MODELING: Soo Line Caboose by Robert Leners

The Soo Line maintained a large fleet of vintage wooden cabooses with the newest being built in 1921.  The railroad was frugal and rebuilt their cars over their life.  One such example is car # 99090.  It was built by Haskell and Barker for the Wisconsin Central with a different side windows and cupola.   The rebuild was extensive to the point where you would not recognize the two as being in the same series.  The picture below is of an unrebuilt car in the same series.

The above photo shows what the 99046-99095 series looked like.  This particular car survived the rebuilding process to a large extent.  The photo was provided by the Soo Line Historical Society.

Robert Leners is a long-time ardent follower of the Soo Line and a very skilled modeler.  His style is always precise and clean.

Styrene is the ideal material to build a model of this calibre.  Robert is well versed in working with this material.

One of the interesting feature of many Soo cabooses is the single window on one side.  The original Haskell & Barker cars had four windows on either side.  A hallmark of the road’s cars was the tall cupola which could be found with a single window or double as shown with this car.

Robert’s approach of painting and decals a partially completed model is a bit unorthodox.  I can understand that some paint on part of the model will likely motivate one to complete it.  I recently did something similar with a tank car build.  I painted and decaled the completed frame.

This closeup of the end shows how careful Robert is with his work.  It is flawless.

The “W.C.” initials on the right letterboard indicate Wisconsin Central ownership and does the 99000 series number.



As always, I am grateful to Robert for sharing his work with you all.

Thanks for taking a look at Robert’s work.




MODELING: Lee Turner Does Modern


Over the years Lee Turner has finished a wide range of models that span the scales and eras.  Such a diverse requests from clients exposes him to an amazing variety ot projects.   This particular modeling project has a bit of a story attached to it.  I am sharing Lee’s words and description.


This project has been sitting on my shelf for a few years. It started as a decorated Atlas D&H/ New York state Transportation box car in bright blue and white. The client had seen a photo of one of these cars in extremely weathered condition and wanted the photo recreated. Only trouble was that neither he nor I could find the photo online.  I searched all the usual railroad picture sites and even looked through Guilford and Canadian Pacific pictures following where the railroad ended up all to no avail. Finally my client found that these cars were sold to short lines including many to the Georgia Northeastern. With that clue I found the picture in question in minutes. It was really like doing two boxcars with the major differences between the way the white and blue color weathered. I started by masking off the blue areas and weathering the roof and portion of the sides and doors that’s in white. The I Heart NY  must have been a decal of some sorts that peeled off, or perhaps the white band was an area overpainted to de-identify the car when sold and the lettering was ghosting through. After the upper portion was completed the roof and white areas were masked off and the blue portion of the sides and ends were weathered working from the photo. At the same the underbody and trucks were painted and weathered. Up to this point basically all weathering had been done with an air brush but for the final weathering I switched to Burnt Umber and Burnt Sienna oil paints in a tube to add more rust tones and bring the different colors together. A very interesting and satisfying project and it sure was nice to finally get it off the shelf.

Here is the starting point. An Atlas 3-rail fifty-foot PS-1 boxcar.   The paint scheme is base upon prototype cars owned by the Delaware & Hudson.

Here is the picture that kicked off the project.

The model shown above is remarkable considering the starting point with the shiny blue and white paint.

The oil washes really create a realistic rust patena on the car.


I want to thank Lee for sharing his methods for achieving the well worn look on a modern boxcar.


NEW PRODUCTS: Resin Boxcar and 3D Printed Details

A surprise from a tradition HO producer of quality resin kits.   Yarmouth Model Works has posted a picture of a new project in 1/48.  It is a Pennsylvania X31f automobile car.  In the early 1940s the railroad rebuilt older X31a boxcars into a group of 690 automobile carriers (81200-81889).  The turtleback raised roof section allowed for the use of auto racks to increase the number of autos carried.   I have read that this group was also used to carry Jeep vehicles during WWII.

The model was developed using 3D design tools and printed on a high end machine.  I suspect the production cars will be resin cast. It will likely available with detail hardware such as ladders, brake equipment, sill steps running boards and an AB brake system.

The above prototype picture shows chain tubes  extending below the underframe.  The cars were equipped with a 2D-F12 truck like the one Protocraft has imported.   The photo shows the National B-1 used on these cars.  Protocraft imported these as well.

