Sunday, February 14, 2016

Pursuing the AP Certificate in Prototype Modeling

For the last several years I have been working on the National Model Railroad Association's Achievement Program, with certificates for Author, Electrical Engineering, Structures, and Scenery. The category of Master Builder - Prototype Models is the newest in the Achievement Program, if you can call 1987 new.  This certificate goes beyond Master Builder - Scenery which calls for creating scenery in a prototypical manner, and judges how well one creates a specific prototype scene in miniature.

To qualify, one has to build a model of a prototype scene containing at least six models of prototype equipment and structures.  At least four different tuypes of models have to be represented:
  • Rolling stock
  • Railroad structures
  • Caboose or passenger car
  • Motive power
Any two of these six models have to be scratch built; the rest must be super detailed.  Finally, plans or photographs have to be provided to verify that the model faithfully represents the prototypical scene.

I chose to model the mining town of Robertsdale, Pennsylvania, the southern terminus of the East Broad Top narrow gauge railroad, which operated as a common carrier from 1875 to 1956, and another 50 years or so as a tourist railroad.  Specifically, I wanted to model the four railroad owned and built structures in Robertsdale's company square: The company store, the railroad station, the post office building and the Rockhill Iron and Coal Company office building.  All four of these structures were clustered around the railroad crossing of Main Street.  Three of them still stand; the company store was raised in the 1990s.  In the following photo, the old post office building is on the left, with the station partially visible behind it.  The coal company office building is on the right.  

In addition to the requirements cited above, one has to submit photographs comparing the model to the prototype,  Side by side pictures are encouraged, to show how the model reflects the original. Finally, a detailed written description describing the setting of the model railroad is required, as well as methods and materials used to build the prototype scene.  While all this was a lot of work, it was also fun to set up photos comparing scenes from long ago with the model railroad in my home.  Here is an overview of the company square on my layout.

The old post office is in the lower left corner.  The company offices are the stone buiilding with brick trim in the lower right.  Across the tracks can be seen the company store on the right and the depot in the center, partially blocked by EBT #14 pulling box car #170.  Behind them is EBT combine #14 parked in the front of the station. In order to fit the scene into the available space, Main Street had to curve more sharply to the left than in the prototype.  Otherwise, all buildings are in the correct relationship to each other.

The company store was the first structure erected in Robertsdale when the railroad arrived in 1875.  It was never actually run by the railroad, since Pennsylvania law did not allow mining companies to operate their own stores.  But the building was leased by merchants who provided everything from explosives and mining tools for miners to meat, poultry, clothing, and candy for the families of the miners and railroad men who lived and worked there.  This is a photo of the building in the 1950s.

And here is the same building as scratch built for my layout.  the building was made of styrene covered with stone block self-adhesive paper from Micro Mark.

Coal was mined from a number of shafts and drifts located south of Robertsdale.  Hopper cars were filled with the semi-bituminous "smokeless" coal from tipples and truck dumps.  Then the hoppers were allowed to roll back down to the Robertsdale station, where a track scale weighed the loaded cars.  The scale was a "rolling" type, where the cars were handbraked as they passed over the scale, then rolled further down the track to a siding where the next train north was made up.  Here is a photo of one hopper car rolling over the scale with a brakeman aboard:

And here is the same scene as it appears on my EBT model railroad:

The good people of Robertsdale did what they could to "pretty up" their little mining town  At the center of town a small park was installed, and the flowers carefully tended by the side of the tracks. Here is the scene as it looked in the 1950s:

And here is how it appears on my layout:

In its last days before abandonment, passenger service was discontinued except for the mail train. Often the train consisted only of the M-1 gas electric car, "kit built" by the railroad from parts purchased from Brill:

Here the past lives again on my EBT model railroad:

The model includes scenes of life in a small mining town as recorded in photographs of the time.  Here a group of teenagers is found hanging around the station one summer day.  There wasn't a lot to do in mid-century Robertsdale.

And here is my recreation of that long ago scene.  Not being able to find figures that precisely matched those in the picture, I tapped Woodland Scenics for typical teenagers -- including one who looked more than a little like "the Fonz".

Another old photo showed some local children playing alongside the tracks -- maybe a little too close by modern standards:

Here is a model of the prototype that captures the essence of those small town days.

In the following photo, a south bound train of empty hoppers thunders across Main Street and past the Robertsdale station:

Here is the same scene on my model railroad:

Not everything in Robertsdale revolved around the railroad and the coal mines.  Kids still enjoyed a game of sandlot baseball, with a retired neighbor to cheer them on.  The following scenes have no photographic prototype, but accurately reflect what life was like in those days,

The prototype model received 109 out of 125 possible judging points, and has been submitted to the NMRA for review.  If all goes well, my tally of AP certificates should increase to 5, with two more needed to qualify for Master Model Railroader.  I am already at work on the last two.

