Cars that excited me when I was a kid

When I was a kid in Houston racing down to the tracks to watch an ATSF, BN, SP, Rock Island, MP and MKT freight train roll by, “foreign” cars sometimes really sparked my imagination.  Cars from the Maine Central, Boston and Maine, Florida East Coast and the like, would make me wonder what those places were like.   I am pretty sure I saw a car like the subject of this post.  It’s road name probably just filled me with wonder.  I doubt I would have known exactly where to associate this car on a map–kind of like Nickel Plate Road or Wabash.

I was recently inspired to do this project by my partner on the site, B. Smith.  He created this car for his Limpia Canyon Northern.  Click here to see his post.  His version is new since he models a few years before I do.


As B. Smith shared in his post, the project is a bit harder than it looks.  Even though it is a fine model in most respects, Intermountain (or Red Caboose) made a couple of errors.  This car should have had a roof walk and a lowered brake wheel.   So to properly model the car, you must make some changes.


You must pop the brake wheel and housing off and lower to the proper height.  Fortunately, there are some great photos on the web.

The Fallen Flags site has a picture of the exact car I modeled a few years later in 1978–


Hard to tell but on the A side of the car, I had to lengthen the ladders to go to the top of the car.


Note ladder extended upward on the right side of car.

I only lightly weathered the roof.  I am trying to depict a car that’s about 7-12 years old.  It was new in 1966.  I did a different COTS on one side to depict a bit more of a later version of the car.


B. Smith’s post has more details on the work needed to make an accurate version of this car.


I would sure like to be able to climb into a time machine and go back and watch trains with cars like these!  Until that is possible, at least we have our layouts.




Maps (and planned structures) of the Rails West layout (Part I)

BN 1743 Three Forks MT Apr 14 1984 Jim Herold Low Res

BN 1743 Three Forks MT, April 14, 1984 by Jim Herold –©photo C. E. Hunt Collection

The above photo taken in Three Forks, MT in 1980s captures much of what the Rails West layout is all about–short trains in lonely, beautiful country evoking many of my favorite places and scenes across the American West.

To somehow give a larger narrative to the layout and give it context, I have developed a fictitious map of the region.

Big Map II

Only a small portion of this map is modeled on the layout.  (See yellow box.)  Two of my favorite western roads come together in Trinidad and have a shared line out to Carrizo Springs.  I think of it as sort of a “Camas Prairie” arrangement like the BN and UP had in Idaho.  For a detailed history of the lines see my earlier post.  For the most part, the map of above tracks pretty closely with that history with a few tweaks.

Most notable on this map is the richer detail of the short line that goes to Carson State University.  The Carson & Carrizo Railroad operates a line that the SP sold before the 1970 BN merger.  Carson State University bought the line to ensure continued service to the campus.  Coal and food shipments predominate the traffic to the university, but the line also hosts a fair amount of sawmill-related traffic since one of the old sawmills on the line reopened after the C&C RR took over.

Carson State University’s football team, the Cougars, draws a big crowd during the season and the Unversity has thought about running passenger specials to Trinidad so perhaps a little passenger action may take place in the future.  The scenery of Carson National Forest could be a draw as well in the future. The line traverses numerous picturesque gorges and creeks on the way to Carson.

Layout map Mar 2017 II

The map above portrays the modeled portion.  At this time only the track and a few of the structures are in place.  However, it is enough to permit me to have interesting operation sessions and there are enough structures to give my operations a sense of purpose.

In the next post, I will provide details on some of the structures in place and those to come.

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.

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


There’s a place in Carrizo Springs where one can buy some salt licks, feed supplements and tractor parts and implements.  They specialize in International Harvester and have a fair parts supply on hand.  It is also a good place to gossip with Marty and Jane, the proprietors, and catch up on the Wildcats (high school football), wheat and cattle prices and even a little local politics.  Marty restores tractors as a hobby and has just restored a beautiful John Deere tractor he is trying to sell.

To continue to evoke a sense of place (see my recent post on this), I knew the layout needed an agricultural supply dealer.  The kind of place that looks a little beat up, but is a solid part of the local economy and community.  They only occasionally use rail service via the team track to get in salt blocks, mineral supplements and occasional tractor implements.  They have been thinking about bringing in molasses by rail.  Local producers have to drive up to Trinidad or over to Asherton.  (For more on molasses and railroads, see my three-part series.)

As my previous structures, Walthers just happened to offer a perfect kit to meet my needs with very little modification.  I opted for Walthers State Line Farm Supply.


It is a very easy kit to build and it only took a couple of hours.


It assembles very nicely.  I created my own signs.



The building has really nice lines and feels like buildings I have seen across the West. Now, the building has a lot of windows so I put a little effort into creating a very simple interior.




Those are old International Harvester pickup truck advertisements on the walls. I have always liked the look of the old IH pickups.


I sought to do just enough that so that the building would pass for being occupied.

It looks a bit toy-like so you know what we need to do next…


Next post will share the final product.


The first Rails West structure! (and narrative)


Glacial progress continues on the Rails West layout!  The first structure has appeared on the layout.  Rails West trains are actually servicing a real business.

Here is Western Warehousing on the layout.

Rails West June 2016

I like to have a story behind my businesses.  It makes the businesses more real.

Western Warehousing was built in the early 1970s by Western Producers Association (WPA).  It was originally designed to serve area agricultural producers.  It was relatively large and could handle a wide range of supplies needed for the area ranchers and farmers.  Much cotton, alfalfa, maize and wheat is grown in the area.  There is some fruit, mohair and wool production as well.  The warehouse was designed to also ship commodities as needed.

Unfortunately, the warehouse was only in operation three years.  It was no longer needed when the WPA merged with Farmers Co-op.  Farmers C0-op already had two other facilities in the region.  The warehouse sat vacant until Ford Motor Company worked with Western Warehousing to establish a distribution facility to serve the region to distribute auto and tractor parts and other automotive supplies.  In 1977, Western Warehousing acquired the structure to handle this business in Mineral Wells along with tires from Uniroyal and Goodrich.  In 1978, the Mineral Wells facility was opened and has been a successful distributor to dealers for a large region.  Large boxcars arrive frequently to keep the warehouse stocked.  Jimmy Hines is the shipping boss.  He always has a new joke for the Rails West crew.

I started with two fine Walthers kits — Lauston Shipping Thin Profile Background Building and Bud’s Trucking Company Background Building.  I played with them for a while, literally a couple of weeks off and on, to the get the feel of the structure I wanted.


I started with this design, but I ultimately found it not as interesting as I wanted.


I eventually settled on this design.


A structure this long needs some reinforcement.


I finally got it ready to weather.  I had to shorten the width of the building.  The original width was too wide.  It would not have fit the layout.  As a result, I had to short the walls and ceiling and bottom piece.  I had to fabricate the bottom piece and the roof from styrene.


Backside showing fabricated bottom and roof.

In part two, I’ll show you how I weathered it and installed signs.