Friday, November 6, 2015

Friday, August 28, 2015


So, partially in response to a post on the NHRHTA Forum and in part because I've been working on it for a while anyway, here's some info on how I'm ballasting the track.

To begin with, I started with pictures. There are a number of color pictures of New Britain in a number of books, and here are a number of other ones from slides and video captures. As always, you can click on a photo to enlarge it. There are a lot this time...

Note the many variations in color and texture - all of these photos were taken within about 5 miles of each other.

These are on the Highland Line.
(Tom McNamara)
 Highland Line (near Plainville), note the amount of dirt.
 Wooster St. New Britain

These next three are westbound into New Britain Yard c1946
(Paul Wales video)

These three are from the same location, c1953.
(Kent Cochrane video)

Black and white photos can also be helpful. Although you don't get the color (obviously), there is obviously a lot of dirt mixed in with the ballast in these photos:

1956 (photographer unknown)

Kent Cochrane 1946-1947

So that gives me a starting point for color and texture. In New Britain itself (particularly the yard) there's a lot of dirt, some cinders, and some stone ballast, along with weeds. In addition to the historical photos, I've also visited locations, particularly New Britain, that look similar to what's in the pictures. Obviously there aren't any areas using cinders anymore, but I think the appearance of cinders and dirt is pretty similar to the small pieces of asphalt and dirt you see along the side of the road.

So I've been using a mix of Scenic Express cinders, light limestone (#40), dark limestone (#40), charcoal sanded grout, and genuine New Britain dirt. I'm using Pledge Floor Care Finish (aka Future) as a glue. The track is painted with Rustoleum Camouflage paint, then weathered with Pan Pastels.

The two mainline tracks are at the top with more of the stone ballast.
The turnout is the Berlin Line and is cinders and dirt.

 Again, the two tracks to the left are the main, the platform track is also the Berlin Line.
Compare to the photo of the L-1 and the man walking across the track above.

Thursday, July 23, 2015

In-Ground Coal Hoppers

Last week I started mocking up a basis for in-ground coal hoppers. I haven't found too many pictures online, and the ones I'm modeling are no longer there. So I've loosely based it off of a Fine Scale Miniatures design. I just used parts and pieces I had on hand, including bits of masonite (base and side wall), 1x2 for the main side walls, heavy card stock for the slope sheet, and styrene for the border and to scratchbuild the I-beams.

Of course, once I got started I need to fit some track to it, to get the spacing and depth of the I-beams correct. Then I wanted to color it a bit, which led to ballasting a side because I wanted to experiment with the track buried in the ground, which then meant I had to weather it...

The concrete frame isn't complete, and I will install bars that parallel the track for safety. Bill suggested that the I-beams should be deeper, which will be easy enough. I just used what I had on hand. I might bring the concrete frame to rail-head level.

So, the track and I-beams (which are attached) used my now standard coat of Rustoleum camouflage. Ballast is a mix of genuine New Britain dirt, Scenic Express light limestone ballast and fine and medium coal, along with some charcoal grout. The concrete is sprayed with Rustoleum Multicolored Textured spray paint. It doesn't list a color name, but it's a concrete-like off white with multicolored flecks and a sandy texture. It goes on very thick, so it won't work with anything that has detail you need to retain. Weathered with Pan Pastels and charcoal grout.

Overall I'm extremely pleased with the results of the test. I have at least two to build on the layout when I get to those portions.

Wednesday, July 22, 2015

Shoreline Aerial Photos 1992

Not my era or area, but still an interesting series of photos of the old NH Shoreline in CT.

Ground Cover and Ballast

My goal before the NE Proto Meet next year is to finish everything from the rail down. This will include some items above the rail (like the water column you see, which needs a little modification), but it will basically be all of the infrastructure that's needed. I don't know if I'll get to many buildings by then.

