MODELING: Sawdust and Cuts

I am taking a break from model building and trying my hand at building benchwork. My last layout framework was built by my stepson who is a skilled carpenter (one of his many skills).   It was a sturdy structure that could have supported my automobile.  This time around it will less stout and of a different design  For one thing, it will consist of a series of modules approximately 2′ x 6′ in size.  Each module will be sheathed with plywood. My previous design was based upon “L” girder construction.  While the “L” girder is flexible it doesn’t lend itself to moving to another location. The flat top surface will have extruded styrene foam board to create ground contour.

The reason for this approach is to make some or all of the layout salvageable if in the event of a move.  It will also allow me to move each section to a lower table to work on track or even scenery. Problems with my back and neck prevent me from spending lots of time leaning over the tabletop building track.  I will also be using Right O’Way Code 125 flex track to a larger extent.   Hand layed track in some of the areas will be used. I want to get trains running  trains sooner than later.

Other changes include the addition of DCC/Sound for my locomotives. I purchased a NCE wireless system to facilitate the effects. Jimmy sent me a short video of a Glacier Park Models C-9 equipped with a TCS WOW Sound DCC with a Tang Bang speaker.  This video clinched the deal.   Unfortunately, I can post it to Word Press.

Jimmy Booth sent me this shot of the DCC receiver installed in one of his imports.  The speaker is forward of the gearbox.  The “keep alive” capacitor pack is mounted on the gearbox.

I am also looking at using Tam Valley servo/controller for turnout operation.   It is expensive but is pretty much a turnkey setup.  Jimmy Booth suggested it to me.  He is using them on his new P48 layout.


I have still be trying to make progress on the old Shell gas station.  My limited accomplishment is to settle on a color. I first painted the model with Star Brand Jersey Cream lacquer. This was an unofficial name for the yellow used on D&RGW depots in later years.  I decided that it was too intense for my taste so I dabbed on Mission Models Paint British Cream.  This color looked good compared to color photos I have seen of Shell stations in the 1950s. I like this color because it is softer to my eye.  The roof will get a terra cotta color which will be muted compared to the raw plastic of the tiles.

It seems that Norm Buckhart got tired of doing decal art and decided to play with trains.  He has several new cars that are in the train shown.  The bulkhead flats are converted Pacific Limited brass AAR 53’6″ by Errol Spangler.  He built the bulkheads from brass and also the loads.

Norm has a backroom where trains are staged for the his layout.  He is has asssembled this little train to run over a portion of his massive layout.  The locomotive is a very old Walthers cast bronze early oil electric that Jay Criswell installed a super drive inside.

So that is all for now.


OPINION: Some Odds and End

Not much progress on modeling from my workbench.  The heavy smoke and limitation of living in a repressive state has sapped my creative energy.  So much for the news from what used to be the “golden state”.   I have a few bits to write about however.

First up are two shots that Jimmy Booth sent of a vintage lumber yard in Healdsburg,CA.  The yard is a classic design with very few examples still existing in 2020.  I have always loved the multi-level storage shed and remember being in this kind of yards when I was a kid.

Jimmy intends to the build a version of this facilties on his new layout.  Can’t wait to see it.

Next up is one of my long-term bucket list is a classic General American Type-30 tank cars.  I know I have a half-built GATC Type-19 but got to have a few irons in the fire.

It looks like every other tank car but the bolsters are unique and quite different from AC&F cars like the Intermountain model.   You can see the General American bolster in this view.  The poling pockets are located on the end of the bolster.  Sadly, our scale suffers from the lack of prototype variety in tank car designs.  Between Max Gray, USH and PSC there has to be a couple gillion ACF style cars that have been imported from Asia.   It seems that 1/4″ scale modelers don’t have the luxury of multiple prototypes.  Plastic kits and RTR tank cars in HO cover ACF Type-21 and Type-27; GATC Type-17,-19 and Type-30 and STC cars by SC&F.  They have yet to see the UTLX Type-3 or a few other lesser lights.

Well, it turns out Resin Car Works released an HO kit.  I contacted Frank Hodina (owner) and he agreed to release the bolster 3D file to Shapeways in 1/48 scale.  His son did the CAD work. I bought a pair and had a number cast in resin.  I fitted the resin bolster to 1/4″ Evergreen channels.  I cut a 1/4″ square styrene block as the truck mounting point.

