Monday, December 31, 2018

US Navy Box Car from Port Chicago

I started this box car in February 2018 and have only just got it to the stage where it can be displayed.

The car was originally Denver and Rio Grande #63383 and exists today at the Western Railway Museum in Rio Vista California. In 1944 the Rio Grande sold it to the US Navy as one of the replacements for wood box cars destroyed in the monstrous July 17, 1944 explosion of ammunition ships and stores being loaded at the Port Chicago California naval transportation facility. It remained in use to transfer munitions between warehouses and ships from 1944 to 1971 when it was donated to the Western Railway museum along with another 36 foot box car. The museum repainted it into Rio Grande box car red. I was able to visit the train shed it was stored in and take a few phone camera snaps. 

An article about the Rio Grande 36 foot box cars and modeling them using the Accurail 1400 series box cars in the Rio Grande Modeling and Historical Society Prospector quarterly magazine got me started. Grab irons were replaced with 24" grabs (Tichy) and new end beams made from U shape channel. The stirrup/sidebeam steps are Grandt Line Narrow gauge steps and may be too short for a standard gauge car, but they look right.  The under frame was modified so the beams correctly align with the doors. It took a while but I located US Navy transfers from Clover house to match the car. Unfortunately they did not go on completely on the side of the car I am not showing.  I am thinking about copying the Clover House transfers to decal paper to do a second car. 

The cars were all Navy off white color when delivered to the WRM according to the slide I located on the WRM website.  As far as I know they were in this color in 1948-54 which is my target period. The underside of 63383 is still an off white or very very light grey (and the K brake cylinder still lettered for a USN 1971 brake test.)   I used spray can Tamiya White Primer to cover the boxcar red of the Accurail undecorated body and as the base color which covered completely after 2 coats. I then brushed an overcoat of Tamiya acrylic paint with 5 parts white mixed with 1 part light sky grey thinned with 1 part Tamiya acrylic thinner. I left it a bit streaky. 

My research indicates the Navy non sea-going asset equipment numbering system (61-00202) dates from 1948.
I became very interested in these box cars and their story. My shunting yard used for testing models and pictures is in theory the SP Avon Contra Costa yard where the San Ramon branch left the San Joaquin line to go south.  Avon yard is only 1 mile west of the Port Chicago/Concord Navel Weapons station interchange trackage. And I live 10 miles south in Walnut Creek where the July 17, 1944 explosion which completely destroyed two loading cargo ships and killed 332 people was heard. Although unlikely, I theorize the unloaded car was occasionally seen at Avon yard as a buffer car for switching explosive cargo to the Navy trackage. 

Tuesday, September 4, 2018

More on SP Freight Car Red from a Rattle Spray Can Update

I was testing the camera on an new Samsung S8 phone and I uploaded it and thought it might illustrate more of the benefit of Tamiya Oxide Red Primer as a base for SP Freight Car Red. The rattle can red goes on smooth with no buildup. It requires almost no cleanup beyond wiping the spray cap with IPA. 

This is a Westerfield SP B-50-15 resin kit that is at about a 98% completion level. I need to add the 4" car number to the ends. The Westerfield decal just wouldn't bend into the curve between the two top ribs. I have other options coming that I may try. 
The Carmer uncoupling levers and brake line details also need to be added.  I have been playing with building it just too long. 

Just peeking out behind the B-50-15 is a Tichy B-50-12, the stock USRA box car kit that was shown in my first post on finding the Tamiya Oxide Red Primer a good close enough substitute for SP Freight Car Red. PBL Star Brand STP-30.  What I did to that car and will do to the B-50-15 is brush paint a thinned wash of Vallejo Model Color 70.871 Leather Brown over the car body after decaling. I wiped the acrylic from the decal lettering surfaces with a Vallejo thinner moistened microbrush before it dried.  This added a browner aspect to the Tamiya primer that to me approximated SP Freight Car Red even closer. If and when I finish the remaining decals and details on the B-50-15, I will try the brown wash on it too.

I have to work on photography with the Samsung S8 a bit.

