Category Archives: Model RR

Things to do with my model railroad.

Quick Update: Layout Visit Projects, and More

I know I haven’t posted in a while but as the Spring approaches, things are getting busy around here. Work has been nuts. HPDE season is upon us and I’ve got my first event at Summit Point with the Audi Club this coming weekend. Track prep time! Here’s the update:

Layout progress has been focused on cleaning up, organizing and working on the Rock Creek trestle, as well as devoting a large amount of time to working out the operations scheme in JMRI Operations Pro, with lots of help from Kelly R. The cleaning and organization tasks were accelerated by a visit from Ken & Bill from Spring Mills Depot. Ken and I chatted at the Springfield show and decided to get together to see each others’ layouts and share progress and lessons learned. It’s been very motivational seeing what Ken is doing and having them visit my layout to talk about my own process and future goals. I’ve got lots of good energy to move forward with.

I drove up from MD to Springfield to attend the big show with my cousin Eric. Here’s the status on the evening of the first day. It wasn’t too bad in Springfield compared to eastern MA, but it was still an adventure!

Coupled with the layout visitors, I have also been selling a lot of extra stuff on eBay. Over the last year or so I’ve really culled a lot of rolling stock and material from my collection. Much of it was sold at the GSMTS Timonium show, but much of it has been sold via eBay. As I clean and dig through my things, I find more and more to list for sale which really helps motivate me to continue to refine my focus and standards for the layout. Also, the sales help pay for the layout materials and new freight cars that I come across. Here’s a photo of the layout from a month or so ago:

The layout became staging for eBay sales for a few weeks.

JMRI progress has been a real roller coaster. Yesterday morning, in a fit of frustration, I was ready to swear off the program (both literally and figuratively) after running up against a string of constant, baffling errors. Kelly talked me off the ledge and offered to help rebuild and refine my layout concept in the software. I’ve realized that JMRI is going to be the best solution for what I want to do with the operations scheme on my layout; it offers pretty much all that I want, even though I have a long way to go before I get to my goal. I do have a document which outlines all of my “givens & druthers” as well as rules, specs and other details about my scheme. This will be published later for anyone who’s interested. Also, if anyone wants to talk Operations or JMRI, please reach out! I’m neck-deep.

A byproduct of the layout visitors and the JMRI work I’ve been doing was that I put together manifests for four trains that I refer to as the “Bethesda Turn”, since Bethesda is as far as the track currently goes on my layout. After the visit, I ran these four trains as I intend to run most of my trains, and it was fantastic. Yeah, not all the switch machines are in place, and some of the frogs aren’t wired, but the overall feeling of what it will be like to operate the layout was there, and it was really cool. A taste of things to come.

I find that in this hobby it’s important to have active projects in different areas of the hobby to keep things interesting. Last month when I got tired of installing DCC decoders and building trestle bents I switched over to building a freight car kit. The one I chose from my shelf-o-unbuilt-kits was an old Intermountain PS-1 50′ Double Door Box Car lettered for Southern Pacific #650159, kit #40607-10, with a 1955 build date; just inside my era. I found this kit on the shelf at the Annapolis area LHS, Star Hobby, for a had-to-have-it price of $10. Side note: I-M seems to be taking reservations for a re-release of this kit right now!

Photo of my boxcar kit.
Trimming the grab irons from the sprue. A fresh blade was a necessity here.

I hadn’t put together a challenging kit like this in many years and I had a blast. I upgraded it with a Kadee Apex running board, some Tichy end grabs and Tangent ASF A-3 wheel sets. (The prototype apparently had Symington-Gould A-3 trucks, but I haven’t found a manufacturer for those in HO.) The kit didn’t come with instructions, but thankfully I found some on the I-M website. It’s really nice they put the instruction manuals up on their site!

Tiny bracket.
This particular bracket decided to liberate itself into thin air as I was attempting to install it. I searched and searched and eventually gave up. The next day, I found it nearly straight away below my workbench. Huzzah!

Car weights came in the form of wheel weights I collect off the ground at track day events, which I glued to the interior floor with Liquid Nails. The body was badly warped at the top and required careful attention to straighten when gluing to the roof. The doors were also ever-so-slightly warped but once in place looked fine. All in all, a neat car. I don’t have many 50′ cars so this one will look nice delivering lumber to Galliher Lumber in Georgetown.

