MODELING: Super RS-3 by Lee Turner


Well, Lee has done it again.  He has built a superb rendering of a Northern Pacific Alco RS-3.   The model is beautiful to look at but it requires a serious study of all the subtle touches incorporated by Mr. Turner.

A client engaged Lee to build a 1/4″ scale replica of a Northern Pacific RS-3.  A specific locomotive was selected for the build.  A Weaver plastic model was selected as a starting point.  The Weaver model was of a early phase unit.  The model was rebuilt into a later phase with different door configurations and body filters.  The project was started with research, collecting photos and selected parts to aid the build.  Lee headed over to P&D Hobbies in the Detroit to buy the parts that will work.  This defined the items that Lee has to scratchbuild.


The above prototype photo was from the Fallen Flags website.  It depicts the prototype for the era the Lee was building.



Lee was able to obtain this partial shot the correct style locomotive from Rick Leach.  Alco’s were an extremely rare occurrence west of the Rockies.  This shot was taken after the BN merger.


 Lee provided this description of his effort:

Here is the unit ready to get a bath tonight and primer tomorrow. There was a lot of details that needed to be changed and as you can see I had to hang a lot of “jewelry” to get there. I had been debating how to do the NP style air intake grilles on the long hood. Most phase 3 units and apparently some of the earlier NP units just had screened openings with filters inside the body. The later NP units had a filter grille that stood proud of the doors by about an inch, I finally got the idea of using Farr air grilles cut from a scrap Atlas F-9 body They are a tad heavy detail wise but I had no better option I could come up with.


One of the interesting details on NP RS-3s was a heater cabinet.  It is located next to cab and provided essential heat in the cold winters around Duluth and Superior.


Here is the model after painting and decaling.  Not all of the pieces are installed.  From this point, Lee’s art comes into play.  Weathering with washes and highlights starts the process.

The decals were drawn by Rick Leach and sold as part of a massive set of Northern Pacific lettering covering most of their diesels.  The challenge with yellow lettering over black bodies is the transparency of the yellow ink.  Typical decals have a tendency to shift to a green tint on the yellow.  Microscale decals have this problem.  Key imported NP diesels with greenish lettering on the sides.   It took Rick about five or six passes with the decal makers to get the ink to render the proper shade of yellow (imitation gold).  His persistence paid off.  Lee was able to take advantage of Rick’s accurate font and color.


Here is the model after painting and decaling.  Not all of the pieces are installed.  From this point, Lee’s art comes into play.  Weathering with washes and highlights starts the process.


Here is more of Lee’s description:

Here is the finished project RS-3 and I think you’ll enjoy it. I was especially pleased with the chipping paint on the long hood sides. These units were painted yellow first then the yellow areas and lettering was masked off and the red stripes were painted and then masked with the black being the final color. When the black paint wore through it exposed the yellow except around the stripes where the red could be seen. Where the red stripes have chipped it exposes the yellow coat. Three reasons for this appearing on the sides where the prime mover is. First the paint could get very hot  which didn’t help its durability and it also got greasy and oily and with the paint being petroleum based the oil softened the paint, lastly when the oil and grime was washed away it took a strong caustic solution to cut through the grime.


The NP used a reflective tape on their diesels.  I believe it was made by 3M.  Lee was able to create the effect by spraying yellow and turn signal yellow (metallic accents added) on decal film.  The resulting material is a bit thick but it gives the effect you want once it is cut into strips.


  This unit was a lot of fun because of the many unusual details that set this apart from the standard RS-3

Well, that is some locomotive.  It is nice to see this unique locomotive in scale.  Thank you Lee.

 Happy Trails,



MODELING: A Masterful Upgrade


Erik Lindgren was kind enough to send me a number of photos of a beautiful US Hobbies Union Pacific 2-8-0.   The model is the work of a gentleman by the name of Andy Revis.  The model was converted to Proto48 along with a total makeover from pilot to tender.   The original KTM-built import was a rather plain model which was typical of the early brass models.







