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Our fleet of city buses was very worn out by the time I was old enough to ride. Russell and I were 7 years old when he suggested we take a ride over to Laurium (3 miles) from our neighbourhood in Calumet. We scrounged up the fifteen cents and a nickel for a transfer if needed to get back home. It was a daring adventure at the time as our parents had no clue what us kids did in the summer roaming around town. We got home an hour later and none knew the difference until we bragged about it. Looking back, I’m glad we did it because the bus service was shut down a year or so after that.

The three ladies are going to catch this bus. Sitting on the bench are a couple of old scoffers betting on whither the bus would even make it to this stop. They know this particular unit has a bad right rear axle bearing, a wrist pin knock in the engine and chattering clutch. In the waning days of operation, it’s called “break down maintenance”.

And the dog, he’s been caught sneaking on the bus before.

This is a people-friendly bus stop with a newspaper dispenser, mail box, bench and phone booth. If you have a long wait, the diner can provide a quick bite to eat and/or something to drink.

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A radical new look for the yard

The hump yard looked like this for over ten years with just ballast for scenery. This would be correct for the dry Southwest and I left it that way so my customers could see the HO “fine” ballast colours of #1222 yard mix and #1152 Empire Builder overlaid in the foreground. This is the first step no matter how you scenic a yard as the ballast is the base before adding more to it.

The Eastern/Midwest look
A whole host of color and texture brings life to the scene as this railroad doesn’t spray herbicide to kill weeds and grass. I used the following products for this effect; #1031 “N” scale Black Cinder, #1011 “N” scale Red Cinder, #1151 “N” scale Empire Builder ballast, #2000 Urban/Industrial Dirt. This was applied randomly and then brushed around to (slightly) mix the colours. #2 Dead and Alive ground cover, #8 Olive Green Flock, #4 Straw Grass clippings and #1321 “N” scale White Marble for the spilt sand from the engine sanders. The Clump foliage is a sample from a scenery company that never made it a product. All nine products are put down dry and then bonded in one application. It’s hard to tell, but 50 per cent of the original ballast still shows through so you need to PRE ballast the tracks anyway and let that dry completely.

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All Harvey Hotels were trackside

Ours is a Harvey Lunch Room along the mainline and a great place to grab a chair and cup of coffee to watch trains. The railroad financed the construction of the Harvey Co. facilities and the agreement allowed all Santa Fe employees a discount on meals. Our trains frequently stop at such places so the crews can catch a bite to eat and a cup of coffee. There is also a “News Stand” to grab a magazine or newspaper. My interest favors automotive stuff so I place more importance on the servicing of the old Packard Harvey Cars you see in the foreground scenery. I spent 17 years working on the latter-day Harvey Cars when living at the Grand Canyon before moving to Paulden Arizona.

To start with, the area on this side of the tracks has acres of space ( 10 “) with an up-front scene for a gas station. It’s a kit I built thirty years ago, and it found a new home. The service station does some of the service work on the Fred Harvey “Harvey Cars” used for the “Indian Detours” motor trips in the Southwest. The building across the street is the Harvey Car garage.

A Weaver Twin Post hoist was scratch built from brass and can be raised or lowered. I had one of these hoists (Weaver) in my shop as a car or light truck could have easy repair access for the transmission and driveline. The front hoist cylinder slides fore and aft on a track so it can be adjusted to fit the length of each car. The signpost was done likewise from brass. The perimeters of the street and driveway were made with concrete (#1290 Powder) curbs, gas station driveway, and work area slabs.

The road crosses the tracks with the crossing protected with grade crossing flashers from Oregon Rail and a detector from Circitron because I like the action.

When modeling a full-service gas station, How many folks forget to install the bell ringer hose across the pump island?

In Arizona, we do some service work outside as the sun shines most of the year and it seldom rains. We wear a glove in the summer because the tools laying in the sun get so hot you can’t touch them. JL Innovative makes several details that pick up the action for this scene. My policy is building at least one Jordan vehicle for every new scene. The green 32 Ford 5 window Hot Rod coupe was the kit selected this time. You’ll see these same vehicles in different scenes. After all, don’t your people drive from place to place on your layout?

