MODELING: Lee Singletary Visits Mike George

Lee Singletary visited Mike George’s fabulous P48 railroad recently.  We have shared several stories about layout and modeling projects.  This time we are taking advantage of Lee’s visit and posting on Flickr.

Mike is the consummate railroad modeler who strives to get it right.  He has researched his favorite Louisville and Nashville and scratchbuilt equipment to ensure the utmost accuracy.   His philosophy fits perfectly into the Proto48 concept.   The photo shown above is a perfect example of building the models to complete the scene.  The locomotive, passenger cars and bridge has captured the feel and look of the railroad in the age of steam.  The train is #4 the traveled down the old Hook & Eye division.  By the way, Mike wrote a book on the line.

The photo story is a debut of sorts for Mike’s latest project.  The L&N 70′ coach that he scratchbuilt from styrene.  Mike has mastered the art of construction using this wonderful material ( Mike is also a skilled metal and wood craftsman as well).

Mike’s photo shows the details of the side construction and interior partitions for the WC and vestibule.  Mike impressed all of those rivets using a highly modified NWSL rivet press adapted to a sherline lathe bed.

Notice that some of the windows partially open.  The coach was not air conditioned so open windows, coal soot and dust from the roadbed embraced the traveler.

A little grim seems appropiate for secondary equipment assigned to the Hook & Eye division.  The trucks are from Protocraft.

  The Chevrolet pickup was a kitbash done by Mike which is perfect for his 1948-1949 era.


Every part of Mike George’s layout is a sight to behold.  It is rare to see so much scratchbuilding in a consistent theme.

I would like to thank Lee Singletary and Mike George for sharing these beautiful images of exquisite modeling.


MODELING: My Track Construction Methods



I posted a couple images of recent work on my new layout track.  There were several folks who were curious as to how I colored ties.  I decided to take a step back and start with texturing the ties before providing information on staining the ties.

I use Right O’Way ties exclusively.  My preference is to use their low profile ties on this part of my layout.  The ties were glued to Homasote roadbed yellow carpenters glue.  Try to run the down the center of the roadbed keeping it away from where the spikes are going.  The stuff will bend spikes like there is no tomorrow.

By the way, the gopher holes are for feeders that I solder to the bottom of the rail allowing me to avoid soldering feeders to the side of the rail.   They will be filled with modeling clay with ballast tamped on the top.

Once the glue is dry, I sand the top of the ties with a block to even their height.  Next I texture the ties using three basic tools.  A steel wire brush is the first to be used.  Don’t get carried away or you will grind away too much material.  I follow that with sharp tools like a #11 hobby knife and an awl.  Make another pass at the ties with the wire brush.  This will soften some of the scribe lines that you imparted on the ties.

I have been using Silver Wood stain sold by Builders In Scale.  I creates an grayish tint to the wood while highlighting the texturing.











Next I use an Umber wash sold by Vallejo.  It is an acrylic color so it won’t disturb the previous alcohol stain that I applied.  It adds some of the cresote color found on ties.

Next I apply Vallejo Medium Gray acrylic paint by using a rag to rug it on.  This harkens back to the good old days of staining basswood with Floquil lacquer.

After that has dried overnight, I applied another Vallejo product to darken the gray and highlight the distressing.  It is a black wash. The previous photo shows the progression of coloring  from the umber, gray on the far right and black highlight on the ties in the center.

Once the rail is spiked in place, I dust the rail/tie plates with black pigments.  It ends up spilling over on the ties adding variations on final color.

One of my favorite views of the area I model is this 1963 shot taken by the late Douglas Leach.  By the way, it would make an interesting scene on the layout.   Maltby, WA was the start of a stiff grade on the Sumas line as it headed north towards Canada.  In the steam era, helpers were stationed there to assist trains of the hill.


MODELING: Atlas/Roco Freight Car Rebuilds

Atlas made an initial entry into O scale by offering a product line produced by Roco of Austria.  The models were based on US prototypes to a large extent.  The boxcar and   was patterned after the Pennsylvania Railroad X43 class boxcar.  The model has an Improved Dreadnaught end, eight-foot Youngstown door and a diagonal raised panel roof.  It represents a car design built by AC&F in the late 1940s.  The plug-door car is not based on a specific prototype car but is similar to cars of the 1950s.

