Friday, April 13, 2018

Interesting detail for Emergency Hoppers


While attending the RPM meet in Valley Forge a few weeks ago, I found something I can put to use immediately. I have an undecorated Proto 2000 Emergency hopper that I am building as a Santa Fe version. Bill Hanley designed these interiors to enhance his models of B&O Emergency hoppers. He had extras produced and was selling them at the meet. A pack costs $7.00 and provides two sets of self-adhesive laser cut wood parts to detail the interiors of two cars - double what is illustrated in the accompanying photo. What a bargain! 


Sunday, April 1, 2018

Pennsylvania Railroad FM Flat Car Modeling

Wilmington, Delaware, April 13, 1933, T. S. Martorano collection
PRR FM Flat Car Prototypes*
At the turn of the century, the Pennsylvania Railroad adopted five freight cars as "standard" for simplicity and efficiency of maintenance ("Standard Freight Cars on the Pennsylvania Railroad, The Railway and Engineering Review, June 17, 1905, pp. 446-448.) The designs included the GLa hopper, GSa gondola, Nc cabin car (caboose), XL box car, and FM flat car. All were produced in large numbers (with the obvious exception of the Nc, given its specialized use.)
Drawing of the PRR FM from Railway and Engineering Review
The FM was produced in large numbers, although I have not been able to arrive at an exact total. My best estimate is a number approaching 4,000 copies, based upon a tabulation of FM cars listed in the August, 1922 volume of the Official Railway Equipment Register. I arrived at a total of 3,579 in service at that time. I have read musings that there were up to 14,000 FM flat cars produced. I find those numbers to be questionable at best and fanciful at worst.
PRR FM 925273 was in idler service for a load of catenary supports when photographed ca. 1930
The design was durable. The basic construction consisted of pressed steel fishbelly side sills and center sills, with a pair of deep crossbearers and six large, wood stringers. Each side had a dozen cast steel stake pockets (and NO stake pockets "in" the deck, at the car ends). The cars were originally equipped with KD schedule air brakes, arch bar trucks and staff-type hand brakes at each end. Cars that remained in service were converted to hand brakes at only the B end, PRR 2D-F8 cast steel sideframe trucks, and AB schedule brakes. Uncoupling devices were two-piece Carmer style.


A sizable number of cars were converted to LCL (less-than-carload) container service, beginning in 1928. Many cars so converted remained in this service into the 1950s. As a PRR online service, this iteration would be of little use to modelers of other railroads. There were still just under 800 of the general service cars laboring on in October, 1951, a total larger than the entire flat car fleets of most railroads!
PRR FM 473467, photographed in LCL container service, with a load of five DD1-A containers. Altoona, Pennsylvania, May 1, 1937, T. S. Martorano collection
Modeling the FM in HO Scale
There are several options for replicating the FM in HO scale. Railworks imported nice brass models, including versions for the container variant, with DD1-A containers. Sunshine Models offered cast resin kits in both revenue and MOW lettering (kits 30.7 - 30.9). The Sunshine kits did have some benefits compared to the F&C kits, but are not as finely rendered or as well detailed (at a later date, I will be posting a separate build post about modeling a B&O P-11 using the Sunshine Models kit). The last options are the Funaro & Camerlengo offerings in HO scale, for both the general service and container versions. The general service versions are available in two-packs, kits no. 6500 with stamped steel stake pockets and no. 6501 with cast steel stake pockets. I selected kit 6501.

In essence, the kits are one-piece bodies with separate stake pockets, brake gear, a few other details, and not much else. These would be excellent candidates for first-time resin car builders, with one notable exception: the stake pockets are finicky and challenging to apply.


After adding several of the stake pockets, I came up with a technique that I believe is relatively easy and durable. The instructions suggest using ACC to glue the stake pockets to the sides. I found this to require that things be aligned very quickly and, more importantly, the ACC results in a joint that could be prone to stake pockets "popping off" through handling. My recommendation is to use sparing amounts of Walthers Goo (or similar) thinned 50% with MEK. This allows the stake pockets to be tacked in place and properly oriented. Then add ACC to secure and fill the joint. The result is a secure, but modestly flexible bond.



