Tuesday, May 30, 2023

Bill Aldrich

Image from Kalmbach/MR digital access

In our lives, we all meet a small number of people who seem to do everything well, always send handwritten thank you notes, and charm every person who crosses paths with them through their grace. Bill Aldrich was such a person. Like many, I had my introduction to Bill through the September, 1980 issue of Model Railroader. At the time, I was thirteen and while ignorant of much, I was smitten with the New Haven and knew that I wanted to achieve the fidelity to detail that Bill did on much of his layout. I read and re-read that issue of MR and still have the well-worn copy on my shelves, even after digitizing my magazine collection. Sadly, I learned of Bill's passing in September, 2022, via the NHRHTA's most recent Shoreliner.

A scratchbuilt I-1 Pacific in Shoreline service on Bill's final layout

For those who aren't familiar with Bill, here are a few details, courtesy of my own experiences and information as well as Don Valentine's writing in the Shoreliner. Bill was born in 1929 in Cranston, Rhode Island. During college, he actually commuted to MIT on the New Haven! He continued his studies, earning a PhD in metallurgy in Germany. His career started with positions for both the New York Central and a stint with the New Haven. He moved on to Warnaco (a source of comradery for us as I was also an employee of Warnaco for a spell) where among other things, he worked on incorporating Lycra into clothing, as well as seeing its benefits as a way to simulate lineside wires that would stretch, but not break if accidentally pulled.

He also ended up as a Brigadier General in the Army Reserves and taught at the War College. Upon his full retirement, he was a docent at Gettysburg, where he lived the final years of his life. I visited several times and was treated to some one-on-one ops sessions on his last layout (another MR cover story, January 2001) as well as visits to the Gettysburg battlefield infused with Bill's expert commentary, plus entertaining dinners at local establishments. I always thanked Bill for these visits as well as his input on New Haven steam projects I was consulting on by sending some of the resin freight car kits I produced under the Speedwitch banner. It was gratifying to receive a letter from Bill a few weeks after sending these kits with photos of the completed models in service on his layout.

Bill was perhaps known best for his exceptionally detailed steam locomotives and passenger cars, including full interiors. Below are photos of a few of his fine steamers. Rest in peace

Reworked AHM model to replicate the New Haven's three-cylinder Y-4 class 0-8-0 switchers

Scratchbuilt model of one of the New Haven's R-2a Mountains

Another scratchbuilt gem, an I-4 class New Haven Pacific

Bill reworked a Bachmann 2-8-0 to replicate one of the New Haven's ex-Central New England "Bull Moose" Consolidations

Thursday, May 25, 2023

Finishing a Bill Welch Model - Reading USRA-design 70-ton Class GML Gondola

Much of Bill's model work that he was engaged in just prior to his death was lost due to the condition of his apartment after he was admitted to the hospital. I have shared the details with a few people, but have not published any sort of explanation. There was a plumbing issue that flooded Bill's apartment between the time he was admitted to the hospital and his death. Using your imagination, one can easily conclude what a wet apartment from backwashed toilet water in central Florida looked like. It was effectively a hazardous area. Much of what was in the apartment was unsalvageable. However, a few in progress models were tossed in boxes. Many were damaged as packing them carefully was not feasible. This model is one of the ones that was salvaged.

There were no instructions, parts (including the simulated wood floor casting), decals, trucks, etc. Fortunately, I have one of these kits in my stash and could use it to help complete the model.

Additional details include:

  • Yarmouth Model Works Carmer cut levers
  • Perfect hand brake wheel (Dayton Malleable Iron Co.) from alternate Westerfield Reading gon kit (which includes an extra, fortuitously!)
  • Custom decals from my artwork, printed by PDC
  • Plate C Taylor trucks (they are 50-ton whereas the prototype used 70-ton, they they are a unique design and 70-ton versions are not available; more on these trucks below)
  • Lead sheet and styrene
  • Stripwood (1x8) for the floor
  • Weathered predominantly with artists' oils plus limited powders from PanPastel and Bragdon
The model was mostly completed. Prior to painting, I added some missing details as well as a couple other items. I began by adding lead sheet at the ends of the floor and some styrene in the center. The lead sheet is quite thin, ~0.020", so I used 0.020" sheet styrene in the center section. Bill had already added lead sheet between the structural members on the bottom of the car so the additional lead made the car sufficiently heavy to run without a load. I added small amounts of strip styrene and rivets to simulate the mounting of the sill steps. 

