Saturday, March 25, 2023

Building in Brass; Pre - History Part 4

Kemtron HOn3 brass kit of the D&R G C-16
I don't know of any formal (accredited) program to earn a degree in Model Master Mechanic. It is all strictly on the job training - where one is both client and service. I thought it might be interesting to give an example of  how one might go about doing that. It's all very informal really; find a model you would like to have, build it and in the process learn more about building the next one..

Fortunately, I have a few photo examples of my early "training." Among the photos I found both 35mm and medium format negatives of the Kemtron C-16 I mentioned in part 3. I built this kit over 40 years ago after I got out of the Navy. I also found I had photos that I didn't remember taking. Somewhere along the way the Model Die Cast narrow gauge engine I sold to the modular group I was a part of happened to pass before my Mamya 645.

Model Die Cast HOn3 outside frame (C-21?)

I don't know exactly when MDC first offered the powered narrow gauge 2-8-0s - about 1974 I believe - but I purchased this outside frame kit perhaps prior to the C-16. It was an intriguing project I probably bought when I became involved with Slim Rail. I didn't have a module of my own but I wanted something to run during our shows.

Building the model was fun and straight forward and, as you can see, the C&Sng was already a strong  influence upon my efforts. I gave it my own paint scheme and fictional road name. The model was airbrushed black, silver and the masked off areas were a light sea green (Humbrol). The herald was inspired by a layout idea that I began a year or two later. I briefly described that pike in part 3 along with the white metal Keystone Shay kit. Unfortunately I didn't take any photos of either the shay or the layout. I sold the Connie to the modular group when I went to school in Denver  

I've been a photo enthusiast for nearly as long as I've been a railroad modeler. I started with a Canon SLR when I joined the Service and eventually became the ships photographer while over seas. I've taken many pictures as record and many of models that help when telling this story.

Kettle Creek is located in Black Forest, CO.

The C-16 was my first brass kit. My cheap soldering iron probably came from Radio Shack and may have been as much a hindrance as it was successful but I had learned how to solder at a pretty young age; that surely helped me get thru this project. Somewhere I purchased a tube of solder paste with flux already in it - what a novel idea! It took me a while to put it together but it turns out soldering brass takes a long time anyway. It isn't the actual soldering but the preparation and jigging that takes time. I enjoyed the "doing" and was pleased with the results. I don't recall how it ran - probably not well - but that didn't discourage me. 

 D&RG C-16 with a kit-built DSP&P Waycar

 The waycar shown with the C-16 was from a kit, probably E.& B. Valley and clearly not a very accurate example of the D.S.P.& P. prototype. I don't remember when I built it as the photos were taken some time after I sold the Canon F-1 and purchased the Mamya (1981). 

Half or more of the success of any task seems to rest on a certain confidence that you know you will figure out any issues that arise. In other words, you don't lose if you don't quit. When I finished the C-16 I built Kemtron's D.& R. G. 0-6-0t with the intent of converting it to a C & S mogul. That didn't happen. 

As I described previously I became frustrated with the smallness of narrow gauge in HO scale. I finally  traded or sold off the HO stuff to purchase (as I now recall ) an O scale Denver South Park & Pacific mogul imported by Balboa. I scratch built several D.S.P. & P. freight cars to go with it. 

I scratch built this On3 Tiffany "freezer"...
By this point I had plenty of experience building kits of all kinds. There were very few if any South Park  car kits in O scale. There were plenty of drawings and photos, however, and I found it an easy and enjoyable transition into building models that came from no kits. All of the freight cars in these photos were scratch built by collecting or making the parts and   assembling them according to the available information. 

I did find a kit for the waycar offered by Don Winters but even that could be described as scratch building out of a box. The instruction sheet provided an elevation drawing perhaps a brief description and

... as were all of the cars in this view

these suggestions; "get a six pack of beer, look at the drawing and published photos and put the kit together." Except for the beer (which didn't seem like a good idea for this method of construction) that is what I did. It turned out to be a fun project.

