Archive for February 29th, 2012

Wooden Coal Cars

I was going to use D&RGW style drop-bottom gondolas to supply coal to the loading facilities at Durango and Silverton. I found a couple of Grandt Line kits on eBay at reasonable prices, but the center sills on the under-frames were designed for On3 trucks, not On30 trucks.  On30 trucks couldn’t turn without hitting the center sill, and it would have taken some extensive modification to get them to work, so I’ll finish building those models, and sell them back on eBay. In the mean time, I started to design my own coal cars. I’m keeping the drop-bottom feature because I want to supply my coal towers with a through-the-track dumping system.
Research turned up a number of features that I liked such as the end slope sheets and outside framing on these two cars.
Here’s a nice “woody” look on this East Broad Top model.  Notice the top bracing, and the handles that release the dump chutes under the car.
Here you can see the chain mechanism that opens and closes the bottom doors.
Here’s the start of the project. I’ve taken one of my flat car underframes, and put on wooden side and end sills. I’m not going to completely plank the deck on this car, because I need to engineer the dumping mechanism. Here are also the starting pieces for the car sides.
Decking to a certain point, and more bracing on the side panels.
Decking completed, underframe painted black, side panels glued on.
Support bracing for the two slope sheets.
Slope sheets installed.
Styrene jig for creating eight identical slope sheet braces for each car. I’ll need to build three more of these cars, so I can have a loaded and an empty car for each of my two towns, and this jig will speed things up.  Note the additional piece on the bottom of the side panels.  Next time, I’ll make the vertical side braces long enough to bolt to these.
The center slope divider took some tricky compound angle cutting.  Those V-shaped ends on it are sanded underneath to match the angles of the end slope sheets. Two top cross braces installed.
This picture shows the difference between a truck with only paint (on the left), and a truck with paint and weathering powders (on the right).
Here the pipes for the chains to open the bottom hatches are in place, and the chains are on them. I may not bother to detail the actual doors; on the loaded cars they won’t show, anyway. I have also added Bragdon’s “Soot” weathering powder to simulate the left-over residue from a coal load.
This photo shows the large number of NBW castings I had to mount on the sides and ends. I am still looking for suitable round handles to mount on the tips of the pipes sticking through the sides. I may use something like a brake wheel casting.
When I build the two loaded cars, I’ll hide some weight in the load, and top it off with finely ground real coal.
I decided to go with the Grandt Line O-scale 16″ brake wheel for the wheel that turns the rod to unwind the chain attached to the bottom chute door.
So, aside from a little more weathering, the empty wooden coal car is finished. Now on to the one with a load….and then two more to build, so I can have service to the coaling towers at both Durango and Silverton.

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Wheel and Tie Car

Another kind of MOW car for the DD&SRR.  The wheel and tie car transported just that….wheels and railroad ties.
There were minor variations in the research photos I used, but that’s nice; you can decide which features to use to give your car just the character you want.
Here’s the real deal. It may be sitting in the yard at Chama, New Mexico, in this photo.
I began this car, like many others, by taking one of my “cheap falt car” bodies, and adding planking and then side stake pockets from Grandt Line.
Here is the start of the “pen” for the railroad ties.
I created little carraiges for the wheels. When I get back to it, I might try my Dremel tool with a grinder on it to blunt the axle ends. It would give a more prototypical look.  On these wheels I used Testor’s “Rust”, and painted everything, including the axles.
Two carraiges are complete, the wheels have been weathered with Bragdon’s Dust Bowl Brown, and the “pen” for the ties is complete.
The other end of the car has a short fence with steel diagonal braces and hand grabs. The white glue is Aleene’s Tacky Glue, and it will dry clear.
A close up of some end details with powdered weathering.
I wanted the finished car to look like it had once been painted with the light gray color that the D&RGW has used…..
I also wanted to try Woodland Scenics dry transfer lettering. “Railroad Roman” is the font style, and I bought a set in black and another set in white.  Although they looked nice, and my clumsy first attempt at using them just contributed to the worn look I was after, I might eventually go with custom decals because I can only letter a couple of cars from a Woodland Scenics set before I’m out of letters.
To get the painted, but weathered, look I was after, I used several thin coats of a light gray acrylic that I had mixed up. On top of that I dry brushed a little full strength acrylic white, and then powdered everything down.  To get the best mileage out of my ties (which I stained with the leather dye/alcohol mix to look like creosote), I stacked them criss-cross, and only used tie ends in the middle; the pile is actually hollow inside.

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Water Cars

As far back as the Civil War water and other liquids were being transported by rail in large wooden cylindrical barrels. Shortly after the Civil War, metal tank cars began being used in the oil fields of Pennsylvania. If my layout is set in 1915, these wooden tank cars would really be on their last legs, if even still in use at all. That’s the nice thing about having your own layout; I like the look of these cars, and so I built one.
I used several research photos to design my car, like this one from a site that specializes in Civil War era trains.
I decided to go with the three-tank version.
I didn’t have to look very far to find the perfect size cylinder for my tanks. A toilet paper roll from the bathroom fit nicely on the flat car with space left over on each side. As a bonus, it also fit snugly around my Aleene’s Tacky Glue bottle, so I could hold its shape as I worked on it.
I decided to make my tanks exactly one-third the height of the TP roll. Here I am gluing on some pre-stained basswood strips. I cut the strips a little taller than the cardboard base, so that my wooden top could inset into them.  I used a clear plastic square to make sure the strips stayed perpendicular to the flat car deck. 
By accident, I put my stained basswood strips in a piece of plastic packaging to dry, and I found that the sides facing down took a very heavy stain. This made for a nice variety in the coloring of my barrel staves.
Here are the three barrels sitting on top of the flat car under-frame.
For the banding on the barrels, I took a piece of 3M blue painter’s tape, stuck it on a piece of glass, so it wouldn’t lose any of its stickiness, and painted the non-sticky side of it with Testor’s Flat Black enamel. I let that dry overnight, and then cut 1/16th of an inch wide strips of it, long enough to go around the barrels. I didn’t have to use any glue to apply them; because the sticky side still worked just fine.  To get the bands level and all in the same place on each barrel, I held a pencil on top of blocks of various heights, and turned the barrels by it.  You can see the pencil lines very faintly on the barrels.
I used a compass to draw circles on some nice hard, thin, tag-board. I find emery boards make handy little sanders. I filed the edges of the cardboard until the fit was perfect.
I glued the same thin strips of basswood to the cardboard tops, sanded the edges for a nice fit, and then fashioned a hatch to get to the water inside the barrels.
The hatch is about half an inch square, and has a two-part styrene hinge, and wire fashioned for a clasp.
Then I cut boards to secure the barrels to the flat car deck. These are held in place by long stay bolts that go through both boards, and down through the flat car deck.
I didn’t need to put cardboard in the barrel bottoms because the glue container had held them perfectly round until the glue dried hard. So the bottoms were open, and I could weight my car with one inch square lead pieces stacked inside the barrels, glued to the flat car deck and each other.
In the research photos there were blocks on the deck to keep the water barrel bottoms from sliding. I used four little NBW castings to suggest how these were secured to the deck.
This photo shows one of the long stay bolts. I used wire blackened with ME Rail Weathering solution, and put a small NBW casting at the top.  There are four of these on each barrel.
These are pictures of the finished car. I still have to add a brake wheel. I put Grandt Line stake pockets along the sides even though they won’t be used on this car.  I’m getting so I feel my flat cars are naked without them.
I got some larger NBW’s from Grandt to use on my end sills. Compare here to the smaller ones in the deck block.
Side view. Truss rods and brake detail come with the Bachmann under-frames.
Top view. Hatches and stay bolts.  I used both “Rust” and “Dust Bowl Brown” Bragdon weathering powders on this car.
I can’t wait to see this car running water to the lumber camp and the mines.

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Videos on DVD

Eventually I plan to make videos of my layout including scripts with stories, characters, music, etc., but that’s still a couple of years in the future.  In the mean time, I worked on two train video projects last summer and fall.  The set of three DVDs pictured above were produced by Steve Mitchell of Yard Goat Images.  The whole set contains video of steam locomotives that Steve shot over the course of the entire summer of 2011, but my contribution, mainly on volumes two and three, covered the 2011 Railfest in Rock Island, Illinois.  My first assignment was to drive down to Newton Iowa, and chase two huge 2-10-2 steam locomotives that belong to the president of the Iowa Interstate Railroad, as they made their way to the festival in Rock Island.  These locomotives were built in China in the 1980’s.  The temperatures were over 100 degrees every day we shot, but it was still great fun.   Once at the festival, we shot material on all the trains and locomotives that were there, followed and rode trips out to Walcott, Iowa and back, and covered trips to Bureau Junction, Illinois.  The videos are available, singly, in pairs, or the full three volume set, from Steve Mitchell at <yardgoatimages.com>
Last fall I made a video on the Osceola & St. Croix Valley Railway, which is operated by The Minnesota Transportation Museum.  The picture above is the front and back side of the DVD case cover.  The 90 minute round trip train ride passes through some beautiful countryside as it travels down to the St. Croix River, across to the Minnesota side, and on to Marine on St. Croix.  I wanted to catch the train on the best day for the fall leaf color, but it only runs on the weekends.   As it turned out, I was very lucky with the weather, and I got some gorgeous shots.  You can purchase the DVD at The Minnesota Transportation Museum, or I can make you a copy.  The cost is $9.75 plus shipping.

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How to get two small bridges out of one kit for a larger bridge.
Kit photo.  If you look at my track plan, there are two small bridges below and to the left of Silverton. On earlier versions of the plan, these were labeled “Howe Truss Bridges”, but the kit I got from Australia was for a McDonald Truss Bridge. This McDonald Truss Bridge kit is based on a prototype across Cox’s River at McKane’s Falls near Lithgow in New South Wales. Completed in 1893, the Heritage Listed structure is one of the oldest timber bridges in NSW and is significant as a surviving example of one of the largest of the type ever constructed in NSW. This classic 1880’s design by John A. McDonald was developed to solve maintenance problems of earlier Public Works Department designs which used single, heavy timbers. Replacement of individual hewn timbers was problematic without demolishing the bridge!
This photo from the kit shows a number of variations that can be built.  There are enough materials in the kit to construct a bridge about 21 inches long (84 scale feet). The two bridges I needed could only be about 6 inches long, so I decided to use the materials to make two identical small bridges.
There are enough materials in the kit to construct a bridge about 21 inches long (84 scale feet). The two bridges I needed could only be about 6 inches long, so I decided to use the materials to make two identical small bridges. In order to do this, I had to modify the plans for the bridge sides. This photo shows the plans for a shortened bridge, and the adjustment I made in the angle of the beams running to the thrust blocks.
Here are two of the bridge sides under construction. This kit from Australia came with balsa wood, rather than the basswood that we usually work with in this country. I was unsure of the strength of this material, but went ahead anyway. I had watched some videos of Australian modelers, and they really do nice work, and they work primarily in balsa. It may be that balsa is more readily available “down under” than basswood. At any rate, I was happy with the way the wood worked, and the final results were just as nice to look at as a basswood model.  Balsa takes an alcohol/leather dye stain very nicely, and quickly!
Here is one of my bridges with the connecting timbers in place between the sides.
One completed bridge with truss rods, nut-bolt-washer castings, and bridge decking. The bridge decking that was supplied was a harder wood. I think it may be mahogany. I also weathered the bridge with Bragdon Light Rust powder. I’ll put the track in place when I do my track-laying and position the bridges.
I used some of the left over materials to fashion bridge abutments for the project.
Detail of bridge deck and truss rods.
End view of bridge.
Close up of plate holding truss rods. Aside from the wood, and the rods themselves, everything else in this photo is plastic, painted and powdered to look like rusty metal.

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Track Plan for the D,D&SRR

As work progresses on the loft space, I keep getting better ideas for the track plan. The thought that I will certainly be, some day in the not too distant future, committing this plan to reality can bring all kinds of things to light. Today I totally redesigned the town and rail facilities at Durango. I realized that the area of the plan that I might have to reach into the most often, the yard, was the furthest area from the edge of the layout. (See older drawings below) This didn't make sense, so I brought it forward to within two feet of the edge, easily within reach of the 0-5-0 switcher. I also put one of those little hand operated trolley turntables next to the station like the ones that are used in San Fransisco where the lines terminate by the waterfront. You can click on this photo to enlarge it.

Hi Railfans,

Here is a recent version of the track plan. I have used a program called Empire Express to do the drawings. It works well on my MAC, and has as many features as I need, without being too complicated. I keep working over the plan to conform to prototype practice, as my research continues. If you have seen earlier versions of the plan, you will notice some changes. If you are looking at the plan for the first time, the total space is 23 feet by 10 feet, and the little gray squares on the plan are one square foot each. The scale is On30, which means it is O Scale (1/4″ to the foot), but runs on HO Scale track, which represents 2.5 gauge or “narrow gauge” in O Scale.

If this is the first version you are looking at, my railroad, the Denver, Durango & Silverton, will be modeled on the narrow gauge operations of the Denver & Rio Grande Western and the Rio Grande Southern in the southern part of Colorado. These narrow gauge lines flourished in the late 1800s, and gradually died out in the mid 1900s, as the resources they carried, primarily lumber and silver and gold ore, decreased. The advent of better highways to serve these areas also contributed to their demise.  Some sections of the line are still run as tourist railroads, notably the Durango & Silverton Narrow Gauge Railroad, and the Cumbres and Toltec Scenic Railroad.

