MODELING: Adding Character to a Model

Start out with an interesting freight car like a ventilated boxcar and add a signature touch to a very nice model will create character. That is what Lee Turner has done to a RY Models brass imported model.  Ventilated boxcars were created to ship perishable fruit and vegitables to market.  They were seen on American railroads from the earliest days up until the 1950s.  Nearly all of these cars were owned by railroads that operated in the southern US.

Lee took a step further than just finishing the model by adding a load of melons. They made from white peppercorns. He fabricating crates and affixing product labels to creates a credible load that is visually appealing.

You can see the subtle effects of weathering washes applied to the car.

As always, I am grateful to Lee for sharing his work with us.  Thank you for all the material you have contributed over the years.

Lee Turner has decided to retire from professional model work.  He has decided to devote to his time to his own modeling projects.  Lee’s contribution will be sorely missed by all of us.  Seeing his work has been a huge inspiration to me and to many others.  I think he has redefined the art of weathering to new level.  Lee has shown us new materials and techniques adapted from from other modeling fields.

Enjoy your retirement!



MODELING: A Beauty from Jim Zwernemann

Each year Jim Zwernemann tries to build a new model to take to the O Scale March Meet in Chicago. This year is no exception.  He has created a truly unique freight car with some novel techniques.  As always Jim uses styrene to build the model.  The prototype was owned by Anheuser-Busch and carried the markings of St. Louis Refrigerator Car Company (SLRX). The company was a wholely owned subsidiary of the brewery.  Its function was to haul bottled beer from the company’s brewery to distributors around the country. The car was bunkerless meaning it didn’t have ice hatches and bunkers for ice.  The beer was kept cool by spreading crushed ice on top of the beer cases.  The cars had a drain system in the floor to void the melted ice.  The cars were built by and maintained the SLRX.

The car had truss rods and steel centersills.  Later cars had steel underframes without the truss rods.   Jim used a single photograph, ORER dimensions and a drawing of a similar car to build the car.  He has a proven skill for developing credible models with minimal data.   Many of us procrastinate building a model because we are lacking data or a part of something.  I am the worst at creating barriers from doing or finishing projects.

The base color is Tamiya white primer that comes in a rattle can.  The finish was applied in a series of thin coats.  Jim bought a set of Tichy decals for the project.   He found out in a test of the decal that they do not conform to an irregular surface.  He tried many different decal solvents but no luck.  The late Ron Sebastian had told Jim to use Tamiya extra strength solvent.  It didn’t work the way he thought it should. Jim called Tichy only to find out that their decals are not suitable for application irregular surfaces such as wood siding or riveted surfaces.   Well that is a big problem when you build the car and don’t have the lettering to finish.  The solution turned out to be simple. A neighbor scanned the decal sheet and printed a new decal using a laser printer on thin decal film.   Well the finished decal application is fantastic.  Several companies do offer custom decals using laser printers.  Keep in mind that the artwork is the intellectual property of the original producer.  Private use is ok as in Jim’s case.

The roof on this model is unique in way Jim constructed the surface using the foil from the tops of wine bottles.  It is a soft metal that was flatened out and formed over the roof edge.  Jim wanted to add nail head impressions on the roof edge.  This detail is often overlooked in models.

Jim used a combination of Model Masters acrylic paint and a Vallejo wash for weathering.  His technique the same as Lee Turner uses for subtle filtering on light colored surfaced.  The product used is Vallejo Dark Brown Wash (76.514).  It is a better color to apply over light colors like white and yellow.  The wash creates a subtle shading to the individual boards and hardware.

I want to thank Jim Zwernemann for sharing his latest project.


MODELING: The Missing Link

The General Electric U-50 was delivered to the Union Pacific on recycled running gear.  So this was the step between the steam Bull Moose and the U-50 is a series of gas turbines that GE built for the UP in 1952. The original series of turbines were the source of the U-50 running gear.  Movement away from steam took a while on the UP but ultimately the turbines were an interlude before the diesel completly took over.

Lee Turner supplied these beautiful images of his modeling work.  A client asked him to do his magic on the gas turbine model imported by Overland Models.  The UP had two styles of this revolutionary application of the jet engines that provided horsepower to generate electricty for propulsion.  The railroad owned 25 of the 4,500 horsepower in two different car bodies. The veranda style with an open side was the focus of his work.

I remember seeing these locomotives in Cheyenne in the early 1960s.  They were dirty and noisy.  Running on the mainline they created a trail of black haze that could be seen at a distance.

As always, I am  so pleased the Lee has shared his work with us.



MODELING: Old Gas Stations

Service stations were a fixture in every small town and along the highway.  Yes, today we have gas stations with little to no service provided.   Since I model in the 1950s my focus will be on stations that were in operation during this period.

If you do a search on Google you will find a wide array of photos of past and present gas stations.  My search is constrained by geographical bounds which will further define the brands of gasoline sold.   In my era there were still a lot of individual companies selling and making gasoline.

I will share with you some of my favorites before I get to the model and construction.  Hopefully one or more of the photos inspires you to build something.


The Associated Oil Company was a refiner and marketer of gasoline products.   They merged with Tidewater Oil and marketed under the brand of Flying A.   The company operated a sizeable fleet of tank cars well into the 1950s.   This particular building was a typical design found in California and Washington.  It was made of metal with faceted walls in the rear that form a half circle.

