Friday, January 5, 2018

Steve Mahan's Pacific Coast Lines

The February 2018 issue of Model Railroader has major coverage of Steve Mahan's 42 foot by 57 foot HO scale layout in Rancho Cucamonga, CA. The article is by Eric White with photos by Steve Crise.


Steve's layout has never been on one of the Model Railroads of Southern California layout tours. I had Steve scheduled for Tour #9 (February 2008) but he had to withdraw.


I did operate on his layout once and it was a very good experience. Things ran well and there was a good flow to the session. I placed over twenty pictures of scenes which I took in 2008 and 2009 on my Model Railroads of Southern California group:



Pictures of citrus modeling scenes appear on my Railroad Citrus Modeling Group group here:



This is a beautiful layout so be sure and see it on MR.


Bob Chaparro

Thursday, December 14, 2017

Boxcar Weathering Project

This is another weathering project where I used a tool for the first time.


The project started with an Athearn HO scale Hi-Cube boxcar. After painting the truck frames and wheel faces I sprayed the body with a flat finish. I then applied some Tamiya masking tape over the car initials and numbers. This tape comes in several sizes that are the right sizes for various HO scale car numbers and initials.


The next step was to weather the roof with rust spots. For an applicator I used, for the first time, a piece of an aquarium fish tank sponge filter. The filter came through Amazon and measured 13" x 5" x 1.5". This will produce a lot of applicators.


The technique I used was to paint just a little rust color on the applicator with a brush, being careful not to completely cover the surface of the applicator. I then tested the rust pattern on some white paper. When I was satisfied that there was just the right amount of paint on the applicator I hit the roof randomly, repeating when I needed more "rust".


I painted additional rust along the center of the car roof with a brush and sprinkled on some rust colored weathering powders. The sides of the car were treated with just the applicator. I finished the weathering with several shades of weathering powders applied with a makeup brush.


I am satisfied that the sponge filter applicator is good tool for rendering rust spots and probably will use it many more times. The rust spots could have been streaked if I had immediately gone over them by dragging a brush in a downward motion but I chose not to do that this first time. Maybe next time.

Sunday, November 19, 2017

Another Painting Jig

Here are photos of another painting jig. These are from a video by Ron Marsh of Ron's Trains N Things.


The jig consists of a block of wood and two bamboo skewer segments. The skewers are placed in holes drilled to the same spacing of the bolster screw holes in the model to be painted. The block of wood needs to be fairly wide to provide stability when spaying paint from an airbrush or rattle can. 

Very simple. 

Be careful about where you store this jig as you don't want to accidently puncture your hand if the points are exposed. 

Here is a link to the source video, which is about weathering tank cars: 


Monday, November 13, 2017

Prototype Chalk Markings

As a follow-up to my earlier post on this topic, here are a few prototype examples (Yahoo willing) of chalk markings. Note that these were generated by railroad employees and are not graffiti.


The first markings applied to the sides of railroad equipment were made by railroad employees to communicate among themselves, typically in freight yards. These marks generally weren't applied as a way to say "I was here," but rather to convey important information that other railroad employees needed to know in order to perform their work.


Chalk marks were made using white and yellow chalk, charcoal, and lumber yard  grease pencils. Chalk came in very large sticks, 1" in diameter and 4" long, as compared to normal chalk which was usually 3/8" by 3".  These pieces of chalk were sometimes placed in a holder. The holder itself came from another essential railway tool, the discarded top off a fusee.


Most marking was done by yard clerks or “car markers.” They got their information from waybills. The marks were read by yard crews and freight train conductors. A waybill always accompanied a freight car, but if a car should go astray, or the waybill became lost, often it was possible to locate the car without much delay by the markings on its side.


Markings could communicate a variety of instructions and freight car conditions:


"MT" for empty.

"OK"  or a check mark chalked over a truck to indicate a bearing been inspected

Assigned car spot

Car contents

Condition of equipment that needs repair

Customer information


Fragile contents

Humping instructions

Indication of an item's dimensions

Industrial sidings designations

Notations about routings and interchanges

Outgoing train numbers

Perishable instructions

Special handling or loading and unloading instructions

Track assignments

Whether the shipment was all going to several consignees and where it should be opened first


The codes varied from yard to yard and railroad to railroad and likely era to era.  Today many of these would be impossible to decode, so simply copying what you see in prototype photos is probably the best way to model these. Chalking cars mostly died out in the 1980s.


