Thursday, June 7, 2018

Mystery Baggage Car Identification Solved!

Help Kindly Sent!

The mystery baggage car pictured in the HELP NEEDED blog post has been identified as one of the two Boston & Maine RR baggage/messenger service cars  #3280 or 3281.

                                            J. W. Swanberg photo, Author's collection

These two cars were originally built in 1930 as 36 seat passenger / baggage / 15' mail apartment combines by the St Louis Car Co for the Chesapeake & Ohio RR, road numbers 403 and 404. These 75' cars were later sold to the the Boston & Maine RR and converted for baggage - messenger service cars in 1950, this configuration seen at Danbury in the 1958 photo above.

My understanding is that when on the B&M these cars were regularly used on the international train the "Gull", a 24 hour train between Boston and Halifax, Nova Scotia. Custom agents boarding the cars for border crossing inspection may have favored these cars for the vestibule on one end for ease of entry/exit.

Why is this car on the New Haven at Danbury CT?

Express cars on the B&M with a destination for the Harlem River REA terminal in the Bronx NY could be routed over the New Haven from the B&M at Springfield MA. Speculation is that while this car was at the Harlem River Terminal it was loaded with express for Danbury.

Photos hard to come by

With photographic proof that this car appeared in Danbury during the era of the layout and despite of the fact this may have been only a one time occurance, a model is desired to offer operational interest on the layout.

Reference photos for modeling these cars are apparently very hard to come by!

Knowing that these cars were originally C&O then on the B&M roster in the 1950's narrows down the search for additional photos of these cars and would be a very useful for building a creditable model.

If anyone knows of photos of these cars ether on the C&O or B&M please leave a comment. A B&M mechanical drawing would also be very desirable.


A special thanks to John Horvath for identifying these cars providing much of the information about them! Also thanks for the contributions of Tom E. Thompson and Ed Shoben.

Sunday, May 20, 2018


Unusual Baggage/Express Car

In the large format photo below there is an unusual baggage/express car behind an EP-3 electric, the oddity being that this car has a vestibule on one end.

There is no readable lettering to determine what railroad this car is from. The perspective caused by the photo's angle makes it hard to determine the length of the car, it maybe about 70' or less? The car may have 6 wheel trucks? Converted combine?

Foreign road baggage/express cars frequented Danbury in the era of the layout, this diversity adds a visual interest to model operations, therefore I would like to scratchbuild/kitbash a model of this car if enough information/photos can be obtained.

Help Needed

Can anyone identify this car and/or the railroad it came from?

Additional photos of the car? Official railroad drawings? Colors?

Any help or lead appreciated!!

J. W. Swanberg photo, Danbury, CT 1958. Author's collection

Wednesday, April 11, 2018

Modeling Danbury - Signature Structures - Sand Bin & Dryer House

The sand storage bin and dryer house at Danbury no longer exist and few pictures could be found of these two structures.

The photo that reveals the most usable information for modeling purpose is the below photo taken by Peter McLachlan circa late 1950's. This photo supplies the best information on the construction and sizing the heigth of the sand bin and the east end of the dryer house. Without this photo building a creditable model of these two structures would have been unlikely.

Peter C. McLachlan Photo

The length and width of the sand bin and dryer house was best determined by a vintage aerial photo sizing the structures comparing them with boxcars and passenger cars of the era that were present in the yard when the photo was taken. The model length would be prototypical but the scale distance between the tracks on either side of the sand bin is somewhat narrower on the layout than on the prototype seen above, the model width would have to be adjusted to fit between the tracks on the layout.

Sand Bin Model

The sand bin model is made from styrene strips and sheets. The sides are made from sheet V Groove siding and the vertical support posts are dimensional strips.

Below are the 4 sides and baseplate on the flat before assembly.

The assembled bin below.

I believe during the era of the layout the New Haven was getting its locomotive sand from quarries along the railroad on the lower cape near Provincetown MA. Below is the painted model filled with a light almost white sand as per prototype photo.

The Dryer House

The sand dryer house was still standing in the photo below that I took late 1970's, but the sand storage bin has been removed. Combining this photo and the Peter McLachlan photo there was enough to build a creditable model of the dryer house.

The model is again a simple styrene building. The sides are sheet styrene clapboard with Tichy windows and a scratch built sliding door. Below are the pieces on the flat.

The assembled and painted dryer house. I could not quite figure out the taller of the two smoke jacks, in the prototype photo it looks like an enterprising yard employee used a 55 gallon drum to support the pipe so the same was done to the model until someone proves that is incorrect!

Below are the two structures together, they will take their places along with the wood sanding tower on the layout soon.

Wednesday, March 14, 2018

New England Foam Forestry

This Modelers New England Dilemma

Modeling New England means modeling many trees, specially on a branchline like New Haven's Berkshire Line in western Connecticut and Massachusetts. My dilemma is fabricating trees, what could eventually amount to a thousand trees or more.  Although building rolling stock, structures and vehicles is something that I totally enjoy, fabricating trees is not!

Scenic Express SuperTrees make nice small foreground trees and I will continue to use them where I think they will make the best presentation, but with the amount of them that would be required for the background foliage on this layout they are not financially nor timewise practicable.

Foam Forest

Initially when planning this layout I thought making "puff ball" trees would be the easiest way to blanket the background with the amount of trees required to represent the part of New England being modeled. I tried making a few puff balls but it quickly became clear that this method was not something I was willing to do on the entire layout and a new plan was needed.

