Monday, June 14, 2021

USRA Single Sheathed Box Cars

With the recent announcement of USRA Single Sheathed Box Cars from Rapido Trains, I decided to go back over my research on the cars. As always, please let me know if you have additional information/corrections, etc.

The cars are covered in detail in Railway Prototype Cyclopedia Volume 17 and I know there have been other articles in the past, such as Mainline Modeler in July-August 1980. Prototype Railroad Modeling Volume 2 has an extensive article covering Ann Arbor box cars, including the USRA cars.

1950 Rosters

The question, of course, is whether I need these cars (of course I do!), and how many. In terms of the national fleet, these are rare cars by my era. What that means for me is that typically one or fewer would appear in any given operating session.

I find 1950 a good ORER to reference when deciding on whether to purchase models. This is about midway through a significant shift in freight car rosters and my modeling era. Following WWII, the railroads replaced a lot of aging cars, but it took time for new orders to be delivered. Then, in 1953, K-series brakes were outlawed for interchange service which eliminated many of the remaining pre-1920 cars.

There were 25,000 built, fewer than 12,000 remaining in 1950 not including steel rebuilds.

AA 90000-90199 (191)

The Ann Arbor is a small road, but its location in industrial southern Michigan makes it reasonable to assume some cars made it to the NH. 

The USRA single sheathed box cars are the second largest group (191) of box cars on the road comprising 19% of fleet and 26% of box cars. 

It turns out that modeling the Ann Arbor box car fleet for my era has become quite feasible, with one exception. Speedwitch Media produced the 41000-series cars (13% of box cars), 68000-series (7% of box cars) and the 74000-series (19% of box cars) covering 65% of the AA box/auto car fleet. The 73750-series, at 246 cars (33% of box cars), is the largest group on the roster, and the only car not available as far as I know.

Photos show cars received AB Brakes and Miner power brake wheels in the '40s, by my era. Some received, "boots," or patches over the lower section of the side bracing,  and/or grain clips (aka bulge plates) along the lower course of side sheathing. Otherwise they appear to have retained their original appearance. 

Rapido announced them with AB brakes.

ACL 26001-26189 (22)

Relettered from AB&C in 1946, which were relettered from AB&A in 1926. I don't have any photos, so I'm not sure what changes, if any, were made. 

Rapido didn't announce these cars, but they were rebuilt into steel cars (O-28 class) in February, 1952, so they may have had KC brakes until that point. (Thanks Tom C.).

B&O 186999-187499 (421)

I didn't calculate it, since the 421 cars in service in 1950 is a very, very small part of the huge B&O fleet. Westerfield has a model with an updated car with a Hutchins roof. I don't have that kit, so I'm not sure how many received the new roofs. The RPCyc article doesn't mention a replacement roof at all for the B&O cars and I don't see evidence of that in the photos. 

Rapido announced these with KC Brakes. The photos in RPCyc are post-1955, but it's quite possible that many of them never received the upgrade.

C&NW 143700-145698 (even numbers only) (800)

With over 20,000 box cars, the 800 USRA Single Sheathed cars aren't a significant part of the fleet. Most of those are still in service in January, 1953, but only 61 by 1955. I suspect most didn't receive AB brakes. Rapido announced them with KC brakes which seems appropriate.

C&O 1500-1505 (1)

There is a single car left in 1950. Originally numbered in the 600-1500 series, there were 51 cars in 1945, and the 600-1299 series are now listed as hoppers in the 1950 ORER. 

800 cars were rebuilt with steel bodies in 1939. Some were also converted to flat cars from 1943-45. 

The photo in RPCyc of car No. 632 c1938-40 looks like it has a radial roof, which they received when rebuilt. The photo is taken by the Youngstown Steel Door Company, and looks to me like a "before" picture taken just prior to rebuilding. If so, and if that is a radial roof, it received it prior to 1938. I don't have any other photos. 

Rapido announced them with KC brakes. These seems reasonable for the cars that weren't rebuilt as steel box cars.

CC&O 8000-8299 (247)

The Carolina, Clinchfield and Ohio Railway was operated by the Clinchfield Railroad. Photos in RPCyc show cars lettered as CC&O, with one (obviously) re-lettered as CRR, but pictured in 1959. A second photo from the same date and location is still lettered CC&O, and it would appear that in my era they would be lettered with that reporting mark. 
They received AB brakes.

In 1950 there were 247 still in service, accounting for 29% of their box car fleet (about 4% of their total fleet). Three of the four photos in that publication show the cars are stenciled for on line use only. There aren't any notations in the ORER to that effect.

Rapido didn't announce any cars in either scheme.

CNJ 20000-20499 (438)

The ORER conveniently separates out the 4 cars with, "new Carline and Roof." from the other 438 cars (29% of box car fleet) that have the, "original Carline and Roof." Those four had replacement Hutchins roofs.

