No. 160: 16 Days, Part 1

At the beginning of August, my family traveled away and left me at home alone for a while. After a very busy and very social summer, and a summer full of travel, I have the first 16 days of August to myself to catch up on some modeling work. This is the first of hopefully several posts on what’s happening during these 16 days.

Below. Last week I took my son to Radovljica, near Lake Bled, and spent three days with him hiking and swimming. We hiked to this mountain hut at the foot of Mt. Triglev, which is seen in the background. Triglev is only 9,300 feet but the climb is very difficult with a lot of Via Ferrata near the top. He and some friends will climb Triglev later this week.

Before I get to this week’s modeling work I’d like to commend Lonnie Bathurst, Jeff Kuebler and the St. Louis RPM team for a fantastic meet in Collinsville, Illinois last weekend. 750 modelers and historians attended, breaking all of our previous attendance records. I helped, spending five or six months soliciting vendors and historical societies, gathering and organizing clinicians, and laying out the room arrangement. Lonnie and Jeff in particular did the lion’s share of the work organizing and making sure everything went great on “Game Day” as we call it. The meet went well and I think the record attendance was partly because we went to great lengths to host a live event and didn’t let anybody’s covid fears wreck the party.

Here’s a photo of last week’s fun from Ron Christensen.

I wasn’t there to take photos but hopefully Lonnie and the team will post photos soon. Our official Flickr photo site is at St. Louis Railroad Prototype Modelers’s albums | Flickr and you can find photos of all our other events there. Meanwhile, Eric Hansmann has started a thread on the Model Railroad Hobbyist forum to encourage sharing of images. A few have appeared and maybe more will post today. That site is at

Meanwhile, here in Germany, the short list of work for “16 Days” includes finishing structures for the Hermitage Road layout, working on and finishing locomotives and freight cars, and finishing and fitting the traversing table so operations can resume.

Among the structures I’m working on this week is the Richmond Cinder Block Co., which was located behind the SAL’s Hermitage Yard in North Richmond. I don’t have any prototype photos of the plant, but I do have a Sanborn image as seen below. I wanted to model Richmond Cinder Block because of the variety of inbound loads a cinder block plant can generate, among them hoppers and gondolas with sand, covered hoppers with cement, and box cars for both inbound and outbound loads.

Sorry for the fuzzy image!

Here was my first rendition, below. I started building the model before the track was even put down on the layout. I used Pikestuff block for the bins at the left, but used Plastruct cinder block sheet, which is very thin, on the main building instead.

The building above just didn’t scratch the itch. First, the plastruct material was entirely too thin, and required a lot of styrene reinforcement. Second, I got to thinking that a cinder block company really doesn’t ship out too many loads of completed blocks. More research confirmed this–most cinder block manufacturers ship locally, so a plant like this wouldn’t necessarily generate a lot of outbound box car loads.

At the beginning of summer I decided to rebuild the plant, based more on the drawing and less on how many box cars I can jam on the little layout. I bought more Pikestuff block sheets and finally this week I was able to get to work.

I cut up the remaining parts of the original plant and repositioned the parts in various configurations to see what “looked right”. Below, things are taking shape. The Hermitage Coal Co. is at the front.

Here’s where we were on the first evening of the 16 Days. I decided to adjust the roof lines and the front faces of the building (actually the rear) to create some more visual interest and also try to replicate the Sanborn drawing to some extent. Eliminating the long, flat side of the building went a long way to providing some depth to the overall structure. Also adding a few things on top to give the model some height, and break up the roof line, helped add some realism as well.

Here’s where we are at the end of this morning’s building rush. I added roofs (again, using different roof lines), windows, doors, and other details. Adding the roofs took a long time and consumed a whole lot of styrene sheet. I didn’t notice until I finished this morning’s building that I installed some of the windows upside down. What a dope!

The thing on the left is a sand pit. No, the original drawing doesn’t include this, but I wanted to add something to hold additional sand or cinders–sort of an overflow facility like some coal docks used to have. I built a conveyor leading up to the two bins. The two buildings at the end are machine sheds or garages that face away from the track.

I built the bin using first by constructing a simple plastic box, then sheating it with HO scale 2×8 styrene shapes from Evergreen. That’ll give it a plank-by-plank look, and later I can accentuate the planks with a little contrasting paint.

You wouldn’t believe how much time this building has consumed in the last couple of days. Probably 12 to 15 hours…

I made the silos by covering a cardboard tube with 3M heavy-duty double-sided tape, and then wrapping the thin Plastruct siding around it. My inspiration came from a photo of a ready-mix plant in Mason City, Iowa, sent to me by Clark Propst. Below you can see the photo, the cardboard tube–an empty tape roller–and the tape.

I wrapped the tube in the tape, then cut a piece of block sheet to fit…

…and then carefully wrapped the plastic sheet around the tube. The process took about 20 minutes to complete both silos.

I’ll get more done on the cinder block plant this week, but now I want to concentrate on freight car work. Below is shown an old Sunshine Models Illinois Terminal box car that needs a repaint. I repaired some damage to the roof and rebuilt it with a few new parts (air hoses, changes to the brake gear, repairs to the running board and latitudinals, repairs to the brake platform and step on the B end, and a few other things). The major problem is I will need decals of the monogram and don’t think anyone makes them in HO. Still gotta do some research before I blast the paint off.

This old dog got some attention too. This is a Sunshine Models FGE car I’ve had around for 15-20 years. The light is poor but the car got new Tahoe Model Works trucks, some underframe upgrades, sill step repair, and Hi Tech air hoses. This Old Dog–a tip of the hat to Mac Demarco, one of my kid’s favorite “indie rock” singers. Mac’s got some good stuff!

Below. Here’s another old dog that got some TLC last night. This is a Proto 2000 car that got Hi Tech air hoses, cleaned-up wheel tread, weathering on the running boards, and…yeah, I think that’s all it got. I finished this car in the mid-2000s and at that time used my sandblaster to lightly blast off some lettering on the car side in an attempt to create a fading effect. This is a cool prototype and a favorite car, as it stands out nicely among all of it’s box car red bretheren.

Check out that new background. Did you notice that the windows are all fixed now?

Also in progress this week is rebuilding/repainting of this Rock Island car. It is yet another Sunshine Models car–a rebuilt Rock Island USRA box car. When I originally finished it about 15 years ago I painted it a really dark brown. RI freight car color is more maroon than brown, so I bought new decals from K4 and will refinish this car as soon as I can check out all the detail parts and make sure everything’s ready for paint.

