December 24, 2016


Merry Christmas

May all of your signals be green!

Happy Railroading

December 18, 2016


Part 3: Rio Grande’s Incredible Tintic Branch

Blair Kooistra captured this image of Union Pacific's Iron Mountain
bound ore train.  Kooistra is one of our generations most talented railroad photographers.
Some of his images on may be found at Flickr under his
account entitled Blair Kooistra.    


We have a friend who visits our offices from time to time, and my blog about the Tintic branch gave him cause to reminisce about being young and living near the branch. One of the signature features of the line is 120’ trestle where the Tintic branch crosses Union Pacific’s Sharp sub. One afternoon in the early 1960s, he and some friends were passing time at the bridge. There was a flange greaser at this location, and nearby, there were buckets of grease. The doldrums of summer demand creative invention, and in time, aimlessness turned to a balancing competition. The challenge was to step into the grease and see who could walk the furthest along the rail. The summer day was long, and untold minutes were spent as the young kids tried again and again to outdo each other.

At this time, Union Pacific operated heavy, iron ore trains from Iron Mountain, Utah (in the southwestern corner of the state) to Geneva Steel and Ironton near Provo, Utah—a distance of about 230 miles. Typically, these trains were powered by SD7s, and, due to their weight, they were long, slow moving drags. When the headlight of the day’s train came into view, the young boys stepped from the rail and eagerly awaited its passing—the thought of the greased rail already long absent from the fickle consciousness of youth.

The grade is uphill.  Of course, when the train reached the section of rail greased with a thousand footsteps, it spun to a halt. And of course, the conductor sees from his window the toothless smiles of the feckless summer vagabonds of perfidious toil. Their soiled shoes and pant legs leave no doubt as to who perpetuated the crime, notwithstanding their friendly grins. According to my friend telling the story, the conductor had “a come apart”—meaning he emerged from the cab and, with a violent slur of words, commanded the attention of each one of those young boys. 

In the Utah desert, anthills can be large. Our friend recalled with a memory reinforced from a dozen stinging ant bites how the conductor marshaled the boys to use the anthills to sand the rails. Imagine what that looked like: four or five young kids dancing around, swatting ants, and pouring sand atop the rails underneath a massive iron ore train from cups and little pieces of tin they found scattered about. Meanwhile, the conductor stood from behind, a twinkle of schadenfreude in his eyes, while the day’s wrongs were made right. It is almost a Norman Rockwell painting, right?

God bless the railroads.

Blaine Hadfield

November 20, 2016


Request for information!

We have in our portfolio of freight cars molds a car that, as of the this post, remains unannounced and unreleased.  This car presents a challenge for us.  We have the molds, but we lack a well developed data package for the creation in accurate paint schemes.

At this point, we feel like we need to broaden our search for data.

ExactRail is producing the Berwick 7440 Boxcar.  For Penn Central fans, this is the X77.  

This is not an announcement.  It is more like an attempt to part the curtain and crowd-source information.  If you have any pictures, paint diagrams, or other information with this car, please feel free to share it with me directly at:

We hope to make this an actual announcement sometime during the 2017 year.

Happy railroading!

Blaine Hadfield




October 30, 2016


Where it all Began

From as long as I can remember I have been interested in most modes of transportation.  When I was a child I would count all of the 18-wheelers between my home and the eventual destination.  The few times I went to the airport I was entranced by the huge airliners.  Trains were just as interesting to me trucks, planes & ships but it wasn't until the summer of 1994 that it changed for me.

My Dad wanted to take me out on a camping/fishing trip with just the two of us.  We loaded up the Dodge and left the rest of the family behind.  After driving for about an hour and half we stopped and pitched the tent at Scofield Reservoir in Utah.  Once camp was setup, I tried to do a little fishing but the day was hot for anything to bother being caught.  While attempting to fish I could hear a rumbling in the distance.  Not long after, a long train of hoppers appeared and slowly rumbled by.  While this wasn't the first train I had ever seen, it was one of the first that I had just sat and drank in the whole thing.  Something was different now, a switch flipped in my head and I wanted to know more.

James Belmont photograph

James Belmont photo showing a coal train in 1989.  Area where I camped was not far from here. 

About four hours later I was in the tent working on going to sleep and I could hear a familiar rumble in the distance.  I hopped out of my sleeping bag and unzipped the tent to try to see the train go by.  Unfortunately it was dark and the tracks were about a 1/4 of a mile away but I could see the headlight illuminating the tracks ahead.  Although I couldn't see it, I still looked in the direction of the train and listened to the sounds disturbing the warm summer night.