Don Winters On3 waycar; post 1911 numbering

However, there came a point where I decided I still wasn't working in a direction I wanted to go. The "South Park," while fascinating in history, still didn't have the attraction its grandchild, the Colorado & Southern RY. had. I took the Mogul back to Caboose and traded it and several freight cars for an Iron Horse Models, On3, C&S, No. 60 2-8-0 kit. This was the most serious brass project I had gotten into up to that point. There were hundreds if not thousands of

I also added the detailed interior

parts in the box and the kit took many evenings to complete. If I recall, I put it together more than once because I made many mistakes.

Perhaps the greatest importance of the Iron Horse kit was how much it taught me. When I finally got it put together and painted, it looked a lot like the model below that I obtained several years later. I painted and numbered the kit as C&S 62. 

I was fascinated with the orphaned (once D.S.P.& P. mainline to Gunnison ) branch known as the Buena Vista Romley division. I later understood more about

PSC On3 No. 60 was painted when I got it

how no. 62 - and all of the Rhode Island connies - were unique from each other. I re-worked the model yet again.

The photo below provides a good reference of the 62 at Buena Vista in 1925. The photo was loaned to me by its creator, Richard Kindig, with permission to make a copy negative. This was the sole motive power for that branch in the final days of that portion of the railroad.

C&S 62 at Buena Vista in 1925


Next time I'll show you what the model of 62 looked like on a later layout.

Monday, March 20, 2023

Tribute - Harry Brunk

Mainline across Clear Creek and section house

I learned a few weeks ago that Harry Brunk had passed away a week or so prior. Though we were not close friends we did talk at various times about our common interest in the Colorado & Southern narrow gauge. I had not heard from him in nearly 10 years. I don't know many details about his passing except that he was in a nursing home and that he passed just after Rick Steele and another friend visited him. 

In 2009 and again in 2010 several of us packed up from Denver and traveled to central Nebraska to see "Little Colorado", home to the Union Central & Northern. The photos shared in this post came from those visits.

An intimate view of Forks Creek

According to Harry's anthology, the U.C.&N. was a subsidiary of the Union Central R.R. that branched off at Denver and went west up Clear Creek Canyon. Of course, this was his version of history for the Union Pacific and the Colorado Central Railway that inspired his HOn3 layout. . 

Harry's railroad was fomented in that period of the hobby when "whim" was a common genre of model railroad building. Harry's involvement as a writer for the "Slim Gauge News" (1972 -1974") was a reflection of that perspective. His pseudonym for the column, "The HOn3 Scene", was Leighton Slough; say it as a phrase rather than a name. Of course, Leighton was a retired Yard Master for the U.C.&N and occasionally Leighton made reference to one Harry Brunk in the third person.

The yard at Black Hawk

In those days it was common for modelers to make up a railroad name, complete with a tongue-in-cheek story line to explain why the founders built the railroad in the first place. Often the hobbyist would lace the story with humorous innuendoes and metamorphic logic. Perhaps this was expected to defuse the stigma of "playing" with trains with absurd humor to insure that the "unenlightened" knew it was all none to serious anyway.... maybe you just had to be there. In this way a layout didn't carry the burden of actually following a particular prototype even if the layout reflected that prototype. Again, you just had to be there. When a layout didn't follow any prototype it became whimsical; it adhered to reality (the laws of physic and general railroad practices) that made it believable - but that might have been about it. Harry didn't really do any of that. He loved Colorado narrow gauge but focused only on one railroad; And then he gave it a pseudonym; Union, Central and Northern. Or; "everywhere, here and there".

What ever his intentions were, Harry built a very near copy of the Clear Creek line, He simply renamed it the U.C.&N. and then maintained a commitment to it for five decades. These two points are at the core of why the layout holds such an attraction to so many. Harry translated the C&S into a new and unique "company" by not using that prototype name; to the point we might even be indifferent to the prototype.

Downtown Black Hawk in the 1930s
 Certainly, the U.C.&N. was a whimsical idea but it was hardly whimsical in expression. Harry once told me that he wished he had used "Colorado & Southern" for the road name in the first place but by that point it was long past doing anything to change it. I'm happy he didn't try. All together this is the genius of the "Union Central & Northern" that very few layouts actually achieve.
Back to Forks Creek; westbound




Apparently the layout began in a bunk house. His life style as a cowboy was a bit more nomadic which would be inconvenient to building a railroad model. . At the same time he always lived in rural settings and this allowed a solution to the problem that was nearly as genius as his layout concept. Eventually he and his wife Bobby moved into a place where he was able to purchase a single wide mobile home and the U.C.&N. finally had a more permanent footing. Harry named the trailer "Little Colorado." Little Colorado was moved at least once before it finally failed  in 2011. At that point he had to give up the layout. Thru his good friend Rick Steele (La belle Wood Works) the layout went to the Cheyenne Depot Museum where visitors can see the layout now spread out on the second floor. 

