Monday, October 17, 2016

American Civil War Railroads Historical Society Meet

An overall view of the Memphis & Charleston with the Chattanooga Train Shed in the center.
Last weekend I attended my first meet of the American Civil War Railroads Historical Society. It was great fun! There were clinics, an operating session and a field trip to the Shiloh Battlefield.
A closeup of the Chattanooga shed. It is quite large, over four feet in length.
The weekend started with a Thursday evening get-together, introductions and some updates as to what other members were doing. This was continued into Friday morning with reports by SMR Trains (makers of O-gauge locomotives) and of a small group who have produced two locomotives made by combining commercial and 3D printed parts. There are two separate books you can buy to guide you through the process with detailed instructions on which pieces to buy and how to put them together.
One of two very long bridges (about 12 feet in length) on the railroad. This is a railroad bridge on top
and a wagon bridge on the bottom level.
The rest of Friday was spent operating on Charlie Taylor's O-gauge Memphis & Charleston Railroad. It occupies a 75x35 foot second floor room in his guest house. It was great fun operating with link & pin couplers and the large rolling stock.
   A guided trip to Shiloh and the Corinth junction took up Saturday and was the end of the conference. Many thanks to Thom Radice and the others who put on the event. I think I'll go again.
A sample of the engines used by the M&C. This one was made by SMR Trains and is complete with sound and factory paint.

Virginia & Truckee Railroad Historical Society Conference

A couple of weeks ago, the V&T RR Historical Society held their annual conference in Carson City. As usual, it was great to hear the various clinics on the history of the railroad and how to model it. I gave two clinics: the first was entitled The Circus Comes to the Comstock and covered the various ways the railroad handled the large shows getting them into Virginia City and back again. The other clinic was about the building of the Ormsby and the Storey moguls that I have mentioned elsewhere in this blog.
     The conference banquet finished with a stirring talk about the great Virginia City fire of October 1875. A field trip to the Carson & Colorado depot being restored at Dayton ended the weekend. In the modeling part of the weekend, a couple of folks showed their progress in using 3D printing for making cars for the railroad.
One of the many records to be found at UNR. This one shows part of the track
arrangement at Virginia City.
I spent another day in the Special Collections library at the University of Nevada, Reno. They have the bulk of the V&T records and I was able to find some things for which I had been looking from the early 1870s.
 It's a good organization and they publish a very informative quarterly newsletter along with an annual book on some facet of the railroad. If you are interested, go their website at

Monday, September 19, 2016

The Beginnings of the Milton Business Block

The Milton Hotel is on the right side, followed by the Brown store and post office, harness shop and Breen's Saloon/barber shop.The balconies and awnings are just temporarily attached until painting is completed and the board sidewalk is installed.
As I had mentioned, the next step in reconstructing Milton was to build up the business blocks. There are very few pictures of this area but there are three good Sanborn insurance maps. Between all of these, I think I have a good shot of getting a decent reproduction of the town.
This long view shows the wood baseboard with pads attached to create a slope. Structures will eventually stretch from the lower left to the right end of the base.
The first five buildings are the Milton Hotel, the Brown store and Post Office, the harness shop, barber shop and Breen's Saloon. Since these structures will be up against the backdrop, almost all of them have been shortened. The street itself (San Francisco Street), was on a slight slope. To reproduce this, I used a 1x4 base board and glued pieces of wood of varying thicknesses to hold the buildings and provide a slight upgrade. The structures themselves are all built of styrene with Tichy and Grandt Line windows and doors as close to the originals as I could get. Some of the windows have had panes cut out to shorten them to prototype length.
The first business block can be seen at the left in this 1890s photo. Breen's Saloon is on the left with the Milton Hotel at the right.
These five businesses mark the end of the first block. The second block will contain the Pioneer Livery, Big Tree Saloon, Frank Brown's store and a boarding house. The third block will house another boarding house and the Tornado Hotel.

Wednesday, August 17, 2016

Down by the Milton Tracks

Overall view of the Milton trackside. From left to right are the loading platform and crane, Hunter, Bunds & Walker, the depot, L. Beysser warehouse and the Peterson & Dake Warehouse. There is much finishing to be done e.g. staining platforms, adding baggage. Compare this view with the prototype one below.
Looking from the same end of the siding as above, the prototype view shows much of the activity surrounding Milton in the early days. In the background are the Milton Hotel and some of the commercial buildings. Note the privy on the platform.
The first phase of the Milton townsite construction is mostly completed. That was the building of the structures along the siding in town. These consisted of the Peterson & Dake Warehouse, the L. Beysser freight forwarding warehouse, depot and freight station, the Hunter, Bunds & Walker Warehouse and the loading platform. None of the buildings are as yet fastened to the layout since they will be removed so that the structures in the background can be installed.
The Peterson & Dake warehouse takes up most of the other end of the siding. I don't know if the business name was painted on the building side as I have no photographs of that part of the building but I think it looks good.
Milton in 1871 in a view that will not be seen on the model. The P&D warehouse is to the left with the depot building at the right. The P&D general store is at the center.
The layout of the town is according to both Sanborn insurance maps and railroad station plats. The buildings' appearances were derived from photographs of Milton taken around the turn of the century or before. The occupants of the various buildings changed over the years. I have tried to label them per the 1893 town directory I have. The names used give more of a feeling of reality than any fictional names I could have devised.

