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Leaning tower at 2nd and Commerce

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 saw no point in making my model lean because of my freelance location.

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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.
OOPS!
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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A 1950’s scene

A 1950's scene
A 1950’s scene

I like the looks of masonry structures for my 1950’s scenes with only a few wood ones as in reality. Most of them burned down by then. This angle of the scene is not appreciated as the viewer. You would have to lean over the layout to see it this way. The streets are laid out at an angle to the layout edge. To avoid those parallel lines that make scenes boring.

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Read about downtown

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PRODUCE HOUSE

All my models have extra wood on the inside to make them sturdy and keep the walls and roof from bowing. With the roof removed, you can see the plank floor nail detail. Included are my home made boxes and crates. Variety of three different kinds of roof materials. The paper profile shingles pried up in places to make them stand out.

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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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BUS STOP

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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OPERATING RPO CARS

First class trains do very little work on the layout other than run interference to the freight trains or have quick station stops. You can add extra chores such as switching out diners, coaches, sleepers and RPO cars at various locations. I have added an extra element of excitment by perfecting action of catching a mail bag on the fly. It took a little trial by error to make this happen.

 On our Railroad, the station agent is responsible to get the mail sack positioned on the crane. The fellow on the right is checking his watch for the expected arrival of the East Bound Fast Mail.
On our Railroad, the station agent is responsible to get the mail sack positioned on the crane. The fellow on the right is checking his watch for the expected arrival of the East Bound Fast Mail.
 The mail crane is swung out into position for the "catch".
The mail crane is swung out into position for the “catch”.
 The catching hook is hanging down when not being used as the prototype ( you don't want to snag tunnel portals, bridges and other object close to track side).
The catching hook is hanging down when not being used as the prototype ( you don’t want to snag tunnel portals, bridges and other object close to track side).
 In our case, the hook is raised manually when the train is stopped at some location (station stop town or crew change). The hook is designed to stay up when you lift it up and move it ahead a fraction on an inch. The forward tip of the arm has the tip bent up and locks into another pin bent over and attached to the car body to receive it.
In our case, the hook is raised manually when the train is stopped at some location (station stop town or crew change). The hook is designed to stay up when you lift it up and move it ahead a fraction on an inch. The forward tip of the arm has the tip bent up and locks into another pin bent over and attached to the car body to receive it.
 The magnetic bag stays on the steel pin without falling off. When I do this at speed, the hook will slide back that fraction on an inch and the hook will fall down.
The magnetic bag stays on the steel pin without falling off. When I do this at speed, the hook will slide back that fraction on an inch and the hook will fall down.
 This is how it looks when the hook falls down. Not to far down the line, someone in your train crew has to remove the mail bag so it doesn't snag objects close to the right of way. Where will that bag be placed? See that open door on the next car back! I plan to have a bag kicker that will toss the bag on the platform near the mail crane. After all, mail is received and picked up at each location. It only requires two mail bags to keep this cycle going.
This is how it looks when the hook falls down. Not to far down the line, someone in your train crew has to remove the mail bag so it doesn’t snag objects close to the right of way. Where will that bag be placed? See that open door on the next car back! I plan to have a bag kicker that will toss the bag on the platform near the mail crane. After all, mail is received and picked up at each location. It only requires two mail bags to keep this cycle going.
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Boot Jack High Level

After a couple of years of hiatus, the relocation of Bootjack AZ is underway on my upper level. I keep expanding with scratch-built structures that resemble my extensive line of the Campbell Scale Models buildings. In the view below are six structures with Campbell shingles on the roofs. This water tank and tool shed were inspired by ads in the model press and old articles from the magazines. My model closely follows the Fine Scale Miniatures kit #125 that was released in 1974 and sold for $35.95 with a production of 3,000 units. The cost for me is only a few dollars as I buy strip wood and scribed siding from Coronado Scale Models in Phoenix AZ. They are one of the few hobby shops left that still stock the scratch supplies I need.

The water tank needs the band lugs, rafter tails, longer ladder, and two working lights. Brandon Enterprises make the rubber mold for the plaster casting I cut up for the base walls of the water tank. One of my personal custom carved stone castings encloses the open-air storage area. The double track is 1/4″ Homabed with Mico Engineering stained ties and their weathered code 70 rail. Ballasting was done with #1092 Cumbres & Toltec before the rail was spiked.

The near track now has extra #1092 ballast added along the slope to fill in the bare spots as you see in the far track. The foreground cardboard is now covered with #1070 High Desert Powder and #2 Dead & Alive foliage for now. A couple of Ramex track gauges are in the code 70 slots for spiking the rail. That Ramex track gauge was cut into individual sections as that long spine that connected them together was very awkward to work with. The spikes are Mico Engineering “small spikes” that works best in HO.

The mortar was applied to all the stonework with thinned water-based aged white paint. All the roof rafter tail are in place and the catwalk and fire barrels on the shed roof. The project is on hold until the right light bulbs come in from the hobby shop. The upper-level layout is 58 inches high and is reserved for my most detailed work as it’s closer to eye level. Other structures in this scene are from Campbell Scale Models.

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Easy steps for modelling a vacant lot

This is imagined to be a “dirt” vacant piece of ground over run with weeds and trash.

  1. The color of dirt (one of my products that end in “0” is an earth power. In this case, it’s #1020 Light Earth. Notice that a lot of it shows through. The whole area was covered with it first and glued in place. I chose to place some random gravel (#1154 Basalt ballast for an extra effect.
  2. 2 Dead and Alive Ground cover was applied sparingly.
  3. 4 Yellow Grass was applied by just clipping short pieces with scissors and allowed to fall randomly.
  4. 5 Green Grass was done the same way. Most of the clippings will lay down flat on the ground so don’t overdo it.
  5. Wet and glue this in place and allow to dry completely.
  6. Now you want some Yellow and Green grass to stand up. Place a few random dots of glue on the landscape and plant short snips of grass in the glue. Tease to tops to spread them out so the grass looks bushy.
  7. You can finish up with some paper litter (cigarette paper) , an old barrel, natural twigs and an animal. When you are all done, the original “dirt” should show through in random places.