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,


MODELING: Scenery Ideas on Facebook

Yeah, I did write Facebook.  Aside from too much political BS and other useless things, I discovered the true value in this social media was access to modelers and artists in other parts of the world.  It is amazing to see the work being done by modelers in other modeling domains like armor.

Thorsten Strover created this scene using typical scenic materials.  He resides in Germany and is a railway modeler.

This incredible scene was done by a fellow in Japan who models in 1/32 scale.  His techniques were not explained but the results are amazing.

The individual leaves really make an incredible impact.  I would assume that this small scene represents a labor of love.

I have found that my visits to this social site was worthwhile.

By the way, this is my 200th posting to my blog.  Thank you for coming along for the ride.

Happy Trails,


MODELING: Rio Grande Auto Car Build #6

I have working on the automobile car build over the last few weeks.   I was able to obtain another shot of the interesting cars from Arnold Menke.  It is an early view shows the original door hardware and position of the interior posts around the door.  The builder drawing is not real clear about what is showing along the side channel near the door opening.  The photo helps even though it was fuzzy.   I like the fact that the car has the doors partially open.  This is the way I am building my car.

The wooden double doors are constructed out of the same “false tongue and groove” material that is on the car side.  I built one side’s doors in one-piece.  It is framed with .010″ x .043″ strips.  The frames will get MacLeod Western N-50 7/8″ square nuts and bolts.  I also used Tichy .025″ rivets on part of the doors.   The other side doors were built as separate parts.

One of the details that you will find on nearly all wooden doors are corner reinforcements.  The shape is a pain to do multiple copies of and have them look nearly identical.  After thinking about it a while, I made a simple jig that would allow me to cut identical angles in a .010″ x .125″ styrene strip.

It is a quick process to create enough reinforcement pieces for the four doors.  You might find this jig for the next car project.

The door set is complete except for the closing mechanism and rollers. A Camel number 50 is used on the lower edge of the door.  Chooch has Camel hardware and closing mechanism parts on their #215 parts sprue.  I will show the parts installation on a future installation.

The side shown above shows the completed interior posts on the side sill.  You can see the doors positioned on the side.  I will add the door tracks and final details once the body is assembled.

Next time I will describe the underframe construction.

Happy Trails,




Proto48 today has become a viable gauge for modelers wanting to work in 1/48 scale.  We are fortunate to have a wide range of products available with many of them coming from Protocraft.   Norm Buckhart founded Protocraft to produce products needed in the Proto48 hobby.  The business has grown from its origin of supplying wheels produced by Steve Grabowski and his dad to an extensive line of exquisite brass freight cars, brass trucks, working magnetic couplers, wheels, driver parts and of course decals.

2011-chicago-2Norm is a native Californian raised in the Bay Area with a deep appreciation of the railroads and marine operations present in and around the San Francisco Bay.

His background includes a Naval aviator, Pan American pilot and real estate developer.  Model railroading has been a long term interest of his.

We are fortunate that Norm has demonstrated the ability to identify products needed in the hobby and getting them done.  Protocraft has developed a wide range of products that support accurate modeling.

Proto48 is about accurate modeling ranging from accurate gauge and wheel profiles to correct rolling stock and lettering.  Norm has set about the task of developing a magnetic AAR Type-E coupler, hundreds of decal sets with art developed from photos rather than type setting font like the old Champ and Walthers decals.  He developed and imported a wide range of accurate boxcars for specific prototypes for the major railroads.  Rather than a generic car, Norm has obtaining actual AC&F and Pullman drawings for the actual cars purchased by railroads.  The cars are done with the correct running boards, hand brakes, body details and trucks.  Speaking of trucks, Protocraft has developed a whole range of ball-bearing equipped trucks.  Finally, Proto48 modelers can purchase trucks based upon actual designs and not the generic “Bettendorf” design.

Along the way, Norm got involved with antique automobile ownership.  He still owns a number of classic auto and drives a few of them on occasion.  The photo below shows Norm on the left leaning against his Packard Model 640.  He is toasting his buddy with a glass of Teachers which is his favorite libation.


Norm’s home layout is remarkable in its dimensions in size and the amount of beautiful equipment running on it.   You can visit the Protocraft Layout page by clicking on this link


soo-steelMany of the boxcars on the layout are Protocraft imports lettered with Protocraft decals.  The cars are all weathered and feature Protocraft’s magnetic couplers.


With this huge layout, Norm incorporated an interesting vignette of a barge and slip.  It fits perfectly with the San Francisco Bay Area theme.





The barge slip has created an interesting operating point. Norm has found that he enjoys loading and unloading cars on the barge. He has reconfigured a hidden yard in his shop to provide an off-stage destination for cars coming off the barge.   It turns out that this section of the layout is enjoyable to operate. Switching with a glass of Teachers is an ideal way of closing a long day of work on Protocraft projects.  Norm suggested it as a small layout for someone who enjoys switching. I will take a look at this idea and may develop it into a small layout concept.

Hopefully you enjoyed this quick look at Norm Buckhart.

Happy Trails,