Sunday, 27 November 2011

Weathering Private Owner Mineral Wagons 2

Here are a few more pictures of wagons that I have weathered, all from the rather useful Bachmann Blue Riband range.

Top plank painted to represent a replacement fitted during wartime. Not totally happy with the end result and may re-do this at some time in the future.

I like how this one turned out, given that it is a black wagon I thought it would be a bit of a pig to weather and make it look good. A combination of powders and washes, with a quick brush over with a fiber glass pen to polish the surface up.

Faded the lettering on this by judicious use of the fiber glass pen and then the usual powder and ink washes.

Again really pleased with this. I used some rusting compound for the interior and then lightly applied weathering to the oustisde, so as to represent a newish wagon in reasonable condition.

Tuesday, 15 November 2011

Converting a Ministery of War Transport 16t Mineral Wagon

First off with a blow-by-blow account is a conversion of a Bachmann 16ton Ministry of War Transport mineral wagon. Now that nice Bill Bedford collared me and thrust one of his etched chassis kits into my hands and told me to try it and see. The shiney, shiney metal gleamed and glistened and I was instructed to let him know what I thought, which I did in due course.

I've sort of become Bill Bedford's unofficial test etch assembler. I think on the basis that I'm about at the lowest level of skill you can be, without having any skill at all i.e: I build kits, but I'm not exceptionally good and I make really dumb mistakes. However, mistakes are good, because one only really learns from making mistakes. By the time you can make something without making a mistake, one is rather skilled, and people ask you for your opinion and all.

The first picture shows the etch denuded of its treasure. I immediately told Bill that the inner chassis would with some minor fettling fit under a Bachmann wooden PO mineral wagon. So he has made a version for people to do this too, which is I think is a great thing to have.

The second picture shows the folded up solebar tray. A really neat idea. I had to file the holes a little bit, as Bachmann moulding tolerances cause some minor variations. Small file three, or four strokes of the file through the hole kind of level.

The third picture shows the inner chassis screwed into the solebar tray. Not much more to say really. Nice and easy to fold up. I ran solder into the etch lines to add strength, but to be brutally honest you could super glue this baby together.

The fourth picture shows one of the axlebox mouldings placed on the w-iron just for effect. Hence it being slightly off center and all. I'll get round to doing the other three axleboxes and spring in due course.

I've also persuaded Bill Bedford to offer the mineral wagon with the brakes on both sides, as a little bit of research showed that one in five BR minerals had bottom doors, and pretty much all the precursor steel mineral wagons from the LNER and the LMS also had bottom doors.

The final picture shows the finished wagon, well for definitions of finished that don't include painted and weathered, but you get my drift I hope?

Wanton wagons keeps calling me to my doom.

Friday, 11 November 2011

P&SR: Santa Rosa 44 Fourth St. Depot Addendum

 I found the scan of the 1928 layout of the P&SR depot at 44 Fourth St in downtown Santa Rosa. The scan came from a Street Railway Journal, but I'm afraid I've lost the reference at this time.

And here for quick comparison is my plan to make it fit the space I had.


I tidied up the rough and ready 180 degree picture I presented before, adding the backdrop elements that were missing. Overall, not a bad interpretation, though the trackwork will require some home built crossings and several of the turnouts have to overlapped to fit into the prototype arrangement.
Unfortunately, like the real thing, this project has been abandoned into the mists of time.

WLJR: Sands End (Part 2)

Light grey for roads, and or bridges, dark grey railway building, brown represents non-railway buildings. The orange square is the intrusion into the room, and the track is coloured green.

I drew a total of 18 versions of the track plan to arrive at the one you see above. Some of them were minor tweaks, others were complete revamps starting from scratch. The final one above is actually based on C. J. Freezer's Minories, and my first versions had station platforms at the right end, but these were removed as the plan evolved.

The reasons for their removal revolved around the limitations of the space and the practicalities of fitting in a crossover for running around the coaches when a train was brought into the station. There was also the thorny problem of how the prototype would handle the layout of the third rail at the crossover, because the train crew would need to get down on the rails to uncouple the train.

The solution, or evolution of the plan, turned Sands End from a terminus into a through station. No need for a crossover. To do this the tracks would run into a fiddleyard, but now I had to deal with not one but two fiddleyards and their storage. More I looked at this the more bothered I became by the solution, as it was very clear that the layout was becoming less and less self contained within the space that I have, and that operating it would require considerable effort to set it up.

Not a big issue for those who want to exhibit layouts, as this comes with the territory, but this layout was supposed to be a home layout. A wash and go model railway that would require a minimum amount of faff to start running stuff.

As my thoughts on the execution evolved I decided that Sands End had conceptually become something else, and in my mind I renamed it Worlds End. Above is a snap of the Templot templates showing the actual alignments of all the turnouts and tracks, which I started building.

