Trainfest 2017

As we close in on the latter-half of November this year, another fantastic Trainfest event is in the books.  Held every year in Milwaukee, WI, the show combines operating modular layouts, vendor booths, product announcements, and a lot of fun.  We typically go for both days of the event, getting to see some of the show on Saturday, and returning on Sunday for a less-busy spin through the vendor booths and time to really look at the layouts.

IMG_7497.jpgOne of the fun layouts to see, from my perspective, was the Model Railroad Hobbyist / Trainmasters TV project layout.  Having watched the series online, I have to say, my opinion was that the layout is more impressive in person than it is in the video series.  I really enjoyed seeing the detail and quality of the work, and it was fun to watch Joe Fugate use the “Protothrottle” to run a train for a few minutes.  The layout is traveling to several other shows, so if you get a chance to see it, take the time to explore the scenes that the MRH crew have created.



We had a chance to visit the North American Prototype Modelers layout in Milwaukee on Saturday night.  This incredible club layout has many scenes that are expertly modeled, and some beautiful equipment.  The stunning passenger station that greets visitors on the way in is simply breathtaking.



Of course, there were operating layouts to see.  From small (as pictured above) to large, there were friendly people at every display I approached.

I made this video of some of the operating layouts. If you have a couple minutes, have a watch.

There were also new products to see.  The most exciting to me was the newly announced Accurail Fowler boxcar that I’ll be looking forward to have a few of.


There were other products show off that are tempting, but what would I do with a GP7, even as nice as the model looks.


One of the best things about Trainfest is the opportunity to get together with, spend some time talking and laughing, as well as reconnecting with friends from around the Midwest and the country, in person.  This year was no different.  Beyond the layouts, vendors, products, and other things, the friends we have in the hobby are important, and a chance to see people who might only be connected with online for most of the year makes Trainfest an event we have come to love.

It’s time to get back to the workbench!



A Bridge Between


With RPM Chicagoland over, and a little time between that event and Trainfest, I decided not to launch straight into more freight cars or something “complicated”, built from plans or otherwise.  Still, wanting to build things, I pulled a Monroe Models laser cut bridge kit out of my stash to have some fun.


The kit is really not complicated.  The cutting is nice, and the small size is manageable in a couple of sittings.  I got stared by cleaning up the cut-marks and following the simple instructions for assembly.  While doing the easy work there, I decided to enhance the model, and quickly orders some Grandt Line nut/bolt/washer castings in order to add detail to the structure.  I also decided to hand-lay track on it, so I’ll be using some scale tie-plates and code 70 rail I have in my stash to finish off the structure.  I managed to assemble all the support structure, but set things aside to wait for the castings.  Once I add those, I’ll weather the bridge, do the final assembly, and lay the track.  I figure it’ll probably take a few more enjoyable hours to finish off.


While the bridge parts were drying, I pulled out a small brick structure that I was given by someone.  The kit is an older plaster model, and came with a cardboard roof piece.  Once I had cleaned up and glued the walls together, I replaced the cardboard roof with a piece of wood to increase the strength of the finished building.  I then also replaced the original chimney casting that came with the kit with a new one that I got years ago in a grab-bag of parts.  After drying, the little building is now ready for paint and details.  I don’t have a use on the YV for this, but it was fun to build, and I’m sure I’ll find it a good home.

Even though neither of these structures will wind up on my YV, I’ve learned things, practiced skills, and had fun.  Between events, with time to unwind, sometimes those kinds of projects, stuff you just want to build, for no particular reason, is a nice way to let off steam.

After Trainfest, it’ll be time to focus on a new project.  Painting is over for the year, here, as the cold weather comes in, so it’s time to get as much built as I can while we hide inside and wait for Spring.

Time to get back to the workbench!


RPM Chicagoland 2017


My small corner of the RPM.  24 cars, on display.

RPM Chicagoland 2017 was last week (October 26-28).  As has come to be my expectation of this event, it was fantastic.  The modeling on display was amazing, the friends seen, made, and met in person were wonderful, and the size of the event seems to be bigger every year.

