MODELING: Rio Grande Auto Car Build 12.0

The photo above was submitted by Warner Clark of his layout. He has an excellent eye for combining kits with scratchbuilt models to create an interesting..  The tall building is cheese factory.



IT IS NOW AT is the new email address


I have been working on the automobile car build during the last few weeks between interruptions.  I am now at a point where is needs only weight added inside, running board and primer.  Due to a finger injury I will have to wait a couple weeks for paint since acetone on a wound is not the greatest.

I added a number of final details prior to painting.  The first item are stirrups.  They are made from .010″ x .040″ brass strips.  I used a bending tool to create shape ninety degree bends where needed.  The tool is sold by the Small Shop. I have mentioned this before when I was forming some etched brass parts.

I build a simple jig to allow me to form consistent parts.  It is made from a few bits of styrene.

The stirrups were drilled as part of the forming process.  The is a ninety degree twist in the right side.  I used two pliers to make the bend.

The stirrup was attached to the car body with .7mm rivets that I purchased from Scale Hardware.

The next bits that were added are door stops.  I built a set of stop to fit on the lower door track.  I used a similar Chooch part as a guide.  They were made from .020″ x .040″ strip with a .010″ x .030″ surround.  I also added stops on the car sides. There are four required per side.  I used a part from Grandt Line.  The part is on a sprue which has other hardware.  It is #6 in their catalog.

There is a sheet metal wrapper that ties the upper side strap to the end.  I used a .010″ x .080″ strip to make this detail. One end is tapered to .060″ to match the end strap.  I pre-bent the strip to approximate the end shape.  Start by bonding the wide end first.  Once the joint is set, I bonded the other end to the car end.

Well that wraps up the basic construction with the exception of the running board. I will add weight to the inside and prime and paint the interior before bonding the roof and running board in place.

The model will be primed with a lacquer and painted with Star Brand D&RGW freight car red.   Star Brands is sold by P-B-L direct and through some dealers.  It is a lacquer as well. If you are sensitive to this type paint, I would suggest using Model Masters acrylic as you base color.  You will need to mix the right shade.

Our next posting will be on modeling modern prototype railroad equipment.  No, I won’t be doing any but I will show some of the creative cottage industry suppliers who are making it easier to this in P48 as well as O scale.

Thanks for tuning in,






PROTOTYPE: Swift Wood Reefers

The Swift Company operated a large fleet of reefers to distribute meets from their slaughter houses to regional meat preparation distribution centers.  In 1948, Swift had over 3700 cars in operation. The cars were largely wood but steel construction appeared in the fleet after 1954.  With the exception of one group, all of the wood cars were either 36′ or 37′ long.  This length was typical of the wood era.  The wood cars do vary in details and dimensions from one series to another.  The picture at the top of the pages illustrates variation in underframe and safety equipment.

I have included a table that was once published in Railroad Modeling many years ago.  It shows how the fleet was not a monolithic design that you see on most model railroads.  With the exception of the Sunshine HO kit, nearly all commercial models missed the mark on this legendary car.

As you may know the cars wore several decoration schemes ranging from a yellow with black letters to bright red with billboard lettering.

The two photos above show the yellow carbody schemes.   Quarter-inch scale modelers are fortunate that Protocraft offers two lettering sets that cover both of the yellow styles and the red sides with white lettering.

The one car that interested me is in the 2500-2875 series.  It has an exposed side sill with tension rod bolts and plates below the sheathing.

The brake booster was a piece of hardware to reduce the force needed to apply the brakes.  It could be found on a number or freight cars.   I did a MKT boxcar for Southern Car & Foundry which had this part included.  The picture shown below illustrates a typical installation on a freight car. Ted Culotta was kind enough to provide a correction for the proper name for this device.  This brake booster is a Universal product.

I am thinking that this car might be my next build once I finish the Rio Grande automobile car.

Thanks for stopping by


MODELING: New Product and Modeling Topics


It is summer and all of the heat you would expect only it is only July.  Six days of 105 degrees plus is a bit much even for Northern Cali.  I was going through my photos this morning and found this shot of the Milwaukee Road’s Hiawatha ready to depart for the North. The miserable cold and damp weather seems refreshing today.  The picture has tons of interest to me since as a child I likely rode this to Milwaukee, WI.


Glacier Park Models is currently selling their latest kit for a Cotton Belt 40′ double sheathed boxcar.  The kit is composed of urethane castings for the body parts, custom ABS ladders, various Chooch and San Juan plastic parts.  It is available direct from GPM at $125 plus $14 shipping continental US only.  This is the first in a series of kits planned by Jimmy Booth.

Protocraft offers the decals for this kit.




