MODELING: Lee Turner on Rock Island B-2 Boxcars

Years ago, San Juan Car Company produced their first standard gauge 1/48 kit and it was a Rio Grande Fowler-clone boxcar.   The late John Parker ( San Juan founder) had a passion for the Rio Grande.  He had the late Joel Berling tool the kit for injection molding.  The Rio Grande had a bunch of these cars but a lot less than the 3,000 B-2 class built for the Rock Island.  It had a few differences such as the number of roof panels and an additional angle on the doors.

I built the model for Lee Turner using the car kit, trucks, couplers and a K-brake assembly.  The original kit was supplied with a AB brake system.  This unpainted picture highlights the major changes needed to convert the Rio Grande prototype to a Rock Island car.

Lee applied his magic to the assembled model.  A basic paint job with lettering from RL Decals.  He started to apply character to the model using various techniques to add shadowing and highlighting to get all the detail to pop.  Lee also contrasted the metal parts from the wood siding in  how much fading occured.

By the way, the Rock Island car is for Lee’s own collection.  As you may know, he has retired from doing client work.  He hasn’t stopped working on models so we may see some more of his work soon.   Thank you Lee.


MODELING: Mid Century Composite Boxcar Completed


I have had a longtime interest in building a model of a group of double sheathed boxcars owned by the Northern Pacific.  The car is essentially a AAR 10′ interior height boxcar with wood sheathed sides.  They were built by Pacific Car & Foundry in 1940.  Chooch did offer a kit for this car which I built but wanted to add details to the side sill and other areas.  I came upon the general arrangement drawing and decided to take a crack at building one from scratch.   The first chapter of the construction was posted in June,2020. You can search through my blog a find all of the posting on this car build. And now the rest of the story as Paul Harvey used to say in his long-running radio program.  Some of used to listen to radio once upon at time.

The final chapter is a description of a process Lee Turner used to paint, weather and letter the car I built.  Lee and I worked out a deal where I built a Rock Island Fowler clone boxcar in exchange for finishing the model.

Lee has used a technique called pre-shading on the sides of the car.  Simply, it involves painting the indivdual boards in the siding with different shades of a color.

I opened an email from Lee and saw this picture and wondered what he had done.  I read the email and learned how he approached this process.  I have seen this technique several times on plastic aircraft and military vehicles.   The key here is to use several shades of a base color to get variation in the finished coat.

Here is what the car looks like after a light coat of the finish color.  He is building layers to create the effect.  Opaque paint would destroy the effect.

At this point Lee proceeded to finish the car like a normal job.  By the way, the 100-ton trucks are one of Lee’s many “shop” trucks.

Lee had some trouble finding a sunny day to shoot pictures of the finished model.   Actually it looks like a typical sky in the Pacific Northwest.   The decals were a custom set done by Rick Leach for this project.  Lee said they were a challenge to apply since the decal paper was white making it hard to read the one inch high decals.  For some reasons it was very hard to find photos of prototype cars in the early 1950s.  We were able to find one which is was the source of the decal design.

I liked this shot as it showed brake system clutter.

No there wasn’t a wreck.   Lee took this shot to show the clutter and also he captured the look of road grime typical of the underside of a car in service.

The topside views shows that the roof paint is sound with no paint failure.

I didn’t expect to the story to end this way.  It is a wonder way to have a model finished by Lee Turner.   He is the master of his craft.  Sadly, he retired from doing modeling for clients.  Now he is working on his own stuff.  Good for him.   He has made a huge impact to how we look at finishing railroad equipment.   Thank you Lee for sharing your work with everyone.



MODELING: Tank Car Frames

I have built a few tank cars in recent years.  One thing that bothered me on first few cars was the running boards.  I used styrene in my first projects.  Prototype running boards were only 2″ thick which is approximately .040″ thick.  I have worried about flexing while handling the car or experiencing sags over time.  That concern started my looking for an alternate approach.

I decided to try making the running boards from brass strips.  Many of the steam era tank cars had 12″ wide boards around the car.  Well, it didn’t take me very long to find that .040″ brass strips are very hard to find.  Yes, you can buy sheet stock and rip the strips yourself.  I don’t have a saw that likes cutting .040″ strips out of a sheet of brass.


The alternative is to purchace K&S brass strips.  I chose to laminate strips to make the a thickness close to the prototype.  The simple fixture shown above provides a jig to allow the lamination of strip brass.  The laminated “boards”  are inserted in the jig below and soldered together.   I clean the brass and pre-tin the inside surfaces.  I used an 80 watt iron to sweat the parts together.  The corners of the running boards are lapped to create a strong joint.



