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.



MODELING: Mike George’s Fantastic Bridge

The following article was written by Mike George to provide background of the prototype Louisville & Nashvillle bridge and his model. This not Mike’s first bridge model.  He has built a number of wonderful bridges for his Hook & Eye Division.
I needed to add some interest to a corner of my layout. There was just enough room to squeeze in a 50′ through plate girder bridge. The prototype shown above is on a 6 degree curve and a .25% grade. I photographed and measured it. Mine was going to be on a 66″ radius superelevated curve and a 2% grade. The prototype is interesting, with a wider than normal distance between girders and unusually spaced ribs.
The model was constructed entirely of 0.010 styrene to duplicate the 0.5″ thickness of the prototype components. I tried this technique on a previous bridge that was longer and the deflection was minimal. So, the bridge is a 100% duplicate of the prototype in every regard (see photo above).  Riveting was done with a NWSL riveter mounted on a Sherline mill table. A jig was made for assembling the stringers and girders and angles were fabricated using strips cut from 0.010″ sheet.
I wanted the bridge to be heavily weathered (but not quite as much as the prototype). It was painted a light grey, sealed with Dullcoat, and then many washes of oil based paints were applied along with dry brushing. At various stages I would send photos to friends for suggestions. This is where having honest friends pays off, as many changes were made to get it to the final stage.
The abutments were made from individual plaster stones and castings to represent the concrete caps. The plaster was sealed with a coat of Mod Podge and the colored with acrylic latex colors using a series of washes. The water is Mod Podge over an acrylic painted stream bed on a piece of foam core board.
The most challenging part was fitting it into the layout. Roadbed had to be removed and L girder benchwork modified to make room for the stream bed. The scene is very tight, with the upper deck of the railroad only inches away from the bridge. All components were assembled at the workbench to check clearances and to get the superelevation correct.
This was a fun project. Full length passenger cars clear with no issues and it added interest to an area I previously thought did not have room for a bridge.
Wow! Mike George hits another homerun.   He is a great prototype modeler and craftsman who has demonstrated his skills in many disciplines.
Thank you for sharing your work with us.

MODELING: Trackwork 3.0

My turnout project is complete.  It took a lot more time than than I expected.  I suspect that the time required for the next turnout built will go faster since I have gathered the tools and fixtures.  My next two turnouts will #6 right after I get a few other projects done.

It took a lot of spikes and tie plates to finish the detailing.   You can get detailed throw bars that tie the switch points together.   The brass throw bar requires the two parts glued together with a paper insulation layer.  It is a very simple process.  Another approach is to use Delrin throw bars.  The parts were offered by the Irish Tracklayer.  This company has been very hard to connect with these days.  Fortunately Right O’Way has these parts so contact them for information on ordering them.

I haven’t run a locomotive thru the switch but that should occur soon.  I am happy with the end result.

One down six more to go.  Lots of spiking to look forward to but It is the only way to get what I want.


MODELING: Trackwork 2.0

It is 1962 and scheduled freight 674 is rolling through Woodinville, WA. Douglas Leach took this shot preserving classic diesels with their original paint scheme.


I am continuing the construction of a P48 #7 turnout.  This post will cover the addition of ballast, switch hardware and rail.

I like to use Right O’Way products for tie, tie plates, switch castings and rail on my layout.  Jay Criswell is the go-to supplier in 1/4″ scale for a wide range products.

The ballast I used is a natural stone harvested from the former Northern Pacific right of way in the Seattle area.  A friend shipped me a flat rate box of a few shovels full of local stuff.  My method is to apply the ballast dry and worked with a soft brush and my fingers.  That was followed with spray of distilled water with a drop or two a wetting agent.  I used carpenter’s glue cut with water (50%) applied with an eye dropper.  The picture above shows what it looks like when it is drying.  The ties end up with a layer of dust from the ballast which becomes attached to the top surface.


I like to prepaint the rail after attaching rail braces.  My “go-to” paint for this is Rust-Oleum Camouflage Earth Brown in a rattle can.  Prior to paint, I attach power leads to the bottom of the rail including the frog.   The process of building the turnout started with the location of the point of the frog and the straight rail.  I use a steel straight edge to ensure rail is straight while spiking the initial points along the rail. Once the initial points are spiked I continue to add tie plates and spiking the rail in place.


Building the turnout is not rocket science but it does take time and patience.  However, I am rethinking my layout to reduce the number of turnouts required.  Have to consider my age and likelihood of finishing something.


After a lot of spikes and tie plates you will end up something like this.  The gopher hole adjacent to the frog casting will be filled with some modeling clay and ballast.  I need to touch up the spikes and weather the track.


The next step is to install it on the layout along with the Tam Valley servo and the Frog Juicer.

