Sunday, September 8, 2019

Lightning Repair and Miscellany

The finished scale test car. These cars were used to calibrate track scales and were moved from place to place by train. They were usually placed as the last car in the train just ahead of the caboose.
Most of the damage done by the lightning strike back in June has now been repaired and it looks like the Copperopolis Road is ready for operation. Last week, though, I found out that both of my staging yards had taken damage by the lightning. One of the yards was easily repaired but the other is still awaiting some new circuit boards which should take care of the problem. If they don't, there are other ways to fix the yard. In any case, I'm having an operating session in a couple of weeks which may end up more of a shakedown.
Scale car parts awaiting assembly. Two tungsten weights were installed in the
car to keep it on the track.
While I've been waiting on components and so on, I've managed to do a couple of little projects. My first one was a scale test car. Several weeks ago, I asked the folks on the Early Rail IO Group if anyone had plans and/or photos of nineteenth century scale test cars. One person did and, before I could start a model, my friend, Craig Bisgeier, 3D printed a car from the drawings. Craig was nice enough to furnish me with his parts so I could build my own car. Now I have to build a scale track, scale or scale house and maybe get one of those nifty Boulder Creek Engineering scales.
The Case thresher just waits in the field for the harvester to mow down some wheat to thresh. It will eventually be part of a larger threshing scene.
I find that I have a lot of time waiting for glue or paint to dry and building the scale car was no exception. I started on a threshing machine which was a kit on Shapeways. It had a lot of parts but it was a fun project to assemble. I decide that it would be a J.I. Case thresher and lettered it accordingly. It will eventually be part of a threshing scene in one of my wheat fields.
     One other thing which just occurred this weekend was a surprise gift from Tom Teeple. You might remember his Liberty Street module which was featured in the 2012 issue of Great Model Railroads. Tom has moved but he had several wagons which he had assembled over the years which he thought might have a good home on the S&C. Tom is an excellent modeler and these wagons are exquisite. Even a horse-powered thresher was included. Thanks, Tom. They certainly will be used and appreciated.
Most of these wagons started out as a Jordan kit of some sort and were modified into the kind of vehicle Tom wanted.
The odd item at the upper left is the treadmill upon which the horse walks to power the thresher at its right.

Friday, August 16, 2019

The Joy of Antique Hunting

A couple of weeks ago, some friends were in town and we went antique hunting in the nearby town of Greenwood. In one of the antique malls, I found a like-new modern reproduction of a wall clock complete with pendulum and "Regulator" lettered across the glass door. I had always entertained the idea of having a fast clock like this in the room adjacent to the railroad so the off-duty crews could easily see the time. The clocks, however, seemed a bit too expensive for me. Since the antique store clock was priced right, I bought it.
      The battery-operated movement  was not the sort to work with my Mike Dodd ( fast clock but I did have an extra one that would. That movement, however, did not have a way to activate the pendulum. Fortunately for me, one was available at which worked directly with my fast clock movement. The new mechanism was mounted inside the clock and connected to an output of the clock controller. Surprisingly, the whole thing ran. Now my crews will be able to tell time in style.

Wednesday, August 14, 2019

The Express Train is Coming!

The complete train of express cars stands at Oakdale awaiting a locomotive.
In the nineteenth century, the U.S. Post Office did not handle parcels, only letters. If you wanted to ship something, your choices were freight (wagon or railroad) or by express. The express companies were many (Wells Fargo, American, Southern, Adams, etc.) and each pretty much handled its own territories. Shipping by express was a little more expensive but your item was insured and did receive better handling than shipping freight. It usually arrived sooner than regular freight service hence the name express. UPS or FedEx would be the equivalent today.
     In the West, Wells Fargo was predominant and either leased space on railroad-owned cars or used its own cars. Railroads pooled express cars over their respective tracks to facilitate the movement of the merchandise. In the string of cars pictured above, four separate railroads are represented, each with its own car representing such a pooling operation.
     The Stockton & Copperopolis car is a brass import of unknown origin. I suspect that it was once part of a Golden Spike set as the car's prototype appears to be very much like the Central Pacific's supply car at Promontory in 1869. I painted it to match my other S&C cars.
The Santa Fe car was scratchbuilt while the Central Pacific car was kitbashed from a Labelle kit.
         The Santa Fe car is modeled after AT&SF drawings depicted in one of the Santa Fe Historical Society's books and also in Model Railroader. Styrene makes up the body while the doors were laser cut. A Model Die Casting passenger car floor is also used. The roof was 3D printed by Eightwheeler Models, a shop in It was designed to represent the broken bullnose end roof popular in the 1880s and to fit on an MDC passenger car. The end railings of the car are etched brass from They are designed to fit on the MDC floor and include the uncoupling handle for Miller hooks. Central Valley trucks are used.
     The Central Pacific car was based on a CP drawing in the California State Railroad Museum files. The basis of the car is a Labelle baggage car. I relocated the doors to match the CP car and used an MDC roof. While I suspect the car body was more likely painted a Pullman brown, I wanted the contrast of the different railroads and so used green.
Both of these cars were constructed from Westwood parts and Evergreen styrene passenger car siding.
    The MSN Wells Fargo car was built around 20+ years ago used Westwood windows and doors with styrene sides. The MDC roofs and floors were used being modified to fit the sides of the car. The rear car is of similar age and construction and is the rider car for those hearty souls who needed to get somewhere fast and were willing to ride at odd hours to get there.