I love the prototype RI cars as shown above. Luckily for us, we can still get these kits even though Sunshine Models is gone. Chad Boas sells parts to built the RI and similar C&NW cars.

Below. Here’s a portrait I took of the same car in 2009:

Why the rush to repaint this car? I’m repainting this RI 1937 Modified car, below, so I thought I’d repaint them both at the same time. I painted the car below and used some faulty K4 decals (they somehow got a little wet in the mail, but I used them anyway). I got a new set from K4 a few months ago, so I blasted the decals off this one and will repaint and them at the same time.

That covers all the hard work in the first three of 16 days. Next, more HO and Proto48 freight car work, a whole lot of painting, and on the weekend if all goes well I’m going to get to work finishing up the travering table for the layout.

Hope you have a wonderful week! – John G

No. 158: O Scale Work, and Central of Georgia Auto Car

I took a few days off of work before Memorial Day and went on three day-trips with the family over a five-day period. The most interesting was a road trip to Belgium and Luxembourg with my son to buy beer.

My son and I went to a neat place in Arlon, Belgium called Mi Ougemi Houblon to buy a variety of craft beers.  It was a cool store and a lot of fun, and the guy working there was very friendly.  We drove to a Del Hayes grocery next to buy a stroop waffles and more beer–this time the easy-to-get stuff from the larger Belgian breweries. Later we went to the Orlan Monastery, where they also happen to make a famous beer called Orlan. We took a tour of the old churches and of course bought some of their rare and excellent brew.

Below. Here’s a view of one of the many shelves at Mi Ougemi Houblan:

My son is an architecture student and during the day we stopped at various towns and small cities to look at the church architecture. Now that my son has some training he was able to explain all the architectural features in some detail. For a 19-year-old his teaching ability is impressive. He would start with the big picture, explaining the type, look and feel of each structure–and we saw many of them. Then he would get into the details. “This is early Gothic, and this is why…”. The Orlan Monestery was Roman architecture and he explained all the difference there too. He would explain how certain features were weight-bearing, and how they became decorative, and how they were used, and what certain features meant, and so on.

Below, and difficult to photograph, is the fantastic Gothic cathedral in Orlan, Belgium.

I could go on…and on…but I won’t. It was a memorable day with my good son.

O Scale Work

Last year I attempted to repair two brass hoppers in my very small O scale collection. Both cars had minor damage and I made things worse trying to fix them. An RPM friend–Brian Strom–came to my rescue. I sent him the cars and he repaired them for me. Not only did Brian repair the cars but he cleaned them up and repainted them perfectly as well. He did an exceptional job.

Here’s a before-and-after picture of the first car, a 35-year-old Precision Scale PRR hopper car that I bought from Jim Canter. My work is on the left, and Brian’s repair work is on the right. Note that he also over-did it, and painted the coupler pocket and weathered up the coupler. RPM friends are really the best friends!

Here’s the completed model at Brian’s shop.

Brian also repaired my Rich Yoder-built C&O H-5 hopper car. Here’s Brian’s before-and-after photo:

Brian fixed my soldering fails, unbent the ends, and re-installed the air hose connection. He used a resistance soldering tool and a whole lot of patience. Now the car looks great. Those Proto48 wheelsets look great too. Below is a photo of both cars on Brian’s workbench. He masterfully refinished both cars.

Central Auto Car

I’ve been concentrating on layout work all of 2021 but took some time in the few weeks to finish painting and building a Speedwitch Central [of Georgia] 50-foot auto car. This model released about 9-10 years ago. I got it in trade from my buddy Craig Zeni (another RPM friend!).

Central received three series of these cars in 1937, 1942 and 1944. The cars were nearly identical except for running boards, hand brakes and a few other parts. I chose to model the second delivery, series 5100-5249, which arrived from ACF in 1942. These cars had a Murphy panel roof, Murphy “W”-corner 4-5 Dreadnaught ends, Barber S-2 trucks, Youngstown-Camel doors (one six-foot and one four-foot), Universal hand brake and Apex running boards.

The Speedwitch model includes a one-piece carbody and just about all the parts needed to complete the model. Here’s the carbody casting, which required a minimum of clean up:

Below. Here’s the completed build. The used Cal Scale brake gear parts, Details West ladders, and Kadee grab irons to improve the model. I used Canopy Glue to fix the running board. The trucks are ARA Double Truss from Tahoe Model Works.

Here’s an end view. The brake gear housing is a Moloco part and the brakewheel and retainer line are from Kadee. The tack board is from National Scale Models, and the air hose and bracket is from A-Line. After the build I sandblasted the car thoroughly. Sandblasting is an absolutely essential step, which preps all the different surfaces–stainless metal, acetal, plastic, and brass and resin parts–for painting.

Above. Here’s a view of the car after paint, decals and Testors Dullcote. I used Scalecoat Oxide Red for my model, with a little red mixed into darken it a little bit. Thanks to the sandblaster there’s no trouble with paint adhesion.

Here’s a prototype view of a car in a post-1951 paint scheme, below. This is my favorite Central paint scheme but it was applied after my modeling era. I included the photo to demonstrate the paint color.

A last photo of the new car, below, this time from above.

As I studied this photo I became more interested in the track than the car. One of the things I did to the flextrack was cut the ends the web off the underside of the ties and space the ties out. That’s a pretty common thing to do these days. Another thing I did was trim the ends off of some of the ties to give them an even more irregular look. I think the effect was achieved nicely.

I hope you enjoyed the post. There’s a lot more coming. I’m way behind thanks to changing jobs, family, travel, and summer outside-time.

By the way…my son said something interesting about the Medieval churches on our trip. I raised him in the frugal Southern Baptist church, where even a chandelier or a bell tower is frowned upon. We’re supposed to spend all our money on those in need. But Jacob said, paraphrasing, “These guys worked for hundreds of years to build a lasting tribute to God. They accomplished it. Just being in these churches inspires a better understanding of the awesomeness of God. Just the awesomeness of it all.” Five or six hundred years later, these churches still help bring the awesomeness of God to man. Thankfully, the awesomeness of God is still alive in my good son.

