It’s All in the Details

While recovering from a slight cold caught on my last day in Norway I decided to tackle a small project: painting some detail parts. These were the Builders In Scale “workshop detail set” and “mine junk set” and the Durango Press “fire hose on rack.”


I intend to place the fire hoses on the firehouse wall, scatter the mine junk around my two mines and place the workshop details in various places.

I used a variety of paints including several from my Woodland Scenics mini-paint set plus some of my Model Master acrylics. After painting, I used my India ink wash on everything.

I’ll probably dust some of the pieces with weathering powder after deciding where to place them.

A good way to use my recovery time.

Confessions of a Model Railroad Writer

I’m very pleased to report that my first article for a model railroad periodical has been published. It was in the Potomac Flyer, the newsletter of the Potomac Division of the Mid East Region of the NMRA.

I’m reprinting it here. The actual link is at the bottom. (I have left out the photos used in the published version.)


Confessions of a Model Railroad Writer

by Alex Belida

I’ve always loved model railroading. But I wasn’t able to actually start building my own real layout until last year. That’s because I was a busy journalist who spent more than 20 years living overseas, taking my family along but leaving behind the unbuilt kits I bought anyway as I kept the dream alive.

That dream, formulated back when I was a teenager, was of a turn-of-the-century operation called the Eureka and South Pass Railroad. Where the inspiration came from, I no longer remember. I had no ties to the West, hadn’t traveled past the Mississippi in my youth, and had seen just a few TV shows like “Wagon Train.”

So it seemed only natural that when I did start creating the HO scale E&SP, I had to draw on my writing skills to create a history to go along with the layout. I recommend this heartily, especially if yours is a fictional line. But even prototype modelers can benefit from creating a written history of the railroad or segment they are mimicking.

I’m not talking about anything book length, no. I’m suggesting a two- or three-page summary at most of the highlights of the founding of the line, the route modeled, and the towns and industries along the way. You can print it out and give it to visitors to read, much like a guide you pick up at a museum.

In my case, I had only my imagination to draw on— and the layout itself along with some of those old kits that had been languishing in storage.

There were, for example, the Campbell Scale Models’“Idaho Springs Mine” and the Keystone Locomotives’ “Danby Sawmill,” the first two major businesses serviced by the E&SP. A more recent purchase was the “Oakwood Shipping and Storage” kit from Bar Mills Scale Model Works.

I picked one of my sons, Brian, as the intrepid explorer who discovered the rich mining grounds in Nevada that led to the construction of the Campbell mine, which was dubbed the “Parker’s Peak Mining Company” (Parker being my first grandson). Brian also became the founder of the town of Eureka.

My other son, Adam, joined his brother in Eureka and built up the business known as “Adam’s Express” for shipping ore and hauling mining supplies.

As for the sawmill, that became the centerpiece of the “Lincoln Lumber Company,” established in my fictional history by my daughter and her boyfriend. Katherine, in real life a teacher, also established Eureka’s first school.

One of the pieces of rolling stock on the layout is a cattle car with a lonely steer looking longingly out of the open sliding door. It is lettered for the mythical “Reber Cows and Steers” firm, a tribute to my wife’s family and her late father, Norman Reber, who in real life was editor of the Pennsylvania Farmer magazine.

My wife, like me, is a retired journalist. We’ve taken up residence in Eureka as the proprietors of the Eureka Gazette, “the best darn little newspaper in the West!”

I was blessed to have access to a stockpile of old Reber family photos that I have used to illustrate my history, which is an important part of the WordPress site where I have been documenting the building of the Eureka and South Pass Railroad.

You are cordially welcome to visit the site and read the history, including article excerpts that appeared in the Eureka Gazette. The site is:

Put the word “history” in the Search box below the large introductory photo of my Lincoln Lumber Company Shay if you want to jump straight to those fictional entries and photos.

And then start writing yourself!


The lapse in posting is easy to explain. I was away on vacation in Denmark and Norway. One of the highlights was the seven hour train ride from Bergen, on Norway’s Atlantic coast, to Oslo, the capital.

This is Bergen station.


And the best part of the trip was the climb up from Bergen into the mountain plateau with its many lakes and glaciers.


And avalanche tunnels.


And some Norwegian locomotive power, freight cars and in the background an aging snowplow.



This is a typical station up in the mountains. This one is at Ustaoset.


One last rail photo — this of the funicular in Bergen rising from the city up to a mountaintop popular for its restaurant, hiking trails and views.


Upgrading Eureka’s General Store

The illumination of the town of Eureka is continuing at a heady pace. Workers pressed ahead today and installed interior lighting at Milner’s General Store in the heart of Eureka town, right next to Lilly’s Pleasure Palace. (No doubt being that close gave the workers an extra incentive to finish in time for Happy Hour!)

A close-up:


And stepping back a bit:


Looks like the storekeeper is checking out that woman checking her make-up, waiting for Lilly’s to open.

That work shelving with wares inside the show window is from ModelTechStudios. I didn’t even have to paint it. But I also received some other small unpainted detail sets that I need to get to work on. Some time in the future.

Night Shift

It’s boom times in Eureka. Demand is way up for ore from the Parker’s Peak mine and wood products from the Lincoln Lumber Company. So the train brought in more gooseneck lamps (from Woodland Scenics Just Plug set) and workmen with steady hands installed them at the mine and the sawmill.



So now work can continue into the night. (And we’ll have to get some workers to patch that darn hole that’s visible just below the sawmill entry ladder. Could be a safety hazard. Oops.)

Woodsboro, Maryland Station

I promised more on the Woodsboro train station restoration project and here it is.


The station was built in 1883 and closed in 1963. The Woodsboro Historical Society bought it from the State of Maryland in 1997 when restoration started.

The station was an active stop from 1883 to 1948 and included passenger service. Trains were first operated by the Frederick and Pennsylvania Line and the route was later taken over by the Pennsylvania Railroad. The property was sold to the state of Maryland in 1982.

Among its unusual freight business was the shipping of .goldfish, which became a big money-maker for farmers in the area from about 1900 to 1930. The local fish were prized for their intense gold coloring attributed to lime in the water and soil.

This old photo on display inside the station shows the structure while it was in service. The jugs on the platform were like those used to ship goldfish.


The Historical Society is using the building to store other memorabilia from Woodsboro until it can get another place. Here are a couple looks inside.



That hat on display was worn by the station agent and telegrapher.

And here’s the front entrance, right off Creagerstown Road in Woodsboro. The tracks can be seen to the right.

TrainStation_385_Woodboro 2

The track is now owned by the Maryland Midland Railway. No trains go by the station but the MMR, approaching from another direction, still uses it to serve a nearby quarry.

(I’m sure the restorers would appreciate more support. The Woodsboro Historical Society can be contacted at P.O.Box 42, Woodsboro, MD 21798. Annual membership dues are $15 payable to the Society, according to a form handed to me by one of the folks working on the building last weekend.)