Rapido is producing them with AB brakes, and I have seen it mentioned that they received AB brakes. But a c1946-8 photo in the RPCyc still has KC brakes after having received an Ajax power hand brake. In addition, the roster dropped from 438 in 1950 to 32 in 1953 so it seems probable that most didn't receive AB brakes, .
Since it doesn't appear Rapido is producing any cars with vertical hand brakes, a little modification will be needed.

D&H 17001-17500 (458)

There were 458 cars left in 1950, about 20% of the box car fleet, and received replacement roofs. Some Viking, some Murphy rectangular panel (and some of those with no flat panels at the end), or a Climax radial roof.

Upon closer inspection of all of the pictures in RPCyc, the cars have z-bar bracing, and not the original hat-section of the USRA cars. They also have a steel plate reinforcement along the bottom fifth of the door, plus an additional stiffener under the door. 
Ted Culotta states in Steam Era Freight Cars Reference Manual Volume One: Box and Automobile Cars that, "many cars received zee bar steel structural sections in place of the original hat section members." They also received AB brakes, Ajax hand brakes, and new top-mounted uncoupling levers. It includes a c1937-9 photo of 17914 with the original bracing, a Viking roof, and AB Brakes and an Ajax handbrake. If the Rapido car is tooled with a separate roof, I'll probably modify the car with a Des Plaines Hobbies Viking roof. Otherwise, I'll probably finish the Westerfield model I started for that conversion.

No. 17309 is located at the Seashore Trolley Museum in Kennebunkport, ME and still has hat-section bracing. It has a new roof, the stiffening channel under the door, and the triangular gussets, but those could be added. It also raises the possibility that others survived with the hat section bracing and other variations of upgrades. 

MEC 36001-36300 (218)

Like the D&H cars, these have non-standard bracing noted as pressed-steel in RPCyc, and z-bar in the ORER. The design of the bracing is different than that of the D&H as well. I do not know if this was the original bracing, or replaced later, nor whether it applies to all of the cars (although it would appear so based on the notation in the ORER). 
They received AB brakes as in the Rapido announcement.

MILW 70000-703999 (2,024)

One of the largest owners of USRA Single Sheathed Box Cars in 1950, with 2,024 on the roster, this only accounts for 6% of their total box car roster. The c1945-7 photo in RPCyc shows it still has a horizontal hand brake. Despite the relatively large number in 1950, by 1953 there were only 4 left, and none in 1955 so I suspect they never received AB brakes and Rapido is producing them with KC brakes.

N&W 40000-40603 (594); 120000-120799 (95)

Although 95 cars in the 120000-series and 594 of the 40000-series remain in 1950 (out of a total box car roster of 8,843), the N&W rebuilt their cars in 1934 with radial roofs. The 40000-series cars had Apex steel running boards, side and end ladders, AB brakes with transversely mounted brake reservoirs, and triangular gussets to either side of the doors.

Due to the radial roof, the Westerfield model would be a better option.

However, in RPCyc is a photo "late in life" of 120364 with no gussets, wood running boards, and what appears to be the original roof. It may still be KC brakes as well. The information in the resources I have is inconclusive and I have no other photos, but I think the 40000-series cars received the radial roofs and other upgrades, while those left in the original series retained their as-built appearance.

NYC 277000-277999; 282000-282999 (361 total)

A meager of 361 cars in the vast NYC fleet. Rapido is releasing them with KC brakes which I believe is correct.

PRR (8,000+ total)

I'm guessing Rapido's recent PRR kick (running out of New Haven projects?) had a lot to do with selecting this car. I haven't listed the road numbers ranges since there are so many. Two of the three door options Rapido is producing were only used on the PRR.

In addition, there are two other doors unique to the X26 class of cars that Rapido isn't doing. The first is a Youngstown door, and the second a carbuilder door (similar to a Creco door). Both have a weld seam down the center because they were made by splicing together parts of two 4' auxiliary doors from X28 class auto cars. 

Many (most? all?) of the cars received Hutchins Dry Lading roofs, and some received boots on the lower (and sometimes upper) portion of the side bracing, and/or side and end ladders. F&C has a series of kits with the Hutchins roof, boots, and AB Brakes with different doors, including the spliced doors. Westerfield also has kits with Hutchins roofs and Creco (really the spliced carbuilder) door, one with a Youngstown door

Additional cars were rebuilt as all steel cars in the X26C class, also available from F&C

There are ~8,000+ in service in 1950 and I don't know how many, if any, still had their original roof in 1950. The Rapido cars will have AB brakes, as photos confirm for my era.

Jerry Britton has a great post about these cars. One of the cars pictured has a Superior door, so there's another option for you.

