Monday, April 24, 2023


In September of 1984 I graduated with an associate degree in Civil Drafting. At the same time the 4th National Narrow Gauge Convention took place in Denver. The following month we moved back to Colorado Springs.

Conoco no. 5 as of the late 1930s

Technical drawing depends upon the ability to assimilate precision of detail into a graphic message. (They are often considered legal documents.) The ability to lineally plan ahead and the skill to execute the plan are essential to a successful job. Most importantly the drawings must be authentic and correct - after all, they involve the disposition of millions of Dollars. It also pays better than the T.V. repair job that I had while in school. These skills are valuable to the craft of model building and repair work as well.

In the 1920s some C&S Reefers may have been red

The Narrow Gauge convention was the first major model railroading event I had attended. It was a wonderful and enlightening experience. Unlike the National Model Railroad Association conventions, model contests are judged by popular vote. I had entered a few local contests but never with any results. I entered a few models in the N.N.G.C. that year - with the same results. Maybe the models I entered were good, as time might prove, but because the contest wasn't "officially" judged the merits of any model were not directly meaningful. That's part of the reality of a popular vote. Years later we joked about entering Brio or Thomas "toy" trains as models to see how well they would do. After the convention I gave popular vote contests a lot of thought.

Refrigerator 597 was once a Tiffany car

The move from Parker to Colorado Springs put an end to my layout building for a very long time. There would be an occasional shelf layout and even another module for the Slim Rail group but because of the space demanded by O scale there wasn't much opportunity to build an actual layout. We moved into a home that was as big as the one in Parker but there wasn't a space suitable to work with. What I had was a small work bench upon which to build models.

This plain coal car was built in 1902

The events of 1984 had a marked effect upon the direction of my hobby. With no real layout project all of my railroading efforts went into building models. My enjoyment of history was always a part of model railroading but under the circumstances I found myself indulging in the merger of model building and historical study. I realized each model could become a part of the overall historical narrative. This heightened the dedication to accuracy toward authentic representation of the prototypes. For the next decade modeling was a pursuit of this type of authenticity.

How this box appeared, when built in 1898


At that time there was no detailed narrative of the Colorado & Southern narrow gauge freight roster. There were listings of car classes and serial numbers with rough dates pertaining to the cars existence but there was no compiled history. Specific questions were difficult to answer.

It was no longer enough to just build models from general drawings and photos. These are essential but they are limited to the moment and plane on which they were created. My models had to become story tellers. In order to make that possible I had to know how and where the real equipment came from, what they "did", and what happened to them, There was an actual coal car 4319 (there still is). My model had to tell its story as accurately as I could make it.

The 550 series of reefers were the heaviest freight cars on the n.g.

Perhaps that was a distracted notion but I saw it as worthwhile. I set out to be as thorough and accurate as the available information - where ever I could find it - could afford me. I like to believe many modelers benefited from these efforts and that a better understanding of the C&S evolved because of it.

The models shared in this post represent the individual stories that each of the prototypes had to tell. In future posts of this series I will try to share some of these and other stories; as well as that of the models themselves. Perhaps next time we will start with that funny looking car in the photo below.

The Chalk Creek Toboggan

Monday, April 10, 2023

7th Street Shops; Pre-History Part 5

"The townsite of Romley is located at roughly 10,500' ASL near the base of the north shoulder of the ridge running more or less southward to the peak of Pomeroy Mt. El. 13,161' ASL. Just to it's east runs the small creek of Pomeroy Gulch which empties into Chalk Creek north east of the town site..."

Romley (formerly Murphy's Switch) about 1900

In the summer of 1910 the Colorado & Southern mainline still came west down Trout Creek Canyon, crossed the Arkansas River and continued up Chalk Creek to the top of Altman Pass. This was the location of the Alpine Tunnel which passed thru the Continental Divide at that point.

In those days Buena Vista was a short branch from the Wye at Schwanders located at the bottom of Trout Creek Canyon before the line crossed the River.

