Saturday, August 17, 2019

Caswell Gondola Project


The Caswell gondolas were among the most distinctive cars in the Santa Fe freight car fleet. The Caswell system was marketed by the National Dump Car Company and the cars were built by American Car & Foundry. The dump system consisted of horizontal shafts with pinion gears moving on racks in the cross bearers to open and close the doors. The doors were opened by cranks on the ends of the cars. These controlled shafts that ran the length of the car. As the shaft was cranked towards the center sill, the doors opened.


From 1905 to 1927 the Santa Fe acquired 8,800 Caswell gondolas. Many cars were rebuilt in the 1940s with AB brakes and side stiffeners. As older classes were rebuilt, solid floors were laid on top of the drop floors but the shafts were not removed.


Some 8,450 of them were the basis of the model made by the InterMountain Railway Company.


I began with an InterMountain HO scale car. I've had the car for years, hidden away in a box. At the recent NMRA National Train Show I found a perfect resin used tie load from Monroe Models.

The load motivated me to liberate the car from storage and work on it.


I gave the car a base coat of Tamiya Clear Coat spray (TS-80). This is a dead flat finish that comes out as a very fine spray. It's much better than Testors  Dullcote, which was reformulated several years ago. I then applied a wash of Doc O'Brien's Rusty Red powder mixed with 91 percent isopropyl alcohol. This wash toned down the otherwise crisp, bright lettering. Then another Tamiya Clear Coat was applied to seal the powder.


I used various PanPastel artists' dry color media applied with soft brushes to weather the car. I gave the car an overall dusty look with a little dark grime along the bottom and some limited rust effects on the dumping hardware and side framing. The car's reporting marks became a little too obscure so I erased some of the PanPastel media with a soft white rubber eraser and then sparingly reapplied more PanPastel to that area.


I painted the wheel faces with Floquil Grimy Black and the truck frames with Krylon Red Oxide Primer. I've painted a lot of truck frames over the years with several brands of red oxide primer. I have had a few paint failures but that was due to being lazy and not cleaning the mold release off the trucks. The truck frames also received a little PanPastel treatment.


I added a few white chalk marks using a Prismacolor Verithin artist pencil.


The four-piece resin tie load was a little too long for the interior length of the gondola so I removed several protruding bottom ties with a rail nipper and sanded the cuts smooth. I painted a few ties with grimy black for a little visual variation and gave the four pieces a light spray of Tamiya Clear Coat.


The ties were secured with a small dab of Tacky Glue to allow later removal if needed.


Although there were a lot of steps involved, each step was quite simple. I'm pleased with the result.


Thursday, May 30, 2019

A Smudge Oil Loading Facility For The Citrus Belt Railway

A Smudge Oil Loading Facility For The Citrus Belt Railway

I decided to upgrade my smudge oil facility by adding an area with a fuel loading rack from the Walthers truck-served fuel distributor and some details such as a small office, fire hydrant, fire hose, oil drums, pallets, light poles, people and vegetation.

I didn't want to assemble and install all the small parts inside the fuel loading rack so I took a cue from another modeler who placed a wall over the front of the structure and extended some pipes through the wall to the outside.

The overall design and arrangement is not based on any specific prototype. It's just my concept of how such a scene should be represented.

The next thing I need to do is to add some oil stains under the outlet pipes and some signage.

Below are photos of this area plus the smudge oil tanks and the unloading spur.

The two small smudge oil tanks are similar to the tanks that were in Redlands, CA, and the large tank is similar to the tank that was located in Claremont, CA. The small tanks are Rix oil tanks with roofs from Rix grain bins, as the original oil tank roofs were too steep.

Behind the smudge oil spur is the Genco Olive Oil Company. You may remember this company as the legitimate business front for the Corleone crime family in the Godfather movies. The sign was found on-line and made on my printer.

Sunday, May 26, 2019

Some Random Scenes

These are some random scenes from the railroad.
Abandoned industrial spur.

Former spur used for circus-style loading and unloading

A work-in-progress cattle loading pen and ramp.

Leftovers from a recent track rehabilitation project.

One of two hobo camps on the railroad. I can't get these folks to move!

Along the mainline. In the background are several citrus packing houses.

A scene like this has been done to death but I just had to stage the 1956 Buick CHP car from the TV show "Highway Patrol" starring Broderick Crawford. I'm still looking for an appropriate HO scale figure of a man in a suit and hat.

Saturday, May 25, 2019

Gondola With Automobile Frame Load Project

Gondola With Automobile Frame Load Project

I finally finished this very satisfying but simple project. It all started with a similar gondola I saw on Andrew Merriam's layout during the Central Coast Railroad Festival last October. That motivated me to look for prototype examples.

What I found were gondolas with an assortment of load restraining designs, each similar but probably specific to individual railroads. But the photos gave me ideas for my own design to be applied to an InterMountain HO scale Southern Pacific gondola.

The gondolas (and probably the flat cars) that carried automobile frames usually were in dedicated service. The SP community I consulted could not say for sure that SP had any such dedicated cars. Most of the prototypes I saw were from eastern railroads with the notable exception of the Santa Fe. At the time I couldn't find the appropriate Santa Fe Ga-44 gondola that InterMountain once produced. This car would have been my first choice, although two automobile frame kits would have been necessary to complete the load and a lot of frames would have been left over.

