26 March 2024

7th Street Shops - Rails Flanges & Gears Post 7


Tuesday, April 4, 2023

Tribute - Harry Brunk 2

The Hullkill mine head above Idaho Springs
I first encounter Harry Brunk in the pages of the "Narrow Gauge & Short Line Gazette". I discovered the "Slim Gauge News" at about the same time, but Harry's presence there was not readily apparent. Harry was the Leighton Slough of the "News" who wrote the column, "The HOn3 Scene". The SGN was published 1971 - 1974.

"The HOn3 Scene", which was an informative column meant to keep HOn3 modelers appraised of new HOn3 stuff, usually started with Leighton describing a recent adventure or encounter with another character devised out of phonetic "engineering". Leighton, a retired Yard Master (and crusty old Coloradoan) of the U.C.&N. Ry. was apparently in

Could this perhaps be Leighton's water tank?
charge of a water stop with a leaky tank. He put up with the dripping noise on a plank under the tank for 6 months before finally getting fed up enough to fix it - in the dead of winter. ("Hmmmm..." says another crusty old Coloradoan.)
Could this perhaps be Leighton's water tank?
The intrepid Leighton (Winter 1973 SGN) drained the tank, collected all of his tools and materials in a bucket and went up the ladder with the rope tied to himself and to the bucket still on the ground. He chipped away the ice and snow to open the hatch but when he turned to pull the bucket up the mere tug on the rope caused him to slip on the snow. That sent him flying off of the roof.

The famous church in Georgetown
However, the rope got tangled in the top of the ladder and stopped him high enough that he bounce off of the side of the tank. Of course, he was just out of reach of the ladder and naturally, even a sneeze would send him to the ground.

The famous church in Georgetown
And, that's where Leighton suddenly realized he was rambling and got on with business. Well! I guess you could say Leighton - Harry - was good at tales of suspense. He leaves Leighton hanging, as it were, in a rather precarious position - not just hanging off of a water tank - but in the dead of a cold Colorado winter. I don't recall that he ever explained how he got out of that fix. You might get the impression; perhaps Leighton was just yarnin' - being a bit of a yarn himself.

St. Charles type box car converted from a RGM kits










A wayside industry near Georgetown

The famous Devils Gate Bridge from the backside

I count it fortunate to have been friends with Harry Brunk. As described in the previous part of this Tribute, Daryl Leedy, Bob Axsom, Joe Crea (trip 1) or Mike Pine (trip 2) and I jumped in a car on a Saturday morning and drove the 3 or so hours from Denver to where Harry and Bobby lived in central Nebraska. Each time we stayed a few hours, soaked in the stories, the layout and the good company and then stopped on the way home in the small town for dinner.

 UC&N stray box spotted at Bath, C&S - 1909 (Sn3)

On our second visit I learned that Harry and another modeler had exchanged cars from each other's roads. Since I modeled in Sn3 an exchange wasn't really an option so I asked if he would letter one of my cars. Since my modeling period was some 25 years earlier than the U.C.&N. Harry applied the older herald that was more appropriate for a car of his road to show up on my early C&S layout. I sent a car already painted and he graciously lettered and weathered it. This car is one of my treasured possessions.

During the visit we talked about the pros and cons of the scales we each modeled. He described how the HOn3 engines tended to burn up motors relatively often and he regularly had to re motor a model. Naturally, (having become utterly disgusted with HOn3 shortcomings more than once) I talked up my satisfaction with Sn3. Harry was not about to convert - of course - and it wasn't my intent to sway him but he did express his admiration for the scale. If I recall, I sent him a Cimarron Works box car kit in appreciation for lettering my car. I have no idea if he ever built it. 

0200 is a Type II rebuild.

We continued to correspond after we moved to Montana. One day he sent me pictures that were especially interesting. The 2 photos were of 3 U.C.&N. cinder cars Harry scratch built. Like all of his rolling stock they were C&S prototypes. This was especially interesting because I had researched the cars over 20 years earlier and thereafter several great models had been built. Moreover, Berlyn Locomotive Works imported a R.T.R. model in O scale. Modelers like Harry using my efforts to enrich their experience is the reward that made the effort worthwhile.

0107 is a  St. Charles rebuild
The first photo was of a 1907 (Type II) coal car (0200 in the upper photo) converted to a cinder car. On the C&S it was 1 of 15 rebuilt with side dump doors and sent to the Black Hills in 1913. The U.C.&N story was likely parallel this. Several years later they were returned to the C&S as cinder cars. But it was the other cars in the photos that were of particular interest to me. These are models of cars that the C&S rebuilt from St. Charles built cars purchased by the Union Pacific Denver & Gulf in 1898
St. Charles conversion before 1910 (On3)
The C&S took over the U.P.D.& early in 1899 and they converted 8 of them (plus an earlier coal car) into side

Another St. Charles conversion

dump cars between 1903 & 1906. But they were not for collecting cinders. They were built to haul mining tailings onto trestles throughout the system to dump and fill in the trestles. They were designated non-revenue cinder cars thereafter.
Prior to 1990 I had been researching the C&Sng freight roster to developing a series of informative drawings that were more than just representation of the railroad's narrow gauge freight cars. The subject of one of the drawings was this cinder car. I built an O scale model from the drawings with working doors and dogs and a complete underframe in 1990. That year it won the Caboose Hobbies Best of Show Award at the Rocky Mountain Division NMRA Regional Convention. The car was featured in the Aug. 1991 "Model Railroader".

Bob's Unimat lathe / mill

If you compare our models you may notice certain differences. Both versions are correct for the  intended time periods we each modeled. 7th Street Shops now offers a complete collection of the drawings on our website. This car and several others as well as additional details are included in the 25 sheet set.








After we returned to Denver, Bob, who had taken many photos over both visits assembled a viewing program for the rest of us to enjoy. Some of those photos are shared here.

In 2008 Bob hired me to paint 4 of his C&S Sn3 brass locomotives. This was before 7th Street Shops was formed. I visited his home in Denver a few times and on one occasion I noticed he had a Unimat lathe. I expressed an interest in it if he was inclined to sell it. He promised to give me first crack at it if that happened.
Sadly, Bob was in declining health. He quit his job at Caboose Hobbies and began selling off his model railroad collection. Robert Axsom passed away in 2014 after Vicki and I had moved to Montana. One day I received an email from his widow. She informed me that Bob had willed the Unimat to me. I was stunned. I had long ago forgotten about the machine and this was completely unexpected. In honor of Bob I attached an engraved tag and will keep the Lathe as another of my treasured possessions.
Tokens? Memories! Of good friends who I won't forget nor forget to share.

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