Sunday, October 7, 2018

New Bridge for Little John Creek Under Construction

Deer Creek bridge in California shows its age. It was built in 1898 by the Cotton Brothers of Oakland, CA for the wagon trade. My first sight of the bridge came in 1972 when I crossed it in the back of a Model T Ford.
 The last couple of months have been rather enjoyable, hectic and disappointing, all at the same time. First, as most of you know, the NMRA National Convention was in Kansas City during the first part of August. It was enjoyable for me to see a number of old friends and to meet some new ones as well. I gave a clinic on tuning steam locomotive mechanisms and modeling the nineteenth century using modern methods. Both were well-attended and received.
     The hectic part running back and forth from home to the convention hotel because each clinic presentation was on a different day. One day, I had two busloads of conventioneers go through the layout followed by a number of Layout Design Sig folks on a special tour. On top of that, I hosted two operating sessions for the Operations Sig group. There were also dinners and then the National Train Show on the Weekend. All of great fun but I was glad to get back to a more restless pace of life.
     Disappointment reared  its head when I tried to get a couple of projects done. The first is an interlocking which will control the Central Pacific/S&C diamond at Stockton. I was on a roll, got the circuitry wired and came up one semaphore base short. That project went on hold pending arrival of a new part.
   
The girders were made from styrene channel held together with laser-cut lacing. Tension rods along the bottom of the bridge are more laser-cut pieces reinforced by brass strips. A wood deck roadway will cover the stringers after painting.
 Enjoyment, however returned when I started building a steel wagon bridge based on a prototype bridge I had measured about 30 years ago. It still stands outside of Grass Valley, California but the road no longer goes over it having been rerouted. I have been putting off modeling it because it is of very light construction and I wasn't quite sure how to model the laced girders to scale. This problem was finally solved with the arrival of my laser cutter which allowed me to cut the lacing I needed.
   
The intricate lacing which makes up the arch is all laser-cut. The reinforcements around the edges are of styrene. 
As the photos show, it's mostly styrene with some brass strips and rod. It's turning out so delicate that I think I should put a clear plastic box around it to protect it from injury. It's ready for paint in the next couple of days and then I'm off to the annual Virginia and Truckee Railroad Historical Society meeting in Carson City, Nevada. It's always a fun few days. The weekend after that will find me in Atlanta for an  operating weekend called Dixie Rails. I've never been and am looking forward to it.

Friday, August 24, 2018

Steamrollers on the Move

At the team track, waiting to be unloaded.
This little car started when I was reading a Facebook post by Bernd Shroter from Germany. He was just finishing a flat car with the steamroller as a possible load. The roller was originally an SS Ltd. kit, now available from Wiseman. Bernd had made some nameplates which are not in the kit but clearly present on the prototype rollers. He had some extras and was selling them so I bought two.
     I had one of the kits kicking around so I decided to build it up while waiting for some other parts.  Several hours later, I had finished the little guy. One to a car looked a little lonely so I ordered another one and built that one then chained both down on an available flat car.
     The flat car was one of several I had made in pairs, that is, two cars with the same number. In this case, I have one car with the load and the other with scraps of bracing and other dunnage. This way, I can actually swap cars out after an operating session leaving an empty car to take away from the industry during the next session.

Tuesday, August 14, 2018

New Car Arrives on the S&C

C&A 13103 rests on a siding in Oakdale before going into regular service.
During my first operating session at the NMRA convention, I had to the opportunity to host Howard Garner as one of the operators. Many on the Early Rail list know him and his Cascade Western Railroad (and Cascade Western Laser). Howard is an excellent modeler and a very fine gentleman. A totally unexpected but very delightful part of his visit was the gift of a car he had scratchbuilt, the Chicago and Alton No. 13103. It was a car he used to get an Achievement Award toward his Master Model Railroader. The car is very fine with a complete underbody detail. Thank  you so very much, Howard. It is already in service on the railroad.

NMRA National Convention 2018

Two guest operators switch at Peters during one of the week's operating sessions.
Last week, the National Model Railroad Association held its annual convention in Kansas City and was attended by almost 1500 model railroaders. During the week, these brave folks were treated to clinics, layout tours, operating sessions, non-railroad tours and some just plain fun.
   
