Friday, June 8, 2018

The Depot at Farmington

Although the steps seem to be floating in air, when scenicking is done, they will be flush with the top of the ties. An earth berm will run from the train order signal past the privy .
The Farmington Depot is now complete except for scenicking. It was an interesting project using customary model building techniques combined with laser cutting and 3D printing.
The 3D printed casings fit perfectly around the Tichy
window castings.
The depot has some unusual casing details around the upper part of the window. I drew up some 3D drawings of it sized to fit the Tichy windows and doors I was using and sent them to Shapeways to have the casings printed.
     In the prototype photo shown in my last blog (, you can just barely see the end of a ladder peeking out from behind the depot. This was normally used to access the roof and it seems that most of the Southern Pacific depots had one. I relocated mine to the end of the building so someone might actually see it. The small "bridge" on the platform's end was used to span the gap between the platform and a car to aid in loading or unloading of it.
     Adjacent to the depot is something one sees at almost all of the depot photos, the privy. This one is a standard SP design and is made from two of the Tichy outhouse kits. The lattice work around the privy is also from Tichy.
The privy at Farmington and the model privy. It is a close copy. I realize that the model roof has a steeper pitch and the lattice work is square rather than on an angle. These were modeling considerations I took into account to get the "feel" of the structure rather than make an exact copy. In other words, I was a trifle lazy.

Tuesday, May 22, 2018

Laser Cutting and Depots

Farmington depot circa the 1890s. Note the privy behind the lattice fence at the right and the switch stand.
A few months ago, I bit the bullet and bought a laser cutting machine. It sat in my basement for 2-3 months simply because it was too cold in my shop to work comfortably. I finally started working with it a couple of weeks ago and just cut my first real project, the Farmington depot. The prototype was a board-and-batten structure and was relatively small as depots go. Being smaller in scale made it a good first project.
Farmington depot. The window and door openings were sized to accept Grandt Line windows and doors. In the foreground is .010" thick styrene with the gable trim cut out by the laser.
Depot with scallop trim.
Evergreen styrene was used for the basic siding. I always thought that styrene was really not suitable for laser cutting but that is not true. I managed to cut the siding very smoothly, especially the cutouts for the windows and doors. The ends of the depot had some interesting scallop trim that was perfect for the laser. I made a CAD drawing of the trim and the laser made a good job of it.
     The baggage doors were not the right size for either the Tichy or Grandt Line doors so I did another drawing. The doors using were cut from 3/32" acrylic and the trim from a manila file folder.
Acrylic baggage doors with trim pieces awaiting paint.
The building is not yet finished but is on its way and the laser has justified its expense (at least in my mind). One of the selling points on getting the machine was being able to cut special templates for my wife's quilting projects. Naturally, the very first project done was some holders on which to wind quilt binding.

Thursday, May 3, 2018

Factories at Stockton and Warehouse at Cometa

Henderson Carriages is located just behind the depot on the industry spur in Stockton.
Several years ago, I bought an old Magnuson kit called Menasha Woodenware. It had this great look of a three-story nineteenth century factory or warehouse. I had been looking for a place to put this building on the railroad and finally found it. It is in Stockton on the spur serving the Pacific Tannery, Simpson & Gray Lumber and the Globe Iron Works.
     Putting the kit together was fairly easy in spite of the fact that the instructions were missing. The sides were all cast resin and it was pretty intuitive. I had to decrease the depth of the building to fit the space I had but it still is an imposing structure.
     I decided to name it after the M. P. Henderson Carriage Factory. Henderson made wagons and carriages for use throughout the western U.S. Their Stockton factory was, indeed, a three-story building and looked somewhat like the Magnuson kit. Using a photo of the prototype, I made a few signs and now I have another switching destination for Stockton.
Cometa is looking better with two real industrial spots now. As soon as some more dirt is sifted, I can finished the scenicking.
 Recently, I was doing a bit of scenery around Farmington and decided that Cometa needed a couple of structures to establish it as a town on the railroad. The real Cometa had a grain warehouse and a corral and there was just enough space to model both of those. The Walthers Shed on Pilings kit is a nice small warehouse with sliding doors but it was too small for Cometa's needs so I bought two of them. Putting them together end-to-end gave a building about the right size but it was frame and looked like, well, two Walthers kits spliced together. Looking again at my map collection revealed that the prototype warehouse was sheathed in corrugated iron so I decided to do that. Using double-sized tape, I attached Campbell's corrugated iron to the building, painting it and then weathered it slightly with some Bragdon's rust powder.
     I wasn't sure what to call the warehouse, though. The information I had was a bit sketchy. I did some checking on the internet and found that an outfit called Haslacher & Kahn owned the Cometa concern plus several other grain warehouse in the area. Some more searching found an old letterhead for the company and gave me the style to be used on the sign. I printed it out and attached it to the building's side.
     The corral was built with pieces left over from a Walthers stock yard kit used elsewhere on the railroad. I added a small general store and some signs and now Cometa looks like a real destination point except for the lack of ground cover. I ran out of sifted dirt and so Cometa will look very barren until I sift some more.

