MODELING: AAR 50-Ton Flat by Robert Leners

During the Second World War, a standard flat car design was created under the auspises of the American Association of Railroads (AAR).  The design was for a 50-ton 53’6″ car which would be built for a large number of railroads.

The design has been offered in 1/48 scale in the form of a Pacific Limited brass import and Chooch Ultra Scale II urethane kit.  I did the patterns for this kit.

Here is the pilot model of the Chooch kit.  One of most important developments of the kit was the production of accurate plastic stake pockets.  The late Joel Berling did a nice job on capturing the feel of the this important part.

Robert Leners decided to try his hand at building one from scratch rather than using the kit.  His subject was a Soo Line prototype shown below.

Robert started by using a published plan that appeared in the defunct Main Line Modeler.  Robert Hundman did the plan.  It was likely based upon published plans of the NKP version with steel “Z” stringers.  Some of the cars were built with wood stringers just like the AAR 70-ton design.

Construction started with the center sill.   He built one side then the next.  It is a different way of modeling this car.  My approach would have started with the center sill and then add the sides and cross members.  I will try this on my next build.

Robert cut the slots for brake levers, trainline and piping for the AB system.  At this point, weight can be added to the center sill.  The car should weight more than 12 ounces which is hard to achieve given the small area of the center sill.  A load could be a significant help to achieve the minimum weight.

In this view Robert is building the brackets that support the deck overhange. As you may have noticed there are a few rivets on this model.  They were impressed one at a time.  It is time consuming but it does yield a certain degree of pleasure to know you did this.

Looks like Robert is taking a break from the build.  The stake pockets are installed and the deck is in place.  The deck boards were held in place on the prototype by plow bolts as we discussed in my recent posting.

At my suggestion, Robert used Micro Mark decal rivets to simulate the plow bolts.  In theory, this should have worked but you do have to paint and weather the deck.  The bolt heads will be a different color from the decking.  Sorry for the bad idea……….

The first coat of paint is applied to the underframe.  Too bad this side and all of its detail is not visible when the car is on your layout.

The final coat of Tru-Color Soo freight car paint was applied and Protocraft decals were added to finish the model.  Good Job!

Thank you for sharing your work with us.









MODELING: Lee Turner Models and Da Bolt

Just a reminder, O Scale West is coming to Santa Clara 23-25 May.  The host hotel is the Hyatt and the show is at the adjacent convention center.   I mention this because Lee Turner is presenting an hour tutorial on freight car loads at 8PM on Thursday the 23rd, painting clinic on Friday and freight car load clinic on Saturday.  This is an excellent opportunity to see how Lee does all these wonderful models.

Speaking of Lee, he sent a few shots of two recent projects.

Here is an interesting of two models that create a stunning model.  The flat car is the PSC AAR flat car import which Lee decked out in Erie markings.   He created a load out of a Corgi diecast PCC street car.  Looks like Boston is getting another rust bucket for their collection.

Now that is a real departure from the usual boxcars that he often does. I beieve the model is an Overland brass import that Lee painted, lettered and weathered.  He also populated the interior with chickens.   Lee assured me that the CLUCK name was legit.  I was that it was a bit of his humor shining through.  I like what he did with this unique car.

Here is a closeup of his attention to detail.  Great job!

Looks like the attendant is getting a little fresh air and some liquid fortification.    The model has lots of thought-out details such as the fire extinguisher and shovel.

Thank you Lee.

PS Lee sent me a picture of the car he was modeling.  Well, I’ll be clucked.


I have discussed running boards a number of times in my model projects.  Oh yes, some folks like the term roof walk.  Use what you want but the railroads called them running boards.  I have mentioned that the planks were held to the roof using carriage bolts.  Bruce Blalock, a retired railroader and caboose restorer, corrected me and said that they are called plow bolts.  Ok, that is my operative term going forward.

Plow bolts have  a slightly domed head with a square shank to keep them from turning in the wood parts being attached.  They were used when wood was being attached to steel supports.  It appears that wood screws were used for wood to wood attachment.

Here is Bruce’s MKT #835 caboose under restoration.  The roof and running board is rough but look closely and the bolts stickling out of the support and you will see the plow bolts.

So this is what the Hutchins roof looks like after lots of work.  The lateral running board shows plow bolts at the top and wood screws where the boards are attached to the stringer.   Steel running boards will use different hardware for sure.  I would imagine that there are example of different hardware used on cars but you probably safe using this a guideline.

This is the caboose restored in his backyard.  He donated it to a museum close by. They completed the final touches on the car.  It is a beautiful car.  I love the Sloan Yellow.



MODELING: Vignettes from the Missouri-Kansas-Texas Railroad

The M-K-T or Katy was a regional favorite of many railfans and modelers.  It had a great deal of charm with their conservative equipment and the splashes of color to enhance their visibility.

Bruce Blalock has spent some time cataloging Jim Zwernmann’s extensive collection of scratchbuilt Katy models.  Bruce made a presentation at the 2019 Katy Historical Convention in Round Rock, Texas.  Fortunately, he is sharing his photographic work of Jim’s amazing models and railroad.

The above map gives you a quick perspective of the M-K-T and the region it served.  If you focus on Austin and look to the right you will see the town of Elgin.  The town was served by the Texas and New Orleans (SP) and M-K-T.  The two lines crossed at Elgin and it was protected by a tower.

This photo above shows the Katy freight heading north crossing the T&NO.

