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: The Missing Link

The General Electric U-50 was delivered to the Union Pacific on recycled running gear.  So this was the step between the steam Bull Moose and the U-50 is a series of gas turbines that GE built for the UP in 1952. The original series of turbines were the source of the U-50 running gear.  Movement away from steam took a while on the UP but ultimately the turbines were an interlude before the diesel completly took over.

Lee Turner supplied these beautiful images of his modeling work.  A client asked him to do his magic on the gas turbine model imported by Overland Models.  The UP had two styles of this revolutionary application of the jet engines that provided horsepower to generate electricty for propulsion.  The railroad owned 25 of the 4,500 horsepower in two different car bodies. The veranda style with an open side was the focus of his work.

I remember seeing these locomotives in Cheyenne in the early 1960s.  They were dirty and noisy.  Running on the mainline they created a trail of black haze that could be seen at a distance.

As always, I am  so pleased the Lee has shared his work with us.



MODELING: Old Gas Stations

Service stations were a fixture in every small town and along the highway.  Yes, today we have gas stations with little to no service provided.   Since I model in the 1950s my focus will be on stations that were in operation during this period.

If you do a search on Google you will find a wide array of photos of past and present gas stations.  My search is constrained by geographical bounds which will further define the brands of gasoline sold.   In my era there were still a lot of individual companies selling and making gasoline.

I will share with you some of my favorites before I get to the model and construction.  Hopefully one or more of the photos inspires you to build something.


The Associated Oil Company was a refiner and marketer of gasoline products.   They merged with Tidewater Oil and marketed under the brand of Flying A.   The company operated a sizeable fleet of tank cars well into the 1950s.   This particular building was a typical design found in California and Washington.  It was made of metal with faceted walls in the rear that form a half circle.

The gas pumps are the original hand pump style.  The Back Shop offered a very nice model of this style in brass.  Wiseman Model Services  still offer the kit but with white metal casting.  Berkshire Valley Models is a good source for gas pumps, oil racks and other bits and pieces for a gas station in 1/4″ scale.

This Association station is the History Park in Kelley Park San Jose (CA) has this building on display along with other historic structures from the area.  They have over 32 old structures to visit.  It is worth the visit.   Be mindful that San Jose traffic can be challenging during the week at peak hours.

Here is an excellent example of an early metal and glass service station.  It was located in San Francisco.  I puchased the photo years ago in an antique store.  There wasn’t any date to fix the time period.

Mike O’Connell created a wonderful kit for a period service station years ago.  The kit was and is a benchmark for detail and appeal.   I remember building the kit nearlyt 40 years ago.   Warner Clark built the model shown below.   All of the details provided with the original kit are still available from Berkshire Valley Models.

I like the metal construction of these period structures but I am leaning towards a wood or stucco building.  The old Shell station located in Pleasanton, CA  is a strong candidate.   The stucco and mission tile roof has a ton of charm.

Another aspect of service stations would be which style pump you choose.  The pump can help define the era.   While some of the old style pumps hung around into the 1960s, they were replaced with a more modern design that didn’t require the attendant to hand pump the gas out of the underground tanks.



This was a very early type gas pump that can still be found in museums and private collections.  The glass top was calibrated to show the number of gallons available to transfer to your auto.  There is a lever on the side that is used to pump the gas up to the glass vessel.   Simple and effective that was impervous to modern day power outages.  Maybe would could use this in California.  The photo was taken in Plymouth, CA near one of the many wine producing regions in the state.




A more modern pump is like this one Jim Zwernmann captured in Texas.  The glass globe was illuminated along with the display panel.   This would create an attractive feature for your structure.   Jim is a connoissuer of old pumps having a few in his collection.





The Texaco pump has lots of brand markings.  This pump was made by Tokheim which was one of the largest supplier of this equipment to the retail fuel dispensers.











I have a few more designs to show you before the selection and construction starts.   So stay tuned for the next installment.




MODELING: More Tenders

This posting is a followup on the January 24 story that pointed out details to add to your locomotive tenders.  The story percipitated three three contributors to send in photos of their models.

First up is William Reed and his K-37 tenders shown above and below.

Next up is Mike George and his scratchbuilt L&N tender with a few touches such as shoves along with spilled coal.  Mike added the engineer’s travel bag in the water wing.

Last but not least is Lee Turner’s contribution to the tender story.   The three photos of shown below portray Lee’s vision.  He added a twist to the story  by creating a overlay coal load.  This allows you to show two levels of fuel in the tender.

I am happy to see that the original story generated interest in the P48 community.  Thank you all for your contributions.


“PS” I have not produced much in the way of modeling lately.  I have cataracts that have progressed to the point of limiting my work not to mention driving at night and other things.  I will be getting this problem fixed in the next couple of months.  I expect to be back at the bench and restarting my layout.  Onward and Upward!

MODELING: Modern Bull Moose?

I posted a story about an older Bull Moose done by Lee Turner on 9 January.   Lee suggested that the UP U-50 is a modern day Bull Moose.   I decided to run with it.  The model is Overland brass import.  It is huge.   Lee finished the model and applied a moderate amount of weathering.

Jimmy Booth has written about the UP and SP U-50s in the respective historical society magazines.  I do remember his comments on how the crews disliked the locomotive’s tendency to hunt from side to side at speed.  Crews prefered to run the U-50 in the trailing position to avoid motion sickness.

The U-50 is the work of General Electric.  The locomotive is essentally two U-25 four axle models on a single frame.  Twenty-six were built in 1963.

Lee applied multiple washes to the trucks given them better definition of the detail and the look of road grime.  The massive squirrel cage blower is really eye catching.

The backend of the unit is about as plain as you can imagine.

Lee did a nice job on the beast.   Thank you for sharing your work with us.



I came across a few pictures that a worth sharing.  You may find them of interest.

Here is a view of a Northern Pacific tender deck.  It appears that the deck is knee deep in coal dust.   There are even a few weeds that have taken root in the debris.  It would be a striking addition to your coal burner.  The locomotive and tender are in the scrap line awaiting the torch.  The head end brakeman must not been too interested in doing housekeeping.

Most modelers including me tend to not put much effort into a tender.   One modeler who has not forgotten this area is Jimmy Booth.  He has applied coal to a number of the Foreground Models offered by P-B-L.  The model shown below is a Sn3 K-36 that features custom weathering by Jimmy as part of the Foreground package.  The coal is from Chama, NM and is fixed with a clear lacquer.

Coal and clinkers shower the locomotive and train.  Some stick to surfaces like the tender deck and to surfaces like the roof of brakeman’s shed.

If you operate oil burners, you have possibilities for weathering with the combination of dust, grime and spilled oil on the deck.  The oil is called Bunker C and is tar-like unless heated.  Spilled on a oil tank, the stuff hardening in the cooler weather and sticks to your shoes in the summer.

Jimmy sent me these two photos of his weathering applied to P-B-L 37-ton two-truck Shays.  The oil spill was done with Tamiya X-1 Gloss Black,  The Dixiana Shay has added debris like actual leaves ground up with a coffee grinder.  It seems that Jimmy doesn’t drink coffee. That wouldn’t work in my home.

I would be interested in learning how you might create the hardened puddles of Bunker C.

I would like to thank Jimmy Booth for his model photos and the NPRHA for the Wade Stevenson photo of the coal tender.



NEW PRODUCTS: Fifty Foot Boxcars from Protocraft


Protocraft is working on a new release of brass freight built by Boo Rim. I have included a message that Norm posted a while back. The project is will cover a number of important prototypes.


From Norm Buckhart, Protocraft:

The 50’ automobile/50’ express boxcars from Protocraft have been listed a bit prematurely. I had asked the webmaster to hold these until the end of January, but they went up anyway.  The necessary pilot models are being shipped for my inspection and hopefully will have few corrections, as the builder package picked up here by Boo Rim was very comprehensive: real builder plans and hundreds of 8×10 photos plus 200 pages of instructions.  If this proves to be the case I can give the go-ahead for production.  Then if all this goes according to plan, the actual models may be in stock by April or May or June.  There is no invoice yet so I can’t comment on the list price.  However with the economy and cost of Korean goods increasing year to year these models will be in the $350+ range, and a Protocraft we cut it very fine indeed.  However with Boo Rim’s fine and detailed, accurate model building, these will once again be exceptional brass models.  And I am almost sure will never be done again.
NOTE: This is a pilot model of the Rio Grande Double Sheathed Automobile Car.  The heavy wire you see on the hand brake system is going to be changed to a smalled diameter wire. 
This has been a two year undertaking.  It is a project of 24 different models of 50’ freight cars undertaken, because, with the exception of PCS’s two or three single-sheathed SP automobile/furniture cars, there has not been any brass models of the 50’ auto car, let alone an accurate one.  PCS did bring out a rather generic version years ago but not that great a model nor does it seem to have any specific prototype, although what was close to it in real life was a car having a 10’-6” inside height and PCS’s is 6” too short – so didn’t exist in the first place.  The model sold well, as it was about the only brass 50’ O scale autocar out there, and can be found on many O scale layouts – and at the time built with craftsmanship that is now 30 years old, and of course no end doors, a familiar item on automobile cars.
Many of the prototype cars were built with end doors.  After much discussion with Boo Rim it was decided to have the models with non-operating end doors.  As it was explained to me, to operate, hinges would have to be oversize for strength with oversize hinge pins, and the tall vertical locking bar would be subject to loose operation and probably scratching paint and lettering.  A one piece non-operating end door would then have the high detail it deserves.  In this project here are 3 different end doors.
In selecting these 24 different models, I have tried to find interesting and different prototypes to put in the project, even some perhaps a bit obscure, but never the less, interesting, and usually with some great lettering variations – many for the same car but different throughout the car’s life.  Santa Fe was the most difficult, the Fe-24 having displayed 17 different lettering schemes.  In all this project will feature over 60 different decal sets.  Many of the prototype cars selected represented the various road’s first investment in an all-steel automobile/furniture car, such as ERIE and C&O in the 1930’s.  Yet these cars survived in revenue service into the late 1950’s, going from first Furniture to Automobiles, to Autoparts, and finally into general freight service.  The modeler can choose 3 different eras of modeling with most of these cars and respective lettering sets.  And remember, even obscure cars could be found at one end of the Country to the other from time to time, and would fit in any consist.
Besides 3 different end doors, following the prototype, the models are built with Viking roofs, Climax-Cleveland Radial roof, Murphy Raised panels roofs, Pullman patented flat panel roofs, double-edged roofs for the NYC; 6 different ends, both square corner and the newer round (W) corner ends, specific underframes, and almost each side are unique according to rivets and panel widths and sill tabs, with WABASH side sills going the entire length of the car. Many have auto tie-down chain storage pipes beneath the floor and roping staples. Running boards are wood, Apex Tri-Lok and Morton. Brake assemblies from tall staff hand brakes, end-mounted Ajax, Klasing, Miner, Equipco, Universal and Champion.  Throughout the project, over 350 different parts make up the construction of these models.
Here we are doing our best to build fantastic models with a great selection.
More to come.  Norm Buckhart
This project promises to be a significant offering of much needed models.


The 20th gathering of the annual of the Railroad Prototype Modelers just concluded in Cocoa Beach, Florida.  Each year modelers and historians gather to show off their latest work and share information via numerous clinics and informal discussions.  There is much to learned and see at these meetings.

The coverage is courtesy of several photographers who covered aspects of the event.  The pictures were gathered off of Facebook and emails.

Tony Thompson posted the above picture of the vendor sales area.  While most the hobby items are for HO, there were several photo sellers like Bob’s Photos to lightened your wallet.  Ross Dando reported that he did some serious buying at the event. Our intreped reporter, Ross Dando, managed to take a picture of his own models including his Twin Star Cars flatcar. He sold out of kits at the event.

Ross was all over Jim Zwernemann’s fantastic display of his Proto48 models.  As you can see, Jim built a display rack to better show the models on the low tables.

As you can see, Jim loves cabooses and has built some incredible cars over the years.  The most recent is the Penn Central transfer caboose.   We have posted most of these models on the blog in the past.  You can do a search on Jim’s name to see more of his work.

Jim built this Rock Island caboose using a San Juan Model Company boxcar kit as a starting point.

The Proto48 community was well represented with gentlemen pictured below.   Front to the back they are:

James Lincoln, Ross Dando, Harz Sondericker in purple, Jim Zwernemann and Jon Cagle in the back.

Dave Hussey shot this picture of Ross, Jim and Jon.  It is titled the “Three Musketeers”.

Check out the Railroad Prototype Modeler event calendar website.   You will see that there are events scheduled around the country.   I recommend you attend an event.