Thursday, January 13, 2022

Thaaats All Folks...

I have been very remiss in ignoring this blog. I can't promise to better as I seem to be already spending an inordinate amount of time at the PC and doing very little modeling.  Almost nothing has changed on the layout. I can't promise much more for 2022. 

This is the only freight car project in the last 3 months:

It took me 3 months to finish this SP&S 40' flat car.  I found out the Tichy flatcar kit which cost me all of $8.50 was identical to the 50 AC&F cars SP&S purchased in 1924.  I have always liked that railroad and lived in my youth in all the three cities of its name. I have 1960's memories of the SP&S ALCO FA and FB unit lashups crossing the Spokane river bridges and the tall viaduct over the dry valley southwest of Spokane.

I modified the kit to represent the early 1950's with AB brakes. I had Tichy Andrews trucks and was given some non-public good color photos of the cars from the 1960's when still in revenue service for lumber loads. The problem that led to the lengthy build time was finding decals for the model.  Champ made a decal set for this specific car with 7 road names but did not include SP&S in road names (eastern/midwestern bias?)  I tried using the Speedwitch SP&S boxcar set but the reporting marks were too large. I wound up buying a RR roman letters set from Microscale to piece it together but had to pay for $20 minimum order (3 sets of decals.) I finally did get from eBay the Champ Tichy flat car set but all the weight and other small lettering was in block gothic. I used it anyway as by that time I realized it was never going to be a contest quality model. 

Interestingly the SP&S rated the car at 40 ton capacity rather than the 50 tons on the Champ decal set.    I must have spent over $40 on decals for the $8.50 car. 

The end result is not a closeup detail model but a 1 foot model. With Moloco .088 metal wheels and Kadee #158 couplers the weight is not too light. I am trying to adapt the Owl Mountain lumber load kits to this flat car. It looks like I will have to use the 9' wide lumber stacks rather than the smaller lumber as the Tichy flat car deck is a full 9 feet wide with no overhang unlike the OM SP F-50 flat car decks which are 8.5 feet wide but overhang the side sills. 

I am back looking at the design of the Port Costa turntable pit and trying to figure out how to build it. 

Thaaat's all folks....(remember Porky Pig at the end of Walter Lanz cartoons...)

Tuesday, November 2, 2021

November Notes #1

My blogging appears to be bogged down. Age must have something to do with it. Anyway the following of my model railroad/railway activities are of note as or 11/2/21:

