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.

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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. 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. 128: Russell Tedder…and Progress on Proto48 Models


In 2008 I was bitten by the O scale bug.

That summer I spent three weeks at Little Rock AFB with some Air Force ROTC cadets, and because they couldn’t drink, I didn’t either…so I spent a lot of evenings and weekends building models over in officer billeting.  It was on this trip that I met Russell Tedder, and my friendship with Russell and his crew made it a truly, truly memorable trip.  I’ll write a little more about Russell later.

Anyway, one of Russell’s friends ran a great hobby shop just outside the air base, and in addition to a huge stock of HO gauge stuff he had a bunch of old O scale Intermountain kits in stock.  I bought one and finished it to go along with a similar HO scale model for an SCL Modeler article.  Here’s that O scale car today:


I had so much fun building that car that I bought another, then another, and then another…and today I have about 25 cars for a “someday” Proto48 switching layout.

The lead photo is an old Jim King/Smokey Valley Models Southern flat car kit that I finished earlier this year.  This is a model of one of Southern’s 116850-117349-series 41′-6-inch fishbelly centersill flat cars, most of which were built in 1926.  The model was easy to build but after the model was complete I thought the boards I used for the deck were too thin.  Scaled down, the boards were probably about one inch thick, and the model just didn’t look right.

So I decided to strip the deck off and install a proper deck made of scale styrene of the proper thickness–in this case 2-1/2 inches.  Stripping the deck was very destructive; I had to repaint portions of the model and even re-decal the model in a few places.  But hey—why do things the right way first, when you can do it twice and tear up everything the second time around?

IMG_3349 (3)

Below.  After removing the first deck and tearing the model to pieces, I cut new decl pieces and taped them to cardstock, and then painted them with a variety of shades close to the original carbody color.  Slight variation in the colors was the goal here.  In O scale, this process takes up A Lot of room!


Then I installed the boards one at a time using ACC.  The scale boards, all cut to slightly different widths, looked a lot better and I liked the result.  I think I over-exaggerated the different widths though.  What do you think?


When the new deck was installed, I added a little additional weathering to blend everything together.  I used a fiberglass scraper to add a little more texture.


I repaired the paint and decals on the carbody, and added a little more weathering, and shot the whole model again with Dullcote, and called it good.


The trucks I used, by the way, are amazing–these are Vulcan trucks in Proto48 from Rich Yoder Models.  They are true-to-scale all the way around.


Another car I made progress on in the last month is my Wabash auto car.  As I’ve mentioned previously, there is a prototype remaining in Atlanta, Illinois and I photographed it about 15 years ago.  One of the photos is below.


Here’s the O scale model, below.  This is a uni-body resin kit from Rails Unlimited.  I added all the brake gear, grabs and a few other details, and that was it.


Finishing the ends on the Rails Unlimited kit were difficult.  It took me quite a while to find a replica of the lever brake.  Jim Leners sent me an extra he had on hand–this is a Precision Scale part.  The prototype photo used below is from the Barriger Library online photo collection on Flickr.


Here’s a photo of the car in Atlanta–the B end specifically.  Note after all these years the pump brake is still installed.  This photo and the builder’s photo above helped me place the Precision Scale part.


Here’s a fun photo–the O scale car with my HO scale version from Speedwitch Media in the foreground.


And here’s yet another car I made progress on in the last 45 days.  This is one of the beautiful Rich Yoder C&O hoppers.  Even though it’s brass, it is very delicate.  I bought it second-hand off eBay and I had to do a lot of cleaning before I could paint it.  Trucks are ARA Spring-Plankless from Protocraft.


Below.  Another O vs. HO perspective photo.  The car in the foreground is an Intermountain HO model.


Here’s one last car near completion.  I bought this one from Jim Canter before I left the U.S. in 2015.  Decals are a combination of Protocraft and Tichy.  Trucks are from prototypically-correct PRR type from Rich Yoder.  About all that’s left is a heavy coat of weathering.


More to follow on all these big models in the coming months.

At the beginning of this post I mentioned my friend Russell Tedder.  I read in a recent magazine that Russell passed away a month ago–how sad I was to read the news in a magazine.

Below is a stock image of Russell a few years before his passing.