The Argo Mill and Tunnel
The U.C.&N.was a masterful capture of the C&S Clear Creek Division. The rails began just below Forks Creek where the road branched north to Black Hawk or continued west thru Idaho Springs, Georgetown, Silver Plume to the wye beyond.  The layout included the Georgetown Loop and the famous Devils Gate Bridge.

He built from the actual settings as much as 1/87th scale would allow. I grew up in Colorado and made many trips up Clear Creek and over both Loveland Pass and thru the Tunnel. I visited Black Hawk many times including New Years day in 1989 to crawl under the type I coal car (4319) on display there. So when my friends and I stepped into Little Colorado several hundred miles from the real thing it was a bit enchanting to not only instantly "be there" but also nearly 70 years earlier! There was the Argo Tunnel, the Hulkill Mine and the Georgetown Loop. There was the Silver Plume Depot and the Black Hawk Boiler and Sheet Metal Works. But there were also things we never saw before; like the complete Forks Creek wye and all of the structures around it. Never mind the engines and cars had the  Circular and Block letter of the U.C.&N. herald - they were Colorado & Southern stock!

An intimate look at Idaho Springs

Harry was a cowboy artist. He worked for Leanin' Tree gift cards as well a number of ranches. He also apparently had showings in galleries. An artist's ability to communicate in a language without word plays an important role in his success. Fine art is a language that speaks from the soul to the soul. Harry may well be more remembered for his layout than his very fine paintings - at least for a time - because there isn't any question his layout has a firm grasp of that language. 

As I pointed out, two parties traveled to Little Colorado to visit Harry and Bobby and the famed model railroad. In both cases Bob Axsom, Daryl Leedy and I and alternately Joe Crea one year and Mike Pine the second made the round trip in a day's drive. We traveling together in one car, had a great time visiting the Brunks and enjoyed each others company the whole time. Both trips are among my fondest memories. I am fortunate to have seen the Union Central & Northern in it's original splendor. One day I may get by the Depot and enjoy the memories again.

Robert Axsom took all of the photos you see here. Bob passed away a few years after Vicki and I moved to Montana in 2010. Both of these friends and fellow C&S enthusiasts have enriched my modeling experience. I'll share a few more photos in a following post. The link below will take you to more about the layout in the Depot.

Idaho Springs was the biggest town on the layout

This standard gauge reefer smacks of Central Valley

Friday, March 10, 2023

The Technical Files - Scale Coat Paint

 At this point it looks like Scale Coat paint is defunct. It might be interesting to take a look at the product and see if we can assimilate enough information to develop something of an unofficial history. I've actually been working on this project for about a year.

This will be an ongoing series of posts written more or less as we go. Anyone who has additional information is welcome to respond; perhaps the story will become more accurate.

For it's entire history 7th Street Shops has used Scale Coat for brass and metal covering. I cut my teeth on Floquil which was more readily available when I was a kid. I used it for model railroading projects and brushed my first brass locomotive with Engine Black, It was an awful thing to do to a nice brass model but what does a 17 or 18 y.o. know. Most of my O scale models were painted with Floquil. But I noticed Floquil tended to chip and flake on brass . I know now that part of that was because the metal was not properly prepared but it was also because the paint was not very flexible. Having worked in the auto body repair industry, I recognized its Lacquer aroma. Lacquer is  more brittle than enamel.

I started using Scale Coat I in the early 2000s when our home was in Denver a few minutes from Caboose Hobbies. They carried the Scale Coat line. Again, from experience in body and paint, I recognized that enamels were to be baked so I began baking the brass models in the kitchen oven; not an especially a good idea.

According to the pamphlet instruction sheet offered by Weaver Models (who owned Quality Craft and Scale Coat) when baked at 200 degrees-f for about 2 hours the paint would "snap" into place.

