American OO Today

The online magazine on the history and operation of vintage scale model trains in American OO gauge

Wednesday, July 31, 2019

Casting coal loads for Lionel and S-C hoppers

Back a few months ago I made a mold of a good coal load (made in a more traditional manner, described here), and from that made a number of good copies of the load, which will fit in Scale-Craft or Lionel hoppers as they are very nearly the same size.

This was a good simple project, and actually the only time I have made an open top mold. I just set the part on top of my standard molding clay base with the metal fences around it and poured. The material went down in some holes in the load and broke off, as seen in the original.

I was making some other parts around that time, so what I did was cast a load with each batch of parts. Finally, recently I was painting gloss black and used the final remnants of the spray can to finish up the castings. I think they came out well.

I don’t have any extras now, but the next time I’m casting parts in resin I’ll make more, it is nice to have a casting that comes out well every time!

Sunday, July 28, 2019

On finishing the details

With the finish of the GP20 (here), there were details I added to that unit that were lacking on other engines.

It was not like I never noticed they were not there, but when I got them almost done it seemed good enough. But seeing them on the GP20 was eye opening, motivated also by some other reading that passed through my blog reader. I follow Modeling the SP, and this post, “There should be something there,” resonated with me and my overall level of detailing. I'm not actually looking for super detail, but there are details that you need to see, they should be there. Even if they are slightly wrong, the eye does not notice this as long as something is there.

The key detail I was noticing was the number boards and also the "F" lettering designating the front of the locomotive. On the Schorr RS2, there are number boards that were blank, but I had vintage Walthers decals that would do the job if cut up and applied right. I should have put those numbers on when I built the engine, and with them there now it is such a good look.

In progress today are these modern diesels, "finished" in 2016 (more here). The U23B had no rear number boards, but I used those same decals to make something that totally looks fine to the eye. The big SD's have number boards, but they are to my eye too short and wide. Again, I used the decals to solve the problem.

The cab ends of these models will get a different approach, I have (as I did on the GP20) painted the number boards carefully with black paint and will add the numbers in white.

Other models have had other minor details added and updated, painting issues that were never finished and the like. I've been also working on some big projects, almost done, but these little projects keep me going forward too and are a nice change of pace.

Thursday, July 18, 2019

A Shapeways GP20 for the MQS

Following up on my post of a month ago, the GP20, a 3D printed model from Shapeways, is done.

When I was originally thinking of this model I was hoping to go big and letter it for the Santa Fe, but looking at the model and my needs, I shifted it toward my 1980s era MQS (Madison-Quincy-Southern) shortline. It was a shortline concept I originally worked on in HO when I was in high school, and adding this engine to the roster gives me a very nice group for the MQS -- two end cab switchers (more here), a SD24 (more here), and a GP20. I had just enough paint (green in honor of the Verdigris River, alongside of which the MQS would run) and decals to complete it as part of the group of engines.

All of the engines got a bit of attention in the decal and paint department, and the SD24 got a bit of extra attention in this process too, as also seen in the photo -- I added the missing rear headlight (from a Tyco GP20 shell) and also rear number boards. They are actually just created with decals (including a black background decal) but the effect is pretty solid, and those same type of number boards are on the rear of the GP20. The front number board area I carefully painted black prior to adding the number decals.

In the prior post I had the GP20 on Kemtron trucks, but I opted to change them out and use Schorr trucks, saving the Kemtrons for another project someday. The Schorr trucks are heavy and large, but the weight was good with this being a dummy locomotive, and the heavy/low detail matches the Shapeways 3D printing.

Which gets at the negative of these models, all of them have a grainy finish and low detail. Painting this model and the FA with Mr. Surfacer as a primer helped somewhat, but not as much as hoped. I got closest to fixing the issue with the Alco FA model that is still in progress, I'll have more on that when it is done.

My original post introducing the Shapeways GP20 is here. I don't know if I'm the only person crazy enough to buy one of these in 1/76, but it did turn out nicely if you can accept the low detail.

Monday, June 24, 2019

An idea for making a better caboose cupola

One vintage American OO model you rarely see is the Graceline caboose. I have two that were built up really well (more here!) but they were not built up in the standard manner. But then an example with no cupola appeared on eBay and appealed to me, as I knew I had the comprestic (cardboard) parts to make a cupola for it. I could at least fix it, and if it turned out well maybe it would become a car for one of my roads.

The car arrives, and I finally get started a few days ago. One thing I learned was that if you cut out the parts exactly as laid out by Graceline the two ends of the cupola are slightly different, and they don't match the pitch of the roof! Maybe a part of why this car was not made for long....

Having dealt with those issues, I still needed a roof, and then also the cupola to be nice and square and solid.

Exhibit "A" is the one of my original examples on the left in the photo, that builder was good! Somehow he glued it all together really clean and solid with windows and handrails on the top.

What I wanted was some sort of inner frame to support the sides and roof,  and then an idea occurred. What if I took a Tyco HO cupola (the type on their big modern caboose that is essentially OO scale, more here) and cut out everything that would be visible behind the Graceline parts, and use the roof too?

