Tuesday, October 10, 2017

A little flat note

My two Owl Mountain F-50-10/12 kits are now in the projects drawer for 2018 builds. Unfortunately I tripped on a parking lot berm and fell breaking bones in my left wrist and hand and they are now in a cast for the next few weeks. The week prior to my accident I had undertaken the rebuild of an IM foobie of an SP F-50-16 that arrived from IM at my LHS on a 4-5 year backorder that I and the LHS had long forgotten. 

1. New deck from thin scribbed plastic as I could not get IM deck off without damaging rest of car. This required small strips of the scribbed plastic sheet be cut and glued to the underside along the edges to 
simulate thick deck planks. The stake pockets were respaced to closer match an F-50-16. The deck was painted with a variety of Vallejo Model Color greys to represent treated but not creosoted wood exposed to the steam era environment for several years but not heavily deteriorated.

2. Removed the tiny IM stake pockets which were not strongly attached and replaced with slightly larger Tichy stake pockets spaced to match the new deck.

3. Replaced IM virtical brake gear and wheel with larger Tichy parts. Brake wheel needed longer shaft cut from brass wire to match F-50-16 photos. Still looking for larger brake wheel. I have not replaced the incorrect K type brake layout as not visible from normal viewing angle. I don't model for contests 

4. Replaced stirrup steps with Tichy plastic angled inside steps to closer match an F-50-16. These appear to be larger than I would like but I did not have enough A Line stirrup steps in my parts stock at home,  late on a Sunday night. 

5. The IM car was painted in a shade of purple brown I would use for UK Southern Railway goods wagons but not any of my SP equipment. But the IM lettering appeared close to correct for a late 1949 F-50-16. I brush painted Vallejo 70.846 Mahogany Brown thinned with 71.061 Airbrush Thinner over the fish-belly car sides and ends. Before the paint dried I used a small micro brush whetted with the thinner to almost completely  remove as much of the brown paint as possible. It took two applications of the brown with at least an hour of drying time to adequately give the sides and ends a reddish brown tint. 

A little later note:

The first of the F-50-12's have been completed:

Thursday, August 10, 2017

OAK-BUR on the Redwood Empire 8-5-2-17

In my April 01, 2017 blog post I recounted my first trip on the Redwood Empire from Oakland to LA Union Station and beyond. Well I've done it again.

This time my friend Richard Spotswood asked me along with a few others to join him on another trip south along with some of the other owners. The Redwood Empire is due for it's every 4 year certification and some maintenance which will be performed by the Amtrak maintenance facility in Los Angeles. It has been in the Northwest, Washington, Idaho and Montana for the early summer.

There were 12 of us aboard but no chef and steward this time. We still had brunch, lunch and dinner mostly provided by Dick and ably helped by others.
Dick and I only went as far as Burbank and flew home the next day. 5 stayed on the train to LA Union Passenger Terminal.  I didn't register all the names in my long term memory so please forgive the lack of names of my fellow travelers.

This time Amtrak pushed the Redwood Empire about two miles from the private car siding in the Oakland Amtrak yard down to Oakland Jack London Square station. We waited about 20 minutes after the southbound Coast Starliner, Amtrak #11 arrived at Jack London Square for the Redwood Empire to arrive.

The Redwood Empire  approaching the Amtrak Station

After a lot of futzing about by the Amtrak Switching crew hooking up the head end power connection and brake line to the Coast Starlight we were about to get underway.  The weather was much nicer than in April but I did not take any usable pictures until after King City when lunch was set out.

Again I am not taking pictures like I did the first time. This next shot is coming down Cuesta grade north of San Luis Obispo. The railroad crests the grade at 1380 feet in a tunnel and in the next few miles curves in several horseshoe turns and tunnels to drop to 240 feet in elevation at San Luis Obisbo station.
This is from the inside of the lounge area which looks like the following pic seen going through one of the tunnels
We arrived about 1 hour behind schedule at San Luis Obispo.

