Wednesday, October 22, 2014

Last Run of the K&LE

This past Saturday, the last regular operating session on the Kanawha & Lake Erie took place. It was a bitter sweet day for anyone who has been involved with current version of the K&LE over the years. John Miller and his wife Page have purchased a new home and will be moving in the next month or so. The bad news is that the layout will come down soon. The good news is that John has over ten acres at his new place and intends to build a separate building for the new version of the K&LE. Portions of the old layout will be saved for the new location and John is looking forward to expanding on the current theme.

It only seemed fitting to capture some of the action during the last session. The photo below shows the crew gathered for a group shot right after lunch (photo by Stuart Thayer).

Undercliff Yard is always a hub of activity with trains originating and terminating, through trains making set-outs and/or pick-ups and local traffic between transfer runs and Oasis Yard, which distributes all the cars destined for local industries. In the photo below, Bob Bartizek is working as the west end switcher while Jim Rollwage is working on a cut of cars in Oasis Yard.

In addition to the west end switcher and the yardmaster positions, Undercliff also requires an east switcher who's primary duty is to classify inbound and outbound cars and make up or break down trains. In the photo below, Matt Snell is working the east end switcher job while George Roos brings a manifest freight through on the main. The superintendent is watching the action, complete with his banana yellow apron.

The next shot will give you an idea of the overall size of Undercliff Yard. The picture was taken from where Bob B. is standing in the first photo above.

Out on the road, Debie Snell is taking a freight east through Milford while Randy Seiler is working east end of St. Joe where the grain terminals and oil depots are located along the Ohio River.

Later in the session, Stuart Thayer has brought the Hillsboro switcher west to work the local industries at Milford.

Out over the industrial bottoms of Cincinnati we see (l to r) Perry Simpson, Anthony Hardy and George Roos working the industries and coordinating moves with the transfer runs.

In the same area as above, we catch the tail end DC7 (DT&I run-through train) running through the street trackage as it heads west.

Like many in the hobby, John was heavily influenced by the work of Allen McClelland and his legendary Virginian & Ohio. The V&O line east out of Dayton went through Hillsboro, as does the K&LE, and this gave John the opportunity to include several V&O through freights in addition to having a V&O local come into Hillsboro to serve a group of industries. In the photo below, we see VO 91 coming into Undercliff Yard where it will set out a block of cars.

Having made its set-outs, VO 91's power backs down to its train.

Toward the end of the session, Bob B. continues to work the west end switcher while Greg Stevens brings another freight through Undercliff.

Bill "Smokey" Doll usually works as the east end switcher, but he wasn't able to attend this session. All of us are fairly certain that his absence was the only reason Undercliff Yard looked like it did in the picture below at the end of the session.

I think I can speak for all of us in extending John Miller a huge thank you, not only for everything he has done to make this railroad what it is, but also for allowing us to spend some time running it. It really doesn't get much better than this and we were all very fortunate to have been part of the K&LE. Thanks, John.

Thursday, October 16, 2014

Quick Update

It occurred to me this morning that we are half way through October and there hasn't been a single post to the blog yet this month. So here's a quick update on what's been happening over the last thirty days or so.

The U30C below has just rolled out of the CWE shops. The loco is headed for the K&LE where it will be teamed up with the L&N U30C in the picture and be assigned to grain train service. Its first revenue run will be this Saturday during a K&LE op session.

The signal system that I've mentioned in the past has begun and the photo below shows the first DIO boards and detectors installed.

These boards are made by Signals By Spreadsheet and you can find more information on the signal system and products here: My goal is to get the system up and running with ABS and then eventually move to CTC. In addition to installing the hardware, I've been working on the spreadsheets for the signals and DIO boards. I've also been documenting all of the work on the signal system along with modifying and re-documenting the electrical system. More to come on this in the future.

Over the past month, I spent several Fridays with Bob Bartizek taking pictures of his beautiful Pennsylvania & Western layout for an upcoming article. Here's one of my favorite shots from those sessions.

There are two Atlas standard cupola cabooses in the paint shop along with several boxcars to be weathered. An SD45 is painted and ready to be reassembled and weathered. There are a handful of hopper cars in various stages of completion. At last but not least, several new signals for Petersburg Junction are under construction. So while the posts may have been a bit sparse recently, there's been a lot taking place behind the scenes.

