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,


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.


MODELING: Old Hopper from Lee Turner

: Lee Turner is a very busy guy working on client models. He has managed to find time to do something for himself.

As you may know, Lee is a real fan of the old Lehigh Valley.  His dad working in Sayre, PA at their major shop.  Lee built this USRA twin hopper and lettered for the Susquehanna & New York.  The S&NY disappeared in 1942 with small part of it acquired  by the Lehigh Valley.

The hopper is an updated Intermountain kit.  Lee replaced the grab irons and sill steps with brass parts.  The rusty and sooty interior is fantastic. Lee has captured the look of an old car that has seen a lot of use.

Thank you Lee for the contribution of this material.


MODELING/NEW PRODUCTS: Latest Lee Turner Project and a New Kit

Lee Turner just sent several photos and description below.

Here is a Westside Models heavy duty 16 wheel flat car. Cut levers and air hoses were added. It was painted and lettered to match one of three PRR F34 class flat cars , note the Dahlman two level heavy duty trucks with a short five foot wheel base. The load was supplied by the owner who had bought these resin cast “scooper things” at an estate sale of a O-scale steel mill modeler. They were painted with a dark gray and then sponge painted with a light gray which gave a good base simulating mill scale. A quick wash of modelers crack (Vallejo dark brown wash) gave definition to the structure of the object. Bits of sponge were used a again to apply Vallejo dark rust, red leather and light yellow rust. Some Winsor & Newton tube oil burnt sienna was used to bring all the rust tones together in the heavily rusted interior portions. Lastly a very thin coat of burnt umber was judiciously sprayed on the edges and seams. The Mesta Machine placards were done on the computer and printed  on photo paper. The deck of the flat was prepared with Evergreen styrene angle for this load and excess angle and strip was glued around the deck to simulate dunnage from previous loads. Simulated fresh welds and chalk marking from the layout of angle iron bracing was the final touch to load and cars.
  As a side note Mesta Machinery was a real company who made the huge machines used in steel making like presses and shears. IF you google image search “Mesta Machine” you will find many shots of various PRR heavy duty flats and loads along with the products they manufactured.
 Lee’s work is incredible.  I would have never thought of adding chalk marks on the deck.  Thank you for the inspiration.

Rails Unlimited has released a several new urethane kits that are available as a flat or with pre-assembled bodies.  They sent several photos of their Rock Island stock car kit.  It is a classic design that was rebuilt from Fowler clone boxcar.  The Rock Island ran these cars for a long time well into the diesel era.

The patterns and the pilot model were done by Jeff MacDonald. I understand the production kits were cast by Westerfield.   The castings look very nice based upon a photo sent by Ross Dando.



Mike Cougill is a skilled modeler with a strong sense of seeing the scale and features of a model or scene.  I found the picture shown below on how to create an effective scene that creates interest and draws the person into the work.  You should check out Mike’s work at OST Publications.


Thanks for stopping by



Smoky Mountain Model Works (SMMW) has finally released their urethane kit for an AAR 70-ton flat car.   The wait was worth it. Jim King crafted a very highly detailed model of a common prototype.  The kit is composed of urethane castings for the body deck and details.  The master was created using 3D CAD and printed by a high resolution printer.  The resulting model was molded and cast in urethane.  The castings are beautiful and amazing with deep undercuts and details on the exterior and even inside the sidesill.

The frame is very accurately rendered.  SMMW didn’t miss anything when it comes to capturing the prototype.

SMMW provides a steel bar for weight.  It will be less than nine ounces without trucks. I might suggest adding additional weight in centersill.

The deck is textured to look like wood and steel over the body bolsters.  The stake pockets are accurately shaped and well formed.

The prototype used 70-ton trucks which are now available from Protocraft in several flavors.   Protocraft has a range of decals for this kit.  You won’t need to dig into your old stash of Champ or Walthers decals.

This one of the finest urethane kit I have seen.  It is on a par with Jon Cagle’s kits.  Hopefully, this will be the first of many kits from this company.

And now a little Zwernemann to finish out the posting.

Jim Zwernemann crafted these two attractive freight cars.  The West India Fruit reefer was built from a Chooch Ultrascale FGEX kit.  Jim had to reduce the side height to match the prototype.  W.I.F. got their cars from Fruit Growers Express so it was a good starting point.  By the way, Jim mastered the original kit for Chooch Enterprises.

The FW&D boxcar was built from an old Atlas (Roco) X43 boxcar.  The Roco model is a 10′ 6″ interior height car with diagonal panel roof and an improved Dreadnaught ends.  Jim added details and built new Superior doors.

Thanks for stopping by,