This post is sort of a mental dump from several months ago regarding a curiosity I discovered while doing research on the Rock Creek trestle for the model I’m constructing. Good photos of the trestle are very rare. Doubly so for older photos from the 1940s and earlier. The trestle was located in an area with a decent amount of vegetation and was a bit out of the way. I only have a few images of the trestle that date from the timeframe in the 1940s-1950s that I model, and they are mediocre shots at best. It was a difficult structure to photograph! But, they are like gold to me. They are all I have! They are the only visual representations of something that was very special and existed in various arrangements over time due to rebuilds, strengthening, vandalism/fire and flooding damages.
Because there are no strikingly significant differences between the North and the South side of the trestle, I have always struggled to determine what I was actually looking at in the photos; North or South side? The small refuge bays that jutted out a few feet at the top were offset on each side in the same relative place, so if you stood on the ground below the trestle and snapped a photo, it would look nearly the same from either side. I had to find a way to figure out which side was which when looking at photos taken from the ground! But how?
First let’s take a look at the bridge sketch. This view would be standing on the south side, facing north.
As I studied photos there was one thing that stood out to me. The large diagonal OUTER cross braces seemed to form an arrow that pointed toward the west. I first took a look at a few known photos that I shot of the East end of the trestle to see if there was something to this. Here is a view from the North side, facing South:
And here is a view on the South side, facing North, of the East end as well; the other side from the above image:
And there it is. My “W” moment. The cross braces form “arrows” which always point West. Looking at some images in my collection which I previously could not determine the side confirmed my suspicion. Here is an image from ca 1946:
Note the side bracing, which I have highlighted in blue, pointing to the West! I have a few other images that I unfortunately don’t have permission to share here, which further confirm my suspicion. So, for anyone who is attempting to identify an old image of the Trestle, if you are curious which side you are looking at, just look for the outer bracing to “point” you the way. 🙂
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:
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.
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.
There are other GRA class gons in the yard, identifiable by the slightly stretched space between the middle braces.
Let’s look at the other freight cars visible in the photo:
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.
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.
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:
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:
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 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:
Speaking of Maloney Concrete, here is its mixer pouring ready-mix for the B&O freight station footers:
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.
A member of the Friends of Forest Glen, Maryland Facebook Group recently posted a couple newspaper clippings from the Washington Evening Star which show two separate car wrecks that occurred at the Brookeville Road bridge crossing the Georgetown Branch. I suspect that slippery road conditions contributed to both. Pretty interesting!
I knew that the old Linden Ln. overpass across the Metropolitan Branch just North of Georgetown Jct. was considered one of the most dangerous bridges in the country (!) at one time, but I did not know there were troubles with this smaller bridge just to the west. For reference, here is an image I scanned many years ago which was shot by W. Duvall, ca 1966:
Some will recall that the Purple Line folks intended to preserve and display the old girder(s) from the Talbot Ave bridge. They have just posted an artists rendering of what the old girders will look like at the Lyttonsville Station. Pretty neat. I’m just glad they were preserved!
After another marathon weekend of working on the layout, I’ve made some great progress. Nearly all of the tracks in Bethesda are in. All of the drops are wired and nearly all of the turnouts have Blue Point manual switch machines installed. I cleaned off the table to get a look at the overall layout:
I couldn’t resist doing a bit of operating. Man, this felt good!
One thing that has really struck me is that over the span of eight years working on this project I have accumulated a lot of stuff to put this layout together. Much of it is piled beneath and around the layout itself. As I work, stuff gets shifted around. I’m at a point now where I have pushed myself out of my comfort zone to try new things. Some of these things include simple things like soldering feeders to the bottom of the rails instead of the sides up to more complex things like hand-building complex curved turnouts. I couldn’t do this without help and encouragement from friends and family who push me forward and answer all my stupid questions.