  • A new model vehicle has been acquired for the 1930's auto parked in back of the freight house next to the freight platform. From the original 1950's photo (courtesy Contra Costa County Historical Society) I had identified it as a 1936 Dodge Sedan. I tried for many months to obtain an HO model of the 1936 Dodge but have been unable to find a replacement for the OO scale Oxford Miniatures Austin Sedan being used as a stand in.  In that search I stumbled across a 3D printer going by the name of Toys in the Attic who had a model of a 1938 Plymouth F5 sedan.  Figuring that was probably as close as I was going to get, I ordered 2 of these 3D prints with one being a backup in case I mucked up the paint and assembly of first one. 
    It has been painted Vallejo Gull Grey and left unglossed to reflect the aging affect of 12-14 years of the fierce Contra Costa sunshine on 1930's auto paint. The windows have been made with Microscale Micro Krystal Klear. They work if if viewed from a 2 foot or more distance.  Now all I need is a 1950-53 California Orange license plate decal to add a plate. 
  • Two new foreign road (non-SP) box cars have been added for the consists of east and west bound Cal-P traffic.  For a the past 6 months I have been working on a CMStP&P (Milwaukee Road) Accurail 40' Double Door rib sided kit. I had wanted to add a Royal Slack Adjuster brake cylinder per prototype to the underframe. My attempts to procure a casting for this type of brake gear have also come to naught and I just went ahead finished the car. Other modifications were replacing the running board with a prototype for period wood running board using the Tichy part # 3029 "Roofwalk" and a better Ajax brake wheel.   It still needs a corrected reweigh decal to replace the as printed NEW date and location and should have Barber not Bettendorf trucks. 
  • The second new foreign road boxcar is a Rapido PRR X31a which needs no modification beyond a corrected reweigh date and location applied instead of NEW. 
  • The SPMW Bachman Scale Test car and Scale Maintenance car have been completed to the 98% at which I usually say that is good enough. The scale test car has been repainted and uses decals made by a friend.  I had to replace the lower side grab irons which were cast on to get the decals to fit.  The scale maintenance car started as an Accurail outside braced box car and was modified to a picture Jason Hill displayed on the SP Prototype Modelers Facebook group. It took a lot of cutting and rebuilding. I had to scratch the door steps from brass, used Tichy work car windows and covered those with sanded clear styrene to simulate window screening. 
  • The turntable is my current focus on the Port Costa layout. I have looked at my earlier attempts at a bridge and need to build a new one.  I also need to work out the turning, bridge power and locking methods. This may take a couple of months.  I am working on it off the layout with the final steps cutting out a square section of the underlay for the pit and putting an almost finished turntable pit and bridge. 
  • Small projects will include additional ballasting of the house track/siding around to the small company freight dock behind the roundhouse. I have a lot more work to upgrade the stand in buildings behind the roundhouse.  I also have to address Tank Hill scenery, refine the station area scenery and add more realistic foliage and trees. 
  • I also need to add remote controls to the turnouts behind tank hill that cannot be reached. I am looking into manual not motorized solutions. Then there is the mainline trackage that needs to be fully realized so I can display some of the freight cars, road locomotives and passenger equipment I have been acquiring.
Smoke me a kipper....



Friday, October 8, 2021

October 8, 2021 and Lack of any Layout or any other Model Railroad Progress

 This is a short note to anyone who glances at this bloggy spot. I recognize I still have a blog but have had nothing I really want to post at this time.  All work on my layout and model projects has slowed. 

At the moment I have turned my attention to the turntable and possible replacement of the mockup stand-in with an actual pit. Bill Schneider (who works for Rapido) did a clinic on his HO NYO&W layout and talked about his building two 76 foot turntables for his layout.  This has somewhat motivated me and  pushed the Port Costa turntable back to the foreground of my myriad layout building tasks. 

I had already procured two one foot square slabs of  half inch PVC sheet. My initial attempt to cut out the pit was interrupted when I stabbed my left hand badly with a utility knife. Three weeks later I am thinking about getting back to the project.  Bill's ideas on building the pit and bridge are roughly similar to my earlier attempts and the half inch PVC sheet idea I got from an MRH blog is very tough material makes this look more feasible. 

More later.

Saturday, July 24, 2021

July marches on and I am just a little closer to finalizing one part of my layout.

Here it is almost the end of July and I am just getting around to adding a new chapter in this slowly evolving layout and its accompanying blog.  The first 10 days my attention was diverted as I had volunteered to be a co-host for 4 4 hour shifts on the virtual NMRA National Convention Rails by the Bay.  I still have a bit of a sore posterior from the 5 days of the convention followed by a heat wave confining me mostly indoors. 

I also took my first BART ride since the start of the Pandemic when I attended a luncheon held by my friend's political saloon. And I followed up with attending the annual 4th of July members picnic/ride for the Pacific Locomotive Association/Niles Canyon Railroad.  There big information was brewing as and it has now been announced that the dismantled San Jose Lentzen SP roundhouse will, if all goes well, be reconstructed in the wye area at Niles. If all goes well this will also house SP Pacific 2479 along with M-6 Mogul 1744 being rebuilt at at the Brightside maintenance facility.  

Unfortunately the cost of oil (rightfully so) is going to at least double by the time these are ready to steam.  Perhaps a solar fueled boiler could be used power at least the M-6 as a fireless cooker with compressed steam tank in the Vanderbilt tender. 