RF&P 981-1140 (64); 2451-2800 (171)

The Richmond, Fredericksburg & Potomac was a bridge line (like the AA), and originated a very small amount of tonnage. It's a road that probably doesn't need to be represented at all, but then we know that a Litchfield & Madison gondola made it to New Britain. RPCyc Vol 34 has a photo of 2538 in Vancouver c1948-50.

These box cars comprise 36% of the RF&P fleet, and their entire roster of box cars (64 for the 981-series, 171 or the 2451-series). 

However, there is a photo in the November, 1985 issue of Prototype Modeling of car 2598 after being rebuilt as a steel box car in 1939. There is no indication in the ORER of this (the cars are listed as steel underframe, steel frame cars). I checked the 1943 ORER and it's the same. RPCyc has pictures in 1959 and 1960 with the original configuration. I don't know how many cars were rebuilt to steel.

Photos show that they received AB Brakes as Rapido is releasing. 

RDG 5001-5999 (589)

There are 589 cars, plus 76 equipped for auto parts, in 1950 (of 7,602 box cars, or ~9%). Rapido is releasing them with AB brakes which appears to be the only upgrade they received.

SP  26360-27359 (29)

Most of their cars have been re-sheathed with steel. With such a large roster, the 29 remaining cars are almost non-existent, but the ORER thoughtfully identifies the following cars as still being of composite construction: 26368, 26406, 26413, 26489, 26529, 26544, 26670, 26758, 26767, 26775, 26839, 26853, 26959, 26969, 26970, 27011, 27094, 27169, 27222, 27271, 27291, 27314, 27324, 27845, 27350.

Rapido is releasing them with KC brakes and I don't see any evidence they received AB brakes.

In addition to these roads, they could be lettered for several other roads in an earlier era. Rapido didn't announce any cars lettered for these roads.

  • AB&A, relettered for AB&C in 1926.
  • AB&C, relettered for ACL in 1946.
  • CM&StP, relettered for MILW c1928, with the tilted box herald applied starting late '30s.
  • ERIE, resheathed with steel and received radial roofs c1936.
  • GA, rebuilt to all steel single sheathed cars in the late '30s to 1942. Tichy and Speedwitch Media have kits for the rebuilt cars.
  • GR&I, relettered to PRR, not sure what year.
  • LIRR, relettered to PRR c1926-29.
  • MC, relettered to NYC in 1937.
  • NYP&N, relettered to PRR.
  • P&R, relettered to RDG in 1923.
  • PMcK&Y, rebuilt to steel in 1934. Gradually relettered to P&LE in the late '30s. Tichy has a kit for this car.
  • PRR Lines, don't know if they were relettered.
  • WM, some/all (?) received Hutchins roofs, not sure what year. All gone by 1946.
  • WS, to RF&P in 1920.
There were also cars originally lettered GET and US until assigned to a road. All were assigned to other roads by 1920.

The Models

I believe there are a few other options, but three primary models are still currently available for these prototypes aside from the upcoming Rapido car. How do they compare?

Incidentally, the available kits all vary a bit in length, as measured over the end sills. The two Westerfield ones I have are 39'-10" (old, dark grey resin), and 39'-11" or maybe 40' (new light grey resin, I haven't built it yet). The F&C kit is 40'-6", and the Tichy kit is 41'. The prototype was 41'-4.5" so the Tichy model is the closest.

Resin shrinks when curing, so each casting might be slightly different. It will be interesting to see where the Rapido car lands. A discrepancy in length is extremely hard to notice on a layout or in photos, but I measured them specifically because I thought the Tichy car looked too large in comparison to the Westerfield kit. Turns out it was the other way around. But it was enough that I noticed the difference.

Tichy Train Group

I think this was the first of these models produced. Originally by Gould, and occasionally available in a couple of roads RTR from Intermountain, these plastic kits are well done. Overall, the Tichy car is probably the best rendered single sheathed plastic car on the market today. Particularly in the manner in which they addressed the wood sheathing. It appears Rapido will be using a similar approach. 

However, the Tichy car is missing rivets in the strap steel angles at each corner, the lines of rivets down the edge of the ends on each side, and is also missing the attachment bolts for the grab irons. I don't know if such bolts were added to the RTR versions, but I doubt it. It's also missing a striker casting, plus the Carmer uncoupling levers. It's also quite a bit of work (for a plastic kit), because you have to drill for all of the grab irons (although they provide a jig), and add those missing details.


Westerfield has an extensive series of resin kits that covers many of the variations, including the N&W with radial roofs, and B&O, PRR, and WM with Hutchins roofs. These are typical Westerfield quality and quite accurate.

These are from a prior generation of production. The only potential complaint, other than the size discrepancy, is that as an older kit they represent the wood sheathing with scribed sides. The current approach for most resin kits of single sheathed cars is either board-by-board construction, or using texture to delineate individual boards instead of the oversized scribed lines. They look like they were hand-scribed, so it's much better than if it was just Evergreen scribed material. But this is currently the easiest way to model the N&W version with the radial roof.