The following method is the way I decided to fabricate the blanket tree canopy for this layout. Although this method takes a few days to complete because of drying time between steps, the actually fabrication time spent is minimal. Great Stuff, an expandable foam dispensed from a 16 oz spray can, will form the tree canopy shapes. These foam shapes will then be covered with black poly fiberfill and finished with various colors and textures of scenic flocking materials.

I decided to make the foam tree canopies as separate sections that would be formed on the layout then finished with the scenic materials on the workbench before installing the sections on the layout. The section that is the subject of this post is about 7' in length, about the maximum length that will fit my workbenches. I find that the finished sections are easily blended together after installation on the layout.

Wax paper covers the layout area below where the foam will be sprayed. When cured the foam will retain the shape of the terrain that it was sprayed over making the section easy to install when finished. The foam will not stick to the wax paper.

An initial coat of foam has be sprayed over the wax paper below, after a few minutes packing peanuts were attached to the still very tacky foam. The peanuts are just a filler and were used because they were on hand, this filler most likely could been anything from news paper to leftover pieces of extruded foam board. If the foam is too thick it will take a long time to fully cure and is a waste of material.

A second coat was then sprayed over the peanuts. Dispensing short spray bursts of foam from the can leaving behind irregular and random shapes, nooks and crannies are best. 

As a side note, the reason that a peanut filler was required when making the section above is that the landform terrain was already glued in place on the layout because puff ball trees had been planned on being installed. Going forward with the remainder of the layout extruded foam board as below will be shaped to the near the full height of the tree line so only a thin coat of spray foam will be needed.

After curing overnight this is the fully cured foam section being checked for fit. Parts of the section that look undesirable will be broken off at this point.

When I was satisfied with the shaping of the section it was taken outside and painted with black enamel from a spray can.

After the paint was dried a mixture of 1 part Matte medium and two parts water was sprayed over the foam section, then layers of stretched out black poly fiberfill were placed over the foam and worked into the contours. An overspray coat of the matte medium mixture was then sprayed onto the poly fiberfill and let to dry overnight.

This is how the section looks after the poly fiberfill has been affixed to the foam. One last test fit on the layout.

The poly fiberfill is very stiff after the matte medium mixture has cured, the fiberfill is pushed down into the contours then another coat of matte medium is sprayed over the section in preparation for the scenic materials.

Several varied colors of scenic materials have been dispensed over the wet matte medium below.

When the scenic materials have achieved a look that I like the entire section was oversprayed one more time with the matte medium mixture and let dry overnight on the bench.

This is the finished tree section on the layout. A few dabs of adhesive caulk hold the section in place, double sided tape could also be used.

This is a fast and inexpensive method for me to make the background foliage for the layout. This section took about 3 hours of actual working time, the can of foam was $4.25 and the spray paint was $1 both from Home Depot. I prefer to do the spray painting outside and the application of the scenic materials over a tarp on a workbench inside or out, but could be built in place on the layout if the painting step used a non solvent type paint.

The tree section can easily be removed to have additional scenic materials added or tweaked in place if desired. The section is light weight but rugged and not subject to damage. I may add some random or groupings of conifer tree tops where appropriate on future sections.

Works for me!

Friday, March 2, 2018

Modeling Danbury - Signature Structures, Wood Sanding Tower

The wooden construction sanding tower was located near the turntable in Danbury yard, used to service motive power assigned to the Danbury roster.

The sanding tower is seen standing in the background of the photo below I took in the late 1970's.
This is another one of the structures in Danbury yard that was never the focus of my attention at that time that I regret today for not photographing or measuring when it was still possible. It is my understanding that the tower just collapsed one day, I believe that occured in the 1980's.


To build an accurate model as possible of this sand tower I had to rely on the few photos that could be found and the one above for reference. Thankfully there is one photo that has a locomotive near the tower, knowing the dimensions of that type of loco gives a hint of how tall the tower was and the track gauge helps with the tower width, so I went with the sizing information derived from the 1957 W. T. Clynes photo below to build the model.

W. T. Clynes Photo

The model is a simple build with styrene strips and sheet. The four corner supports were cut first along with the four sides of the sand storage box. Below the V groove siding of one side of the storage box is glued to one of the support posts.

A second support post and cross braces are glued in place next.

Before the solvent cement is completely cured, a quick check to make sure the side stands plumb.

With two sides built, X bracing is added as per prototype.

Two additional sand storage box sides and X bracing bring the four sides together, a top and bottom of the storage box are glued inside to keep the structure square.

The pyramid hip roof sides are being glued together in the photo below. The grid lines on the cutting mat and a perpendicular straight edge keep things square while glue cures.

Below the roof is glued in place. A sand distribution hose and support pulley that were left over brass parts from the steel sanding tower that was built with the Electric Service Group of structures are added.

Phosphor bronze wire is used to make the roof access ladder.

The most difficult part of the ladder to make were the bends for the hand rails on the roof. Each side rail of the ladder is one continuous length of wire from bottom to top. A brass bar stock support brace was added to the ladder and attached to the side of the storage box.

This must have been an interesting climb on the prototype!

The early 1950's photo below was useful for painting the model.

The finished sanding tower ready for the layout.

Wednesday, February 21, 2018