A milestone is reached!

Thank you again to all of you who follow my site, for the site has just passed 100,000 hits! I again am surprised, impressed, and humbled all in one at the response in just two-and-one-half years of being in existence.

I hope that in two years my site has provided inspiration, tips on modeling that have proved helpful in your own layouts possibly, or has just been fun to follow along with all the news of the Hitop branch.

I do hope in the upcoming years to slightly expand the layout, depending on budget constraints. In the meantime, I hope you’ll follow along with the operations of the layout, and my weathering that I am seriously devoting more time and effort to. I’ll post it all right here on the site. Any items for sale please check out my EBay page as well.

Thank you again to all the loyal followers!

Next up on the workbench….

The next project up on the workbench is this Intermountain covered hopper, which is already taped off to be patched for a BN car, and will become BN 457520. I’ve already sanded off some of the Burlington logo, and will rework the rest of the weathering. Photo here:


After this car is reworked, next up is this Exactrail car, which will only be slightly reworked, with the bottom and ends of the car being weathered. The sides of the car along with the reporting marks will remain the same:




Weathering models…

I’m posting this here instead of the weathering depot page to show what I believe is my best work to date. This car is an Intermountain HO scale  covered hopper. Originally the car looked like this out of the box:


I then added weathering in one of my early attempts at weathering, and not a very satisfactory job in my eyes. When finished, the car looked like this:



Again, I wasn’t at all satisfied with this car, so decided to re-work the weathering. I found a prototype photo of one of these cars that was now owned by Anderson’s (AEX reporting marks), so there was my starting point.

I first mixed a gray-pink color acrylic paint to repaint the sides and ends. I left the roof weathered as is, and of course the bottom for the time being. In spraying with an airbrush, I allowed a tiny bit of overspray on the hopper outlets. I lightly sprayed the ends of the car, as they already had rust spots and splashes of dirt on them I didn’t want to cover up. So the ends at this point looked so:


As you can see above, I already have patched over the old number and reporting marks. In patching the sides, again I referred to the prototype photo, where this was patched over kind of sloppily with a grey paint. Here’s how the car looked before and after:


Note I haven’t worked on the bottom as yet. That’s next. I first used a lighter color of brown to “streak” more or less the hopper outlets, leaving some pink overspray showing. I then went back with a darker brown and sprayed the bottom of the hopper outlets, the underside of the car, and the bottom part of the ends.

The trucks and wheels were already done, so I didn’t have to rework these, and set them aside. Btw, in between weathering coats, I sealed the car. Next up was applying oils to the top of the roof edges, and top of the car to simulate rust. After this dryed, I applied a rust texture to the top roof edge, and the ribs of the car, then went over this with a rust powder, then blended it all in. The results were so:


Next up after all this was dry, I applied a light gray powder over the car sides (except for the rusted areas), to lighten the car further, and blend it all in. The next step was to apply all the decals, including the graffiti, which is a set from Microscale. After using the setting solution and decal solvent and allowing to dry, I applied the safety stripes from Smokebox Graphics. The last part of the car I did was the reporting marks and numbers on the car ends, which is quite a tedious job cutting these out and placing them. I’d have to say this is the hardest part of any decal work.

in conclusion, I’m now finished with this well detailed car, and am quite happy and satisfied with the results. Here is both sides and both ends of this guy:

One final set of photos of this car. In these, if you zoom in, you can see the rust effects, the rust “bubbles”, plus the peeling paint in the other photo. Pleased with this one!

The dirty and gritty…….

That about sums up railroads in the Midwest and Northeast in the seventies. Railroads were hurting. The economy was hurting. Factories were moving, closing, or being absorbed by mergers. Steel mills were in the same state. The oil embargo of the early decade made us extremely aware of how much America depended on the automobile.

The railroads were losing millions on passenger trains, leading of course to Amtrak in 1971. Railroads infrastructure in the Midwest and Northeast was in a sad state. A big majority of this was the collapse of the Penn Central, and the fallout felt throughout the region railroad-wise. Railroads, especially Penn Central struggled on with many trains traveling over weed infested rights of way and numerous slow orders. Derailments increased as the mid-seventies approached.