Lastly, a word about the NMRA Achievement Program (AP). Over the winter I was inspired to begin participation in the various AP areas. A few of the folks in my club are diving in and working toward their MMR so I figured I’d join the journey. So far, not a whole lot of movement on my end. I’ve started organizing and reading through the materials but that’s about it for now. I just haven’t been making this a priority, as I’ve had other things going on requiring attention. However, I have been taking photos of some of my projects in preparation for writing up articles. I will definitely post links here once that materializes. For now, I’ll keep planning and aligning my modeling efforts with the various AP certification qualifications. I think of it like merit badges for adult model railroaders. I’m enjoying the challenge!

Like I said, this is just a quick, off the top of my head update. I am hoping to be able to post more, but with work being so busy and other things vying for my time, I do what I can when I can. Be well and keep in touch!

B&O FM H12-44 9725 Heading East at Georgetown Jct., April 5, 1966

B&O 9725-1 Silver Springs MD 04-05-66, By RNS
B&O 9725-1 Silver Springs [sic] MD 04-05-66, By RNS

This wonderful photo by Russ Strodtz on Flickr came via Jeffrey Sessa over on the Maryland Division Railfans FB group. My money is on the train likely being a load of empties coming off the branch, perhaps from Maloney in Georgetown or Bethesda. Curious if they’ll pick up some cars from the Junction and head East or pick up loads and head back to Georgetown. REALLY neat view of the E.C. Keys lumber shed in the background. Gives me some great info for when I build that model! Thanks, Jeffrey!

Rock Creek Trestle Model Update

I am playing catch-up with many things including getting everyone up to speed on my progress with Rock Creek trestle model. Unlike many folks, COVID was not a super-duper productive time for me with my model railroad. At the outset of the stay-home orders, I embarked on a remodeling project that took most of my time, sanity and family peace away for several months. The upstairs guest (kids) bathroom was gutted and renovated all by myself. This included a completely new tub, surround with tile, plumbing, new tile flooring, toilet, vanity/sink, beadboard, ceiling fan, and a custom-made mirror made using the very large old one and some leftover trim. It all came together in the end, but the journey burned me out. I found that I had no time during the project to work on my model railroad, and for a very long time after was uninterested in doing layout work at all. As such, my progress over the last year has been slow.

The completed bathroom.

NONETHELESS, I have made progress! Today I’m going to share a slew of photos showing where I am with the Rock Creek trestle model. This will be a showcase piece on the layout so taking my time is not necessarily a bad thing. I’m learning A LOT along the way with this scratch build and it’s been fun so far. Tedious, but fun. If you recall from previous blog posts, I drew the plans from drawings, photos and some measurements I made. The challenge was great, as there are no good reference photos from the time frame I want to model (late 1940s) so a lot of time was spent making careful judgements and measurements from the few photos I DO have. In the end, I’m quite proud of the plans I made.

Prepping materials and plans for the trestle. Jun 2020.

I started in earnest on actually building the trestle back in June of 2020. (yeah, yeah, a YEAR AGO…) A few early experiments helped me to refine my technique for how to assemble the trestle bents. At first I had hoped to use a magnetic tray to lay out the parts. This quickly was dismissed, as I realized the magnets did not allow for fine adjustment and placement that was necessary for this sort of construction.

Reaching back to my youth, I decided to use the same technique I used to build balsa airplanes; pins. This turned out to be a great choice, and paired with small slabs of 2″ extruded pink foam boards, worked beautifully.

2″ Pink foam, pins and wax paper made bent construction very easy.

My technique is to trim the 8.5×11″ sheet of paper the plan is printed on to fit on the foam block. Then, place the plan down and a small sheet of wax paper atop it. Use pins to secure to foam. Then I will place my dimensional lumber atop the plan to mark and cut using The Chopper II or a new X-Acto blade. I use the NWSL True Sander to achieve a good angle on the trestle bents. I use white glue (used carpenter’s glue for a while) and pins to hold the pieces in place while they dry.