As you can see, Andy elevated this model to the level of a Glacier Park Models import.  Great job!

Thank you Erik for your professional photography……..

Happy Trails,


MODELING: Lee Turner’s Latest Work


Lee Turner continues to amaze with his work and the sheer number of models that come out of his shop.   He has been working on a large number of Pennsylvania Railroad equipment. This posting covers three cabin cars that Lee just finished.

Everything about the Pennsy was unique and built to their own designs.   Their cabin cars starting with the wooden N6b, N5c with porthole windows though the post-war N8


The N8 and N5c were classic in their style and details.  One of the details unique to the road was their pioneering inductive telephone system that used the railing-like hardware on the roof.


One of weathering techniques used by Lee was to sand the decals to reflect the effect of age on railway equipment.

I would like to thank Lee for sharing his work with us.

Happy Trails,


MODELING: Lee Turner’s Latest Efforts


Lee Turner’s large following of customers keeps him busy near all the time.   This winter he has seen a lot of PRR and Eastern equipment in his shop.   The PRR E-8 shown above is a Key model.  At the request of his customer, Lee rebuilt the pilot assembly and matched the factory paint.  Once complete with the modification, Lee weathered the model consistent with the road principal passenger power.

lt-carworks-flatsThe two flats are imports from the Car Works.  They are models of the PRR FM class.  The loads are PVC piping painted and weathered to look it large steel pipes.   Nice looking loads.

lt-lne2Pacific Limited imported a number of highly accurate brass models years ago.  The cars are sought after by modelers and collectors.  At a request of his customer, Lee painted the models in two different schemes for the Lehigh and New England.



Last but now least, Lee reworked an Overland Union Pacific gas turbine with a different number, details and weathering.   The locomotive is a monster and must be something running on a large railroad.   I do remember seeing these beasts at Cheyenne and hauling mile-long trains on the mainline.   The black smoke and scream of the turbine was a sight to behold.


Thank you Lee.

Happy Trails,


MODELING: Rio Grande Auto Car Build #3

My last post raised a few questions and comments regarding the car’s siding.   I am adding a few comments and pictures to explain a little bit more about how to do the siding.


I had mentioned a drafting tool called the Coliner or Koliner.  I don’t remember how it was spelled.  I think it was the late Al Armitage who may have told me about the tool.  I bought it from a store that specialized in drafting tools.  Drafting with a pencil or ink is a lost art.  The days of drafting tables and velum drawings has all but disappeared.   As a sidebar, I remember going into Lockheed Martin’s Burbank plant many years ago and entered a room full of drafting tables and as far as the eye can see.  Lockheed used draftsman to document the many parts that go into an airplane.  Now days it is a smaller number of computer terminals running programs like Catia design packages.   scribing-2

The straight edge moves along the guide rail with the push of the button.  You can adjust the size of the increment by adjusting the dial.  The scribing tool or engraver is run along the straight edge.  The tool works pretty well.  I remember building a HO FGEX reefers with the false tongue and groove siding.  It worked well on the project.   Oh yes, I wear Crocks in my kitchen.



scribing-3As I mentioned in the last post in the last post, you can buy a scriber like the one on the left.   The one on the right I made from a dental tool.   I have used this tool for nearly 40 years.


I added this picture to show the effect of increasing the width of alternate grooves.   I marked the grooves with a drafting pencil. Sadly, it muddied the effect.  I will post a better picture later in the build.


The picture above shows the false tongue and groove really well.  The car is in the California State Railroad Museum.

Happy Trails,


MODELING: Rio Grande Boxcar Build #2


The other day I received an email from Robert Leners with a few very useful pictures attached.  The lead shot above is one of those pictures.   One that that became apparent upon examination of the pictures was that the car used less common 5-1/4″ tongue and groove siding.  The board had a false groove in the middle of the board.  It one of two sheathing boards recommended by the ARA.

