Tuesday, June 27, 2023

The influence of Contest Success - Part 9

Collection of On3 Colorado & Southern freight cars as of summer 1986

The above photo was among the first model photos taken with the Omega view camera. After selling the Mamya 645 (120 film) I purchased in 1981 I mail ordered the large format camera in the summer of 1986. 

My then wife and I use to go out several times each year on various trips around Colorado; camping, exploring and of course, shutter buggin'. When I had the Canon F-1 (35mm) I practiced bracketing (burning lots of film with varying exposures) in order to collect a few excellent shots. I upgraded to the Mamya and began taking the time to set up each frame for the results I wanted. This, of course, tried my dear wife's patience (she was still using 35mm) because she could shoot half a roll to my 1 frame. But my interest continued along this practice to the point I felt the "need" to converted to the 4"x5" format.

The 3 box cars in front of the collection above were entered in the popular vote contest at the 6th National Narrow Gauge Convention in Denver that September. Photos of the contest winners by the Gazette staff photographer (Bob Brown) appeared in the Nov. / Dec. issue, 1986 . The box cars were included because they were award 1st place in the freight car category. That win was my first success in any Model Railroading contest. That win also initiated another first; I was invited by the editor of the Gazette (Bob Brown) to write an article about the cars for the magazine. Naturally, photos were required.

All of the photos shown here were taken between September and November 1986. The Article was completed and sent to publication on 25 Nov. according to the note on the original manuscript. At that time we lived in Colorado Springs at the North Wasatch address.

I would eventually write 5 articles for the Gazette, 2 for Model Railroader, the freight car text in the R Robb Grandt book "Narrow Gauge Pictorial No. 8" and a host of articles in less known publications including, finally, a piece in the On30 Annual for 2014. This contest was indeed a game changers

Again, none of this is meant as boasting. It is simply the resume of the enormous foundation of experience upon which 7th Street Shops has been built. 

The models shown in the above collection represents a substantial investment in time. The San Juan Car Co. owned by John Parker would later use the drawings we produced under our brand, "the C&S Connection", to produce their O scale kits of the Type II box cars. That was perhaps 1990 but in 1986 the only way to obtain most of the cars, in any scale, was to scratch build them. In addition to accurate information, the point of "the C&S Connection" was to produce parts, such as the roofs, to reduce the time it took to make accurate models.

This brings up a particular point I've talked about for years; the idea of investing time in the "Doing"...

"doing: the act of performing or executing: action that will take a great deal of doing." - M. Webster

That is the clinical definition. The comprehensive definition of  "doing" model railroading, in particular scratch building, would take volumes. Or maybe a hyperactive blog. "Doing" scratch building would include information gathering, conversion of that information into practical presentation such as drawings, timeline charts (to register details to relative eras) and other text, designing and generating parts not readily available, planning out the best way to build the model and executing all of it to produce the actual scale model - yeah, and y'all thought this was just a hobby! 

The term scratch building came out of the early days of the hobby when you couldn't even buy rail let alone track. Early model railroaders were often professional machinists."Scratch building" today has a rather diluted definition of what it was in the old days. There was no computer aided drafting, virtual modeling and rapid prototype printing. You did it with physical capability and a mythological "power" which seems almost extinct these days called CRITICAL THINKING.!

In this day of instant everything, it seems "doing " turns out to be more pursuing than doing. We pursue instant.gratification as if we are practically, almost always, out of time. We've developed a mindset of the Time-Money continuum. We continue to spend more money just so we don't have to spend more time.

When we do build models we often build from kits where all of the parts and the thought-out convenience of how to put them together are provided for us. Of course, what's even better is when some 3rd world high school girl puts it together. Now it r RTR - ready to run; for you! The soul of this hobby has always been in building models; and even trees are models on a layout. Running trains is a reward of the "doing". Not the doing itself. If you want to play a game pull out your palm-god and have at it. But to experience model railroading; indulge in the actual craft of doing a model. The rewards of that are enormous and addictive.

Trophy awarded to the Box Car entry

After observing both local contests and the 4th N.N,G. Convention, I came to realize that popular vote contests were a matter of eye appeal as much as technically correct detail. Of course, the detail was intrinsic to convincing the viewer that this was an authentic representation (which most observers were clueless to prove anyway). Therefore it became clear that the appearance had to be striking, appealing and convey a sense that the viewer was about to learn something. 

Therefore I entered the cars as a group on a display that beckoned more attention; it was engaging. The use of a mirror under each car on an elevated track enabled the viewer to study the underside of the models without touching them. Each mirror was labeled so that the viewer would see that each car had a technical message that both related it to the others and yet set it apart. In spite of the gimmickry, knowledge was to be had for the taking. That made the display valuable to the observer. Apparently there was substance to my reasoning.