The benefit of using the slabs of pink foam is that I can have 5-6 of them working at once. I start one, glue and pin it up, then set it aside. Prep another bent, glue and pin it, set aside. Rinse and repeat. Once a bent is dry, I flip it over and finish the other side. I made up an angle template for my Chopper to cut bents at a consistent angle. I would then clean them up on the True Sander. These were really coming together nicely.

Balsa angle template for the Chopper.

After the bents had dried, I would trim up any angles or edges with an X-Acto blade. The next step is to install the NBW (Nut-Bolt-Washer) castings. I prefer the Tichy 8016 as they are molded in brown plastic and reasonably well resemble the prototype. I also have some of the NWSL 5046 NBW and they are very nice, too. EDITORS NOTE: While writing this, I looked more closely at the image below and realized I should be using the NWSL 5066 (1 1/4″ NUT, 3″ MALLEABLE WASHER .014″), as it is a MUCH better match. I will have to get some of these now.

Photo I took from Jan, 2019 before the trestle had been torn down. This is one of the original bolts and washers.

I first painted the tips a rust color, trimmed using sprue cutters and then installed the NBW castings on several bents using a pin vise and a small #76 drill.

Drilling holes for the NBW castings.

The results were quite nice, but my fingers were starting to get really sore.

A nearly completed bent with NBW castings installed.

I knew there was a better way. A bit of brainstorming and Googling, I found the Dremel 220-01 Workstation, which is essentially an arbor press for your Dremel multitool. Using the Dremel 4486 Keyless Chuck with my #76 bit, this worked a treat. The Workstation was only $45 at Home Depot, which I think is a bit of a steal considering the excellent functionality of the tool.

The Dremel set up in the Workstation arbor press. After some configuration and adjusting, the press made quick work of drilling holes for all the NBW castings. The block of wood provides a surface that I can safely drill into as well as move the trestle bent around easily and position for drilling. This took a bit of practice to get right. I use a very small pin awl that belonged to my grandfather to “mark” the holes prior to drilling.

After assembling several bents, I decided to change gears and work on another part of the trestle – the deck. I needed a change of scenery. This required clearing down my workbench and developing a new workflow. I knew I wanted to assemble both sides at the same time. This would allow me to have everything aligned and placed on the same level, except for the center deck girder section which I’d have to spike in place later. Once both sides were spiked down, I could flip the whole rail and top deck over and glue the bents in place, upside-down. Again, this would allow everything to be aligned perfectly on the same plane. At least, this is the plan. I used an old shelf that I had in storage in the garage as a base. The shelf is straight and level and when I need to move it off my workbench I can do so easily.

I first used a straight edge to align and then tape down the plans on the board, side by side. I then used used some double-sided tape (which I had removed some of the tackiness from by touching my fingers to both sides) placed on the plans to secure the laminated stringers to the plans. (I previously laminated four sets of three 8″ x 16″ (HO scale) cut to length using a straight edge on a sheet of glass)

As you may recall, I had previously installed the ties into the laser-cut mat board jigs I made and installed Proto:87 tie plates. My plan was to put some glue on the bottom of the ties and then carefully place the jig/ties onto the stringers, weigh them down, and then once dry, lift the jig off of the glued-down ties.

Well, this very much did not go as planned and resulted in the first big “disaster” of this project for me. When I began to remove the jig, ever-so-carefully, it began to “flake off” the scale tie plates and about 1/3 of the ties with it. Apparently the glue did not quite reach between the ties and the stringers (not enough) and the tie plates, well that was a mistake to begin with. They were never really aligned correctly and I should have never put them on first. In hindsight, this was a mistake. So now I had a mess to clean up.

First, I picked off all of the old tie plates from the ties, sorted and stored them. I then removed any other loose ties. Next, I re-glued any of the wayward ties back in place, using my plans as a guide.

Finished gluing ties to stringers.

For the other side, I decide to be a bit smarter on the approach. I laid a strip of masking tape atop the ties in the jig and carefully, using a putty knife, pried the ties slowly out of the jig. This worked well. Once they were removed, I laid glue on the ties and placed them atop the stringers where I aligned them using the plans. I placed a piece of extruded foam and some weights atop the assembly to dry overnight. This worked well.