I received a picture from Bill Yancey of a car he created using one of these old Atlas car bodies. This got me interested in the model and what he used to create it.

The first time I saw this picture I didn’t imagine that it started out as a vintage Atlas model.  The picture below gives more of an idea of what Bill did to create this stunning model.  The plug doors were scratchbuilt and the sides were altered to include extended door tracks, a new sidesill and new door stops.  The ladders and grab irons came from an old Chooch detailing set.

Here is another car this time built by Lee Turner.  It patterned after a local road.

Lee made only a few changes to the basic model.  He added a reinforced sidesill, shortened ladders, new grabirons and full underbody detailing.  Lee’s incredible painting and weathering skill sets it apart from other models.

Ed Rappe built up this basic model to represent the PRR prototype X-43.  The eight-foot door is  real standout in a train.

Jim Zwernemann decided to model an AC&F car complete with it’s proprietary end design. The intermediate wale was removed between the larger wales.  New ladders, grab irons and other details rounded out this conversion.  Jim selected the West India Fruit decal set from Protocraft to finish the model.  The prototype cars were to car freight to and from Cuba via the company’s ships.  Some of these cars were painted green as shown in the picture below.

Hopefully the proceeding information shows how a plastic car from the 1970s can be reworked to create an attractive addition to your roster of freight cars.





If you model in the steam and early diesel, you may find that these machines in coal yards and other material yards.  A number of years ago I decided to build a model of a coal conveyor.  It didn’t take long to discover that there wasn’t much information available.  This was the 1970s.  The Internet had not been invented by some politician so searching for information was hard to come by.  I was talking to a friend by the name of Chuck Yungkurth.  He lived near Binghamton, NY and was a longterm railroad modeler, author and facination with the coal industry.  Chuck suggested that on my next business trip to the Owego/Binghamton area that we collect information on the conveyors.   There were a few active coal retail yards still in operation in Binghamton. Chuck took a bunch of pictures and prepared a scale drawing that I used to build a model.  The model resulted in an article for the Narrow Gauge and Shortline Gazette.

I built this conveyor out of styrene using the drawing and photos.  I used a pair of Grandt wagon wheels as a stand in for the wire spoked metal wheels of the prototype.

A little research at the Stanford University library yielded additional information on conveyors.  As you can see, they came in various sizes.

The conveyors were powered by an electric motor with a long cord to plug it in.  The motor is the housing below the Van Horn sign.  There is a control box to the right of the sign and an on/off switch at the top of the conveyor.

The hand crank is used to raise and lower the height of the conveyor.  The conveyors remind me of a “praying mantis”.

The belt was made from runner with cleats attached with nuts and bolts.  I would imagine they wore out and had to be replaced during their useful life.

Hopefully you have found this information useful.


Greg Rapp just let me know that there is a kit for this type of conveyor.  It is produced by:

P290C Portable Belt Conveyor Kit – O scale – L: 5″ H: 3″ – Qty. 1 – New Release!


MODELING: 1/4” Scale Chain Link Fences

Chain link fences are a fixture of the American landscape.  It seems to be the standard for providing business and industrial security.  From a modelers perspective, a few commercial have been offered over the years.  I have seen fences built from vale material for women’s attire.  They are a bit fragile which might not be an issue on certain locations on your layout.

Bill Yancey decided to develop his own approach using brass etched fence material and cast brass posts.  He contracted with Plano and Valley Brass and Bronze to make the parts.

Here is the fence the Bill developed and installed at an industrial site on his layout.

A closer look shows the simplicity of fence.  The posts include an extension for anchoring barbed wire.

The signs are eyecatching drawing your attention to the fence.


Scott Spears built this fence in his freight yard.  Bill’s fence could be used to create a version of what we see above.

Here is a question for you to consider:

Would you like to purchase this product if it comes to the market?  A company is currently considering the production of kits for the fence.  Don’t contact Bill.  He isn’t offering this.  Voice you interest please.  



NEW PRODUCTS: New Products to Stoke Your Interest

TWIN STAR MODELS Is in the process of releasing several new items in 2022.