Lee Turner just completed rework of a pair Key Models ALCO PA-1s.  Key depicted the models in a later configuration with MU plugs high on the nose.  Lee’s client didn’t like the look of these plugs on the wonderful PA nose.  The holes were patched and the paint touched up. The new paint spots are perfect in matching the factory finish.

The Nickle Plate called their PAs the Bluebirds.  These locos replaced the road’s handsome 4-6-4 Hudsons.  I think it was the late George Hilton who referred to the ALCO PAs as honorary steam locomotives.  They were famous for their black cloud produced when the throttle was advanced.   You can learn more about the prototype by visiting the Nickle Plate Historical Society


I had posted several pictures of Jim Zwernemann’s layout and Jon Cagle’s help planting scenery on a corner the railroad.  Jim follow this up with structures, figures and a story.  He created a vignette in an empty corner of the layout.  Looks great but needs some fencing.

Thanks for tuning in.



MEETINGS: Collinsville RPM Meeting

Railroad Prototype Meetings (RPM) have become a major part of the hobby’s communication process.   Modelers and historians get together in many parts of the country.  The Naperville (IL) meeting has been the major event in the RPM calendar.  The St.Louis (Collinsville, IL) meet is emerging as one of the major gatherings.  It has been run by John Golden for a number of years with major help from a group in the St. Louis area John is now living in Germany as a result of a new job assignment in his post-military job. John continues to champion the gathering from afar.

O scale and P48 are not major components in these meetings but the value of the event is the many clinics, vendors and fellow modelers.  I have attended the Chicago area meeting and enjoyed the heck out of it.  I will probably go again but maybe try the St. Louis meet.

As in past years, Norm Buckhart attended as a vendor (Protocraft).   HO folks seem to be fascinated with P48 and concept of larger scale modeling.  Jim Canter brought his large portable P48 demonstration layout with the help of friends from the Indianapolis area.  It is an excellent vehicle to introduce the scale to modelers.  Norm took a photos of the meeting and Jim’s layout to share with us.

This what the commercial selling floor looked like at St. Louis.  Several photo sellers, a bunch of historical societies and lots of largely HO suppliers present.

Norm Buckhart and Jim Canter pose with Jim’s layout.

This view shows the simple support system for the portable.

In case you didn’t know, Jim loves the Nickle Plate Road.

It sounds like a good meeting to consider in the coming year.


MODELING: Rio Grande Auto Car Build 11.0

I will trying to bring you up to date on the boxcar build.  It seems that there has been a lot of things going on the last few weeks.  At any rate, progress has been made on my model.

This post will be a repeat of the roof build since I ended up scrapping the original piece.  I didn’t like the spacing of the ribs and the thickness of the material.   The curved roof section was formed the same way as the first time using laminations of .010″ sheet styrene.  The last lamination (#4) has the ribs marked while the sheet was still flat.  I decided to reduce the size of the small stiffening rib to a .020″ styrene rod.  I used a scribing tool to create a slot in the sheet.  This will allow the rod to drop in while bonding.

The first layer of the rib is .005″ x .188″.  I glued a .010″ x .030″ under the strip.

The second layer of the rib is .010″ x .138″.  I made a simple jig to position the strip. The jig helps with marking where the final layer will be positioned.

Once the final layer is added (0.015″ x .080″) to the rib. The rib end is shaped with a taper to the end and then rounded.

Next, I drilled a .018″ hole 13″ from the end and centered on the rib.  I added .025″ Tichy rivets to each rib.

The drawing shows the details of the Murphy Radial Roof construction.

Next time we will provide some information on the recent Collinsville RPM meet.  Protocraft was there representing the 1/4″ scale community in a largely HO/N scale gathering.

Dick Harley sent this picture of our recent visit to the world headquarters of Protocraft.  The picture reveals how Norm keeps his prices so low.  Import labor from Texas.  The workers are Bruce Blalock, Jim Zwernemann and Frank Peacock.  Actually, they are well know in the railroad community for their expertise (not packing couplers).  Bruce does smile frequently when not in the view of a camera.



MODELING: Little Bit of This and That

Robert T. Gallagher

This posting is a bit of a catchup since I have been busy with non-hobby stuff.   There are a few topics that I will cover.  First is a notice of the passing of Steve Grabowski’s father-in-law, Robert T. Gallagher.  Carl Jackson sent me a not of Robert’s passing.  Many may not recognize these names but Robert was a key person in the development and production the Grabowski/Protocraft scale steel wheels.  Steve Grabowski and his father-in-law made a commitment of time and energy to produce the true scale wheels with full contour wheels and axles.   We are fortunate that these two gentlemen filled a major void in the Proto48 market.   You can buy these wheelsets from Protocraft in a variety of axle and wheel size.

