Sunday, March 1, 2015

Down at the Depot

The W&A may not be a physical railroad anymore, but that doesn't mean it's entirely dead either. While the On30 railroad certainly fulfills it's role, and has been well received, there is something about the W&A the calls to me.

Recently, a need has arisen for the old White Fang depot to come back into existence. The depot was one of the first structures I built, and it looked it. Pulling the structure out of storage, it was in a very sad shape. Bits of the old building where held together with brushed on white glue, which was drying out and peeling away. The roof was actually sitting cockeyed, and the wooden platform had boards broken, missing, or peeling off the plastic sub base.The structure had been left in it's stock plastic color, with a splash of dusty weathering added that while adequate at the time, appeared very tired.

So, the first step was dissembling the structure. Using gentle persuasion, the whole building was brought down to it's individual pieces. The parts where cleaned and hit with a mix of warm soapy water and detergent to remove any traces of glue. Once each part had been cleaned, they where laid out on a paper towel and left to dry overnight.

 Over the course of disassembling the structure, it was found that a multitude of peaces had gone missing over the years. Some parts would have to be fabricated, others hidden.Some parts where a bit out of place to the building's 1890s appearance.

The stock telephone booth was inclosed to create a wooden shed, and the telephone re-sculpted to look like some sort of electrical equipment relative to the depot's telegraph. The light fixtures with their saucer like hoods where all removed, and the platform was once again coated with wooden boards to represent a wooden platform. The building was then painted, with a coat of boxcar red with black trim.

The roof was painted a deep flat black, and a light amount of weathering was added. The platform boards where weathered using the "scratch back" technique. The while thing was given a wash of black paint, and then sanded with some light grit sandpaper. This removed the heaviest of the black paint and outlined the grain in the wooden floor boards.

The windows and doors where left white. Thus putting the building in (my) W&A's official building paint scheme of deep red with white trim.

One of the missing items happened to be the windows on each side of the bay. They left a fine impression of where they where supposed to be, so I lightly outlined the window imprints with white paint. Representing the window frames with the windows themselves (hopefully) appearing as if they where open.

One final touch was the brick chimney. The chimney was hit with brick red, and then a wash of white was painted over it. Gently wiping away with my index finger revealed the brick red, with the white paint settling into the cracks to act as mortar.

The roof was then reassembled, takeing extra care to keep the gables in line. Gorilla liquid glue was used, with application from the tip of a bent paperclip. This should prove a much stronger bond then brushed on Elmer's white glue, and shouldn't yellow over time. The depot walls where assembled with clear acetate in the windows, and finally the roof was attached. The finished structure looks beautiful and stands as a testament to the old W&A RR. There are some plans for this structure, as well as a few others in regards to a small re-birth of the W&A. But for now, those will have the remain a secret.

Thursday, July 31, 2014

The Western & Atlantic Lives Again!

For a day at least.

I was invited to attend an operating session of the North Georgia Moduler Railroad Club, at their annual set up at the Smoke Rise baptist Church. The layout this year was properly massive, and took me over an hour to circumnavigate. Granted I was running a slow way freight that had to take to the sidings on occasion, but that did not bother me. My slow speed meant I had plenty of time to enjoy the beautiful layout sections as I slowly rattled through them.

For this adventure, the 1890s W&A rose from the dead in the form of Baldwin ten wheeler #7 The "Excel". #7 preformed flawlessly, aside from a small accident in the first five minutes on the railroad when her pilot got jammed in a switch and was yanked off. However, I found I kind of liked the look, and upon the show's close, I decided that instead of fitting the old pilot back, I would construct some switchmen's boards to go under the pilot beam.

#7 is DCC fitted and has a Tsunami sound chip in her. The sound of her safety's occasional blast, deep throated whistle, and rhythmic chugging as she slowly rocked her way along the layouts was quite the show.

Some of the modules where quite fanciful. Including this beautiful two decked monster with a quarry-esque railroad winding all over creation and across a suspension bridge, while the mainline soared above on a steel girder bridge.

Overall I had fun stepping back into the HO scale world. The Club members where unbelievably kind, and very friendly. I found myself leaving with a membership form.

There maybe something more to this in the future.

Friday, May 23, 2014

From The Ashes

Well, it's been a few years since the W&A became a memory. The layout is now just an empty shell, most of it picked clean. I put the model trains up and focused on my career and job.

However, recently I jumped back into model railroading in a big way! I got bit by the Narrow Gauge bug, and the need for a much smaller railroad led to the construction of the On30 "Watkins Glen Railroad." The WGRR is a 1903 mining road set in the North Georgia Mountains. Built atop a 25 X 24inch base board, the layout is completely portable and is proving to be a fun and constantly developing project.