The cut up cupola is seen in the first photo and this second photo shows the cupola with the Graceline parts sitting with the frame/roof.

Where this is a great thing as I could easily substitute scribed plastic siding material for the vintage sides and use this to form a cupola on other models.

I have other caboose projects stalled, in particular a Hawk caboose that someone started and abandoned. I've never seen one of those built up. My thinking was to upgrade the siding with plastic material, and with the cupola idea there to help with that critical part I might get to this model sometime soon.

Friday, June 21, 2019

Progress on the Shapeways GP20 and FA

Progress has been slow on projects for several months, but finally some progress is visible on my Shapeways Alco FA (more here) and GP20 (more here).

Progress, as in both are now ready for paint. The biggest single project was making the handrails. I opted finally to use soft 22 gauge wire for the railings and, on the GP20, to use Athearn HO handrail stanchions.

A tip being you have to use the tip of a scraper to begin the location of the hole (as you would with drilling in metal), and with my motor tool in the drill press I use the slowest speed. Another tip is pull the wire straight by putting one end in a bench vice and pulling with pliers.

Laying it all out took some time, and little compromises had to be made due to the way the bodies were made. Such as the GP20 was made with two Fireman's sides (!), each side is a mirror image so the area behind the cab in the side in the photo is incorrect. I did make a few modifications of details that stuck out that were practical to modify, most notably to the GP20. There was an extra bulge from the middle fan and an extra knob on the hood, I got rid of the ditch lights, and most notably I modified fuel tank area and the ends of the frame near the steps. The ends of the frame had extra material not seen in the prototype photos, and I opted to use fuel tanks modified from HO TYCO fuel tanks rather than what was on the body as produced. Oh, and I wish I could lower the bottom step! It would be quite a jump down for the crew.

Another compromise to mention on the FA is that the bottom end of the handrails should be attached lower, but there was no practical way to duplicate that. On both engines I used Athearn horns.

The bottom view shows a few more details of the build. One is that the FA fuel tank was hanging too low as produced, I cut it off and have mounted it to the body higher, with screws. Also note that both engines are dummies. I was going to power the GP20, but was missing some key parts and these models are so light these make great dummy locomotives. So for now the GP20 has my last spare pair of Kemtron GP trucks (it may get switched out to Schorr trucks, depending on needs), and the FA has a pair of Schorr RS-2 trucks.

And of course I made a frame for the GP20 out of thick aluminum stock. All that is lacking right now is paint and couplers. I have some ideas to test on painting, I'm hoping to better overcome the grainy finish, and I'll report on those in a future post. The FA came with unusable truck side frames that I'm going to use for painting experiments.

UPDATE: The finished GP20 is here

Saturday, May 11, 2019

Rethinking Famoco 6-wheel trucks

Back in 2015 I had a closer look article on Famoco 6-wheel passenger trucks. They are of a different design than S-C trucks, and at that time I had two things using them on a specific car accomplished: it freed up a pair of S-C trucks to use on another car, and I thought the look was nice on an ATSF baggage car.

This past week I had that car out again and was wanting to run it, and noted that it was shorting out. With this closer look article, I'll add this: these are not a great truck design. Even with a fresh truck, with good wheels, as things flex as the car rolls around the layout the insulated wheels short out against the sideframes.

The photo provides an even closer look. As I noted before, the bolster is integral to the design and is held on with the pin and locking washer, as seen on the right.

Back in 2015 I also had more of a passenger truck shortage. Now, with the 3D printed bolsters available (more here! I love these) and having used many of them to get a lot of trucks in shape, I'll be converting that car back to S-C trucks and reliable operation.

Thursday, May 2, 2019

Composite “war emergency” gondolas in American OO

A recent eBay find was this nice composite gondola lettered for the Yorkville & Western of Fred Schorr. I have two other models of this general type built by Pierre Bourassa, and they are worth a longer look than given in the prior article (here).

I had simply thought of these as being composite gondolas, but there is more of a story. The prototypes were 52’ cars built during WWII to conserve steel plate. I found a good write up here: 
By the late 1930s, the 52-foot, 6-inch gondola had become the preferred design for the railroads serving Northeastern industrial plants….
During WWII, military needs for steel took priority. Rolled steel sheet, which was used for all types of light armor and ship construction, was particularly in short supply. Thus, American railroads received steel only after military demand was met. New cars were limited to those authorized by the War Production Board. With railroads handling the majority of all military and commercial shipments, there was a burden on the supply of rolling stock. Out of necessity, the railroads searched for ways to substitute other materials for steel. By reviving earlier composite car building practices, the AAR design teams replaced sheet steel with wood with steel systems added for strength.
Due to the length of the car, a fishbelly structure was necessary and the ribs provided protection from outward strain from the inside loads. In 1943, the builders replaced steel where wood would suffice. For structural integrity, in place of the already steel side, the designers created a truss of diagonal and vertical ribs. A wood floor was a savings and dreadnaught drop ends were applied. The War Emergency gondola dates from October of 1942 with the building program beginning late 1943 and continued into the middle of 1944.
The model seen here is an attractive model of this interesting prototype, but it is rather under sized really at only 42 feet long.

