MODELING: Trucks and Cars Redux (revised)

Finding model vehicles in our scale has always been a challenge.  Some modelers elect to use a more common 1:43 scale models.  They are useful in certain locations but tend to dominate a scene in my opinion.  Modelers like Erik Lindgren have exhibited a knack for placement in a scene to minimize the slightly larger size.

The above photo is the work of Erik Lindgren.  He is an extremely talented photographer and artist.  The diecast 1:43 models seem to blend well with the proper staging.

However, there are a few decent 1:48 models that can be built into fine scale representation for your rail scene.  The most useful kits to find are the Tamiya 1942 Ford Sedan and the whole Renwal/ Revell line of automobiles and now the Atlantis revivial of the old 1/48 Revell kits.  In addition, Mike George has shown us how to take the Menards diecast trucks and make an attractive addition to the layout.   Search back on the blog to find additional information on autos and trucks for 1/48 and how to enhance their appearance.

The Renwal ’32 five-window coupe is a shining example of what you can do with a some effort.  Lee Turner is responsible for this build.  He made simple modification to the front wheels turning them slightly.  A license plate and some weathering turned this plastic into an eyecatcher.

Next up is a 1930 Ford AA trucks built from a plastic kit produced in the Ukraine by Unimodel.   The truck design is a Russian copy of the Ford design. Lee Turner built this model and added weathering touches.  He used pin washes to highlight the details on truck. It is very realistic model.

I have showed you Lee’s rendering of the ’34 Ford fordor He built from a Unimodel kit. While the kits are not the most precisely tooled, they can be built into a nice model as you can see in the picture above.

Our other favorite vehicle builder is Mike George.  He has done some fantastic builds starting with pretty basic kits or diecast models.  His latest creation is a 1949 Ford tudor built from a Renwal 1950 Ford convertible.

Mike decided to build the Ford coupe using a new roof that was vacuum-formed styrene part.  He created a postive master using wood with some trim parts added.

Once the part was trimmed and fitted to the kit body, it creates a credible model.  Mike decided to backdated to the a 1949 version.  A new grill was fabricated to replicate the ’49 version.  Another important change he made was to make replacement tires on a lathe.  The new ties were fitted to the kit-supplied rims. The Renwal tires are undersized.  The actual Fords came with 6.70-15 which are 27.4″ in diamter and 6.7″ width.

This is a 1949 Ford Deluxe Coupe.


There was also a Club Coupe with a shorter roof line. Both designs were referred to by auto collectors as the Ford Shoebox design.  Not sure why they garnered that name.

The color panel for 1949 Fords shows a range of colors possible.

I have a bunch of the convertibles and wondered what to do with them.


I forgot to add information about a 1:48 vehicle that I found on

The model is of a Divco milk truck printed by Shapeways in their finest material.  The designer offered it in HO and S scale. At my request, he released it in 1:48.  You can buy other parts like wheels and a frame.  I opted to not buy these since the basic body was expensive.  I am still cleaning up the body which had lots of artifacts from the Shapeways printers.

There are other trucks available on Shapeways.  Ross Dando bought a modern 1970s International truck.  He opted to have Terry Van Winkle print the model.  Not all designers will allow this but it doesn’t hurt to ask.



I am trying something different with this posting.  It seems that the majority of the viewers like viewing pictures of completed models rather than construction articles showing the bits and pieces going together.  Oh yes, I am not abandoning the previous emphasis on technique.


My first serious attempt at an all styrene freight car in P48.  This model dates back to 1973.  The Model Railroader magazine published my construction article on the building the model.  The prototype was a 50-ton covered hopper buit by Greenville Car for the Erie.  In 1973, finding quality detail parts were hard to come by.  Fortunately Bill Clouser created the Ajax handbrake set and AAR couplers to apply to models.  The air hoses and AB brake equipment were available from the Back Shop.  P48 trucks could be found from only one source.

The very first issue of the Narrow Gauge and Shortline  Gazette feature my construction article on building this Quincy & Torch Lake gondola.  This is narrow gauge and was built from basswood with Cerro Bend castings that I patterned, molded and cast using Bob Brown’s centrifugal casting machine.  The is done over a period of six weeks while still going to work every day.

In 1971 I built this depot from wood and made working styrene windows and Cerro Bend castings for parts like the bench and the old Regulator wall clock.. I entered it in the 1972 NMRA National Convention and won first prize in the structures catagory.

The depot model was based on an old Model Railroader article. In those days, it was the go-to periodical for great modeling material.  I had amassed a decent collect of old MRs dating back to the 1940s.

