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Thursday, April 27, 2023

Stenciling Wrapped Shipments

When we build something, we want to show it off.  "Take pride in your work," as the old saying goes.  (Or the 21st century version:  "Leave no square inch un-marketed upon.")

My friend Ed Swain (PRR Middle Division), aka "The Loadmaster" **, recently sent along a shot of an unspecified load in a gondola, wrapped in a tarp, and stenciled "ALCO", that was really compelling. 

This is cool enough in its own right - the gon, the stenciling, the mystery load that looks like it might be a prime mover?  Or maybe a section of road switcher hood...?  But it got me thinking - wouldn't it be neat to adapt the idea to some on-line customers?  And for that matter, what a great way to reference industries on other layouts, or those named for friends but not modeled, as I do with billboards.

Field Fabricating in St. Amour, W. Va. is named for my late friend of 43 years, Brian Field (Kentucky & NorthEastern) ***.  His 1967 Olds 442 convertible was so thoroughly rusted when he bought it that it contained virtually no intact factory sheetmetal - so restoring it necessitated fabricating a complete Frankenstein, from salvage parts, tin, pop rivets, and Bondo.  Hence, the name of the company - which was Darren Williamson's (IHB) tribute to his effort and/or mania. 

The Della St. yard crew pulls the mystery shipment 
from the loading shed at Field Fabricating.

Since a steel fabricator can ship a vast variety of things ****, the Field Co. seemed a great candidate to try this out on.  But for starters, what exactly is it they'd be shipping?  Well... who cares?  It's wrapped! 😀  All we need to know is, it's going to be big enough to require a gondola and not a truck, but not a depressed-center flat.  And, it probably has sensitive components and/or is not painted yet, requiring protection from the weather.  I say good enough!

So with basically endless possibilities for the shape, the goal was simply to create something plausible, in that size range.  I mainly wanted it to have some dimensional irregularity, so it would create interest in the angles and draping of the tarp - but not be too delicate.  I ended up using a long wood block for its main...  umm...  thing, with a longer and narrower, err... chassis underneath, and a uhh...  clerestory of sorts on top.  I'm imagining a large electrical control center, but honestly it could be anything that could be built off-site and integrated into a larger project. (Or vessel - an inland fabricator could easily be sourcing specialty boat chunks for the Portsmouth shipyards.)

The tarp material had to be thin enough to drape properly, but still hardy enough to not end up torn or deformed by handling.  Candidates included Saran Wrap which was too thin and unstable, and a hunk of old shower curtain, which was too thick.  I ended up using the package from an Eddie Bauer shirt, which seemed a good middle ground - and it holds paint too.  I used 3M spray adhesive to anchor the tarp on the bottom, but nothing on the top or sides, so that it could stretch and drape naturally.

The paint is Model Master Blue Angel Blue, which made the best "tarp-y" color of what I had on hand.  It's even pretty close to Alco's, but honestly, in that era it could be almost anything.  We just need a dark enough shade to stencil. 

The lettering is left over from an early decal attempt for the Field building itself - smaller and more condensed than the final version that's up on the cornice.  Ideally I suppose the load should say "Fabricating" on it too, or "The F.B. Field Co. Inc." which is the actual corporate entity, but I didn't feel like messing around with another set of decals.  In fact, "FIELD" may be enough of a household word in the region that it can stand alone, like "FORD".  I'm not sure - I'd have to ask a St. Amour resident.  I'll do it up right for the next one!

This was a simple and fun experiment, but I think it opens up a world of possibilities.  Thanks for reading, and let me know what you think in the comments below!


**    There's a billboard in rotation on the SNR that's a tribute to Ed Swain and all the meticulously detailed and prototypically secured open-car loads on his layout.  Thanks for the inspiration, Ed!

***   Since we've just put his name on a tarp, it seemed a good time for a visual on Brian, in the context of several other folks you either know or have heard me talk about.  (Or, you may have seen industries named for them on the SNR.)  How about this shot of the original crew in 1992:

Left to right:  Darren Williamson ("Large"), yours truly ("Needle-Neck"), Brian Field ("Small"), Roger Rassche ("Phat"), Rick Colloton ("Schwab"), and Dan Hadley ("Dan").  Roger and Brian have left the building already, too soon.  

****    If you're interested, here's another post on open-car loads for Field Fabricating, and a little background on the company and its facility too:  Suffolk Northern Ry.: Two New Loads for Field Fabricating


  1. Needle neck... Nice story. Ed does have nice loads... You've done justice to Ed and to your friend Field...

    1. Yeah in that crowd, I was the scrawny one, if you can believe it. :-) Thanks Dave! I think it has a lot of interesting possibilities.