What Schorr and Bourassa did to make their models was take cast HO sides such as these and build up the rest of the car neatly. So while a plausible model, it is not really an OO scale model at all, at least not if compared to the prototype cars.

Of course, who is to say that in our world there were examples of similar cars produced that were shorter and lower? I’ll probably build up these loose sides someday into OO models, it would make a nice project and not overly complicated.

UPDATE: And, as noted in the first comment (I should have put this in the article to begin with), the sides on the car and in the second photo are almost certainly Ulrich sides. The instructions for this classic HO model may be found here in the HO Seeker site. 

Sunday, April 21, 2019

A look at Nason (and Picard) gondola restorations

An uncommonly seen model by Nason is their gondola. Introduced in 1940 (more here), it took me a while to find even one of these. Then, in recent months, a windfall; I now have four!

My original PRR model is seen here with a new companion, a recent eBay find. Both were a bit beat up, and the new model was missing a couple things. For these I did a little restoration work on, as I found a paint that closely matched: Polyscale Oxide Red, which has carried over into the Testors line of Model Master paint as Oxide Red Flat. I have both, they are very close to the same thing, I’d rate it about a 95% match which is pretty good. For these models I used the Poly Scale paint, and used it to touch up anything that stuck out as raw unpainted material. The newer car (in the back) also got Scale-Craft end beams and vintage Kadee No. 4 couplers.

I had also obtained an example of the B&O version, which may be seen in a prior article as it looked before restoration. This one came out well, flat black paint is easy to match and I like how the Selley cast ribs cover the printed rib lines, which was a mistake on the part of Nason really. Now I have a second model, which is seen in this photo as a project almost done. All I need to do now is paint it with a very steady hand. The original builder had left the car 85% done and unpainted. The biggest chore not done was putting the nails/pins on the top of the ribs. I was able to find matching nails and a new frame for the model.

The last photo is of the underside of the unpainted B&O model and an impostor! I had this Picard body sitting around and got inspired that it could be made into a car that would look similar to but better than the Nason model. I sealed the body well and followed up with a combination of Nason, Eastern, and Selley parts. It is ready for painting, a nice variation on the gondola theme.

Monday, April 15, 2019

Two more Champion express reefers

Recently completed were these two express reefers with Champion sides.

I had built up a Milky Way before, but the set of sides I used for the previous model (seen here) lacked the board that is at the top of the side, seen on this new model. This model was built up from fresh parts (including a fresh Picard body), and had been languishing at least a year among incomplete projects, waiting for a bit of motivation to finish.

The motivation to finish it was the arrival of this Sheffield car, a recent and inexpensive eBay purchase. It was a bit rough, and lacked trucks and other details, but appealed to me as I had no example of the Shieffield sides. Curiously, the body is not a Picard body, and I’m thinking it is one the builder worked up from scratch. I added a few details (brakes, ladders, etc.) and did some light restoration, but it will never look great. It runs great though with the Kadee couplers and a fresh pair of Famoco passenger trucks, which pass well as express reefer trucks.

Saturday, April 6, 2019

The largest American OO tank car ever built

Myron P. Davis really liked big models. An article in the January 1996 issue of the Train Collectors Quarterly by Donald S. Fraley titled “The Unfinished Locomotives” looks at his big locomotives, and I have covered some of them in this site as well (this article being a good place to start). Most of his models were produced and sold in some limited quantity.

According to the Fraley article, Davis passed in December of 1968. Obviously he kept on building big Amercian OO models to the end of his life, as I was recently able to obtain this surprising and amazing model, which clearly was one of his creations. The paint and construction match that of the huge but freelanced “streamline caboose” seen in this recent article.

The prototype is a very notable car built in 1965 by GATX. It is 94 feet long and is one of a kind, as it was deemed too large for use on Eastern railroads. Notably, a model of this car was offered in N scale in the early 1970s, and the prototype car has been on display since 1971 at the National Museum of Transport in St. Louis.

The present tank car, when it got to the prior owner, was on Nason Atlantic tender trucks. These are, of course, not correct for the car. The N scale model is on Bettendorf trucks, but the prototype is on roller bearing. I opted to obtain the model less trucks and replaced them with Nason Vulcan trucks, upgraded with Ultimate wheelsets. Painted black they have the overall look of heavy roller bearing trucks, and suit the model.

The body is sand-cast bronze (!) and it weighs almost two and a half pounds. Note the Nason brake details in the second photo.

With the trucks mounted as they are the model will negotiate the curves on my layout surprisingly well. There is an issue with the pivot point on one end, it will not take turnouts very well as things are not quite square. I’ll have to work on that more, because as of now I’m inclined to try to put together decals suited to the prototype car, as I do run models from the era when this car was being tested. What an amazing model, one I am happy to have.