MODELING: Tank Car Handrails

Building the tank car handrail is one of those nasty jobs I dislike.  I usually drag my feet until it is absolutely necessary.  In the past, I have used cast brass stanchions to attach the railing to the tank body.   The picture below shows the Back Shop stanchions installed on my Type-20 tank car.  The parts are a little delicate and will break if you are not careful but they are nice looking once installed.

I am in the process of building several GATC Type-30 tank cars and needed a more cost effective and stronger stanchion.  I decided to fabricate stanchions from .010″x .060″ strip brass.  I started by forming the brass around a .032″ length of wire.  This ensure a good fit on the actual .032″ handrail.  Use a pair of pliers to create a loop and pinch the tail of the brass strip.  Solder the tail creating solid staff.

I made a little fixture to hold the stanchion while filing down the tail to approximately .032″ wide.  I wanted to minimize the size of the hole in the tank body so went with a .032″ diameter hole.   

The stanchion is inserted in a pre-drilled hole in the tank body.   The railing is spaced 3″ from the body.  It is also offset downward by approximately 3″.

The handrail is at the longitudinal center of this tank body.

The end railing follows the contour of the tank end.  I formed the shape starting with a paint bottle.  The piece was inserted into a jig that allowed me to create sharp bends to meet up with the side railing.

I use a round-nose plier to form the sharp bend.  The end piece is attached to the side railing using a very thin-walled tubing that is made by Albion Alloys in England. I used a 1.0 mm O.D. size with is a snug fit for the .032″ handrail.   This is a very thin tubing that is cut using a sharp knife blade rolled over tube on a hard surface.  It will easily snap off done correctly.

As a final touch I added short lengths of styrene with rivets added.

The above picture shows the primed tank body that still needs some attention to a few bumps and gaps.

Hopefully, you find this posting usedful in your model building.


NEW STUFF: New Tool for my Bench and a Signal Bungalow is

Ross Dando showed me a picture of a tool maker vise that looked really useful.   I did a little searching and found the vise available from several sources such as Amazon.   They range from two inches up to six inches.  I purchased a  two inch remanufactured vise from Amazon.   The tool maker vise is different compared to my old Unimat vise.

The topside looks similar to a conventional vise.  The allen wrench tightens  the jaws over a limited range.  There is a mechanism on the underside that allows you to make large changes in jaw location.  A toggle engages a series of notches that the right jaw is moved to the closest notch.  You can tighten the jaws with great precision and power.  It is easy to flatten brass wire or hold a part firmly for fabrication work.

This vise a useful tool.  I really like it.  Thank you Ross.

Here is my old and trusty Unimat vise.  I purchased  an Unimat lathe in 1968 which came with this old vise.  Time to retire this old friend.

The Northern Pacific Railway Historical Association (NPRHA) commissioned a small company to produce a nifty signal bungalow that appeared along the railroad lines.  The prototype is based upon a General Railway Signal design that held relays and other electrical devices to support the railroad’s signal system.   The NPRHA developed the structure in HO and O (1/48).

  The picture shows the components that create the bungalow.  All are resin cast from 3D printed designs.  The building consist of a one-piece body, roof, concrete footings and two vents.  I just received the little kit and haven’t had a chance to finish it.  The picture below shows the bungalow near the baggage car.

They will be available shortly throught the society’s website. The expected price will be $22 for a pair of these nifty buildings.   I will let you know when they are available.  General Railway Signal products were used by a number of major railroads so the bungalow has many applications.


Thats all for this post.



NEW PRODUCTS: A Few New Things

Summer 2021 is the beginning to return to normalicy.   One sign was the O Scale National Convention that was held in Denver this past week.  An interesting note is that the San Juan standard gauge styrene boxcars are coming back to the market after a long time.

Right O’Way has developed a new joiner bars that are easier to use than the older style joiners which were cast as a pair with a spacer.  I have never liked this style but used them on my layouts.

The joiners are soldered to the rail for one side of the joint.  The new bars seem to fit the rail better.

The mating rail slides into the soldered joiners.

Jay Criswell is in the process of adding this new piece of jewelry to his website.

Here is an useful product for preserving CA and the container.  The caps are actually made from the silicon and used for powder coating metail. The silicon material will not stick or bond to CA.  It is perfect for use as a cap for the CA containers.  I have been using the caps for a while and they seal the spout tightly and keep it from hardening.  James Booth provided me the information on these silicon caps.  James suggested buying them on Amazon.  I did buy them on Amazon and were less than $8 for a lifetime supply.