Blessings to you and your families! – John G

No. 154: Hermitage Road Update, Feb 2021

Traditionally December and January are big modeling months as most guys are trapped inside for Winter. Not so here, as my family kept me busy and out of the attic train room until about mid-February. I also had a double-laptop meltdown, which precluded any work on the blog along with a whole lot of other stuff.

In the last 20 days I’ve been able to get a huge amount of work done on a lot of projects, and also on the Hermitage Road layout. The layout is now at the point where all the track is laid, operational, and scenicked. Fascia is painted and re-installed. All that’s left now is construction of a few buildings and finishing the backdrops.


A long-term goal remains construction of a traversing table for staging instead of a traditional fiddle yard. I’ll insert a drawing as soon as I can make one. Right now the plans are all in my head.

In January and February, with what little time I had, I was able to paint, detail and weather the beautiful Seaboard VO-1000 that I leased from John Moenius. This is a Stewart-Bowser model that I upgraded with various wire parts, cab details, and a whole lot of weathering and overspray. John already had DCC and sound installed and it runs like a dream. It is my new favorite engine and I hope you like it too.

Here’s the prototype at Raleigh, North Carolina in 1949. Photo by Wiley Bryan.

SAL 1402

Here’s the model I’m using:

I’m also working on an old Proto 2000 PRR GP-7 to run during a PRR scenario. I really like the early PRR 8550 series GP-7s with the top-mounted air tanks, steam generator and antennas, so that’s what I’m building. Yes, that’s a passenger engine but I really like the look. I’m sure even the prototypes were used for local chores every once in a while.

Here’s the prototype I like:

Other engines in the queue are a Milwaukee RSC-2 and—thanks to my friend Jim Dick—an as-delivered C&NW GP-7 that I am crazy about.

Meanwhile the layout is progressing well. Here’s a view today of the industrial track ladder.

In the next few posts I’ll back up and discuss track-laying, “moving a track”—which I had to do to make more room for the coal yard—and distressing the track, which is one of my favorite sub-hobbies.

I tried a few different things when laying and ballasting track. One of the things I thought up was coloring the matte medium I use to secure ballast. Yep, I added black paint to the Elmers Glue/water/soap mixture and the results were very interesting.


Finally, I’ve been putting some finishing touches on my friend Eric Reinert’s New York Central box car. You might recall that I’ve been working on this car for quite some time. I wrecked the original kit that Eric sent, and got a new one—and here’s where we are today. I salvaged the underframe and one of the ends from Eric’s original build, so it’s a Frankenstein of sorts.

Here’s a photo I took on the layout the other night. I just applied the right filter from my iPhone and this was the result. Not bad.

Much more to follow and with God’s glorious blessings may we all come out of this covid mess quickly, and with our health, and with our freedoms intact!

Next: Turnouts on Hermitage Road.

John G

No. 148: Modeling Missouri Pacific 50-foot Auto Cars


Back in February 2020, just about the time people in the West started talking about something called COVID-19, I began an unusual box car rebuilding project that took eight months to complete.

The project was the complete rebuilding of an old Model Die Casting shake-the-box MoPac auto car kit. The prototype photo above is from Joe Collias’ photo collection, courtesy Ed Hawkins. The photo has an interesting story which I relate a little bit later.

These cars have always been among my favorites, and the introduction of a top-of-the-line decal set by Ted Culotta of Speedwitch Media, specifically made for this model, sealed the deal. I ordered the decals, and then ordered a used MDC car on eBay for five bucks . I started the project as soon as the model arrived here in Germany–that was way back in February.

Here’s the carbody shell, below, lined up with a prototype photo from the Speedwitch decal set.


While I was waiting for the parts to arrive, I reached out to my old buddy Ed Hawkins–THE source on Missouri Pacific freight cars–and got some good information on the prototype cars. Here’s Ed:

Hi John,

From 1925 thru 1929 MoPac purchased a total of 1,300 – 50’-6” single-sheathed auto cars. All 1,300 cars came with SREM radial roofs. There were differences in other variants such as the original inside height, door openings, door types, and end types. Of the 1,300 total, 200 cars came with end doors and 1,100 without.

The first 450 were carbon copies built in 1925-1926 with 10’-0” IH, 3-section Murphy ends with a 5-5-6 (top to bottom) inward-facing corrugation pattern, 10-foot side door openings & wood doors. Over time a substantial number of these cars received a raised roof and were renumbered.

a. 85000-85199, 200 cars built ca. 4-25, ACF lot 9936 (no end doors).

b. 85200-85449, 250 cars built ca. 3-26, ACF lot 102 (no end doors).

The balance of 850 cars were built in 1927-1929 with 3-section Dreadnaught ends, 200 cars of which had Dreadnaught “A” end doors. A substantial number of these cars with Dreadnaught ends received a raised roof, widened door openings, and were renumbered.

c. MP 85450-85949, 500 cars built ca. 6-27, ACF lot 399, 10’-0” IH, 11’ door openings (no end doors).

d. MP 89000-89069 (70), I-GN 14251-14265 (15), StLB&M 20551-20565 (15): 100 cars built 11-28, ACF lot 723, 10’-2” IH, 12’-0” door openings, wood doors (end doors).

e. MP 86000-86149, 150 cars built MVC (job no. unknown), 10’-2” IH, 12’-0″ door openings, Youngstown doors, Ajax power hand brakes (no end doors).

f. MP 89070-89169, 100 cars built MVC (job no. unknown), 10’-2” IH, 12’-0″ door openings, Youngstown doors, Ajax power hand brakes (end doors).

You know, Charlie did an article on these cars in Mainline Modeler some years ago. Here’s a copy [included below].

From the above you can select the closest model. Do you still believe that the 86000-86149 series is best?


Below. An excerpt from the Mainline Modeler article sent by Ed. Charlie’s article helped a lot with my build.

MM Jan 96 P35

I began the build by cutting off all the cast-on ladders and grab irons. The carbody loosely matches the MP 86000-86149 series cars except the model has a lumber door on the A end. I compromised and did not scrape off the lumber door. I did carefully remove the ladders and grab irons, and also sanded smooth the diagonal end braces as well. All that cutting and sanding took a long time—10-15 minutes here and there over a period of about two months.


Once everything was cut off I sandblasted the entire model clean, and then began the detail process. Adding the detail parts back on the car was pretty simple, as I just had to add some grab irons, ladders, sill steps, uncoupling devices (“cut bars”), a replacement running board made from Evergreen styrene strip, and a few other parts. Even so, it took a month or two to get all those detail parts added.

