Thursday, December 29, 2016

Passenger Car - Adding Passengers

This post is a follow up from the previous by taking the 'Passenger Car Detailing' to its next step. The ease of this process is that unless the car is lit, passengers only require the slightest of color. The original cars come with a card showing silhouettes of passengers. I prefer creating a 3D quality to enhance the models... and, I just may install lights in the cars down the line. 
At first I thought I would need to have figures be of the period. However, after a test using 20th century folk I could not tell the difference. This contributes to the 'ease factor'. I have many Prieser figures left over for other kits where a few choice positions were transformed into period-looking people. All those leftover seated figures are now being conscripted for the cars! 
I prime them while on the sprue. I then use the Pic-n-Stick Q-tip looking tool to hold as I paint them if not on a sprue. These are fabulous. One box has about 30 and they can be reused many times. 
As you see in this photo below, there are 3-4 basic colors. No detail painting as mentioned since most of the view will be silhouette-ish. 
Next is to attach the passengers to their seats. These 'Pikestuff' seats can be found at train shows, as well as seated passengers, versus buying retail. I find most hobbyists have leftover seated people that they want to unload. 
You'll notice below I have the benches spaced because I don't want to waste seats and I want to position them randomly. The piece of styrene under the seat base is so the bench is even with the weight that runs through the car center and keeps the bench level. By the way, the lady in front came painted. Another find at a show.
Next is to add louvers. As I mentioned in the prior post, my friend Brian Kammerrer, who also painted the backdrops, sent me this sheet based on my description. 
 I cut various lengths and install with Aileen's Tacky Glue.
 This is a larger section to cover three windows.
And the final step is to enclose the passengers, then send them off to their next adventure... as am I!

Tuesday, December 13, 2016

Detailing W&A Passenger Cars

The Tyco or Mantua 1860 passenger car is a shortened version of the prototype measuring in at about 34'.

It requires 3 cars to create two into their period length, about 42'. Below is a view of the splicing. Tricky part is lining up the widows which is visible at the seem.

Here is the side view. The seem stands out which now requires some sanding and in some cases some fill. Fortunately the latter was not required. The idea is to cut the sections about 2-3" scale inches longer then sand them for the final fit. I believe my friend Gerry Daub used a Zona razor saw.

The challenge with this project was to slice off the molded hand rails since the car was already painted. Tedious  but worth it for the results. Moving ever so slow and gently pivoting the blade left to right making incremental headway to avoid chipping the paint, there are eight hand rails in all to remove.
The molded handrail removed:
 Drilling with a #77 bit for .019" brass wire:
These curved pliers have one tip slightly larger than the other for a larger bend or smaller bend as is your preference.

The results:

Once painted, although not the clearest photo, a much improved prototypical look. You will notice, looking closely, louvers in the windows. Saw these after watching Disney's Great Locomotive Chase for the 100th time.

Wednesday, November 23, 2016

Soldering Iron Cleaning Tool

Soldering has become a integral part of my modeling. Much of my work has been, and continues to be, installing decoders as well as a variety of other soldering projects. During the soldering process, I typically I have been cleaning the iron tip with a damp cloth. Earlier days I was using the accompanying sponge. By the way I use a Weller, the most common one which can be purchased with its stand and sponge. Then my friend Ray Russell was here doing some soldering work that had me stumped. I offered a damp cloth and he gave me that.. "Are you kidding me?" incredulous stare. I responded most curiously knowing I evidently was still on the learning curve. He showed me this miraculous device that not only cleaned the iron nearly instantly, but avoiding the damp cloth eliminated the wait time till the iron reheated. One other most important element was that the iron was not subjected to mineral deposits from the moisture. You may say these are quite insignificant. I would say that if you do solder, this device will have a marked improvement on your time and process. The brand name is Hakko. I found this one on Amazon. You just insert the tip in the mesh a few times and its ready for the next melt.

Sunday, November 20, 2016


Lately I have been experimenting more with powders and chalks to weather rolling stock. Reading various reviews on chalks I see mixed reactions to the quality of the look that these materials produce. After applying the powders I am a convert. The only watch-out is to not overdo the amount being applied. However, if that does occur it is easy enough to apply other colors to reduce the area that was overdone. Here are a few examples...