So I continue to slowly move along with the groundcover. I made some more progress last night, and it appears that the sections I did (including fixing the areas that had turned white) are working OK. For this section it would appear that moving slowly is the best approach, and using as little glue as possible (in this case Pledge Floor Care Finish, formerly known as Future). In the past I've done the usual 'flood the ballast' approach without any issues except on my layout.

The AC is keeping the humidity down at home, so I don't think that's the issue. As I glue down the foam in other areas of the layout I'll use wood glue instead of a water soluble glue and maybe that will help.

The basic process is relatively simple. The track was spray painted with Rustoleum camouflage in place. I don't bother protecting the railheads or turnouts. I just use a brightboy to clean it once the paint has dried. I haven't had any issues with the turnouts that a little cleaning with a scalpel, dental pick, or file doesn't fix.

The ballast is a mix of Scenic Express light limestone mixed with a little charcoal grout to make it a little darker. I sprinkle that and some real dirt using my fingers for placement. I follow John Nehrich's recommendation for a well defined ballast line, although instead of masking with tape (which I think leaves a bit too much of a recognizable edge), I just use a piece of cardboard as a mask, held just a little bit off of the layout to give a defined, but slightly 'fuzzy' edge. I also sprinkle on a little Woodland Scenics fine ground foam for a little variation.

Weathering is Pan Pastels and charcoal grout. I use a little of a very light gray on the ties first, for that sort of silvery weathered look, but then use a bit of burnt umber to tone it down a little more, In addition, photos of the era show more of a brownish cast than the old weathered look. Between the rails I'm using charcoal grout. I will also use some black, and maybe some other medium to do oil stains between the rails.

I'm really happy with the results so far, so I'll keep working through the occasional white glue incidents. It's annoying, but hopefully I'll only have to deal with it once.

Well, twice since I've already taken everything out once!

Monday, July 20, 2015


It's still doing it.  I have no idea why, in some places, the scenic glue is drying white. I have used thinned Elmers, Elmer's school glue,  Mod Podge, and this time Future (well, Pledge Floor Care Finish) which is clear to start with.
It doesn't do this anywhere else that I'm trying this except my layout.
It's driving me crazy, because the areas where it doesn't happen look great.

Friday, July 10, 2015

Reworking Benchwork

Chris stopped by to help rework the benchwork on the east side of town to make room for Hardware City Fuel Co. and also to improve the quality of the benchwork itself.

The benchwork in this location has been added onto the side of the helix, although with the clearance within the helix it's difficult to attach the helix deck to the new benchwork. In addition, the benchwork began as an idea that I could fit a bookcase in this location, with new benchwork on top. The 'new' benchwork ended up being a heavily cut-down chunk of what used to be the Whiting Street Yard/Berlin Line. When I decided we could extend the track to allow more industries, we tacked on another piece of benchwork. But it seemed a bit much to add an additional section in this manner.

So I started disassembling the benchwork and then found out Chris would be able to make it over to help.

This is a little earlier look at the patchwork sections of the benchwork here.

And here's what it looks like tonight.

The bookcase moved last year, it took up a bit more aisle space then I wanted. That was an interesting project because it was supporting the benchwork directly. Today was easier since we just disassembled practically everything and rebuilt for the new sheet of plywood. It still required a bit of creative engineering, but it has improved the whole area and gives me a reasonable amount of space for the industries.

The brown foam is now my roadbed. When I started the layout I used N-scale cork in the helix to allow just a bit more clearance. So when I just continued that on the entire layout. Pictures show that the track was basically right at ground level through the city. So I liked the N-scale for that as well. Except that when I started ballasting I found that it was really too high as well. So I've been using the foam as a scenery base, filling in the areas around the track.

In areas where I'm adding track, like here, I'm just using the foam as the roadbed. It's a smidge lower than the cork, but that's just fine here for industrial sidings. It's also cheaper than sheets of cork.

I have a bit more work to get everything in place, but it's really coming together.

Thursday, July 9, 2015

And there's less!

And yet still more!