The Copperopolis passenger local briefly stops at Milton en route to Peters.
 Since the Kansas City area is home to the Stockton & Copperopolis, we had to participate in the excitement as well. We had two bus tours with about 140 people viewing the railroad. I gave two clinics twice each. One was on improving the performance of small steam engines and the other was on modeling the nineteenth century using the modern techniques we have available. Both were well attended.
   
A private car is dropped off on the house track at Farmington by No. 4. 
 The railroad was also open for two operating sessions during the week and for a special visit by members of the Layout Design Special Interest Group. Capping off the week was the National Train Show where one could visit and speak with many of the hobby's manufacturers. It was a hectic time for me but well worth it. Now it's time to get back to normal and continue building things.

Thursday, July 19, 2018

Furniture and Carriage Cars

As just about everyone knows, the scope of a project has a way of growing. The one I just finished started after I completed the Henderson Carriage factory at Stockton (see my post here). I wanted a carriage car or two to service the factory. As you can see, the project did grow significantly.
     My first choice was the A. A. Cooper car shown above. I liked the billboard look of the car. It was also 40 feet long, a typical size for carriage and furniture cars of the period. This was due to the fact that the loads they carried were relatively light for the volume so they could build larger cars without increasing the stress on the timbers and trucks. Decals were by Art Griffin.
   
 My second car was to be a Southern Pacific furniture and buggy car, also a 40-footer, and one for which I had original drawings. It was the car which the SP used to represent the maximum height and width for travel over Donner Pass. It was large enough that the bolsters were lowered to keep the total height down. Notice how the body sort of nestled over the trucks similar to the apearance of some narrow gauge cars. I had the decal set for the Cooper car, some SP heralds left over from another project and the rest was not difficult to make up. While I was rummaging through my decal drawer, I found a few more decals and thought I might as well build up some of them, all of which were larger cars. This led to the following cars.
     The Abernathy Furniture Company was a Kansas City concern whose building still exists in the West Bottoms area of the city. According to some documents I have, these cars made it out to California in the 1890s so it was appropriate for use on the S&C. Decals for this car were also made by Art Griffin.
   
     The Santa Fe cars also appeared in California and, since several of my operators are Santa Fe fans, I decided to include it. It rode on Thielsen swing-motion trucks. More Griffin decals.
     
Kentucky Refining was a surprise to me when I found it in a record of cars appearing on the Southern Pacific. It was a 52-foot long behemoth (for the day) and delivered all sorts of oil, mostly for cooking purposes. The two hatches in the roof presumably were for loading tanks located inside the car. Another great decal set by Art Griffin.
   
The Samuel Cupples car was 50 feet long and another car which was extra high. Here was another manufacturer who used all the "billboard" space he could. I guess he thought bigger was better. More of Art Griffin's work.
   
The C. C. Comstock car was one which has intrigued me ever since I saw a photo in poor condition. Mr. Comstock was again one of those who liked advertising and apparently multi-colored paint jobs and fancy lettering. Applying the decals was somewhat exacting but they came out to my satisfaction which is what matters.
   
While going through this, I found another large car, the Menasha Woodenware 50-foot long car described as the tallest freight car built (of the period anyway). It was a kit made by Main Line Models and one I had forgotten I had. Since it fit with the theme of large car construction, I assembled it as well. Interestingly enough, one of these cars was restored or reconstructed and donated to the National Railroad Museum so you can visit it if you like. These cars, too, made it out to California.
     While a 50-foot car seems like no great shakes in the context of modern railroading, these "monsters" as they were sometimes called gave rise to editorials questioning the wisdom of such large cars on the railroads. To give an idea of what they were talking about, take a look at the photo below comparing a standard 34-foot car to the Menasha car. There was a lot of difference, especially in high winds. And, yes, there were even larger 60- and 70-foot wood cars tried out before the car builders wisely changed to steel construction.

Wednesday, July 18, 2018

Windmills and a Little Whimsy

The prototype Davis windmill wheel and vane on display at the San Joaquin County Historical Society at Micke Grove Park.
The Improved Davis Windmill.
Stockton, at least in my time period, was known as "The City of Windmills." Windmills were needed since Stockton was on a flat plain. With no elevated spots nearby, there could be no gravity flow of water, and before vast municipal water companies, the only way to get water was to pump for it. Hence
the mills were erected in almost every backyard, all grinding and squeaking away providing background noise for the city's business. Stockton may also have been known as the Windmill City because there were at least two manufacturers located in town: R. F. Wilson and Relief Windmill.
     The R. F. Wilson company had its plant down by the Stockton Channel not too far from where the rails of the Stockton & Copperopolis ran. While the prototype railroad did not directly service the plant, my S&C does so I had to have some of the Davis style windmills the company made. Fortunately for me, there are numerous pictures showing the popularity of the Davis mill and there is an real windmill wheel and vane assembly in the San Joaquin County Historical Society which I could measure and copy.
The Improved Davis Windmill as rendered in Sketchup.
   