My railroad will model the line from Durango up to Silverton, about a 45 mile run through the amazingly beautiful Animas River Canyon. I will also have an off-line hidden return helix that will lead to a hidden yard representing Denver if entered from an eastbound direction, or Farmington, New Mexico, if entered from a westbound direction. Basic traffic on my line will come from Denver to the yard at Durango. From there trains can go on to the yard at Silverton, or run through to Farmington. Return trips go the other way. The locals will serve the various on-line industries, as well as taking loads and empties between Durango and Silverton or to Denver and Farmington. The mines and the lumber camp will be served by (2) little 0-4-0 and 0-4-2 Porter steam engines. I also have (2) two-truck Shays that will bring logs down to Durango from the lumber camp. Two other Porters will serve as yard goats, and the main line will be served by two 4-6-0 Moguls, two 2-8-0 Consolidations, and a 4-4-0 American.   A newly purchased DCC/Sound Porter will replace one of my old non-sound Porters.  Eventually the goal is to have all locomotives equipped with DCC and sound.  The larger locomotives will handle the local duties, and the run to Denver and Farmington. These lines also carried passengers, mostly miners and tourists, so I will be modeling the D&RGW’s famous San Juan Express, a short train for passengers, mail, and small shipments that can fit in the baggage express car.  Eventually I will be running two sections of this train each day, one Eastbound and one Westbound.

One unusual feature of the layout will be what I am called a “roll-under”. As opposed to the traditional “duck-under”, access to the west (or right hand) side of the layout on the plan will be via some kind of a seat on rollers that goes under the central cross-over section.

The small numbers in parentheses on the plan refer to reference photos I have in digital files that I use for modeling.   See the posts on the Reference Photos for Plan Sections.

I hope you enjoy looking at this, and I welcome comments.   You can enlarge photos by clicking on them.

Town of Durango, railroad yard, entrance to helix to Farmington.
Center roll-under section between Durango and Silverton representing the Animas River Canyon.  This area will be rendered to be viewed from both sides.
Silverton and Cascade Canyon Lumber Camp area of layout.

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Hidden Return Yard

A hidden return yard, or “staging” yard, as it is sometimes called in model railroad circles, functions as an imaginary distant place, or places, which are not rendered on the visible part of your layout. You can then send trains to these towns, and receive shipments from them in return, which increases your operational possibilities.  Some layouts, called “point-to-point” layouts, use one or more hidden staging yards in separate places, under the layout, or in other rooms. Others, called “run-through”, or “continuous running” layouts, use double ended staging yards like the one I have designed. This enables the operator to set up one or more trains to run in circles, as it were, around the layout for simple train-watching, and have other trains “waiting in the wings” to make their “entrances upon the stage”.  Funny how theatre language applies to model railroading.  The length of the run, and the route, are determined by the design of the visible part of the layout plus the hidden section.  Originally, I was going to use two helixes at opposite ends of the route to represent a yard at Denver, and one at Chama, New Mexico. After further consideration, I made two changes. Since in the real world, Chama is located between Denver and Durango, I changed the Chama yard to the Farmington, New Mexico, yard, which is further West and South of Durango. The other change involved designing just one larger yard with double ended access, which can receive and dispatch trains in both directions. This makes a continuous run on my layout possible, although it still uses the original two helixes. Here are track plans, in the same format as the visible track plans, which show the helixes and the hidden track for the yard. Although I say “hidden”, for convenient access this track is as close to the front edge of the layout as I can make it, and it is only 13 inches below the lowest level on the main layout.

Images may be enlarged by clicking on them.

Another really big advantage of this change is that I can get rid of two return loops.  Return loops, or areas where locomotives can return to track that is of the opposite polarity than the track on which they are running,  are challenging and expensive to wire and operate, and the fewer of them on the layout the better.  My two turntables still constitute “return loops”, because the locomotives are turned around, and put back on track running in the opposite direction.

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This was the scene in the Fall of 2010. When we moved here in 1992, I built a loft in the back of our two-story garage for storage. The floor area is approximately 23 feet by 10 feet. In the top of this photo, the board for my Christmas layout is stored, suspended on pulley-lines from the ceiling. I currently have a large tarp attached to the beam at the front of the loft, which allows me to isolate the area under the loft as a somewhat climate-controlled workshop. This tarp will be rigged like a theatrical roll-drop in the first phase of the loft re-modeling, so we can park our cars in the winter. A short wall will be built above this to connect the edge of the loft beam to the garage ceiling, thereby enclosing the loft space for heating and air conditioning purposes.
Model railroads must be kept at a relatively constant temperature and humidity to prevent track expansion or contraction. When I started, the only access to the loft was from a stairway that I had put in along the east wall when I built the loft. This will remain, but a more convenient door from the inside of the house will be added. This stairway will then become an emergency escape stair, with a door at the top of it. As you can see here, looking at the east wall, we will have a lot of insulation and wall-board work to convert the garage to a comfortable four season environment.
This photo shows the (2010) state of the loft area…..lots of storage, but not much else. As we work to insulate and wall-board the walls in the lower part of the garage, we will be putting in shelves on those new walls to accommodate the parts of this storage that we want to save.
The ceiling in the loft slopes from about eight feet at the back to about four and a half feet at the front. My head hits ceiling at appx. 42″ from the lower wall. My working reach over benchwork is appx. 24″. Sitting in a rolling office chair, at its lowest setting, I would would clear the center “roll-under” section of the track plan at 45″.
Now fast-forward to February of 2012. At this point the hip wall is finished, with an escape door (visible in the distant center of the picture). The insulation is done, and the floor has been covered with 1/8″ tempered masonite, which makes an easy surface to clean, and will work well for the future “roll-under”. There is sound padding under the masonite, which softens the walking surface, and also helps a little with insulation. There will eventually be two layers of R-19 insulation under this floor, as well as a wall-board ceiling. The doorway into the bedroom has been cut and framed, and the door installed, and the electrician is due out in a week or so to start the circuiting and lighting work (see article on Lighting). Looking to the East end of the room, my 4′ x 8′ test, display and photography board is on the left, and my small project work space is on the right.
This is the view looking South, through the new doorway, into the master bedroom. My work area is on the left.
This view looks East. I currently have it covered with a piece of insulation, but there is an exhaust fan in the East wall, to the left of the clock, which is an antique clock from my father’s collection. The “Regulator” brand clock was used in many railroad stations, and I hope to rig this one as a fast clock for operating sessions.
This is the view into the layout loft when the new door in the bedroom is open. When it is closed, it blends nicely with the other woodwork in the room.
One of the biggest surprises I got when we opened the wall to the bedroom was that there was a 23″ floor height differential! Years ago when the loft was built as a storage area, the only concern was to make the ceiling under the loft floor high enough for my garage work bench. I hunted around, and came up with this folding set of steel steps that are made for camper trailers. The height was perfect, and with a couple of grab-irons inside the door, the feel of the entrance is very “railroady”.

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The bridge at Tefft, Colorado, on the Durango & Silverton Narrow Gauge Railroad.  This bridge, spanning the Animas River in Cascade Canyon, was built in 1887.  The D&RGW used a number of different styles of bridges on its narrow gauge lines.  The style of bridge was determined by the terrain and size of the crossing, and the load the working bridge had to support. 
I knew I wanted to make a model of this bridge for my railroad, and while I was visiting a train show in Madison, Wisconsin, for the Minnesota Transportation Museum, I found an old Lionel O-scale Plasticville bridge for sale that was very close in size and shape to the Tefft Bridge.
The first modification I made was to add more I-beam support across the bottom of the bridge. These are styrene I-beams from Plastruct.
Here’s the bridge with three new I-beams added to the original two.
I wanted to use plate girders to support my tracks, but I had to keep the track low enough that my locomotives would clear the bridge structure. Since plate girders come in all sorts of sizes, I was able to use those that came with N-scale models.
I clamped the little bridges in my small hobby bench vise, and cut the plate girders away from the N-scale track. I used a total of five of these bridges to span my Tefft Bridge.
Next I put I-beam supports longitudinally through the bridge to correspond to the areas that would be directly under my rails.
I connected the plate girder sides to each other with a zig-zag pattern of styrene pieces.
Then I mounted the bridge ties and guard rails on top of the plate girders. Bridge ties are heavier than regular ties because they have no ballast and sub-roadbed to support them. They are also placed closer together. I won’t lay track on this bridge until I am ready to place it into the layout.
On the bridge itself, I put wooden walkways to help fill the open space over the I-beams.
Here are the plate girders, under the bridge ties, with a little weathering.
I purchased a set of bridge builder’s plates. They didn’t have 1887, so I used the pair from 1881, because that was the date of much of the construction of the D&RGW line from Durango to Silverton.

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These crates could be used in any scale. Compare size to the quarter above.

Here’s a simple little project that produces some nice looking shipping crates for your railroad.  I wish I could take credit for coming up with the idea, but I can’t.  I read about it in one of my train magazines.  The first step is to go to a craft store, like Michaels’s, and purchase a small bag of mixed sized wooden squares.  For just a few dollars, you can get enough blocks to make as many crates as you will ever need.  I then stained them with my leather dye/alcohol stains in three different colors.

I also glued some of them together to make rectangular combinations.  Not all shipping crates are square.  In a moment you’ll see how I hid the seams.  Taking a steel straight-edge and a pencil, I then marked separations on four sides to represent individual boards in the crate.  The two ends of the cubes which showed the wood grain were covered with individually cut pieces of strip wood.  From a distance it’s hard to tell the 3-D boards from the penciled ones.

I’m not left handed, but for the purposes of photography, it’s easier to suggest the pencil work with my left hand, and shoot the picture with my right.  The next step is to build the exterior framing of the crate, with stripwood stained in colors to match the little cubes.

The crate can be framed just on the corners, or cross-braced diagonally.  I have even seen crates with “X” bracing, so I think I’ll make some of those, too.  I use this framing to hide the seam between blocks glued together.  See the last photo.  You can leave one side of the cube unframed, or do all six sides, but I learned long ago that actors and stage personnel cannot always be trusted to set things down the correct way.  I’m framing all six sides.  When the framing is all completed, I take a sharp #2 pencil, and twirl it into the wood to create the look of nail heads.

The last step is to take some photo-reduced shipping labels, and glue them on the sides of the crates.

And there you have it.  Nifty little crates to travel on flatcars, in boxcars and combines, or to sit on freight depot platforms.

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In another post I laid out plans for an inexpensive method of building large numbers of flat cars. My intention was always that most of these cars would become some sort of specialty car or carry some specific kind of load for my railroad. I have recently finished construction on two of these specialty cars. One is a wooden gondola for delivering drilling mud in barrels to the San Juan Oil Company drilling site.
According to Wikipedia drilling mud is: “Often used while drilling oil and natural gas wells and on exploration drilling rigs, drilling fluids are also used for much simpler boreholes, such as water wells. Liquid drilling fluid is often called drilling mud. The main functions of drilling fluids include providing hydrostatic pressure to prevent formation fluids from entering into the well bore, keeping the drill bit cool and clean during drilling, carrying out drill cuttings, and suspending the drill cuttings while drilling is paused and when the drilling assembly is brought in and out of the hole.” My San Juan Oil Company drill site will need some of this stuff, and I envision it being shipped in wooden barrels, at the time I am modeling. At a recent swap meet, I picked up a number of barrels for a real bargain price. Here they are on an un-altered “cheap flat car”.
The Northwest Short Line “Chopper” is a handy tool for cutting multiple lengths of strip-wood to the same size. Here I am making the side stakes which will support the walls of the gondola I am creating.
And here is the car with the side stakes in place, and the gondola walls started.
This photo shows several of the Grandt Line Products castings I used on the flat car…..side stake pockets, stirrup steps, brake wheel and NBW castings on the end sill.
Here the sides are done, and the barrels set in for testing. You can also see the (cheap) method I am using for creating metal corner plates where special reinforcement might be used. The black corners are made from clear plastic from packaging with bolt heads pressed in from behind with the tip of a file.
Close up of corner plates on end of car.
The model is finished with NBW castings inserted into each joint between the side stakes and the gondola side boards, and some colored chalk weathering.
The barrels have had their bright silver bands toned down a little, too.
One of my side stakes split at the top, and didn’t have enough width to drill a hole for the NBW casting, so I fixed it the way a narrow gauge railroad would…..by improvising a metal (plastic) sleeve to hold the top of the stake to the car. Little touches like this give the car character and personality.

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Another commission, this time for a client on the East coast, was to make a San Francisco style cable car in N-scale.
Since Bachmann makes an N-scale trolley that has a lot of features similar to cable cars, I decided to start with one of these, and work through modification.   A trolley is operated by drawing electricity through overhead poles.  A cable car has no motor, but is propelled by gripping a cable which runs below the street.
Most of the interior of the Bachmann model is taken up by the motor, which is enclosed in two large weights. Since I wanted to detail the interior, and the client was satisfied with a static model, the entire interior of the Bachmann trolley was set aside.
Then I removed the trolley poles from the roof, opened up three of the side panels on each end, and cut away the trolley doorways. Eventually I wound up opening four side panels, and shortening the overall length of the car by eliminating the space for the doorways entirely. This works fine with a cable car, because most riders hop on directly from the sides, anyway.

I built a new floor out of styrene to hold the trucks (wheels), and support the interior details.

The doorway sections on each end will be removed, making the car almost a half an inch shorter.
You’ll notice that the side of the car now features four open panels on each end, and a three-window section in the middle. I made small wooden benches for the interior out of scribed basswood.
Since this center section would be enclosed, I had to add interior walls at each end of it. On a cable car, the interior benches face inward toward each other, and the exterior benches face out toward the sides of the street. You can also see how eliminating the original doorways allowed me to bring the ends inward and shorten the car.
It isn’t easy to see on the finished car, but I made control levers at each end of the car from the trolley poles I cut away from the original roof. There is even a little driver figure inside pulling the levers. My client was a photographer, so one of the riders I found for the car is taking a photograph.
There are about seven or eight people on the car, including one lady hanging on to the hand rails on the side, and another fellow sitting in the central enclosed area. Getting him in there felt like building a ship in a bottle!
The little sign on the front of the car was made by reducing a decal that came with an O-scale cable car model I bought until it fit the N-scale area.  I suggested white paint on the trim around the windows by lightly sanding the raised areas with an emery board.  I would never have been able to paint such a thin line.  The O-scale model I am making will be the subject of another post.

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2.  Inverted Box Girder Bridge.

This is known as the High Line Bridge on the D&SNGRR.  I don’t know if it’s the correct terminology, but I refer to bridges like this as inverted box girder, because the box girder support system is below the tracks.  A standard box girder bridge is one where the train travels through (not over) the girder support system.  After collecting numerous photos of this bridge, I found one of the wooden bridge that it replaced (below), so I’ll probably do the wooden version.