Over the last few weeks (catching up to today) I have been working on installing the rails. I chose to use Micro Engineering’s 30-108 Micro Spikes and the Proto:87 tie plates. I am generally spiking the rails about every five ties, and the ties that have no spikes will get the tie plates. This is an incredibly tedious process but the end result will be some nicely detailed track. I experimented with installing the Proto:87 spikes, but decided I didn’t have the patience to go through with spiking all the tie plates so that’s where I’ll be drawing the line. Here are some photos of this process:

And so here is a photo from today:

I’ve got three of the four rows of spikes done. The bottom right is the one I’m working on now. Once this is completed, I will set it aside and continue working on the trestle bents. Once they are done, they can begin to be installed. My aim is to have this completed by the end of the Summer, so hopefully you’ll be seeing an update sooner!

If you’ve got any questions or comments about the project, would love to hear them!

Model Rails Magazine, Vol 1, No 1 – The Georgetown Terminus, ca 1957

A very lucky find on eBay is this issue of Model Rails Magazine. A small publication that I had never previously heard of, this premiere issue features a thorough article on the Georgetown Branch operations on the waterfront. Not only is it full of details, but it is focused on building a model of the terminal. I’ve scanned it and hope you enjoy this as much as I did!

If anyone knows more about this publication, I’d love to hear about it. I found it fascinating that a publication from the 1950s was so prototype-focused. There were at least two volumes, but I have found no more beyond that run.

Freight Car Find: Episode 1 – A New Series

I have been spending a really large amount of time lately trying to identify freight cars in old photos of the Georgetown Branch. As a modeler who is striving for authentic representation and operation, I am driven to figure out what traffic on the GB was like; where it came from and where it was going and who was shipping it. I don’t have a collection of train orders or waybills, only some records, maps and photos. Much of my study revolves around the industries that I am familiar with whether through first-hand account, B&O Form 6 data, old maps indicating what industries existed where and when, and photos which show the lay of the land and the freight cars on the rails.

Although seeing a freight car in a photo does not necessarily translate into knowing the details of shipments and carriers, it does provide some detail and context to help guide me as I make up my own model railroad roster and operational narrative. Seeing a Great Northern boxcar on a siding at a lumber yard, one can reasonably assume that it is carrying lumber from the Pacific Northwest. Seeing a tank car sitting on a fuel dealer siding, one can reasonably assume it is carrying fuel oil to be unloaded in a nearby storage tank. Seeing a B&O boxcar on the main line of the branch means very little; but it provides a reference point and a data point for my own model research and acquisition.

So with this new series I am going to take a closer look at the freight cars in the old photos I have and try to identify them as best I can. I am not trying to write a detailed article, but rather make a positive ID and gather some details, and perhaps some references. My end goal is to find HO scale models for these cars so I can represent them on my model railroad. I hope you enjoy.

Kicking it off, let’s start with a fun one.

Aug, 1957, Bethesda, MD. B&O GP7 3400 is pulling in from Georgetown with the other GP in the distance. Note the three freight cars visible in the photo. Photo by Ray Mumford.

Let’s start with the boxcar, furthest away, just in front of GP9 3400:

There happens to be one other shot of it in another photo.

It’s a B&O boxcar (note the “13 Great States” herald on the far right). The car has 4/5 corrugated ends and Youngstown doors. Note the tack board placement on the end and door. From what I can tell this is an M-55 class variant, perhaps an M-55c, which I understand had those distinctive squared-off corrugated 4/5 ends. Ted Culotta has a nice blog post about the M-55a and the B&O RR Historical Society, B&O Modeler, has a nice article about the M-55h in the “orange comet” scheme. I found a few other photos which may give more insight: M-55? (Sentinel Service) 466054, M-55h 467673, M-55c 466350, . Accurail offers an M-55a model. as well as an M-55 trio of “Time Saver” schemes. Not sure of the details on this car. Sunshine Models also produced an M-55h kit, which you can see in the B&ORRHS article linked above. It sounds like National Scale Car has an M-55 kit in the works, which I eagerly await.

