Elgin Car Shops
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The Southern Pacific Clovis BranchThe Southern Pacific Railroad's
Clovis Branch, circa 1951



My current layout represents the Southern Pacific Railroad’s Clovis Branch - a 24.5 mile branch line running from Fresno to Friant in southern California. The layout is HO scale, and set in the summer of 1951.

I started my version of The Clovis Branch in early 2018. I was unhappy with my previous layout for various reasons. While considering what I wanted in a model railway I decided I wanted to model something more manageable - both to build and to operate - while still taking advantage of my generous layout space.

While looking for a new prototype to pursue, I discussed several ideas with friends. One of them suggested I have a look at a book on the SP's Clovis Branch, “Serving the Golden Empire - Branch Line Style” by Joe Dale Morris.

Here, I found lots to love.

The Clovis Branch served many produce-packing houses, a couple of wineries, a large cotton cooperative, a quarry that supplied ballast to the railroad, and a variety of the typical customers found in any small town. Since I enjoy building rolling stock - so much so that I now run businesses building freight cars for others and manufacturing resin roling stock kits - a model of this branch would be the perfect setting for a variety of equipment. At the same time, the SP ran small steam on this branch - it was an ideal home for the 2-6-0s that crews liked to call the “Valley Malleys” - and my modest roster looks just right pulling modest, layout-friendly way-freights and produce extras.

The line itself offered a variety of modelling challenges, too - from vineyards and other farms, to a range of industrial, commercial, railroad and residential structures. There’s even a segment of in-street running as the railroad leaves Fresno, plus a connection with an interurban line (abandoned by my chosen era but resurrected on my layout).

The layout is up and running, and has proven to offer a variety of operation too. It works beautifully for solo operating sessions, which was a consideration given that I live a long way from most of my friends. But when we are able to get together, the layout also supports a “harvest season” session with multiple freights and 4-6 operators. Regardless of the number of people taking part, operating sessions are relaxing yet rewarding.

All in all, it’s been a terrific journey, and it keeps going.

The JD Morris book included enough track diagrams and photos to get me started with confidence. But I’ve learned a lot about the SP and the Clovis Branch since then. Unlike previous efforts, this layout combines a relaxed plan with a generous space, which has made it relatively easy to accommodate changes as I go about Serving the Golden Empire, Branch Line Style ...

Please visit often.


The best chainlink fencing in HO on the market

November 22nd, 2020

 For the Italian Swiss Colony winery in Tarpey, I was in need of chainlink fencing to enclose the track in front of the winery. As seen in this photo

I've looked at some of the options that are on the market for kits, and the prospect of fiddling with bits of wire and lace Tulle was not high on my list of fun things to do.
Good thing someone invented the interweb.
A Google search turned up Alkem Scale Models and their photo-etched offering, http://alkemscalemodels.biz/chain-link-fence

An order was quickly placed and quickly delivered
To say I was delighted with what I received is an understatement
Nice crisp etched parts, a choice of 3 gate styles and barbed wire along the top. Perfect
And installation was a breeze
I quickly sprayed all the supplied parts with a light grey colour, to kill the shine, as well as a few lengths of 0.025" wire to use as posts.

I started at the south end where there were 2 gates, drilling holes into the base for the gate posts, and trimming the fence panels to fit in between the tracks

CA was used to secure the panels to the posts as well as securing the gates in the open position

The main run went in very quickly, using the full panels as a guide for drilling the holes for the posts

Along to the north end where only one gate was required, and then closing in the rest of the enclosure.

The whole project maybe took 2 hours. The fencing is sturdy and looks fantastic
Well worth the cost.
Now all I have to do is build the actual buildings associated.
Another day for that.

Flat car decks, a better way?

November 22nd, 2020

 Following the lead of my friend Ted Culotta, I've got a new way of painting flat car decks. And I'm very pleased with the results.
I used to like the results I got from using oil paints, but this approach is simpler, quicker and visually more pleasing.

We start by painting a base colour of a tan, light brown or some such. In this case I used Tamiya Wooden deck tan. A flat paint is important for the following steps

Once that has dried, it's time for Pan Pastels
First pass over the entire deck was Raw Umber, applied using a cheap makeup sponge
Random coverage is desired

Next is Payne's Grey

Followed by basic Black

The process is quick, and very controllable. Density of colour can be increased by making multiple passes

Now all I have to do is finish up the loads for these cars.
More on that in the coming months
It's gonna be super cool

It may not look like much

November 7th, 2020

 But it's a huge deal for me

After 4 months of frustration and stress, I'm finally getting castings again for the D&RGW kits.
The photo shows the first batch of backordered kits that will be mailed out Monday.
In about another week I should have the balance of the other outstanding kits into the mail. Just as soon as the next load of castings arrive.
All 3 of the masters for the D&RGW kits got damaged because of a bad batch of rubber, that failed to cure and as a result took forever to clean. In the cleaning process, rivet were lost, details knocked off, etc.
But now, we're back in business.
My sincere thanks to all the very patient customers who have been understanding through this very trying time. As if COVID wasn't enough this year.