First up is a very useful detail for diesel modelers.   It is a spark arrestor used on a number of railroads.  The parts are etched in nickle silver and are easy to assemble.  The final price is not set at this moment.  Ross Dando has a new website coming online shortly.

The production samples are shown installed on a Red Caboose GP-9 hatch and a P&D F-unit fan panel.

Ross Dando is pictured at a recent RPM in Cocoa Beach.  The modern freight cars are new to TSM.  These cars were previously offered by Bill Yancey.  Ross decided to upgrade the kits a one-piece body rather than the previous flat kits.  These kits will be on the new website shortly.

The gondola underframe is all about adding the detail parts contained in the kit.

Ross tried a little modification removing the blank panel where the door goes and some dunnage left over from the last load or two.

Twin Star Cars has a number of detail parts for steam era freight cars as well as some very nice brass castings for diesels.  Down the road you might just see a few steam era freight car kits.

SOUTHERN CAR & FOUNDRY is preparing a couple new car kits in the works.  First up is urethane tank car kit.  The prototype is an 8,000 gallon three compartment tank car.  The prototype was built by Standard Tank Car Company (STC).  STC was acquired by General American Tank Car around 1930. The tank was rebuilt converting it into three compartments with the addition of two small domes and internal bulkheads.

SC&F is preparing a kit composed of urethane castings and etched details like the sill sets.  The rivets on the tank body are dome shaped like the prototype.  Tank car rivets are different from the normal rivet used in othe types of freight cars.  Jon Cagle invented a technique for creating rivet strips like what Archer sells but made from perfectly formed urethane rivets not ink dots on decal film.

The preproduction model shows off the unique STC bolster.  SC&F produced an HO model of this car which is shown below.  Protocraft offers the decal set for this car.

Several other tank cars are planned based upon STC designs.  In addition, SC&F has a couple new boxcars in the pipeline.  The cars are based on the 1923 ARA design with wood sheathing and exterior posts.  A steel sheathed version was represented by an earlier kit of the Sand Springs boxcar.  Jon is talking about doing about doing the Columbus and Greevile and the Missouri Pacific.  These cars differ in door designs.  Jim Zwernemann did the pattern work on this boxcar series and they are excellent.

It is wonderful to Jon turning his incredible talent to producing superior 1/48 freight car kits.

Small Scale Ruler

I found this six inch architectural ruler eBay.  I have been using my short ruler all the time.  Take a look you might find it useful.

That’s all for now.




MODELING: Tank Car Ladders

Steam era tank cars nearly had one or more ladders to allow access to the dome.  Most are pretty simple and can be quickly fabricated our some brass strips and wire.  The key to building them is use fixtures to hold the pieces in-place while you solder them together.  The general arrangement drawing for the Type 30 is shown below.  

I built the ladder from .015″ x .042″ brass strips and .015″ brass wire.  My first step was to mark the location of the holes for the rungs and the 90 degree bend at the bottom of each stile.  I like to tape the stiles together for marking locations.  This will help with making holes cross from each other and will result in straight rungs.


I made a simple bending jig to form the top “hook”.  Each stile has a 90 degree twist near the start of the top hook.  The twist is performed over .060″ space using two small pliers.  Now you can form the stile of the brass rod at the top of the fixture.

I pin the stiles in place and solder the rungs.  The stainless pins help keep things aligned while soldering.

The picture below shows what the ladder looks like prior to painting and installation.

Hopefully you will find this simple task helpful in your modeling.


NEWS: The Passing of Frank Peacock

It saddens me to post this notice about the passing of a legend in the railroad hobby.  Please view this announcement prepared by Ed Hawkins, Norm Buckhart and this author.

Frank H. Peacock

Frank Peacock passed away at the age of 77 on 2 December, 2021.  He had passed away after a difficult battle against Mesothelioma.  The disease progressed quickly robbing Frank of many things he loved doing.  As many of you know, he was a frequent participant in historical society meetings, prototype modeling events and model railroad shows.  Frank was a fountain of knowledge on a number of railroads and had a particular interest in freight cars.  He had a remarkable memory for specific cars including what appliances, paint scheme and truck types.  His knowledge was not limited to just one or two railroads but many.  Ed Hawkins shared his affinity for freight cars and all the wonderful technical details that make this subject so fascinating.  Ed and Frank developed a close friendship that spanned over twenty years.

