Home Shops LLC has Launched!
Well the trend of infrequent blog posts on the Meridian Speedway site continues; however, I am still here!
This year has been full of exciting challenges. The big news is that I have started a new company, Home Shops LLC! Starting a company from the ground-up, in addition to my day job, has been very time-consuming and rewarding… (Update 8/7/2021: The website www.homeshops.net has launched!)
So…what is Home Shops all about? The answer is: taking Freelance Model Railroading to the next level!
I have observed a growing interest in and demand for Freelance Model Railroads and equipment. Tell-tale signs are the popularity of the Freelance Model Railroad Facebook pages as well as the rapidness which small custom runs of Freelance cars sell-out.
Interest was shown by Tangent Scale Models and Home Shops was founded! An order for factory-painted Tangent Scale Models PS-4750 covered hopper cars has been placed. This order will be the initial Home Shops freight car offering which will consist of seven Freelance road names. Four road numbers will be available for each road name.
The Freelance Model Railroads represented in this order include:
Joe Loggans’ Arkansas Valley
Brian Banna and Matt Martin’s Copper State Railway
Anthony Lorch’s Kansas Pacific
Greg McComas’ Michigan Interstate
Daniel Archer’s West Falls Northern
And my own Texas and Great Northern and Gulf and Ship Island Railroads!
I was interviewed by Lionel Strang and Tony Cook on an aModelersLife podcast. Both gentlemen asked many great questions about Home Shops. Their enthusiasm and support is greatly appreciated! That interviewd has been published as aModelersLife Episode No. 174. The audio link below will play this podcast! Enjoy…
GSI Identity Created for the Meridian Speedway!
Well an update is WAY overdue! Despite all of what was 2020, I did manage to get some modeling done...though I did not practice due diligence updating this blog. This post will focus on one project from this summer: Gulf and Ship Island freight cars.
One of the predecessor railroads that I have incorporated into my proto-freelanced Natchez Trace and Orient (NTO) concept is the Gulf and Ship Island Railroad (GSI). The prototype Gulf and Ship Island was in existence from its incorporation in 1882 until 1925 when it became part of the Illinois Central Railroad. From 1925 until 1946 the Gulf and Ship Island name existed as a subsidiary of the Illinois Central.
The fit for the GSI into my NTO is that the GSI provides access to the Gulf of Mexico at Gulfport, Mississippi. The channel from the Port of Gulfport to the protective barrier island named Ship Island is dredged to a depth of 36 feet. Taking advantage of the artistic license afforded by proto-freelancing, the Port of Gulfport is very busy in the Meridian Speedway empire!
In 1986 the real-world former GSI main line between Hattiesburg, MS and Gulfport, Mississippi was sold by the Illinois Central Gulf to regional railroad MidSouth Rail Corp., which was subsequently acquired by the KCS. All of MidSouth Rail was penciled into the railroads that I cobbled together to form my proto-freelanced NTO. In this reality the NTO (GSI) has trackage rights over the Illinois Central (I model 1996) from Jackson, Mississippi to Hattiesburg, Mississippi and on to Mobile, Alabama. In exchange the Illinois Central has trackage rights over the NTO from Jackson, Mississippi east to Meridian, Mississippi and west to Vicksburg, Mississippi.
As a kid growing up in the New Orleans area, I remember that trips along the Mississippi Gulf Coast always included stops at Gulfport to check out the ICG/MSRG/KCS (depending on the year) yard to see what power was hanging around. We also would visit the Seaworld Aquarium on more than one occasion.
Fascinating to me was all of the trucks of bananas that we would see streaming from the port. If I recall correctly there would be both trailers belonging to Dole and Chiquita parading perishable cargo unloaded from ships that had docked there. Both Dole and Chiquita have addresses in Gulfport, Mississippi today.
Now to the fun part--the manifestation of this story in HO scale equipment! I entertained ideas ranging from operating the GSI as a separate operation to not giving it any acknowledgement other than the route miles on the system map. I decided that I did want Meridian Speedway visitors to have a visualization of the GSI name, so I have decided that there will be freight cars lettered for the Gulf and Ship Island that will carry GSI reporting marks.