The brass strips are grained with a wire brush to look like wood.  The GATC tank car I am building has a steel angle on the on the end plank.  Grab irons and air hose brackets are attached here.

I am using a styrene centersill with printed GATC bolsters available on Shapeways.  The centersill is composed of two 1/4″ Evergreen channels.  The centersill is wide enough to fit a the Protocraft Type-E coupler and the San Juan automatic coupler.

Here is a link to the bolster I used. 

This posting is not intended to be a step-by-step description but an approach to  building  scale tank cars.


MODELING: Simple Project by Jim Zwernemann

For a change of pace, I am showing a little structure that Jim Zwernemann built in less than a week.  It is watchman’s shanty.   The model is based on a Missouri Pacific drawing that Jim received from the late James Hickey.  As with most of Jim’s builds, it was made from styrene.  The only commercial parts are the stove and chimney cap.  The model was painted in the old MKT structure colors.

Jim has built a neat little shack that will be a scene stealer on his layout.  I love these little projects.  It makes me want to clear off my workbench and build one or two.

I have built a couple over the years and suggest that you try one.  It is a project that can be done a short period of time.  You will a great deal of satisfaction for the project.

I built this herder’s shack over ten years ago.

Here is an example of a Southern Pacific herder’s shack in the huge Roseville yard.

Why not give one a try?


MODELING: Trucks and Cars Redux (revised)

Finding model vehicles in our scale has always been a challenge.  Some modelers elect to use a more common 1:43 scale models.  They are useful in certain locations but tend to dominate a scene in my opinion.  Modelers like Erik Lindgren have exhibited a knack for placement in a scene to minimize the slightly larger size.

The above photo is the work of Erik Lindgren.  He is an extremely talented photographer and artist.  The diecast 1:43 models seem to blend well with the proper staging.

However, there are a few decent 1:48 models that can be built into fine scale representation for your rail scene.  The most useful kits to find are the Tamiya 1942 Ford Sedan and the whole Renwal/ Revell line of automobiles and now the Atlantis revivial of the old 1/48 Revell kits.  In addition, Mike George has shown us how to take the Menards diecast trucks and make an attractive addition to the layout.   Search back on the blog to find additional information on autos and trucks for 1/48 and how to enhance their appearance.

The Renwal ’32 five-window coupe is a shining example of what you can do with a some effort.  Lee Turner is responsible for this build.  He made simple modification to the front wheels turning them slightly.  A license plate and some weathering turned this plastic into an eyecatcher.

Next up is a 1930 Ford AA trucks built from a plastic kit produced in the Ukraine by Unimodel.   The truck design is a Russian copy of the Ford design. Lee Turner built this model and added weathering touches.  He used pin washes to highlight the details on truck. It is very realistic model.

I have showed you Lee’s rendering of the ’34 Ford fordor He built from a Unimodel kit. While the kits are not the most precisely tooled, they can be built into a nice model as you can see in the picture above.

Our other favorite vehicle builder is Mike George.  He has done some fantastic builds starting with pretty basic kits or diecast models.  His latest creation is a 1949 Ford tudor built from a Renwal 1950 Ford convertible.

Mike decided to build the Ford coupe using a new roof that was vacuum-formed styrene part.  He created a postive master using wood with some trim parts added.

Once the part was trimmed and fitted to the kit body, it creates a credible model.  Mike decided to backdated to the a 1949 version.  A new grill was fabricated to replicate the ’49 version.  Another important change he made was to make replacement tires on a lathe.  The new ties were fitted to the kit-supplied rims. The Renwal tires are undersized.  The actual Fords came with 6.70-15 which are 27.4″ in diamter and 6.7″ width.

This is a 1949 Ford Deluxe Coupe.


There was also a Club Coupe with a shorter roof line. Both designs were referred to by auto collectors as the Ford Shoebox design.  Not sure why they garnered that name.

The color panel for 1949 Fords shows a range of colors possible.

I have a bunch of the convertibles and wondered what to do with them.


I forgot to add information about a 1:48 vehicle that I found on

The model is of a Divco milk truck printed by Shapeways in their finest material.  The designer offered it in HO and S scale. At my request, he released it in 1:48.  You can buy other parts like wheels and a frame.  I opted to not buy these since the basic body was expensive.  I am still cleaning up the body which had lots of artifacts from the Shapeways printers.

