About gene48

I am a retired marketing professional. I do professional model work for kit makers. Over the years, I have done kit masters for Des Plaines Hobbies, Chooch Enterprises and Southern Car & Foundry. My favorite modeling medium is styrene. I have been an avid builder for many years. Model Railroading has been a life-long interest. My particular interest is in Proto48 which is a subset of O scale (1:48 scale). I have tried HO, American Flyer, On3, S scale and Sn3 before settling on Proto48. In addition to this blog, I have a discussion group @ Yahoo and a website called the Proto48 Modeler.

MODELING: Inspiration for Modeling

Every now and then you come across a model builder who’s work is inspiring and innovative.   I nominate Paul Washburn as being just such a person.   Paul is a skilled modeler who scratch builds nearly everything he needs.  I would like to share with you his accomplishments.

When you look at the photo above it is could be an HO or O scale layout since the Southern Pacific locomotives have been imported in these scales.   What if you could not buy locomotives in your scale.  If you are Paul you just build it.  Most of us, myself included, will sit around a complain about the fact that you can’t buy something.  The way to get what you want is to build it.  It may require investing time to learn a new modeling technique but it will yield what you want.

So if you want a SP T-28 like the one on the right,  you could roll your own.  It is not impossible to do.   In fact you don’t have to build it in brass you could use plastic with some metal detail castings.



In Paul’s case he has invested the time to teach himself how to build steam locomotives with only a few basic machine tools.  Metal fabrication is nearly a lost art in our hobby.   Seeing work like this makes me want to go out a burn my fingers on brass fabrication.

Here is an under-construction shot of the T-28 boiler.  Paul’s sheet metal work is better than the Korean factories.  The domes and headlight are likely from spare parts from an imported model.

Here is an example of Paul Washburn’s versatility as a builder.  He built three SP general service gondolas from styrene.  What is amazing is the he is very fast in his work.  Jimmy Booth had told me that Paul has done pattern work for P-B-L in a few days which would have taken another modeler weeks to complete.

Paul’s story is not complete without showing you his layout.  He has managed to scratchbuild a whole roster of steam locomotives, structures and rolling stock but also a complete layout.

Overview of Paul Washburn’s layout

The layout is housed in a Tuff Shed style building roughly 14′ by 20′  It was installed on a concrete pad, insulated and a HVAC system.  Paul’s home is in the desert so basement or garage layout room are not typically an option.  Once inside the building you will not know that it might have been intended to be a garage or tool shed.

Space under the layout is utilized fully.

Paul has made good use of all the space afforded by the building while still have a railroad accessible for operation.

Modified imported C-9 with scratch built 90-R-1 tender in tow.

The scenery reflects desert southwest.  All of the track and switches were handlayed.

The SP boiler house is one of very few kits used on the layout.

The engine house was scratchbuilt following the SP design for desert locations.  The sides provide maximum ventilation and providing shade from the hot sun.

Scratchbuilt M-9 Mogul

Scratchbuilt crew locker room.

No shortage of equipment on this layout.

Scratchbuilt TW-8 4-8-0 switching at a packing shed

Paul built this tank car from brass

Layout has vignettes to catch your interest.

I want to thank Paul Washburn for sharing his photos and work.  He is a very talented builder who is also a very nice guy.  I finally met him at the past O Scale West in May 2017.

If you haven’t figured it out yet, Paul models in S scale.  It is part of the reason so much is built from scratch.  My point is that it is possible to build what you want.  It won’t happen overnight but persistence will yield what you desire.

Thanks for stopping by,



NEW PRODUCTS: Busy Time of Year

This time of year seems to be busier than the rest of the time.  Decorating and preparations for family and friends visiting consumes the day.  Retirement wasn’t supposed to be this busy.   As you would expect my modeling time is an expendable part of the daily routine.  I have done very little new to show for the time.


Protocraft survived the Wine Country fire this fall.  While Norm’s home and railroad did sustain damage, he was luckier than many in his community.  The state continues to battle wild fires but in the southland.

I wanted to show you two parts that Protocraft has in their extensive line of parts.  The first is a threaded bushing that is designed to be used on wood, plastic or resin cars. The knurled surface will enhance the attachment.  The bushing is threaded for 1-72 shouldered screws that are included.