Ammo has released a new range of colors in acrylic.  The Dry Brush paint is a thick and smooth finish.  I tried a sample application on a piece stripwood.  Dry brushing works best with a short and stiff bristle brush.  LIghtly dip the brush in the paint and wipe off excess on a paper towel.   Brush lightly onto the surface.  The effect is interesting but I must admit that more work is needed on my part.  You can find the paint in dealers who cater the armor and airplane modelers.

Protocraft is expecting to receive the first shipment of their new 50′ automobile boxcars.  There were some quality problems on the initial samples.  Norm Buckhart returned them for correcting problems.  Anyone who is familiar with the brass importing game, will understand that it is a normal process.  Currently the production models are on their way to the US.  Norm kept a few of the models and had them finished.  The C&O car is shown on Norm’s railroad.

Hope that information is useful to followers of this blog.


MODELING: Bill Yancey’s Super Models

Bill Yancey has become an accomplished builder of modern freight cars.  He developed a line of urethane freight car kits.  After shuttering the kit business, Bill has been very active building rolling stock for his own layout.

Bill sent me pictures of his latest creations. Here are some pictures of the two wood chip gondolas. They were scratch built of sheet styrene and shapes.   The former BN car was built using drawings from MR in the May & June 1977 issues.  I was hoping to do a construction article on it if permission to use the published drawings comes through.

Styrene was used to build up the side and underframe ribs  Bill used a small square to ensure alignment of the ribs.

The ends of the wood chip cars were designed for end dumping.  Bill included the hinge details on the car end shown below.

The former UP car was also scratch built of styrene and H columns.  The walls were carved up to look like plywood sheets before assembly.  The load cover was made of unbleached cheesecloth to resemble load netting.

The former BN car was covered by a tarp which was made by hammering thin lead even thinner.  The tarp was painted with Rustoleum semi gloss black then weathered.

Both cars are equipped with Protocraft roller bearing and Type E couplers.

These cars are really fantastic and represent the state of art of modern modeling.  I appreciate that Bill provided us with information about his latest models.




MODELING: Soo Line Caboose Redux

The above painting by David Oram captures the feel of the old Soo Line.  Their wooden caboooses were part of the railroads character.

As a followup to the last posting on the Soo caboose that Robert Leners built, I have some additional information to share on the subject.

Robert sent me a picture of the underframe prior to painting.  The AB system is a San Juan kit.  The installation seems to be fairly common for rebuilt wood Soo cabooses. Dennis Storzek pointed out that the needle beam are farther apart compared to the majority of the rebuilt cars.  This was an artifact of the original car’s longer length.

Stu Nelson posted a followup on the Soo History on  He is a retired Soo employee and historian of the railroad.   Here is what Stu posted today:

 A little information on the caboose 99090 and that series.
Haskell & Barker built a series of cabooses in 1909 for the WC.  
WC numbers  WC 152 to WC 201  became renumbered 99056 to 99095.
Believe all were the  design of 4 windows on each side and cupola  closer to one end.
     99090 was built  Feb 23, 1909  as  WC 196.  32 ft 6 in long
Renum  99090  on Nov 29, 1909 
     Further info   Window Curtains inst at  Stevens Point  Dec 1923
        Permanent back-up pipe and whistle,    Steel Center Sill,   Refrigerator inst  Stevens Point  Nov 1927.
         Shatter proof windows inst   Fond du Lac  Dec 1938.
I believe the major reconstruction of the sides to the 3 window on one side and one on the other
was done during that session at Stevens Point  in 1927.

This is an excellent rundown on the car’s history.

Here is a CAD drawing done by Dennis Storzek.  It shows the general arrangement for rebuilt Soo cars.

That’s all for now



MODELING: Soo Line Caboose by Robert Leners

The Soo Line maintained a large fleet of vintage wooden cabooses with the newest being built in 1921.  The railroad was frugal and rebuilt their cars over their life.  One such example is car # 99090.  It was built by Haskell and Barker for the Wisconsin Central with a different side windows and cupola.   The rebuild was extensive to the point where you would not recognize the two as being in the same series.  The picture below is of an unrebuilt car in the same series.

The above photo shows what the 99046-99095 series looked like.  This particular car survived the rebuilding process to a large extent.  The photo was provided by the Soo Line Historical Society.

Robert Leners is a long-time ardent follower of the Soo Line and a very skilled modeler.  His style is always precise and clean.