A few extra details were added in this lower picture

The Fred Harvey lunch room (the arched structure) just received a coat of lighter paint and is now complete except for some signs. The Santa Fe depot and freight house in the upper picture is finished except for detailed junk and people. The depot was inspired by the one in Winslow Arizona and is still served by Amtrak.

The next project is to work about a 2-foot area to the right of this scene with, “again”, most of the detail upfront.

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Leaning tower at 2nd and Commerce

From the Kalmbach book; BRIDGES & BUILDINGS
By Gordon Odegard and Dan Rauschenberg
An eight-sided gate man’s tower that houses controls for pneumatically operated crossing gates.
These octagonal towers were built by the Milwaukee Road found around the city including this one on at 2nd and Commerce in Milwaukee. The authors found this one unique because it leaned to the South. It dates back to the 1900s and was still in use during the ’60s. The article included scale drawing and photographs but not a model of the structure.

I used Campbell’s lap siding, windows and black tissue paper roofing material. Floquil’s Reefer white and Santa Fe Blue make my model fit a Santa Fe color scheme.
The tower stands tall so the operator can see over any trains in his control of the crossing gates.

The tissue paper roofing material was pained with Floquil’s weathered black.

The model will be moved to a more appropriate area still under construction.

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Logging Repair

The logging Repair project is on hold for now until it’s placed in a permanent location on the layout. This is my first attempt of the board by board construction with strip wood made on a table saw. The base ground color is #1090 Cumbres Earth, #1183 Oak Creek Orange ballast and dabs of other Az Rock products to enhance the scenery.

The scenery was done before the structure was built. A future rail spur is modelled with the graded roadbed, ties and spike kegs waiting for the track gang to lay the ties and rail.

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Campbell Tree

This is a closeup of the branches of a pine tree using Campbell Scale Models foliage material. This type of foliage gives the tree a wispy appearance that has its’ own appeal to modelers. The openness allows you to see through the forest at whatever there is in or behind a grove of trees. This variety is a lot of work, and I may do a web-site tutorial on the technique if folks are interested.

I go back in time by reading about old techniques for much of my modeling. Jack Work introduced these “Wispy” types of trees. The variety shown here uses “Air Fern” for the branches. This, I believe, is the material found in the old Campbell kits. All my tall pines have trunks shaped from Cedar as it has more strength than Balsa and not as hard as Pine to work with. The Air Fern Stems are very thin and need to be built up thicker in the area near the trunk. I use Burnt Umber Acrylic paint directly out of the tube with a brush to add thickness for a better appearance. The scenery shell is my paper bag method with glue and dirt added for color and texture. Now I’ll add more soil and foliage ground cover at the trunk bases to plant them properly. The trestle is from Campbell and stained with a homemade product.

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UNION PACIFIC “pull-by” inspection point

Irven wrote an article in the early ’60s with pictures and scale drawing of a Union Pacific rolling or “pull-by” inspection station located in Laramie Wyo. These inspections were performed along with intermediate railroad points at both ends of the yard. Train speed was restricted to ten/fifteen miles per hour while a man stood on each side of the track. Ground-level floodlights were attached to old brake wheels to serve as stands. Inspectors watched for faulty equipment such as brakes, dragging parts, and hot boxes. All trains stopped in this yard, so a telephone was used to inform yard repair crews of the suspected problems. My layout is a very loose version of the Santa Fe, so any small structure that appeals to me will find an appropriate spot of real estate. There was not a model in the article, just text, photos and drawing of the prototype. My model is the same length as the drawings. However, the roof was extended to cover the platform I added to the building. The board siding is sugar pine. The door is Campbell as well as the smoke jack and swamp cooler. The 1 3/4 X 2 5/8 structure will fit easily on your layout and add more purpose to the railroad physical plant. The windows and door are only tack glued in place so you can see all the components in the raw before its painted. This time, I dry brushed a little Floquil Grime to lighten the walls and roof. Everything was brushed with my white pigment to make the building look dry and dull to kill any gloss from the stains.