Tuesday, April 17, 2018

The Rest of the City

Stand-in buildings show what a finished street might look like in downtown Stockton.
Making the building flats for Stockton (April 8 Post) started the city on its way to looking like a city. The unfortunate thing was that several of the streets ended at the backdrop and the result was not particularly realistic. I have seen other modelers use real photographs glued to the backdrop to make it look like the road continued but the only photographs I have of 1890s Stockton are in black-and-white. Since Stockton's nineteenth century buildings are mostly gone, I decided to try colorizing some of the monochromatic photos I have.
    Knowing nothing about colorization, I googled the process and found it to be rather straight-forward but a little tedious. Using Adobe Photoshop, I started adding colors and, a few hours later, had a reasonable-looking color street scene. After printing out a picture which appeared to be about the right size, I pasted it to the backdrop and the result is above.
     I needed at least one other photo but the bulk of my street scenes did not have the photographer standing in the middle of the street producing the right view for railroad modelers a century later. I did, however, have scenes of two separate streets which I thought could be combined, again using Photoshop. Once the two scenes were joined, I colorized the picture and the result is below.
This street scene was made by combining shots from two separate streets and joining them in Photoshop.
 I was pleased with these first attempts and am looking forward to completing the street, adding structures and a few vehicles. I think Stockton will start looking more like a big city.

Sunday, April 8, 2018

Industrial District Buildings Appear at Stockton

The entire set of flats I constructed stretches about six feet along the backdrop at Stockton. The depressed area at the right will be a marsh. The two gaps in the flats are for Centre Street (at left) and Commerce Street.
A few of my regular operators have told me that they would like to see some progress on structures at Stockton (it only had the two-stall roundhouse and an open-air warehouse for the steamer line). I decided to respond to their wishes and also get some kits out of their boxes. Using some of the Walthers building flats and a couple of parts from another kit, I came up with several distinct businesses, all of which existed in Stockton near the railroad.
The far right of the flats is the Pacific Tannery, one of the online shippers on the railroad. The two buildings to the left are Sylvester and Moye, furniture makers and Stockton Bags and Burlap.

The next buildings are Hammond, Moore and Yardley, grocery and provision sales and Thomas and Buell of the Stockton Planing Mill.
Wm. P. Miller sits between Centre and Commerce Streets. They were a big manufacturer of wagons and carriages. They weren't quite as well-known as Henderson but I liked the lettering on their building better.
To the left of Centre Street is the Stockton Glass Factory.
Having nineteenth century photos of the prototype buildings, I tried to use the same type fonts that were used then with the same slogans and signs. Unfortunately, the building flats themselves don't correspond to the actual buildings but are merely there to provide a sort of ambiance to the scene. I plan to work from the backdrop to the aisle as far the structures go
     Now I have to figure out what to do about the "continuation" of the streets into the backdrop. I have a couple of ideas which I hope to share once I perfect them.

Wednesday, March 21, 2018

New Packing House Arrives in Holden

A California Fruit Express refrigerator car awaits loading at the new San Joaquin Fruit Growers' Association packing plant.
The San Joaquin Fruit Growers' Association packing house in Holden is now complete and occupied in Holden. Refrigerator cars ship daily with apples, grapefruit and other produce. In other words, I have completed another structure for this town.
    It started life as a Walthers packing house kit. Usually, I don't use standard kits, not because they are not good, but because they seldom look like structures in the part of the country I am modeling. In this case, the Walthers kit looked like a frame packing house would like in the 1890s. The kit was assembled per the instructions with little being done. The signs for the building were custom printed.
     The stacks of fruit crates were constructed by wrapping wooden blocks with a printed wrapper showing stacks of fruit crates. This was done by first selecting end labels which appealed to me (there are numerous photos of these labels on line) and then reducing the image to HO scale. The label was then duplicated in a stack-like formation. The same thing was done for the sides of the crates and the top. These images were organized to form a wrapper which glued to the wood block. The individual crates were obtained from Shapeways ( They come in both open top and closed top configurations.

