Saturday, December 1, 2018

Another Turntable

With the finished turntable mounted in its pit, filler material still needs to be added in the area between the benchwork and the turntable casting. The prototype turntable was built of cast iron with its distinctive lightening holes.
Like most modelers, I have more locomotives than I really need. My choice, then, is to remove some of them from the railroad so I can operate it without stumbling over the extra motive power OR build some place to put them. My choice is to build a roundhouse in which to store all the engines I don't need but want to have anyway.
     At Oakdale, there is a space which is out of the way but is the perfect size for a small engine terminal. This area has been earmarked for such a terminal since I started building the railroad. It will allow me to have my "overflow" area and, also, to build a Model Masterpieces Colorado Midland roundhouse kit I have had for around 20 years. The first step in all of this was to locate the turntable and go from there.
     My Sellers turntable was built from a Freshwater Models kit which was out in limited edition several years ago. I had provided prototype information to the kit company and they did such a nice job on it, I had to have one. Made with a plaster pit and cast metal base, it went together rather quickly. Installing in the hole I had made was a bit more problematic. It required two people, one on top of the railroad and another beneath the benchwork to put nuts on the support bolts. My darling wife agreed to help and, as a true gentleman would, I offered her the choice of positions. Climbing underneath a built railroad and trying to start nuts with my left hand (I'm right-handed) is a bit of a challenge but, eventually, we secured the turntable and leveled it up. 
Lines for tracks in the roundhouse extend from the pit. The turntable is based on a 60-foot prototype which is ample for the locomotives used on the S&C.
The next job will be to assemble the eight-stall roundhouse and try to get it reasonably aligned with where I want the tracks to go. A real engine servicing area requires a coaling station, sand station, water plug and ash track as a minimum so I have to allow room for those and then assemble the appropriate structures. With the company service tracks and a new industry track I discovered, there will be four more car spots in Oakdale which should add more interest.

Sunday, November 11, 2018

Fan Away Your Troubles

The benchtop fan takes little space on the workbench and pull vapors through it rather than letting them settle elsewhere in the room.
My modeling bench has a terrific setup. It is located in the corner of my wife's quilting room. It's upstairs so I don't have to go to the basement and work alone and I can visit with my wife when we are working in the same room. There is a downside, however. Some of the processes we use to build our miniature world emit odors. They are generally the pleasant ones associated with soldering, painting and using super glue. Unfortunately, these are also odors which can lodge themselves in fabric and in the sensitive nostrils and lungs of non-modelers. To help mitigate the situation, I recently purchased a benchtop fan specifically designed for benchtop-oriented vapors.
The fan in its high-performance position.
It seems that there are a lot of processes (soldering seems the most prevalent) which could use the fan. The one I purchased was a Hako FA-400, available at Amazon. It comes with a carbon filter which should eliminate the troubles. It has a high rating among these fans and has two possible orientations, one for general air circulation and one for a more high-power application.
      Hopefully, this little unit will resolve my particular problem and, perhaps, yours as well.

Friday, November 2, 2018

Protective Shields for Delicate Structures

The polycarbonate plastic protects the bridge from destruction-by-owner.
In a recent post, I told of the recent completion of a road bridge ( While the delicate appearance of its members is pleasing, it also makes the bridge very delicate. I would be the first one to admit that I am somewhat clumsy. I could see myself leaning over the bridge or catching it with my long-sleeved shirt, all of with the same result - disaster.
     To help prevent the new bridge from being "washed out" by operators or, more likely, myself, I cut and mounted a piece of 3/32" thick polycarbonate plastic. Home Depot and other similar stores carry it in stock. Other delicate items such as signals can be similarly protected.
    This should deter all but the most determined bridge wrecker, at least I hope so.

