MODELING: Frank’s Caboose

I was surprised to receive several images of a new caboose built by Jim Zwernemann.  After marveling at the Kansas City Southern caboose Jim built a while back, I didn’t expect to see a new caboose model from Jim any time soon.  It turns out that the model is a memorial of the late Frank Peacock.  Jim was a close friend of Frank and obtained an extensive data package that he had prepared a number of years ago.  Frank was a huge fan of the Gulf Mobile & Ohio along with many other road.  He seemed to have a bias towards southern roads.  The GM&O had a lot of character with a propensity to buy unusual things like a diesel locomotive built by Ingles Shipyard.

Here are Jim’s own words describing the project:

Surprise, another caboose. I built this as a tribute to Frank Peacock.  He measured one of these cars years ago and  I used his notes and photos to do a 1/4″ scale drawing. As usual it’s styrene with brass details. Couldn’t find the old Champ decal set to letter it so I pieced the small characters from several sets and hand lettered the large lettering.

Safety tread plate is from Plano, screens are very fine brass mesh, don’t know who made it.

I used a different method to build this one. Sides and ends were completely finished, including painting, lettering and weathering, before gluing them together. End platform assemblies were built before attaching to the car. Much easier to solder railings and ladders and they were painted and weathered before final attachment to the body.

Another stunning caboose from Jim  Zwernemann.  He is a true craftsman and innovator. I though hand lettering a model was a dead art.  Jim has shown that it can be done and look darn good.  All of Jim’s models are beautifully finishe with a faded paint and subtle weathering.  The smoke jack is a little gem.

I want to thank Jim for sharing his efforts on this fitting memorial to a great person, Frank Peacock.


MODELING: Hand Hewn Ties

Cle Elum, WA, September 1954

My friend Rick Leach is busy building his dream railroad in P48.  As many of you know, Rick is a serious student of the Northern Pacific Railway.  He has been able to access large amounts of railroad data and become friends with some NP railroaders.   The picture below shows Rick hard at work applying new lettering the a recently refurbished NP caboose located at Toppenish, WA.  One of Rick’s great skill and knowledge is the design and use lettering on everything Northern Pacific.  He has shared his vast knowledge with Dean O’Neill at the Northern Pacific Railway Historical Association.  This has resulted in the creation a signicant number of highly accurate decal sets for modelers.

He is building a railroad based upon the NP mainline and branch in the Cle Elum, WA area.  Rick is very interested in the short branch that ran up to Roslyn, WA.  There were coal mines operating for a long time in this area.  The NP hauled a bunch of coal off this line for use as locomotive fuel and for commerical customers.

Railroads were initially build with rough hewn ties.  They were not the uniform shape and size of traditional ties for thoughout the country.  Many of these ties were cut from tries like Oak.  You could find these ancient for of track components on secondary lines and passing sidings.   Given the light usage of the track they tended to last much longer than conventional ties.   Rick is going to add a mix of 20% rough hewn to standard ties.  The photo below shows a couple rough ties in use on the NP Wilsall branch in Montana.

The following photos were provided by Rick Leach.   Thank you for sharing.

This shot illustrates the rounded edges of the oak ties.

Modeling these vestiges of earlier days in railroading requires a little whittling on wood to create the less than perfect shapes found these ties.   Rick cut some ties that were close to 12″ scale wide.  At this point he started to whittle with an Xacto knife with a hooked blade.

Uniformity is not the goal but keep in mind that you still want to spike a flat surface.

If you look closely you can spot the hand hewn ties mixed in with the dimensional variety.  Rick is taking a path not often followed.   Not every railroad would still have these ties in use during the late steam and diesel era.    On the Northern Pacific they were more prevalent on the “dry side” of the Cascade Range.  As you may know the west side of the Cascade mountain range receives a significant amount of rain/snow which likely accelerated the demise of vintage ties faster than on the eastern side which is decidely dryer.

Hopefully we will be able to follow the progress of Rick Leach’s Proto48 railroad.





Lee Turner sent me a few pictures of his most recent work.  He is painting a number of figures and items to go into a car he is building to add to his collection.  Figure painting has always challenging for me but Lee offers a few tips as to how he does it.

