No. 170: Modeling The Sitterding, Carneal & Davis Construction Co.

Above: Here’s the Hermitage Road layout as of today.

Most of my little Hermitage Road layout was planned around a single industrial track behind the Seaboard’s Hermitage Yard locomotive shops in Richmond, Virginia. Here’s a Sanborn view, below. That one track had the Alcatraz Co. (paint, varnish and asphalt–what a combination) and the Richmond Cinder Block Co. of Richmond. I felt those two companies would provide opportunities to use box and tank cars (Alcatraz) and cement, gondola, hopper and box cars (Cinder Block Co.). I felt that if I was building a small layout I needed to incorporate as much variety as possible.

The layout was sorta designed around those two industries. I put that track along the back wall of the layout.

I built up a model of Alcatraz based on a few other pictures I had on hand. Here was my version, above. You can see the track wasn’t even laid yet but I was already well-ahead on creating the structures.

Below. I had pretty much finished the model when I decided that I didn’t like it. That’s the curse of freelancing. I really wanted to have at least one industry that included a tight alley with a track running through it, and the prototype Alcatraz fit the bill perfectly. Ultimately I wasn’t satisfied with the low relief of the structure I built. It just didn’t scratch the itch.

About the same time I learned about a large construction company on the nearby Seaboard triple-track main line called Sitterding, Carneal & Davis. S-C-D, as I call it, was a huge construction materials company. They handled lumber, asphalt, plumbing supplies, roofing, and everything in between. Frederick Sitterding was a successful realtor in Richmond during the World War One era, and William Carneal was a well-renowned Virginia architect. Sounds to me like they cornered the market not only in design, but in providing the materials for construction of their own projects. The more I read about S-C-D the more I felt that I should incorporate a version of it into the layout–even though it was served by a siding off the SAL main line.

Around March of 2021 I removed the Alcatraz Co. and started building a version of S-C-D. The real S-C-D included a large conglomeration of wood and brick warehouses, with lots of open land for lumber storage. I built a first version of version of S-C-D from leftovers of the Marshal Canning Co. from my old layout. I added an additional building to the original structure, and a tank or two for asphalt, trying to capture the enormity of the operation. I got about this far, below, but had difficulty matching the finish on the new buildings in the background with the old buildings used for the cannery.

Freelancing is a B-word. Modeling Sitterding, by the way, also gave me a large vacant lot to scenic (see where the red pickup is?). Below: Here’s how it looked early on.

I liked my original S-C-D effort but determined that I could do a lot better, so took it down and replaced it with a new building made from Walthers Modulars. Like the Block Company on the layout, I tried to use a variety of shapes and sizes and edges on the building to break it up a little bit.

Below. I used this photo below as a guide. Fenton Wells sent me this one he took in the 80s. This is part of a furniture factory on the Southern Railway in Lenoir, North Carolina.

Here’s another view of my S-C-D building. I really like the Walthers Modulars but they take a lot of work to line up and assemble cleanly. I suppose that’s why they discontinued the series. Nevertheles,s the look is timeless.

Below. I took this photo around 2001 at the location of the old S-C-D plant. It could be that these buildings are part of the original Sitterding complex. The track in the foreground is CSX, former SAL, near the Broad Street Station.

I haven’t done any work on the layout since mid-December. My son came home and we spent a lot of time together, plus I’ve ben trying to finish up some freight car projects. And of course there’s work–always work. Anyway here’s one that I spent a lot of time on and just finished-a Rock Island “Not-A-Fowler” single-sheathed box car:

I hope you guys have a wonderful week! – John G

No. 169: Best Train Wrecks of 2021

Reflecting on 2021

Post-Christmas is a great time for reflection and planning for the new year. I always like to make plans for the next year after Christmas. I think it’s a good way to set goals and “refresh” myself for the year ahead.

In my hobby life, it’s a good time to reflect on my wins and losses for the year, and make renewed plans for the new year. I think I had some good hobby wins—I finished a lot of projects and the Hermitage Road layout is now about 90% complete. But I had a whole lot of less-publicized losses which also need to be recorded—in other words, my best train wrecks for the year.

Best Train Wrecks of 2021

Like the photo above, train wrecks are best shared with other people.

This Milwaukee Road car was finished in March. I’ve been trying to slowly add some 50-foot cars to the fleet to add some variety. I took a lot of time to get the build right, and get the paint color right, and get all the details right. After laying the decals down, I hit it with Dullcote. Then I noticed that there were some prominent bubbles in the Route of the Hiawathas decal. See them all trying to hide on top of that rib? If I try to fix it I’ll ruin the rest of the finish. So I’ll just have to face that car away from the aisle forever.

Doesn’t that make you wonder why we finish both sides of a model in the first place?

This is a Monon single-sheathed Fowler box car that I bought from Chad Boas at St. Louis RPM 2017. I decided that I wanted to build new ends, so I cut the model up and added new ends and a replacement Westerfield roof. Well, one thing led to another and I tore up everything to the point where I had to consign this one to the round file. I’ll try again…this time with an Accurail car.

Here’s an NP Historical Society War Emergency box car, finished a year or two ago. The decals cost twenty bucks (!!!) and were beyond thick. Thick decals for a single-sheathed car are a bad combination. They went on terribly and I worked on them for weeks. I‘m mentioning this one because this year I discovered Walthers Solvaset, which is much more powerful than MicroScale Decal Set, and I think had I used Walthers Solvaset on this car I would’ve had much better results.

Turning Cars White

I got really good at turning finished models white this year. Really good. It happens when applying Testors Dullcote to a finished model to seal the decals and paint. There are a lot of theories why this happens; in my experience, it occurs when the atmospheric humidity is greater than 40-50%, and also sometimes when the mixture is wrong (Dullcote + thinner) and sometimes when the atmospheric temperature is doing something stupid (too cold, or too hot, with perhaps some extra moisture in the air). It also happens if the coat goes on too thick, or if there is latent humidity on the model. Sometimes I think it is caused when the Dullcote dries in the air, after it leaves the airbrush on the way to the model.

Check out this New York Central hopper. It was formerly an M&StL car that I sandblasted, rebuilt and repainted with new K4 decals. The Dullcote pooled in the corners and turned a nice snowy white.

I was able to remove most of the coating by painting the model with paint thinner once or twice and thinning the dry Dullcote. Then I weathered the car a little heavily to fix the problem areas. I didn’t intend to heavily weather the car, but to avoid yet another trip to the sandblaster I weathered it hard and put it away wet. Results are okay (seen below).

