RailsWest News

1. RailsWest is now on Instagram with frequent posts!

Click here to access it.

2. On the new RailsWest blog we just published one of our best posts ever…

One of my favorite posts we have done in a while about a night train. It is all about getting some cattle south to get them out of harms way from a winter storm. Check out the blog post. It reads like a very short story! It has a night train, bunking down in the caboose, tumble weeds, a ghost and much more.

Click here to access it.

RailsWest has a new home! And has for quite a while!

You are always welcome to come back here and check out the classics! BUT, hop on the new RailsWest trains departing for all points West!

We are boarding on tracks #1 and #2 and you are welcome on both trains.

Track #1

RailsWest2 blog — https://railswest2.wordpress.com/

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Track #2

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@rails_west – Look for the bloody nose SP short nose GP-9!

Don’t miss your train, hop on today!

Rails West

The Limpia Canyon Northern RR, part II (Pecos!)

The Pecos section of the layout is along a 12 ft long wall.  The height of the layout is 46” above the floor, determined by the height of the window sill.  Rail is code 70.  Time period is 1990.  (Click here to see Part I with a map of the entire layout.)


It is the home of multiple businesses.

LCN Trackplan with color and shippers total Pecos

M-G Fuels

First coming from Sanderson into Pecos is M-G Fuels on the left.  It is a modest feature on the layout.  The LPG dealer is really only suggested by an unloading rack.  Below we see it in the middle of the photo.  Fat Cow’s tank car unloading facility is the small shack and blue tanks. blue tanks.

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It serves to illustrate how one can create a traffic producing industry with minimal space.

Fat Cow Animal Supplements

Next on the line is Fat Cow.  Fat Cow produces livestock supplements to “bulk up” your herd.  This business receives tank cars of molasses, covered hoppers of various ingredients, and occasional boxcar loads of bagged material.  In addition, outbound shipments of its finished product are shipped in covered hoppers and boxcars.

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Above we see a boxcar spotted at the loading dock and a covered hopper being unloaded above the under-track pit.  The blue overhead structure is for loading covered hoppers with Fat Cow’s product.

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The above photo gives a better overall view of the Fat Cow operation, from the tank car unloading area on the left, the building that receives inbound boxcar shipments, a loading dock for outbound boxcar shipments, the overhead covered hopper loading structure, an under-rail conveyor leading into the blue building for unloading covered hoppers, and a pressure differential covered hopper unloading building and four tall tanks on the very right for fine powdered ingredients.  Covered hoppers to be unloaded and ones to be loaded compete for the same track space so the train crew has to coordinate with the plant manager the order in which the cars are placed.  Fat Cow has an electric car puller to move the cars being loaded or unloaded without a locomotive.  The LCN can’t let cars sit around and keeps a locomotive here for the Pecos train.  The crew deadheads to work in the white suburban.  Outbound cars are gathered up and the train leaves Pecos for the interchange.  If the return trip to Pecos has more than five cars, which is often the case, the crew has their hands full because the short run-around track will only fit five cars, maybe six short ones.  The engine often has cars ahead and behind it as things are sorted out and the cars spotted.

Drill-Tex and Gerstle Chemical 

At the end of track in Pecos, we find Drill-Tex,  the red structure below, and the unloading structures for Gerstle Chemical against the wall.  Gerstle Chemical receives tank cars of acid that are used in the oil fields around Pecos.  When chemical tank cars are spotted here it reduces the length of the tail track, further complicating the work of the train crew.  Drill-Tex is a busy operation which receives bagged material (drilling mud) in boxcars and bulk material (frac sand) in 2-bay covered hoppers.  Hydraulic fracturing is just starting in 1990 so unit trains of frac sand are still in the future.

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Boxcars are unloaded at the concrete docks, covered hoppers into the yellow structure that loads the trucks.  Occasionally, sand cars are unloaded on the tail track with the white wheeled conveyor.

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These businesses result in Pecos being a very active end of the line for the LCN.  In the last photo below, you can pretty much see all of Pecos along the LCN.

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In our next post, we’ll venture back in time and visit Sanderson.

LCN logo 6 Primary



Backdating or transforming a structure on your layout

By B. Smith

I decided to change the below metal siding (Pikestuff, now Rix Products) structure to a brick sided structure to more closely represent a building like Alpine, Texas’ Big Bend Wool and Mohair.   On my Limpia Canyon Northern RR, the town in which this structure sits, Sanderson, is part of the back-dated portion of the layout.  I wanted something with an “older” feel,

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I wanted something more like this–

My beautiful picture

Big Bend Wool and Mohair with Rock Island box car spotted in 1977–©B. Smith photo

I saw many loads of feed spotted with this structure in the 1970s and 80s.  (Click here for a post on the traffic I noted there in the 1980s.)

