MODELING: Lumber Loads

Our HO modeler friends have all the luck.  Owl Mountain is offering an HO plastic kit to build up lumber stack for flats and gondolas.   For us poor souls in 1/4″, we have to make our own.

An example of how lumber was loaded and secured during the steam and early diesel era.  The Northern Pacific 50-ton flat car has been stacked and separated with dunnage.  You can see the posts and cross ties look to be showing some darkening due to age  The load shows variations in color as well.

The Milwaukee Road flat appears to be loaded with heavy timber.  In doing some reading on the subject of shipping lumber by rail, rough cut wood was generally ship exposed on open cars.   Finished wood was shipped in box cars.   Local lumber yards ordered rough cut and used their own equipment to finish to size.

The NP 52′ flat shows lumber is bundled with steel strapping.   The lumber size appears to be finished cut.  This illustrates how methods of shipment changed.

Owl Mountain’s HO product got me thinking about how to do this in our scale.  Before you ask, Owl Mountain is not likeyly produce this kit in O. So get yourself some stripwood and dig in.

Yes, it takes a lot of wood but everything below to the top layer is built with full length pieces.  I cut them 16′ long from 3″ by 6″ basswod.  I was very fortunate to go into a hardware store in Napa that was closing.  They had a whole rack of basswood marked 40% off.  Unfortunately the store was Orchard Supply that was closing all of their stores.  They have been a fixture in northern Cali since the Depression.   Their first store on Race Street in San Jose was my go-to hardware store when I lived in Los Gatos.

I used a simple mitre box to cut the wood.  I stained all of the wood before cutting to size.   I used Model Masters acrylic wood.   The paint was applied like a wash with distilled water.  Jimmy Booth show me a trick that he used on a wood load for P-B-L Sn3 gondolas.  I used a little paint to create knots in the wood.

Jimmy sent me a couple of pictures of a load he was preparing for a P-B-L cover shot.

Jimmy used a different paint to finish his loads.  The load is actually injection molded layers used to create stacks.

The plastic sprue shown above is what the HO and Sn3 modelers get.  Notice that the center is cut out for adding weight for small scale models.

Here are a couple cars done by Jason Hill (Owl Mountain owner).  Their website has very useful information on creating realistic loads and the AAR rules for loading and securing loads.

Robert Leners and I have been corresponding on building loads.  Robert has been working on a 42′ post-war gondola using a set of plans that were in an old Mainline Modeler.

The model is not complete but the load is finished.  The car was built from styrene and painted with Scale Coat II.  Robert was lettered with a new set of decals from Protocraft.

You can see that Robert created an open area in the load so weight could be added.  He also used the Model Masters wood color for his load.


MODELING: MKT Branchline Caboose

Many of the railoads in the United States found themselves short of rolling stock during WWII.  The Missouri, Kansas & Texas Railroad was no exception.  Restrictions of critical material limited construction of new equipment.  The MKT found that they lacked passenger and freight equipment.  The railroad’s shops in in Dennison, Texas addressed one problem by converting older stock cars into branchline cabooses.  I railroad used AC&F stock cars in the 46000 series as the basis.  The resulting conversion served multiple needs like LCL freight, conductor’s office and minimal transportation for passengers on many branchlines in Texas and other states served by the Katy.

The railroad painted the cars in their colorful Sloan Yellow (Chrome Yellow) and later a few were painted in freight red with white lettering.  The Katy built ten cars and were numbered in the 341 to 350 series.

Masterbuilder, Jim Zwernemann, built a model in 1988 using data collected by Katy Expert, Bruce Blalock, and Texas railroad historian, A.T. Kott.  Fortunately a an old carcass was found in North Texas that allowed significant collection of photos and measurements.   A.T. created a working drawing for the car and motivated Jim to build a model.  I need to mention that A.T. Kott is true historian of Texas railroad history.  He has gone about measuring and photographing wonderful examples of unique railroad relics.   We owe a debt to A.T. Kott for his efforts.

Here is the model that was the result of research and work of Jim’s freinds.   A key component that Bruce Blalock provided was custom artwork and decals printed by Chuck Francis of Thin Film.