Fitting doors was a problem. First I tried using the kit-supplied doors but they turned out to be too crude for my liking. Andy Carlson coached me through a few attempts at kitbashing doors and kindly sent me some parts to fix all my screw-ups, but I still couldn’t finish doors to my satisfaction. Tichy doors were close but didn’t quite fit either. Finally I cut up a dozen Intermountain 10-foot, 6-inch Youngstown doors and that did the trick. The only problem was the door opening was too wide for the Intermountain doors, so I had to model the car with the doors unlocked. The placard boards are from National Scale Car Co.


I sandblasted the car again lightly and then added a whole bunch of Tichy .020 rivets and Tichy 1-7/8-inch nut-bolt-washer castings, all in the appropriate places. I probably added about 150 rivets and nbw castings.

Detailing the underframe, by the way, was simple. I replaced the kit-supplied brake gear with parts from Cal Scale, and added Tahoe trucks with semi-scale wheel sets, then painted the underframe and trucks black per the prototype.

Below. Here’s another view of the car ready for painting. I first shot the B end to see how the model looked after all the scraping and sandblasting. It looked alright so I continued the project.


Once the car was completely detailed I sandblasted it clean again, then painted it with Tru Color MP Box Car Red (TCP-139). Man, that is a beautiful color. So rich.


Ed and I got into another discussion about the car colors. Ed wrote, Depending on the time period your model will represent, MoPac’s box cars changed shades quite significantly. During the 1930s to about 1942 or so they were a dark brown with a flat finish virtually identical to the 1931-1944 Santa Fe Mineral Brown. This is determined by comparing several actual ACF paint samples from their bill of materials documents.

In the 1945-1948 period, both MoPac and Santa Fe moved to a medium red-brown shade as well as the paint having a medium-gloss sheen. This is confirmed by comparing ACF paint samples of Santa Fe cars circa 1945-1949 to MoPac paint samples from 1945 with a medium red-brown hue. This is a close match to the old Floquil #RR74 (when sold in the square bottles). You may be too young to remember them!

By the early 1950s, MoPac began painting their box cars with more red than previous. A 1956 Bowles Color Drift Card shows the color to be an near-perfect match of the color used by Branchline Trains on their MoPac 40’ steel box cars built during the 1950s including the special run of 12 models offered by the MPHS to the members in 2003.


I decaled the model with the beautiful Speedwitch decal set. That took another week or so. Once the decals were set I shot the model with Testors Dullcote, and then shot the model with a second coat of Dullcote missed with about 10% TCP-139 to blend the decals and original paint together.

Below. Here’s a photo of the decals applied, prior to Dullcote. The ladders I chose to use, incidentally, are the old Detail Associates ladders. Another good choice would’ve been ladder from an Intermountain 10-6 box car but I didn’t have any spares on hand.


After decaling and Dullote I added chalk marks using a white artist’s pencil and sealed them with a final light coat of Dullcote. I also added some chalk marks using a medium gray pencil, and I found that I like that effect a lot. The gray chalk marks look a little older, or perhaps weathered.

I added weathering using a variety of methods. I added a little AIM weather powder (Delta Dirt on the carbody and Soot Black on the roof), a little airbrushed weathering (Testors Dark Tan), and a little highlighting (using a variety of lighter and darker reds and browns to accentuate the finish. I used some red and brown artist’s pencils to accentuate the wood sides and a few other standout parts.

IMG_2351 (2)

I’m VERY happy with how the model turned out. Even though the doors are open, everything still looks alright.


Now here’s the funny part. After the model was completed I discovered that I numbered the model wrong on one side of the car. I applied the correct 86000-series number to the ends and one side, but without thinking applied an 89000 car number on one of the sides. I think I did that because I was using a photo of an 89000-series car as my decaling guide, and I think I simply inverted the 6 for a 9 and that was that. I blame the beer. I may try to fix it someday, but someday isn’t today.

I also need to change those trucks, since the 86000 series had spring plankless trucks. They’re on order.

By the way, did you know Frisco had almost identical cars? I’ve got a photo and as soon as I can get permission from the owner, I’ll post it here.


I mentioned earlier that Ed had an interesting story about the cover photo. Ed wrote, Not too long ago I purchased that photo from the church that Marjorie Collias donated Joe’s photo collection to.

The photo was taken by the Mount Vernon Car Manufacturing Co. It’s a “strange” builder photo; while it’s on canvas-backed 8×10 photo paper, the image itself is rather distant being only about 7” wide and therefore only taking up about 1/3 of the total area. My scan was 100% (full-size) at 600 dpi so that you could see all of the details the image has to offer. 

Joe obtained the original photo from the Missouri Pacific Public Relations department. I’m fortunate to now be the proud owner.

Speaking of Joe Collias, here’s a photo of Joe, on the left, and Pat Wider, on the right, at St. Louis RPM in 2011. Joe of course was one of the most famous rail photographers in the Midwest and has many classic railroad books to his credit. Joe was also an accomplished modeler in the pre-internet era. He was well-known for scratchbuilding and kit-bashing in brass. Pat was the driving force behind the Railroad Prototype Cyclopedia series of books.


And here, below, is the lovely Marjorie Collias from St. Louis RPM that same year. Marjorie would sit with Joe and sell photos, and add a whole lot of class to the meet. Every time I saw them together, I’d ask her how she could put up with a cantankerous old timer like Joe for so many years. Of course Joe was right there. We always had a good laugh.


Ed, I can’t thank you enough for your help with this project and so many others. You are a fine man.

And Joe, you are missed, brother! – John G

No. 146: Freight Car Builds, Oct 2020

Over the long Columbus Day weekend I took my wife and daughters to Mykonos, Greece for a long Columbus Day weekend. We went with another family–a friend of mine’s who’s an Army colonel and pathologist–and we had a wonderful weekend together. Here’s the view from our rented house.

Even in October the weather was still 75 to 80 degrees, and calm, and we spent every day on the lovely, secluded northside beaches. Mykonos is known as a party island, but we stayed away from all that stuff and hung out mostly on the north end. Below is the famous Fokos Beach. Looks a little like Haunama Bay…

Like many other place in the Mediterranean, the people were very friendly and everyone spoke proper British. A number of people pulled me aside and told me how much they loved and appreciated Americans. The average guy here seems especially appreciative of American servicemen. That was encouraging.

Below. Here are our kids walking through the markets one evening.

