Sunday, March 26, 2023

CHEX 372

 Fun but a foob. I've lost track of all of the changes and modifications that I made to this old McKean covered hopper. Every time I looked at prototype photos of these cars, I found something else that needed to be corrected. And it still isn't right. I'll let the rivet counters find all the flaws. But it was a learning experience, and I had a chance to do some things that I haven't done in the past. I sectioned and lengthened a Plano Models etched metal roof walk. I'm continually amazed at these kits- great instructions, everything goes together well, and they are relatively easy to build. And they look fantastic.

I also had the chance to rebuild the side ladders using flat brass stock and Tichy plastic grab irons. 

The prototype photo below shows what I was trying to achieve, although it was taken at a later date.

Now I'm off to work on a Tangent gon that needs nothing more than a little weathering.

Sunday, October 30, 2022

The Passing of a Legend: W. Allen McClelland

Allen McClelland passed away peacefully this past Friday. Like countless others in the hobby, he had a profound effect on me. Many have commented since his passing that their railroad wouldn’t exist if it wasn’t for Allen, and the same is true for me. He gave me two very special gifts for which I will be eternally grateful.

The first gift was a keen interest in proto-freelancing. When I got back in the hobby in 1978, the V&O Story had just appeared in the model railroad press. I poured over every issue and decided right then and there that I would develop a proto-freelanced railroad. At the time, it wasn’t common to develop a model railroad that fit into the greater scheme of real railroads and was geographically centered in some part of the country. I jumped on the bandwagon and developed my railroad, and I’m still at it- the same railroad- over forty years later. It has sustained my interest over that period of time and provided more hours of enjoyment than I ever thought possible. What a wonderful gift! And I know there are thousands of other people who received the same gift from Allen.

The second gift was his friendship. Back in early 2016, I begged my way into Gerry Albers’ work group. Gerry, Allen, and a handful of other incredibly gifted model railroaders get together every Tuesday to work on Gerry’s beautiful VGN layout. As many of you know, it includes a portion of the V&O that Allen affectionately calls the V&O 3.0. In the summer of 2016, Allen asked if I would be his backup on the V&O. The job would involve assisting him in staging the railroad between sessions, troubleshooting any mechanical problems, and dispatching the railroad when he was unable to make a session (which was almost never!). It’s the best job I’ve ever had. Over the years, Allen and I developed a friendship that will be with me for the rest of my life. How often do you get to meet one of your heroes, let alone have the chance to become friends with them? His kindness, sense of humor, and ability to make someone feel special were only a small part of what him such an incredible person.

Allen was working on the V&O right up until the end. He had plans for an RDC-3 that would make the run up the Durham Sub from Martinsville to Charleston and back. He was also planning some additional trains to run across the Gauley Division, using some of the train numbers from the original V&O. He was an endless source of creativity regarding the railroad, and he would always preference his new thoughts with the comment, “You know, I’ve been thinking, and you know how dangerous that can be.” Oh, how I’ll miss those conversations. 

So farewell, Allen. You have touched thousands of lives throughout your long run in this wonderful hobby. And I’ll be forever grateful to you for touching mine. 

Wednesday, October 5, 2022

The Coaling Tower at Nelsonville- Part 1

It's been a while since I've posted on the blog here. There have been periodic updates posted on the CWE Facebook page, which is much easier to manage, and the blog has suffered as a result. But I thought I might put up a few posts about the progress on the coaling tower at Nelsonville. I had been stuck on this project for a long time, and I finally found a way to get the whole thing back on track (pun intended). But first, a little history.

I built the coaling tower at North Pierce back around 2003- 2004. I replaced all of the Walthers steel pieces with Tichy parts and spent a good deal of time weathering it. And while it worked at the time, I was never completely satisfied with the weathering. You can see it in the photo below.

I wasn't able to capture the look of concrete very well, and my attempts at replicating the cast lines from the concrete forms fell woefully short. 

Fast forward ten years or so and I was planning the engine terminal at Nelsonville. I had been studying photos of C&O coaling towers, and the structure at Sandy Hook yard in particular. You can it in the photo below.

I thought I could modify the Walthers kit to closely resemble this, and I started playing around with different shapes. I finally got serious and started cutting plastic. The photos below show some of the steps.

At first, I thought I would just fill in the back of the base of the tower and leave the front part as it came in the kit. The photo below shows how the base looked at this point.

I applied Bondo to fill in the cracks and joints and then sanded everything smooth. At some point, I decided to go all in and change the base to look like the one at Sandy Hook.

Eventually, I got all of the concrete sections of the tower assembled and painted using Vallejo Aged Concrete. I then scratch built an unloading shed and fitted it to the elevator on the back side of the building. At this point, the structure looked like what you see in the engine terminal in the photo below.

And it sat like this for a very long time. In the next post, I'll explain why.

Thursday, March 10, 2022

SCPX 3527

One of my favorite parts of the hobby has always been building freight cars. Back in the day, I would modify Athearn Blue Box kits, Robins Rails cars, and others to make reasonable representation of prototypes that weren't available commercially. And one of my all-time favorite authors is Bob Rivard. I have long been a big fan of his work and especially his freight car projects. I've collected all of his freight car articles I could find and have recently started building some cars based upon his work.

A case in point is SCPX 3527. Bob wrote an article in the December 2021 issue of Railroad Model Hobbyist on how he built this car from an Atlas cylindrical hopper car that he had picked up cheap at a show. I had the same car, but decorated for Penn Central, and I'd never been able to find a prototype photo of it. So, I gave it a bath in 91% isopropyl alcohol and ordered a Plano Model Products roof walk for the car. I also ordered the decals that Bob got from Bill Brillinger at Precision Design Company.

