Sunday, December 29, 2013


As I work toward initial operations on the current railroad—the “Valley Core"—I find myself diverting into several “side” projects.  Such is the case of the depot construction for Eugene.  It is not needed directly for operations, but it provides important context for the tracks currently in place at Eugene.  As I show the layout off to family and friends through the holiday period, I find the depot would be useful for them to relate to the railroad.  Finally, I needed a different project to lift me out of a bit of a holiday funk.

Eugene depot model in position on the layout.

My current Eugene depot uses the Walthers “City Station” kit (933-2904).  This is intended as a long-term stand-in until I finally get around to scratch building a more accurate depot.  The Walthers structure is the right size and captures the look of the stone and brick depots along the original Oregon and California (later Siskiyou) Line.  These include Medford, Grants Pass, Roseburg, Eugene and Albany.  In addition to published photos, I consulted photos on Joel Ashcroft’s site:  and ordered a set of depot photo prints from the Shasta Division archives from “Photo Bob” Morris:  Out of respect for the intellectual property rights of both sites and the excellent (commercial) resource provided by Bob Morris, I provide just links and let the reader judge whether my use of this kit is a suitable stand-in. 

Assembly of the depot is relatively straight forward, though I will note several things I did to mine.  First, this is a brick structure.  That meant painting the brick siding an appropriate base color (I used PolyScale Boxcar Red), adding individual brick highlights with Primsacolor pencils, and applying a mortar treatment.  I began with a thin gray wash (1:3 gray paint:water plus several drops of Liquitex Flow Aid).  Though this altered the basic brick color a bit, I did not get the desired mortar line contrast.  A second application of the gray wash was a little better, but still not much contrast.  A fellow modeler suggested I go all the way with a white mortar wash.  This proved to be the solution.  Though the actual mortar on the Eugene depot is gray, one uses white in the model form to compensate for the small scale—the art of model railroading!

For the window sashes, doors and trim colors, I consulted the Steam Age Equipment Company SP Common Standard Plan books.  Volume 1 lists paint colors for company buildings.  By 1956 (the revision date on the plan sheet), masonry structures used either gray or tan trim.  The photos I looked at showed the trim color had shifted from darker (bottle green was a previous trim color) to lighter—gray or tan.  I selected gray based on the darker brick color and looking at the few color pictures I could find of similar structures along the Cascade and Siskiyou Lines.  I stand prepared to receive an alternative view—inevitable once one makes such a choice.  I’ll take such comments under advisement when I finally tackle a more accurate depot model.  Although the standard plans call for white window sashes, I have no indication of them at Eugene nor on the similar structure photos I looked at, so windows, doors and trim all received a light gray color.  The roof was painted SP’s Moss Green (PolyScale Depot Olive). 

I installed basic wall partitions between the central operator bay and the waiting rooms on either side.  I also installed a floor.  I chose not to light the structure, as I do not intend conducting night or low light operations on the layout.  No further interior detailing was installed as the structure will be placed two feet away from the aisle.  It will serve as a good stand-in.

Saturday, December 7, 2013


After the push to complete the current mainline with the Willamette River bridge between Eugene and Springfield, I was in need of a break, or at least a change of pace.  One of the wonderful things about the model railroad hobby is that it has so many facets that one can usually find a project to fit one’s “mood.”  While recovering from the Thanksgiving holiday, I needed a shift.  My focus turned to the shipping and storage boxes containing the hoard of rolling stock acquired for my dream layout.  Initial operations on that dream layout are fast approaching, so it was time to start preparing some of that equipment for operation. 

I have chosen to focus on the early 1980’s for the initial set of equipment on the railroad.  This has to do with the relative ease of equipping the motive power fleet with decoders, availability of sufficient suitable cabooses, and adequate model coverage of required freight cars.  Indeed, I have several storage bins full of SP and other freight cars for this era, largely ready to go.  More cars are needed, though, especially those used to ship forest products.

As I began pulling out boxes of freight cars, I came upon my recent acquisition of SP bulkhead flat cars.  The 1962 and 1956 bulkhead designs were released recently by the Southern Pacific Historical and Technical Society model program:
For me, the 1962 design bulkhead was the “definitive” design applied to the major postwar classes of F-70-6 and F-70-7 riveted flat cars.  I have a number of photos of these shot in the late 1970’s and early 1980’s, still carrying lumber for the SP.  Though the SP lists the bulkheads as being for plasterboard service, many found their way into lumber service.  SP designates them by AAR code “FMS,” meaning a general flat car with special loading devices applied—the bulkheads.

An “issue” with the SP Models release is that all of the car body, including the deck and bulkhead timber, has been painted SP mineral red.  This is a reasonable choice for the model program, but a conscientious modeler needs to complete the job of representing timber decks and bulkhead lining.  SP did not paint or treat the deck timbers.  Pictures show the timber weathering to a dark gray tone. 

I replicated this with a fairly standard technique for representing weathered wood.  I used PolyScale acrylic hobby paints.  Although Testors parent corporation has discontinued the PolyScale line, similar acrylic colors are now available from other sources.  Micro-Mark’s new line of MicroLux paints fills this important gap.  First, a gray base coat of paint was applied.  I used “aged concrete” as a good light gray with a yellow cast, picking up a couple of color features of weathered timber.  I applied this with a ¼ inch brush, brushing in line with the boards.  I was careful but not fastidious about paint application.  Over-swipes could be cleaned up later with touch-up paint.  Streaks in the gray were desirable for providing color intensity variations among individual boards.  After this paint set, I applied a color wash of “rail tie brown” thinned 1:2 with alcohol.  The deck coloring was completed by a wash of “grimy black,” thinned at 1:2 with alcohol.  It is important that the last color wash be the darkest color (grimy black) as this settles into the crevices to provide surface definition.  Once all of this set, I returned with touch-up paint, using “DRGW Freight Car Brown” as a decent match to the mineral red applied to the cars.  One touch-up item comprised the bolster straps on the deck, which inevitably got covered by the three deck color applications. 

Stages of timber deck finishing on SP bulkhead flat cars.  Top pair are as-delivered models.  Next pair of cars have “aged concrete” paint applied.  Third pair of cars has a wash of “rail tie brown” applied.  Final pair of cars in the foreground have received the final wash of “grimy black” and touch up of the car body mineral red.  The ¼ inch brush for deck paint and micro-brush for touch-up paint are in the near foreground.

I still need to apply Automatic Car Identification (ACI) labels to the cars, as SP was a leader in that technology.  ACI was first required on the national car fleet in 1967, though the SP began the program earlier.  I also need to paint the trucks mineral red, the SP standard for these cars, and then weather all the “steel.”  For now, I have a great start with weathered decks and bulkheads.