Frank served our country as Naval officer and dentist.  Upon retirement he decided to try his dental skills working for Aramco Company in Saudi Arabia. Frank settled down in the Austin, Texas area developing close friendships with Bruce Blalock, Jim Zwernemann, A.T. Kott, Dick Harley and Norm Buckhart among others.

Dick worked closely with Frank on a number Union Pacific related projects.  Norm found that Frank was a guiding light on his ¼” scale import projects. He advised Norm on what cars to produce and to be sure the details were correctly executed.  Frank made a visit to Norm’s shop and discovered a major flaw in a number of his car projects.  It ended up costing $65,000 to fix it but was the right thing to do.  Sadly Frank will not be able to see the completion of Protocraft’s latest to import model project of UTLX and General American tank cars.

One of Frank’s passions was baseball.  He made an annual trek to Phoenix to witness spring training.  Like everything in his life, he had each trip planned out in minute detail all contained on a stack of 3”x5” cards.  Many of his trips were repeats year after year each time refreshing his memory as the best places to eat and stay along his path.  It was his analog of a smart phone with navigation.

Frank Peacock will be interned at the Resthaven Cemetery in Jacksonville, Texas on Sunday 5 December at 2PM.

We will miss you.



MODELING: And New Stuff

I have been working on a new build project of a Pullman Standard PS-1 boxcar.  It isn’t quite ready so I thought that I need to share some new things with you.


Norm Buckhart has received all of his 50′ boxcars from Boo Rim.  The last shipment arrived just before he left on vacation.


The new cars a beautiful as with all of the models produced by Protocraft and Boo Rim.  They are fully reseached and designed using the skills of Ed Hawkins and Jimmy Booth to produce the finest 1/48 scale model of freight cars.

In addition, there are a couple new trucks that were produced for the cars and available separately.

The first truck is a Commonwealth BX express design with a 5’6″ wheelbase.  It was commonly used on freight cars used in express and mail service.

The second truck released is the Allied Full Cushion design.  This truck was used on WWII troop sleepers and also express cars.   It has a 5’6″ wheelbase and is available in five-foot gauge and Proto48.

Here are two examples of the new 50′ automobile cars that are in stock.  The photos show two version of the wood sheathed automobile cars once owned by the D&RGW.


Ross Dando is getting ready to launch his new website with lots of interesting items featured.  A sample of his new offering are etched spikes that are scale 1/48.

Here are some images of the new spikes.

I look forward to getting my hands on these soon.


Lee was kind enough to share some his work done a while back.  He worked his magic on two Sunset GP-9s that were imported earlier this year.

He also sent a couple shots of details he has created for a heavyweight passenger car that is under construction.   Lee is crafting some interesting pieces for his own personal car.

Thiws vintage radio is complete with a lighted dial and knobs.  Very cool!

The waiter serving up a cold beer is a perfect touch.  He “kit bashed” the figure.


Thanks for stopping by.



MODELING: Pullman-Standard PS-1 Project

This is a project that has been kicking around my workbench for a long time.  It probably had is genesis with two events from the past. The first was a series of posts by Brett Whelan on his efforts to upgrade a Lionel PS-1 boxcar.  Brett had purchased several modelings and decided that the Lionel was the most accurate on the market.  His process was probably done about 15 years ago.  To date the Lionel model is the best one available.

My objective is to build an accurate model of a Rock Island PS-1.  The series I picked to model was built with Barber S-2 trucks, 6-foot door opening equipped with a Superior 7-panel door, Creco door closing mechanism and Universal Handbrake.  This car configuration was numbered in the 21000-2290 lot which was part of a large order of 2,000 cars built in 1951 and 1952.

I started putting together a file with plans, photos and descriptions prior to the start of construction.  This is my usual practice for building models.  I discovered that I knew very little about these iconic boxcars.