Because the real GSI ceased being a stand-alone entity in 1925, there never were any diesel locomotives or modern equipment bearing a prototype GSI logo. Internet searches reveal very few glimpses of anything of the original GSI or what its logo might have been.
My friend and fellow modeler Robert Tomb came across an image that showed an original Gulf and Ship Island freight car bearing a ship “Steering Wheel” logo that had the slogan “Deep Water Route” embedded in it. He previously had artwork drawn up that approximated this logo and included it on GSI models of his own. Upon request, Robert graciously made this artwork available to me and allowed me to use it in artwork for my own GSI equipment.
The below buttons will take you to some external Gulf and Ship Island content. Feel Free to visit!
From here I turned to Matthew Welke of Circus City Decals to bring the concept to life. Inspired by my memories of the white sandy beaches I visited on the Mississippi Gulf Coast, I decided that the cars would be white with black lettering. Because the steering wheel loco is fairly intricate I thought it best to keep the logo small so that it would all fit on a single flat surface, not having to wrap over the ribs on a PS-4750 type hopper car.
As always Matthew Welke is very good at turning concept into reality. I created a rough depiction of my vision using MS Paint. Matthew plugged in all of my specifications and applied a font that looks very much like the font that was used on orange-and-white Illinois Central Gulf locomotives. I was quite pleased with the final product which, in my mind, provides a respectful nod to the Gulf and Ship Island in name, the Illinois Central/Illinois Central Gulf in font, and to the Mississippi Gulf Coast in color theme!
Upon receipt of the decals I selected four covered hopper cars to paint. Two of them are Tangent Scale Models PS-4750 cars. The other two are smooth side ACF 4650 covered hoppers, one by Atlas and the other by Intermountain. One never knows how paint schemes will fare with the transition from drawing board to actual model until one is painted. I have to say I like these cars! A unit grain train of Gulf and Ship Island hopper cars will make a grand visual rolling along the HO Meridian Speedway!
Undecided as of now is the question of motive power. I could have no locomotives decorated for the GSI. Or I could follow the theme of my Natchez Trace and Orient Railroad and my Texas and Great Northern Railroad which share a blended locomotive roster of engines wearing the same “Tedder-Green” paint scheme that I have adopted. This route would involve selection of some locomotives to wear the same scheme but have GSI lettering and logo. Or…I could do something different to make them stand out. The basic Tedder-Green paint scheme looks very sharp in any number of color combinations. I have considered perhaps painting some GSI locomotives either red or blue with the same white-stripe arrangement found on the NTO and TGN locomotives. So many choices! What to do…what to do???
Speaking of future unknown Gulf and Ship Island variables, I was quite surprised to see the below image appear recently in social media:
It appears that modelers are not the only ones who find the story of the Gulf and Ship Island alluring. Mr. Robert Riley, now famous for bringing back the Rock Island name and image on his former Mississippi Delta short line, has registered the Gulf and Ship Island name with the State of Mississippi for a future business venture. While it is unknown at this time if these plans include any actual former G&SI property, one thing is for sure: it will be a welcome addition to the railroading world!
Not wanting to run into any future issues, I have reached out to Mr. Riley and have his full support for continuing to model my interpretation of the Gulf and Ship Island Railroad!
Atlas 33,000 Gallon LPG Tank Cars Painted
The first two Atlas 33,000 Whale Belly LPG tank cars that I have custom painted received their final decals today. Using Islington Station decal set 150-212 C (AMOX and TGPX LPG Tanks), I made both cars represent Tamak Transportation Corporation TGPX cars. I chose numbers 33508 because that is the one ready to go on the decal set and 33510 because I have taken a photograph of that car in New Orleans.
17 Tangent Scale Models PS-4750 Covered Hoppers
Recently the Meridian Speedway placed its largest single order of cars from Tangent Scale Models. The latest release of PS-4750 covered hopper cars is awesome! This order included nine cars to keep in their factory paint schemes and eight cars to repaint.