The rest of the construction is a breeze. I chose to replace/augment a few parts. I used A-Line sill steps in the interest of durability. The grab irons were fashioned from 0.010" brass wire. The Carmer cut levers (from Yarmouth Model Works) are the primary aftermarket detail addition. They were secured using wire and ACC. The towing loops on the car side were fashioned from brass wire. The pressure retaining valve on the car side is a Precision Scale part with 0.008" wire. The hand brake is a spare part from an "overstock" sale that I believe came from Overland Models production of PRR X23 box cars, decades ago.

For the brakes, I opted for a car upgraded with AB brakes. The cylinder and AB valve are resin parts from the kit. I used a spare part for the reservoirs. The "rear" of the cylinder is a Speedwitch part (no. P118) to replicate the pressure head cylinder with integral lever bracket. The dirt collector is from a Tichy AB brake set. Piping and rods are brass wire. The clevises were fashioned from Tichy turnbuckles with one end trimmed off.

The trucks are from Bowser with Reboxx semi-scale wheelsets. Of note is that there are several flavors of PRR 2D-F8 trucks on the market, representing different types of truck bolsters. I plan a future post highlighting these differences, as they can be useful for replicating a specific car's trucks. The couplers are Kadee proto with whisker centering devices. I secured the lids with 0-80 screws.

I will provide a follow-on post highlighting the finishing of the model. Stay tuned...

*If you are looking for a great reference about PRR flat cars, consult Pennsylvania Railroad Flat Cars, Revenue & Work Equipment, 1881 to 1968 (a bargain at $20 - scroll down the linked page), by Elden Gatwood & Al Buchan, published by the PRRT&HS.

Monday, March 26, 2018

Kitbashing clinic from Valley Forge RPM

In progress kitbash of an NC&StL XM31 box car rebuilt from a flat car
As promised, here is the link to the kitbashing clinic presented at the Valley Forge RPM on March 23, 2018. Note that this file is updated from the last time I presented this material. The topic will be "retired" for the present time until I can complete more of the projects.

Sunday, March 25, 2018

Valley Forge RPM

I had the pleasure of attending the bi-annual (alternates every other year with a sister event in Greensburg, PA) Valley Forge RPM in Malvern, PA. This year's event drew just under 300 people and featured many prominent speakers from around the east and midwest. The event was hosted at the gorgeous Desmond Hotel and Conference Center, which has top flight facilities. As one would expect, there were many models on display. Here is a sampling:


B&O M-53 by Bob Cronin of Granby, CT 
In process Reading F-unit from Ron Giordani of Whitehall, PA


Prolific "resinator" Jim Kubanick from West Virginia displayed many models, including this Sunshine CB&Q GS-2 gon with interesting load

Eric Hansmann shared castings for a 1922 MDT reefer... a future kit?

Corey Fischer from Rochester, NY is taking detailing of a Santa Fe Budd Hi Level diner to a new level...

... look at the aisles, the table tops, bulkheads, and chair covers!

Ron Hoess from Chadds Ford, PA displayed models of early coil cover hoods, fabricated from styrene and then duped by resin casting

Fritz Dahlin, Columbia, MD, displayed a modified MDC box car, lettered with Microscale decals, "hairspray" chipping on the roof, and Mig Jimenez oil washes

This impressive-looking beast is an in-progress model of the Diamond Glass Co. of Royersford, PA, constructed by Rich Newmiller 

Apparently, not even one steam locomotive was left home by Fred Lass of Westminster, MD

John Johnson displayed a rebuilt Santa Fe Fe-23 auto car

Jim Hunter of Harrisburg added a pair of Resin Car Works boilers to his M&W flat car

WrightTrak resin PRR X29D as modeled by Dave Boss of Butler, PA

RF&P 3312, with load, as replicated by Shannon Crabtree of Fredericksburg, VA 
This amazing finishing job is the work of Butch Eyler, Biglerville, PA 

Dave Pfeiffer of Lederach, PA brought a Sunshine kit of a Pennsy X41A welded auto car

There were quite a few BNSF covered hoppers by Dave Oppedisano from York, PA

Greg Snook did a fine job making his PRR GRA gon and FM flat car look well worn. Both are F&C kits

Noted LV modeler Chuck Davis from Norfolk, VA, had many models on display, including this caboose.