I rebuilt this Wabash car in August while the family was away in the US for a few weeks. I painted it with Tru Color Wabash Freight Car Red and used the new K4 Wabash decal set to finish it. The model is an old Sunshine mini-kit. Well, wouldn’t ya know—after I hit it with Dullcote and it turned white. The picture doesn’t show it too well, but when it dried it looked like it was frozen.

In my anger I didn’t take a picture of its snowy whiteness. Instead, I brought it to the workbench and painted it with paint thinner to reduce the Dullote, and that worked somewhat. Once again, I had to heavily weather it, but I found that was a little prototypical since these cars were rebuilt in 1940 and by 1950 they were trashed.

Here’s the over-weathered version. I think another repaint is in this car’s future…

Here’s a hard-to-find Sunshine Rock Island rebuilt flat car that I bought on eBay a few years ago. I built, painted and decaled it, then turned it almost completely white with a bad shot of Dullcote. I sandblasted it, and found a set of decals from Hubert Mask that would work. So I re-painted and re-decaled the model…then turned it completely white again. A few paint-thinner baths and some touch up later, here’s the result. What a mess.

This CB&Q 50-footer, which I carefully built and added all kinds of things to, including a lot of expensive Archer rivets. To improve my chances I tried using Mr. Hobby flat finish. Test shots went on great. Yet somehow I managed to turn this model almost completely white as well. It’s now completely stripped and ready for a second try.

Below. All those expensive rivets…and decals…have been blasted away after I turned the whole bloody thing white.

And this Sunshine Models Milwaukee single-sheathed box car? The first paint job I put the wrong number series on the car. I robbed the decals from another Sunshine kit and repainted it, but it turned out so bad that I couldn’t live with it. The third time—using K4 decals—was a charm. There’s a more details discussion on the repainting at

Third times a charm:

Without a doubt the biggest train wreck of the year was this MP car. I spent about eight hours rebuilding this thing. Everything went well, including the paint, decals and Dullcote. When it was done, I looked closely…and found out that I put two different numbers on the car. One side is 86147 (correct) and the other side is 89147 (incorrect). Holy crap.

Best Layout Wrecks of 2021

I managed to pack a lot of wrecks into my 7’ x 18” layout this year. For example:

I built the coal yard, then took it apart and re-laid the track, then rebuilt the coal yard again…twice.

I rebuilt the grocery warehouse three times, as I outlined in my last blog post.

I built—to a level of 99% completion—the Alcatraz Paint & Varnish Co. Then I removed it and replaced it with the Sitterding, Carneal & Davis Mfg Co. (both were prototypes served by the SAL). I built two versions of Sitterding, and am modifying version two already.

Here’s Alcatraz, below. It’s gone.

The team track loading ramp didn’t escape either. I laid it down, moved it and destroyed it, then rebuilt it, and moved it again. Twice.

Here’s the team track ramp below. In the background are several other versions of other factories that I tried for a few weeks. They’re gone too.

Lessons Learned

1 – Do it right the first time!
2 – My actual hands-on hobby time is limited to about five or six hours a week. Rounding up, that’s about 300 hours a year. Note: Last year I spent probably 150 hours fixing mistakes.
3 – See #1.

There’s a footnote too: NEVER, EVER freelance a layout.

2022 Plans

I’m facing a move from Germany to the US in 2022. I’m also facing a career change. That’ll shake up my life and the first thing to go will be all my hobby time.

That means my hobby time will be even more precious. So I’ve really got to slow down and do things right the first time so I can finish 2022 with more wins, zero losses, and zero ties.

Hope you guys had a better year than I did! – John G

No. 168: Hermitage Road Layout – Modeling the Grocery Warehouse

On my little Hermitage Road switching layout, I wanted to include a grocery warehouse to generate refrigerator car traffic on the small layout.

There were a few grocery warehouses in the Hermitage Yard area that were rail-served through the 1950s so I felt it would be okay to include one on the layout. While studying Sanborn maps, I didn’t find any in the immediate area on the Seaboard, but I found several in the Richmond area on the ACL and C&O lines.

This photo, below, provided some inspiration for my model. I understand this one was in Dallas, Texas.

When I planned the layout last year I felt a grocery warehouse could work on either end of the layout. I wanted the track in front at the edge of the layout, with a larger building immediately behind it, to 1) Get the cars as close as possible to the operator, and 2) allow the track to run into the fascia to create a feeling that the track continues well beyond the fascia.

Below, here is the layout under construction last year with a box serving as a stand in for the grocery warehouse. You can see how I’ve got the track running in the foreground but behind the fascia.

Before I built the layout, I built up one of those Walthers Reliable Warehouse models for fun. The build was straightforward. I painted the model with Tamiya Flat Brown, XF-10 and used Tru Color Concrete on the foundation and Testors Guards Red on the windows. During construction I used Robert’s Brick Mortar on the model and it went on very well and the results were excellent.

Here’s a view, below, of how I wanted the building and track to be in the foreground with the track running behind behind the fascia.

I completed the model before I built the layout, and arranged the track around it, but it never quite worked out right. After a short while I replaced it with a larger structure made from Walthers Cornerstone Modulars, seen below. The Modulars building was way too big, and I felt it overpowered that side of the layout. So I removed that one and set it aside too.

Then I built a third version using parts left over from the Marshall Canning Company structure on my old Ackley, Iowa layout. I added a photo of that one below. I built several increasingly smaller versions. I was not able to get the mortar between the bricks to my satisfaction so I scuttled that project.

Frustrated, I went back to the original reliable warehouse building. I tore it apart, rebuilt it to fit the space, and here’s the result. Putty has been applied to a few gaps leftover after I deconstructed it and put it back together.

I scratchbuilt the elevator machinery house and the staircase on top using leftover material, and the chimneys are metal castings from various kits collected over the decades. I also built gutters from styrene strip and made lamp-posts from Tichy lampshades. I’m VERY happy with the final version.

Above and Below. Details for the grocery warehouse.

Here’s the final version, installed on the layout and 99% complete. About the only thing left to do is to weather the tarpaper roof somehow (it is black construction paper). That can wait a while though.

And there you have it–many versions of the same building, but finally we have one we can keep!

Rock Island 133000-series Box Car

Here’s a freight car project I’ve been working on for a few months. This is a Rock Island 133000-series single-sheathed box car that I built from parts from various Westerfield kits. I contacted Andrew Dahm at Westerfield and asked him about the car, and between us we figured out which parts might work to kitbash the car from Westerfield parts. He sent me a box full of kits and I got to work.

In the meantime, I contacted Mike at K4 decals and asked him if he could make up a decal set for this car and a few other Rock Island single sheathed cars. I also got in touch with Steve Hile, an RPM friend of mine and a Rock Island expert, and together we put together a data package for Mike. Steve did 99% of the research work. Mike had the decals ready in less than a week. In fact, I already have two sets here in Germany.

