31 March 2024

7th Street Shops - Rails Flanges & Gears Post 16

Tuesday, July 4, 2023

The C&S Connection - Part 10


Events happen at every instance everywhere and are instantly gone in the light of their moment; like each frame of an eternal movie. The events are not history; they are event. And then they were events. They continue to speed away from us at 186,000 miles per second.

History is the narrative of events; tales of what was, what happened. The narrative always lacks detail. To be a complete description volumes of story would have to be written for every single second that occurs.

So. We don't do that. We can't. Instead we accept the highlights as a complete picture. 

History is a story and the historian a story teller. We hope the story teller is honest and his information is honest because we must trust him. None of us were there for most of what has happened. Most of what we know about the past came from narrators and their narration from other narrations. Even what we do witness is subject to our limited senses and perceptions. It's pretty astonishing that we know what we do know (or think we know). Maybe we don't really know? It is very difficult to actually tell the whole truth. The true historian will protect the truth as much as he can.

1989 the C&S Connection Catalog
The C&S Connection sort of evolved. There was never specific intent or plan to start a business. I wasn't looking for fame or attention or wealth. I was looking for honest, objective information that clearly was not readily available. I wanted information that would help me create scale replications of those things I had missed from the past. I did not want to just regard my models as models. Somehow I recognized they were a means of connecting to the past that so intrigued me.

The first modern Colorado & Southern freight cars I scratchbuilt were the box cars featured in Part 9. By 1984 what I knew about C&S equipment came primarily from third person information such as Harry Brunk's fabulous series on the Union Central & Northern. I had a few books and perhaps a few drawings. I'm relatively sure the Steel Under Frame car (8216) was the first of the three that I built. 

The Grandt Line kit of the SUF used for the 8216 and the SUF metal castings for the Model Masterpieces coal car helped codify this truth about the C&S roster; the only significant difference between the same class (box, coal, refrigerator, stock) of cars were the body bolsters. There were other differences of course, but this was the consistent, definitive component. The models that won at the 1986 Convention were entered with the interest to suggest this conclusion.

The Grandt Line SUF kit certainly made the Type III car the easiest to complete. We owe much to John Maxwell, and others, who's detailed field notes of the under frame and preservation of the railroad's erection drawings made the kits possible (I don't know specifically where Cliff and the boys got their information). The body bolsters of the other 2 cars were a different matter. There were (are) railroad drawings that at least included general information about those parts but I was not aware of them at that time. I worked with what I could find.

My determination was to build a large fleet of modern C&S cars of all types and classes but the prospect of making each bolster one at a time became a sobering thought. There was an articles about Cerro Bend (low temp white metal) and a spin casting machine built from a Mix Master kitchen appliance. That inspired me to work toward mass production of parts I would need.

I made the masters out of plastic. I built a spin caster out of a similar machine and began learning to create RTV molds. However it soon became clear that reading about something that complex and actually succeeding at it wasn't so simple. My experience became a lot like trying to squeeze an inflated balloon into a cubed shape. Try that sometime. I consistently got inconsistent results.There is a craft to the process that can eventually be had but that's the hard way.  I needed an expert willing to share a few "secrets".

The train from Central City at Black Hawk 1-1-87

Don Meeker, owner of Model Masterpieces, was one such expert; the white metal parts in his kit were impressive. (The SUF coal car in part 5 was one of his kits.) Don graciously shared his greatest "secret" - go see Jim Haggard. The Haggards owned Builders in Scale and they had a complete casting shop. They used High Temperature Vulcanizing rubber to make the mold. Wonderful! But, none of my plastic masters would survive the vulcanizing process.

I knew how to work and solder brass so I set about remaking the masters. At this point I realized I was going to need to go commercial to fund the project. It also vulcanized (yes, a pun) my resolve to make the patterns as accurate as I could. That meant I needed better information.

On the first of January, 1987. my then-wife and I made the trip to Central City to investigate the Type I coal car, 4319. It had been there for years, so we headed to Central City. But the car, engine 71 and combine 20, were not at Central City; They were at Black Hawk next to the North Fork of Clear Creek.

