MODELING: Finishing My Flat Car Kit

After a little hiccup on decals was fixed rapidly thanks to Norm Buckhart and Microscale and construction resumed. The new decals have been applied and weathering added to the car.   It has to be a record for me to finish a model so quickly.  If you happen to have purchased this kit, you have seen the merits of a well engineered kit that is easy to build.

The model shown above has been weathered using Vallejo acrylic washes and MIG Ammo Oil Brushers.  The Mig product is used as a wash using odorless mineral spirits with a touch of Japan Drier added to speed drying.  Oil can be applied over acrylic washes without disturbing them.   I really like the flexibility of this weathering combination.

So that is the completion of this build.  I now await Smoky Mountain Model Works next kit due at the end of the year.



MODELING: Super Track

You probably all have heard the old saw about “track is a model too”. It is a concept practiced by a few modelers but should be worthy of consideration for more in the Proto48 community. We are fortunate to have a wide range of products available to aid and abet the process of modeling track.

Building detailed and accurate track is not difficult but should start with a study of the prototype. There are many resources available to research what real railroad track looks like or looked like for a period of time. Practices used by today’s railroads may not be the same as was used in 1950s. Even ballast color and type may have changed.

One of the key suppliers in our scale is Right O’Way of Clovis, California. Jay Criswell has assembled a company that offers a wide range of track products ranging from flextrack to tie plates, spikes, rail and switch hardware. He has the complete line of Right O’Way, American Switch & Signal, Red Cliffs Miniatures, Protocraft track parts and even Chooch brass trucks.

A source of information that is very helpful are Mike Cougill’s books on constructing detailed track. You can check out his offerings at OST Publications . Mike had done some incredible work on realistic trackwork as part of his diorama.

I want to share with you some of Scott Spears work in building very realistic track. He has been using Karlgarin Models Code 82 rail which is approximately 56 pound iron. The beauty of this rail is that it is scaled for 1/4″ as opposed to HO rail with a narrow base. A shortcoming of using this product is the lack of tie plates and switch details. Scott fixed that problem by doing a 3D design and print of the needed parts. He was able to get a few copies printed by Shapeways before they flagged the file as a problem. Maybe he might find time to fix the file to make these parts available to others.

The image above was taken by Scott of his diorama featuring the light rail and track hardware. Oh by the way, the chain link fence is “killer”. I love the vegetation growing on it.

I find that the realism of his trackwork is stunning. I think that the delicate look of the spikes and tie plates foster the feel of the prototype. By the way, the spikes are sold by the P87 Store. They are made from etched metal and very very close to scale. Of course, outdoor lighting goes a long way towards creating the look.

Scott Spears rounds out his diorama with a very nice vignette of a minimal engine facility.

While Scott’s work is with Code 82 rail and hardware, you can use Code 100 and 125 Right O’Way rail and track parts to achieve a similar look.

I would like to thank Scott for sharing images of his modeling. Hopefully, it might interest readers to try their hand at building some super track.


NEW PRODUCTS: A Better Mitre Box

I have mentioned how handy these metal mitre boxes and the micro saws before. It is an essential part of my tool kit. I use it all the time when working on models. The first one I bought was not wide enough to fit a .250″ strip of material in the box. I just found a new version of the mitre box that is wider and longer. I now easily fits .250″ strip easily in the box as you can see above. The dimensions are .410″ wide, .288″ deep and 4.255″ long.

The new box is sold by UMM-USA

UMM is an online supplier of items used by military modeler. This product sells this very handy tool for $16.95 for part number MN048.

I recommend the product to you.


MODELING: Update on Projects

There are more than a few projects underway on my now cluttered workbench.  As Jim Zwernemann used to tell me ” FOCUS”.  Well, I try but I can be easily hijacked.  I thought that I should bring you up to date on recent stories.


Union Oil Tank Car

I am working on the frame adding grab irons and sill steps on a thin brass sheet that will be attached to the running board.

The sheet metal platform makes it easy to solder the various on the assembly.  The platform will be bonded to the .032″ brass running board assembly.  Thinking ahead I remembered that Protocraft has a beautiful Superior 16″ handbrake wheel.  I dug one out of the parts bin and drilling out one side to accept a .030″ brass shaft.

70-Ton AAR Flat Car Build

Well, I finished up the car with a coat of Star Brand black.  My order from Protocraft arrived with the decal set for the Pere Marquette version of the flat car.


With great excitement, I started to apply the wonderful Protocraft decals.  At a point, I realized that the name Pere Marquette appeared to be too tall and long.  I contacted Norm Buckhart and realized that a mistake was made and the letters and numbers were drawn as 9″ not the 7″ size called out by the railroad.  Norm immediately said that he would fix it and have Microscale rush the fix through.

I was able to remove the offending decals easily.  The small lettering details were just fine so I left them in place.   I do appreciate the williness of Norm Buckhart to correct errors.  He is a rare person in the world of business that backs his products fully.

So that is what I am currently working on these days. Oh yes, I am busy thinning out my book and magazine collecion.  There are too too many things that I have collected over the years.