The vinegar tank car shown above and below was built from an old Model Railroader magazine as part of their “Dollar Car” series.  Hard to imagine building any car for one dollar today.

The model is made of mostly styrene with a wood tank.  Today I would use styrene for the whole project and skip the wood.

Yet another model build inspired by Model Railroader magazine.  This snow plow was built following an article by Paul Larson.  He wrote a number of interesting article during his tenure at Kalmbach and subsequently his brief time writing for Railroad Model Craftsman.

The model featuers a brass plow shaped and soldered together.  The basic frame was made from styrene with wood used for the interior deck and sides.  It was one of favorite models.

Here is a shot taken of the underframe ready for the plow and gondola body.

A while ago I acquired a Milwaukee Road diagram book which had a diagram of the prototype plow.


I built this ballast spreader based upon an old drawing from the Fonda, Johnstown and Gloversville Railroad.  I built the model from wood and some custom Cerro Bend castings.  It was written up in the Narrow Gauge & Shortline Gazette.


The John Deere store shown below was built from styrene completely.  The late Chuck Yungkurth collected information and created a drawing and took many photos of the prototype in upstate New York.  The construction of this model appeared in the Gazette along with the Yungkurth drawing.


The Jack’s Cabin water tank was a fun project built in the late 1960s using wood and a plan done by Cliff Grandt.  I had found one photo of the prototype tank.


I built this bucket loader coal station based on a Paul Larson article in the Model Railroader magazine.  The prototype structure was located in Fond du Lac, Wisconsin on the Milwaukee Road.  Scale basswood lumber was the principal material used in the build.  The two figures were once sold by the late Gordon Canon and were cast in Cerro Bend alloy.


After seeing a Tom Yorke plaster kit for a very similiar building, I decided to make my own version using styrene and embossed brick material.  It was fun to take a shot at trying a brick building.

Thank you for enduring my trip through memory lane.






MODELING: Flats by John Ryan

In this post, you will find some interesting flat cars built by John Ryan.  He is relatviely new to Proto48 but has shown some real modeling skills.

The first flat car is the Chooch Ultra Scale II AAR 50-ton model.  I have an interest in this build since I did the masters for Mike O’Connell at Chooch.  The basic casting is complex on the underside creating all sorts of problems to mold and cast the model.

John figured out a way to fix the deck casting shrinkage by cutting the casting into individual planks.  This allow the boards to separate a bit to compensate for the shrinkage that occurred during the manufacturing process.  The urethane and rubber used in the casting process create problems that can result in a shorter castings than planned and also warping. One of the ways you can address the warping is to cut open the centersill and add a steel weight that will stiffen the body.

John added a few details to the model that were not in the kit.  He created scale sidesill steps and pinned them to body with brass pins available from Scale Hardware.

He also replaced the kit hand brake assembly with a Twin Star Cars Universal set.  These parts are exquisite castings created by Terry Van Winkle using a 3D CAD process and investment casting in brass.  The brake staff is a drawn piece of white bronze wire with the correct square shape and width.

The car is finished off with Protocraft Barber S-2 trucks and a Kadee coupler.  Hopefully John will get the car painted soon and share the finished car with us.

The second flat car was also built by John Ryan and is a Chooch model as well.  It is of a 41′ long design patterned after early AC&F design with straight side sills and deep fishbelly underframes.

The kit was a pretty basic model that served as a springboard to “raise it up a notch” as Emeril used to say.

John used a Protocraft two-level truck for this modeel. The air hose and bracket is a Hi-Tech Details part developed by Jimmy Booth. 

Here is a comparison of the finished model versus the kit underframe.  It is a straightforward build well executed by John.

Thank you for sharing John.



MODELING: Crossing the Great Abyss

If your track has to cross an aisle or entrance you have had to deal with how to get to the other sides.  Lift outs, gates or “drawbridge” style allow access.   Back in 2014, I decided to use a hinged drawbridge style to bridge the entrance path to my room.

I had seen one that my son installed on his HO layout and decided to try to copy the design.  The hinges were European style cabinet hinges.  They appeared to provide the needed motion such that the bridge rails would not strike the adjacent track on the fixed portion of the bench.

Here is the underside of the drawbridge showing the hinges and wiring.

Well, the hinges seemed like a good idea but didn’t stay in alignment very long.  The weight of the rotating section was likely more than a cabinet door they were intended to work on.  As a result of a planned move, the layout was removed in 2016

My new layout is underway with a different approach to providing access.  I am still using hinges but this time in a very straight-forward application.

They are simple door hinges that I are raised to the height of the railhead.  Ideally you want the rotation axis at the same height as the railhead.  I used a wood block to raise the hinge. As it turned out a thin plastic shim was needed to make a minor correction in height.  Ken Burney posted a picture of his layout lift section on FaceBook.  I liked his simplistic approach.