This is what the metal building became–

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The plastic “metal” siding was glued to a wood board for strength.  I removed the plastic door and window frames to provide a smooth surface and covered the “metal” siding with Faller Gmbh embossed building material-red brick (part #272-170608) and added a couple of doors made of Campbell Scale Models corrugated aluminum sheets (part # 200-801).

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I added plastic channel at the top of the doors to represent what the door rolled open on. I did not cut a door opening in the embossed brick sheet as this would have complicated the project.  C. E. Hunt graciously provided the signs which really add to the finished look of the structure.

I really like the feel of bringing in loads of feed to my back-dated structure.

The difference between it as a 1990 structure and the back-dated version is pretty stark.

From this–

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To this–

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It really is a joy to bring in one or two 40 or 50-foot boxcars back in the day when railroads still really appreciated carload traffic.  Seems more civilized.


More human somehow…

LCN logo 6 Primary

1964 Pontiac GTO… and icons for your layout


Many of us model little (or big) icons on our layouts.  They can be cultural icons, historical icons or anything that strikes a chord with us and connects us to a larger place, time or feeling.  They can be particular freight cars we remember seeing pass by when we were 14, a favorite structure along a sleepy branch line, a commercial sign that awakens memories.  Whatever they might be, they help our layouts mean more to us than just a place to “run trains.”

Below is just a quick illustration of what I am talking about.

Dr. Pepper – I remember seeing tall bottles with this logo as a kid.  Makes me think of playing golf for $3.00 a round at Gus Wotham Golf Course in Houston.

Tracks to nowhere – I remember seeing a lot of lonely branch lines all over Texas and Arkansas that I wondered if they were still in business.  Sure enough, there was eventually a small business that still saw some rail activity.  The late-1970-early 1080s still offered a lot of opportunities to explore lonesome, yet still active rail lines.

Houston, TX May 1980-–©photo by C. E. Hunt

The Rock! — I remember seeing a lot of Rock Island action as a kid.  I caught the above on a Burlington Northern train near Houston, TX in May of 1980.  This is such an icon for me, that like B. Smith, I have adopted a dual era layout–1979 (Rock still active) and 1981 (Post BN-Frisco merger).  You’d be surprised how many cars and locomotives must exit or enter the stage based on two years.  Been spending a lot of quality time with my Railway Equipment Registers!

National Forests — I love National Parks, National Forests, BLM lands and State Parks.  To a kid growing up in Texas, being able to roam for miles on my land without encountering “No Trespassing” signs everywhere is heaven.   (Warning — Commercial for protecting our public lands.  Make your voice heard and consider joining this great organization or another like it.  I like Trout Unlimited too!)

Grocery Store Warehouses — Here is an icon that may appear on B. Smith’s LCN.  Grocery store warehouses receiving rail shipments screams out an earlier day in railroading.

Scene on the Rails West layout

Falstaff Beer – This is really an icon for all the former great brewery traditions or brands across our land. I know a lot of great new beer traditions have merged, but I still miss some of the iconic brands like Falstaff and Hamms.

Old pickups and cars — These are some of my favorite icons.  Vehicles have the potential to create a time aura like nothing else.

.Scene on the Rails West layout.

What if you really want an icon that is very difficult to achieve?  No kits, no available art work, etc.  That is when it really gets fun.

And that finally, brings us to the main topic of this post…the 1964 Pontiac GTO!  Now that’s an icon!

1964 Pontiac GTO

Considered by many to be the first muscle car, meaning high performance and low-cost, the GTO became available in 1964 as an option to the Tempest LeMans.

The GTO featured distinctive appearance items in place of standard LeMans features.

The famous Gran Turismo Omologata (GTO), better known as ‘The Goat,’ ‘The Tiger,’ and ‘The Great One’ was for the first year offered to the public.

The GTO became a much greater success than Pontiac ever thought possible.  Here’s a slick video on this iconic car.

Here’s the colors it came in in 1964–

A little over 30,000 were produced for 1964.  I am striving to figure out how a couple can be the denizen of Carrizo Springs or Artesia.  (Artesia is a former town near where the IMC mine is.  There are a few signs of the old town still in the Rails West world.)

How am I going to do that?
Good question.  I have been able to get my hands on a set of Williams Bros GTOs!  We will see what happens.  Here’s a link to Williams Brothers kits.  They are clear plastic.  I don’t know if they are still available.  The link was last updated  April 17, 2000!   It is going to be a challenge for sure.
I have about three or four projects ahead of them, so it is going to be a while.
The Rails West layout NEEDS a couple of these.  We’ll see what happens.  Stay tuned.

