MODELING: Worn Out by Lee Turner

I would imagine a lot of modelers in 1/4″ scale have come across an early Chooch urethane freight car kit.  Mike O’Connell sold a bunch of them over the years and they still show up at train shows and online in auctions.  The basic patterns were pretty nice but the urethane material used in the old days had few unpleasant habits like warping.  I have tried to build one once and gave up in frustration.  For me it was easier to scratchbuild the model than taming the urethane parts.

Enter our modeling favorite, Lee Turner, and his great skills.  Lee managed to build up the basic body, add lots of details and finish it with his spectacular paint and weathering.  The subject of his work is a USRA single sheathed 40-ton boxcar.   His unique style has managed to capture the long-term effect of weather on an old freight car.   Metal ages differently than wood.  As the paint flakes off the steel, it exposes surfacce to rust.  Rust that has slowly built up a very dark and gritty surface.  The wood around shows the bleaching effect of sun, wind and water.

Here are two pictures of an Ann Arbor single sheathed that had been exposed to years of weather. Not sure if it was Rob Adams or Ron Sebastin took these pictures.

It appears that Lee’s car still has all of the required safety equipment for interchange and even a route card nailed the siding.  In the post-war era, railroads had cars with K-Brake systems still in interchange service that probably saw any reconditioning prior the war.

Even the lettering on a car is subject to the ravages of time and weather.   Lee carefully distressed the New York Central herald to show paint failure of the stencil.  Even closeup this old Chooch car holds up well.

Thanks Lee for sharing your inspirational work.



MODELING: Running Boards (Roof Walks)

For much of the steam and diesel era, running boards have been a fixture on “house” cars such as boxcars, reefers and stock cars.   Modeling wood running boards is a fairly straight forward process.  Consider the fact that the first thing your eye sees in looking at a model is the roof and running boards on freight cars.   It is workwhile to invest a little time in making the running boards look good.

Prototype photos give a clue as to the weathering effect on running boards both wood and steel.

Making your own running boards are simple using styrene.  Why styrene?  Well, it is more stable and less prone to shrinkage or expansion as a result of humidity or heat.  Most of our models are either styrene or resin these days.  Wood does’t scale very well.  The grain structure is nearly impossible to discern from any distance.  Wood tends to take stains or coloring inconsistently.   Observing what the prototype looks like is the best way to model.

The picutre above illustrates what styrene looks like on a resin model.  Weathering with acrylics can provide a realistic look.

Generally, wood running boards are approximately 18″ to 24″ in width.  Board width and spacing can vary as well.  Thickness is approximately 1.25″ which doesn’t correspond to a standard styrene thickness.  I tend to use .030″ thickness as my choice.  I have laminated strip styrene to create the 1.25″ thickness.  It tends to be a little flimsy when applied.


I liike to use a wood plank to assemble the running boards.  This one is basswood but anything but balsa will work.  I glued a strip to the edge to allow me to hold the boards while bonding the thin .015″x .040″ straps.   I used .015″  or .020″ spacers to set the gap between the boards.


I mark the location of the running board support on the roof.  The mark provides the location to avoid when applying the straps and it shows where the attachment screw detail would be added if you so choose.


Running boards are normally assembled from three boards to form the length required for the car.  the two outer boards are joined at the same location while the center board is joined one rib apart.  That is a typical approach.  Variations a widespread but they had to meet the ARA or AAR standards for interchange freight cars.

Lateral running boards also showed a lot of variation.  The NP boxcar model shows the road’s standard for wood boxcars.   Other roads like the GN also used this style.

The laterals shown above are for a steel car and have a steel sideframe that the boards are attached to.  The grab iron is also anchored to the steel frame.

This drawing illustrates the style typical for AAR 1937 boxcars.

Brett Whelan took this photo while visiting the US.  The roof belongs to a PFE R-30-16 rebuilt wood reefer.  It illustrates how the individual boards are attached to the roof and what the joint looks like.  The screws are designed to engage the steel bracket much like a self-tapping screw.  The car was in a state of decay at the Rio Vista museum when the picture was taken.

Dennis Storzek took this shot a Soo single sheathed boxcar showing the running board and lateral.  The attachement screws are evident.  You can also see the end support in this photo.

Here is a shot of my kit that I did for Chooch of the same car.   The car was weathered with acrylics and an alcohol wash.  Gray primer was the base color with highlights of black and some residual paint remaining under the grab iron.

Wood running boards attached to wood sheathed roofs used wood supports to provide a mounting surface.

Here is an AAR document which describes the running board and saddle or mounting bracket.



Hopefully this posting will encourage to make your own running boards when the need arises.