There are other trucks available on Shapeways.  Ross Dando bought a modern 1970s International truck.  He opted to have Terry Van Winkle print the model.  Not all designers will allow this but it doesn’t hurt to ask.



I am trying something different with this posting.  It seems that the majority of the viewers like viewing pictures of completed models rather than construction articles showing the bits and pieces going together.  Oh yes, I am not abandoning the previous emphasis on technique.


My first serious attempt at an all styrene freight car in P48.  This model dates back to 1973.  The Model Railroader magazine published my construction article on the building the model.  The prototype was a 50-ton covered hopper buit by Greenville Car for the Erie.  In 1973, finding quality detail parts were hard to come by.  Fortunately Bill Clouser created the Ajax handbrake set and AAR couplers to apply to models.  The air hoses and AB brake equipment were available from the Back Shop.  P48 trucks could be found from only one source.

The very first issue of the Narrow Gauge and Shortline  Gazette feature my construction article on building this Quincy & Torch Lake gondola.  This is narrow gauge and was built from basswood with Cerro Bend castings that I patterned, molded and cast using Bob Brown’s centrifugal casting machine.  The is done over a period of six weeks while still going to work every day.

In 1971 I built this depot from wood and made working styrene windows and Cerro Bend castings for parts like the bench and the old Regulator wall clock.. I entered it in the 1972 NMRA National Convention and won first prize in the structures catagory.

The depot model was based on an old Model Railroader article. In those days, it was the go-to periodical for great modeling material.  I had amassed a decent collect of old MRs dating back to the 1940s.

The vinegar tank car shown above and below was built from an old Model Railroader magazine as part of their “Dollar Car” series.  Hard to imagine building any car for one dollar today.

The model is made of mostly styrene with a wood tank.  Today I would use styrene for the whole project and skip the wood.

Yet another model build inspired by Model Railroader magazine.  This snow plow was built following an article by Paul Larson.  He wrote a number of interesting article during his tenure at Kalmbach and subsequently his brief time writing for Railroad Model Craftsman.

The model featuers a brass plow shaped and soldered together.  The basic frame was made from styrene with wood used for the interior deck and sides.  It was one of favorite models.

Here is a shot taken of the underframe ready for the plow and gondola body.

A while ago I acquired a Milwaukee Road diagram book which had a diagram of the prototype plow.


I built this ballast spreader based upon an old drawing from the Fonda, Johnstown and Gloversville Railroad.  I built the model from wood and some custom Cerro Bend castings.  It was written up in the Narrow Gauge & Shortline Gazette.


The John Deere store shown below was built from styrene completely.  The late Chuck Yungkurth collected information and created a drawing and took many photos of the prototype in upstate New York.  The construction of this model appeared in the Gazette along with the Yungkurth drawing.


The Jack’s Cabin water tank was a fun project built in the late 1960s using wood and a plan done by Cliff Grandt.  I had found one photo of the prototype tank.


I built this bucket loader coal station based on a Paul Larson article in the Model Railroader magazine.  The prototype structure was located in Fond du Lac, Wisconsin on the Milwaukee Road.  Scale basswood lumber was the principal material used in the build.  The two figures were once sold by the late Gordon Canon and were cast in Cerro Bend alloy.


After seeing a Tom Yorke plaster kit for a very similiar building, I decided to make my own version using styrene and embossed brick material.  It was fun to take a shot at trying a brick building.

Thank you for enduring my trip through memory lane.






MODELING: Flats by John Ryan

In this post, you will find some interesting flat cars built by John Ryan.  He is relatviely new to Proto48 but has shown some real modeling skills.

The first flat car is the Chooch Ultra Scale II AAR 50-ton model.  I have an interest in this build since I did the masters for Mike O’Connell at Chooch.  The basic casting is complex on the underside creating all sorts of problems to mold and cast the model.

John figured out a way to fix the deck casting shrinkage by cutting the casting into individual planks.  This allow the boards to separate a bit to compensate for the shrinkage that occurred during the manufacturing process.  The urethane and rubber used in the casting process create problems that can result in a shorter castings than planned and also warping. One of the ways you can address the warping is to cut open the centersill and add a steel weight that will stiffen the body.

John added a few details to the model that were not in the kit.  He created scale sidesill steps and pinned them to body with brass pins available from Scale Hardware.

He also replaced the kit hand brake assembly with a Twin Star Cars Universal set.  These parts are exquisite castings created by Terry Van Winkle using a 3D CAD process and investment casting in brass.  The brake staff is a drawn piece of white bronze wire with the correct square shape and width.

The car is finished off with Protocraft Barber S-2 trucks and a Kadee coupler.  Hopefully John will get the car painted soon and share the finished car with us.

The second flat car was also built by John Ryan and is a Chooch model as well.  It is of a 41′ long design patterned after early AC&F design with straight side sills and deep fishbelly underframes.

The kit was a pretty basic model that served as a springboard to “raise it up a notch” as Emeril used to say.

John used a Protocraft two-level truck for this modeel. The air hose and bracket is a Hi-Tech Details part developed by Jimmy Booth. 

Here is a comparison of the finished model versus the kit underframe.  It is a straightforward build well executed by John.

Thank you for sharing John.



MODELING: Crossing the Great Abyss

If your track has to cross an aisle or entrance you have had to deal with how to get to the other sides.  Lift outs, gates or “drawbridge” style allow access.   Back in 2014, I decided to use a hinged drawbridge style to bridge the entrance path to my room.

I had seen one that my son installed on his HO layout and decided to try to copy the design.  The hinges were European style cabinet hinges.  They appeared to provide the needed motion such that the bridge rails would not strike the adjacent track on the fixed portion of the bench.

Here is the underside of the drawbridge showing the hinges and wiring.

Well, the hinges seemed like a good idea but didn’t stay in alignment very long.  The weight of the rotating section was likely more than a cabinet door they were intended to work on.  As a result of a planned move, the layout was removed in 2016

My new layout is underway with a different approach to providing access.  I am still using hinges but this time in a very straight-forward application.

They are simple door hinges that I are raised to the height of the railhead.  Ideally you want the rotation axis at the same height as the railhead.  I used a wood block to raise the hinge. As it turned out a thin plastic shim was needed to make a minor correction in height.  Ken Burney posted a picture of his layout lift section on FaceBook.  I liked his simplistic approach.

The bridge is .75″ plywood with a couple of reinforcing ribs added to reduce the chances of warping.  Simple but effective.

That is all for now.  Back to the layout construction.


MODELING: Art Deco Gas Station Model

Mike O’Connell has been facinated with old gas stations.  His former company, Chooch Enterprises, produced a memorable kit for Red Crown gas station in HO and O.

Gas stations came all shapes and sizes with some following the Art Deco style..  Associated (Flying A) Oil liked this style and built many of them mostly in the West.   I cam across a picture of one such building that was located in the Tacoma area years ago.  I sen the picture up to Mike since he was raised in Tacoma and has a facination for things Tacoma.

The Tacoma Public Library has several pictures of this classing filling station.  I was surprised to receive back pictures of a model Mike built for his layout.  He created the model from memory and several Associated stations.

Mike has captured the feel of the Art Deco look in his model.   The model was created using 0.060″ plexiglass and laser board.  He designed the building and cut it out with his laser.

As you can see, Mike used his wonderful metal detail parts to enhance the scene.  Many years ago, Chooch Enterprises offered an amazing line of castings that could be used to detail a scene.   Fortunately, these parts have survived the sale of the product line.  The current owner is Rich Rands at Berkshire Valley Models.

Hope that you enjoyed seeing on of Mike’s beautiful models.  Thank you Mike for sharing.


MODELING: Lee Turner’s Tank Car

As many of you already know, Lee Turner has retired from doing commerical modeling. However hee is still modeling but now for his own collection.  He was kind enough to share the following series of photos showing this unique tank car.  The model started out as a Lionel Type 21 8,000 gallon single compartment car.   The basic model is pretty darn nice considering its tinplate origins.  As you may remember, Robert Leners and I rebuilt this same Lionel car but using a different approach.  Lee didn’t junk the frame but merely reduced its thickness and filled in some parts of the centersill missing to make room for the tinplate wheels and couplers.

As you can see, Lee made a huge chage adding a second compartment and dome.  Look closely at the tank and you can see two double row of rivets added to the tank body.  The rivets are decals from Archer and really do the job of conveying the visual of an internal bulkhead added to create the second compartment.  It was not a common practice in the prototype world but it did happen when a shipper had some unique requirements.

Here is an old STC tank car with a rebuilt tank.  Two compartments were added the original body.

And that is not!  Lee took a plastic kit for a 1934 Ford.  The kit is from the Ukraine and it is of a Soviet-built Ford. I have several of these kits and do require some patience to build.

I have always like the ’34 Ford.  Apparently Bonnie and Clyde also appreciate the car with its flathead V-8 for rapid getaways.

Another couple winners from the workbench of Lee Turner.   We always enjoy seeing his work.