I tested an Intermountain tank car body on the frame.  It looks decent.  The dome on these cars were 61″ diameter rather than the 54″ found in the kit.  That is the next challenge.

Back to dreaming about my bucket list……………..


MODELING: Mid-Century Composite Wood-Sheathed Boxcar 4.0

In this edition, I will focus on detailing the car body with brass ladders, hand brake, grab irons and door details.

Here is a portion of the railroad’s car drawing for this class.  The Northern Pacific Railway Historical Association (NPRHA) prodvided this copy for non-commercial use.

The ladders for this car were built in a simple jig that holds the stiles (1/32″ square brass) and the rungs (.016″ wire).  I glued .040″ square styrene spacers to the back of the stiles using CA.  Once this was done, I bonded the ladders to the side using MEK.  The ladders are close to scale but lack the details of the Chooch Delrin ladders.  However, paint sticks better to brass compared to engineering plastics.

Next up are the drop grab irons that are located on the car ends.  I use a compass to measure the hole spacing and use to guide the bending of the brass wire.

I place a spacer underneath the the form grab iron.  Tighten the vice and remove the space to allow the grab to be bent down.

A finished grab iron.

This side view shows the ladder installed and Chooch grab irons installed on the left side.  You can also see the details added to the door.  All of this hardware was sourced from Chooch.  They have the all the good stuff needed to detail the door closing mechanism and Camel rollers on the lower track.  The door grab iron was made from a piece of .020″ brass wire.

Oh yes, there are a gillion nain hole impressions on the wood sides.  Take you time and make sure you use guidelines to keep them looking neat.

The closeup shows that I added a strip of brass underneath the lever.

So this finishes up the latest installment of this build.  I need to install the brake system and add the running boards along with sill steps.


MODELING: A Famous Train in Model Form

The golden era of luxury passenger trains is history.   Few people alive today can remember or have experienced passenger travel on a grand scale.   One great fan of famous passenger trains is Bruce Blalock.  He decided to have few beutiful cars of his favorite railroad.   Bruce is an unabashed fan of the Missouri Kansas Texas (MKT).   The Texas Special was the road’s finest passenger train. It was unique in that it was jointly operated with the Frisco.  The train ran from Saint Louis to Kansas City and points south in Texas.

The train is celebrated in the beautiful John Winfield painting of the Texas Special stopping in Austin, Texas.

Back to Bruce’s quest for his Katy models.  He turned to master builder Dan Pantera to create a masterpiece of the trains observation the Stephen Austin.

The model was built from a Kaisner extruded car body with a ICC plastic roof and end along with a bunch of details that Dan applied to the car.  Bruce did the decal artwork nearly forty years ago hoping to have models to use them on.

This is Dan Pantera’s workshop surrounded by his work.  Customer projects range from heavyweight cars to modern streamliners like the blue Nickel Plate Road cars in the foreground.   Dan built Bruce’s observation and is currently working on another car for the Texas Special.   The fellow with the frown is none other than Mike O’Connell. The gentleman standing in the background is Dick Harley. That is Jim Wolf standing in the center of the picture.

As a sidebar, the first time I met Bruce was in 1981 or so when I visited him in the Houston area.   One thing I remember me was the license plate on his car.  It spelled out Texas Special.

Thank you Bruce for sharing your beautiful model.


MODELING: Upgrading Modern Covered Hoppers

Ross Dando was kind enough to provide information on upgrading details on two Atlas O covered hoppers.   He tried to address a couple areas of the car rather than blowing the doors off with all new details.  The key to his strategy is improving a lot of cars with a reasonable investment in time.

The first upgrade to the Atlas cars was to replace the bolster/ draft gear with a new part that sets the proper height for Protocraft trucks and hold their Type-E couplers.  Ross made a pattern and had a bunch cast up in resin This is a simple but useful upgrade.  A Protocraft bolster bushing and mounting plate (PC-1081) are fitted to these parts.