Well onto the layout.  I am still focused on the landscape segment for the station, freight house, section house and other buildings. Nothing new on Tank Hill.  Eric Burgh gave me a rather blurry copy of an 1937 aerial photo of the complete area I am modeling.  I am not sure how to find the sharp original, but the photo confirmed nearly all the building locations that were critical in the station area module. I was beginning to have doubts about the length of the freight house at 41 feet. Other sources had indicated it was about 35 feet in length. In the aerial photo there was a 40 foot house car about 150 feet east of the freight house and using my calipers I was able to verify the 41 foot length. I have found a lot of photos foreshorten buildings and one which showed the southeast corner of the freight house had made me wonder if I was correct in following the plan length in the 1931 SP relocation plan. The station building was shortened by at least 10 feet from the plan. Before I build the final version of the station, I am hoping to find the actual as built layout for the interior so I can finally answer all my questions about it. 

I have spent a lot of time reconstructing the landform for the station area trying to get the elevations of the terrain. Pictures of the current area only hint at what it was when the Port Costa station was active 1931 to 1960. 

This is my best guess at the shape after a lot of trial and error:

Ignore the structures strewn across the tracks. I have finally got it to the point where I could paint the bits of foamboard and lightweight spackle used to shape the terrain. The base color is called linen and the terrain does disappear  in this photo.  These show the structures back in place. 

Note the wooden boardwalks like duckboards used to connect water treatment and signal and telegraph repair shop buildings.
 I am very focused on the corner where the section house, freight house and station met. It will be the scenic focus for half the layout.
This is the eastern part of the station scenic module.

The tree in the retaining wall is very prominent in photos. I am still not completely sure of the location of the steps up to the section house. The clearer photos of this part of the complex date from 1910 before all the 1930's topographical changes.  Note the bollards to prevent anyone driving a vehicle into the space between the station and freight house.  The tree is a stand-in and a black iron railing goes on top of the wooden retaining wall. This is the photo, from the Contra Costa County Historical Society collection on which I am basing much of this scene. Note also the rough cement transition from the station rear walkway to the area around the end of the building. That is yet to come.
That's as much of a blog post as my sore posterior will allow at this moment.

Tuesday, June 15, 2021

More June Rework of the Layout Scenery

After completing the retaining wall and walkway behind the station all the problems with the mocked up scenic area became too much of a glaring issue in my mind and started keeping me awake at night. 

So, in one of those spurts of energy,  I tore everything out and have decided it is time I need to create the non-mockup scenery modules for the area behind the station and speeder shed.  I am using the 1/8 inch thick plastic from the 4'X8' sheet I bought at Zap Plastics a couple of years ago as the foundation for the scenic modules.  These are intended to be completely removable so I can work on the scenery at the dining room table from all sides as well as ballast and finish the trackage behind. The hillside with the water tank will be a smaller separate scenic module. 

Monday,  had a real burst of energy this afternoon.  The full sheet cutout for the scenic module is heavy enough it doesn't move on top of the Woodland Scenics foam underlay. I don't plan on using an adhesive at that level.  If it needs more positional stability I can screw it to the cross stringers of the benchwork. Still easily removable that way.

I may need to glue some support under the sheet where it is not supported by the two benchwork modules to avoid any sagging. 

This is with the buildings placed where they will go

This is what the flat raised area behind the station building looks like today. The retaining wall runs diagonally on the left side of the picture.  This is 60 years after the section house house and other buildings were removed.  I think the concrete pad visible in the lower center of the picture was the floor of the water treatment building.

The next challenge will be building the elevation levels above the module base level to resemble the actual land form south of the retaining wall.  For this, I just lucked out a bit. I vaguely remembered a huge Woodland Scenics landscaping module kit I had purchased for Steve, my son, when he was interested in building a module for his collection of N scale Wheels of Time commute coaches and FM trainmaster diesels about 2005. He is no longer interested in it and gifted it back to me for any modeling purposes I needed back in the days of my Brixham, Devonshire, layout. 