See the source image

I spent a lot of time with Russell on that long trip to Little Rock.  I went to his house two or three times to run trains on his HO scale layout, and accompanied him to his local railroad club meetings.  Russell was quite a gentleman and had quite a professional railroad career.  Among other things, Russell was president of the Live Oak, Perry and Gulf Railroad and was also President of the American Shortline Railroad Association.  He was sharp, kind, professional.  I last saw him at St. Louis RPM a few years ago, where he was sitting with one of the railroad historical societies, as happy and joyful as ever.

Included below are a few photos that Russell contributed to an SCL Modeler article I wrote in 2009.  The same article, on ACL Gondolas, was later printed in RMC.  Both photos were taken by George Rahilly in 1954.  The photo below shows one of the Lee-Cypress Co.’s wood-burning engines pulling heavy log cars out of the swamps in northwestern Florida.

Lee Tide Cyp cyp logs on cars w-loco Big Cyp Sw 1954

Russell’s most notable photo, in my opinion, is below–this action shot of Lee-Cypress’s diesel-powered Shay.

Lee Tide Cyp dieselized Shay w-empty log cars Big Cyp Sw 1954

About the photos, Russell wrote, I would be happy to let you use my photos of ACL log gondolas for your on-line modeler’s magazine article.  Do you need the actual pictures, or will scans be OK?  Either way you want it is fine with me.  Just let me know, and I’ll get them together. 

By the way, these pictures came from negatives I borrowed from Dr. George T. Rahilly probably 20 or more years ago.  He was a young man back in the 50s when he spent a lot of time out in Big Cypress swamp taking pictures of the cypress logging operations.  I was able to locate him up in Vermont or New Hampshire.  He graciously sent me the negatives packed in a wooden box.  A friend developed them for me. 

I understand that after Dr. Rahilly’s death a few years ago, his negatives went to the California State Railroad Museum.  Although they may claim differently, he definitely loaned me the negatives for my use and that would include the publication in the ACL-SAL HS Lines South a couple of years ago and/or your use as well.  The key is that I did not get them from CSRM, and the fact that I have them is proof that he loaned them to me.  Just mention that for what it is worth.

It was a pleasure having you over, and please know that anytime you are in the area I would be glad for you to come by for a visit.  Thanks for your offer to help, and likewise.  I am working with Tom Holley by providing him information for modeling the South Georgia Railway.  That was quite a colorful shortline, although it did not get the publicity that our LOP&G did. 

Best Regards,


Thanks again, Russell, for sharing a little part of your life with me.

Romans 10:9-13 says Because, if you confess with your mouth that Jesus is Lord and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved.  For with the heart one believes and is justified, and with the mouth one confesses and is saved.  For the Scripture says, “Everyone who believes in him will not be put to shame.”  For there is no distinction between Jew and Greek; for the same Lord is Lord of all, bestowing his riches on all who call on him.  For everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved.

No. 125: Al Buchan

On June 5th I received word that one of my longtime friends in the hobby, and in life, has passed on.  That friend was Al Buchan, who was one of my first model railroad mentors.  I first read the news on the IO Groups PRR Modeling site.  Al’s son Bob was kind enough to follow up with a personal message the following day:

This is Al’s son, Bob Buchan.  Just writing to inform you of my dad’s passing.  He had been struggling with health issues the past couple years and now his suffering is over.  He is now with his savior.  Here is the service information. Thanks for being his friend. 

<><  Bob Buchan

What a kind message. 


Photo provided courtesy the Bradley & Stowe Memorial website.

I met Al in 1995.  I was in the active duty Air Force at the time and got a new assignment to a schoolhouse at Fort Dix, New Jersey, which is right next to McGuire AFB.  I arrived at Fort Dix in January and hooked up with a local model railroad club, the Porta Rail Group in Mt. Laurel, later in the year.

Porta Rail was a very mature group at the time—they had a beautiful modular HO layout that was 95% complete, membership of about 20-25 guys, and a basement clubhouse where the layout was set-up full time for work and running.  The layout was very prototypical and highly detailed, and could be disassembled in a couple of hours and loaded into our own trailer for set up at shows.  Al was a member of Porta Rail and that’s where we met.

The Porta Rail crew grew up together and knew each other well.  I was the outsider.  I was allowed to run trains and help set up and tear down the layout, but one member told me “don’t touch anything on the layout”…so I never did.  I went to meetings and paid my dues, but never worked on the layout.

Al was sort of an outsider at Porta Rail too.  By the time I joined Al was attending few weekly meetings.  The weekly meetings usually devolved into BS sessions where little work was being done.  Al once told me he didn’t attend because the meetings were a waste of time.