9.  Sand House.

This is the sand house, as it still exists, at Chama, New Mexico.  I will be modeling this facility in at least one of my two yards.   Steam locomotives carried sand in a dome on top of the boiler.  When the driving wheels needed extra traction, the sand was fed through small tubes down to just in front of the driving wheels, and released on to the rail heads.  Diesel-electric locomotives still use this method of getting traction on slippery rails.

10.  Ash Pit.

Coal burning steam locomotives produce ash in their fireboxes, and this needs to be emptied.  If the fire in an engine was left burning overnight (banked), so that the engine would be ready to go in the morning, one of the first tasks of the hostler was to pull the locomotive over the ash pit and rake out the grate at the bottom of the firebox.  Cleaning this was necessary to provide proper ventilation for the fire.  Wood burning locomotives did not generate as much ash as coal burners, and what did occur either went out the stack or down on to the tracks.  Is it any wonder that wood burners often caused fires along the right of way!  Ash pits were located near the engine storage facilities in yards.  Some of the coal would form “clinkers” as it burned, and these would be used to ballast the yard tracks (see right area of photo).

10B.  Coaling Tower

This is the sand house and coaling tower complex at Chama.  These two facilities were often located near each other in the engine servicing area of railroad yards.  The coal tower at Chama has been “modeled to death”, and exists on just about everyone’s layouts, no matter where they are set.  Having said that, it is a beautiful structure, and the D&RGW built others that were similar at a number of its towns.  Before it was torn down in the late 1960s, there was an identical one to this at Durango.

I will probably use the method shown above for delivering coal to the tower.  A drop-bottom gondola full of coal is set out over a grid on a slightly raised section of track.  The coal goes down through the track, and is collected by the coaling tower elevator bucket.  The bucket carries it up to the top of the tower, where it is released into storage bins to be gravity fed to the locomotive tenders.

12.   Small Engine House (Silverton).

I will probably scratch-build some version of this type of engine house for Silverton, because space up there is very limited.

13.  Single Stall Engine House (Lumber Camp).

I think something like this would look good in the lumber camp.  The open side provides a nice look into the interior of the shop.

15.  Small Temporary Bridge at Lumber Camp.

Since track in the cutting areas of lumber camps only needed to remain in place as long as it took to remove the trees, it was constructed as simply and quickly as possible, as this little temporary bridge demonstrates.  I’ll use something like this in one area of my lumber camp.

16.  Lumber Camp Workers’ Quarters.

Lumber workers lived and ate right in the camps.  Often the structures were built small enough to be moved on rail cars to new locations.

19.  Animas River.

The Animas River Gorge is the most beautiful part of the Durango & Silverton Narrow Gauge RR.  My central “roll-under” will attempt to recreate some of this gorgeous right of way.

20.  Snowy Area.

In the mountains, particularly at higher elevations, snowfalls can occur into the late spring or come early in the fall.  I have so many trees left over from the Christmas Train layout that have snow on them.  The snow can’t be removed, and it seems a shame to throw them out, so the only solution is to incorporate a little bit of a snowy area on my new layout, so there will be one little corner, high above the lumber camp, where trains will travel through a winter wonderland like the one pictured in this early fall snow scene here.

22.  Yard Tracks.

Railroad yards were areas where freight and passenger cars were assembled into trains, and locomotives could be stored and serviced.  They were almost always fairly flat, and quite often had darker track ballast because the clinkers from the ash pits were a handy substance.  Sometimes, especially on narrow gauge lines, there were areas where grass and weeds grew up between the rails.  My layout will have two yards, one at Durango, and one at Silverton.  Yards are an integral part of model railroads built to operate with a purpose.  This is a photo of the actual yard at Durango.

27.  Tunnel Portals.

Tunneling was the technique of last resort for railroads because of the time and labor involved.  Railroads preferred to run their trains as near to level ground as possible.  In mountainous terrain, that often meant using small cuts and fills, or trestles and bridges if there was water involved.  Culverts under the tracks and through the fill also served to keep the tracks and ballast dry.  Most tunnels had to have tunnel portals and tunnel liners to keep falling rocks off the tracks, but in areas where the rock surrounding the tunnel bore was hard and stable enough, no tunnel portal at all was necessary, like the one pictured above.  This is on the Cumbres & Toltec Scenic Railroad, and is appropriately called “Rock Tunnel”.

This is a typical wooden tunnel portal, designed to keep the mouth of the tunnel open, and falling rocks from the surrounding mountain at bay.

29.  Water Tower.

The D&RGW had distinctive water towers with slightly tapered sides.  The rooves were sometimes round, and sometimes octagonal.

29B.  Lumber Camp Water Tank.

30.  Low Water Crossing.

Just outside of Silverton, the D&SNGRR crosses a shallow section of the Animas River.  This crossing is effected on a series of very low trestle bents, and short pylons consisting of rock enclosed in wooden boxes made from railroad tie sized timbers.  In the area to the right in Plan Section 3, which I may wind up calling Cascade Canyon, there are three rail crossings of the Animas River, each lower than the one behind it.  This would be the nature of the lowest crossing.

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1.  Curved steel trestle (#4 not used)

Curved steel trestles like this one which suggests the famous Georgetown Loop were used to replace wooden trestles in the late 1800s.  They were often composed of varying sections, as this one is.  Here we see a combination of plate girder and truss construction supported on steel piers.

5.  Small Howe truss bridges

This is very similar to the Hermosa Creek bridge on the Durango & Silverton.  I have built a model of this bridge.  See post on same in list.

6.  King Post (top) and Queen Post (bottom) truss bridges

I have built two identical Queen Post Truss bridges from one balsa wood kit from Australia.  See post for miscellaneous bridges.

7.  Wood Trestle bridge

What narrow gauge (or standard gauge western railroad for that matter) would be complete without one of these beautifully crafted wood trestle bridges.  They were used in the early days of western railroading, because wood was plentiful, construction techniques were sound, and they were relatively quick to build.  They came in all sizes depending on the area that needed to be crossed.

14.  The High Line Curve

This section of the route between Durango and Silverton is famous for its beautiful scenery, incredible engineering feat in construction, and considerable cost to put together.  With the line located 400 vertical feet above the Animas River, workers were lowered over the top of the hill on lines to blast and dig a narrow shelf for the railroad.  The cost of this effort, in 1882, was over $1,000. a foot.  When prices for new locomotives averaged only $4,500. each, the D&RGW could have bought a new engine for every four and one-half feet of track they laid here.  This scenic highlight will be featured on the “roll-under” section in the middle of my layout.

Silverton, Colorado

Silverton, Colorado,  is a small town high in the San Juan mountains (just over 9300 feet) that started its existence in 1860 with Charles Baker’s discovery of gold in the area. However, it wasn’t until the 1873 treaty with the local Native American tribe, the Utes, that the area was opened to settlement. Even then, being in the high mountains without any easy route to market, large-scale mining wasn’t practical. However, a wagon road in opened in 1879 provided some access, and prospectors quickly realized the potential held by the area – not in the gold originally sought by Baker, but primarily in silver, hence the town’s name.  I’ll only have room to model the railroad facilities at Silverton, but I hope to get some of the sense of the grandeur of the place in my curved corner background.  Silverton is about 45 miles due north of Durango.

17.  Mining structure…..shown here: the tipple, head frame, hoist house, and bull wheel at the top of the head frame.  I will be using my low-side gondolas to carry this ore to Denver, rather than the high side gon shown here.  If I can manage the space, there were eventually smelters located in Durango, and even in Silverton, but for operational purposes, having to ship the ore to Denver is good.

17B.  This photo shows a typical western mine entrance with timber shoring, and a track for (probably) hand-pushed mining cars. These cars usually tipped into a facility with a sloped floor that slid the ore into an open gondola.  I’ll be using one of my small Porter locomotives to move these gondolas around in the mining area.

I think I’ll model this little water wagon some where in the mining area.

18.  The helix to Denver/Farmington hidden return yard….is located under Silverton.  The one to Farmington will be located under the Durango yard.  A helix is used to take trains up or down grade without using a lot of lateral run space.  Helixes are always out of sight, because nothing like this exists in the real world of railroading.

21.  Plate Girder Deck Bridge…..A plate girder bridge is a bridge supported by two or more plate girders.  These can be placed above and to the sides of the tracks, as shown here, or under the rails and ties.  These are quite common, even today, so keep an eye out for them as you drive around.  The plate girders are typically I-beams made up from separate structural steel plates (rather than rolled as a single cross-section), which are welded or, in older bridges, bolted or riveted together to form the vertical web and horizontal flanges of the beam.  Railroads sometimes used rounded corners on the bridges or sometimes left them square.  I will have at least one bridge of this type on my layout.

23.  Snow Shed…..In mountainous areas, snow could seriously affect winter operations.  Average snowfall along some stretches of the track was just more than the rotary snow plow could handle.   There were also areas where snow slides (avalanches) could be predicted to happen every year.  In that case, wooden snow sheds were built over the tracks to keep them clear in heavy snows.

24.  The Silverton Station…..There isn’t even as much room here as there was in Durango for a station, but you can hardly have a railroad town without one.  Pictured below is the real station at Silverton.

…..and here is a compressed (model) version of it, although they didn’t use the right windows…..anyway, it’s interesting, and about all I would have room for, although I could save room by modeling a combination depot/freight house in one building.

29C.  This Engine House, or something like it, would service the mine Porter.  Here is one shown with a Porter inside.

33.  Sawmill at the Lumber Camp…..Sawmills are always interesting structures, and I figure, although most of the timber is sent to Denver, they might have a small mill here for cutting logs to dimension lumber for local use.  It also makes for another kind of load to ship from the lumber camp….flatcars with cut lumber. One item that mills provided in this area was ties for the railroads.

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Because of the limited space for photos (without paying extra) on this blog, I have a short list of e-mail addresses of people who would like the complete set of reference photos I have collected. I will do the same for the construction articles, as I post them. The blog will contain a summary, but I will send complete step-by-step photos to those who request them. You may contact me by using the comment area of this blog.

Ref. # 9. This coal tower and sand house currently exist at Chama, New Mexico, on the Cumbres & Toltec Scenic Railroad. In the latter half of the days of steam locomotives, the primary fuel was coal. Oil was also used in some areas. Wood was the original fuel. Coaling towers, of one style or another, existed all over the country. There have been multiple models of this facility released over the years, and they have found their way on to model pikes that aren’t set anywhere near New Mexico. Despite the fact that this is a commonly modeled edifice, I like it, and will probably scratch-build one like it for the yard in Durango on the DD&SRR. Actually, my research shows that the coaling tower at Durango was originally very similar to the existing Chama tower.

Ref. #10. Before leaving on a run, steam locomotives emptied their fireboxes of the ashes of the spent coal or wood they used for fuel, by parking over an ash pit. If it was coal ash (cinders) it was commonly used for ballasting around yard tracks (see right section of photo above).

Ref. # 11. I don’t have room for a roundhouse at my Durango. The original was a huge structure, so I’m going to go with a couple of smaller engine houses, which are just as interesting to model and view. Here is a possibility for a two-stall engine house made of wood construction.

Engine house interiors are fun to model, too, and can be viewed with removable rooves.

Ref. # 16C. Most of the lumber felled on the DD&SRR will be shipped directly to Denver on flat cars, but at the suggestion of a friend and fellow rail-fan, I am incorporating a log transfer facility to ship some logs by water. These were simply a sloped wooden ramp that came to the height of the flat-car bed, and some kind of rig for pushing the logs off the flat-car and down the ramp into the river, or pond next to the sawmill. Granted, the real Animas River south of Durango would probably not be deep enough to do this, but any excuse for another industry on a model railroad is good enough. I like the photos of these where the tracks go out on trestles over the actual river.

Ref. # 19. The Animas River valley that the Durango & Silverton Narrow Gauge Railroad follows between Durango and Silverton is one of the most beautiful railroad rides in the world. It was pictures of this route that first drew my attention to modeling this area. I have numerous DVDs that I will be using for reference pictures, but here is one photo of the Kind of scenery I will be modeling. A large portion of the edge of the layout will terminate in the middle of the river, so I can model at least one bank of it.

Ref. # 22. The caboose track was a short yard track where cabooses were stored to be added to the ends of trains after they were made up by the yard switcher. I’ll probably have two to three cabooses available in the yards at both Durango and Silverton for this purpose. Most D&RGW cabooses that I have seen are the three-window type, shown here, or the shorter “bobber” type with one or two side windows.

Ref. #24. The real passenger station at Durango, like the roundhouse, was way too large for me to fit into my railroad, so I’ll be making some kind of compressed version of it. My freight houses will be separate facilities, so I don’t have to park freight cars on the main line in front of the depot.

Ref. #25. Here is a picture of a model of a typical stock pen like the one found at Durango. Sheep and cattle were the main commodities shipped from these facilities, and you can see how they were kept separated. I like this one because it is complete, yet small….perfect for the space I have available.


Ref. #25B. I tunneled a portion of the track behind Durango so I can model a little of the actual town. I’ll be using building flats at the rear-most locations (buildings with just the front sides rendered), but I want to incorporate at least some streets and three dimensional buildings. Most buildings on O-Scale layouts have to yield to extreme compression like these, but that gives them a unique character, and almost theatrical quality, that you don’t find in other scales. Buildings are a major determiner of time period, and I haven’t set a precise year for my railroad, yet, but I know I want to have some early automobile traffic, and some residual horse drawn vehicles.

Ref. #26. The freight house was the earliest inter-modal facility. Usually located in the vicinity (if not the actual structure) of the passenger station, the freight house was the destination of a lot of LCL (less than car-load) deliveries. One side of the house had a dock for rail cars, and the other was set up to allow trucks or horse-drawn wagons to load. There was usually also an office of some sort for keeping track of the comings and goings of the shipments.