Sunday, August 12, 2018

August and it is hot

I have been absent from my blog for a few months. I have just been ignoring this medium for an occasional post on the Southern Pacific Modeling Facebook group pages and I moderate the latter net location for agitated electrons. This misspelling of the freight part of the name was accidental but irreversible as I had over 100 subscribers before I realized the error. 

My old and increasingly decrepit "layout" does not receive any attention. It is used just as a setting for photographing my model building projects. In it's current form it dates from 2009 when, following a family visit to England, I switched my British 4 mm (OO) scale modeling to Southern Railway and in particular the far end of the line from Waterloo station in London at Padstow on the north Cornwall coast. It was built as temporary but has lasted 10 years on two 2' X 8' + 2' X 3' pieces of sheet fiber board with loose 2" X 1" supports on top of wood TV tray tables. The track is Peco code 100 turnouts with Atlas flex mostly buried in Woodland Scenics walnut shell ballast. I have had many plans to replace it with proper modules but never get around to that basic part of model railroading. Building models is much more fun.

This latest picture is just an assembly of my arch roof "Harriman" style passenger car collection as a nameless late 1940's 7 car train.  Possibly a second section of a Cascade or a San Joaquin valley train. 

The first car behind the Athearn MT-4 is my most recent passenger car project. I managed to obtain a pair of MDC "Harriman" baggage cars which resemble SP 60-B-10 baggage cars. (The worst foobie feature is the baggage doors are only 6 feet apart.)  It has a modified underframe to correctly space the trucks. I will write a separate blog about this car and the Harriman utility vents I used. I don't use an airbrush anymore and wound up using a PreVal sprayer with TruColor SP Dark Olive for paint. Works for me.

Next is a total foobie baggage RPO with a scratch built underframe and a pair of Athearn 6 wheel passenger trucks. The roof has been repainted and the round vents re-spaced. The dark olive is the recent original paint from the Athearn/Roundhouse Western Pacific lettered versions of these cars. I just removed the WP lettering and replaced it with now out of production Micro-Scale SP Heavyweight decals, I am not wasting my good Thinfilm SP decals on these foobies. 

The next two coaches are rebuilds of Model Power Round Roof cars into 60-C-1 chair car lookalikes. These are similar to Jason Hill's rebuilds and include interiors using PSC plastic chairs. 

The last 3 cars are best kept in the distance from the camera. They are 2 Sunset/GGD "Harriman" coaches and an All Day Lunch car. The roofs are a well known problem. I have removed the plastic windows from one coach and replaced it with sheet clear plastic which improves the look considerably. I need to do the second coach.  The ADL has been modified with clear windows and changes to the underframe with relocated battery box, new ice boxes, cooking gas tanks and other fittings. 

I will have to do separate blogs about each some day

Tuesday, May 15, 2018

More on SP Freight Car Red from a Rattle Spray Can

This is the latest result with Tamiya Fine Surface Primer Oxide Red spray can  which I have decided for me is a good spray can substitute for PBL Star Brand #30 SP/UP Freight Car Red since I no longer wish to use an airbrush.    The Tichy kit has been a test bed for paint and some things I had not gotten right before.  I am working very slowly on  a Westerfield resin B-50-15 and needed some practice

I have just completed decaling the sides. Unfortunately there is not good match in decals for an SP B-50-12 so I had to use a Microscale 87-911 sheet which does not have correct original build dates. The car still needs a bit of work on the virtical brake and underframe before spraying a flat/lusterless coating and then final release to the active fleet. I will consider weathering as my layout setting is 1947-54 and this car would last have been painted in the late 1930's. In 1949 any roadworthy B-50-12's were rebuilt by the SP with steel sides and new ends. I went through at least 4 #79 drills getting all the holes drilled for the Tichy wire drop style grab irons. I also experimented with Grandt Line NBW's to complete the grab irons. The roof walk end supports are bent pieces of brass as the thick plastic Tichy ones didn't look right.

Anyway, I was really pleased with the Tamiya Fine Surface Primer Oxide Red but worried about a touch up color until today when I matched Vallejo Model Color 70.982 Cavalry Brown as an excellent brush paint touch up match within a few angstrom wavelengths of the Tamiya Red Oxide primer. 

