Friday, January 8, 2021

Two New Additions

The "Gray house" in its temporary location at Farmington. It will eventually be moved to the residental area.

A few weeks ago, a favor was done for my friend, Doug Taylor. In return, he volunteered to build up an old Classic Miniatures kit I had not gotten to. The Gold Hill House, as the kit is named, is now sitting at Farmington awaiting its final location, adjacent scenicking, etc. Doug substituted styrene for the kit's cardboard siding otherwise it is pretty stock. As usual, Doug did a great job and now it's up to me to follow through. 
The disassembled Unimat on the workbench. I am still awaiting a part and drive belts so it can be put back together again.

On the workshop front, I bought a Unimat lathe through ebay with the thought that it might be better for some of the smaller parts that we tend to make in this hobby. The lathe had not been cleaned so it was disassembled, scrubbed and de-rusted. Now it's sitting on my workbench awaiting a part so I can reassemble it and get it working. The Unimat is a versatile machine but only for relatively lightweight projects. I have a 12-inch lather I can use for the bigger stuff. With the small machine, though, I can convert it to a drill press, mill or any number of other things if I find the right conversion kit. It's sort of a miniature Shopsmith. 
     There are slightly larger but more expensive lathes available from Sherline or Micromark but the Unimat has a special appeal for me as I had one in the 1970s. Back then, my interests tended more to the manufacture of antique car fittings so the Unimat was deemed surplus to needs and sold. I wish I hadn't done that but now I can try again.

Wednesday, December 30, 2020

A Look Back

The old Forbe's Crossing depot now doing service at Holden on a temporary basis. Maybe a little repair work on the roof would be in order.

     While rumaging around my railroad room the other day, I came across a depot I built back in the 1990s. It really wasn't lost as it was sitting at Holden as a place-holder for the real depot to be built sometime in the indefinite future. Originally, the depot served the community of Forbe's Crossing on my Moraga Springs Northern Railway when I lived in California. I built it from a Period Miniatures kit and then detailed the interior. On that MSN, the structure was right up front and it was easy for visitors to look at the interior. Now, it sits back about two feet away from the aisle waiting for a location.
Interior details are by SS Ltd. and others. I think it needs a couple of passengers, maybe an agent.

The depot in its old location of Forbe's Crossing on the Moraga Springs 

I took the time today to take another look at it and snapped these photos. It looks pretty much as I remember it from about 25 years ago. It needs a better home than it has now. The town of Ione on the narrow-gauge Stockton & Ione RR needs a depot. I think that it where it should go. I need to get that part of the railroad operating anyway.

Friday, December 18, 2020

Another Inspection Engine

S&C Number 301 is ready to start serving the superintendent. All it needs now is an engineer and some white flags on the front of the engine.

I like inspection locomotives ( They are a very interesting part of nineteenth century railroading where a division superintendent would take his office out on the road to conduct business on site. They came in various shapes and sizes. Some were rebuilt older engines while others were purpose-built by the prominent manufacturers. Unfortunately, they faded away by the 1920s.
     The particular engine in question is a model of the Lehigh Valley's Dorothy. The prototype was built in the Lehigh's shops in 1884 and appeared somewhat differently than the model. The original loco was involved in an accident and was rebuilt to the appearance modeled. I didn't do much modeling here, though. The basic engine was imported by Red Ball beginning in 1963. I added a rear headlight, whistle and some step details. It was also remotored by a Minebea motor as described in A Tsunami2-Steam2 decoder was added with a small sugar cube speaker. It was all fairly straight-forward except that all the wiring had to be accomplished through a small opening in the bottom of the body. This makes two engines for this superintendent which was two more than the Stockton & Copperopolis ever had. As I said above, though, I like these kinds of engines and I will probably built up a couple more in the future.

Monday, December 7, 2020

The Hutchins Reefers Are Here

The CFT Hutchins can be readily identified by the humped roof and hatches in the center of the running board. 

One of the more interesting things in modeling the nineteenth century is the variety of cars which were produced. This was just the normal trial of different ideas and the better ones had just not risen to the top. One of the cars with a wide variety of ideas was the refrigerator car. The iced car invented by C. B. Hutchins became a moderately popular idea. It was popular enough that much of the fruit transported from California to the east were moved in Hutchins cars under the auspices of the California Fruit Transportation Company. While I have several stand-in CFT cars on the railroad, the opportunity to replace them with true Hutchins cars was much appreciated.
     Several years ago, Art Griffin produced a few resin car kits to complement his decal business. One of these was the Hutchins. I purchased some of these cars and have finally assembled a few. The kit was basically a two-piece model with the car sides/ends/roof cast in one piece with the floor in another. Grabirons and brake gear had to be added. I used Thielson swing motion trucks available from Wiseman Model Services in kit form.
This GARL Hutchins car is interesting due to the advertising of their lard product.
     The identifying features of the prototype, and the model, is that the roof is flat from side to side but humped in the middle in the lengthwise direction. This was due to the Hutchins patent where ice was stored in the roof area similar to the old household "ice box." Some of the known users of these cars were the CFT, Jacob Dold meat packers and the German American Refrigerator Line. My models included CFT and German American Provision cars.
The wood-sided Stanley car shows a 1902 build date  and is easily reworked to become a truss rod car.
     Another interesting car I put together this week was a private car for the Stanley Motor Carriage Company, makers of the famed Stanley Steamer automobile. I particularly liked this car since I have owned two steam cars, both designed and built by the Stanley brothers. This car was offered for sale as a money raiser by the Stanley Museum of Kingfield, Maine ( It is a custom-printed Accurail kit which is very easy to assemble. The cars are available in a 36-foot version and a 40-foot later car with a 1920 build date. Both are availabe for $25 each. You can order one by emailing the museum ( or calling and leaving a phone message at 207-265-2729.
The 36-foot car is a fish-belly design but I added queenposts and reworked it to be a truss rod version more suitable to my 1895 era. Trucks are included but I substituted archbar trucks on my model.
The Stanley automobiles were built into the late 1920s so these cars can be used on later era railroads as well. I should mention that neither of them are based on a prototype Stanley car. To my knowledge, The Stanleys never had their own railroads cars even though their cars were shipped all over the country by rail.