The prototype cars lasted for a long time with 680 still on the roster in 1963 and a significant drop in 1968 to 12.    The posting mention that the kit is targeted for fall release.


Smoky Mountain Model Works has proposed a series of 3D printed details in 1/48.  Jim King circulated a list of possible details ranging from AB brake sets, new hand brake systems, ladders, and a bunch of other parts.  SMMW is using a new printing resin in their Form3 SLA machine that produces parts that are much more durable than tradition printed resins.

Here is an extract from an email sent by Smoky Mountain Model Works:

Below is a list of items I’m considering adding to my O scale freight car details line.  If you want something specific, just email me off-list with your suggestions and I’ll add them to the list.  No guarantee it/they will be made because market demand and available info (drawings/photos) drive new products.  All of these will start out as S scale items, then be upscaled and tweaked for O.

Keep in mind that these are highly detailed, printed parts in clear resin.  Detail is equal to injection molded parts but the material is more brittle so applications need to be scrutinized.  These are not “miracle” parts that survive rough handling.  The trade-off to availability of parts that otherwise would not be produced is greater brittleness which should not be an issue for most modelers.  Many suppliers have retired or the companies sold over the past decade, making their parts increasingly difficult to find and pricey if found.  3D printing addresses this and allows for new designs that cannot be justified using traditional manufacturing methods.

The ladder shown above is for S scale.  Jim has proposed a ladder design with .016″ rungs and .021″ wide stiles.  That would make them very close to scale.  Part of the discussion has been about making replacement parts for the old Intermountain freight ladders and bracketed grab irons.

Stirrup steps will not be produced … they are FAR too brittle to survive.  Flat wire, injection molded parts and brass castings are still the best options.

These brake wheel/housing designs come from the 1953 and 1961 CBCs; the Universal dates to 1940s AAR flat cars:

Superior brake wheel/housing

Ajax AB brake wheel/housing

Champion/Peacock brake wheel/housing

Klasing brake wheel/housing

Universal brake wheel + ratchet mechanism for flat cars

AB “complete” brake set (Apex platform, reservoir, cylinder, triple valve, at least 3 lengths of levers, phosphor bronze wire, chain, clevises, retainer valve, bell crank).  Everything you need to detail 1 car, regardless of car’s length.

Apex brake platform (grid) with angular supports (sold separately from AB set)

Retainer valve (sold separately from AB set)

Bell crank (set of 10 or so; sold separately from AB set)

“Grid pattern” roofwalks/end platforms (Ajax and Morton are main ones) for 40’ and 50’ cars

Draft gear (coupler) box and lid with screws to fit Kadee 740 (no drilling of box required)

Boxcar doors (not sure of designs yet … tell me what you want)

This is an exciting development which can add a range of details to our scale.   This is an important development since the previous line of Chooch Ultra Scale II plastic is not on the market with uncertainty on its return.  The former San Juan standard gauge parts are also currently unavailable so their AB brake system leaves a huge hole in model building.   The parts are critical for kit makers too.   The lack of details may cause kit makers to think twice about offering anything new.


Jay Criswell is developing a new version of joiner bars that may be more appealing to many.  A nickel silver that can be soldered directly to the rail to capture the adjacent rail.

You only need to solder the joint bars to one side of the connection.  This will allow expansion and contraction of rail on your layout.   Jay will be offering the castings in Code 148, Code 125 and smaller rail heights.

The new parts should be available shortly.  Contact Jay for availability and pricing.

I have some new material from Lee Turner.  I thought I would share a view.   More material will be posted shortly.

Thank you for taking a look.


MODELING: The Bodega Avenue French Laundry

Every now and then I come across an interesting building to just calls out to be modeled.  One such structure is laundry once located at 570 Bodega Avenue in Petaluma, CA.  I suspect the vintage signage caught my eye initially.  The building featured a false front design with gabled roof behind.  It was sheathed with shiplap siding.

There was a feasibility study performed by Page and Turnbull in 2014 to determine if it could preserved as a historical landmark for the city.   Sadly, the study concluded that it was too far gone to  be saved.  However that does not mean a model couldn’t be built reflecting what it might have looked like when it was a laundry.

This view shows details of the west elevation of the structure.

At this point the roof had collapsed along the east elevation.

This photogr

This photograph was taken during the 2014 study.  At this point it looks like a good candidate for a supply of shiplap for Chip and Joanna Gaines.