Thanks for stopping by,







MODELING: Custom Decal Printing

The market place for custom printed lettering has shrunk in recent years.  A couple key suppliers exited leaving little to choose from.  So I thought.  I was reading a post on Face Book that talked about mulit-color decals being printed by a company in Canada. The company is Precision Design Company.   They offer a number of mediums for printing ranging from ALPS and high resolution laser printing using an OKI printer that will print white of clear film

I decided to try the company and had a couple sets of gondola decals printed for use on a planned kitbash of a Glacier Park Models GS gondola kit.   The company is very quick in their turnaround on computer generated artwork.  I was fortunate to have some art generated for the desired Northern Pacific steel gondola.  The art was done with Adobe Illustrator and is extremely accurate.  Like most of the new generation of decal art it was traced from actual photographs avoid the old school method of relying on printers font.

The artwork was turned into decals within about three days and mailed via a US Post Office so delivering was very prompt.  These folks are super to deal with.  So what did the it look like when done?

Here is a shot of the smallest lettering which is approximately one inch high.  This is extremely fine resolution.   As you can see, the printing is opaque and smooth. It is as good as screen printing.  Not as sharp as Cartograf in Italy.  Oh yes, the set up cost is only $20 US and cost per sheet depends upon if you want a full or partial sheet or sheets.   The film was applied to a surface painted with Tru-Color lacquer.   I didn’t apply setting solution other than to test to see that the lettering didn’t smear.


The above page was done by Dean O’Neill as part of a presentation to Northern Pacific Railroad Historical Association (NPRHA) members as a modeling aid.  Rick Leach and Dean as prepared a a couple of Power Point presentations to educate members on the correct lettering and placement for a range of Northern Pacific freight equipment.

Believe it or not, There are a lot of similarties with the NP car and SP drop bottom gondola.  I am getting ahead of myself on a future build.





MODELING: SMMW AAR 70-Ton Flat Car Kit

Quarter-inch scale modelers now can purchase a very nice kit from Smoky Mountain Model Works. They released a AAR 70-ton flat car kit. The prototype cars were 53’6″ long with an extended width deck. The kit is composed crisp resin castings, wire, weight and detail parts made out of resin and plastic. The prototype design was first offered near the end of WWII. It was purchased by major railroads like the New York Central, Baltimore and Ohio, Nickel Plate Road, Pere Marquette, Santa Fe, New Haven and others. The cars were equipped 5’8″ wheelbase 70-ton trucks. They also had a drop style handbrake that would not interfere with long loads.

I decided to build the car shown above. The Pere Marquette bought two lots of these cars. The road used two different hand brake systems Ureco (16500-16749) and Universal (16750-16849). I liked the group with the Ureco hand brake system. An interesting feature is that there was an additional lever that connected the brake cylinder to the hand brake.

The kit goes pretty fast with the exception of the stake pockets. All of the pockets are cast on a sheet of urethane. The pockets were designed using a 3D CAD program and were increased in height to allow for cutting the individual pockets from the substrate. I used a Zona razor saw. The pocket “ears” do need to be trimmed slightly to fit in the location. The alignment process is made easy with pins cast on the backside. I found that when properly trimmed the pocket will snap into place. Make sure you use a slow setting CA so fine tuning the position can be done.

The picture shows the stake pockets in position. The AB brake system was upgraded to San Juan Car Company parts. You can see the added brake lever I added in front of the cylinder. I decided to cast a new weight for the center sill. The kit comes with a steel bar for a weight. I decided to use Cerro Bend bismuth alloy to make the new weight. The metal melts at 158 degrees so it is easy to work with. I made the mold out of heavy card stock and some wood. I used a new CA (to me) to hold the weight in the center sill. The new CA is IC-2000 made by Bob Smith Industries.  It appears to have a rubber compound added to the CA.  It is popular for adding engineering plastic to models.

The new weight has added three ounces to the car. When I installed a pair of Protocraft 70-ton trucks the weight added up to 14 ounces. That should operate pretty well.

The car body is is essentially a single casting with some added details such as the crossbearer caps.

The deck is composed of four castings that have details like the steel plates for the bolster and centersill above the draft gear. I didn’t mount the deck to the body quite yet. After cleaning the castings up, I primed the them with Tamyia gray primer.

I decided to try a different weathering approach. After the primer set for several days, I used a wash of Vallejo black on the deck. After that dried I used a little Mean Green to remove some of the black. I used MIG Ammo Oil Brushers to add brown and gray tones to individual boards. It is a work in process so the jury is out on the effect. The steel deck parts really stand out with the black paint applied. They will be treated with rust pigments and other touches.


That is all for now. The next installment will address the hand brake construction, painting and weathering.


MODELING: More of Jim Hickey’s Models

Jim Hickey built a wide array models in his lifetime.  Fortunately, A great number of them have ended up in the hands of some lucky modelers.  Jim Zwernemann and Bruce Blalock stepped to help Jim’s widow dispose of the models.  These two friends spent a great deal of time inventoring all of his models and boxes of detail parts to they could be disposed of.  Bruce and Jim started the process before he passed.  Much of the material was offered on eBay and to other Proto48 modelers who want to expand their collections.

Jim Hickey finished this imported brass covered hopper using his own decals (Protocals).   The trucks are Proto48.

Here are two brass imports that Jim detailed to follow specific Southern Pacific prototypes.  Both locomotives were converted to Proto48 by Jim.

I would like to thank Bruce Blalock for providing these beautiful photographs.