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!

Thursday, September 16, 2021

Lost in the Fleet

 As part of my "Finishing Stuff" campaign that I started back in March of last year, I recently painted a 3-bay covered hopper car, two woodchip cars, and a 2-bay covered hopper to be used in sand service. These cars had languished in the paint shop for 2-3 years, victims of lost interest and inspiration for other projects. But it was finally time to get these finished. 

The 2-bay covered hopper is the last of the five cars that will traverse the railroad between supply sources and the engine terminals at North Pierce and Nelsonville. As I was decaling the car, I remembered back to the first one I built. It was the late summer of 1983 and I was living in Cleveland. I spent some time that summer in Cincinnati railfanning the Southern engine terminal in Ludlow, KY. You could almost always find a couple of covered hoppers in sand service like the one in the photo below.


E&B Valley had recently released their 2-bay covered hopper kit and it was exactly what I wanted for my sand service cars. I modified the side ladders like the ones on the SOU car and numbered it in the 99XXX series reserved for company service and MW equipment. 

So here we are, almost 40 years later, and the last one is finally being added to the roster. This is a Bowser car and I removed all of the cast on grabs on the ladders and replaced them with .010 styrene rod. The photo below shows the car as it's being decaled. And there are two other cars just like this in service already.

It occurred to me as I was working on this car that it is one of the "fleet" cars. Unremarkable, fairly non-descript, and unlikely to be noticed by any of the crew as a new addition. But it's one of the cars you need if your going to have some variety in the operating scheme and your rolling stock. Like all the hopper cars on the railroad, it's just another one that will be lost in the fleet.

Thursday, September 9, 2021

Diesel Paint Schemes- Part 2

 In the late 1940's, the Marketing Department of the Chesapeake, Wheeling & Erie was charged with developing a new advertising campaign for the railroad. Given the road's main line connection between the Great Lakes and the Atlantic seaboard, it seemed important to emphasis this route when dealing with both existing and potential customers. As a result, the "Central Belt" moniker was born. This further developed into the slogan "The Central Belt- Linking the Great Lakes and the Atlantic Seaboard." The first evidence of this change on rolling stock occurred in early 1950 when the original steam era herald was replaced with the new "CWE- Central Belt" herald. And the first units delivered with this herald were the F7's that arrived on the property in 1950.

These units were followed by the first order of GP7's in June of 1951.

This paint scheme would last until early 1957 when the first of the F units were repainted into the F2 paint scheme. At this time, the railroad elected to use the Central Belt moniker as the road name with small "CW&E" initials under the cab windows on the A units and at one end of the B units. In order to improve visibility, the cab units were painted solid yellow below the grills and the ends of the GP's were painted solid yellow.

This paint scheme and numbering system would remain in effect until 1966 when the railroad began to renumber all locomotives according to horsepower ratings and the Central Belt logo was discarded for the large "CWE" herald.

Saturday, June 26, 2021

Inspiration- Part 4

 While looking through my Facebook feeds this morning, I came across a photo on the Freight Car Enthusiast page that really caught my eye. It's a picture of a 40' Penn Central boxcar painted in Bicentennial colors. While that's not unusual in and of itself, it's the fact that the car is assigned to wreck train service that makes it so unique. The photo was posted by Eric Werner and is from his original slide collection.

The caption for the photo said it was taken in Cleveland in 1976. If you look closely at the lettering under the road number, you'll see that it says "Collinwood." So one could assume that this car was assigned to the wreck train based out of the ex-LM&SS/NYC complex in Collinwood, Ohio, on the east side of Cleveland. Shortly after posting this photo, Eric posted a picture of the entire work train.

In the photo above, you can clearly see the old back shops and locomotive erection buildings that were part of the Collinwood yard. But what really caught my eye, in addition to the somewhat odd paint scheme for a wreck train, was the specific equipment. Note the two gons with panel track and the gon with trucks. Also note the coach and baggage car. On the far side of the baggage car is the boom tender along with the crane.

This photo is exactly what I needed to fill out the rest of the wreck train on the railroad. I'll add three gons like those above and similarly outfitted. Add a coach or some ex-troop sleepers and viola! Wreck train ready for service!

Friday, May 7, 2021

inspiration- Part 3

 Ever since Matt Snell delivered CWE business car no. 1 to the railroad, I've been thinking about how to incorporate it into an op session. It's been tagged onto the back of priority freights for a number of sessions, but that just didn't seem to do the beautiful car justice. Fortunately, I found some inspiration while surfing the internet recently.

