Model Railroader July 2018

Item #MRR180701-C

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The street cars of San Francisco
by Harvey Simon
It had been more than 15 years since I actively worked on a new layout. After completing the Boston MTA (the subject of a six-part series that appeared in Model Railroader from October 1999 through March 2000) and a coffee table layout (profiled in the September 2001 MR), I finally got the inspiration to try something new when my son and daughter-in-law moved to San Francisco.

San Francisco is the home of a sophisticated rapid transit system, the San Francisco Municipal Transportation Agency, or Muni (, of which the F Line trolleys are an integral part. This line takes passengers between the Castro District and Fisherman’s Wharf. Vintage Presidents Conference Committee (PCC) cars and other streetcars, brought in and refurbished from cities around the world, provide the service.

How to model a 1950s semi-tractor
by Mont Switzer
When it came time to add vehicles to my 1950s-era HO scale Monon RR, acquiring models of General Motors Corp. cab-over-engine (COE) semi-tractors topped the list. Sylvan Scale Models sells an accurate cast-resin kit of a GMC COE “Cannonball” single-(drive) axle tractor. With a few extra details, paint, and custom decals, I built the Sylvan kit to match a common 1950s trucking company prototype.

The GMC snub-nose tractors proved popular with carriers across North America. The shorter tractors could pull long trailers and still meet overall truck length restrictions imposed in the 1950s.

Their nickname came from a 1950s TV show called “Cannonball” that followed the adventures of truck driver Mike Malone and his co-driver, Jerry, as they hauled cargo in their GMC semi.

Expanding a triple deck layout
by Mike Tricker
Plenty of research and careful planning went into filling my modest 16'-6" square garage train room with a triple deck HO scale layout that features two helixes and a partial mushroom design. My Baltimore & Ohio Paquettin Division may be familiar to some readers, as it first appeared in the June 2013 Model Railroader. From that story, the layout may have appeared nearly complete, but with our great hobby there’s always something to learn. And with any model railroad, there’s always room for improvement.

The name Paquettin refers to an imaginary river that runs from the Appalachian Mountains to the New Jersey waterfront, which is also the setting of my freelanced track plan. My layout is inspired by the Baltimore & Ohio RR, the Pennsylvania RR, and the Reading Co. I model the 1950s, so I can plausibly run both steam and diesel-electric locomotives.

Model a hopper with an open hatch
by M.R. Snell
Though most modelers would agree that an eye-level model railroad provides the most realistic viewing angle for our trains, the truth is our work is most often viewed from above. Weathering the roofs of our rolling stock helps preserve the realism of our miniature worlds, but what if we could make the overhead view more interesting, too?

One evening while watching a rail crew shove a string of railcars, my eye was drawn to one particular car, a covered hopper with an open hatch. My attention focused on this car. Was it empty? What did the inside look like? What had it been carrying?

As it moved closer, I realized none of my questions would be answered, because the interior was in shadow. All I could see was a small, dark opening. That hadn’t prevented this car from capturing my imagination. I realized I could easily replicate it in miniature to create the same effect, bringing viewer interest to either a unit train or a single random car.

Visually extending the layout
by Douglas Kirkpatrick
Every railroad, no matter the size, always has that special place where we like to take photographs of our trains in action. On my Virginia & Western RR, many of these places just happen to be very close to the edge of the layout.

I took several photographs of my heavyweight passenger train with double-headed steam engines for power crossing the valley on a high, open-deck steel bridge. The photo takes you back to the heyday of passenger service. No matter how I changed the camera’s field of view, though, the layout fascia was always in the photo.

One solution is to use a digital photo editing program to “paste” scenery on top of the fascia. But I found it can take considerable time to come up with an acceptable result.

Modeling the ACL's Palmetto Sub

by Christian Javier
Florida was especially important to the Atlantic Coast Line RR (ACL). At its peak, the state was home to nearly a third of the railroad’s route miles.

Rapid expansion projects were undertaken into southwest Florida during the 1920s land boom to provide more destinations for passenger travel, as well as to tap the rich agricultural and mineral resources of the region. One such expansion was the Tampa Southern RR, constructed between ACL’s Uceta Yard and Sarasota, both on the state’s west coast. This subsidiary was the predecessor to what eventually became the Palmetto Subdivision of the ACL.
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