Happy New Year




MODELING: Trackwork

Photo by Douglas Leach

I finally started to get serious about creating a new layout to run some trains on.  The last time I had a place to run a train was in 2016.  So, this time around will try to correct some of my earlier mistakes.

One problem I had before was the strain on my back and neck build track on a high shelf style layout.  James Lincoln posted a series of stories about how has been building track on a rigid foam core board called Gator Board.  The properties appear to be a stable material that would allow someone to create a form of “snap track”.  It allows a modeler to build complex or simple trackwork on your workbench.  Perfect for my concern over back strain associated with layout building.  I had not paid much attention to this approach.  It suddenly dawned on me that this method may address my medical issues. It wasn’t until Shawn Branstetter posted his approach of using Gator Board for layout building that it resonated with me. Shawn posted his track building on his blog called the Shortline Modelers.  I have lifted a few shots of from Shawn’s blog to illustrate how neat a way to build track.

Shawn finished the track platform ready for rail installation.  He likes to assemble the details to the rail.  Shawn is a “dead rail” guy so he doesn’t have to run feeder wires to the rail or add gaps.

The individual panels are assembled together to create the track plan.

The following images document how I am recreating this modular approach.

I use a styrene jig to hold ties pre-cut to a prescribed length.  I used a track drawing for the Northern Pacific switches for the ligher rail sizes I am using which is Code 125, Code 100 and Code 82.  Rick Leach was kind enough to supply me with this drawing.

This data translates into the tie strip shown below.

I started to work out the placement of the frog and points.  The stock rail was cut and details attached before painting.  I also added feeders to the bottom of the rail and a shot Camo Brown to provide the base color for the rail.


I have started to experiment with coloring the ties. The first color was Star Brand gray lacquer brushed on.   In retrospect, I will airbrush the initial coat. This will reduce the color variation that the pine ties tend to produce. I followed with washes of Vallejo black and sepia acrylic diluted in distilled water.  I am not entirely satisfied with the result but will continue to experiment.

The switch assembly will be started in the next posting.

Merry Christmas


MODELING: Jim Zweremann Builds a Unique Caboose

Jim Zwernemann is one of the finest model builder in the country.  He is an amazingly resourceful builder.  His latest car is a Kansas City Southern homemade caboose.  Jim likes to build railroad equipment from his native Texas.

The KCS caboose is built from styrene which is Jim’s favorite medium.

This closeup shows the complexity of the prototype replicated by this master builder.   Jim said that the end railings really challenged his soldering skills and patience.  The completed railing is a sight to behold.

The car appears to be a rebuilt boxcar.  The steel sides have double rows of rivets.   Jim used Archer rivet decals.  He also used their safety tread decals for the deck and steps.

The KCS was and is noted for their selection of designs and colors..  The tan body color and yellow lettering is unusual as far as cabooses go.

Jim next challenge is to build up a KCS F-units in their red, yellow and dakr green scheme.  Can’t wait to see them.

Thank you for sharing your latest creation with us.



MODELING: NP Mid-Century Boxcar


The construction of my Northern Pacific 9480 series boxcar is completed.  I have primed the model and will paint in the next few days.  Another project on my bucket list is about to be completed.


The “B” end on any boxcar can be time consuming.  This car was pretty straight forward to build.  I was able to get the cast brass brake step from Chooch years ago.  The style was used by the NP as I was told.



Some of you may have caught an earlier version of this post. The pictures included were not very good so I decide to prime the model and reshoot the model. I use Tamiya Fine Surface Primer straight out of a rattlecan.

The next time you see the car it will have paint and lettering.  It will be a while before I come back with the end product. I need to get back to my layout construction.


MODELING: Finishing Projects

It seems that finishing up model projects is the bane for most of us.  A project gets stale or the right information or part have not surfaced yet.   You started the model so now the challenge is to drive it to completion without buring yourself out on it.   Like most, I have a number of incomplete things in boxes and on shelves.  I have tried to close my eyes to new things that come along and distract me but that doesn’t work.  I do try to keep a list of incomplete projects as a reminder.  It does help guide me to at least look at the stuff an decide if it is worthy of your attention.

My efforts to build a Northern Pacific 9480 series composite boxcar is a classic case of deciding to jump into this project when a friend supplied me with a copy of the railroad’s general arranement drawing.  The car has been on my bucket list for a long time.  I missed out on the original Chooch Ultra Scale II kit done by Jim Zwernemann.  He did a nice job on the patterns.   The drawing was the catalyst to build the model.  I had been saving a few key parts for the project for years.  The Intermountain car ends were expertly removed from the body by Carl Jackson.  The body was a sample of the initial tooling done by Intermountain.  The second part was the roof.  I had modified an Intermountain Murphy raised panel roof and had it cast in urethane.   I got rid theheavy frame on the backside and the cast-on rivets.  The rivets were replaced by Archer decals.

So I am now at this point of the process. The model is complete except for the final color and decals.  The view above shows the completed underframe with a quick shot of Tamiya primer.  The AB brake parts are from San Juan Car Company and the door hardware is Chooch.  Couplers and bolster bushings are from Protocraft.

The Northern Pacific liked the additional lever and brake return spring on many of their cars.   I am not absolutely certain of the lever arrangement since I could not get a brake system drawing.  I was able to pick out the component locations from the side elevation drawing.

This is a closer view of the “B” end of the car.  The grab irons are from Chooch.  I made the sill steps from .015″ x .042″ brass strips and pinned them to the sill using Scale Hardware stainless steel rivets.   The black “B” on the center sill is a marker for me to get the underframe stuff right.  The trainline routing and placement of the brake cylinder are important when building the model.

So this model is headed off to the paint shop to be adorned in Oxide Brown, proper stencils applied and some road grime to finish.  The next report will be on the finished car.

That is all for now,



Nearly all caboose designs have some sort of steps or ladders to allow the crew access. Making four steps can be challenging for all modelers.  It is a process that I have struggled with often.  I have built several cabooses over my hobby life. 

My process involves making a fixture to allow duplicate parts to be built.  My experience is that wood is the best material to use for steps made from styrene.

The fixture is very elegant but it is functional.  I know Ross Dando is probably shaking his head at my crude jig.  Each step has a 9″ rise which was easily made from stripwood.

I have included a portion of a drawing done by Jim Zwernemann.  It illustrates the design I am trying to model.

The prototype steps were built of steel and used safety plate for the treads.  I could have built the steps out of brass but felt more comfortable with styrene.  I have tried to  use Archer decals to represent the anti-slip surface but it doesn’t work bending over the front edge.

I decided to take another route using etched brass material.  I purchased an etched product sold by Plano Model Products

The etched sheet is very thin and easy to cut and form easily.  I attached the metal to  step tread with CA.  I think it is an effective method for create a steel step.

Photo from the Northern Pacific Railway Historical Association collection.

Hope my approach will be helpful.


MODELING: Sawdust and Cuts 2.0

Construction is proceeding on my new layout.  The first two pieces were built as 24″x 72″ modules.  Well, they turned out to be a little heavier than I had imagined.  It seems that the lumber that I purchased from a big box store is at best crap.  You might be aware that there is a shortage of lumber due to a lot of reasons including a spike in home building.  The stuff sold by the big box stores is what is left in the market place.   The lack of precision in dimensions and straightness challenges one’s ability to make two or more modules of the same size.

Conventional modules cantilevered from the wall

I decided to revert back to the same construction method used on my previous layout.  I used a version of “L” girder design developed by Jim Zwernemann.

It is a pretty straight-forward to build and allows for variation of the material dimensions.  I was able to build sixteen feet of benchwork in about five hours.




“L” Girder Benchwork modeled after a Jim Zwernemann design. 

I placed a section of my old layout on the benchwork.  The planned scene will be an vignette of the Bothell, WA area.  I was able to obtain a scan of a 1947 aerial photo of the subject area showing the railroad and buildings and their relationship to each other.  The photo came from the 1947 Bothell High School Yearbook.  Rick Leach’s mom went to Bothell High and saved her book.

The aerial photos is a gold mine of useful information

The feed mill complex was the largest customer at Bothell.  The view shows the roof details of the mill.  The building on the extreme right was a shipper of rose bush plantings.  In addition there was a ramp to allow the unloading of vehicles from freight cars.  In later years, a sheet rock dealer set up shot with a metal building added to the right of the scene.

This ground level view shows the depot, coal shed, feed mill and the corner of the rose shipper. The photo was taken by the late Doug Leach.  The train was special movement. Likely that it was was some sort of high school excursion.  Normal passenger service was dropped in the 1930s.

Bothell Station Plat showing changes made around depot

The combination of the plat and aerial view provides a good sense of the postion of the major elements of the scene.  One key scaling data point is the length of the depot hip roof of 63 feet.   I was able to approximate the length of the tall mill building at 60 feet and low building at 75 feet.   The depot roof overhang is 4 feet and the platform width of 19 feet measuring from the depot wall and the railhead.  Distilling all this information down to something practical looks like this.

The depot and feed mill is in close proximity to each other.   The layout table top is 26″ wide and depot scene is planned for a 12 foot section of benchwork.

I carpeted the table top with heavy wrapping paper.  The foot print of the buildings are situated along with track.  I used some switch plans help with the planning process.  I suppose that if I were more handy with a computer I would draw it all on the screen.

This Doug Leach photos provides a late view of the depot before rebuilt eliminating the hip roof.

So that is where I am going with my new layout.  I think scene really qualifies as a Layout Design Element (LDE) a term created by  Kalmbach author Tony Koester.

Onward and upward!