MODELING: Classic New Haven by Lee Turner

Lee Turner was kind enough to share one of his recent projects done for a client.  He was commissioned to paint and weather a pair of Overland FA-1 Alco cab units.  The New Haven has a real fondness for those Alco beasts.  Lee also is a real fan learning from his professional railroader dad.

Lee has represented two different paint schemes used by the railroad in the later years of Alco operations.   The black and orange with a smal NH an the older version with white and large initials.   These units in the twenty years on the road wore four different paint schemes with the black and orange on 0426 being the last. Unit 0421 wears the next to the last scheme with white trim but only from the cab door to the rear of the unit. From the cab windows forward it wears the last black and orange scheme. It may have had damage to the nose and was only touched up with the new arrangement. As far as I could find I believe it to be one of a kind on the railroad. Telling the historical story of the railroad is part of modeling and besides the unique paint scheme the two units tell other stories. Number 0426 was one of eight units returned to Alco for rebuilding in 1959-60 until the program ran out of money.

At that time in history the railroads and builders were questioning what was the life expectancy for diesel locomotives and would they be rebuilt and improved like steam locomotives for 30 years or more? The idea of trading in locomotives on a fifteen year cycle was beginning to be tried by EMD but were often termed as rebuilt from existing locomotives. EMD would only take their own products for “rebuilding” but would repower and rebuild other manufacturers locomotives of which used EMD prime movers and generators with existing trucks. Few of the EMD’s repowered units were successful and many were “dogs”. So what was the New Haven to do with an almost exclusively Alco roster? They chose the path of rebuilding and updating RS-3’s and FA-1’s by returning them to Alco for rebuilding. Eight FA-1’s were rebuilt before the money ran out along with a number of RS-3’s The upgraded units had standard 27 point jumpers and updated control wiring for the new standards for compatability with future units along with rebuilt prime mover and electrical systems, nose MU was added as well. The remaining units like 0421 were overhauled by the railroad and rewired but without multiple unit controls on the nose. Some of the Alco rebuilds survived the New Haven and went on to serve Penn Central with one of the cabs turned into one of the control cabs and head end power units for the Long Island. A little known tidbit is that the first digit in the road number is not a zero but the letter “O” it dated back to early electric locomotives having the “O” prefix representing “Other” than steam power. That quirk lasted into the diesel age..

Lee was kind enough to provide the words with the music on the posting.  I have looked at New Haven power for years in books and in real life when visiting relatives in New York.   As always, I have learned something by sharing his work with you all.   Thank you Lee for the education and the wonderful images.


MODELING: Some of My Models

I decided to share with you some of the models I have built over the years.  Some are built from kits that I made the masters for or scratchbuilt.

Chooch Ultra Scale II SP B-50-15

Chooch Soo Line sawtooth boxcar

Chooch Ultra Scale II NP 4700 class automobile car

Chooch Ultra Scale II war emergency boxcar

Southern Car & Foundry Katy boxcar

Southern Car & Foundry ATSF Bx-12

Southern Car & Foundry CPR minibox

Glacier Park Models Cotton Belt double sheathed boxcar

Southern Pacific A-50-6 scratchbuilt from styrene

Rio Grande double sheathed automobile car built from styrene

Wilson Car Lines reefer built from styrene

Shell Type-21 8,000 gallon tank car.   The tank was salvaged from lionel 3-rail model redetailed sitting on a scratchbuilt undeframe.

Well, that is a quick look at some of models built over a number of years.



Modern O Scale has released their Thrall gondola kit.   It is a 52′ model which features a single piece body and a mix of plastic, urethane and brass parts to detail the body casting.   A custom sprue of ABS parts were made for this kit.    Like all of the Modern O Scale kits, trucks, couplers and decals are separate.  This is an excellent first kit the get your feet wet with building an urethane model.   The price is $160 plus shipping.  A second batch is already in the works based upon the customer response.  Use the link above to obtain ordering information and availability.


Glacier Park Models has both the all-steel G-50-22 and the sugar beet version of the original Southern Pacific G-50-23.   The kits are injection molded ABS and do require some patience in the assembly process.

Southern Pacific G-50-22 Gondola kit retails for $99.95 plus shipping.


The G-50-23 gondola with side extensions for hauling sugar beets retails for $135.00 plus shipping.

Twin Star Cars released a Rock Island flat car kit for a rebuilt 53-foot car. Ross Dando is the owner of Twin Star and pattern maker for this exquisite kit.

Robert Leners tried his hand at building the kit version and scratch building the original design which was 47′.

EYE CANDY by Erik Lingren

The master artist, photographer and modeler strikes again.  This time he has taken a Protocraft 1937 AAR boxcar and finished it with paint and Protocraft decals.  The model is interesting that it was built with a Duryea underframe which Protocraft did a great job on.