South of San Luis Obispo we went through Pismo Beach, the beet country around Betteravia and Guadalupe, the station for Santa Maria. The line then goes where there are few roads out to the coast and skirts the Pacific on bluffs above the ocean with Vandenberg Air Force Base on the left. It was foggy in this section so we could not see much but I did spot a tall launch preparation building with a large SpaceX logo but to late to get a picture. 
Along the hidden coast south of Surf it is a wild country still bordering Vandenberg AFB. 
If you click on this and enlarge it you can see a large storage tank facility that has a SpaceX logo. Rocket Fuel? 
Finally the fog cleared.

After many miles we crossed Gaviota trestle where Highway 101 comes out to the coast finally. 

From here the route parallels 101 until Oxnard

In Ventura we were right by the Ventura County fair. Lots of people wave to you when you are on the back observation platform. It is cool to acknowledge them and wave back.

Finally it was dinner time as we sped through Oxnard
 After dinner we hastily prepared to get off the Redwood Empire at Burbank
This shows the train leaving Burbank with the folks who were riding on to LA Union Station. A couple of the owners will be staying with the car through the inspection and maintenance.

As Porky Pig used to end all Warner Bros. Cartoons:

Monday, July 17, 2017

New Workbench Tools and PFE R-40-14

I had wanted a small glass plate for cutting and assembly but couldn't find anything at craft or art supply stores and the only hardware building supply stores that sell retail in the I-680 corridor appear to be the big box stores. Fortunately I ran across very flat surface glass tiles on Amazon and for $19.95 purchased a box of 5. The only way they come.  The tiles are 3 " x 3" and appear to have a very flat surface.  Also on the right is a mouse wrist rest that I use to steady my shaky hand for cutting and detail painting.

This is my workbench showing the new tiles and my current project a PFE R-40-14 ice car.

The R-40-14 is a rebuild of an Athearn blue box 40' steel ice car. I managed to find a package of the long discontinued Details West W Post (rounded) 4-4 dreadnought ends. for this project. Ladders are Tichy Reefer ladders. Hand grabs are Kadee.  Ice hatches are the Details West Equipco hatches that are also hard to find. The trucks are just Tichy Bettendorfs with metal wheel sets. Kadee 158 couplers have been mounted.

I didn't get too far with underframe detailing.  I had closely been checking Dick Harley's detail photos of a PFE R-40-23 specifically the placement of the train line, air reservoir, brake cylinder and triple valve. This is different from most diagrams that come with HO AB sets. I used the Athearn underframe with the coupler boxes cut off and a thin fake floor cut from Evergreen scribbed plastic sheet. The brake parts are from a Details West AB set. The Athearn steel weight was mounted inside the car with canopy cement and a pair of heavy styrene strips to keep it in place.

I started to airbrush with Star Brand Daylight Orange. But my airbrush clogged 3 times on that paint and I finally concluded it was no longer a good bottle. So I fell back on my earlier experiment with hand brushing Vallejo Model Color using a mix of three drops 70.911 Light Orange and 1 drop 70.927 Dark Flesh. It took several coats as I had primed the body with a Tamiya light grey. I was careful not to build up any thickness around details.  After that it was clear coated for decals.

I started to decal with a newer Microscale 87-414 but found it difficult to get the right build and repack data from that sheet and an 87-501 sheet for a 1941 built R-40-14 still with the black iron parts and single herald medallions in 1950-53. Then after finishing one side, I discovered Ted Culotta at Speedwich Media has issued a set just for the R-40-15. Last Thursday (7/13/17) I ordered a two sets and am anxiously awaiting a packet in the mail so I can complete the decaling.

I should probably take a break from my PFE reefer madness again after this car.  My Intermountain pre-orders for R-40-23's have been delayed until 4th quarter. Red Caboose pre-orders for R-30-xx wood ice cars are now in the unknown. eBay prices are sensitive to this and are going up accordingly.

And I have an old Silver Streak wood Bay Window 1953 rebuild that was stuck together with Walther's goo back in the 1970's and has been de-kitted. I will have to build new plastic sides from scribbed sheet and an new roof, floor and underframe. Only the cast bay windows and caboose ends will actually be reused. Rebuilding costs are so extensive they will have to be charged to the capital accounts rather than expended. (Old accountants think about these things.)