The layout's own blog can be found here:  Watkins Glen Railroad

Yes, it is updated somewhat regularly as time allows. So join me for a trip back in time to where little engines struggle up some pretty big grades, into the beautiful Blue Ridge mountains.

Monday, March 25, 2013

End of the Line

I do apologize for the long wait in news on the W&A RR. Sadly the W&A is no more. In early 2012 my family and I made plans to move house in 2013. Part of those plans included the deposition of my beloved railroad. I decided to sell off my collection and and dissemble the railroad on my own terms and time well ahead of the move.

Most of the rolling stock was sold, however two locomotives; "Catoosa" and "Excel" I boxed up and put into storage as I was attached to those two the most.

The layout was dissembled over a period of a year and a large amount of the collection was donated to the Southeastern Railway Museum to be used on their "Georgia & Tennessee" Railroad.

My current housing and job situation has made it difficult for my to model railroad. So I plan on holding off on model railroading for the time being. I may pick it up again after Collage but that depends on the situation at hand.

In the meantime, I am still very much focusing on another hobby of mine which has gotten very little mention. I am a very active model shipbuilder. So I will keep model building and working, and perhaps you may hear from me again in another blog once things become a bit more laid back.

So for now, green signals and a good fire.


Saturday, June 30, 2012


         Before I get started, let me make it perfectly clear I am not one of those model rail heads who has the filling of paperwork X Y Z and G and waybill and form Y and whatnot to operate. Not that I'm saying that its a bad thing to be so prototypical that your crews do a preparation H before leaving the yard, but I prefer a bit more interaction with the trains and less filing.

Now, having said that, I am not above the fun little doo-dads to make train operation a little more interesting. Especially when it comes to solving problems that shouldn't exist in the first place...such as for example, what to do when I need to know whats happening with the other operators on the other end of the railroad. With the mountain range separating the main yard and the coal mines, knowing whether or not the main is clear or if the local is done switching becomes a bit impotent prior to sending the morning mail flying threw the valley.

I could just look up and ask across the table like a normal human being. But wheres the fun in that...

Yep, that is a telegrapgh key.

A lucky smack at an antique store landed me three of these, and a receiver. Two are set up on the layout, one at the yard and another around the mountain. The receiver is under the layout and clacks away to both keys. It's silly, loud, and quite confusing if you don't know Morse, it's perfect! Nothing gives that 1800s depot feel then the sound of a telegraph key going nuts.

The other key sits on a temporary foam bench. Notice that chunks have already been taken out by people walking by and hitting the damn thing. I may mount it directly to the facade board as this seems to be a heavy traffic area. 

With this set up, the operators in the valley have instant communication to the yard! Now, to hold some classes on Morse code so my crews can chat out more then just SOS.

Tuesday, May 29, 2012


In the north eastern half of the United States the railroads had a close association with the coal mines they served, many times burning the very product they carried. Because of this, in the late 1800s, a locomotive was soon developed that allowed these roads to burn the cheapest grade of this abundant fuel. Enter John E. Wootten, who was Superintendent of Motive Power of the Pennsylvania & Reading Railroad in 1866, and became the General Manager of the Reading in 1876. Around this time anthracite coal was used for home heating. Anthracite burns slowly and with little smoke. Waste anthracite known as culm, which resulted from handling and preparation, was piled high at the mines and amounted to almost 20% of production and had no commercial value.

Wootten, wanted to find a way to use this plentiful resource. He spent many years experimenting with culm to find a way to use this abundant and cheap fuel. He discovered that a very low firing rate worked best and the Reading began to use culm in it's stationary boilers at its shops and stations.

Culm however did not burn well in the long narrow fireboxes that were typically located between the frames of 1800s locomotives. A thick fire is required in these fireboxes and the heavy draft needed to keep them burning would blow the fine coal off the grate. 

So, Wootten went back to the drawing board, and he came up with a boiler design that would burn the small sizes of anthracite. To accomplish this, the firebox was widened so as to make it about twice the size of those in use at the time without increasing the distance that the fireman would have to throw the coal. The large grate allowed the culm to be spread in a thin layer so it could burn with a moderate draft. Most, if not all Wootten locomotives had twin firedoors to access all areas of the massive firebox.

Adapting this new firebox to a locomotive required it to be located above the driving wheels because its width would not permit it to fit between them. However, locating it in front of the crew cab obstructed the engineer's view. So the engineer's cab was moved ahead of the firebox and astride the boiler and the fireman remained in the rear of the locomotive and was provided minimum protection from the weather. These locomotives became known as "Mother Hubbard"s or alternatively also known as a "Camelback"

There were many safety concerns with the camelback locomotive. Here is a case where form followed function. Obviously, the poor fireman had it rough, being exposed to all elements and having to balance himself on a moving platform while stoking the fire. Meany stories revolve around a hapless fireman missing the firedoors and showering innocent bystanders with scoop of coal as the train raced pass. The engineer would sit over the whirling side rods, and if one happened to snap, it was going right up the poor man's bottom. Countless are the crewmen who where showered to the for-winds by their own locomotives. This event was so common that on the Baltimore & Ohio they were nicknamed as "Snappers". The cabs where hot, and claustrophobic with the boiler taking up 70% of the space. The locomotives where top-heavy and rocked like a "Deadliest catch" fishing boat, and communication between the two crewmen was non-existent.

