No. 138: Freight Car Modeling, Feb 2020, Part 1

Over President’s Day weekend my wife and one of my daughters and I took a long day trip to the famous city of Colmar, in the Alsace region of France.  Colmar is famous for a lot of reasons; among them, according to tourist sites, is picturesque half-timbered houses, romantic canals, flower-laden windowsills, a labyrinth of cobblestone lanes and delicious food.  

They weren’t kidding.  Colmar is amazing.  Scenes like this are around every corner.  It’s also the capital of Alsatian Wine Country and we’ve resolved to go back this summer for a weekend of wine and cheese and touring.  And train-chasing.  I can’t wait!


In a slightly more modern part of Colmar is the Musee de Jouet, a museum for the history of toys–with the entire top floor devoted to model trains.  My wife read about it online and suggested we check it out.  


Above.  The first floor is full of games and old, fun toys–many French, and some American.  After dueling my daughter in an ancient version of Connect Four and a few other games, I shuffled my way upstairs to see the trains.  Seems like every museum in Europe has a few glass cases devoted to old model trains, and this place is no exception.  They have a very nice collection of mostly French model trains–some going back to the 1920s.  There is also a massive LGB-style layout running all over the place–you can see part of it in the background.

Below.  French-made Lionel look-alikes from the 1930s.


Here’s the ubiquitous HO layout.  During my visit it was the favorite attraction for the men and boys, and plenty of women too.  Unlike in America, model trains are still cool here.


Below.  Here is a beautiful brass model of a British 4-6-2, fully operational and set up on rollers.  Press the button at the bottom and the case lights up, and the drivers and valve gear turn.


I also enjoyed this display, below, which is devoted to French-made tinplate airplanes.  It is fabulous.  There are many more cases of airplanes in the museum, reminding this American that the French have been a pioneer and innovator in aviation since time began.


Back in Ramstein Village…

I’ve been doing a lot of freight car work since Christmas.  The rest of this post and the next post will be devoted to the new work.

The model below is an old Ribside Models car that I bought on eBay.  I rebuilt it with Detail Associates ladders, Yarmouth stirrups, Smokey Valley coupler pockets, Cal Scale brake gear, a bunch of wire details, Tahoe Model Works trucks and a running board made of Evergreen strip.  I painted it with Scalecoat PRR Freight Car Color, which I think makes a good “weathered” Milwaukee Road color.  I don’t have decals yet and am still searching for a manufacturer that makes the appropriate decals.  I’m really happy with the model and am eager to finish it.


Below.  Another recent build is this Proto 2000 Mather stock car kit.  I recall meeting Larry Grubb at Naperville back around 2004 and he showed me the test shots.  I was speechless.  Too bad Life Like only made six or seven freight car models, right?

Anyway, I bought this particular kit at a German train show in 2017 and finally assembled it last December.  Replacement parts include Cal Scale brake gear, Yarmouth stirrups, a new strip-styrene running board, lots of wire grabs, a whole lot of Detail Associates nut-bolt-washer castings.  Trucks by the way are Tahoe Andrews with semi-scale wheelsets.  I had a little difficulty securing the doors and door guides so I glued them and taped them on overnight, and that did the trick.


Below.  Here’s a closeup of the end work.  I placed the grabs in the original grab iron holes, being sure to line them up across the side and end, and simulated the attachments with n-b-w castings.  The grabs are Tichy 18-inch drop-style.  I use these because I think they have the best prototype contour.  The coupler pocket is from Smokey Valley.


Initial weathering included a shot of Testors Dullcote first, followed by a wash of 5% black artist’s oil paint thinned 95% with paint thinner.  The Dullcote protects the decals and lettering from the thinner, and the black paint reside settles into the details.  I love the effect.


I finished the roof using a variety of oil paints and weathering powders.  I’ll get a photo of the completed car uploaded soon.


Below.  This car has been seen before on the blog.  This is the Funaro & Camerlengo B&O N-13 model.  This car is a one-piece casting and is easy to build.  I replaced the kit-supplied ladders with Detail Associates parts, added a lot of wire grabs, and also installed stirrups from A-Line.  The air hose brackets are Hi-Tech Details #6040.  Trucks are Tahoe Andrews with semi-scale wheelsets.


I got a huge set of B&O hopper decals from a friend on the B&O list named Ed Sauers.  The set has one of every marking ever used on a B&O hopper–but only one.  Technically I used the entire set on just this car.  Chalk marks are a mix of Sunshine decals and hand-drawn marks using a white artist’s pencil.  I weathered the model using a mix of Dullcote mixed with about 5% flat black.  I call this a finish coat and I think it blends the decals into the car color nicely.


Below.  This is an old Sunshine Models B&O M-27 box car.  I bought this off Mont Switzer at a St. Louis RPM event 4-5 years ago.  I finished the car, below, but didn’t like the weathering at all…


…so I stripped it and repainted it.  I stripped the paint in my North Coast sandblasting booth–the best money I ever spent–and repainted the model using Scalecoat Oxide Red.  Decals are from a variety of Speedwitch B&O decal sets.  The chalk marks on this model are all hand-drawn with a white artist’s pencil.


Below.  WRNX 249 was an impulse buy at St. Louis RPM 2017.  The Tangent guys were packing up at the end of the meet and I said, aw what the heck!   I relaced the TSM trucks with Tahoe 40-ton trucks and that was it.  I gave the model a light spray of 50% DUllcote-50% Glosscote, and a lighter spray of weathering using Testors Dark Tan, and that was it.  I don’t like to heavily weather colorful cars.


Below.  I finished this Milwaukee Road car in the fall.  Like many box cars I made my own running board out of strip styrene, but it sagged between the supports (see below), necessitating a replacement.


Here’s the replacement running board made of .020-inch thick Evergreen styrene strip.  The roof was weathered using the “Salt Weathering technique”.  I think it looks pretty good.


Here’s the finished model below.


I wanted to include this closeup because it shows the Speedwitch “Tilted Box” monogram that is included in the Speedwitch Milwaukee Road auto-box set.  Ted did a masterful job on the monogram—it’s the best rendering on the market.  The rest of the decals are from that set, plus a few from Sunshine and Westerfield.  Trucks are Dalman from Tahoe Model Works.


I’ll cover the rest of the new models, and some models under construction, in the next post.

Before closing, I’d like to return to Colmar for a minute.  In addition to the toy museum we also visited the Musee Unterlinden, which is a large archeological and art museum downtown.  I am always interested in Roman artifacts and they also have a nice, well-rounded collection of classical European art.

One of the portraits I found particularly impressive was this, called Jesus in Prison.  I felt the portrait to be wonderful and expressive, especially since it covers a very short time in Christ’s life that is rarely discussed.  The lighting is exquisite.


Matthew 20:18-19 says Behold, we are going up to Jerusalem; and the Son of Man will be delivered to the chief priests and scribes, and they will condemn Him to death, and will hand Him over to the Gentiles to mock and scourge and crucify Him, and on the third day He will be raised up.  

I pray you and your families have a blessed week.  – John G

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