Tuesday, April 10, 2018

More on SP Rattle Can Box Car/Freight Car Red

I still have one more Box Car Red rattle can to try. Unfortunately the Scalecoat II Oxide Red Primer can I have on special order has not yet arrived at my local hobby shop.  It probably has to come ground freight from the east coast to California so it may take a while.
In the meantime I have what I think may be the winner already.  The color I am aiming for is the SP Freight Car Red used by both PFE and SP. There are two measures of "closeness" to this color I am using. The first sample is a comparison with on page 419 of Tony Thompson's massive PFE book (2nd Ed.) where there is a drift sample reproduced as accurately as possible for printing.   The other is PBL' s Star Brand SP/UP Freight Car Red which I have airbrushed in the past on a model I use for comparison.  There is a long discussion of SP paint colors at 
And the winner is Tamiya Fine Surface Primer Oxide Red, Item # 87160-800. Again it is not quite an exact match but given all the variables it is close enough for my personal Rule 1. (This was not a scientific method study.)
PFE Book Drift and Tamiya Oxide Red Primer
PBL Star Brand SP/UP Freight Car Red and Tamiya Oxide Red Primer (the B-50-25 from an Andy Carlson/IM kit was air brushed with the SB paint when I could still use an airbrush)
And the Tamiya Surface Primer can go on in one coat. It is fine enough that I think a second would still not obscure details
Again your rattle can painting results may not be the same as mine. But I think I may have solved my rattle can source to replace an air brush problem. For the one or two cars a month I might paint FCR it will do even on expensive resin kits. And I only have to clean the spray cap in a very small bottle of Tamiya thinner after spraying.
I plan to show the full comparison of colors I tried when the Scalecoat II primer arrives. I still haven't tried the Preval sprayer. I may try it with some Vallejo Air acrylic "rust" sold as BCR by Micro Mark that I bought a couple of years ago.
I plan to try the Tamiya primer on a less expensive kit than the Westerfield B-50-15 I am building. 
I will also have to search for a rattle can solution for "daylight" orange used on PFE car sides and the SP dark olive for arch roof and heavyweight passenger equipment.

Wednesday, March 21, 2018

Search for the Elusive Rattle Can Box Car Red

I have been searching for a "rattle can" box car red (BCR) that closely matches Star Brand STR-30 SP/UP Freight Car Red. This past week I came across a color that was new to me Tamiya TS-33 Dull Red and thought I would try it out.

(Note that for many reasons, I can no longer use my garage even on a nice day for setting up my airbrush. I can use my deck when it is not raining or too windy but I live on a hillside and the gusty wind can be constant for days.  Besides I am tired of all the setup and cleanup required for using the airbrush. Painting is always a necessary step but not really an enjoyable part of my model building.)

Alas the TS-33 is a little too pink and not enough brown. I had hoped to use a Tamiya Rattle Can color as they are a finer grade of paint and nozzle than the hardware store Mineral Red spray cans. 

This is the result:

The photo shows a comparison to SP B-50-25 (Andy Carlson IM parts kitbash) and SP F-70-10 (SPH&TS kit) both painted with Star Brand STR-30 SP/UP Freight Car Red.

I will find a use for the TS-33 Dull Red. BCR weathers almost immediately a car leaves the paint shop. As a base for a car that will be weathered it might do well. 

And the search goes on. 

For those of you who might wonder at the few posts on this media, I am the owner and moderator of on the platform where many former Yahoo Groups have fled. At the moment I am, however, building a Westerfield resin kit for an SP B-50-15. There is a another lively group at Most of my recent kit building has been with injection molded plastic kits or modifications to RTR or Blue Box kits.

Suggestions for other fine rattle can solutions are always welcome.

Saturday, January 13, 2018

SC-44 Charger time.

Somehow I have become a bit enamored of these ultra modern beasts. Yesterday I was helping the Redwood Empire provision the car (ex Santa Fe Business car #33) when I observed a lot of SC-44 activity as they are now in operational service.

Standing on the observation platform of the Redwood Empire I snapped a few pix of the SC-44's moving in and out of the maintenance area where they are serviced between runs on Capitols and San Joaquin trains. Note that the whole train is serviced together