Monday, February 10, 2014

Thomson-Diggs Billhead

A few months ago, I purchased an eBay offering of a Thomson Diggs bill-head from 1924; they seem to crop up fairly regularly. The bill-head includes an illustration of the original portion of the Thomson Diggs building on R Street. The current building is much bigger than this early nucleus. It later included a first floor expansion on the West side (to the right of the building in the illustration) and then later still additional floors were added on top of that expansion. This illustration was one Thomson Diggs used in their 1920s catalogs that I've seen down at the Center for Sacramento History. Also of note is warehouse to the left of the main building. I think either this is an earlier and smaller version of the warehouse that I've seen later pictures of, or the picture is keeping this corrugated warehouse shorter than it was in reality. Perhaps this was done on purpose to not block the view of the main building.

Sunday, April 21, 2013

The R Street Ramble

At the end of the Western Pacific Historical Convention in Sacramento next month (May 17-19) I'll be hosting an 'extra fare' walking tour of R Street. Aided with old maps, historic photos, and a few remaining clues of the street's railroad past that remain, I'll lead a small group down modern day R Street while trying explain historic R Street. It's limited to the first 15 who sign up and plunk down an extra $12 - which I'm told will include coffee and pasties delivered at the starting point. At last report, over half the spots are filled. More details can be found at

Wednesday, February 6, 2013

The Forever Modeler...

As seen on Boing Boing yesterday, The Pulp-O-Mizer can generate custom Pulp Fiction covers for just about any occasion. You can find it at:

I made one to celebrate (?) the fact that I never seem to finish any modeling project I start.... (oh wait, there was the Donut Truck...)

Right. Onward! A/C window units and more work on the Freight Depot walls soon.  I also have in my possession my drop-in module that will house the Freight Depot, so there will be a post about that too.   

Sunday, January 13, 2013

Freight House: the handrails

Hello, everyone. Just a quick build update as I did manage to deal with the handrails on the freight house model over the weekend.

I certainly don't hold myself out to be a master modeler (and I'm sure you're seeing a multitude of sins in these very close up shots... click the picture to get really close in), but I rather like the way the handrails turned out. I built them up out of .025" Plastruct rod. For your amusement, I've included a number of in progress pictures.

I think I'll install those window A/C units next.

Friday, January 11, 2013

Sign Painters

In addition to my addiction  to model detail parts, I have to admit to a book buying habit. Mostly I find cheap used books using Google Books to search and Abebooks to purchase. Among other things, I've found company histories for many of the industries on R Street - Goodyear, General Mills, Nabisco, W.P. Fuller, - plus the Thompson Diggs catalog (which was actually an eBay purchase...)

But today I'm posting about a brand new book* on a topic that is near to the hearts of model structure builders: signage and in this case hand painted signs. Sign painting has been a topic of keen interest to me since working on the Carlaw building decals. In my opinion, if we are modeling structures from before, say, 1980 we should be creating signs for our models with a sign painter's eye as much as possible.

Sign Painters, by Fayth Levine and Sam Macon, can help with that. It is a companion book to a documentary on the almost-but-not-quite-yet dying art of hand painted signs. The craft was nearly done in by the computer sign industry which tends to produce cheaper signs faster, but here and there local businesses have embraced sign painters. Hand painted signs, the book posits, escape the uniformity that creeps in with computer generated signs and they add a distinctive look that adds visual interest (and hopefully increased foot traffic) to store fronts. I'm certainly a believer.   

The book itself is mainly a collection of small, well written, autobiographical essays by over two dozen contemporary sign painters from across the U.S.. Their work is beautifully illustrated with great photographs which should give modelers plenty of inspiration. Indeed one of the sign painters featured in this book, Bob Behounek, is himself a model railroader.

Of particular interest to me, and I suspect other modelers too, is in the appendix. This little surprise at the end of the book is a reprint of an instructional pamphlet for apprentice sign painters by the Wagner School of Sign Arts. I have yet to find any indication of when this "Blueprint Text Book of Sign and Show Card Lettering" was originally published and I'm not going to hazard a guess. The information contained therein seems timeless and useful for my needs though. This twenty page section goes over the basics of lettering styles and proper composition, but my favorite part is the panels that illustrate the nomenclature of sign painters. Like most crafts, sign painters have their own vocabulary. And as one would expect, signs on different parts of buildings and different parts of the signs themselves have specific names. These plates in particular are sure to be referred to often when I make model sign decisions.

For more information on the book and the movie, check out their blog:

* Published in October of 2012 and a Christmas gift to me from my lovely and highly talented wife.

Wednesday, January 9, 2013

Freight Office Model Update

I may have mentioned somewhere that I am a really, really slow modeler. Even after I take into consideration the non-modeling demands on my time, I can only come to the conclusion that my progress on any given modeling project has to be measured on a geologic time scale.

Over the holidays I did manage to put in a few, ok, several hours on the freight office- and I'm still not done with the one wall I've been working on. So here is a picture in the midst of the sausage making .
My plan is to put as many of the details (including paint) while I can still work on the individual walls as separate pieces as  possible - I have other walls cut out and most of the windows installed by the way but I'm still a  long ways from assembling them together.

That said, I did get the foundation piece under the wall (not trimmed completely yet) and I've extended off to the left where the electrical conduit starts. 

The little bits attached to the walkway are the beginnings of  handrails. The steps going up to the walkway took a verrrry long time. I cut stringers from sheet plastic and then used strips to put the steps in and additional strips to fill in the backs of the steps (the rise). I probably could have built it up faster with sheet plastic. I'm not too worried about the little chip off the bottom of the walkway- there will be quite a bit of sculptamold paving on this side of the building when it is put in the drop in module.

Anyway... hopefully there will be another update on this project before the rurn of the next epoch.

Saturday, October 27, 2012

A little walk down R.

Yesterday I had the great opportunity to walk down the R Street Corridor with Dr. Michael Schmandt as he prepares for one of his semi-regular walking tours he gives to geography students. I had a really good time and there was a lot of knowledge sharing between the two of us. I was able to provide additional bits of historical context here and there (just little things, he knows the history of the street very well indeed) and he filled me in a lot on the current state of redevelopment of the corridor as well as some of the urban geography concepts that R Street exemplifies.

I had a number of historic photos from different eras of different locations on R Street and my copy of the 1946 Southern Pacific R Street "station plan" with me. "Station" in this context comes from the railroad specific definition: "a place that is designated in the timetable by name". So it's essentially  a map of the industry sidings and the building footprints in the 1 inch = 100 foot scale. Even though it's a S.P. plan. it helpfully shows the layout of both the Western Pacific as well as the Southern Pacific tracks. Time and again we were able to compare the current state of R Street with the historic pictures and the station plan.

Along the way, Michael pointed out a number of things I didn't realize were there on R. For instance, the parking lot for Otto construction at 2nd and R features rail borders that almost assuredly came from R Street - possibly, I would speculate, from the sidings of the Western Pacific freight house that used to occupy that space.

Also I didn't know there is a pedestrian tunnel that links the older and newer CalPERS buildings, and in that tunnel is a small display of historic pictures and artifacts. The display is part of the result of the archaeological and historical research that was done before construction of the new building.

The other, and perhaps most glaring thing I've missed are the new historical plaques that were installed with the new streetscape in the 10th and R region. There are three or four of them embedded in the sidewalk at various places.
 Things you learn from plaques....I didn't know the Fuller building wasn't built by the W.P. Fuller Co
(pretty sure it was at least added onto by them though) 
It was good walk, a great conversation and I even burned a few calories while I was at it! Not bad for a Fall Friday in Sacramento.