Monday, December 17, 2012

The Younger Generation

Much talk has been in the model press lately about the future of model railroading and how we should get the younger generation involved. Our six-year-old granddaughter, Jessica, has been interested in the railroad since she was about two years old. Recently, she completed her first kit. It was not too difficult and she had some help but she is very proud of "Jessica's Pet Shop." I'm not quite sure where it will end up on the S&C but it should be somewhere. Will this lead her into the hobby of railroading? Who knows? All you can do, though, is expose them to the hobby and see what happens. It will be interesting to see what her interest is when she is tall enough to actually see the trains.

By the way, she's run the trains before and is very careful. Her only fault would be going a bit too slow which is hard to do on a railroad with 15 mph speed limit!

Wednesday, December 12, 2012

Oakdale Manufacturing Works

Another Oakdale industry has been completed, the Oakdale Manufacturing Works. This was a prototype business located in that city during the late 1800s. They built wagons, carriages, buggies and farm implements according to their ad in the Stockton & Copperopolis Railroad Guide published in 1885. This was a throw-away guide telling a bit about the communities through which the railroad passed and, more importantly, carrying ads for local businesses.

I have not not found any photographs of the prototype so I took inspiration for my structure from Greenfield Village in Dearborn, Michigan. The Richart Wagon shop is a small building preserved there which seemed ideal for the railroad. In the 1800s, horse-drawn vehicles were easy to build and did not require much in the way of specialized equipment so many small towns had their own shops. The Oakdale Works and Richart were both of this pattern. The long sloping ramp is typical of many wagon shops. It was used to maneuver the finished carriages down to street level. Unlike one might expect, individual parts were made on the first floor and the final assembly and finishing done on the second. This puzzled me for a bit until someone explained that, if the woodworking was on the second floor, sawdust would always be floating down on the freshly-painted carriages drying on the first floor.

My model was built of styrene following the Richart dimensions. Shingles were from Minuteman Scale Models. Since this was to be a source of revenue for the S&C, I built a small loading ramp which will be located next to the tracks. Right now, I am not quite sure where the Works will end up. It was originally planned to be at the south end of Oakdale adjacent to the gas works but there may not be enough room there. I'll have to finish the gas plant and see if both can be squeezed into that space or if things will need to be rearranged.

I also have to build up some wagons and carriages. After all, a factory needs some evidence of the product produced.

Thursday, November 15, 2012

Static Electricity Problems

In my post of July 29, I described how a low-cast rubber mat solved my floor covering problem. Well, I was a bit too quick to brag about it. Everything was fine until the weather started to get colder and the humidity lower. Static electricity reared its head. Walking only about five feet would generate enough static to put out a great spark when I touched almost anything, such as the rails on the layout. With sensitive decoders and command stations about, this did not seem to be a good situation to have. The question was what to do about it.

One end of the wire is stuck into the rubber mat about 4 inches while the other is soldered to an alligator clip which is then attached to a grounded nail.
I looked through various pages of advice on the internet and one suggested grounding the mats. I did this with a piece of 14-gauge solid wire stuck into the side of the mat. An alligator clip on the other end allowed me to attach the wire to one of the nails I shot into the concrete to secure the benchwork. This actually helped the situation but did not reduce it to levels I thought were acceptable. More research was done and I found an industrial static reducing spray, Staticide ACL 2001. I ordered a gallon of it, sprayed it on the matting with a garden sprayer and let it dry. It worked! The static electricity was gone. 

At the same time that I was applying the anti-static spray, I replaced the matting in my humidifier on the furnace. It hadn't been done in a couple of years. Right away, the humidity jumped up significantly which will also help the static problem during the winter. When I lived in Southern California, humidity, or lack thereof, was never a problem so this is rather new to me. The perils of living in the midwest, I guess. At least now I won't be blowing decoders during an op session.

Wednesday, November 7, 2012

Oakdale Water Works

Oakdale is shaping up as nice little town. We have hotels, stores, industry, a public water works and even a public bandstand. The view of town as you cross over the tracks is fairly attractive. I meant to mention last time that the dry goods store and cyclery were made from a Main Street Heritage kit. These are attractive resin kits and go together easily. The painting is always the problem, though, with an 1800s building. It just takes time to get right. The cafe next door is also Main Street Heritage. The newspaper building is from California Models. Although they are mostly cardboard kits, they go together quite nicely. Next door, the photographer's studio is a Woodland Scenics kit and Kathy's Confectioneries is scratchbuilt with an interior.

