Wednesday, January 17, 2018

Produce shipping boxes, Part 8

In this series of posts about the shipping boxes used for various kinds of produce, I have shown information for the range of box sizes and shapes of prototype boxes for a wide range of produce in my era (see that post at: ). I have also discussed model boxes, both individual boxes and stacks; and have devoted some space to description of modifying prototype labels for use on my layout. Those posts are easily found by using the series title, “produce shipping boxes,” as the search term in the search box at the top right of this page.
     I now want to show one last example of modifying a produce box label, because it is one that I think does not work — as I decided after I had done  all the work. Here is the original, a striking if somewhat old-fashioned image:

Once again, it was easy to remove the Collins Fruit Co. packing house name and substitute the name of my layout fruit company:

Looks nice, I thought. But when reduced to HO scale and assembled into a stack, the colors are just too pale and uniform. You can see that in the grouping below, though this image is not as small as the HO version.

I decided to go ahead and make a stack with these labels, just for variety, but this particular label really does not do what I wanted. You can see below that my expectation, that the color and pattern were simply too subdued, is fully borne out when the stack is in place on the Guadalupe Fruit Company loading dock.

     Finally, I want to show one last example of a label which can readily be used in model form, but one which needs no modification to its lettering (I’ll explain why below). This one also is from an original in my collection, and has considerable generality in its broad term “vegetables,” instead of naming a particular vegetable.

Some brokers and wholesalers maintained their own brand names, and would arrange to have their labels applied at the packing shed. So a label like this, for a Los Angeles distributor, could well show up on loading docks in growing areas. I will probably make a stack of model boxes with this label.
     As I progress with my box projects, as I have been describing in this series of posts, I continue to try and create realistic loading dock details. These shipping box labels are only part of what is needed for those realistic details.
Tony Thompson

Monday, January 15, 2018

Auto industry traffic, Part 5

This topic of auto industry traffic is a significant one for most of the United States in the transition era, because auto parts moved in all directions (primarily from the upper Midwest) to assembly plants all over the U.S., and assembled automobiles moved, to a significant degree by rail, from those assembly plants, not only to their immediate region, but for specialized or less numerous models such as convertibles, perhaps from quite distant plants to a particular area.
     I began my thread on this topic with a general traffic description, along with sources of  information, in a Part 1, and followed that up with sample waybills for such traffic, in Part 2. Both these posts can be readily reached from Part 3, which described the prototype equipment inside auto-industry cars, and it can be found at this link: . Then in Part 4, I showed a selection of the model cars that are part of my fleet handling auto-industry traffic (see it here: ).
    One immediate question that modelers ask is, which railroad’s cars would be carrying this traffic? By my modeling year, 1953, auto traffic pools were formalized and well established, with the railroads along each route agreeing (in most cases) to supply cars to each pool, in proportion to the percentage of the route’s miles on each railroad. Sometimes a railroad would decline to participate; I have a copy of a Southern Pacific memo mentioning that the CB&Q had declined to participate in a pool which moved over their lines. No reason was given.
     This description of how most pools were formed makes it obvious that in the Far West, you would certainly expect to see SP, UP, and Santa Fe cars among the auto traffic, because they served the Western end of the routes. But what about other roads? Here is a most informative sample of traffic moving to northern California plants (I’ll describe the source in a moment):

