MODELING: Rock Island Fowler In Paint

I managed to get some paint and decals on the Rock Island Fowler clone.  That only leaves the weathering and I can deliver the model to a friend.

Painting a styrene model starts with a cleaning in water with Dawn dish soap.  Once dry I primed the car with a Tamiya gray primer in  rattle can,  It is a great base for paint.  I used Tru-Color Rock Island Freight Car Red (TCP-197}.   Paint was applied with a Paasche VL gun.

I used the Protocraft decal set RI-Fowler-1 augmented with a old Rick Leach Rock Island set for some of the smaller stencils like trust and paint information.   Unfortunately, Rick doesn’t make decals any more.

I obtained this photo which helped with the pos-WWII appearance.

Weathering will go on next.  I will report on the finished car soon.




MODELING: One of Mine and Three of Lee’s

The Rock Island Fowler project is ready for paint but it won’t happen this week.  Too many thing going on.  However, I did go back to the shelf of unfinished models and picked up a AAR 1937 boxcar that I had started a while back.  I am trying to model a series of Northern Pacific cars which had Universal handbrakes and eight-rung ladders.

This posting will address the building of an eight-rung ladder from brass. Once the ladders are installed, I will put it close to the edge of the shelf so it will actually get done soon.

The photo shown above is from the NPRHA collection.  It was taken shortly after the car was finished.  It was the first series (15000-15499) of this type of car for the railroad. I am modeling a car in the 15500-15999.  It came with a Universal handbrake and a metal brake step.

I want to focus on the ladders showing my technique.  The picture shown below is the story in a nutshell.  It is composed of 1/32″ square brass and .016″ brass wire.   The fixture is very helpful to get the rungs straight.

I test fitted the ladder on the intended victum.

When you are happy with the ladder, you need to some finishing.  The wire ends need to be flush and the wire end tapered.  I blackened the ladder prior to painting.

Well that is one of mine and here are three of Lee Turner’s boxcars.

First up is car started out as an Intermountain AAR boxcar kit.  Lee cast up some replacement sides for the original steel sides.  He sold these along with other conversion sets for a number of years.  Lee told me the Wiseman Model Services has the molds and can some if you are interested.  The conversion is pretty accurate model since the prototype was based on the 1937 AAR boxcar.

The next car is a PSC PS-1 brass import that was decorated in the classic Nashville, Chattanooga and St. Louis yellow stripe scheme.   Lee’s client models in a period of about the time of the construction date of the prototype car so weathering was held to a minimum.

The last boxcar from Lee is a Pacific Limited brass boxcar decorated as a Boston & Albany USRA era car.  This car got the full Turner treatment.

Thank you Lee for your contribution.


MODELING: Rock Island Fowler Clone Boxcars


Many steam era railroads acquired freight cars that became the signature design that was most associated with the road.   There are many examples that come to mind.

The PRR had the X29 steel boxcar:

The Northern Pacific had the 10,000 series double sheathed boxcar:

The Soo had saw-tooth single sheathed boxcars:

The Rock Island took a liking to design that was a clone of the Fowler Patent design.   They acquired over 8,000 starting in 1913 through 1927.   The initial designs were very close to the Rio Grande Fowler clones.  There were differences in the door details, roof design sill steps, uncoupling levers and trucks.  The differences become the guideline for the build.  I am building this car for a friend but closely behind this I am doing my own car which will be a later design featuring a 7/7 Murphy end and a Hutchins Dry Lading roof.  All of the variations were in the B-2 class.  Amazingly some of these original cars lasted to early 1961.  The Rock Island converted 1150 boxcars into stock cars.  Rails Unlimited offers a urethane kit for these car.

Steve Hile supplied this railroad car diagram for the original series.  There is a lot of data contained in this one document.

Modeling the Rock Island B-2 is fairly straightforward using the San Juan Car Company Rio Grande Fowler clone boxcar kit.  This model has been produced for a number of years but has been off the market for a few years. I understand that the kit is going to be reissued under the new ownership of the old San Juan product line.  For those who are not familiar with the kit, it is styrene and requires the basic body assembly and details applied.  It is a very easy kit to build but the instructions are in need of help.

The car shown above is the Rio Grande Fowler built from the San Juan kit when it first came out a number of years ago. Charlie Morrell described this basic conversion of the San Juan kit in the O Scale Trains magazine issue #6 January/February 2003.  I don’t intend to repeat his fine work instead show a couple different ideals in my approach to the build.  You can download a PDF of the magazine from their website.


To start with, I assembled the underframe first assembling the center sill and bolsters.  I drilled out the kit bolsters to accept the Protocraft bushing which had been rethreaded to 2.0mm.

Following the instructions, I continued with the underframe adding the trainline which was formed from .032″ wire provided in the kit.

The model would get a pair of Protocraft Type-E top operate couplers.  Rather than cut off the end of the frame I elected to modify the Protocradt draft gear to slide in between the center sill channels.  This is easy to do with a sharp file and vice to hold the part.  The resulting width reduction is shown below.  I removed the striker since I plan to use the kit part.