The keepers are:
ITC 1942 - Classic Illinois Terminal
NAHX 54361 - Data Only
NAHX 54380 - Data Only
NAHX 54463 - BENSON-QUINN CO.
PTLX 34002 - FGDA
PTLX 34013 - FGDA
PTLX 34048 - FGDA
PTLX 34091 - FGDA
PTLX 34891 - UNITED CO-OP - Webster City, IA
In addition to the above cars, four-each of the data-only NAHX 54361 and NAHX 54380 were purchased to repaint. Immediately three copies of NAHX 54361 were removed of their markings in preparation for painting.
What will these become? Stay tuned!
NS 8772 - NS 8835 - NS 8840 - NS 8888 Delivered
The announcement by ScaleTrains.com that they would be recreating the unique NS C40-9 "Top Hat" locomotives was one of the most exciting announcements ever...for me. Nicknamed for the prominent appearance of the air conditioner on the spartan cab of these units, the Top Hats were some mean looking machines that were fun to photograph nearly new in 1996, the year I model.
Today, 4-29-2020, the four versions I ordered arrived! NS 8772, NS 8835, NS 8840, and NS 8888 are now on the Meridian Speedway roster.
Simply put - they are beautiful models! No disappointment with this ScaleTrains.com release.
A second package arrived today as well. This was an eBay score from seller emd710. Atlas 20,700 gallon tank car DOWX 4743 is from the original release of this model in May 2007. This acquisition is part of my effort to increase the number of generic "data only" tank cars and hopper cars to the fleet. I am pleased with this find.
First Installation of Metal Plano Walkways
As I have been researching available Islington Station Products decals, I managed to find a number of sets to decal Atlas "whalebelly" LPG Tank Cars. Plano Model Products makes a metal roofwalk set for this car and I decided to give it a try. Smaller details are not important form me to upgrade, however the roofwalks on this car are quite conspicuous. I had not worked with Plano Model Products roofwalks before.
The image below is the instruction sheet that comes with the product:
I learned much through the process, specifically how to take apart the ladder assembly on the Atlas tank cars. I made a few mistakes along the way and am more prepared for the next ones. This one will do, however. It will fit in just fine with the "Meat-and-Potatoes" fleet of cars I am bolstering.
Reynolds Materials P-S 4750 Hoppers
Still equipped with shop trucks and shop couplers, the three Tangent P-S 7450 covered hoppers painted in the last blog post now have decals and identities!
Though many years old, I had no issues using the Islington Station Decals. They performed flawlessly! Decals still wet in the above photo, RMCX 2080, RMCX 2118, and RMCX 2145 are now part of the fleet!
4-11-2020 - Paint Booth Action - "Meat and Potatoes"
As you have probably noticed, posts on this blog have been few and far between for the last several years. My children are at the age where parenting their activities is a never-ending feat. This dynamic has driven hobby interests, modeling and photography, to the back burner.
Enter COVID-19. The Coronavirus pandemic has swiftly and single-handedly put an end to all of the school, athletic, and other social activities that have been racking up miles on our vehicles and consuming many hours of every day. As it turns out, Model Railroading is an amazing hobby that can be shelved when time does not allow, but is there when you need or want it.
That being said, I have spent the last several weeks focusing on the Man-Cave. Some deep-cleaning, inventory activity, and rearranging the paint booth work area to provide more usable space has paid off.
On the other hand, when you peruse the freight cars being sold by most model train manufacturers the makeup seems to be just the opposite. The fancy cars attract attention and sell. As a result model railroad fleets seem to be just the opposite of real-world composition with generic cars being the exception rather than the rule.
I was able to pull two prototype photos I had taken in the 1990's of RMCX PS-4750 hoppers. RMCX 2080 was captured painted almost white with the small logo and RMCX 2098 was captured painted a slightly darker grey and without the logo.
Perfect I thought! This will be my first new project. I do remember the RMCX cars and am pleased to have them in my fleet.