The top "house" / box car, a laser wood kit by BTS, is painted the dark slate blue color known for the W&A. The walls have been altered as was the case on many lines. When troops were being hauled about, the lack of air flow caused the fellas to tear out the walls. There are some reports that entire cars were reduced to the frame.
First application is a gray tone for the basic fading. I may use two or three different tones. Last is the reddish brown. This simulates the GA red dirt.
I have found Doc Brown's weathering powders to work very well. He offers about 6 shades of brown and 6 primary-like colors.
I also use Prismacolor pastels. As you can see with Prisma, there are a wide variety of grays. In this grouping there is a dark color that nearly matches my dark slate blue, which is a Tamiya color called Field Blue. When I overdue a color I can hit it with colors close to the base color in order to soften the hue. The lighter grays give that additional weathered look of faded paint and wood versus using a pure white. 
Here's a few other cars weathered with these powders and chalks.

Monday, October 17, 2016


We came, we saw and were inspired... and had a heck of a good time! Members of our Civil War Railroads and Modeling Yahoo group converged on Memphis TN last weekend. About 20 members, which is a good attendance, met at a LaQuinta hotel to share projects, research, modeling projects and a passionate interest in this era's railroading. We also traveled to one of the more famous battlefields, Shiloh, for a fabulous tour with Lee Millar who has been giving talks, tours and reenacting for about 20 years. One highlight was running trains on Charlie Taylor's M&C 'O' scale model railroad at his home. The following photos are a window into our ventures. 
Ron Flowers of MI, Bernie Kempinski who models the USMRR Aquia Line in Alexandria, and Dave Bright who is the author of a fabulous web site He has done remarkable research on Confederate railroads. The view is of Charlie Taylor's Howe Truss bridge over the Running Water Creek at Whiteside  TN in 1862.
Charlie Taylor, our host, and Marty Vaughn. Marty is a very skilled model painter and sculptor in HO scale. Marty now paints figures for my layout.
Mark Richardson, from CA who models in N, HO and O scale and Mark Brainard, railroad historian who is a volunteer at places like Chattanooga where we first met Mark who was a presenter at last year's convention.
Far left is Tim Bode, first time attendee who had a grand time. Charlie Curro who constructed the buildings and is a master builder in his own right. Charlie's brother Harold who is a master machinist and made the turntables with the "Geneva Wheel", a very complex and precise device for accurate functional operation, D.C. Cebula, our founder and moderator, and Charlie.
John Turner who has installed the decoders in Charlie's locos and troubleshooting craftsman. Rick Sester who is a skilled model railroader in his own right.
Lee Millar giving one of his most thorough interpretations of the Battle of Shiloh. 
And me, Charlie Curro (CC) and Charlie Taylor, who is gesturing..."What train?', at the Crossroads of Corinth where a significant battle occurred on two occasions, both of which were won by the Union army. Look to the far left. See a light in the distance. Little did we know there was a train-a-comin! In less than a minute it was upon us traveling about 50 mph. We got off soon as we heard the whistle which was a bit of a shock. Good thing they have a whistle!
See many more photos on our civil war railroads and modeling site
Hope you enjoyed the trip.

Sunday, October 9, 2016


I have been using Musket Miniature figures since the beginning as this company has the most extensive, close to scale, diverse in figures and reasonably priced; an easy choice. Although I use a variety of figures including Preiser, New Designs and Airfix, to name a few, of the nearly 450 figures on the layout 400 are Musket's. Most recently Kris, new owner of the company, has been speaking with several members of our Civil War Railroads and Modeling yahoo group as he looks to expand his product lines. He asked that I send him photos of the W&A to see how they are displayed and possibly to use one or two for his marketing. The key however is finding great, not good, but great artists to paint them. I have been fortunate to have found 4. Here are some of the shots I sent to Kris.
Track Gang

Pontoon Approach
Camp McDonald Big Shanty

Dalton Depot

Supply Train

Saturday, September 24, 2016

CATOOSA - Mantua Rebuild

I have embarked on the next addition to the W&A stable of locomotives, the Catoosa. She was a Norris built locomotive, same manufacturer as the Yonah. As always, a key reference for the Mantua General alterations is Al Mueller's manual...
One of the more prominent elements to his rebuild is his  idea on making room in the tender for a new motor, decoder, speaker and capacitor. Once the tender top is removed, grinding away some of the frame is needed to accommodate these parts. And since the original model comes with a plastic wood load, that is not acceptable for a fine scale model replication. Here's a page from Al's manual on preparing the form for the wood load. 
Now here's the result of my attempt to replicate his instruction. You can see that I added a brass plate and water tank cap; the cap is from Precision Scale.
These next two photos show the tender interior exposed. By being able to remove the wood load there is easier access to the motor section without needing to remove the entire tender. It also allows for more ventilation. The black tip coming out of the tender front is a drive shaft cup from NWSL. The drive shaft mechanism is another redesign element also offered in Al's manual.

