MODEDLING: Studebaker Time

Studebaker is one of many failed auto makers.  They made some interesting automobiles after WWII.  This post describes Mike George’s construction of a 1947 Studebaker using a Yat Ming 1950 Studebaker as a starting point.

Mike George describes his modeling below:

I’ve seen mention that the Yat Ming 1950 Studebaker Champion, advertised as 1/43, is actually closer to 1/48. I model 1948, so a ’50 model car is too new for me. I watch an on-line auto auction site, Bring-A-Trailer, and a few weeks ago a ’48 Studebaker Champion showed up. It is significantly different than the ’50 model, but it seemed like a worthy candidate for modification. So, I ordered a Yat Ming car. The price is very reasonable and the detail is quite good.

Out came the file and saw. The taillights have to be moved from vertical to horizontal, so some filing is necessary on the tops of the rear fenders. The hood was cut out and the fronts of the fenders were also removed. The new hood is fabricated from .060 styrene in layers with a lot of filing after it dried. The new grille is made from Evergreen styrene bits.

It appears this body style appeared in 1946, so I’m assuming that is what mine is and is a couple of years old. I didn’t want it to look too worn, so I stuck with minimal weathering. I hope no Studebaker purist looks at this, because I’m sure there are lots of details that aren’t correct, but the changes totally change the appearance of the car from a strange jet-age appearance  to a more traditional post-war body style. I couldn’t locate drawings, so all the modifications are done from looking at the BAT website photos, but there were at least 50 from many different angles.

It seems like most photos I see of stations in this era always have a late model nice car parked under the eaves, so I assume station agents made pretty good money! I’ve placed the car at the Ellijay depot and it adds some nice variety with yet another true 1/48 vehicle.

I want to thank Mike for writing up his automobile conversion.

Next time I will start a short construction project on building a Rock Island Fowler clone boxcar using a San Juan Car Company kit.  I know the kit is not currently available but I understand the new owners are planning a return.   My conversion is based upon an article written by Charlie Morrell in O Scale Trains.  By the way, Protocraft has released new decals for this series of cars.



MODELING: Tales From Lake Wobegon

No, this not a story from the Prairie Home Companion.   It is short collection of things related to our hobby and specifically 1/4″ Scale.   Not all of the stories have happy endings but you still may find a thought worth reading.

Up in Minnesota not far from Lake Wobegon, a very skilled model builder by the name of Robert Leners keeps himself busy with a whole stream of beautiful models such as the Northern Pacific 52′ flat car shown below.   His model is built from styrene and is highly detailed top and bottom.   Robert used the plans published in Railroad Model Craftsman which depicted the last series of cars built in the late 1940s.

The decals are a new set from Protocraft.  The hand brake is one of the new sets done by Terry Van Winkle for Twin Star Models.  The stake and poling pockets were designed by Rick Leach and printed by Terry.  The parts were custom cast by Jon Cagle in urethane.   Lots of hands helped the creation but the skill of the build is all Robert Leners.   I am looking forward to seeing the finishing touches applied to this fine model.

The photo shown above came from the Northern Pacific Historical Association archieves.   It was taken by the late Wade Stephenson collection.  He was an employee of the Milwaukee Road but photographed other roads such as the NP and GN.  This shot was taken on the Milwaukee Road under wire.

So, I have been trying to build the same or similar car following a slightly older version of the car.  The project has been a disaster from day one.  I was moving towards the completion of the basic underframe when I discovered a few mistakes that lead to warping of two cross bearers.  This was on build #4.  Well, now that I am back from vacation I will attempt #5.  This car will not beat me!  I hope.

Here is the underframe prior to scrapping it out.  Notice that I am using a large square of granite as a work surface.  The straight edge is useful to make sure the side is straight as you bond the parts together.  I made an error in the height of the cross ties along the far side of the car.  They were too tall to fit in the side channel.  If there is a lesson to be learned is not to try to scratchbuild a model with only short work sessions.  Mistakes are made as a result of no continuity in fabrication.

And now for a different topic.  This time Lee Turner shows us two examples of what you can do with old Max Gray and US Hobbies brass imports.  These models show up at swap meets and shows for a modest amount and can provide the basis for an attactive model.

The addition of some details to car such as cut levers and a load really lift the basic brass car to something that will look great on your railroad.  The prototype of the model is a Bethlehem 52′ mill gondola.  A lot of this cars were built and used all over the country. Lee finished the car in Lehight Valley, his favorite, and added a load of “steel” sides.  Carbuilders would make replacement sides for older wood cars.  Railroad would get a shipment much like Lee has depicted above.  His sides were left over from the days when he manufactured resin replacement sides for kitbashing Intermountain freight cars.

This brass import had a few dents added to the sides showing the normal wear these cars would get.   I believe this car is a 48′ long straight side version.

The load appears to be parts from a plastic model kit.  They look like a credible pair of machinery items heading to a  factory.

So don’t overlook these older brass models.  They can be upgraded to look very good.  Weathering is a key factor in improving the appearance.   Things like Archer decal rivets can spark up the plain inside of these models.  Adding rivet heads to the grab irons add to the texture of the sides.