And shortly there will be some new items available through the website.
Stay tuned .

Somebody was bad!

August 27th, 2020

 This image was sent to me recently

Take note of the string that was tied between the 2 sill steps. Clearly done to demonstrate the damage down by overloading the flat car.
It certainly appears that someone failed basic math
CAPY 100,000= 50 tons
M3= 30 tons x 2=60 tons
Wonder who got the bill for this one?
Now why am I getting this image?
A client has engaged me to create a string of flatcars with military loads in O scale
To date we have plans for 2 M4A3E8 Shermans, 2 Pershings, 4 M2 halftracks, 2 6x6 trucks and a handful of ammo trailers.
I'll be creating correct blocking for all these loads.
I'm very much looking forward to this project.
Progress photos will be coming as things progress.

The best laid plans of mice and men

August 17th, 2020

 It was pointed out to me over the weekend that I'd failed to include a couple of drawings of the Duryea underframe, that I refer to in the instructions.
After a few minutes of giving myself a severe tongue lashing, I thought about how best to address this and I feel that putting them up here is the best option.
So here are the 2 missing drawings

Hopefully this will clear things up a bit.

And for those of you who still have kits on order;
Resin casting has been a trial this summer, the succession of heat waves have prevented my caster from pouring resin. He's located up in Northern Ontario, and doesn't usually have to contend with the kind of heat we're used to further south, so he has no air conditioning.
Be assured that I will be shipping kits to you as soon as I can.

And we're shipping kits!

July 17th, 2020

We have decals!
Canada Post and Canada Customs have outdone themselves.
I was fully expecting to have to wait at least another week for this delivery, but here we are.
What this means, is that come Monday, most of the initial orders will be in the hands of the postal service.
There maybe a few orders unfilled, as I'm still waiting for the last batch of resin to be delivered.
The recent heat wave precluded any casting, so we're a wee bit behind
Those of you who have placed orders should be seeing your kits in about 1-2 weeks. That's what the delivery times seem to be these days.
Thanks to everyone for their ongoing support and patience.
Now to decide what to offer next?

A wee bit premature...

July 4th, 2020

But when the web guy makes things happen one has to roll with it.

The new D&RGW kits are now online and orders can now be placed.
However, we're not shipping yet. We are still waiting on decals.
Hopefully a couple of weeks and then I can ship.
If things get too delayed, I may send kits and the decals afterwards. Not my preferred option, but all options are open.
Happy Independence Day to all my American neighbours

We could use your help

June 18th, 2020

We have a few projects we're looking at doing in the near future.
However we are having great difficulty in locating a certain car part.

This would be an old Branchline Trains part. The ACF "Carbuilder" end.
We could use 4-5 of these car ends, A or B end, doesn't matter.
If you have some of these hiding in your parts boxes that you might be willing to part with, please email me at pierre.oliver@elgincarshops.com
And we can discuss options.
Thanks for your consideration

And here we are!

June 7th, 2020

The completed pilot models.

All we are waiting for now;
For me to write instructions
Decals from Microscale

There will be 7 different kits sold
YMW-124  15' door automobile car
YMW-125.1 -125.4 6' door prewar car,4/5 end. with either wood, Trilock, USG or Morton running board
YMW-126.1 -126.2 6' door postwar car, 4/4 end, with either Trilock or USG running board
The 6' door kits come with both Superior and Youngstown doors.
All of the 6' door cars will have the option to be ordered with the "Cookie Box" decal set, rather than the as built decal set.
Features in the kit, laser cut or etched running boards, etched ladders and other details, all new Duryea underframe parts, TMW trucks, Black Cat decals.
We have a couple of new features as well.
3D printed tack boards and route card holders. 3D printed slack adjustor and brake levers
Kits will retail for $65.00 USD
The kits will be for sale just as soon as decals arrive. I've been told end of June, maybe.
Stay safe everyone

What's on your Workbench?

April 30th, 2020

Here in the bowels of Yarmouth Model Works we're working away on the pilot models of the soon to be released D&RGW Pressed Steel Car 40' boxcars.