Here is Ross’s pile of PS-3 4427 to upgrade.  Most have their new bolsters installed and ready for the next step.  Pullman routed the trainline down the side of the hoppers which common practice for nearly all hoppers.   Model manufacturers tend to make this detail either oversized or too fragile.  Ross guides us through the steps needed to replace the trainline and hangers with a more scale arrangement.


To start with, a length of .015″ x .042″ is formed into a loop using two different pairs of pliers.

Form the loop with round tip pliers.

Break over with a needle nose

Use a flat nose pliers to finish the crimp around the wire.

And this what you get.

So after bending up the trainline wire and the hangers you will have a pile of goodies to go to work on the big Pullman hoppers.

Here is the 100-ton car outfitted with the new trainline and bolsters

On the Atlas ACF 70-ton covered hopper is upgraded in a similar fashion.  Ross designed the bolster to fit several Atlas models.  The trainline received an upgrade just like it’s bigger brother.

I would like to thank Ross Dando for the story on his upgrades to ready-to-run Atlas covered hoppers.  He also took all of the photos as well.



MODELING: Mid-Century Composite Wood-Sheathed Boxcar 3.0

This post will bring you up to date on my Nothern Pacific boxcar build.  My focus was to complete some of basic aspects of the model.  I have added couplers, trucks, mounting platforms for the AB brake system.   The couplers are Protocraft working Type-E and the trucks are Barber S-1 50-ton trucks (PC-211P).


The basic underframe is composed of styrene with four cross  ties and two cross bearers.  The cross ties were cut from 1/8″ Evergreen channel strips.   The cross bearers are cut from .020″ sheet styrene.  The caps on the cross bearers were cut from .015″ styrene and will get Archer decal rivets once the detailing is complete.  I will prime the underframe using Tamiya fine spray primer that is available to in a rattle-can.

There are three mounting points needed. The control valve will be supported by a platform that spans between the side sill and stringer.   The brake cylinder will attach to a bracket that extends from the center sill.


The sides have a 1-1/2″ angle along the bottom edge.  I used a 1/32″ Plastrut styrene angle for the detail.   The angle is held in place with small bolts.  I decided to use a MacLeod Western N-50 7/8″ square head nut and bolt.

It is a bit tricky to drill the angle without kinking the styrene piece.   I used a two-flute drill bit to start holes in the strip.  I decided to bond the angle to the car side.  Once it was set, I proceeded to drill the holes.  The initial starter hole was a .0125″ size.

The angles are attached using a 1/32″ as a guide for mounting it 1 -1/2″ above the bottom of the side.

I just received my new urethane doors in the mail today.  The door is taller than a standard Intermountain Youngstown door.  Intermountain undersized their  door so that the lower door track could be molded on the sidesill.  If you look at a picture of an AAR 1937 boxcar you will see the track is lower on the sidesill.  I was fortune that the NP car has 6/7/6 rib design.  Most 10′ interior height doors are 6/6/6 with wider panels between the sets.

The in-service shot was obtained from the NPRHA.

That all for this update.  More  of this build will appear shortly.  Stay tuned.


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MODELING: Lee Turner’s Technique

Recently, Lee Turner shared a technique had developed for creating a dramatic of the aging of metal and wood.  Dissimilar materials respond differently to environmental factors.  Wood versus metal produces different patinas that create an interesting appearance.  Lee has been working on this approach to create this appearance.