Saturday, February 6, 2016

Scratch Building the EBT Mount Union Tank

Among the iconic structures of the East Broad Top Railroad -- the Timber Transfer gantry crane, the Orbisonia station and roundhouse, and the Robertsdale company store -- one would surely have to include the unique water tanks located along the 30 mile mainline from Mount Union to the coal fields of Broad Top Mountain.

The East Broad Top tanks were enclosed in roughly trapezoidal structures to protect them from freezing in cold weather.  While there was a family resemblance among the tanks, from Mount Union to Saltillo to Robertsdale and Wood, each tank has its own individual character.  Originally most or all of them were constructed of rough planks or board and batten siding, with a stove inside to heat the tank and provide respite for crews.  This is a photo of the Mount Union tank in its original form.

The shed on the right is unique to the Mount Union tank.  The tank at Saltillo had a simple lean-to and space inside for a hand car.  Others, like the tank across from Mine #1 at Robertsdale, were utilitarian box-like structures.  Some had wood siding, some Insulbrick, and some were half and half. The Mount Union tank had windows on the front and back, and was used by the yard crews between jobs.  When the above photo was taken in the 1940s, the siding was already in poor shape,  The following photo shows the tank as it appeared around 1950, with the wood siding covered by Insulbrick asphalt shingles.


In the background can be seen the Mount Union engine house with Jack's Mountain in the distance. Below is a view from the back taken after the end of common carrier operations in 1956.  The tank is clearly the worse for wear with the rafters showing under the shake roof.


In the following view from the last years of common carrier service, one of the EBT narrow gauge locomotives is getting a drink from the Mount Union tank, while standard gauge 0-6-0 #3 is steaming into the engine house after a busy day shifting narrow and standard gauge hopper cars loaded with Broad Top coal.


I have always been intrigued by the EBT tanks, which are not often modeled, perhaps because they were so mundane in appearance.  White Ground Models produced a kit for the Saltillo tank many years ago, which can occasionally be found on eBay.  I picked up a couple of them over the years with the intention of modeling the EBT tanks. I also ran across a Model Hobbies kit for a Huntingdon and Broad Top water tank for $1.95 (from VERY long ago!) that looked a lot like the EBT tanks. The Saltillo tank kit contained four basswood walls, cast hydrocal foundations for the tank and shed, windows, door, chimney and parts for the spout and mechanism, but it didn't really resemble the Mount Union structure as it appeared in 1950, the time I model.  For one thing, the sides were board and batten, which did not match either the earlier plank construction or the later Insulbrick siding.


Then I realized that since the board construction can't be seen under the Insulbrick siding, it wasn't necessary to use the basswood walls in the kit, except as templates to cut four walls out of 1/16 inch styrene, which would then be covered with printed paper Insulbrick shingles.  I proceeded to cut out the sides, then score and cut out the openings for the windows and the door.


In the photo, the four walls are shown resting on a sheet of Clever Models brown Insulbrick self-adhesive paper.  The brown seemed too dark to me, but it was the closest I could come to the prototype with what was available from Clever.  Then I had a lucky break.  In searching through my files on the EBT I ran across a set of drawings on the Mount Union tank done by William E. Grant and dated February 9, 1992.  In the same file folder were several sheets of printed Insulbrick siding by William Adams in the same yellowish color seen in the above photos.  The caption on the sheets said the siding was also used on the Coles tank and the Wrays Hill tunnel north portal shanty.  I had completely forgotten I had these on hand!   When I compared the prototype photos with the two paper sidings, it was clear that the lighter color was a more accurate reflection of the original.



I assembled the walls using the Insulbrick walls in the bottom photo.  Doors, windows and corner posts were painted roof brown.  The spout, cables and pull rods were assembled as per the instructions in the kit. A sheet of corrugated metal was installed beneath the spout and painted a rusty brown.  Here is how my water tank looked before the roof was finished or the shed was attached.




The roof is made of triangular sections of cardboard that fit together to make the hip roof.  I opted to use uneven brown shake shingles from B.E.S.T. Models.  They are self-adhesive and easy to install. The most difficult part was the joints between the triangular sections of the roof.  I ended up using pair ofs shakes overlapping from the eaves to the peak to cover the seam between sections,


The lean-to structure on the right side of the tank was actually more difficult than constructing the tank itself, as it had a wood plank front but Insulbrick shingles on the side and back.  It took some finagling to get it all to fit correctly against the side of the tank, which slopes inward.  Bill Adams' drawings indicated that the shed roof was corrugated metal, which I painted black and weathered.

The tank is situated a few yard from the Mount Union engine house, where it is convenient for both standard gauge switchers and road engines to top off their tanks before the next trip.  Here the fireman for EBT 2-8-2 #14 is about to pull down the spout for a fill before heading back south to Rockhill and the roundhouse.