Here is Lee’s short course on painting figures:

I have come to really enjoy figure painting and I have found doing African American skin realistically a challenge. I start all figures with a coat of Tamiya fine primer and then airbrushing Tamiya flesh on the face and any exposed skin. Tamiya’s color is the most vibrant and makes a great base for any skin tone. The figure is then sealed to protect the base layer with Krylon matte finish from a rattle can. Shadows and tinting the skin to various shades is done with my old favorite, Vallejo dark brown wash, this makes for a transparent layer that allows the base color to show through to add a lifelike warmth to the figure. So many times I have seen representations of darker skinned people they look like they have been dipped in chocolate! It never looked right to me. I’ll use artist markers in black,  brown and red tones for shadows and rosy cheeks or to even look red faced. The markers are not permanent and can be blended with a Q-tip to soften the shadow and color.

Radio was the entertainment source for long-distance train travel.  Lee Turner built this classic for his project.  It is complete with lights.


Two new fifty-ton freight car trucks have arrived from the Boo Rim factory in Korea.

PC-219-P Coil-Eliptic 50-ton freight truck in Proto:48.  The addition of an elliptical leaf spring replacing the middle coil spring provided a dampening effect of the friction between leaves which tended to resist sudden movements and reduce oscillations.  Protocraft’s model is based on Symington-Gould (Gould Coupler Corporation of Rochester, N.Y) drawings.  Both Symington and the Buckeye Castings Co of Ohio, were the chief exponents of coil-elliptic trucks which were adopted as a system standard by the Pennsylvania Railroad and several smaller lines such as the Chicago Great Western.

  Protocraft’s all brass construction, based on Symington’s drawings, has ball bearings in each journal box with working journal box lids, leaf springs are hinged and fully workable, full brake detail and rolls on Protocraft’s unique sintered 70% steel and 30% stainless steel blend for a very hard rolling surface, and is fully equalized. Axles are all stainless steel for added strength. Left unpainted, wheels will rust, and this is desirable in the model as in the prototype. Treads take a shiny finish for a realistic running look. Fabricated in Korea by Boo Rim Precision. $52.95/pair
PC-218-P  Vulcan 50-ton freight truck in Proto:48.  This truck was popular during the 1920-1930’s and using the Vulcan patent, had cast steel side frames with separate journal boxes.  It is distinctive by the extended side frame casting past the journal box on each end. The design enabled the journal boxes to be bolted directly into the pedestal jaws, eliminating the need for the bottom retainer bars such as the Andrews side frame.  Protocraft’s all brass construction has used American Steel Foundries drawings, has ball bearings in each journal box with working journal box lids, full brake detail and rolls on Protocraft’s unique sintered 70% steel and 30% stainless steel blend for a very hard rolling surface, and is fully equalized. Axles are all stainless steel for added strength. Left unpainted, wheels will rust, and this is desirable as in the prototype. Treads take a shiny finish for a realistic running look. Fabricated in Korea by Boo Rim Precision. $52.95/pair
I added a pair to my scratchbuilt Rio Grande automobile car to finish the car off.  A little touch of weathering was added as well.
That’s all folks!

NEW PRODUCTS: New Urethane Kits Coming

Southern Car & Foundry and Twin Star Cars are preparing several new urethane kits for release.  The kits focus on the steam era spanning to the second generation diesel era.

Southern Car & Foundry

The next release is available now.  Owner, Jon Cagle, will have the pilot model in hand at the Chicago “March Meet” this weekend.  The prototype is an ARA alternate design single sheathed car.  The initial configuration is the series purchased by the Columbus & Greeville shortline.

Here is the prototype shown in this 1950 view prior to an update to schedule AB brake system.

This car was photographed in British Columbia in the early 1950s.  The cars seem to show up in other parts of North America.

The silver roof and triangle shaped herald are eyecatching features of these cars.  The kit includes a one-piece urethane body, separate floor and doors.  You will find a laser-cut running boards and a selection of plastic detail parts, AB brake set, and ladders.

The cast underframe features all of the details of the prototype.   The pilot model has Protocraft couplers installed and a new decal set for this kit.


Master pattern maker, Jim Zwernemann made this kit for Jon.  The basic kit parts will be reconfigured with a new door type and roof to create cars for the Missouri Pacific and  Louisiana & Arkansas like what is shown below.

Great choice of prototypes by Jim and Jon along with new decal sets from Protocraft.

TWIN STAR CARS is preparing a series of boxcar kits based upon USRA double sheathed rebuilds.   The cars will offer one-piece bodies with separate floors or roofs (patterns are just started).  The pattern work is a collaboration between myself and Ross Dando.  The models will be cast by Southern Car & Foundry so they will excellent quality and stable resin.  Protocraft will be doing specific sets to cover a range of cars planned.  The project will fill a void in the 1/4″ scale freight cars produced.