Eruk makes excellent use of the Colorado sky and small diorama to captue these realistic photos.   I “borrowed” the pictures from FaceBook.

Thanks for taking a look at this posting.  Hope you enjoy with has been presented.


MODELING: Mid-Century Composite Wood-Sheathed Boxcar 2.0

Picking up where we left off on the construction of the Northern Pacific wood sheathed boxcar, the side posts, ends, doors and sheathing are next.

I stopped by my one and only local hobby shop called RC Country.  They have basic supplies like styrene, wire, paint and CA.   I saw this very inexpensive brush by Tamiya.  It looked like something to try for the application of MEK during a model build.   It reminds me of the brushes used in Japan to do Kanji.

It works much better than the typical small paint brushes I have been using.  It delivers a decent amount of solvent without flooding the area.


The steel framing was partially exposed on this composite car.  Approximately 3″ is showing below the wood siding.  The “Z” posts are made from .010″x .060″ strip styrene and .020″ x .060″ strip used as the vertical part of the “Z”.  Once the posts are installed I added Tichy .025″ rivets per the photos and drawings.

Before installing the posts, I marked the location on the base side sheet.  As you can see, approximately 6″ of framing is installed.  Half of this will be covered with the side sheeting.  The lines help with the alignment of the short pieces of stryene.


I salvaged a pair of ends from an old Intermountain boxcar body.  The body was an early test shot prior to adding holes for ladders and grab irons.  Carl Jackson was kind enough to mill the backside to ensure a flat surface.

The casting was narrowed slightly by sanding the sides carefully to obtain the proper width.  In addition, I added .020″ Tichy rivets to the part simulating the prototype patterns.

The ends are then bonded to the car body.  There is a .0125″ wide riveted strip added to the side of the ends. A .010″ x .060″ strip is added to the backside of this strip to build up the thickness to match the side sheathing.  This riveted strip is flush with the sheathing on the prototype..

The Evergreen siding is test fitted to the body.

The door on the left is a modified Intermountain part.  I spliced two door together to get the 6/7/6 rib pattern.   The Intermountain part is incorrect with the 6/6/6 pattern.  They compromised the design to simplify the body tooling (my guess).

The next installment will deal with siding and underbody details.

Thanks for taking a look.


MODELING: Mid-Century Composite Wood-Sheathed Boxcar


I have been itching to build a freight car now that my cataract surgery is complete with improved vision.  My first step in selecting

the next project was to the revisit my “bucket list”.  Lots of things

Photo by Jack Burgess

caught my eye but the one that looked like a good projectI was a double sheathed mid-century composite  wood-sheathed boxcar.  I borrowed this title from an article pubished in the Railway Prototype Cyclopedia volume 23.  Patrick Wider authored the article describing a number of late wood sheathered boxcars.  My two favorite cars ,

NP and GN,  were described and illustrated in detail.   I chose the Northern Pacific cars that were built by Pacific Car & Foundry in 1937 to the then current AAR design except for the use of wood side sheathing instead of steel.  The cars were numbered in the 9480-9999 series and were durable lasting well into the early 1970s when the 40-year rule caught up with them.   The has been lots of conjecture as to why the NP selected wood siding when steel was being ordered in large number by other roads.    The late Richard Hendrickson debunked the theory that the road trying to placate the forest products industry which contributed to a siginificant part of the road’s tonnage. My take is that the road was frugal and possibly slow to adopt new ideas.  The Northern Pacific bought their first all-steel boxcsr in 1941 three years after the composite cars.


One thing I discovered quickly was that the original series were extremely camera shy.  I have seen very few photos in their original number and lettering.  The picture shown above is of a non-rebuilt car pretty late in its life.   The large Monad with the “railway” added and the Main Street of the Northwest was the last lettering scheme for these cars.  Approximately 98 of the cars were rebuilt with new 55 ton trucks.  The cars were renumbered in the 40500-40917 series.

Here is an intermediate lettering scheme showing the Northern Pacific without the railway.

The above image was extracted from a presented done by Dean O’Neal and Rick Leach at a NP Railway Historical Association convention.   This illustrates the as delivered lettering configuration.


Like most models I build these day, I use styrene as the primary construction material.  I start with a basic shell to create a box that will be sheathed with styrene v-groove sheet and ends, doors and a roof salvaged from an Intermountain boxcr kit.  This model could be built by cutting out the steel side from an Intermountain kit and replace it with a composite side.  At one time, Lee Turner offered a conversion side to do just that.

Here is Lee’s model built up and weathered.


