MODELING: NP Caboose Build Part 2


The next step is to add the end platforms to the basic frame.   I started by fabricating plates that fit under the platform and tie the frame to the end sill.   I used .020″ styrene to make the plate.  Each plate had four holes in the plate to allow for drainage (my guess).    The plate is attached to the frame with large bolts.   Look at the picture of the former NP 1220 below to see the plate.


The plate sits flush with the bottom of the frame.  You will have to notch out the end beam.    The bottom of the end sheathing needs to be notched out to accept the plate.



NP 24′ cabooses (or is that cabeese) used steel and wood end beams.  It is hard to tell for me.  I have to consult my caboose guru Rick Leach to figure it out.   He is a fountain of knowledge on many NP subjects.   There were also several configurations of railings and ladders used.  I really need to pick the prototype you are modeling.

copy-of-zmancab-endThe drawing on the left was done by Jim Zwernemann.  It illustrates the design of the rebuilt end railings.


This picture was taken in Sumas of a car with the older style ladder and railing.  The height of the end railing was a hazard to trainmen if the slack was taken out suddenly.

The car I am building had the improved end railings.   I was fortunate to get my hands on a set of etched brass parts for the end railings.  The parts are very delicate but do save a ton of time fabricating parts.  Unfortunately, the master for the art was lost in a fire at the etcher’s plant.

The first step to assembly of the brass parts was to make an assembly aidassembly-jig
composed of a copy of the end drawing taped to a piece of wood.  I added some styrene blocks to the drawing using CA adhesive.   I loaded the right vertical post in the jig.


I had a couple of tricky etched pieces to bend.  My tool of choice is a 4″ hold and fold tool.  This is a handy tool for bending along the length of a seam.   The hobent-partrizontal railing top has a jog etched in one surface.  It is intended to be bent into an “S” curve.

The tool does a nice job keep the straight edge on the flange.

The process for assemble proceeded right to left.  The top railing is the last piece to add.


The ladder is next to be built.  The left stile is held in place with styrene blocks.  The rungs are cut from .015″ phos bronze.  I cut the rungs extra long to use hem as a site gauge.  I can see if they are all parallel before soldering the joints.  The jig ends up looking pretty messy but the results are what I am interested in.


I know it is a mess but the paper is a throwaway.   Once you are happy with the assembly, you can start trimming the wire and cleaning up the joints.   I use lacquer thinner to do get the flux off the brass.

The picture below shows what it looks like with some cleanup.   I still have some pins to shorten and a few bolt heads to add.


Next time, I will start the underframe and steps.  Rick Leach took this shot of Ken Johnson’s restored caboose.


Happy Trails,


MODELING: NP Caboose Build


I have been doing some modeling in lieu of moving to Arizona.   Most of my stuff is still packed up so starting a modeling project requires some digging in boxes and bins.  My project is one that started about three years ago.  There have been little snippets about this project.


I am modeling a specific car #1254 that was used on the Tacoma Division of the Northern Pacific.  There are few pictures of the car in service but a fellow in Gig Harbor, WA bought the carcass and placed in his back yard.   A friend spent time measuring what was left of it before the damp weather had its way with the wood.  It was similar to other 1200 class cars so details were available to compare.

The cars were built with a traditional wood frame but were later retrofitted with a steel center sill using 12″ Carnegie Steel I beams.  The railroad later rebuilt the end platforms to add safety railings and a thick steel plate to reduce the chances of telescoping in a collision.  The picture below shows the center sill and added steel plate under the end platform.  I think it was nice of Rick Leach to hire a crane to lift the caboose so we could get this view.


There was a drawing published in the The Mainstreeter magazine many years ago showing the side cutaway of a 1700 class caboose.  It does illustrate the car construction.npcabscan


The next posting will go into actual construction.

Happy Trails


MODELING: Lee Turner on Chipping Paint


lt plow1

Recently, Lee Turner sent me an email with attached photos showing an impressive technique for chipped paint.   Rather than paraphrase his words, I copied the text of his email.  I have seen similar techniques using hairspray a release coat.   Lee used a product made by Acrylicos Vallejo for this purpose.

lt plow3

I finally tried the armor modelers trick, the chipping paint effect with chipping fluid. I started with a base coat of rust, first was a coat of Tamiya hull red. When that was dry acrylic tube paints were thinned and blended over the hull red using burnt umber, burnt sienna, raw sienna and yellow ochre. Always remember that rust is a variety of different tones from blue/black to bright yellow so one color for rust doesn’t work. After the plow was completely rusted it was sealed with Testors dull cote.


After drying a thin coat of “Chipping Medium”, Vallejo #76.550 was airbrushed over any area that I wanted faded and peeling paint. I used  Testors acrylic thinner to thin the fluid. Next came very thin color coats, first was a purplish grey mix, then dark faded green mixed with yellow ochre, almost a faded olive color, finally a coat of dark green mixed with white for a faded look. Dampening a small area and then working a stiff brush over it wears away the color coats a layer at the time and the chipping fluid dissolves to reveal the rust underneath. Although this was an experiment on a cheap MTH model it came out with a truly rusty look. I think this proves the point again that paint is as much of a detail an anything else.

lt plow2

The snow plow is an old MTH three-rail piece that acted as Lee’s experimental subject.   Pretty darn good for the first time around the block.

Once of the masters of modeling weathering is Chuck Doan.  I borrowed a picture of a 1/16″ scale Wayne gas pump Chuck has been working on for some time.  This shows were you can go if you work at it.


