Equipment portraits :: 1

Today, I was asked by my friend Jim Martin for a couple of photos of S scale equipment for an article he’s writing. I was happy to oblige and decided I’d shoot them in a photo box – a big translucent cube that does a great job of diffusing photo lights.

The only place I can set up the box is on the dining room table so since I had everything set up anyway, I decided to shoot portraits of several pieces of equipment that run on my railway.

Here are some of my pieces, presented in no particular order. I’ve added some notes on each. Click on each image for a larger view…

CNR 79431

CNR 79431 - Portrait

This is a Ridgehill Scale Models resin kit for the CNR’s wooden vans (cabooses). The kits were actually offered in a few variations but I can never keep track of the details. I bought this kit and a resin kit for a CNR boxcar (shown below) in case I ever built a module for the S Scale Workshop. The kits sat on the shelf for a few years because I was busy in other scales. Then one day I realized I was never going to get around to building them so I handed them off to my friend Pierre Oliver, who does this sort of thing for a living. The finished models helped me decide to take the plunge into S scale. Despite this, Pierre and I are still good friends… 😉

CNR 408756

CNR 408756 - Portrait

This is a Ridgehill Scale Models resin kit for the CNR’s Dominion (Fowler Patent) boxcars. These also came in a couple of variants, and were offered in CPR versions as well. Like the van (shown above), Pierre Oliver built this one for me. He’s built a lot of rolling stock for me – including several indicated in this blog posting – because I’ve been just to darned busy building my layout and I wanted equipment to run on it.

CNR 487747

CNR 487747 - Portrait

This is a Pacific Rail Shops plastic kit, with several aftermarket modifications and detail upgrades. It’s one of the first rolling stock kits that I built in S scale and it helped me get a real feel for the size of equipment in 1:64. I added a real wood roof walk, Canadian-prototype ladders from Des Planes Hobbies, and a detail upgrade kit from Andy Malette at MLW Services. I replaced plastic brake rigging with wire. This particular kit had been started by the previous owner – who only got as far as adding a ton of weight inside the body, using birdshot and caulk. I was not able to get the lead out (so to speak) so this car really tips the scales. I tend to run it a lot as an LCL car on the Mixed Train.

CNR 55303

CNR 55303 - Portrait

CNR 55303 - Portrait

This wooden plow has become one of my favourite models on the railway, even though it rarely sees service (what with it being August and all). I built this from an Ambroid kit that I picked up from Andy Malette. The kit must’ve been 50 or 60 years old, but the wood was in terrific shape and was a joy to work with. I’ve written a fair bit about this plow already, but I made several changes to the kit – based on a Boston and Maine prototype – to make it more closely resemble a CNR plow. I was fortunate to have a copy of an article about Ron Keith, who modelled several CNR plows in HO scale, to help me create my version. As a box of mostly wood plus a bit of tin and some pretty rudimentary instructions (“Make and add details per the diagram”) the kit was pretty intimidating, so it sat for a few months while I worked up the nerve to start it. Once I got going, though, I found it a very enjoyable experience and was surprised at how well some of the decades-old parts went together. I was also pleasantly surprised by my ability to perform real construction operations, like sanding bevels into the parts that make up the plow bracing.

CNR 209540

CNR 209540 - Portrait

This resin kit – from Andy Malette at MLW Services – builds up into the CNR’s distinctive eight-hatch refrigerator cars. Actually, “refrigerator” is a misnomer, even though it’s spelled out on the side. This is really a “controlled temperature” car – equally at home keeping things warm as it is keeping things cool. I was surprised at the great variety of freight that these carried – everything from produce to live bees. Pierre Oliver built the kit for me, while I added the wooden roof walk, finer hatch rests, and a few other details. I also weathered the car. I really like how the grey sides with red lettering and green leaf pop out in a consist of mineral red boxcars.

NYC 399574

NYC 399574 - Portrait

This is a resin kit from Funaro and Camerlengo – better known for its HO scale resin kits, particularly of New England prototypes. But the company offers a couple of cars in 1:64 as well. I wish it would do more, as there are some interesting prototypes in the company’s catalogue. Pierre Oliver built this kit for me, while I did the weathering. I’m really pleased with the rusty interior, achieved with weathering powders.

CNR 7176

CNR 7176 - Portrait

This is a mixed media kit – etched brass sides and floor, wood roof, and cast details – produced by Andy Malette at MLW Services. (Without guys like Andy, I wouldn’t be modelling the CNR in S scale!) This combine – in its green over black scheme – is essential to running the mixed train in late 1950s sessions on my railway, when CNR 4-6-0s took over duties on the branch. Pierre Oliver built the kit for me, while I did a lot of the finishing work. My contributions included adding the train air and signal lines, the conductor and gate in the vestibule, the window glass (from microscope slide covers) and shades, the opaque toilet window glass, and the weathering. Not visible, but very important to operation, are the retrofits I did to the trucks. I’ve added rigid beam compensation to create Tim Trucks – named for my friend Tim Warris, who designed and laser cut the frames for me. The car tracks a whole lot more reliably than it did with the American Models rigid-frame trucks, which are one of the very few options for a six-wheel truck in S scale. This combine is also fitted with a DCC-enabled back-up whistle.