I blew my own roster out of the water, even before I gave my presentation by buying new kits for my fleet from Yarmouth Model Works, Owl Mountain Models, and Resin Car Works.  Even so, my presentation appeared to be well received.

There is always something new to learn at these events.  The clinics themselves are a gold mine of information, but the networking and information sharing among those who attend is as valuable if not more so.  It once again proves the old saying that it’s not what you know, but sometimes it’s who you know.

I put together a Flicker album of some of the photos I took this year.  You can access it here: RPM Chicagoland 2017

I will once again be looking forward to this RPM in 2018!

It’s time to get back to the workshop!


“Developing A Fleet” My Clinic for RPM Chicagoland, 2017

Screen Shot 2017-10-21 at 7.34.39 PM

The cover slide for my presentation.

My clinic for RPM Chicagoland, 2017, is the culmination of the work I did to present previous posts on the YV Freight Car Fleet.  “Developing A Fleet” in clinic form will discuss the process in developing my methods for arriving at a believable freight car roster for August, 1939.

Included here is the ‘handout’ for the presentation.  It includes a selected reference list that I used in my research and preparation, as well as a current, October 2017, freight car roster for my projects.

RPM 2017 Clinic Handout

I hope to have met you at the event in Lisle, IL.  If not, I hope you’ll explore other posts here.

I will probably keep this presentation updated, and hope to present it again in the future.

It’s time to get back to the conference!


Little Projects: Prepping for Post-RPM

As things wrap up and I finish prepping for the RPM Chicagoland event next weekend, I have moved all the completed freight cars from this year into slots in my Freight Crates and cleaned up the workshop.  Part of that task involved prepping for work to begin come November for the next batch of cars.


I am not going to go big again.  This winter my plan is to build about 14 cars total, and keep it relatively sane in the construction department.  If I finish everything I have selected to build, and by finish, I mean it’s all done, weathered, assembled, finished, then I’ll tackle more.

In addition to 14 freight cars, I want to build at least 2 YV structures this ‘modeling season’.  I still would like to build the station at Snelling.  That’s been on my list for years, and is a good starting spot.  Getting that built would be a huge boost.  The other structure I’m eyeing for this year is the ATSF tower in Merced.  I have a kit for that building that looks like it would be fun to build, so I may do so.

I also have some projects for my Free-mo layout to tackle, namely, most of the layout and rolling stock.  I plan to take some time in November and get the rolling stock banged out at least, with the layout portion to follow soon after.


In the midst of all that, I decided as I was building cars this year, that I am not 100% satisfied with my Kadee #158’s.  They’re difficult to paint properly, and the springs go flying regularly.  Cutting the glad-hand off is not great either.  With that in mind, I have started a small trial of other options.  I elected Sergeant couplers and would also like to test the couplers Accurail makes.  A small order of Sergeant goodies arrived this week, and I’ll be tackling those in November.  The Accurail product is currently out of stock, and I’m not sure if they’re coming back.  If they do, I’ll buy a few and try them out.  If not, and I like assembling the Sergeant product, I may make the change now, before I get building cars.


One last project: my Hicks Car Works builder plate.  I helped my friend, Wes, a few years back, to get a new builders plate made.  I decided that it’s time to get my copy that he graciously had made mounted and hung up in the house. So far, I’ve sealed it.  I’m currently researching the proper color for it.  Some sources indicate brass, while others indicate black with white paint on the raised portions.  Hopefully that will get sorted out and hung up for display before the end of the year.

Time to get that presentation finished!


2017 Roster Shots

It’s time to show off the work I’ve done this year.  With cars ‘done’ now before RPM Chicagoland, I’m relatively happy with how things have turned out.  Yes, I learned some things that I’ll change next time, but isn’t that how all projects go?  Improve over time.  Do things better.  It’s a learning process, constantly.

With that said… on to the cars.