Friday, August 9, 2019

Central Valley Models

HO Collector magazine, 2nd quarter issue of 2019.
When I started in this hobby, the first kit I built was a Central Valley boxcar. It still runs on the railroad. For a long time, Central Valley was a mainstay of the nineteenth century models offering great kits and a selection of excellent trucks. Last year, a discussion with Tony Cook, editor of HO Collector resulted in an article on this company. While this blog posting is somewhat belated, those of you interested should be able to locate a copy of the 2nd quarter issue of 2019 wherein my eight-page article was published.
     Central Valley cars are still around and can be picked up at swap meets for not unreasonable prices. They are decent models of 34-foot cars and, while you might want to replace grabirons and truss rods with closer-to-scale pieces, I think they are still good kits. In any case, I hope you enjoy the article and HO Collector as well.

Friday, July 5, 2019

"Will you throw down the box, please?"

Black Bart has the stagecoach cornered and is about to relieve the driver of his heavy Wells Fargo load.
"Thrown down the box" was the cry of the 19th century robber. Even though it's 1895, travel by stage is still dangerous. Road agents are still at large as seen by this photo captured by a hidden cameraman. It looks like Black Bart is back on the road or is that just someone copying his technique? In any case, no one was hurt and the stage reached its destination only minus the Wells Fargo box.
     Black Bart was a real person in California history who managed to pull off 28 stage holdups over a ten year period. When he was finally captured, it was discovered that he was a respected person in San Francisco society and his shotgun was never loaded. He never harmed a passenger either and did include the "please" after demanding the treasure box. After serving six years in San Quentin prison, Bart moved on and was not heard of again.
     The coach was assembled from the kits mentioned in my last post ( Since I could not find any robbery victims, I had to modify a couple of figures so they could "reach for the sky."
The track gang busily at work just outside of Milton. Let's hope they get finished and get the handcars off the track before the next train comes along
On a more positive note, the Chinese track gang is busily at work replacing ties on the Milton branch. I don't recall who made the figures but the handcars were built up from Tichy kits.
     While waiting for parts to rebuild the electronics destroyed by the lightning strike mentioned in the last post, I am doing some light modeling. Maybe I will catch up to some projects I have been putting off.

Thursday, June 27, 2019

Mud Wagons and Lightning

Based on drawings of a Henderson mud wagon, Hakan Nilsson's kits are very faithful to the prototype. Mine were lettered for the Ione, Jackson and Sutter Creek run based on a Henderson photo. I still have to harness the horses.
Hakan Nilsson ( is located in Sweden and models California in the 1800s. As a result of his modeling, he has produced several items of that era which should be of interest in anyone modeling the nineteenth century. Besides his website, he has additional items in his Shapeways store (Eight-Wheeler Models).
     A few months ago, he and I exchanged a couple of emails regarding mud wagons. These were the cheaper, yet sturdier, coaches used to transport people all over the country until the advent of the automobile and good roads. While we are all know the familiar Concord coach from countless western movies and TV shows, the mud wagons accounted for about 2/3 of the coaches in use, especially on the rugged roads of the western United States. Hakan then set about producing a laser-cut kit of two styles of these coaches. Last week, I started putting two of them together and, I must say, they were very enjoyable to assemble.The parts fit and the final appearance was excellent. A few years ago, I had made a few mud wagons by kitbashing the Jordan stagecoach. These kits could have saved me a bit of trouble.
This coach was kitbashed from the Jordan kit for the Concord coach also based on a Henderson prototype.
Right in the middle of this project, we had a bit of nasty weather here including a lightning strike which was very close to us. It was close enough to knock out several of our appliances including the dishwasher, telephone/internet modem, clothes dryer, television and so on. It even took out all four of the Digitrax command stations and boosters on the railroad including the fast clock controller. The Digitrax stuff has all been sent off to the company in Florida but they are taking at least two months to repair damage these days. The Stockton and Copperopolis will be out of commission for a while. At least, working on the mud wagons helped to calm me somewhat while waiting for adjusters and repairmen.
     Take a look at Hakan's Railroad Line Forum thread 9 I think you will find it interesting.

Wednesday, June 19, 2019

Bridges over Troubled Waters

Duck Creek just outside Farmington (in the distance) is now bridged. The plaster cloth is applied right over the existing scenery which will then be blended into the new sction.
Technically, these are not bridges but trestles. For ten years, Duck Creek near Farmington and Mormon Creek near Holden have only had narrow pieces of plywood to bridge the respective bodies of water. Well, considering the railroad is set in California in the summer time, there is little water to bridge, troubled or otherwise, as the creeks are mostly dry then.
     Both trestles were built using basswood scale lumber assembled in a jig I made. Once the trestle was ready, I carefully sawed away the plywood subroadbed while leaving the tracking hanging over the gap. The ties were removed and then Barge cement was applied to the bottom of the rails and was allowed to dry. To install the structure, I placed the trestle beneath the rails and then shimmed up the trestle bents to level the structure. A small iron was placed on the rails which melted the cement and glued them to the bridge. A track gauge was used to make sure that the rails were in the proper alignment.
Mormon Creek is a bit different. The truss bridge is over the main part of the channel with the trestles on slightly higher ground.. Jigs were used to built both the trestle and the bridge. In the background is a deck bridge from my old railroad. Its fate has not yet been decided.
The Howe truss bridge over Mormon creek was built about 25 years ago for my previous railroad in California and was recycled for the S&C. This was quite common in the nineteenth century since it was fairly easy to disassemble a wood bridge, cart the cast iron and wood beams to another location and re-erect it.
     Plaster cloth was then applied around the trestle give the scenery a base. I still need to use some Sculptamold to smooth out the approaches and fill any gaps. Then, I can paint the plaster, apply dirt and maybe even a small trickle of water.