I found the Woodland Scenics kit tonight buried in a bedroom closet. All that was left in the large box were 2 18X36 1/2 inch thick sheets of very dense styrene foam. Perfect for building the elevated section which is 1 1/4 inches high over the new styrene base. And of course water resistant as I have some scenic plaster cloth also from the kit to model non-flat areas. I have two of the  2 X 2 foot x 2 inch pinkish dense foam tiles from Home Depot. You can have them if you want as I also have the large 2 inch thick sheets of very dense architectural terrain modeling foam that I bought many years ago. It shapes easily into ground forms.  The architectural foam will be used for the tank hill and the small bit of sharply rising terrain at the east end of the layout.  

I have to paint the base sheet with the camo sprays on the garage floor and then build the ground elevation which will be the challenge for the rest of the week. 

I have put off final versions of the structures until I can get full access to the CSRM library and the microfilm records that are not available to order prints online. Hopefully they have the specific plans for the station and section house. Maybe even the plan for the water treatment facility. 

I may get the layout back in order by the end of June but then will be involved with the 2021 Virtual NMRA National Convention so it will be mid-July before I have much time to return to my own model railroad. 

That's all for now. 

Wednesday, June 9, 2021

It's Already Mid-June and the Mockup Station Area Land Clearance

I'm a bad bad bad blogger for not having published any updates since May 1, 2021. I would just rather mess around with the layout than write about about it. 

And mess with it I have. This photo was taken this morning.  Currently the area where the station and other SP PC buildings looks like it did in 1962 after the SP razed the area hopping to sell the land after moving the switching operations 4 miles east to new yard trackage at Ozul. Steam had been gone 5 years and there was not more reason for keeping any of the structures now 30-70 years old.

Except the SP didn't remove all the trees but did remove all the yard tracks.

The reason for my land clearance is that I have been just putting around with the scenery  in this area and it is time to get more serious with the final elevations and shape of the ground. It is also time to paint rail and ballast and that is much easier done if you don't  have the buildings in the way. I may also get the mainline done before the structures return.  This may take a while and I have volunteered to help with the virtual 2021 NMRA National Convention from July 5-10. 

I have been working on the retaining wall and walkway that went behind the station building. Yesterday, I went to Port Costa and measured the height and it was only 45 inches at the highest level part of the retaining wall.  This was a bit lower than the 60 inches (5 foot) height I had scaled from the 1931 SP drawing of the proposed rebuilding of this area following the December 1930 opening of the Carquinez Strait SP drawbridge. Well, the station turned out to be 90 feet long instead of the 106 feet on the drawing so what else was different. I need to trim the height of the retaining wall I have cut from 1/4 thick styrene before final assembly of that area and any photos in this blog. I am keeping the current mockup of the station building. Hopefully, this fall I will be able to do some research at the California State Railway Museum library in Sacramento and get access to the uncatalogued microfilm archives that will have the correct information particularly of the internal layout of the station building. 

I am also working on the double 45 foot SP signal and telegraph and pole fixture that stood at the end of the walkway. Apparently there was an extensive telegraph operation in the station building. The Western Union joint poles with the SP Signal and Telegraph department split at this point with the Western Union lines going up over the hills while the SP S&T lines remained along the right of way. Also at this point the SP S&T (and Western Union?) main lines went underground under the SP tracks and then through an underwater cable to the north shore of the Carquinez Strait. There was a small Western Union Telegraph Office sign on the NW corner of the Station building that I am trying to find a decal (or picture I can photo reduce) for my model. 

Enough for now. Will try to update before July.

Saturday, May 1, 2021

Trackwork Progress on Port Costa Mainline Trackage

UP Trackage today at Port Costa looking across the Carquinez strait to Benicia

Wow, I missed posting what I did in April. The focus for the month was mostly trackwork  on Port Costa mainline trackage. But I have been sidetracked a lot of times and there were days I just didn't feel like working on the railroad.  So much of what I do is ad hoc, spur of the moment change of focus. This is a hobby and I am not too disciplined or end focused so I change projects almost on a whim. I do have a spreadsheet with a master list of projects.  But I don't keep it up and follow it rigidly. 