Saturday, March 17, 2018

The Stockton & Copperopolis in the News

With the NMRA convention coming up in Kansas City this summer, both Railroad Model Craftsman and Model Railroad Hobbyist are doing their part to publicize the event. As many of you may know, the Stockton & Copperopolis has been featured in both publications recently: the November 2017 issue of RMC and the March 2018 MRH.
Trainmasters Video
As another means of making people aware of the convention, just before Christmas, Barry Silverthorn of Trainmasters Video visited my  railroad and a few others in the area. He spent about a day video taping our layouts and interviewing the owners. That video was just released on the Trainmasters website (
     Both RMC and MRH did a real good job of showing off the railroad and Trainmasters was no exception. The 23-minute production covered a great deal of the railroad and even made me look halfway decent. My thanks to Barry and my frequent operator, Mark Davidson, who spent the day helping me during the filming.
For those of you thinking of coming to the convention, it looks like it's going to be a good event. The people in charge are working hard to make sure that of its success. If you don't read it already, check out Model Railroad Hobbyist. Joe Fugate does an excellent job and there is a heavy emphasis on photos to tell the story. The best part is that it's free. Trainmasters, however, is a subscription service but there are many, many videos of layout visits and how-to-do-it subjects. I've only seen a couple but they are very professionally done. It seems well worth the price.
     See you at the convention!

Monday, March 5, 2018

New Structures at Farmington

Two weeks ago, Kansas City hosted its bi-annual Prairie Rail event. This is an invitational operating weekend where railroaders congregate from all over the country to operate four railroads during the three days. This year, we had over 150 attendees operating on over 30 model railroads. The Stockton & Copperopolis was privileged to host two sessions with ten operators each. Fortunately, the railroad behaved and everybody seemed to be having a good time. Only minor problems  came up and were easily solved. I heard nothing but good comments about the event in general.
The Farmington Winery sits at the end of a spur at the edge of Little John Creek. The boiler house is in the rear. I still need to add some wine barrels and a vat or two around the outside. I will do that when I do the final mounting and scenery work.
 In the leadup to the event, everything was cleaned and checked but no new work was done for fear that some new problem would arise. In this period of limbo, I literally dusted off a kit I had been saving for over 20 years and decided to assemble it. The Farmington Winery was born! The basic kit was a Railway Design Associates mill which looked very much like some of the old California wineries. Not much in the way of modifications was done as it looked good the way it was.
The California Models cottage. The weather vane was added from an etched kit I had been saving. The house will sit on the other side of the tracks from the depot near the main town district.
 During the same time period, I finished another kit started several months back. It was an early kit with a lot of wood and paper details (no nifty Grandt Line castings here). It is going to be in the background so any lack of detail would not be noticed anyway. It turned out all right but the modern laser kits are more the way to go.

Tuesday, February 20, 2018

Yet Another Stock Car

The gray pans are the watering pan which are now turned in the empty position. Filled with a tank located within the car, they would need to be rotated 90 degrees to function.
My stock car fleet continues to grow. This car, the Street's Western Stable Car Line, is not a well-known line but, after the turn of the century, ended up owning the two other major lines, CCCC and Hicks. This prototype of this particular car was on display at the 1893 Columbian Exposition and the drawings and specifications for the car were published in a book describing all of the transportation exhibits. The drawings were also published in Engineering magazine in August 1893.
      My model is built entirely of styrene with trucks I obtained from a seller on Shapeways. They do a very good job of matching the Street's trucks shown in the drawings. The colors for the car were taken right from the specifications. This just points out that even stock cars could be colorful in the 1890s period.
     This car has watering pans for the cattle which rotated in the prototype car. I had these produced by Shapeways from a drawing I made and they fit right in. I even have enough left to do the Hicks car I want. The stock car door is a little different. It is of the Alsop and Fisher patent and is made in two parts. The lower part is hinged at the bottom and opens downward to form a ramp for the animals. The upper part then slides open to let them out.
     For some reason, photos of these cars are hard to find. I found two, both in a freight yard and at a distance from the camera so details were not discernable. The lettering was based on woodcuts found in the Official Railway Equipment Register.

Saturday, January 27, 2018

Some Housekeeping Issues

This post is a little out of the ordinary but is important because it concerns the readers and, especially, the commentors on this blog. I do very much appreciate the comments which are made as they often give me new ideas to try as well as provide some pleasure knowing that the blog is being enjoyed.
     Recently, however, there have been some questions asked and, when I try to reply on the blog, cannot do so. I have diligently searched to find the cause of this problem and have yet to find it. Just to make sure that no one thinks I am ignoring him, I will answer a couple of the questions right now.

