Brent Carlson, 1943-2015

Bobj Berger

Brent Carlson 1943-2015

Brent Carlson 1943-2015

We have learned from Kathleen Carlson that her husband Brent Carlson, long time Seattle-North Clinic and Eastside Get-Together attendee, has lost his many-years-long battle with cancer. Brent was well-known from his huge amount of HO structure and billboard purchases at Clinic Marts and model railroad swap meets. For a time he also participated with the HO Modular group.

Brent retired as a CPA auditor a few years ago and he and Kathy traveled many of the the world’s most beautiful and interesting museums and locations. They also had a wonderful time cruising and attending car shows with their classic Cadillac Eldorado Biarritz convertible. In typical Brent style, he bought a complete second Cadillac, disassembled it and stored the pieces out of the way and all around the house for any future replacement needs.

Brent attended the March Thursday night Eastside Get-Together, went to a doctor appointment the next day, from where he was hospitalized, and unexpectedly died the following Monday. He leaves his widow Kathy, two daughters, Jeanine and Zoe, and three grandchildren.

Besides travel, car cruising, Bible reading, and great food, model railroading was Brent’s passion. He loved collecting completed structures and graphically-illustrated billboard boxcars and trucks (as his layout pictures demonstrate). There are hundreds of buildings and thousands of vehicles. Before his illness, Brent liked to have a sales table at swap meets to have early access to those completed structures and vehicles (no kits!). Kathy has recalled how he loved helping Railfun (Bobj & Roger) set up for meets in the last few years, as it also gave him early access.

Kathy has agreed to open the layout for its first, last, and only open house tour during the June 4, 2015 Seattle-North Annual Train Room Tour. This tour will include three other never-before-seen train rooms in Edmonds and will begin at Brent’s with both his layout room and his upstairs train room. The address and details will be announced in the Grab Iron next week. After the tour, the layout, structures, rolling stock, vehicles and all other details and supplies will be sold by Railfun the following weekend, with details to be posted in the Grab Iron.

Brent Carlson's collection of structures.

Brent Carlson’s collection of structures.

Brent Carson's double deck layout.

Brent Carson’s double deck layout.

Brent Carlson's double deck layout showing some of the many structures he collected.

Brent Carlson’s double deck layout showing some of the many structures he collected.

Brent Carlson's colorful collection of billboard rolling stock.

Brent Carlson’s colorful collection of billboard rolling stock.

4th Div Board of Directors Meeting Saturday, May 30

Cliff Green

The next 4th Division Board of Directors meeting is Saturday May 30th, 11 am, at Mitzel’s in Kent, Washington. As always, all 4D members are invited to attend.

Memorial Day Weekend Trains Salute America’s Military at NWRM

Peggy Barchi

The Northwest Railway Museum pays tribute to America’s service men and women and their families this Memorial Day with a special weekday steam train run on Monday, May 25th. This is in addition to the railroad’s usual weekend train schedule. To commemorate the holiday, the museum will offer $5 round-trip train fare Saturday May 23, Sunday May 24 and Monday May 25, to members of the military: active duty, guard, reserve, retired, and their dependent family members, with current military ID. The Museum offers scenic train excursions aboard its antique train, through the Cascade foothills of the Upper Snoqualmie Valley, including a ride to the top of Snoqualmie Falls.

We have recently learned that the Northwest Railway Museum will be the only site in Western Washington offering steam train excursions this holiday weekend. We will be preparing the steam locomotive for its weekend runs on Friday afternoon.

Trains depart every 90 minutes beginning at 11:30 AM from the Snoqualmie Depot at 38625 SE King Street and at Noon from the North Bend Depot at 205 McClellan Street. Regular steam train round-trip fares: $12 children (ages 2-12), $20 adults (ages 13-61), and $18 (age 62 and up)!

A full list of NWRM 2015 events and extensive contact info is available at this previous Grab Iron post.

Northwest Railway Museum depot prepared for Memorial Day 2014.

Northwest Railway Museum depot prepared for Memorial Day 2014.

