1, 2023

Pennsylvania GRa Gondola Finished

I recently completed a Westerfield Pennsy class GRA gondola. You can find the previous posts via these links: Part 1 and Part 2. When I left off, the model was painted and awaiting lettering. I created my own lettering and had the decals printed by PDC.

The photo above illustrates the model after the decals were applied, excepting the repack stencils and some of the chalk marks. I also applied a wash on the interior boards using AK Interactive's Streaking Grime. I followed that by some light blending with a fiberglass scratch brush. I sealed the lettering with a coat of Future applied with an airbrush followed by a coat of Tamiya flat, also airbrushed.

Next, I applied some streaks to the sides below the floor boards. I have a prototype photo that displays a similar type of weathering. I dabbed on a mix of white and Payne's grey artist's oils that were then drawn upwards using mineral spirits, so that the greatest paint concentration was where the floor boards are exposed on the sides and also to create simulated streaks.

The photo above illustrates the model after a light weathering. I sealed the oils referenced above with a coat of clear flat first. I then added light amounts of PanPastels Burnt Sienna and Raw Umber. This toned down both the white of the lettering as well as the harshness of the light-colored streaks. I sealed these with a coat of Future, followed by the addition of more chalk marks. I sealed the chalk marks with a coat of Future followed by clear flat. 

The last steps to create the finished model, excepting the load, are shown here. I masked small areas for the repack stencils and painted them gloss black using an airbrush. I applied the repack stencils, using spares for Missouri Pacific from my decal bin. After they had dried, I sealed them with clear flat. Lastly, I added bits of white paper to simulate routing instructions, secured with Loctite Stik'n Seal. I added the couplers and trucks to complete the car.

The load is something I have been passively working on for years. I have a ziplock bag that I add bits of this and that too, knowing that they will end up as part of a scrap load. While loose on a piece of newsprint, I sprayed most of the junk with silver and grey paints from a rattle can. Once everything was ready, I placed the pieces inside the car body. I masked around the top edges of the car sides and then applied a very liberal stream of clear flat using a rattle can. This served as a quasi adhesive to secure much of the matter in place. I then added diluted white glue using an eye dropper to help secure things even more, especially the material at the bottom of the load. Finally, some of the larger pieces were secured using Loctite Stik'n Seal. While nothing is 100% securely in place, everything is nonetheless in place sufficiently that when turned upside down, nothing falls out! The final step involved several applications of drybrushed grey and black paints along with the addition of various rust shades of Pan Pastels and Tamiya brown wash. If one looks intently at individual pieces of the load, they may not stand up to scrutiny, but as a whole, I find the load highly convincing to simulate scrap from machining waste and various pieces of junk. In a moving train, it definitely does the job. On to the next project...

Saturday, February 25, 2023



As a city dweller, I don't have ready access to a local hobby shop so I tend to find ways to make do as I can. A great source of hobby goods can be art supply stores. I happen to live near one of the best known art schools in the country and have a few local options. One "hack" I have found is Nichiban tape. If it is not made by the same people who make Tamiya's masking tape, I'd be shocked (I suspect that Tamiya's tape is rebranded Nichiban.) If you're not familiar with this stuff by whatever name, it does double duty as low tack, meaning it doesn't pull up the undercoat you're trying to mask, yet it's high tack in that when you put it in place, it doesn't start to "unstick" itself. How it works, I don't know, but it just does. It comes in various widths, too, although I tend to put some on my self-healing mat and cut to the size needed. Highly recommended!

Friday, February 24, 2023

Flat Car Friday - Louisville & Nashville 24628


The Louisville & Nashville had a sizable fleet of medium length flat cars, with over 800 46'9" flat cars built by Bethlehem Steel (nos. 22000-22249, 1926), Tennessee Coal & Iron (nos. 22500-22599, 1927) and Pressed Steel Car Co. (nos. 24300-24819, 1930). This was one of the largest fleets of intermediate length flat cars (longer than 40'-42' and shorter than 50') in North America during the Steam and Transition Eras. Cars of this length were profiled in Prototype Railroad Modeling, Vol. 5 (being reprinted.)

L&N 24628, a Pressed Steel product, was photographed on the New Haven at Providence on December 12, 1957 by Col. Chet McCoid (Bob's Photo) with a carefully blocked and braced load of what appears to be cut marble. This would be a cool load to replicate using styrene skillfully painted and drybrushed to look like marble... perhaps fodder for a future post.

Chad Boas has offered parts for these cars. His list of offerings may be found here and he is a frequent attendee of the St. Louis and Chicago-area ("Naperville") RPMs, where he sells castings.