I started the car sides with Evergreen 3.25″ siding.  After looking at the parts I decided that it didn’t look right.   I once built a FGEX wood reefer with the false tongue and groove “wood”.  After searching available materials, I have decided to try a side with .050″ “V” groove sheet.   The approach is not precisely right.  The prototype would be spaced at .109″ in 1/4″ scale.  Two boards of the Evergreen sheet measure .100″  The .009″ difference is significant but when you view the boards on the model it has the right look.  I have made my own grooved styrene using a Co-Liner drafting aid and an engraver made to cut a “V” groove.  It is a lot of work and at this age I don’t want to deal with it.  I will “re-groove” alternating grooves to create a contrast of the real versus the false groove.  You can find engraver tools at several online suppliers like and

drgw-61456-b-endThe end view shows a mix of standard 3.25″ and 5.25″ siding.  This is an interesting detail which would add texture to the expansive 50′ long side. I may just give this a try on one side of the car.

I have added this diagram showing what ARA recommended practice for wood sheathing.


I will be adding new construction details in my next post.

NPRHA Collection

NPRHA Collection

Happy Trails,


MODELING: Rio Grande 50′ Auto Car Build #1

I giving the caboose projects a rest for a week or so.  I am trying a diversion in starting a new build on a boxcar project.  The subject of the build is a rather unique car design.  It is a fifty-foot double sheathed wood automobile car.   It has an inverse Dreadnaught end and a Murphy radial roof.


The Denver & Rio Grande Western purchased 500 of these cars in two different lots.  The first lot of 200 was built in 1920.  They were door and a half with reverse Murphy ends.   The second lot was built in 1927 with double doors and inverse Dreadnaught.


The earlier lot was offered as kit by Rails Unlimited.  It has been out of production for some time.  Protocraft recently produced a fine decal set for these kits.   I intend to adapt the set to the my project.


I decided to start with the Murphy radial roof.  Construction is similar to the method used on the two caboose builds ongoing.  The basic technique is to laminate thin sheets of styrene to create a solid sheet not unlike plywood.   The bonding agent is CA for the most of the surface area.   However, you do start with liquid styrene adhesive around the edges of the sheets.  I attach the first sheet to double-sided Scotch Tape applied to the fixture.  The idea is to keep the outer edges firmly attached to the jig.  The liquid cement is applied to the long edge of one side as you mount the second and subsequent sheets.   Carefully apply a little CA in the center of the two sheets and press down firmly.  Use your fingers to work the CA around under the second sheet.   If it runs out, quickly blot up the excess with a paper towel.


The roof was made from 4 sheets of .010″ laminated over the wood form.  The last sheet was not applied to the roof form right away.


The next step is to trim the length and width to the correct size.  The last sheet should be measured to fit with minimal overhang.   This sheet will be used to lay out the location of the ribs on the Murphy roof.  Once that is done, you can add it to the previous lamination.


The roof lamination is attached to a sheet of .040″ styrene with a center post to support the arch.  The sheet needs a .040″ overhang on either side.


If you study the Murphy ribs, you can see the bottom layer is about .188″ wide with the next layer being about .135″ and the last being a rib of .080″ wide.  I used .005″ sheet styrene to create the .188″ strip of the first layer.   Cutting thin material like this has been a challenge for me.  I try to do accurate cuts over a four or five inch edge but invariably it ends up with different widths at either end.

I thought about building a simple cutting fixture to facilitate the job.  The 6″ steel rule is only .015″ thick.  I spaced the ruler out from the backstop with a strip of .188″ styrene.  I added small pads of .005″ under the ends of the ruler to keep if level across the cutting surface.   You just slide the sheet .005″ in and run a sharp single-edge blade across using the ruler as the guide.


The strips are applied to the roof surface.  The second layer is .010″ x .138″ stripe (HO 1″ x 12″).


I will finish up the roof in the next posting…….

Happy Trails,