I reached out to Dave Lehlbach of Tangent Scale Models and purchased the last two remaining undecorated PS-4750 covered hoppers in his inventory and I also purchased a Penn Central PS-4750.
I removed the trucks and couplers and replaced them with my own "shop" trucks and couples to use during the paint process. My shop trucks have one axle glued in place so the cars do not roll around. My shop couplers are old horn-hook couplers that I use to handle and reposition cars during the painting process.
Using the Solvaset and Scotch-Tape method of letter removal mentioned previously I was able to effortlessly remove the Penn Central lettering from the green PC car.
Yesterday, 4-10-2020, the three Tangent PS-4750's took a bath. The usual dish soap soak and rinse took place with a light scrubbing from an old toothbrush. This washes off any dirt and oil from handling that might affect the adhesion of paint to the surface.
After washing, the cars were set aside for 24 hours to dry.
Today, 4-11-2020, magic happened. Three cars were flawlessly painted in the paint-booth. These three cars were painted ScaleCoat II S2011 White with just a touch of ScaleCoat II S2020 MOW Gray. I have had a number of questions about how I paint cars so I decided to try something new and video the process.
I took videos of all three cars, however, the painting of the undecoated cars is less visual than the green car so that is the one I chose to share. Enjoy the un-narrated glimpse of my paint boot in use below:
I am quite pleased with the results of this effort and am glad to be participating again in the World's Greatest Hobby!
Once the paint is dry it will be on to the next steps of weathering, decaling, and sealing. Updates to come!
CSX and SP B36-7 Models From Rapido!
So the Meridian Speedway has taken delivery of quite a few freight cars and locomotives this year that did not make the blog. My first four Rapido B36-7's showed up today, however, and they are noteworthy! CSXT 5809, CSXT 5895, and CSXT 5923 along with SP 7756 made up this shipment from TrainWorld. I made it home just in time from my daughter's soccer tournament in Granbury to sign for the package from Fedex....
The pictures speak for themselves...these models are fine!
After the disappointment from my recent delivery of four ScaleTrains Santa Fe C44-9W's (the colors match nothing previously out and running) I thought I'd put four model manufacturers products side-by-side to see how the SP Scarlet Red compares. Left-to-right are Fox Valley Models, Rapido, Atlas, and Athearn Genesis models:
While there is some difference, they are all compatible. With minimal weathering no one will notice. Contrast this with the difference between four ScaleTrains Santa Fe C44-9W's and an Atlas Santa Fe C40-8W below. These are not compatible under any circumstances! I have boxed up the ScaleTrains C44-9W's and have tabled them for NT&O repaints in the future.
A day of Great Weather and Trains....
Had a great day today railfanning the BNSF Fort Worth Subdivision with Michael Palmieri and Joe Bohannon! Steven Palmieri even drove out to Crowley to join us for lunch!
The former Santa Fe shop complex is alive and well being owned and operated as a car shop by Greenbrier Rail Services. The Santa Fe logo near the top of the smokestack is a local landmark and a testament to a bygone era. Cleburne, Texas - 4-9-2019 - C.M.Palmieri Photo.
DRGW 5387, DRGW 5394, and SP 8558 Join the Fleet
Today a shipment from ScaleTrains.com arrived with the three Tunnel Motors I reserved from their first release. All I can say is "Wow!" These models are stunning! Modeling 1996, Rio Grande motors were pretty well integrated into the EsPee fleet, so I ordered two. There are the first Rio Grand locomotives I have purchased. I also ordered the most modern SP version. SP 8558 is the only unit offered in this run with the white step stripes and other later mods. Hopefully future runs will include ditch lights and removed Mars lights. All three units are factory equipped with LokSound decoders. Enjoy the images!
Some Shots from Arkansas - 3-12-2019
Spring Break for our schools was this week. I was not able to get time off other than my rest days of Monday and Tuesday so my wife and I picked a close destination to go with our kids. Hot Springs, Arkansas it was! We drove there after my shift on Sunday and spent all day Monday in town looking around. Jacob and Kate had a blast! There were several hikes, tours of bath houses, hot springs, and great food. I even had a double Templeton Rye Whiskey neat at the Ohio Club, both favorites of Al Capone....