Four foot Archbar truck and ASF cast Bolster
It is very rare for any place in Colorado to be warm on the first day of the year, except perhaps in the local bar. We did not go to the bar. Instead, while I crawled around under a wooden coal car with a camera, scale, tape measure and sketch pad, my then-wife waited in the truck - where the heater was. I am cold-blooded native Coloradoan; the cold did not stop me. (My then-wife was from Iowa. Besides, she and I had survived the great Christmas Eve blizzard of 1983 in a feed store. I was intrepid - she sat in the truck.)

I probably spent more than an hour crawling around between the rails, under the side sills, and the frame in general. (I didn't have time to investigate the whole car.) Yes. I sat Indian style on the ties with my head bumping on the center sills and tried not to get too entangled in the truss and brake rods. I snapped views over the brake beams and record the details of the body and truck bolsters. I spent time just absorbing how that car was put together. The payoff was well worth the overcast cold, intermittent snow and biting gusts.

Cast frame bolster resting on the Archbar truck bolster

The coal car confirmed much of  the vague notes and drawings and added much more about the details of the part. In turn, the investigation could be reasonably projecting onto the Type II bolster. 4319 revealed that the cast bolsters were more than just hunks of metal under the car. They were contoured and fluted with truss rod pedestals bolted to them. It was clear that they were cast for a very specific wood frame. Along with the bolster was a matched 4 foot archbar truck also from ASF. Likely, the truck was already commercially available but the bolster may not have been. The brass master I developed from my investigation reflects the actual parts I found under the car and a drawing of that part appeared in Feb. 1995 Outdoor Railroader. It is also available from 7th Street Shops as part of the complete drawing collection.

Brass masters for Type I cars parts

As I completed the O Scale patterns, Builders in Scale began generating castings and I developed a catalog and information booklet that I published in 1988. This booklet described how to built the cars; ostensibly in O scale but just as easily in any other scale if proper parts could be had. "Information Source - One" was meant to be an ongoing publication, as in Information - Two, - Three, etc. But only the 30 or so copies that I published have ever existed. 

Type II castings and masters (alternate strikers)



Caboose Hobbies and Coronado Scale Models were the first to carry the C&S Connection parts. In all, 19 unique patterns were produced. All of them were white metal except the 2 styles of Murphy metal roofs. Those were cast first in epoxy and then Urethane. 

Being a professional drafter it was only natural to assimilate the information into technical drawings. These were and are the most enduring and perhaps valuable asset of the C&S Connection. I have no way of knowing (since I made the information openly available to other commercial ventures in the hobby). The influence they have had on the popularity of the C&S option for the narrow gauge hobbyist is also unknowable. The drawings have been used extensively on the industrial side and several kits have been developed thru a variety of manufacturers over the years. One importer has used the drawings to commissioned a RTR model. Thru the C&S Connection I produced artwork and worked with C-D-S Dry Transfers to have lettering sets made in all scales for the earlier trade marks of the railroad. This included the 1898 St. Charles Cars and the "The Colorado Road" herald.


The trucks are S scale which is my preferred ratio to work in these days. From left to right are the Rigid trucks supplied with St. Charles Type cars (including the 25 box cars built at the Trinidad Shops in 1897). The ASF built Stock cars were also supplied with this style. Note that these are not archbar trucks since the bolster is trussed to counter sagging. Next to the St. Charles set are the 4 foot Archbar trucks for the 1902 - '07 Type I cars. 4319 for instance. Finally the Bettendorf style of truck with cast components and inside hung brakes on the right. The light colored metal parts are the C&S Connection casting

When the box car article was published that spring (1987) I suddenly had piles of unsolicited mail. Among those that began to write were John Maxwell, Ron Rudnick, Rick Steele, the Schwedlers and many others. Suddenly there was a wealth of information, much of it copies of actual company documents. The flood included photographs from John, Richard Ronzio Richard Kindig, Phil Ronfor Mal Ferrell and eventually even ACF with prints of the St. Charles Refrigerator. 

Suddenly the entire spectrum seemed arrayed before me. I went to work.


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