From Rene Gourley who showed some skepticism on painting stock cars green, I say:

It was an educated guess. Prototype photos show a dark color which could be red or green. I have enough BCR cars on the railroad so I chose green. I also have original specs for another car which does indicate green with vermilion ends so I guess that green is an appropriate, if not practical, color.

And to Gregory Rich who wondered where Pittsburg, California is located.

Pittsburg is on the San Joaquin River just east of its junction with the Sacramento River. It was a coal-mining town initially called Black Diamond (among a few other names). The original lettering on the car was for Waverly Oil in Pittsburgh PA but my friend changed it to California since there was a similarly-named city. He did the revisions and the original model so I cannot claim any credit except that of being a happy recipient.

If anyone has any suggestions on how to solve my Reply issues, I would appreciate hearing it. You can email me at Thanks for reading.


Saturday, January 20, 2018

New Shipper on the S&C

The Waverly Oil tank car sits on a siding in Oakdale awaiting transport to the to-be-developed oil loading facility at Waverly.
"Oil has been discovered in another location in the San Joaquin Valley near the railroad siding of Waverly. Tank car shipments to begin as soon as oil transfer facilities from the pipeline are established. A new tank car has been seen on the Foothill Oil siding." Oakdale Leader
      At least that's the way the newspaper should have published the "event." In reality John Breau, one of the S&C operators, produced a tank car today that he had built over 40 years ago from a La Belle kit. Since he models the early 1950s, he had no use for an older prototype car so he refurbished it and gave it to me. You can see that it is lettered for the Waverly Oil Company based in Pittsburg, California. Since Waverly is a siding on the railroad, I naturally assumed that someone had struck oil in its vicinity.
     For those not familiar with California geography, Pittsburg is a town on the San Joaquin River and could very well have been offices for an oil company. At that date, the routing of the car is unknown [i.e. the car card and waybill have to be printed]. Of course, this also means that I have to build some way of loading the tank car but Waverly still needs a grain warehouse anyway so locating a tank car platform should not be a problem.
     Thanks to John for adding an interesting car to the railroad.

Wednesday, January 3, 2018

Horseless Carriages Invade Burnett's

Two Locomobiles on the main street of Burneett's. The green and blue colors, among others, were factory options. I picked those since they matched the color of my Locomobile and that of a friend's.
"According to the Oakdale Leader, two "horseless carriages" were spotted traveling through Burnett's this week. Both were powered by steam and driven by persons who otherwise appeared normal. The vehicles sped through town traveling at least 15 miles per hour and were last seen on the Knight's Ferry Road east of Oakdale."
Powered by steam, the boiler of these cars is under the seat along with the engine. The rear of the
car contains the water tank. You can see the tufted upholstery on the left-hand car.
That's the history record. The actuality is the completion of two 1900-era Locomobile steam cars. Once the most popular car in America, the Locomobile company switched to gasoline cars in 1902 as did almost everybody else. Driving an antique steam car is somewhat of a thrill. Even though the speed is not that high (25-30 mph), you feel like you're speeding down the street while sitting on a card table. How do I know? I have a 1901 Style 02 Locomobile in my garage which I restored back in the 1990s. Ever since then, I wanted to make a model of one for the railroad. Yes, it is slightly anachronistic but I had fun building them.
     The bodies of the two cars were made using 3D printing. I worked up a drawing in Sketchup and then sent it to Shapeways to do the actual printing. There are three parts: the body, the chassis and the tires. When I received the parts from Shapeways, I still had to fabricate springs, the tiller and other small parts. Photo-etching enabled me to produce the wheel spokes which fit into a groove in the tires.
On the workbench before being placed on the railroad.
  Although all this may sound somewhat high-tech, each part is actually not too bad. Sketchup is a free program which can be downloaded. It takes a bit to figure out just how to get what you want but there is plenty of documentation. The photo-etching was done with the Micro-Mark etching kit in a sink in the bathroom. Again, not very difficult. Seeing the parts you working with may be another story. I recommend the Optivisor which I have used for years. If you can see it, you can work with it!
     Upholstering the car was little  more difficult. The prototype used leather in a tufted pattern. Not having any wish to actually use fabric, I substituted a piece of styrene and scribed it where the folds would fall. A small drill was used at each intersection to make a small dimple which would represented the buttons.
The author's 1901 Locomobile. Note that the tiller is now on the side of the car rather than the center.
This was an improvement in 1901 as was the ability of the brakes to work when going backward.
      Just a bit more history of the car and the railroad. The first car into Yosemite was a Locomobile in 1900. In 1901, two Locomobiles drove from Stockton to Yosemite. There was a nice article in the August 1902 Overland Monthly about their adventures with photographs. I found it a nice read and it is available on line.