Tuesday was a leisurely departure from downtown Hot Springs. After lunch we went to the Garvan Woodland Gardens and spent quite a bit of time walking around. We would definitely go back! Of course I had made a list of railroad photo locations to see and managed to check two of them off the list on the way back home.
The above photos were taken at the Arkansas Midland (AKMD) shop and transload facility in Jones Mills, AR. Originally built as the Hot Springs Railroad in 1875, this line would become part of the Rock Island before becoming the Arkansas Midland which would incorporate seven isolated branch lines in Arkansas. One of these branches runs from the Union Pacific at Malvern, AR to Hot Springs and Mountain Pine. The AKMD was acquired by shortline giant Genesee and Wyoming in 2014.
It just so happens that the drive to Hot Springs follows this line! There are many photo locations that caught my eye. We stopped briefly at Jones Mills. There we found AKMD GP35s 2503 and 2504 along with recently painted LRWN GP38-3 2150. The Little Rock and Western (LRWN) is a separate Arkansas short line railroad that was picked up by Genesee and Wyoming in 2005. This place has great character!
Then it was onto the next stop--Malvern, Arkansas.
Still standing in Malvern is the 1887 roundhouse that was built by the Hot Springs Railroad. This 132-year-old structure was built as a five-stall narrow gauge roundhouse to service the locomotives of this railroad which branched off from the Iron Mountain (Missouri Pacific and later Union Pacific) and connected Hot Springs with the modern world!
It is simply amazing that this structure is still standing. From the looks of it, I would say its days are numbered. The button below will take you to a web page on the Arkansas Railroad History site with more information about the Malvern Roundhouse.
While I was photographing the roundhouse, eastbound Union Pacific Laredo, Texas to Yard Center, Illinois intermodal train ILDYC-10 passed by. Today the Arkansas Midland operates the branch and interchanges with the Union Pacific in Malvern. I took a few more shots around the yard before heading back home.
Orange Paint and Decals Applied Today - 3-6-2019
The first coat of Solva-Set is still wet on the first locomotive of my proto-freelanced Mississippi Central Railroad. Alco C425 MCRR 2425 wears my Illinois Central "inspired" color scheme. The decals are by Matthew Welke of Circus City decals and they look great!
On the drawing board this bold color scheme received quite a bit of criticism. Perhaps it is a face only its creator can love, however, having seen it materialize in person I could not be more pleased with it! More to come....
Club-Lounge Rio Bravo Takes Shape
Today the window tinting I ordered from Amazon arrived in the mail. It was a long trip from China via Los Angeles, Houston, and Detroit before being delivered to my home in Fort Worth.....go figure. I am not 100% satisfied with the tint finish, however I think it looks much better than without the tint. I applied it this evening, reassembled the car, and applied the decals I had made by Circus City.
I had considered several ways to decorate the business cars. Two things were important: 1 - they need to look good and 2 - they need to look unique. My initial thought was to have them all silver, but many railroads did that and the BNSF business cars are all silver. I have fond memories from my younger days of Southern Railway lightweight cars that were aluminum with black roofs with the classic Southern Logo on the right end. For the TGN businees car fleet I decided to go that route, but instead the car roofs, trucks, and under-bodies will be painted a dark green.
Also seen in the paint shop this evening is what will become TGN 8051 - dome car Pelican Vista. The Rio Bravo is a Walthers Proto 85' Budd 1 Drawing Room 29-Seat Lounge. On the upside with the Walthers car, the roof comes off, making it easy to paint the separate colors. On the downside the windows are glued in and need to be masked if the car is going to be painted.
For the Pelican View I purchased an undecorated Rapido Trains Budd Dome. This car came with the windows not installed which is great, however the roof is molded into the one-piece carbody shell. So I traded having to mask the windows for having to mask the roof. At least the window tinting will be easier to apply on the Rapido car!
