Several weeks ago, my wife & I made a trip to Columbus. One of the stops was at The Train Station, one of the nicest "all train" shops I've ever visited. They primarily concentrate on HO scale but do have a limited selection of other scale items as well. Their selection includes a large variety of new RTR cars, building kits, scenery details, detail parts, some scratch building supplies and a wide array of model railroad books. It is a must stop when we are in the Columbus and a perfect place for you to "...help out the local economy."
Perhaps it is a sign of the times, but during this past visit, I noticed several tray-type boxes full of used model railroad equipment. Either someone decided to simply get out of the hobby or things were really tough and they were forced to downsize & liquidate a part of... or maybe all of their model railroad collection.
The four cars that I found were really nice Accurail cars marked at only $4 each! They have metal ends and wooden doors so they probably represent cars built in the late 1920s-early 1930s. They were assembled with metal wheelsets as well. All I had to do was to add Kadee couplers and they were ready for my layout. No matter how you slice it, this was one heck of a deal as these cars are probably $10-$12 each when they are brand new. Metal wheels would cost even more.
The cars are a little old for my layout era although they still fit. I can remember seeing some wooden cars in Bluffton, Ohio, when I went to college there in the early 1970s. They were certainly on their way out but could still be seen from time to time. I'm sure that they were even more common back in the middle 1950s, the time era I like to model.
There were other cars there in the used items for sale that I passed up but I was grateful for the ones I did find. I hope that whoever had to sell off part of their collection got what they wanted for everything; I sure found a real bargain.
Today is Thanksgiving! What a special day, especially for Janet & me. She has been through a lot this past year but we think that the worst is behind us and from all indications, things appear to be "on the right track."
I knew that somehow, I'd mention Janet's continuing recovery in this column, but I didn't know what else I would include. But then I got to thinking about how Thanksgiving relates to our hobby. No, I'm not talking about being thankful for all of the things that we have in our particular scale for our particular railroad. But think about it... How many other people in other nations even have the means to have a hobby? We are so blessed to be able to earn a living and still (most of the time) have a little left over for our favorite past time. That is really amazing when you think about it.
Most of our model railroad stuff comes from the Far East, particularly China. But most of the people who make the stuff for us can't afford it themselves. Even if they could, they don't have much space in their cramped houses for even a modest display. So we do have it pretty well right here in the good old US of A. So today when you sit down at the table and eat a meal celebrating this Thanksgiving, stop and reflect for a moment on how good things really are here. And should you be so inclined, thank God for the opportunity He has given you in this abundant land we call home.
Happy Thanksgiving everyone!
A little known bit of railroad history even if you didn't work for the rail road this story has an interest for all!
Read to the end! Train Station Watches Were Just the Beginning
If you were in the market for a watch in1880, would you know where
to get one? You would go to a store, right? Well, of course you
could do that, but if you wanted one that was cheaper and a bit
better than most of the store watches, you went to the train
station! Sound a bit funny? Well, for about 500 towns across the
northern United States , that's where the best watches were found.
Why were the best watches found at the train station? The railroad
company wasn't selling the watches, not at all. The telegraph
operator was. Most of the time the telegraph operator was located
in the railroad station because the telegraph lines followed the
railroad tracks from town to town. It was usually the shortest
distance and the right-of-ways had already been secured for the
Most of the station agents were also skilled telegraph operators
and that was the primary way that they communicated with the
railroad. They would know when trains left the previous station
and when they were due at their next station. And it was the
telegraph operator who had the watches. As a matter of fact they
sold more of them than almost all the stores combined for a period
of about 9 years.
This was all arranged by "Richard", who was a telegraph operator
himself. He was on duty in the North Redwood, Minnesota train
station one day when a load of watches arrived from the east. It
was a huge crate of pocket watches. No one ever came to claim
So Richard sent a telegram to the manufacturer and asked them what
they wanted to do with the watches. The manufacturer didn't want
to pay the freight back, so they wired Richard to see if he could
sell them. So Richard did. He sent a wire to every agent in the
system asking them if they wanted a cheap, but good, pocket watch.
He sold the entire case in less than two days and at a handsome
That started it all. He ordered more watches from the watch
company and encouraged the telegraph operators to set up a display
case in the station offering high quality watches for a cheap
price to all the travelers. It worked! It didn't take long for the
word to spread and, before long, people other than travelers came
to the train station to buy watches.
Richard became so busy that he had to hire a professional watch
maker to help him with the orders. That was Alvah. And the rest,
as they say, is history.
The business took off and soon expanded to many other lines of dry
Richard and Alvah left the train station and moved their company
to Chicago -- and it's still there.
IT'S A LITTLE KNOWN FACT
that for a while in the1880's, the biggest watch retailer in the
country was at the train station.
It all started with a telegraph operator:
Richard Sears and his partner Alvah Roebuck!