The next morning another train went by.  After breakfast and another failed attempt at fishing, my dad and I decided to drive around and explore the area.  We first explored the near by town of Scofield and then moved up to the semi-ghost town, Clear Creek.  Fortunately the railroad tracks paralleled the road to Clear Creek and just before arriving to the town we came across the coal train that had passed by this morning.  It was moving slowly under a flood loader being loaded with coal.  Later in the day we found a different place to camp where the fishing was better but there were no trains to watch.

After getting home I was hooked.  I picked up my first issue of Model Railroader (September 1994) and I drank in everything I could.  This is a wonderful hobby that has impacted my life in many ways.  Without this one camping trip my life would be very different today.  I wouldn't be working where I am and most of the friends I have now would only be strangers.  I am thankful for what it has brought me and look forward to where it will take me.

Happy Railroading,

Chris Brimley 

October 22, 2016


Part 2: Rio Grande's Incredible Tintic Branch

Rio Grande's Elberta Turn climbs past the load-out at Keigley on the D&RGW Tintic Branch.  The photo above is from James Belmont, a remarkably talented photographer who documents railroads in Utah.  In 1998, Belmont, Blair Kooistra and Dave Gayer published a book entitled Crossroads of the West, A Photographic Look at Fifty Years of Railroading in Utah.

 On the Thursday following our blog Rio Grande's Incredible Tintic Branch, I met some friends for lunch.  One individual from this group owns a construction company that specializes in highway bridge construction.  An issue which affronts his business is that the aggregate supply in the Salt Lake valley is diminishing. He was pleased to identify new sources for material in the Tintic/Goshen region of Utah, an area about 50 miles south of Salt Lake City.

As we spoke, he told me about an idea to mine aggregate near the old Rio Grande Tintic Branch, build or acquire a railroad siding in the area, and then use the railroad to ferry cars to a trans-load facility that he would construct in the Salt Lake valley. However, a few days before we met for lunch, Union Pacific informed him that the rail line was dismantled by vandals, and that there was no actual connection to that area. For today, a rail link to the area was dead.

For me, this was an interesting touchpoint given the blog I had just written. The timing was so uncanny, and it seemed appropriate to follow up here.  In so doing, one may be tempted to make the ostensible point that vandalism has real effects. It affects enterprise, the community and romantics (like myself) who like old things. But I think that it is more important to drill down further to illustrate the more trenchant point: the people who vandalized the branch are real buttheads.  That was the point of my last blog, and I am sticking with it.

The truth of the matter is likely that my friend's project probably would not have developed further anyway.  It is doubtful that the operation would have generated enough car loadings to justify rehabilitating the line. In recent years, the LDS church attempted to find an agreement with the railroad whereby it would ship 300 car loads annually from a LDS-owned grain elevator in this same area.  The outcome was that this volume was insufficient.  

And so rail traffic on this line of the old Rio Grande remains a memory, and it just may stay that way a little while longer.


October 09, 2016


Rio Grande's Incredible Tintic Branch


The photo above is from James Belmont, a remarkably talented photographer who documents railroads in Utah.  In 1998, Belmont, Blair Kooistra and Dave Gayer published a book entitled Crossroads of the West, A Photographic Look at Fifty Years of Railroading in Utah.

It was a dark and stormy night...

Or, some people are real buttheads...

Given the intrigue to the story to follow, the start of this blog could begin either way:

Often overlooked, the Denver & Rio Grande Western's Tintic/Goshen Valley Branch gets my vote for being among the more interesting locales for the 1980's-era Rio Grande. The branch has an aesthetic that is truly anachronistic to the present.  It consists of a shallow right-of-way through marsh and fields and over mountain grades.  It meanders from one canyon wall to another with an inefficiency that has long been lost from contemporary railroads.

The branch is currently in disuse.  However, opportunistic businesses tease ventures that would reopen the line, and as such, the branch is a coquette to Utah-area rail fans. Local enthusiasts hope for the slow moving trains to return to the pile trestles and operate past the old mine load-outs.  And one day, it could happen. There is still rail on those old wooden ties.

Enter the buttheads:

In an article published by KSL on August 31, 2016, two local buttheads, Alan Dean McKee and Gary Anderson, employed a local contractor to scrap the Tintic branch. The problem is, McKee and Anderson do not own the line, and they acted without the permission of Union Pacific Railroad. It is speculated that McKee and Anderson did so to pay the legal fees for a lawsuit in which they "impersonat[ed] high-ranking officials of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints to legitimize" a project for which they were seeking investment capital.

To read the full article, please click here.

Seven miles of track were removed before Union Pacific Police Department and Utah County Sheriff's Office intervened.  Now, any chance that D&RGW's Tintic Branch would reopen is probably a little further away.  



