MODELING: Update on Projects

There are more than a few projects underway on my now cluttered workbench.  As Jim Zwernemann used to tell me ” FOCUS”.  Well, I try but I can be easily hijacked.  I thought that I should bring you up to date on recent stories.


Union Oil Tank Car

I am working on the frame adding grab irons and sill steps on a thin brass sheet that will be attached to the running board.

The sheet metal platform makes it easy to solder the various on the assembly.  The platform will be bonded to the .032″ brass running board assembly.  Thinking ahead I remembered that Protocraft has a beautiful Superior 16″ handbrake wheel.  I dug one out of the parts bin and drilling out one side to accept a .030″ brass shaft.

70-Ton AAR Flat Car Build

Well, I finished up the car with a coat of Star Brand black.  My order from Protocraft arrived with the decal set for the Pere Marquette version of the flat car.


With great excitement, I started to apply the wonderful Protocraft decals.  At a point, I realized that the name Pere Marquette appeared to be too tall and long.  I contacted Norm Buckhart and realized that a mistake was made and the letters and numbers were drawn as 9″ not the 7″ size called out by the railroad.  Norm immediately said that he would fix it and have Microscale rush the fix through.

I was able to remove the offending decals easily.  The small lettering details were just fine so I left them in place.   I do appreciate the williness of Norm Buckhart to correct errors.  He is a rare person in the world of business that backs his products fully.

So that is what I am currently working on these days. Oh yes, I am busy thinning out my book and magazine collecion.  There are too too many things that I have collected over the years.

Thanks for stopping by,








MODELING: Custom Decal Printing

The market place for custom printed lettering has shrunk in recent years.  A couple key suppliers exited leaving little to choose from.  So I thought.  I was reading a post on Face Book that talked about mulit-color decals being printed by a company in Canada. The company is Precision Design Company.   They offer a number of mediums for printing ranging from ALPS and high resolution laser printing using an OKI printer that will print white of clear film

I decided to try the company and had a couple sets of gondola decals printed for use on a planned kitbash of a Glacier Park Models GS gondola kit.   The company is very quick in their turnaround on computer generated artwork.  I was fortunate to have some art generated for the desired Northern Pacific steel gondola.  The art was done with Adobe Illustrator and is extremely accurate.  Like most of the new generation of decal art it was traced from actual photographs avoid the old school method of relying on printers font.

The artwork was turned into decals within about three days and mailed via a US Post Office so delivering was very prompt.  These folks are super to deal with.  So what did the it look like when done?

Here is a shot of the smallest lettering which is approximately one inch high.  This is extremely fine resolution.   As you can see, the printing is opaque and smooth. It is as good as screen printing.  Not as sharp as Cartograf in Italy.  Oh yes, the set up cost is only $20 US and cost per sheet depends upon if you want a full or partial sheet or sheets.   The film was applied to a surface painted with Tru-Color lacquer.   I didn’t apply setting solution other than to test to see that the lettering didn’t smear.


The above page was done by Dean O’Neill as part of a presentation to Northern Pacific Railroad Historical Association (NPRHA) members as a modeling aid.  Rick Leach and Dean as prepared a a couple of Power Point presentations to educate members on the correct lettering and placement for a range of Northern Pacific freight equipment.

Believe it or not, There are a lot of similarties with the NP car and SP drop bottom gondola.  I am getting ahead of myself on a future build.





MODELING: SMMW AAR 70-Ton Flat Car Kit

Quarter-inch scale modelers now can purchase a very nice kit from Smoky Mountain Model Works. They released a AAR 70-ton flat car kit. The prototype cars were 53’6″ long with an extended width deck. The kit is composed crisp resin castings, wire, weight and detail parts made out of resin and plastic. The prototype design was first offered near the end of WWII. It was purchased by major railroads like the New York Central, Baltimore and Ohio, Nickel Plate Road, Pere Marquette, Santa Fe, New Haven and others. The cars were equipped 5’8″ wheelbase 70-ton trucks. They also had a drop style handbrake that would not interfere with long loads.

I decided to build the car shown above. The Pere Marquette bought two lots of these cars. The road used two different hand brake systems Ureco (16500-16749) and Universal (16750-16849). I liked the group with the Ureco hand brake system. An interesting feature is that there was an additional lever that connected the brake cylinder to the hand brake.

The kit goes pretty fast with the exception of the stake pockets. All of the pockets are cast on a sheet of urethane. The pockets were designed using a 3D CAD program and were increased in height to allow for cutting the individual pockets from the substrate. I used a Zona razor saw. The pocket “ears” do need to be trimmed slightly to fit in the location. The alignment process is made easy with pins cast on the backside. I found that when properly trimmed the pocket will snap into place. Make sure you use a slow setting CA so fine tuning the position can be done.

The picture shows the stake pockets in position. The AB brake system was upgraded to San Juan Car Company parts. You can see the added brake lever I added in front of the cylinder. I decided to cast a new weight for the center sill. The kit comes with a steel bar for a weight. I decided to use Cerro Bend bismuth alloy to make the new weight. The metal melts at 158 degrees so it is easy to work with. I made the mold out of heavy card stock and some wood. I used a new CA (to me) to hold the weight in the center sill. The new CA is IC-2000 made by Bob Smith Industries.  It appears to have a rubber compound added to the CA.  It is popular for adding engineering plastic to models.

The new weight has added three ounces to the car. When I installed a pair of Protocraft 70-ton trucks the weight added up to 14 ounces. That should operate pretty well.

The car body is is essentially a single casting with some added details such as the crossbearer caps.

The deck is composed of four castings that have details like the steel plates for the bolster and centersill above the draft gear. I didn’t mount the deck to the body quite yet. After cleaning the castings up, I primed the them with Tamyia gray primer.