Eastside Get-Together on Thursday, Dave Hikel Will Present Drawbridge Design

JJ Johnston

Reminder: The Eastside Get-Together meets Thursday (tomorrow), May 21st at 7:30 pm at the Bellevue FourSquare Church. Our clinic will be presented by professional model railroad builder Dave Hikel. Dave will share the design of a drawbridge he created with lots of photos specifically for a magazine article. You can see it first prior to publication.

Of course we will have all of the usual stuff. Bring a model, eat a donut, have some free coffee, buy or sell something, win a door prize, talk with fellow modelers and generally harass JJ. See ya.

For Eastside Get-Together location and other information, see the 4D Clinics page.

Gerald “Jay” Huff Jr. Passes

Rich Blake, Skagit Valley and Whidbey Clinic Chair

Long time Whidbey Island resident Jay Huff passed away April 11th 2015. He was a US Navy veteran and active model railroader in the Skagit and Island County areas for many years. Some of our older club members remember him as a gruff and tough Naval Officer who liked to be in charge. Nothing wrong with that as he was one of the Navy guys to get a model railroad club layout set up on the Navy Base on Whidbey Island back in the early 70′s. That club became the off-base Whidbey Island Railroad Club. These first steps formed the foundation of the 4the Division groups we now have in the Skagit Valley and Whidbey area along with the Mount Vernon Clinic. He also was involved with the Anacortes and Fidalgo Club layout. Many of the long timers in these groups knew Jay from way back and appreciate everything he contributed to the growth of model railroading in this area.

Jay was very fond of HO brass steam model collecting and was also fascinated in the different styles of bridge construction. He built many detailed bridges for various club layouts and became the subject matter expert on bridges for the region. He gave several clinics on this and other model railroading topics over the years.

Jay suffered a stroke some years ago which severely limited his mobility. This did not deter him, however, and he remained a dedicated modeler while continuing to attend the Skagit Valley and Whidbey Clinics as long as he could. He always kept his tough Navy guy demeanor but at the same time was actually a very generous and friendly person and always had something to contribute at the clinics I had the pleasure to share with him. His ability to overcome a terrible handicap and remain cheerful and upbeat will always be an inspiration to all who knew him.

Background information provided by Al Carter, Bill Harper, Terry Kandzor, Jack Tingstad, and John White.

Layouts Announced For 4th Div 2015 Spring Meet

Russ Segner, 4D Superintendent

Editor’s note: Bob Stafford’s layout has replaced David Yadock’s layout for the Sunday tour.

You’re going to want to see the layouts chosen for this year’s Spring Meet! Some have never been shown before, while others are masterworks that you have seen in magazines.

This year, you’ll get to see these layouts – but only if you register for the Spring Meet. The Spring Meet clinics are on Saturday June 6 and the layout tours are on June 7. Descriptions and maps will be available at the conclusion of the clinic sessions on Saturday. Full details are here. Register now!

The layouts are:

  • JJ Johnston’s Puget Sound Iron Goat Railway, HO scale, a mythical GN layout set in 1939 with many structures
  • Burr Stewart’s merged GN, NP, Q and SP&S in the 70’s, HO scale, a big layout designed for operation
  • Bill Messecar’s ATSF Operation in the LA Division, HO scale, a 1950′s era layout with blocks of reefers handling citrus
  • Di Voss’ Everett and Monte Cristo Rwy, HO scale, a historical representation of 1895-1910 line hauling gold to the mill in Everett
  • Bob Stafford’s Memories Branch Line, HO scale, an operations oriented layout based on the many branches of the Lackawanna, Jersey Central, and Lehigh Valley railroads in Northampton County Pennsylvania
  • Boeing Employees Model Railroad Club’s Seattle and North Cascades Railway, HO scale, a bridge route connecting the Pacific Northwest to the Midwest
  • Ron Hopkins’ Moclips & Beck’s Creek, On30 scale, a layout featuring many prize winning scratch built logging, lumber and shingles structures
  • Russ Segner’s Coal Creek Lumber Co, Sn3 scale, a Northwest logging layout with lots of scratch built structures and geared locomotives
  • Bill Scheef’s Wind River Railway, Sn3 scale, a layout with excellent logging scenes and an operating incline
  • Steve Depolo’s Alaska Pacific Railway & Terminal Co, Sn3 scale, a layout featuring Alaska scenes with steep grades between mines and wharfs
  • Michael Dziubinski’s Northwestern Pacific (Southern Pacific), N scale, a layout based on the Northwestern Pacific in August of 1953

Additional info is listed here and more layout details will be added over the next few weeks.

