MODELING: Inspiration for Modeling

Every now and then you come across a model builder who’s work is inspiring and innovative.   I nominate Paul Washburn as being just such a person.   Paul is a skilled modeler who scratch builds nearly everything he needs.  I would like to share with you his accomplishments.

When you look at the photo above it is could be an HO or O scale layout since the Southern Pacific locomotives have been imported in these scales.   What if you could not buy locomotives in your scale.  If you are Paul you just build it.  Most of us, myself included, will sit around a complain about the fact that you can’t buy something.  The way to get what you want is to build it.  It may require investing time to learn a new modeling technique but it will yield what you want.

So if you want a SP T-28 like the one on the right,  you could roll your own.  It is not impossible to do.   In fact you don’t have to build it in brass you could use plastic with some metal detail castings.



In Paul’s case he has invested the time to teach himself how to build steam locomotives with only a few basic machine tools.  Metal fabrication is nearly a lost art in our hobby.   Seeing work like this makes me want to go out a burn my fingers on brass fabrication.

Here is an under-construction shot of the T-28 boiler.  Paul’s sheet metal work is better than the Korean factories.  The domes and headlight are likely from spare parts from an imported model.

Here is an example of Paul Washburn’s versatility as a builder.  He built three SP general service gondolas from styrene.  What is amazing is the he is very fast in his work.  Jimmy Booth had told me that Paul has done pattern work for P-B-L in a few days which would have taken another modeler weeks to complete.

Paul’s story is not complete without showing you his layout.  He has managed to scratchbuild a whole roster of steam locomotives, structures and rolling stock but also a complete layout.

Overview of Paul Washburn’s layout

The layout is housed in a Tuff Shed style building roughly 14′ by 20′  It was installed on a concrete pad, insulated and a HVAC system.  Paul’s home is in the desert so basement or garage layout room are not typically an option.  Once inside the building you will not know that it might have been intended to be a garage or tool shed.

Space under the layout is utilized fully.

Paul has made good use of all the space afforded by the building while still have a railroad accessible for operation.

Modified imported C-9 with scratch built 90-R-1 tender in tow.

The scenery reflects desert southwest.  All of the track and switches were handlayed.

The SP boiler house is one of very few kits used on the layout.

The engine house was scratchbuilt following the SP design for desert locations.  The sides provide maximum ventilation and providing shade from the hot sun.

Scratchbuilt M-9 Mogul

Scratchbuilt crew locker room.

No shortage of equipment on this layout.

Scratchbuilt TW-8 4-8-0 switching at a packing shed

Paul built this tank car from brass

Layout has vignettes to catch your interest.

I want to thank Paul Washburn for sharing his photos and work.  He is a very talented builder who is also a very nice guy.  I finally met him at the past O Scale West in May 2017.

If you haven’t figured it out yet, Paul models in S scale.  It is part of the reason so much is built from scratch.  My point is that it is possible to build what you want.  It won’t happen overnight but persistence will yield what you desire.

Thanks for stopping by,



MODELING: Caboose Details and Misc

We were discussing how to build caboose steps using styrene recently. I decided to redo the steel steps to make the sides thinner using .015″ sheet styrene

this time. I like the appearance better and they appear to be fairly robust. Here is a shot comparing the new one on the left with the original step made with .020″ sheet.

This NP caboose is the work of Jim Zwernemann. It was scratchbuilt from styrene back in 2012. It won Best in Show at the O Scale National that year.

The next task I am discussing is the method for building doors for the NP and SP cabooses. The technique is much the same so both with be covered. They are made from a lamination of sheet material and strip to form the details.

NP Door Construction

The NP cars were built using panels and tongue and groove framing. I am not a woodworker so my terminology may not be entirely correct. You can replicate the prototype by using .015″ sheet with the dimensions of the panel and windows marked. Cut out and add .015″ strip material to “frame” the door and create the divided glass. It is quick and simple.

I used a metal block to make sure that the strip is flush with the panel edge. My favorite styrene adhesive applicator is a fine tip brush.

The assembled door needs to be trimmed and a door knob added. I like to add the door to the model after painting and weathering so the glass can be easily installed.

SP Door Construction

The SP used a paneled door with the lower portion made from 3.25″ T&G. This is easy to create by scribing the T&G grooves using a tool like the one shown. This scriber was purchased from MMA-USA and is made from tool steel.

The drawing above is for a C-30-1 class but the door is the same on the C-30-3. The upper window slides down to provide ventilation. I suspect a screen was added to reduce the bug population in the car.

I used .020″ sheet for the core of the SP door. It will take scribing better without curling as much. The strip framing is still .015″ styrene.

The window frame are inserted into the panel opening using .040″ x .015″ strips. Since the upper and lower panes overlap, I created a center divider to hold the “glass” for the top section.

Here are the doors during construction with the right one completed except for the external window slide track.

That is all for this posting except for this shot of a really nice car built by Jim Zwernemann. It is a 36′ single sheathed car built for the Illinois Terminal. Check out the location of the poling pockets.

Thank you for stopping by,


MODELING: Da Steps Part Two

The NP caboose steps in a prior post needed safety plate texture applied to the treads.  I chose to use Archer decals for the surface detail.  One could also use etched safety plate from Plano. It is for HO models but I think it might work.

Archer surface decals are made by printing a special resin on Microscale decal film.  I had concerns about how well the film would conform to the shape of the tread. The resin texture makes the decal more rigid.