Monday, September 22, 2014

A Tale of Two Boxcars- Part 3

This last post in the series will deal with weathering the RBL boxcars and placing them in service on the railroad.

Prior to weathering any car, I like to tone down the factory paint job and add a protective finish to prevent any damage to the graphics on the car. I sprayed the sides, ends and roof with a tiny bit of Floquil Grime added to a paint cup full of thinned Testor’s Dullcote. For this step I used a Paashe Model H airbrush and put a 50/50 mix of Dullcote and lacquer thinner in the paint cup. I then dipped the end of a paint brush into the bottle of Floquil Grime and stirred it into the paint cup. Doing this several times gave me a slightly tinted flat finish to apply to the car. The photo below shows the car once this flat finish has been applied and the ACI labels and tack boards added.

This car was shopped in December of 1975 and I’m modeling August of 1976, so I applied light weathering to reflect a car that had been recently repainted. I started by mixing some artist’s tube acrylic burnt umber and ivory black with some Windex. The mix for this car was about 50/50 burnt umber to ivory black. I like to get a small batch mixed to the consistency of paint and then thin it slightly prior to applying it to the car. After applying the thinned mix, I took another brush, dipped it into the Windex and wiped it gently on a paper towel. I then began removing the wash with vertical strokes on the car sides, moving from top to bottom. Gently removing the wash in this manner will give you lightly faded and slightly grimed look on the side of the car. The photo below shows how the car sides appear at this point.

For the ends, use the same steps as the sides but leave a little more of the wash towards the bottom. You can also take the brush used to remove the wash and dab it at the wash. This produces some of the blotches seen in the photo below.

If you look closely at the photo above, you can see a couple of areas where the wash dried in a small pool. Dabbing these areas with the end of a cosmetic sponge before the wash dried would have improved the appearance and added a little more texture to the weathering. Another lesson learned.

After the sides and ends were finished, I tackled the roof by making up a wash of burnt umber with a little bit of ivory black. I covered about half of the roof panels with this wash. Next, I went back across the panels with another brush that had been dipped in Windex and wiped on a paper towel. The idea is to get the look of a roof that has been exposed to the elements for a relatively short period of time. The photo below shows the finished roof.

The last step in weathering the car was to apply a light dusting of AIM medium grey weathering powder to the truck side frames. The photo below shows the finished car.

These two cars are now in service moving canned goods from the Libby Foods plant in Chicago to Mountain Food Distributors at Bass, WV on the Elkwater Branch. During a session, one car generally comes back empty into North Pierce on the Elkwater Branch Roustabout (AM) while the other. loaded car gets set out at North Pierce by an eastbound manifest. Later in the session, the first car will move west toward Chicago while the second car will move up the branch on the Elkwater Branch Roustabout (PM) and be delivered to its destination. The photo below shows one of cars headed up the branch on the Roustabout.

At some point, another source of canned goods will be identified to the east and a new waybill will be made up. This will provide for the set-out of one of the cars at Big Chimney to picked up by an eastbound way freight. In the next session, the car will move west to Big Chimney to be picked up for delivery by the Elkwater Branch Roustabout (PM). 

It was Anthony Hardy sharing the “CUSTOMER IDENTIFICATION CODES for WORK ORDER REPORTING” for the EK Subdivision of the L&N that got this whole project started. In addition to having a couple of nice new freight cars on the layout, I now have a few additional industries to be served on the branches. So thanks, Anthony!

Thursday, September 18, 2014

A Tale of Two Boxcars- Part 2

In Part 2, we'll look at some modifications to the Atlas RBL boxcars that will make them more reliable in operation and a few missing details. 

The first step was to replace the truck screws by drilling #50 holes and tapping them to accept #2-56 screws. I wanted to make sure that there wasn’t a solid weight above the bolsters, so I removed the roof by gently inserting a knife blade under the edge as shown in the photo below.

Neither roof was glued in place and both came off easily. I was surprised to find what is used for weights in these cars- two large nuts that are glued in place over the truck bolsters as shown in the photo below.

With the roof removed, it was evident that nothing would interfere with drilling and tapping the truck bolster as described above.