We had a lot of wonderful dinners too. Lots of seafood! Every night was capped with a little drink. This one was an ice cold cinnamon liquor–very nice.

Over the last few months the blog has been slowed down considerably due to events mostly out of my control. First, I got a new job–my fourth since transferring to Germany–and I’ve been working longer hours than usual.

Second, my son left for college in the U.S. in August. It’s quite an undertaking sending a child to college on another continent. It was heartbreaking to send him away, but he’s doing wonderfully.

Third, with my son away, the family dynamic changed considerably, and my wife and I spent some time making some parenting adjustments. We have sort of updated our relationships with our growing daughters and that has taken a lot of time away from hobbies and rightfully so. A little bit of family travel over the summer—10 days in Slovenia, a short week in Austria and another short week in Greece—didn’t leave much time for modeling or blogging.

Another factor slowing down the blog was WordPress. They changed the functionality of my blog and website, and I haven’t taken the time to sit around and figure out how to use the new formats. Why tech companies make radical software changes overnight is beyond me.

Despite all the mayhem I actually did get some modeling done, and I wrote two articles for the Resin Car Works blog. The first article covered my build of RCW’s Illinois Central single-sheathed box car, which can be found at

The second article covered the Salt Weathering process, which has been seen on this blog twice. The article I wrote for Frank can be viewed at

I promised Frank an article on RCW’s Great Northern ARA box car kit, which I haven’t even started yet. As they say, so many models, so little time!

Meanwhile my buddy Fenton Wells has greatly outpaced me, building a spectacular ACL Auto-Box car (seen below). I don’t want to give away too many details on Fenton’s car in case he writes his own article sometime soon, but here are a few pictures of his good work.

Fenton e-mailed, writing My ACL O-24 started life as a P2K 50-foot, single door Southern Pacific boxcar kit. I cut the sides out and removed 6″ from the top of each end, bringing the car down to the correct height. I built new sides from Evergreen .030 plastic and scribed panel lines and added Archer rivets. I scratchbuilt the seven-panel Superior doors as I couldn’t find the right kind for a 10′-1″ IH car. I used K4 decals. I have had ‘silvering’ issues with these decals, so this time I tried a light overspray of gloss first, then Dullcote, and I don’t se any silvering so maybe that solved the problem. I didn’t weather the model too much although with a 1943 build date it would have ten years of dirt on my railroad.

Here’s where Fenton’s masterpiece began:

And here’s another view of the finished work. All I can say is WOW!

Fenton’s work is inspiring. I wrote like a madman in Greece, trying to put some finishing touches on six blog posts I’ve started but never capped off. One of them will explain this just-finished Missouri Pacific auto car build.

I’m proud of the MP car but it has some major flaws. “Rookie Mistakes” as I like to say around the office. I’m also just about finished with this car, below, which is an O scale–no, Proto48–Central of Georgia Auto-Box. It started out as an Intermountain 1937 ARA box car kit I got from Rob Adams in 2014. I’m weathering it this weekend.

To display the car above, I built a Proto48 display track, which I’ll show later as well…

Finally, and most importantly, I need to add that our Brother Mike Moore passed away last month. Clark Propst, the guy at center, sent the news. I last saw Mike in 2015 at Lisle RPM, when he and I and all the Iowa boys had a grand time, laughing and drinking beer and talking about trains and loving life. Mike was sick then and slowly faded away over the years.

It’s been a terrible year or two, with so many of our modeling friends passing away. Mike was special–he was a good man, friendly, hilarious, always encouraging, ever joyful even as his life slipped away. Here is Mike, at far left, at Cocoa Beach in 2009.

Ephesians 2:8 says For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God.

May you all have a blessed week, and be ever grateful for everything God has given us. – John G

No. 144: 75 Days

It’s been 75 days since my last post.  That’s 2-1/2 months!  In that time I got new job at the air base–and have been working well over 50 hours a week—and wrote two articles for another guy’s blog, and spent ten days away in Slovenia and another week hiking in Austria.  And I have managed to dodge our friend COVID.  It’s been a very busy 75 days.

Back on Memorial Day, my wife led the family on an awesome hike along a cliff in the Moselle River Valley, about 30 miles south of Koblenz.  It was the best hike I’ve taken in Germany—very strenuous, and very scenic–and I got to watch trains all day too.

Below.  Here’s the view after scaling the first cliff at the beginning of the hike.  This electric freight train is headed west over the Moselle.  The tunnel at the right is the once-famous Kaiser-Wilhelm Tunnel, originally built around 1885.  The trains rolled all day–it was a great show!


Freight Car Work

Here are some models I’ve been working on in the last 75 days.

The first model finished was this Resin Car Works Illinois Central single-sheathed mini-kit.  I finished this car for a friend’s blog and hopefully that article will be posted soon.


Another car under construction–or re-construction–is this old Sunshine Models “War Emergency” box car.  The model simply needed an upgrade, so I replaced the trucks with Tahoe Spring Plankless trucks with semi-scale wheelsets, replaced the kit-provided wood running board with a Kadee Apex-type, replaced a few broken ladders, added new stirrups from Yarmouth, and also added Hi-Tech air hoses with brass brackets.  Proper decals, for Atlanta & West Point, are on the way to Europe from Speedwitch.


Since I took this photo, I attempted to re-fit the roof onto the model and realized it is too long.  Andy Carlson is sending me a replacement Red Caboose roof which will fit better.

Below, here is a shot of the same model way back in 2001.  I lived in Northern California at the time.  The model has come a long way.


Below.  I have reported on this car before, but here is an almost-finished view.  This is the Roundhouse/Athearn 50-foot, single-sheathed, Missouri Pacific auto car.  I have extensively rebuilt the model and am waiting for paint from the US before decaling can begin.  I’m going to devote an entire post on this model, so if you’re interested stay tuned.


Below.  Here’s what the model looked like when I got it.  I bought it for five bucks on eBay.  The prototype photo below is from the Focus on Freight Cars book series, published by Speedwitch Media.


I don’t recall if I posted this photo before, but in case I haven’t…this is an extensively rebuild Rib Side Models model car.  I added a new running board made from Evergreen styrene strip, Details West ladders, Cal Scale brake gear, Yarmouth stirrups, Tahoe Model Works trucks, Hi Tech air hoses, and a whole lot more.