Ref. #27. Sometimes if the rock was self-supporting enough, railroads simply left the tunnel bore and opening with no other structure, like this one on the Cumbres & Toltec Scenic RR, appropriately named “Rock Tunnel”. More often, however, some kind of timber, stone or concrete portal and tunnel infrastructure was required to keep material from the mountain from falling on to the tracks.  See photo below of “Mud Tunnel”, also on the Cumbres & Toltec Scenic RR.

Ref. # 28. There will be a turntable in both the Durango and the Silverton yards, probably very similar to the one pictured above. Locomotives needed to be turned to return to their points of origin, or to be serviced, or stored in the engine house overnight. Railroads used several means of doing this, including what was known as a “wye”, which was a roughly triangular section of track with tails. The locomotive would switch on to one leg of the wye, and go to the tailing track, a second switch would be thrown which would allow the locomotive to follow the other leg of the wye, and by the time it switched back on to the main line, it was facing the opposite direction from the way it started out. Model operations on a wye are interesting to watch, but unfortunately they take up a lot of real estate. The turntable is the most compact way of turning model locomotives around.

Ref. #29. Water was an essential ingredient in making steam locomotives run. Water towers come in all shapes and sizes, so if you are modeling a specific railroad, you will usually have some distinctive style from which to make your selection. I’ll have water towers in at least four places, the Durango and Silverton yards, the lumber camp, and the mining district. I may even incorporate one or two along the main line like the one pictured above. Steam locomotives could not go very long without filling up their tenders with water.

Ref. #32. I have heard of some fruits and vegetables being shipped out of this region that would have needed refrigeration, but certainly some incoming food stuffs bound for Silverton would have had to have their refrigeration refreshed at Durango along the way. And another industry where cars can be delivered is always an asset to a working model railroad.

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Rail and Tie Cars

Steel rail is heavy. Even narrow gauge rail, which carried lighter loads than standard gauge rails, could weigh close to 100 pounds per yard, so it is usually, even today, carried in a manner which would best facilitate unloading it in the same direction it would be used…..lengthwise to the track or roadbed. It also made sense to transport the ties and spikes in the same vehicle, hence the origin of the rail and tie car.
The rail and tie car was basically a flatcar, where the rail rode, with a kind of raised gondola bed above it, which carried the ties and kegs of spikes.
A common practice when transporting rail was to separate the rails with ties. This made a good solid stack that usually needed no other tying down.
I used a method I developed earlier for reinforcing wooden corners, and bolted the side stakes to the side boards as I have on other scratch-built cars.
For the best tracking and operation, On30 cars are supposed to weight 1.5 ounces plus .75 ounces for each inch of length. That makes 6 ounces for this car. Even with the rail load, it was still 2 ounces under weight.
The purists would howl about messing up the under-body detailing, but in normal operation, nobody is going to pick the car up and turn it over, so I like to put weight into a flat car between the frame members.
Last year I bought an eight pound sheet of 1/8 inch thick lead from a company that supplies x-ray shields. It is easy to cut with a tin snips, and small pieces of it can be glued out of sight beneath the car.  I also bought a 25 lb. bag of lead shotgun pellets to use in the same way, but the sheet lead is faster, and with wooden decked cars, I don’t get any glue leaking through the deck.  I’ll use the shotgun pellets on cars where I’ve kept the solid plastic deck.
After I had completed my rail & tie car, I saw this ad in a magazine showing a pair of small triangulating braces on each end of the car.
The photo made good structural sense, so I added the braces to my car.

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Well, here I am again, scratch-building something in a different scale than my own layout uses. Back in the 1980s, at another house we owned, I had built a huge (15′ x 25′) N-scale layout. I had to dismantle all of it when we moved in 1992, and it had remained in storage ever since. Last summer (2011), I decided to sell everything on eBay. The response I got to my modeling was truly overwhelming, and several people around the country asked me to do special commissions for them. This station now resides on a layout in Sacramento, California, and is named “Pleasant Valley” because that’s the name my client wanted.
This photo shows the beginnings of the walls, and the under-side of the station platform.  The squares on my cutting mat are one inch each.
Here the walls have been stained, and more doors and windows put in place. It’s always a good idea to do as much work as possible on the walls before connecting them.
The finished model included window glazing and shades, and people and other platform detail.
Station back side.
Detail around chimney.
N-scale people are about half an inch tall.

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How to make great looking pipe gondolas and idler flats from stock Bachmann flat cars.

It’s a bit anachronistic for my 1915 modeling era, since the D&RGW’s peak years for transporting oil and related products to and from the San Juan oil fields was 1920s-1950s, but oil was discovered in the San Juan Basin in 1896, and I wanted to build an old wooden oil derrick on the D,D&S, so I’m going to need to ship some oil pipeline.

One of the more interesting modifications to freight cars was what the D&RGW did for transporting pipe to the oil fields. Since the pipe was usually longer than a standard gondola, they removed the gondola ends, and let the pipe hang out in both directions. Steel plates were then bolted on to the ends of the sides, as can be seen in this picture, to protect and reinforce those boards.
The weight of the pipes called for some extra weight bearing boards across the floor of the gondola (just partially visible in this picture). The other modification for the transportation of the overlong pipes involved creating what was called an “idler” flatcar.  Two of these flatcars accompanied each pipe gondola, one on each end, in order for the oversized load in the gondola to keep from hitting other cars in the train.  This photo also shows the section of used rail that was clamped under the edges of each side of the flatcar for extra strength.
Here is another research photo from Google Images showing the arrangement of pipe gon and idler flat.  Notice that the brake wheel on the idler flat was lowered so that it wouldn’t hit the pipes on the next pipe gon.

The following pictures show my completed models of a pipe gondola and two idler flats.

The oil pipes were made from plastic drinking straws, spray painted flat black, and weathered with rust colored weathering powders. The grab irons on the side of the gondola are staples, and you can see the rail clamped under the idler flat just under the letters “C&S”. There are 24 individually applied Grandt Line Products nut-bolt-washer castings on each side of the gondola….48 tiny holes to drill, and 48 tiny castings to glue in place.
Here’s an even better view of the rails used to reinforce the side sills. Note the lowered brake wheel.
And, here’s a close-up of the end of the gondola, showing the steel reinforcing plates. Rivet detail is embossed in thin plastic with a pounce wheel before the plastic is painted and glued on. On all of these flat cars I have been covering the plastic floors with real basswood. When you are modeling wood, nothing in the world looks as good as real wood. To give you an idea of size, the stakes that support the side boards are 1/16th of an inch square.
The end of the idler flat with a good view of the attachment for the reinforcing rail. This car is riding on another project, which I will be writing up soon. I’m taking a short section of the track I will use on the actual layout, and making a photo track.  In my earlier posts, I had been using Peco Code 100 On30 track; this is Micro Engineering Code 83 On30 track. There are some subtle differences. The rail height on the Peco track is .10 inches; on the ME track it is .83 inches, which is closer to prototype. Also, the tie size and spacing on the ME track is more accurate for narrow gauge lines. I’ve laid this track on a homosote product made by California Roadbed Co. that accurately models the roadbed profile. I’ll be doing ballast and scenery on this little stretch of railroad, too.
I later came back and added chain to secure the pipe load, but the chain is not actually attached to the car. This way I can convert to an empty car by simply removing the load of pipe.

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Photo Gallery

Here are a few photos I took on the 4′ x 8′ test and display table.  I want to make clear that THIS IS NOT MY EVENTUAL LAYOUT.  It is just a place to “play with trains” and photograph projects until I get the real layout under way.  All images can be clicked to enlarge.

Both foreground buildings, the depot and the freight house, are scratchbuilt.
The largest background pines are scratchbuilt, the distant ones are part of the photo-background.
The wooden water tank is built from an Evergreen Hill kit. The little red Porter on the left is DCC and sound equipped, and it really sounds nifty! The three ore cars have had the middle two couplers removed, and been drawbar connected into one three-car consist.
Scratchbuilt wheel & tie car and center-dump coal car. These are part of my series of MOW cars built with basswood on Bachmann under-frames.
Small Porter in center has wooden cab replacement, and scratchbuilt wood tender on HO-scale bobber caboose frame.
Bachmann’s 2-8-0s, like the one in foreground are really heavy models that track well and pull a lot of cars. Because of siding length limitations on my eventual railroad, however, most trains will be limited to five or six cars.
Two other scratch-built cars in the series mentioned above. Here we have a gondola (left) for delivering drilling mud, in barrels, to the San Juan Oil Co., and a rail & tie car (right).
Close up of some of the details on the Durango Freight Company’s loading platform.
“Google-Eye Glenn” and his wife wave at a passing train.
Ore cars, water tower, vehicle. Porter conversion in background.
Mountain photo-backdrop.
A 4-4-0 American in front of the Durango Depot.

Here’s a shot of Krushke’s store, displayed as if it was on a street with the freight depot , with the passenger depot at the end of the street.

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Low Sided Ore Gondolas

Several techniques for creating realistic looking, loaded or empty, ore gondolas.

I’m going to use low-side gondolas on the DD&SRR to haul ore from the mines above Silverton to the smelters in Denver. My research shows that there were smelters in Durango and Silverton at one time, but I probably don’t have room for them on my layout, and having to ship ore to Denver makes for a nice longer trip.

Model of a small low-side gondola from Google Images.
I really like the unusual look of the gon where the long sides are slightly shorter than the flatcar bed beneath them. This is also a research photo from Google Images.
Technically this model picture is a high-side gon, but I liked the weathered and worn look of it, and it was D&RGW equipment. This is also a research photo from Google Images.
I could use the plastic sides that come with the Bachmann low-side gondola, but I’d like this car to have the “woody” look that my logging flatcars have, so I’m going to make my own sides from real basswood. The plastic sides are composed of two planks, probably 2 x 12s. My reference photos above show two to three planks on most of the cars, which would make the bed of the low-side gon about 24” to 36”.
As I did with the logging cars, I’ll be making one car full and a matching car empty, so that in the operational scheme of things on the DD&SRR, I can ship loads to Denver or Farmington, and bring back empties to Durango and Silverton. Eventually I plan on designing my own decals, so for the time being, I am not too concerned about the existing road names on these cars. I might save the lettering on the C&S (Colorado and Southern) and the D&RGW (Denver and Rio Grande Western) cars, just because my road could have purchased those cars from those respective railroads. The real town of Durango was served by both the D&RGW and the RGS (Rio Grande Southern), so a mixture of road names on equipment is not out of the realm of possibility.

I may try a couple of different methods for loads on the cars.  One concern I have about the loft in general is not to put more weight up there than there is with the current storage.  This will affect the way in which I build bench work, and scenery forms, and what kinds of rock or rock castings I use in the scenery.  Rocks can also simply be carved in styrofoam, if one is skillful enough.  No matter what I do to keep weight out of the scenery and bench work, the cars will need to be weighted to the NMRA (National Model Railroad Association) standards.

Bachmann has recently been releasing its On30 narrow gauge cars with a lower profile, which looks more like the prototype cars. In this photo, and the next one down, you can see the difference. The deck of the Baltimore & Ohio car (an older release, on the left) is nearly 1/8 of an inch higher than the other car.   This translates to six inches difference in quarter-inch scale.  Since the couples are body-mounted, this also affects the way they mate from car to car.  In another article, I’ll write about how I’m dealing with these older cars to lower them to a more prototypical height.
Side view of the height difference, and how it miss-aligns the couplers

I took a little road trip to Patio Town, and picked up a bag of rocks.  Half are what is called “Western Sunrise”, and the other half are “Bryan Red”.  I like the color of these stones.  The Western Sunrise has a lot of the pink and gray color found in the rocks along the Animas River, and the Bryan Red is a nice beige color.  I can sift, or crush these into different sizes for use as talus and riverbed rock.  I’ll mix them together as I use them, and a little paint work will make them all look like they belong in one geologic area.

Western Sunrise.
Bryan Red.

The other method I like for creating talus rock and other miscellaneous rock around the railroad involves the use of casting plaster.   I will take old rock castings that I probably won’t be using on this layout, put them in a soft cloth wrapper, and crush them up with a hammer.  This produces a rock size and shape similar to the real thing, but with less weight.  These also take paint nicely, just like rock castings on scenery.

Here are the short (¾”) side stakes for supporting the 2×12 planks. I made them all the same size, because they are supporting an even board along the top. I did a test fit on one side before staining all the lumber at once.
I’m not going to repeat the discussion of how I planked the deck of the car. You can read the details of that process in the article on the logging flat cars.  (Update:  On future cars I will probably use all six side stake pockets instead of just four.)
In the days before common use of the automobile, my Grandfather from Sweden worked for a time in Illinois as a harness-maker. I now have his harness making tools, and I’m going to use this pounce wheel to emboss some styrene to make it look like corner braces bolted to the car ends. (Update: I have since gone to using the tip of a very small file for this process, and I have a pounce wheel from Jo-Ann Fabrics to use for this or making nail holes on structure walls.)
My plan was to insert a piece of ¼” black foam-core to fill the bottom half of the gondola bed, and then put stone on top of it, but I realized that I would be losing that nice deck work on the flat car if I did, so I’m going to finish this car as an empty, and on the loaded cars, I just won’t model all the central part of the deck, since it will get covered up anyway.
Here you can see the use of the pounce wheel to make bolt/rivet detail in the plastic.
I did the pouncing first, then cut out, and painted, the little strips.
Here is one of the strips, unpainted, as a corner brace in position on the end of the car.
Here are the painted corner braces in their final positions on the car.
And here they are after some weathering powders have been added to bring out the bolt head detail.
The Hermosa Creek Bridge project left me with a large number of very small NBW castings, so I’m drilling out small holes in the side stakes, and putting some in to resemble the bolts that would have held the side planks to these stakes.
The under-frame of this car is unpainted reddish-brown plastic. Here I’ve masked it, and the couplers, prior to spray painting them black. (Update: Bachmann also makes underframes alone in black plastic, so I now use those on all my scratch-built flat and MOW cars.)
For the ore load in the car, I’ve taken some of the Bryan Red stone I got at Patio Town, wrapped it in old canvas, and crushed it into smaller pieces. Even though it is called “Bryan Red”, the stone is more of a beige color. (Update: Home Depot also sells a product called paver sand, which I think is decomposed granite, and is already crushed into various small pieces. This can be filtered to various sizes for use as talus, river rock, and even track ballast.
Here is the finished empty car. I used a “wet water” mixture to prepare the stone for sealing into the car bed. This is plain water with just a drop of dishwashing liquid adding to break the surface tension, and make it soak into the stone. (Update: Isopropyl alcohol will also work for “wet water”.)  Then you take either diluted white glue, or Woodland Scenics scenery glue, which is pretty much the same thing, and overspray with that. When it dries, everything is nicely held in place. This is the same basic method used for ballasting track. After this process, I re-applied the weathering powders.
Here you can see how some of my deck work shows through in the empty car.
This photo shows the painted and weathered wheels, trucks and stirrup steps. This car presently has the same road number as one set of my logging cars, but I’ll fix that in the future, when I put my custom made decals for the DD&SRR on a lot of the equipment. For the best operation on the layout, cars should be weighted according to the NMRA recommendations, which for On30 are 1.5 ounces, plus ¾ ounce for each inch of car body. That means that this car, at roughly six inches long, should weigh 6 ounces. Currently, the finished car, detailed as an empty, weights only 2.5 ounces, so I’ll need to add 3.5 ounces of weight to it.  I have some lead weight, and some lead shotgun pellets, I can put between the members of the under-frame. Whatever I do, it will be painted black and it will not show. In the cars modeled as loaded with actual stone, I will need to add less artificial weight.