Here’s the link to the decals: Rock Island 40 Ft Single Sheathed Boxcar White – Decal – Choose Scale – K4 Decals – Model Train Decals.

My model is built, sandblasted and ready for paint. I’ll send a complete post on the model in a while after it’s finished.

I hope you all had a wonderful Christmas celebration and I wish you blessings for 2022! – John G

No. 167: Completing the Traverse Table, and Milwaukee Road Single-Sheathed Box Car Re-Do

I had minor arthroscopic knee surgery last Wednesday and took a few days off from work to recover. I was able to make some good progress on the layout during those days. Here’s an update.

Traverse Table

Here’s what the small, 7 x 18-inch Hermitage Road layout looks like today. At the far end, the dark square box is the entrance to the staging area.

Below. Here’s the other side of the portal to staging. There wasn’t enough room for a traditional staging yard with all the turnout ladders and all that, so I built a British-style traverse table instead.

A traverse table is a yard without the turnouts. The advantage is that it saves a lot of space in a given area. My design has a single entry track from the layout, a five-track “table”, and two exit or runaround tracks at the opposite end. The table is secured to the layout with a single screw underneath the center of the table. Each yard track holds 5-6 cars plus an engine. I used Atlas Code 83 track because I had it on hand.

In this photo, the traverse table tracks are mocked-up to see what’ll fit. The drawer slides are underneath the table, and extend out behind the table to allow the table to slide across all five tracks in either direction.

Below. After the table was built and aligned, I was able to lay track. First, the roadbed must be placed. Getting everything straight and lined up as perfect as possible is important since the all the tracks need to line up on each end of the table. After gluing the roadbed down I used switch locks to hold it in place.

Below. I laid the roadbed at the entrance end first. Then one-half of the roadbed was laid using a straight-edge. Before going any further, I waited a day and allowed the glue to dry, and then glued down the other half of the roadbed.

Below. In this photo, roadbed for three tracks has been laid. Using the 90-degree angle tool and the long straight-edge kept everything in proper alignment.

Below. All the tracks have to be spaced exactly the same so they will line up with the end extensions.

After all the track was laid, I wired up the table. Wiring was simple. I had to wire the front and end extensions, and each track, and that was it. I wired all the tracks together into a bundle and left enough slack in the bundle to allow the table to move. The track wires have quick connections so I can disconnect the table in just a minute if needed.

Below. Work in progress. What a mess!

Below. One of my daughters came upstairs to give me a hard time.

The layout is now operational again, thanks to the Mr. Traverse Table. Below, you can see that the engine is powered up and we’re hard at work moving coal cars through the portal to Hermitage Coal Co.

If you look closely at the bottom of the photo you can see that the height of the table doesn’t quite match up with the end. See the difference in track height? That’s something that needs adjusting soon.

Milwaukee Road 713471…or is it 714142?

You may remember this car from a previous post. It is an old Sunshine Models car that I finished about a year ago. I used the salt weathering technique on the roof, but in this case was never quite satisfied with the look.

Above. In August, during my “16 Days” building bonanza, I stripped the paint on this model and started over. First I sandblasted the model and then repainted it with Tru Color TCP-213 Milwaukee Road 1930-50’s Freight Car Brown. I decaled the car with K4 decals’ Milwaukee Road Single Sheathed Boxcar set.

The weather here in Germany was nice in September so I set up a table in the garage and did a lot of painting out there. Unfortunately, when I shot Testors Dullcote on the roof of this car, the finish turned white.

Below. Time for damage control. I gave the roof a bath with paint thinner and that took off most of the white residue. Then I weathered the roof with various AIM weathering powders, like Soot Black, Weathered Brown, and Oxide. I mised a new batch of Dullcote and sealed the powder.
A couple of weeks ago, Charlie Duckworth posted on one of the lists and showed a few new cars he’d built. One or two of them had really nicely-weathered running boards. He used darker gray colors–darker than I normally use–and they looked great. I mixed up a palette of grays, and mixed in some earth tone paint color, and used used various shades on this car. I think it turned out well. Contrast is the key!

Finally, a last overhead view. I think the weathered running board turned out well against the darker roof.

What’s In The Box?

I got a mystery box in the mail last week with my long-awaited Rapido PRR X31-class box cars!

The cars look terrific and they are a great improvement over the Bower models, which–despite the molded-on stuff–I always thought looked great too. I got one of each for now because I need to save my sheckles for X-3s, GLas, an SP single-sheathed car, and whatever else they can surprise us with.

The Pros, in my opinion: Overall appearance, color, lettering, brake gear, details like grabs, etc. The Cons: Trucks (they’re awful!), brake wheel, coupler box/draft gear (why can’t we have something with some detail???), #5 couplers. There’s also no bell crank on the B end, but I’ll have to research that to see what equipment the real cars had. As for replacement trucks, Bowser has a nice pair of PRR-specific coil-elliptical trucks that can be used to improve the models.

Below. Here’s a closeup of the B end on the auto car. It looks terrific. The PRRT&HS had a lot of say in the development of this model, in particular the paint color, and I trust their judgement.

May God richly bless you and your families during Thanksgiving. Don’t forget to give thanks! – John

No. 165: Modeling the Hermitage Coal Company

Since August I’ve been working on freight cars and finishing the traverse table for the layout.  I’m still working on some of the unfinished freight car projects, but I’m devoting October to getting the layout back in operation and completing layout structures.

One of the more visually interesting customers on the layout is the Hermitage Coal Co. As you can see below, Hermitage Coal was a small dealer with a fenced property on a shared siding.

There are no know photos of Hermitage Coal Co. Here’s the look I’m after, below–a local coal dealer with piles of different grades of coal on the ground, and a small office and a few conveyors. Walthers makes a nice conveyor that works great for the scene.

My interpretation of Hermitage Coal has changed since I started the layout last October, but the concept has remained the same. I want a flat coal yard with coal piles and a fenced yard much like the Sanborn map shows. This type of coal yard was very typical in the south and in small Midwestern towns.

Here’s a view of the coal yard area when the layout was in the track planning stage. In the original plan, I wanted to include two storage tracks in the middle of the layout—two long, stub-end tracks for car storage. The area I’m modeling didn’t have storage tracks, but storage tracks were typically built in industrial switching areas in the early 1900s and would be useful on a model railroad. I also planned the coal yard on the layout edge so I wouldn’t have to model the whole thing with all the details and vehicles and fencing and all that.

