Monday, November 23, 2020

Bill Welch


Courtesy of John Golden

I lost one of my best friends on Sunday, November 15 when Bill Welch succumbed to cancer. He was a kind soul, a kindred spirit, and a companion of almost 25 years. 

I met Bill in 1996 at the Friends of the Freight Car dinner in conjunction with the NMRA convention at Long Beach. He and I were both new to the freight car "mafia" modeling community so we shared a bond as the slightly awkward entrants to a party where others knew each other well. From that point on, we were roommates at just about every RPM event we attended together, including more Napervilles, Cocoa Beaches and St. Louises than I can count, as well as other meets from time to time. We would often muse about our "Christmas morning" when the Sunshine sales room would open at Naperville, with all the new releases for that year. Before turning off the lights at night we would peruse each other's stacks of photos that we had acquired that day, making notes about ones we, too, wanted and discussing the modeling possibilities.

Bill shared my love for World War Two era aircraft (and modeling). We were also "tool guys" seeking the latest gadget to aid our modeling efforts. Baseball was another deep love in common and we both shared many conversations over the winters, close to our "hot stoves" discussing trades and signings and the fates of his Dodgers and my Red Sox. We spent countless hours discussing politics and policy, as well, both being passionately interested in the subjects. He was a "breakfast person," too, and I will always remember his quest to find good places for early morning grub wherever we were.

I will miss him deeply. He approached every day with a positive spirit and attitude and couldn't wait to share that with others. As a minister, it is interesting to note that some of his greatest sermons were about detailing models, overcoming the paralysis one can face when tackling a project, and his love of airbrushes and painting and releasing that zeal in others. Of course, he also preached about the Fruit Growers consortium. I am humbled to carry that torch to bring his work to fruition as a book. I am deeply honored to be able to make his vision and passion a reality for others.

There is a virtual celebration of Bill's life and legacy planned for December 9th (details will be shared at all the various lists, Facebook, and the Speedwitch site.) He touched many lives as a photojournalist, minister, and modeler as well as a friend to many.

Rest in Peace, my friend. I can't imagine the RPMs without you. I hope wherever you are, the Sunshine tables are filled with lots of new releases!

One of Bill's last projects

Monday, October 26, 2020

PRR Transition Era Gondola Fleet presentation files


My presentation from Hindsight 20/20 4.0 this past weekend can be viewed as a youtube video or just the presentation file in .pdf format. Enjoy and all feedback is welcome

Saturday, October 10, 2020

Sunshine Models Burlington XM-29


I recently finished this model for friend and 'Q' modeler Al Hoffman. He did all the construction and detailing. I took his good work and media blasted the metal details with aluminum oxide. I washed the model using liquid dish soap and a soft toothbrush. I applied a base coat of Tamiya XF-66 Light Grey. For the body color, I used Red Leather (136) by Vallejo.

The decals are a mix. The dimensional data came from Microscale's 87-734 set for CB&Q wood box cars. The other lettering, including reporting marks, capacity, build data, etc., were scrounged from Speedwitch CB&Q lettering. Interestingly, the plate on the door for the "Burlington Route" emblem was too small compared to the decals from Speedwitch, Westerfield, and Microscale. I had to make the white border slightly smaller to fit and it is evident if one looks closely, as the lines are close the the "B" and "n" in "Burlington."

Paul Dunn photo

The 500 members of the XM-29 class were built in 1936 in company shops and assigned to nos. 25500-25999. They continued the Q's preference for single sheathed cars. HO scale Q modelers are fortunate as all of the single sheathed classes from XM-21 through XM-31 (the class XM-24 class was 40-ton USRA double sheathed cars) have been available as resin kits. The USRA cars have been produced in both styrene (Rapido, Accurail, and Ertl) and resin (Westerfield and Funaro & Camerlengo.)

Wednesday, October 7, 2020

More Tools


Blade One Nipper Item Code: GODGH-PN-120 

I frequently espouse keeping up with the goings-on within the military modeling community. They seem to operate in a parallel world that sometimes intersects with ours, but seemingly should more often. Over the years, I have found many incredibly useful tools that those guys use that we in the model railroading community know little about. These tools from GodHand are good illustrations. The nippers are incredible. Their cutting edge is quite sharp and the leverage of the cut is solid, with the cutters doing the work. The sharpness of the cutting edges means that things that would often deform through cutting, such as hollow tubelike shapes, do not; the cutting action starts before any "crushing" forces are imparted, making them extremely delicate. They won't make my Swiss nippers obsolete, as their jaws are not as fine, but they have firmly established a place in the tool box.