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Logging Flat Cars

Wooden decked flat cars and “real” logs for the Cascade Canyon Lumber Company.

For my On30 layout, the “Denver, Durango & Silverton”, one of the industries I will model will be a working lumber camp.  In operating sessions, flatcars loaded with freshly cut logs will make their way first to the yard at Silverton, and then to Durango.  Along the way, some of them will unload at a facility designed to dump them into the Animas River for a trip downstream.  Others will go by rail to Denver to an (offline) lumber mill.  On the return trip, empty flatcars will be shipped back to the lumber camp at Cascade Canyon.  So, I need a fleet of matching cars, one set full, and the other set empty.  For the time being, I am making three of each.

Like many On30 modelers, I love the detail on the Bachmann Spectrum Series On30 cars. I also love the affordability of these cars, especially if you buy them on eBay auctions. I highly recommend looking at “The Favorite Spot” on eBay. They sell in high enough volume that they can afford to let their merchandise go at bargain prices. Here is the out-of-the-box D&RGW flatcar that I started with.

I am converting all my couplers to Kadee #5, and I think this flatcar is one of the newer models with the lower frame, because the Kadees slipped right into the existing coupler pockets, and came out to the right height to match the Kadee #205 HO Height Gauge.  The other loaded car pictured in this article (without the road name decals) took a lot of fooling around, cutting and shimming to get the Kadees to fit at the right height.

I like to re-floor my flat cars with wood, because the plastic, even though nicely molded, still looks like plastic. I have used the commercially available, laser cut, flatcar floors, and I like them, but the boards have the same regularity in their width that the plastic has. I prefer something a little more random, so on this project, I am cutting basswood strips of a variety of widths. They all have the same thickness of 1/16th of an inch, or 3” in O-Scale. I also cut them a little wider than the plastic floor of the flatcar, so they can overhang on the sides and hide the remaining plastic floor. Here I used cuts in the neighborhood of 49 mm.

I then gave them a light wash of Model Master flat enamel mixed with thinner to the consistency of a light stain.  Here I am using #1763, Leather.  You can stain the strips before cutting them, which will leave the ends looking like fresh cuts, or you can cut them first and have the ends come out looking like the tops.  I figure these boards led a rough life, and needed periodic replacement, so I don’t mind a few unstained ends showing.

I also prefer a slight variety in the length of these boards across the car, so although I use a couple of lines marked on a piece of flat ¾” ply as a cutting guide, I purposely try to vary the cuts by small amounts….plus or minus a millimeter. You’ll see the results later in the process.
Since I very rarely use my paints right out of the bottle, I like to use a small painter’s mixing tray to get the desired colors and consistencies.
Once the boards were painted and dry, I secured them to the flat car with DAP Kwik Seal Plus, clear Kitchen & Bath Adhesive and Caulk. This product seems to work really well in glueing wood to plastic, and it sets up quickly, making the job go fast.
As I have done with most aspects of this project, I try to vary the widths of the boards in a random manner as I place them into a very thin layer of caulk. The caulk grips them immediately. (Update: I now do a little light sanding on the end of each board to remove the cutting splinters.)
Also visible in this picture, and the one below, is the grain detail you can get from using the real wood.
Close up of ends and grain detail on deck planks.
At the end of the car there is a small raised area where the brake wheel goes in. I just notch around it, so the detail is preserved.
I am going to use traditional side stakes, chains and side deck beams to secure the logs to the cars. I am making the side stakes out of strip basswood that is 1/16th x 1/16th of an inch. This equates to 3” x 3” in O-Scale, but more importantly, they fit perfectly into the side stake pockets Bachmann has provided. Just to help them get started into the pockets, I cut a small taper on the end of each one. When I insert them, I put the tapered edge to the outside. These stakes will often go through the pockets, and the tapered end looks cool against the car side. I use the Google Images search engine to collect research pictures for my projects. It is a fantastic resource, and the pictures can be stored electronically in files on your computer for future reference.
Here is an installed side stake. If I had shot the picture at a little lower angle, you could see the tapered end protruding below the coupler pocket. I used CA adhesive to secure these stakes.
This photo shows the side stakes installed and the strips along the deck that help to keep the logs from rolling.
This picture shows how I varied the height on these side stakes. I just figure that everything done in a lumber camp was guided by functionality, not style or perfection, so there wouldn’t have been any particular concern for having these stakes exactly the same height. Also shown here are the holes drilled for the lift rings in the side deck beams. I used carpenter’s white glue to secure these beams to the deck, since it is a wood to wood joint.
For the lift rings, I turned to a couple of craft products I purchased at my local Michael’s Craft Store.  Shown here are black glass seed beads which are under 2 mm in diameter. I was thinking these might look like a large nut, but I’m not sure I really like them; they seem to cause the lift rings to stick up too high. Maybe I’ll try the other cars without them. I was very happy with the look of the 2” copper eye pins, which I bought for the small “eye” on their tops, which will become my lift rings.  See my other post on High Level Switch stands for how I used the straight shaft portion of the eye pins.  (Update: I have since discovered that I can get plastic castings of actual lift rings, albeit at a greater cost.)
I drilled some small holes in my ¾” plywood scrap, and inserted the eye pins for painting. By painting them before I put them on the car, I avoid getting paint where I don’t want it on my side deck beams.  (Update:  I have since taken to blackening these wires with Micro Engineering’s Rail Weathering solution.  It is less vulnerable to scratching off, and cannot leave a shiny copper spot.)
Here are the pins with just the “eye” part painted.
This photo shows the lift rings in place. I put three on each side, and secured them with CA adhesive. On the second car, I got a little smarter (isn’t that always the case!), and installed the chain to one side’s lift rings before glueing the lift rings to the car. It just made it easier to get the chain secured, and made for less handling of the car in the process.
The next step is to give the entire car a light wash of gray paint to weather and age the wood, and take a little of the shine off the plastic parts. I used Model Master FS36081, Euro Gray, mixed with thinner. In doing the deck, I followed the board direction, and left some boards without the wash. You might want to roughen up the side deck beams by taking a track saw, and carving detail into them. I didn’t do this, because this wash provided some texture, but it’s all up to individual taste.
Pictured here is the whole car with gray wash and lift rings installed.

The next step involves two other products, a fine black wire I bought at Michael’s, and miniature scale-sized chain from Richard Engels at Comstock Car Shops.  Richard was also very helpful in suggesting ways in which lumber companies might have secured their logs to flatcars.

Very thin copper wire.
Scale size logging chain.

I must digress here to refer to another article about my experiments with making tall pine trees from segments of Mulberry tree stems with armatures from Juniper bushes for branches.   I find both products right in my yard, which is handy, since I want to build a large number of these trees.  For this project, I am only showing three cut log trunks mounted to my flatcar, and I still have to find my beige paint to finish the cut ends of the logs.

As I explained in the other article, I roughed the bark of the Mulberry with a sharp tree saw, creating vertical grooves in my “pine tree” bark. One fortuitous result of this process was the creation of a very fine “hairy” texture on the surface of the bark. I put a double cut on the large end of each log, like the loggers would have made when they cut the tree down. To do this, I clamped the logs in a small bench vise, and cut them with a small-toothed coping saw. I was originally just going to let the chain hold the logs down, like it would in reality, but I wound up putting a little diluted carpenter’s glue between the logs for security.
The next step involved installing the chains, and creating an empty flatcar to correspond to each loaded one. This photo shows an empty car. I’ll eventually match up the decaling on the sides, and so forth, so that I have two exact cars, one loaded and one empty. I used a little diluted carpenter’s glue to secure the chains to the deck, so they looked like they had just been laid there after the logs were removed. I also painted and installed the brake wheel at this point.

The chains were installed by threading them through the lift rings, and creating tiny wire connections just above the rings with the 26 gauge blackened copper wire shown above.  I then secured the whole connection with a small drop of CA adhesive.

After securing the logs to the loaded cars, and the loose chains to the empties, I took a few pinches of my own “ground cover”, that I have been collecting beneath my work bench as I make trees, and glued it to the surfaces of things. Again, I used a diluted mixture of carpenter’s glue and water, which dries nice and clear and flat. I saw this technique in one of Carsten’s On30 Annual publications, and I really like it. It gives the cars the look of having just come from the camp, covered in bits and pieces of forest detritus. It also gives the empties visual interest and texture.  In some of these photos you will notice that I removed the side stirrup steps, and on others I simple painted them black.  I have ordered some replacement steps from Grandt Line Products, but the Bachmann steps (which are actually pinned to the cars, not cast on) have all the detail I could want, so I may just stick with this method in the future.   (Update:  The Grandt Line steps turned out to be plastic and identical to the Bachmann steps, so I use those, now, on my scratchbuilt flat and MOW cars.)  I painted the side stake pockets, and the bolts on the ends of the car next to the couplers with flat black.

I have recently purchased some very nice weathering powders from Joel Bragdon at Bragdon Enterprises, so I was eager to try those out.  He makes a very fine powder that is chalk-like, but is mixed with a dry adhesive, and can be applied directly to the model with a stiff bristled brush.  The powder requires no additional adhesive or fixatives.

The loaded car with chains and wood chips.
The next step in the process was to give the car frames a little light weathering with the Bragdon powders. I used one called “light rust”, and was very happy with the look of it.
Finally I weighted the cars by gluing lead inside the members of the under-frame, where it would not show, and painting it black. I adjusted the car weight to get as close to the NMRA recommended weight as I could. This makes it ride nicely on the rails. I’ll be putting Kadee #5 couplers on all my cars, and setting the truck bolsters for a three-point suspension to minimize rocking.
I also painted and weathered the wheels and the truck frames, as you can see in the photos below. It can’t really be seen in the photos below, but I painted the ends of the logs with a beige acrylic to get a good freshly cut look on them.  I plan on making a loaded and an empty version for every car where the load shows, so these pictures show road number 7216 as the loaded and the empty version.
A good close up of the painted and weathered trucks.  (Update:  From this angle, you can plainly see both the original plastic flooring, and my added wooden flooring.  It’s not as noticeable from overhead, and on my scratch-built flat cars, the plastic flooring doesn’t exist.)

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The taping and mudding of the sheet-rock is finished now, and the preliminary painting is done. I chose two different sky blue tones from the same paint sample card. The one for the ceiling is a little darker, because the sky is a darker blue right overhead than at the horizon. I haven't bothered to finish the painting in the corners, because they will all be covered by the coving process.

Here is the way I'm going to do this. I've glued and screwed two one inch by four foot strips of 1/8th inch tempered masonite to the wall. The lower strip is 12 inches from the corner between the wall and the ceiling. The upper strip is 15 inches from that same corner.

After a sufficient time for the glue behind the hard masonite strips to set up, I've taken a 2 foot by 4 foot sheet of untempered masonite, and popped it into place between the other two strips. I've used the untempered masonite for this because it is softer, and bends better. This forms a nice curve, and needs no other form of support. Next I'll take some sheet rock mud and create a smooth joint in the area of the one inch strips.


After several days of hard work, the drywall is in place. Eric Danielson of Stillwater, MN was my drywall installer, and he did a great job. Tomorrow and Tuesday we tape and mud, and Wednesday we sand. By Thursday I’ll be ready to paint. I’m going with a sky blue on the walls and ceiling.  The floor will stay the way it is.  The original loft floor was particle board, and I put one-eighth inch tempered masonite over that with a layer of material that Menard’s sells for sound dampening under laminated flooring in between.  This stuff is a light blue color, about 1/16th of an inch thick, and kind of spongy.  I put this in to give the floor a softer feel when walking on it, because I don’t want to carpet.  Carpeting is too dusty for a layout room, and it would make my “roll-under” feature harder to use.

This is the most open this room will ever be, so I'm enjoying all the space while I can! After painting sky blue, I'll start installing the untempered masonite backdrop. I'll use the untempered material because is it is easier to bend into the corners. This coving hides the corner of the room, and gives the layout more depth. I'm also going to cove the background on the short wall as it runs up to the first row of lights on the ceiling. This horizontal curve will help to hide the fact that the north wall is so short. I'm not sure what I'm going to do where this curve meets the vertical curve at the northeast and northwest corners. Ideally, I would like to create some kind of compound curve. I guess I'll just play that one as I come to it.

I'll have to remove this fixture tomorrow for the taping/mudding process, but this is what the finished lighting will look like. This neat little appliance allows the light bulb to swivel and tilt, giving me a range of opportunities to highlight different areas of the layout.

