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!

Monday, February 6, 2023

This stuff


Over the years, I have seen many posts on lists, etc., about how so-and-so was lamenting that his ACC went bad and the container was still half, three-quarters, etc., full. I bought this at my local hardware store, maybe 250 paces from my front door in Brooklyn. It's not any special hobby formulation. I have had it open for about two years and have seen zero degradation in its effectiveness. I don't know if it's the "Professional" formulation, luck or more likely, it's good stuff. The cap is notched and is quite secure. Maybe that is the reason. Regardless, it has lasted and I am here to report that I am a very satisfied customer. Hopefully, your experience matches mine. That is all...

Thursday, February 2, 2023

Flat Car Friday

I thought it might be interesting to try to add some routine to my postings, as I have no shortage of material that can be shared. In that spirit, I will run some "Flat Car Fridays" over the coming weeks and months. First up is this PRR F30A with an interesting vessel of some type. I assume it has something to do with the manufacture of rubber/latex, but I am not certain. I am hopeful that the internet can do its thing and that some of you will post in the comments section to enlighten the rest of us. The location of this photo was at the Naugatuck Chemical Division of US Rubber (later Uniroyal) in Naugatuck, Connecticut.

The other item of note that I wanted to highlight is that although I've never seen this detail modeled (at least in HO scale), the deck boards of the F30A were secured with bolts that passed through holes in the the cast frame (the F30A was effectively a giant, one-piece casting with wood added on top). Another detail to be added for those who so wish...