Lately I’ve been learning how to install turnout machines. I mentioned above that I used Blue Point switch machines in Bethesda. This decision was primarily based on the fact that I owned five already (that I had in a box of turnout stuff) and I realized a fascia would be nigh impossible with the way this section of the upper deck of my layout is built. There is no real room above or below it for toggle switches, I don’t want to cut big holes in the benchwork, and I don’t want to protrude out. Solution? Blue Point turnout machines. They use a push-pull rod/handle and can sit right on the fascia with minimal intrusion. Perfect. I’m quite happy with how they have been working for me. Bonus, I can wire the turnout frogs right to the machine.
Another project that has been in the hopper for a while are eight Iowa Scaled Engineering MRServo-1 units I purchased a couple years ago. (unfortunately, this product has been discontinued!) These nifty little things use a board that controls a micro servo mounted to a 3D printed chassis. Wiring up a DPDT switch and attaching to a power bus gives you a nifty little slow-mo turnout controller. They have a few different bases including a slim profile one to allow for remote installation in tight spaces. The MRServo units came in three types with additional features. This is the most basic of the three, featuring only turnout motor control. For now, it’s all I need. I plan on adding a Frog Juicer eventually to handle the frogs. These MRServo-1 units will be used on the upper deck from Chevy Chase all the way up to Georgetown Junction, as there is ample space below the track to install a fascia with toggle switches.
I am progressing my way through projects that have loomed over me for years. It feels great to burst through and make real progress on this layout and I’m learning so much along the way. I ran a train all the way from one end to the other with no issues whatsoever. Like so many things, when you break a project into smaller pieces it takes away some of the mystical difficulty, making it a bit more manageable. I have been crushing these small hurdles left and right. I am hoping to have a video in the next few weeks showing off the progress.
And then, once the upper deck is done… it’s on to the lower deck! Woah!! But first, I gotta do something about all that JUNK! (ha)
It has been a busy last week of working on the layout. Last weekend I spent much of the time getting the three curved turnouts that lead into Bethesda in place and working properly. This involved quite a bit of work; test fitting, cutting ties, staining them, painting the turnouts, installing tie templates, installing ties, sanding, laying in the turnouts, fitting them, cutting them to length, attaching feeders and drilling holes for them along with holes for the switch machines. Once in place, lots of sighting and adjusting was done with the tracks in Bethesda before spiking things down and testing some cars on the track. A bit of filing here and there and we are in business.
The three turnouts are sized as follows from top to bottom: #8 50″ outside radius, 35″ inside radius, #8 60″/40″, and #10 60″/46″.
Soldering Feeder Wires
Some folks have asked me how I do feeder wires, so here is a quick illustration. A good friend, Matt R., convinced me to solder feeder wires to the bottom of the rails instead of the sides. This method leaves a clean look with no unsightly wires poking out, globbed onto the rails. It does take a bit of extra work, but once you get into a rhythm it goes fast. Here is my setup:
I will typically mark the locations on the roadbed where I want the feeders to drop. This is done by marking each side of the rail and then the tops of the rail. Remove the piece of rail and drill a hole for each feeder. Flip the rail over. With the X-Acto, snip the small plastic spacers between the ties where you will solder the feeder. Strip about 1/8″ of insulation from the end of a feeder and bend it 90°. Using a micro-applicator, put a tiny bit of flux on the wire and the bottom of the rails. Straighten the wire and clip it in the helping-hands, positioning it so that the bare end is just barely pressed onto the rail. Now, using your soldering iron, place a tiny bit of solder onto the end of it. Then, press the iron and your solder into the joint and release after it flows onto the rail itself. This should only take a few seconds, most. You don’t want to melt the ties!
Back in 2017 Matt R. and I took a trip to the B&O RR Historical Society Archives in their wonderful new home in Eldersburg, MD. I used to frequent the Archives about 15 years ago when I was really getting into researching the Branch, but once my kids were born, things changed and I was unable to make time to get out there. Matt wanted to check it out, so we hoofed it out there to check it out.
We were rewarded with some awesome finds. Me, well I snapped a bunch of photos for reference and wanted to share them now, since my intentions to write articles and updates for the blog never really materialized nearly two and a half years later. So here they are:
Some of the highlights include plans for the original freight house in Georgetown (ca 1910), track arrangement in the “old yard” ca 1940, some modern Rock Creek trestle drawings and the best finds of all, some dispatcher sheets showing train movements in 1959. Now, if only I could find some waybills and rosters! Enjoy!