How the contest entry appeared on the display table

The photo to the left shows how the cars were set up on the contest table and more or less how they appeared in the "Gazette" review. On the left 8074 represented a group of cars built by 1907 that used the same components / technology as the 1902 coal cars except with 9" side sills. A couple of box cars were built 1903 - '06 with 12" sills but these were probably considered "over built" since the enclosed box above the frame would have been structurally superior to the open top box of a coal car. That translated into a waste of material and therefore a waste of money, And money - making it - was the sole purpose of the railroad. 

The Type I cars (coals, flats and boxes 1902 - 1906) used cast body bolsters provided by American Car & Foundry (ACF). They rolled on ACF 4'-0" archbar trucks.The 8074 showed how the bolster, meant for a 12" side sill, was fitted to a 9" side sill by sandwiching a 3" block between the bolster and bottom of the sill. 

A clearer view of each frame type
The photo to the right may help clarify the differences between each type of frame. Practically everything above the frame was the same regardless of the frame type. In fact the classification by "historians" as "Type x" was never prototypical. The railroad never used the terms type or phase. They distinguished wood frames from composite frames but that was a pretty broad definitive. To the railroad a box car was a box car regardless of the frame and the only thing unique about it was the road number.

The C&S built all of its own narrow gauge freight cars after 1900. By the end of 1907 they had completed the first run of the type II cars as box, coal and stock cars. In the display 8192 represented a Type II car. The changes were a cast bolster designed for a 9" sill and the new cars rolled on cast trucks with inside hung brake beams. Both the trucks and bolsters were supplied by Bettendorf Axle Corp and the trucks were distinguished as the Bettendorf type. 

The only other change to the Type II house cars was the metal Murphy roofs. In the photo below the additional car simple underscored that the type II cars were originally equipped with the narrow ribbed roof as on 8216. The roof on 8192 was a rebuilt style, less complex and easier to maintain.

The additional car showed a Type II car with the original roof

Finally, 8216 represented the Type III cars. The railroad began using a steel underframe "kit". BAC supplied the "kits" with trucks. The C&S first used this hardware on their new refrigerators since 1898. Twenty composite frame reefers were built at 7th Street (Denver) in late 1908 into 1909. The cars had wooden frames but the sills and stringers were smaller in dimension. This was because the wooden frame rested on top of the steel underframe. 

Most of the photos shown here and more appear in the March / April 1987 "Narrow Gauge & Short Line Gazette". 

Sunday, June 4, 2023

Telling Tales - Harry Brunk Tribute 4


"Your time period is a good one. The mix of equipment, freight cars, gives you a chance for some real variety. The only thing you lack is the beartrap. (My thinking only, of course.)

  "To fit in a 28 foot boxcar in my number scheme worried me until I realized that was what 200 to 209 was for. 210 starts the St. Charles cars. Then I remembered, checked, and sure enough, the car at Forks is a shorter car, so it can't be numbered to go with your Sn3 model, as a visual record of historic note. But WAIT! the car on the ground at Black Hawk near the turntable is just right. Have had a desire to dress it, and the immediate area up a bit, anyway. It is in process even now. It will show remnants of block lettering, and the very weathered number 205, I think.
 "Which brings up a point for discussion. Just how much weathering should your railroad be displaying on a block letter monogrammed car? Always some latitude, even though the block lettering would be the newer scheme showing at the time you are modeling. Don't want a fresh from the shops paint job, or do you? Think of Bob's weathered UC&N car, and give me an idea how close or far from that would seem right to you. Now we both agree, weathering isn't regular or predictable across an entire fleet of freight cars, and we both have seen examples of even recently painted cars that really got the ---- beat out of them. I plan no extremes, however. Then, in the 1930s, Bob's car has had at least some touch up work done, all be it not too recently. I'm remembering some block lettered C&S coal cars in the late teens that showed weathering is darned near a matter of choice, as to extreme or otherwise. 'Course these were coal cars, but box cars were normally only slightly less prone to getting messy, some times. Seems to almost bring it full circle, to the point that anything could still be right. Let me know your own personal druthers.
  "Enjoyed the visit, talk, and all. But have a feeling the host could have toured the line, and gotten a little more out there for you all, even as fast as the time flew by."