This is the final result of the R-40-14 rebuild. Photo resolution was not good this time.  I used Ted Culotta's Speedwich decal set for the R-40-14 on the UP side. I found these were available after I had already done the SP side from the Microscale 87-414 set The PFE orange is a little light this time but with the remembered range of colors depending on the light. 
I won't be able to do any more R-40-14's as I have no more of the old Details West 4+4 rib castings with W post rounded corners. I have some R-40-10 end castings that I may be able to sand a little to look like a W end post which would allow another R-40-14 bash from an Athearn reefer.

Ken Adams

Tuesday, June 27, 2017

A Modular Philosophy for the Future

My current layout design philosophy is to build multiple lightweight 2 x 4 foot and 2 x 6 foot modules that can be taken apart and stored as needed as they will have to share my current or future downsized living space. 

My current decrepit layout is a 2 x 11 foot Celotex "board" 20 year old "test" track that is supported on TV tray tables and 1 inch X 2 inch supporting boards.  This is in dire need of replacement.  

I currently plan (maybe it is just a dream) to build three separate sets of modules:

  • A UK based representation (as is my current 2 x 11) of  the North Cornwall Padstow/Padstein UK terminal. I will have to add a removable extension for the long clay loading dock sheltering the fishing dock. This is 4 mm scale with HO track and frozen in time in the summer of 1947 before nationalization. I am awaiting new bullhead rail points/switches/turnouts from Peco that should start appearing later this year to begin. Connection with the two US modules would be intermittent and require renegotiation of  a dubious postwar lend lease arrangement.

  • A representation of the Walnut Creek SP Depot area on the San Ramon valley branch line 1947-54 with it's simple track plan. This is planned as a stage for detailed scratch built structures. The central structure, the 1890's depot and freight house building has been mocked to scale up from mat-board.  This depot is really a train order station as passenger service was discontinued by 1920. Rail fan excursions are allowed and will give me a reason to run Harriman style coaches. Even SP #10 the 1954 Rail Diesel Car will be allowed in excursion service.

  • A PFE Icing Dock about 1950-1954 centered series of modules with packing plants as the backdrop.  I have an strong interest in PFE ice cars and this module would allow display of my growing collection of kit, kitbash and RTR PFE cars. This may or may not connect to Walnut creek which in my modeling era had little or no reefer traffic originating, as a destination or through traffic.
In addition I would need staging/fiddle yard modules to allow operation.

I have not had much luck using the available free layout design software packages so no proposed track plans are currently available. 

Monday, May 1, 2017

Orange is the new Box Car Red

I have been experimenting with alternative paints for PFE Orange. I have an air brush but have a lot of constraints in using it as I live in a townhouse built on a slab and can only paint in my garage on low humidity days when I can find a parking spot for my car (the renters in the complex hog all the visitor spots.) I like to kitbash old cars I bought in the 1980's so these are not necessarily the finest most exact prototype renditions of the PFE class cars close but no cigars awarded. Also, steps have not been added yet as there are further modifications to each car to be made.

I have used three different paints in this exercise:

Air Brushed PBL Star Brand Daylight Orange.
Air Brushed True Color Daylight Orange.
Hand Brushed Vallejo Model Color 70.911 Light Orange with one drop of 70.910 Orange Red to 4 70.911

The results are:

PBL Star Brand Daylight Orange air brushed. Tichy R-40-2 kit built as R-30-16 rebuild. Built up underframe but I am working on a Bettendorf version. 1948-1950 paint scheme. Yes I know the roof is wrong.

PBL Star Brand Daylight Orange air brushed. Athearn Wood sided kit with scratch wood ends and modified body. 1948-1950 paint scheme. 

True Color Daylight Orange air brushed. Train Miniature wood sided kit with scratch wood ends and modified body on Tichy built up underframe. 1950 paint scheme. 

Vallejo Model Color Light Orange hand brushed. Athearn Wood sided kit with scratch wood ends and modified body. I was experimenting with Tichy WP PFE decal set on this car. Came out OK. This car needs black paint on the hinges, ladders and grab irons as it represents an early 1940's rebuild.