The other find from GodHand are these chiseling tips. Think of them as the old Xacto no. 17 blade on many doses of steroids. They are incredibly sharp (as in be very careful sharp.) They are also substantial hardened metal, making them work with less effort than the old Xacto blade. There is far less "slippage" since these do their work with less effort. I have used them many times and love them; I can't wait to try them to remove the end detail from an MDC 50' single sheathed auto car. The handle shown above is an Excel handle from MicroMark (Excel part no. 30605.) I purchased the GodHand items from HobbyLink Japan, but you can find them on eBay, too. Postage was modest and they arrived quickly.

Left item (green) is Bit Blade: Flat Blade Set of 5pcs Item Code: GODGH-BBH-1-3
Right item (red) is Bit Blade: Round Blade Set of 5pcs Item Code: GODGH-BBM-1-3

Thursday, October 1, 2020

Union Pacific B-50-24


Another throwback... of the models I built for the "Essential Freight Cars" series this is one of my favorites. I was thrilled with the outcome, particularly the weathering and it is such an attractive car. In case you did not see the article, the model is a Trix/Marklin UP B-50-24/27 box car, with the body stripped. I replaced the roof with an IMWX roof and added a Speedwitch UP welded underframe. The model was lettered with Speedwitch decals from set D125. I was also thrilled to have a prototype that used the Superior power hand brake from Red Caboose (see below.)

Bob's Photo

The UP B-50-24 & -27, along with several other classes of UP steel box cars and some groups on the SP and SSW, had "alternate center rivets" in the middle of the steel side sheets, as shown in the photo above. This was a subtle, yet distinctive detail that prototype modelers seek to replicate. Below is a table that details the various groups of the B-50-24 and -27 cars.


Reporting Marks



Year Built







UP Omaha






UP Grand Island






UP Albina






UP Albina






UP Albina






UP Grand Island






UP Omaha

Tuesday, September 29, 2020

Shifted Lumber Load and Journal Repacking

 If you have ever wondered how a shifted lumber load is re-adjusted, it's not done board-by-board. Watch this video to see the cool way that it's fixed. The video also has a short clip showing a journal being repacked, along with some pretty godawful humor. The whole clip takes less than a minute. You can buy a high res version by clicking here.

Monday, September 28, 2020

Scratchbuilding Single Sheathed Car Sides presentation file and video


As promised, please follow this link to view my presentation file for Scratchbuilding Single Sheathed Car Sides from Hindsight 20/20 3.0.

You can also watch the presentation here. (new youtube link added after original post was published)

Join the Hindsight 20/20 discussions at the Hindsight 20/20 forum.


Thursday, September 24, 2020

CStPM&O 40' Fowler Box Car

This is another throwback Thursday car I am revisiting from my "Essential Freight Cars" days of the 2000s. The subject car shown above is a Westerfield kit. I have always been drawn to this prototype because of its character. A single sheathed car with a board roof that soldiered on into the early 50s is a gem by nature. I like it so much that I bought another kit and plan to scratchbuild sides, ends, and a roof with board-by-board construction and mate them to the kit underframe. Effectively weathered, I am certain it will be a head turner. It didn't hurt that I stumbled across the photo of one in Ashland, Oregon circa the very late 1940s, shown at bottom. The details about the model shown above can be found in the Railroad Model Craftsman article about the forty-foot box cars built under the Fowler patent.

The car shown above was photographed under the auspices of the FSA-OWI and, fortunately for us, was recorded with large format color transparency film.

This photo is another FSA-OWI collection image. It highlights the character inherent in the wood board roof. Combined with the fancy '400' slogan, it makes for a winning combination.

Tucked behind the SP Baldwin AS-616 in this image at Ashland, Oregon was one of the subject cars, heavily weathered circa the late 1940s.

