Wednesday, March 19, 2014

Modeling after Major Surgery

As we grow older, we face an array of challenges that we never thought about in our youth.  Many of you are much older than I and have faced your challenges with dignity and grace.  I am now 57.  I had a tumor removed from my right CP angle (the space between your brainstem and inner ear, just below your brain) June 11th 2012.  Before the surgery, both the doctors and I were optimistic for a quick and complete recovery.  I even dragged my camera to Houston in anticipation of attending the Temple Santa Fe Railway Modeling and Historical Society convention two weeks later.  That was not to be.  The surgery was more complex than the MRI led them to believe.  They insulted a lot of my nerves scraping the tumor off, leaving me with stroke like symptoms.  Double vision, sagging face, slurred speech, loss of motor control and coordination on the right side, I was a mess.  Would I ever?  Insert a thousand questions here.  I couldn’t even type on my I phone.  But with the support of my wife, who fought to get me into the best rehab hospital around, the encouragement of a fellow modeler, and the dedicated staff of Houston Memorial Hermann TIRR, I made a lot of progress.  It helped that at my wife’s insistence, I wrote a document about who I was and what I had done before I ended up in intensive care.  I included pictures of the ram we had back on the farm, me working a cow on horseback, and the farm.  I wrote about my background as a pilot and engineer, mentioned my hobbies including model railroading and building scale models. And I laid out my goals.  With my speech problems and the number of specialists coming in, this was a quick way to let the doctors know that I wanted more than to retire to the couch in the condo.  Maybe I should have talked more about fine motor control, but I really needed to lift a 100 pound bale of hay.  Your goals will certainly differ.  I showed this document to the orderlies that helped me bathe too.  It really helped me make a connection with those who were trying to help me and in turn, they gave me a tailored boost to meet my goals. 

I left Houston in a wheel chair six weeks after my procedure.  My vision improved.  I was able to drive again.  Physical therapy helped me walk.  Occupational therapy helped me do important stuff like sort pills, make coffee, build freight cars.  Say what!  Yes, I started a Tichy flat and brought it to one of my OT appointments.  I got a lot more fine motor exercises after that and an assignment to keep working at it.  The stake pockets were a little too much for me at the time, and I shelved it for other projects after several attempts.  I’m now ready to finish it though, and have gone on to do other things.  Currently I am working on converting a Walthers 8-1-2 to a Santa Fe assigned Steam Ejector Air Conditioning equipped version.  I will explain how I did that conversion in future posts.

Meanwhile, health issues are not necessarily the end of the world as far as model railroading.  If you like ops, consider designing your next layout to be wheelchair accessible.  If you enjoy the camaraderie of an ops session, have the courage to continue to host as Gil Freitag from Houston has done.  His regular crew helps with the maintenance and all enjoy the ops sessions.  Depending on your and your family’s wishes, and the support of your ops crew, even death need not put an end to ops as Angus’ layout in Petaluma is still holding regular sessions.  Angus built and operated it from his wheel chair.  I never met him as he passed before I moved to the area, but I am grateful to him and his crew for sharing that vision with me.  One aspect of his design, the entry through an operating lift bridge, has direct applicability to my layout with the bascule bridge at Middle River.  The lower height is also attractive, both for showing to younger folk and accommodating me in older age if I ever need that chair again.  Persevere, have fun, and you may even get a prescription like the one I got from my cardiologist to reduce stress:  Do more model railroading!

John Barry
Cameron Park, CA

PS  If you want to see what I wrote from my hospital bed as an introduction to myself and goals, I uploaded a PDF here:

I to clarify, I am no longer wheelchair bound, walk, run, and have even been back on my bicycle and a horse.  Need to do more of the last to keep improving my balance.  Vision is not a problem and I really appreciate what I can do with a Zona saw (much superior to the old X-Acto razor saw) and an airbrush.  Yes, I am back, although I have learned that all of us are only temporarily abled people.

Tuesday, March 18, 2014

Brass Mystery Solved

Thanks to my fellow modelers the mysteries are no longer.

I now know what I purchased direct from Mr. Kim at Daeki back in 85.

Great Northern Steam Heater Car #3,  imported by Oriental.

New England Rail Service Boston & Main #104000 series wood caboose.

Many thanks to those of you who responded, including Don Valentine, the original caboose importer.