CofG 56309

CofG 56309 - Portrait

This is a resin kit from Jim King at Smoky Mountain Model Works, built by Pierre Oliver. It’s an unusual model to find on a lightly-trafficked branch line in southern Ontario, but these cars did come to Canada. The reality is, S scale doesn’t have the variety of rolling stock available in O scale – and barely registers compared to the variety that’s on offer in HO. So when a manufacturer takes the trouble to create a resin kit, scale modellers in 1:64 tend to buy one just to support the effort and then we figure out what to do with it. Fortunately, I’m modelling August so I assume the American owners of a huge chunk of land on Long Point are having a summer beach party and have ordered a carload of melons from back home for the festivities. Rich people with summer houses in other countries can afford to do that type of thing…

CML 1952

CML 1952 - Portrait

This is a Pacific Rail Shops plastic kit that was custom-decorated for the NMRA as part of its Legends Of The Hobby line. As I’ve mentioned before, Bob Hegge and his Crooked Mountain Lines were a huge inspiration for me back in the 1970s and 1980s, and when I found one of these custom-decorated kits for sale I just had to grab it. I’m really glad I did. This car features an unusual brake-rigging system, with the main rod from the B-end running outside the truck instead of between the side frames. This allows the car to more easily negotiate traction-radius curves. I modelled this following photos and data from an HO scale Westerfield kit for a Pacific Electric boxcar. Other upgrades include a wood running board and plastic brake rods replaced with wire. I get a kick out of running this car every time…

GATX 480

GATX 480 - Portrait

This is a WA Drake and Company brass import of an 8,000 gallon Type 103 double-dome tank car. It came factory-painted. I like the double domes. And I’m really pleased with the weathering job I did on it. As with all of my freight cars, I added flexible train line air hoses from BTS to this car: They look better than the cast hoses that come on most brass cars and because they’re flexible, they don’t break off.

Burro Model 40

Burro Model 40 Crane - Portrait

Dan Navarre at River Raisin Models imported 150 brass models of these popular MoW cranes in 1992. I found this model – unpainted – after posting a note to several newsgroups. I airbrushed the model with a warm black and weathered it with airbrush and powders. To do this, I had to unstring the rigging – making careful notes of the path of the cable so I could re-string it later. I added the operator to the cab. I also added DCC to this very small model, complete with an electronic flywheel to minimize stalling. (And in 2017, I enhanced the model with sound – a real ship-in-a-bottle experience!) Unfortunately, these models do not run well: The motor is mounted vertically and makes a terrific thrashing sound. However, I’m sure at some point someone will come up with a better gear train – probably me, if I want it to happen. Perhaps an under-floor power truck would work, or a drive train that only turns one axle instead of trying to do both. It’s not like the crane has to pull a train – just itself, and possibly a gondola of ballast. Regardless of its dubious running qualities, it’s a great looking model that is a joy to photograph on the railway, so I’m really glad I have it.

Eventually, I hope to document all of my S scale equipment in this fashion. We’ll see how that goes. Meantime, see the Portraits category to find all posts in this series. If you’ve read this far, thanks for sticking with it. I hope you enjoyed these equipment portraits and notes.

11 thoughts on “Equipment portraits :: 1

  1. Great roster of cars! I followed the snow plow blogs and from how it looked at first to your finished model, it is truly a beautiful piece of equipment. I too like your weathering techniques and detailing. Thanks for sharing and inspiring!
    Cheers, Gord

  2. Trevor,
    Every time I see the CML car with the PE brake rigging I have a chance to smile and feel good. I am not sure that a heavy electric operation like Hegge modeled in the CML would need the restricted radius rigging, but “darn” it sure looks good.

  3. Trevor,

    Could you give us some particulars on your “Translucent Light box”? I’d also like to know what your light source is.

    I love the photos, and the even surround lighting would be perfect for some of my own photography.

      • I need to make or acquire one of these setups, the lighting in my apartment is currently pretty brutal for taking project photos. I’ve got a bit to figure out with some of the finer points of model photography and lighting yet too.

        • Hi Chris:

          It’s a lot easier now, with digital SLRs. If you have a Canon Digital Rebel or equivalent you’re well on your way.

          Digital lenses have great f-stops – mine tightens down (up?) to f36 – for terrific depth of field at close range, which is essential. I set the camera to Aperture Priority mode, set the aperture as small as it’ll go, then let the camera figure out how much time it needs to keep the shutter open.

          A tripod is a must because such shots require a long time to collect enough light to create a decent image.

          For light, there’s nothing like indirect natural lighting – try setting up next to a north-facing window, for example (or south-facing, for those readers below the equator). But with long exposures, decent photos can be captured with surprisingly little light – I’ve shot some nice equipment portraits with a desk lamp or large flashlight.

          Photo-editing software that lets you adjust levels can help save photos that would otherwise be too dark.

          Just a few thoughts. Good luck with the figuring-out…

  4. Great roster! Again, I love the way everything is weathered to various degrees, but none over done. It makes for a very realistic roster (the details certainly help too).

    BTW, I have to say the CML box car is one of my favorites, I’m delighted to have one of my own, in a much smaller scale though.

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