The Chicago, St. Paul, Minneapolis & Omaha rostered 1,500 of these forty-foot cars built under the Fowler Patent. There were 1,500 cars, built in 1915, in the series 31200-34198, even numbers. By late 1951, there were only 190 in service. These cars, along with the sister CNW cars, can be replicated using the Westerfield 4400-series kits

Thursday, September 17, 2020

Western Refrigerator Line AC&F Reefer

In the spirit of throwback Thursdays, I am going to start digging into my past and sharing some of the cars I've built over the years. This model is a Western Refrigerator Line (Green Bay & Western) AC&F reefer. Branchline Trains offered them as decorated kits way back in the day. To one of the BLT cars, I added some detail upgrades, including wire grab irons and uncoupling devices, A-Line metal sill steps, wire upgrades for the brake gear, a Klasing power hand brake (with vertical shaft) from a Proto 2000 Mather box car kit, and 0.005" styrene strips at the lower door edges, below the hinges. I tried my best to match the gray, freight car red, and black to blend the detail upgrades.

Note the Proto 2000 Klasing hand brake

These cars were profiled in "Essential Freight Cars," so if you have the back issues of Railroad Model Craftsman, you can find the article there. If I were to model these cars today, I would use Tahoe or Rapido (from the NP double sheathed box cars) trucks, instead of the Accurail trucks shown above. Another vehicle to model these in HO scale is Westerfield.

Fayetteville, NC, Oct. 22, 1951, Col. Chet McCoid photo, Bob's Photo

WRL had 500 such cars delivered by American Car & Foundry in 1929 (lot 920,) car nos. 9000-9499. They were fairly long-lived, lasting well into the 1950s, with some surviving into the 60s. An indeterminate number of cars received side sill strengthening members that made the cars quite distinctive in appearance.

Monday, August 24, 2020

Small Wonders General American Aerocoach Bus

A few months back, I saw an announcement for this interesting HO scale bus from Small Wonders (a Sylvan Scale Models affiliated company.) I ordered one from a seller on ebay a couple weeks ago. It's a classic late Steam to Diesel era bus. They were used in longer haul service as well as typical municipal transit. The site Coachbuilt has a fairly good history of the General American Aerocoach buses. I have already decided to decorate mine for a fictitious southern Oregon regional bus line serving towns between Ashland and Grants Pass (unless I find good information about an actual bus line that operated this prototype in that area, at that time.)
Three quarters view looking at the front
The basic castings appear quite nice after opening the box. Upon closer inspection, I discovered two issues. The first is that the "underbody" is not wide or long enough for the body casting. I added strip styrene to compensate for this difference. I also discovered a casting void created by an air bubble in one of the window frames. This was filled with several application of ACC. I hope that will hold up until I can get window glazing in place to shore things up.
Three quarters view looking at the rear of the bus
Overall, this is an extremely attractive model of a commonly-seen type of bus that would be at home on any layout from the 1940s to the 1960s. I am excited to build and decorate it.
Underbody illustrating the styrene strips added to improve the fit
Interior of the bus
Straight-on side view
The flaw caused by a bubble in the casting
The parts bag

Thursday, July 30, 2020

Simple Tool

This is a very short post from vacationland up in the Adirondacks. Anyone who has worked in an office for the last decade has likely seen these things, although you may not have paid them much attention. They are the skewers used for fruit in the fruit "bouquets" marketed by Edible Arrangements. As a modeler always looking at the functionality of things, I thought they might be useful and grabbed a bunch. They proved be quite useful for two things. One end is shaped akin to a Phillips head screwdriver. That one functions well as a manual uncoupling tool. The other end works as a handle for holding truck sideframes while painting. Simply slide the bolster truck mounting hole over the tool. It is a particularly good fit for Tahoe Model Works truck sideframes.

Thursday, June 18, 2020

The enigmatic PRR 2D-F8 truck

T. S. Martorano Collection
One of the interesting things about the Pennsy was its trucks. Like everything the Pennsy did, they were different. The trucks used on the X29 (and X28) illustrate this. The 2D-F8 (PRR designation) truck had a pronounced droop at the bottom of the sideframe, lending the trucks a distinct shape. This was similar to the ARA Type Y cast sideframe design. However, the Pennsy also employed several different types of bolsters, resulting in a dog's breakfast of combinations after cars were shopped. X29 572110 shown above is a fine example, with what I am calling an "ARA" bolster on the left truck and a "box" bolster on the right truck (click on images for larger views). Here are views of a few others, along with HO scale truck references

This is an early bolster with a notably sloped face in the bolster end. This is the truck included in the Red Caboose HO scale X29 model.