The bridge is .75″ plywood with a couple of reinforcing ribs added to reduce the chances of warping.  Simple but effective.

That is all for now.  Back to the layout construction.


MODELING: Art Deco Gas Station Model

Mike O’Connell has been facinated with old gas stations.  His former company, Chooch Enterprises, produced a memorable kit for Red Crown gas station in HO and O.

Gas stations came all shapes and sizes with some following the Art Deco style..  Associated (Flying A) Oil liked this style and built many of them mostly in the West.   I cam across a picture of one such building that was located in the Tacoma area years ago.  I sen the picture up to Mike since he was raised in Tacoma and has a facination for things Tacoma.

The Tacoma Public Library has several pictures of this classing filling station.  I was surprised to receive back pictures of a model Mike built for his layout.  He created the model from memory and several Associated stations.

Mike has captured the feel of the Art Deco look in his model.   The model was created using 0.060″ plexiglass and laser board.  He designed the building and cut it out with his laser.

As you can see, Mike used his wonderful metal detail parts to enhance the scene.  Many years ago, Chooch Enterprises offered an amazing line of castings that could be used to detail a scene.   Fortunately, these parts have survived the sale of the product line.  The current owner is Rich Rands at Berkshire Valley Models.

Hope that you enjoyed seeing on of Mike’s beautiful models.  Thank you Mike for sharing.


NEW PRODUCTS: New Hand Brake Sets and Switch Kits



You probably noticed that detail parts are sometimes harder to find these days.  Changes in ownership and other circumstances have contributed to this scarcity.  Jim King, owner of Smoky Mountain Model Works has decided to take a new approach to the traditional methods for manufacturing detail parts.  Manufacturers have been using white metal, plastic, brass and even resin to make the parts.  Their methods are expensive to tool and produce quantities.  Jim King’s approach is  to use 3D design and a high resolution Form3 SLA printer to make production parts.  His first releases are three different hand brake sets for house cars (box, stock and reefers)  Jim is a first rate designer and has produced some very nice kits in S and O using a combination of printed parts that were molded in resin.  For detail parts he has decided to go straight to a clear printed resin.

Here photos of two of the three sets.

As you can see the quality is equal to injection molded styrene parts.  The price for each of the hand brake package is $15 which includes three complete hand brake sets.

You will be amazed at the number of models out there with the wrong hand brake.  Spend some time researching your equipment and you will see the need is there to improve the accuracy of your models.


Jau Criswell is going to try out a new kit to build switches intially in P48 and hopefully in O Standard.  The concept is to offer various options for the kit ranging from the assembled rail with lost wax frogs, points and guardrails to a “Full Monty” with tie plates, pre-cut ties and neat plexiglass jig to hold the ties in-place while spiking the rail.  Development is still going on so the options are still fluid.  Once the kit is ready for prime time it will be announced on social media and other outlets.

This likely to be the configuration of the “delux”  version of the Right O’Way #6 switch kit

This is a very useful product for those who are building layouts and need P48 switches.


MODELING: Lee Turner’s Tank Car

As many of you already know, Lee Turner has retired from doing commerical modeling. However hee is still modeling but now for his own collection.  He was kind enough to share the following series of photos showing this unique tank car.  The model started out as a Lionel Type 21 8,000 gallon single compartment car.   The basic model is pretty darn nice considering its tinplate origins.  As you may remember, Robert Leners and I rebuilt this same Lionel car but using a different approach.  Lee didn’t junk the frame but merely reduced its thickness and filled in some parts of the centersill missing to make room for the tinplate wheels and couplers.

As you can see, Lee made a huge chage adding a second compartment and dome.  Look closely at the tank and you can see two double row of rivets added to the tank body.  The rivets are decals from Archer and really do the job of conveying the visual of an internal bulkhead added to create the second compartment.  It was not a common practice in the prototype world but it did happen when a shipper had some unique requirements.

Here is an old STC tank car with a rebuilt tank.  Two compartments were added the original body.

And that is not!  Lee took a plastic kit for a 1934 Ford.  The kit is from the Ukraine and it is of a Soviet-built Ford. I have several of these kits and do require some patience to build.

I have always like the ’34 Ford.  Apparently Bonnie and Clyde also appreciate the car with its flathead V-8 for rapid getaways.

Another couple winners from the workbench of Lee Turner.   We always enjoy seeing his work.



