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,


ADMINISTRATIVE: Another Year Gone Bye

Yesterday was the third anniversary of my blog.   This past year had 54,000+ clicks on my pages.  Down from the past which was 58,210 clicks.  It did have a record day total of 2364 views of a post on Lee Turner’s weathering.  Thank you for your support.


This next year will see some major changes in my environment.  We are moving to Gilbert, Arizona on 1 September or sooner.  Our home in California sold after 71 days on the market.   The new home will be smaller but will still allow for a smaller layout and workshop.   So the next year will be a new start on a shop, layout and some new projects.

ssw parial

Happy Trails,


MODELING: Magic by Erik Lindgren

c&s crossing

Modeling railroading is about achieving realism.  It can take the form of prototype operation, accurate equipment or incredibly realistic scenes.   Erik Lindgren shows his mastery of the later.   He is able to compose a scene, get the right lighting and have the right amount of detail to set the scene.   The above shot is an example of what I am trying to write.  Erik built this module for photography outside and as part of a portable operating railroad.  He is one of a small group of O scale modelers who banded together to create a modest modular railroad.  The club layout depicts railroading in the 1950s in Colorado.   The Rio Grande, Colorado & Southern, Santa Fe, Union Pacific and maybe a dash of Rock Island are represented.

The rural crossing depicted in Erik’s photos is of a branchline on the C&S.  The locomotive shown is a Rio Grande C-48 consolidation.  The weathering and paint is very realistic. It could easily pass for the real thing.  I had to ask about the “barber pole” striped crossbuck.   It seems that the C&S was fond of this decoration.  I thought that the Northern Pacific had a corner on that market.

c&s crossing 1

For those of you who are familiar with Erik, he is an accomplished artist, photographer, modeler, collector and new father.  Needless to say, he is a busy guy.  Jimmy Booth tells me he is also from Iowa like Jimmy.   Thank you for sharing your work.

Happy Trails,



MILW 776

Fairbanks Morse switchers have always been a favorite of mine.  The early 10-44 (1,000 horsepower/four-wheel x 2) model had a number unique Raymond Loewy styling touches like the steam loco cab roof.  This particular model was not widely purchased by railroads so you need to like roads such as the Milwaukee Road.  Fairbanks Morse was an online customer of the Milwaukee Road in Beloit, WI.  This classic switcher shown above was the work of Lee Turner.   It started life as a MTH 3-rail tinplate model.  Lee had to build new pilots, steps and add to the side sill with an 18″ strip.  The cab front was redone as was the classic roof overhang.  The Milwaukee paint was blended to provide faded colors reflecting many years of neglect the road.  Lee added many highlights like rust, chipped paint, dirt and such.  The end result is spectacular.


We have mentioned that the Irish Tracklayer was working on a new train order signal (TOS).  John Houlihan has been working on a 3D CAD model of the Railway Signal Associates upper quadrant TOS.   It has been a slow process of trial and error to get the thinnest cross section parts yet capable of being cast in brass.  I received an update from John today and I am happy to report that he has just about there.

TOS NPAn example of a prototype RSA TOS is shown on the right.  The Northern Pacific was a big user of this style.  The Erie and Soo were fond of these machines.

RSA was composed of many railroads who developed a set of designs that were widely used by member railways.  The actual signal assemblies came from companies like Chicago Signal.

Here are a series of JPEGS that show the level of detail that John has incorporated in the parts.   This is a signal that needs to be put in a  prominent place on your layout.



The drawings show only one of the semaphore blades to allow one to see all of the details.   We will keep you informed of the progress Irish Tracklayer makes.

Happy Trails,