Here is Jim Zwernemann’s 1/4″ scale rendering of the crossing and Elgin Tower.   The tower was constructed from styrene and won a first place at a March Meet in Chicago.  He has captured the feel of the building and immediate area.  Jim scratchbuilt both train order signals.  Each road had a distinctive design for which patterns were created and cast in brass.   Notice the old school rail photographer complete with a suit and Speed Graphic press camera.

The section car house is a model of the one that was at Elgin.  Jim built it from styrene and wrote it up for an article in O Scale News.  I think Jim also won an award at March Meet with this beauty.   One of the hallmark’s of a Zwernemann is the finish all done with acrylic paints.  Notice the decay in the boards.

Moving west to Austin, the Katy served the state capital via track rights on the Missouri Pacific (I-GN) and Texas & New Orleans. The railroad erected an impressive brick structure downtown with a large wooden warehouse attached.  Jim modeled the building using styrene and a printed brick material sold by Micro Mark.  Cream colored brick was common in this part of Texas.

The building is long gone from the Austin scene but remembered by longtime residents and railfans.   Scenes like this create a lot of interest for local area modelers who have visited Jim’s railroad.  I think it is fun to capture scenes and incorporate them in your railroad scene.  It certainly anchors the location in the minds of viewers.

I want to thank Bruce for sharing these images of Jim’s railroad with us.



MODELING: NP Automobile Car 6.0

It is done!  Lots of delays and diversions including a new puppy.  The project should been done months ago.  Oh yes, there are a few minor things I want to do. Need to add a couple documents on tack boards, paint the air hose coupling and probably shoot some another coat of flat on the model.

The decals were applied and sealed with a clear gloss lacquer.  I then applied a black wash of Vallejo acrylic.  I removed excess using Mean Green and a makeup sponge. This is a method developed by Lee Turner.  I am just a student of his great craft.   To this I applied oil washes and spot highlights on bolts using AMMO Oil Brushers.  I like their dark brown and dirt to add some color variation to the base color and black wash.

Now that this kit is done, I can get back to working on a new layout.

Little did I know how it would challenge my patiences thirteen years after doing the original patterns for Mike O’Connell, Chooch Enterprise owner.  The master was molded in RTV and cast in urethane.   Mike marketed under the name of Ultra Scale II.  These kits in this series were considerably different from the original Chooch car kits.  Sadly, the era of urethane kits may be near the end.  Few modelers are interested in buying and building complex urethane.  This automobile car was near the very end of my work with Chooch on freight cars.  I learned a huge amount working on projects for Mike.   My work included fourteen kits for Chooch, one for Des Plaines Hobbies and three kits for Southern Car & Foundry.  Hopefully, new builders like Ross Dando and Bill Yancey will continue this approach for creating unique and accurate models as opposed to generic plastic cars sold in many incorrect lettering schemes.



Mike George reminded me of an oversight of my posting.  I failed to mention that Jim King of Smoky Mountain Model Works has come roaring back to 1/48 scale with his release of the AAR 70-ton flat car and the soon to be released Southern low side gondola.  Another stalwart is Ted Schnepf who owns Rails Unlimited. He continues to offer a wide selection of unique prototype cars in urethane.  His recent release of the Rock Island and CB&Q stock cars represent a step up from previous offerings.  Southern Car & Foundry is still working on a few new projects for release down the road.  Jon Cagle has been fortunate to have a few new project done by Jim Zwerenmann.  i am not sure when they will surface but be patient.


MODELING: 1940 Ford Tudor

My former neighbor had a ’40 Tudor with a big Ford crate motor and all of the fixings.  It is a beauty.  Looks mostly stock except for the wheels and lowered supsension.  Well, 1/4″ scale modelers once had this iconic sedan available under the label of Renwal and/or Revell.  The kits went off the market and have become very scarce.

Robert Leners bought one about 50 years ago (no exaggeration) always intending to build it up.  Last fall he decided to send it to Lee Turner for the full beauty treatment.

Lee created the effect of many harsh winters in Robert’s home state of Minnesota.   I think the model is amazing given the age of the tooling.  Lee has managed to bring out the beauty of this model kit.

Revell went bankrupt recently and the tooling was purchased by a company in New York called Atlantis.  You might want to ping them about reviving the tooling..


MODELING: Penn Central by Jim Zwernemann????

So this guy who lives in the middle of Texas decides to do something a little off the wall.  He build something that interested but didn’t quite fit into the local railroad scene.   It is a Penn Central transfer caboose.  So I asked Jim Zwernemann why he wanted to do this.  His response was that it is no different than me building a Lackawanna wood caboose.  Ok you got me.

As you can see, the car is composed of sheet and strip styrene with brass and parts found around his shop.  Jim used a section of a Lionel automobile car roof.   The running boards is a very old Quality Craft Blaw Knox molding.

The underframe looks like it came from an Intermountain boxcar.  Jim added a pair of Protocraft’s new Bettendorf swing motion caboose trucks and their AAR Type-E couplers.

The weld lines on the carbody were created using some .010″ styrene.

One of the hallmarks of a Jim Zwernemann is the finish.  He creates the well used look with acrylic washes and spot applications.  The galvanized roof coloring is really nice.  By the way, he made a mask and sprayed the Penn Central logo.  The car number came from a dry transfer set.  The model shows that with a little scrounging you can create an unique model.

As always, I am grateful that Jim shared his work with my blog.  By the way, he won first place in catagory at the recent March Meet in Chicago. Jim Zwernemann is a true champion in my book.