They are now produced as one-piece bodies, and assemble much like a plastic kit.

Funaro & Camerlengo

F&C produces several variations of the PRR X26, with the replacement Hutchins roof and four of the door variations, including the spliced ones seen on many cars.

Prior to the Rapido announcement, this was the newest of these models to market, and the quality of the detail shows it. The boots added to the bracing is very well done. The side sheathing is modeled using various textures for each board. Although it looks a little heavy on the kit, when painted it looks quite good. Like all recent F&C kits these are one-piece bodies and easy to build.


Is the Rapido car needed? Sure, I'd like to see something that hasn't been done in plastic yet, but is this upgrade warranted? Is it an upgrade?

The Rapido renders show only horizontal ("stemwinder") brake wheels on the models. They announced the three doors, but not any alternate roofs. They have two grab irons on the left side, which is appropriate for my era. Regardless of the installed brake system, They are including parts for the other option in the box so they should be easy to convert if needed. All of the lettering schemes are appropriate for my era.

All of the details that are missing from the Tichy car are present. It also appears that overall it will be a level of accuracy and detail on par with Westerfield, and better in terms of the side sheathing and dimensions. Only some minor modifications may need to be made (replacing the brake wheel, for example). The F&C car is more accurate for the modifications made to many (most?) PRR cars in my era, but it only covers those upgraded Pennsy cars.

So other than the variations on the F&C X26, and the N&W car with a radial roof from Westerfield, I think these are an upgrade and I'm excited to see them produced.

I've already ordered the B&O, CNJ, D&H, NYC, PRR, and RDG. Despite the low number for some of these roads, they are all direct connections with the NH.

In addition, I ordered one for MILW since they had so many, and AA and RF&P because they were such large parts of their fleets, so nine cars. I wouldn't mind a CC&O car too, just because I don't have any cars with that reporting mark. Maybe I'll add an undecorated one and order some decals from Westerfield.

I'll have way more of these cars than I "need." But it also means that when they do show up in an ops session, I'll have options and it won't always be the same car.

Friday, June 11, 2021

Town Meeting on Rails to Trails on CNZR in Enfield

Here's a link to an interesting Council Meeting regarding the proposed construction of a Rails to Trails in Enfield along a portion of the Central New England (CNZR) line. What's clear as the meeting continues is that the town didn't fully understand how a railroad line is regulated, whether it's abandoned or not, and although some information was provided during the course of the meeting, nobody really takes a step back to fully explain it.

There would seem to be several misconceptions on the part of the members of the town council, and the meeting gets derailed pretty quickly and begins to sound like they believe they are able to make a decision as to whether the railroad can operate on that right of way at all.

There was an earlier meeting on April 19, with a news article that followed, and they had done some legwork prior to that to be prepared. They note that they had two meetings with DOT, and feel they have their support, but it seems like they didn't fully understand the viable options. During that first meeting there was quite a bit of talk about the potential new customer and having both the rail line and trail running parallel.

"It's Been Over 25 Years..."

First, it appears they have been working on this project for around 25 years, with the anticipation that they would be able to declare the line abandoned and acquire it for a trail. Based on the earlier video and the news article, this appears to be because they believe the use of that section of track to be dependent on the extension of the lease to CNZR.

They also seem to view the portion of the line that hasn't been used for over 25 years as independent of the currently operational track. That is, they don't seem to realize that the State lease of the right of way is of the entire line, regardless of how much of that line is in use. In other words, it's all an active line, regardless of the fact that a portion of it has not seen traffic in several decades.

There is a specific question, "why did this railroad go dormant for over 25 years?" And similar statements/questions continue to come up, making it clear that this point is not fully grasped.

The railroad itself consists of all of the right of way. They utilize only the right of way that's needed at a particular time, and for several decades they haven't had any customers in this section of the railroad. They have several potential new customers, so they are refurbishing, rebuilding, and upgrading that portion of the right of way. The time that a portion of the line is used, or not, doesn't have anything to do with the land being a railroad right of way.

This Isn't About Whether the Railroad Can Run Here...

They have questions about safety, traffic levels, traffic patterns, etc., and whether the DOT can regulate what/when things can be transported. But this isn't a question of whether rail service can be instituted. It's an existing railroad, using existing right of way. There isn't any decisions to be made with regards to any of these. There isn't really any debate here, although they seem to think there is (or should be). The decisions with regards to whether the railroad can operate here, under the current federal regulations, was made over 150 years ago.

There's a bit of questioning about the condition of the right of way, and one bridge in particular. This is also tied into whether any tax dollars are spent on it. The State owns the right of way, but the railroad covers the cost of maintenance and operation (and pays the state a portion of their revenue, presumably in addition to the lease itself). The exception would be major repairs to bridges and the like.