Romley depot & boarding - ? artist (1950s?).


In late summer Trout Creek washed out the line and in the fall of 1910 a small cave-in at the Tunnel cut off the entire Gunnison Division. This isolated the Chalk Creek line completely and suddenly there was a microcosm of the narrow gauge from Buena Vista to Hancock. It was a sad moment in the Railroad's history but fortuitous for a modeler with limited space and budget. I had planned one day to model most of the branch but at the moment Romley was all I had room for.

In December 1983 my first wife and I rented a home in Parker, Colorado and once again I had a place where I could build a layout. As I recall it was about 10 feet long and 18 or so inches wide. I allowed this was enough room to make a fair representation of the Romley station in 1/4" scale..

Traffic on the line was light and rarely was there more than one locomotive for 3 trains a week. It wasn't long before traffic to Hancock and Romley became the west terminal. Buena Vista had the most activity but it was a pair of very long tracks where cars were collected for exchange to and from Leadville. The Denver & Rio Grande line up the Arkansas River to Leadville was the only connection the road had to the rest of the system. Buena Vista would have been as interesting as Romley but the latter with it precipitous location seemed more interesting to model and was a better choice for the room I had.

Since the track above Romley was no longer maintained, the wye at Hancock was out of reach. A turntable was put it just above the depot in 1915. The large depot that was moved from Hancock in 1890 burned down in 1908 and a new smaller depot was built at Romley. I found a watercolor at an antique show that I instantly recognized and purchased very cheap (the artist is unknown). This was some years after the layout had been dismantled but it still contributed to my understanding of the location. The painting shows, left to right, the 2 story boarding house and the stable behind it. Across the road was the depot and the Post Office below it. The road on the left goes up to the Mary Murphy Mine. If you study the first photo you will see how the structures related the same.

The tram house just above the grade

The layout included Pomeroy Gulch and iron truss bridge. I laid my track as much as I could discern up to the depot - which was never ready for this layout. I advanced the scenery fairly well and eventually had a few representative buildings but there were a lot of compromises. My knowledge of the location was still very limited in 1983; very little detail was available in what few books I could obtain or what I could find on location. We had visited the site a few years earlier and camped on the town site below the grade. By then most of the structures were collapsed or gone.

The Pomroy iron truss bridge - 1981

The photo below was very helpful in building the bridge. The cars on my bridge were scratch built using Grandt Line parts and trucks. This was before San Juan Car Co. offered O scale kits of the cars in the early1990s. In fact, they used my drawings of the cars to develop the kits.

Some time in the 1890s the railroad built a trestle behind the truss bridge in order to extend the passing track down line from the gulch. You can see this extension in the top photo. I was not aware of the trestle when I built this layout as there was no evidence of it when we camped there in the summer of 1981. This trestle was apparently abandoned by 1918, the date of the layout, and I incorrectly double tracked the truss bridge.

Several scratch built box cars over the bridge

This would be a morning view at Romley

So far as I know there was never a coaling platform - or any locomotive facilities except for the turntable - at Romley. The platform seen here was a kit of the coaling platform at Alpine Station at the Pacific end of the Tunnel. I don't remember who made the kit but I built one and plopped it down here.
No. 62 approaches St. Elmo
 As the layout grade extended a few feet beyond the bridge I optimistically planted a station sign for St. Elmo which was a few miles from Romley. Golf was a station between where the railroad serviced a huge 100 stamp mill. The mile marker and elevation on the post are correct for the location indicated. 

My locomotive was the 1/4" scale no. 62, that I had previously converted from the no. 60 kit. I created the illusion of smoke from the stack with ink dyed cotton on a wire that was attached to the cinder catcher and wiggled during a slow shutter exposure. Today we would Photoshop the smoke into the photo.