The new water works building is placed pretty much where nineteenth century Oakdale had the prototype water works and was about the same size. Made from a DPM kit, all I did was brick up some of the windows and add a smoke stack. I have not found any photos of the real thing so the signs and building appearance are freelanced. Adjacent to the pumping station is the wood water storage tank. The tank is very close in appearance to the prototype tank.

At the far end of Oakdale, the railroad passes over J Street on a short trestle. In later years, the underpass was filled in and now the road goes over the tracks in Oakdale.

Due to several out-of-town trips in the last couple of months, the S&C has not had any operating sessions for about three months. I've scheduled one for this month and the date is coming up quickly so I had to clean the scenery stuff off the layout and get ready for that. The south end of town still needs the gas works to be finished and a fairly large grain warehouse to be built. That's next on the agenda.

Monday, October 22, 2012

Another Block of Buildings

After another quick out-of-town trip, I managed to get down to the railroad and finish up another short block on East Railroad Avenue in Oakdale. This time we have an ice cream shop, photographer, office of the Oakdale Leader (newspaper), the Ban Box cafe, the Oakdale Cyclery and the E.L. Barris Dry Goods shop. As in the previous structures, most of these were based on real Oakdale businesses. The photographer and ice store are freelanced but Oakdale did have both businesses.

   Down a short alley is Hammond's Billiard Parlor with an adjacent pawn shop. Although the pool hall is intended for adult entertainment, there are always some kids in knickers trying to get a view of what the older folks are doing. The Sen-Sen ad was made from an existing ad painted on a wall in one of the towns along the Missouri River. For those who are not aware, Sen-Sen was and is a breath mint similar to Tic-Tacs.

   Across the street from these flourishing enterprises is a city park complete with bandstand and band. The bandstand was built from an etched brass kit available in the UK. The band is Preiser while the chairs are also etched brass from the UK.

Monday, October 8, 2012

Virginia and Truckee Historical Society

Not too much modeling this last week. I was attending the annual Virginia & Truckee Railroad Historical Society conference in Carson City, Nevada. Over a three-day period, we had the opportunity to listen to several talks on V&T subjects such as passenger cars, paint schemes, modeling equipment and development of the V&T's signature mogul locomotives. Other speakers showed the development of the main yards and shops at Carson City. There were several vendors of V&T related goods, both model and prototype.
   The best thing, though, is being able to visit with knowledgeable folks that you only see once a year at the conference. People from all over the U.S. attend and after-conference groups break away to discuss their own particular interests.
  The Saturday night banquet featured speakers from the engineering staff who are rebuilding the V&T from Virginia City to Carson. This is a great train ride, incidentally, and I highly recommend it if you are in the area.
   A visit to the V&T's first depot in Virginia City was the Sunday field trip. Of course, most us had to visit the Nevada State Railroad Museum in town and see what has been happening. The museum's gorgeous McKeen car was rolled out in the great Fall weather.
  Fortunately for me, I had some time to visit the University of Nevada and do some research on the early railroads of the area. This research has been very helpful in my modeling efforts.
   For those of you interested in the Virginia and Truckee, check out the Society's webpage at They have a great newsletter and publish some well-research books on aspects of V&T history.

Monday, September 24, 2012

Tulare Lumber Company

The model of my Oakdale Lumber Company is loosely based on the Tulare Lumber Company in Tulare (pronounced too-lair-ee), California. They were in business for several years but all I have is one photo of the operation which is that displayed here.
Also, the company was clearly depicted on the Sanborn maps of the late 1800s showing the layout of the plant. For the model, I used the office design but made it a little smaller (two windows instead of three). I only had room for the one lumber storage shed so the whole facility is a bit smaller than the Tulare company. You can see the Lime House on the plan which gave me the idea to make my own.