September 25, 2016


Color and The Chicago and North Western Bicentennial Hopper!

In our High School, our class schedule was organized by what was called "A" and "B" days.  For those of you not familiar with this kind of schedule, it is a method for having more classes than what may be allocated in one school day.  One schedule of classes occurs on A days, and a schedule of different classes occurs on B days, and then the two schedules alternate.

On one morning, I walked into my 8:00 a.m., A-day class. But rather than being received by the sober gaze of fellow math enthusiasts, I was met by a different set of faces, and my first thought was "What the hell are you people doing in my class!?"

Perhaps my first thoughts should have been 'it must actually be B-day, and I am probably confused."

The point is this: sometimes, notions that are preconceived influence our thought process.  And, this is true for how we deal with color.

In 2009, ExactRail made the first release of the Penn Central Greenville 7100 Auto Parts Boxcar.  For the color on this car, we missed the mark—no doubt about it. However, what I remember of the experience is that the person who chose the original color pointed to the new ExactRail model and decried adamantly, “I remember these cars, and they did not look like this!”  His perception of color influenced his thought process to such an extent that, when the accurate color was shown to him, he felt the accurate color was no more right for the car either.

(The picture below compares the color of the original release with the color of our recent releases that have been certified by the Penn Central Historical Society.) 

The lesson: You have to be careful.

When I started the bicentennial project with the CNWHS, I was surprised by the color.  The red and blue colors of the CNW bicentennial hopper are not the typical shades of red and blue.  The red color has hues of candy-apple/magenta, and the blue is quasi-powered in color.  And, these particular shades of red and blue are good candidates for being altered by our subjective precepts. With a bicentennial car, maybe we would expect to see a blue more toward the navy spectrum and a red that is more crimson?  As I was mixing paint to get the right color match, I was surprised by how far away the colors deviated from standard red and blue. 

The photograph below is the builder’s photograph as it was provided by the Chicago & North Western Historical Society (CNWHS).  With the age of the photo, the colors had shifted, and so I am also sharing my attempt to restore the color to how it most likely looked.

As indicated above, our perceptions of color are not irrefutable, and, as also indicated above, images themselves are not irrefutable either.  Identifying the correct color for equipment may be a complex process that requires the comparison of many different media so to tease out our subjective precepts and what may be lost to poor photo processing and age. Yet, color is such an important part of the model railroading experience. We are proud to work very hard to get it right.

Our Chicago & North Western Bicentennial Hoppers have been met with outstanding praise from the CNWHS. The Chicago & North Western Bicentennial Hopper is available only through the Chicago & North Western Historical Society by clicking here.

Happy railroading!


September 18, 2016


Chasing Trains For The First Time

On October 6 1996, my Dad took me out on what I consider to be my first time chasing trains.  It was a Sunday and I remember it being cool out.  Armed with my sisters cheap purple camera that used #110 film cartridges, I was ready for anything.

We started the day by sitting at the former location of the Provo, UT depot.  After about a half hour of waiting the first train of my first train chasing adventure blasted by.  A Union Pacific manifest freight with a C40-8 trio pulling.  This was the first train I ever photographed.  I had no idea what I was doing but I was so excited and I didn't care. Chris Brimley Chasing Trains Blog photo a

The chase was on!  We followed the train through the cities of Springville and Spanish Fork.  We then got a little ahead of it in Spanish Fork where I took this next photo. Chris Brimley Chasing Trains Blog photo b

We continued up and over Soldier Summit, a drive I had done many times before but never with the intent of chasing trains.  Somehow the area was different now, I was at full alert.  For those of you that have made this drive, you know that highway 6 parallels the right-of-way for most of the time.  My eyes were fixed on the track, looking for anything that looked like a headlight of a train.  When I would see one, my Dad would pull over where he could and I would run out of the car and snap a few pictures.  

We went as far as Martin & Helper where I got a few photos of the Utah Railway SD40s and then the Rio Grande SD40T-2 & SD50 helper units. Chris Brimley Chasing Trains Blog photo c

On the way back home I was able to catch a few more before the day was done.  Below are photos of Southern Pacific helpers on a west bound manifest and then 3 SP AC4400CW locomotives descending at Thistle, UT. Chris Brimley Chasing Trains Blog photo d Chris Brimley Chasing Trains Blog photo e

Throughout the rest of the day I saw and photographed many trains.  Traffic is unfortunately much lighter through there now but I will occasionally try to chase something when I have time.  After I got the film developed I spent many hours looking at the lousy photos I had taken (at the time I was quite proud).  I have been on many exciting chases but none of them will ever be as good as this Sunday in October 1996 was. 