These data are from several 1951 and 1956 trains, perfect for my use. This graph comes from a superb article by Mark Amfahr, entitled “Bay Area Auto Shipments in the Postwar Years,” which appeared in The Streamliner (magazine of the Union Pacific Historical Society), issue for Spring 2016.
     First, many railroads had pieces of multiple pools, so you could not necessarily guess which automobile company’s parts were in a car. But there were exceptions. The DT&I served Ford’s immense River Rouge plant outside Detroit, and typically interchanged cars to the Wabash for westward movement, making those two roads prominent in Ford traffic pools. On the other hand, both NYC and PRR predominantly served GM plants, and many GM parts moved over Illinois Central and Rock Island, while Ford parts moved heavily on Santa Fe. These details are found elsewhere in that issue of The Streamliner. and elsewhere (see Part 1).
     One sub-topic in this subject is the locations from which assembled vehicles might be moved to the Far West. Of course the primary such location is the “home” plants in Michigan for all the auto makers. But there were a number of major assembly plants closer to California. For example, Kansas City was home both to a major Ford plant (primarily assembling pickup trucks), called “Kansas City Assembly,” and a General Motors plant called “Fairfax Assembly,” under the Buick-Oldsmobile Pontiac Assembly Division.
     In the period I model, General Motors had introduced two separate management structures for its assembly plants, called either Chevrolet, or else Buick-Oldsmobile-Pontiac, abbreviated B-O-P. But this description only identified the plant management, and a particular plant did not exclusively assemble the vehicles implied by its management name. A B-O-P plant could assemble Chevrolets, and vice versa. The terminology, then, does not tell you what a particular plant would assemble.
     Information like this is readily accessible via Google or other search engines. Any city or region in which you are interested can be easily investigated for dates and locations of auto assembly plants.
     Now I will turn to some of the model cars in my auto-traffic fleet. Having shown a Wabash 40-foot double-door with wood sheathing, typically used in auto parts service, here is a similar car, except for being all steel. It is SP Class A-50-13, and was built from a Sunshine resin kit. The prototype car was built in 1936, but the model paint scheme depicts a postwar repaint.

     Cars of the 40-foot length were also used for set-up automobiles, and when equipped with auto loading racks, naturally had the white door stripe. The model shown below was converted from a Trix styrene model by Richard Hendrickson.

     There were also 40-foot cars used for auto parts, which also had end doors. These simplified loading, as the large end door allowed full access to the entire interior, and it could be loaded from the B  end through to the A end without having to allow space at the side door location to facilitate unloading. This 1930-built car is interesting because of its radial roof and relatively low height, no problem for the heavier range of auto parts. The model was built from a Yankee Clipper resin kit.

Incidentally, the Pere Marquette, which had been controlled by C&O since 1928, also received essentially identical cars to this C&O car in 1930. It should be remembered that the PM and its extensive network of trackage in Michigan was C&O’s connection to auto industry traffic at its most prolific sources in Michigan. In 1947, PM would be merged entirely into C&O. I will have more to say about PM in a future post.
     Though not mentioned yet, there were significant numbers of 50-foot double-door cars equipped with end doors, for truly bulky cargo, such as highway trucks and buses. Such cars usually had the same kinds of chain tie-down equipment as auto rack cars, but usually without the racks. An example from my fleet is this Santa Fe Class FE-23 car, rebuilt in 1941 from an FE-S car with new steel roof and sides, and a pair of end doors. The model was given to me by Richard Hendrickson, and has a “return when empty” notice for the Rock Island at St. Joseph, Missouri, signaling pool service.

     One car type not yet mentioned is the car for frame loading, either a flat car or a gondola. Here is an example, one of Santa Fe’s War Emergency gondolas, with a frame rack in place.

     The variety of freight cars used in automobile industry traffic was considerable, as I hope I have illustrated in this series of posts. I intend to offer one more post, addressing additional sources of information about this traffic.
Tony Thompson

Friday, January 12, 2018

Cocoa Beach 2018

Last week the 17th running of the Prototype Rails meeting at Cocoa Beach, Florida was convened. It was hosted and managed, as always, by Mike Brock, ably assisted by Marty Magregian and Scott Dam, and of course program chief Jeff Aley, who also serves as audio-visual troubleshooter. Registration remained at $35. As always, it is pleasant to travel to Florida in January, though this year, outdoor temperatures hovered in the 50s. More important, at least to me, was the indoor activities, which were really excellent this year. And despite severe winter weather in some parts of the East, attendance still exceeded 240, typical of good years at Cocoa Beach.
     The hotel ballroom is mostly given over to vendors and modular layouts, and as always, there tends to be a considerable crowd examining the wares for sale. Among the vendors unable to attend due to weather were Funaro & Camerlengo, but partly making up for it was Ted Schnepf’s Rails Unlimited sales tables. In the photo below, that’s Ted in the orange shirt at far right.