So I made it over to the New Britain Library today to go through the City Directories some more. I'll be able to do that on a regular basis and still not glean everything from them. Honing in on more accurate primary sources (than the 1940 Alignment Map) show fewer oil dealers, but it also helped me identify other commodities likely shipped to the city by rail, and more importantly some additional commodities at existing industries on the layout.

Gasoline and Oil
Of particular interest was to learn more about the oil dealers. In poring over some additional maps, looking at later aerial photos, and going through the directories, it would appear that on the Highland Line, where the 1940 Alignment Map indicates there is Atlantic Refining Co, and Texaco it is now the Hardware City Fuel Co, who advertises Gulf petroleum products. They have a service station at their bulk facility at that siding, and another one elsewhere in town.

Berson Brothers, not modeled on the layout, sells Esso brand, and there is another Esso station in town.

Stanley Svea receives fuel oil but doesn't mention a brand. It would appear that there are no oil dealers receiving rail shipments on the Berlin Line.

At least two other service stations sell Tide Water 'Tydol' gasoline and 'Veedol' motor oil, and another sells Amoco, and one sells Franklin (never heard of them).

All of which raises a few questions:

Does a company like Hardware Fuel Co. also receive other brands of gas and/or oil to sell to other service stations?

If there are no companies receiving Tide Water or Amoco gas/oil in town is it trucked from other towns?

How far of a radius would a dealer like Hardware City Fuel Co have in selling Gulf oil to other dealers?

Would gas or oil be received at the bulk tracks to be unloaded directly from tank cars to trucks?

There will be fewer oil dealers than I thought, but I have another location (Stanley Svea) that will receive tank cars. In addition, I've learned that in addition to tank cars of gasoline, there will also be fuel oil (for heating presumably) and range oil (for cooking - not sure what's different yet). Rackliffe Oil Co. (not served by rail) advertises 'furnace and fuel oil' so I don't know if those are different types as well.

Of course I hadn't really thought about motor oil and greases, although those probably come to a city like New Britain in everything from cases of retail packaged cans to 55-gallon drums for service stations. Which leads me to...

Bulk Tracks
I also made a point of going through the directories to identify auto dealers, furniture stores, service stations, auto parts and tire dealers, along with a sand & stone company. None of these are on the railroad but most likely received shipments by rail at either the freight house (LCL) or more likely the bulk tracks (car loads). I want to build an interesting list of industries for waybills.

In some cases this also helps in determining where shipments originate. Within New Britain there are dealers for Chrysler, Dodge, Plymouth, Ford, Chevrolet, Lincoln, Mercury, Oldsmobile, Pontiac, Cadillac, Hudson, Studebaker, and Kaiser-Frazer (which also mentions Frazer tractors, rototillers and farm equipment). Each auto manufacturer made each model in a specific factory, and this can be used to help create waybills and select appropriate cars.

Interesting side-note - automobile tires usually had inner tubes until 1954. So I'd guess inner tubes to be another commodity to ship by rail.

Coal Dealers

There were a lot of coal dealers in New Britain in the post-war era. Several won't fit on the layout, including D&K Coal, Universal Coal & Wood (who advertises Lehigh 'Blue' Coal), United Coal & Wood (Old Company's Lehigh Coal), and Berson Brothers, among others. East of the station I am modeling: City Coal & Wood, Stanley Svea Grain & Coal, Hardware City Fuel, and Household Fuel.

(Former) trackside view of Household Fuel Company coal silo. I never figured out how to get over to this before the busway (under construction in this photo), and they have removed the conveyor that was still there until construction of the busway began. There's still a pile of coal to the left, and the silos are still full. The street side (below) has a covered loading dock, presumably for consumers to pick up their own coal.

The trackside chutes look like they were for loading trucks directly and were individually labeled by size: stove, nut, buck, pea and rice.

I have yet to find an ad for Household Fuel, but other dealers, like Stanley & Svea and Hardware City Fuel still advertise the sale of coke in addition to coal.

I'm particularly looking forward to building the Household Fuel silos.

Monday, July 6, 2015

But wait! There's more!

