Saturday, August 29, 2020

Recent Port Costa-Layout Improvements and Rolling Stock Projects

August has come and gone...and I am still in enforced hibernation with no end in sight before 2021. But I have been puttering about on the layout and other projects. 

The landscape of the layout is still somewhat impressionistic/surreal rather than realistic. But for the time I am content with that. Since the discovery of the inexpensive colored 2 mm thick foam sheet material at Michael's I have been working on what the shape and texture of this miniature world.   

I have completed one freight car project, a Proto 2K ACF Type 21 8,000 gal. tank car for SCCX leasing with the Shell herald. The Shell refinery in Martinez was one of the major destinations for tank cars passing through the Port Costa yard. The refinery was sold to Marathon Oil (26 mpg?) and is now in the process of shutting down permanently as demand for petroleum products falls due to many factors.  It needs weathering as does much of my recent tank car fleet. The three SP O-50-13's I am building are still in the paused projects pile along with the Tangent GA 1917 8,000 tank car kit build. Oil was king in the early 1950's and my personal perspectives do not hamper modeling it. 

Another August project nearly completed is the final Port Costa freight house. The mockup has been reused as the water treatment building between the large section house and the huge water tank on the hill.  I originally thought this was only 30' in length but when I received the 1930 SP Port Costa relocation plan drawing, I realized it was a full 41' in length. I rebuilt an extended model and constructed a shingle roof. The only structural component missing is the finial which I am still agonizing about.  I decided to paint the structure and tried Vallejo Model Color 70.976 Buff (I like the Spanish name "Amarillo Caqui") as an adequate shade of Colonial Yellow for my sight. As I would lighten any version of Colonial yellow to look better under indoor lighting conditions and as most color photo's show it tended to lighten under the harsh California sun, this works for me. Also it worked straight from the bottle without any mixing. This was hand brushed and showed that this self-leveling paint again produces a finish as good as an air brush. Besides, the SP brushed on their paint. 

Similarly for the SP Light Brown Trim I used Vallejo Marron Claro 70.929 (Light Brown) again straight from the bottle.  For first version of the paint I painted all the vertical trim pieces in light brown. But a little further research and discovery of an SP 1950's painting standard that specified limited trim was to be painted made me question whether all that trim was brown. I checked and found a 1948 dated picture of the Port Costa station building that showed by then vertical trim was already painted Colonial Yellow.I therefore repainted all the trim into Colonial yellow. This also covered up a lot of wobbly brush lines on trim pieces.  

This is the Contra Costa County Historical Society photo of the freight house platform. Note the problematic tall finial at the end of the roof. 
Notice how the color of light brown doors shifts depending on whether it is seen in sun or shade in this picture.  I have a bunch of oil barrels waiting to finish this scene. Now all I need is the slightly rusty 1936 Dodge 4 door sedan to park in front of the rear freight door as shown in my CCCHS main reference photo. Unfortunately Sylvan does not make this exact model. It may have to be a 1935 Plymouth sedan.

You will notice in the background of the layout picture above two of my other August projects. I have built a mockup of the iconic Port Costa roundhouse based on the Banta Model Works kit that I have yet to build.  It still needs to be painted barn red with black trim and roof and have photocopies of the windows added.  The Banta kit is a bit intimidating and I didn't want go much longer without the other principal structure of the layout.  I have some clearance problems for engines entering the roundhouse to resolve.

When I started the roundhouse mockup I used the dimensions on the photocopies of drawings by Herman Darr kindly provided by Ron Plies when I started this project.  The drawings showed the length of the roundhouse as 75 feet whereas the Banta model is 80 feet.  I have no way of knowing which is really correct.  I went with the Banta dimensions as modifying the kit would be a nightmare and life is too short.

This 1948 picture down Port Costa Main Street of an M-6 at the side of the roundhouse got me thinking about the two IHC M-4 engines I acquired a few years back for $19.98 each. Note the large  90-R-7 tender behind the M-6. My layout view omits Main Street so I don't have to spend a fortune buying and a lifetime building all the automobiles in the picture. If you visit Port Costa all the buildings lining Main Street in the picture are still there.

One the IHC Moguls is in pieces at the moment but the other was still intact but currently inoperable as it requires DCC decoder installation.  I have not yet decided on a number but did a little repainting and it is now poised on one of the garden tracks.

The model came with a 70-R-? tender that I am rebuilding. As an alternative I found a Bachmann switcher Vanderbilt tender that may be a close stand-in to a 70-C tender.  The 70-R-? tender rebuild may wait for an Owl Mountain 3 D printed oil bunker for 90-R-7 tender conversions.  Also that grossly oversize headlight on the locomotive will have to go and the boiler front rebuilt.  This engine will only get a temporary non-sound DCC decoder as it will probably be the test bed for the LocoFi steam WiFi receiver when it becomes available.  I may re-motor the other IHC Mogul that is in pieces before it joins my plastic SP steam stud. 

Other projects are afoot as well. The mockup for the Section House and other buildings on the hill behind the station need more work as does the terrain of the area.  I have a tree kit to further forest the area.  After painting the freight house. I  need to paint the sand house in barn red with black trim and roof and make better stand-in mockups for smaller buildings. I also need to work on the unique water crane to accompany the oil crane on the engine service track....and then there is the water tank, ballasting more trackwork and the turntable... so much to do.

Photo's in this blog have been reduced in size to help anyone with low bandwidth read the blog. Clicking on the photo will show the full size.