An involved painting project like this needs some color photos to work from. That way you see what the end goal looks like and you can try different techniques to achieve it. if you keep working the paint in small layers it is possible. Here is an image from a book that shows what the inspiration was. Since the build of this old resin car wasn’t perfect it was an excellent candidate for experimental techniques to lure the eye away from the less than perfect areas
After completing construction of the car it was primed with Tamiya Fine Surface Primer in a spray can to give a solid base for the work to come. After the primer dried a dark rusty brown was sprayed over all metallic parts of the carbody not paying any attention to keeping it off the wood siding. It was sealed for future weathering with Krylon Clear Flat.
For coloring the wood a range of red and earth tone colors were chosen from the craft paint aisle at Michael’s Craft store along with some plastic six pot trays. Four red shades and two earth tone colors were put in the tray with a drop of “wet water” to keep them from drying out. Individual siding boards were painted one at a time mixing the shades of browns and reds for each board. The craft paints are a little transparent but the dark brown overspray gave even more variety to the individual boards. Remember, except for partial board repairs the boards run from end sheet to door post so the color should stay consistent for each. The side door was done in the same fashion just with wood colors as if a different species of wood shed all the paint off.
 The lettering was faded by using 800 grit sandpaper to fade the decals while on the carrier sheet. The decal is then covered with Microscale Liquid decal film to hold it together. This makes them very fragile and they must be handled carefully After applications of setting solution a dark brown wash was applied to the lettering and blended so that the white wasn’t so bright. A fine tip brush and all the base colors fixed any areas that didn’t look right.
A light blue gray was drybrushed over all metal components to get an old rust look where it actually starts to look bluish gray from sky reflection.
Here are a couple shots of an Intermountain USRA composite gondola. The same treatment was applied to this model.
One thing that has amazed me about Lee is his ability to visualize the color and effect and apply it to the model.  His photography always has little surprises.  A lot can be learned by studying his methods.   Lee has been very generous in sharing his work and his techniques used to create the look.
Thank you again for making us a better modeler.

MODELING: InselBric or Insulbrick Siding

American companies developed a siding to overlay wood building that provided improved insulation and fire rating.   It is called InselBric.  The Mastic Company, then of South Bend, Indiana developed “InselBric” asbestos siding in 1932.  It was widely used in the colder climates and can be seen on some older building.   InselBric is a trademarked name for a particular product sold by Mastic.  It has been spelled “Insulbrick” and other things.  It turns out that the Celotex Company created a similar product called Insulbrick.  Dennis Storzek wrote a small history on the material that was widely used by the Soo Line.

The product the Soo used was trademarked “Insulbrick”. This was a Celotex board product (Celotex is made from crushed sugar cane fiber, IIRC) 1/2″ thick with a tar and granule surface like roofing paper. It came in 16″ x 48″ sheets, and as it weathered the granules fell off the edges of the sheets first, giving a wall covered with this product a very distinctive pattern. See:

There were other fake brick products that were based on roll roofing; thin like tar paper and in rolls 3′ wide and about 33′ long, but this isn’t what the Soo used. We’ve discussed this before, and it appears that ALL the buildings covered were done in a short one or two year period about 1954 – 1956, so there wasn’t much variation.

The InselBric produce was shown in a Here is an ad 1954 Life magazine.   The product was made from wood fiber coated with asphalt and printed with a brick pattern with stone or ceramic chips to create the apperance of brick.   It was approximately 1/2″ thick.






Railroads adopted this material to improve the appearance and comfort of their elderly depots.  It did give the feeling of a more substantial and important building the than a dilapidated wood structure.

This South Oshkosh yard office on the Soo Line was sheathed with Insulbrick and a two-tone paint scheme like the prior wood sheathing likely had.


Bill Yancey has developed a very effective method for creating the Insulbrick sheathing for model structures.  I have asked Bill to describe his approach.  Here it is:

The technique I used for the Insulbrick was that I started with JTT brick material.  It is molded and not embossed so it has really crisp corners.
I did a base coat of a light tan color (TruColor Natural Wood was the closest to what I wanted).  I used a stiff bristle brush to spread black artist tube acrylic paint into all the cracks, then wiped each section down with a damp paper towel.  This will darken the base coat a bit too.
The highlighting was done with some brown fabric markers, I used 2 different colors.  I put the brown on in a predictable rather than random pattern.  Otherwise it would look more like brick rather than “fake” brick.  The dark section at the bottom I highlighted with a dark gray artist pencil.

Bill’s 1/4″ scale model is based upon a Wisconsin Central (Soo Line) standard depot.  The original design was done in board and batten sheathing.  The drawing shown below was printed in the SOO magazine which is published by the Soo Line Historical & Technical Society. 

Hope that you found this posting of some interest.




MODELING: Worn Out by Lee Turner

I would imagine a lot of modelers in 1/4″ scale have come across an early Chooch urethane freight car kit.  Mike O’Connell sold a bunch of them over the years and they still show up at train shows and online in auctions.  The basic patterns were pretty nice but the urethane material used in the old days had few unpleasant habits like warping.  I have tried to build one once and gave up in frustration.  For me it was easier to scratchbuild the model than taming the urethane parts.