Thank you Lee for the inspiration.





MODELING: More Eye Candy from Lee Turner and Jim Zwernemann

I feel blessed to have the likes of Lee Turner and Jim Zwernemann willing to share their work with this blog.  They represent some of the finest craftsman to be found in our hobby.

Recently, Jim Zwernemann added this little structure to his P48 layout.  He created a model of the Texas & New Orleans yard office that once stood in Austin, Texas.  The model was built using styrene and painted with acrylic paints blended to match Southern Pacific Common Standard colors for structures.  The AS-616 is an Overland import that was detailed and finished by the late Jim Hickey.  The view shown below also captures part of the Mather boxcar built by Jim a new of years ago.  His friend Jim Hickey did the artwork and printed the decals using an ALPS printer.

Recently, I posted a few pictures of Southern Pacific cabooses done by Lee Turner.  He added his stamp to the models by customizing figures to fit the location on the particular car.  Lee used plastic filler to change the position of the body parts creating a unique character.

One of the recreations done by Lee are two figures that were part of the Edward Hopper titled Nighthawks.  This must have been a fun project to capture the images in 3D.

Now, the cafe needs to be built to provide the setting for these two characters.

Thank you to Lee and Jim for sharing your work with this blog.


MODELING: NP 52′ Flat Car 1.96

This week has been the “Honey Do List” week.  Not much accomplised on the flat car.  I did manage to work on the sidesills, cross ties and Stringers.

The stringers are made up of .030″x.080″ on the bottom, a vertical of .030″x.060″ and a .010″x .060″ strips.   The fit between the Cross Bearers and the bolster.  I maade a simple gauge to help with the location prior to bonding.

Once the stringers are installed, I started to make the cross ties.  The span between the sidesill and centersill.   There is a cutaway on the bottom (actually the top when the car is upright].   I used  the drawing to get the basic shape and size then layed the parts out on a sheet of .030″ sheet.  Once they are cut out, I applied top and bottom flanges made from .010″x..060″ strip.

The last item to show this edition is the sidesill preparation.   I drilled holes for all of the rivet locations and used Tichy .025″ rivets.  I also drilled the urethane stake pockets.  They have two locator pins cast on the back to help with installation.   Not this hardware is actually mounted at this step.  I want to install the sidesills before populating them with rivets and stake pockets.  The picture below shows what it will look like when I start installing the goodies.

Next installment will cover the completion of the sidesills, weight installation and assorted things.

One last photo is of a 1/4″ scale model of the Southern Pacific ferry boat Sacramento.  The model is on Norm Buckhart’s layout and will provide the key prop to the Oakland Mole passenger station.  Norm rode this ferry when he was sixteen.   After years of wanting the Sacramento  in model form his dream was realized recently.   It is nearly 7′ long and weighed 300 pounds when shipped.  Enjoy your ferry!




MODELING: Lee Turner does SP Cabooses


Pacific Limited imported the Southern Pacific C-30-1 caboose in 1/48 scale back in the 1980s.   It was probably the best rendering of this classic car of the imported SP models.  Recently, a client sent a couple of these rare models to Lee for his magic touch.   He has tried to show a recently painted car with the early 1950s lettering scheme.  The SP dropped the bar above the name in early 1950s timeframe.  At a point in time later in the decade, the railroad painted the ends Daylight Orange.   There were a few that received a bright red end paint before the orange treatment.

Lee started out with a base color of red and used a light red-brown filter to shift the tone and create a vibrant red.   The weathering is restrained to represent relatively new paint.  The SP did use black on the roofs prior to WW-II and a few cars managed to make it to the 1950s without a coat of oxide red.   Pacific Limited did a nice job on the awning brace. The railroad used that piece of hardware on three classes of wood sheathed cars.

Part of this story is about the figures used in populating these cabooses.   The old guy on the rear platforms is probably wondering where the coupler went.   The figure is an old Charles H Brommer casting that is nearly as old as Lee (exaggeration slightly).  Lee used acrylics to finish the fellows attire.

This figure started out as Hasegawa 1/48 scale figure that was reworked by Lee.

This C-30-1 was modeled after Southern Pacific of Mexico cabooses.   They apparently adopted their own painting standards by adding silver or aluminum paint to the steps.

Lee weathered the SP de M car reflecting a lack of maintenance and the effects of heat and dust on the finish.  He tried to sand the decals to give a worn look.  The effect is credible to my eye.

Here is an example of a C-30-1 trailing a long freight near Burbank.

As always, I want to thank Lee for sharing his work with us.  It is always a treat to see and share his modeling.



MODELING: NP 52′ Flat Car 1.0


Progress is being made on my latest project.   This is the start of a construction project to build a 1/48 scale model of a Northern Pacific fifty-two foot flat car.  The NP had a large number of this type of car with the following lot build dates and number:


In addition, the car was purchased for the Burlington, SP&S and Great Nothern.   Differences exist between the various Hill Lines in terms of hand brakes and lettering.


I have made some decisions on various aspects of the model construction.