The theme of the Spring Meet is: “How and why we build our layouts.”

Our clinics this year are designed to give insights and ideas on building layouts. Lots of questions will be addressed such as “How big do I build?”, “What era and prototype do I use for ideas?”, “What about operations?” and “Do I build alone or with others in a group or club?”

Eight great clinics will be offered:

  • An Example of a Prototype Layout
  • Making Tracks on your Layout (Fast Tracks hands on clinic)
  • Making Tracks to a Prototype
  • Freelancing
  • Making Tracks to a Large Layout
  • Modules
  • Trackside Details and Weathering
  • Bridge Design and Construction

Additional clinic details are here.

We have several MMR’s presenting who will share their experiences and what inspires them in the hobby. So, come with your questions. Meet and share ideas with model railroaders from across the Fourth Division.

Lunch is provided on Saturday. At lunch, we will have our annual meeting. Several awards, including The Golden Grab Iron Award will be presented. We will also get an introduction to our new website and Grab Iron communications. So, plan to attend. Register by mail or online, but do it before May 31 to guarantee your seat and lunch.

The registration is $25 for NMRA members if registered online or by mail before May 31st or $35 at the door for those not pre-registered. Lunch is included. For online registration and additional details visit A printable poster can be found at

Please contact Russ Segner at email hidden; JavaScript is required or 425-228-7327 for more information.

Seattle-North on May 7, 2015 – Steam and Urban Rail Transit, But Not Together

By Jeff Moorman

Next Clinic:

Our next clinic will be this Thursday, May 7. Our clinician will be Dave Honan, a Civil Railroad Engineer. You may remember Dave from last year when he came to talk about some of the 12 inch to the foot railroad projects he had worked on.

This time it will be a two-part presentation. The first will take a look at the Steam Program at the Northwest Railway Museum, featuring operations with SCPC No. 2 and also the early restoration work on NP 924.

The second part will be a short multimedia show on urban rail transit.

We also intend to do a short preview of the June tour (see below).

The church continues its remodeling effort. We will not know what room we will be in until after this is posted. So, just come in the main door and we’ll have someone direct you.

Prior Clinic:

Last month we showed the first cut video of Dr. Scott Campbell’s layout, done by none other than Scott himself. The home and layout have since been sold and Scott has moved away, but it was a real treat for those who had previously seen it in person.

Scott called his railroad “The Great Burlington Northern” and it was full of scenes of the Pacific Northwest. Many of the places were instantly recognizable and some represented places related to Scott’s life. Almost everything on the layout had a story and hearing Scott relate those stories was very interesting.

Only Michael P brought a completed name tag to the last meeting. For those who picked up a name tag blank at either of the last two meetings, don’t forget to wear it and show everyone what a marvelous job of decorating you did.

A Few Words About the June Clinic:

Thanks to the efforts of Bobj Berger we will not have a regular clinic in June. Instead we will participate in a North End Train Room Tour. We will have the opportunity to see four locations, none of which have ever been open to the public before. And two of these will likely never be open again, since they are for sale.

Here is how it will work. We’ll provide you the address of the first stop (either at the next clinic meeting or via a later Grab Iron blurb). Once there, we’ll provide the addresses to the other three locations. All locations are in the Edmonds / Lake Forest Park area.

The start time is 7:00PM on June 4. Carpooling is highly encouraged, since these are all residences without special parking facilities. And hopefully, if we do not run over any lawns or irritate too many neighbors, we’ll get future opportunities to visit more of these never-before-seen train rooms.

Oh, and if you see Bobj, don’t forget to thank him for setting this all up.

Directions: We meet at the Ronald United Methodist Church, 17839 Aurora Avenue North, Shoreline, WA. That is on the west side of Aurora (State Route 99) between 175th and 185th Streets and more specifically, between the Cadillac dealer on the south and Deseret Industries to the north. Going southbound on Aurora, make a right-hand turn into the church driveway immediately after passing the Deseret location. The parking lot is at the rear of the church. From the parking lot go up the steps to the main entrance.

