Wednesday, May 16, 2018

Creating Operational HO Scale Red Caboose Trucks


Red Caboose HO Scale X29 with Red Caboose trucks

It has been said that imitation is the sincerest form of flattery. That said, I owe all credit for getting me to ponder this solution to Dan Smith. Stepping back for a few moments, Red Caboose’s HO scale truck offerings deliver quite attractive sideframes that snap into bolsters. However, the entire assembly can be somewhat sloppy and prone to derailments. I found that by using long axle length Reboxx wheelsets, the “slop” is cleaned up dramatically. However, it is not a foolproof solution and is dependent upon ready availability of Reboxx wheelsets in a variety of applicable lengths.

Back to Dan Smith…. Recently, he shared with a few compatriots that he had developed a solution to solidify the trucks. He plunged a hot pin through the assembled bolsters and “pins” (or rods) on the back of the sideframes. This definitely tightened things up, but has a level of permanence that I usually prefer to avoid in things that operate and can potentially wear and/or fail, like trucks. That set me to thinking about a means to achieve similar results, but ones that could also be disassembled, if necessary.
Red Caboose truck before drilling of screw holes
In inspecting the trucks, my attention was drawn to the circle on the bottom of the bolsters. I envisioned drilling a hole through the bolsters and into the “pins” on the backs of the sideframes. Then screws could be used to tighten everything. The only issue is that even a 0-80 screw is too large. I set about searching for screws of a suitably small size. I found 000-120 x 1/8” screws on eBay. They're really small! One catch is that these screws use a Torx head (as opposed to Phillips or slotted). Fortunately, I also found a suitable Torx driver on eBay, as well, a Wiha no. 267 “T1” driver, which is the correct size for 000-120 screws.
Red Caboose truck with screws in place
I boldly tested my supposition on a set of assembled trucks. I used a bulletin board push pin to make divots in the centers of the circles to keep the drill bit from “wandering” while starting the holes. I used a 0.0275” drill bit (approximately a no. 70 bit) to create the holes. I carefully screwed in one of the 000-120 screws and was happy to find that everything was suitably tight. I repeated for the other sideframe and the result was the same. Solid Red Caboose trucks!

The wheelsets are Kadee 0.088" semi-scale tread width sets.

A note about the drilling process: the best way to drill the holes is to add the wheelsets into the assembled trucks. Then hold the trucks with wheelsets on a flat surface, applying light downward pressure, so that the truck and bolster are “straight”. Carefully drill the holes.  

Saturday, April 28, 2018

Wheeler, Reynolds & Stauffer Tank Car WRSX 1

WRSX 1, specific location not recorded, but likely SF East Bay area, photo credit: Pacific & Western Model Railroad
Tony Thompson had a post recently on his excellent blog about Stauffer Chemical in the Bay Area. It's the kind of information that makes prototype modeling spring to life, giving a reason for the presence of certain rolling stock in our scenes. In his post, he referenced the recollections of Decker McAllister, Jr., who had worked for Stauffer, including the following:

"The Stege works included a bunch of activities. One plant was the only carbon disulfide (CS2) plant west of the Mississippi (plant was called Wheeler, Reynolds & Stauffer, WR&S)."


In the post, Tony also noted that WR&S owned four tank cars. His post sent me on a search to see what photos I had of Stauffer cars in my collection. I knew I had several of the standard Stauffer cars, but I also had a vague recollection of a WR&S photo. Sure enough, when I searched in my Adobe Lightroom database, I found this photo of WRSX 1. I came into possession of it, along with several other photos, via ebay auctions about one year ago.


WRSX 1 was built in September, 1915, and represents an early GATC underframe (pre-1917 design). At the time the car was built, General American had a preference for two tank anchors, as illustrated in this photo. Interestingly, there were no listings for WRSX cars in the Freight Tariff 300-A for Tank Car Capacities. There were two cars listed in the January, 1938 ORER, WRSX nos. 1 and 2. WRSX 1 had a listed capacity of 6,603 gallons and a designation of TMI, car with insulated tank. Note that "CARBON BISULPHIDE" was stenciled on the tank. Also of interest is the "acid" style tank car expansion dome.


Although most of the tiny stenciling on the tank is extremely difficult to discern, let alone read, I was able to decipher that the tank and safety valves were last tested in 1937 at Oakland by the Southern Pacific.

Tuesday, April 24, 2018

Pennsylvania Railroad FM Flat Car Modeling - Part 2


Left side of the finished model. Note the reweigh and repack stencils
Picking up from Part 1 of modeling the PRR FM flat car

The previous installment showed the model after it had been primed. Prior to priming, I blasted the grab irons, towing loops, brake rods, brake staff and hand wheel, Carmer cut levers, truck sideframes, wheelsets, and any other metal or engineering plastic surfaces I am forgetting to list here. I washed the model with liquid dish soap and a soft toothbrush, followed by a thorough rinsing and air drying.