The back wall showing the rear entrance and a boarded up window.


The east wall is essentially gone.  One can speculate that there were likely windows

The first step is to construct a simple drawing and possibly a cardboard mockup to get a sense of what the building will look like when completed.

I plan to use styrene for the basic material.   I saw a painting weathering technique shown by Vallejo acrylics on how to create the appearance of an old wooden structure.  It looks like the way to go to get the effect desired.   My objective to depict the appearance in the mid-1950s.

Model and Photos are from a Vallejo brochure explaining this technique

Final appearance of the weathered plastic using Vallejo acrylics.

Stay tuned for the next chapter in the laundry build.



My laptop decided to crash due to a hard drive failure.   That was fixed and I have a new 1TB solid state hard drive.   No more spinning patten in my machine.   It was only $100 for a Samsung device.  Some technology parts can be a bargin but not cell phones.

I will be putting together a new posting to my blog shortly.





MODELING: Lee Turner on Rock Island B-2 Boxcars

Years ago, San Juan Car Company produced their first standard gauge 1/48 kit and it was a Rio Grande Fowler-clone boxcar.   The late John Parker ( San Juan founder) had a passion for the Rio Grande.  He had the late Joel Berling tool the kit for injection molding.  The Rio Grande had a bunch of these cars but a lot less than the 3,000 B-2 class built for the Rock Island.  It had a few differences such as the number of roof panels and an additional angle on the doors.

I built the model for Lee Turner using the car kit, trucks, couplers and a K-brake assembly.  The original kit was supplied with a AB brake system.  This unpainted picture highlights the major changes needed to convert the Rio Grande prototype to a Rock Island car.

Lee applied his magic to the assembled model.  A basic paint job with lettering from RL Decals.  He started to apply character to the model using various techniques to add shadowing and highlighting to get all the detail to pop.  Lee also contrasted the metal parts from the wood siding in  how much fading occured.

By the way, the Rock Island car is for Lee’s own collection.  As you may know, he has retired from doing client work.  He hasn’t stopped working on models so we may see some more of his work soon.   Thank you Lee.


NEW PRODUCTS: Urethane Kits in 1/48

 A new offering from Southern Car & Foundry.
Jon Cagle has released his latest kit for the American Railway Association Standard Boxcar of 1932.   These cars were built in large numbers and owned by a large variety of railroads.  It seems that each railroad opted for different appliances like door designs, hand brake types, roof and even ends. This particular version has Square Corner 4/4 Dreadnaught Ends and a Murphy Panel Roof.  Road names associated with this version are the MP, MEC, Clinchfield, Central of Georgia, Western Maryland ( one lot was built with square corner ends ), and the Union Pacific, which had 1.
The kit comprises  the typical components you expect from SC&F;  one piece body/roof combination and one piece floor castings. Etched ladder stiles, stirrup steps, etc., laser cut templates and jigs, laser cut running boards, and the usual injection plastic brake and door hardware from Ultra Scale and San Juan Car Co.  Seven pages of written instructions with over 40 images of the  kit build are also included.
Price of this new kit is $165.00 plus 13.50 shipping, lower US 48.  Southern Car & Foundry will ship world wide as well, contact them for details.  Jon will be updating the website this coming week, but if you want to place an order asap, you can contact Jon thru  and we can arrange an electronic invoice as well.
Decals are available from Protocraft  
Jon has a couple new kits in the works that will  be announced when they are available for sale.
Pacific Northwest Miniatures is a new supplier of high quality printed resin parts and kits in 1/48.  They have a wonderful selection of Model T Ford parts and a wide range of details for doing interiors of building.   I have borrowed several pictures from their website to illustrate the range of products being offered.
The Model T chassis is very complete.  They sell a fixture to hold parts in-place during assembly.  That is a fantastic idea to help models.  The vehicles come with headlight that are hollow so they can be illuminated with LEDs is so choose.
Here are some of their neat details to complete a scene or building interior.
You can review their product line by clicking on the link below.
Hope that the information is useful.

MODELING: Mid Century Composite Boxcar Completed


I have had a longtime interest in building a model of a group of double sheathed boxcars owned by the Northern Pacific.  The car is essentially a AAR 10′ interior height boxcar with wood sheathed sides.  They were built by Pacific Car & Foundry in 1940.  Chooch did offer a kit for this car which I built but wanted to add details to the side sill and other areas.  I came upon the general arrangement drawing and decided to take a crack at building one from scratch.   The first chapter of the construction was posted in June,2020. You can search through my blog a find all of the posting on this car build. And now the rest of the story as Paul Harvey used to say in his long-running radio program.  Some of used to listen to radio once upon at time.