Meetings are the first Thursday of each month, usually September – June. However in June we often do something different, so there may be no “regular” meeting. Doors open at 7:00 PM and the program starts at 7:30.

Remember the next regular evening meeting is May 7. The last meeting of the clinic year will be a specially arranged North End Train Room Tour on June 4. Hope to see you there or at least sometime on down the line.

Mt Vernon April 28, 2015 NMRA Clinic Report

Text & photos by Roger Johnson

The April 2015 Mount Vernon Clinic of the 4th Division, PNR, NMRA was attended by 21.5 souls. Ted Becker opened the session with words encouraging NMRA membership, echoed by Al Carter.

Announcements reminding us of upcoming events included:

Tools of the Month discussed were the use of scalpels instead of hobby knives for work bench projects and small dipping cups (we won’t tell here where Ted got these) for mixing small paint batches.

Bring & Brag items featured (please see photos below):

  • Another of Paul Koren’s fine resin box cars, this one a Nickel Plate model. It was very nicely painted with TruColor paint sprayed on with an airbrush with decals depicting the early days of the Nickel Plate Road graphics.
  • Ivan Musinich brought a pair of McKeen gasoline motor cars, the prototypes of which we built by the McKeen Motor Car Company in the early 1900’s. McKeen cars had a distinctively nautical look with sharp bows, rounded stems and round windows that looked like portholes. The smaller model car pictured was scratch built by Ivan’s brother around 1955 from an article in Railroad Model Craftsman. It is now DC equipped and compatible. The larger 55’ car is a Ken Kidder model found at the Monroe show. Ivan restored it to closely model the car Northern Pacific purchased in 1909, equipping it for DCC with a TCS decoder.
  • Two nicely weathered flat cars by Curt Johnson, on one of which was a steam winch kit built by Curt and Iver Johnson.
  • Mike Pettruzzelli brought a very nice sound decoder equipped N scale Shay.
  • Rick Troyer displayed what is believed to be a fire instruction car painted in a Great Northern Pacific Railway scheme. One side is all red and the other is green with flames all along the bottom. If you look closely at the familiar Goat herald you will notice that the background is the red and black NP monad and the goat has transformed into a dog. Rick would welcome any information concerning this car, either model or prototype.

This month it was decided to go with several mini clinics so the evening’s program consisted of five brief presentations (please see photos below):

  • First up was MMR Nick Muff telling & showing us how easy and inexpensive it is to delve into the world of 3D printing. With slides, oral explanations and sample items passed around we learned about Shapeways, a 3D printing company, and Autodesk 123D Design, free downloadable software for 3D design. One designs the desired item using 123D and then uploads it to Shapeways. After analyzing the design for printability Shapeways will print the item, generally for $3 to $5 per unit, depending upon size and complexity. Although 3D printers are available for consumer use, the sophistication and quality of the Shapeways output results in superior items. And Shapeways handles all of the maintenance and repairs, if any.
  • Next up was Tom Buckingham demonstrating construction of spline sub roadbed. With a small piece of bench work with risers he, with Al Carter assisting, built a sweeping 5± foot curve of roadbed in just a few minutes. Simply stated it requires long thin strips of wood (Tom used three) separated every few inches by small wood blocks, all glued together. What starts out as rather wobbly strips of wood winds up quite rigid and suitable for model railroad sub roadbed.
  • Bob Stafford then demonstrated is technique for quickly weather rolling stock using several acrylic craft paint colors and mixes thereof. He uses both washes and dry brushing and to speed the process employs a small heat gun to dry each coat, enabling him to add coats after only a very few minutes. He keeps an old sock handy to wipe up any excess liquid or oooopses. Thinning and brush clean up are done with windshield fluid to avoid droplets forming and for quick drying.
  • Ted Becker followed with two topics, the first of which was a progress report on his experimentations for staining wood. He had tried two vinegar and steel wool “soups”, one of which steeped for about ten days and other only a day or so. He also used alcohol based leather dye and diluted India ink. He said only alcohol based leather dye should be used to avoid warping. To emphasize the point he lifted a bottle of alcohol out of his project bin but it turned out to be a half filled liquor bottle. (These experiments may go on for a while.)
  • Ted also demonstrated dry brushing for weathering shingle roofs, both the uniform laser cut type and the more rustic Campbell’s variety. Especially effective, in this writer’s opinion, was an octagonal peaked roof on which Ted had daubed various weathering type colors on the Campbell paper shingles.
  • Wrapping up the evening was Al Carter demonstrating dry sponging weathering and paint fading on brick modeled structures. He uses some small wedge shaped sponges available in the cosmetic department at drug stores and supermarkets.
  • Al also had a couple of demo samples showing a way he developed to mount under layout Tortoise switch machines without having to get under the layout. The Tortoise is mounted on a rectangle of hardboard the same thickness as the cork roadbed and replaces the cork for about three inches. A rectangular hole is cut in the sub roadbed into which the Tortoise is inserted with the hardboard rectangle mating with the cork roadbed at each end.