The second part I am highlighting is a cast brass roping bracket.  Freight cars were often moved at an industrial site with a cable that was attached to a bracket that was at the car bolster.



The roping brackets of this style was commonly used on Southern Pacific single sheathed boxcars.  Other railroads used similar or identical parts on their freight cars.




I have pointed out a typical installation of the bracket on the body bolster of the A-50-6 automobile car.



Here is a closeup of the bracket installed on this  Southern Pacific B-50-13 boxcar. 

Protocraft expects a large shipment from Korea of new models and trucks in the new year.  Stay tuned.


MODELING: Caboose Details and Misc

We were discussing how to build caboose steps using styrene recently. I decided to redo the steel steps to make the sides thinner using .015″ sheet styrene

this time. I like the appearance better and they appear to be fairly robust. Here is a shot comparing the new one on the left with the original step made with .020″ sheet.

This NP caboose is the work of Jim Zwernemann. It was scratchbuilt from styrene back in 2012. It won Best in Show at the O Scale National that year.

The next task I am discussing is the method for building doors for the NP and SP cabooses. The technique is much the same so both with be covered. They are made from a lamination of sheet material and strip to form the details.

NP Door Construction

The NP cars were built using panels and tongue and groove framing. I am not a woodworker so my terminology may not be entirely correct. You can replicate the prototype by using .015″ sheet with the dimensions of the panel and windows marked. Cut out and add .015″ strip material to “frame” the door and create the divided glass. It is quick and simple.

I used a metal block to make sure that the strip is flush with the panel edge. My favorite styrene adhesive applicator is a fine tip brush.

The assembled door needs to be trimmed and a door knob added. I like to add the door to the model after painting and weathering so the glass can be easily installed.

SP Door Construction

The SP used a paneled door with the lower portion made from 3.25″ T&G. This is easy to create by scribing the T&G grooves using a tool like the one shown. This scriber was purchased from MMA-USA and is made from tool steel.

The drawing above is for a C-30-1 class but the door is the same on the C-30-3. The upper window slides down to provide ventilation. I suspect a screen was added to reduce the bug population in the car.

I used .020″ sheet for the core of the SP door. It will take scribing better without curling as much. The strip framing is still .015″ styrene.

The window frame are inserted into the panel opening using .040″ x .015″ strips. Since the upper and lower panes overlap, I created a center divider to hold the “glass” for the top section.

Here are the doors during construction with the right one completed except for the external window slide track.

That is all for this posting except for this shot of a really nice car built by Jim Zwernemann. It is a 36′ single sheathed car built for the Illinois Terminal. Check out the location of the poling pockets.

Thank you for stopping by,



Today, my wife and I traveled across the Central Valley of California to a small town called Winters. We had lunch at the Putah Creek Cafe. As always, the meal was very good in this local cafe. Afterwards, we walked around the town admiring the charm of a small farm community that is experiencing a renaissance of sorts. It seems that developers have discovered that Bay Area folks are willing to commute from Winters to their jobs.

At one time, it was a railroad town being served by the Southern Pacific’s Capay Branch. The line ran from the Western Division mainline Elmira to the Capay which was a distance of 32.3 miles. The branch was restricted to light axle loading due to several bridges. The branch served a large quarry north of Winters. The local agriculture business in Winters kept the road operating well into the diesel.era. During the steam era, the branch was served by M-4 class Moguls and the occasional Consolidation. In fact this branch and the Calistoga Branch kept the last M-4s running on the Western Division until 1953.

M-4 1639 was one of the last on the Southern Pacific. It saw regular use on the branch.

I did find an interesting couple documents on a website called Wx4.org

The drawing shown above and below are from the Wx4 Dome of Foam collection. An unusual name for a site but it is a real treasure trove of western railroad stuff.

The track diagrams show the type of rail customers found at Winters. Packing sheds, box suppliers and dried fruit companies were significant to the branches revenue. Winters was the last Train Order Station operating on the branch. There was also a water tank and manual turntable located there. I am not sure how engines turned running north to Esparto and Capay. The Winters depot is gone but the one in Esparto is still there. The track disappeared in 1960. Railroad Street runs in front of the Putah Creek Cafe but with the exception of the bridge across Putah Creek all evidence of the branch is gone.

I enjoy exploring little towns in the Central Valley of California. There are always old buildings that you can find in many of these towns.