In 1918, the Interstate Commerce Commission banned further construction of camelbacks, but allowed a few exceptions up to the early 1920s. Finally in 1927, the ICC forbade any more orders for the center cab locomotive on the grounds of safety.

Thus came the day in 1892, when the Western & Atlantic Railroad in Georgia decided to try out a set of four Camelbacks. One of which was to be allocated to the White Fang engine-house. The local crews where ecstatic upon leaning that this new locomotive would have a massive steel cab, and plenty of deck-space for the fireman. The management must not have told them about where that massive cab would be...this could get ugly.

Anyway, here is the locomotive in question, freshly painted in basic black standing in the White Fang yard throat.

She is a 2-6-0 mogul wheel arrangement, and some small details such as a new whistle and bell with bell cord where added. The Bell cord goes both to the engineer's cab, and to the fireman's platform, presumably so the crew can fight over it. This locomotive has been allocated the number 6 and the name "John Reynolds" after the railroad's retired chief cinder dick.  

This actually is a very attractive model, very shapely and block like. It gives the absolute true form of the camelback. It's second hand, so after an initial beak in period, it ran fairly well. She is the strongest locomotive in the current fleet, and is awaiting a new set of decals. I also plan to trim down the piston valve cylinders to make her a Vauclain compound.

Tuesday, April 17, 2012

The Wanderer

So...your a secret agent in the 1860s. How are you going to get around

How about in a suped up passenger train? 

Say hello to the Wanderer

The Wild Wild West was a Tv show about two agents of the newly formed US Secret Service: James T. West and Artemus Gordon, One a no nonsense gunslinger. the other a brilliant gadgeteer. Their unending mission was to protect President Grant and the United States from all manner of dangerous threats. The agents traveled in luxury aboard their own train, the Wanderer, equipped with everything from a stable car to a laboratory.

The show and movie incorporated classic Western elements with a steampunk and espionage and plenty of comedy. There were always beautiful women, clever gadgets, and delusional arch-enemies with half-insane plots to take over the country.

Now, my model of the "Wanderer" is a sorta cross between the TV version and the Movie version. I originally obtained the equipment threw a buddy of mine, and started painting and rebuilding small tidbits of it to manufacture an accurate version of the train. 

Starting with the locomotive. The Wanderer herself is a Mantua 4-4-0. rebuilt no less thren three times, and awaiting a new motor from "Yard Bird". The Locomotive is currently as of this post disassembled for it's new motor. I have always loved the look of the Mantua 4-4-0s. They carry the 1860s look real well, and all shined up and brassed up, they can really look like gems.

Behind the locomotive is the Horse car/Laboratory.

 Made from a Mantua Classics combine, the car's windows have been tinted, and the undercarriage detailed to hold the cannon that shoots a grappling hook, ans the wind to hold the chain for said grappling hook. I also have added a modern air compressor for the lab to work off. I assume to runs on steam from the locomotive.

the Large ship's wheel is to real the cannon around.I have no clue how practical this set up is...but logic never seemed to come into play for the original show so....

At the rear is the observation car. It is here that alot of the show's plots develop from. A Rolling home away home, the train was full of secret nonsince, such as:

Two pistols on a wooden swivel-stand on desk, activated and controlled by a knob on the fireplace.
The fireplace conceals a secret escape door and an emergency flare signal the blew from the marker lamps.
Decorative molding carved in the shape of lion heads that spew knockout gas when triggered.
Several pistols, rifles, shotguns, and other assorted weaponry were mounted on sliding pull-down panels. A sliding closet containing his clothes and other useful paraphernalia.

Underneath the car, we see all the battery boxes and storage spaces for some of the sliding and hidden compartments, as well as the "Vehicular Rail Aggressor" a railcar like device that rolled down between the web of the rails. The winch to lower and trail the car can be seen at the rear underneath the coupling. The car works by riding on wheels that roll inside the webs of the rails. I guess it can only be used on completely strait track as switch guide rails, frogs, and crossings would cause a catastrophe...and the rail joiners of the time must have been bumpy to traverse.

 Bringing up the rear is a kit bashed observation platform.

I bring this train with me to area shows and occasionally visiting layouts. So watch out for her out there. You never know where Artie and West will show up next.