Next month’s clinic will be a presentation by Robert Gilbert, of Tesoro Petroleum, talking about Tesoro’s offloading facility / rail operations at its March Point refinery. For location and hours, go to the 4D Clinics page.

Bring & Brag photos:

Paul Koren's Nickle Plate resin box car

Paul Koren’s Nickle Plate resin box car

Ivan Musinich's McKeen cars

Ivan Musinich’s McKeen cars





Curt Johnson's flat cars with steam winch

Curt Johnson’s flat cars with steam winch

Mike Pettruzzelli's N scale DCC sound equipped Shay

Mike Pettruzzelli’s N scale DCC sound equipped Shay








Rick Troyer's GNPR fire car-side 1

Rick Troyer’s GNPR fire car-side 1

Rick Troyer's GNPRR fire car-side 2

Rick Troyer’s GNPRR fire car-side 2





Mini Clinic photos:

Nick Muff's 3D printed items

Nick Muff’s 3D printed items

Al Carter's Tortoise installation

Al Carter’s Tortoise installation







Tom Buckinham's spline sub road bed demo

Tom Buckinham’s spline sub road bed demo

Completed demo segment of Tom's spline sub road bed

Completed demo segment of Tom’s spline sub road bed







Bob Stafford weathering rolling stock demo

Bob Stafford weathering rolling stock demo

Weathering samples of Bob Stafford's work

Weathering samples of Bob Stafford’s work






Ted Becker's stain sample board

Ted Becker’s stain sample board

Ted's alcohol for thinning leather stain

Ted’s alcohol for thinning leather stain






Ted Becker's daubed roof

Ted Becker’s daubed roof




The 4D Needs Your Help …With Inventory

Al Lowe

The 4D Board of Directors has tasked our Treasurer, Mike Donnelly, with building an inventory of everything the Division owns in order to identify what should be insured, what needs to be replaced when, and who is responsible for what. The 4D Board wants all clinic chairs, committee chairs, modular groups, and everyone else to assist by listing 4D-owned items in their care.

If you have, are responsible for, or know of, any items paid for by the Division, email a list of them to email hidden; JavaScript is required.

Questions? First, read the following guidelines. Then, if you’re still confused, ask Mike: email hidden; JavaScript is required.

4D Inventory Guidelines

  1. Include anything paid for by the 4th Division, except small quantities of consumable items (paper, stamps, pens, scenery material, ballast, etc)
    1. You can list these if you wish
    2. Use your own judgment for large quantities of consumables
  2. Include all items with a serial number or other unique identification
  3. Include anything you believe originally cost over $250 (either individually or collectively)
  4. Include as much information as possible: date acquired, purchase price, model number, serial number, etc. Lump multiple items when it makes sense, e.g., modular group carts or racks could be listed as “5 welded-steel, wheeled racks, approximate cost $1,200”
  5. Report minor items by saying what they are, how many, etc.
    1. Estimate high volume quantities
    2. Add details when sensible, e.g., model numbers for unique tools or special color-coded items
    3. Group multiple items, e.g., “1 tote bin of scenery materials” or “1 box of 50+ assorted C-clamps painted green”
  6. Include modular groups’ corner modules, yard modules, etc., if paid for by the 4D and include the names of those taking responsibility for each.

Mike Donnelly will compile this information into a master list before May 30, 2015. If you need more time, you can negotiate with Mike. The 4DNTRAK group and the PSC Chair have already provided data and the 4dNTRAK, Omni-Rail, HO, and Hi-Railer trailers are already listed.

