Thursday, February 20, 2020

Tanks for the Memories - Part 1

Yesterday (2/19/20) afternoon during my weekly visit to my local hobby shop (LHS) Just Trains in Concord, California, I spotted the on the used and abused consignment shelves the HO upper tank casting of an Athearn single dome tank car for $1.00. On another shelf was a very old Blue Box #1501, the triple dome tank car.  Assembled but complete. I had been thinking about kitbashing the SP O-50-13 just recently when I dug out all my tank cars and found my one Athearn single dome tank. So here was the kitbashing opportunity to actually build a Tony Thompson conversion to the common SP 12,500 gallon class O-50-13 car. 

I dove right into it carving a dome off the 3 dome and following TT's instructions documented in his Modeling the SP blog and the SPH&TS Trainline #71 article ran into the first problem of not having done this before. It took a the rest of the afternoon before I gave up trying to get a smooth join for the dome top from the 3-dome car attached and blended with a smooth joint onto the single dome casting.  I tried 4 times to get a smooth invisible joint using Tamiya putty for plastic. Each time I let it dry, sanded it and then shot it with Tamiya grey primer. I let that dry and then tried again to get a smooth invisible joint with more putty and sanding. Then spraying and starting over again. 

Today after shopping errands I started at it again. This time I dug out an old tube of Squadron Green putty and went over the dome joint line. After it dried I used a xacto blade to shave off as much putty as I could and sanded again. I use some ACE hardware 600 and 1000 grit paper to try and smooth is as much as possible and then shoot it again with the grey primer. 

Well this time the results look a bit better.  I have however lost any rivet detail that was on the Athearn casting.  I have some Archer resin rivet head sets on hand  including the Offset Tank Car double row rivets set to repair as needed. I also have a collection of Tichy tank car detail parts to use as well. 

These photos shows my progress on this project, the donor 3 dome and my existing Athearn SP tank car with the incorrect dome. Once I am done with this one the donor will give up another dome for conversion of the existing SP car and then I will try to find one more complete Athearn kit. 3 SP 12,500 gallon tank cars will be enough to fit in with all the smaller tank cars used to service the Martinez area refineries.

A lot more to do. Frame and brake modifications and then I still have to find black late 1940's style tank car decals, do all the railings and grabs. 

How old was the donor 3 dome car? The ladder was a metal stamping.

Wednesday, February 19, 2020

Going Nowhere Fast at Port Costa

I have no deadlines on the Port Costa layout and I just work on whatever catches my fancy at the moment.

The last couple of days I have been thinking about tank cars.  Port Costa was the engine terminal for servicing the series of refineries along the south shore of the Carquinez straits in the 1940's and 1950's. The small yard would have been used to sort and block deliveries of some of the empty tank cars to the Martinez refineries to the east as well as cars for the C&H sugar refinery at Crockett to the west. Loads would have been attached directly to pick-up freights westbound to Oakland or eastbound to rest of the SP world via the bridge at Martinez or the line to Tracy.  

Before the Ozol yard was built between Port Costa and Martinez the other small local yards were just east of Martinez station at Mococo where the SP mainline had a flyover junction climbing to the Benicia Bridge and the line to Tracy, Avon (Avon Calling?) with the San Ramon branch and then Port Chicago for the military sealift command.  

Anyway I rounded up all of my operable tank cars and put them on the layout for an inventory picture. 

Most are still undecorated foobies dating back to the 1970's or later. Only one is an SP Athearn O-50-13 with the dome not yet modified.  I need to acquire 2-3 more and fix the domes, brakes and walkways at least. Others include ancient Varney 10,000 gallon cars from the early 1980's that have Champ UTLX and GATX decals, Life Like Hong Kong clones of the Varney cars and a bashed Tyco car. I acquired 4 of the Walther's 2011 NMRA Convention insulated tank cars, one Tangent an some unidentified other tanks.  I would expect most tank cars at Port Costa would be UTLX to service the Union Oil refinery in Martinez. SP cars would not predominate and one would be used to deliver bunker oil to the heated sump storage facility behind the round house.  Ron Plies modeled this very well in his version of Port Costa.  I don't have the room in my more condensed version to do it the same justice but I will suggest the presence.  Interesting, but I understand coal was used for roundhouse steam generation up until the end of steam not the bunker oil which was used just for fueling locomotives.  

One of the slow downs is my desire to improve the trackage particularly at the west end of the turntable. I am experimenting with building a left-right pair of Central Valley #5 code 70 turnouts replace the Peco Code 83 wyes I currently have in place. This would allow a better replication of the actual track configuration. 
 CV Templates for revised configuration which will change both turntable approach and track in front of station. 
I am a little bit daunted by the CV turnouts and waiting for supplies to replace the plastic frogs and improve my soldering kit.  In all my 60+ years of model railroading I have never successfully built a turnout from kit or scratch. I want this trackage in Code 70 to emphasize the difference with the mainline. If the CV turnouts don't work out , I am looking at a pair of Micro Engineering yard turnouts for this trackage.