Chris Brimley


August 26, 2016


Creating and Communicating Color

The manufacturing process requires that we communicate color to our manufacturing partner in a way that is both precise and unambiguous.

Color goes beyond just body color. In some cases, our models have over 15 different colors per car, and you may be surprised to know that the car with the most colors is the Trinity 64’ TRINCool Reefer. This model has 16 unique, painted colors!  Although I haven’t done an actual survey, I would be very surprised if any model train manufacturer has given more attention to matching the number of subtle variations of color on a freight car as we have to the Trinity Reefer.  (And you thought the Trinity reefer was just a big white car!)  


There are different methods for how ExactRail creates and communicates color. However, my preferred method is to create actual paint swatches. In 8 out of 10 cases, I custom mix paint samples in-house to get precise matches. This process looks exactly as you would expect: me, standing in a paint room with an airbrush in hand, mixing and spraying paint until the match is exactly as we want. It is a time consuming process.


Given that we create a lot of actual paint samples in our product development process, I want to give a complimentary shout to a company that I believe makes a great product. I use a lot of Tru-Color paint when mixing color for our swatches. It is not the only paint I use, but it is definitely one of my favorite paints to spray. Tru-Color was formed in 2008 when the principles of Tru-Color acquired and reformulated the Accupaint line of paints. Tru-Color is contributing to a segment of our industry that doesn't see a lot of new innovation, and I think that this deserves praise.  If you are not familiar with Tru-Color, I would encourage you check it out.  Tru-Color can be found at

Happy railroading!

Blaine Hadfield

August 21, 2016


The Dioramas

On the home page of we have a section where large images of highlighted products change every few seconds, we call them the slider images.  We like to use photos of our cars in their "natural habitat", usually photographed on a diorama in the outdoors or on a layout.  This adds a warmer and more colorful image than the cars on a white background.

I use two different dioramas to photograph the HO scale cars on.  One is three tracks going through a generic location & the other is a desert scene with our 72' Deck Plate Girder Bridge.  To photograph N scale I will use my home layout or mock-up something (I really need to get an N scale diorama built).  Both HO scale dioramas were built a few years ago for various reasons other than what we use them for today.

Triple Track

The triple track diorama is used the most often and it shows.  I built it for some photography that was needed on the original release of our Trinity TRINCool Reefers about five years ago.  Along the back left corner I had a few trees and a fence that was built from strip wood.  In the foreground I scratch built an electronics box.  I used sifted dirt from the nearby rail yard and some ground foam for the scenery.  After being used for its original purpose it sat on a shelf and gathered dust.

ho scale module 1

Today the trees, fence & electronics box are gone.  Little by little the trees would blow away in the wind and then I pulled the remaining ones out.  The fence and electronics box were destroyed when the diorama decided to take an unplanned trip to the floor.

Overall the little 12x24" diorama has earned its keep but the day will come when it gets the boot.

Bridge to Nowhere

I built the bridge module for a blog post that never happened.  I must have been pulled away to something more important because I never finished the diorama.  As you can see in the photo, the dry riverbed was never put in and the fascia was never finished.  Like its triple track brother, this diorama spent some quality time on top of a shelf collecting dust & dead bugs. ho scale bridge diorama

For this I wanted to make a desert scene and so I acquired some reddish dirt from the side of a highway in a nearby canyon.  The diorama was built on the same 12x24" sized sheet of plywood as the triple track display.  I scratch built the concrete abutments out of sheet styrene to go along with our 72' Deck Plate Girder Bridge.  The little bit of vegetation is ground foam.  As I always shoot below or level with the bridge, I have never needed to finish the dry river bed.

The Setup

When I go out to get the needed photos I like to find locations that have little to no items that will be in the background such as power lines and buildings. On occasion I have used both with great results.  I have also used the Wasatch Mountains or trees in the background but most often it is just sky.

When I have my location I put the diorama on the roof of my car, position the product, get some funny looks from people driving by and get a few shots from different angles.  Next I upload the photos, do a little clean-up in Photoshop if needed and crop the photos for the slider.

I like to do the photography on partly cloudy days but occasionally I have no time and I have to shoot regardless of the weather.   There has been times I have done the photography in snow or light rain.  From past experiences, I have learned that if there is any wind, I need to prevent the cars from moving, I have had cars get blown off (sometimes I have caught them, other times I didn't).  I use a very special rock to prevent disasters from happening anymore.

Before diorama setup


After ho scale diorama clean

I would like to get a few new dioramas built at some point.   When the time comes, I will post their construction here.

Happy Railroading!

Chris Brimley

1 2 3 5 Next »

Please select a wishlist category