Images of the Plate C Taylor trucks, above and below

A note is in order about the Plate C trucks. They are quite well detailed, but require some care in handling. They come assembled and should be handled that way. I removed the wheelsets and painted them in a wheel mask jig. That worked well, but in reinserting the wheelsets into the truck sideframes, I broke one. The truck sideframes are quite brittle. It would have been better to mask the wheel treads and leave the wheelsets in the sideframes. I did manage to repair the sideframe as the break was clean and I braced it as well. I used Barge cement to glue it back together and then "framed" the break with styrene attached with Barge cement secured additionally with ACC.

After all the detailing was completed, I blasted the metal/wire parts, trucks, and wheelsets with 220 grit aluminum oxide. This adds some roughness to improve paint adhesion. I primed the model using Badger Stynylrez primer. I then painted all surfaces with a mix of Tamiya flat black (~90%) and XF-66 light grey (~10%) using an airbrush. This was followed by a coat of Future floor polish again applied with an airbrush to create a gloss surface for the decals. 

I applied all decals except the brake test and repack stencils. In addition, I added a few chalkmarks, too. These were sealed first with Future and then Tamiya XF-86 clear flat, both applied with an airbrush. I began weathering by applying a rust color that is a mix of gold ochre and terra rosa artists's oils. The technique involved using mineral spirits (odorless) to allow the color to "bleed" into various areas, including along the structural members on the sides, as well as the end sills. I also added less diluted rust to many areas, including several of the interior stake pockets and some "pits" (imperfections) in the car body casting to simulate rust. I sealed all of this with another flat coat followed by a thorough application of a light grey from a blend of white and Payne's grey artists' oils. This was applied to all surfaces, but more was added along the side sill and allowed to "travel" up the sides and structural members through capillary action. I again sealed this with a clear flat coat. I followed with another similar application, except this time with raw umber artists' oil, followed again with clear flat. 

Since the floor casting was missing, I decided to add strip basswood to simulate the floorboards. I used HO scale 1x8; I don't know the dimensions of the prototype's boards, but I wanted them to be as thin as possible since I added lead and the width of 8" is dimensionally close to 7+ inches, a common board width on gons and flat cars. I secured the boards using a 50/50 mix of Barge cement and MEK. I began at the center of the car and added boards, working from the center to the ends. Once in place, I applied a basic wash to the boards of diluted raw umber artists' oils thinned with mineral spirits. I sealed everything with a flat coat before proceeding.

Next, I highlighted several of the boards with raw umber and Payne's grey artists' oil washes of various strength to create subtle differences in the boards, followed by a clear flat coat. I followed with some judicious applications of PanPastels and Bragdon's powders. The PanPastels (Payne's grey) were applied to the floor boards as well as to slightly darken the chalkmarks. I also added Payne's grey and raw umber to the truck sideframes, the wheelsets, and the couplers. The Bragdon's powders were added to the interior (not the boards) - grimy grey - and the faces of the wheelsets - soot. Everything was again sealed with a coat of Tamiya flat.

I masked the area where the repack and brake test stencils would be added and airbrushed them with the same Tamiya black-grey mixture, followed by a coat of Future. I applied several more chalkmarks, as well as the reweigh and brake test stencils. These were sealed with Future followed by Tamiya clear flat. Finally, I applied a very, very dilute wash of white artists' oil to tone down and blend everything, followed by one last clear flat coat.  I added the trucks and couplers and Reading GML 24163 was ready for service. I hope that Bill "the reluctant weatherer "extreme modeler" Welch would approve!

Friday, May 19, 2023

Flat Car Friday - Milwaukee Heavy Duty Flats


uncredited image purchased from ebay auction; note absence of stake pockets

The Milwaukee had two 200-ton heavy duty flat cars (FG* although originally FM) built in 1928 by Standard Steel Car Company's Hammond, Indiana (outside Chicago) plant, car nos. 67051 and 67053. As shown, they rode on four Dalman two-level trucks with a cast bolster, visible between the two trucks at each end. These were a heavily riveted design, as evidenced by the sheer number of rivets visible. They were likely to support some of the online manufacturers of heavy loads, such as A. O. Smith, but they could be used for more traditional shipments, as shown below. By the early 50s they had been renumbered to car nos. 601051 and 601052, capacities of 392500 and 393300, respectively.

ca. 1938, Pacific & Western Model Railroad [club?]