Thursday, 10 November 2011

Ministery of War & Ministry of Transport 16t Mineral Wagons

For me it is really important that all my wagons have different numbers on them, as I intend to operate my model railway using the wagon's number to generate the order for deliveries and pick-ups. I knew very little about steel wagons when I first got back in British outline modelling, and I found the The 4mm Wagon series by Geoff Kent, a three volumes series from Wild Swan Publications, to be inspirational.

In particular the article in volume one on these slope sided steel minerals was most helpful, as the prototype photographs were  a good basis for my weathering.

In 1941, during the Second World War, the Ministry of Shipping was merged was merged with the Ministry of Transport, which in turn was renamed Ministry of War Transport. After the war the ministry reverted to its original title. For the railways the ministry ordered steel wagons, and Bachmann make some nice Blue Riband, and some variants I have can be seen below.

All of these are lightly weathered using enamel paints that have been sparingly applied to the surface of the wagon that has been wetted with thinners, which causes the paint to flow and eddy into the recesses.

After the paint has dried I brushed pigment powders over the surface to simulate light rust. For heavier rust I apply thinners again and touch into corners enamel paint using a brush. I then go over and add dirty shades with powder pigments.

After all of this has dried I then use a fibre glass pen to polish off excess paint and pigment.

Finally, I add a coal load that is affixed to foam so that it can be removed.

Next time I will show you  how I converted the  MWT #11532 wagon  using a Mousa Models etched sprung chassis, and even applied a set of Sprat & Winkle coupling to boot. Will the wonders never cease?

The Maturing Cupboard

Bill Bedford visited me on Wednesday afternoon, as he wanted a favour, and as usual we hanged out and chatted about this and that. One of the perennial favourite subjects that comes up is why oh why don't people just build the models that they buy, rather than sitting on them? It seems that after model railway kits have been bought they then have to go through a maturing process before they can be built. 

1. Acquisition

This is the ooh shiny I must buy it when I see right now phase that is common to all railway enthusiasts. Triggered by seeing something new, generally in a shiny metallic material that grabs one's attention. For me this has been some American traction models that I saw on eBay. I just had to have them.

2. The Maturing Box

Once one has acquired the shiny new toys then I usually put them in a suitable place for making and painting later. This is usually some sort of shoe box equivalent, but it can be a cupboard. I don't consider either location to have any greater merit over the other, it is just a matter of space. Cupboards have more space and are therefore good, because more stuff can be maturing at the same time.

3. Inspiration

Once one has bought the new and shiny things for painting one can become inspired to dream about when one is going to make or paint the model? Choosing the right livery is important, especially as some livery variants are just plain more attractive than others. I also call this the Daydreaming Phase, and much time can be "usefully" spent here while the shiny toys mature awaiting for their time on the workbench.

4. The Planning Phase

After daydreaming, sorry I mean spending time being inspired, one then moves on to the Planning Phase where one finds that one needs to find out more about the subject and how to paint the shiny toys. This is not a do-one-thing then do-the-next-thing exercise, as one can then interrupt the cycle to go back to the Acquisition Phase, so as to get the necessary extra shiny toys to meet the requirements defined from the Planning Phase. This can result in the whole project entering the Maturing Box for another round of inspirational daydreaming.

5. The Modelling Phase

Shiny toy miniatures are now prepared for working on by being placed on the work bench. Depending on the demands on the railway owner's spare time, this phase can stretch out and lead to more planning. This is especially true if a new railway project is started, which can result in another round of going through the Acquisition Phase.

6. The Layout

Once the shiny toys have been painted and varnished they can then be lovingly placed onto the track where in all likelihood it will immediately derail. This will cause you to reassess the whole project and perhaps a change to a different scale, or easier subject?

Tuesday, 8 November 2011

Petaluma & Santa Rosa Railroad Today

I have been very lucky in my life to have been able to go to America and visit friends and family on several occasions. On one such trip to the West coast I took the opportunity to drive around in our hire car and visited places where there were signs of the Petaluma & Santa Rosa former existence. Also taking some time to drive to the Western Railroad Museum in Solano county to see their restored P&SR car number 63 running on the track they have there.

I can't recommend the museum too highly. Nice people, who were enthusiastic and welcoming. I was also able to access their research materials too.

This is the front of the Holman car that the P&SR used that survived to be restored. As you can see it is painted a bright yellow, and I understand from talking to people at the museum that the colours are based on what they found when scraping the old paint back to bare wood.

Front three quarters showing the vestibule end.

Now showing the combine baggage door end.

Provenance doesn't come any more solid than this builder's plate in the floor of the car.

The interior is nice and airy and one has got to love all that wood paneling. No plastics or vinyl overlays here.