We're still on track for a mid-summer release date, barring any delays with decal printing and as long as the etched running boards make an appearance.
With the current pandemic, the mails are hugely delayed. There are piles of Apex, Gypsum and Morton running boards somewhere in the Canada Post system. Hopefully they make an appearance soon.
There will be 5 versions of the prewar, 4/5 end cars. The options will be wood , Apex, Gypsum or Morton running board and the iconic "Cookie Box" version.
There will be 2 versions of the post war car with the IDE ends. Apex or Gypsum running board.
And of course the 15' door version.

I am not taking pre-orders, but rest assured there will be plenty of kits made available when the time comes
In the meantime, stay safe everyone.

The Last Spike?

April 18th, 2020

It's a banner day here St Thomas.
Or at least my little slice of it. The last spike has been driven into the right of way, theoretically.

Hard to believe that it's only been 2 1/4 years to get to this point.
My only regret is that my friends who've helped along the way, couldn't be here to celebrate with me.
But I know once the world returns to some semblance of normal we'll be getting together to what I hope to be many operation sessions.
I still have to connect the electrical and mount the turnout controls, but that will take a only a couple of hours and then I can torture test this last bit.
Rather pleased with myself right now!

The last Tie!

April 16th, 2020

He said hopefully.

The last of the ties have been glued down in what will be Pinedale and the CalCot warehouse facilities. This is a major leap forward that I was not expecting to be able to achieve until the end of the current Zombie Apocalypse.
I was in need of one more sheet of Homasote to finish the benchwork and the company I buy Homasote from closed their doors the day I called to arrange pickup. I was fully expecting to have to wait months to be able to continue moving forward, when my new best friend, Robin Talukdar(aka Mr Murder) contacted me, letting me know he had some large pieces to spare.
So I leapt into the van on Monday and made my way to Robin's and came home with plenty of Homasote. So grateful Robin, thanks again.
Today it'll be tie staining and ballasting.
If I get the time, I have 4 turnouts to build and we'll be laying track. Might have that task done by the weekend.
This is going to be a neat scene once I get the warehouses sorted out.
Stay safe everyone.

This is exciting!

April 2nd, 2020

I'm sure some of you are thinking, "It's just a turnout in the furnace room. What's the big deal?"
Well the big deal is that this is the turnout for the Pinedale branch and the last bit of of track and benchwork required for this layout.
I took the time on the weekend and built the last bits of benchwork for this branch.

Space is tight between the furnace and the water heater, but I managed to squeeze in there. And I did plan ahead and there's a removable bit should the water heater ever have to come out.

We have this bit of narrow benchwork before we got to the actual peninsula.

On this peninsula will be an important customer on the branch, The California Cotton CO-OP  better known as CAL-COT. From what I've been able to determine large amounts of baled cotton was shipped out of this facility.
And it was quite a large facility in it's day, as can be seen in this wartime era photo;

 The CAL-COT buildings are the ones at an angle to the camera. As a matter of historical interest, the buildings closest to the camera are barracks. Built as temporary holding facilities for Japanese Americans before they were shipped inland to internment camps.
I've been very fortunate in getting a large number of photos of the buildings from a Jeff Johnston is is modeling the same buildings in a different era. Early in the 20th century the buildings were built to be the sawmills for  Sugar Pine Lumber Co.
Here's a view of the exterior of the planing mill;

Big, long, sprawling buildings.
And here's another fun fact I was recently told.
One of these buildings was the first home of Cal-Scale. Cool, no?

Now all I need is half a sheet of Homasote, however due to Covid 19 , the supplier is closed for the duration.

For the forseeable future

March 27th, 2020

Just a quick note to all out there in Model Railroad land.

The mail continues to move across the US/Canada border unimpeded.
While I'm not going into the post office as much as I may have in the past, I am still fulfilling all orders that come to me via the website or by mail.
I'm restricting my trips to once a week for now

Now is a great time to be building those models you've not had time to.

We're all in this together, and it will get better

Sometimes the stars align

March 22nd, 2020

The current major project on the bench right now is 8 coaches and head end cars for the Milwaukee Road.
They are a mix of older Branchline kits and NKP  Car Co kits.
The paint scheme is rather striking. Brown roof, orange sides with a vermilion band across the top of the sides. Something like this;

2 of the cars are actually sleepers and those particular cars, the window sashes were brass on the exterior. All of which makes for a bit of a challenge for masking.
So yesterday I set myself down to tackle what I expected to be a rather tedious task. Masking 74 windows. I grabbed the roll of 10 mm wide Tamiya masking tape and TA DA, the windows are mostly 10 mm high. The gods were smiling upon me for sure

Not having to cut the tape to the correct height saved a considerable amount of time, the whole job took less than 2 hours to complete.
The vermilion is now applied and curing, orange in a couple of days

Covid 19 and Yarmouth Model Works

March 21st, 2020

I don`t know about you, but I've had my fill of living the Chinese curse, "May you live in interesting times!".