I decided to try a different weathering approach. After the primer set for several days, I used a wash of Vallejo black on the deck. After that dried I used a little Mean Green to remove some of the black. I used MIG Ammo Oil Brushers to add brown and gray tones to individual boards. It is a work in process so the jury is out on the effect. The steel deck parts really stand out with the black paint applied. They will be treated with rust pigments and other touches.


That is all for now. The next installment will address the hand brake construction, painting and weathering.


MODELING: More of Jim Hickey’s Models

Jim Hickey built a wide array models in his lifetime.  Fortunately, A great number of them have ended up in the hands of some lucky modelers.  Jim Zwernemann and Bruce Blalock stepped to help Jim’s widow dispose of the models.  These two friends spent a great deal of time inventoring all of his models and boxes of detail parts to they could be disposed of.  Bruce and Jim started the process before he passed.  Much of the material was offered on eBay and to other Proto48 modelers who want to expand their collections.

Jim Hickey finished this imported brass covered hopper using his own decals (Protocals).   The trucks are Proto48.

Here are two brass imports that Jim detailed to follow specific Southern Pacific prototypes.  Both locomotives were converted to Proto48 by Jim.

I would like to thank Bruce Blalock for providing these beautiful photographs.


MODELING: Santa Fe All The Way

Bill McConnell is the proud owner fof this beautiful ATSF waycar. The modeling is the work of master modeler Lee Turner. Lee used a Pecos River brass import as the basis for this modern caboose. The model is equipped with Protocraft couplers. As with all of Lee’s work, there are weathering accents added to the red paint scheme. The finish shows signs of oxidation and runoff of dirt and grime collected in road service.

The waycar is trailing one of Lee’s own Lehigh Valley cars. They are both stunning models.

By the way, Bill has an incredible GP-9 that he built up the drive with battery. Lee did the finish work on the model. He is the owner of O Scale Turnouts, INC.

Thank you Lee for sharing your work with my blog.


MODELING: Building a GATC Type-22 Tank Car 3.0


I have been continuing to fine tune the build process as I go. My original plan to use laminated plastic running boards.  After playing around with the plastic version I decided to go with brass strips.  I used .016″ x .250″ brass strips made by K&S.  I used coarse sanding sticks and wire brush to add some texture to the brass.  Two strips were laminated with lapped joints at the ends.  I build a simple wood jig to hold the strips in-place while sweat soldering the lamination. A 100 watt iron works just fine for this job.


You can see the overlapping joints at the end.  The bottom layer extends the full width to create the bond.  I was trying to avoid a butt solder joint which has no strength.

The next area of revision was the dome as i discussed in the 2.0.  I made a new flange base for the dome using .010″ styrene.  I taped a piece to the tank and held the dome in place while I traced the shape of the dome base.  It creates an elipitical pattern as you would expect.  I marked multipe points for a 5″ flange width.  Using a compass I roughed in the radius.

It turns out the Plastruct makes a dome with the proper radius and diameter which would save some time in fabrication.

The new dome is 54″ in diameter and 26″ high as measured from the top of the tank.  The first step was to create a dome top.  Again, Plastruct came to the rescue with a cap that had an outside diameter close to the desired size.  I predrilled to location of the two vent fixtures and marked the flat spot diameter for the hatch.  The piece was shaped on my lathe.  I salvaged the hatch and vents from the original Red Caboose kit.

I added a styrene strip to simulate the lapped joint on the side of the dome.  The dome was bonded to the flange which had been added to the tank body.  Next, I did a little body and fender work.  I filled the joint of the dome base to the saddle and one side of the overlapped joint.

It looks a little messy but the excess can be removed with some 600 grit paper and water.  Oh yeah, the sill steps are shown alongside the tank.

The basic tank body is just about done.  I will add a grab iron on the dome side and add the tank bands which will provide the base for the hand rail brackets and dome step.  Once that is done, the car will be primed and rivets added using Archer decal rivets.

That is all for this visit.



MODELING: Protocraft Gondolas finished by Lee Turner

Protocraft imported a series of 53’6″ gondolas from Korea.   I have spent some time looking them over and decided that these are the most accurate scale model of a gondola imported in any scale.  The cars are accurately designed to follow the car builders drawings and photos.  Protocraft captured the right details for each railroad series modeled.  Hand brakes, truck types and stake pockets are all there and done right.  While they may be a bit pricey, they do reflect the state of art and the cost of manufacturer in Korea.  I would suggest you don’t miss out.  They are so superior to the Lionel, Atlas/Roco and US Hobbies models that it is hard to imagine owning any of these cars.

Fortunately, modelers have purchesed these cars and sent them to Lee Turner for finishing.  The models were painted by Lee with his classic weathering touches.  The steel interiors are very realistic in the way he handled the rust effect.  Loads are a favorite detail Lee likes to add to him customer’s models.  He is very creative in coming up with credible items.

I really like the finish and weathering on the Western Pacific gondola shown below.

The orange corner is correct for identifying the “B” end of the car.

Here is a view of the inside of the WP car showing dunnage left over from the last load carried.  The working stake pockets permit this detail to be added.

Lee uses Model Masters acrylic paints on all of his models.  He finds that they are durable even on brass.  Most of the colors seen are blends of a few basic shades of paint. Even the rust is created by mixing basic colors.  There are lots of products out there that can provide the basic colors in acrylic formulations.  I have used MIG/Ammo and Vallejo with decent effect.  Practice is needed to approach the beauty of Lee’s finish.

I am grateful that Lee shared pictures of his recent work on these spectacular Protocraft gondolas.

Thanks for stopping by