The pictures shown here are the work of Bruce Blalock.  By the way, Bruce now owns this beautiful model.

The model was constructed using styrene, wood and brass.  The sidewalls were made in a way that window glass could be slipped into the wall once the painting was done.   The color and weathering is stunning on this model.  I love the peeled paint of the roof is very realistic.  One of the interesting features of Katy caboose was the inclusion of safety saying on the cars. The placard on the end platform says ” In life as in baseball its when you get home safely that counts”.

The drawing above is the work of A.T. Kott and was published in the late O Scale New in 1988.  The drawing appeared as part of an article written by Jim describing his car build.  The model won first place at the 1988 O Scale National in San Antonio.  Th OSN editor, Greg Heier suggested that Jim should do an article on the model.  Greg and his magazine are now gone and part of the rich lore of our hobby.

I want to thank Bruce for taking the pictures and sharing information on the prototype car.


MODELING: Jim Hickey’s Unique Flat Car and Load

Steam era steel flatcars are designed to handle heavy loads with deep center sills that form an inverted truss.   Cars were rated as to their maximum load and in what areas the load can be places.  In the context of this statement, I want to share photos a model that shows what happens when a car is pushed beyond its limits.

The late Jim Hickey was a great student of the railroad scene.  He saw details and colors that escaped most.  Jim was a prolific photographer and came across this poor Southern Pacific flat car on one of his excursions.

As you can clearly see, the car is seriously bent.  While unsuitable for interchange, it could still serve the Southern Pacific hauling rock to build a jetty near Galveston, Texas.  The rock was sourced in the Hill Country near Austin and hauled down to the Gulf on former T&NO lines.  The car was stenciled to indicate it is in dedicated service.

Jim made his own decals using an ALPS printer.  This service was very hard on the car decking as well as the frame.  Jim created a patchwork of boards to cover the flat car deck.  I am not sure what he sued for making the huge blocks.  The coloring is very credible.

The decking really attracted me to the model.  One part of the deck looks like OSB plywood.  I love the debris on the deck as well.

Jim Zwernemann took these photos and is the current owner of this unique model.  Thank you for sharing Jim.


MODELING: Weathering with Oil Brushers

Weathering has always been a mystery to me.  I have tried Floquil, Poly Scale, pigments, Vallejo acrylics and now MIG Ammo oils.  The last three are now my go-to approach.  I have found it useful to layer effects using acrylic washes followed by washes of oil.  I must credit Lee Turner for showing me the way forward with weathering.  He is the master of technique with a real touch for picking out details and highlights. Thank you Lee!

The picture shown above has been weathered with the MIG Ammo oils.   The oil washes are easy to control and dry slower than acrylics so corrections can be made if necessary.  The car’s underframe had been weathered with Vallejo acrylics. I added a few more touches with the oils.

Here is the tank car before being attacked with Oil Brushers.


MIG Ammo has a good range of colors available but these are the one’s I have found useful.  You can check out the full range here.  By the way, I have been buying my Oil Brushers on Amazon.  Free shipping beats the charge that most online shops charge.

From the left to right here are the basic supplies:  ordorless mineral spirits, jar hold basic mineral spirits with a few drops of Japan Drier and the individual Oil Brusher tubes.  I use a sheet of plastic as a pallet.  I put a dab of the oil with the tube brush on the plastic.

Wet the brush with mineral spirit and touch the edge of the oil.  Capillary action will draw some of the paint into the brush.  Test to see how it will flow onto a surface like scrap plastic.  I suggest you use small amount on the brush until you can get the feel of the medium.

Washes on a tank is best started at the top seem and draw it down to the frame.  It will be two strokes since the railing gets in the way.  The basic washes are dust and dark brown.  The colors will flow together which helps create subtle variations. I did use a couple highlights of rust in a few area on the tank and dome.

Another application for Oil Brushers that has been effective for me.  It is weathering flat car decks.  I use the same pallet of colors on flat decks.  I use Lee Turner’s approach of painting the boards with variations of gray and tan that are mixed from acrylic paints like Model Masters.