This makes sense. The bridges have been around for decades, and are owned by the State. They are inspected annually, with a new load rating every three years. The railroad is responsible for any of the running repairs required by those inspections, which means that the State/tax dollars only comes into play when the bridge has reached the end of its safe use and needs major repairs or replacement, just like other infrastructure.

Overall, it appears (at least some of) the Council seems to think that the continuation of the railroad is up for debate in this line. That the town should be involved, with public hearings, etc..

The Rights of Way are Established by Federal Law

The reality is, the railroads exist under federal law/regulation and the laws that established the rights of way, were implemented more than 150 years ago.

On existing rights of way, the railroad doesn't need to do anything in regards to studies, public hearings, EPA/DEEP consultations, etc. The railroad is simply repairing its infrastructure and putting it back in service. Other than meeting the current federal and state safety standards to operate, no other consideration is required. There are some exceptions to this from what I understand, but in this case those don't apply.

It's Hard to Abandon a Rail Line

So the town's options are either to build the trail alongside the right of way, or try to force the abandonment of the railroad. For an interesting read on how hard that is to accomplish, here's an article regarding another line that was not only, "abandoned," but had the track removed for years.

Historically, it hasn't been uncommon for a railroad to attempt to abandon a line or portion of a line, especially back in the days when the railroad paid taxes on its infrastructure. The FRA/STB have forced railroads not only to keep lines open, but continue to operate them, even at a loss as happened with the New Haven Railroad and the Old Colony lines for years. I'm not sure how common it is for a town to attempt to force a line to be abandoned like this, but let's consider why it's very, very hard to do.

Here's the process if you're interested.

A town like Enfield has its desire to build a trail, maintain a more rural section of town, and as the town has grown they have viewed the areas around the inactive portion of the line as abandoned, and therefore a good place to expand. But the railroads exist beyond the borders of a town, and also play an important part in our freight (and passenger) service. The federal government recognized a long time ago that allowing towns or states to decide when and where a railroad could operate would be unsustainable. As I noted, it also had an interest in ensuring the carriers didn't abandon lines simply because they weren't as profitable either. Although the need and usage of the railroads have changed in the last century, when they were first built they were the primary infrastructure that connected towns and great distances.

We don't need all of that infrastructure any more, but it's still something that needs to be addressed from a much bigger picture than from the perspective of a single town. Our rail infrastructure has been shrinking, and I think (hope) the FRA/SRB believes that the remaining lines are of value, even if there isn't significant use right now.

In addition, there are legal issues regarding the rights of the carriers themselves, the property (right of way) that is owned by the railroads or the states, etc. Although the right of way runs through Enfield, the town is mistaken in believing that they have the right to determine the use of that property. 

Their desire to have public hearings, avoid any State taxes to be used, to require certain levels of performance, etc. is misguided, if understandable. For over 150 years that land has been designated as part of the nationwide rail infrastructure, with the intention of utilizing that for rail service. 

Here's something else the town should know but probably doesn't - the federal approval for use as a rail trail is potentially temporary. More here. That's right, the right of way remains allocated for a railroad, and is mentioned in the process of a rail line being abandoned. While I think it's unlikely that many, if any, of these rights of way will be reinstated for rail service, since 1983 most (if not all) of the abandoned rail lines could be required to be converted back to active rail service.

If it’s not railbanked, it can be even more complicated because the town may not be able to acquire all of the right of way, as adjacent landowners may have a claim to the land.

Renewed Activity at CNZR

Here's a video of some of the activity on the line, completely rebuilding portions of the line.

CNZR has two separate ex-New Haven lines, the Griffins Line, and a portion of the Armory Line. Until mid-last year, the Griffins Line had a single customer, a Home Depot distribution center. A new distribution center, served by CSOR, has been built, and the existing one is being renovated/repurposed. My understanding is that it will still be served by rail, but it could be a year or two. So the Griffins Line is not operational at this time.

The Armory Line has been in service for one primary customer, although I believe they may have two. Since the Griffins Line is not operational, the railroad has started rebuilding the Armory Line in the section in question in these videos. I have heard that one or more new customers may be coming on line, which is part of the reason for rebuilding. It also has the benefit of keeping the crews employed after the Griffins Line became inactive.

The first meeting has quite a bit of discussion about the economical, business, and reduced trucking as a benefit of the rail line remaining. But there are still questions about subsidies, and, "establishing," the rail line. In the first meeting they are informed that even if the state DOT decides they don't want to maintain the line, that the decision is made by the federal government. It's interesting because in the first meeting it does seem like there is a bit of a focus on, "do we want the freight line," and there are references to it, "being abandoned," but not a clear understanding that it's really not a decision they can make.