I primed the raw styrene before attempting to apply the decals. The assembly fixture is ideal for holding the step while working the decals.  I cut and applied the step tread and let is settle with a little Microscale Blue Label decal setting solution.  It didn’t allow the film to lay down on the front of the tread.  I tried using the Red Label decal solvent solution.  This time it worked and the film conformed to the tread.

I need to add one more decal and the step should be ready for an additional coat of primer.  I think that this method works for me.  Consider it for future modeling application.

Rick Leach sent me this shot of a step on caboose 1266 in Livingston, Montana.  The non-standard color illustrates the actual texture on a Northern Pacific wood caboose.

Not sure what we will get into for the next posting but stay tuned to see.



MODELING: Proto48 on a Grand Scale

Most modelers working in Proto48 confine themselves to build modest layouts.   A few have ventured into creation on a grand scale.  One such modeler is Mike O’Connell. You likely know Mike by his business name of Chooch Enterprises.

Mike has developed a vision of his railroad over many years.  His background working for Walt E. Disney (WED) likely refined his thinking into creating a railroad that was like a tour made up of vignettes focused on a scene along the right of way.   He grew up in Tacoma and went Gonzaga University in Spokane.  The legendary Spokane depot shown above is the centerpiece of the eastern end of his railroad.  The railroad starts in Tacoma and goes through a series of scenes until it reaches Spokane and even takes a detour though Palouse, Washington.
The layout is on the second story of his workshop and occupies a space of 40′ X 60′  It is a multilevel railroad that uses spiral loops to change elevation.  Spokane is on the second level and Tacoma is on the room level.  Mike has had help from a number of friends in construction of this monster.


Mike’s railroad hosts the Great Northern, Northern Pacific and Spokane, Portland and Seattle.  He is modeling the railroads that were dominant in Washington State in the golden era of railroading.

Many of the locomotives like this Overland Z-8 were converted to Proto48.  A number of the Chooch Ultra Scale II car and building kits prototypes could be found in the Pacific Northwest.

The two locos shown above are Glacier Park Models Northern Pacific S-4 ten-wheelers.  The models were researched by Rick Leach working with Jimmy Booth, the importer.   By the way, Jimmy took these pictures.  Mike and Jimmy are shown below.

Mike’s methods of construction used on his layout were unusual.  The track is made of urethane tie strips with details like distressed ties and tie plates. Patterns were made and molded to create the urethane castings for the track. Right O’Way Code 125 rail was spiked to the roadbed.  He had a number of challenges initially working with his track fabrication techniques.  Maybe some day Mike will share his techniques with us.

Thank you for stopping by.  Hope that you have a wonderful Thanksgiving holiday this coming week.




There are a few nasty things that you you encounter when building a caboose.  Steps can really slow you down or stall out the build.  They are not all the difficult to build if you make simple fixture.  It will ensure ease of assembly and consistency in appearance.

The picture above shows the basic parts and fixture.  I made my the fixture from basswood following prototype dimensions that Rick Leach was kind enough to supply me.  The overall steps are 26″ high and the sides are made from .020″ sheet.  I laid out all of the sides at one time on a single sheet. I supposed that I should have used a thinner material or even brass.  Since I plan to run my equipment and so a little stronger construction to reduce the chance of  The individual treads are are made from .020″ strip with a .010″ x .040″ step attached to the front edge.  The prototype treads have a rolled front edge that should be .030″ thick.  I will apply Archer safety plate decals to simulate the steel treads.

You start by inserting the sides in the fixture.  The tread is cut to fit between the sides.

I used a styrene spacer block to position the second tread at the right height.  Once the bond is secure, you can add the next tread.

The process is fairly quick.  Finishing the steps will involve the application of rivets to the sides using Archer decals.

By the way, steps have multiple applications.  They are not just for getting to the next level.

We will return to these steps to show what they look like with the rivets and safety plate is applied.



MODELING: A Tool for Minutia

I came across a few things that I would share with you. First is a somewhat esoteric tool that is probably over the top in terms of worrying about the minutia. I was cruising through the Unique Master Models (UMM-USA) website and found a tool that will punch out tree leaves. Well, tree leaves do have a place in detailing a vignette on your layout.

This is a simple punch that works ok on dry leaves pretty well. The tool just arrived today but after the rain had started. Fortunately, I did find one near the door. The resulting leaves are produced in four different sizes with the smallest being for 1/48. The fall foliage is nearing its peak in color right now. I hope to collect some different leaves to create a bunch of leaves soon.

The resulting leaves aren’t perfect but have possibilities.

UMM offers several different styles of leaf punches. You can get maple (the one I bought), birch, lime and oak punches. They are $14.99 each.


The two shots shown above are the work of Chuck Doan.  He is an accomplished builder of scale models with few peers.  The winch assembly is part of a donkey engine that he building in 1/18 scale.  The model was designed in 3D CAD and printed by Shapeway.

See you next time,




MODELING: Zwernemann Time

Jim Zwernemann has been featured in my blog postings in the past. It is always a treat to be able to view and share his modeling.

The West India Fruit reefer is a modified Chooch Ultra Scale II reefer kit. Jim did the masters as a Fruit Growers Express reefer. West India used FGEX cars were slightly smaller so Jim modified the urethane kit to the represent the series used.

The SFRD reefer is a scratchbuilt replica of a dry ice car once owned by the company. The model is scratchbuilt from styrene a number of years ago. He used Clover House dry transfers for markings. The silver and black scheme is a standout in any train.

Thank you for sharing the pictures Jim.