These are the first models I have painted with Badger Model-Flex paint. I am not sure that I am comfortable with it yet... I decided to go with a darker green than the shade on my locomotives. The green is Badger Model-Flex 16-192 Western Pacific Green. The silver is a mixture of Model-Flex 16-32 Santa Fe Silver and 16-193 CB&Q Imitation Aluminum. The mixture is approximately 75% Santa Fe Silver and 25% CB&Q Imitation Aluminum.
For the Rio Bravo, I will have to mask the windows again before I clear coat the car. Not looking forward to that; however, I am excited to get a few business cars in service!
Drone Images - Cleburne, TX - 2-25-2019
The weather forecast for this evening was perfect, so I decided to head south to Cleburne to do some photography.
Southbound train H-KCKTPL1-25 provided some action on arrival. The train was on the mainline and had cut away with a few cars to set out one hopper car in 9-Track. The train also changed crews before departing. This was all done near the historic former Santa Fe shop facility which once built the famous "CF7" fleet of locomotives. The weather was great to take some images of the shops!
Next, northbound Amtrak train No. 22, the Texas Eagle, pulled into town and detrained all of its passengers into two buses due to a derailment at Joshua. The train then wyed to run south as No. 21. After backing north of the depot to take on fuel from a truck, the train would be ready for the run to San Antonio once the passengers and crew arrived from Fort Worth.
Alvarado to Clark empty rock train U-VRDCAK0-01 was tied down at North Cleburne with four units on the head end. And the evening was rounded out with a few shots of the Fort Worth Western Job No. 501 working the FWWR Cleburne branch.
All in all...not a bad day!
UP SD60 2166 and UP SD40N 1859
Usually the Roanoke, Texas local power sports a lone UP SD40N, however UP SD60 2166 has recently been added to the consist. To my recollection this is the first SD60 we have had in local service here. This evening I was able to take advantage of the evening light to record the consist and get some detail shots of the PTC antenna arrangement on UP SD40N 1859.
New essay added to the Meridian Speedway Library
I recently came across a link to an essay written by Danny Johnson and published in The Trackside Photographer. Titled "A World Apart, A World Within" this work details his personal experience exploring the North Louisiana Delta Region served by the KCS Meridian Speedway.
Of course the photography that accompanies the text is excellent!
The insight in this work is very relevant to the Meridian Speedway concept that my website serves to share. I asked Danny if he would mind if I added this article to my Meridian Speedway Library and he graciously agreed. He is in the company of some great authors.
I had not before heard of The Trackside Photographer. This website is a collection of photo-essays contributed by a wide range of authors on a variety of railroad related topics. I recommend highly that you take a look. The button below will take you to the home page of The Trackside Photographer.
Linked to the following button is the article "A World Apart, A World Within" in the Meridian Speedway Library.
TGN 8021 - RIO BRAVO - Arrives on the Property
Having decided to make the TGN business car fleet a reality, a roster was made, decals comissioned, and the first car purchased. A Walthers Proto Rock Island 85' Budd 1-Drawing Room 29-Seat Lounge arrived today. This car will be one of two club lounge cars in the fleet - TGN 8021 the RIO BRAVO.
I think I have finalized the paint scheme. The fleet will primarily be stainless steel Budd cars. The roofs and underbodys will be painted a dark green and the sides and ends will be stainless steel. This is inspired by Southern Railway lightweight cars which sported a black roof. I believe this scheme will be unique and not confused with other passenger car owners.
An Unlikely 2019 Locomotive Consist - 2-12-2019
Thanks to some friends in Kansas City who tipped me off that BNSF Kansas City, KS to Temple, TX train H-KCKTPL1-10 was headed south with three SD40-2s for power. This is very uncommon these days on any Class I railroad. I looked at the weather and saw a forecast of clear skies all day. I decided it would be a great day to try out my new Mavic Air drone that my wife got me for Christmas!
So northward I went on I-35...Oklahoma-bound to intercept the H-KCKTPL1-10. The below slideshow is the result!