Modeling Ideas

Last week we took the Amtrak Capital Corridor train from Emeryville to Sacramento and walked over to the California State Railroad Museum. I had never been there before and it is really a great place.

Picture 004

Pretty winter day in Old Sacramento.

Picture 005

Picture 013

Picture 017

We had the place pretty much to ourselves in the morning.

Picture 028

Picture 036

Picture 038

Picture 056

Picture 058

Picture 059

Picture 064

Picture 066

Picture 072

Picture 074

Picture 078

SP 4294

SP 4294

SP 4294

Picture 105

Picture 126

Picture 129

Picture 130

There are more photos at my pages on Flickr.

Walt Disney was a model railroader. Indeed, his idea of Disneyland was as a huge walk-in, live-in complete model railroad. Recently the Walt Disney Family Museum opened in San Francisco.


We just went this morning and it is a very nice display of the work and life of Walt Disney.

Photography is prohibited inside but some folks over at Mouse Planet have a great set of pictures and a detailed description.


My rating of the museum? It is a MUST SEE for die hard Disney fans.

For everyone else the quality and richness of the environment and displays is very impressive. If you are an autistic or aspie (and/or have one in your family like we do) bring earplugs because the audio in the displays can be a bit overwhelming otherwise. The price  is appropriate for the quality of the displays ($20 for adults, $12 for kids) but may be too high for some families.

David Lyman a.k.a. Dan D. Sparks posts a great description of how he makes and applies home-made decals to his Birney car project. Really nice work.

Photo by David Kyman, Dan D. Sparks

Photo by David Lyman, Dan D. Sparks

There has been a wave of Warhammer 40K modeling and game playing sweeping my place of employment lately. A common scale is what is called “25 mm” and is taken as 1:72 scale.

I think the methods routine in this modeling genre can be really effective for HO modeling. I found a horse that no one wanted and decided to do some painting.

Step four - all done

I went for a softer, to my eye, more realistic look. Here’s how I did it:

First I assembled and primed the model.

step one: primer

The detail in the castings is really impressive.

step one: primer

Next I roughed in the main colors.

Step two: rough broad colors

I detailed the edges and details like the harness. I used a dark wash of Burnt Umber followed by highlighting with white or light brown (depending on what I was edging).

Picture 001

Lastly, I used Dullcote and Polly S “Dust” to flatten out the shine.

This is not a big model

I did the eyes with a black ball-point pen.

Picture 036

This was really fun and took me about two hours not counting drying time.

I haven’t written much lately but I’ve been building a LOT. As I mentioned in July, We moved to a new house with a workshop . The plan was to use the shop space for the layout (of course) and a workshop space for model building.

So much for plans. We’ve started teaching “build stuff” workshops on weekends for
teenagers/young adults. We started with a three month class meeting for four hours on Saturdays. That filled so we added a Sunday section. The projects are really great and since part of what the kids are doing will be blogging about their work I’ll just show a sample of what they are doing and I’ll provide a link to their blogs once they are up.

Ian is building an Airbus 380 in 1/144 scale.

Picture 004

Nick is building a micro layout in HO with a bridge and tunnel – the only model railroad project!

Picture 027

Sarah is building a fantasy diorama of a bed flying over a city at night.

Picture 059

Peter is building a super complex Gundam kit with a bagillion pieces.

Picture 012

Phoebe is making a ¾” scale room box of a Vamire’s Steampunk style home.

Picture 055

We’re all taking turns practicing airbrush and other painting techniques on my old model of the Millennium Falcon.

Millennium Falcon model

Kris is building a 1/48 scale tank for a diorama.

Picture 007

Not pictured: Reggie’s free-lanced 12” Globe, Devon’s Manga stage model and Steven’s world of eraser people.

It’s a huge amount of work but also tremendous fun.


Corte Madera Creek trestle. Facing east, north is to the left.

One of the clearest remaining artifacts of the Northwestern Pacific Railroad in southern Marin County is the Corte Madera Creek trestle and bascule span.

I’ve always been attracted to the railroad-to-water interface and this captures a lot of that charm and has a lot of small elements that could be incorporated into a layout.

Built in their current form in 1923, these were designeted by the railroad as two bridges: the North and South Corte Madera Creek approaches and both were specified by the railroad as structure number 14.61 with a combined length of 1,252 feet.

The bridge was originally two side-by-side bridges (the trestle is one track but the bascule may be seen to be two-track) for the orginal dual track main line but was single track for as long as I can recall, back through the 1970s.

I assumed the number 14.61 referred to miles from either Tiburon (SF&NP mileposts) or maybe Sausalito (NPC or NS mileposts) but this location is about 5.6 rail miles from Tiburon and 8.5 rail miles from Sausalito so I’m stumped. The mystery was solved when I found that Milepost 0.0 is the San Francisco Ferry Building, south across the bay so the 14.61 signifies “miles from San Francisco.”

Google Earth kmz file to the location

The bridges are largely intact other than the recent removal of the rails and 165 feet of the north end that crossed East Sir Francis Drake Blvd — thanks to damage caused by an idiot colliding with the bridge in a too-tall truck.

There is a foot/bike path nearby which is a nice spot to take pictures. The bridge is climbing a short sharp grade leading up into the tunnel number 3 on the way to San Rafael.


Almost the same view in 1949 with NWP 178 and leased SP 2336.

Corte Madera Creek







Note the galvanized steel caps on the piles. This is where the truck-damaged section of the bridge was cut away.





I recently mentioned to my wife that one of the books that got me interested in small railroads as a child was Dorothy Newell Deane’s 1960 book Sierra Railway, which I found in my grandparents’ library as a child. That original book got lost but it got me thinking so I searched at Amazon and several small booksellers were selling copies for various prices. I chose one seller because they were nearby – in Sacramento.

The book arrived promptly (I’ve had excellent luck buying used books through Amazon). It’s a first-edition and in condition as described by the seller.

Sierra Railway

Then I look inside and see the previous owner has written his name: T. Wurm.

Sierra Railway

T. Wurm, Ted Wurm? Ted Wurm is (was?) a prolific author of many railroad books with most being written in the 1950s and 60s focusing on the history of small western railroads. 

Link: Search for Ted Wurm books at Amazon

I have several books he wrote but I never expected to have one of his personal copies.

SP crane

My son and I were walking around Sausalito one bright winter morning on a “photo walk.” I was teaching my son about taking pictures and turned back and saw he was taking a picture in a parking lot. “What’re you looking at?” I asked.

“A crane”

I’m wondering since my son isn’t into birds much, so I walked over and looked.

I had walked by it completely. A nice funky self propelled crane. My son was intrigued by the ship someone had painted on it.

Self propelled crane

We were walking near the old NWP mainline. The last tracks in Sausalito were pulled up in the 1970s. Today it is a mix of boating industry, expensive office space, cheap(ish) warehouse space, and funky artist spaces.

SP crane

SP crane

SP crane

SP crane

My son’s picture of me trying to photograph the cab:

Self propelled crane

Next Page »