Here, below, is an in progress view after painting.  The Details West ladders have a slightly more scale profile and are preferred when I can get them, but they are fragile.  Note one or two of the stiles is broken.  The draft gear box is ghastly but I chose not to replace it.  The Yarmouth stirrups have an excellent scale cross section.


I’m also working on a Rock Island 1937 Modified box car using the old Intermountain kit.  My friend Allen Cain found a stash of these cars and I bought from him.  The other two will be Burlington cars.  In the meantime, the model below has received the full treatment and has been rebuilt and sandblasted and is ready for paint.


Pipe Load

I’m hard at work at a number of other models which I’ll show in the next post.  I was also able to finish a gondola load project last week that I’d like to show.  Inspired by this photo below (courtesy Mike Gruber at Mainline Photos), which shows a pipe load on a gondola two cars back, back in January I bought scale corrugated pipe from the guys at Iowa Scaled Engineering.


I did some basic measurements and ordered four of the packages below.  For a car load, it wasn’t cheap—I think $24 for four packages of four pipes.  This is a super, high-quality product—exactly what you would expect from ISE.


Below.  Before building the load I did some testing, and determined I could fit four pipes cross-wise across a standard car with room on each end for braces or dunnage to secure the load.


I chose to build the load for an Accurail ACL gondola that was finished for an SCL Modeler project ten years ago.  This car was also featured in a later companion article in Railroad Model Craftsman, I think that was published in 2015.  First I built a false floor made of styrene, and painted it flat black.  Then I attached scale 2 x 4 crossmembers on the bottom, and built the load up from there, one level at a time.  I took my time and used canopy glue, as shown, to fix the dunnage and pipes.


Per AAR loading rules from 1950, I included wood dunnage underneath each level of pipes.  When I was done building up the pipes, I cut long strips of paper, colored black on both sides with a Sharpie pen, to use as straps.  I turned the load over and secured the straps with tape on the bottom of the false floor.


I’ve used the paper-strap technique many times.  Below is a picture of a pipe load that was built about 12 years ago.  Like the load above, the straps were secured to a false floor from underneath.  The load fits in a Proto 2000 NYC or P&LE 52-foot gondola.  The photo  below was part of a short freight car article in the first NYCS Historical Society Modeler magazine.

Photo 4

The new corrugated pipe load is just about ready to install.  With the dunnage in place and the straps secured, I cut some long pieces of  scale 2 x 4 to use as side-bracing when the load is installed.


Below.  Here’s how the old car looks with the new load.  The dunnage and bracing is in place.  The load is completely removeable and can be set up in any other gon.

ACL 94930 with load

I have a bunch of new posts “in the queue”.  I just need time to get them ready for prime time.  I hope you guys stay healthy and COVID-free, and keep on getting good things done.  – John G

No. 143: Freight Car Modeling, May, 2020

I hope you have all been able to keep safe through all the COVID mess. 

When it all kicked off, I said to my wife “There will be a lot of blessings in this.”  For my family and I, the blessings have been 1) A LOT of close family time, and 2) Lots of work, and almost no opportunity to spend money–which has allowed us to pay off nearly our bills.

I’ve also had an opportunity to get some modeling done.  I set two priorities in March and April; first was finishing layout planning–which I’ll cover in another post–and second was finishing up a lot of freight cars.  Here are some of the models I’ve been able to finish.

Models for Eric Reinert

One of the first models I finished in May was this one, below.  As I explained in Railroad Prototype Modeler Post No. 144: Freight Car Modeling, February, 2020, Part 2, I offered to weather a few cars for an online modeling friend, Eric Reinert.  That post can be found at  

This right-out-of-the-box SP ARA box car is either a Branchline Yardmaster or Accurail model.  I removed the roof and gave it the salt-weathering treatment, replaced the original trucks with Tahoe Model Works Double-Truss trucks with .088-width wheelsets, and added Kadee #58 couplers, and Hi-Tech air hoses.  I weathered the car with Testors Dark Tan, applied with an airbrush, many coats of Dullcote, and some AIM weathering powders.  I also added a few “detail decals”–new shop and repack dates based on Eric’s modeling era–and chalk marks.  After about three hours of work I think the model turned out pretty nice.


Below.  Here is another of Eric’s cars.  I painted the roof with a home-mixed galvanized gray color and then went back over the seam caps with Tamiya flat black, then weathered the roof with AIM weathering powders to blend everything in.  I weathered the sides and ends by applying Dullcote and then adding a light wash of thinner with a little black artist oil mixed in.  I changed the shop date decals, and attached replacement TMW trucks, Kadee couplers, and a few other details.  The thin stirrups are from Yarmouth.  The placards are from Microscale.


Here’s a model I’m quite proud of.  This is, I think, a Bowser model and it came to me  with no finish whatsoever, right out of the box.  The first thing I did was give it a coat of Testors Dullcote…and 15 minutes later the whole model turned white.  I guess water vapor got introduced to the Dullcote at some point.  Ugh!

To rescue the finish, I gave it a few coats of paint thinner to break down the Dullcoat finish and scraped it off with a toothbrush.  That carried away most of the white cast.  Then I gave it a light sandblasting in my North Coast sandblasting booth.  That took off almost all the remaining white cast.  I also sandblasted a few more areas to take off some of the lettering and provide some “pre-weathering”–see the Monon lettering in the middle of the car.  After washing the model I gave it a light airbrushing with Scalecoat PRR FCC and that took off the rest of the white mess.  

Then I added TMW trucks, Hi-Tech air hoses, and Kadee scale couplers, along with new shop and repack decals, and hand-drawn chalk marks.  I weathered the car lightly with Testors Light Brown, and streaked the sides and ends with a little AIM Soot Black weathering powder, and also weathered up the lower sides with AIM Delta Dirt.  Then I gave it a finish coat of Dullcoat.  It think it turned out quite well, especially considering I completely botched it at the start.  The TMW trucks are a great addition.


The last of the four cars I completed for Eric is this PRR G-25.  I think this is a Walthers Mainline G-25 mill gondola.   It was a disaster.  The first thing I did was completely strip the underframe and rebuild the brakes and rigging.  I used brake gear leftover from a Resin Car Works set to get those details up to standard, then added Kadee PRR trucks with Kadee “scale” wheelsets, Kadee #58 couplers, A-Line stirrups, a lot of wire grabs, Hi-Tech rubber air hoses, and Yarmouth Carmer-type uncoupling devices per the prototype.