OK FOLKS, here is Part deux of my update on what’s new in with my model RR progress, and more! Who else is finding lots of spare time to work on your layout and hobbies?
C&O Canal Bridges
I scaled and printed some blueprints of the three bridges across the C&O Canal on the Georgetown Branch. These were printed and had been laying around for the last couple years. I finally got some time and made mock ups using foam core and 3M spray adhesive. The goal is to get as prototypically accurate as possible when recreating the bridges, but I know some selective compression will be necessary, as I simply do not have the space. I have already done a virtual mock-up, and in the near future I hope to do a physical one.
A lot going on in this area of the layout as I completed the backdrop, painted it and removed tracks to do mock-ups.
The three turnouts are sized as follows from right to left: #8 40″ outside radius, 30″ inside radius, #8 50″/35″, #8 60″/40″, and #10 60″/46″.
I have also been busy with various modeling tasks. A couple years ago I bought a large lot of HO scale vehicles, mostly die cast, some resin. In retrospect, I think I bit off more than I can chew and what I purchased are models that are going to take a lot of work to get where I want them for the layout. I’ve been prototype research on the vehicles in the hopes I can do some better paint jobs than the previous owner did. Here is one example:
After consulting with my model RR Club, the consensus is they are Wiseman Model Services (ex Walker Motor Works) International KB-11 trucks. These models were made back in the 70s, I believe, and have gone through various iterations over the years. They are made up of several parts, are really fragile and don’t have a ton of detail. I did some research and decided to try some Super Clean for stripping these metal frames. The results were fantastic. Not only did the cleaner strip the paint, it also dissolves the glue after a few days, which allows me to get the models back into their parts form for reassembly and detailing.
For reassembly, I’ve been using the ZAP PT-36 Z-Poxy Quick-Shot 5-Minute Epoxy. This stuff is fantastic, old-school epoxy. Squirt out a bit from both tubes, mix and apply. The VERY nice thing, for this application, is that being 5-min epoxy means that it’s just enough and it gets just tacky enough to allow for me to put the truck cab parts together and rearrange them carefully as I go, until I’m satisfied, at which point it hardens. Once set, it’s rock-hard. I find that with CA, you kind of set it and forget it, with little room for adjustment as you fit things together. I ordered some BSI Insta-Set to help with getting the CA to cure quicker where I need it to.
Airbrush Tune-Up – About a year ago I did an overhaul on my old Badger airbrush. I took it apart and checked all of the parts. Cleaned everything carefully and reassembled it. I decided to add a regulator to the compressor. I noticed a bit of a clunk when operating the compressor under load, so I took it apart. Inspected all of the gaskets and parts and found no issues. I reassembled it and adjusted the bleed valve. A friend from my model RR club, Greg (who you have seen here before) gave me his old air tank which I will press into service soon. I need to figure out what piping/tubing I will need. I have also been upgrading my paint supply with some proper thinners, new paint and other goodies.
Testors 1:72 Stuka Model Wrap-Up – Another interest I have is military aircraft and armor modeling. I have many unfinished projects, but this one has been floating around my workbench for about 12 years. I decided it was time to wrap it up.
Hope you enjoyed these updates. I know it’s just a lot of rambling, but it feels great to make some progress on all these things. There are so many other items I’ve checked off lately, and really the layout room is coming back alive after being dormant for about a year. I am reinvigorated to get moving and hope to have more updates later this month. Anyone else out there getting stuff done these days? Sound off in the comments.
I figured it’s been a long time since an update on my layout & modeling progress, so here goes, in two parts. Like so many right now, I have been productive with my hobbies. I’ve chosen to spend time in the basement getting back into the layout construction and finishing up some old projects. It’s been a lot of fun, and hard work. Here’s a [long] report of what I’ve been up to:
Rock Creek Trestle
I got the plans to place I was satisfied with and decided to start doing some work. *A quick note about this – I ended up spending another few days modifying the plans because I wasn’t pleased with them. More on this later!