As I’ve previously discussed, a large number of boxcars are needed for operating the YV.  I highly doubt that I’ll ever be building freight cars in a given year and not have at least one or two boxcars on the workbench.


MILW SS Boxcar – Tichy Train Works


MILW SS Boxcar – Tichy Train Works


CP “Minibox” – True Line Trains


CP “Minibox” – True Line Trains


VRR Boxcar – Westerfield Models


SOO Line 1932 Boxcar – Atlas (with corrected brake gear)


WP 1937 Boxcar – Intermountain


CV 36′ Boxcar – Funaro


SSW Rebuilt DS Boxcar – Sunshine Models


GN DS Boxcar – Westerfield Models (This car has been 3 years in the works, I’m thrilled to have it finished.)


D&H SS Boxcar – Tichy Train Works


ATSF Bx-6 – Westerfield Models

Not pictured:  MKT SS boxcar.  I realized after the photo studio was already away that I left 1 car out.  OOPS!

Tank Cars

I finished three of the five tank cars I started this year.  Two will be finished for next year, as I had to track down the right trucks.  This set of three brings the finished total of tank cars to 6.


UTLX 8000 Gal GATC 1917 Tank Car – Tangent Scale Models


UTLX ACF Type 27 8000 Gal Tank Car – Intermountain


UTLX ACF Type 27 8000 Gal Tank Car – Intermountain

Refrigerator Cars

This is the ‘complete’ set of refrigerator cars I plan to build.  The YV didn’t haul many refrigerators, even though there was the Merced Ice and Cold Storage Co. in Merced.  Most of the traffic was actually ice headed from Merced to El Portal.


PFE R-30-12-9 Refrigerator – Red Caboose


PFE R-30-12-9 Refrigerator – Red Caboose


PFE R-40-2 Refrigerator – MTH


PFE R-40-10 Refrigerator – Intermountain


SFRD Rr-21 – Intermountain


Gondolas won’t make many trips on my railroad.  About the only use in 1939 is to bring sand into Merced for the YV facilities.  Thus, this year I finished 3 of the total of 4 I plan to build.


ATSF GA-10 Gondola – Intermountain



SP USRA Gondola – Intermountain



ATSF GA-10 Gondola – Intermountain


That’s it!  Hopefully these cars serve long lives on my railroad.  As more cars are built in the next construction cycle, I’ll be sharing things I learned that I’m doing differently.

Until then, there are always more projects!  Most of these cars will be in storage after RPM Chicagoland until I have space for a layout, but they’ll soon be joined by more as I plug along on my 10 year plan.

Time to get back to the workbench!



The Batch of Cars That Wouldn’t End

I’m making an attempt to do more, learn more, add additional detail, try new techniques, etc… this year with the weathering processes I’m using. Last year it took more than a month to do 10 cars, and this year I’d set out for a huge batch of cars, trying to finish projects long-started so I can start some new ones.  
As I progressed through the processes, and I’ve employed my own versions of some techniques that I’ve seen online, in magazines, or elsewhere, I added some new tools to my skill set. What that amounts to is that I don’t want to have everything look the same, like the cars were weathered in the same location, by the same hand. 
I kept thinking in my head that I was going to be done with a bunch of cars. But as things progressed, I started to discover almost daily that there were details I wanted to add.  
This batch has turned into my very own version of “The Song That Never Ends”.

Last weekend I managed to get 6 of the 7 remaining cars assembled. I have one car left, my WP 1937 boxcar, that needed the uncoupling lever added after the couplers were installed. As soon as I get a chance to paint and weather the uncoupling levers, I’ll finish assembly.
With that done, I have a few punch list items. I am going to add chalk marks to several cars, waybills posted on a few more, and the tank cars need placards.  
After the cars are finished, I have more work to do, building additional freight crates to carry these cars and a few others. I also need to take roster shots of the cars to share here.
It really is the song that never ends. Fortunately I like the tune.
Time to get back to the workbench!