The Atlas car comes with Accumate couplers which are secured in the coupler box by a cover with a small pin cast into it. The pin fits into a round casting on the coupler box. I use Kadee #5’s or 58’s exclusively, so I needed to change the couplers. One of my freight car standards is to make sure that all couplers are secured in place with screws which insures that no couplers will break loose during an operating session. It also makes replacing them a cinch. To remove the couplers, I gently inserted a #11 Exacto knife blade under the coupler cover to pry it loose. The cut levers are glued to the cover but a gentle prod with a #11 knife blade will break them free. After removing the coupler,  I marked the location of the pin on the other side of the coupler box cover. I put the coupler box cover back on the coupler box and used a #50 drill bit to drill a hole through the coupler box cover and the coupler box. After tapping the hole to accept a 2-56 screw, I placed the Kadee spring and coupler inside the coupler box and secured it with a small 2-56 screw.The photo below shows one of the coupler box covers removed and the new Kadee coupler installed.

Once the couplers were installed, it was time to address the bright yellow color on the bottom of the car. While it may have been painted this way when the car was new, it wouldn’t take much time in regular service to acquire a solid coat of grime and dirt. To simulate this, I masked the sides and ends and sprayed the bottom with Rust-Oleaum camouflage brown. This paint comes in a spray can and is available at most home improvement stores. It dries perfectly flat, works well on plastic, and is a great dirty brown color that is perfect for the bottom of freight cars. The paint comes out of the can very heavy, so a few light passes are needed to get adequate coverage without building up too much paint. The photo below shows the bottom of the car after the paint has been applied. Note that some of the yellow still shows in a few areas. My goal was to make sure that everything visible from any normal viewing angle would be covered. In the event you wanted to cover every nook and cranny, you could decant a small amount of paint into a bottle from the spray can and use a small brush to hit those areas.

For the base coat of weathering on the trucks, I sprayed them with the same Rust-Oleum camouflage paint that was used on the bottom. I like to spray the wheels and axles while they are mounted in the trucks as it prevents any paint from accumulating inside the journal boxes and keeps paint away from the end of the axles. You can see the super custom, extremely expensive, ultra high-tech painting jig that I made in the photo below.

There were two fairly obvious detail omissions that needed to be corrected before weathering the car. This car comes with an early version of the consolidated stencil and a shop date of 12/75. Any car with these markings would have had an ACI (Automatic Car Identification) label which was mandated by the F.R.A in 1968 and was to be installed on all equipment by 1970. I used old Herald King ACI labels, which are no longer available, but you can get them from Highball Graphics. The second missing detail item is the tack boards on the side of the car. I had some in one of my parts boxes, so I mixed some yellow and orange paint to match the color of the car, painted the tack boards and then mounted them on the side to the right of the reporting marks. The photo below shows both of these details added to the side of the car.

In Part 3, I'll describe the weathering techniques used to get this car ready for service.

Monday, September 15, 2014

A Tale of Two Boxcars- Part 1

Anthony Hardy, a regular operator on the Chesapeake, Wheeling and Erie, recently came across some CSX material that had been given to friend by a gentleman who retired from the railroad. Included in the box was a customer listing for the EK Subdivision of the Louisville & Nashville Railroad. The photo below shows the document.

This document started an e-mail exchange about the various customers, and in particular the Jackson Wholesale Grocery in Jackson, Kentucky. According to Anthony and several other friends, all of whom grew up in the area and have studied the operations of the L&N, it was common to see reefers and insulated boxcars spotted at grocery wholesalers throughout the coal fields up until the mid 1980’s. In fact, another one of the regular members of the CWE crew, Stuart Thayer, had actually taken some photos of a local working Jackson Wholesale back in 1985. Below are several of the photos that he passed along.


Based upon this conversation, several of the branches on my layout now have grocery wholesale customers.  All I needed was some cars for this service.

At the same time this conversation was taking place, I came across an advertisement for an Atlas 50’ insulated plug door boxcar. This car is part of the company’s Master Series line and the detail is just fantastic.

Everything about the car is extremely well done and there are many individually applied detail parts. Even the locking mechanism on the plug door is a separate part. It appeared these cars would fit the bill for the grocery wholesale service on the branches, so I picked up two of them lettered for RBNX.

This car would work just fine right out of the box. But before I put any cars on the layout, I like to make sure that they meet certain standards that I have established for all of my rolling stock. I also make sure that they are weathered appropriately as I’ve noticed that once cars get on the layout, the likelihood that they will be pulled off for weathering decreases with each operating session. In Part 2, I'll make a few minor changes that will improve the performance and looks of these nice cars.