No. 142: Models by Tom Christianson

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Several months ago my friend from Florida, Tom Christianson, sent some freight car photos to me by way of Justin May.  Tom does some really terrific modeling and I asked if I could use the photos in a blog post.  I think you’ll agree that Tom’s work is really top-shelf.

Tom wrote:

There are a lot of influences on my modeling.  I started prototype modeling about 25 years ago and now model the 1959-1963 years.  I grew up in Largo, Florida.  The ACL ran by my kindergarten, the SAL ran by my elementary school playground, and the ACL/SCL ran by my Junior High.  There was always a lot to see.

In 1972 I worked at lumberyard owned by a friend’s dad in Clearwater.  Every afternoon the SCL St. Pete-to-Tampa local freight train switched us and a few other adjacent industries with two or three RS3s.  Every Christmas, and sometimes in the summer, my family took a trip to Kenosha, Wisconsin to visit relatives.  C&NW had a yard near my mom’s parent’s house, and the North Shore was a few blocks from my dad’s parent’s house. 

I also took a few summer trips to visit friends in Minneapolis-St. Paul on the Hiawatha. After I started working and got my own car I did a few vacations on my own up that way.  That got me interested in the Milwaukee Road and the Soo Line.  

About the models.  The Burlington reefer is a factory-painted decorated Accurail model. It’s a great starting point.  It mostly follows Bill Welch’s article in Prototype Railroad Modeling No. 1, except except Bill made his ice hatch rests upside down.  The cross of the ‘T’ should be up and leg should be down.  It took a while to figure that one out.  I made my hatch rest from K&S 1/64 x 1/32 brass bar.   

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Here are a few photos showing how I built the hatch rests.

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Here’s another view of a rest for a WIF model.  The brass parts are really rugged.

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I’ve been gradually working through a stack of Accurail reefers (14 of them) and one of the upgrades has been adding the coupler box buffer detail.  I think that’s a detail whose time has come.  With all the other detail upgrades, I can’t look at the square pocket with nothing there anymore.  This is the end shot of my National Car Company reefer.

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Below.  Here’s the rest of the NX model.  I used Mark Vaughn decals. 

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Here’s another Accurail refrigerator with all the same upgrades.

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I built a Hormel refrigerator car after attending Cocoa Beach in 2011.  This was the Shake-N-Take kit for that year.  The handout didn’t have a good photo of the hatch rests, and it took a long time to find out what they really looked like.   

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Here’s the roof shot I found (seen below).

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I used Detail Associates .010 x .030 brass bar, Evergreen angle, and Archer rivets to make a reasonable-looking part.  The Evergreen angle was sanded thinner and cut to size.  Here’s a photo of what I put together.  

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Here’s another finished refrigerator car model.

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Below.  This is the brake end of the WFEX car.  Typical details I add are new ladders, stand-alone brake wheel and retainer valve, grabs, custom-made steps, and Precision Scale air hose brackets.  

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Here are two Southern low-side gondola models.  Southern 316112 is the Smoky Mountain Model Works model. 

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The Smoky Mountain car is a newer prototype with square side posts.  The weathering is a base coat of three or four oil colors.  I just added little dots of paint that were washed to blend and streak.  Top weathering is several colors of Pan Pastels blended and streaked.

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54015, below, is the Speedwitch model that came out about 15 years ago, or maybe even before then.  The tie downs, below, are my addition to the original model.  Since I took these pictures I toned down the interior load weathering in both cars.

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The tie downs are .010 brass/phosphor bronze wire.  The picture below shows the steps how I made them.  I used the drill jig to put holes in the car side, and dipped the short legs in CA and then placed the tie downs in the divots.

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My thanks to Tom for sharing photos of his latest work. 

Also for your enjoyment, here are a couple more photos of Tom’s work.  These are from the very first S-CL Modeler magazine—issue Vol. 1, No. 1, published online by the ACL & SAL Historical Society in 2007.  I was creator and editor of the first 12 issues.  The photos below were accompanied by an article by Justin May.  The photos are property of Justin May, reprinted here without JR’s permission but I’m sure he won’t care none.


Above, Tom built these ACL K-7 gondolas using the Funaro and Camerlengo model.  Note that Tom added external tie-downs to these cars.  Below is a highly-rebuilt ACL phosphate hopper, which Tom built using the Proto 2000 rebuilt War Emergency hopper as a starting point.


Below.  These ACL W-4 wood racks are Ton’s modified Tichy models.


Finally, two of Tom’s superb ACL ventilator box car models.  Below, ACL 17111 is a Sunshine Models ACL O-17 model.  I must say the car color he used is right on the money.


And lastly, ACL 43942 is an O-15 class car built from the Westerfield kit.  The O-15s were successful adaptations of the USRA double-sheathed box car, built by ACL beginning in 1921.  Tom’s build and finishing here is second-to-none.


I hope you enjoyed the inspiration.  In the meantime, stay COVID-free, my friends! 

– John G






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