Happy Trails,



MODELING: Incredible Trees from Europe

Vine Maple in PNW Forest

Vine Maple in PNW Forest ( real scenery)

I was exploring Facebook this morning and spotted a stunning bit of modeling featured on a page.   No identification as to who did the work but the name of MBB Grove Den appeared in the corner.   A quick search turned up a website in the Netherlands.  With the help of Google I was able to translate the Dutch to English.  The company name is MBB Grove Den.  They produce trees and do custom scenery for folks in Europe.   They have a catalog on their site with pricing in Euros.



13422418_293652984305892_8262163376192550889_ologged hillside

I keep looking at the trees trying to figure out how they made them.  It is worth ordering one to see what they are made of.  The needle blanket covering the branches is very realistic.   It looks a little like some of Woodland Scenics material that has been teased out.  It could be a horsehair pad.  An English company by the name of Green Scene sells pads like this material.



I just thought that the two pictures below belong together.

FB_IMG_1472160466466wrong side

Happy Trails


COMENTARY: Stuck in Lodi Again

Lodi arch HABS

Do you remember the old Creedence Clearwater Revival song about being stuck in Lodi again?  It sort of describes my frustration of having the sale of our home fall through.  So we are back showing it to potential buyers.  Uncertainty rules the day!

Aside from the tune’s negative suggestion that Lodi might be another “jerkwater” town in the middle of nowhere, Lodi is not that town. Creedence was not a fan of their wonderful wines and quaintness.  It is now an official appellation for their wine.  They produce a number of very fine Zinfandels.  The SP, Central California Traction and the WP once served this little town in the Central Valley of California.   There are a number of interesting industries that were once served by railroads.   I have liked a number of them.


 Well, I was fortunate not to have packed everything away.  My tools and parts are still there for me to use while waiting for the next buyer to come along.

My previous posting showed a couple X23s done by Lee Turner.   The cars arrived at their owner’s layout.   They belong to Norm Buckhart of Protocraft.   His layout features many custom decorated cars done by a number of modelers.

x23 at norms

Happy Trails,


MODELING: Signature Freight Cars by Lee Turner



Lee Turner has performed his magic on several classic freight cars models of rolling stock that were built for the once mighty Pennsylvania Railroad.   The road billed itself as the “standard railroad of the world”.  That is a tall order but a good deal of their legend was deserved.  The railroad’s design team created the X23 boxcar design and derived it into an automobile car, reefer, stock car and even a caboose.

The railroad did create standards for nearly every piece and part of the road.  PRR freight car designs lead the industry during the early part of the 20th century.  Once such design was the X23 boxcar.  The car had exterior steel posts, deep underframe and a solid steel roof.  Wood sheathing completed the cars construction.

The X23 was developed in 1912 and started production in that year. The railroad acquired over 6900 cars of this design.  They also developed the R7 reefer and built 3304 cars.   If you would like to learn more about the cars, I would suggest you go to Rob Schoenberg’s website.  He has a vast storehouse of information on the road’s many cars and locomotives.

The first of the PRR family modeled by Lee is the former R7 reefer.  A key piece of information modelers must keep in mind when choosing the paint scheme for these cars in that the Pennsylvania sold all of these cars to Fruit Growers Express in 1930.  The colorful scheme shown below changed at that point in history to a similar FGEX scheme.   Cars were operated under different names as they were leased to clients.

r7 before and aftter

The above picture illustrates the effect that Lee imparts on a model.  The stock factory painted Precision import came in a bright yellow with black lettering for the old PRR scheme.   The model was treated with weathering filters like the one’s sold by Vallejo.  The brown filter works to tone down the yellow along with various dust and grime washes.  Check out this previous post on Lee Turner’s technique .

mdx reefer

Mathieson was a company that used the former PRR R7 cars.   The majority of the cars kept their Fruit Growers scheme through the later part of their life.


The above scheme is correct for most of the steam and early diesel era.  The PRR lettered cars would be incorrect if you model after 1930.  Then again, it is your railroad so do what you want.

The PRR used the X23 as a basis to fill a shortage of cabooses during WWII.  A total of 75 boxcars were converted into NX23 during 1943.   Lee has depicted the car as you would expect a war era car to look.

prr caboose

I found several prototype photos of X23 boxcar.  They appear to taken in the late 1930s.



I hope that this posting provides some useful information on these classic freight cars.

Happy Trails,


MODELING: Favorite Platform

Many years ago, I first saw a very useful and simple improvement on a modeling work surface.   A fellow by the name of Bill Coffey had come up with the idea to make a raised platform to work on.  What is so special about this?  The raised platform allows you to use the edge when building up a three dimensional part.   It also allows you to have a decluttered work area.   I am sure that once a project is underway you find that the clutter starts building to the point where can’t find what you are working on.  Well that might be an exaggeration but it does allow you to push the bits and pieces off the platform as you work through the build.

coffey cerro

Bill Coffey was a very creative guy who invented spin casting using Cerro Bend low-temperature metal, custom cutting scale lumber including shiplap and tongue and groove wood, and many other innovations. As a model builder Bill was second to none.  He was a regular in the old Fine-lines magazine and described many of his techniques.  The Cerro Bend casting technique was reprinted in a separate booklet by Bob Brown.

Bill passed away many years ago after dealing with serious illness.


The top is made from tempered hardboard (Masonite).  This is attached to hplatform frontalf or three-quarter inch plywood with flathead screws.   You can glue it on with construction adhesive but it is a throwaway once it is chewed up.   The platform is supported by four small rubber feet shown below.

platform bottom

You can make the platform nearly any size.   I have made a larger one that is in use on my workbench.   I added a healing mat to the top to minimize damage to the hardboard work surface.

large with mat

Happy Trails,