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: Build a Caboose Ladder

The fabrication of caboose ladders is a key step in building your model.  Rather than backing away from the build or compromise the appearance of the model with the wrong ladder style, you can do it yourself.  Fabrication can be done with the minimal of fuss with a few fixtures and careful drilling.  The caboose shown above has a challenging design with the curved top and attachment to the end railings.   Forming the curved top section is a feasible using a simple jig.

The first step is to drill for the rung location on the stiles.  I then bent the bottom mounting tabs to rest on the end railing.  I made a simple multi-function fixture to facilitate fabrication of the stiles.  The rung locations are marked with lines that are perpendicular to the stile lines.

I added guides made from styrene strips to hold the brass in place.  The next step is to form the curve at the top of the stile. The brass is .010″ x .040″ half-hard material.  I turned a plastic rod to the inner diameter of the top.  The idea is that will serve as a bending surface for the strip.  Bending brass strips will curl if you try to curve it around the plastic post.   I found that placing a screwdriver blade on the strip as I draw the brass around the post will produce a nice radius without distortion of the metal.

Many years ago Mainline Modeler had an article on building a brass caboose written by a Japanese model maker.  He described forming the curve around metal post using two washers to keep the brass from twisting.

Assembly of the ladder goes smoothly with a simple fixture that holds the stiles and has reference lines for alignment of the rungs.   At this point, the rungs will be soldered in place.

The assembly shown above still needs to be cleaned up prior to installation.  The process is very straight forward.  It can be done without a precision drill press.  A simple pin vise and sharp drills will work just fine.

Thanks for taking a look.






MODELING: Lee Turner Strikes Again!

Lee is a creative and resourceful modeler that has been generous to share his technique with  this blog.   I sure have learned a huge amount over the last several years.  Hopefully, you have taken away a few techniques that Lee has shared.

How many of you remember Frank Ellison?  He wrote a number of a profound article that shaped much of the hobby we enjoy today.  Model Railroader published much of the tales of Delta Lines and Frank’s creation of a functioning railroad.  One of the industries on the Delta Lines was a packing house called Richmond Packing in the town of Raymondale. Lee created a meat reefer lettered for Richmond Packing as a tribute to Frank Ellison.  The model is a modified Atlas import. The lettering style reflects the post-1938 ban on billboard advertising schemes. By the way, the model is a keeper.  Lee will add this model to his roster.

This pair of of Sacramento Northern F-3 units reflect the work of several modelers.   Mike Mangini built these locomotives from P&D Hobbies kits.   Mike painted the SN silver and orange colors matched to actual EMD paint chips (Dan Pantera loaned them to Mike).  The lettering was designed and printed by Gary Schrader.

It turns out that Mike used to watch these units going through Stockton while he attending the University of the Pacific.   John Ford suggested that Mike contact Lee to age the showroom new look.  Now the units have a “well used” look.

Love that Western Pacific/ Sacramento Northern paint scheme.  As a long-time resident of Cali, I have observed the orange and silver locomotives many time and sure miss them.  Now all we see are the darn yellow things.

Take care,




I have come to the realization that I need to take a break from the blog and other web activities.   There are a couple matters that need my attention.   I am not sure how long I will be goofing off.  Hopefully, I will get back at it soon.

Stay Tuned


MEMORIAL: James Hickey

I was saddened to read that James Hickey had passed away.  He was an acquaintance who I met through Jim Zwernemann and Bruce Blalock.  I had admired his work for years and exchanged emails with him from time to time. It was my thought we should do something to recognize his passing.  I asked Jim Zwernemann to write about his good friend.