Wednesday, February 22, 2023

Decals (yet again!)

My latest PDC sheet*

I know I post a LOT about decals and artwork... it's kind of an obsession for me. I love how the correct artwork for a specific railroad, using their unique type ("font") can really add the right finishing touch to a model. I also notice that many people inquire on lists and forums if there are decals available for subject X or how they can go about creating artwork for decals. It's really not that difficult and the hardest part, the printing in white, is easier than you might think. 

My latest effort for illustrative purposes, not yet flat-coated and sharper in real-life than shown here... however, it looks exactly like PRR late steam era lettering because it's based on the Pennsy's actual lettering, not some generic "font" used by a "graphics" person at one of the model RR manufacturers. Also, it's the car number, reweigh location and date, etc. that I want.

First, the artwork. If you have a community college near you, the chances are quite good that they offer a class in Adobe Illustrator (before you say Illustrator is too expensive, read on please.) A class in Illustrator will teach you everything you need to know, and quite a lot more, to make decal artwork. Also, regardless of the software you choose, the concepts are similar and translate across software. The main thing is to learn how to work in vector graphics. Take the class. 

It's exciting to see the fruits of one's digital labors. Note that Jefferson Bus Lines is purely fictitious for my proto-lanced town of Jefferson, Oregon

Next, decide on software. If you like Illustrator, you can likely find an older version that you can buy outright on a site such as ebay. For what we are doing, even 15 year old Illustrator is adequate. Just make sure your current computer will support it. Alternatively, you can choose the Adobe subscription model (it always has the latest version!) You might find that you can subscribe, create the artwork you need in a month or two, and then unsubscribe. If you're enrolled at the community college, you'll qualify for the academic discount, too. Other options are out there, with the most common being Corel Draw. Find something that works for you and go from there.

Now for the printing and this is the part that's easier than you think... no Alps white inks or ghost white toner, unless that's the path you choose. You can simply save your file as a .pdf and send it off to PDC and within a week or so have your decals. You can fill up an 8.5" x 11" sheet to your heart's content. Also, since you're creating only what you need, you won't take up valuable real estate with extra number jumbles, reweigh locations and dates, repacks, etc. The white ink is fantastic and other colors are available, too.

I really encourage you to explore this... it's also not just for things on the rails. You can use it for signage, decorating, etc., for anything on the layout. Stop asking and start making!

*note that what you see here is converted from vector to raster (pixels) and downsampled to protect the work I have done to create all this artwork

PS - I am not interested in creating artwork for your projects. I don't have enough time for my own!

Friday, February 17, 2023

Flat Car Friday - Santa Fe Ft-P 90725


The Santa Fe received 150 flat cars from American Car & Foundry in 1930, car nos. 90701-90850, assigned to series Ft-P. They closely followed the Ft-O class delivered in 1929, with straight side sills and deep fishbelly underframe sections, visible in the photo above. The car above features a highly interested load of corrugated pipe that has shifted slightly. Note all of the loading details, including wood separating each layer, banding and strapping, plus the wood at the outside and fitted into the stake pockets. The clips attached to the sides that some of the bands are secured through were not original features of these cars. The photo dates from 1967, by which time they had been added. While the pipe here has a spiral corrugation pattern, similar pipe with straight corrugations is available from Grain Belt Models or you can track down the beautiful pipe from Jaeger that can be acquired via ebay or swap meets (it does require rolling and assemble, but looks stunning... see below)

This photo is of the old Jaeger "roll (literally) your own" corrugated pipe load, part of the joint clinic on loads prepared by Jerry Hamsmith and Ed Rethwisch at the Chicagoland RPM Meet in 2019. The model is a Sunshine resin kit, currently improved and offered by the GNRHS.

Thursday, February 16, 2023

First Look - Rapido Union Tank Line 10,000 gallon X-3 design tank car

Hartford, ca. 1947, Kent Cochrane photo

The long-awaited UTLX X-3 tank cars from Rapido Trains have shipped from Rapido and retailers. Given the other UTLX tank car models and kits I have (including X-3s) I only ordered one undec. Here are my very initial thoughts. These sentiments will no doubt evolve as I build my model.

Courtesy of Bill Welch from Howard Ameling collection

The Rapido model represents the 10,000 gallon, single compartment X-3 variant produced in 1919-1920, with over 8,000 total cars produced. This car is characterized by narrow spacing of the two valves on the dome, built-up 6-rivet bolster design, straight-shaped end sills, and 54" diameter domes. For more details, UTLX Steam Era Tank Cars by Stephen Hile is a highly recommended resource and is the "bible" on the UTLX tank car fleet.