I use a motor from a fella named "Motorman" who restores and rebuilds a wide variety of motors and can be found on the internet. He operates via eBay usually. This motor is a Swiss Maxon 13 mm 7 pole coreless motor-High torque (150731330992). They run about $45. My locos are able to pull 12-18 car trains which is quite a feat given that the Mantua General's are not known for their pulling power. Of course I weigh my cars below the NMRA standard to about 30 grams. 
The decoder is a Tsunami Micro. But these have been discontinued. Their replacement decoder is called Econami. Al has installed one or two and vouches for their reliability and easier programming as well as installation; these are slightly smaller believe it or not.

Wednesday, July 20, 2016

Turntable Discussions Episode 3 with Al Mueller

One common theme with these discussions is that my guests who model railroads of the American Civil War are all remote. Al is from the Milwaukee area. This is from my visit in February. As this was a rare opportunity to visit with him, I spontaneously decided to use a portion of time to shoot the next episode of Turntable Discussions. This is my first attempt using Adobe Premier Elements video editing. I want to apologize first for the blurriness in some footage. I used my iPhone 4S as well as trying to shoot while I was mobile. LOTS of lessons learned! The entire interview ran about 45 minutes. I edited much in order to meet the less-than-15-minutes allowed via blogspot. Additional footage will be posted at a future date.

Wednesday, June 8, 2016


Brief reminder that my railroad is set in the summer of 1863. The Confederate Army of Tennessee is bracing for an encounter with the Union Army of the Cumberland, led by William S. Rosecrans, around the rail hub of Chattanooga. September would see the battle of Chickamauga, the one great victory in the west for the Rebel army. However, they would experience a colossal defeat that November and retreat further south around another rail hub, Corinth Mississippi. William Tecumseh Sherman would lead two Union Armies, of the Cumberland and of the Ohio, into Georgia for one of the final phases of the Civil War. Sometime late 1863 through early 1864 defensive works were being constructed along the W&A, especially around Atlanta. We have created two specific scenes depicting the type of entrenchments based on period photos such as these. The first photo is around the base of Kennesaw Mountain. There is a terrific painting by Don Troiani of this area.
This scene below is a version of a signal tower of which there were many types depending on the terrain. Figures are Musket Miniatures and Prieser, the latter being modified as a Confederate soldier.
Here you see a few soldier boys constructing a "shebang", slang for a impromptu shelter from the elements. These were quite common in both armies, especially if the troops were stationed for a period of time.
A typical gun emplacement below. Notice the planks supporting the gun to avoid wheels being stuck in mud and for a steady foundation. The barricade is made from what is known as "gabions". These cylinders of wicker were filled with dirt and stone. This scene and the ones prior were built by D.C. Cebula.
Lastly is a "redoubt" or breastwork usually outside of a fortification. There were many of these along the perimeter of Atlanta. This was built by LeBron Matthews. Most figures and all the fortification details of all these photos are from Musket Miniatures and Models.

Tuesday, May 24, 2016

Chattanooga to Tunnel Hill

My good friend Andy Salcius was here a few weeks ago and posted this video he took of the most recent excursion through Georgia on the W&A. A few things to note is that the landscape and structures are period in that they have been extensively researched. Most structures are either scratch built from period photos, illustrations and/or diagrams. The time is summer 1863. Chattanooga was on the verge of being captured by the Union Army of the Cumberland, led by General Rosecrans. Locals were evacuating to points south while Confederate troops and military supplies were be transported both north, from Georgia, and south from Virginia to meet the Yankee incursion. They were to eventually meet the Union army at a place called Chickamauga Creek were the south would experience its only clear victory in the western theater of war.