The photo below shows Penn Central SPX-2L, an eastbound inspection train, in May of 1975. It consists of an SD45, a PC caboose that appears to be recently painted, and a PC observation car.

Talk about inspiration- this photo shows exactly the type of movement I wanted to replicate. So I grabbed one of the road's SD45's, one of the newest cabooses, and teamed them up with CWE 1. You can see the results below.

Train cards have been made up for the crews and they can be seen below.

The staging track assignments have been left blank and will be filled in based upon whatever tracks are open during a particular session. A wet erase marker insures that they can be used over and over again.

The photo below shows SPX-10 headed east through Big Chimney.

As my good friend Keith VandeStadt suggested, this train will be a show stopper- everything will have to clear up for it. I'd hate to be the dispatcher that put it in the hole for any reason! And I sure wouldn't want to be the employee that calls it the circus train- at least over the radio. Right, Bill Doll?

Monday, April 26, 2021

WC 17

 For whatever reason, maintenance of way equipment has always had a special appeal to just about anyone interested in railroads. For us railroad modelers, MofW equipment gives us the opportunity to build unique models with paint schemes that differ from the rest of the rolling stock on the railroad. And for those of us with operating railroads, the equipment gives us a chance to have special movements periodically.

The plans for a wreck crane on the CWE were hatched almost 40 years ago when I purchased one of the Athearn 200-ton crane kits. I clipped several adds for brass cranes of a more modern design from magazines over the years and saved them in the box with the crane. My plan was to eventually kit-bash a more modern crane from the Athearn kit. However, as the design plans for the railroad were developed and the operating scheme came together, it became apparent that a 200-ton crane would be based at one of the major yards, not on the modeled portion. Would a smaller crane be located at the yard at North Pierce? Perhaps. But the plans for WC 17 didn't fully gel until I found the photo below.

The photo shows one of the C&O's smaller cranes at Thurmond, WV and I'm guessing it's sometime in the 1960's but perhaps a little later. I don't know if it was kept there or not, but one could imagine it was stationed there to handle any minor derailments on the numerous branches that originated here. And it just so happens that Tichy makes a kit of this exact crane. That was all the inspiration I needed!

The photos below shows the completed model on the RIP tracks at North Pierce. 

The kit was a joy to build, and I'm really impressed with the design work. All of the pieces fit together beautifully, and it's very apparent that someone spent a lot of time and effort engineering how everything would fit together. The only additional detail that I added was the side curtains.

So the boom car that was built back in the mid-1980's finally has a companion. In addition to the recently completed baggage/tool car, there is a tender in the works. There will probably be a passenger car or two that will be added to the wreck train. And I'm not sure if it will be station here at North Pierce or somewhere else on the railroad. Time will tell. But the wreck train will certainly make an occasional appearance during an op session. And yes, it will be limited to 10 MPH.

Friday, March 12, 2021

The Chesapeake, Wheeling & Erie on Facebook

 For those of you who are on Facebook and aren't aware of it, I created a FB page for the railroad back in November of last year. Here's a link to the page: There have been some interesting and fun posts by some of the members, so check it out if you're so inclined.

And here's what was posted most recently for Front End Friday.

Thursday, March 4, 2021

Introducing... The Suffolk Northern Railway Blog

As my good friend Keith VandeStadt likes to say, "drum roll please!" And with that, we'll formally introduce the new blog for the Suffolk Northern Railway. It can be found here: A link is also listed in the Great Railroad Modeling Sites column on the right hand side of the page.

You may recall from previous posts that the Suffolk Northern is a proto-freelanced coal hauler set in the mid-1950's. I've had the pleasure of operating on this railroad for almost 10 years now. Part of what makes it so special is how well it runs and that's thanks to Keith's fastidious attention to making sure everything works just as it should. But it really is the complete package- from paint schemes to weathering to scenery to structures, it's a joy not only to operate but to view as well.

Keith has done a remarkable job with the new blog. It's entertaining, informative, humorous, and just a really fun read. He has gone into great detail about the background and history of just about every aspect of his railroad. I can't imagine there's anything about it that you couldn't find in the wealth of information posted here. So do yourself a favor and check it out. I think you'll enjoy the time spent on the Suffolk Northern.