     Building a windmill wheel is kind of tricky. All of the parts are small and must be aligned perfectly for it to look right. I decided to try to 3D print mine. It was my first project and went ahead without too many mistakes and starting-overs. I had it printed, made some decals and had a genuine [model] Davis windmill. Now I've got to print a few more to scatter around the landscape.
   
While building some other boxcars (more about these in a later post), I came across a couple of old items. One of these was a decal set I had made several years back for a Central Valley Superior Detritus car. Back in the 1950s, when Central Valley was building older railroad car kits, George Hook, CV's owner, made a few special kits up for his friends. One of these was for the imaginary Superior Detritus company advertising such things as diacoustic infusoria, frangible ceramics and so on. I have always liked the car so I built a standard CV boxcar and lettered it for the SD Company.

The original cardboard sides and the Central Valley car with the new decals applied.
     The other item was a set of cardboard sides for a Red Ball boxcar. Before high quality decals, screen-printed cardboard sides were very popular and really didn't look too bad. The Red Ball sides advertised the products the Red Ball company made in the style of the nineteenth century. Most of the Red Ball parts (no sides, though) are still being offered through Bitter Creek Models. I did not want to use the printed sides so I scanned them and made up artwork for a decal side which I used.
     These two cars represent the whimsy alluded to in this post's title. There were never any prototype cars such as these run on America's railroads but I enjoyed building them and remembering when I first saw the SDC car at age 12 and the Red Ball car a bit later. After all, as Model Railroader used to say (and sometimes still does), Model Railroading is Fun.

Wednesday, June 27, 2018

New Combine Added to Roster

Stockton & Copperopolis combine Number 16 photographed just outside Copperopolis.
Due to rising lease costs, the S&C management decided to purchase its own combine for trains running on the Milton branch. It is very similar to those used successfully on the Virginia & Truckee Railroad and is expected to give good service here.
     In reality, for several years now I have not had S&C lettered coaches for the Milton branch and have been using some of my old Moraga Springs Northern equipment. A note that a member of the EarlyRail io-group list wanted to sell an old Central Lines kit prompted the replacement. The Central Lines kits were made in the 1950s, perhaps into the '60s and were crude compared to today's standards. For example, the roof was a milled piece of wood which you were expected to shape into something resembling a clerestory roof. I had noticed a 3D printed roof offered by Eight-Wheeler Models and thought it might be a good substitute.
   
The 1950s Central Lines box with the "high-tech" (for then) roof. The 3D
printed roof looks a lot better.
The point of the kit is that it had very good sides apparently molded in plastic with decent detail. The roof was designed to fit on Model Die Casting Overland passenger cars but I figured that it could be shortened. The trucks were another item listed on Shapeways which I had used on my Long Caboose project a while back.
     I started putting the kit together per the instructions. The platform steps were all right but the end railings leaved something to be desired so I substituted Cal-Scale railings. Truss rods are of .015 inch fishing line. Before I ordered the roof, I checked the width of the MDC cars and they were the same as the Central Lines Kit. Shortening the roof consisted of cutting a piece out of its center and gluing it back with some reinforcement on the underside. Some Testors patching putty was used to smooth out the joints. It did not come with the clerestory windows so I cut those out of some stiff cardboard and glued them in.Since the original kit roof was straight with straight letterboard extensions, I glued a piece of styrene to the sides and shaped the ends to fit the new roof. Roof detail is from Grandt Line parts.
     The lettering was based on the prototype V&T 16 in the California State Railroad Museum. I tried something a bit different for the roof finish this time. In the nineteenth century, the roofing on most passenger cars consisted of sheets of terne metal crimped together. To simulate this, I applied a decal which had lines simulating the standing seams of the prototype. The artwork was borrowed from my friend, John Ott, who developed it for one of his cars. I think it looks pretty nice. Thanks, John.