Sunday, September 23, 2012

Oakdale Lumber Company

Oakdale Lumber with the office on left, lumber rack in center and the cement shed at the right.
My plan called for the Oakdale Lumber Company be served by one of the sidings in Oakdale. As my scenery moved toward the southern part of the town, it became time to build the structure. I decided to join two Atlas lumber yards together to get a large enough facility to be served by rail. The modification was straight-forward, just joining the two lumber rack structures together. A new roof was made with styrene sheet and deformed slightly to create a sag which might indicate an older building. I had seen a photo of the 1890s Tulare Lumber Company and was attracted to the lettering indicating the products sold. I just had to duplicate that for this building.

The building end lettering was copied from the Tulare Lumber Company of the same period.
The lumber racks were stocked with lengths of stripwood I had on hand glued together.

The Lime and cement building stands at the far end of the siding.
Since the lumber yard sign shows cement and lime sales, I built a small building flat to use for the storage of these products with a few sacks outside. Remember, my layout represents summer in California and the likelihood of rain is zero. A small office was scratchbuilt and the buildings installed on the layout. I had several resin stacks of lumber intended for flat car loads that I glued some short 4x4s to and placed them around the property. A section of fence to keep trespassers out and the yard was completed.

Tuesday, September 4, 2012

White Pass and Yukon RR

The original wooden swing bridge over the Yukon River still is in use in Carcross.
There's been no work on the S&C for the last couple of weeks. My wife and have been on an Alaska cruise. The highlight of last week was the trip over the White Pass & Yukon Railroad from Carcross, Yukon Territory to Skagway, Alaska. This 67-mile ride was spectacular. As most of you probably know, the 3-foot gauge railroad was built in 1898-1900 as a reaction to the gold strikes in the Klondike.

When the 1901 steel bridge was bypassed in 1969, the railroad drilled tunnel and erected this trestle. Note the water barrels.
A typical train on the WP&Y.
From the wharves at Skagway, the railroad climbs along a roadbed blasted out of the solid rock rivaling any Rocky Mountain railroad. Significant wood trestling is still used in several spots. The ride even had a stop for lunch at a railroad eating house, something very reminiscent of nineteenth century pre-dining car railroading. Although the locomotives were diesels, the coaches certainly went back to the 1800s. We rode in a coach of unknown parentage built in 1889. Apparently the line bought up used equipment from narrow-gauge railroads being abandoned to provide the needed rolling stock.

Crossing the Skagway River near Skagway.
According to the conductor, there are five trains scheduled for a short trip in the morning and another five in the afternoon with only one going the full length of the road. All dispatching is done by track warrants in the U.S. and by a similar system (OCS) in Canada. Although there was no modeling done, it was a great trip and a great cruise.

Monday, August 13, 2012

East Railroad Street Buildings Added in Oakdale

East Railroad Avenue runs behind the Stanislaus Warehouse. E Street is the road at the left of the photo.
My goal to "finish" Oakdale is proceeding and I'm discovering just how many buildings it takes for a large city. Oakdale is not a large city as those things go but it takes up about 20 feet on the S&C which means lots of structures. The latest addition has been some buildings on East Railroad Street behind the Stanislaus Warehouse. Some of these were completed a while back but they are now in their final position.

The H.H.H. Horse Medicine advertised on the barn was actually manufactured in Stockton for many years and used throughout the country.
The Yo-Semite (yes, that was one spelling for Yosemite used in the 1890s) Livery was scratchbuilt based on a real structure that stood on the corner of "F" and East Railroad Streets in the 1800s. At the other end of the block is "E" Street and a simple house was assembled from a Grandt Line kit for. In my era, houses and businesses were somewhat interspersed in a single block so the model will reflect that.

The Achegas building is located in the middle of the block. No one is still quite sure what Achegas is but the business seems to be moderately successful.

As mentioned in a previous posting, the Stearns & Harray Blacksmith & Carriage Shop is patterned after a prototype 1890s structure. The sign is an accurate reproduction of the prototype's sign right down to the giant horseshoe on the top. The apparatus on the sign post is a hoist for raising wagons and buggies when it becomes necessary to roll the wheels out.

The giant tooth and "Painless" Dentist sign clearly indicates a dentist on the second floor. Barely visible behind a porch post stands a cigar store Indian offering his wares.
The grocery and drug stores were older structures salvaged from my previous layout and rehabilitated. They fit right in across "E" Street from the warehouse. More structures are in the paint shop to continue populating the town.