Saturday, February 27, 2021

Tool Car 91094

The shops have been busy. The most recent addition to the roster is tool car 91094. I had planned to convert a couple of passenger and/or baggage cars for wreck train service ever since I read an article on kit-bashing them in Model Railroad back in the late 1970's. There's just something about MofW equipment and wreck trains that appeals to just about anyone interested in railroading.

The original plan was to modify a couple of Athearn Blue Box passenger cars. These cars measure a scale 74' over the coupler faces and are right at the limit of what will operate on the railroad given the tight tunnel clearances and 30" minimum radius curves. At some point, I started looking at shorter cars. Most of these have 4-wheel trucks, and I'm preferential to the look of 6-wheel trucks under passenger equipment. Fortunately, I found a Rivarossi 60' baggage car on eBay and it was reasonably priced. In addition, it came with wire grabs and some great looking underbody detail.

A trip through the paint shop followed by decals and weathering resulted in Tool Car 91094.

The sides were painted UP Armor Yellow and the roof was painted Vallejo aluminum. I studied a number of photos of various baggage cars in MW and wreck train service and was surprised at the lack of dimensional data and lettering. I had planned to add small "MofW" lettering or "Tool Car" on either side, but passed for the simplicity of what you see here. I am absolutely certain that I have never put so few decals on a piece of rolling stock.

The grab irons were painted white per the standard paint scheme for MW equipment and the ends of the diaphragms were heavily weathered with oil paints. The sides and roof were weathered lightly using artist's acrylics to represent a car that had recently been repainted.

This last shot shows the car in wreck consist. It will be joined soon by the Tichy 120-ton Brownhoist crane that's about to go into the paint shop.

When the wreck train is finished, it will occasionally make an appearance during an op session. It may also be stored temporarily on one of the RIP tracks at North Pierce.

Sunday, February 14, 2021

"What a long...

 ...strange trip it's been." At least with regard to getting this freight car on the railroad!

It all started back in the fall of 2017 when I purchased an Accurail covered hopper car at the local NMRA show. It was decorated for the PC and I intended to patch it and reletter it for Greg McComas' Michigan Interstate. You can read more about this car on this post: I finally got the car painted, lettered for the K&LE, and prepped for weathering. And then into the paint shop drawer it went- a year ago last month.

While I am generally pretty good about finishing projects that I have started, there are those occasions when I just lose interest somewhere along the way. Such was the case with this car. It sat waiting to be weathered for over a year. About a week ago, I started perusing covered hopper car photos and sure enough, the inspiration came. I got out the gouache and powders and went at it. The photos below show the results.

This car was new in 1972 so it was weathered to reflect just four years of service. I mixed up a wash of light grey gouache using Windex and white, ivory black and a little burnt umber. The wash dries fairly quickly but can be manipulated for a long time. I took a rough bristle brush, wetted it with Windex, and then drew it down the sides to get the rain and dirt streaks. The same mix was blotted on the roof with a cosmetic sponge. The trucks received the usual mix of artist's acrylics and powders. While certainly not anything close to an award winner, it will look fine running the railroad in a grainer. And it's great to finally have this one done!

Monday, February 1, 2021

Back to the Future

The incredible M.R. Snell is at it again. He recently decided to add several buffer cars to the Conrail Shared Assets Operation fleet and he included a CWE car in the mix. As you would expect from Matt, the car includes all of the appropriate markings. He even went so far as to number the car in the same MofW/Company Service series that previous non-revenue car have been assigned. The photo below shows the car on the Oak Island Runner during a recent op session.

And speaking of back to the future, you'll note that the boxcar in the lower left hand corner of the photo is a Suffolk Northern Railway car. That's the proto-freelanced railroad of Keith VandeStadt, another one of the local crew and a frequent operator on the CSAO. The SNR is set in the late 1950's but there just happens to be a modern car roaming the rails in New Jersey.

It's a great looking car, Matt- thanks for including the CWE in the project!

Sunday, January 31, 2021

For the L&N guys

 As I've mentioned before, I rely on prototype photos for inspiration. Being able to see something in a photo from my era provides both the motivation and the colors to recreate it in miniature. And so it was when I came across the photo below of a yard in Allentown, PA in 1975.