During planning, the storage tracks consumed more space that I had, so I eliminated them and decided to model the whole coal company instead. In hindsight, I wish I would’ve tried to make space for both the storage tracks and the whole coal yard.

Below. After laying the track and getting the layout operational last November, I ran trains around a few weeks and continued testing and planning. I discovered that I had not left enough useable room for the coal dealer, and felt I could make it right by moving the track over 5-4 inches closer to the aisle. The track was already glued down, wired, painted and ballasted. So I cut the wires, wet the track down with rubbing alcohol, and after the glue came undone I slid the track over a few inches. I pinned everything in the new alignment and let it dry again. It re-glued itself in place just fine but eventually I did have to add more ballast and of course re-wire the track.

To make the coal piles, I started with a small pile of real coal and wet it with rubbing alcohol, then wet it down with matt medium. I added more coal and repeated teh procedure until I had a reasonably large coal pile. I think they look pretty good.

Below. I started the coal piles before most of the scenery was complete. I have six or seven plastic containers with real coal in various sizes, so I used a different size for each pile to try and simulate different grades of coal. I’m not sure why those two piles in the center turned white. They look like burned coal, don’t they? Anyway I covered them with more coal and now they look like they’re supposed to.

My favorite is the large pieces of coal over on the far left end. They have a nice contrast to the other egg and lump coal piles. The two conveyors are by Walthers.

Here’s another view of the initial coal yard below. This was back around the beginning of 2021 when I was still trying out the Plastruct material for the concrete block company (the white building against the backdrop).

Below. Once I got the piles like I wanted ’em, I painted the ground with Tamiya Flat Black to simulate years of spilled coal and coal dust. This area will be surrounded by a fence and it’ll look right when it’s done.

Another view, below, from the left side of the layout.

Below. I cut a “test fence” from cardboard to see how it all looks. I cut the height at six feet.

One of the central design features of my little layout design was to ensure a “bowl effect”. Basically that means that taller buildings are in the back and on the sides, and flatter/shorter industries—like Hermitage Coal—are in the middle. So the layout should look a little bit like a bowl, or like you are reaching into a bowl when operating it. That concept keeps big things out of the middle of the layout where operators are leaning in to work.

Last winter, in an effort to maximize space on the little layout, I dismantled Hermitage Coal and tried it in different places on the layout. Having Hermitage Coal in the middle of the layout maximized the bowl effect, so I was wary of moving it. Nevertheless I did mock up Hermitage Coal in a few other places to really see if it worked better elsewhere. It didn’t, but here are photos from the mock-up sessions so you can come to your own conclusion.

First, below, here is Hermitage Coal at the far left end of the layout. There wasn’t much good about this option. There was still room for two cars but just barely. It also generated a backdrop problem, in other words now I have to decorate the backdrop on the left side of the layout. Additionally, what would I put in the original Hermitage Coal Co. place? Ultimately I rejected this plan because there wasn’t much room for freight cars.

Next I mocked up the coal company on the far right side of the layout. I had the same problem as on the left side—there was barely room for two cars, plus I had a backdrop problem again. In addition a low-height shipper here reveals the ugliness of the entrance to staging. That’s a no.

Last, I mocked up the coal company in the center of the layout, but on the other side of Hermitage Road. I liked the shape of the fenceline and how it followed the track on every side. Now that’s cool. The problem, once again, is there were just enough room for two 35-foot hopper cars and no room for trucks, a garage, or anything else inside the property.

The fence I’m using is made by Tichy. I originally made my own fence because I thought an uneven look would look best, but it looked terrible. Below, I painted the Tichy fence with a combination of Tamiya browns and then stained it with a black paint-and-thinner wash.

Here’s the coal company back at the original location. I will truncate the track a little but to fit the Southern Fuel & Oil Co. behind. Even with a few inches of track cut off I can easily fit three hoppers in the yard.

I’ll finish the coal yard and pot more soon. Meanwhile I’m working hard on the traverse table and also finishing up some freight car projects from August and September.

Here are two of the cars ready for the layout. The model below is a Kadee car that I sandblasted and repainted with the new Resin Car Works mini-kit. The trucks are Tahoe Model Works double-truss with semi-scale wheelsets. The car would look better with a real coal load.

Also finished was this car, below. This is an old Sunshine Models car that I stripped, rebuilt, and repainted. I used K4 decals. I’ve had trouble with K4 decals in the past but this time I used Walthers Decal Set to get them to settle down and that worked wonders. The paint used was Tru Color Rock Island Freight Car Red.

That’s it for this week. I have four more posts in work–just need time to get them edited and ready for prime time. I pray you all have a good week! – John Golden

No. 163: 16 Days, Pt. 4

The 16 Days program ended last Monday when my wife and daughters returned from their U.S. trip.

In those 16 days I was able to complete major work on several structures for the layout, rebuild and repaint a dozen freight cars, complete construction on one new freight car, and paint the traverse table for the layout. I also sold five models on eBay and in other places, and I also spent a considerable amount of time writing on this blog.

I normally try to keep the layout and workbench very clean and organized, but during the 16 Days I allowed myself to leave everything a hot mess so I could go right upstairs and pick up where I left off.

I originally estimated that I could accomplish 73 hours of work during the 16 Days. I was only able to complete about 36 hours of hobby work, however. I underestimated the time needed for my day job, chores, yard work, daily exercise, a few parties/get-togethers, and other things that took away my time.

The significant layout project was finishing the traverse table. I was able to disassemble, paint, and reassemble the traverser but that was it. It was a hot day, and my house doesn’t have air conditioning, and the third floor train room got really hot. I didn’t get too much done that weekend. There’s a lot of work to be done still.

On the layout, among the projects I wanted to complete while the family was away was painting the fencing for the Hermitage Coal Co. and building, painting and applying mortar to the grocery warehouse.

The fencing is made by Tichy and comes in six-inch sections. The fencing took a few hours to assemble and paint, then it was painted with Tamiya Medium Brown. Then I painted a few of the individual boards with various shades of tan, gray and dark brown. Next I applied a thinner-and-black-paint wash to get black paint into the crevices and the board detail. Finally, I gave it a light coat of Medium Brown again to blend everything together, then sprayed it one more time with Testors dullcote to finish the job.

Before installing the fence I need to do a little scenery repair, and also shorten the coal company track about four inches.

The grocery warehouse is coming along. Below, I have applied some Roberts Brick Mortar and am letting it dry. At this point, I’m not too happy with this model. It’s gonna need a lot of work…

Below. The grocery warehouse after mortar removal. I still don’t like it, but I’ll keep working on it and give it a chance.

