Thursday, December 24, 2020

Why am I doing this?

Talk about a project that was completed in fits and starts, these two gons take the cake. Many years ago, I purchased a Concor 52'6" gondola kit that included steel coils, coil troughs and hoods. Somewhere along the line I found another one, probably at a train show. I had always intended to build these for the home road and paint them in a similar scheme to those found on the C&O/B&O/Chessie System in the 1970's. The photo below shows how Chessie marked these cars especially for coil service. In addition to the two yellow panels on the side and the "COILS ONLY" stencils, the interiors of the cars were painted yellow. This was supposed to help alert crews and shippers to the special loading requirements.

So this past May, I took the kits to Michigan with the intention of building them over the summer. I had built one of these kits before for general service, and I remembered that the underbody had to be modified in order to lower the trucks. And lowering the trucks meant changing the coupler pockets and end sills. There was a great article many years ago on how to do this, but of course I couldn't find it. So I looked at the bottom of the one I had built previously in order to figure out what needed to be done.

So I started hacking away at the bottom of the car. I knew it wasn't going to be pretty, but I wasn't building this for a contest and no one was ever going to see the bottom of it anyway. The photo below shows the modifications to lower the trucks and raise the coupler pockets.

The next step was to glue the underframe pieces to the body. Armed with a few clamps and some wood blocks, the next step was easy.

As I was working on the underframe, I was also looking at the sides and ends and trying to determine what needed to come off and be replaced with some finer detail. It soon became apparent that just about everything had to come off. About this time, I began to wonder why I was spending all this time hacking away on a kit that was at least 30 years old and lacked all of the finer detail that's available on RTR stuff today. I was about to throw in the towel when I came across the photo below.

The picture taken by Steven Brown shows Clarke Avenue Yard in Cleveland on the old B&O. What caught my eye was the gon behind the switcher. Note the yellow interior- this is clearly one of the coil gons and it's in pretty good shape. And while it is difficult to see in this photo, the car has ladders on the right side. I had been working on a resin kit of a SOU gon and it had ladders on all the corners. So it occurred to me that I could use ladders instead on grabs on the corners. And there was the additional inspiration I needed.

Next up, I carved off most of the detail and added new ladders and stirrup steps. I also added some etched walkways pieces to the solid platforms by the handbrake. As I wanted the cars to be able track well while empty, I also added some shot to the bottoms. Remember- I said that no one was going to see the bottoms! The photo below shows the cars at this point.

With the cars complete, I now turned to the hoods and troughs. My efforts here didn't last long as it became apparent that the hoods would require major work. In addition to adding grab irons all around, the braces for the top that came with the kit weren't going to work. I started looking through kits I had on hand and online but couldn't find anything that would work. I really didn't want to scratch-build these, but I was too far into this project to turn back. So the cars sat for awhile.

Sometime later, I came across a photo of the B&O gons with a caption that said these cars were rebuilt for hot coil service and as such, didn't have hoods. Bingo! That was exactly the inspiration I needed to finish these up. I dug through my coil car photos and found the one you see below.

A cradle like the one in the gon would be easy enough to build out of styrene shapes. A quick search through my supplies yielded exactly what I needed. So the last piece of the puzzle for these two cars was finally in place!

Several trips through the paint shop, some home road decals, and this project was finally complete. The cars received light weathering as they were rebuilt in September of 1975. The photos below show the final results.

So why did I do this? Several reasons. First, I had always wanted to have a couple of coil gons like these decorated for the home road. Second, I still enjoy taking some of the old standards and making something somewhat acceptable out of them. And lastly, one of the really neat things about proto-freelancing is that you can come up with rolling stock like this. While there's no specific prototype for the car, it is based upon prototype principles and practices. And hopefully, I've followed those closely enough to make it appear as thought there could have been prototype for it.

Sunday, December 20, 2020

New Motive Power- 1

The railroad's locomotive shops have been busy. The most recent addition to the roster is SD9 1752. This is a Proto 2000 unit that was decorated as a BNSF repaint of a Burlington Northern unit. It was on sale at Walthers and had a Tsunami in it so I figured I couldn't go wrong even though it would need some modifications. The footboards had been cut off the bottom of the pilots and notches were cut in the top corners to accept the newer style cut levers. As it clearly represented a unit that had been updated at some point, I was going to paint it in the modern CWE scheme (F4). But after retiring SD9 1763, there were no locos on the railroad in the earlier paint scheme (F3). So I decided that this unit would carry the colors that were last applied to diesels in early 1967.

This project turned out to be more work than I had originally anticipated. The rotary beacon on the cab rood had to be removed and the hole filled. I cracked one of the number boards trying to get it out of the body and it had to be repaired. Then there was the frame. If the unit was going to be painted in the F3 scheme of the early 1960's, it probably wouldn't have had the footboards removed and the newer style uncoupling levers. So I dug through my spare parts boxes until I found a frame from an older unit. Fortunately, the shell fit onto the frame without any problems. Next, I wanted to add spark arrestors that were applied to all of the first generation EMDs. Of course, the BNSF winterization hatch interfered with them, so I had to dig through my parts box to find a replacement. Once all of the changes were complete, it was off to the paint shop.