This and the following image illustrate the "box" bolster. This truck was offered by Sunshine Models as a set of white metal castings to be assembled by the modeler.

This bolster is what I have dubbed the "ARA" bolster. I am not aware of an HO scale offering for this. Should Kadee get around to offering an 'HGC' version of their 2D-F8 truck, I would lobby for this as it could be used as a Type Y stand-in, most notably for several PFE reefers. That beer can-like thing where the outer right hand spring is supposed to be located is a Miner snubber, which was supposed to reduce harmonic oscillation and improve ride qualities. There were other flavors. See the CP chapter in your 1932 ARA box car book.

This is the last and most "modern" of the bolsters with a vertical web cast in the center of the outer portion. This truck has been reproduced in HO scale by Bowser.

Note that while I have highlighted these as shown on X29s, they were used on many, many others classes of 50 and 55-ton PRR cars, so having representations of all of them in HO scale is a good thing, even for non SPFs*.

*Slobbering Pennsy Freaks

Wednesday, June 17, 2020

An additional silver lining in the Rapido X31 announcement

One of the additional benefits of Rapido's announcement of the PRR X31A box and auto cars is that we should have two additional finely detailed power hand brakes in HO scale. One is the Equipco 3160 model with E-312 hand wheel, as shown above on PRR X31A 69308. Because it was offered in the early 1930s, applications of this hand brake are few (at least I haven't come across many in my research). The three I have found are:

  • Some of the late Dreadnaught end PRR X29 box cars
  • Several members of the early X31 family
  • NdeM 1932 ARA box cars 60000-60599 (see above)

The other power hand brake that will be produced is an early Ajax power hand brake (there were many subtle changes to the housing over the years, so which version will be produced is not known by me) with no. 3059 hand wheel, which had only four "spokes" in the center - see above. The 3059 hand wheel has been offered for years by Intermountain, but is heavy in detail, so a finer version is most welcome, as its adoption was wide and deep.

Now, Rapido, why not do the Universal 5700XL with M1704 hand wheel that was used on many members of the X31A family (please)

Note: I did provide reference materials to Rapido for this project, but have not been consulted about the models, including any test shots of pre-production models.

Yes, it had been a long while since my last post. More on that in a post in the near future...

Monday, January 20, 2020

Modeling the Lake Superior & Ishpeming PS-1 Box Car - Part 2

This is the left side of the car as re-detailed
Over a year ago (!) I wrote about the things I would need to do to model a Lake Superior & Ishpeming (or New York Central) PS-1 box car. I have done almost all of the work highlighted in the post and the updates are shown here. I am certain that with some paint and weathering the white bits that are difficult to see herein will display more clearly. I will post the finished and weathered model in Part 3.

This is the first phase of the lower door tracks. The seven lower pieces are 0.015" x 0.040" strips on a scale 5 inch wide strip of 0.005" with equal overhang on both sides. The upper strip on edge is an HO scale 1x2.

The "face" of the track is a 4 inch wide 0.005" strip. Individual rivets were glued in place (note that the "missing" one was flicked off and needs a replacement.) The fixtures that held the door open or closed are scratchbuilt using photos as guide. They will undoubtedly be rendered better in photos once painted.

The lower right corner, with push pole pockets (they were welded in place so there are no rivets, just pairs of discs punched from 0.005" styrene.) The sill step is from A-Line while the short sill section and corner "wraparound" are scratched from styrene.

The push pole pocket was fashioned from a styrene disc that was shaped (note that the left edge is "open" in a crescent shape as on the prototype) from a styrene disc. The center was "dished" using a no. 50 drill. The uncoupling lever was bent from 0.012" wire and the bracket is sheet brass bent to shape.

The defect card holder on the sill of the right side of the car was created by filing 0.015" x 0.025" styrene strip (0.010" x 0.015" butt-glued against a 0.015" x 0.015" strip) and adding a 0.005" styrene "flap" as shown

The placard boards were created to replicate those of the prototype, using individual boards and a "frame" of 0.005" styrene

The AB brake components, piping, and rods were all replaced

The view from the "top" of the underframe