MODELING: Rio Grande Auto Car Build #9

Photo Credits: Bill Welch

Bill has been working on a set of HO patterns for several variations of the Rio Grande boxcars. His work is incredible.  I know that this beyond my ability to work at this level on such a small model.   The kits will be offered commercially in the near future by an established HO producer.

Thank you for sharing your modeling and photos.



We will assemble the body using the previously built sides, ends and floor.  The key to getting the proper fit is to establish a common reference for the alignment of the ends to the sides.  If you build the model with open doors on one side make sure the floor is oriented properly with the opening, extended floor boards and the “B” end.

The top edge is my reference to ensure alignment of the body parts.  Bond the end to the side making sure it forms a ninety degree joint. The floor will rest on the top of the side channel.  Test fit the floor to make sure it fits.  I ended up trimming the floor length and notching the end sill to clear the center sill extension.


Add the second end to the side.  Insert the underframe and add the second side.  Once this has set, you can bond the floor to the side channels.  Let this whole assembly time to set before moving ahead.

I added two side spacers to keep the long sides from sagging.  They are not very rigid so some reinforcement is in order.  Don’t plate over the top completely.  I will be adding weight so access is needed.   The interior will need to be painted and weathered before the roof is installed.

A few weeks ago Richard Bess (pattern maker for Rails Unlimited) sent me a shot of a variation in the D&RGW 50′ auto car.  The railroad rebuilt a number of the cars to allow auto loaders to be installed.  The roof was raised by six inches with a Murphy steel raised pane roof on top.  The auto loader chain tubes can be seen on the underframe.  The doors and opening were widened to 15’6″ for ease of loading.

End of #9

Jim Zwernemann

Robert Leners

Lee Turner

Well, this is all for this installment.  Again, I would like to thank Bill and Richard for their assistance.


MODELING: Rio Grande Auto Car Build #8

Back on the job and getting stoked about finishing.  I got the body assembled and I can see the end of the project.  A lot of time was spent fabricating parts and drilling holes.  Oh yes, getting to remake things that didn’t work out.

The underframe was built on a 040″ sheet that I scribed board lines at 5″ intervals.  Normally, I would use .060″ or .080″ sheet but I wanted to have the doors open on the one side and need to have a scale thickness floor boards showing.  I did add .080″ pieces on either end to stiffen area where the trucks and coupler are mounted.

The fishbelly centersill was cut out of .020″ sheet.  I created rivet strips out of .015″ to outline of the centersill.  The strips run along the base plate of the centersill.  The rivets are spaced at 3.25 scale inches apart.  You can use Archer rivet decals to do this job.  Use the 7/8″ size rivets.

As you can see, there are crossbearers and crossties.  There is are 4″ square stringers that run parallel to the centersill.  Make sure you add the .032″ trainline before getting ahead of yourself with the cross members.

The flooring extends on one side for the open door side.

I test fitted the open side to the floor.  Mark where the channel overlaps the flooring.  This helps with trimming the crossbearers and crossties to fit.

You will need to determine where the “B” end location.

The next posting with go into the body assembly.



NEW PRODUCTS: Right O’ Way Proto48 Flex Track

Jay Criswell has taken over a portion of the Protocraft product line including the Proto48 flex track.  He is currently ready to order more track and wondered if there was a preference for track with steel or nickel silver rail.  It is a simple question and requires feedback as to your preference.

The best way to register your interest is to email Jay.   Visit his website to find his email address.   Here is the link to the Right O’ Way site.

This is a photo taken of Jim Zwernemann’s layout.  It shows his prize-winning Southern Pacific signal tower in the background.

This is one of my favorite cars built by Jim Zwernemann.  It is rebuild USRA double sheathed boxcar.  Many railroads replaced the wood bodies with steel sides made by Bethlehem Steel.

Happy Trails,


MODELING: ATSF Mikes on the Joint Line

I spotted this exceptional​ photograph on the O Gauge Magazine forum.  It is the work of Erik Lindgren.  He is a master of photography and a truly talented modeler who resides in the Denver area.   The locomotives were custom built by David Long “Kelly Creek Backshop” Bozeman, MT.  He built them for Tom Deats about 15 years ago. He rebuilt them from the ground up contest winning level. One was a Sofue-built model the other Max Gray.  They are of same class of ATSF mike but the models represent a spread of 40 years from the models were built.

The grasses are Silfor and some under growth dead and such from various including my own ground up in a food processor the real deal.

I want to thank Erik for sharing his work with us.

Happy (Santa Fe) Trails,


MODELING: Rio Grande Auto Car Build #7

Well, I have finally have some time to add another chapter to the Rio Grand project.  I have been working on the car but not writing about it.   This posting covers the work on the car ends and constructing the ladders.