Agri-West Supply, a place one can catch up on Wildcats football and more, part II

OK, it’s time to make Agri-West look like it has survived a couple of decades of Marty, sun, snow and wind in the American West.


Don’t drop by unless you have enough time to chat.  Marty will serve you a cup of bad coffee in a styrofoam cup and get you caught up on his grandson who plays right tackle for the Wildcats, the Carrizo Springs High School football team.  If he really likes you, he will give you a Purina calendar.  Marty is proud of his restoration job on the John Deere tractor to the left above.  It is spotless.


Just enough interior to be plausible.  I don’t intend to illuminate.


The trick is to age without making it look abandoned.  This is still a thriving concern.  It is an important part of the community.  This is 1981 when people were better about reading the newspaper, reflecting and chewing the fat with neighbors at places like Agri-West Supply to figure out how to vote or think about things. Few folks sat around letting other people tell them how to feel about societal issues.  Sitting on tractors or repairing fences in the middle of nowhere gives you a lot of time to think and be an individual.


That sign is a little rusty.  It gives the building character.


The back is pretty non-descript.


The rail side of the building is not seen, but survives scrutiny should the Rails West layout get a curious visitor.

I’ve learned a lot from many of my mentors, particularly Lance Mindheim and B. Smith (Click here to see a bit of B. Smith’s layout), about taking a slower, more thoughtful approach to modeling and operating.  It isn’t just about getting it over with or just completed.  It can be about creating a special place for you.  Thinking about all aspects of your layout features such as the history of each of the structures and what a particular business specializes in can really enrich your layout and make it an even greater expression of your art, your passion and your interests.

Every building and every feature on the landscape, for that matter, has a story.  Knowing it (or creating it) will make your modeling and operation experiences richer.

Hernandez Distributing and developing a sense of place, part I


The psychology of model railroading is fascinating.  Why do we do it?  I could give you many answers, but one that comes to mind right now, is the ability to create a model that was/is special to us.  A place that we control.  A place where if we like a particular scene or place, we won’t let it change.  We don’t have to let a 300 units subdivision or big box store scar our layouts.  We can keep it just like we want it.  We can create what some people call a sense of place.  One of my favorite books on this is Home From Nowhere by James Howard Kunstler.  It should be required reading for anyone who builds things on our nation’s landscape.



Home From Nowhere by James Howard Kunstler. After reading this, you will never see where you live the same way.

I find myself through Hernandez Distributing and my other efforts at buildings and scenery trying to create a mosaic of special places from my memory.  Living in Roswell, NM a number of years, I had to pleasure of keeping tabs on and photographing rail action at three different beer distributors in a town of 50,000 in an otherwise fairly remote corner of New Mexico.  Through Hernandez Distributing I sought to capture the essence of the Budweiser, Coors and Miller distributors.  It really resonated with me the thought of beer coming all the way from St. Louis, Golden and Milwaukee across the wide open spaces to these three nondescript buildings in a small to medium sized town in a sparsely populated region.


Miller Distributor in Roswell, NM in 1992–©photo by C. E. Hunt

I travelled to work a special way to let me keep tabs on the Miller and Bud distributors.  Every few days new loads would appear.  The Bud distributor was more active, especially around the holidays, sometimes receiving 4 boxcars at a time!  Here’s a SL-SF boxcar spotted at the Bud distributor in 1994.


Budweiser Distributor in Roswell, NM 1994–©photo by C. E. Hunt

A couple of days later a UP load came in…


Budweiser Distributor in Roswell, NM 1994–©photo by C. E. Hunt

One of my favorite memories, which I have written a post on before, was the time an NP boxcar same to the Bud distributor…


Budweiser Distributor in Roswell, NM 1992–©photo by C. E. Hunt

That felt like a little bit of a time warp in 1992–22 years after the NP ceased to exist.

OK, so tying this back to Hernandez Distributing and my Rails West layout–

I sought to create a background structure that would capture the essence of the three distributors, permit a dock to make spotting cars easier and had a great, old school 1981 feel to it.  Maybe, it was a building that had been converted from some thing else.

Wanting to kitbash, I researched until I found the right building as a starting point, much like I had done with Western Warehousing.  I settled on another Walthers kit–Grocery Distributor.


I need two of them for my project because I wanted a long dock.

Here are some construction photos…


Merging two of the dock sides I created a long unloading facility, large enough to accommodate two beer cars.


I then cut the loading dock to fit the revised structure.


Loading dock in place.