No doubt Health & Safety would have a hissy fit today at the lack of ergonomics and safety features for the driver, but everything else is just there because it has a function. Spartan simplicity

One last shot of the driver preparing to drive away after changing ends. We stopped at the end of the line and got out, took our photographs before making our way back on a rather pleasant day reliving past interurban glories.

During our trip, mooching around and doing the usual tourist things, like visiting the Redwoods etc. and we ended up at Russian River, which is at the top end of the Bodeiga Bay area. I think we drove pass Bohemian Grove when we found these two box cars.

I took pictures and thought nothing more about the subject until I found a reference to these freight cars that said that they are actually old P&SR boxcars in the Northwestern Pacific Railroad Historical Societies magazine Headlight.

So how about that for serendipity?

New Blood

Start them young is what I say. I bought my Godson a Hornby Thomas set when he was three, and since then he has gone on liking all things to do with railways. Here I am showing him how to make track.

He was quite attentive to what I was doing.

I even got him gluing the chairs to the sleepers on the small bit of track that we made together, and then he got to take it home with him, and I understand it is one of his proudest possessions.

Saturday, 5 November 2011

WLJR: Sands End (Part 1)

Back to the Beginning

It all happened after taking my Godson to the Bluebell Railway for a “Thomas the tank engine day”. I was bought a Hornby Terrier by my partner, because I went "oh look at that cute little engine, isn't it so pretty in bright Malachite green".  Inexorably this led to getting a brake van to go with it, and then some wagons so that I could look at it on the shelf and not think how forlorn it look all by itself.

Then the inevitable happened.

I realised that British outline wagons were half the size of American freight cares, and therefore I could run trains that had twice as many wagons in them on a layout in the space I had planned to build an American interurban line in, or so I thought.

Then I started looking at the Hornby Bulleid light Pacific, and remembered that when I was younger that this was my favourite passenger locomotive. It just looked so sleek. In my mind it has a retro-futuristic feel to it "yesterday's locomotive of tomorrow" if you like?

So I found myself being drawn back into British outline.


Initially I resisted the idea of using Protofour standards, I had learnt my lesson from the past, and I also knew that it would involve me building track.

At the time I had been stalled trying to build a layout based on the Petaluma & Santa Rosa Electric Railway that require making what I thought at the time was a complicated crossing through a turnout configuration. This track formation was required to make the plan have some resemblance to the location in downtown Santa Rosa, in Sonoma county, California. 

Unfortunately, I/we went along to one of the Scaleforum shows, and I was reminded why I originally changed to these standards, because the wheels and track look lovely. Some nice people at the Exactoscale (Hi Len, Hi Andrew) stand promised that there would soon be easy to build turnouts and that making track wasn't all that hard, honest "guvnor".

As they say, ignorance is bliss...

Down by the River

As the estate agents say, location is everything, and for me choosing the right location for my new P4 British layout was of tantamount importance to me. I had to model somewhere I could legitimately run Bulleid Pacific's and yet be small enough that it would fit along the twelve-foot wall that I had for my layout. A lot of ideas were examined, before being discarded. Some nice prototype locations did commend themselves to me, and I even thought about a totally freelanced location at one point, but I find it easier to play with a real place than invent a plausible fictitious site.

I then read a mention of the West London Line, and I imagined something a bit like the Holborn viaduct link, a small, but vital part of London’s cross railway routes. However, what I thought was a small branch line that snuck around the outskirts of London, was I discovered later actually a major trunk route for an enormous amount of cross London traffic. Still, Bulleid Pacific's ran down the line like herds of Wildebeest on the plains of the Serengeti

Given that a double track mainline is no bad thing; I thought that by judiciously choosing a station on the extension line, I would get away with selectively modelling a compressed part of the line. At this point I would state that my aim was what I would call semi-purist i.e.: in the style of, rather than an exact copy of one place. Therefore I would have the London & North Western Railway buildings, and Great Western Railway signals, with Southern locomotives, which are the best bits after all.

Of course anyone else on choosing the West London Line might have said "why not model the Chelsea & Fulham, or  Battersea railway stations?" To which I would have replied, yes but they are boring, being as they are through stations with no turnouts for shunting trains.

The irony of being able to build a prototypical layout with no turnouts, when I had never built a piece of track in my life, does not escape me. How hard could it be?

Choosing a Time Period

I think this is critical to modelling a railway, since the appearance and disappearance of locomotives and rolling stock has an impact on what you see. Also, choosing a time period can really affect the appearance of your track, which was set by the railway company that built the line. Ironic huh? Never really into track, after all you buy the stuff in yard lengths from a suitable manufacturer and plonk it down on the board.