Next up is this DL&W hopper. Note, there is a vertical artifact on the photo which appears as two or three vertical stripes. This appears to be an 8-panel hopper. (10, if you count the two end panels where the slope is located.) I know little about DL&W so it makes the challenge even greater. I have spent a good amount of time digging around online and have yet to find some good reference material. A photo on the RR-Fallen Flags site appears to be a close match, but it’s got u-channel ribs at each end, where the car in the photo does not appear to. The paint scheme reveals a number xx6535, perhaps. Note the spacing of the LA | CKA | WAN | NA and the “The Road of Anthracite” herald. Bluford Shops produced an 8-panel, 2-bay hopper which to me VERY closely resembles the prototype in the photo I have. My search for an HO scale representation is ongoing; any help finding a source would be MUCH appreciated!

Last up is this gondola, spotted on the Eisinger Mill & Lumber siding:

The number, to me, looks like 439586.

This one is pretty neat. Thankfully, there is a fantastic resource for PRR freight cars: the PRR Freight Car Page. Studying the design of this car; the ribs, their length, the lettering and the shape of the car, I determined this is a PRR class G26 gondola. A personal guess at the number, 439586, matches with the prototype info being part of car nos. 439009-440709, AAR class GB, built in Altoona between 1930-31, measuring 65’6″ inside length, 20 panels. Thankfully, this car was produced in a kit form by the now-defunct Eastern Car Works a number of years ago, and I picked up a very nice completed model via eBay last month that will really go well on my layout (below). As I plan on modeling the construction of the Whitehurst Freeway, there will be plenty of girder loads to be brought down the Branch in this neat car!

I hope you’ve enjoyed this first installment of FCF. I have so many more freight car sleuthing stories to share and welcome any and all input you all may have on helping me solve some of these mysteries.

EDIT: I recently discovered the MyHeritage photo colorizer via Chris Adams’ wonderful Valley Local blog. This is an AI-based tool that does a darn decent job of colorizing black & white images. Now, it’s just for fun and nothing is meant to be perfectly accurate, but sometimes a bit of color helps the brain put things in context. Anyway, here’s what the subject image looks like when run through the colorizer:

1941 Bethesda Freight House Construction, continued

Well folks, this one’s a doozy. A friend, Brian R., who regularly volunteers at the B&ORRHS just sent me one heck of an image. You may recall a few months back he sent me a couple images of the Bethesda Freight House under construction. Well, here is one more that was shot weeks prior to the other one and shows a WHOLE LOT of the surrounding area. I get pretty excited when I get really nice photos of Georgetown Branch subjects, but this one is really very special and so chock-full of details, it’s hard to know where to begin. Let’s dig in. First, here is the full image:

Freight House Construction, Bethesda, MD, May, 1941. Photo courtesy B&ORR Historical Society. Depicts early construction of the freight house with footings being poured. Of note are surrounding yard and town area.

So there’s a lot in the image and what is funny to me is the construction of the freight house is not the primary interest. I picked out several things of interest. Let’s take a tour around the photo. First up is the yard area, largely visible behind the Maloney Concrete cement mixer. The yard is choc-a-block full of what appears to be marble or limestone. I have references to stone being delivered to Chevy Chase for the Washington National Cathedral and of course the extension of the line in Georgetown to serve construction of the Lincoln Memorial, but I have never heard of any stone deposited in Bethesda on a scale such as this! Have a closer look:

As far as the eye can see, stacks and racks and car loads of stone. Impressive! There are even two unloading devices; one, a stiff leg derrick visible to the left and a crane of some sort, likely an early Burro Type 15 or 20, similar to this one seen here.

Stiff leg derrick.
Small crane. Note, the “smoke stack” seen to the left is actually from a building in the distance, not the crane. Note that the crane is facing almost perpendicular to the photographer. Also note the position of the operator in the open cab, with what appears to be the drum and hoist mechanism opening to his right. The crane is quite short in length, which steers me to think it’s an early Burro Type 15 or 20. Another image of the Type 20 patent design.

Getting a bit closer to the nearest gondola, I can see that it’s a PRR gon, and the number looks to me like 368270. A quick search in the 1943 ORER shows that this falls into the PRR GB class GRA, constructed around 1916 and modified from the GR class by adding 3′ to the overall length. These cars were somewhat plentiful in 1943 with 590 listed in the ORER. (By 1953 this number had dropped to only 31!) Thankfully, Westerfield offers a resin kit of this car, for anyone interested in modeling it.