Fortunately I was able to get some big freight car work done during the 16 Days. I was able to check a dozen models for operation (checking coupler height, cleaning wheels, minor repairs, etc.)–something that I don’t do very often.

Here’s one car, below, that got some much-needed attention. This is of course a Proto 2000 model, and my records indicate I’ve had it since 2003. I’ve upgraded the tracks and a few details since then, and I’m still very happy with the paint and weathering. It’s a keeper.

Below. I have been unhappy with this car for a long time. This is a Tichy rebuilt box car with a Sunshine mini-kit applied. I finished this car in 2008; the photo below dates from 2013. I have never been happy with the color, and the Wabash lettering on the right side of the car “silvered” for some reason–on both sides too.

Last week I sandblasted the decals and weathering off and then fixed a few original construction problems, like the placement of the grabs on the corners, and I also replaced the door tracks.

Below, after sandblasting I added a replacement door track and also the missing sill brackets.

I also removed and replaced the grabs on each corner to line them up prototypically. I’ve repainted the car with Tru Color #191 Wabash Freight Car Red and have new K4 Decals ready to go. That coupler pocket is ghastly!

Another car I was unhappy with was my Sunshine Models Illinois Terminal single-sheathed box car. This is a cool car, and at 37 feet long it stands out in a crowd. But, I just wasn’t happy with the color and weathering. Here’s a photo of that car I took on my old Ackley layout:

I sandblasted the lettering and paint off the car, replaced a few details, and repainted it last week. Here’s how it looks today. I’ll be using Resin Car Works decals to re-letter the car.

Here are a few more cars that I rebuilt and repainted.

I sold my Tichy B&O USRA SS Box Car online last week and am preparing a replacement, below.

Why get rid of a good car and replace it with another? I spent the time to put the side grabs in the right place and install additional rivet detail using Archer rivets. The grabs line up properly, and are in the right place (the car kit suggests they should be further toward the center of the car; proto photos indicate otherwise) and I also added Archer rivets below the NBW castings. Unfortunately the Archer rivets have disappeared.

For some reason, I didn’t use the awesome Tichy running board. I replaced it with styrene strip. I think the styrene strip running board looke=s great, as seen below, but it is missing the great Tichy bolt detail.

I’ll be using Speedwitch/National Scale Car decals for the car above. The car below is a Sunshine Rock Island rebuilt USRA double-sheathed car that also was rebuilt and repainted. Apparently I forgot to paint the trucks at the same time…

A shout out to my buddy Jim Dufour, who finished a similar car recently and sent a photo to a chat group I participate in. C&NW had prototype conversions similar to the Rock Island cars, and Chad Boas makes kits for both of them. Jim used the Chad Boas kit for his model, below, and did a superb job with it. The weathering is perfect. Love that Viking roof too!

Yet another Rock Island car is below. This is a 50-foot rebuilt flat car, another Sunshine Models kit, with Tahoe Model Works Dalman trucks. It’s hard to see but this is the car with the big splice panels on the side. Unfortunately the kit didn’t come with decals, but Clark Propst showed me a Hubert Mask set that should work.

Below. Here’s the new build I finished during the 16 Days. This is a CB&Q 50-foot Box Car from the Proto 2000 kit. Next: Sandblasting (again), then a coat of paint, then a lot of extra rivets, then a final shot of paint before decals. I’ll be using the awesome Speedwitch/National Scale Car decal set for this car too.

The CB&Q XM-28 is alas another Sunshine kit that got new paint and decals a few months ago. Last week I weathered it, applied some chalk marks with a white Prismacolor pencil, cleaned up the wheel treads, and got it ready for service. The car look alright and is ready for the layout.

So that’s it–the 16 Days came and went. I got a lot done but still have a long way to go. Priorities for the rest of the calendar year are finishing the layout, and finishing all these cars, and getting another engine or two detailed up.

See ya next time! – John G

No. 162: 16 Days, Pt. 3

Work on the railroad continues as the family is traveling in the U.S. for two weeks.

One of the industries I built this week for my Hermitage Road switching layout as a “grocery warehouse”. In the area of Richmond, Virginia, where my layout is set, there were quite a few grocery warehouses, and I wanted to include one on the layout so I could use refrigerator cars. There are no known photographs of the grocery warehouses in the Hermitage Yard area so I was forced to proto-freelance something.

On my old Ackley, Iowa layout I built a large cannery as seen in the photo below. This week I took the building out of storage and took it apart, cleaned and repainted everything, and then reconfigured the walls into a much smaller building that fits in the corner of the new layout.

Below. A view of the Marshall Canning on my Ackley Layout. The building was 36-inches long.

Below. The new grocery warehouse on the Hermitage Road layout. On the right side of the layout, the track runs behind the building; I intend to build a loading dock that extends past the end of the building on the left. The windows are ready to go–all I need is time to paint and weather the building.

Here are the old doors and windows from Marshall Canning. The windows and personnel doors are from Tichy, and the loading dock doors are scratchbuilt using scribed styrene and strip styrene. I think the building will look nice with a medium-brown brick with red trim. The large Sitterding mill behind the grocery warehouse will have green trim to keep all the buildings from looking alike.

Below. Believe it or not, I have already built two grocery warehouse models for the Hermitage Road layout. Here’s the first one I built, using a Walthers Cornerstone building I had on hand. On this side of the layout, the track runs in front of the building to simulate that it continues to other industries. This structure was built to fit behind the track. With the track in front, I get to enjoy seeing my freight cars a little more.

I used Robert’s Brick Mortar on the building and I think it came out really nice. Alas, I thought this building was too tall, and took over the scene, so it has been removed and is stored away. The Southern Fuel and Oil Co. will go in this spot instead.

This spring I built a second grocery warehouse using Walthers Modulars. This version was only two stories tall so it was less imposing, but after I completed it, I felt it was too big and too deep. It just didn’t scratch the itch. I wanted to use Walthers Modulars for the Sitterding building, so I dismantled this one and have reassembled in into the current Sitterding building which was shown in the last post.

The Southern Fuel and Oil Co. will go in this spot instead.

Meanwhile, work continues on freight cars. These are two favorites, below, but I haven’t used them on the layout yet because I was unhappy with my roof weathering efforts. The model on the left is an Intermountain 1937 Modified car, and the model on the right is an Intermountain “War Emergency” box car. Both these models were built and painted about 6-7 years ago.

Below. Here are the roofs. When I built these models, my research indicated that Viking roofs on CMO and C&NW cars were galvanized with paint on the seams caps. I painted the roofs on both cars like the one on top; with silver, and black or red seam caps.