So there I am studying track and buying books on GWR track, and how to hand build trackwork. All because the track pretty much defines the type of chairs used, the style of the turnouts, and the time period will define the size of the sleepers, and you need to know how long things like sleepers lasted, as they could last a very long time indeed. Once you go P4 you are no longer in Peco country,

The choice for me came down to being sometime after the end of the Second World War, because I wanted Bulleid Pacific’s in Malachite green. So I initially thought circa 1945/47, but this evolved slightly as time passed, because I want to run specific Bulleid Pacific variants that didn't come into use until after the nationalisation of British railways that occurred on the 1st of January 1948. I think it is called “mission creep” in the military?

Transitional Liveries

I ended up settling on 1949 as the cut off date for my project, because this is an absolutely fascinating transitional period for British Railways liveries. It gives me the widest choice of livery options due to the time it took to repaint all the locomotives in the new corporate colours, which meant that there were a plethora of hybrid Southern/British Railways livery variations.

I can also judiciously choose to only model those variants that interest me, and ignore any locomotives in British Railways Brunswick green, as I think it is a rather dull looking livery, which IMNSHO I think rather spoilt the modernity of the Bulleid Pacific design.

Finally, it also allows me to have both nine foot and eight foot six inch sleepers, with the former being used in the sidings, while the later would be used on the main tracks, because if one is going to go to all of the effort required to hand lay track, you might as well have as much variation as possible.

Thursday, 3 November 2011

P&SR: Santa Rosa 44 Fourth St. Depot

Pale yellow represents the baseboard, grey roads, building are in brown, the orange square is an intrusion into the room, the track is red/black, and blue lines represent the backdrop.

I drew up this plan the layout as strictly a home railway to please me.

If our world is like a stage, then the size of the stage sets certain limitations of  the scope of the production. Playing to the strengths and diverting attention from the weaknesses of any scheme will produce a more satisfying result. If you don't do this, I think you will find that the effort of making the layout will result in a less than enjoyable outcome.

Not living in America, I didn't want to fall into the trap of building a model of other people's models, thereby ending up making a pastiche of the real thing. So this layout was designed using prototype drawings of the track arrangements to arrive at the final track plan.  

Prototype Considerations

Choosing a time period to model that P&SR is critical to modelling the railroad, since the changing appearance of the overhead lines has an impact on the appearance of the right of way.

If passenger traffic is your forté then modelling around 1912 would maximize the opportunities to model this side of the operations as this was the era of the "Great White Cars". After 1918 the line was renamed and underwent some investment in new locomotives, and the overhead was upgraded from simple pole to catenary. Passenger service starts declining in the 1920s and the "Depression" affects revenue traffic in general. In 1932 the passenger service was stopped and track arrangements changed in light of the this service abandonment. The period between 1933 and 1941 is arguably the high period of electric freight operations, and has the advantage that there were no two identical locomotives on the line. From 1947 the P&SR became a diesel powered railroad using small General Electric diesels.

The site at Santa Rosa stretched over a length of approximately 1050 feet, or 12 foot 3 inches in HO scale. The length of the space available for my use is 11 foot 10 inches by approximately 2 foot, so a good match. However, the left-end of the layout would be compromised if built as above, because of the need to curve the tracks through 90 degrees to reach the fiddle yard/staging tracks.

I'm limited to a through point-to-point scheme, because of the space available. However, Santa Rosa is a small town depot, so this limitation is less problematical. Also, on the P&SR, operations and train lengths were very ad hoc in nature. From reading around the subject it seems to me that the track had to serve many functions, and as far as I can tell there was no formal yard on the system. Though I can see how track at Petaluma and Sebastopol could be used as such.

However, on reflection, if I were to build this layout now I'm pretty sure I would rotate the whole layout by 180°, like this.

  Again pale yellow represents the baseboard, grey roads, building are in brown, 
the orange square is an intrusion into the room, and the track is red.

The key to interesting operation is to give those viewing the model railway the feeling that there is a sense of purpose to the whole affair, and in my mind, any layout that doesn't have purposeful operation undermines the whole point of building it. Therefore this plan for a layout that has 6 industry points and an interchange, and since it replicates the prototype fairly closely it will at least have the same sort of problems the prototype had. I have some knowledge on the P&SR's operational pattern, which suggests that I shall be choosing the Gravenstein apple-growing season, since this more than doubles the number of trains that are run each day.


When I started out I had no idea what the tracks for the P&SR at Santa Rosa looked like. My first couple of plans were purely free-lanced speculations based on wishes to see a junction and my over-heated imaginations. Needless to say when I got some information about the area I started afresh.

Though I started building this layout, I ended up abandoning the project for reasons that quite frankly don't make a lot of sense to me now, though at the time they seemed reasonable. The baseboards were used as the basis for my P4 World's End: West London Joint Railway.

The reason for posting this is to serve as a reminder of why I liked the P&SR, and to publish some small part of the research I did on this project. As such expect more about my favourite West Coast traction line, especially as I have just ordered a new book that came out in 2009, which I missed the announcement of. A review will be written at some point.