Texas Grass Party

Jon Cagle, owner of Southern Car & Foundry, visited the Austin area to install a commercial display.  He managed to find time to visit Jim Zwernemann’s home and layout. Bruce Blalock joined the party.   Jon has visited Jim’s a number of times over the years.  He has been doing a little scenery work each time.   We should all be so lucky to have a very skilled commercial model maker do your scenery.

Jon is on the left and Jim is on the right.  It looks like they just returned from lunch.  The picture below shows the “grass” work of Jon.  He uses an electrostatic applicator.  The cow on the right looks like it could yield some decent brisket for the local BBQ joint.

I would like to thank Bruce and Jim for sharing the photos or their recent social.

Top Secret Shipment

Lee Turner has uncovered several classified photos taken of  shipment being loaded for shipment to Oakridge, Tennessee in 1943.  The equipment was to support the Manhattan Project.

Well, the reality is of scale models that represent Lee Turner’s craft.   He has a flair for combining railroad and military models in one scene.

The weathering on the gondola is on the light side but remember the scene is in 1943 when war emergency gondolas were new.   Lee used figures and a jeep from Tamiya.

Next week, I will return to the Rio Grande automobile car project.






MEETINGS: O Scale West 2017

Regional O Scale meetings are very popular and do allow the opportunity to buy and sell model supplies, see operating layouts and new products from suppliers.  The meets draw people from a wide geographical area and interests.  O Scale West has been going on for a very long time under the leadership of Rod Miller.  This show is one of the very few I can easily visit.  It has been held in Santa Clara, CA in the shadow of Levi Stadium ( SF Forty-Niners football).  The meet had been in late January or early February but the new football stadium and explosive growth in Silicon Valley have created a challenge to maintain low hotel rates and use of the Santa Clara Convention Center that adjoins the Hyatt hotel.  For now, the meet is been held on the Memorial Day weekend.  For those who haven’t been in this part of Cali, the airport is very close to the hotel and light rail runs by the Convention Center.

On the Way

Prior to the meet, a group of friends got together and did a few railroad related trips.   Several friends took advantage of their location and rode the Napa Valley Wine Train.  It is an interesting trip that rambles through the beautiful Napa Valley.  Miles and miles of vineyards and wineries to delight your eye and pallet.  The ride is a gourmet experience with wonderful entrees, wine and deserts.

The next stop on the pre-meet tour was a ride north to Ukiah for some local BBQ and a tour of P-B-L facilities west of town.  The facilities are compact and somewhat remote in the hills with a view of the Pacific Ocean from the lofty heights of 2600 feet above sea level.

From left to right is Frank Peacock (railway historian), Jim Zwernemann ( expert modeler), Bruce Blalock ( Katy historian, modeler and artist), Bill Peter (P-B-L) Norm Buckhart ( Protocraft), Jimmy Booth ( Glacier Park Models and P-B-L), Mike O’Connell (Chooch Enterprise Owner) and Dick Harley ( UP modeler and historian).  The visit was enjoyable and informative.  P-B-L is Sn3.  It was a pioneer and created a loyal following in the hobby that has grown to a legion of strong following.   The facilities supports a wide range of production capabilities.  Model production is largely done with resin and injection modeling plastics.

The injection molding machine shown above produces much of the P-B-L and Glacier Park Models.   Dies are made using CNC mills from brass plates.   The designs are created using 3D software.   It is a process that has become standard for much of the hobby.  The image shown below is of the brass dies used to make the parts for kits.

P-B-L has a room that hold their convention displays featured Sn3 models.  They are exquisite displays.  The displays remind one that Bill Peter and Jimmy Booth are superb modelers.

Returning to Protocraft’s home base in Sonoma was a smooth trip for most except for Frank and Bruce stuck in the last row of Norm’s SUV.

At the Show

The show opened on at 9am on Friday.   A couple of newcomers in P48 attended the meet.  Ross Dando and Shawn Branstetter came down from Idaho to meet other modelers.  They are both accomplished modelers and now working in our scale.  Ross

brought down a modified Protocraft AAR steel boxcar to show and participate in the favorite model contest.   He is a Rock Island fan and did his car with Protocraft Rock Island decals.

The favorite contest had some nice models.  Joel Kirk brought his Sacramento Northern GE 44-ton diesel, Bill Yancey entered a CP Rail wood chip gondola and Jim Zwernemann brought his Milwaukee Road stock car.  I believe that Joel and Jim took first prizes in their categories.

Well, I hope you found this posting interesting.   Why not try going to a regional O scale meet in the future.  I have found that the real benefit is the opportunity of meeting and socializing with fellow modelers.