So part of what I've been doing over the last few weeks is reorganizing much of my research. Part of the purpose of my site was originally to provide a location for me to store information that I've researched so I could find it again. Over time I've been a bit lax, plus there are a lot of things that I'm not quite ready to post for public consumption.

Anyway, last year I had made some modifications to the layout initially out of necessity, but found that it would also allow me to include a few things I thought I couldn't. Originally  there was a mix of industries from this area, the Berlin Line, and one New Britain industry (Cremo Brewery) from the Springfield Line. They were located in a freelanced industrial area on top of the helix. In the end it felt very 'model railroady' to me, and so when I had to adjust the helix to bring a few grades on the layout down, they were not rebuilt. Instead I found I was able to add several of those industries, in their prototypical location, on the layout proper.

This was what I had originally built:

There were a few additional sidings added later. The three farthest sidings were Stanley & Svea Grain & Coal (on the grade); Cohen William, grocery wholesaler; RM Hall General Store warehouse; and Carlson & Torrell Building Supplies. The tank cars are sitting on sidings for Texaco and Atlantic Refining (they did share a double siding), and the curved track to the right was Cremo Brewery.

After reworking the helix, I moved the proper industries to the outside of the mainline, and they are now in the prototypical location:
Starting from the first siding closest to us: Cohen & William and RM Hall. On the longer siding is a mock up of the Household Fuel Company, just beyond that is Carlson & Torrell, and then the Stanley Svea trestle. Barely visible across from the coal silos is a turnout that is a small siding for North & Judd, something that was missing from the old arrangement. Originally I thought Carlson & Torrell wouldn't fit, but as it turns out it should work in the space.

There is the possibility that there is one more industry on the RM Hall/Cohen William siding. I need to make a trip to the library to verify what was there at this time, but Wellin's Auto Parts may have been there as well, or might have replaced one of the other ones. There is enough room to add it if needed, although the two industries fit a bit better and will allow me to expand the footprint of Household Fuel.

Anyway, as I revisit the research, I was reminded of a couple of things.
1) I had added the oil dealers to the top of the helix because I wanted to have someplace to delivery plain black gasoline and/or oil tank cars.

2) The Atlantic Refining/Texaco siding was a trailing point siding on the east-bound main.

Mocking up benchwork for that location I find that not only can I fit it, but it's in the correct location and has enough real estate to model it. Switching the siding might be a little tight with the Stanley Works crew in the area, but then I remembered that the crew did use that portion of the helix during the last operating session anyway.

So by adding the corner back in I'll have room for two additional consignees, and they'll be receiving a class of cars that is otherwise unrepresented on the layout (other than through trains). Even better, it's prototypically located, other than missing a half-mile of connecting track.

So I'm excited that I will be able to fit in three additional industries without excessive crowding, and in a prototypical manner. Even better, it adds another class of freight car that will regularly visit the layout. Atlantic Refining as a former Standard Oil Company will receive primarily black UTLX tank cars, and Texaco also usually receives black tank cars, either TCX or GATX, with an occasional (and very dirty) aluminum tank car with billboard lettering. So a nice contrast there.

On the Berlin Line I'll be able to add the two dealers there as well - Gulf and Socony-Vacuum. Gulf also receives black tank cars, occasionally with a Gulf herald on them. But Socony-Vacuum has their highly visible fleet of red Mobilgas tank cars that will add quite a bit of interest.

Tuesday, June 30, 2015


So I've been taking Chris' advice and working on the layout in little bits whenever I can squeeze in a few moments. Sometimes that's 15 minutes, or even an hour or two, in the basement. Other times it's working on models upstairs while Laura watches TV. In many cases I'm working on something else, but when working with computers there's often a lot of waiting. So part of what I've been doing (since I'm already at the computer) is to go through my notes, research, etc. and piece together some plans for the layout.

As you know, last year I left off as Chris and I were starting a hopper project. Part of the process for me (for any type of freight car really) is to take a look at what's available and compare that to ORER and roster information. So here's what I've put together so far for hoppers, or at least the primary hopper fleet I'm looking to build.