The Rock Island version of the car is shown above.  The railroad rebuilt the original double sheathed boxcar with replacement steel sides purchased from suppliers like Bethlehem Steel.  The car height and cube was raised with a spacer between the top two panels of the original USRA 5/5/5 end.  The new interior height at 10′ which is the same as the 1937 AAR steel boxcars.   Interesting that the road retained the original USRA Andrews trucks but did replace the roof with a SRE raised panel steel roof.  A new Youngstown door replaced the old wooden door.  The new steel sides were attached to the old sidesill with cast steel brackets.

Ross Dando’s pattern is for the side with 3D CAD brackets that acurately capture the prototype design.  The base for the side has already been machined to simulate the lapped plate construction of the side.

The second car in the series will be the C&NW/CMO design.  It is nearly identical to the Rock Island design except for the use of a Viking roof and a one inch higher interior height. There were variation in handbrake type used on the RI and C&NW cars.  The kits will use the SMMW printed handbrakes correct for the specific car lot.

A number of these cars migrated to other railroads like the Soo Line ,Ft. Dodge Des Moines & Southern Railway and Muncie & Western (The Ball Line).

Another car that is planned is the ATSF Bx-32 boxcar. The railroad was famous for rebuilding their older cars into modern all-steel designs.

The USRA fishbelly underframe is quite noticeable in this view.  The interior height of these cars was bumped up to 10’4″. All of the cars received Ajax handbrakes as did all Santa Fe cars of this era.

Another project planned is the Elgin & Joliet Eastern rebuilt USRA double sheathed boxcar.  Many these cars wore a medium green paint with orange lettering.  The roof is a Standard raised panel and modern Morton running boards and Miner handbrakes.


Jim Zwernemann built this prize winning models a number of years ago.  The lettering was done by the late Jim Hickey using an ALPS printer. I have always loved this car and have been planning a build.  I did the USRA 5/5/5  pattern a long time ago in anticipation of building this car.  I also built the USRA underframe pattern for another project.

Here are the pieces that are done (raised panel roof is done but not included in the picture).  The side was cut from an Intermountain car body and reduced in height.   The parts are ready to go to the foundry to be cast and then assembled into a one-piece body.  These EJ&E cars were the same height as the original USRA car.  A few railroads did not raise the interior height.  The Frisco left the original roof as well as the ends and underframe.

USRA double sheathed (original and rebuilt) cars that were upgraded with AB brake schedule have the components on the same side of the fishbelly frame.

So this is the plan.  No timing has been offered so please be patient. It is great to see several cars on my bucket list checked off.




MODELING: Lee Singletary Visits Mike George

Lee Singletary visited Mike George’s fabulous P48 railroad recently.  We have shared several stories about layout and modeling projects.  This time we are taking advantage of Lee’s visit and posting on Flickr.

Mike is the consummate railroad modeler who strives to get it right.  He has researched his favorite Louisville and Nashville and scratchbuilt equipment to ensure the utmost accuracy.   His philosophy fits perfectly into the Proto48 concept.   The photo shown above is a perfect example of building the models to complete the scene.  The locomotive, passenger cars and bridge has captured the feel and look of the railroad in the age of steam.  The train is #4 the traveled down the old Hook & Eye division.  By the way, Mike wrote a book on the line.

The photo story is a debut of sorts for Mike’s latest project.  The L&N 70′ coach that he scratchbuilt from styrene.  Mike has mastered the art of construction using this wonderful material ( Mike is also a skilled metal and wood craftsman as well).

Mike’s photo shows the details of the side construction and interior partitions for the WC and vestibule.  Mike impressed all of those rivets using a highly modified NWSL rivet press adapted to a sherline lathe bed.

Notice that some of the windows partially open.  The coach was not air conditioned so open windows, coal soot and dust from the roadbed embraced the traveler.

A little grim seems appropiate for secondary equipment assigned to the Hook & Eye division.  The trucks are from Protocraft.

  The Chevrolet pickup was a kitbash done by Mike which is perfect for his 1948-1949 era.


Every part of Mike George’s layout is a sight to behold.  It is rare to see so much scratchbuilding in a consistent theme.

I would like to thank Lee Singletary and Mike George for sharing these beautiful images of exquisite modeling.


MODELING: My Track Construction Methods



I posted a couple images of recent work on my new layout track.  There were several folks who were curious as to how I colored ties.  I decided to take a step back and start with texturing the ties before providing information on staining the ties.