Thursday, December 3, 2020

Atlantic & Pacific Fast Freight Lines

One of the A&P cars plus the ATSF car, both sporting the same herald and coloring scheme.

During the 1800s when railroads were still figuring out how to do business, there evolved a number of fast freight lines. Most of them were run by the railroad and were intended to get your goods through with fewer delays, for a higher price, of course. A friend of mine, Art Hunhausen, has done a considerable amount of research on the various fast freight lines including the the California Fast Freight Lines of which I have several cars. He also found mention of a Santa Fe sponsored line. Both the ATSF and the Atlantic & Pacific Railroads contributed cars for the service. The Frisco also participated but did not contribute any cars. Not too much is known about the equipment. There are mentions of the boxcars in the Official Railway Equipment Register and a couple of mentions in the newspapers of the period. No good photographs have turned up. Basically,  we know that the cars were 28 feet long and were painted yellow with green doors. There was an "X" on the door with red and white cross pieces. 
The Pabst Brewing car plus one of the A&P boxcars.
 Based on this information plus a sign on an A&P ticket office which looked suspiciously like a herald, Art designed the letter for the set. The A&P had two usual configurations of its name, both of which are featured here along with the Santa Fe version.
You can see the "herald" on the right side which inspired the
cars' lettering scheme.

 In addition to these cars, I also found an old photo of a Pabst beer car. The herald looked interesting so I set about designing a lettering scheme. It matches the old photo so I guess it's not too bad. 
     All of the cars were built from a resin Southern Pacific 28-foot boxcar kit which was an extremely limited run. I replaced the doors and, in the case of the refrigerator car, added the hinges, latch, etc.

Monday, October 19, 2020

Wagons and More Wagons

Two Buffalo Brewing Company wagons are loaded for delivery to the brewery in Sacramento. The lettering and buffalo logo was made from photos of  the prototype wagons. The flat car is a 30-foot scratchbuilt flat with 3D printed trucks.

A few weeks ago, a friend of mine asked me to print some decals for him for a structure he was building. He wanted a sign for the building plus a sign to fit a Jordan wagon. I did it for him but it got me thinking about some wagons I wanted to build. In the down times waiting for paint to dry on the San Andreas (, I worked up the artwork for a few wagons for the Stockton area. Of the six wagons, four were lettered for the Buffalo Brewery, a Sacramento establishment popular in my era. In addition, I made up art for two Stockton-based companies.
The Stockton Home Bakery was a going concern at the turn of the century and will continue to be on my railroad.

All of the wagons were built from Jordan Delivery Wagons, both the Light and Standard versions. Two of the finished wagons were destined as loads from the Henderson Wagon Factory in Stockton and went on a flat. The others will occupy the streets of Stockton when I get to the point where there are streets in Stockton.
Another Buffalo wagon, this one delivers ice cut from the high Sierras and store in insulated warehouses for summer use. Crown flour was a common brand in the 1800s and its factory will fit into a small area in Stockton.

 Like all projects, it expanded with more paint-drying time involved in two-tone paint schemes but I like the results and that is the best measure in my mind. Jordan kits are getting scarce and prices are high but, fortunately, there are other companies picking up the slack with laser-cut or 3D printed kits. Berkshire Valley Models have several horse-drawn vehicles in both HO and O scale including drivers and horses.

Saturday, October 17, 2020

Another New Locomotive for the S&C


The new locomotive San Andreas sits on the Duck Creek Trestle shortly after arrival.

The past couple of months have been somewhat hectic around the house with little time to work on railroad projects. I have, however, (finally) completed a new locomotive. It is a brass import of unknown manufacture and represents the early class of moguls purchased by the Virginia & Truckee Railroad. Manufactured by Baldwin between 1870 and 1873, the V&T received six identical engines each named for a county or city in the Comstock area. This engine specifically is a model of the first of the run of moguls, the Virginia
     I maintained the look of the prototype including the paint colors but lettered it for the Stockton & Copperopolis as its Number 20, the San Andreas. San Andreas is a small town in the Mother Lode country of California and its citizens would naturally take the S&C for their travels. I installed a Tsunami2-Steam 2 decoder and it makes the engine perform very nicely. What it will be doing I have not yet decided but it will undoubtedly be pulling freight of some sort.
     There may be some who question the shiny newness of my locos. In fact, in my period, when specific engineers were assigned to specific locos, they took a great deal of care of them. This not only applied to passenger engines but freight as well. The following clip from a period newspaper shows what I am talking about.

May 22, 1873 - Gold Hill News

A Handsome Locomotive- The locomotive Esmeralda, attached to a heavy freight train en route for Virginia, to-day halted for a breathing spell at the railroad depot, Gold Hill. With her brasses well burnished and her head lights decorated with wild flowers, she looked as handsome as could be. We don't wonder that Engineer Johnny Elkins is proud of her.

The Esmeralda was one of the sister engines to my engine and was assigned to pull freight trains. My engines, however, don't have the wild flowers. Maybe there's room for more detail?