Styrene is the ideal material to build a model of this calibre.  Robert is well versed in working with this material.

One of the interesting feature of many Soo cabooses is the single window on one side.  The original Haskell & Barker cars had four windows on either side.  A hallmark of the road’s cars was the tall cupola which could be found with a single window or double as shown with this car.

Robert’s approach of painting and decals a partially completed model is a bit unorthodox.  I can understand that some paint on part of the model will likely motivate one to complete it.  I recently did something similar with a tank car build.  I painted and decaled the completed frame.

This closeup of the end shows how careful Robert is with his work.  It is flawless.

The “W.C.” initials on the right letterboard indicate Wisconsin Central ownership and does the 99000 series number.



As always, I am grateful to Robert for sharing his work with you all.

Thanks for taking a look at Robert’s work.




MODELING: Lee Turner Does Modern


Over the years Lee Turner has finished a wide range of models that span the scales and eras.  Such a diverse requests from clients exposes him to an amazing variety ot projects.   This particular modeling project has a bit of a story attached to it.  I am sharing Lee’s words and description.


This project has been sitting on my shelf for a few years. It started as a decorated Atlas D&H/ New York state Transportation box car in bright blue and white. The client had seen a photo of one of these cars in extremely weathered condition and wanted the photo recreated. Only trouble was that neither he nor I could find the photo online.  I searched all the usual railroad picture sites and even looked through Guilford and Canadian Pacific pictures following where the railroad ended up all to no avail. Finally my client found that these cars were sold to short lines including many to the Georgia Northeastern. With that clue I found the picture in question in minutes. It was really like doing two boxcars with the major differences between the way the white and blue color weathered. I started by masking off the blue areas and weathering the roof and portion of the sides and doors that’s in white. The I Heart NY  must have been a decal of some sorts that peeled off, or perhaps the white band was an area overpainted to de-identify the car when sold and the lettering was ghosting through. After the upper portion was completed the roof and white areas were masked off and the blue portion of the sides and ends were weathered working from the photo. At the same the underbody and trucks were painted and weathered. Up to this point basically all weathering had been done with an air brush but for the final weathering I switched to Burnt Umber and Burnt Sienna oil paints in a tube to add more rust tones and bring the different colors together. A very interesting and satisfying project and it sure was nice to finally get it off the shelf.

Here is the starting point. An Atlas 3-rail fifty-foot PS-1 boxcar.   The paint scheme is base upon prototype cars owned by the Delaware & Hudson.

Here is the picture that kicked off the project.

The model shown above is remarkable considering the starting point with the shiny blue and white paint.

The oil washes really create a realistic rust patena on the car.


I want to thank Lee for sharing his methods for achieving the well worn look on a modern boxcar.


NEW PRODUCTS: Resin Boxcar and 3D Printed Details

A surprise from a tradition HO producer of quality resin kits.   Yarmouth Model Works has posted a picture of a new project in 1/48.  It is a Pennsylvania X31f automobile car.  In the early 1940s the railroad rebuilt older X31a boxcars into a group of 690 automobile carriers (81200-81889).  The turtleback raised roof section allowed for the use of auto racks to increase the number of autos carried.   I have read that this group was also used to carry Jeep vehicles during WWII.

The model was developed using 3D design tools and printed on a high end machine.  I suspect the production cars will be resin cast. It will likely available with detail hardware such as ladders, brake equipment, sill steps running boards and an AB brake system.

The above prototype picture shows chain tubes  extending below the underframe.  The cars were equipped with a 2D-F12 truck like the one Protocraft has imported.   The photo shows the National B-1 used on these cars.  Protocraft imported these as well.

The prototype cars lasted for a long time with 680 still on the roster in 1963 and a significant drop in 1968 to 12.    The posting mention that the kit is targeted for fall release.


Smoky Mountain Model Works has proposed a series of 3D printed details in 1/48.  Jim King circulated a list of possible details ranging from AB brake sets, new hand brake systems, ladders, and a bunch of other parts.  SMMW is using a new printing resin in their Form3 SLA machine that produces parts that are much more durable than tradition printed resins.

Here is an extract from an email sent by Smoky Mountain Model Works:

Below is a list of items I’m considering adding to my O scale freight car details line.  If you want something specific, just email me off-list with your suggestions and I’ll add them to the list.  No guarantee it/they will be made because market demand and available info (drawings/photos) drive new products.  All of these will start out as S scale items, then be upscaled and tweaked for O.