Until next time...
For many modelers, the first thing that they have to do when they remove that brand new locomotive or piece of rolling stock from the box is to "dirty it up" to make it look "real." Well, while most new equipment gets dirty in a hurry and the only time it ever sees a new coat of paint is after either a name change or a major shopping, there are circumstances when one can leave that new addition just as shiny as can be.
Everything is new at some point in its life so there's nothing wrong with a few new pieces on your layout. As seen here, the two BNSF units appear to be brand new, on their way to their new assignment on the Burlington Northern/Santa Fe. While most cars that one sees along the lines are indeed covered with varying layers of dirt, grime, diesel exhaust and faded paint, from time to time, a few new pieces mixed in will look right at home.
Keep in mind that even passenger equipment can quickly show its age. While the railroads were pretty particular about their name trains, those that were rolling on branch lines or were primarily commuter trains in nature didn't see the wash racks or the paint shop nearly as often as their more important siblings. So when you can't wait to get that model dirtied up, keep in mind that some things look perfectly normal in their new, original, shiny coat of paint.
A long time ago, someone sent me a photo of a Wheeling & Lake Erie freight car with this unusual vertical ribbed end. It's called a Vulcan end. At the time, my friend Gary Straub & I decided that this wouldn't be all that hard to duplicate using a piece of Evergreen ribbed styrene. I believe the original had eight ribs; the siding I bought for the car had the same number in the same width so it should be easy.
The original car is an old Train Miniature product. TMI was a very innovative company who might have been slightly ahead of their time in terms of freight car production. As far as I know, they were the first company to use interchangeable mold pieces to make cars with different sides, roofs, ends and doors. But things didn't go well for them and the line was eventually bought by Walthers.
It was fairly simple to use an Xacto chisel blade and remove most of the end of the car details. From there, a sanding block removed the rest and I was left with a very smooth car end. Next, I cut the ribbed siding to the proper width then made two blanks for the ends. The car's roof has a bit of a peak to it so the blanks were trimmed to fit. I put them in place and marked the bottom with a pencil and cut them off. It took a wee bit of filing to get them the same length but that was simple enough. I glued the pieces in place using plenty of solvent type plastic cement, clamped the ends securely and let them set overnight to cure.
It didn't take much work after that with a file to get the ends perfectly flush with the bottom of the car. The only thing remaining on the new car end piece was the taper at the end of each rib. The bottom was easy enough to sand by simply holding the car at a shallow angle and sanding on my trusty sanding block. The tops I had to do by hand and they took a little longer and were a bit more tedious. If I had it to do all over again, I would have sanded those tapers before attaching the new ends to the car. Live and learn.
From the proverbial scrap box, I found some ladder stock and added end ladders as needed. I didn't have any grab irons so cheated a bit by cutting off a small section of ladder stock and using that for the two grabs on each end of the car. The scrap box also produced an old brake wheel and I had plenty of wire laying around to form the brake shaft from then glued them into place using a drop of CA cement. The platform was another scrap of plastic from the scrap box and the modifications were complete. The original car had tack boards on the ends; I don't know if I'll add them or not at a later time.
The only other change I made to the car was to remove the claws on the bottoms of the doors. They were pretty big since the doors actually opened and closed. Besides, they drove my friend Ray nuts! Can't have Ray in a bad mood, so off they went. A couple of coats of paint and the car is now ready for decals then will join my freight car fleet. It will certainly be different than the others on my layout; as far as I know, no one makes a commercial kit with this kind of car end.
Gary passed away several years ago and obviously never got to see the finished car. But each time I see that car, I'll think of him. Gary was a great guy and is missed by all of us.
Not sure what happened to the text for this post; I have been having some troubles with the software since updating to IE9.
Having said that, this boxcar is one of my most recent additions to the layout. It is a "turtle top" boxcar for the Pennsylvania Railroad that is manufactured by Bowser. The car gets its name from the unusual shape of the roof which actually looks like an add-on part. It sort of reminds me of the van conversion tops from several years ago. It appears as though someone just cut off the old roof and added this newer, taller one in its place to make room for slightly larger freight shipments. The car is certainly unique looking and blends in well with my primarily NKP dominated freight car fleet.
Bowser kits are pretty straightforward in their assembly. The kit features the normal floor casting, weight, frame, body shell, trucks, couplers and other small details. Assembly is straightforward and only takes about 20-30 minutes to complete. The marge brake details are glued to the floor, the trucks & couplers are attached to the floor casting with small 2x56 screws and the weight is added in a similar manner. External details such as the brake wheel & roofwalk are easily glued in place. The car did feature different door castings that are to be glued to the car body casting. As I said, assembly is simple & pretty much straight forward.
On a personal note, I do like smaller cars on my layout. As I have said before many times; the smaller, shorter cars in a train makes the train much longer looking. So aside from some passenger cars, the longest cars on my layout are 50-footers. Simple steps like thsee make things seem bigger than they really are.