The HO scale automobile frames were made by JJM Railroad Enterprises. These can be purchased from B&G Train World. Scroll down this link:

On the DT&I Modelers Page website Scott Heiden designed a simple cardboard jig for assembling the automobile frames:

I built a similar jig from two wood blocks glued to cardboard that was glued to Styrofoam. From the prototype photos and Scott's example I chose forty-degrees as the angle for the frames to rest upright in the gondola. I used double-sided tape to secure one frame in place on the jig at a forty degree angle and then added five more frames to the jig, gluing frames two through six together and leaving the first frame in place as part of the jig.

 Straight pins helped to keep the frames together as the solvent glue set. I then glued the groups of five frames together until I had enough for one side of the gondola. These frame groups were secured with a strip of plastic glued along the bottom. This strip would not be visible on the finished load once it was in the gondola.

I constructed restraining hardware (frame cradle and hold-down harness) from Evergreen styrene channel and "L" stock. I added stained strip wood to the contact surfaces. Lastly, I used brass wire for the hold-down harness tension rods.

I drilled two holes in the hold-down harness for the rods. On the top side of the hole I inserted Tichy plastic nut-bolt-washer castings.

If you don't want to scratch-build the restraining hardware, American Model Builders does offer a kit for restraining hardware at $18.00. Here is the link:

Like I said, this was very satisfying but simple project. I paid $13.00 for the auto frames and the other materials were from the parts and scratch-building trays.

Bob Chaparro
Hemet, CA
After I finished the project I found this very informative article on automobile frame loads by John Brown:

Monday, March 26, 2018

The View Block

The View Block

The middle of the layout is a peninsula with the mainline running along the perimeter. Even with the relatively high benchwork one could see across the entire layout, which destroyed any pretense of a much larger railroad.


I knew even as I designed the track plan that I would need a view block. I just didn't know how I would construct it. And I still didn't have a design for the view block even after I completed the bench work and nearly all the trackage.


Another advantage of the view block would be the availability to two more surfaces on which to mount shallow relief structures.


I started with some cardboard sections just to test the height required. I settled on about ten inches, which would block the view of most people not on the roster of an NBA team. Because the benchwork was an open grid design it would be easy to insert vertical supports for the view block from the underside of the layout, making them stronger that surface-mounted supports.


The final design consisted of 1" x 4" vertical supports with 1" x 4" bases. Three view block assemblies made from quarter inch tempered Masonite panels would be dropped in over the vertical supports. Each assembly had a partial frame made from 1" x 2" boards with a full tongue-and-grove end section that allowed the assemblies to interlock.


I started by gluing Masonite panel side to the partial frame pieces and then clamping this to the vertical supports. Once the glue dried I repeated this with the other panel. When this was dried I removed the section from the vertical supports to screw the panels to the frame pieces. Screws on the surface of the assemblies were countersunk and covered with a spackling compound.


The view block assemblies were test fitted and then primed twice, painted twice with sky blue paint and installed on the layout. One side received mountain and hill scenery that was painted-on using recorded paint formulas matching the existing backdrops. The total length of the view block is just shy of fifteen feet.


The pictures below show much of what is described. After installation I was able to install twenty-one shallow relief structures against the view block. Most of these structures were either full size structures cut down to the appropriate depth or scratch-built.


What would I do differently? Probably I would install the view block earlier, just after installing the track but before scenery and structures. This would have made the process a little easier but not by much.

Vertical Support
Vertical Supports Mounted To Benchwork
Gluing The Frame Pieces To The View Block

Test Fitting The View Block
Test Fitting

View Block Before Scenery Paint
Almost Complete

Friday, March 2, 2018

Recycled Tank Cars On The Layout

As was typical in areas near railroad tracks in the 1950s, there are several recycled freight cars on the layout, including tank cars. I use these recycled tank cars as the focal point of various mini-scenes.


All of the tank cars were purchased at swap meets for a few dollars or less and then weathered as one might expect for a recycled car. Weathering consisted of dry-brushed paints, weathering powders and washes made from diluted paints and alcohol/weathering powder solutions.


The one heavily rusted tank car (below) was an experiment in which I spread a layer of glue on the car body and then sprinkled on rottenstone. I then coated the surface with rust colored weathering powder.


Rottenstone is weathered limestone mixed with various forms of silica. Also known as "tripoli", it is a fine powdered porous rock used as a polishing abrasive for metal and wood finishing. It has applications similar to pumice.


As used on this tank car body the rust effect is extreme and maybe a bit overdone.


Details were added to complete the scenes. I have boxes of detail parts so there always a lot of choices to for finishing each mini-scene.


Below are photos of these mini-scenes.

Monday, February 5, 2018

On-Line Industry: Genco Oilve Oil Company

The inspiration for this on-line industry was the Godfather movie series. Genco was formed by Vito Corleone in the 1920s. It was a front for the family's criminal activities and was named after his childhood friend and consigliere, Genco Abbandando. It eventually grew to become the largest olive-oil importer in the nation.


The brick Genco building on my Citrus Belt Railway is the New York company’s Southern California warehouse and distribution center. Genco is a good railroad customer, consistently receiving boxcar loads of canned and bottled olive oil... and sacks of cement. They occasionally ship out loads of oil drums filled with what probably is just trash.


The building logo was copied from the Internet, printed on very thin paper and glued to the building.