This is a repeat of previously published Lee Turner on wood decks.

Here is Lee’s completed Red Caboose deck.   The idea is to not use lots of different colors such the it looks like stripes on a cheap suit.

Now my basic approach is the same as Lee.

I applied Oil Brushers to blend the variations in plank colors.  I used the dust and dark brown to the acrylic color base.

So this completes my story on using Oil Brusher oil weathering models.  How you were able to learn a few things.


MODELING: Finishing My Flat Car Kit

After a little hiccup on decals was fixed rapidly thanks to Norm Buckhart and Microscale and construction resumed. The new decals have been applied and weathering added to the car.   It has to be a record for me to finish a model so quickly.  If you happen to have purchased this kit, you have seen the merits of a well engineered kit that is easy to build.

The model shown above has been weathered using Vallejo acrylic washes and MIG Ammo Oil Brushers.  The Mig product is used as a wash using odorless mineral spirits with a touch of Japan Drier added to speed drying.  Oil can be applied over acrylic washes without disturbing them.   I really like the flexibility of this weathering combination.

So that is the completion of this build.  I now await Smoky Mountain Model Works next kit due at the end of the year.


MODELING: Super Track

You probably all have heard the old saw about “track is a model too”. It is a concept practiced by a few modelers but should be worthy of consideration for more in the Proto48 community. We are fortunate to have a wide range of products available to aid and abet the process of modeling track.

Building detailed and accurate track is not difficult but should start with a study of the prototype. There are many resources available to research what real railroad track looks like or looked like for a period of time. Practices used by today’s railroads may not be the same as was used in 1950s. Even ballast color and type may have changed.

One of the key suppliers in our scale is Right O’Way of Clovis, California. Jay Criswell has assembled a company that offers a wide range of track products ranging from flextrack to tie plates, spikes, rail and switch hardware. He has the complete line of Right O’Way, American Switch & Signal, Red Cliffs Miniatures, Protocraft track parts and even Chooch brass trucks.

A source of information that is very helpful are Mike Cougill’s books on constructing detailed track. You can check out his offerings at OST Publications . Mike had done some incredible work on realistic trackwork as part of his diorama.

I want to share with you some of Scott Spears work in building very realistic track. He has been using Karlgarin Models Code 82 rail which is approximately 56 pound iron. The beauty of this rail is that it is scaled for 1/4″ as opposed to HO rail with a narrow base. A shortcoming of using this product is the lack of tie plates and switch details. Scott fixed that problem by doing a 3D design and print of the needed parts. He was able to get a few copies printed by Shapeways before they flagged the file as a problem. Maybe he might find time to fix the file to make these parts available to others.

The image above was taken by Scott of his diorama featuring the light rail and track hardware. Oh by the way, the chain link fence is “killer”. I love the vegetation growing on it.

I find that the realism of his trackwork is stunning. I think that the delicate look of the spikes and tie plates foster the feel of the prototype. By the way, the spikes are sold by the P87 Store. They are made from etched metal and very very close to scale. Of course, outdoor lighting goes a long way towards creating the look.

Scott Spears rounds out his diorama with a very nice vignette of a minimal engine facility.

While Scott’s work is with Code 82 rail and hardware, you can use Code 100 and 125 Right O’Way rail and track parts to achieve a similar look.

I would like to thank Scott for sharing images of his modeling. Hopefully, it might interest readers to try their hand at building some super track.


NEW PRODUCTS: A Better Mitre Box

I have mentioned how handy these metal mitre boxes and the micro saws before. It is an essential part of my tool kit. I use it all the time when working on models. The first one I bought was not wide enough to fit a .250″ strip of material in the box. I just found a new version of the mitre box that is wider and longer. I now easily fits .250″ strip easily in the box as you can see above. The dimensions are .410″ wide, .288″ deep and 4.255″ long.

The new box is sold by UMM-USA

UMM is an online supplier of items used by military modeler. This product sells this very handy tool for $16.95 for part number MN048.

I recommend the product to you.