  • Basic centersill and crossbears are made from .030″ styrene.  I have tried to use .020″ material but found that is not very rigid and have caused me problems in the past.
  • The centersill has been widened to increase the area for the car weight.  Flat cars are notorius for being light and having tracking problems in train service.  I noticed Jim King had done this for his 70-ton AAR flat car kit.
  • Rivets on the underframe will be Archer decal rivets.  The sidesill and endsills will have punched rivets.


I recommend you start with a copy of Railroad Model Craftsman November 2016 issue.  It has a decent scale drawing of this car.  I detected a few differences when compared to the blueprint obtained from the Northern Pacific Railway Historical Associations.  I suspected that the draftsman may have used a CB&Q or GN railroad drawing.  The RMC drawing is much easier to use given the way the railroad drawing shows only the “B” half of the car and added multiple footnotes on features used on the “A” end of the car.


I started with a full sheet of .030″ styrene and squared all sides.  I marked key breakpoints for cutting out the shape of the two girders and baseplate  I also marked the location of the crossties and crossbearers along with the bolsters.  This will aid in the assembly of the various parts in the underframe.

My little aluminum blocks are helpful when squaring up the various parts while the solvent glue sets.  I use the blue tape on the rule to keep it from sliding on the slick plastic surface.

Once the girders are cut out, it is a good idea to cut the slots for the trainline, brake levers and branch pipe (right to left).  The block is to hold a Protocraft bushing for mounting the truck.   The block is .315″ wide.  It also served a good spacer for the girders.  Mark the stryene to make sure you get the correct orientation.

Here is one of my metal blocks holding the girder upright.  The blocks were salvaged from a scrap bin at my employer.  The blocks are square on all surfaces.   They were made as spacers for an electronics rack that went into a 637 Class submarine.  End of story on the liittle blocks.

I used a little fixture to aid in the glueing operation. Crude but effective at holding the strip at a 90-degree angle.

The next step is to fabricate and install the crossbearers on the frame.  They are cut from .030″ sheet with a .030″x.080″ strip at the base.   Add slots for trainline and brake rodding as appropriate.   The shape is defined by the drawings and it must fit between the centersill base and the sidesill channels. The car is 9’3″ across the sidesills.  The centersill base is 0.50″ wide and the sidesills are built up from .030″ with a .015″ thick riveted overlay.  The sidesill is 13″ high so I made a channel shape using .25″x.030″ strip for the full length of the sill.  I built up the height with a .020″x.100″ strip attached to the bottom the top edge.  A .020″x.060″ strip was added to the bottom to create the 13″ channel.   You may think that the wall thickness is excessive but remember the car will likely weight 14-16 ounces when completed.  You don’t want a lot of flex in the sidesill.

The body bolsters were cut from .020″ sheet with a .125″x.080″ spacer to create the form  Like the crossbearer, the sides of the bolster are drawn on the styrene and cut out with a fresh single-edged razor blade.

The bolster is installed on a 14″ by 37.5″ strip cut from .030″ styrene   The 37.5″ length was determined by the width of the centersill (24″) and the sidesill base (.100″ plus .015″ for side overlay.  These dimensions produced a frame width of 9’3″ per the drawing.

The next installment will finish up the underframe and add side and endsills.




MODDELING: It’s Showtime!

After a brief pause, I am back at modeling and working on the blog.  Much to my pleasure, my friend Lee Turner primed my publishing pump with some wonderful examples of his craft.   Seeing his work always adds interest to my enjoyment of the hobby.  Hope that you feel the same way.

First off is an example on how you can turn a stock Atlas R-T-R boxcar into a beautiful and realistic model.   The car came from Atlas painted Federal Yellow (very intense) with lettering inplace.  If you are familiar with the prototype cars you know that the yellow fades badly to a pale yellow that is almost tan.    Lee managed to fade the color with a series of filters applied to the car surfaces.  Highlights around the door hardware and track really capture my eye.

Here is a shot of the prototype to show how it weathers.

This is a very credible model just with some weathering.

Natural light and a real background help create a scene that easily passes for the real thing.

As always, I am grateful to Lee for sharing his work.

So my plan was to roll out the first chapter of  a Norrthern Pacific flat car build.  A combination of circumstances has delayed the this a week or so.   I started the construction and scrapped the first couple attempts at the centersill.  I then realized that my attempt to scan and scale a builders drawing was a bust.   I used a program called Scale Print which allows you to scale a photo or drawing to one several popular scales like 1/48 and 1/32 so that it can be printed.    The program is only as good as the dimensional data that is loaded into the dialog box.   Human error strikes again.

Here is part of the Northern Pacific drawing I am using.   Drawings like this require some time to study and understand before you start wacking away at some styrene.  I didn’t do that so I generated scrap plastic and no progress.   The plan is from the Northern Pacific Railway Historical Association library.

The pile on the right is scrap and one on the left is also scrap.   My fourth attempt seems to be going along ok.   The surface below the parts is a marble cheese board that was being donated to a local charity but I intercepted it.  I donated some clothing to replace the contribution.

I hope to get on with the model build this week.

Thanks for hanging around