As with any bankruptcy, there wasn’t any funds to care for this deteriorating situation. Railroading in general in these regions were in decline, really until the Staggers Act was passed in 1980. But it took until 1980. Not with PC however, which wouldn’t last that long. The morass became Conrail in 1976. Even Conrail had a rough time its first several years, due to severe winters in 1976 and 1977.

Someone on a page I post in noted how dirty my Penn Central locomotives were, that they did have wash racks. Well, my response was that in all my time being around the railroad, I only ever saw a clean, shiny locomotive once, and it was a GE U-boat that had just been delivered.

My main point about this decade: this was a dirty, gritty time for railroads throughout the region mentioned, especially for the Penn Central. Everything had a dirty, grimy look and feel to it. Locomotives were not clean. Freight cars were not clean. Cabooses were not clean. Yards were not a clean place to be around. However, through all this dirt and grime, most railroaders continued to do their jobs as mightily as they could, with the resources they had. This was true in the early eighties as well, with the troubles of the Rock Island and Milwaukee.

As a modeller, take these factors, and the era in account when modeling this region and these railroads. It was a dirty, gritty time….

One Foggy Morning….

foggy west virginia

One foggy morning in a modest house on a ridge overlooking one of many valleys in West Virginia, I awake to a cool, crisp morning. As the seasons change from one to another, especially from summer into fall, the fog rolls into the mountain valleys and stays until the suns rays reach up over the hilltops.

On this morning, a wood fire is going in the fireplace, as I sit down to a cup of coffee while my wife prepares a breakfast of eggs and bacon. I get an early start this morning, as she knows I’m on a railfan journey this day. My loving wife knows I can disappear for most of a day while I savor the sights and sounds of the outdoors and my love for all things railroading. Railroad history runs deep in this part of the country. Railroading still carries on today with hard-working men out on the rails 24/7. I guess my love of railroading comes from my first train set at age 5, followed by my first camera at age 14, then my stint as a brakeman/conductor on the railroad. Being retired now, I get to enjoy even more the sights, smells, and sounds of this state, of railroads, and of just daily life.

I take my time lounging around on this cool, foggy morning, taking time to savor the eggs and sugar-cured bacon. I take too much time however, as I drink my coffee, looking out at the edge of our property where a herd of deer have come out of the woods to feed. Soon however, I hear the local railroad turn blowing its horn for one of the crossings down in the valley, its horn echoing off the surrounding hills. Oh well I tell myself, I’ll catch him further up the line, as the curves and grade will keep him down to a slow pace.

Finally getting out of the house and on the road, I head up to the end of the line. It takes me awhile as well, for the narrow, twisting roads adds time to the journey. I climb the steep grade to my final destination, an unincorporated area back in the hills. I find a spot in the parking lot of the Morris Fork Hardware and Farm Supply, which has already seen its share of business today, and climb the hill next to it for a better vantage point.

Sure enough, I’m here in plenty of time, as I hear the Penn Central turn grinding upgrade, its locomotive in run 8, giving all it has. I can tell that 567 engine is running full bore! Soon enough, the turn winds around the last major 12 degree curve and comes into sight down the valley. When the turn gets closer, I can see through the fog that they’ll be switching out the hardware and farm supply today, as well as delivering some empty hoppers to the Morris Fork mine’s truck dumps. I’m enjoying the action and view from atop the hill overlooking the tracks as the crew goes about its business. Almost finished, I’m so enamored with the action, the sights and sounds, that I only snap one photo, that of GP-9 7466 running through the crossover to run around its train for its westbound trip back to Dickinson yard. Oh well, I’ll catch him for more photos down near the yard itself. For now, I sit and enjoy the sound of a hard working diesel, the smell of  smoke from the exhaust, the sound of squealing flanges, and when the railroad sounds go quiet, the sounds of birds chirping in the hills of West Virginia….