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: Santiago Pineda’s Fe-24

Santiago Pineda continues to display his passion for classic passenger trains of the West.  His latest project is an ATSF class Fe-24express boxcar.  I am sure you have seen some of his CB&Q equipment along with his Santa Fe strealiners and period diesels.   He likes to start with brass imported 1/4″ scale equipment and improve or correct details on his models.  In many cases he will paint or repaint the models.  His painting skills are on a par with the very best.  Erik Lindgen and Santiago share a passion for exquisite finishes and fine photography.

We are fortunate to have a number of photos taken by Santiago of his recently completed Protocraft Fe-24 express boxcar.  This is a very recent import constructed by Boo Rim in Korea.  Like all of the Protocraft cars, this model is well researched and documented with prototype drawings and photos.  One of the unique features of these ATSF cars is the use of an Allied Full Cushion truck.  The design was developed for use on high speed train service.

Santiago was kind enough to provide a short narrative of the work he performed on the Protocraft import.

“Completing this express Fe24 boxcar as it arrived from Protocraft was very straightforward. I did, however, stripped the clear coat from the boxcar body and tinkered with the trucks a bit. The clear coat was kept on the undercarriage, which was easily finished in three quick steps: prime, paint and coat. Paint and decals were traditionally applied. But, I do insist in using distilled water for decal application. This significantly reduces the chance of silvering and hard water spots occurring.

The new Allied Full-Cushion Express trucks, also built by Boo-Rim for Protocraft, are exceptional. They were shipped painted black and with a very dull coat. As I examined them, it became clear that to reveal all the truck details, specially the cast lettering on the sides, stripping the paint would be advantageous. Indeed, once the paint was removed, these details became even more appreciable. A word of caution for those intending to follow this step. Putting the trucks together can test your patience, and you may find yourself soldering a part or two. Taking a few pictures before disassembly is advised! In my case, removing the paint was a no-brainer since they needed to be painted green anyway.

For us passenger-oriented modelers, working on these “freight” imports by Protocraft is a treat. It provides the opportunity for rarity. In this case, express car 10135 will relieve lightweight Super Chiefs that have been taxed with increased demand.”

The decals were deveolped expressly for this model.  The yellow and ATSF green create a striking combinationfor the steam/diesel era equipment.

Protocraft has done an excellent job crafting an accurate rendering of the underfram and brake equipment.

Here are Key E-1 and E-3 to complete the photo story.

Thank you Santiago for sharing your work.


MODELING: Lee’s Touch

Over the years I have admired the work of Lee Turner.  His style is unmistable.  Lee is a great observer of the effects of weathering on prototype.  He has translated what he observes into techniques to create the effects on models.  As you know, Lee has retired from accepting commisions to perform his magic for customers but still enjoys doing projects for his own enjoyment.

The model shown above is a very old Chooch resin boxcar kit for a USRA double sheath.  I sure many of you have seen these kits at train shows.  While the urethane used by Chooch presents considerable challenges to assemble.   Lee wrestled it into a presentable model.   By the way, the old Clover Leaf Route became part of the Nickel Plate Road.

The model shown below is a Protocraft brass AAR boxcar with an unique Viking roof.  It belongs to Shawn Branstetter.   Lee painted and weathered this model as a quid pro quo for a scratch built trestle by Shawn.

So here is the bridge that Shawn built for Lee.

Good looking trestle that would fit on my layout.  Need to get busy and try my hand at this.  By the way, Shawn has a blog called Shortline Modelers.  Take a look at this interesting blog with lots of very good techniques.

That’s all for now.


MODELING: More 3D and Switch Throw Bars

Three-D modeling and printing is really filling in some important voids in 1/4″ scale modeling.  Sarah Griessenboeck continues to create beautiful parts using her modeling skills and interest in the prototype.  The latest images are of a Youngstown six-foot door with Camel door roller and closing mechanism.

Here is the hardware set applied the goes on the Youngstown door.  The door and hardware is set up for installation on the Intermountain or Atlas 1937 AAR boxcar.

The next door type done by Sarah is the six-foot Superior door and associated hardware.   The door is set up for a 10′ 0″ interior height car like the AAR 1937 like the Intermountain and Atlas.  Sarah is also preparing a taller door for the Twin Star PS-1 boxcar project.

Here is a test print with the door closing and locking mechanism installed.

The files for these parts can be downloaded from Sarah’s website

Twin Star Cars is moving along on new projects including the PS-1 boxcar upgrade kit.  Jim King has produced a new ladder and grab iron set for Twin Star Cars.  The parts are 3D printed a flexible resin that resists breakage.   The parts will install directly in the existing holes in the Lionel body.

By the way Jim King offered to develop a whole range of freight car parts to replace the old Chooch line.  Sadly few even bothered to respond to his inquiry.   Jim decided that he would not invest the time and money if no interest is shown.  3D is the only way we will get the detail parts in the future.  Ross Dando was willing to take a chance on obtaining key parts for his PS-1 project.  Hopefully that opens some doors in the future.


One of the steps you encounter when building up a turnout is what kind of throw bar do I use to connect the points and the switch machine.   The cast points sold by Right O’Way have protoypical tabs cast in the rail to provide a mounting point.  Right O’Way has an excellent solution to this task.  They have a Delrin part set of throw bars done by Jimmy Booth a new of years ago.

The cast parts shown on the sprue at the top of the picture.  I decided to strengthen the Delrin with a N scale PC switch tie.  You can see that I drilled four holes in the PC board to allow the throw bar to be pinned in place.

I have fitted the Delrin throw bars to a Code 100 turnout.  Once I figure out how to connect my switch machine to the PC tie I will complete the installation.  I will let you know how it works out.  I will say that Jimmy Booth uses this method on his layout.




MODELING: Recreating Browntown

Fans of the late Paul Larson will remember an article the was in the Railroad Model Craftsman in 1968.   Paul Larson started out in HO and was a staff member of Model Railroader and later the editor.  After leaving Milwaukee he changed scales and started working in 1/4″ scale.   Paul developed an elaborate track plan and start to construct equipment and structures.  One of his early choices was a simple two-story depot built for the Milwaukee Road in Browntown, WI.

Enter Robert Leners and his quest to build models of the Larson classics,  One of Robert’s favorite depots is the Browntown structure.  I found a few pictures of the depot at the Wisconsin Historical Center.

The train depot with a creamery next door, Browntown, Wisconsin, 1913. (Photo by Sherwin Gillett/Wisconsin Historical Society/Getty Images)

One last prototype picture was scanned from the July 1966 Railroad Model Craftsman.  I believe it was taken by Paul Larson.

There were drawings of the prototype in the RMC issue.   Robert used the drawings to build his model from styrene rather than basswood used by Larson.

Two walls were assembled with the back and far end to follow. The board and batten was made by bonding strips to the sheet styrene.  The windows and doors came Grandt ( San Juan Model Company).  The roof is covered with laser-cut shingles.  The basic structure was primed with a light gray color.

Robert painted in his home road colors rather than the Milwaukee Road gray.  He still has to build the train order signal.  Like many modelers, he worked on the depot along with lots of other projects in parallel.


I want to thank Robert for sharing his most recent work with us.




MODELING: Scuffing the Grime by Lee Turner

You probably have noticed that the grime and dirt deposited on railway equipment shows the signs of crew members disturbed the film as they went about their day-to-day activities.  I sent the above picture to Lee Turner and posed a question as to how he would create this effect.  He responded with the following narrative and photos that illustrate his approach.
Here are Lee’s words:
Those scuff marks are visible in so many images and I have tried several ways of replicating the look with mixed results. It seems that it is a small enough detail that it is hard to make it “read” right to my eye at least.
  There are other areas in railroading that show that same time of wear from crews, plug door box car door handles are usually clean from crews opening the door along with highway trailer door latches. Almost every photo of a GP-9 (and other road switchers) show an area on the short hood cab door side that has been wiped clean from the crew’s clothing while accessing the cab. This PS Robison photo taken in 1967 shows how the dirt and grime was rubbed off the long and short hoods of these Northern Pacific GP-7s.
  For larger areas I’ll use Q-tips and mean green, then lip gloss applicators from the beauty supply store and finally a toothpick soaked in mean green for the smallest rubs. The best results are when done right after the weathering and before the paint dries and cures.
  Here are several examples. The reefers and GN boxcar are Protocraft brass models, the SP car as I’m sure you recognize is a Chooch Ultra Scale car and the highway trailer is an Atlas RTR model. Hard for me to believe but some of these cars were done 8 years ago!
Thank you Lee for your words of wisdom on how to create this weathering technique.

NEW PRODUCTS: Solution to Vanishing Vendors in 1/48

As most of you know, Mike O’Connell sold his Chooch business to Walthers.  The sale didn’t include the 1/4″ scale Ultra Scale II product line of resin kits and plastic detail parts.   As of this date, the line remains dormant.   The plastic freight car parts were a source of details for the modeler upgrade older models and the kit manufacturer.   The resin kit producers like Southern Car & Foundry, Twin Star Cars and Yarmouth Scale Models are having to work around the situation by finding alternate sources of detail parts.  Replacing the plastic tooling would be very expensive and the market size creates a marginal business case.

Well a new Proto48 modeler in Austria decided to tackle the problem.  New technology is facilitating a way forward.

The person is Sarah Griessenböck. She has been developing her 3D modeling skills as an aid to model building.  Her skill level has amazed me and others with some of the latest parts she has designed and printed.  One of the early tasks was to create the classic Camel door closing device. She not only created the “J” shaped lever but the latch.  While Chooch had the Camel closing device on his sprue, he did not do the latch.  This part is really needed for boxcars.  I will be able to go back and add that to my cars as soon as it becomes available.


The parts turned out to be replicas of the prototype hardware.  This 3D technoloy can render parts that are nearly impossible to make in tradition injection molding.   Dan Dawdy obtained the STL file from Sarah and printed the parts shown below.   He also took the photo and posted it on Face Book.

Sarah has created new designs for the Creco (Chicago Railway Equipment Company) door closer device and latch assembly.   Creco sold the design to Superior for use on their panel door in the early 1940s.  The hardware became know as Superior door hardware.

The closing device is at the top left and the door lock and track detents and stop are below.

The latch pin keeps the door from moving until the handle is pulled up.

Here is the detent that keeps the door open.  Otto Vondrak took the three prototype photos shown above.


Photo from Denver Library collection

The Superior door hardware is a first in our scale and be perfect for upgrading a number of models like the Lionel PS-1 or the expected Twin Star USRA rebuild kits.

There are many parts needed in 1/48 and 3D is the way to go.  Smoky Mountain Scale Models has demonstrated what can be done with his S scale freight cars.  The photo below shows his Milwaukee Road ribside boxcar in S scale.   Jim King has offered to produce replacements for many of the old Chooch parts using 3D printing.  Parts like the hand brake, ladders and grab irons would be great to have in our scale.  Sadly Jim’s offer fell upon deaf ears.

We are very fortunate that Sarah is willing to share her talent with new parts.

Onward and upward!




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.