I have developed a workable approach to laying the mainline and north/strait side siding track.  I had purchased a 4' x 8' sheet 1/4 inch thick sheet of polystyrene at Zap Plastics 3-4 years ago and had it cut into 2' x 4' pieces. I am going to use 6" wide pieces of it as a track base/roadbed for the mainline and the strait side siding trackage.  I have cut it into manageable lengths to allow the track to be laid, wired, ballasted working at the dining room table rather than reaching over the 32" area of the benchwork where the turntable, roundhouse building ant out buildings are located. 

Before test lay out of turnouts
Test layout of turnouts with freight cars to check clearances.

This is the overall view of the mainline with the track just laid on the plastic for working out the crossover arrangement and ramp for changing from the yard trackage height to the elevated trackage of the mainline. Note that I understand that SP standards called for a 6 inch difference in height between yard and mainline trackage but the 1/4 inch thick plastic scales to about 9 inches. The track separation should be 14-15 feet between mainline tracks. Note the ramp has been fitted. It is quite steep but short. I don't have much linear space to work with so the S curves are unavoidable if crossing to/from the yard lead trackage to the westbound main. 

Note that the sheet plastic was primed/painted with Rust-oleum and Krylon in several over sprays on the plastic sheet to prime it.  The matte clamshell color approximates the light grey tan look of the ground at Port Costa in bright sunlight. 

I have been stalled at this point since mid-April. I have had a diversion to review ballasting and seeing how this will work on top of the sheet plastic road bed. I have been working on a sample of double track with ballast and painted rail. 

The rail was glued to the painted plastic using Formula 560 Canopy Glue.  Left to dry overnight it is a very tight bond. Next came the ballast. I used Woodland Scenics walnut shell light grey on the far track and Woodland Scenics new Grey Blend on the near track. I am using Joe Fugate's recommended zip ballasting technique with Ballast Bond from Deluxe Materials diluted about 50% with 70% IPA. I apply the ballast adhesive with an eye dropper. Setting time is about 18 hours. I used the same technique on ballast between the two tracks. Fingers run inside the track tamped down the ballast and then a metal pick was used to remove stray pieces of ballast on the ties and tie plates. 

I am using the shorter Micro Engineering Code 83 rail joiners on the Peco Code 83 track with no problem. I am worried about the ballasting around in place rail joiners so I added solder to the joints. I don't have any long runs of track without power feeds and my layout is in an air conditioned very low humidity room so I am not to worried about expansion. There are going to be insulation gaps and separate feed wires around the turnouts  

The track was painted after ballast using Vallejo 70.822 German Black brown brushed on the ties and rail sides.  After the black brown dried, I brush painted the rail and tie plates with Vallejo 71.080 Model Air  Rust (AKA #29015 Freight Car Red at Micro-Mark when I bought 6 bottles about 8 years ago.)  I tend to like a dark rusty color even on mainline track. This photo was shot from the observation platform of the Redwood Empire in 2017 on a trip to LA at Vandenberg south of Surf. Those are rusty rails.

 Magnify the picture and you can faintly see the launch towers to the right of the track in the background.

After painting the rails, I cleaned them off with the 70% IPA. within a couple of hours. The upper track has a trail of Vallejo 73.817 Petrol Spills. I have also used a light brushing of dusty colored weathering powder on the ties of the rear test track. 

All this work will be done on the dining room table when my motivation comes back to finish the mainline trackage so I can get on to the ballasting of the yard trackage and building the turntable. It will get done sometime in 2021. 

Note that trips on the Redwood Empire are chronicled elsewhere in this blog. Unfortunately with Amtrak becoming highly restrictive on private car operation, the owners have put the car up for sale. It was no longer fun.  In addition Amtrak has now banned open platform riding while the train is in motion so a picture like the above is no longer legally possible.