Why didn’t I like these roofs? In the first place, galvanized metal doesn’t really look silver. It’s more gray, so I wasn’t happy with the finish. In the second place, I recently talked to Ed Hawkins and he said that ACF documents indicate that roofs on both of these cars were painted the same color as the carbody. Below, I’ve sandblasted one of the roofs and will blast the other this weekend, and repaint them soon. The roof on top, incidentally, has a Kadee running board and the roof on bottom has a Plano metal running board.

Y’know…after sandblasting…the one of the bottom looks pretty good just like it is, doesn’t it?

While I was sandblasting, I put an old Kadee hopper in the booth and blasted the paint off it as well. Earlier this week I ordered a Missouri Pacific detail set from Resin Car Works, and I’ll use that to rebuild and repaint this car. I will model one of the MoPac cars with the horizontal seam on the sides.

From the Resin Car Works site, below. The model I’m interested in is on the right:

The link for the MoPac decal and detail set can be found at

Also in progress is this new build, a CB&Q 50-foot steel box car using the Proto 2000 model. I got a couple of kits from my friend Greg Silva. I’m using a printout from a Ted Culotta presentation to help me get the details right.

Car construction consumed a couple of evenings this week. One of the hardest jobs was installing Kadee bracket grab irons on the car sides. I used the template from Yarmouth Model Works. Getting the template in the right place isn’t easy. Once the template is in place, I drill the holes and then remove the template. Then I have to enlarge the holes to fit the mounting tabs on the back of the grabs. I use canopy glue to affix the parts, and when it’s dry I go over the whole area with Tamiya liquid cement to melt everything together. Then I sandblast it so the Kadee parts will accept paint. It’s a lot of work but the parts look great.

Here’s the workbench during construction of the new Q car. I cut out all the parts, and build the subassemblies, and then assemble the car when all the subcomponents are ready. There’s a whole lot of after-market parts on this table–from Yarmouth, Hi-Tech, Detail Associates, Cal Scale…the list goes on. No wonder I don’t have any money!

You can see another car there on the right. That’s an Intermountain 1937 Modified car kit that I’m finishing right behind the Q car. That’s Missouri Pacific 1937 Modified car and I’m using the awesome National Car Company mini-kit for that build. I’ll talk about it next time…

The last thing I did this week was swap components from two Kato engines to convert my Milwaukee Road DC RSC-2 to sound/DCC.

I took apart my NYC RS-2, equipped with a SoundTraxx sound/DCC setup, swapped the trucks, and married the sound/DCC underframe with the RSC-2. I felt kinda like Dr. Frankenstein doing this–taking an engine without a brain and swapping it for one with a brain.

Here are the victims in the lab. Body parts all over the place!

After an hours’ worth of work, I had a sound/DCC-equipped RSC-2. I still have some work to do on the cab–it needs a crew and open windows, and I also need to replace a few grabs and lift rings.

The next night I put the NYC RS-2 back together and sold it on eBay for cheap. No need to keep too much stuff around the house.

Work continues this weekend, as I paint freight cars, finish the traverse table, and continue structure work. Only 36 hours are left…gotta work hard tonight! – John G

No. 161: 16 Days, Part 2

Work continues while the family is away!

When I last showed the Richmond Cinder Block Company, it needed windows. The windows I used, seen below, are from Tichy. I painted them with a Tamiya Metal Gray and then added clear styrene sheet windows and fixed them with canopy glue. Once the glue was dry I then sprayed the whole assembly front and back with full strength Dullcote. I painted in a few window panes white to simulate broken glass repair.

Next I added the windows to the structure, gluing them in place from behind with Tamiya extra thick liquid solvent. I randomly left a few windows open and closed to add a little interest. Next: Paint the sand bin and the mechanical buildings, paint the stack, and add some detail to the conveyor. I also bought a few packages of Funaro & Camerlengo cinder blocks and will put them around the open doors. I guess I’ll need to weather the track appropriately too.

To the right of the cinder block plant is the large Sitterding-Carneal-Davis Construction Company mill. I’m using Walthers Modulars for my building; the real one didn’t look much like this as far as I know. I’ll write much more on Sitterding this week as I get going full-speed on construction.

Speaking of new tools…

I’ve been using a small, battery-operated Dremel tool for precision drilling for over ten years. The problem is it spins too fast—5,000 rpm minimum—and that’s too fast for drilling plastic and resin. It never spun quite true either. I’ve been looking at cheap Chinese drills on Amazon for a long while, and back in June I just bought one. Here’s the one I got:

This drill was imported by ____. It has a U.S. plug and runs on 110 volts, and includes a little speed adjustment rheostat. The whole outfit was 35 bucks. The drill is big, and heavier than I expected, but it’s solid. I’ve been using it all week and it’s working great. The rheostat works great and I can dial the rpm to match the material. It is super-quiet too. Most importantly, the thing spins true-to-center—NO wobble. It works great with .078 bits. I highly recommend it. If you buy one, tell China I sent you.

Below. Back to freight cars. Here’s a project I’ve been putting off for years. Around 2009 I built and painted this Atlas 1932 ARA car for an SCL Modeler article. In the original article I assessed the model as excellent, but I wrote that the doors were “horrible”.

Not long after that article was published online, Ted Culotta at Speedwitch introduced a beautiful set of doors to upgrade the Atlas model. I bought a set in 2014 but never took the time to install them…until now.

I began the upgrade by removing the Atlas doors, which was a lot more complicated than I expected. I had to pry the original doors off in pieces and then trim down the press-fit tabs on the car sides so the new doors would fit. Worse, the Atlas door includes door-opening hardware that would be normally be attached to the car side. So I had to trim the door-opening hardware off the Atlas door and secure it to the Speedwitch door to retain all the appropriate detail.

See the photo below–the door on the left came straight off the car. The door at the center has had the detail strip removed off the left side of the door. The Speedwitch replacement door is at the right, with the detail strip added.

Below. A close-up view. I carefully removed the door-opening strip from the Atlas door and then glued it to the Speedwitch door using Tamiya liquid cement. After everything was dry I sanded around completed door casting to make sure everything was square.

To make things even more fun…the Speedwitch door is shorter in height than the Atlas door. That meant I had to adjust the position of the bottom door track to make the door fit. I removed the original bottom door track and replaced it with a piece of Evergreen styrene, filled the attachment holes for the original door track, and then hand-painted all the new parts on the car. The doors will be airbrushed later this week.

I added a few more parts to the SAL car, like new uncoupling devices (Tichy .0125 brass wire), new stirrups (from Yarmouth), and tack boards from National Scale Car Co. I used Atlas ARA truck previously, but I ordered a pair of Tahoe Model Works Buckeye as they are close to the prototype and the level of detail is much better than the Atlas trucks.