Car (shed - lower center) was apparently a 26' car

This email was dated 28 May 2008. I left the car with Harry to letter UC&N when the 4 of us visited Little Colorado a second time. This email makes clear Harry was having fun figuring out how to fit the Sn3 box car into his Union Central & Northern scheme of things. He actually could have used his first choice - that 26' car at Forks Creek - shown in the photo to the left because my car was a 26' car. But I am happy with what he did just the same nor does it change the story one bit. And that is what is most important to me (see Pre-History Part 5).
This all came about because I had discovered a modern (Sn3) box car decorated UC&N on our mutual friend's (Bob Axsom) layout at some point before our second visit. I asked Harry before hand if he would give one of my cars the same treatment. He agreed and I hand carried a built up and painted "The Cimarron Works" South Park box car to Little Colorado on our second visit.
As a modern car Bob's Sn3 model could have been a clone of an active car on the UC&N or it could have been a vacant number that simply never showed up on the home road. I never found that out, Nor was I particularly looking for my model to somehow fit into the scheme of things at Little Colorado. That was and still is one of those special, unexpected gifts that came with the package. Harry was willing and seemed to enjoy sharing the magic of the UC&N and to extend it beyond its own physical bounds. I recognize and honor this UC&N connection provided to the Trout Creek layout even to this day. 

The TC line is more oriented toward the integrity of history nevertheless, it is - or was - a fantasy in its own right. The model railroads of the past are every bit History as the  12" to the foot scale types that are just as locked into the past as the UC&N. So far as I know - especially in 1:64th scale - only Bob's car and mine have this distinction. It very well could be that Harry did similar cars in HO but the Sn3 C&S community was and still is so small I believe I would know about any such models.

This was the fate of UC&N 205 by 1932

In his message Harry describes how he arrived at the particular road number he gave my car. Thinking ahead he left the first 10 box car assignments (200 - 209) blank so that older box cars could show up on the layout as small shed structures. The 26, 27, and 30 foot cars that came to the C&S when that company was incorporated  (late 1898) are generally referred to as "inherited" cars because they came to the new company by way of several Union Pacific related roads between 1881 and 1898. Modern cars were built for and by the C&S between 1898 and 1910. By 1920 nearly all inherited cars were gone or at best set out as small "structures" scattered over C&S property. A few were sold to private citizens for the same purpose. Thus Harry provided the UC&N with a reserve of logical road numbers to represent this practice. Into that pool he reached to call on 205 as part of the history of the UC&N - what an honor!.
The Trout Creek layout was that portion of the C&S set in 1910 that I modeled. It was built with the intent to closely follow the historical narrative of the prototype. Inherited cars were still very much in abundance in 1910 and models on the TC layout were appropriately dated. This collaboration between 1930s UC&N and 1910 C&S unexpectedly created an opportunity of story telling. And is it not the story that gives life to our efforts?

A few years (1936) later the car was more deteriorated

The Tale
Uncle Bender was a young Arkansan who took up adventure in Colorado around the turn of the century. He also took up a camera and a collection of photographs that he eventually passed on to his posterity; myself among them. In his collection were found a number of views of the Colorado & Southern narrow gauge dating from summers of 1909 and '10. He apparently spent the '09 summer in Buena Vista about 20 miles west of Trout Creek Pass. He  captured both Denver & Rio Grande and Colorado Midland trains as well but I don't have access to those photos.
He happened to catch an unusual sight at the wye located at Bath. By this time Bath (or Hill Top) was closed as a station. Heavy laden trains with several engines would labor up the pass from either direction and then cut off the helpers which were turned and send back to help the next train. But that wasn't what Bender saw on this day.


Uncle Bender caught 205 one 1909 afternoon at Bath

I should explain that Colorado narrow gauge roads typically owned and operated mostly their own rolling stock, Foreign equipment on their systems was not common but it did happen. There isn't any record why a UC&N car found its way the top of Trout Creek Pass. That isn't the story - lest we make something up. It was there that Uncle Bender recorded it on film. That's the story; at least part of it. Read on.
The car showed up at more than one location that demonstrated a certain presents over perhaps months - maybe longer. But eventually it made its way back home because we see in Bender's photos more than 20 years later little 205 relegated to shed status at Black Hawk, Little Colorado. Yes, in the 1930s after teaching school in Arkansas Bender returned to Colorado and ventured up Clear Creek Canyon,
What he witnessed was the changes put upon the railroads by the Interstate Commerce Commission that required the presents of greater safety equipment on all railroad equipment that could potentially cross state lines. Like the C&S, the UC&N scrapped or reassigned old worn out cars rather that refit them to the new requirements. And so the prodigal went home to be taken off of its trucks and set on the ground as a shed.

Better that - I guess - rather than being torched to recover the metal...
A few weeks later he caught it again at Longs Creek

 That's the story; in all of its "excitement". Please enjoy Uncle Bender's photos - and more importantly join in my gratitude and honor in memories of my friend Harry Brunk.