Sunday, January 26, 2014

WEEKEND GETAWAY - Rare Alco, with a steel lineage - Morning Sun books - etc

A bit of an update on trains and life how it affect them.   Usually the holidays are a slow time for my type of business, however, for us it was not so - we were working like crazy right through them, and just when it looked like I might be back to just normal work days, a project installing all the moldings, doors, and trim in a large (6500 sf) custom home, materialized in the space of a few days.  Since our days were still extremely busy I told the builder that we could only work nights on it, so my days have been going like this - 7am-5pm our scheduled projects, hour dinner break, and then 6pm-12 installing trim.    The good news is that I have had the past two weekends off- my first in four months or more.   Last weekend I was part of the local NMRA New Jersey Division layout tours.  I wasn't able to get much done before the tour as I usually am able to, however, I was forced to clean up and organize the basement, something sorely needed down there.  We had about two dozen visitors.  This weekend my wife and myself did a quick weekend get away.  We usually try to do these things every month or two, but with my business we haven't gone away since last July.   We were going to do the Lehigh Valley as we usually have a fun time there, however, at the last minute we decided on the Lancaster, PA area.  Nice mix for both of us as usual - a few train stores and the PA Railroad Museum for me,  outlet stores for her, and antique stores for both of us.
Monongahela Connecting 701 - a rare Alco C-415 at the PA Railroad Museum.   Monongahela Connecting was the in-plant railroad for J&L Steel in Pittsburgh.  This exact locomotive is featured in the Second Diesel Spotters Guide
Behind the Museum is a narrow gauge shunter locomotive - not sure where it came from, possibly a Hulett facility, although I thought I read somewhere it came from the ore docks in Philadelphia.  
One thing I like about the PA Museum, and also with the Strasburg Train Shop (located in the Rockvale outlets now) is their vast selection of Morning Sun books, but more importantly, they have "Store Copies" unwrapped and browsable.   As you know from my recent disappointment with Steel Mill Volume 5 or 6, forget already, I'm always bothered by the expensive gamble you take buying one of these books.  There were four volumes that I was planing on purchasing, that after leafing through, I'm glad I didn't.  The book I did buy, that wasn't even on my radar, was the Pittsburgh and Lake Erie in Color, Vol 2 by Richard C. Borkowski Jr.    This volume covers the P&LE from 1956-1976 (Volume 1 covered the post 1976 P&LE, after they became independent of NYC/Penn Central)    The book has many shots of steel mills from Youngstown to Pittsburgh to Monessen.    Excellent captions throughout with lots of information on train movements, mills, etc...  Best of all, NOT the dreaded locomotive money shots over and over and over - there are plenty, but that's to be expected, put also plenty distance shots with facilities and industries included.  Gives you a much better sense of the environment around which the railroad operated.   I realized after reading through the book for the first time, that the author is the same as for my favorite, the Union Railroad Morning Sun Book.  

Since the area is a destination for plenty of railroad enthusiasts,  the antique stores seem to have an above average amount of railroad related items.  I picked up a Morning Sun, Bessemer and Lake Erie for a modest $25,  and also a number of other railroad books and magazines.  

Friday, January 10, 2014

BOOK REVIEW - Steel Mill Railroads Volume 6

To sum it up - a disappointment.  It looks like the Steel Mill Railroads series has finally "jumped the shark".    The most interesting photo in the book- your looking at it on the front cover.     My problem with this volume is that it isn't about steel mill railroads, as the title professes, but rather, steel mill ENGINES.   Don't get me wrong, I love Baldwin locomotives, which apparently so did southern steel mill operators, however, after 20 or 30 it starts to get boring.  The vast majority of the photos in this book are your Extra 2200 South type locomotive photos.    If you like that sort of thing - the ex Penn Central 1234, ex PLE 5432,..etc..  I guess you might like this, but otherwise don't waste your $55.    There were a number of shots that looked promising - if the photographer or editor had zoomed back from the locomotive a bit so I could actually see more than a small section of the mill in the background.   Much of the text of the captions relates to previous owners of the locomotive, lots about the paint schemes,  spark arrestors on locomotives, re-engineening Baldwin primer movers with EMD,...etc...   boring to me.     There were no maps, and I gained virtually no knowledge about southern steel mill locations, facilities, or operations of any sort.    Some of the very few interesting things - the cover photo, a close up of the air compressor car in the cover photo,  and a caboose from I think, USPipe.  There was a shot of a train of interesting ore jennies, hauling "Venezuelan iron ore" on the "high line" to an ore conditioning plant, but from where?, and what and where did the highline run?.....etc..     One of the few mill shots, was a 1950's vintage "commercial photo" that apparently was sold locally in Alabama or done as a promotional thing - night shot, poor resolution, oh, but if you look real close you can see the ass end of a Porter saddle tank in the open hearth.      My opinion is if there are to be more of these geographic themed volumes, a good template  to follow, would be the Morning Sun Union Railroad Book.  Most of the shots were of entire trains, with the mills visible in the background, so you knew where the trains were going or coming from and had some reference with the mills they served.    There were also maps and amble text describing the operation of the RAILROAD.     Otherwise, change the title to Steel Mill Locomotives of the South or something along those lines.    Of course, since Morning Sun books are wrapped in plastic, they are sort of like a box of Cracker Jacks - you don't know if you are going to get something good or bad until you fork over the money and buy it.  

Monday, January 6, 2014


Some photos of progress.  Many hours of work to get to this point.  I'm deviating from the instructions due to painting considerations.  I'm going with the standard, non-camo scheme - black body and red frame.   The instructions call for attaching the boiler section to the frame early in the assembly process.  Doing so would mean painting many many parts individually that would be added later.   I'm continuing with the assembly and evaluating every part as to whether they can be attached before mating the sub assemblies together.  If I'm not sure, or concerned that they would interfere with future assembly I leave them off.   I've only lost one part - one of the dozen or so clamps for the smoke box door - popped off tweezers and vanished.  I was able to replicate a decent enough replacement from styrene scraps on bench.  Notice the etched brass parts.

Tender frame and body under construction
Boiler and Cab
Loco frame