Chuck also showed how he modeled the steps

There was plenty of newfangled (non-Steam or Transition Eras) motive power on the display tables. This Dash 9-44 CW was the work of Vincent Zablocki

Not to be outdone, Ramon Rhodes showed off this BNSF Dash 8-40 BW
Next year's event will be in March at Greensburg, PA. It will return to Malvern in 2020.

Wednesday, February 21, 2018

Logitech Spotlight Presentation Remote

Just to be clear, this won’t be morphing into a tech blog. However, when I find something outside the sphere of the content presented here that can greatly enhance, improve, streamline, etc., what I do related to prototype modeling, I want to share it. Such is the case with the Logitech Spotlight Presentation Remote.

I speak at about 6-10 prototype meets per year. At each meet, I usually present the subject twice and in some cases, I present talks on two different topics. That means I am presenting about 20-25 times per year.

What is presented at RPMs is typically photo intensive, meaning that the presentation itself is anchored by photos, with supporting text and, of course, much talking about the subject. I, along with most of the presenters at RPMs, use some form of pointer, usually red or green dot laser type. They can sometimes be glitchy, working intermittently, and even the steadiest of us impart some shake or wobble. Additionally, some of us have a form of remote means to advance the slides. It seems like we have (had) things pretty well covered.

Sometimes the best solutions to problems are the ones we have not even considered. That is exactly the sweet spot of the Logitech Spotlight Presentation Remote. For me, it addresses three things, although it does a lot more (and you can find out what by visiting the Logitech site). The three things are:




Advances slides – it’s a presentation remote; if it didn’t do that, there would be problems!



“Shines” a “Spotlight” on a specific portion of the current slide, all in a steady, clear means. The diameter of the spotlight is adjustable. It makes it easy to show exactly what detail you are referring to when you’re talking about that thingy on the car, locomotive, etc.


Magnifies a circular portion of the current slide. Like the spotlight, the magnifier circle size is adjustable. This allows you to not only focus on a specific area, but to magnify it so that details are more readily discernible.


It does all of this with three buttons. Another prominently advertised feature is the timer, which vibrates the remote at times (preset by you) to let you know when you have ‘x’ number of minutes left in your presentation.

The price is in the $125 range, although refurbished units are in the $70-80 range (mine is a refurb). It’s a bit pricy, I guess, but for what many of us present at RPMs, it can greatly enhance the material being presented.


It charges via USB and the charge lasts three (3) months. It can be used via Bluetooth or via a USB receiver (included). It does require download of a small software install to customize its operation. The entire process was simple. Also, you do not need to point the remote at the screen or computer for it to function!

Note: it is not the kind of thing I would recommend borrowing five minutes prior to your presentation. It’s not complicated, but it does require a couple run throughs of a presentation to become familiar with the functions.

HIGHLY RECOMMENDED if one presents at meets with any degree of regularity.

Saturday, February 10, 2018

Modeling the Southern Pacific A-50-17 Part I

Modeling the SP in late 1951 means I would like to have models of the following auto (double door) cars on the roster:

Class (HO scale model)

  • A-50-4 (Speedwitch)
  • A-50-5/6 (Funaro & Camerlengo)
  • A-50-7 (no kit; radial roof version of A-50-6)
  • A-50-9/10/11 (Speedwitch kit coming for A-50-11)
  • A-50-12 (Sunshine)
  • A-50-13 (Sunshine)
  • A-50-14 (Proto 2000 redetail [not really a full-blown kitbash])
  • A-50-15 (kitbash of Branchline)
  • A-50-16 (Sunshine)
  • A-50-17 (Branchline kitbash)