I use Right O’Way ties exclusively.  My preference is to use their low profile ties on this part of my layout.  The ties were glued to Homasote roadbed yellow carpenters glue.  Try to run the down the center of the roadbed keeping it away from where the spikes are going.  The stuff will bend spikes like there is no tomorrow.

By the way, the gopher holes are for feeders that I solder to the bottom of the rail allowing me to avoid soldering feeders to the side of the rail.   They will be filled with modeling clay with ballast tamped on the top.

Once the glue is dry, I sand the top of the ties with a block to even their height.  Next I texture the ties using three basic tools.  A steel wire brush is the first to be used.  Don’t get carried away or you will grind away too much material.  I follow that with sharp tools like a #11 hobby knife and an awl.  Make another pass at the ties with the wire brush.  This will soften some of the scribe lines that you imparted on the ties.

I have been using Silver Wood stain sold by Builders In Scale.  I creates an grayish tint to the wood while highlighting the texturing.











Next I use an Umber wash sold by Vallejo.  It is an acrylic color so it won’t disturb the previous alcohol stain that I applied.  It adds some of the cresote color found on ties.

Next I apply Vallejo Medium Gray acrylic paint by using a rag to rug it on.  This harkens back to the good old days of staining basswood with Floquil lacquer.

After that has dried overnight, I applied another Vallejo product to darken the gray and highlight the distressing.  It is a black wash. The previous photo shows the progression of coloring  from the umber, gray on the far right and black highlight on the ties in the center.

Once the rail is spiked in place, I dust the rail/tie plates with black pigments.  It ends up spilling over on the ties adding variations on final color.

One of my favorite views of the area I model is this 1963 shot taken by the late Douglas Leach.  By the way, it would make an interesting scene on the layout.   Maltby, WA was the start of a stiff grade on the Sumas line as it headed north towards Canada.  In the steam era, helpers were stationed there to assist trains of the hill.


MODELING: Atlas/Roco Freight Car Rebuilds

Atlas made an initial entry into O scale by offering a product line produced by Roco of Austria.  The models were based on US prototypes to a large extent.  The boxcar and   was patterned after the Pennsylvania Railroad X43 class boxcar.  The model has an Improved Dreadnaught end, eight-foot Youngstown door and a diagonal raised panel roof.  It represents a car design built by AC&F in the late 1940s.  The plug-door car is not based on a specific prototype car but is similar to cars of the 1950s.

I received a picture from Bill Yancey of a car he created using one of these old Atlas car bodies. This got me interested in the model and what he used to create it.

The first time I saw this picture I didn’t imagine that it started out as a vintage Atlas model.  The picture below gives more of an idea of what Bill did to create this stunning model.  The plug doors were scratchbuilt and the sides were altered to include extended door tracks, a new sidesill and new door stops.  The ladders and grab irons came from an old Chooch detailing set.

Here is another car this time built by Lee Turner.  It patterned after a local road.

Lee made only a few changes to the basic model.  He added a reinforced sidesill, shortened ladders, new grabirons and full underbody detailing.  Lee’s incredible painting and weathering skill sets it apart from other models.

Ed Rappe built up this basic model to represent the PRR prototype X-43.  The eight-foot door is  real standout in a train.

Jim Zwernemann decided to model an AC&F car complete with it’s proprietary end design. The intermediate wale was removed between the larger wales.  New ladders, grab irons and other details rounded out this conversion.  Jim selected the West India Fruit decal set from Protocraft to finish the model.  The prototype cars were to car freight to and from Cuba via the company’s ships.  Some of these cars were painted green as shown in the picture below.

Hopefully the proceeding information shows how a plastic car from the 1970s can be reworked to create an attractive addition to your roster of freight cars.





If you model in the steam and early diesel, you may find that these machines in coal yards and other material yards.  A number of years ago I decided to build a model of a coal conveyor.  It didn’t take long to discover that there wasn’t much information available.  This was the 1970s.  The Internet had not been invented by some politician so searching for information was hard to come by.  I was talking to a friend by the name of Chuck Yungkurth.  He lived near Binghamton, NY and was a longterm railroad modeler, author and facination with the coal industry.  Chuck suggested that on my next business trip to the Owego/Binghamton area that we collect information on the conveyors.   There were a few active coal retail yards still in operation in Binghamton. Chuck took a bunch of pictures and prepared a scale drawing that I used to build a model.  The model resulted in an article for the Narrow Gauge and Shortline Gazette.