I assembled the sides and ends fitting them to the underframe.  I added the exterior “Z” posts to the sides.   The end “Z” posts in the kit are wrong.  They need to be redone to create a 7″ tall post.  Use styrene to create the “L” shaped angle which will go in place of the injection molded part.

Once you finish assembly of the body and attach it to the frame, you will have what is shown below.

The kit doors were modified to add a second lateral angle.  I used .010″x..040″ strip to do this.  The bolts are from McLeod Western and have a 7/8″ head.

A new roof and running board is needed since the prototype used an 18 mullion Murphy XLA design and the San Juan kit had 15 mullions.  Follow the magazine description to build up the roof.

I used Grandt Line Murphy running board supports on top of the mullions.  A new running board was built up from strip along with new laterals.  I made a simple jig to assemble the lateral running boards.  Multiple assemblies were made at one time.

Add the corner grab irons and install it on the roof.

Oh yes, the car will be painted with Tru-Color lacquer using their Rock Island freight car red.

I need to mention that the model I am building used K type airbrake.   Most of the remaining B-2 cars received the AB style brake system after WWII.  I used a San Juan part for the brake cylinder.  The dirt collector and cutoff valve came from Grandt Line.


The Rock Island used a different sill step (stirrup).   I bent these steps up using .015″x.042″ brass wire.  I opted to attach them as shown since the side sill isn’t wide enough to drill into the attach the step.  You can see the scale striker is much better looking than the one supplied on the drraft gear.  I changed that brake wheel to a brass casting sold by Grandt years ago.  I prefer to solder the wheel to the staff.  The angle cock is an old PFM casting that I bought years ago.  It was never cataloged but there are other suppliers like Protocraft, Wiseman Model Service and others.

The Rio Grande had lever type uncoupling device called Carmer.  The Rock used a more convention style.

The car is ready for paint.  I will apply the Tru-Color paint and the specific Protocraft decals.  You will see the finished car in the next installment.

In the coming months, The B-2 car will appear again in the form of more modern version that was built with a 7/7 Murphy end.

Not to be left out, Robert Leners is building another version going a couple steps further by scratchbuilding the kit parts.


Hope you enjoyed this story.




MODEDLING: Studebaker Time

Studebaker is one of many failed auto makers.  They made some interesting automobiles after WWII.  This post describes Mike George’s construction of a 1947 Studebaker using a Yat Ming 1950 Studebaker as a starting point.

Mike George describes his modeling below:

I’ve seen mention that the Yat Ming 1950 Studebaker Champion, advertised as 1/43, is actually closer to 1/48. I model 1948, so a ’50 model car is too new for me. I watch an on-line auto auction site, Bring-A-Trailer, and a few weeks ago a ’48 Studebaker Champion showed up. It is significantly different than the ’50 model, but it seemed like a worthy candidate for modification. So, I ordered a Yat Ming car. The price is very reasonable and the detail is quite good.

Out came the file and saw. The taillights have to be moved from vertical to horizontal, so some filing is necessary on the tops of the rear fenders. The hood was cut out and the fronts of the fenders were also removed. The new hood is fabricated from .060 styrene in layers with a lot of filing after it dried. The new grille is made from Evergreen styrene bits.

It appears this body style appeared in 1946, so I’m assuming that is what mine is and is a couple of years old. I didn’t want it to look too worn, so I stuck with minimal weathering. I hope no Studebaker purist looks at this, because I’m sure there are lots of details that aren’t correct, but the changes totally change the appearance of the car from a strange jet-age appearance  to a more traditional post-war body style. I couldn’t locate drawings, so all the modifications are done from looking at the BAT website photos, but there were at least 50 from many different angles.

It seems like most photos I see of stations in this era always have a late model nice car parked under the eaves, so I assume station agents made pretty good money! I’ve placed the car at the Ellijay depot and it adds some nice variety with yet another true 1/48 vehicle.

I want to thank Mike for writing up his automobile conversion.

Next time I will start a short construction project on building a Rock Island Fowler clone boxcar using a San Juan Car Company kit.  I know the kit is not currently available but I understand the new owners are planning a return.   My conversion is based upon an article written by Charlie Morrell in O Scale Trains.  By the way, Protocraft has released new decals for this series of cars.


NEWS: The Passing of Ron Sebastian

On the second of October we lost a really nice guy.  Ron Sebastian passed away at home.  It was a shock to receive news of this tragic event.  Not only was Ron a key figure in our hobby but a decent human being, husband, father and grandfather.   Ron was the driving force behind many key projects in the model railroad industry.  Des Plaines Hobbies was his pride and joy and maybe the best store of its kind in America.

Many of us remember his presence at hobby shows and conventions.  I am sure that Des Plaines Hobbies was your destination if you were in the Chicago area.  It was my favorite stopping place when I had time between flights at O’Hare Airport.  Ron was nice enough to drive out and pick me to visit his store.  He was a treasure!