The True Color Daylight Orange is the closest match to the color Intermountain/Red Caboose use on their PFE cars. But it seems a little too much of a tangerine shade when compared to the color samples in Thompson's PFE book 2nd edition and the new Southern Pacific Historical & Technical Society SP Freight Car Painting and Lettering Guide.

All four cars together for a comparison:

The PBL Star Brand seems a little to dark. It can pass as a car with at least one trip to the east coast without being washed on return to California.

The Vallejo Model Color was a surprise. It took three thin coats to cover the original yellow car paint but it went on with no trace of brush strokes and excellent coverage of details. It is a viable option when I can't set up the airbrush particularly in winter when the humidity is over 60% in the garage.

More to come likely. Particularly about R-40-23 kitbashes from Athearn steel reefers that are 30-40 years old. Athearn 3+4 dreadnought ends replaced with correct 3+3 ends and equipment lettering corrected to 1946-52 various versions. 

Note the strange looking station and signal box (tower) for California in the background. I only have one layout at the moment and it represents Padstow, Cornwall in England. A mini layout based on a Tichy PFE icing platform is at the planning stage.

Monday, April 10, 2017

An 1:1 Scale Adventure

At the funeral of a mutual old friend last November, I started talking with another friend of 40+ years who is also a bit of a railfan and modeler. He told me he had bought a new passenger car.  For your O scale, I inquired? No he replied 1:1 scale.  He is the principal in a group that had purchased Santa Fe former business car Number 33 built by Pullman in 1923 from a former private car owner who had passed away. He has had the car about a year and renamed it the "Redwood Empire" as he lives in Marin County (north of San Francisco across the Golden Gate bridge for those not familiar with my area.)

In February he called that he was organizing a trip to Los Angeles on April 7 with the car attached to Amtrak train 11, the Coast Starlight and would I be interested in coming along.  In March I was invited to join him and another friend doing minor maintenance on the car interior which I have done. As I am retired I have no problem setting aside time when needed. The interior of the car is in the original 1923 paneled condition. Externally there have been modifications needed for self contained wastewater tanks and a new generator plus all the modern electrical train control lines and required safety features. It uses head end power from the Amtrak engine. The car was built with a generator as a business car so it could be attached to freight trains and parked overnight on any siding. The car was assigned to the ATSF LA District Superintendent and not used for general passenger service. It only sleeps 6 plus a small cabin for the chef and porter.

The car is stabled on the Oakland private car track inside the Oakland Amtrak/CalTrain maintenance yard. The consortium owning the car pays Amtrak a sizable monthly rent that includes switching and ordinary maintenance on the car to keep it in running condition for 80 mph travel on an Amtrak train. I bought a hard hat for the yard and will probably get a hi-viz vest to wear when in the Amtrak yard.

Anyway, on April 7, I parked my car at Oakland airport at 7 am in the morning and took a Lyft ride from the airport to Jack London Square Amtrak station in Oakland. The day was overcast turning to rain but who cares when you are taking such a ride. There were 15 fellow passengers plus the Chef and Porter.

Boarding #33 at Jack London Square Amtrak Station. The chef was acting as porter to help with bags which were stowed in the Superintendent's office as we were not sleeping on the car this trip.

Breakfast awaited us

The corridor with bedrooms and offices and bathroom with shower to the left.

The Superintendent's bedroom

Leaving Oakland 50 minutes late. Amtrak announced it was due to attaching private car but according to the chef they just sat in  the yard after in took only 5 minutes to attach the car.

Below the Coliseum in Oakland the tracks branch into two routes. The one gong to the right goes by the Niles Canyon and Warm Springs area. We went the other way through Alviso to San Jose station.

I didn't take any pictures again until we were in the Salinas valley south of Gonzalez

The route goes for 80+ miles up the Salinas valley mostly on the east side away from the prime agricultural fields.