I tried fading the Pullman Green with oils by mixing up a dirty grey color. It didn't turn out as I had hoped although it did a fairly good job of fading the paint. I went back over it with another wash of burnt umber and ivory black oil paint which toned down the grey wash. The final results can bee seen in the photos.

The unit was been renumbered post 1968, so the numbers on the cab side received less weathering than the rest of the unit. 

The unit will be assigned to either the ballast train or switcher duty at Nelsonville or North Pierce. While the weathering didn't turn out exactly as I had hoped, it's good to have a unit on the railroad in the pre-1967 F3 paint scheme.

Wednesday, December 9, 2020

Freight Car Redo- 1

 For the past six months or so, Bob Fallowfield has been going back over his fleet of cars with an eye toward updating and/or redoing the weathering on them. I've been following his progress on his Galt Sub of the CP Facebook page. Bob models the late 1970's- early 1980's so a lot of his freight cars are of interest to me. He does some really beautiful work, and I've learned a few new tricks from him. But what I've really taken away from watching his progress is the desire to go back and do the same thing with my fleet. The first to go through the program is C&O 619112.

This is one of the Walthers RTR cars that came out in the mid-1980's. I removed all of the cast on grab irons and replaced them with Details Associates wire grabs, replaced the stirrup steps with A-Line parts, and replaced the roofwalk with an etched metal one. It was a lot of work. Once the new parts were on, I masked off the rest of the car and sprayed over the ends and the ends of the sides with Scalecoat II (I think- it was a long time ago!). I painted the trucks a rust brown color and then weathered the car with a light dusting of Floquil Grime. The weathering was based upon a color photo that appeared in Rail Model Journal back in the day. Satisfied with the results, it went on the railroad.

At some point in the not-too-distant past, I came across a photo of one of these cars and noticed that the bottom was blue. Sigh. A quick check of other cars in this series showed that all of the bottoms were painted Chessie Dark Blue, as were almost all of the covered hoppers painted in the Chessie scheme. So I grabbed the old car, looked at the bottom, and realized it would be a chore to mask it off and repaint it. So it sat a while longer.

A few weeks ago, it occurred to me that I could brush paint the bottom. It certainly didn't have to be perfect. I could just mix up a blue that closely resembled the Chessie paint and have at it. I could also redo the weathering which I had never really been satisfied with. The photo below shows the results of the paint job.

When new, the trucks on these cars were painted the same blue color as the bottom. I thought I could capture this look with some artist's oil dabbed on with a cosmetic sponge. It wasn't a one shot fix as I had hoped. I ended up going back over the trucks with a wash of artist's acrylic burnt umber and then finished it off with Pan Pastel highlight.

The final step was to add some wheel splatter to the ends and touch up the coupler pockets. The results can be seen below.

It's nice to finally have this car looking more like the prototype. Given all the time and effort I had put into it back in the day, I really didn't want to abandon it. Will the crews notice the improvement? Unlikely. But at least I won't be inclined to turn my head away every time I see it!

Monday, December 7, 2020

Diesel Paint Schemes- Part 1

In January of 1947, the Mechanical Department of the Chesapeake, Wheeling & Erie Railroad placed its first order for diesel locomotives. For a railroad that depended upon the shipment of coal for its livelihood, indeed its very survival, this was a difficult decision. But recent reports from other lines of the incredible performance of diesel locomotives versus their steam counterparts made the decision inevitable. Management owed it to the stockholders to at least evaluate the potential of these new machines.

In mid-1947, the first six of a total order of ten EMD NW2s arrived on the property. These units were assigned to the large coal loading facilities at Hunters Bay, VA and were used primary to shuttle coal between the massive coal storage yard and the loading wharves. This job had been handled by the railroads venerable Class S 0-8-0 switchers that were purchased from Alco in the mid-1930's. These locomotives were showing their age and the increase in post-war coal movements required additional power to handle the tonnage.

The paint scheme for the NW2s was the product of the designers at EMD. With input from management, the talented individuals at EMD selected an overall color of Pullman Green with a yellow stripe on the hood. The railroad's name was spelled out in white Railroad Roman letters on the hood above the yellow stripe and the CWE herald was placed in the stripe on the cab side. The locomotive number was placed above the stripe on the cab.

Impressed with the performance of this first group of locomotives, the railroad ordered a handful of additional switchers from its long time steam locomotive partner, American Locomotive Company. The first two Alco S2s arrived in June of 1948 and were assigned to the coal operation at Hunters Bay along with the NW2s. The S2s were painted in the same scheme as the NW2s but with the road number below the yellow cab instead of above it. 

By the end of the month, another three S2s joined the ten NW2s already at work keeping the coal moving at Hunters Bay. And the writing was on the wall- there would be no turning back. Dieselization of the railroad was inevitable. The first handful 0-8-0s were sent to Richmond to be scrapped in August of 1949.