I ordered the lumber a few months back from Mt. Albert Scale Lumber (FastTracks) and Northeastern Scale Lumber and decided to laser cut some jigs for the bridge ties. I even picked up some tie plates, spikes and joint bars from the folks at Proto:87, which I will use to detail the bridge track.
Next up was the stain. I did some testing with about 5-6 different Hunterline Weathering Mix stains and eventually settled on Tie Brown with a bit of Driftwood mixed in.
Fast forward a couple months and I’m picking back up where I left off with this project. I was doing a mental and physical inventory of the trestle project to get back on track. As I started to go through my notes and compare them with what lumber I purchased last Winter, I realized I screwed up. I missed a few things in my order. Oops! A quick trip to FastTracks’ website and the order was in.
So now that I am waiting for that material to show up, let’s get busy staining the wood we DO have! But how do you stain 2′ long x 1/8″ pieces of wood? I had to figure out a solution, so I designed a trough out of foil, but that failed catastrophically. (Cleaning up stain is NO FUN.) I cut a rigid paper tube in half, lined it with foil and used some old clay to create ends that are adjustable. I then laid a sheet of plastic wrap in and held it in place with clay blobs. The whole thing was rubber-banded to a piece of wood to keep it steady. This gave me a nice place to hold the stain while I dipped wood in and set to dry on drying racks I made from old Snap-Track. In the future, I may try to get some Flex Seal to spray on the tin foil and make it a bit more robust, as I worried the tweezers or the wood itself could poke a hole in the saran wrap and cause a leak.
Tichy makes a 40′ plate girder bridge flatcar kit load, that is a very close approximation of the same sort of bridge span across Rock Creek. The major difference is that this one is 1’6″ taller than the B&O prototype.
Story time. I spent a good while putting this post together, and when I got to this point, I stopped and realized there was a problem. I sat looking at the open deck girder bridge model and realized it looked a bit tall to me. I quickly opened up my drawings and reference materials and looked a the B&O plans. They clearly indicate that the trestle is to be 40′ long, 6′ 6″ wide (girder to girder) and 4′ 6″ high. This Tichy kit is 6′ tall. I then went down the rabbit hole for several hours while I tried to figure out what to do.
I opened up the plans I had drawn and started to modify the sections where this 6′ tall center span would sit. I had to lower the bents and adjust all the cross bracing in those areas. I did not like it. Some of it looked a bit odd and threw the whole thing off. I was not happy. I decided to keep digging.
Months ago, when searching for a deck girder bridge for my model, I had a very hard time finding a nice 40′ long kit in HO scale. The Tichy kit really fit the bill, but I didn’t pay close attention to the height of the girders. Micro Engineering makes a 30′, and a 50′ bridge, but not a 40′ one. The 50′ bridge is just over 6 scale feet tall. Just like the 40′ Tichy model I already have. The 30′ bridge, albeit too short, is a scale 4′ tall. I have decided that this will be my way forward. I feel that a scale 6″ is easier to forgive and blend versus a scale 1’6″ which is quite a bit more and really changes the characteristics of an iconic part of the structure. Now, some will say “there are only a small handful of people in the world who will know the difference. Who cares!?” Well, being that I’m making this model for me, and I care, I am going to spend the time to do the best job I can. I’m already knee deep!
So I then set out to RE-adjust the plans for the trestle, now with this 4′ high girder. I will have to kitbash two kits into a 40′ span, but that shouldn’t be too difficult. I’m going to add slightly taller blocks under the bridge to add to the height just a couple more inches, to hide the disparity between the prototype and my model. In the end, we’re talking a few inches difference. As I went through the plans, I realized some other errors I had made, and I cleaned them all up. I also reformatted the plans to fit on 8.5×11 paper, so I can print at home, since I think I will be in it for the long haul. I will share my progress on the plans soon in a future post.
So, phew! This was a doozy. In a long period of time, not a lot has happened, but such is my life. I have been busy with other projects… *ahem*
So, yeah. Been a lot going on. Second update coming SOON!