I may have mentioned that I traded Tangent Scale Models 40 bucks for a bunch of spare parts. Here are the parts bags I got. They’re quite nice and everything is easy-to-glue plastic, not the slippery, impossible-to-glue acetyl stuff that Kadee uses.

Here’s one of the new brake wheel housings, added to that Sunshine Rock Island single-sheathed box car I mentioned last time. Looks good!

And finally, I finished and sent Eric Reinert’s last car to him. This was a pretty standard build, only I took the time to add rivets on the side panels per the prototype. I used Archer rivets and they practically disappeared after paint and lettering and weathering. In this view, before Dullcote and weathering, the added row of rivets can be seen on the right side of the car.

After Dullcote and a month’s-worth of weathering, here’s the final version I sent to Eric. I think I over-did it and I wasn’t happy with the final product, but Eric e-mailed and said he was delighted. I added just about all the modern features to this car–Yarmouth sill steps, Tahoe trucks with semi-scale wheelsets, Hi-Tech air hoses (which are getting awfully hard to find) and plenty of wire details all around. I used the Speedwitch detail set of course. Roof weathering was done with AIM powders.

Tonight I got to work on two new builds–a CB&Q 50-foot steel box car (Proto 2000)–inspired by a Ted Culotta lecture–and a MoPac 1937 Modified box car using the National Scale Car parts. More to follow next time.

John G

No. 160: 16 Days, Part 1

At the beginning of August, my family traveled away and left me at home alone for a while. After a very busy and very social summer, and a summer full of travel, I have the first 16 days of August to myself to catch up on some modeling work. This is the first of hopefully several posts on what’s happening during these 16 days.

Below. Last week I took my son to Radovljica, near Lake Bled, and spent three days with him hiking and swimming. We hiked to this mountain hut at the foot of Mt. Triglev, which is seen in the background. Triglev is only 9,300 feet but the climb is very difficult with a lot of Via Ferrata near the top. He and some friends will climb Triglev later this week.

Before I get to this week’s modeling work I’d like to commend Lonnie Bathurst, Jeff Kuebler and the St. Louis RPM team for a fantastic meet in Collinsville, Illinois last weekend. 750 modelers and historians attended, breaking all of our previous attendance records. I helped, spending five or six months soliciting vendors and historical societies, gathering and organizing clinicians, and laying out the room arrangement. Lonnie and Jeff in particular did the lion’s share of the work organizing and making sure everything went great on “Game Day” as we call it. The meet went well and I think the record attendance was partly because we went to great lengths to host a live event and didn’t let anybody’s covid fears wreck the party.

Here’s a photo of last week’s fun from Ron Christensen.

I wasn’t there to take photos but hopefully Lonnie and the team will post photos soon. Our official Flickr photo site is at St. Louis Railroad Prototype Modelers’s albums | Flickr and you can find photos of all our other events there. Meanwhile, Eric Hansmann has started a thread on the Model Railroad Hobbyist forum to encourage sharing of images. A few have appeared and maybe more will post today. That site is at

Meanwhile, here in Germany, the short list of work for “16 Days” includes finishing structures for the Hermitage Road layout, working on and finishing locomotives and freight cars, and finishing and fitting the traversing table so operations can resume.

Among the structures I’m working on this week is the Richmond Cinder Block Co., which was located behind the SAL’s Hermitage Yard in North Richmond. I don’t have any prototype photos of the plant, but I do have a Sanborn image as seen below. I wanted to model Richmond Cinder Block because of the variety of inbound loads a cinder block plant can generate, among them hoppers and gondolas with sand, covered hoppers with cement, and box cars for both inbound and outbound loads.

Sorry for the fuzzy image!

Here was my first rendition, below. I started building the model before the track was even put down on the layout. I used Pikestuff block for the bins at the left, but used Plastruct cinder block sheet, which is very thin, on the main building instead.

The building above just didn’t scratch the itch. First, the plastruct material was entirely too thin, and required a lot of styrene reinforcement. Second, I got to thinking that a cinder block company really doesn’t ship out too many loads of completed blocks. More research confirmed this–most cinder block manufacturers ship locally, so a plant like this wouldn’t necessarily generate a lot of outbound box car loads.

At the beginning of summer I decided to rebuild the plant, based more on the drawing and less on how many box cars I can jam on the little layout. I bought more Pikestuff block sheets and finally this week I was able to get to work.

I cut up the remaining parts of the original plant and repositioned the parts in various configurations to see what “looked right”. Below, things are taking shape. The Hermitage Coal Co. is at the front.

Here’s where we were on the first evening of the 16 Days. I decided to adjust the roof lines and the front faces of the building (actually the rear) to create some more visual interest and also try to replicate the Sanborn drawing to some extent. Eliminating the long, flat side of the building went a long way to providing some depth to the overall structure. Also adding a few things on top to give the model some height, and break up the roof line, helped add some realism as well.

Here’s where we are at the end of this morning’s building rush. I added roofs (again, using different roof lines), windows, doors, and other details. Adding the roofs took a long time and consumed a whole lot of styrene sheet. I didn’t notice until I finished this morning’s building that I installed some of the windows upside down. What a dope!

The thing on the left is a sand pit. No, the original drawing doesn’t include this, but I wanted to add something to hold additional sand or cinders–sort of an overflow facility like some coal docks used to have. I built a conveyor leading up to the two bins. The two buildings at the end are machine sheds or garages that face away from the track.

I built the bin using first by constructing a simple plastic box, then sheating it with HO scale 2×8 styrene shapes from Evergreen. That’ll give it a plank-by-plank look, and later I can accentuate the planks with a little contrasting paint.

You wouldn’t believe how much time this building has consumed in the last couple of days. Probably 12 to 15 hours…

I made the silos by covering a cardboard tube with 3M heavy-duty double-sided tape, and then wrapping the thin Plastruct siding around it. My inspiration came from a photo of a ready-mix plant in Mason City, Iowa, sent to me by Clark Propst. Below you can see the photo, the cardboard tube–an empty tape roller–and the tape.

I wrapped the tube in the tape, then cut a piece of block sheet to fit…

…and then carefully wrapped the plastic sheet around the tube. The process took about 20 minutes to complete both silos.

I’ll get more done on the cinder block plant this week, but now I want to concentrate on freight car work. Below is shown an old Sunshine Models Illinois Terminal box car that needs a repaint. I repaired some damage to the roof and rebuilt it with a few new parts (air hoses, changes to the brake gear, repairs to the running board and latitudinals, repairs to the brake platform and step on the B end, and a few other things). The major problem is I will need decals of the monogram and don’t think anyone makes them in HO. Still gotta do some research before I blast the paint off.