The final chapter is a description of a process Lee Turner used to paint, weather and letter the car I built.  Lee and I worked out a deal where I built a Rock Island Fowler clone boxcar in exchange for finishing the model.

Lee has used a technique called pre-shading on the sides of the car.  Simply, it involves painting the indivdual boards in the siding with different shades of a color.

I opened an email from Lee and saw this picture and wondered what he had done.  I read the email and learned how he approached this process.  I have seen this technique several times on plastic aircraft and military vehicles.   The key here is to use several shades of a base color to get variation in the finished coat.

Here is what the car looks like after a light coat of the finish color.  He is building layers to create the effect.  Opaque paint would destroy the effect.

At this point Lee proceeded to finish the car like a normal job.  By the way, the 100-ton trucks are one of Lee’s many “shop” trucks.

Lee had some trouble finding a sunny day to shoot pictures of the finished model.   Actually it looks like a typical sky in the Pacific Northwest.   The decals were a custom set done by Rick Leach for this project.  Lee said they were a challenge to apply since the decal paper was white making it hard to read the one inch high decals.  For some reasons it was very hard to find photos of prototype cars in the early 1950s.  We were able to find one which is was the source of the decal design.

I liked this shot as it showed brake system clutter.

No there wasn’t a wreck.   Lee took this shot to show the clutter and also he captured the look of road grime typical of the underside of a car in service.

The topside views shows that the roof paint is sound with no paint failure.

I didn’t expect to the story to end this way.  It is a wonder way to have a model finished by Lee Turner.   He is the master of his craft.  Sadly, he retired from doing modeling for clients.  Now he is working on his own stuff.  Good for him.   He has made a huge impact to how we look at finishing railroad equipment.   Thank you Lee for sharing your work with everyone.



MODELING: Tank Car Frames

I have built a few tank cars in recent years.  One thing that bothered me on first few cars was the running boards.  I used styrene in my first projects.  Prototype running boards were only 2″ thick which is approximately .040″ thick.  I have worried about flexing while handling the car or experiencing sags over time.  That concern started my looking for an alternate approach.

I decided to try making the running boards from brass strips.  Many of the steam era tank cars had 12″ wide boards around the car.  Well, it didn’t take me very long to find that .040″ brass strips are very hard to find.  Yes, you can buy sheet stock and rip the strips yourself.  I don’t have a saw that likes cutting .040″ strips out of a sheet of brass.


The alternative is to purchace K&S brass strips.  I chose to laminate strips to make the a thickness close to the prototype.  The simple fixture shown above provides a jig to allow the lamination of strip brass.  The laminated “boards”  are inserted in the jig below and soldered together.   I clean the brass and pre-tin the inside surfaces.  I used an 80 watt iron to sweat the parts together.  The corners of the running boards are lapped to create a strong joint.



The brass strips are grained with a wire brush to look like wood.  The GATC tank car I am building has a steel angle on the on the end plank.  Grab irons and air hose brackets are attached here.

I am using a styrene centersill with printed GATC bolsters available on Shapeways.  The centersill is composed of two 1/4″ Evergreen channels.  The centersill is wide enough to fit a the Protocraft Type-E coupler and the San Juan automatic coupler.

Here is a link to the bolster I used. 

This posting is not intended to be a step-by-step description but an approach to  building  scale tank cars.


MODELING: Simple Project by Jim Zwernemann

For a change of pace, I am showing a little structure that Jim Zwernemann built in less than a week.  It is watchman’s shanty.   The model is based on a Missouri Pacific drawing that Jim received from the late James Hickey.  As with most of Jim’s builds, it was made from styrene.  The only commercial parts are the stove and chimney cap.  The model was painted in the old MKT structure colors.

Jim has built a neat little shack that will be a scene stealer on his layout.  I love these little projects.  It makes me want to clear off my workbench and build one or two.

I have built a couple over the years and suggest that you try one.  It is a project that can be done a short period of time.  You will a great deal of satisfaction for the project.

I built this herder’s shack over ten years ago.

Here is an example of a Southern Pacific herder’s shack in the huge Roseville yard.

Why not give one a try?