Prototype photo of SP 192866. Note the panels called out as having rectangular corrugations. Fayetteville, North Carolina, July 14, 1952, Col. Chet McCoid photo, Bob's Photo

The last class on this list is the subject of this post, Part I of what will be several. The A-50-17 class was built in 1950-1951, car nos. 190000-190499 and 192000-192999. All cars in the 190000-series were equipped with Evans Type F automobile loading racks (a note in SP Freight Cars, Volume 3 from Signature Press indicates that 100 cars mixed in the 192000-series also had auto racks, although the October, 1951 Official Railway Equipment Register does not yet show any cars in the 192000-series with racks.) Interestingly, cars in series 192000-192499 are classified XM "Box, All Steel" while cars in 192500-192999 are classified as XM "Auto, All Steel". The difference is not clear (if there is any difference) and no special loading equipment is noted in the ORER

While Branchline made a rather nice kit for late 1940s and 1950s 50' auto cars, the SP's A-50-17 incorporated details not covered by the Branchline models. There are two notable differences. The A-50-17 had sides that used "hat-section" structural members, necessitating two rows of rivets (one alternating) where the side sheets overlapped. Additionally, the A-50-17 had four steel sheathing "panels" to the left of the doors and six to the right, fewer than the five and eight of the Branchline models. This will be addressed and described in a separate post.

The other significant difference is that the roof employed was a hybrid of diagonal and rectangular panels. By the time these cars were constructed in late 1950 and early 1951, diagonal panel roof corrugations had superseded rectangular corrugations. However, in this instance, two panels near each end of the car used rectangular corrugations to accommodate automobile loading racks on cars so equipped (all cars had the "hybrid" roofs, regardless of whether equipped with racks). 


To replicate this unusual roof, I decided to marry pieces from a Branchline 50' diagonal panel roof and a Branchline 40' rectangular panel roof. The edges of the underside of the center portions of Branchline roofs do not have any "depth" like the ends do.  If not filled, this lack of depth would adversely affect the cuts with the razor saw, as well as efforts to square the cuts with a Northwest Shortline True Sander. I added strip styrene to fill in these areas (0.040" x 0.040" on the rectangular panel roof and 0.030" x 0.040" on the diagonal panel roof - white strips in the photo below). After sawing, the pieces were spliced together as shown here. I used a razor saw and mitre box to make the cuts, leaving excess material to be sanded using a Northwest Shortline True Sander. My goal was to reassemble the pieces using the "center" of the roof seam caps as the mating line, creating relatively easy joints to sand clean (the photo shown here is prior to sanding the seam caps.) 


Once I had the pieces glued together, but while the joints were still "soft" from the MEK, I placed the roof into the car body, with light pressure applied with rubber bands. This ensured that the parts would be in fairly good alignment and flat as the joints dried and hardened.


I am pleased with the results. I will have copies made for offer at some future time (along with decals for the A-50-12 through A-50-17 classes of SP auto cars).

Know of another prototype that used this roof? Please leave a comment below...

Wednesday, February 7, 2018

Springfield Purchase

It's been way too long since I posted anything. I endeavor to rectify that over the coming weeks. In that spirit, I thought I would share my main purchase from Springfield (I tend to not buy much anymore... I just don't find a need to purchase many things). Back to my purchase. Almost two years ago, Tony Thompson had a post on his blog about a load created from a Euclid scraper. I thought it looked like a great load. I meandered over to ebay and fruitlessly sought to find a similar vehicle. Not one to throw up the white flag, I saved the search term and hoped something would appear.

My efforts were finally rewarded about a month ago when my ebay search yielded an amazing find! Like a true slacker, I dithered. Then at Springfield (the Amherst Railway Society show), I actually found what I was seeking.

I plunked down $45.00 at the Don Mills Models table and came home with what you see here. The detail is quite fine and the castings are generally good. I will be showing my progress here, including mounting it on a flat car as a load. Stay tuned!

P.S. the ebay Buy it Now listing was still active at the time of this posting and Don Mills certainly has more.