Here is the partial plan used to build the model.  The drawing came from the Rick Leach collection via the Northern Pacific Railway Historical Association.


I took .040″ styrene sheet and cut the basic pieces used to form the basic box.

The floor piece was laminated with HO 1×10 styrene strips to simulate flooring.  I marked the location of the centersill, stringers and all crossmembers.   Start assembly by bonding the side to the floor.  I use machined blocks to keep to maintain a 90 degree angle while the MEK sets.

Once the basic box is assembled, I added Evergreen channels to create the sidesill. The .156″ channels need to be set back .060″ from the side sheet. I marked the location of the vertical and diagonal posts.

The marked lines will aid with the location and alignment of the exposed side posts.   Once all the exposed frame members are installed the Evergreen 3-1/4″ siding material will be added covering all but about 4″ of the side channels.


I will start to apply the outer sheathing and ends and add



NEW PRODUCTS: 3D Printed Figures

I have noticed a couple suppliers posting information on 3D printed 1/48 figures.   One firm that I have looked at is a company in Australia by the name of The figures are largely patterned after railroad men of the New South Wales Government Railways  (NSWGR).   Their attire is easy to visualize these models fitting right in on American railroads.   They are starting to offer some of the characters with Amrican style hats.

These figures were painted by a famous modeler, Ian Fainges.

These figures are full of character.   They are a little bit expensive to populate a large layout with are perfect a small scene.

Another supplier that I became aware of when Ross Dando sent me a picture or two of some figures finished by Bill Yancey.   He purchased some unpainted printed figures from Modelu 3D in the UK.

Bill posed several of these figures next to his RY Models Baldwin S-12.

Bill crafted a modern look by with a reflective tape jacket and a tee shirt with the Soo Line herald.

The poses are interesting and show a great deal of attention to detail.  I suspect they may have been created by scanning humans with a 3D laser.

Both companies offer their range of figures in 1:48.   You can get the figures custom painted if you lack the skill to do this level of work.

Check these suppliers out.  They produce some interesting products.




MODELING: Mike George’s Latest Car

After scratchbuilding four L&N H-29 consolidations, Mike George has returned to car building.  His latest creation is a Louisville & Nashville ventilated boxcar.   The project started with a photo sent by noted manufacturer, Jim King, of an actual car tied to a H-29.  It was the catalyst to motivate Mike to build the car.

The car was bilt from styrene and used a stamped brass end he had obtained from Glenn Guerra.   The ends needed some work to make them into a good representation of the prototype.  The small metal doors on the sides took time to fabricate and add to the character of the car.   Mike is not quite finished but add some more weathering and such to complete this most interesting car.

The lettering was pieced together from an old set made by Jerry Snow and Microscale railroad roman alphabet.

Mike recreated the prototype scene with one of his H-29s and the ventilated boxcar.   Incredible work to say the least.

We all enjoy seeing the craftsmanship exhibited in each new model that Mike George creates.   My hat is off to him!


MODELING: Louisville & Nashville in P48


Tennessee resident, Mike George, is an ardent fan of the Louisville & Nashville Railroad.   His focus has been on Hook & Eye Division that operated in his home state.  It was a secondary line but still hosted passenger trains and lots of freight.  Mike loeved this line so much that he wrote a book on it and self published it.   He has demonstrated his historic chops but his real accomplishment is that of a very skilled model builder.  Mike started out in HO and produced a kit or two of L&N equipment.  His business was called Blue Ridge Historics.   Over time Mike got interested in 1/4″ with desire to build models with the correct gauge (Proto48).   Blue Ridge Historics did produce a few resin 1/4″ scale kits as well.      On top of all these accomplishments, he has built a P48 Hook & Eye Division of the Louisville & Nashville Railroad.  Mike’s railroad has  been featured in magazines showing his innovative design of a two-level layout.

Mike’s modeling experience ranges from scratchbuilding passener cars and structures as shown above.

This tank car is scratchbuilt using a special tool Mike developed to punch conical rivets in the tank body.  He worked from only a few know dimension and a photograph.  He lives in Tennessee so building models from his home state is his passion. The decals were custom made for this car.

Mike has been working on scratchbuilding four L&N H-29 class 2-8-0s.  Building one locomotive is a major undertaking but four is a herculean effort considering that he has a full-time job and this is a hobby.  I belive one of the locomotives is standard five-foot gauge and is going to a friend.  Building locomotives today like these H-28s was helped  from 3D design and printing.  Terry Van Winkle did some of the heavy lifting in this technical area.

Mike”s range of skills is represented by the scratchbuilt L&N pacific and consolidation crossing a small trestle.

Hope you enjoy seeing Mike George’s beautiful work.