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.


MODELING: Bull Moose!

Certain machines get labeled with names of creatures from the animal kingdom.  Bull Moose is a name that conjures up a vision of a large beast with a rack of horns.

That is a Bull Moose of the animal kingdom and the picture below is the Bull Moose of the locomotive kingdom.   It is a 2-8-8-0 built by Alco in the teens and rebuilt by the railroad in 1937.   The Union Pacific rostered these monsters as helpers on Sherman Hill in Wyoming and other areas where helpers were required.

Not the most attractive locomotive to grace the Union Pacific roster.

Lee Turner applied his incredible finish to one of these beasts.  The model is an Overland brass import.   It arrived in Lee’s shop in need of repair prior to finishing.

Lee’s finished the model to represent a locomotive that has been in service for a while and has accumlated a good coat of grime.   Areas like the firebox and running gear reflect the mark of heavy service.

From any angle the Bull Moose is an animal.

Lee did some serious body and fender work on this Weaver Northeastern caboose. He replaced the four side windows with two new windows and total replacement of of the platform steps.  The conversion takes on the look of a Magor-built car.   The model was finished with paint, lettering and weathering.   Lee’s dad worked for the Detroit Toledo and Ironton.  The model has personal meaning to him.   The DT&I was once owned by Henry Ford and served as a raw material conveyor belt for the auto maker.

As always, I am grateful to Lee for his contribution of images and narrative.   It is rare to find a custom builder of Lee Turner’s calibre who is willing to share his work.

Hope you enjoy the material.


MODELING: Fresh Paint

We have focused on trying to convey the well weathered look on our rolling stock.  In some cases new cars were delivered to railroads and stayed fairly clean for a while.  I foud this picture on the web last week and thought that there were some interesting artifacts on this new car.

It is rare to find a color picture from the wartime era.  This photo was taken by Bill Wolverton.  Even though the car is relatively new there are subtle effects like grime on the rivet lines and on the door panels.   The shine is just about gone from the sides. The trucks look very clean with little road grime.

The car was built to the AAR 1937 design.  It was built by Pullman in 1941.  It was equipped with wood running boards and Ajax hand brake equipment along with 8-rung ladders on a 10′ interior height.   The railroad bought cars from AC&F that came with black ends and possibly a black roof.

This photo shows that a new car can blend in with well used equipment.


MODELING: A Visit to Sonoma

My wife and I spent a couple days in Napa and Sonoma. We enjoying some exquisite wines and good food with family.   I was able to break a way for a few hours to visit Norm Buckhart.  I delivered the recently completed Rock Island Fowler Clone to Norm.  He seemed to be pleased with the model.  A few days later Norm sent these photos taken on his massive P48 railroad.

Norm took a few pictures showing the car along with other models built by Jim Zwernemann and me.  The SP mogul switching these cars has a bit of history as a victim of the Sonoma Fire of 2017.  Norm found the model buried in debris from the fire that burnt part of his layout room.

Errol Spangler took this mess and restored it to its original appearance.   Norm said that it is a smooth runner.  That is a remarkable bit of work.

Key imported these E-7 diesels a few years ago.   Norm’s locomotives were converted to P48 with DCC and sound added.

I was able to get a few pictures of Norm’s newest centerpiece.   It is the 1/4″ scale Southern Pacific ferry boat Sacramento.  The model is stunning and massive.  Norm has a few large marine models on his layout but this one is the premier ship on the layout.

The model recreates a ferry that Norm once rode as a teen.   The SP fleet operated on San Francisco Bay between the Oakland Mole and the Ferry Building in San Francisco.  Ferries were removed from service in the late 1950s reflecting the loss of ridership and the ending of  passenger train service at the Oakland Mole. The Oakland Mole was the Southern Pacific’s prinicpal long-haul passenger station built on the edge of the San Francisco Bay.  This partial view of the Mole shows a smoke stack from a docked ferry.

Norm is constructing the train sheds to the left of this picture.  That will be a sight to see.

I enjoy visiting Norm’s layout.  There is always something new to gaze upon.


“PS” the top photo is of the Sonoma City Hall decorated for the season.