I have a special challenge that basement layouts generally don’t have to deal with.  My overhead space is extremely limited.  Any lighting or valances that would descend from an already low ceiling would be a real obstacle for operators.  When I met with my electrician, we decided to go with recessed can-type fixtures.  There are some that will allow the bulb to aimed in a variety of directions.  I want to be able to highlight scenes around the layout.  I also want to be able to dim the lighting for night time operation.  Since incandescent bulbs are being phased out nationwide, I am looking at dimmable flourescents or dimmable LED bulbs.  I’ll have more to write later when I get into installing my backdrops, but I have plans to use colored rope lights behind the mountains to simulate horizon sky color.  In the theatre, we use red, green and blue (the primaries in light) to light sky backdrops.  By mixing the intensities of these three primary colors, any color in the rainbow can be achieved.

East end of the layout.  The orange lines indicate the location of the ceiling joists. There is room between these to install the can lighting fixtures, which are represented by the red circles.
Central section of the layout.  I’ve located the cans (red circles) directly over areas that I want to highlight, so that I am not depending on the bulbs being able to swivel too far.
West end of the layout.
Update: Progress on the lighting. Last Sunday I worked with the electricians, and we got a lot of the wiring done. This photo shows the can fixtures on the West end of the room for 11 of the 21 layout lights. I’ll be using dimmable flourescents in these. They have about a 2:1 ratio on the beam spread (width of beam: distance from bulb).  I considered using the newer, and brighter, LED bulbs, but aside from their nearly $40. apiece cost, their beam spread is only about 1:1, and some of my throws are as short as two to three feet.
Here are the other 10 fixtures on the East end of the room.  We are wiring the room with two 20 Amp circuits for the DCC train control, and two 15 Amp circuits for the lighting. There will also be a separate circuit for a small baseboard heater along the south wall (under the mining area).  Things are coming together quickly now.  The electricians will finish March 4th.  Another layer of R-19 insulation will be installed in the ceiling, and under the floor (making two layers in each area) on March 6th.  Between March 7th and March 10th, the drywall work will be completed.  Then I’ll be ready to paint and start installing the backdrop.

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High Level Switch Stand

A simple way to modify Caboose Industries’ high level switch stands to more closely resemble those currently in use on the Durango & Silverton Narrow Gauge Railroad.
I really like the look of the Caboose Industries High Level Switch Stand, but the indicator signals on it didn’t match the Durango & Silverton Narrow Gauge prototype I am modeling. I figured that with a few simple adjustments, I could get it to look more like what I wanted. The necessary modifications were as follows: The green aspect signal needed to be a square set on its corner to form a diamond shape, and the red aspect needed to be a circle, located under that diamond. Also, since this stand is designed to be used with HO and S gauge models, I needed something just a little taller.
In looking at the DVD entitled “The Silverton Train”, by Highball Productions, I could see that the D&SNGRR has stands with and without the lantern on top. Those without the lantern appear to be about 6 feet tall. With the lantern, they may be pushing seven feet. I like the lantern, so I’m building mine a scale seven feet tall.
I puzzled for several days as to what to use for the signal panels, and finally decided on thin pieces of plastic, cut from packaging material. The squares were going to be easy, but the circles, at ¼ inch diameter, were a little tougher proposition. I finally settled on purchasing a hole punch that cut a perfect ¼ inch circle. As a bonus, the clear plastic panel from the front of the package provided enough plastic for a couple of dozen switch stands!
I laid out ¼ inch squares on a flat section of the plastic using a fine tipped permanent marker. The lines don’t show, because I painted these squares green.
I then cut just one of the little squares out with a sharp Exacto knife. I’m leaving the others together so they don’t get lost so easily.
This is the DVD I referred to earlier. The first five minutes of the program, as they prepare to leave the station in Durango, there are half a dozen great shots of the switch stands I am making. By the way, this is one of the most beautiful DVDs I have ever seen of the run from Durango to Silverton. The shots of the line-side scenery are incredible, and I’ll be using this as reference material when I start working on scenery. It also doesn’t hurt that it’s a Blu-Ray DVD, when you are looking for detail!
Here are the little ¼ inch circles. They are so small and transparent that you have to be very careful not to loose them!
The other parts from the switch stand kit are not terribly large either, so I decided to keep everything in a zip-lock bag. I won’t be putting these on the layout for quite some time, and this will help me to keep everything together in one place.
Here is the switch stand, rough assembled, as it comes. You can see that even with the lantern on top, it only measures about one and a quarter inches tall, or five O-scale feet. Since I need between six and seven feet of height, I’m not going to use the little wire that comes with the kit.
I still had quite a few of the copper 2 inch eye pins left over from the logging cars project. These provided not only the height that I needed, but a useful handle to hold on to during the rest of the operation. I turned to another product I had on hand, Micro-Engineering’s rail weathering solution to darken the copper wire.
It took a little longer to work on copper than it did on nickel-silver, but it did work.
The copper wire fit perfectly in the bottom of the switch stand, but I had to use my pin vice and drill the hole in the lantern out just a bit.
The next step, after gluing on the lantern with a little CA, was to take a very small brush and paint the insides of the lantern lights, red on two sides, green on the other two sides. You could also illuminate this lantern with a micro-LED, and some small colored beads…..if you were very ambitious. Maybe a project for later on?
Then I put a very small amount of CA on the wire stem and glued on the square and the circular plastic pieces.
Here’s the stand after both signal aspects have been installed and painted. I used Testor’s Gloss Enamel, so that the colors would really stand out. I don’t want my valuable motive power running the wrong way on to a turn-out, and de-railing!
The next step was to cut the copper wire down to seven scale feet. It really helped during construction to have that little extra wire, and the eyelet on there, to hold on to. I’ll save the eyelet to use on the next logging flatcar that I detail.

And finally, here is the stand, as far as I’m going to take it for now. I need to see exactly how it’s going to fit next to my turn-outs on the layout. Caboose industries provides several different linkages to choose from, and I’m not sure which one I need for now. Both the stand and the turnouts are sprung, so this will work for either hand throwing, or with switch machines. I’ll probably brush on a little light gray or beige Bragdon powder eventually, to dull down and bring out the details on the black plastic.

PS.  During the winter of 2010 I had a chance to meet the owner of Caboose Hobbies at a train show in St. Paul.  I showed him my modification to his switch stand and he liked it!

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My other construction articles are not so detailed, but when I first started doing this blog in 2010, I felt like mapping out each step in my process.
The Hermosa Creek Bridge was built by the D&RG Railroad around 1881. It is located at milepost 462.42 just 8 miles North of Durango, Colorado. This style of bridge is a Howe Truss type and could be easily constructed using locally available materials. These bridges were usually less than 60 feet in length and used to span small creeks and ditches. Today it is used by the Durango & Silverton Narrow Gauge RR. Hermosa Creek, flows through the Hermosa Valley to its confluence with the Animas River. Here is a photo of the bridge as it looks today that I used for color samples when mixing my wood stain.
In my garage, under the floor for the loft where the layout will eventually take shape, is the area where I had (2010) set up a temporary workbench. (Update: I now do all my work like this in the actual loft.)
There are a number of kits on the market for modeling the famous Hermosa Creek Bridge. I chose the one by Goldline Products. It comes with nicely color-coded basswood, finely-detailed nut/bolt/washer castings, and well-written instructions.
The first step after reading the instructions was to roughen up the wooden pieces to give them some grain and wear-and-tear. In looking about my shop, I found a Black & Decker wire wheel designed to fit in my cordless drill, so I decided to give that a try.
I started with the bridge’s 36 cross ties because they are all the same size. I clamped them to the edge of my workbench, under an old scrap of laminated flooring, so they wouldn’t run away as soon as I touched them with the wire wheel.
I collect every last little piece of sawdust, shavings, ground foam, etc. from my workbench and the floor below, and throw it into a container called “ground cover”. Eventually this material will form the forest floor in my lumber camp area on the layout. I will process some of it through a second hand blender I bought at Goodwill to make some finely ground material.
The instructions show four laminated beams (labeled “stringers” in the photo below). These run under the bridge, and form the main support for everything. Each of these beams is composed of three pieces of wood. Since they would be glued together, I decided to just roughen the edges that would show. To keep things organized for myself, I labeled the three pieces for each beam as “O” (outside), “C” (center) and another “O” (outside) piece. The letters would wind up on the inside of the lamination, so I wasn’t concerned about them showing at this point.
To further assist me in keeping things straight, I bundled the three parts of each beam with a small paper clamp that will stay with them until they are finally glued together.
The next step in the construction is to stain the wooden parts. I had never stained wood using leather dyes, diluted with isopropyl alcohol, so I decided to try it. I bought three colors at my local Tandy Leather store, and a bottle of alcohol at Walgreens. I really like the results, and the application goes very swiftly. I have used enamel paints and solvents before, and I’ve even done water-based paints (although that isn’t recommended because of the warping they can cause), but I really like this leather dye method the best. This picture also shows the Euro Gray Model Master enamel and thinner I used for the second, weathering, wash that I gave the wood.
I mixed the stain using an old cashew can because it has a good tight lid, and I can save the left over stain. I added Fiebing’s Mahogany dye with an eyedropper to the isopropyl alcohol until I got a color and consistency I thought I would like. I tried out the various proportions on a spare piece of basswood. (Update: Since then I have taken to storing these stains in plastic or glass containers, because they rust metal parts)
This particular dye color goes on quite red, but changes to a nice rich brown when it dries. The photo below shows the color just after application.
I left the three-piece stringer beams clamped together through the dying and weathering processes, moving the clamps to brush under them. Here you can also see the dye color having started to change to brown. Compare this photo with the prototype picture at the start of this article. If I need the wood to lighten further when I am all done, I will brush on some of the Bragdon weathering powders I used on my logging flatcars.
In applying the gray weathering wash, I wanted to work my brush quickly over the wood, leaving some parts of it unpainted, so I used my paper clamps again to hold groups of boards together, so I could make a light rapid pass over them with the brush.
Before setting all the wood parts aside to dry overnight, I also painted the nut/bolt/washer castings. My workbench had a convenient space between two boards that served nicely to hold the castings upright.
Several days have now passed, and the basswood parts have had ample time to dry. Since they have now lost their color-coded ends to the stain, I put them back into their original bags to keep them well organized. I have been collecting various small containers for several months; I knew they would come in handy for lots of things.
I used the little paper clamps again when it came time to glue the stringers together. In the lamination process, I was careful to make sure that they were perfectly straight and flush.
I like Elmer’s carpenter’s glue or white glue for wood projects. It sets relatively fast, and a damp rag will take care of any extra glue on surfaces where you don’t want it. I have read that you should use the white glue where it might show, and the yellow (carpenter’s) glue where it won’t show.
The next step on the instructions is to mount two pieces of masking tape, sticky side up, on the drawing of the deck. I like 3M’s painter’s tape. It sticks really well, and comes off equally as well. The 36 cross ties are being placed on to the sticky tape, in positions as shown on the plan.
When the ties are in place, two of the stringers are glued on, located in position directly under the two rails. If you are modeling 2 foot, 2.5 foot or 3 foot gauge, you adjust them accordingly. At this point we are looking at the bridge from the bottom side.
I wanted to weight this assembly and set it aside for a while, so I looked over the instructions for steps I could do while I waited for the bridge deck to dry. The top pieces for the deck side assemblies consist of three pieces laminated together. These pieces are pre-cut, and the stain was nice and dry, so I glued them together next

Then I looked for more things to do. The bridge retaining walls, which help support each end of the bridge, and keep the ground from washing away, are completely independent structures, so I decided to tackle them. There is another nice full scale template to use in building these parts.
After cutting the pieces to the sizes specified on the template, and gluing them together, I clamped them for a short while so they could set up.
There are two small styrene plastic strips on each retaining wall that represent metal bands that hold the boards together. The template shows a series of small holes, or indentations representing bolts in these, so I used my new pin vice, which came with some incredibly tiny drill bits, to make these miniscule dots in the styrene.
Once I was finished, I painted the strips flat black, and glued them on with a small amount of CA adhesive. I think the results look pretty good. (Update: I have since taken to embossing plastic strips like these from the back side with the point of a small file so the detail is convex, not concave)
Another new trick I am trying is the use of Minwax stain pens for quick touch-ups on cut surfaces. I had purchased one in “dark oak”, and the color looked pretty close to the stain I had used. This method goes so much faster than wetting a brush in the original stain, and then having to clean it all up for such small work.
As I mentioned at the start of the article, this kit comes with some amazingly small and well-detailed plastic castings to represent bolts, nuts and washers. Each one comes with about an eighth of an inch stem, so I used my pin vice to drill small holes into which I could insert them, picking them up with a tweezers.
This picture shows a couple of these NBW castings, as they are called, in place on the retaining wall. The photo actually reveals more detail than can be seen by the naked eye.
I debated about using CA adhesive to secure these. It seemed to me that whatever glue I used was going to get on the surface of the beams. I finally decided to try some Woodland Scenics adhesive. It’s a fairly dilute white glue that leaves very little evidence of where you have used it. I applied a tiny drop of it with the NBW castings already in place, and this little drop was pulled into the hole, around the bolt, by capillary action. Since the adhesive is water based, it caused the hole to swell tight around the casting, holding it as secure as I could possibly have hoped for. In less than a minute, all evidence of the glue had disappeared. (Update: I have since gone to using Aleene’s Tacky Glue for this application.)
Next, I tried brushing on some of the Bragdon powders I had used on the logging flatcar project. I need to get a Colorado dusty beige, because I think the light rust that I used doesn’t look as appropriate on the bridge as it does on rolling stock. I might just lightly spray the whole bridge with light beige when I’m finished, to bring out the highlights and shadows.
The deck was dry enough that I could turn my attention back to it. The next step with the deck was to remove it from the masking tape, turn it over, and glue on two guard rails. After these were in place, an even smaller set of NBW castings had to be positioned along the tops of the guard rails. In the picture you can see these in place on one guard rail