Enfield Probably Needs to Alter Their Plan

This is a situation where the Council simply didn't seem to have the relevant information. Although it appears this caught them by surprise, this isn't a situation they are likely to change. At least I don't think so. Or perhaps they hope that they will have more influence than I think is likely.

In particular, the, "hope that the DOT will walk that line," makes it seem that they haven't fully grasped that the DOT has no authority to decide if the line will be used or not. There really isn't any debate as to whether CNZR can use the line. The state can decide, by virtue of their lease, which carrier has the right to use the line. But they cannot decide to abandon the line, nor would that alter the current direction to rebuild the portion of the line in question, since there are apparently customers who have requested service. The questions regarding the, "bid process," along with town and public involvement shows that this is also not grasped.

As common carriers, the railroads have a, "legal obligation to serve customers on reasonable request," as noted in the article above. That is, with a new customer that desires to be served by rail in Enfield, CNZR is required by law to serve them, which means refurbishing the line to current federal and state requirements so they can meet that requirement.

With a portion of the line that has been active for decades, and customers requesting access on the currently inactive portion of the line, the SRB will certainly not consider abandonment. And the fact that it's been over 25 years is a perfect example as to why the SRB makes it very difficult to abandon a rail line. 

A risk is that the lease is not renewed, but the SRB doesn't approve abandoning the line. In that case, a new carrier would need to be found, unless CNZR was still a possibility.

It does highlight that town governments may not fully understand the fact that these rights of way are, for all practical purposes, federal land. This caused a lot of controversy in the 1800s as the railroads were being built, and will continue to do so today. It does seem like they'll have support for the use of the right of way for a trail alongside the rail line, but I think it's not likely that they will be able to abandon the line.

Of course, this is complicated, and it's quite possible my interpretation of the laws and regulations are off. I'm sure there are others that have a much better understanding -  feel free to fill me in!

Anyway, I found this fascinating, and I'd love to see a trail along the track. 

Wednesday, June 9, 2021

Organizing - Paints

 One of the things that's often forgotten in layout design is storage. Yes, most have storage under the layout, but good storage requires some thought and design. I'm used to this since we live in a fairly small house, but once you start filling the basement with a layout you also eliminate a lot of potential storage.

In addition to below the layout, there is also useable space on the walls above staging. It's also conveniently well lit, and is perfect for small items like paint.

Since I had previously determined that storing Vallejo paints upside down was not a good approach, I picked up some shelves designed for nail polish:

They were inexpensive, and since they are relatively deep they fit a number of different types of paint bottles. They are also deep enough to fit two Vallejo/AK Interactive/MIG 17 ml bottles, so when I'm running low and order a fresh bottle of a color there is room for that without taking more horizontal space.

The next question was what order should I store them. If you're not familiar with Vallejo, AK Interactive, or similar paints, each is assigned a number. For example, 70.819 is Iraqi Sand, and 70.822 is German C(amouflage) Black Brown. The colors aren't numbered in a color order. In other words, there isn't a block that is all greens. I could organize them by colors, but I decided numerically will work best because I note the number in my lists for mixing formulas, or which color I used for a particular project. So it will be easier to find that way. In addition, it's easier for quickly checking if I have a particular color.

I didn't want all of the paint stored at the desk itself, primarily for appearances since it's the Agent's desk too.

I'll need more shelves. I could easily fit a middle row, but for now wanted the space for taller bottles. Now that I've tested them, I'll get enough for the entire wall. I'm estimating that with two rows I'll be able to fit about 344 bottles of paint. A third row would add another 172, but I don't think I'll need that...yet.

Monday, June 7, 2021

More Flat Car Stuff

I've actually been working on other things besides flat cars, or at least working on working on other things such as getting prepped for installing the layout lighting. (It's gotten more complicated than anticipated. Which I should have anticipated).

But I have found a few other prototypes that would be easy to make from the Tichy car. 

NYO&W built fifteen 39' foot, 40-ton flat cars in 1911, which looks like the deeper center sill.

Here's an obscure one - LOP&G RR - the Live Oak, Perry & Gulf Railroad received 30-ton flat cars in 1914. It has the shallower center sill. 

The US Navy also received some 30-ton flat cars in 1914, and were 35'6" over the end sills. 

What I find interesting is that these were built in the same year, both by Magor, but the Navy cars had straight center sills of 15" steel channel (the side sills were 12" channel) and the LOP&G car had 10" channel side sills with a fishbelly underframe. 

The Seaboard F-5 46000-46931 class is another one, I don't have a photo available for that class, though.

There were a whole bunch of truss rod flat cars that could also be done that I haven't really explored as none would be in service in my era. 