I built this conveyor out of styrene using the drawing and photos.  I used a pair of Grandt wagon wheels as a stand in for the wire spoked metal wheels of the prototype.

A little research at the Stanford University library yielded additional information on conveyors.  As you can see, they came in various sizes.

The conveyors were powered by an electric motor with a long cord to plug it in.  The motor is the housing below the Van Horn sign.  There is a control box to the right of the sign and an on/off switch at the top of the conveyor.

The hand crank is used to raise and lower the height of the conveyor.  The conveyors remind me of a “praying mantis”.

The belt was made from runner with cleats attached with nuts and bolts.  I would imagine they wore out and had to be replaced during their useful life.

Hopefully you have found this information useful.


Greg Rapp just let me know that there is a kit for this type of conveyor.  It is produced by:

P290C Portable Belt Conveyor Kit – O scale – L: 5″ H: 3″ – Qty. 1 – New Release!


MODELING: 1/4” Scale Chain Link Fences

Chain link fences are a fixture of the American landscape.  It seems to be the standard for providing business and industrial security.  From a modelers perspective, a few commercial have been offered over the years.  I have seen fences built from vale material for women’s attire.  They are a bit fragile which might not be an issue on certain locations on your layout.

Bill Yancey decided to develop his own approach using brass etched fence material and cast brass posts.  He contracted with Plano and Valley Brass and Bronze to make the parts.

Here is the fence the Bill developed and installed at an industrial site on his layout.

A closer look shows the simplicity of fence.  The posts include an extension for anchoring barbed wire.

The signs are eyecatching drawing your attention to the fence.


Scott Spears built this fence in his freight yard.  Bill’s fence could be used to create a version of what we see above.

Here is a question for you to consider:

Would you like to purchase this product if it comes to the market?  A company is currently considering the production of kits for the fence.  Don’t contact Bill.  He isn’t offering this.  Voice you interest please.  



NEW PRODUCTS: New Products to Stoke Your Interest

TWIN STAR MODELS Is in the process of releasing several new items in 2022.

First up is a very useful detail for diesel modelers.   It is a spark arrestor used on a number of railroads.  The parts are etched in nickle silver and are easy to assemble.  The final price is not set at this moment.  Ross Dando has a new website coming online shortly.

The production samples are shown installed on a Red Caboose GP-9 hatch and a P&D F-unit fan panel.

Ross Dando is pictured at a recent RPM in Cocoa Beach.  The modern freight cars are new to TSM.  These cars were previously offered by Bill Yancey.  Ross decided to upgrade the kits a one-piece body rather than the previous flat kits.  These kits will be on the new website shortly.

The gondola underframe is all about adding the detail parts contained in the kit.

Ross tried a little modification removing the blank panel where the door goes and some dunnage left over from the last load or two.

Twin Star Cars has a number of detail parts for steam era freight cars as well as some very nice brass castings for diesels.  Down the road you might just see a few steam era freight car kits.

SOUTHERN CAR & FOUNDRY is preparing a couple new car kits in the works.  First up is urethane tank car kit.  The prototype is an 8,000 gallon three compartment tank car.  The prototype was built by Standard Tank Car Company (STC).  STC was acquired by General American Tank Car around 1930. The tank was rebuilt converting it into three compartments with the addition of two small domes and internal bulkheads.

SC&F is preparing a kit composed of urethane castings and etched details like the sill sets.  The rivets on the tank body are dome shaped like the prototype.  Tank car rivets are different from the normal rivet used in othe types of freight cars.  Jon Cagle invented a technique for creating rivet strips like what Archer sells but made from perfectly formed urethane rivets not ink dots on decal film.

The preproduction model shows off the unique STC bolster.  SC&F produced an HO model of this car which is shown below.  Protocraft offers the decal set for this car.

Several other tank cars are planned based upon STC designs.  In addition, SC&F has a couple new boxcars in the pipeline.  The cars are based on the 1923 ARA design with wood sheathing and exterior posts.  A steel sheathed version was represented by an earlier kit of the Sand Springs boxcar.  Jon is talking about doing about doing the Columbus and Greevile and the Missouri Pacific.  These cars differ in door designs.  Jim Zwernemann did the pattern work on this boxcar series and they are excellent.

It is wonderful to Jon turning his incredible talent to producing superior 1/48 freight car kits.

Small Scale Ruler

I found this six inch architectural ruler eBay.  I have been using my short ruler all the time.  Take a look you might find it useful.

That’s all for now.