The home of The Rip Track podcast, disseminating information about model railroading and worldwide railroad history.

I'm working on an update to the site; check out the public beta at http://riptrack.net/dev.

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John Shedd Reed: 1917-2008

There are various stories around the news sites today that John Shedd Reed, president of the Santa Fe Railroad from 1967 to 1986, passed away over the weekend. The AP says it happened on Sunday, but the Chicago Tribune says Saturday. Whichever day it happened (and if you have more information please let me know), the railroad industry lost an influential executive. Reed was the grandson of John G. Shedd, the second president of Marshall Field and the founder of Shedd Aquarium (Reed himself was president of the aquarium from 1984 to 1994). As president of the Santa Fe, Reed took the railroad through the deregulation period of the late 1970s and early 1980s. It was also under his leadership that the Santa Fe told Amtrak it could no longer use the "Chief" or "Super Chief" names on its passenger trains in 1976 due to a significant decrease in the perceived quality of a ride aboard them.

Modeler's Moment - Light the hidden track

Lighting hidden track

If you've got hidden track under your layout for staging or for a long tunnel section, consider how well you'll be able to see trains and equipment in those areas. If you can, add a light in those areas to ease visibility. The light doesn't need to be on for the whole operating session, just turn it on when you need to see in there. While strings of holiday lights can be inexpensive, they can also be fragile and they can also run at a high temperature; compact fluorescent fixtures will often run cooler and use less electricity.

Early locomotive construction depicted on worldwide postage stamps

The current issue of Topical Time, the bimonthly publication of the American Topical Association, arrived in my mailbox yesterday. The important item here for us ferroequinologists is the first cover story about the history of early steam locomotive development as depicted on postage stamps of the world. I read through it today and while there were a couple of typos (e.g. "Ross Winang" when it should be "Ross Winans", and "Golden Stake" when it should be "Golden Spike"), I didn't see anything glaringly wrong in the history. Now I wonder if I should submit my article titled "EMD F-units; on Sierra Leone 1850 (Scott) sheetlet" from a year ago. Maybe I will after adding information on other F-unit appearances on postage stamps. Or maybe it's time to put together the article I've been thinking about writing on the RPO inception and development.

Modeler's Moment - Simple trackside details

Spare crossing parts

If your model railroad junk box looks anything like mine, you've got a bunch of track scraps that will never see a rail wheel on them again. Here's something that you can do with them. Rust them up and simply place them next to similar track pieces that are in use on your layout. The prototype railroads will often stage complex track pieces next to their replacement locations, like this diamond frog I found in Muncie, Indiana, when I attended the Midwest Region Convention last year. Old rails are also often left next to the tracks for a while when they are replaced, so you can use plain rail sections this way too.

Modeler's Moment - Selective compression

Selective compression

A model railroad friend of mine likes to say "our eyes are bigger than our layouts." What he means by this is that there is never enough room on the layout to include all of the features that we want to include. Whether they be structures, track arrangements or scenery, there are just too many big things that we want to model. As model railroaders, we employ a process called selective compression where we select the most important features for a scene and compress them enough to fit in the space available while retaining the key elements of those features to keep them recognizable. Now if only I could selectively compress all the paperwork around my house...

What am I working on?

Benchwork and roadbed on my layout

It's time for another survey of what's in my modeling queue that I plan to expand to articles here. The most pressing project I've been working on is getting my layout up to the point where I can reliably run a train around in at least one loop for a layout tour this coming Sunday (March 2). With all of the constraints on my time, the layout is still little more than plywood plains, but I can now, with the DCC system turned on, run a couple trains around part of the layout. So what am I working on for here? Read more to find out.

Modeler's Moment - Happy birthday, E.H. Harriman

Today is the birthday of the railroad executive who tried to merge Union Pacific (UP) and Southern Pacific (SP) almost a century before the merger was complete in 1996. E.H. Harriman was born on February 20, 1848, and joined the Board of Directors for UP in 1897, becoming President in 1903. He also became President of SP in 1901. He controlled both railroads (and several other companies) until his death on September 9, 1909. Many of the two railroads' operating practices were standardized, but Federal officials objected to a combined company at the time, so a complete merger would have to wait. In 1913, his widow set up the E.H. Harriman Award to recognize railroad companies with outstanding safety records.

Modeler's Moment - Model the fallen flags too

I'm always fascinated when I go out railfanning to find freight cars still lettered for former railroads (fallen flags), like this former Wisconsin Central covered hopper that I saw in 2004. Not only was WC no longer extant at that time, the location made the sighting all the more interesting. This car was sitting in the yard at Tacoma Rail during the tour that I took at the NMRA convention that year. So, when you're building your freight car fleet for your model railroad, add a few fallen flag cars, and don't worry so much about the region where the former railroad operated.

Modeler's Moment - Check your white balance

Cascade green mainline action

This tip could go just as easily under lighting as it could under model photography. Be aware of what kind of lighting you're using on your layout. In the same way that incandescent bulbs can cast a yellowish glow, most of the fluorescent bulbs will have a green tint to the light that they give off. When you're painting your models, paint them under the same lighting conditions as your layout. If you're photographing models, check your camera's manual on how to set a custom white balance to compensate for it.

Further site maintenance - spammer cleanup, new theme

I've just gone through and deleted about a hundred account names that appear to have been created in bad faith. I've also changed the account creation to require moderator approval. Ultimately, I'd like to turn on user comments again, but I need to be certain that things will work out well first. Also, I'm trying out some new themes and features for the site. You'll notice the theme updates, but you might miss the features, so I'll announce them (follow the "Read more" link below) as they're brought online.

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