Enter our modeling favorite, Lee Turner, and his great skills.  Lee managed to build up the basic body, add lots of details and finish it with his spectacular paint and weathering.  The subject of his work is a USRA single sheathed 40-ton boxcar.   His unique style has managed to capture the long-term effect of weather on an old freight car.   Metal ages differently than wood.  As the paint flakes off the steel, it exposes surfacce to rust.  Rust that has slowly built up a very dark and gritty surface.  The wood around shows the bleaching effect of sun, wind and water.

Here are two pictures of an Ann Arbor single sheathed that had been exposed to years of weather. Not sure if it was Rob Adams or Ron Sebastin took these pictures.

It appears that Lee’s car still has all of the required safety equipment for interchange and even a route card nailed the siding.  In the post-war era, railroads had cars with K-Brake systems still in interchange service that probably saw any reconditioning prior the war.

Even the lettering on a car is subject to the ravages of time and weather.   Lee carefully distressed the New York Central herald to show paint failure of the stencil.  Even closeup this old Chooch car holds up well.

Thanks Lee for sharing your inspirational work.



MODELING: Running Boards (Roof Walks)

For much of the steam and diesel era, running boards have been a fixture on “house” cars such as boxcars, reefers and stock cars.   Modeling wood running boards is a fairly straight forward process.  Consider the fact that the first thing your eye sees in looking at a model is the roof and running boards on freight cars.   It is workwhile to invest a little time in making the running boards look good.

Prototype photos give a clue as to the weathering effect on running boards both wood and steel.

Making your own running boards are simple using styrene.  Why styrene?  Well, it is more stable and less prone to shrinkage or expansion as a result of humidity or heat.  Most of our models are either styrene or resin these days.  Wood does’t scale very well.  The grain structure is nearly impossible to discern from any distance.  Wood tends to take stains or coloring inconsistently.   Observing what the prototype looks like is the best way to model.

The picutre above illustrates what styrene looks like on a resin model.  Weathering with acrylics can provide a realistic look.

Generally, wood running boards are approximately 18″ to 24″ in width.  Board width and spacing can vary as well.  Thickness is approximately 1.25″ which doesn’t correspond to a standard styrene thickness.  I tend to use .030″ thickness as my choice.  I have laminated strip styrene to create the 1.25″ thickness.  It tends to be a little flimsy when applied.


I liike to use a wood plank to assemble the running boards.  This one is basswood but anything but balsa will work.  I glued a strip to the edge to allow me to hold the boards while bonding the thin .015″x .040″ straps.   I used .015″  or .020″ spacers to set the gap between the boards.


I mark the location of the running board support on the roof.  The mark provides the location to avoid when applying the straps and it shows where the attachment screw detail would be added if you so choose.


Running boards are normally assembled from three boards to form the length required for the car.  the two outer boards are joined at the same location while the center board is joined one rib apart.  That is a typical approach.  Variations a widespread but they had to meet the ARA or AAR standards for interchange freight cars.

Lateral running boards also showed a lot of variation.  The NP boxcar model shows the road’s standard for wood boxcars.   Other roads like the GN also used this style.

The laterals shown above are for a steel car and have a steel sideframe that the boards are attached to.  The grab iron is also anchored to the steel frame.

This drawing illustrates the style typical for AAR 1937 boxcars.

Brett Whelan took this photo while visiting the US.  The roof belongs to a PFE R-30-16 rebuilt wood reefer.  It illustrates how the individual boards are attached to the roof and what the joint looks like.  The screws are designed to engage the steel bracket much like a self-tapping screw.  The car was in a state of decay at the Rio Vista museum when the picture was taken.

Dennis Storzek took this shot a Soo single sheathed boxcar showing the running board and lateral.  The attachement screws are evident.  You can also see the end support in this photo.

Here is a shot of my kit that I did for Chooch of the same car.   The car was weathered with acrylics and an alcohol wash.  Gray primer was the base color with highlights of black and some residual paint remaining under the grab iron.

Wood running boards attached to wood sheathed roofs used wood supports to provide a mounting surface.

Here is an AAR document which describes the running board and saddle or mounting bracket.



Hopefully this posting will encourage to make your own running boards when the need arises.