The engine was accompanied by several freight cars, Many of them were pre C&S cars letters for the current company. By 1918 the railroad had gotten rid of most of these cars partly because of Interstate Commerce Commission laws. Most of the cars were scratch built but the combine was a modified kit who's maker I do not remember. It represented C&S no. 22. At this point I did not have a caboose. It wasn't necessary because the combine doubled as the caboose. I built the Don Winters caboose after we moved to Colorado Springs later in 1984. However, I probably purchased the kit at the 4th National Narrow Gauge Convention in Denver of that year.
The one freight car that was built from a kit was the Model Masterpiece composite frame coal car in the last color photo.
The yard at Romley

I believe I scrapped this layout when we moved from Parker; though it seems part of it was in a spare bedroom in the house we rented in Colorado Springs. As I grew to understand the station more I became dissatisfied with the layout. I felt I could do better when a larger space became available, But by the time that happened I had moved on to another part of the railroad and adopted another scale. In the meantime there would be another, smaller shelf layout of this location in O scale.

I have visited Romley many times and each time a little more of it has disappeared. The last time I went thru Romley was in 2006 on our way to the 26th National Narrow Gauge Convention in Durango. We crossed over Hancock Pass (12,140' ASL), a fairly mild 4-wheel road and followed the railroad grade down to U.S. Hwy 50. Then from Montrose we headed south over Red Mountain Pass to Durango. We did it all in my infamous 1998 Jeep

My incorrect depiction at the Watercolor location
No 62 in comparison to my stock No. 60

Wrangle. That was a long day and the long way from Denver. As I recall we rode the Georgetown Loop and the Leadville Railroad to Climax while we were at it. Wow! We did all that in one day?


Tuesday, April 4, 2023

Tribute - Harry Brunk 2

The Hullkill mine head above Idaho Springs
I first encounter Harry Brunk in the pages of the "Narrow Gauge & Short Line Gazette". I discovered the "Slim Gauge News" at about the same time, but Harry's presence there was not readily apparent. Harry was the Leighton Slough of the "News" who wrote the column, "The HOn3 Scene". The SGN was published 1971 - 1974.

"The HOn3 Scene", which was an informative column meant to keep HOn3 modelers appraised of new HOn3 stuff, usually started with Leighton describing a recent adventure or encounter with another character devised out of phonetic "engineering". Leighton, a retired Yard Master (and crusty old Coloradoan) of the U.C.&N. Ry. was apparently in charge of a water stop with a leaky tank. He put up with the dripping noise on a plank under the tank for 6 months before finally getting fed up enough to fix it - in the dead of winter. ("Hmmmm..." says another crusty old Coloradoan.)

Could this perhaps be Leighton's water tank? 
The intrepid Leighton (Winter 1973 SGN) drained the tank, collected all of his tools and materials in a bucket and went up the ladder with the rope tied to himself and to the bucket still on the ground. He chipped away the ice and snow to open the hatch but when he turned to pull the bucket up the mere tug on the rope caused him to slip on the snow. That sent him flying off of the roof. However, the rope got tangled in the top of the ladder and stopped him high enough that he bounce off of the side of the tank. Of course, he was just out of reach of the ladder and naturally, even a sneeze would send him to the ground.
The famous church in Georgetown
And, that's where Leighton suddenly realized he was rambling and got on with business. Well! I guess you could say Leighton - Harry - was good at tales of suspense. He leaves Leighton hanging, as it were, in a rather precarious position - not just hanging off of a water tank - but in the dead of a cold Colorado winter. I don't recall that he ever explained how he got out of that fix. You might get the impression; perhaps Leighton was just yarnin' - being a bit of a yarn himself.
St. Charles type box car converted from a RGM kits

A wayside industry near Georgetown
The famous Devils Gate Bridge from the backside

I count it fortunate to have been friends with Harry Brunk. As described in the previous part of this Tribute, Daryl Leedy, Bob Axsom, Joe Crea (trip 1) or Mike Pine (trip 2) and I jumped in a car on a Saturday morning and drove the 3 or so hours from Denver to where Harry and Bobby lived in central Nebraska. Each time we stayed a few hours, soaked in the stories, the layout and the good company and then stopped on the way home in the small town for dinner.

