MODELING: Good Stuff

photo by Bruce Blalock

Billboard reefers have facinated modelers over the years.  They were colorful and interesting in the advertising that appeared on their sides.   They were outlawed in the 1930s but made an appearance again in the late 1940s.

Photo by Bruce Blalock

I am presenting the late Jim Hickey’s scratchbuildt Morrell Pride car.  He used styrene as his primary medium.  The decals were also the work Jim.   Some of you may be aware the Jim Hickey once produced a line of decals under the name of Protocals.  While the decals were discontinued years ago we are fortunate that the original artwork was provided to Norm Buckhart.  Another example of Jim Hickey’s billboard work is shown below.

Photo by Bruce Blalock

The next generation of billboard advertising started to appear of wine tank cars in the late 1930s.  It was not quite as elaborate but still attention getting

This classic GATC 6-compartment wine car was  attractive.


In the postwar era, Gibson, Chateau Martin and Ambrose wines used their leased cars to draw attention to their products.


The picture below is a tank car with glass lined tanks inside the steel or wood body.

Meat comanies picked up on the idea and applied it to meat reefers.

That is all for now.  We will get back to the NP automobile car build next time.






MODELING: Northern Pacific Automobile Car Kit 2.0


Well my plan for advancing the build over the holidays was probably a bit optimistic on my part.  So I did manage to finish the underframe and get it primed.  I did get started on adding details to the car sides.

I use the San Juan Car Company AB brake set on nearly all of my cars.  The prototype added small brackets to the crossbearer and crossmember.  the reservoir is supspended on the brackets.  The piping goes through the centersill between the reservoir and the control valve.  I made a brass bracket to support the control valve.  I anchored one end of the bracket to the floor on the outside.  It was attached the sidesill on the prototype.

The picture below was taken by Rick Leach that shows the bracket and plumbing.

I used clevis that were made by San Juan Car Company with levers that came from Chooch Enterprises.  The piping and brake rodding was done with .020″ brass wire.

I NP used an unusual arrangement to their brake rigging.  A spring was attached to an intermediate lever that pivoted off the centersill.  I used some .010″ brass strip to tie the chain to the clevis.

Notice the color of the underframe parts. It is likely the road sprayed black car cement on the underframe at one time. Lots of dirt deposited on the centersill.

The primed underframe is shown above.  I used Vallejo acrylic urethane paint as the base.  I will Model Masters acrylic dark gray as the final color.

Next time I will work on detailing the sides and ends.

Happy New Year


MODELING: Eye Candy from Erik Lindgren

I have taken the liberty of copying several exquiste model photos taken by Erik Lindgren.  He posted them on Facebook so thought it would be nice to share them with you for the holiday season.

Erik is an exceptional photographer, artist and modeler likes to stage his 1/4″ scale models outside on various dioramas.  He is a member of a modular group in the Denver area.  A number of modeler have contributed sections that are combined for local display at malls and hobby events.  I suspect that the group was formed when the great O scale layout in Denver Union Station was closed.

The lead photo was taken outside of his PFM C-48 consolidation.  Not sure I know where the coaling tower came from but it creates a stunning image.

There is nothing more impressive than a large steam locomotive passing by at speed.  This Rio Grande northern makes a handsome portrait crossing the bridge.

Erik likes diesels too as you can see this PSC SW-1 crossing the river.  I love that black and gray scheme.  It was a classic.

Winter in the Rockies creates some stunning scenes.  This is obviously real narrow gauge and not models.

A different subject showing wartime trains and steam power.   The old farm house, elevator and the period vehicles.  The low drivered ATSF mike is moving the priority cargo for the War Department on the Front Range.

Wartime saw many trains of tanks and large calibre artillery pieces.  Here we see a Southern Pacific passenger train passing the millitary train.  I like the vintage effect of the speed of the GS-2 exceeded the capability of the photographer’s camera.   Nice touch!

Hope that you have enjoyed these stunning images from Erik Lindgren.


MODELING: Revisiting a Northern Pacific Automobile Car Kit 1.0

Mike O’Connell Photo


In 2006, I undertook a project to develop a kit for a Northern Pacific 50′ automobile car.  The project was for Mike O’Connell at Chooch Enterprises.   It was to be part of his Ultra Scale II product line.   The prototype was a classic single sheathed car with staggered double doors and a Camel end door.  Like many of the steam era NP freight car, it had a classic radial roof. We are fortunate to have a preserved 4700 class car at the Northern Pacific Railway Museum in Toppenish, WA.


I built the pilot model for the instructions sheet illustration and for Mike’s marketing purposes.  I had a couple kits have been sitting in a storage bin with other Chooch and Southern Car and Foundry kits.  As part of my bucket list reduction, I decided to build some or all of the kits for myself. My modeling skills and knowledge have gotten better (my opinion).   I want to see what I can do with the car today compared to twelve years ago.  Ok, the improvements in my modeling have been new weathering techniques that I have learned from Lee Turner and Jimmy Booth.  The knowledge gained has Allowed me to put a better finish on the model compared to me work a decade or so ago. Might even hide some so-so craftsmanship.