Eventually, I lost interest too.  But that’s another story.  I’m grateful for my experience with Porta Rail and through the club I made a few friendships that have lasted a lifetime.


This local newspaper article, above, shows the layout set up and running at a local library.  The photo at the bottom right shows Al at far right with another member, Rich Wojzak, applying the 0-5-0.  Rick was a great guy and an excellent modeler and was very, very friendly and helpful.

Al was one of the first guys that truly mentored me in the hobby.  At one of our weekly club meetings, I brought a few Sunshine Models SAL B-6 box cars to the club to run around the layout.  I was very proud of them.

Al looked them over and then politely took me aside, away from the rest of the boys, and explained to me that I had the paint and lettering all wrong.  He told me this in a very respectful way.  He told me that if I was going to all the trouble to buy the right model, and build it well, then I needed to paint and letter it correctly.


Above.  Here’s another example of the kind of modeling I was doing when I met Al.  The model looks good, but when you drill down to the details…this is the wrong car, with wrong decals for the era, with incorrect shop and repack dates, and other incorrect details.   

Al was right.  He criticised my work in a way that made me inspired, not insulted.  It was a great life lesson.

Over the next few years I visited Al’s house several times to see and run his basement-filling layout of the PRR line to Buffalo.   Al knew that line well and had included a lot of interesting scenes, all based on the real thing of course.  I helped him host an NMRA event there and met a lot of influential leaders in the hobby—names like Andy Sperandeo, David Barrow, Paul Dolkos and others.

One scene impressed me on Al’s layout—I’ve never seen it replicated in scale before or since.  Al’s third career as a landscape architect prepared him well to create this scene.  Along one wall, Al had a long section of tangent, mainline track, about 30 feet long, that featured a slight downgrade to a river crossing, followed by a slight upgrade to a curve and the next town.  On the real railroads we might call that a dip or a swale.  It looked exactly a real line that followed the lay of the land across a river.

Below.  I never took a photo of that scene on Al’s layout, but this prototype view on the old Seaboard Air Line Montgomery line shows something like what Al had created in miniature.


Once in 2007, long after I moved away from New Jersey, I was doing some teaching at Fort Dix and had the opportunity to meet Al for dinner.  We were there well into the night.  We talked about military stuff (1950s Al was an Army officer in an armored cavalry regiment in Germany and he liked telling me stories about those days) and railroad stuff (when Al left the Army he went to work for the PRR, and his knowledge of railroading was infinite), and we shared similar political views, so there was a lot to talk about.  We often talked about all those things online too.

Anyway, that night I explained to Al that I was interested in starting and editing an online modeling magazine for the ACL & SAL Historical Society, similar to The Keystone Modeler (also known as TKM).  I told Al I thought it would be best for the greater modeling community if the SCL Modeler Magazine used a similar format as TKM so they could be “part of a family of online modeling magazines”.  Al was all for it.  He told me all the inside details about TKM the PRRT&HS, and made some suggestions about how to set up our magazine.  The SCL Modeler was a success–and is still “in print” so to speak.  Much of that success is thanks to Al.

Al was a giant in the PRRT&HS, and he was well known in the hobby’s inner circles.  I recall a conversation I had with Tony Koester once—you may have heard of Tony—where I mentioned something about Al.  Tony’s response was epic.  He said something like “Al Buchan is one of very the few people who, when he’s talking, I stop and listen to.”  I couldn’t have agreed more.

The last photo I have of Al, below, dates to around 2014.  Al was involved with a group trying to found a military museum at Fort Dix.  I was working at the Air Mobility Command headquarters in Illinois and was able to facilitate some meetings and provide information about future plans regarding the McGuire-Fort Dix complex.  Al and I were in touch daily.  Al is pictured at right; the officer at center is Major General Rick Martin–a devout Christian and a good man and leader.

2012-10-29 MG Martin

More information about Al’s life and memorial service can be found online at

In lieu of other expressions of sympathy the family requests donation to the Fellowship Community Church, 1520 Hainesport Road, Mt. Laurel, New Jersey, 08054.  I’ll be sending this week’s tithe to them.   

I’ll miss you, good friend.

John 6:40: For this is the will of my Father, that everyone who looks on the Son and believes in him should have eternal life, and I will raise him up on the last day.


No. 110: Tim Stout

Our friend and fellow modeler Tim Stout passed away on December 19th.  He was 52.