John Barry
Cameron Park, CA

Monday, March 17, 2014

Mystery Brass

Back in 1985 while stationed at Kunsan with the Air Force, I visited the Daeki Model Company’s factory in Seoul, Republic of Korea.  Mr. Kim was a very gracious host on my tour and I witnessed the assembly of beautiful models from piles of brass castings and sheet.  The patience of the assemblers amazed me as they worked in a chilly, not too brightly lit industrial building in downtown Seoul.  Their skills working with brass, still far exceed mine, and I am still in awe of their accomplishments.  At the end of the tour, Mr. Kim showed me several models that his company had produced.  I inquired if any of the models were available for sale.  He said yes and I selected four that returned to the states with me at the end of my tour.  He had no Santa Fe models at that time, so I selected a Southern Pacific MM-3 2-6-6-2, NYO&W Y-2 4-8-2, a caboose and a steam heater car.  The first two boxes had labels, but the second two did not.  I think Mr. Kim told me the prototypes, but my notes of that have disappeared as have my recollection of his words. 

I have since figured out that the Steam heater car was based on a Great Northern prototype.

The Caboose, I have and can recall no information on other than it was built by Daeki and so marked.

If you can identify the importer of either or the prototype for the caboose I would appreciate a comment or an e-mail at northbaylines at att dot net.

John Barry,

Cameron Park, CA

Saturday, March 15, 2014

Sale locos updated

I just uploaded photos to my sale loco post at

I also have two unpainted Key 1400 class Atlantics that I am willing to trade for operating painted versions.

Please look at the updated post and give one or more of these deserving models a new home.

John Barry
Cameron Park, CA

Saturday, March 8, 2014

WWII Boxcar Graffiti and a Virginian Automobile Car

We tend to think of graffiti as a modern problem with taggers painting colorful trash on the sides of Hi-cube freight cars.  But bored individuals have been scrawling doodles on available surfaces since long before the invention of language, let alone the rattle can. 

I first saw a photo of one of the VGN auto cars in the box car collection of the City of Vancouver archives.  Walter Frost made the image on 16 November 1952 and I thought it was a cool looking car with its rounded roof edge.  Their website says the image is under copyright, so I’ll not post it here.  But the following is a link to the photo and full citation.  It has links to download a higher resolution image for your own personal use.  I include it because it shows the full car.

I checked my 53 ORER, and saw that there were only twenty five of these cars on the VGN.  Way too short of the one of 4800 foreign cars that I need to be a representative fleet on my nominal 400 car layout.  So I didn’t think too much more about it until several days later, I was browsing the Jack Delano collection at the Library of Congress.  Among all the neat shots of Santa Fe workers, vistas and trains were some detail shots taken in the San Bernardino yards.  Among them were two consecutive images of a Virginian Automobile Car. 

Full citation for this one is at  It is in the public domain and you can obtain a higher resolution JPG and very high resolution TIFF through the links on the page at no cost.

This next picture is what really grabbed my attention though.  Some enterprising yard clerk must have had a soft spot for kitties and Alfred Hitchcock.  I had to model this car. for the citation and links to hi-res.

Maybe it is too rare, but here I had two photos of this series in the west, bracketing my era, one of which was on my home road, ATSF, albeit in the LA basin rather than SF.  But with the Ford plant in the Richmond inner harbor, I will need an above free running mix number of Auto parts cars, so there is the justification, backed up with photos, one of which is too cool not to try to duplicate.  The hook was set, I’d taken the bait, but I had no idea how to land the fish.  Then I saw a post by Eldon Gatwood on the STMFC list about Bowser.  Needing about 14 PRR boxes and knowing that Bowser builds a LOT of Pennsy prototypes, I decided to give their website a gander.  I was looking for PRR boxes and gons, as I will need a lot of both.  They did not have much in stock, and most of that was in too new paint.  But when I opened the X32 page, I was floored.  In stock was the Virginian car that I had just been obsessing about.  Serendipity!  I ordered one before they ran out. 

Given the humongous VGN fleet of 25, I avoided the temptation to model the whole shebang and just got one as a representative.  I’m already stretching things by having one car or 4% of the VGN fleet when 0.02% is what is warranted if I stuck to the percentage of free rollers.  The car should arrive next week, along with a PRR X32 and gon.  Had to amortize the shipping costs.  Now to find a way to duplicate that chalk graffiti. . .


Cameron Park, CA