Sunday, November 27, 2022

A Thanksgiving Celebration

I know this is a bit tardy, but Donna & I were able to get together with ALL of my kids and grandkids at the same time to celebrate Thanksgiving this year, even if it was on the 19th and not the actual day. My son, Brook, his wife, Nicole, and Nicole's Aunt Debbie were gracious enough to allow us to celebrate at their house. Brook cooked the ham, his first. It was great to see everyone, and we got lots of photos.  Thad's family was even able to swing by my house on their way home to see my progress on the layout. Here are some shots from the day.

I used to be the tallest one in the family. Both of my brothers are shorter than me. I can hardly believe Aiden is only 13 years old. 

Lily (back turned), Heidi, Thad, Aiden, & me. Aiden is examining an HO scale 3D print I had done of myself by The town of LaGare is on the left half of the photo, the City of Avella is behind us, and Newport is on the righthand side of the image. The ship is "docked" at the train pier in the Delaware River. The pier is one of the 1st scenes I planned on for the railroad but will be one of the last features constructed. The "river" is just too good of a worktable as attested to by the plate glass under the ship.

Here I am explaining some of the finer points of the eventual operations scheme. I scratch built the engine house based on images of the one Grant had built at City Point, VA, during the Civil War. The doors open & close and the top comes off to show all of the interior detail.

Friday, November 25, 2022

A visit to the W&A RR North Branch

Two weeks ago, I had the opportunity to visit my best friend, Thom Radice, for almost an entire week. The week culminated in a Saturday operating session on his W&A RR (North Branch). There was a great group of guys operating that day. Even Dan & Bill from our ACWRRHS group! Here are some photos from that session.

Running a train is a serious occupation. Above, conductor Dan (left) and engineer Bill (right) run their train trough Big Shanty on their way South to Atlanta.

Dan and Bill congratulate each other on a job well done.

Having just completed their run North to Chattanooga, engineer Ed (left) and conductor Dave (right) pose for the photographer, satisfied with their accomplishment.

All trains having reached their final destinations, Dan and Dave engage in a friendly, animated discussion on the events of the day.

I strongly recommend a visit to Thom's blog at Western & Atlantic R.R., North Branch ( for more images of this great operating session. You can also learn more about what transpired by viewing the YouTube video of our ACWRRHS 11/17/22 zoom call.

While visiting Thom, I had the opportunity to add a new depot to the layout to enhance operations. Over the course of a couple of years, I have been constructing entrenchments between the cut that runs along the base of Kennesaw Mountain and the isle. To help supply the troops at this encampment, I built a stop where supplies could be off-loaded by the privates and lifted up to the growing fort without taking the arduous road up the slopes. Here are a couple of images of the finished structure.

View from the isle.

A closer look at the upper platform. Except for the pulley wheel and the barrels, everything else was scratch built from strip wood, an index card, scrap styrene, and a straight pin. The original pulley was designed to attach to the side of a building. I filed & sanded off the cast-on nut/bolt/washers from the original casting that were designed for showing the pulley mounted to a wall. I then lengthened the casting to reflect it mounted to a pivot pole with a piece o styrene from Thom's scrap box. Before I super glued the 2 pieces together, I drilled a hole in the base of the original casting and the top of the styrene extension. Into this I glued a piece of the straight pin to reinforce the joint. Finally, I drilled holes in both the top and bottom of the pivot pole and superglued in short pieces of straight pin. The pedestal on which the pivot pole rotates was made with a piece of scrap styrene I squared and then drilled holes in each of its 4 corners to enable inserting Tichy Train n/b/w castings. Yes, the pole does actually rotate. The "iron" reinforcement hardware at the top & bottom of the pole was cut from an old index file card.
Another view of the depot looking North toward Big Shanty. The ladder is from Central Valley. The upper platform was built in place. I did the rockwork about 2 decades ago. It was the 1st project Thom had me engaged in on his layout (and my 1st time ever doing rockwork).

Looking down the cut from the opposite direction (looking South towards Atlanta). I did not get a chance to add the rope before the end of my visit. My plan is to have a barrel suspended mid-air in the process of being hauled up. The hard part may be to find the appropriate figures to represent the troops pulling the barrel up.

Tuesday, November 1, 2022

Ventilated Box Car Build

 Ventilated/Watermelon Box Car Build

    Well, it has been way too long since I last made an entry on my blog. Much has transpired in that interval, and I have much catching-up to do. I thought I might start with something relatively simple, a car conversion I did back in 2004. This general design has been referred to by a number of names. Ventilated box car is the term I prefer. They were used here in Delaware when the peach industry was at its peak in the 1800s. They are sometimes referred to as watermelon cars, horse cars (like Mantua), and even prison cars (WTF).

    It all started with this IHC ventilated box car.

Similar cars were produced by AHM. Neither car is in production at this time, but they can sometimes be found, usually relatively cheap, at train shows and swap meets. One of the nice things about modeling the 1860s is that the lack of demand by the general public means vendors often consider these cars as a waste of space in their inventory.

    This is what the car looked like out of the box.

My next step was to disassemble the car.

All that was required was a small screwdriver and a hobby knife with a #11 blade (the multi-use tool necessary in any modelers toolbox).

    Make sure you bag up the loose parts. I find it way too easy to misplace parts.


    The next step is major. CAREFULLY remove/cut off the roof and cut the body shell ends and sides apart.

Note that I was not too neat with the ends. I intended to make replacement ends out of Evergreen Styrene car siding. More on that later.

    I detest cast on grab irons and stirrup steps, so...