A Narrower View – Roadway

Syd Schofield

Editors note: Welcome to the third article of a series on narrow gauge by Syd Schofield. The previous article is available by clicking here, or by filtering with the category “Narrow Gauge”. Syd welcomes discussions and feedback, which can be made by clicking on the comment link at the bottom of the post.

Of the many narrow gauge railroads that were in the US and Canada, a key factor was the roadbed requirement. The sizes of two feet, 30 inch, 36 inch and 42 inch for common carriers were established out of need and equipment availability. Private lines were influenced by most of the same conditions, all based on economics. While the standard and larger gauges were capable of heavier loads, the disadvantages were greater construction and equipment costs and less flexibility in traversing rough terrain.

Preparation of the route was less demanding such as smaller tunnel dimensions, roadbed width on ground and built-up structures, tighter curves and rolling stock accommodations. This lends itself to the small area we have available for our modeling. Slower speeds, shorter cars and trains and tighter curves gives us longer operating sessions and a larger sense of scale for a given amount of space. With the grand sweeping radius curves needed for a large articulated locomotive and many very long cars of the Golden Age standard gauge lines, most of us don’t have the space available for a suitable representation. Technically, a common surveying technique is to project a curve from the connecting straight (tangent) sections in degrees of turn per 100 feet which can be translated to a radius in our particular scale. Prototype railroad specifications can then be used as modeler guides.

As in civil engineering projects built on solid ground (as opposed to semi-liquid high water content soil and small, rounded stones) the structural base was prepared by excavation (cut) to the desired dimensions. Once the material is removed the remaining base is ready for roadbed. That same removed material, if cleverly planned, can be used for fill in the nearby shallow dips. Otherwise expensive “borrow” material and bridging structures must be used. The fill, like the roadbed, must consist of an aggregate of solid angular geometric shapes of differing sizes to minimize shifting under load. Supplements such as cribbing and retaining walls can be used. Care must also be taken for drainage and compacting, hopefully before use of the rolling stock. As these same rules apply to larger railroads, the smaller size and tighter curves of the narrow gauge railroad yields less effort and expense in the roadway preparation.

The Railroad Really Did Change Everything – Docent-Led Tours at the NWRM

Peggy Barchi

Get a behind the scenes, docent-led tour of the Northwest Railway Museum and find out how the railroad really did change everything!

The Train Shed Tour Package is a docent-led experience at the Northwest Railway Museum. Learn all about how the railroads changed everything in the Pacific Northwest! Start your tour at the 1890-built Snoqualmie Depot, before you board the Snoqualmie Valley Railroad for a ride to the Train Shed Exhibit Building. Detrain and enjoy a 30 minute tour of the 25,000 sq. ft. building that includes large and small artifacts and several exhibits including the award-winning Wellington Remembered exhibit. Docents will lead guests through the building, interpreting railroad and Northwest History. Large objects include freight and passenger cars, maintenance of way equipment, the nationally significant chapel car 5 Messenger of Peace, as well as large artifacts with local ties. Learn about what the Northwest Railway Museum is doing to preserve and perpetuate northwest railway history.

Re-board the train and travel west to the top of Snoqualmie Falls where you will view a large scale construction project, water going over the top of Snoqualmie Falls, and a beautiful view of the valley and river below the Falls. Your docent will stay with you during your trip to the Falls, interpreting the scenery and providing both historic and contemporary context. The Package ends when the train returns to Snoqualmie Depot. The round-trip experience lasts approximately 2 hours.

Please note: Tour Package participants do not go into North Bend by train. However, they will get to see equipment and exhibits that are only available at the Train Shed. Another bonus – guests have their own personal tour guide for their train trip to the Snoqualmie Falls! The Train Shed Tour is offered once a Saturday at 1pm and is limited to 15 participants.

2015 Dates and Times: (please arrive early to purchase tickets)

April-October: Saturdays, 12:30pm. (Black-out dates: Saturdays July 11 & 18, 2015)

Cost: Adults $20, Seniors (62+) $18, Children (2-12) $12, under 2 = no cost

The Tour Package is not recommended for children under the age of 5.