Above.  Here is Tim, on the left in the blue shirt, with Dave Roeder at the 2014 St. Louis RPM meet.  Tim was the Gateway Division Superintendent at that time.

Tim was an active member of the NMRA Gateway Division, serving in many positions over the years, including Division Superintendent.  He was a very active and enthusiastic modeler and railfan.  He was a lifetime member of the Litchfield Train Group and helped maintains the club’s large HO scale layout in Litchfield, Ill.

Tim helped with St. Louis RPM over the years, mainly as part of the NMRA Gateway Division team that provides support during the meet.  He helped us set up, work the front desk, and did a variety of other tasks. 

Here is Tim, below, working on models with Dave Schroedle at the 2013 St. Louis RPM.


I wasn’t able to attend the service, but it was noted at the service that:

  • Tim ran track at Decatur High School, and later ran track at Milligan University, a small Christian College in Tennessee.
  • Tim was an industrial engineer and held patents with Phillips.
  • Tim and his family had horses and rode frequently.
  • Tim also sky dived and loved to bowl.
  • Tim was an excellent water skier.

The funeral was held on Saturday, December 22nd in Mt. Olive, Ill.  He was laid to rest on December 26th at Graceland-Fairlawn Cemetery in Decatur.

Tim was a good man.  We spent a lot of time together at NMRA meetings, and had a lot of laughs.  I’ll miss him.

For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord.  – Romans 8:38-39


No 4: Stan Rydarowicz

My buddy Stan Rydarowicz passed away suddenly in December 2015 and I’d like to devote a post to him.

I met Stan at Naperville in the mid-2000s.  Stan was buddies with Clark Propst and Chet French and Mike Moore, among others, who were also regular Naperville attendees.  In 2005 Stan attended St. Louis RPM for the first time and we talked a lot there, and thereafter I started meeting up with Clark and Stan and Chet at Naperville, Cocoa Beach and St. Louis on a regular basis.  I believe I also saw him a few times at the neat Marion, Ohio RPM.

Stan was a great guy and always happy.  He was always ready with a smile and a joke, or some interesting comment on life in Youngtown where he lived and worked.  After a short while Stan would take over any conversation and start talking about food, work, or the ladies at church.  He definitely had a different outlook on life and the way he described things was hilarious.  He had an unmistakable accent.  He was always questioning why people did the things they did.

Our little inside joke was that we were the only two guys who wore shorts to RPM meets year-round, even in the winter.  I hate pants, and I suspect that Stan did too.

Stan was a good modeler and was willing to spend time and money and energy to develop products he wanted, and then share them.  I always admired and appreciated that.  I learned a lot from him because he would appear at every event with a new, very well researched model that was absolutely prototypically correct.

A few photos from St. Louis RPM 2014 are below.  Note the variety of models that Stan produced, most of which were simple modifications to existing off-the-shelf kits.



The photo below s one of Stan’s mini-kits that I finished around 2011.  It’s a Intermountain 1937 car with Stan’s proprietary PS ends and decals by Mark Vaughn.  A number of after-market parts were added, such as Hi-Tech air hoses, an AMB wood running board, Kadee #58 couplers, Cal Scale brakes, and Tahoe Model Works’ beautiful trucks with semi-scale wheelsets to name a few.  Stan did the hard part, providing the unique end castings and working with Mark on the decal set.


The last time I saw Stan was at Naperville 2015.  We ran into each other all day on Thursday and Friday and on Friday night me and Clark and a few guys went out to dinner and then came back to Clark’s room for some free (free for me, at least) beer and chips.  Stan was there and was a riot as always.  We yucked it up for a few hours and had a great time.

Chet, Clark and Stan

The nice photo above of Stan (left), Clark Propst and Chet French was taken at a recent Naperville convention, courtesy of Clark Propst.

Here are a few pictures of Stan at a few St. Louis RPM meets over the years.  I have more–just need to get them out of the home computer.


Stan (left) and Chet French (right) at St. Louis RPM, around 2006.


Stan (right) and Chris Merseal (left) of CRM Hobbies in St. Louis.  This photo is from St. Louis RPM, 2015.


Another shot of Stan, again at St. Louis RPM, I think from the 2013 meet.  I’ll post more when I can get to them.

2 Corinthians 5:8 Yes, we are fully confident, and we would rather be away from these earthly bodies, for then we will be at home with the Lord.