MODELING: Mike George’s Fantastic Bridge

The following article was written by Mike George to provide background of the prototype Louisville & Nashvillle bridge and his model. This not Mike’s first bridge model.  He has built a number of wonderful bridges for his Hook & Eye Division.
I needed to add some interest to a corner of my layout. There was just enough room to squeeze in a 50′ through plate girder bridge. The prototype shown above is on a 6 degree curve and a .25% grade. I photographed and measured it. Mine was going to be on a 66″ radius superelevated curve and a 2% grade. The prototype is interesting, with a wider than normal distance between girders and unusually spaced ribs.
The model was constructed entirely of 0.010 styrene to duplicate the 0.5″ thickness of the prototype components. I tried this technique on a previous bridge that was longer and the deflection was minimal. So, the bridge is a 100% duplicate of the prototype in every regard (see photo above).  Riveting was done with a NWSL riveter mounted on a Sherline mill table. A jig was made for assembling the stringers and girders and angles were fabricated using strips cut from 0.010″ sheet.
I wanted the bridge to be heavily weathered (but not quite as much as the prototype). It was painted a light grey, sealed with Dullcoat, and then many washes of oil based paints were applied along with dry brushing. At various stages I would send photos to friends for suggestions. This is where having honest friends pays off, as many changes were made to get it to the final stage.
The abutments were made from individual plaster stones and castings to represent the concrete caps. The plaster was sealed with a coat of Mod Podge and the colored with acrylic latex colors using a series of washes. The water is Mod Podge over an acrylic painted stream bed on a piece of foam core board.
The most challenging part was fitting it into the layout. Roadbed had to be removed and L girder benchwork modified to make room for the stream bed. The scene is very tight, with the upper deck of the railroad only inches away from the bridge. All components were assembled at the workbench to check clearances and to get the superelevation correct.
This was a fun project. Full length passenger cars clear with no issues and it added interest to an area I previously thought did not have room for a bridge.
Wow! Mike George hits another homerun.   He is a great prototype modeler and craftsman who has demonstrated his skills in many disciplines.
Thank you for sharing your work with us.

MODELING: Trackwork 3.0

My turnout project is complete.  It took a lot more time than than I expected.  I suspect that the time required for the next turnout built will go faster since I have gathered the tools and fixtures.  My next two turnouts will #6 right after I get a few other projects done.

It took a lot of spikes and tie plates to finish the detailing.   You can get detailed throw bars that tie the switch points together.   The brass throw bar requires the two parts glued together with a paper insulation layer.  It is a very simple process.  Another approach is to use Delrin throw bars.  The parts were offered by the Irish Tracklayer.  This company has been very hard to connect with these days.  Fortunately Right O’Way has these parts so contact them for information on ordering them.

I haven’t run a locomotive thru the switch but that should occur soon.  I am happy with the end result.

One down six more to go.  Lots of spiking to look forward to but It is the only way to get what I want.


MODELING: Trackwork 2.0

It is 1962 and scheduled freight 674 is rolling through Woodinville, WA. Douglas Leach took this shot preserving classic diesels with their original paint scheme.


I am continuing the construction of a P48 #7 turnout.  This post will cover the addition of ballast, switch hardware and rail.

I like to use Right O’Way products for tie, tie plates, switch castings and rail on my layout.  Jay Criswell is the go-to supplier in 1/4″ scale for a wide range products.

The ballast I used is a natural stone harvested from the former Northern Pacific right of way in the Seattle area.  A friend shipped me a flat rate box of a few shovels full of local stuff.  My method is to apply the ballast dry and worked with a soft brush and my fingers.  That was followed with spray of distilled water with a drop or two a wetting agent.  I used carpenter’s glue cut with water (50%) applied with an eye dropper.  The picture above shows what it looks like when it is drying.  The ties end up with a layer of dust from the ballast which becomes attached to the top surface.


I like to prepaint the rail after attaching rail braces.  My “go-to” paint for this is Rust-Oleum Camouflage Earth Brown in a rattle can.  Prior to paint, I attach power leads to the bottom of the rail including the frog.   The process of building the turnout started with the location of the point of the frog and the straight rail.  I use a steel straight edge to ensure rail is straight while spiking the initial points along the rail. Once the initial points are spiked I continue to add tie plates and spiking the rail in place.


Building the turnout is not rocket science but it does take time and patience.  However, I am rethinking my layout to reduce the number of turnouts required.  Have to consider my age and likelihood of finishing something.


After a lot of spikes and tie plates you will end up something like this.  The gopher hole adjacent to the frog casting will be filled with some modeling clay and ballast.  I need to touch up the spikes and weather the track.


The next step is to install it on the layout along with the Tam Valley servo and the Frog Juicer.

Happy New Year