I discovered a problem with how I constructed the ends.  They were too short by four inches on the bottom. I was trying to line up the end grab iron with the side grab iron and discovered that the end grab wasn’t on a major wale (rib).  The picture shown below is before I discovered the problem.


At this point, I thought that I was home free on the end fabrication.

I added a .080″ x .030″ strip on the bottom of the end.  Once the joint is dry, I scraped and sanded the joint to ensure the it would not be an eyesore once painted.  I added the end grab irons at this stage.   Prepping the end before assembly will save grief trying to drill and fit the grab irons.   Two .040″ strips were added to support the tack board.  I added .020″ Tichy rivets to the strips.  The prototype end has a riveted strip across the top.  I made one by punching rivets into a .060″ styrene strip.

I predrilled the B end for the brake platform supports.  The parts are from Chooch.  The supports will be installed once the car is nearing completion.

The prototype car used an Ajax hand brake. I mounted the gearbox to the end.  The lower edge of the end received “L” shaped .080″ pieces to support the poling pocket.

The poling pockets were made from .125″ styrene rod and shaped with a .190″ ball cutter.  This was done in my lathe.


The prototype had Wine ladders with an 18.5″ rung spacing. Wine ladders were unique in that the rungs are inserted in the stile.  Typical ladders are riveted together.  I developed a technique for custom building ladders using brass wire and square stock.

Rung spacing is set with this “C” shaped piece of .040 styrene.

The first step is to layout the rung spacing and the cutout.  I use a scriber to cut a “V” groove where the rungs will go.  The idea is that the .015″ wire will rest in the groove.  I tape the rungs in-place using Tamiya masking tape.  It is thin and you can see if the rung has popped out of the groove.

The ladder stiles are cut from 1/32″ square brass  that I purchased from Special Shapes.  A jig for the stiles was made from scale wood.  The whole deal is then soldered together.  Try using either a solder paste or a thick flux to do the job,

After trimming the wire, the ladder will look like this.   I used an abrasive disk to clean the wire flush with the stile.  I tapered the wire ends with the abrasive wheel.   The last step is to wash the part and then using a blackening agent to “prime” the ladder.  It took me about two hours to make four ladders.

The next installment will cover the underframe finally.

Happy Trails,


NEW PRODUCT: New Protocraft Items

Protocraft introduced a new series of imports during the recent March Meet.  There are a series of new 52′ 6″ gondolas coming from Boo Rim in late June.  The cars are post-war designs and were rated at 70-ton.  The gondolas  are accurately patterned after specific railroad orders.  The cars will feature correct trucks, hand brakes, end (drop or fixed), lading anchors and even folding stake pockets on the inside.  Details are beautiful on the inside and outside.  Protocraft will have correct decals for each of the railroad’s gondola.

Here is the list of prototypes that will be imported












There will approximately five different styles of 70-ton plain bearing trucks.

Protocraft will have several new truck types coming in addition to the 70-ton types.

Norm Buckhart decided to simplify the Protocraft product line.  He worked out an arrangement for Jay Criswell to take over all of the track and switch parts.  The driver tire, driver centers, gearboxes, motors and drive components are now part of the Right O’ Way line.  Jay will be upgrading his website to list of all the new product items.  In addition, Norm turned over a large number of Bill Clouser patterns that were never shown in the Protocraft line.  For those of you who don’t know Bill Clouser, he was a commercial model maker and trolley modeler.  He was a pioneer in 1/4″ AAR modeling and a superb model maker who produced models for museums like the Smithsonian.  Not sure what sure what surprises that are in the collection but it will be exciting to see what Jay unearths.

Lots of new stuff for prototype modeling!

Happy Trails


MODELING: Miscellaneous Topics

There are a few topics to cover with this posting.  Here they are:


Each year, the best O scale meet occurs in the Chicago area.  The crowds are large with many vendors and manufacturers to see.   Each year I manage to have something else happening.  This year it was lunch on the Napa Valley wine train.  The food was great, with excellent a selection on the wine list (you would hope).  Norm Buckhart sent me a couple shots from the meet.


I was asked a question about the toolbox on the Southern Pacific C-30-3 caboose.

The above images were made off of the 1″ to 1′ drawing hanging on my shop wall.  Hope this helps.


This modern boxcar is the work of Lee Turner.  It was requested by a client.  Lee had to educate himself on the tagger technique and style.  Fortunately, his son has a friend who used to do this on the real stuff.


Norm Buckhart used to publish a periodic magazine with news and techniques on Proto48.   It was called The Proto Journal.  Norm decided that it was taken too much time and wanted to hand it over to a new editor.  I volunteered to do the new magazine.  In 2000, the first issue was put together but the realization of preparation and mailing would be time consuming and costly.  A decision was made to go with a website version instead.  The new website became know as the Proto48 Modeler.  It continues to today.  Protocraft underwrites the web publishing and server costs.

Happy Trails,