Keep in mind that these are highly detailed, printed parts in clear resin.  Detail is equal to injection molded parts but the material is more brittle so applications need to be scrutinized.  These are not “miracle” parts that survive rough handling.  The trade-off to availability of parts that otherwise would not be produced is greater brittleness which should not be an issue for most modelers.  Many suppliers have retired or the companies sold over the past decade, making their parts increasingly difficult to find and pricey if found.  3D printing addresses this and allows for new designs that cannot be justified using traditional manufacturing methods.

The ladder shown above is for S scale.  Jim has proposed a ladder design with .016″ rungs and .021″ wide stiles.  That would make them very close to scale.  Part of the discussion has been about making replacement parts for the old Intermountain freight ladders and bracketed grab irons.

Stirrup steps will not be produced … they are FAR too brittle to survive.  Flat wire, injection molded parts and brass castings are still the best options.

These brake wheel/housing designs come from the 1953 and 1961 CBCs; the Universal dates to 1940s AAR flat cars:

Superior brake wheel/housing

Ajax AB brake wheel/housing

Champion/Peacock brake wheel/housing

Klasing brake wheel/housing

Universal brake wheel + ratchet mechanism for flat cars

AB “complete” brake set (Apex platform, reservoir, cylinder, triple valve, at least 3 lengths of levers, phosphor bronze wire, chain, clevises, retainer valve, bell crank).  Everything you need to detail 1 car, regardless of car’s length.

Apex brake platform (grid) with angular supports (sold separately from AB set)

Retainer valve (sold separately from AB set)

Bell crank (set of 10 or so; sold separately from AB set)

“Grid pattern” roofwalks/end platforms (Ajax and Morton are main ones) for 40’ and 50’ cars

Draft gear (coupler) box and lid with screws to fit Kadee 740 (no drilling of box required)

Boxcar doors (not sure of designs yet … tell me what you want)

This is an exciting development which can add a range of details to our scale.   This is an important development since the previous line of Chooch Ultra Scale II plastic is not on the market with uncertainty on its return.  The former San Juan standard gauge parts are also currently unavailable so their AB brake system leaves a huge hole in model building.   The parts are critical for kit makers too.   The lack of details may cause kit makers to think twice about offering anything new.


Jay Criswell is developing a new version of joiner bars that may be more appealing to many.  A nickel silver that can be soldered directly to the rail to capture the adjacent rail.

You only need to solder the joint bars to one side of the connection.  This will allow expansion and contraction of rail on your layout.   Jay will be offering the castings in Code 148, Code 125 and smaller rail heights.

The new parts should be available shortly.  Contact Jay for availability and pricing.

I have some new material from Lee Turner.  I thought I would share a view.   More material will be posted shortly.

Thank you for taking a look.


MODELING: The Bodega Avenue French Laundry

Every now and then I come across an interesting building to just calls out to be modeled.  One such structure is laundry once located at 570 Bodega Avenue in Petaluma, CA.  I suspect the vintage signage caught my eye initially.  The building featured a false front design with gabled roof behind.  It was sheathed with shiplap siding.

There was a feasibility study performed by Page and Turnbull in 2014 to determine if it could preserved as a historical landmark for the city.   Sadly, the study concluded that it was too far gone to  be saved.  However that does not mean a model couldn’t be built reflecting what it might have looked like when it was a laundry.

This view shows details of the west elevation of the structure.

At this point the roof had collapsed along the east elevation.

This photogr

This photograph was taken during the 2014 study.  At this point it looks like a good candidate for a supply of shiplap for Chip and Joanna Gaines.

The back wall showing the rear entrance and a boarded up window.


The east wall is essentially gone.  One can speculate that there were likely windows

The first step is to construct a simple drawing and possibly a cardboard mockup to get a sense of what the building will look like when completed.

I plan to use styrene for the basic material.   I saw a painting weathering technique shown by Vallejo acrylics on how to create the appearance of an old wooden structure.  It looks like the way to go to get the effect desired.   My objective to depict the appearance in the mid-1950s.

Model and Photos are from a Vallejo brochure explaining this technique

Final appearance of the weathered plastic using Vallejo acrylics.

Stay tuned for the next chapter in the laundry build.



My laptop decided to crash due to a hard drive failure.   That was fixed and I have a new 1TB solid state hard drive.   No more spinning patten in my machine.   It was only $100 for a Samsung device.  Some technology parts can be a bargin but not cell phones.

I will be putting together a new posting to my blog shortly.