The only thing I did differently than Bob was I painted the model with Tru-Scale C&O/B&O yellow as I had that on hand, and it looked spot on to the photo I was using for reference.

This was the first time I've built a Plano roof walk and I was amazed at how well everything went together. The brackets have to be bent to shape, but this was relatively easy, and they fit right into the holes left from the Atlas roof walk. And they do make a difference, as you can see in the photo below.

The photo below shows one of the prototype cars in May of 1976. 

This was fun build, and I've always enjoyed adding something to the roster that hasn't been offered by any of the manufacturers before. Of course, now that I've built this, Atlas is sure to come out with this paint scheme in the not-to-distant future... 

Saturday, January 8, 2022

Test Fit

 Time for a test fit. The ties and rail have been removed, the ballast has been scraped up, and holes have been drilled for the wires for the lights. It appears that everything will fit as intended.

Now back to installing the 3,468 rafter ends along the roof overhang. And the clerestory still needs to be weathered. As can be seen in the photo below, the structure will dramatically change the overall appearance of the engine terminal at Nelsonville.


I'm anxious to see how it will look with the lights on inside. Stay tuned.

Sunday, December 26, 2021

The Engine House at Nelsonville- Part 2

Progress continues on the engine house at Nelsonville and in fact, the project is nearing completion. I'm waiting on the lights to arrive from Evans Designs and they should be here tomorrow. I'll install them along with the roof trusses and then work on the roof itself. Some pieces of trim need to be added to the corners of the structure, but most of the major construction is done. The photos below show the clerestory resting temporarily on two of the roof trusses.

With any luck, the structure will be mounted on the railroad in the near future.

Friday, November 12, 2021

The Engine House at Nelsonville

 Since the first time I saw a picture of the single stall engine house on the C&O at Martin, KY, I've wanted to build a model of it. In fact, the engine terminal at Nelsonville was planned around a single stall structure. Over the years, I've collected a significant number of photos of the building. I found plans for the structure in the November 1986 issue of Mainline Modeler in the CD collection of C&O MM articles that was produced by the C&O Historical Society a number of years ago. But what was odd was that the drawings by Julian Cavalier only showed the end of the building and a cross section showing the interior framing. It finally occurred to me that the side elevation would have been a fold-out page and that's why it wasn't included on the CD. I put out a request on the internet and eventually found someone who scanned the rest of the drawing for me. Around this time I also found out that Minuteman Scale Models was offering laser cut windows and doors for the building. I quickly ordered them, along with the Evergreen siding that I would need for the project. I also made a drawing of how I would tackle the long louvers in the clerestory on the roof. Then I put everything away and wondered off to another project.

Fast forward ten years and the inspiration finally came back around. It arrived in the form of Neil Schofield's beautiful work on a typical New England barn. Looking at all of that bright white Evergreen styrene and windows got the creative juices flowing. You can see some shots of Neil's barn here on the Model Railroad Hobbyist forum: CP Rail's Newport & Lyndonville Subdivision | Model Railroad Hobbyist magazine ( So I got out all the plans and information, reviewed all of the pictures, and got started. The picture below shows the progress on one of the sides along with the elevation drawing.

While working on the sides, I also started on the louvers. My original plan was to build a long strip of stringers for the individual slats and then cut them to size. The drawing below shows how this would be accomplished.

It quickly became apparent that there was no way I was going to be able to cut the stringers into 4" wide strips. Do you know how wide 4" is in HO scale? So it was on to plan B. I thought I might be able to place 2x6's at an angle on 2x4's and build up the louvers individually. I made a jig to hold the 2x6's at a 60 degree angle while the glue dried and used a small piece of basswood to provide spacing between them. You can see the initial setup below.

While the spacing looked good, it seemed as though gluing the 2x6's to the 2x4's on the edge wasn't going to provide a very sturdy sub-assembly. So I came up with plan C. I thought I could glue small pieces of 2x3's to 2x6's and build the louvers up in this manner. The photo below shows the results of the test.


There were several things wrong with this approach. First and foremost, there was simply no way I was going to be able to build the louvers this way. I don't have enough time left in my life. Secondly, they just didn't look right when held at the angle that they would be mounted on the building. So it was on to plan D. 

I had given up on the idea of building louvers that you could actually see through. It seemed the only solution was to construct them as a solid structure and make them appear as though there were openings in them. I took piece of 2x12, glued a 2x2 to the edge, and then started building a jig. It seemed as though this just might work. Paint the area between the louvers black and it would help hide the fact that you couldn't actually see through it. The photo below shows the results.

Eventually I finished the jig and it had eight louvers in it. But the section was small, gluing the 2x2's to the 2x12's was a pain, and it became clear that this wasn't going to be a very fast way of constructing all the louvers. And I was struggling with how to make these pieces into all the sections that would be needed to span the length of the roof. So now what?

As I was working on the wood jig above, I moved the assembly from plan B out of the way. I was getting ready to pitch it when I noticed that it was pretty sturdy. And when I flipped it over, it looked really good. So I thought there's no harm in adding a few more boards to it. Once I got going, I figured out the best way to add the 2x6's and the process began to go quickly. Most importantly, when the piece is flipped over, the louvers look great! And it would be relatively easy to connect these sections together. The photo below shows the progress using this method.


I got pretty discouraged at various times while trying to figure out the louvers. But fortunately, I stuck with it and didn't pack the whole project back into a box. It now looks like there just might be an engine house at Nelsonville in the not-too-distant future!