Monday, August 6, 2012

More Oakdale Structures

In my current project to populate Oakdale with most of the structures it needs to look complete, I have been building. Over the last week or so, I've managed to put together a small dwelling, a store and a factory making an undetermined product.

The Cash Variety Store was built from the Classic Miniatures "Silver Plume Store" kit. Note the pigeon roosting on the ledge below the store sign.

The Tuolumne Cheap store was based on a real Oakdale business but was made from a Classic Miniatures kit. With the big front windows, I decided it was necessary to detail the interior so I made a store which was typical of nineteenth century small-town businesses. With its name, it's obvious that they will not extend credit to customers but do offer cheaper prices for cash. The Stanislaus Flour sign on the side is copied from a real sign on the side of a building in Coulterville, California. Stanislaus Flour was made in Oakdale and served by a spur from the S&C.

The Achegas plant is a bit of local humor which predates my moving to the Kansas City area. It is a play on one of the fellow's names. The plant name became so popular that decals were made and most layouts in the area have an Achegas franchise. The decals, unfortunately, were really of too modern a style to suit 1895 so I backdated the lettering style a bit and came up with that on the model. Now I just have to find a suitable spot for the building.

Sunday, July 29, 2012

New Floors for the S&C

The operators at Oakdale will find switching a bit more comfortable with the new flooring.
One of the things I had been meaning to do for quite some time was to provide a comfortable flooring for the railroad room. With the layout in the basement, the floor is concrete which is a bit harder on the feet than a wood floor. My first choice of flooring was carpet, specifically carpet squares. With their built-in padding, they can be quite comfortable. The best part is that they could be temporarily removed when working on the railroad. The bad part is that the cost would be in the thousands of dollars so I have just lived with plain concrete for several years. This weekend, I received a flyer from Harbor Freight and found that their foam rubber matting was on sale. It comes in two-foot squares which can be locked together. To make a long story short, I came out of the Harbor Freight store with a bunch of tiles and installed them in the aisles. the total cost was in the low hundreds of dollars instead of thousands. The tiles don't cover all of the floor but they do provide a much more comfortable walking surface that the concrete.
Although plain concrete remains in places, it is under the railroad rather that at the walking surfaces.
The really big downside to the mats is, fortunately, only temporary. In all the kneeling down and getting up, I found muscles that obviously haven't been used very much. I may be walking funny for a couple of days but it is worth it to finally get a floor down.

Friday, July 20, 2012

Stacks of Sacks

While the Stanislaus Warehouse looked good to me, it needed some product (sacks of grain) stored on its loading platforms. I could not find any commercially made sacks that looked right to me so I decided to make my own. In looking through my scrap boxes, I did find some sack stacks of that looked right. I don't know who made them but Walthers doesn't carry anything like them so I imagine the company is look out of business.

Using these as patterns, a rubber mold was made using Alumilite molding rubber. Bragdon casting resin was poured into the mold and, a few minutes later, I had stacks of sacks. They were painted Floquil Rail Brown which seems to be a close color to the coarse material used in the prototype sacks.
The finished castings after painting.
The now-finished warehouse looks pretty good to me and I now have the capability to make more as additional grain warehouses are built along the route of the S&C.

Wednesday, July 11, 2012

New Warehouse for Oakdale

The construction projects at Oakdale progress with the addition of the Stanislaus Warehouse Company building. The prototype was built in 1885 and remained standing until the late 1990s. I was fortunate enough to measure and photograph it before it was demolished. Originally used as a warehouse for grain storage, it went through a number of other uses through the years. My model of the building will remain as the original, a warehouse for sacked grain. It was reduced to about 3/4 of its length while retaining the same width. The huge loading platform was originally at the south end of the building but I moved it to the north end as it better suited the available space.

In the 1990s, rail service to the warehouse had been discontinued.
The ground scenery around the building still needs to be applied but there is paint to buy and dirt to sift before that can be done. That big loading platform must have been filled with stacks and stacks of grain. Those will have to be made and cast in resin before I will consider the job done.

Thursday, July 5, 2012

Standard Oil Substations

A recent comment on my oil refinery article in the August MR was complimentary but wished there was information on the typical 1890s oil distribution facilities. Here is some information I put together on Standard Oil's facilities in California.