I had it in my mind, perhaps erroneously, that Roundhouse had offered an HO scale model of these (in addition to the smaller heavy duty flat that they offered) although I could be mistaken. Athearn also offered a heavy duty flat of a different type, although that could be fodder for a kitbash of this prototype as the general shape is similar, if not identical.

image from 1945 Milwaukee Road freight car diagrams

*FG is the AAR classification for flat cars to haul "heavy ordnance or other heavy commodities"

Wednesday, May 17, 2023

Small layout concept


Morgan St. freight house and yard, Hartford, CT, June, 1941, Marion Post Wolcott, FSA-OWI Collection, Library of Congress, Call no. LC-USF34-057575-D

Many of us, yours truly included, began our layout dreaming, planning, and conjuring visions of 20' x 60' basement empires with 48" radius curves (HO scale) and legions of crews handling timetable and train order operations. For a variety of reasons, many of us abandon these dreams quickly, and, unfortunately, do not replace them with something more in keeping with our individual abilities and constraints. I personally determined that what I actually wanted was a far more modest showcase for what really interested me: freight cars (a link to some of my thinking on that topic - I have refined things further and am midstream at building the foundational elements.) Many of us would do well to start somewhere more in keeping with our circumstances and have something as opposed to nothing; there's no time like the present.

courtesy of Charles Dunn

While I settled on something based upon the Medford, Oregon area, I always loved this image* and thought that the subject of this photo would be a great standalone switching layout as an end or a first phase to a larger layout based upon the Hartford area as time and space permit. I am planning a more detailed analysis of this idea for any interested parties as a future, more in-depth writeup, but this is intended to whet the appetite. This image from a Sanborn Fire Insurance Co. map ca. 1950 should furnish some basic details for those who can't wait.

*I grew up in the Hartford area and that affinity combined with my love of freight cars made this image particularly appealing. So much so that I have a very large print from the Library of Congress framed and hanging in a place of prominence!

Tuesday, May 16, 2023

Achievement vs. Accomplishment and Learning in our hobby


The New York Times published a guest opinion piece by Adam Gopnik, entitled "What We Lose When We Push Our Kids to 'Achieve' " in the May 16, 2023 issue. It set me thinking along the same lines as a different opinion piece that I wrote about (link to that original post.) What I found interesting is the idea that ever since my childhood, I have been engaged in several hobbies, notably model building and photography, where I have had significant accomplishments, by most standards, yet have felt little pressure or any of the structure associated with achievement. In fact, Mr. Gopnik specifically cites hobbies in his piece. I mostly am citing his work here to share it and will not offer my opinions as I would rather leave your perceptions to you. Feedback about the piece is quite encouraged, though, via the comments form below.

The other thing I want to share is coincidentally by Adam's sister, Alison (she is cited for another reason in his opinion piece, too) and deals with learning and different learning patterns by age in humans. I find it particularly interesting given that I believe that model railroading has served to keep my mind "young" as I am constantly being challenged to find new ways, techniques, and skills to accomplish my hobby goals. Alison's work is in an episode of Ezra Klein's podcast, "Why Adults Lose the 'Beginner's Mind' " - apple podcast link - spotify link. You should be able to easily find the link via your favorite podcasting app, too. Again, your opinions are encouraged via the comments field below!

Tuesday, May 9, 2023

Some context for weathering of freight cars


Illinois Central R.R., freight cars at the South Water Street freight terminal, Chicago, Ill. The C & O and Nickel Plate Railroads lease part of this terminal from the I.C.R.R. April, 1943, Jack Delano, Call number LC-USW36-605, Farm Security Administration - Office of War Information, Library of Congress

The other day, I was looking for images that I had of Erie 1932 ARA-design box cars and this one came up as part of my search. I think most of us have seen this and many of the other incredible images like them. The Jack Delano color images from the World War II era effortlessly suck me into the nuances, textures, and details of the various parts of the photos. What I realized is that my weathering and finishing efforts, in spite of my attempts to diversify my techniques of late, are still not quite up to the look of the prototype. After looking at these photos, I conclude that I can do a better job of creating variances across the surfaces of my models, both in terms of color and texture. I will be working to expand my quiver of skills and will share some of my successes and failures here. 