I could model every freight car in this photo and have already done the Lehigh Valley X58 boxcar, albeit in a modified version of the old Athearn BB kit. But it was the L&N boxcar in the lower right hand corner that caught my eye recently. I seemed to recall having purchased a similar car from the second-hand inventory at the old Tim's Trains a while back. Sure enough- I bought two of them. They are the old Intermountain kits that were part of a run done by the Louisville & Nashville Historical Society.  I assumed the paint scheme and numbers were correct and a quick check with my good friend Stuart Thayer confirmed it. In fact, Stuart worked with Intermountain on the graphics for the kit. In addition to being a very accomplished modeler, Stuart is a long-time member of the L&NHS. He is also one of three members of the operating crew on the railroad that are dyed in the wool L&N fans/modelers. So it was only fitting that a few cars from their favorite railroad should show up occasionally during an op session.

I only made a few changes while building the kits. I added cut levers and wire grabs at the bottom right hand side of the ends and replaced the plastic stirrup steps on the left side of the sides. I also replaced the COTS stencils as the ones on the kit appeared too small to me. With the addition of metal wheels and an ACI label, the cars were complete.

The photo below shows the two cars after a trip through the paint shop. 

The roofs of the kit were painted the same blue as the rest of the car. It was difficult to see in the original photo just what the roof looked like, but it appeared to have some peeling paint in addition to some faded paint with perhaps a little rust. I blew up the photo to get a better look and you can see what I found below.

I decided to paint the entire roof silver and then come back and add some blue to represent the old paint. I used Vallejo Model Air Aluminum followed by Testor's DulIcote for the base layer. I then mixed Vallejo Model Color Medium Blue with a little white and applied it sparsely using a cosmetic sponge. I got a little too aggressive with the blue and ended up going back over the roof with some Aluminum applied with a cosmetic sponge. Lastly, I added a little artist's acrylic burnt umber to represent rust in a few locations. The photos below shows the results.


The trucks were weathered with the usual combination of artist's acrylics and powders. Once a few waybills have been made up, these cars will be ready for revenue service!

Sunday, January 24, 2021

Freight Car Redo- 2

Continuing with the freight car improvement program, I tackled an old E&B Valley 65' mill gon this past week. I built this car back in 1991 and was pleased at the time with the weathering. I used oils to represent rust on the exterior and a wash of oils mixed with ground foam to dirty up the interior. However, the car had that monotone look that came from a lack of detailed weathering on the trucks and a basic overspray of Floquil Grime. The photos below show the car before the trip through the shops.

These old E&B kits took a lot of work in order to get them to look good and run well. In addition to adding weight to the underframes, the truck bolsters needed to be modified. This resulted in the removal of the sleeve that the trucks fit over, and if you then used the trucks that came with the kit, there was way too much side-to-side play in them. Consequently, they wouldn't track very well and were prone to derailment. I decided that if I was going to spend time re-weathering these cars, I was going to fix the truck problem.

I dug through my parts and found some old Kadee sprung trucks that have a small hole in the bolster for the mounting screw. Using a 2-56 screw, this eliminated almost all of the side-to-side play. Next up was weathering. I used a combination of artist's acrylics, AIM powders and MIG pigments to improve the overall look. The photos below show the results.

Now the car can be billed to go anywhere on the railroad and not be restricted to one of the branches. Guess that means I need to come up with a load of some kind!

Saturday, January 16, 2021

New Motive Power- 2

 Along with the SD9 that was added to the roster recently, the shops have completed another Alco C628 for the railroad. This is one of the original Stewart kits from back in the day. 

It was originally intended to be a powered unit. I have another one of these older models on the railroad and it runs extremely well. But after installing a Tsunami in this one, I couldn't get it to run smoothly to save my life. So I yanked the decoder and the motor along with the gears and turned it into a dummy. It will initially be paired up with the Lehigh Valley C628 in the photo above along with an SD45 that's ready to be weathered.

I used the usual assortment of artist's acrylics, weathering powders and Pan Pastels to weather the unit. While these Alcos were delivered in the Phase 3 paint scheme with the large "Central Belt" on the long hood, they were subsequently repainted in to the more modern Phase 4 scheme seen in these pictures.

Friday, January 15, 2021

Follow by email

 One of my good friends asked me some time ago if there was a way to subscribe to the blog so that he would be notified by email when a new post showed up. I spent a little time looking through the design setup and couldn't find anything, Well, that friend is now setting up a blog for his railroad and, of course, he found it in no time. So now you will be able to subscribe by entering your email address in the gadget to the right of this post.

As soon as Keith's blog for his Suffolk Northern is up and running, I'll get the word out here. You won't want to miss it as Keith does some fantastic transition era modeling. And his railroad is a real treat to operate.

And thanks, Keith, for the instructions on email subscribing!