Monday, August 1, 2016

The Beginnings of Milton

The Milton depot contains a freight, ticket office and the P&D store as well as an advertisement for a local health center. The platform will be continued in both directions from the building.
Milton was the easternmost terminal of the Stockton & Copperopolis. Up until 1887, it was one of the busiest towns on the railroad both with goods shipped and received. Everything going to the Mother Lode mining towns north of the Stanislaus River went through Milton. Almost nobody went to Milton. It was simply a transfer point.
    There were several freight forwarders who would undertake to move your goods to their final destination and several stage lines as well. The best way to reach Yosemite Valley was through Milton. The Yosemite traffic ended in 1887 when the Southern Pacific built the Raymond branch. It was a closer trip and you could stay in your Pullman all the way to Raymond. When the Sierra Railroad was completed in 1897, it reached all the way up to Sonora, the heart of the mining district so almost all the freight now went via the Sierra and Milton became a very sleepy town.
    In 1895, there was still an active town with all of the stores occupied. The Sanborn map company visited there in 1890, 1895, 1908 and 1912 so there is a lot of documentation regarding what was in town. I also have enough photos and, more interestingly, enough layout space to model virtually the entire business area of the town to scale.
     My first structure, fittingly, is the S&C's depot, built in 1871 along with the several warehouses strung out along the siding. The depot building had a large freight house and shared the structure with a small store run by Peterson & Dake. They also owned a grain warehouse located on the siding (my next structure). P&D were also the Western Union Telegraph and Wells, Fargo & Co's. agent.
    My building is all of styrene except for the Minuteman Scale Models shingles and was modeled full size. Few photos of the building are available so some features had to be based on common practice and available plot plans. Next project will be to continue the platforms to define the siding area before continuing on with the actual structures.

Saturday, July 23, 2016

An Entire Op Session Somewhat Condensed

As I have mentioned before in this blog, the S&C holds monthly prototypical operating sessions. The railroad normally takes a crew of 10 people to operate. The jobs consist of a dispatcher, operator to copy train orders and operate the interlocking machine, and a yardmaster for Stockton Wharf. Sessions last about three hours long, the morning session covering 5:30 a.m. to 2:00 p.m while the afternoon session runs from 2:01 p.m. until the last train is in (usually about 10:30 p.m. or so). We are not running a night session but that may change when management decides to paint some of the locomotives it has stored in boxes.
Here's the Replay camera. The computer mouse is in the photo just for a size comparison. The nifty little clamp above the camera dates from the 1940s and is very good for holding small cameras.
    Last Saturday, July 16, we had July's session but with only nine folks in attendance. It turned out to be real good especially since I got to try out a new camera. It is the Replay Prime X which is a neat little video camera designed for use by people with more active hobbies such as skydiving, Motocross, skiing, etc. It has a variety of clamps so it can be attached to a tripod, bicycle handlebars, stuck on a wall and so on. For some reason, it didn't come with an attachment to fit on a model railroad car. For last week, it didn't matter since it was just a test so I clamped the camera to the fascia just above Peters and recorded the entire 3-hour session in time lapse mode. Here's the results in only a minute and a half.

   The experiment also allowed me to get familiar with a new video editing program. The video isn't all that great (it was only a test) but it proves that the camera can be used for other railroad purposes. My next job will be to attach it to a car so I can photograph while the train is moving.

Thursday, July 21, 2016

Switch Engine for the S&I

A combination of 3D printed boiler/cab on a HOn30 mechanism produced this nice little switch engine for the yard at Holden. The track sliders can be seen between the drivers. They will eventually be painted. to hide them.
Although my narrow gauge feeder, the Stockton & Ione is not yet ready for operation, I ran across a blog post about a fellow who used an HOn30 Japanese mechanism and a 3D printed body to build a light Porter 0-4-0T. I purchased the chassis and the body parts and built up one of these little locos. I weighted the boiler and tank with tungsten putty and installed a Soundtraxx mobile decoder (I wanted sound but there is just no place I could find to put a speaker).
The Ione can easily pull two cars plus a little more. 
There were a few problems to overcome, however. The first was that the wheels were gauged for HOn30. I first thought about replacing the 2mm axles with longer shafts but found that I could simply pull out the wheels on the existing axles to HOn3 gauge. The second major problem is electrical pickup. The chassis comes with wipers on all four wheels which is just not enough. I added some track sliders between the drivers and that helped quite a bit but the engine still stalls every now and then. The more I run the engine, the better it runs so it might just need some more running.
     Overall, the performance is very good. The engine can pull 2 cars with ease and a third one on level track, just about what the prototype would be expected to do. It does run very well with the mobile decoder and some momentum built in.