Once I got the shell like I wanted, doors and windows were next.


I painted the back of the window glazing with a heavy wash of grimy black and applied a few great 1981-era beer signs–some of I my favorite iconic brands from the 20th Century.


Now it is time to weather.  That will be covered in part II.

Rail Memories, Part I

Lance Mindheim’s blog recently had a nice post on why people model railroads.  He offered many categories. One of his categories talked about pleasant memories.  (BTW, Lance is one of the day’s masters and I highly recommend his blog.)

“Visual Satisfaction:  Often we want to be transported to a time and place that evokes pleasant memories.”

That got me to thinking why do I model, and his words struck a chord.  That is indeed one of the reasons I model and likely explains why for now I have shifted my layout more toward the early 1980s.  I have many pleasant memories of just me and my camera, smelling creosote, filled with excitement of seeing a new paint scheme or new type of equipment or capturing an old “dinosaur” still roaming the rails.  (See this post for a NP dinosaur I captured in the early 1990s.)

This post offers a small sampling of how my “pleasant memories” are beginning to frame my modelling efforts.

Mykawa Yard in Houston, Texas

I took dozens of photos at this yard in the late 1970s.  I was 16 years old and thrilled to have a hand me down camera from my Uncle Kenneth–a very manual Minolta.  I mostly shot Kodachrome 64.  Below is my first real rail encounter with my camera.  The sunlight was challenging because the clouds were moving fast.  Hard to beleive how well I remember this moment!

Mykawa Yard, Houston, TX 1978--©Photo by C.E. Hunt

Mykawa Yard, Houston, TX 1978–©Photo by C.E. Hunt

Adjacent cars.--©Photo by C.E. Hunt

Adjacent cars.–©Photo by C.E. Hunt

Otherside, sunlighted changed. --©Photo by C.E. Hunt

Otherside, sunlighted changed. –©Photo by C.E. Hunt

I was so taken, I had to have a picture of the inside too!--©Photo by C.E. Hunt

I was so taken, I had to have a picture of the inside too!–©Photo by C.E. Hunt


PFE car on my layout. I love this car and it does evoke memories! This is a great Intermountain product. I have two more to weather in the future.

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What a great brand, logo or whatever! That alone evokes a lot of great memories for me. These were common all over the the nation during my childhood and beyond. As a college student, I remember seeing a string of PFE cars stored on a lead to a power plant near Texas A&M University (Class of ’89).

Bossier City Yard near Shreveport, LA

In the fall of 1978, we visited my sister stationed at Barksdale AFB.  It was there I encountered the Illinois Central Gulf.

The first ICG locomotive I "met" in person.  Bossier City yard, fall of 1978. --©Photo by C.E. Hunt

The first ICG locomotive I “met” in person. Bossier City yard, fall of 1978. It was GP-18 #9423 –©Photo by C.E. Hunt (There is a neat photo of it in black from 1976 on RRPicturearchives.net. It is amazing how fast it got so dirty in a couple of years.)

Bossier City Yard --©Photo by C.E. Hunt

Bossier City Yard –©Photo by C.E. Hunt

A caboose with a side door! --©Photo by C.E. Hunt

A caboose with a side door! I like the ACL boxcar too! –©Photo by C.E. Hunt

ICG Shreveport LA Jan 1978 III

This one captured my eye!–©Photo by C.E. Hunt


I have a number of these. As usual, Tangent did a remarkable job on these early ICG covered hoppers. This model is stock except a little very light weathering and the addition of scale wheels.


Another great Tangent car. Again stock except for a trace of weather and scale wheels. This car would have been almost new in my era.

Part II will feature additional vignettes I’d like to model in the future featuring Chicago, Burlington & Quincy; Northern Pacific, Frisco and Burlington Northern memories.

(Note: If you like the ICG or BN flatcars, see my last post also.

Cars! (How realistic cars can enhance the scene and evoke an era)

My friend, B. Smith, has some great cars on his layout.  His layout is set in 1990 and his cars evoke that era very nicely, even if a few of them look a tad old.  However, it was not uncommon to see a lot of older cars in rural areas in the US.  My slides from the late 70s and early 80s, feature a number of cars from the 1960s and a few from the 1950s.

I asked him to share a few everyday scenes on his LCN RR.  Note what a big difference his cars make in enhancing the realism and evoking his era. (All photos by B. Smith)

MP15 1531 pulls a PC insulated box car from the warehouse.

MP15 1531 pulls a PC insulated box car from the warehouse.

Two loads of newsprint being shoved to Republic Printing.

Two loads of newsprint being shoved to Republic Printing.