PRR GB GRA class gondola, number 368270.

There are other GRA class gons in the yard, identifiable by the slightly stretched space between the middle braces.

Another PRR GRA gondola.

Let’s look at the other freight cars visible in the photo:

A long string of freight cars, all apparently boxcars, stretching on the siding toward Maloney Concrete.

The first one is obviously a PRR car and appears to me after some careful study to be numbered something close to 123951 – my confidence is medium, here. If this is accurate, and based on the overall design I think it is, this would be a class X28a boxcar, rebuilt from door-and-a-half X28 class cars in 1933 and of which there were 4957 listed in the ORER in 1943. (In 1953 there were still 3676 listed.) Some info here. Thankfully, Funaro & Camerlengo offers a resin kit of this car if you’d like to model it in HO.
Decals here.

PRR X28a boxcar.

The next car appears to be another PRR car, but there’s much less to go on. My guess based on the panels and bracing is something similar to an X26 class boxcar, as they were plentiful; in 1943 the PRR had over 6000-some listed. Again, Funaro & Camerlengo offers a resin kit of this car as well as Westerfield.

Likely PRR class X26 boxcar.

The rest of the cars are so far away it’s very hard for me to discern. Perhaps some of the steam era freight car gurus can pick them out. 🙂 Next up, check out the lumber in the Einsinger lumber yard:

Einsinger Lumber; partially a parking lot.

The siding is past those stacks of lumber. It’s interesting; at some point in the next few years, Einsinger would build more structures in this area to expand the lot. The cars occupy a space which would be the site of a long lumber shed. Photos from the late 40s and 50s will show the yard expansion. Oddly enough, in later years, the yard would once again be a parking lot and eventually a residential building. There was a curious sign off to the right, next to those cars:

Eisinger Lumber sign.

Would love to know the story behind that sign. Heading back over to the right is the Irwin Roofing shop. This is a particularly interesting spot, as it’s a showroom of sorts and there is SO much to see.

Looking closely, I see a well-maintained front lawn with a short walkway up to the small shop and a nice decorative sign hanging out front. The shop itself is adorned with stone all around. Coming out into the back yard, there is a small courtyard with an overhang, the roof of which features various types of slate roofing, each labeled with a letter; A, B, C and so on. A really neat detail! Irwin Stone is still in business today! Behind Irwin Roofing is Enright Oil:

Enright Oil.

Enright is interesting. I would imagine they unloaded from the second siding coming off the main, which would be just to the right of their plant. Unfortunately the photo cuts off there but we get some idea of their storage yard to the right. A couple storage tanks are visible as well as some bins (coal?) and a nifty gas pump which may or may not be in use there in the yard. Perhaps to fuel up their delivery trucks. I plan on modeling part of this on my layout. Obituary for J.R. Enright Jr. Also of interest here is the access to the yard with the small crossing over the yard tracks. In the distance is Maloney Concrete:

Maloney Concrete, barely visible in the distance.

Speaking of Maloney Concrete, here is its mixer pouring ready-mix for the B&O freight station footers:

Maloney Concrete, truck no 48. If only someone would offer an HO scale model of this style mixer, I would be a happy camper!

And lastly, it’s hard to ignore all of those lovely late 30s – early 40s automobiles, but since I’m no expert, I’ll focus on just one. The up front and center 1940 Pontiac Torpedo Coupe:

Well, I hope you enjoyed the photo and the details herein. What are some of your favorite finds? What did I miss?! I have many questions such as what was all the stone for? What cranes were in the yard and during what years? How did Enright Oil receive their fuel? When did Eisinger Lumber expand and who were they renting the yard to? Also of note, the buildings along “Bethesda Row” had yet to be built. And to think, roughly seven months after this photo was taken, the USA would enter into WWII, further pushing the area to develop and grow. And yet, still no one has explained the greatest mystery of all; why did the Bethesda freight house never have rail service? The design is a curious one, with a garage for storage yet no rail service. That’s a discussion for another time.