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TRAIN WRECK Nightmare on the Chief

Is this the horrible result of a model railroader that switched from DC to DCC?
(My scene was inspired by an article in Trains Magazine published many years ago.)

The scene was built in twelve hours including hand laying the track. High Desert Soil (#107-03) is the ground cover with some #40 Blended Grass and # 62 Conifer Green Foliage amidst broken ties and twisted rail.
Looks like someone threw a switch the wrong way again.

Used 1302 as ballast, 1032 in between the tracks and 1250 as ground-cover.

The scene is modeled after a real train wreck between no. 8, the “Fast Mail” and no. 19, the westbound “Chief”. This disaster happened in September 1956 at Robinson siding New Mexico.

The Northbound Mail was sitting in the hole waiting for the Chief to pass by when the North Switch had been thrown the wrong way in the middle of the night. News reported out of Albuquerque was able to hop on an airplane and get aerial pictures of the devastation.



It’s totally impossible to have a head-on collision like this using DC.

Now look at the mess, twisted and burned diesel with death and injuries to the crew.



Use 1307 as the rocks

The Undertaker and Priest were summoned to sort out the living from the dead. “Oh why, oh why”, asks the owner of this layout, “if I stayed with DC, this never would have occurred”.




One of the Santa Fe’s private cars was at the rear of the Fast Mail and the occupants escaped injury even though the train was shoved back a car length from the collision.




In the wee hours of the morning, the boom car was brought in from Raton NM to salvage what it could. In order to lift the passenger car, numerous lead weights had to be installed in the Athearn boom car as a counterweight.

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Caboose Light Markers

That freight isn’t ready to leave until the conductor turns on the marker lights.
I bought an old caboose with a bay window. I place a toggle switch that powers the L.E.D. marker lights and a 3-volt interior bulb. Stay away from those slide switches as they can be unreliable. A toy train becomes more interesting when lighted for “after dark” operations. The caboose typically sets square on the rails, but I tipped it slightly for the picture.

All caboose or specially marked freight cars have Logic Rail Technologies detectable wheelsets to activate the red block signal if left on the mainline while switching cars at a siding.

That 16 car freight emphasizes that my yard has a bowl to keep cars from rolling out on the mainline. The camera also exaggerates the kink in the yard tracks at left.

Before that train leaves, have the conductor turn on the lights to simulate a “get ready” action for train movements. In this situation, how about a train is approaching from the rear, that’s why they have marker lights.

Learn more about Caboose Lights

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Weathering A Few Freight Cars

The same pigments I use for scenery and used for weathering all the structures you have seen on this web-site have now been applied on these freight cars. Call this “The Art of Model Railroading” as I wanted to make my weathering very obvious. Someone made a statement recently on the internet that Athearn’s rolling stock is not selling anymore and gathering dust on the hobby shop shelves. Consider using them for these extreme weathering techniques and I’m sure they will get as much attention as those highly detailed ones at six times the money.

You can’t believe everything printed by the model press. One of their highly endorsed techniques for weathering was to use dirty thinner. The results on plastic were very bad and the models looked horrible. Floquil’s weathering sets don’t cut it either as their to shiny. What you see here is my pigments applied over the tacky paint. Old paint turns to chalk and therefore not glossy looking.
Floquil’s Grime was applied to all these cars and then different combinations of my powder applied.
In some places, Dull Coat lacquer was applied to further distribute the pigment to make it adhere.
Only Dull Coat and black pigment were used on this car.
Care was taken not to hide the car logo’s so you could still read them. A little orange pigment was used to simulate fresh rust right of the door.
A stock car according to the late John Allen, will have a lot of “white” at the bottom to show the user of disinfectants.
Take a good look at the next freight train rolling by and notice the extreme disrepair of some units. I saw a couple up in Flagstaff a while back that were so bad one could hardly believe they were still in service.