I was pleasantly surprised to find that the majority are available in accurate and quality models. A group (mainly the PRR ones), will require upgrading older models and won't be quite up to today's standards but they will be more than just 'good enough.' If I feel like it, most of them are available as resin kits from Westerfield.

I am already building a number of resin hoppers from F&C. These are the new one-piece bodies and they are fun to build, if a bit more time-consuming than a styrene kit. If the Westerfield ones are released in one-piece body versions then it's likely that I'd opt for those over the Bowser kits.

I will (and already do) have other hopper models, mostly of the same prototypes from different roads. We've seen plenty of photos with hoppers from all sorts of roads on the NH and they will appear in smaller quantities during operating sessions.


In general, hoppers didn't travel as far from home roads as box cars, flat cars, and gondolas. The primary lading was coal, and the farther it traveled the more it cost. In addition, some 60% of Connecticut's coal came via ship and not rail.

Anthracite Coal
Anthracite was commonly used for home heating because it was cleaner and more efficient. Thus the many online coal dealers would carry anthracite, often in several different sizes. Anthracite was mined in northeastern Pennsylvania on only a handful of roads: CNJ, D&H, DL&W, ERIE, L&HRLNE, LV, O&W, PRR and RDG.

The best I can tell, the majority (if not all) of the anthracite traffic arrived via rail. The CNJ, ERIE, LNE, LV, O&W, and PRR had direct interchanges with the NH. Those roads that didn't (D&H, DL&W and RDG) had connections directly through one of those carriers.

It was not uncommon for a coal dealer to advertise a specific brand of coal. For example, in New Britain, Stanley Svea & Co apparently advertised and sold Old Company's Lehigh Coal. This was a company that was owned by Lehigh Coal & Navigation Company, who also owned the LNE to service their interests. In addition to the Lansford and Tamaqua colleries serviced by the LNE, they also had locations served by D&H, DL&W, ERIE, and RDG. So it is most likely that hoppers to Stanley Svea will be from one of these roads.

Bituminous Coal
A huge number of roads serviced soft coal mines throughout the eastern US. Some 60% of CT coal arrived via water routes, rather than rail. I suspect the majority (if not all) of this was bituminous coal from the Baltimore area, and I'm also guessing that a large amount of this coal was destined for NHRR use, along with large industries on the CT coastline. The remainder would have most likely been delivered to industries and other engine facilities along the line in NH hoppers or gondolas.

The remainder of bituminous coal would have come via rail by the same routes as anthracite. In addition to the anthracite roads, photographic evidence shows large numbers of B&O and NYC hoppers on the NH

Other large coal roads (C&O, N&W, etc. probably contribute some rail traffic, but in most cases I think coal from mines on these roads came via water routes instead. There are a number of smaller roads (P&WV, WM, etc.), or coal lessees (Berwind and Westmoreland come to mind) that would be appropriate for an occasional load as well. I already own some cars from these roads, and will undoubtedly add more. Remember that I differentiate between my roster of cars owned, and the mix of cars on the layout during a given operating session. I'd like the mix to be different each session rather than every car being on the layout at all times.

So here's my primary list of hoppers - somewhere right around 100 cars:

B&O (16-19)
(3) N12g (F&C)
(2) USRA Hoppers (MTH)
(3-6) AAR Standard Twin Hoppers (Accurail)
(1) Composite War Emergency Hoppers (P2k)
(2) AAR Triple Hopper (Bowser/Ex-Stewart)
(2) AAR Quad Hoppers (BLI)
(1) 9-panel Hopper (F&C)
(1) ex-N&W Triple Hopper (BLI)

CNJ (4)
(1) 1905 Common Design (GLa with minor differences)(Bowser/Ex-Stewart)
(1) USRA Hopper (MTH)
(1) 9-panel Hopper (F&C)
(1) Welded Fishbelly Hopper (Bowser/Ex-Stewart)