These are also 50'-52' flat cars that resemble extended versions of the Tichy model. Jason Hill has some photos of a couple of kitbashes he's been working on with for SP 50'-ish flat cars, including the F-50-10,-11, -12 and -13 classes, and the F-50-14. He hasn't covered how he made the models yet, but his modeling is excellent so I'll be keeping an eye on that as another potential project.

More Flat Car Decks

Weathering flat car decks has turned out to be something very easy to do with 5-10 minutes of free time here or there. So I've continued to experiment with different mediums. The techniques are pretty much the same as what I've been doing, although the order often varies. In many cases this is because I get to a point, don't like what I see yet, so just keep adding more layers.

I did several Proto 2000 50-ton AAR Flat Cars:

I continue to make a point to take a picture when I complete each step with the materials I used so I can go back to them if I'd like. For something like this it's an imprecise process, so this isn't a "one drop of this, three of that" thing.

Here are the three P2k cars along with the original two experimental decks outside:

The three P2k decks, also outside:

Although I used a different number of steps, and different colors for these, the general approach was the same, and the final effect is quite similar for all of them. On one hand I'd like a bit more variation, but the reality is that only a few flat cars will be on the layout at a given time, and typically not side-by-side, so I don't think it will be that noticeable.

I'm also still on the fence about how much I should distress the decks. Based on photos from the era, it seems that the railroads maintained them better than they did in later years. I also have very, very few color photos from my era. The bottom line is, I'm still undecided on how much I think these decks should vary. They do look more uniform in the photos than in person.

Wood Decks

I've also weathered a laser cut wood deck. This is for a Chad Boas kit for an L&N flat car. This kit consists only of the main casting, the laser cut deck, and a piece of paper with few sentences on how to build it, in this case with Tichy stake pockets. I'm not aware of any decals for these, however. In the many levels of resin kits available, this is as basic as it gets. Having said that, they are very workable castings for prototypes you otherwise cannot get. So I have quite a few of Chad's castings and would recommend them.

I used the scalpel to rough things up and dig out some chunks, and started with washes of the Tamiya Panel Line Accent Color. The basic process is really one of staining rather than painting. I did also use the Vallejo Black Wash (75.518). I found that sandwiching the deck between two kit boxes while wet was sufficient to keep it flat.

Here's the deck in progress between the two original tests I did to compare:

The main difference is that when it looked like things were a bit dark, I sanded the deck using variable pressure so it wasn't uniform, but overall quite lightly. I repeated this process, staining, sanding, distressing, until it's gotten to this point:

The staining/sanding approach worked out a lot of the natural brown tone of the wood, which I like. The look is subtly different than the other approach. Because the wash works more as a stain, the grain (from the scalpel) is more visible. It's also easier to distress than the plastic.

The only real "challenge" with working with wood is that it does have a variable reaction to the stain. For example, where I had dug into the deck, the inner (or lower? Might by a plywood) layer didn't accept the stain much at all. As the wash dried, I added more to it several times to overcome the reddish-brown that was showing through in those large gashes.

There are also often sections or grain that is harder than the surrounding wood and doesn't accept the stain well. The imperfection spans several "boards" because the deck is a single piece, and partially cut to look like separate boards. You can see two diagonal lines across several of the boards. I was able to address most of the places this was evident with distressing, sanding, etc. But not entirely. Imperfections are good, because that's normal, but these look unnatural the way to cut across several boards, especially as two parallel lines. In the photos above you can pick up a "U" shaped imperfection as well.

The picture is a little blurry because I had to take it at an angle to accentuate the effect. I think it is more pronounced in person because it's not just that they didn't accept the stain as well, but they reflect the light differently. Picky perhaps, but it's noticeable to me and I'll try to minimize the issue.

I can't say that I really prefer working with one over the other as I've been quite happy with the finished effect in either case. They just require a slightly different approach.

Friday, June 4, 2021

Commodities - Road Salt and Chlorine

One of the "industries" to receive cars in New Britain is the Town of New Britain itself. The track is often labeled as New Britain Water Works on older maps.

I don't have any pictures that give me any information in regards to what might have been received here. Aerial photos from 1934 and 1951 are inconclusive, although it doesn't appear there is anything in regards to structures or tanks.

Broadway Limited chlorine tank car models on the Town of New Britain track.

My thoughts were that it functioned much like a bulk/team track, where the town would receive shipment of bulk goods, such as chlorine for treating the water and road salt for the winters.

Road Salt

In Jeff's Wilson's Industries Along the Tracks 4, there's a chapter on salt. I had already learned that NY state was a significant supplier of salt during the era. I figured that road salt would be a good choice for servicing the town side track. But Jeff indicates that the widespread use of road salt didn't begin until after WWII.

I found this report that confirms this. So salt isn't likely, but what I didn't know is that sand and cinders were used to provide traction, prior to the widespread adoption of salt. 