Chalk Markings Experiment

Since I am preparing a clinic on prototype freight car chalk markings (not chalk graffiti) I decided to experiment with various marking tools for making white chalk marks in HO scale.


I used two fine point paint markers and three pencils. Displayed is a picture of:


Sharpie paint marker

Pen-touch paint marker

General charcoal white pencil

Prismacolor Verithin pencil

Supracolor II Soft pencil

 Generally, these are available at Michael's, Aaron Brothers and Dick Blick stores or through their websites.


Displayed is a picture of an HO scale boxcar used for the experiment. The boxcar was given a coat of flat sealer before the marks were applied. The five marking tools were used in the order above, left to right.

 I found the pencils easier to use than the paint markers and they did a better job of simulating chalk marks. The point of the General charcoal white pencil tended to crumble a bit so my recommendations are limited to the Prismacolor Verithin pencil and the Supracolor II Soft pencil.


I previously compared the Prismacolor Verithin pencil to a regular Prismacolor pencil and found the Verithin pencil gave better results so be sure to look for the Verithin version of that pencil brand.


All five of the marks were easily removed within five minutes using isopropyl rubbing alcohol and a cotton swab, so mistakes are easily eliminated.


If you want an alternative to these tools for making chalk marks, decals and dry transfers also can be used. I believe Clover House and Micro-Scale still make chalk marking decals.


I will post samples of prototype chalk markings in the near future.

Saturday, October 21, 2017

Scrap Wheel Load

The article on "Building A Gondola Load Of Wheels" by Bob Kale (See: got me to thinking about doing something similar.


I had a vintage HO scale Revell gondola with a simulated gravel load stuck almost out of sight on the layout. When I say vintage, this car was first produced in 1956 and I bought it new, still in the original box in the early 1970s. Had it been more accessible I probably would have sold it with the other 100-plus older, less detailed freight cars I parted with over the past few months.


So this car was given a second chance at life with a coat of Dullcote, several oil paint washes, more Dullcote, Vallejo rust washes selectively applied, more Dullcote and finally PanPastel colors selectively applied. The truck frames and wheels also were painted/weathered and the journals received Teflon lubricant.


I had a good supply of plastic wheels from converting several hundred freight cars to metal wheels over the past fifty years. These were ok for the bulk of the scrap wheel load but they were generally too thick and lacked a true prototype look. To the rescue came some non-functional Tichy wheels. These are made for the Tichy wheel car ( but the wheels also are sold separately as Part Number 3004.


The wheels received a coat of Krylon Red Oxide Primer followed by painting some of the individual wheels with one or more of the following:


Vallejo Rust Washes

AK Interactive Crusted Rust Deposits (See Photo)

Poly Scale Rust

Tru-Color Rust

Model Master Rust


The simple objective was to not have all the wheels look the same.


I secured the wheels a few at a time to a piece of scrap styrene with Canopy Glue. The better Tichy wheels were distributed along the top row of wheels.



Bob Chaparro

Hemet, CA

Monday, September 18, 2017

The Hobby Blahs


Eric Hansmann's blog (Notes on Designing, Building, and Operating Model Railroads) recently had a post dealing with the model railroading "Hobby Blahs".  As most of you know,this is when we just don't feel like working on the layout or individual model railroad projects.


He comments that we all go through this and asks, "What do you do to fire up your interests again? How do you get that mojo workin’?" He received several comments and I posted those below.


So what do you do to escape the Hobby Blahs and get back to the layout or projects in general?


Bob Chaparro



John Huey says:     


I hear you, burnout, even if only temporary, comes hand in hand with almost any form of creativity. I love railroading and railfanning, but these days there is nothing to see trackside which holds my interest, so I railfan in HO scale now.