I gave the model new shop and repack decals and used Scalecoat PRR FCC to paint all the new parts.  I weathered it alongside the other cars mentioned above.  I sealed the model with a mix of Dullcote, paint thinner and the Scalecoat PRR FCC to blend all the colors together and provide a smooth finish.

I contacted Eric and told him that there was no interior detail inside the model, therefore it must have a load.  He suggested a limestone load–maybe something originating out of southern Indiana.  My chances of finding a suitable, scale limestone load in southern Germany are Null, so I decided to whip up a couple of shipping crates like those one might find in the old Sunshine Models mini-kit. 

Below.  Here is an PRR G-25 from my car fleet.  This is a Westerfield model dating back to around 1996.  The interior detail is excellent.  Unfortunately Eric’s car doesn’t have this detail, but I had a lot of fun building a load to cover the omission.


I made a few big crates and a few little crates.  Please see below.  I made a big one to fit squarely on one end of the car, and intentionally made two slightly smaller crates so I could add a little cribbing detail.

Below.  Here’s what I came up with on very short notice.  The “big” crate is on the left, and the two smaller crates are glued to a false floor, painted Scalecoat PRR FCC, with shoring added on the bottom of the crates and also on the side of each crate.  This assembly slips right in and out of the model easily.  


When loaded, the model looks like this.  I really wanted to fix some Westinghouse or General Electric advertising signs to the side of the boxes but couldn’t find anything I liked online.  I like the contrast between the dirty red car and the clean shipping crates.


Including the load, this was about five hours of work.  These four cars are speeding their way back over the Atlantic to Eric as I write.

New Models for My Car Fleet

Here are a few models I finished for myself recently.  The model below is an old Ribside Models 50-foot, single door box car model.  I bought it decorated on eBay and sandblasted it clean, and then added a ton of aftermarket detail parts.  


Here’s the completed model.  I added Cal Scale brake gear and a lot of additional parts, and a running board made from styrene strip.  The stirrups are imported by Yarmouth.  The decals are from Tichy.  The decals appear to have bubbled up on the right side–above the word Hiawathas.  I’ll have to fix that…or just turn the car around when I run it.


This model, below, is the Tichy USRA single-sheathed box car.  It will be a Milwaukee Road car.  I’ve put a lot of time and replacement parts into this model as well, but it’ll be worth it.  I used Tichy 18-inch drop grabs, Tichy 1-7/8″ NBW castings, a whole lot of Tichy and Archer rivets, and A-Line stirrups to bring this model up to speed.  The Carmer uncoupling devices are from Yarmouth.  More to follow on this car in a later post.


Below.  Here’s another view of the entire car under construction.  I painted the areas orange where I needed to lay Archer rivets.  The running board is HO scale 2 x 6 styrene from Evergreen.


Below.  This new model, below, is the recently-released Resin Car Works Illinois Central single-sheathed box car.  I’ll be doing a post on this car on the Resin Car Works blog soon.


Finally, here is another build that is actively underway as I write.  I mentioned this in my last post—this is the MDC/Roundhouse 50-foot single-sheathed auto car that came in a number of versions.  The carbody has reasonable detail for one class of Missouri Pacific cars from the 1920s.  It has been quite a project and I still need to finish the other side, and I have to cobble together doors, but I’m excited to get this one finished.  Speedwitch makes a great decal set specifically for this prototype.  Ladders are those provided in the Intermountain 10′-6″ box car, and trucks are Tahoe Model Works Dalman.


Parting Shot

I found this picture recently while going through old computer files.  This is a model I completed in the early 1980s and later sold to a friend in New Jersey, Mark Frystacki.  I moved away from New Jersey in 1999, but visited Mark ten years later and found this beauty running on his layout.  I recall making improvements to the model based on an MR article, including thinning down the door tracks, and adding A-Line stirrups and a thin-profile running board.  

We sure have a come a long way since then!


Hope you all have a blessed week!  – John G



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






No. 141: Greg Martin

Last week I received the sad news that our friend and modeler Greg Martin passed away due to a short illness.  Apparently his passing was Covid-19 related.

IMG_3378 - Copy

Greg was a giant in the prototype modeling field, and pioneered new standards in freight car modeling.  His articles in Mainline Modeler in the 1970s were epic. 

Here is one of my snaps of Greg, above, photographing models at the 2009 Cocoa Beach RPM event.  Here’s another from that series, below.  TGreg, as I called him–a reference to his e-mail–is taking photos at my model display.


Greg and I met at one of the Naperville RPM meets in the 1990s.  At that time Greg was one of the principals at the Cocoa Beach RPM, and over time we communicated frequently on the subject of growing our individual events.  Greg and I shared a lot of ideas about RPM events.  He was always willing to lend a positive word and sound modeling advice.

Greg’s claim-to-fame in the last decade or two was running the Shake-n-Take program at Cocoa Beach.  “SNT” as he called it was designed to provide an inexpensive model kit with additional detail parts and decals to create a new, interesting model.  Greg like to say “SNT puts the modeler back into modeling.”  It sure did, and I was fortunate to participate in three SNT programs in 2000s.  

Below.  There’s Greg, at center in the black shirt standing in front of the screen, leading the SNT clinic at the 2007 Cocoa Beach RPM.


Around 2008 or so, Greg and I got into a bitter argument over offering an SNT event at St. Louis RPM.  I’m happy to report that we got past it and didn’t let that business disagreement ruin our friendship.

Here’s my favorite snap of Greg, this one again at the 2009 Cocoa Beach RPM.  That’s Greg at right and Chris “Ziggy” Zygmunt at left.


Below.  Here is one of the Shake-n-Take kits from 2006.  The car core of my model was a Branchline 40-foot box car.  SNT provided the decals, lower side sills, and underframe parts–free of charge of course.   I put a whole lot of Tichy rivets on that car, which at that time wasn’t something most guys were doing.  Since then I’ve replaced the trucks with Tahoe 40-ton trucks and installed Hi Tech air hoses, but the model essentially remains the same as when built in 2006.


The result of Greg’s hard work and putting the modeler back in modeling is shown below.  This washed-out photo is from the 2007 Cocoa Beach event, where modelers brought back their finished models from the previous year.  Here are nine of the 30 or 40 or so models distributed to attendees in 2006.


We’ll miss you Greg.  You’ve left behind a great legacy.