Thursday, April 14, 2016

W&A Roundhouse - Pano

New fun with the iPhone camera. My good friend  Andy Salcius was here for a couple of days. His first project was setting up this blog. He has taken many photos and videos subsequently of the layout. For this visit we experimented with panoramic photography for something slightly different to experience. He started with the idea to make a small pivotable jig. After several renditions we landed on this rig. It appears to be on a platform/flat car. That is correct! It was the first scratch built car I attempted about 25 years ago. The base however was two angled bolsters which caused it to tip left or right. He added the four posts to stabilize and high enough to hold his iPhone. Inside the car is an inverted deck made 3D by Andy when he worked for Makerbot. The inverted deck being too unstable I found the car as a sturdier base. 

Here is photo of the jig in service that Andy created. We added a few shims to ensure stability.
Photo below is about the 10th shot after experimenting with different Jerry-rigged jigs and using the one shown above.
Of course this view is premature in that my research continues to find some information on what the interior may have looked like during the war years. So far, thanks to the folks at the B&O Museum, the Savannah Railroad Museum and a period photo from Dave Bright ( of the Petersburg Roundhouse, I am ready to begin adding elements. These will include one or two winches in bays, gas lamps in some of the bays, a load of work benches, shelving and more debris from general maintenance.

Friday, March 4, 2016


With much of the layout completed, I am now focusing more on structure colors and sign designs. As many of you probably know, color is one of the most challenging, and sometimes perplexing, elements to recreate. In addition to cruising model railroad blogs and sites, one source for ideas has been "The Civil War In Color". Here is one taken on PA Avenue during the Grand Army review at the  end of the war.
This one below is a store near Ford's Theater. There are several very cool details to consider. One is adding small signs as on the columns. Another is adding a larger sign such as the one saying "Family Circle". Then there are the drapes and the green balcony railing,  One other consideration is attaching a gas lamp as shown below. Another element is the fogged window panes. Makes it easy to avoid detailing an interior!

Although one could challenge the accuracy of either or any, such is the case in most colorized or even suggested colors in any period photo. However, these provide enough plausibility to copy for my purposes. I also read that most structures of this type had three colors, making for some fun combinations.

My town of Dalton now has my attention as there are several buildings that have been waiting for an identity! Below are two buildings that have made the transition.
For the Cherokee Insurance Banking Co. I decided on these darker colors since this is a formal business structure. To construct the sign, I first  measured the space dimensions on the building. I then perused many font options that I had seen in other photos and came up with Algerian. It took a few tries to get the font size to a correct height. After a few test fits the sign was printed on my computer using typical copy paper. It was then cut to size measured earlier. Next was to cut a piece of Evergreen styrene for the backing. I chose .010. I then framed it with .040x.040 strips which provided a frame for the actual sign. The next to-do's are window treatments, and then the next challenge - what to do for the show windows on the ground floor! One idea is to find a color photo that could give the illusion of an interior that is simply pasted or glued onto the inner side of the window. Another option of course is to add an interior with a light. Hmmm?
Photo below is a paper flat that DC Cebula expanded upon adding a chimney on the right. He then built a slight addition to give it a 3D perspective. One most attractive additions is his detailing of the roof trim. The sign was made in a similar fashion to the Cherokee Insurance Co above. 
Both signs are black lettering on white paper. The frames were painted black with craft paint. I weathered both with Doc O'Brien's powders. For this one I used brown and yellow.

Next in line is this Drug Store and barber Shop. I am considering a third color but not sure which. Of course these windows need their treatments and some semblance of an interior. The building to the right is a residence of one of the town doctors. We will add a small front yard and fence, perhaps a flower bed. 
Another source for signs is the movie 'Horse Soldiers'. In particular are the scenes at Newton Station. There are at least a dozen signs shown. Some are painted directly onto the building. Others are on a framed placard and there's one or two hanging. You'll see a few store windows painted with such titles as BAR. I'd guess that there is also eight or so different fonts. I am currently surfing the web to find font sources. However those that come with Windows have provided a decent variety for now. In addition to the Algerian I also use GungsuhChe, Bell MT, Baskerville Old and High Tower Text. 
You can look for other font types on our civil war railroads yahoo site by John Ott. 
Lastly, I have been having TOO much fun making signs now that I have found a few more ideas for working with decals. This brings me to sharing with you a fabulous HOW TO book by Kalmbach by two of the best and well known model railroaders, Dave Frary and Bob Hayden. I Most enthusiastically post the cover here: