Wednesday, February 10, 2021

My Gorre & Daphetid boxcar at Peters. The decals had dimensional lettering for a 36-foot car which is perfect for a Model Die Casting kit and fits right in with my era. 

Every model railroader has a beginning. Mine started in the fifth grade when I discovered that the local library had Model Railroader in its collection. From then until the end of college, my activity in the hobby was limited to reading the magazines. In those days, one of the real treats was admiring the photos of the Gorre & Daphetid Railroad as modeled by John Allen. As most of you probably know, his railroad was then, and still today, a scenic delight. 
      In 1970, I had the opportunity to attend a mini-meet of the Pacific Coast Region of the NMRA in Santa Barbara. Upon my arrival on Friday night, I ran into John in the hotel lobby. We spoke for a while and then, he invited me to join him on the layout tours. I spent the next few hours looking at the area's railroads. Later, he invited me to come up to his hotel room for a discussion of model railroad topics with Cliff Grandt and Charlie Trombley. I mainly listened.
John Allen as I knew him. 
     John was a very nice person and answered my questions and listened to my opinions as though I had years of experience in the hobby. I saw John once again a few months later at another model railroad event. He invited me to come to Monterey to see his railroad. I put off the trip and then, in 1973, John passed away and the railroad was destroyed shortly thereafter.
     Recently, I saw an offering for G&D decals on ebay. On impulse, I purchased a set and applied them to an old Model Die Casting kit. It's not prototypical but model railroading is supposed to be fun and I have a few unprototypical cars on the railroad which remind me of people or moments in my journey in this hobby.
     Every model railroader has a beginning. Fortunately, mine started out with some enthusiasm generated by one of the best modelers in the hobby. 

Monday, January 25, 2021

Railroads, Models and the Quilts They Inspire

 As I have mentioned occasionally on this blog, my wife, Becky, is an ardent quilter. She enjoys her hobby as much as I do mine and is very good at what she does. Over the fifteen years we've been married, I have been the recipient of several quilts she has made. Of those, the best were two railroad-related ones. The latest one, pictured above, is almost finished, lacking only the actual quilting. Becky had discovered this panel and, since it fit my era, bought it for this project. The various blocks surrounding the center image were all made using other images of locomotives of my era. Surrounding the entire project is a set of railroad tracks.
     The second quilt was made on the occasion of our first Christmas in 2001. The images were taken from a website I had about my last railroad, the Moraga Springs Northern. As you can see, the quilting follows the subject of the photo, outlining, locomotives, structures, etc. 
     What do these things have to do with the Stockton & Copperopolis or model railroading? Perhaps nothing but it does have a lot to do with keeping my interest in our hobby alive knowing that I am supported in my endeavors.

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.