The above illustration came from a Pullman-Standard advertisement.  It defines the magnitude of this important design.    Nearly every railroad should have at least one of these classics on the layout. They were available in both 40′ and 50′ with several different door openings and the usual varied of hand brakes, trucks, doors types and other specific hardware items. In addition to these variations, the Pullmand design evolved  over time.  Pullman added  six embossed panels at the top of the roof.  They changed the roof with the addition of a raised panel at the ends.  The underframe configuration of stringers running from the bolster to the car end changed from two per side to three.

Lots of railroads decided to buy significant quantities of the cars.  Ed Hawkins and Ted Cullota tabulated information of the various orders and configurations.  I have attached a link to the spread sheet on these cars.


As I starting to research thsi project, I discovered how little I knew about these historically important cars.  Since they were a product of Pullman Standard, I reached out to Bob Webber at the Pullman Library in Union, IL for help in locating information on this specific 2,000 car order for the Rock Island.  The Hawkins/Cullota spread sheet provided information on order #8028  for the Rock Island.  Bob put me touch with the leading authority on the Rock Island, Steve Hile.  That lead to a connection with Ed Hawkins who’s credentials are well established by his efforts on the incredible series of publications callled the Railway Prototype Cyclopedia.  This connection yielded lots of useful information.

One of the questions I asked the experts as the if and when the pressed stiffeners were applied and in particular to the Rock Island car order.  Ed clarified this detail with the following information.

The prototype car photos came from my personal collection.
The Rock Island car had 6 pressed stiffeners at the top of the ends have often been referred to as “rectangles,” they are actually the shape of a “right trapezoid” due to the upper portion angled to follow the roof slope. Most of them are hidden by the hand brake in a normal 3/4-BL view. The far left pressed stiffener is even hidden by the right edge of the hand brake in the attached direct B end view. The only way to see all 6 is a good 3/4-BR view.
These stiffeners were first used on PS-1 ends for cars built in 1949. Starting in Oct. 1953 the height of the stiffeners was reduced roughly by half of the height shown in this view. A transition from the taller height to shorter took place between 11/53 to 2/54 such that PS-1s built 3-54 & later had the shorter pressed right-trapezoid stiffeners.

I collected a couple plans for the 40′ PS-1 boxcars.  Two were published in the Mainline Modeler and one came from an old Simmons & Boardman plan book.  Upon closer examination, I noticed differences in the underbody such as stringers and location of crossbearers.  In addition, the roof panels changed during the long run of PS-1 production and well as the bolster tabs on the sidesill.  I have taken the liberty of using an annotated photo created by Ted Cullota showing a couple changes the occured between the 1941 version and the subsequent production lots in 1951.  He used the excellent Kadee HO models to illustrate changes to the design.

The car on the top is the earliest style of roof used on PS-1 boxcars.  The lower one is what the is on the Rock Island car and the Lionel body.

I referred back to the model Brett Whelan had started.  The images below were shot by Brett on his Lionel conversion.  He removed the oversized grab irons and ladders to start with.  The holes were plugged with styrene rod.  The unique end grab iron was fabricated by Brett.

The underframe was a typical 3-rail design that didn’t lend itself to a scale model.  He created his own with cast bolsters, crossbearers and crossties.  The stringers and centersill completed the basic frame.

Brett’s work is very clean and precise.  He came up with an approach to modeling the weld seams on the side sheets. It involved removing the original ridge cast in the Lionel model and replacing it with a scribed line that had altered by pressing the edges together.  My approach is use Archer decals to simulate the welded seams.

My model takes advantage of ideas shown in his modeling.  I reused the original bolster casting done by Brett.  I had the parts cast in a modern urethane material along with new patterns that I prepared for the crossties and crossbearings.   The parts along with a replacement underframe will be marketed by Twin Star Cars.

Here are the new crossbearers situated on the frame.

The crosstie is placed on the frame to see how well it fits.

The Lionel body is the only part of the original I ended up using.  I started by removin the original weld lines and the upper and lower door tracks.  Most ready to run or kit boxcars undersize the doors. I suspect this is done to simplify the die design.

The body looks pretty sad at this point.  I still have some sanding to do on the weld lines and door guide preparation before applying the decal weld lines.  They are fragile so minimizing the handling of the body is a good idea.

Next time I will press ahead with the body finishing and detailing.  In parallel, the underframe and parts will be sent out to the resin foundry to make parts.