I’m having a lot of fun with this kit, and building it will teach me how to scratch-build these structures in the future. One thing the DD&SRR will have a lot of will be bridges. I love to see a train crossing a bridge almost as much as I love to see it coming out of a tunnel, or negotiating the side of a steep mountain. Fortunately, my prototype, the D&RGW, had a wonderful variety of bridges along its various routes. I’ll have the opportunity to create almost every type of railroad bridge there is or was. Before spiking the rails to the bridge deck, I weathered them with Micro-Engineering’s Rail Weathering Solution. This stuff is actually an acid that causes the rail to oxidize at a rapid rate, and produces a perfect look, without paint.
I’ve never hand-spiked rail before, so this was a bit of a challenge, especially without the special spiking tools that are available on the market, but I got by.
I used my Kadee HO scale coupler height gauge, and a truck from a freight car to make sure I got the rail gauge right.
I wanted these to really look like spikes, not track nails, so I used Micro-Engineering’s medium length spikes. I had half an inch of basswood under the area where the spikes were going, so they held really well.
I also pre-drilled small holes part way into the basswood, so that I didn’t have to do too much pushing to get the spikes inserted.
The prototype bridge has guard rails on the inside, with the ends of the rails bent inwards. The kit didn’t provide for these, but I figured it wouldn’t be too hard to add them.
Since these rails never get run on by wheels, I weathered the tops of them as well as the sides. This creates a nice contrast with the running rails. I just used CA to glue them in place.
The bridge sides are constructed on the plan as shown. In order to hold the top and bottom stringers in place, I drilled small holes where future NBW castings would be going, and pinned them down to my working surface.
The wire that was supplied for the tension rods was bright steel colored, and needed to be “rusted”, so I gave the rail weathering solution a try, and it worked perfectly.
Some pretty precise cutting is called for at this stage of the game, so I worked carefully, and made sure that everything fit well before I glued it. The instructions called for the plan to be covered with wax paper to keep the glue off of it, but not having any of that, I was just very careful with the glue
It would have been a lot easier with a Northwest Short Line Chopper, or if I had taken the time to make a jig. Cutting the angles, over and over again by eye, was tedious. (Update: I have since purchased, and use, the Northwest Short Line Chopper for jobs like this.)
It’s exciting to see these bridge side pieces come together, because they are the parts that give the Howe Truss bridge its characteristic look.
The tension rods have to be cut to just the right length; that is, a little shorter than the distance between the top of the bridge and the bottom of the lower stringer, because there has to be room on top to insert an NBW casting in the same hole drilled for the tension rod. The instructions suggest not putting NBW castings underneath the bridge, and in fact, the kit does not provide enough of that size to do the bottom.
As well as cutting these rods to the right length, I weathered them before installing them.
The Bragdon powders, light rust, was just the ticket for this job, and the Micro-Engineering rail weathering solution had created a nice “tooth” for the powders to grab on to.
Here you can see a couple of minor fixes I had to deal with. After roughing up the basswood and staining it, it may take on a kind of “hairy” look, but that’s easily dealt corrected with a little light sanding. In drilling the holes for the tension rods, I created a few unstained places in the wood, but I’ll touch these with my stain pen, and they will disappear.
Although it’s trickier with a Dremel, the thought of drilling 56 holes with my pin vice was more work than I wanted to do. I did use the pin vice to drill a starter hole in each location, so my Dremel drill wouldn’t “wander” at the start of each cut.
Having the holes just a hair larger than the wires allowed the wires to adjust, and seat themselves without bending too much. In order to keep them from falling out as I was working, I placed a piece of my blue painter’s tape on the top and bottom of each set of wires.
Once the sides were completed, I had to tackle the scariest part of the job. The ends of some of the ties have to be cut off at an angle to allow the bridge sides to slip into place. Sometimes the amount of tie remaining after the angle cut wasn’t worth keeping, and I had to completely remove the end of it.
Fortunately the depth on my track saw blade was exactly the distance I needed to cut into the ties, so I didn’t run the risk of cutting too far. I was able to finish off the cuts with a small coping saw.
As you can see, before the cuts were stained and the sides were inserted, the results were pretty ugly.
The instructions say that if you cut carefully enough, you won’t even need to glue the sides on because they will fit so well. I have to admit, mine were a pretty good fit, but I glued them in place with CA anyway; I want them to always stay square with the bridge deck.
It’s really starting to take shape now. At this stage of the project you start to feel so thankful that you didn’t rush in the beginning. The instructions say that the average modeler can finish this project in a few evenings; the professional in just a few hours. Well, I spent the better part of two weeks, but I’m not sorry. Patience and careful work does pay off!
One feature of the actual bridge not included in the kit is the milepost sign. The D&RGW marked their mileposts from Denver, and the little sign on the end of the bridge is just that. I set my computer to print it out in font size #5, marked a little line around it with my fine tipped permanent marker, and cut it out. That diagonal end beam on the bridge is only 3/8 of an inch wide, so these little signs are in the neighborhood of ¼ inch wide!
Here is a picture of the completed bridge (before the milepost signs were added), with a 4-4-0 American type locomotive crossing pulling some logging cars.

PS.  When I initially completed this article, I sent a copy to the owner of Goldline Models, who made the kit.  I was pleasantly surprised when he wrote back to me, saying that I had used several techniques he had never seen before, and was considering incorporating some of them in his next printing of the model’s instructions.  This is his response:

Hi Mark,

Thanks for sending your play-by-play of the build.  It looks like you were able to build with very few problems.  I originally designed

this kit in 1981 after a Colorado trip I made the year before.  Your two prototype photos are almost exactly the same as the ones I used to

design the kit.  Little has changed in 30 years.

The instructions have been revised several times and some of the materials changed a couple times, resulting in re-writes.  But the kit

has stood the test of time.  The original version was released under the company name “Crummy Products”, then under “Trains-of-Texas” and finally

under “Goldline Products” label in 1989.  Under Goldline the packaging was changed to paper mailing tubes, from the original poly bags used

from the beginning.  The kit was introduced for sale at the 2nd National Narrow Gauge Convention in Denver.  The rest is history.  So

much for memory lane…

Let me know when you get your website running and I will consider linking to it from my site. I found some of your methods and suggestions

interesting and could be helpful to others.

Thanks again…John

John W. Lloyd

Electronics Curmudgeon*

Goldline Products

P.O.Box 516

Jamestown, CA.  95327



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Sluice mining was the earliest form of mining for precious metals in any given area. With a metal pan, and a small wooden chute called a “sluice”, a miner could separate the heavier gold particles from the dirt and rocks in the stream.  Once this kind of mining verified the existence of gold, miners would try to find the source of the gold “dust” and sink shaft mines into the earth.  This is a photo that accompanies a set of figures for a sluice mining scene.  The figures must be painted by the purchaser.               
Here are some of the figures I painted. I have to work on my eye technique. Some of them look like they got into a saloon brawl last night.
Here are the rest of the figures I painted. Somewhere along my Animas River I’ll have a small scene with these guys.

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Durango Freight Company

This small freight depot that I have named “The Durango Freight Company” is the most originally designed building on my layout to date. In this post, I will walk you through the steps in its design and construction.
When I set out to research a building, I start with Google Images and compile a digital file of photos with elements that I like. In this photo I determined that I wanted to model the corbels (fancy roof supports) and the freight door designs.
From this photo I would take the idea of multiple roof levels, the deck legging structure, and the fancy triangular peak support.  I would also remind myself that the loading dock floor should be level with the floor of a box car in the siding.
Here, I would use the idea of a stone foundation, and “board and batten” siding.
Cedar shingles on one roof section, and a sloped ramp for heavy loads to be rolled down to ground level.
The features I wanted from this model were a variety of chimneys, and lots of exterior signage.
A scale on the loading dock, and a variety of shipments sitting around waiting to be picked up.
Sliding doors to the interior storage area.
With all of these ideas in mind, I set about designing my ideal freight depot. This drawing shows one end view and one side view.
I had some plastic stone foundation material from another kit, so I cut the ends of it to fit together with a minimum visible joint line.
I also used Bristol board for the wall bases on this model. Here the plastic foundation stones are glued to the Bristol board. I decided to miter the corners to a 45˚ angle, so I left a little of the foundation hanging over on the ends of the each wall.
The basic four walls of the depot, with their stone foundations.
I had some cedar shingles left over from dollhouses I built for my daughters many years ago. From each single dollhouse shingle, I was able to cut 12 freight depot shingles. I painted my roof sections black, so no white would show through between the shingles, lined the shingle courses, and applied the shingles one by one. This was a lengthy process, but the results are spectacular. (Update:  I have since found a thinner cedar material on the internet.  It is used as a wrap in certain kinds of cooking, and is very inexpensive.)
Here the walls have had a thin sheet of balsa applied over the Bristol board, and the loading dock, which was also decked with balsa, has begun. I had made the wooden walk around my Durango Depot out of balsa, and I really liked the look of it. What I didn’t realize was that the strength of the walk was due to the balsa being glued directly over a Bristol board foundation. The balsa deck here only has an open basswood framework under it, and I found that the deck boards tend to break without very careful handling.  I’d probably go with a basswood deck in the future in situations like this.
Deck and roof partially completed. I left the body of the building separate from the deck and the Bristol board base until the very end of the project. You can also see that the walls here are just connected with small pieces of blue 3M painter’s tape. It is always best to build things in sub-assemblies as far into a project as possible.
Canopy over the loading dock completed. Two different kinds of chimneys on the rooves. I had the plastic freight doors in the design I wanted from another kit, so all I had to do was to paint them.  This is also one place where I incorporated the fancy triangular end support for the roof.
Track side view. The roof over the end of the dock is tarpaper, and the roof over the track-side loading area is corrugated metal. Also you can see the battens applied over the siding.  The foundation stones were painted in about six translucent layers to get the effect I was looking for.
What I am calling the “office” end of the depot. I repeated the fancy roof support here. You can also see how the natural detail of the balsa walls looks like knots in the boards.  Grandt Line castings were used for all the windows and single doors.
The side opposite “track-side”. This is where local trucks or wagons could pull up to pick up, or drop off, shipments. 
I used three freight doors on this structure to provide a sense of the passage of materials through the building, and also to open the interior to viewing from three directions.
This photo shows the corrugated roofing nicely. I used this material on both sides of the depot with the idea that these rooves may have been added to the building at a later date.  The metal roof material is drybrush painted, and weathered with Bragdon weathering powders.
Here is a nice overhead view of the three different roofing materials.  The tarpaper roof was simulated by painting the blue painter’s tape with flat black enamel.  The advantage here is that the tape is self-adhesive; no glue is needed to attach the roof material.
Now added to the freight depot: A balcony entrance to the office with stairs and railing from a laser cut kit. A sloped ramp off the track-side dock to get heavy loads to ground level. Signage created on my computer.  Google Images is a great source for vintage advertising signs.  Also have added figures and some freight.
Stairs to exit back side of loading dock.
A worker uses a two-wheeled dolly to move barrels on the freight end of the depot.
Track-side details.  Notice the base has now been painted black.  When I put this on the layout, it will be easy to use ground materials to blend it into the surroundings.
Roof weathering with dry-brushing and powders.
Overhead view of interior details.
With the roof off, the freight storage area really lights up.
Freight dock end.
Office end. Figure is putting up cigarette ad.
One view into the office.
The other corner of the office.
Looking into storage room. I think this was before I added the pot-bellied stove to this area.
End view with a vehicle.

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Durango Depot, Part 2

The Durango depot and the Durango freight house are the two structures that have received the most interior detailing so far.  I will eventually have interior lighting in these buildings, so the details will show through the windows at night.
The chimney is a plastic casting that comes in two halves, and must be glued together. I like to use Testor’s cement for plastic models for this kind of connection. It actually dissolves a little of the plastic, and welds the two surfaces together. Once the glue had set, I took a small file and rounded off all the corners, so that the brick on the chimney would look a little worn.
Then I gave the chimney a brick red base coat of paint.
There were two chimneys in the set I bought, so I made one for the freight house at the same time.
After painting the inside of the chimneys a nice flat black, I usually give the brick work a light wash of Durham’s Rock Hard Water Putty. If you wipe it with a dry cloth while the putty is still wet, it will remain in the crevices, and look like mortar. On these chimneys, I didn’t have any putty handy, so I did the same thing with a wash of beige acrylic paint.  Then I used Bragdon’s weathering powders to simulate soot on the chimney.
The chimney needs to be test-fit on the roof.  Not all roof angles are the same, and there is usually some filing to do to get the chimney to sit up straight.
Real chimneys need what is called “flashing” to prevent water leaks where the base meets the roof . I found some 30 year old copper tape I used once in dollhouse wiring, and cut thin one-eighth of an inch strips of it for flashing. It is self-adhering.
Here the chimney is secured, and the flashing attached.
All that remains is to brush a little more soot on the actual roof where is would fall down from the chimney.
I had decided to move the waiting bench from the inside of the station. I liked this design for an exterior bench.  This one is a swinging bench, but I made mine stationary.  (Bad pun!)
My finished bench is about two inches long, and composed of individual pieces of wood.
Meanwhile, inside the depot, the telegrapher’s bay is taking shape. This area is also about two inches wide, and nearly everything here is scratch-built. The pigeon-holes for letters are made from 65# paper, and the sent telegrams are spiked on the sharp end of a pin.  The wires from the telegraph key and the receiving station are drawn on the desk top with a black fine-point Sharpie.  Note the “Regulator” style clock on the wall.
In the office, the furniture and lamp are castings from a commercial set, but I created the calendar; it’s about a quarter of an inch tall.
In the storage room, the stove is a commercial casting, but I created all of the crates, barrels and boxes. That pane of glass, mentioned in another post, is in the x-braced crate in the center of the picture.
Inside the front door to the depot, the grandfather clock is commercial, but I made the advertising signs on the walls.
Here are the rest room doors, before the back wall has been installed.
Mens’ room interior.
Womens’ room interior.  I have a few more pieces of furniture for each of these rooms that I haven’t placed, yet.

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Durango Depot, Part 1

See how the design of an old plastic Lionel O-scale kit led to the scratchbuilt construction in basswood of a new depot for the Denver, Durango & Silverton Railroad.

Years ago, when I was setting up a Christmas tree layout each holiday season, I had purchased a Lionel O-Scale plastic kit for the depot at Rico, Colorado.  The kit came with parts to construct the station section and attached freight house wing, but to conserve space, I only built the depot part.  Because this was for the Christmas layout, I rendered the exterior with snow.  Like my other Lemax Village houses, the depot had an interior light, but no other interior details, other than window shades, which I knew would show with the interior light.