[note that the cars displayed in this small montage are weathered quite a bit more heavily than you might see 5-10 years later, due to the continued shift from steam to diesel power and with that a decrease in the amount of dirty gunk belched from locomotives as well as more frequent maintenance and repainting of cars in the postwar era.]

Saturday, May 6, 2023

A little tool time

I recently decided to attempt to find a better alternative for cleaning my airbrush. After some simple searching, I found the Torrington Brush Works web site. I ordered nylon micro-tube brushes in several sizes, from 0.020" brush diameter through 0.080" brush diameter in 0.010" increments. I can report that they are exactly what I was seeking. The larger ones can pass through the entire length of my airbrush and the smallest can pass through the tip of the airbrush (be careful as. the opening in the tip can be easily split, even though it is metal.) If you're looking for brushes, I recommend a visit to the Torrington Brush Works site. 

Editorial content: Yes, I am certain you can find a better deal on amazon. However, my preference is to support a small business. Your mileage may vary

the "business" ends of the 0.050" and 0.060" diameter brushes

Friday, May 5, 2023

Flat Car Friday - Waterloo, Cedar Falls & Northern 400


Al Armitage photo, Ron Morse Collection, ca. 1949-1950

One of the things I thought would be a fun part of this "series" on flat cars would be to highlight some of the more interesting and unusual cars that I have come across in the photos I have acquired over the years. The Spokane International car was one such example, as is the one shown herein. According to wikipedia, the Waterloo, Cedar Falls & Northern was organized in 1895 to build a line from Waterloo to Cedar Falls, Iowa, completed in 1897. It expanded to Waverly and Cedar Rapids and operated a modest schedule of several interurban trains per day connecting these points. It also operated a freight belt line around Waterloo.

In January, 1953, according to the Official Railway Equipment Register, the WCF&N rostered a whopping 52 freight cars, of which almost half were the 25 flat cars in the 4000-4024 series. I have had this photo on my radar since I acquired the print, thinking it would be a great project to complement one of my two Sunshine Models Farmall tractor load kits. Of note are the towing loops at the bolsters. That's a project for another day, though.

P.S. I do not know when these cars were built or by what car builder. If anyone knows those details, please fell free to share via the comments section below. Thank you!

Monday, May 1, 2023

"Collection of"


Hannibal, Missouri on the CB&Q, courtesy of Al Hoffman

This post is one that has been percolating for years and qualifies as a true rant. Often, I will keep my rants contained to a group of close friends. However, this is one that really sticks in my craw, so here goes...

After the dust settled on Internet 1.0 and people discovered that they could right click and save just about any image they saw online (savvy persons found that even if right click didn't work, there was always the trusty screenshot) many online pundits have been compiling rather large assemblages of images on their hard drives. No problem there. 

What has irked me is when some of these same people propagate these images as part of their own sharing and online publishing, with no credit whatsoever to the original photographer or source, let alone noting the details. I noticed this because when I digitized the images I had gathered over the years and sold the physical images on ebay, I was diligent about noting the photographer, location, date, and collection details, where they had been noted. The right click vultures gladly copied the images uploaded as part of the ebay sales (which, in and of itself, I have no problems with,) but never took the time to record the details. Now when those images are shared by the right clickers, they are often shared as, "Collection of 'John Doe' " instead of with proper credit. John Doe's voracious appetite for right clicking does not constitute a "Collection." [by the way, John Doe is used here as a general moniker, without specificity.] If you can't even take the time and effort to record the details related to a photo, even when they were right there for the copying, calling what you have a "Collection" is a true bastardization of the word.

Again, I wish to reiterate that downloading images from the internet for reference is a valuable tool. I do it as much as the next person. I also know that sometimes we fail to record the proper info (yours truly included). However, co-opting those images to feed whatever motives you might have is a no-no in my book. By my estimation, I have easily exhausted over $100,000 in my life buying photos from sellers, archives, ebay, etc., and I would not have the audacity to name what I have as a "Collection." I merely bought a lot of images. Right clickers don't qualify either. When you're sharing images, share the info, too. Remember, it's not your Collection. It's just images on your hard drive.

Dismounting from my high horse...

P.S. find the New Haven hopper in the photo above!