Sorry about the text loss... :( Thanks to my friend Mel for letting me know.
You know how much I enjoy kitbashing most anything. Doesn't matter if it's a building or a freight car, if it needs cut up & glued back together, I'm on it right away. So I was interested when my friend Paul sent me a copy of an article about this heavy-duty well car.
As the name implies, the center of the car is a "well" to allow for larger or taller loads to drop down below the car's deck. A well car can have a floor that is 2-3 feet below the normal car deck and this can make a difference in whether or not a taller load can be handled.
The original car plan called for two of the Athearn HD flat cars. But the article was several years old and those cars aren't readily available today in kit form. While I don't mind cutting & hacking away on a kit, I really do hate to take a car that someone else has already assembled and try to take it apart w/o damage just to cut it up. So I decided to look around for a little different solution.
I decided that if I cut the one car kit that I did have in two equal pieces, I could simply extend the sides and stretch the car that way. So I went to work with my razor saw & soon had the frame cut. Next, I removed the material back to the first set of cross braces then removed the braces themselves to open up the car's bottom. A little filing here & there and I had things pretty much the way I wanted them.
Next, I cut the deck back and luckily saved the middle piece. It was an afterthought to add that at the bottom of the car for the floor but it does help the overall appearance of the finished model.
I needed to cut the new car sides from sheet styrene but needed a template to cut them from. Enter my computer & scanner! I scanned the car side then squared it up. Next, I copied and mirrored the image so that I had a left & right side. Finally, I determined the proper length of the car sides and electronically joined the two images to create a new car side. At that point, it was simple to electronically trace around the new piece, print it on label paper, attach it to the plastic stock then cut it out. A little more filing and I was good to go.
It was time to glue everything together and see what this beast would look like. I glued both sides to the frames making sure to keep them straight, square & flat. To do the flat part, I did it upside down on a piece of glass. That worked very well. After each glue joint was made, I held it in place for a couple of minutes with some spring loaded clamps. Next came the floor piece then some sill caps cut to length for the top of the new sides. One other small piece of plastic stock on each side of the floor and the gluing was finished. Leave it alone and let the glue cure.
The next day, I made sure that the top of the frame was smooth by using a sanding block on it. Watch the paint; when it disappears, stop sanding and move somewhere else. Next, I added the car weights then carefully glued the two top piece in place. Again, I applied the clamps and let it sit. The construction portion of the car was done except for the trucks, couplers & brake wheels.
As yo can see, painting created a bit of a problem. I'm not sure why but it appears as though the paint attacked the plastic on both the car and the extra pieces I created for the modifications. I've used this paint previously on the same kind of plastic so I don't know what happened. The car will be salvageable though. I had hoped to make it a nicer, newer looking piece of rolling stock but I think the paint crazing will pretty much necessitate a much older looking, heavily weathered offering. I'll put together some decals then weather the car heavily to cover up the paint problems.
Sorry about the way this looks here at the end of the post, something is messed up with the blog software and I can't figure out what. :(
In my last post, I mentioned our trip to Columbus and The Train Station. In addition to the old, used cars I found, they had a nice selection of Accurail kits as well. I picked up a couple including this dandy Nickel Plate single sheathed wooden boxcar. As you can see from the photo, it has metal doors & ends, making it a little newer in style than the typical wooden car. If I'm not mistaken, the car number appears to put it into a class of war emergency cars that were built during WWII when steel was in short supply. These cars were later rebuilt into steel sided cars with wider, 8' doors.
Kit assembly for a car like this one is pretty much straight forward. Brake components are attached to the floor as three separate castings; the triple valve, brake cylinder & air tank. The main elements of the frame are attached to the floor as well. Couplers are installed with a small screw and a cover plate. For what it's worth, I've never had much luck with the Accurail coupler; I substitute Kadee #5s in place of the kit supplied ones. Trucks also attache with either a screw or a friction pin depending on the age of the kit. The weight needs to be glued to the floor to complete that subassembly. Details on the car body are sparse; the modeler only has to add the brake shaft and brake wheel. Finally, the body is attached to the floor. The body id cast slightly concave along the sides and there are small friction tabs on the inside car walls to hold the car floor in place without any glue. One word of caution: care must be taken when putting the body on the floor; the stirrup castings are very fragile and break easily. Don't ask me how I know this.
All in all, the car is a sharp model that is relatively easy to assemble. One could knock out a couple of these in a very leisurely time. Your efforts will be rewarded with a neat addition to your freight car fleet.
This is a short one... watch the video below; it tells of how a period locomotive was built for the filming of a TV series about the building of the Transcontinental Railroad. Fascinating stuff... and be sure to check local listings for the show which I believe starts Sunday evening at 10:00pm on AMC.
Until next time...