Standard Oil Substations,
An Analysis by Don Ball

Click above for larger image.
When Standard Oil Company established itself in California, it, in the person of Iowa Standard, set up oil distribution substations. According to Standard Oil Company of California, Formative Years in the Far West,

Stations varied considerably in size and equipment. The two largest, located in San Francisco and Los Angeles, by 1896 represented investments of about $53,000 each. The smallest, at San Diego, was valued at about $5,500. Each station had one or more plain brick warehouses containing an office and storage for cased goods, and several tanks ranging up to 7,000 barrels [42 gallons per barrel] in size for bulk storage. They were also equipped with a pump house, barreling plant and a stable. They kept on hand a thirty- to sixty-day supply. . . .

Iowa Standard supplemented its main stations with depots or substations. The storage depot established in 1883 at Oakland was a forerunner. By 1890 the company was operating eleven substations and twelve main stations. A decade later, when there were fifteen main statons, the number of substations had grown to fifty-eight. Some were sizable, like the $4,200 plant at Bakersfield, consisting of a warehouse and tanks; others were just a small tank and perhaps a warehouse located on a spur track near some hamlet . . . They were usually staffed by no more than one or two men who were paid a commission. . . .

The Iowa company turned to the tank wagon in the more populous areas as the most economical means of distributing oil except for a large delivery direct from a tank car. For the merchant, too, there were advantages. He could retail bulk oil more easily from a tank filled regularly by tank wagon than from an unwieldy barrel, and he was no longer troubled by possible damage from leakage to good stored near his oil. . . .

Standard’s first wagons first appeared on the streets of San Francisco in 1883; by 1890 they had been adopted at all the main stations except Marysville. In that year, the Iowa company delivered about one-seventh of its kerosene by tank wagon. Soon the practice also became common at the substations. By 1900 the tank wagons were handling about one-third of the kerosene sales.

The attached sheet contains Sanborn insurance map depictions of several distribution substations which were located in California. Undoubtedly, a similar pattern was repeated nationwide.

Tuesday, July 3, 2012

Oil Refining at Peters

The Pacific Coast Oil Refinery at Peters.
I am pleased to say that the August Model Railroader contains my new article entitled Build an 1880s Oil Refinery. The prototype of the refinery was built in Newhall, California in the 1870s and refined oil from the adjacent Pico Canyon until the late 1880s. Information to build the model was obtained through period documents and on-site measurements of the remains of the refinery. In the 1930s, Standard Oil restored it to its 1880s condition but, sadly, it has since deteriorated through neglect and vandalism. Present-day Chevron Oil was kind enough to furnish several photographs of the 1930s restoration.

Thanks to Google Books, I was able to obtain information on the petroleum refining process of the nineteenth century. Quite different from today's goal of producing gasoline, the folks of the 1800s wanted a clean-burning kerosene for lighting. Gasoline was just a by-product.

The prototype in operation in the 1880s.
 Pacific Coast Oil operated the refinery and ran both cylinder tank cars and oil/box combination cars. These latter cars looked like boxcars but contained two tanks for bulk kerosene with a dry space between them. This space was used for canned goods including oils, benzene, etc.

It was fun building the structure and my operating crews find it an interesting switching challenge.If this is interesting to you, pick up a copy of the August MR.

Tuesday, June 26, 2012

Layout Plan Posted

Illustration courtesy of Model Railroader Magazine
In January 2011, Model Railroad Planning published an article about the Stockton and Copperopolis which included this nicely-drawn track plan. It is much better than the one I used to have on my old website and MR graciously gave permission to use it.

I will keep it available for those who are interested by placing it on the tab bar above.

Monday, June 25, 2012

New Billerica and Bedford Book

My new book on the Billerica and Bedford Railroad has finally been received from the printer and is starting to be distributed. What is the B&B and what does it have to do with the Stockton and Copperopolis? The answer is "nothing." The book, however, is the culmination of a two-year project of mine to document the building of the first two-foot gauge railroad in the U.S. Many have heard of the Sandy River or Wiscasset Railroads in Maine, both two-foot gauge. All of these sprung from the B and B. If this kind of narrow gauge railroading is of interest, see my book's website at It is available direct through the website, at Karen's Books and Ron's Books.