This old dog got some attention too. This is a Sunshine Models FGE car I’ve had around for 15-20 years. The light is poor but the car got new Tahoe Model Works trucks, some underframe upgrades, sill step repair, and Hi Tech air hoses. This Old Dog–a tip of the hat to Mac Demarco, one of my kid’s favorite “indie rock” singers. Mac’s got some good stuff!

Below. Here’s another old dog that got some TLC last night. This is a Proto 2000 car that got Hi Tech air hoses, cleaned-up wheel tread, weathering on the running boards, and…yeah, I think that’s all it got. I finished this car in the mid-2000s and at that time used my sandblaster to lightly blast off some lettering on the car side in an attempt to create a fading effect. This is a cool prototype and a favorite car, as it stands out nicely among all of it’s box car red bretheren.

Check out that new background. Did you notice that the windows are all fixed now?

Also in progress this week is rebuilding/repainting of this Rock Island car. It is yet another Sunshine Models car–a rebuilt Rock Island USRA box car. When I originally finished it about 15 years ago I painted it a really dark brown. RI freight car color is more maroon than brown, so I bought new decals from K4 and will refinish this car as soon as I can check out all the detail parts and make sure everything’s ready for paint.

I love the prototype RI cars as shown above. Luckily for us, we can still get these kits even though Sunshine Models is gone. Chad Boas sells parts to built the RI and similar C&NW cars.

Below. Here’s a portrait I took of the same car in 2009:

Why the rush to repaint this car? I’m repainting this RI 1937 Modified car, below, so I thought I’d repaint them both at the same time. I painted the car below and used some faulty K4 decals (they somehow got a little wet in the mail, but I used them anyway). I got a new set from K4 a few months ago, so I blasted the decals off this one and will repaint and them at the same time.

That covers all the hard work in the first three of 16 days. Next, more HO and Proto48 freight car work, a whole lot of painting, and on the weekend if all goes well I’m going to get to work finishing up the travering table for the layout.

Hope you have a wonderful week! – John G

No. 157: A British Post (Modelu and Traversers)

Here’s a post with a decidedly British flavor.


A few weeks ago I ordered figures from a vendor in Bristol named Modelu (pronounced Model You). The box arrived at the nearby Deutsche Post office, and my half-German wife dutifully went over there, paid the import tax, and brought the box home. Here’s what was in the box:

How exciting!

Modelu is a British vendor that makes finescale 3D-printed figures. A few guys on the Proto-Layouts list discovered Modelu online, and I offered to make a large order to try and save everyone some import tax.

Six of us combined for an over-$400 order for 60 figures. Above is shown a 1:29 figure ordered for Craig Townsend. I ordered seven HO scale figures and the other guys each ordered between five and 15 figures. The models are 3D scanned and printed to amazing detail–better than Preiser which up until now I’ve always considered the “gold standard”.

The Modelu figures are one-of-a-kind. Not only is the detail amazing but the poses are very natural, which is what I would expect being 3D scanned. This bloke, below, will go in my coal yard.

I highly recommend Modelu figures, but be careful about shipping and import taxes. The order I made was 288 Euros, which converted to $408 U.S. dollars. The Dollar-to-Euro and Dollar-to-Pound exchange rate is not working in the U.S.’s favor in the last few months, but still at about $4.50 a figure I think the price isn’t too bad.

Shipping is the “gotcha”. Modelu charges shipping, and then there’s the import tax, or “Brexit Tax” as my wife calls it. For our shoebox-size package the import tax was a whopping $105 U.S. On top of that, I sent five packages of figures to the various Proto-Layouts guy in the U.S.–another $8.50 U.S. each.

STILL…it was much cheaper to ship this way than shipping to each of us individually. Had each of us ordered individually it would’ve cost about $50 U.S. per package. So be careful when you order…make it count…

I give Modelu my highest recommendation. If you find yourself in Bristol, you can go to the shop and they will 3D-scan you, and you can put model figures of yourself on your layout. Or give models of yourself as gifts–wouldn’t that be funny. You can find Modelu online at Modelu – Finescale Figures (

The Traverser

Most of you are aware that I’m building a little switching layout in my third floor train room called Hermitage Road. The room is small, and the little layout is only seven feet long. I had even less room for a staging yard, so instead of trying to cram in a traditional US staging yard with ladders on each side, I built a British-style traverser table to service the layout. See above.

The whole traverser table is less than 60 inches long. The design has a single track to/from the layout at the left. The yard will have five tracks, each with enough room for five 40-foot cars and a single engine. There will be five short tracks on the opposite end to stage cars for runaround moves and engine storage. The thing works just like a switching yard without all the space-eating switches. I can use an open track to get around a train to push cars in, or pull cars from the end for trailing point switches.

It took me two Saturdays to build it. I made up my own plan but had to build it twice. The first version, seen below, had a 1/4-inch top. During assembly I discovered that the 1/4-inch wood top had a slight twist, which prevented it from lining up on both sides of the table. So I took the whole thing back to the wood shop on Ramstein Air Base and rebuilt it–this time with a 3/8-inch plywood top.

Here’s a photo of the first version, below, mocked up on the garage floor. You can see how small it is–compare the iPad at the top right of the photo.

Below. Here’s a photo of Version 2.0 with the 3/8-inch plywood top, taken one week later. You wouldn’t believe how much fiddling was required to get the table level on both ends. I used lots of shims of various thicknesses to get the table as level as possible for tracklaying.

I used a nice set of German ball-bearing drawer slides to provide as smooth a ride as possible. Cost: $40 U.S. for the pair. It slides very smoothly and even has a “soft-closing” feature.

Above. Here’s the second version of the table set up in position but not yet installed. The drawer slides have a just enough friction to keep the sliding table in position. It is very easy to move back and forth.

Below. Here’s a view of the layout with the traverser set up in position. The layout is just a bit shorter than seven feet; the traverser table is even shorter.

And finally, one last traverser photo, below. This was definitely worth my time and trouble. It cost about $100 up to this point, and that includes all the wood and time I had to pay for at the base wood shop ($12.50/hr). I would’ve spent that much just on turnouts for a traditional staging yard. The traverser is incredibly versatile. I’m glad I built it.

Below. Here’s the whole layout. I’m standing where the traverse table will be installed.

Hope you blokes have a great Memorial Day weekend. As you pray to our great God of power, and grace, please take a moment to remember all those fine young men that sacrificed their lives for us, that we might live free for a little bit longer.

Above: Strasbourg, France. Just as the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many. Matthew 20:28