One of the master craftsmen of our time passed away April 12, 2018.  James “Jim” Hickey was a lifelong resident of the Austin, Texas area and developed his incredible model building skills beginning in HO scale in the late 1950’s.  He moved to 1/4″ scale during the early 80’s when the P48 movement began.
Jim’s interpretation of a Rock Island Whitcomb. Jim converted the model to P48, detailed it and did his magic with finishing 
Jim’s modeling projects included On30, On3 and traction but the majority of his work was done in P48 standard gauge.  He didn’t limit his work to any era or railroad but the 50’s and early 60’s seemed to be his favorite timeframe and the Southern Pacific was his favorite railroad.  Most of his models were constructed from styrene but he was a skilled brass builder as well.  Most of his locomotives were first generation diesels which used kits from P&D, Red Caboose or Weaver or various brass imports as the starting point.  He scratchbuilt numerous freight cars and structures.  All of his models had one thing in common-they were exquisite representations of specific prototypes.
Jim had the innate ability to capture the feel of the prototype with his detailing, painting and weathering skills.  He was not pleased with the selection of available decals in O scale so he started a small decal business called Protocals in 1989.  Some of these can still be found at O scale meets today.  He purchased an ALPS printer and began making his own custom decals.
Jim was also a world traveler.  He took trips to Central and South America, Europe, Asia and other locations to photograph railroads at work.  He especially liked traveling to Mexico and built a number of wonderful locomotives, cars and structures based on Mexican prototypes.
I would like to thank Jim Zwernemann for his remembrance of his good friend.  As you can see in these photos provided by Jim Zwernemann, his friend had many interest in railroading and showed his true modeling prowess in each one.
So long

MODELING: Rio Grande Automobile Boxcar Completion

I started to build this Rio Grande freight car in January 8, 2017 blog post.  Over the past sixteen months, I have described my approach to scratchbuilding this interesting 50 foot car in styrene.   My source of information was a set of drawings obtained from the Everette DeGolyer Library at SMU.  Along the way, I was able to collect a number of photos to supplement the drawings.

The prototype had several interesting features like the reverse Dreadnaught ends and radial roofs.   The wood siding is a false tongue and groove 5.125″ wide boards.   It took a while to figure out how to create the type of siding.  My rendition is slightly off but I was able to catch the look of the prototype.   The cars wore a mixture of standard 3.25 t&g siding and the wider 5.125″.

The car had 50-foot deep fishbelly underframe.  Cars built in the teens and 20’s were overbuilt with stout underframes that easily outlasted the body.  These cars were built in 1927 by Mt. Vernon Car Manufacturing Company. There were two lots with the first series in 1926 (61200-61399) and the second a year later (61400-61699).  Rails Unlimited has produced a kit for the first series. These cars had Murphy ends and a door and half configuration. These cars stayed around until the early 1960s.

The car was painted with Star Brands STR-01 D&RGW Freight Car Red. I like to glossy finish for decal application.  The decals are Protocraft.   The set provides numbers and data for the earlier series of cars.   I had to do a little cut and insert to come up with a suitable number.

Once the decals are set, I shot Star Brand clear gloss to seal the decals and give a good surface for the start of weathering.  I like to apply Vallejo black wash  over the whole body.  Do the sides and roof and ends one at a time.  The next step is to use Mean Green cleaner  that is applied with a cosmetic/makeup sponge sparingly to remove most of the black wash. The remaining black is left in the “nooks” like scribe line, rivets and steel strips.  Use very little cleaner on the sponge.  Next I applied a flat lacquer finish sealing the acrylic weathering.

The next step was to apply a dust or dirt color to the body.  I used Ammo MIG Oil Brusher paint.  The oil paint is dabbed on scrap plastic and applied with Mineral Spirits as the vehicle.  Go light with this wash.  It quickly changes the body color with just a little oil paint.  The oil paint will not disturb the acrylic wash previously applied  If you apply too much you can use the mineral spirits on a brush or towel to remove the “dirt color”.  The oil takes a while to dry even with Japan Drier added.   My last step is to use a thin wash of black to add a “pop” to the details.

The above photo shows what happens when too much oil paint was applied.  It was not the look I wanted so cleaning was necessary.


Well, it is done.  On to the next project.   Hope you enjoyed the build.