I was also able to find some information regarding the use of chlorine in city water. This was widely used by my era, and the volume of chlorine that would be needed for a small city of 75,000 people would certainly make delivery by rail a possibility if not likely. I haven't been able to find definitive information that the chlorine used in city water treatment would have shipped in tank cars, but that's my current guess.

What's not clear is how the town would have received the chlorine if it's coming in tank cars. Since this track is often labeled as New Britain Water Works, I'll go with the idea that there is some sort of unloading pipe. It's also possible that if they did receive chlorine by tank car that they unloaded them directly into trucks.


While it would be nice to find some definitive information as to what was received on this track, in this era sand, cinders, chlorine, and also shipments of asphalt, crushed stone, gravel or cement would all be reasonable bulk shipments to a large town or small city. In Jeff's book there's a picture of a gondola being unloaded by hand into dump trucks at a bulk/team track. That's a lot of shoveling.

Many towns might just receive such goods at the bulk/team tracks. But for a small city like New Britain, shipments must have been fairly regular and having their own track makes sense.

Wednesday, June 2, 2021

Weathering Experiments - Oils

I stopped by the local Blick's for some supplies and picked up a tube of Winton Burnt Umber oil paint since I've never used oil paints before. Wow, what a pleasure to work with. 

Because they are so slow in drying, you can continue to make adjustments for hours (literally). Too heavy? A bit of mineral spirits and you can brush it off. It lets you work over a wider area to ensure that you like the way it looks as a whole. 

The pictures themselves only tell a very small part of the story - that I like the final results I can get.

I painted over this entire side with un-thinned paint, then wiped it off with a paper towel to fill in the lines and also leave a slight layer of "dirt" on the entire side. You can see the un-weathered section to the left for comparison.

I also used a slightly damp brush from top to bottom to spread the dirt.

I did a lot of experimenting along the side sill. Mostly to get a feel for working with the medium. While the finished result isn't all that different from this post, or this one, it was the process that was different. Because I could rework it I had a lot more control over where the paint would go. I had started very heavy, then brought it way down. 

This is with a (very) light dusting of Vallejo pigments. So the pictures show that I can get similar results with these as I have with acrylics (no real surprise there, as it's still just using paints).

These aren't intended to be finished, I just wanted to see how working with oils really was (for some reason it seemed intimidating to me or for "advanced" modelers only). The reality is, its the most forgiving approach I've used to date. It won't be the only technique I use, but I can see myself using it on most weathering jobs.

Especially where I'll be adding details using only paint. It's easy to use an acrylic or enamel filter to dirty up the side, or a wash to add the dirt around rivets or in the crevices, etc. I did like the way this flowed in that process, and the ease of removing it when not happy with the results. But for details like rust spots on a car side for example, where you aren't using a physical aspect of the model as a guide for the paint, using oils lets you experiment without any concern because if it doesn't come out how you like it, you can remove it entirely - hours later.

When weathering the flat car decks and the RS-2, the process was largely "random." Using washes, filters, drybrushing and some blending. But the finished weathering is directed, but imprecise, taking advantage of the way the paint flows around the details, things like the way water as a thinner causes the paint to dry in different ways than a flow improver or solvent, etc.

But there have been times, like the RS-2, where that approach wasn't entirely satisfactory to me. Where I'd like to be able to precisely paint what I'd like. And also remove what I don't like. Although that can be done with any type of paint, the removal process is much harder with acrylics because they dry very quickly.

Since I have an extra RS-2 cab, I did some more experimentation. Note that the paint I'm using on my palette is the same that I started with yesterday. It's still workable.

Here's a heavy application. Something that would be tricky with acrylics or even enamels.

Using mineral spirits to spread and thin it more into a filter.

Another view. Very streaky at this point.

After more working, particularly with a dry brush that is removing and blending the color.

I also used a paper towel to stipple the color while removing it.

I wanted more around the louvres and doors, so adding more.

Then using the dry brush to shape, remove, and blend.

This looks much closer to what I was trying to achieve on the completed models. The photos in my era show the RS-2s are quite clean, so I just wanted some subtle emphasis around the doors and rivets, and where dirt might collect. Definitely an approach I will be using for weathering locomotives in the future. 

I did the other side with Tamiya Panel Line Accent Color (Dark Gray).

The effect was good, especially between the doors and on the louvers. It was much harder to control, otherwise, since it's a wash. A mix of techniques and mediums seems to be best, which isn't a surprise.

For reference, here's what my completed RS-2 looks like - and the effect is a bit heavier in person than in photos:

I certainly wouldn't consider it "bad" weathering. Especially for the first locomotive that I've ever weathered. But I think I definitely could have done better if I had used oils at the time. I also hadn't discovered how differently the washes/filters work with tap water (which is what I used) and other thinning options. So it's always a learning process, and I highly recommend learning new techniques and using new materials, just so you have more options to find the best approach for a specific project.