Fayetteville, North Carolina, December 2, 1951, Col. Chet McCoid photo, Bob's Photo

I have included several photos of the model to highlight some of the details. The overall impression is of a high degree of fidelity to detail, with many finely rendered small parts including many in metal. The undec model does comes partially preassembled, as shown in the general photo. Finer details are left to the modeler.

The ladder on the Rapido car is of the "abbreviated" style, terminating at the handrail. Contrast to the "full" ladder shown on UTLX 35552, with ladder extending to the underside of the dome step. Also, note that like on most X-3s, the step is located only on the left side of the car. The photo of UTLX 37430 illustrates the lack of a ladder and step on the car's right side.

The Rapido model reflects a car fitted with AB-schedule brakes. The placement and details closely match those shown on UTLX 3552. The cylinder and reservoirs are quite nice replicas, while the AB valve is a bit simple, a shame given that it is the part most prominently seen on a model under typical conditions.

The trucks are well-detailed and match those of the prototypes well. Compare to those on UTLX 36907 in the photo of New Haven Y-3 0-8-0 3406.

Rapido has also done a good job at capturing two of the most distinguishing traits of these X-3s: the tank supports/saddles with the trademark triangular web and the wood platforms at the ends of the tanks between the end and stub side sills.

The details to be added by the modeler, including grabs, uncoupling devices, placard holders, etc., are secured separately in tiny zip bags for safe keeping. The placard holders match the style used on almost all UTLX tank cars, a nice touch

I will be detailing and lettering this model over the coming months using the decal set from National Scale Car. Follow this blog to be notified of updates.

Wednesday, February 15, 2023

Thursday, February 9, 2023

Flat Car Friday PRR F22 with interesting load


I can promise that the subject each week will not always feature Pennsy flat cars, but so far that is the case. This week's subject is one that again should be familiar to modelers as the F22 has been available in HO scale in both brass and as a resin kit from Funaro & Camerlengo. Issues 26 and 32 of The Keystone Modeler had articles containing info about the F22 class, with issue 26 containing info about the sister class F23, as well. Pennsylvania Railroad Flat Cars contains six pages of info and photos about the F22 and F23 classes. These were often referred to as gun cars or flats as two would often be used in tandem to transport large gun barrels as used on naval vessels. The load in this photo is also naval in nature, being a conning tower (edited post: based upon discussion at the Steam Era Freight Cars list, this was determined to likely be part of the "Conning Tower Tube" from the USS Missouri - credit to Ralph Brown and Marty McGuirk for their expertise.) The photo is from the Kheel Center for Labor Management Documentation and Archives at Cornell University

Wednesday, February 8, 2023

Stock Cars and a book


A pervasive myth among model railroaders is that stock cars were not freely interchanged and did not roam to any great degree. While I would absolutely grant that the average stock car was not interchanged in the same manner as a box car, stock cars did travel off line, sometimes great distances. I love the photo above from the Harrisburg, Pennsylvania area ca. late 1947 (Kalmbach Memorial LIbrary, Boob Charles Collection; prints available). In it, there are a couple PRR stock cars visible, but there are also three Santa Fe, one Union Pacific, one Missouri Pacific, and several other stock cars that I believe are SP/UP, but cannot be more definitive. The same collection also has images of two Northern Pacific stock cars. Stock was moved around for many reasons, providing license for modelers to include a variety of stock cars in operating sessions. To that point, I want to also highlight a phenomenal resource to understand the movement, handling, and operations surrounding live stock.

Steve Sandifer's Live Stock Operations: History, Equipment, Facilities & Modeling (published by the SFRHMS) presents the interesting and complex world of live stock shipping in a densely illustrated and cited work that should be in the library of every model railroader who even tangentially brushes up against live stock shipping. While it uses the Santa Fe as a backdrop, much of live stock shipping was governed by other agencies, meaning that what applied to one railroad applied to all. The book covers everything related to these shipments including things that happened before and after the railroad was involved. It is truly a fascinating glimpse into one of the more interesting aspects of railroading operations and history. It also includes material about modeling Santa Fe equipment and stock facilities. Even if you are not a Santa Fe modeler, you can easily justify having one or two (or more for some) cars as the Santa Fe fleet of stock equipment was enormous.

Years ago, Stan Hall graciously sent me copies of Santa Fe switch lists related to stock moves, as well as a small number of original switch lists and Stock Yard Foreman's Records. I am including scans of the originals here for reference. They are a great companion to the material in the book. Enjoy and please support this great book effort!