First the good news. We're all healthy and safe here. To date there are no cases of infection in this small South Western Ontario city, but the road out front sure is quiet these days.
I'm spending my days in the basement working on various projects, with the main effort being a string of Milwaukee Road coaches for a client, once they're out of the way various freight car builds await my attention.
Might even get caught up with custom building projects if this goes on into the late summer.

Now the "bad" news.
There's a really strong likelihood that my supply chain will get interrupted.
The USA- Canada border is being closed to non-essential traffic today. As far as I know this will not affect the mail or other commercial traffic. So I will still be filling orders for kits and parts as long as inventory is able.
My caster is unaffected, and there's a reasonable supply of detail parts and decals. The problem may come from the parts that are etched in Germany and decals printed in Italy.
The upcoming release of the D&RGW PSC built cars may be affected if I can't get etched running boards. However , right now I am moving forward, hoping for the best, but preparing for the worst.

So in the meantime, stay safe, find some fun projects to immerse yourself in at home, and above all else, STAY HOME. Please.

A sneak peak for you

February 12th, 2020

Here's a peak at what we've been working on at Yarmouth Model Works this winter.

The D&RGW 10'4" IH, 12 panel boxcars.

Shown here are the 3 body masters,
6' door with 4/5 ends
6' door with 3/4 IDE ends
and of course the iconic 15' door variant.
The 6' door kits will be offered with a choice of Apex Tri-Lock, Gypsum or Morton running boards. All of our etched running boards are being redone this spring to correct some minor errors we've discovered and it will be the corrected running boards that will be included.
The 6' door cars will have the choice of either Youngstown or Superior doors.
And we're really excited to announce that we will have created an all new set of Duryea underframe parts.
In conjunction the etched details  currently in production for the underframe, we believe that this will be nicest Duryea underframe yet seen in the resin kit world.
And as usual the kit will include our etched ladders and other details as you would expect from us.
Speedwitch Media is working on the decals for us. And we will be offering the as built scheme, as well as the famous "Cookie Box" scheme.
We are hoping for a mid-summer release date, price is yet to be determined.
If the stars align as they should, I hope to have these for the St Louis RPM.


And don't just take my word for it!

January 6th, 2020

Hear what others are saying about the fun of banging cars around on the Clovis Branch

Pierre's New Years Levee!

January 5th, 2020

So a couple of days later, but who's counting?
Jan 4, 2020, I had 4 friends come over to run the layout in it's fullness. At least as full as it is right now. There is still the Pinedale branch to build, likely this summer.
The plan was to run 2 trains, the regular daily way freight and a reefer block extra.
Gerry, Robin(AKA Mr Murder), Trevor and Stephan all had accepted the invite, so I got to sit back and observe and revel in their joy of running the layout. And the layout performed brilliantly. The operating concept was proven to be a solid one. I foresee many years of operating pleasure out of this layout.
And while it is now in full running mode, there is still much to be done. Many more structures to build as well as orchards and vineyards. But with it now running I can ease back a touch and enjoy the efforts of the last 2 years.
Stephan has posted a few short videos on Youtube

And here's a selection of stills from the day

It's been a very long time since I've had an operating layout, and I'm so pleased with this concept and design. Thanks so much to Trevor for dropping this idea into my lap and thanks to the guys for coming out and bringing the dream to life.

New Years Day 2020

January 1st, 2020

What better way to pass the day than working on the layout?
Or more precisely, styrene cores for 3 structures for Clovis.
First up, Clovis Lumber Co.
I don't recall how I found this image, but I was super pumped when I did.
This being the warehouse for the company and the tracks would have been to the left in this photo and the photographer standing on 3rd St.
I built the core out of 0.060" styrene and will overlay scribed siding once it's delivered. The plan is to affix the wood using industrial transfer tape, which is a high end double sided tape.
The roof will be some form of metal, likely a standing seam style.

The other 2 cores are for the Superior Granite Co.
These 2 are an educated guess, based upon the Sanborn map and aerial photos I've found online. Both will be sheathed in corrugated metal and standing seam roof material. The 2 walls facing each other will have large rolling doors added, thus no window openings.
The concrete bases is simply 1/2" MDF cut to size, the edges sealed with sanding sealer and painted "Old concrete".
Short of finding oblique aerial photos of Clovis, this is as best a guess as I'm going to make on this.
I've had no luck yet finding online oblique views of the area from the '50s. Feel free to let me know if you know where to find this resource.
I'm now ready as I'll ever be for Saturday and the first full ops session with a few friends. 2 trains out and back switching most of the entire layout.
It's gonna be fun!