The gas pumps are the original hand pump style.  The Back Shop offered a very nice model of this style in brass.  Wiseman Model Services  still offer the kit but with white metal casting.  Berkshire Valley Models is a good source for gas pumps, oil racks and other bits and pieces for a gas station in 1/4″ scale.

This Association station is the History Park in Kelley Park San Jose (CA) has this building on display along with other historic structures from the area.  They have over 32 old structures to visit.  It is worth the visit.   Be mindful that San Jose traffic can be challenging during the week at peak hours.

Here is an excellent example of an early metal and glass service station.  It was located in San Francisco.  I puchased the photo years ago in an antique store.  There wasn’t any date to fix the time period.

Mike O’Connell created a wonderful kit for a period service station years ago.  The kit was and is a benchmark for detail and appeal.   I remember building the kit nearlyt 40 years ago.   Warner Clark built the model shown below.   All of the details provided with the original kit are still available from Berkshire Valley Models.

I like the metal construction of these period structures but I am leaning towards a wood or stucco building.  The old Shell station located in Pleasanton, CA  is a strong candidate.   The stucco and mission tile roof has a ton of charm.

Another aspect of service stations would be which style pump you choose.  The pump can help define the era.   While some of the old style pumps hung around into the 1960s, they were replaced with a more modern design that didn’t require the attendant to hand pump the gas out of the underground tanks.



This was a very early type gas pump that can still be found in museums and private collections.  The glass top was calibrated to show the number of gallons available to transfer to your auto.  There is a lever on the side that is used to pump the gas up to the glass vessel.   Simple and effective that was impervous to modern day power outages.  Maybe would could use this in California.  The photo was taken in Plymouth, CA near one of the many wine producing regions in the state.




A more modern pump is like this one Jim Zwernmann captured in Texas.  The glass globe was illuminated along with the display panel.   This would create an attractive feature for your structure.   Jim is a connoissuer of old pumps having a few in his collection.





The Texaco pump has lots of brand markings.  This pump was made by Tokheim which was one of the largest supplier of this equipment to the retail fuel dispensers.











I have a few more designs to show you before the selection and construction starts.   So stay tuned for the next installment.




MODELING: More Tenders

This posting is a followup on the January 24 story that pointed out details to add to your locomotive tenders.  The story percipitated three three contributors to send in photos of their models.

First up is William Reed and his K-37 tenders shown above and below.

Next up is Mike George and his scratchbuilt L&N tender with a few touches such as shoves along with spilled coal.  Mike added the engineer’s travel bag in the water wing.

Last but not least is Lee Turner’s contribution to the tender story.   The three photos of shown below portray Lee’s vision.  He added a twist to the story  by creating a overlay coal load.  This allows you to show two levels of fuel in the tender.

I am happy to see that the original story generated interest in the P48 community.  Thank you all for your contributions.


“PS” I have not produced much in the way of modeling lately.  I have cataracts that have progressed to the point of limiting my work not to mention driving at night and other things.  I will be getting this problem fixed in the next couple of months.  I expect to be back at the bench and restarting my layout.  Onward and Upward!

MODELING: Modern Bull Moose?

I posted a story about an older Bull Moose done by Lee Turner on 9 January.   Lee suggested that the UP U-50 is a modern day Bull Moose.   I decided to run with it.  The model is Overland brass import.  It is huge.   Lee finished the model and applied a moderate amount of weathering.

Jimmy Booth has written about the UP and SP U-50s in the respective historical society magazines.  I do remember his comments on how the crews disliked the locomotive’s tendency to hunt from side to side at speed.  Crews prefered to run the U-50 in the trailing position to avoid motion sickness.

The U-50 is the work of General Electric.  The locomotive is essentally two U-25 four axle models on a single frame.  Twenty-six were built in 1963.

Lee applied multiple washes to the trucks given them better definition of the detail and the look of road grime.  The massive squirrel cage blower is really eye catching.

The backend of the unit is about as plain as you can imagine.

Lee did a nice job on the beast.   Thank you for sharing your work with us.



I came across a few pictures that a worth sharing.  You may find them of interest.

Here is a view of a Northern Pacific tender deck.  It appears that the deck is knee deep in coal dust.   There are even a few weeds that have taken root in the debris.  It would be a striking addition to your coal burner.  The locomotive and tender are in the scrap line awaiting the torch.  The head end brakeman must not been too interested in doing housekeeping.

Most modelers including me tend to not put much effort into a tender.   One modeler who has not forgotten this area is Jimmy Booth.  He has applied coal to a number of the Foreground Models offered by P-B-L.  The model shown below is a Sn3 K-36 that features custom weathering by Jimmy as part of the Foreground package.  The coal is from Chama, NM and is fixed with a clear lacquer.

Coal and clinkers shower the locomotive and train.  Some stick to surfaces like the tender deck and to surfaces like the roof of brakeman’s shed.

If you operate oil burners, you have possibilities for weathering with the combination of dust, grime and spilled oil on the deck.  The oil is called Bunker C and is tar-like unless heated.  Spilled on a oil tank, the stuff hardening in the cooler weather and sticks to your shoes in the summer.

Jimmy sent me these two photos of his weathering applied to P-B-L 37-ton two-truck Shays.  The oil spill was done with Tamiya X-1 Gloss Black,  The Dixiana Shay has added debris like actual leaves ground up with a coffee grinder.  It seems that Jimmy doesn’t drink coffee. That wouldn’t work in my home.

I would be interested in learning how you might create the hardened puddles of Bunker C.

I would like to thank Jimmy Booth for his model photos and the NPRHA for the Wade Stevenson photo of the coal tender.