Godspeed, Brother.  – John G



No. 139: Freight Car Modeling, Feb, 2020, Part 2

In December I sold a few models to raise money to buy things for a new layout.  During that time I met online a fellow modeler named Eric Reinert.  Eric asked me if I could finish a few models for him, and sent me a box models all the way from Illinois for some work and weathering.  Here are three of the six cars Eric sent.

First is a completed Tichy NYC rebuilt box car.  Check out the real-life weathering!  The build is good but the model needs a little help.  I’m going to re-detail this car to a minor extent and then sandblast, paint, decal and weather it.

The biggest problem with this model is the builder probably used the plastic grab-iron template to drill the holes on the side of the car.  The template gets the job done fast, but it drills holes that don’t align with the grabs on the ends.  The builder also used the Tichy door, which has details that are a little “heavy”.  It needs a little TLC.


Below.  This model is a Branchline Yardmaster car.  I’ve already applied Dullcote and some basic weathering, and shop and reweigh decals.  I’m going to do salt weathering on the roof; the gray is the undercoat simulating galvanized steel.  Other than a new brakewheel and running board I don’t think I’ll add too many new details.


Below.  Eric also sent this Intermountain box car.  Like the SP car above, this car already has a shot of Dullcote and some additional decals and weathering applied.  I’m going to salt-weather this roof as well, but it’ll be a little more tricky since the roof is permanently attached.  I replaced a few of the grabs on the left side of the car already, and I’ll add a new running board per the prototype.  This car and the two above will get Tahoe Moel works trucks with semi-scale wheelsets.


Meanwhile, I’m happy to report that my friend Fenton Wells is recovering from heart surgery and is already back to modeling.  Fenton’s first “post-surgery” build is this B&O M-59.  Fenton used an Intermountain car as the core model; the doors, ends and lower side sill were resin-cast by Chad Boas.  Fenton did a great job on this model and he motivated me to get going on my own version.

Fenton Wells

Below.  Here’s my completed built prior to sandblasting.  The core kit is a Branchline Blueprint six-foot-door car kit.  I also used the Chad Boas doors and side sill, and used the kit-supplied ends.  The additions to the door track are Evergreen .020 x .030 strip.  The door stops are included in Chad’s casting set and are finely-cast.  Note that prototype photos indicate that there were no door stops used on the left side of the car—I assume because the door could be stopped by the grabs.  Trucks are again by Tahoe.


I used a Kadee Apex running board for my car.  I kept the tabs on the underside of the running board and drilled matching holes in the roof, and just fit the two parts together.  I fixed the running board from underneath, gluing the tabs in place using canopy cement.  The installation took about 15 minutes; the glue took a day to dry.


Here’s a closeup of the end of my M-59.  The air hose and bracket are Hi-Tech parts, the brake step is from Plano, and the stirrups are from Yarmouth.


Here’s another car under construction.  This is the Accurail car core kit included with the Resin Car Works Illinois Central single-sheather box car mini-kit.

I’d like to say that this is a GREAT kit.  It comes with all the parts needed, Tahoe truck sideframes, and a whole lot more.  Frank Hodina has produced a real winner here.  A lot of cutting and shaping is required, but that’s what prototype modelers are supposed to do, right?  Lester Breuer did a blog post for Resin Car Works on his build; that nice article can be found at


Below.  Construction is underway.  I’ve already cut the ends off the Accurail body and removed the cast-on ladders, and am ready to build up the underframe and apply the brake gear.  I worked on this model tonight and the brake gear, coupler pockets and replacement cross-members are installed.  No photos yet…


Below.  The model below is a Sunshine Models Rock Island 53′-6″ flat car.  This is Sunshine kit #45.9.  This models a series of CRI&P flat cars, series 90000-90249, that were spliced together by the railroad from two 40-foot cars.  The cars look unique because of the two large splice plates in the center of the car.


Here’s the prototype of the RI car above, photo courtesy Bob’s Photo.  This was taken at Ft. Bragg, No. Carolina, on 15 Sep 1951 by Col. Chet McCoid.


I’m excited about this build, shown below, which represents a series of Missouri Pacific 50-foot, double-door box cars.  There’s a nice photo in Ted Culotta’s The Postwar Freight Car Fleet book.  I’m using the old MDC model as the starting point.  It requires A LOT of carving and sanding.  The motivation for the build is the recent release of a Speedwitch decal set made specifically for the MoPac prototype.

The biggest problems with this model are the side sheathing (what’s up with those gaps between the boards?!), the poorly-represented door guides along the bottom sill, and all the cast-on parts of course.  Also, the kit-supplied doors are horrible so I’m cutting up doors from an Intermountain 40-foot box car to get something more fine-scale.  Thanks to Elden Gatwood for sending me a big bag full of the right doors so I can cut-and-splice doors that’ll fit.


And finally, here are a few O scale models still on the workbench.  The model below is a Rich Yoder C&O/Nickel Plate car that I bought for a song on eBay.  It had a lot of problems that took quite a while to repair.  I finally applied decals and dullcote in December.  The model still needs some air line work so it is still “in the shop”.  Trucks are Proto 48 fine scale by Protocraft and decals are by Microscale.  Chalk marks are hand-drawn.


Below.  This photo has been seen on the blog before.  The Speedwitch HO scale Wabash automobile box car is in front, and the Rails Unlimited O scale car is in the back.  Cool just got a whole lot bigger!


Below.  As of Valentine’s Day the O scale car now looks like this.  Decals are again by Protocraft.


Here’s one of a series of proto-photos I took back in 2004 in Atlanta, Illinois, that I used to guide the build:


This model had some problems, most notably that the pre-drilled grab iron holes didn’t line up on the sides and ends.  That’s a recurring problem in multiple scales.  I first applied the grabs on the car sides per the photo above and then built the end ladders using Evergreen plastic strip for the stiles.  The brake lever was extremely difficult to find; this was was provided by Jim Leners.


Next for the Wabash car is a shot of Dullcote and then a whole lot of weathering.

That’s it for now.  There are a few more builds on the workbench that I’ll cover next month.  Meanwhile here’s parting shot, courtesy Mike Gruber of Mainline Photos.  This is P&E Train #50, in Urbana, Illinois on April, 1949.  The photo was made by my friend Joe Collias.


On the subject of freight cars…check out the pipe load on that second car back.  Iowa Scaled Engineering now makes corrugated culvert pipe in HO, which can be found at  That is a must-do load!

Have a great week!  – John G