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Transferring loads

I just had to build a Campbell Scale Models produce shed several years ago. This is how it fits on the layout as if it could be used for receiving loads from a box car such as the one seen here. The loading platform is long enough to place three box cars for unloading. There was a situation in Minneapolis were forty box cars could be unloaded at the Farmers Market East of Lyndale Avenue and North of Glendale Avenue. I don’t think anyone would model that as thirty five feet of layout would be required.
Just for the heck of it, I’m going to give the conductor of this train the job of unloading three cars of boxes from box car to the platform without knocking anything over. I’ll be nice, there will only be a few boxes per car. Will he know enough to open those box car doors at some point before the train arrives there?

Success at unloading three box cars

The produce shed was carefully positioned near the track using the NMRA gauge which is real close to the boxcars. The ballast had to be chipped away so the platform would be in the same plane as the boxcar floors. I used the brush to push the freight unto the dock from the other opened door without a problem. What helped the transfer is to keep the loading dock slightly lower than the car floors.

 The Campbell Scale Models L.C.L. Freight House kit came with wood blocks and barrels. The instruction sheet has sign cut outs to place on them for detail. I made photo copies to be used on my homemade boxes and crates. Everything on the platform could easily be used as live load transfers for that way freight.

To meet N.M.R.A. standards, their gauge was used to position the loading dock for height and distance to met their clearance standards. I moved the dock a couple whiskers lower and away to minimize the chance of engines and rolling stock from striking it.

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Comic Strip

Using photos for a cartoon strip require close ups that keep everything in focus. Flaws in the model work now show up dramatically such as the unpainted wagon spokes, shiny cloths and the right shoulder of the man not glued in place properly.

To make the characters larger in the picture box, you need to crop them out before you reduce the picture size. Now the flaws in the man really stand out.

You now need to decide if the overall scene will be of interest to the readers even though the characters are small and without action. Traditionally, cartoons are about the characters and the artist draws them bigger in the frame to show features and action.

Notice the expression and body language of Walt in my drawing. I need to find a way of drawing my characters and overlaying them on my photos for many of the frames. Just drawing the characters would save a lot of time when using existing scenery for a cartoon.

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Campbell’s kit #353 LCL Freight House

You need one of these on the layout as they were common for Less than Car Load pickups and deliveries. Lots of little building add potential activity to your railroad. I believe the kit comes with those unpainted crates and barrels that I have not detailed yet. One could scratch build this for a couple of bucks, however, I acquired this from Campbell’s when I did some work for the company some years back.

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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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Wood Boxcar Freight House

A few months age, I got an Ayres Scale Models “Box Car Freight House” on eBay. This kit dates back to the early ’60s and is all wood like much the models from that era. My Winslow engine service area was a perfect location for this kit as it goes well with a Campbell loading dock that was already there. The scene has become quite congested and taken years to get it that way.

What’s an Ayres kit? Thomas J. Ayres was a 50’s kit builder in California and many of the structures were adapted into the Campbell Scale Models line of products when Leo Campbell bought it from Ayres. Ayres continued to work for Leo for a number of years at least in the capacity as a photographer. He is credited for all those sharp pictures used in the Campbell ads and color catalogs. Looking at this scene, I realized that four other Ayres kits are in it. The Sand House, Coaling Station, Water Tank and Pump House. Kevin Barnett worked for Campbell and designed the Water Treatment Plant at lower right in this photo.

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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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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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Tutorial on building scenery over the edge of the layout

I refer to it as “Dropped wandering edge. This system eliminates the traditional fascia board such as Masonite or paneling. I reserve this technique for the more scenic areas of the layout as I’m inherit lazy and want a life for other things. I’ve used this technique in various form all my life in different situations and include a drawing I made for an area I have yet to finish. We have always had a Rock Powder called Sedona Red #1040 and needed a scene showing how this products looks after applied.

If you don’t do western scenery, read the article anyway, as it can be used with other types of scenery also.

The Fast Mail is approaching the Red Rock country on a corner of the layout. The track ballast is #1152 Empire Builder on the slope of the roadbed with #1302 Northern Pacific around the ties.

“L” Girder benchwork This type of bench work was used as the track elevation is at an uphill grade and riser boards support the rough roadbed. Generally, the benchwork support boards are attached in a radial fashion for the purpose of attaching a fascia of plywood or Masonite. Instead, I cut 3/8 ” plywood to fit under the radial boards with an irregular radius o the outside.

Tools and materials

The motivation behind the project came from a picture of John Olson’s Mescal Lines that features similar Sandstone rock formations I intended on making. The “Hot Wire Foam Factory” is a “must” tool for cutting and shaping Styrofoam that doesn’t leave a mess of foam beads everywhere like when you cut it with a knife. I had accumulated a lot of 1 & 1/2 ” foam blocks that were packaging material. I never use glue when working with foam as it dries to slow, thus the bag of Plaster of Paris. Then a mixing bowl and a couple measuring cups and we’re ready to go.

Layout of the foam shapes

Before the plaster is mixed, several foam blocks a cut and ready to go. Notice that the track has been protected with newspaper and secured with masking tape.

Shaping the foam

The foam on the shelf has been set in a bed of plaster and has cured for a half hour before I tool it. The hot knife is really a thin rod that heats up to melt the foam. The tool has a temperature control that is set so it doesn’t smoke excessively yet still melts the foam.

Close up of tooling

Applying the Plaster of Paris

You can use a rubber glove for this, but the plaster has proved to be harmless to my hands when washed frequently. This process seals up any gaps between the foam blocks and leaves the surface with the right texture of sandstone.

Pigment added to the plaster

It dawned on me that some pigment should be added to the plaster, so I used our # 1420 Supai Red product. When all the plasterwork was finished, it was allowed to cure for several days before I brushed the entire rock formation with my Sedona Red Rock Powder mixed with white (or Carpenters) glue and water. If you apply over green plaster, the paint won’t stick or cover very well.

Second layer of Styrofoam rock

I didn’t show you the second layer of rock being installed, but you can see it in the foreground picture.

Sketching a scenery plan

The drawing doesn’t need any explanation other than the scenery looks thicker and ideal for low angle pictures of your trains that aren’t spoiled by a fascia in the scene. This drawing was not intended for publication as the pencil lines are very light.

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JL Innovative Design make this gas station kit that fits the era of my other structures on the layout. The kit makes a very small structure that can easily find room such as the space you see at left. I worked at two different Shell Stations while attending Dunwoody Institute in Minneapolis MN back in the 60’s. Neither had a canopy over the islands, but both had several work bays with large windows such as this one. The back side has a single bay door for lube jobs and tire repair. I ordered some other detail parts from them and added a few of my own for this scene.