Here is what that plastic model station looked like. I had considered just cleaning the snow off of it, and using it for the depot at Durango, but that proved impractical, so I set about recreating a whole new depot (Update: This station was sold on eBay in the Fall of 2011.)

Other reference photos:  As I do with all my structures, I first collect a series of prototype reference photos (I love Google!) to see what kinds of details I want to put into my models.  Here is a sampling of various Colorado Narrow Gauge stations.  The actual depot at Durango, which still exists in a nicely restored condition, is far too large for my layout, so I had to use selective compression to fashion a depot with typical Colorado narrow gauge features that would take up as little real-estate as possible.

Substructure for the walls:  I will be using a product called Bristol board for the wall substructure.  I purchased this at a Hobby Lobby Store in Peoria, Illinois.  Bristol board is like Matte board, only a little harder, and it is only one-sixteenth of an inch thick.  By the time you add exterior and interior siding, you still have a wall that scales out to less than a foot thick, so this is pretty prototypical.

I also purchased a set of plastic castings from Grandt Line Products that is designed to replicate the windows, doors and trim pieces from the station at Ophir, Colorado (the black and white picture above). This will provide me with enough of these kinds of details for the station that I am designing.
These photos show the castings laid out on the Bristol board, on which the walls have been drawn. The castings have not been painted in these pictures. Later photos show the castings painted in Testors Model Master Leather Brown.
Walls cut and rough assembled: Once the walls have been cut out, you can tape them together to get a rough idea of the size and shape of the final structure, but you want to be able to lay them out flat for finishing, so you don’t glue them together, yet. Some sanding is necessary around the cut out openings, as the pressure of the knife blade causes a little ridge to form along the opening.
Exterior siding: With the openings for the window and door castings already cut, you can apply the exterior siding over everything, and come back and re-cut those openings.
This is a simpler, and more accurate technique, than trying make a straight cut through two thicknesses of material.
Here are two walls with the exterior siding glued in place. Speaking of glue, I have fallen in love with “Gorilla” brand super glue. It gives you a longer working time than normal super glues, and the bottle nozzle never becomes clogged.  (Update: I developed a severe allergy to super glue using this stuff, and have since gone to less toxic products.  I was coughing and sneezing for months after being exposed to this glue.  Even my doctor didn’t know what was causing my symptoms.  Finally the lady at Ace Hardware clued me in, and she was absolutely right!)
Staining the exterior siding: Like I did with my bridge projects, I stained the exterior siding with a mixture of isopropyl alcohol and leather dye. I wanted to try a gray stain here, so I used the black dye. To recap the advantages, this kind of stain dries quickly, unlike petroleum-based stains, and doesn’t cause the wood to warp like water-based stains do. The amount of dye in any given mixture of the stain is very small. If you want it darker, you simply wait for it to dry, and re-apply another coat of stain. You can also vary the color this way by using different color stains over each other.
Roof corbel shaping: My original Lionel station had a curvature in the roof where it met the front wall. See the first photo. I could have built my new model that way, and the corbels with the Grant Line set did have a curve in them, but if I used the corbels that way, I would have wound up with an odd fold in the slope of the roof.
I decided to go with different slopes to the two sections of the roof, which as you will see, approximates the curved roof of the Lionel model, without actually being curved. I cut down the corbels so that they had a straight top edge, and I matched the slope of the telegrapher’s bay side walls to the corbels.  You will notice that the wall section pictured above now has a yellow color added over the gray stain.  This is a very light acrylic wash.  Once the siding is glued to the Bristol board, it is less prone to warping, and so a light wash of water-based acrylic paint does not affect it.  The purpose of the stain beneath the wash is to give the yellow paint  some weathering.  The degree of weathering can be adjusted, just like the degree of staining is, by repeated coatings of the thin yellow stain.
My own technique for paper shingles: I’ve had this idea in the back of my mind for quite a while, and I thought it was time to try it out. I purchased some 65 pound weight paper at Office Max, and a couple of pairs of different shaped pinking shears at Michael’s.
I then went to Google and found a picture of wood grain that had a color I liked.
Resized and repeated on a single piece of the heavy paper gave me a sheet that looked like this.
After lining the paper on the back side with one-quarter inch markings, I carefully cut out strips with the round-edged scallop shears. I’ll use the diamond-edged shears on another project, because that’s also a typical Victorian shingle shape. I then took a fine point Sharpie pen and marked between each shingle, as well as drawing the pen along the bottom curved edge of each shingle. Note: I am not using the pen on the top side of the shingle for the curved edge markings, but on the actual thin edge of the paper.
After lining the bottom of each row of shingles, and setting them back together, they looked like this. In order to prevent the repetitive pattern visible on the whole sheet from replicating itself on the roof, I had to cut the shingles out in sections from 2 to about 8 or 9 shingles, and then randomize them as I glued them to the roof.
And here is a color comparison to the walls of the depot.
Lower siding stain: You will notice that the lower section of the wall has now become a nice rich reddish-brown. I tried adding a thinner version of the mahogany stain that I had used with the Hermosa Creek Bridge, but I still wanted it darker, so I added a coat of real wood stain from a Minwax stain pen. As you can see in the photo below, the results came very close to matching the leather color I had used on the window castings.
At this point, the station walls are looking like this. The walls for the little cupola on the roof (top right center), where approaching trains could be spotted, used a siding similar to the roof shingles, but colored to match the lower walls.
Station signs: Another useful application of computerized photo editing was in the creation of the Durango station signs. I found a photo of the sign that is currently displayed on the station in Durango, Colorado. This style of sign, with elevations and mileages to and from other places was quite common in early western railroading. I reduced the sign, adjusted the color a little bit, printed it out, and glued it to a piece of the 65# paper to come up with the sign pictured below. The actual size of this sign is 6.5 x 49.5 mm.
Interior rafters: Since I am going to be detailing the interior of the station, the roof will be removable, and the underside of the roof will then show. I also needed some way to make the roof a solid unit, rather than a hinged book-like piece. This photo illustrates a set of rafters made from basswood, and stained with the Minwax pen.
……and here are the rafters in place under the roof. To get the roof board effect, I painted the interior part of the roof with various acrylics, and then lined it with my fine tipped Sharpie. The now defunct slot (discussed below) is still there, but at least it will be covered by shingles from the outside.
The finished roof sections. You can see how I discovered the need for randomizing….trial and error.  The edge of the roof on the right reveals a replication of the pattern in the original copy.  At least the part of the roof that shows a faint repeating pattern will be toward the rear of the station.
If you’ve been watching carefully, you may now ask, “Where did that little triangular wall with the single window come from?” Look closely at the photo of the two main sections of the roof above, and you will see a slot to the right of the large black triangle. As I was designing this, I thought that the peak on the back wall could come up through the roof, and it could have if I hadn’t wanted to make the roof removable. In designing a roof that could be taken off to reveal the interior details, I had to make everything on the roof a part of the roof, so I had to separate the back wall into two parts.
The roof cupola: As mentioned before, the function of the little cupola on the roof is to get up high enough to see trains coming. As such, it belongs on the front roof of the station, not the rear roof, as I had it on the plastic model.
The window shades are made from tan colored packing tape. When you put light behind them, they have about the same amount of transparency as a real window shade. They are also self-adhering. The bottom of the shade and the shade-pull are drawn on with a fine tipped Sharpie.
Ridge Cap Shingles: The peaks and the valleys between sections of shingled rooves have cap shingles. With just a little different pen technique, I was able to make these from the same sheets of heavy paper that produced the shingles. In the center of this picture is a little gizmo like the one on the top of the cupola in the first photo (of the plastic Lionel model). I’m not sure what it was, but it may have been a lightning rod. I made mine from a small brown bead and a shish-ka-bob stick. After painting, I cut the stick shorter, and glued it into the top of the cupola.

With the exterior of the station nearing completion, it is now time to turn our attention to the interior.  I’ve been rolling this around in my head for some weeks, and looking up reference photos, and imagining how the interior needs to function in the day to day life of the station.  Here are some of the reference photos I looked at.

This is the telegrapher’s bay window area in a Sante Fe depot.
A similar area in another depot. Notice the open pot-bellied stove for heating.
Notice the wall decor, notes, forms, etc.
Notice the type of swivel chair, clock on the wall, ticket window, counter, etc.
And here is the floor plan for my depot. During construction I tweaked the plan a little.  I decided to put the waiting bench outside, and let the travelers inside wait at the tables if they wished.  The effect is reminiscent of a western saloon.  When the stairs arrived from Grandt Line Products, I discovered that the second floor could be reached without the last landing and two steps.  I was able to acquire toilets and sinks for the bathrooms, and file cabinets for the office from Berkshire Valley, Inc. in Massachusetts.  I scratch built all the barrels, boxes and crates for the storage room.  The tables and chairs and some other pieces are from a plastic set by Aztec.  I think they are Chinese.  Everything is quarter inch to the foot scale.
I glued the plan to a piece of Bristol board, and then made the wooden walk around the station from stained balsa wood pieces. Since the plan will get covered with flooring, I made a duplicate on my scanner.
Interior wall wainscoting, painting and door/window trim: To start the interior detailing, I painted the upper walls, then added wainscoting and window and door trim. The Grandt Line window and door castings have exterior trim, but no trim on the inside. To give you an idea of size, here, these walls are about 8.5 cm high.
….and here is a look at all the interior walls with their finished treatments.
Window glazing: The windows need simulated glass. Now, some modelers who are really sticklers for detail use laboratory glass slide covers to glaze their windows, but the thought of trying to actually cut all that real glass to size gives me a headache. I’m using clear plastic, and a really good source for this material is commercial packaging.
Testors has come up with a new cement that can be used on clear plastic without “crazing” it, like MEK or CAA based products can do.
After letting a little of this glue flow by capillary action between the window “glass” and the window frame, there is still time to wipe away the excess with a soft cloth.  The window plastic can be cut with a new #11 Exacto knife blade, and a steel ruler.  The Grandt Line castings have a very small lip for the glass to sit on, so accuracy to within half a millimeter is needed here!  No kidding!
I wanted frosted “bathroom glass” in the lower panes of the men’s and ladies’ rest-room exterior windows, so I took advantage of the “crazing” I knew would happen when you put CAA adhesive on plastic. By swirling some around in a circular pattern on this window pane, and letting it dry, I achieved the look I was after.
Here is how light reflects off of my plastic windows. Another effect achieved by using cheap plastic packaging is that of authentic early western window glass. If you look at western movies that get it right, you will see that the glass is not as clearly transparent as modern glass. There are little waves and imperfections in it.
Interior flooring: I wanted the look of fairly fresh wood flooring in my station, so I used a lightly stained basswood. In the photo, it looks like the walls have already been glued together and glued to the base, but they haven’t. I wanted to wait until the last possible minute to take this step. Access to the interior is so much easier before the walls go up. But, I did need to have the walls in place to know where to terminate each flooring strip. You can also see the frosted bathroom glass in the two rest rooms.
Here is the way the telegrapher’s bay will jut out from the front wall. This gives him the ability to look up and down the line to watch for trains.
I haven’t cut the openings in these interior walls for the bathroom doors, yet. I need to wait until the doors arrive to know how big to make the cuts.
Here is an overhead shot of the finished base with the outside board walk and the inside flooring. I also filled in the space where the walls will go with black felt tip marker, so that none of the white paper of the plan will show below the walls.
……and here are some of the citizens of Durango taking a look at the new station floor.
All the exterior walls temporarily held in place with blue painter’s tape.
The station with the addition of the roof.
Tommy “Two-steps”, the telegrapher, “Pocket Watch” Wally, the Station Master, and “Google Eye” Smith, the head of the town council, look over a new shipment of barrels, boxes and crates for the storage room. There’s also a precious pane of glass, carefully protected in that cross-banded case, to replace the window in “Stella’s Place”, the local saloon, that got broken the night that “Sidewinder” Willy and “Dusty Dan”, a couple of local cowboys, got into a fracas.

Part 2 to follow………..

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Drop Bottom Gondola Kits

A couple of months ago I bought two Grandt Line Drop Bottom gondola kits on eBay. I’ve always liked the look of these cars, and my plan was to use them to supply my coaling towers at Durango and Silverton.
When the kits arrived, and I started building them, two concerns led me to revise my plan. The kits are designed to used On3 (scale 36″) trucks, and I thought I could simply substitute On30 (scale 30″) trucks.  When I tried this, the scale 30″ gauge trucks fit too tightly across the center sill (pictured above) to pivot. I would have had to carve away massive parts of the sill to get my trucks to turn very much.
The other problem I noticed was that the overall length of the Grant gondola was about 8 inches, or 32 scale feet. Most of my other freight cars are in the 6-7 inch range, or about 24 to 28 feet long. This car just looked TOO BIG next to all my other rolling stock.
…..but I had already started construction on one of the cars, so I decided to finish that one, and then sell the completed car, and the unopened kit, back to someone with an On3 layout on eBay.  I have to say a few things about the kit.  First of all, this is the most complicated and detailed kit I have ever tried to build (see under-body detail above).
Here is the side rod and chain mechanism for opening the bottom hatches, which make this car so unique. I’m sorry to have to say, but the instructions for the kit were not too helpful, for me. A person would have to know the name and location of every little part on the prototype car to get through this building process very smoothly.
I sometimes spent up to an hour trying to locate a part, and its corresponding location on the model. Even then I made a number of mistakes and omissions.
Which is not to say that the finished model will not be beautiful and intricately detailed….it will.
I have just about finished with the car, and will paint it next. At this point, I am going back through all the left-over parts (some of which were extra, as the instructions noted) to see if there are any other I should add. I came upon the air hoses that way. I plan to leave the couplers off, because the Grandt Line couplers are different from the Kadees that most modellers use, and I don’t know if they will mate with Kadees.  When I sell the car, I’ll include all the left over parts and instructions.  I’ll post more pictures of the finished work when the painting is done.

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