Using a thin beam square and my hobby knife, I cut along the groves in the boards as pictured to get the sections shown. I lightly cleaned the edges with an Emory board fingernail file. Do not be over enthusiastic with the filing. When you glue the parts back together you want to make sure the groove between the boards is preserved.

As you can see, the general configuration of the side remains the same, but the car length is shortened to a size like those found during the Civil War. The 4 scrap pieces went into the parts bag.

    For the next step, I butt glued the pieces of the side back together using Testor's Liquid Cement. I used a straight edge to make sure the bottom edge of the car would be even. Then I glued a scale 1" x 4" as shown below for the trim between what will be the roof and sides. 

Once thoroughly dry, I again used my hobby knife and the top edge of the trim to remove all of the car above the trim. I recommend leaving a slight space between the top edge of the trim and your car and then filing and sanding to get an even top to the sides.

    Below are two images showing how I braced the car's interior using Evergreen Styrene. I can't remember the size I used but I plan to use smaller pieces in the future builds of this car. To glue the sides and ends together, I first took the ends of the original car, narrowed them to get a prototypical car width, and reversed them before gluing the body back together. I use the lips shown below to screw in the couplers and base of the car to the car body. If I need to adjust the weight of the final car, I can just unscrew the couplers and separate the body from the base.

I have a template I made from an old metal sign which I used to file and sand the peaked roof into an arched roof as seen in the above images. I made this template based on the USMRR box car drawings found in a back issue of Model Railroader magazine.

    Below is what the car looks like at this stage. The white styrene going across the door will be painted black and so it will be invisible once the non-operating doors are glued on.

You can also see that I have glued on the end beams at this point.

    I next turned my attention to the undercarriage. At this point the, the car height, width, and length closely match those of the USMRR box cars used during the Civil War. The original undercarriage is now too long and too wide. So, I cut a section out of the base and reglued the 2 halves. As you can see by the while line running down the car center in the image below, I was a bit too aggressive, so I had to insert a styrene spacer to get the correct length. Narrowing the width was achieved by filing both sides of the undercarriage until the undercarriage fit snuggly into the already assembled body of the car. The exact number of strokes needed depends on the individual doing the filing. However, I would do 10 file strokes on one edge and then 10 strokes on the opposite edge until I achieved the desired width.

I know the metal bolsters are not prototypical for the time period but once on the tracks, they really are not noticeable. At this point, I also braced the undercarriage from within the car using a scrap of styrene siding. This was painted black before final assembly.

Also shown above, you can see how I made new queen posts and beams. The queen posts were Grant Line (now San Juan Models) 3" queen posts. The truss rods are made from thin monofilament fishing line.

I am not going to go into detail here on how I made the end detail. I will relate the specifics on that in another post. The details, however, were made to the standards found in the Model Railroader article referenced above.

I replaced the original doors with doors I scrounged from a Grandt Line D&RGW Stock Car Hardware Kit #5004. In future builds I plan to use the doors from the original car. 

The sub roof is made from styrene I cut from an old plastic real estate sign. I cut and sanded a rectangle that snuggly fit between the ends and rested on the top of the side bracing. This I glued in using my Testors cement. Once this sub roof was dry, I sanded this styrene to match the radius of the ends. I now make my roofs slightly differently than the tissue paper roof shown. I now cut a piece of 0.01 thick plain Evergreen styrene sheet so it overhangs the car ends and sides. I glued this roof onto the sub roof and let it dry. After this dried, I glued on a scale 3' wide piece of "canvas" I cut from a piece of 0.005 styrene sheet. This I centered lengthwise on the roof and glued it down using Testors cement. The next day I carefully sanded the ends and sides of the roof to get a nominal 2" overhang. A piece of 0.02 styrene helps insure uniformity in the roof overhangs.

    The roof walk supports were made from scale 2x4" styrene strips. Today I use Tichy Train part number 3081 Roof-walk Supports. The roof walk boards are made from scale 2x10" styrene strip. I lightly ran a broken Exacto coarse saw blade down the length of the roof walk followed by coarse sandpaper to give the resemblance of wood grain. I then used a #80 drill bit in a pin vise and simulated nail holes over each of the roof-walk supports. I cleaned up any fuzz and raised lines with the fine grit side of an Emory board nail file.

    I believe that the end and roof grab irons are 18" Westerfield grab irons. I now just bend my own from Tichy Train wire and my Grandt Line &/or Tichy Train jigs. The door handles are 12" in length and made by bending brass wire in a homemade jig. The nut-bolt-washer casting are Tichy Train part #8016. The stirrup steps are Tichy Train part #3038.

    The car body was painted with roof brown. I used Polly-scale roof brown, but the color does not need to be an exact match. The Del. Cent. R.R. decals were produced for me by a company that is no longer in existence. 😒 The numbers are from a Micro-trains USMMRR set. The simulated tar paper roof is painted Pollyscale grimy black. I sprayed the completed car with Dulcote.

    I decided to use the original truck side frames but I replaced the original wheelsets with those from Reboxx (no longer available). 😒 I will probably replace these trucks at some point with those from Erc Cox. He has a Shapeways store but also produces his own. His look every bit as good as those I purchased through Shapeways but at a fraction of the cost.

    Here are some historic shots of the car on my Delaware Central Rail Road module.

    Here are some comparison shots between the original model's twin and the finished car.

Here is the car as it operates today on the Delaware Central RR. I ended up renumbering it from 26 to 36 because I accidently lettered a flat car with the same number. It was easier to change the number on this box car rather than the flat car.

Please note that when I re-decaled the car number, I also changed out the original Keyport Car & Foundry link and pin couplers with On3 Gilpin Tram couplers from San Juan Models. 

I hope readers found this interesting and useful. Happy modeling.