The ongoing struggle to be organized

December 30th, 2019

The world of model paint as undergone quite a few changes in the last couple of decades. There was a time where my paint rack was 90% Floquil, with a few Model Masters enamels thrown in for variety. However with the demise of the Floquil line, changes have been forced upon us.

Scalecoat paint is now my paint of choice for freight cars but acrylic paints are now being used by me more and more. For structures, scenery and weathering. I still don't trust acrylics to adhere to resin. And we are blessed with a plethora of model paint manufacturers. Tamiya, Vallejo, AK Interactive, Ammo Mig, etc. However all these options for paints creates a small problem. Storage. There's not a lot of commonality in the actual paint bottles. Which for me meant that my paint space was getting out of control.

This just wasn't working anymore.
I've been pondering this problem for sometime now and decided to solve the problem by throwing money at it. Enter https://www.hobbyzone.biz/ . This company offers a large array of work space storage solutions, including a variety of paint racks.

Such as the one shown here, sized for Tamiya paint bottles. There are other sizes to accommodate most of the currently available paint options on the market.
So I sat down and counted paint bottles and sizes, did a little planning and placed my order. Very quickly it was delivered.

The racks are made from MDF and Masonite, precision cut by CNC routers. Assembly is straight forward requiring only carpenters glue and the occasional clamp. The engineering is clever, resulting in very sturdy units that are modular in concept, allowing for an easy time mixing and matching the different bottle sizes.
I assembled the various units over a couple of days and finally bit the bullet and attacked the mess of paint bottles.

The only bottle I'm having an issue with is the very large Scalecoat 2 oz bottles, but I think I have a solution in hand.
All in all, I'm very pleased with this investment and would urge you to consider this system for your own needs.

Peak Vinegar Tank Car?

December 25th, 2019

Three more of these Sunshine kits have just been finished and will be mailed to happy customers in a couple of days.

I've lost count of how many of these kits I've built over the years, but I'm sure it's now over a dozen. And I think I've had enough of them.
I know that a number of people are intimidated by the sheer number of parts that are in this kit, but it's not that bad when you step back and think through the process. But it is a lot of work.
The tank wrapper alone takes a couple of hours to get right, and it's only that quick because I figured out a long time ago to have metal cores milled upon which the wrapper is formed and fitted.

I'll think long and hard before taking on this car again.

Who's Next?

December 9th, 2019

In response to my last blog post,
Chris Vanko sent me this image;

I really like his weathering style.
Anyone else want to share images of assembled Yarmouth Model Works kits?

Don't get enough of these

December 6th, 2019

In yesterday's email this photo was sent to me,

It's from my friend and fellow resinator Bill Darnaby. As he describes it, it's his resin efforts for 2019. It's of special significance to me, since other than the "Southern" Double Door car, all of the cars were built from Yarmouth Model Works kits.

It's heartening to see modelers get the kits they buy out of the boxes and onto their layouts. I would love to see more of this kind of thing from my customers.

Thanks for sharing Bill.

Proof of Concept!

November 27th, 2019

My first "official" ops session is in the bag!

Hunter Hughson and Robin Talukdar dropped by this afternoon and they ran the layout. I had them run a reefer extra out of staging, to Clovis where they switched out the loaded reefers and replaced them with empties. A bit of a challenge as space is tight in Clovis and if you don't plan your moves well, you'll be in the weeds before you know it.

Now the whole process took them almost 3 hours to execute, but they are new to the layout. I've done the same job in 2 hours, but I have slight advantage of being able to look at the track arrangement on a regular basis.

Neither Hunter nor Robin had seen the layout before in it's totality, but I was delighted at their reactions as I gave them the tour. Once they were familiar with the basic plan, I gave them the train to run and let them loose.

I think that rather than try and describe their reactions I'll just share a few quotes from the session with you.

Hunter- "This is really cool, really neat!"

2 minutes later, upon reviewing his assignment,
"This is going to be a f***ing pain in the ass!"

Within 1/2 an hour
"This is freaking neat!"

Robin, acting as engineer, was neglectful on occasion about whistling for the level crossings in Clovis, which earned him an admonishment from Hunter.
"Maybe some whistle, Mr Murder?"

I suspect that they both enjoyed the afternoon. I know I'm super pleased that the layout operates as planned and will easily keep a number of operators busy for a few hours. Now I just have to refine a little more paperwork and get a few more cars built and regular sessions can now be planned.

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