Sometimes that too becomes “tedious” and a break is needed. In the past I’ve gone so far as to sell everything off, or just taken a break for an indefinite period. Lately though, rather than the drastic moves of my youth, I just change tracks, or in this case lanes. I have taken to modeling trucks for the upcoming layout changes. All sorts of semi’s that would have operated in and around my railroads base of operations are getting built. Kits I’ve had for upwards of 40 years are finally seeing the light at the end of the tunnel with some finishing touches. I’m even planning a truck stop, albeit a not too large one. Fuel pumps, no-tell motel, and a greasy spoon, all along a lonely stretch of sun bleached asphalt where there are no scales. Since I model southeast Arizona, right near the Mexican border, the variety is quite interesting back in the mid 1970’s.


Variety? It really is the spice of life. One tends to take less “drastic” actions if one remains entertained. So in your case, build things for your next layout in your new home. That is my advice to you. Enjoy your trains…


Jerry says:    


Those Accurail 36ft cars got my juices flowing too. Planning to do some serious upgrading, I did the artwork and had decals produced for the ones I intend to model.


Paul Woods says:   


I got my mojo back last January while lying in hospital following a repair to a heart valve – I realized then that, not only had I achieved very little to date, but I would also be right royally cheesed off if I kicked the bucket before getting some semblance of a working layout built. There’s nothing like getting acquainted with one’s mortality to light a fire under one’s behind!


Jeremy Dummler says:      


When I get the “hobby blahs” the best thing is to find a project and get it finished. That sense of accomplishment that comes from getting something done usually gets me headed in the right direction. Sometimes its harder than just that, and it takes something inspiring, like a visit to a layout to operate or a hobby event. Hopefully the three boxcars above are the catalysts to get you going again!"


Alan says:    


We all get the “blahs.” That’s why I have several different hobbies. Right now I’m in the process of rebuilding the transmission of our 1930 Model A Ford cabriolet convertible/ (Actually, I’m rebuilding it because the 87-year-old roller bearings gave up the ghost.)


Jared Harper says:  


Like Paul Woods said, “I would be royally Cheesed off if I kicked the bucket before getting some semblance of a working layout built.” However, I go a little bit further when I tell my wife, “I will really be pissed if I croak before I finish my model railroad.” It really got me moving when Jim Six spoke at one of his seminars in Indiana. He reminded all the attendees that they are not getting any younger and if they are going to build a model railroad NOW is the time. After that meet I pledged to average at least an hour a day on building my railroad and I have. Last night I was having a heck of a kidney stone attack; I took a hydrocodon and went to the basement and worked an hour. There are occasional days I do not work on it like when I am attending an RPM meet but I always make up that time. Once I get up the gumption and start I can keep going.


Dave Bott says:       


A deadline helps. I don’t like to establish too many deadlines because it is a hobby, not a profession. However, promising something to someone else adds a nice social aspect and requires action. Part of the problem is just getting to the workbench or layout. Once there, success breeds energy and builds upon itself. But getting there, when distracted by familial duties, even a minor illness, or by the start of college football season, can be more than half the battle. At least the darkness and weather of winter will be here soon, and I’ll be pushed that much closer to my workbench. Your move northward should help you a little in the coming months!


Galen Gallimore says:        


I clean the workbench. Even if I’m midway through a project, clearing off the detritus that accumulates around a model, including the tools, paints, glues, etc. goes a long way to reigniting the pilot light, so to speak.


Brian Sopke says:   


Great topic. I get the blahs from time to time too. Usually I can get inspiration from an article in one of the model railroad magazines, or from a friend’s suggestion for a project and that will relight the fire.


Bill Welch says:       


I like Galen’s approach and wish I had his discipline. Here are some things that keep me motivated and fresh.


1.) Pushing the limits—for example I have recently started replacing styrene ladder rungs with 0.010 styrene rod.

 2.) In addition to freight cars I have several 1st Gen. diesels in process and at various stages so always something to do. Next challenge here will be DCC, sound and lighting installs myself or hiring someone or combination.

 3.) I am about midway in making patterns for a new resin kit. I have done 4 or 5 of these and given the problem solving and research needed, starting and stopping is the norm.

 4.) I also usually have freight car kits at various stages so it is easy to stop working on something and shift to painting and decaling something for a change of pace.

 5.) Weather something or experiment with a weathering technique.