The model display tables are a never-failing attraction in one end of the ballroom, and this year was no exception. As he often does, Bruce Smith brought really a big group of models, centered on the Pennsylvania Railroad. Bruce’s modeling era is during World War II, which makes many of his models quite interesting. Here is an overview:

     Another nice group of models was brought by Lance Mindheim, two locomotives of different eras, of the Los Angeles Junction Railway, complete with photos of the prototypes:

     The clinic program this year was outstanding. I won’t go into detail about the whole program (you can see it on-line at: ), but will mention a couple of points. First, it is becoming common for speakers to put their “handout” on the internet instead of in paper form. This permits larger handouts without large copying expense, permits far better photo reproduction than Xerox, and allows live links to other sources of on-line information. One who did so was Tom Madden, in an excellent talk entitled, “All Heavyweight Pullmans do NOT look alike!!” Here is his (fairly typical) screen with the handout URL:

     The clinic I probably liked best was Al Brown’s talk about kitbashing and scratchbuilding an “unusual tank car.” As often happens, it began with an intriguing prototype photo, and Al set out to try and model it. It ended up comprising a shortened Tichy tank with Tangent domes, a resin underframe from a Southern Car & Foundry kit, and a variety of details, including Owl Mountain elbow safety valves. I hope Al will publish his informative account of how all this came together. Here is the model (not yet lettered):

The prototype had had its original center dome removed, leaving the riveted collar, and was divided into two compartments with new domes. You can see that Al’s model captures this.
     Lastly, I want to observe that even with chilly, windy weather, the magnificent ocean beach is still out there at the back of the hotel. Always worth at least a short stroll, even it you need a coat.

     M own feeling this year is that it was among the very best Prototype Rails meetings I can remember, and I have only missed one of them since their inception. Comparisons aren’t too  meaningful, but in the past I have always said that Cocoa Beach is a close second to the former Naperville (now Chicagoland) meeting, if considered as a kind of “Freight Car National.” This year I pretty much think that Cocoa has caught up to Chicagoland. And what could be better? That means we have two great meetings concentrating on prototype modeling to choose from! If you’ve never been to one of them, I’m sure you would enjoy attending either one.
Tony Thompson

Tuesday, January 9, 2018

Auto industry traffic, Part 4: model cars

In previous posts in this series, I described some resources for information about the rail traffic of the automobile industry, and showed specific information about assembly plants in California, along with information on auto parts companies; I supplemented that with a following post about waybills. Links to both those posts are in Part 3 (you can see that post at: ), which dealt with the hardware inside prototype cars that carried set-up automobiles or auto parts.
     In this post, I want to show examples drawn from the model car fleet I use to try and represent this traffic on my layout. I have described elsewhere the Southern Pacific trains that handled traffic of this kind on the Coast Route (see my post at: ).
     For this summary, I’ll begin with a fairly conventional 50-foot CNW automobile car of AAR Class XMR, with its characteristic white door stripe; the model was built from a Sunshine resin kit.

This kind of car, whether 40 feet long or 50 feet long, carried set-up automobiles. As an illustration of this, shown below is an Allen DeLay photo from the Portland Oregonian newspaper, showing 1953 Chevrolet Bel Air sedans being unloaded in Portland.

     But a great deal of auto industry traffic was in the form of auto parts moving to assembly plants around the country. Many such loads traveled in 50-foot double-door cars, but of course without the distinguishing door stripes signifying automobile racks, such as this DT&I car (an ancient Athearn metal round-roof model) in AAR Class XAP:

The football-shaped emblem at the left of the doors reads, “auto parts loading only – racks – return empty to Detroit.”
     Many railroads purchased batches of 50-foot single-door cars specifically for auto parts. Their 8-foot doors facilitated use of forklift trucks for loading and unloading. Southern Pacific was no exception, beginning with the 1941-built Class B-50-22, shown here as a Proto2000 model:

     But plenty of cars in auto parts service were 40-foot cars. Some railroads with substantial auto parts traffic, like Wabash, operated wood-sheathed cars well into the diesel era, such as this car, an Overland brass model:

Some railroads, including SP, even assigned groups of 40-foot cars with single 6-foot doors to auto parts service (presumably ones not requiring fork lift trucks for loading or unloading). For example, when SP rebuilt 600 or so of its USRA box cars, originally Class B-50-12, with new steel sides and roofs, reclassified B-50-12-A, the cars also got an additional floor stringer on each side of the center sill, described as a modification for auto parts use. Their narrow doors not being suitable for handling parts racks, most were AAR Class XM, rather than XAP, though they were carrying auto parts. Here is a photo of such a car, modeled with a Challenger brass car:

This car runs in my mainline trains with the other cars in the auto-parts cuts. Note the inset side sill, typical of cars rebuilt from single-sheathed originals.
     This is not the entirety of model car types that I use for my auto parts trains, but will suffice for now. I will add additional cars in a future post. More importantly, I will be adding some information about which railroad’s cars to include, and how I know.
Tony Thompson

Saturday, January 6, 2018

Should open-top loads be removable or not?

I have shown examples over the years in this blog of a wide variety of removable loads for open-top cars, and have long believed that wherever possible, loads ought to be made removable. The simple reason is so that a car can operate both loaded and empty, in the sequence of layout operating sessions. The first real challenge to that approach came from the group of really excellent open-top cars with permanent loads that I inherited from Richard Hendrickson (you can see a selection of these loads in this post: , as well as links to related posts).
     But before I address “permanent” loads,  I should emphasize that the great majority of my open-top car loads are removable. Both for bulk materials like ballast, coal and ore, and multi-piece loads such as lumber, structural steel, or pipe, it is easy to design and build removable loads.
     An example is pipe loads in gondolas (see the method of making them at: ). Shown below is one of the loads shown in that post, at Shumala on my layout. I mentioned lumber, too, and this photo also shows a removable load of lumber in a gondola. Lumber in gondolas actually represents pretty common SP practice — probably when there weren’t enough flat cars — as was often the case.

     Some time back, I built a white metal kit for a Euclid scraper, and in preparation for using it as a load, showed the AAR loading diagram for that vehicle type on a flat car (that post is at: ). I then added the needed chocks to the scraper, and added a crate for spare parts, etc. It then looked like this:

Note that all load-restraint elements are attached to the vehicle, and are thus independent of the railcar; likewise the cleats on the crate. So when in action on the layout, this load can ride on any chosen flat car. The photo below shows it on an SP flat car in my layout town of Ballard.

     But some loads have sufficiently complex tie-downs, or are sufficiently delicate, that they really have to be permanent. A good example is this model, given to me by Richard Hendrickson, of a load of automobile frames.

The frame rack, and all the frames, are such that it does not seem like a good idea to be inserting and removing them all the time from gondolas.
     So I have come around to the idea that some of my open-top freight cars, with their permanent loads, can serve effectively on the layout without being capable of an empty move. That especially applies to cars like the Pere Marquette frame gondola just shown, because it will only operate in through trains on my Coast Route main line, not on my Santa Rosalia Branch.
    I guess this acceptance of a few permanent loads does in turn open up the possibility that I can plan other permanent loads, even for freight cargoes on my branch — though I still prefer removable loads in most cases! I just won’t continue to insist on them for everything.
Tony Thompson

Tuesday, January 2, 2018

New handout on weathering

Six years or seven ago, Richard Hendrickson and I put together a clinic with the title, “Weathering Transition-era Freight Cars.” I have organized a new version to modernize and update that clinic (it will be presented this week at Cocoa Beach and, later, at other meetings). But the point of the clinic remains the same. Making freight car models more or less weathered and dirty, as appropriate for each case, is essential for prototypical realism. The clinic emphasizes that there are a wide range of techniques for weathering, and to a significant extent, these are summarized in the Reference Pages shown as links at the top right of this blog page.
     Several quite different approaches, all of which work very well, are presented and illustrated in the reference pages, and are given updated illustrations in the clinic. These can be used singly or together, and viewers were encouraged to develop their own combination of techniques for weathering models realistically. The present blog post is intended to guide readers to past posts in this blog about the content of the clinic (other than the Reference Pages).
      One of the techniques explored in more depth in the new clinic is the use of artist’s colored pencils, both for varying individual board colors in wood-sheathed cars, car floors, or wood running boards, but also for overall weathering of entire cars. A recent post on the basic approach with these pencils is at this link: . An earlier post about just the running board aspect is here: .
     The original clinic had an abbreviated handout, just a single page, collecting together the various tools and materials illustrated in the clinic. In light of the various changes in the current clinic, that handout has been edited and updated. Here is the new single-page handout, as an image you can read here (you can click to enlarge it) or download from: .