CRP (2)
(1) 9-panel Hopper (F&C)
(1) AAR Standard 50-ton Hopper (Kadee with wine locks undec)

D&H (6-7)
(1-2) Seley Composite Hopper (Old & Weary Car Shops or oop F&C kit) 2-, 3-, and 4-bay versions
(1) USRA Hopper (MTH)
(1) USRA Panel Side Hopper (Tichy)
(2) Fishbelly Hoppers (Bowser/Ex-Stewart)
(1) AAR Standard 50-ton Hoppers (built 1951/2)(Kadee)

DL&W (2-3)
(1-2) SSC Hoppers (Westerfield)
(1) USRA Hopper (MTH)

ERIE (4-7)
(0-1) Horizontal Rib Hopper (F&C)
(3) AAR Standard Offset Hopper (Intermountain)
(1-2) AAR Standard 70-ton Quad Hopper (BLI)

L&HR (0)
L&HR had a roster of 102 cars in 1947, 64 of which are hoppers. But there is a notation that they are in special service, and thus highly unlikely that they'd appear in New Britain. Now if I was modeling Maybrook...

LNE (3)
(3) AAR Standard Offset Twin Hopper (upgraded Atlas)

LV (5)
(1) 1905 Common Design (GLa with minor differences)(Bowser/Ex-Stewart)
(1) Fishbelly Hopper (Bowser/Ex-Stewart)
(2) PSC Hoppers (Westerfield)
(1) Offset Side Exterior Post Hopper (Atlas Kitbash)
(1) War Emergency Twin Hopper (P2k)

NH (6)
(4) USRA Hopper (MTH)
(2) Pullman-Standard Hopper (Forthcoming F&C?)

NYC  (16)
(6) USRA Hopper (MTH)
(3) USRA Panel Side Hopper (Tichy)
(4) AAR Standard 55-ton Offset Hopper (Kadee)
(2) USRA Design Triple Hopper (Westerfield)
(1) AAR Standard 70-ton Triple Hopper (Accurail, Bowser/Ex-Stewart)

O&W (1)
(1) GLa (Bowser/Old & Weary Car Shops custom run, Westerfield)

P&LE (2)
(1) USRA Hopper (MTH)
(1) USRA Panel Side Hopper (Tichy)
(1) AAR Standard 70-ton Triple Hopper (Accurail, Bowser)

PRR (21)
(4) GL/GLc/Glca (12,000 cars) (F&C, Westerfield)
(6) Gla/GLg (25,000 cars) (Bowser, Westerfield)
(6) H21 (40,000 cars) (Bowser, Westerfield)
(2) H22 (4,500 cars) (Bowser)
(2) H25 (5,300 cars) (F&C, Bowser)
(1) H31 (1,212 cars) (Accurail 2700 series)

RDG (6-7)
(2) HTf - Channel Side Hopper (F&C 1019, 1020)
(1) HTj - USRA Hopper (MTH)
(2-3) HTo/p/r - Fishbelly Hopper (Bowser/Ex-Stewart)
(1) HTs - Composite War Emergency Hopper (F&C 6750)

It's interesting to note that it doesn't appear that an actual model of the 1905 Common Design has been released. I understand why, since the primary difference between the GLa and the Common Design is the cross-ridge angle (45 degrees instead of 30 degrees). And while the 1905 Common Design was purchased in large quantities and many different roads, the GLa remained in larger quantities on the PRR in the post-war era. I plan on just moving the rivet line on the exterior of the car if using the Bowser model, if at all. But, the new F&C N-12g is one variation of the 1905 Common Design. So if I can find decals, I may use that for the CNJ and LV cars as well.

Monday, June 22, 2015


Yep, that's right.  I've actually been down in the basement working.  The first time since August I think.  I've been relaying the yard,  cleaning and organizing the basement,  tried the airbrush on a few things,  and am experimenting with some scenicking.
Here's a sample for now. The water column is new, painted it (and the concrete base) today with the airbrush. More weathering is needed of course. Playing around with the Scenic Express weeds.