Central Pacific 564 - A Review

The finished Central Pacific boxcar with Bitter Creek Allen trucks. 
When the Central Pacific was in its infancy, it purchased 25-foot boxcars with a capacity of 15 tons. The traffic on the railroad quickly telegraphed its need for higher capacity cars and, in the 1870s, 28-foot cars became the standard with 34-footers later on in the century. The little 25-footers lasted for quite a while (a few hundred were on the 1895 roster) with some lasting into the 20th century.
     My model was built from a Bitter Creek Models ( kit. Laser-cut underframe, ends, side and roof comprise the kit with plastic injection-molded parts for brakes, bolt castings, etc. A basswood frame and ends form the basis of the car with basswood strips comprising the roof sub-frame. Thinner, laser-cut sides, end pieces and roof are glued onto the frame pieces. Enough pieces are supplied so that either cars from the 1870s and the later 1880s rebuilt cars can be built. The roof comes in a style representing the original metal-clad roofs and also the later wood roofs. Supports for the running board slide into slots in the roof which simplifies this tedious task.
     The instructions are very clear with several illustrations so that is little doubt as to what needs to be done at each step. Lettering diagrams are provided so that the kit's decals can be applied accurately. There is enough decal material so that a car from the 1870, 1880 rebuild or the 1891 renumbering can be built.
I built my car to reflect one which had lasted from 1870 and had not been rebuilt but had been relettered during the 1880s. An interesting note is that these cars were lettered with even numbers only. Flat cars were odd numbers only. The reason for this escapes me but it was common at the time. Perhaps it was for a quick identification of a car type when referring only to paperwork.
     Trucks and couplers are not included in the kits. Bitter Creek makes some very nice Allen/California swing motion trucks (P/N T-29) which are suitable for this car. Also available are CP/V&T Kimball trucks (T-30) and Light Thielson 15-ton trucks (T-32), any of which would be suitable. Bitter Creek also has several other nineteenth century trucks, many of which have been remastered and look very nice. Kadee 711 couplers were used.
      The boxcar kit is Bitter Creek's P/N K-20 and retails at $25.00. I recommend it highly as a well-researched, well-designed kit suitable for any nineteenth century railroads.

Saturday, October 27, 2018

New County Bridge Erected Over Little John Creek

Stockton Daily Independent - July 2, 1895

The new steel bridge now spans the normally-dry Little John Creek. The abutments are what was left after cutting the Chooch ones used on the railroad bridge in the background.
Yesterday, the new bridge over Little John Creek was dedicated and opened to traffic. Residents of the area are overjoyed at the prospect of regaining their connection to Farmington after the collapse the wooden bridge 16 months ago. Winning contractors for the project were the Cotton Brothers of Oakland, a well-known construction firm.
Farmers can now get their produce to the packers in Farmington. You can barely make out the builder's plate on the arch at the center of  the bridge. The device at the far right is a scissors phone used by crews during operation to OS their trains.
 In other words, I finally finished my bridge project and got it mounted on the railroad. As mentioned in my  previous post here, the bridge has been a 30-year project (sort of) and I am pleased that it is finished. It is very delicate due to its almost-scale sized components and I will probably erect a clear plastic barrier so I don't get my shirt cuffs entangled in the bridge and a cause of collapse.
A farmer on his way to Farmington crosses the new bridge. Although it is satisfactory for normal wagon traffic, one wonders how it will fare if the new "horseless carriages" catch on.
 My method of lacing the girders using laser-cut pieces worked out well. Although you can't see it very well in photos, I placed a builder's plate on the arch over each end of the bridge. It is a photograph of the original Cotton Brothers plate found on the prototype. Most people will probably not notice it but I know it is there.

Tuesday, October 23, 2018

Railroad Traveling - Nevada to Georgia

Ex-Central Pacific car lettered for a motion picture now resides at the Nevada State Railroad Museum.
The last few weeks have been another hectic time of the year. The Virginia and Truckee Railroad Historical Society had its Annual Conference in Carson City during the first part of October. This is an event I have attended for about 25 years and it is one of the year's highlights for me. Presentations on the V&T's operations and history and made along with a modeling workshop and, usually, a field trip. The nice thing is that these presentations are often presented by professional railroad historians presenting researched facts about nineteenth century railroading in general. The modeling programs featured items on locomotive performance and using 3D modeling techniques.
     The field trip consisted of a closeup inspection of the V&T coach 17. This was the Directors' Car which conveyed Central Pacific dignitaries to the driving of the golden spike at promontory. Over the years, it saw changes as it went to a coach, then to the V&T and then a career in the movies and, finally, as a museum piece. The V&TRRHS has published a book about the history of this car which can be obtained from the Society website (
The diesel, having outlived its usefulness, is preserved in the local part.
Arriving home from the Conference, I had barely enough time to unpack and do my laundry before getting on another plane to Atlanta to participate in Dixie Rails. This is a model railroad event put on by the modeling community of the area. It consists of operating on four model railroads over a three-day period. It was great fun on great railroads with my favorite being Norm Stenzel's Brandywine and Benedictine Railroad. It represents a 1953 coal-hauling line in the Allegheny Mountains. There are many large steam locomotives plus some first-generation diesels plus great scenery. Norm has a good sense of humor with several small scenes around the railroad. My favorite was the late-model diesel in the park.
      If you are interested in early western mining railroading, consider joining the V&TRR Historical Society ( There is a quarterly magazine and a great conference.

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.