     Last summer, I wrote a post about the very interesting rust decals from Weathering Solutions. This post can be found at: . These are mostly suitable for much more modern rolling stock, but some sheets of the decals are quite usable, as I showed in the blog post just cited.
     I hope these brief update comments help guide understanding of weathering approaches, while also serving to make available a handout (and some links to relevant blog posts of the past) for this new clinic.
Tony Thompson 

Sunday, December 31, 2017

Artist’s colored pencils for modeling

Many model railroad authors, including me, have long used and advocated use of artist’s colored pencils for a variety of modeling tasks. In this post I want to provide some specifics.
     First, brand names. There are numerous brands in any art store, from Neocolor, Polycolor, and others, to the brand I and others have consistently found best, Prismacolor. Prices also vary; Prismacolor is around the middle of the range of prices. I personally think buying something like this purely on price is very false economy, but that is your call. Some pencil brands are very hard and difficult to use for modeling; others, sometimes called “watercolor”pencils, are very soft and again, not as easy to use effectively. But I should hasten to say, if you don’t find that Priamacolor pencils suit you, try other brands until you find what you like.
     Small comment on buying these: a small art store, or any store with limited amounts of art supplies, may offer these colored pencils only in sets. The same goes for at least some internet sellers. These sets are not only pricey but naturally contain lots of colors you can’t use. Find a good art store, including chains like Michael’s or Blick. They will have these pencils in bulk and you can choose exactly what you want.
     My pencils, in a way, fall into two sets. One set is the lighter colors, and these are shown below.

Listed from bottom to top, these are as follows: white, canary yellow, lemon yellow; and a range of grays, warm gray 30%, French gray 30% (two pencils), and warm gray 30%.
     The pencils shown above are used for chalk marks (the white, the yellow, and the lighter grays). A gray chalk mark looks like one that is older and has gotten weathered with time. Such marks are common on the prototype. A second use, for the full range of grays, is to represent weathered, exposed wood that will have tones of gray, such as running boards. I prefer a warm gray tone for this (as you can see from the color names), but Prismacolor also has a range of “cool gray” tones if you prefer that.
     In the “boxcar red” range, used on the obvious color of freight cars, my set looks like this:

Again, from bottom to top, these are as follows: pale vermilion, henna, chestnut, burnt ochre, sienna brown, chocolate, light umber, terra cotta, and tuscan red. Some these color names do not match traditional oil or acrylic tube colors, but no matter, just think of them as arbitrary designations.
     These too can be used for running board variations, and also for wood-sheathed cars or for wood flooring of flat cars or gondolas. An earlier post contains illustrations of using both the grays and the reddish colors to improve running boards (see it at: ).
    It may strike you that the pale vermilion color does not lie in the range of brown and reddish-brown colors of all the other pencils in the photo above. You are right. The pale vermilion, actually, is used for highlighting, along raised edges such as boxcar doors, or superstructure framing, or even individual rivets,I learned this technique from Michael Gross, and it is impressively effective.
     When these pencils are used for general overall weathering, as opposed to selective coloring of running boards or other individual boards, you need a way to diffuse and blend each pencil stroke. (The stroke should be made with the side of a pencil point, not the tip, to avoid a stroke that is too narrow and intense). Again as I learned from Michael Gross, an excellent tool for this blending is an old brush, with its remaining bristles cut very short, less than 1/8 inch long. This can be used to scrub and blend your pencil strokes. As an example, the photo below shows an old no. 12 brush, cut down so it can be used as a scrubber. The penny is to show scale.

     This introduction should suffice to get started in choosing and using artist’s pencils for your modeling needs. As with many techniques in weathering, you need to try things out, both to get the hang of any particular method and also to find out what works best for your individual style. So get out there and try these pencils!
Tony Thompson