Employee vehicles at the beer distributor

Employee vehicles at the beer distributor.

Trying to beat the train at the crossing on her way to the beauty parlor.  Fortunately, the train is only doing 7 mph.  Hope she doesn't run over the railfan concentrating on getting his picture.  Somebody is keeping that '76 Caddy looking good!

Trying to beat the train at the crossing on her way to the beauty parlor. Fortunately, the train is only doing 7 mph. Hope she doesn’t run over the railfan concentrating on getting his picture. Somebody is keeping that ’76 Caddy looking new!

Looks like the boss has driven up to get the Bobcat out to move the ATSF covered hopper on the Lazy W Ranch spur.

Looks like the boss has driven up to get the Bobcat out to move the ATSF covered hopper on the Lazy W Ranch spur.


This baby has seen better days!

These cars are made by NEO.  They are the best cars (1/87 scale) that we have found.  I have a number of them ready to hit the road on my layout.  We purchase them from American Excellence.

The new layout (Part III) and an announcement concerning the site

In this post, I will do “an around the horn” discussion of the proposed customers along the line, starting east and working our way southwest to the end of the SP-DRGW line.


Hernandez and Sons Beverage Distributors

The customer to be behind the ATSF box car is Hernandez and Sons Beverage Distributors.  It is the region’s Budweiser distributor. Beer cars bearing SP, UP, MP, WP and ATSF reporting marks will arrive full of “Suds.”  Business is usually a couple of loads a weeks, except for the holidays.  Last Christmas, there were five cars at once in town for this shipper.   In fact, a couple of boxcars were unloaded off the grain elevator track directly onto trucks for delivery.  You might say the boxcars served as a warehouse addendum for a few days.


Mountain West Transload

Continuing down the line further into town, we see Mountain West Transload (where the two dirty UP boxcars are spotted).  Business is often boom or bust with MWT.  You may see strings of reefers loading onions or potatoes for a couple of 2 or 3 weeks, and then see very little traffic for a month of two.  Bagged beans and scrap paper are often loaded in boxcars as well.  MWT is toying with transloading corn syrup and cooking oil for a couple of factories in the valley, so tank cars may appear in the future to help provide more regular traffic.


Carrizo Valley Co-op

Across from MWT sits the Carrizo Valley Co-op.  It is a full service co-op, but the primary traffic is wheat loading.  During the wheat season, six car strings typical load a few dozen times.  The 2 to 3 times a week service from SP-DRGW can become almost daily for a brief stretch.   Aside from wheat loading, the Co-op can receive other loads from time to time–box cars and covered hoppers of feed, off and on, the Co-op will handle molasses for cattle feed and an occasional box car of ranch supplies such as barbed wire or building supplies, etc.  Last year during a quiet time at the co-op, the county highway department used the track to off load a few covered hoppers of highway salt.

Here on, the next couple of customers are on the SP-DRGW, but actually serviced by the Pinedale and Limpia Creek.  The P&LC runs 25 miles up into the foothills into the Carrizo National Forest to service a medium-sized sawmill and a few other infrequent shippers including a scrap dealer, feedmill and a mining supply in Jimenez.  Occasional loads of acid and feed come in and scrap metal out.  However, 95 percent of the freight is outbound lumber and wood chips.


Consolidated Perlite

Here just outside town, sits Consolidated Perlite. Except in the dead of winter, Consolidated Perlite will load anywhere from 3 to 8 cars a week.  It is a good reliable customer.  I will be kitbashing Walthers’ Cornerstone Diamond Coal Corporation to construct the loading and processing facility.


Jimmy’s Scoria loading facility

Further towards the southwest sits the scoria loading area.  A couple of mines truck their production to this loading site.  Jimmy has a contract with both of them to load here.  As long as the weather cooperates, Jimmy is good for 2 to 4 loads a week.

At the end of the SP-DRGW line, we see the P&LC train coming into town.  The train will service Consolidated Perlite and Jimmy’s Scoria before setting out the interchange with the SP-DRGW.


Pinedale and Limpia Creek train coming onto the SP-DRGW main.

All the names I have used are just working names.  The actual business, etc., may change names as the layout progresses.  I will see how they wear over time.

Well all that’s left is to do is — all this stuff — wire the layout, build the buildings, weather the locomotives and cars, construct the scenery, etc, etc.  Looks like you won’t be seeing many posts from me for awhile.  I have a layout to finish!

I will try to provide an occasional post.  I have been doing this site about a year, so it is time to slow down anyway–work on the layout, write my book, go hiking and do all the other things I must and want to do!  I hope you have enjoyed the site.  I am not going away, just slowing down.  Happy trails from Rails West!