Reservations: you may reserve your Tour Package by contacting the bookstore clerk at 425/888-3030 x 7202. Please note: payment is required to make a reservation and there are no refunds.

A full list of NWRM 2015 events and extensive contact info is available at this previous Grab Iron post.

Chapel Car and Donated Organ at Train Shed Building, NWRM

Chapel Car and Donated Organ at Train Shed Building, NWRM

Mothers Ride Free on Mothers Day Weekend at Northwest Railway Museum

Peggy Barchi

Celebrate mom this Mother’s Day with a scenic train excursion through the Cascade foothills. You and your mom will journey to the top of Snoqualmie Falls and enjoy the view of the valley below. The Northwest Railway Museum invites mothers to enjoy a free ride aboard our antique train, when accompanied by a paying child – of any age. Passengers may board in Snoqualmie or North Bend. The round trip takes approximately 70 minutes. Passengers may get off at the halfway point, shop, eat lunch, or take a stroll before returning on any later train. Trains depart every 90 minutes beginning at 11:30 AM from the Snoqualmie Depot at 38625 SE King Street and at noon from the North Bend Depot at 205 McClellan Street. Roundtrip fares: $10 ages 2-12, $16 ages 62 and up, $18 ages 13-61, Under 2 are free!

A full list of NWRM 2015 events and extensive contact info is available at this previous Grab Iron post.

Show Off Your Layout on June 7th

Russ Segner

Want to show off your layout? We will have several layouts open June 7th, the day after our Annual Spring Meet in Bellevue. If you are willing to be open from 1 to 5, just send an email with a description of your layout to me at email hidden; JavaScript is required or call 425-228-7327. I will contact you with details.

Clinics Listed For 4D Spring Meet

Russ Segner

There will be a full Saturday of clinics at the 4th Division Spring Meet to help us all enjoy our hobby more and become better model builders. A list of the clinics and the presenters has been posted to the Spring Meet web site. Come and enjoy learning from some of our best.

The date is Saturday, June 6 at the Bellevue Sheraton Hotel. Registration is available by mail or online and includes lunch. Additional details including online registration are in the previous Grab Iron post.

We will hold our 4th Division Annual Meeting during lunch and hand out some special recognition to some of our members for their fine work and contributions to the hobby.

Note The Vote

JJ Johnston, Election Chair

Attention: You should have received your 4th Division election ballot in the mail. If not, it should be there shortly. Please take a couple of minutes now to complete and return your ballot. Let’s show our support of those who volunteer to serve us. You will also see the flyer and registration information from Superintendent Russ Segner for our 2015 Spring Meet to be held in Bellevue on the weekend of June 6 & 7. There will be clinics and layout tours. You can sign up now. Please vote.

Skagit Valley and Whidbey Clinic Report, Apr 2015, Al Carter Signs

Rich Thom, photos by Rich Thom

Clinic Chair Rich Blake welcomed 28 other folks to the Skagit Valley & Whidbey Clinic’s April meeting at the Summer Hill facility in Oak Harbor. Attendance this season continues to be strong, so planning next season’s program was up front and center, with Program Chair Susan Gonzales requesting further ideas. She and Rich have already fleshed out some of the program, with Russ Segner presenting in September, the ever-popular Mini-Clinics in October (five or six 15-minute clinics by our own talented members), and a reprise of the Model Contest in February. The theme for next season’s contest will be flatcars with loads, any scale as usual. Jack Tingstad, volunteering as contest shepherd, said that the contest rules will be presented at the September meeting, but broadly either a flat car must be scratch built, or a load (or both). There will be a humor award as well as others. Get a-building now!

Without further ado, Rich introduced well-known model building artisan Al Carter for the evening’s clinic on how to apply distinctive period signs to buildings, of brick, wood, stone, or any other material. Al uses three techniques: (1) dry transfer lettering; (2) thin paper method; and (3) decal method, often combining them on the same model.