The ads called Scalecoat a revolutionary paint that did not need a primer; it could cover in one coat. This was very important to its durability and to the primary purpose for its "invention". Brass is a metal that challenges anything that is applied to it. Railroad models made with brass are typically very detailed - especially parts that are etched. Every layer of paint can hide more of this detail. 

But the real power of the paint was that one ultra thin coat was flexible and durable. A single layer of Scalecoat - especially if it is baked is very difficult to damage. I've had clients tell me they tried to strip my paint jobs and found it to be a strenuous job. I believe this is because of the paint's covering power and the "snapping" feature of the paint that when baked caused it to hug the surface. This would eventually happen without baking however because the actual process involved is the polymerization of the enamel binder into a plastic like skin. The binder oxidized.from a liquid to a solid.

I've heard that it was actually developed from the paint that the United States Navy used on its vessels. Being a Navy veteran I can believe that; Haze Grey was applied to every thing that didn't move and it was tough stuff. It had to be. Unfortunately I never had occasion to bake it. Wherever Scalecoat came from it could be summed up as advertised in the old magazines. Obviously the manufacturer achieved this remarkable performance by starting with a quality synthetic enamel binder that was less viscus, more heat tolerant and generously colored with pigments that were ground very fine and equally heat tolerant. I have had metal temperatures as high as 400 degrees-f with no effect on the paint.

Labels from the 1980 indicate the volatile organic compounds (V.O.C.) in Scalecoat was 58% which means the pigment and binder made up the other 42% of the mix. I had heard that the paint could be airbrushed straight from the bottle and I tried that a few times. It could be done many years ago but I've never tried it with later productions of the product. With the scarcity of the paint I would recommend thinning with straight Xylene even over the last manufacturers thinner. The recommended ration of thinner to paint is 1:2 in favor of the paint.

There were additives to the paint that accelerated drying time but these are still unknown to me. The Flat clear and Loco Black probably used Bees Wax as a flattening agent. 

I'll emphasize again that this is purely from my own research and not an official History. I used magazine advertisements, the Weaver Models History page on their website as well as the Walthers catalogs and a site I highly recommend no matter what scale you model, HO Seeker, as sources.

In June 1967, Iron Horse Models of Birmingham, Alabama started advertising "Iron Horse Paint" as a revolutionary new paint (MR, June 1967, page 18).  They listed 15 colors that included Locomotive Black, Graphite and Oxide Red as low gloss locomotive colors.. 

If you look up the address of  The Iron Horse on Google Map you will find a rather nice home located in a hilly, brush covered subdivision. Information on the home indicates it was built in the early 1960s and in 1967 it was about 5 years old. Apparently Iron Horse Models was a home business.

When the product first appeared on the market the volatile was a combination of Xylene and Toluene. This changed to only Xylene; probably in the late 1970s as the "greenies" began expanding their anti lead campaign into all things too nasty for even big boys to play with. Into the '80s only Xylene was listed on the label but in 1988 Federal Law required the label to include the ASTM D4236 assurance that the manufacture was responsibly warning of those nasties. How ever we may feel about such markings they can help us date the paint and draw understanding of its history.

In the beginning most of the colors were gloss but their excellent Loco Black 1 (S-1, S-1001) along with oxide Red and Graphite were matte. Later nearly all colors were gloss with only the Loco Black remaining matte. At the end of product Minute Man Scale Models added many flat colors. 

By 1970 Iron Horse Models had nearly doubled the catalog of color as well as a flat and glossy clear coat. There was never a satin or semi gloss clear until  Minute Man Scale Models acquired the line.

In November of 1967 the name of the product was changed to Scalecoat (spelling per ad) though the company name remained "Iron Horse Models" (not to be confused with PSC Iron Horse Models). From that point until December 1969 (so far as we are able to find) the paint was always sold by Iron Horse in Alabama. After Dec. 1969 Iron Horse Models disappeared.

As near as we can tell, Quality Craft Models (QCM) was established in May or June 1965. Their official history (online) establishes as fact that the Weavers started QCM in 1965. In the June 1966 Model Railroader (MR) the company announces its first anniversary with a big sale. At that time their address was a P.O. box in Villa Vista, Pennsylvania.

When we continue this discussion we'll see a transition in ownership and start examining the line, how it expanded and some of the changes that occurred.