 UC&N stray box spotted at Bath, C&S - 1909 (Sn3)
On our second visit I learned that Harry and another modeler had exchanged cars from each other's roads. Since I modeled in Sn3 an exchange wasn't really an option so I asked if he would letter one of my cars. Since my modeling period was some 25 years earlier than the U.C.&N. Harry applied the older herald that was more appropriate for a car of his road to show up on my early C&S layout. I sent a car already painted and he graciously lettered and weathered it. This car is one of my treasured possessions.

During the visit we talked about the pros and cons of the scales we each modeled. He described how the HOn3 engines tended to burn up motors relatively often and he regularly had to re motor a model. Naturally, (having become utterly disgusted with HOn3 shortcomings more than once) I talked up my satisfaction with Sn3. Harry was not about to convert - of course - and it wasn't my intent to sway him but he did express his admiration for the scale. If I recall, I sent him a Cimarron Works box car kit in appreciation for lettering my car. I have no idea if he ever built it.

0200 is a Type II rebuild. 0107 is a  St. Charles rebuild
We continued to correspond after we moved to Montana. One day he sent me pictures that were especially interesting. The 2 photos were of 3 U.C.&N. cinder cars Harry scratch built. Like all of his rolling stock they were C&S prototypes. This was especially interesting because I had researched the cars over 20 years earlier and thereafter several great models had been built. Moreover, Berlyn Locomotive Works imported a R.T.R. model in O scale. Modelers like Harry using my efforts to enrich their experience is the reward that made the effort worthwhile.
Another St. Charles conversion

The first photo was of a 1907 (Type II) coal car (0200 in the upper photo) converted to a cinder car. On the C&S it was 1 of 15 rebuilt with side dump doors and sent to the Black Hills in 1913. The U.C.&N story was likely parallel this. Several years later they were returned to the C&S as cinder cars. But it was the other cars in the photos that were of particular interest to me. These are models of cars that the C&S rebuilt from St. Charles built cars purchased by the Union Pacific Denver & Gulf in 1898
St. Charles conversion before 1910 (On3)
The C&S took over the U.P.D.& early in 1899 and they converted 8 of them (plus an earlier coal car) into side dump cars between 1903 & 1906. But they were not for collecting cinders. They were built to haul mining tailings onto trestles throughout the system to dump and fill in the trestles. They were designated non-revenue cinder cars thereafter.
Prior to 1990 I had been researching the C&Sng freight roster to developing a series of informative drawings that were more than just representation of the railroad's narrow gauge freight cars. The subject of one of the drawings was this cinder car. I built an O scale model from the drawings with working doors and dogs and a complete underframe in 1990. That year it won the Caboose Hobbies Best of Show Award at the Rocky Mountain Division NMRA Regional Convention. The car was featured in the Aug. 1991 "Model Railroader".
If you compare our models you may notice certain differences. Both versions are correct for the  intended time periods we each modeled. 7th Street Shops now offers a complete collection of the drawings on our website. This car and several others as well as additional details are included in the 25 sheet set.
Bob's Unimat lathe / mill

After we returned to Denver, Bob, who had taken many photos over both visits assembled a viewing program for the rest of us to enjoy. Some of those photos are shared here.

In 2008 Bob hired me to paint 4 of his C&S Sn3 brass locomotives. This was before 7th Street Shops was formed. I visited his home in Denver a few times and on one occasion I noticed he had a Unimat lathe. I expressed an interest in it if he was inclined to sell it. He promised to give me first crack at it if that happened.
Sadly, Bob was in declining health. He quit his job at Caboose Hobbies and began selling off his model railroad collection. Robert Axsom passed away in 2014 after Vicki and I had moved to Montana. One day I received an email from his widow. She informed me that Bob had willed the Unimat to me. I was stunned. I had long ago forgotten about the machine and this was completely unexpected. In honor of Bob I attached an engraved tag and will keep the Lathe as another of my treasured possessions.
Tokens? Memories! Of good friends who I won't forget nor forget to share.