Fig 1 - Al Carter introduces the dry transfer method

Fig 1 – Al Carter introduces the dry transfer method

The Dry Transfer Lettering Method uses self-adhesive letters available at stationery or craft stores. The letters are used as masks, rather than applying them to a wall and leaving them in place. Start by painting the wall:

  • Choose your base structure color
  • Spray on primer (rattle can or air brush)
  • Add mortar
  • Add weathering (optional at this point)

After the wall is prepared, select the location for lettering and:

  • Mask wall so area of lettering is exposed (all other areas covered)
  • Paint with desired color of letters, usually white; use a spray-on primer for this step, not a craft paint, for better adherence
  • Add individual lettering (note the letters can be any color you can find since they are removed later)
  • Paint over letters, usually black; craft paint can be used for this step
  • Carefully remove letters
  • Remove masking
  • (Optional) Lightly sand or scrape sign to reveal wall material—brick or wood—to simulate a well weathered sign

The end result is white lettering on a black background. See the excellent example in Figure 2. (You can also create black lettering on white, or use other colors, but white on black was most common.)

Fig 2 - Signage on Al's Franklin Garment Co. building

Fig 2 – Signage on Al’s Franklin Garment Co. building

The Thin Paper Method makes use of color reproductions of signs that can be found in multiple sources including magazines and on-line. The trick is to print them on very thin paper so that the signs, when glued to the structure, conform – or “snuggle on” – to the texture of the building wall.

  • Select sign graphic—from magazines, internet, books, your own artwork
  • Copy on thin paper
  • Carefully cut ou
  • Apply 50/50 white glue/water to backside
  • Place sign
  • Carefully press into place with damp sponge
  • Weather to suit
Fig 3 - Some of Al's signs printed on thin paper

Fig 3 – Some of Al’s signs printed on thin paper

Several kinds of thin paper are suitable, but it may take some experimenting. Al uses “flimsy” paper he obtained many years ago, but others will work, too. Ted Becker said that he has had good results with the tissue used with gift wrapping. Other options are “onionskin,” tracing paper, and airmail paper. Whatever you try, the next challenge is: will the thin piece of paper run through your printer without jamming? The only way to find out is to try. If it doesn’t, Al suggested that you can tape the thin sheet to a carrier sheet – a piece of ordinary copy paper – and run it through your printer that way. Another hint: whenever Al obtains a new kit or sheet of signs, he always makes a copy on his home copier of the signs so he has a backup in case of errors made with the original. A terrific example using the thin paper method is shown in Figure 4.

Fig 4 - One of Al's buildings with sign created by the thin paper method

Fig 4 – One of Al’s buildings with sign created by the thin paper method

The Decal Method is essentially the same technique that modelers use to letter rolling stock except that the decals are just substantially larger.

  • Select sign decal
  • Apply decal
  • Use setting solution; on hydrocal buildings, use lighter fluid (extinguish cigars before performing this step)
  • Carefully press into place with damp tissue or sponge
  • Seal with Dullcoat (or alternatives—see below)
  • Weather to suit

Some sources for sign decals include Art Griffin Decals (, T2 Decals, and Largemouthlodge Decals. The latter two suppliers do not have websites, but both sell on Ebay under those seller names. Do an Ebay search (in model railroading) on Ghost Signs.

Al has also experimented with various dulling finishes, and has found that an even flatter finish than the popular Testors Dullcoat is another Testors product named Modelmaster Lustreless Flat.

Two of Al’s buildings with signs applied using decals are shown in Figures 5 and 6.

Fig 5 - The Manhattan Hotel overlaid signs, a decal by Art Griffin Decals

Fig 5 – The Manhattan Hotel overlaid signs, a decal by Art Griffin Decals

Fig 6 - Another sign created using an Art Griffin decal

Fig 6 – Another sign created using an Art Griffin decal

Fig 7 - Side of one of Al's buildings with signs made by a number of methods

Fig 7 – Side of one of Al’s buildings with signs made by a number of methods

Al concluded by noting that these methods can be used in combination, such as in Figure 7. The Pepsi sign is a Woodland Scenics dry transfer; the Morton Salt sign a decal; and the Seven Up sign a thin paper example. The Red Man sign is a paper sign that was slightly sanded on the back (but not as thin as a thin paper sign) so it doesn’t conform to the bricks as well,

Never one to leave the stage without an encore, Al showed pictures from his and his wife’s recent cruise to Brazil. No flash pix of Rio or Carnival here, just photos of cluttered and well-weathered rooftops on wharf side buildings for modeling inspiration. Al really knows how to enjoy his vacations!

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