I came across an article about Ron that you might find interesting.  It was in the Chicago Tribune a number of years ago but his story is still relevant.


Rest in Peace



MODELING: Tales From Lake Wobegon

No, this not a story from the Prairie Home Companion.   It is short collection of things related to our hobby and specifically 1/4″ Scale.   Not all of the stories have happy endings but you still may find a thought worth reading.

Up in Minnesota not far from Lake Wobegon, a very skilled model builder by the name of Robert Leners keeps himself busy with a whole stream of beautiful models such as the Northern Pacific 52′ flat car shown below.   His model is built from styrene and is highly detailed top and bottom.   Robert used the plans published in Railroad Model Craftsman which depicted the last series of cars built in the late 1940s.

The decals are a new set from Protocraft.  The hand brake is one of the new sets done by Terry Van Winkle for Twin Star Models.  The stake and poling pockets were designed by Rick Leach and printed by Terry.  The parts were custom cast by Jon Cagle in urethane.   Lots of hands helped the creation but the skill of the build is all Robert Leners.   I am looking forward to seeing the finishing touches applied to this fine model.

The photo shown above came from the Northern Pacific Historical Association archieves.   It was taken by the late Wade Stephenson collection.  He was an employee of the Milwaukee Road but photographed other roads such as the NP and GN.  This shot was taken on the Milwaukee Road under wire.

So, I have been trying to build the same or similar car following a slightly older version of the car.  The project has been a disaster from day one.  I was moving towards the completion of the basic underframe when I discovered a few mistakes that lead to warping of two cross bearers.  This was on build #4.  Well, now that I am back from vacation I will attempt #5.  This car will not beat me!  I hope.

Here is the underframe prior to scrapping it out.  Notice that I am using a large square of granite as a work surface.  The straight edge is useful to make sure the side is straight as you bond the parts together.  I made an error in the height of the cross ties along the far side of the car.  They were too tall to fit in the side channel.  If there is a lesson to be learned is not to try to scratchbuild a model with only short work sessions.  Mistakes are made as a result of no continuity in fabrication.

And now for a different topic.  This time Lee Turner shows us two examples of what you can do with old Max Gray and US Hobbies brass imports.  These models show up at swap meets and shows for a modest amount and can provide the basis for an attactive model.

The addition of some details to car such as cut levers and a load really lift the basic brass car to something that will look great on your railroad.  The prototype of the model is a Bethlehem 52′ mill gondola.  A lot of this cars were built and used all over the country. Lee finished the car in Lehight Valley, his favorite, and added a load of “steel” sides.  Carbuilders would make replacement sides for older wood cars.  Railroad would get a shipment much like Lee has depicted above.  His sides were left over from the days when he manufactured resin replacement sides for kitbashing Intermountain freight cars.

This brass import had a few dents added to the sides showing the normal wear these cars would get.   I believe this car is a 48′ long straight side version.

The load appears to be parts from a plastic model kit.  They look like a credible pair of machinery items heading to a  factory.

So don’t overlook these older brass models.  They can be upgraded to look very good.  Weathering is a key factor in improving the appearance.   Things like Archer decal rivets can spark up the plain inside of these models.  Adding rivet heads to the grab irons add to the texture of the sides.

Thank you Lee for the inspiration.





NEW PRODUCTS: More Good Stuff

It seems that I forgot to ask several suppliers if they had anything new in the pipeline or available today.   Here is second posting to cover what has been overlooked by me.

Smoky Mountain Model Works has released their Southern Railway low-sided gondola kit in 1/4″ scale.  It features a one-piece urethane body like his previous AAR flatcar.  The masters were designed in 3D and printed using a high resolution resin printer.  The body is loaded with details on the top, bottom and ends.  The inside of the gondola is fully detailed.

The prototype was long-lasting and could bridge into a the diesel era.  It is available with two styles of lettering for the early black cars shown below and the red later scheme.

S scale pilot model shown

The kit can be ordered complete except for trucks.  It weighs in at about 10.5 ounces with  metal trucks attached.  It does have a weight cast in the body.  This probably will be ok on the layout byut weight can easily be added.  Visit SMMW website to get particulars on price and ordering.

Right O’Way received their first shipment of P48 track with steel rail.  This is 125 rail available from the company.   Jay Criswell is testing the market on this to see if there is significant interest in the steel version. The price is $135 for a bundle of 19 pieces which make 51.5′ of right of way.  You can also puchase a piece for $8 each.  The track is 32.5″ long which different from the usual 36″ length of flextrack.

Modern  Era O scale has a new car in the works for summer 2020 release.  It is Thrall gondola.  Like all of their kits it will feature a urethane castings and detail parts.  This model will come with a one-piece body.   No price or date for release yet.

KV Models has released some very interesting etched stainless steel parts for the Atlas O SW-8/9 diesel.  The parts are well thought out and very nicely etched.  You need to check out their website or look for them on eBay.

These parts will elevate the Atlas unit to more refined shedding some of the ugly parts done for the three-rail market.

Hopefully these new items will interest you.