Hope you enjoyed my little excursion to Winters.


MODELING: Da Steps Part Two

The NP caboose steps in a prior post needed safety plate texture applied to the treads.  I chose to use Archer decals for the surface detail.  One could also use etched safety plate from Plano. It is for HO models but I think it might work.

Archer surface decals are made by printing a special resin on Microscale decal film.  I had concerns about how well the film would conform to the shape of the tread. The resin texture makes the decal more rigid.

I primed the raw styrene before attempting to apply the decals. The assembly fixture is ideal for holding the step while working the decals.  I cut and applied the step tread and let is settle with a little Microscale Blue Label decal setting solution.  It didn’t allow the film to lay down on the front of the tread.  I tried using the Red Label decal solvent solution.  This time it worked and the film conformed to the tread.

I need to add one more decal and the step should be ready for an additional coat of primer.  I think that this method works for me.  Consider it for future modeling application.

Rick Leach sent me this shot of a step on caboose 1266 in Livingston, Montana.  The non-standard color illustrates the actual texture on a Northern Pacific wood caboose.

Not sure what we will get into for the next posting but stay tuned to see.



MODELING: Proto48 on a Grand Scale

Most modelers working in Proto48 confine themselves to build modest layouts.   A few have ventured into creation on a grand scale.  One such modeler is Mike O’Connell. You likely know Mike by his business name of Chooch Enterprises.

Mike has developed a vision of his railroad over many years.  His background working for Walt E. Disney (WED) likely refined his thinking into creating a railroad that was like a tour made up of vignettes focused on a scene along the right of way.   He grew up in Tacoma and went Gonzaga University in Spokane.  The legendary Spokane depot shown above is the centerpiece of the eastern end of his railroad.  The railroad starts in Tacoma and goes through a series of scenes until it reaches Spokane and even takes a detour though Palouse, Washington.
The layout is on the second story of his workshop and occupies a space of 40′ X 60′  It is a multilevel railroad that uses spiral loops to change elevation.  Spokane is on the second level and Tacoma is on the room level.  Mike has had help from a number of friends in construction of this monster.


Mike’s railroad hosts the Great Northern, Northern Pacific and Spokane, Portland and Seattle.  He is modeling the railroads that were dominant in Washington State in the golden era of railroading.

Many of the locomotives like this Overland Z-8 were converted to Proto48.  A number of the Chooch Ultra Scale II car and building kits prototypes could be found in the Pacific Northwest.

The two locos shown above are Glacier Park Models Northern Pacific S-4 ten-wheelers.  The models were researched by Rick Leach working with Jimmy Booth, the importer.   By the way, Jimmy took these pictures.  Mike and Jimmy are shown below.

Mike’s methods of construction used on his layout were unusual.  The track is made of urethane tie strips with details like distressed ties and tie plates. Patterns were made and molded to create the urethane castings for the track. Right O’Way Code 125 rail was spiked to the roadbed.  He had a number of challenges initially working with his track fabrication techniques.  Maybe some day Mike will share his techniques with us.

Thank you for stopping by.  Hope that you have a wonderful Thanksgiving holiday this coming week.




There are a few nasty things that you you encounter when building a caboose.  Steps can really slow you down or stall out the build.  They are not all the difficult to build if you make simple fixture.  It will ensure ease of assembly and consistency in appearance.

The picture above shows the basic parts and fixture.  I made my the fixture from basswood following prototype dimensions that Rick Leach was kind enough to supply me.  The overall steps are 26″ high and the sides are made from .020″ sheet.  I laid out all of the sides at one time on a single sheet. I supposed that I should have used a thinner material or even brass.  Since I plan to run my equipment and so a little stronger construction to reduce the chance of  The individual treads are are made from .020″ strip with a .010″ x .040″ step attached to the front edge.  The prototype treads have a rolled front edge that should be .030″ thick.  I will apply Archer safety plate decals to simulate the steel treads.

You start by inserting the sides in the fixture.  The tread is cut to fit between the sides.

I used a styrene spacer block to position the second tread at the right height.  Once the bond is secure, you can add the next tread.

The process is fairly quick.  Finishing the steps will involve the application of rivets to the sides using Archer decals.

By the way, steps have multiple applications.  They are not just for getting to the next level.

We will return to these steps to show what they look like with the rivets and safety plate is applied.