Mike O’Connell Photo


I must admit that the Camel end door facinated me from the start.   Mike was fortunate to still have Joel Berling to cut the dies and shoot the plastice for this project.  The end door latches, hinges, towing staples and other plastic parts are the highlight of this kit.  Chooch still lists these parts on the website under O scale parts.

As with any urethane kit, preparing the parts is most of the work.  Don’t cut corners or you will struggle with the build.  Most of the work is sanding flash from the castings.  You can do this using a sheet of glass with 320 grit wet sandpaper attached.   I used double-side Scotch tape.   Use water on the sandpaper to reduce dust and promote material removal.  The dust creates a slurry with the water.  It seems to remove quicker than trying to dry sand the parts.  Contolling the dust is important for your health.  Urethane dust is not something you want in your lungs.

I assembled the basic body and added the roof.  Start with the “B” end and add the two sides.  I like to reinforce the corners with stryene.   the auto end is made up of two parts. The door casting is bonded to the body first and then the frame around the doors.  Make sure this part is of uniform thickness and dry-fit the part first.


Next I cleaned up the floor casting and fitted it to the body.  My casting needed a small amount of sanding along the side.   Next, I drill out the bolster pads to accept the Protocraft bolster bushings.  Re-thread the bushings to 2 MM by running a tap into the hole.  Next I fitted a pair of Protocraft draft gear to the frame.  You will have to cut away the side of the plastic parts to slip into the space in the end castings.

The kit comes with cast cross ties and riveted bottom plates for the cross bearers.  I used 1/8″ Evergreen channels for the cross ties and made new riveted plates from .015″ styrene.   It was less hassel to fabricate rather than deal with more sanding of very small parts.   You can see the .032″ brass wire used to create the trainline. The cross ties have to be treaded on the wire as you install the trainline.

This is the first installment of building this kit.  Stay tuned for the next chapter.









There was a place close to Newark New, Jersey know as NK Tower.  It was the interchange point for Lehigh Valley passenger trains go to and from New York City.   The change of motive power would occur with each train go onto or leaving the Pennsylvania Railroad’s mainline.

In the picture shown above the Pennsy classic GG-1 would handle the Valley trains in and out of New York City.  The handsome ALCO PA-1s would be set aside until the returning train arrived from NYC.

While this scene is 1/48 scale, it captures to beauty of a routine event between two railroads.  It has been gone for a long time.

Lee Turner created the scene using a Kohs GG-1 with light weathering and a Christmas wreath secured to the nose of this magnificent model.   The PA is a conversion of a MTH three-rail model with extra details and classic Turner weathering enhancements.  In the 1950s the locomotives would have been relatively clean as depicted by Lee.

As a kid, I remember seeing this handshake a few times from the rear seat of my parents automobile and once from a New York and Long Branch commuter train.  One of very many railroad memories long gone.

Another look at the GG-1 decked out in Dark Locomotive Green Enamel (DLGE) and pinstripes  The baggage car following was scratchbuilt by Lee.  Love that Cornell Red on the car.

Thank you Lee for bringing back memories of an earlier time.



NEW PRODUCTS: Diesel Details

Hi-Tech Details just released a new diesel detailing set of 1/4″ scale.   It is sprue of various air and signal lines used on diesel locomotives.  The set is molded in a rubber material that is flexible enough to prevent breakage in normal handling.

Hi-Tech Details also sells air hoses for freight installations. They are available with or without brass mounting brackets.

Hi-Tech said that they will have the parts listed on their website soon.   In the mean time, you can order direct.  The price is $14.95 and $5.00 for shipping.

Thanks for checking in.



MODELING: Part 2 on Lumber Loads

My previous posting generated more than the normal feedback from readers.   It seems that many folks have discovered that buying a large box of coffee stirrers can provide and excellent source of material of loads and other uses around the shop.  I had started down that path some time ago and bought a box of 1000 stirrers on Amazon for less than $8.00  They appear to made from a wood like basswood.

Building a lumber load that does not consume as much wood if you create a void on the underside.   It also allows for space to add weight. Another approach is to build the load around a block of balsa or pine.  This save a ton of scale lumber.   Lee Turner used balsa to build his load around.

He used stirrers for the wood on this Chooch Ultra Scale II AAR war emergency flat car.   I think this is proof that coffee stirrers can create a realistic load at not a lot of money.   Lee also pointed out that his uncle suggested stirrers years ago as a way to save money modeling.

Here is my approach to creating a void. The basswood used in this load came from the Napa Orchard Supply Hardware store. OSH was a regional favorite of mine. Sadly, the big box stores killed a business that started in the 1930s in San Jose, California.

The flat car load shown below dates back over twenty years ago.  The loads were built around pine blocks.

So that is all for now on flat and gondola loads.  Thanks to everyone for the feedback.