I airbrushed the model using Tru-Color Rust to represent PRR’s distinctive orange-red oxide freight car paint. All surfaces were sprayed this color, except for the deck. I airbrushed the deck with Tamiya’s XF-59 Desert Yellow, a good base “wood” color to serve as the foundation for my weathering efforts.
After decaling and adding a flat coat, several areas were masked prior to weathering (see text for description)
Tru-Color paints dry to a glossy finish conducive to decaling. I lettered the model using Speedwitch set D175 for PRR FM flat cars and DD1-A containers. Walters Solvaset was applied to help the decals conform to surface details. The decals were sealed with a coat of Future floor wax/polish followed by an application of Tamiya XF-86 clear flat.

Before weathering the model, I applied small pieces of masking tape to the places where I would add reweigh, repack, and brake test stencils. This served to keep those areas “clean” when the rest of the model was weathered.

Both sides of the car after the first "coat" of weathering with PanPastels Extra Dark Payne's Grey, which was sealed with clear flat coat, followed by the addition of load limit, light weight, and reweigh location and date stencils, as well as chalkmarks, followed by an another coat of clear flat
I began weathering the car with PanPastel Payne's Grey Extra Dark (840.1) powder, sealed with the Tamiya clear flat. I like that the Payne's Grey is blackish with a noticeable blue tint. I then removed the masking tape covering the reweigh location and date, load limit, and light weight (re)stencils. With a brush, I applied a small amount of Future over the clean reweigh paint patches, as well as in a few locations on the car side. I added the reweigh, date, load limit, and light weight updated stencils as well as a few chalkmarks in places where I had added Future. These were then sealed with Tamiya clear flat.
The right side of the car after the second "coat" of weathering (PanPastel Raw Umber), another coat of clear flat, and removal of the masking tape from the brake test and repack locations (these are the two "clean" rectangles)
I added a second round of weathering using PanPastel Raw Umber Shade (780.3) powder, which is basically brown. I sealed that with Tamiya clear flat. I removed the masking tape from the repack and brake test locations and with a brush, added Future to those clean paint patches, as well as to a few locations for chalkmarks. I applied the appropriate decals and once again, sealed everything with the Tamiya clear flat. I brushed on one more light application of PanPastel powder, followed by Tamiya clear flat. I created one more “splotch” of Future and one additional clean chalkmark decal. Everything was sealed with Tamiya clear flat.

On the trucks, I highlighted the springs and journal box lids with a brown colored pencil. On both the sideframes and wheelsets, I used Bragdon's black weathering powder. It is more dense in coverage than the PanPastel offerings. This is perfect since I want the trucks to appear more weathered than the car body.
The "unweathered" deck, painted Tamiya Desert Yellow over the primer coat
One note that I neglected to mention in the first post of this project: I notched and trimmed the edges of several boards to create a more random appearance. I weathered the deck in progressive steps. First, I ran a stiff wire brush across the boards, using strokes parallel to the boards. This “mixed” the Desert Yellow and gray undercoat. It also created a glossy finish. To eliminate that, a coat of Tamiya clear flat was applied, coordinated with one of the clear flat applications to the car body.
The deck after using a stiff wire brush
I switched to oil paints and applied streaks of varying intensities to boards to create a random appearance. I used White, Payne's Grey, and Raw Umber. Any areas that looked too stark were okay, as the boards would be blended further with powders. I used mineral spirits to thin the oils. Streaks were applied parallel to the deck boards. The oils were sealed with the trusty Tamiya clear flat.
Artists oils were used to create some streaks of varying strength/intensity
Finally, I applied powders to blend the oils somewhat, PanPastel Extra Dark Payne's Grey followed by Raw Umber. Another flat coat was applied to complete this step.
Right side of the finished model. Like the photo at the top of this post, note the reweigh and repack stencils, but also the brake test stencils.
At this point, I affixed the deck to the car body with Goo diluted 50/50 with MEK to tack it in place. I applied ACC in key places from the underside to secure the deck. 
The finished model with the deck visible, as well. 
I added the ratchet and pawl and hand brake to the deck (note that on the prototype [see photo] there was a U-shaped strap mounted to the end sill that served as a "pivot point" for the hand brake shaft; this U-shaped part was not modeled). These parts were “pre-weathered” before addition to the car. Lastly, I brushed on a very dilute wash of Tamiya flat black paint, applied with a brush, as a final weathering step.

I have found an interesting load for this rather light, but attractive model. More details to follow. Stay tuned for a build of the Sunshine Models B&O P11 version of this car, too.

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.