Seems like the Salinas valley goes on forever 

and ever, looking to the west across the valley before King City

Leaving King City

The clouds darkening over the upper Salinas Valley

Crossing the Salinas river in the upper valley

Crossing the Salinas river in the upper valley

East Garrison of Camp Roberts of the California National Guard. I have a tale about this place for another time.

West Garrison

Paso Robles at the upper reaches of the Salinas 

Santa Margarita a very long passing siding.

Santa Margarita siding and where they used to attach a 2-10-2 helper for the southbound (East bound to SP) Daylight trains to get over the summit of 1295 foot high Cuesta grade and descend back to almost sea level by San Luis Obispo.
The turntable or was it a wye is long gone. Helpers coming up the other side were attached at San Luis Obispo.

Santa Margarita upper siding

End of double track Santa Margarita siding

End of double track Santa Margarita siding duplicate 

End of double track Santa Margarita siding triplicate

above Santa Margarita siding 

Going through Cuesta summit tunnel #6 on the observation platform

Exiting  Cuesta summit tunnel #6

Exiting another Cuesta Grade tunnel while descending at over 2% grade (2 feet for every 100 feet of elevation)

More descending Cuesta grade, note special bracing to hold track in place on sharp curves.

Pardon the foot but notice the line of the railroad in the back as we are descending Cuesta grade on one of the horse shoe curves.

Descending Cuesta grade, foot still there

Descending Cuesta grade still.

Descending Cuesta grade. It was getting wet on the observation platform at this point. 

Descending Cuesta grade. Foot by foot.  The bull was attracted by the cigar.

The final horse shoe curve descending Cuesta grade

At San Luis Obispo we got off the car. Dick Spotswood looks like the proud father of the car he owns.  Note Amtrak ID for car PPCX 800233.

We are a long way yet from Los Olivos but one can still go "Sideways" in this part of the country.

The above photo vertical. The observation platform is great even in the rain. You are required to stay seated so you don't go flying over the railing on a sudden lurch.

I have visited the SLO Railroad Museum. They have a wonderful HO rendition of the track from Santa Margarita down to Surf (station) with excellent model California Eucalyptus trees.  

I could of omitted this but shows the SLO Railroad museum in the hold freight house.

SLO Railroad Museum. I was trying to get a better picture of their Atchison Topeka and Santa Fe (ATSF) Observation car. It had a much larger lounge area and was used in general passenger service until the 1960's.

Below Lompoc, pouring rain. I missed Surf Station. A legendary place on the old Southern Pacific.

These beaches are difficult to get to just north of Vandenberg  Air Force base and western missile/satellite launch site.  It was too glurky to see anything top secret.

As above. These pictures taken from inside car and you can see the raindrops on the window. 

Arrival at Los Angeles Union Passenger Terminal (LAUPT). In the first week of December 1949, my father and I stepped off a train from Boston (via Chicago) here on one of these platforms to begin a new life in the United States of America. We had landed in Boston after a nasty November North Atlantic crossing (My father was sea sick, I wan't) and stayed in the Boston area for a week. 

Trains in LA, a metrolink train leaving just as we arrived. Those going on to San Diego stayed in hotels not on the train. I stayed at the Checkers, now a Hilton property.  Expensive but reasonably elegant matching the train ride. Downtown LA was alive Saturday morning with a mostly younger crowd. I had a croissant and coffee breakfast at a french style bakery.  Old office buildings have been turned into live-work lofts.

The next day, Saturday April 8,  we had a luncheon for the few of us continuing on to San Diego at TRAXX in LAUPT before boarding the Amtrak Surfliner train to San Diego about 3 PM. 

TRAXX is a really nice restaurant and the weather had turned to sunshine by Saturday

Leaving LAUPT on the Surfliner, you pass the LAUPT private car sidings with their own boarding platforms. 

No open platform observation or business cars I could see.

Finally we arrive in San Diego. Our Surfliner train in the background.

A final shot showing the station in San Diego now surrounded by high rises. San Diego light rail car also visible just in front of station.  There is extensive service north up the coast line.

I flew home Saturday night. That is why the car was parked at Oakland Airport so it would be ready to jump in and drive the 22 miles to Walnut Creek.