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

Tuesday, December 31, 2019

A closer look at the Nason boxcab “Diesel”

This fall I won an auction for a Nason boxcab diesel switcher. A rather rare model (introduced in 1939), this example is very similar to the one seen in this earlier article (even painted the same colors!), but a different example (compare the roof details, for example).

Looking at the prototype first, I thought it would be easy to find, I had understood it to be based on a New Haven electric locomotive (but built as a Diesel). My first thought on searching online was that it would be based on their EP-1, but that was a dead end. Finally l found a model of the same design (in O gauge by Icken), which would indicate that it is a New Haven EY-3.

To my example, this model is very well constructed, all soldered together (undoubtedly using a torch for the body) and with a two rail drive set up with a rectifier. I have not tested it but I believe old stack style rectifier needs to be replaced at the least. Only two axles are powered and it is heavy! Everything is bronze and it weighs in at 1 pound 11 ounces. The powered end is heavier, with that large radiator on top being a solid metal piece.

It is also exceptionally well made, I imagine someone spending hours and hours building this model during the war.

For now I’m leaving it just as it is, but when I have a block of time I’ll dig in and see if I can get it running.

Monday, December 30, 2019

Models from three forgotten OO roads

Four different types of vintage models I find catch my collecting interests. One type is neatly built models with printed sides by any maker. The second type are Scale-Craft models with the original pre-war decals (more on those here). A third type are cars nicely hand lettered. The final type are nicely built models from freelanced OO lines. The March and September of 2007 issues of The OO Road contain a list of the known “private name” OO lines. When these three models came to me those articles were my first place to look, and in all three cases I drew a blank.

First up is this S-C stock car for the Choctaw & Western. I like the road name choice, looking at it closer it is evocative of the name of a Rock Island predecessor line, the Choctaw, Oklahoma and Gulf Railroad (more here). That line came under control of the Rock Island in 1902. Looking at this car closer, Choctaw & Western is done with alphabet lettering but the CW logo on the right was drawn by hand. I bought this one originally with the idea of stripping it and lettering it with my Tichy MP decals (more here) but I subsequently instead did a bit of light restoration. It was too nice a vintage model.

Then we have these two coaches. As to the Green Bay & Northern, a number of models for this line passed through eBay not long ago. This S-C coach was in a lot with other models of, honestly, more initial interest. Looking at it closer, I like the road name, it is similar to that of a Green Bay and Western predecessor line (1881-1896), the Green Bay, Stevens Point and Northern Railroad, and I could also see it was nicely built. There was one big problem when it got to me, the celluloid window stock was all badly warped. I removed that, but restored the interior as originally laid out by the builder, and repainted the roof. I like how he built the roof and actually worked up several more similar ones from parts on hand.

Also with a nice interior is this final model from the Northern Central. The real Northern Central Railway was a predecessor line of the PRR, having acquired controlling interest in 1861, but then surviving (on paper) for some 110 years. A nice bit of freelancing to give the line a physical presence in the late steam era. Note the trucks it came to me on, modified from HO, they really should be under a streamlined passenger car and they may find their way to one at some point.

The names of the builders of these models, nicely done for the time, are probably lost to history, but I do appreciate the craftsmanship and the prototypical sounding line names. Hopefully readers have other examples that peak your interest as well. For another model from a less known OO freelanced line see this updated article. 

Sunday, December 29, 2019

Looking closer at another Nason gondola

The Nason gondola is a late pre-war model not often seen. It came with printed sides and was available in two versions, for the B&O and the PRR. An introduction to this model is here.

Printed side models, nicely built, do catch my attention. It took me years to find my first example of this model, and PRR car number 307036, seen in the front of the photo, was a recent purchase.

While some Nason printed sides were produced with multiple car numbers, so far as I can tell this model was only sold as B&O 250538 and PRR 397036. What this builder did was use a dot of paint to change the 9 in the car number to a 0. The car in the rear in the photo has unaltered sides.

The builder did two other things to enhance the model. One was paint over most of the guide lines lightly, as the ribs are not quite wide enough to cover the printed lines. The other thing he did was construct from brass a cap piece for the sides, and solder it to the side ribs. Those builders back in the day will surprise you with little tricks like this when you look at the models closer. The cap is overly wide of course, but it does cover the visible pins and enhance the look of the sides.

I did some light restoration, adding fresh Nason end sills, S-C trucks and coupers, and touching up the paint with Model Master Oxide red flat paint, which is an excellent match for Nason paint.

Saturday, December 7, 2019

Weathered ATSF F-units in OO

I finally have finished a pair of Schorr F units that have been almost finished since 2014!

To the photo itself, I took that on my phone rather than my normal camera with flash, as the blue paint I use comes off as much too "electric" with the flash. The 2014 article (here) has describes these specific models and has photos taken with the flash , but these models really look more like this current photo in normal light on the layout.

As I noted back in 2014, the ATSF had a lot of F3s, but they were passenger engines. But also they had a class of freight F7s that had chicken wire like on an F3, so, those are the inspiration for these models.

In painting the models originally the issue was that the base color is yellow, and then you mask off the yellow and paint the blue over that. The bottom stripe masking tape lifted a bit here and there, so blue paint got in and left it not a sharp stripe. What I thought would work was to weather the models, some extra grime in that area would blend with that overspray and make a nice effect.

I've only weathered intentionally only one (!!) OO model, and that was built in high school. Partially it was not my thing, but also in the bigger picture I felt that weathering might only highlight clearly the lack of some details on these vintage models. So I procrastinated finishing up these Diesels for years and years. Pondered methods, etc. I finally settled on A.I.M. weathering powders, darker grime down near the frame and dust mostly up on the sides and top. Looked at photos, adjusted things a couple times, with the understanding that when I sprayed on the dullcote the weathering effect is reduced a bit.

I'm pretty happy how they turned out, and now I'm wondering why I have not weathered more stuff intended for layout operation previously? I will cautiously be working on weathering more models, especially when there is an issue that weathering might help. The locomotive in this article (just seen in the photo, running with the F3s) is a prime candidate too, for the set of engines to match a bit better as they run together well on the layout.

Thursday, November 28, 2019

Lionel OO PRR boxcars with Tichy and other decals

As mentioned in prior posts, Tichy decals can be purchased in OO scale versions. One set that caught my eye was this one, for a PRR boxcar in the same scheme that Lionel used on their models.

First let me state that no desirable, collectible model was altered to create any of the repainted boxcars seen in this article. All had been previously repainted, and they were beat up as well, great candidates for rebuilding. Also I would freely admit I’m not a Lionel collector, but I do appreciate Lionel OO and it is certainly very collectible. But with that said, I’m a model railroader at heart, my rebuilt cars are intended for layout operation.

I also don’t own any Lionel OO with really great paint and decals, as Illustrated by the 0044 boxcar seen here. The comparison of the actual models is quite interesting to me, as the Tichy decals are scaled correctly and the Lionel ones have a couple intentional compromises. The big one is the body molding of the car has a space with no rivets where the Lionel Lines decal was as the model was originally produced. As a PRR car, the PENNSYLVANIA lettering should be slightly longer and lower on the body, but Lionel (wisely) opted to size and place that lettering to fit in the area with no rivets.

The cars in the back row in the second photo have Microscale HO decals and the one in the front on the right has vintage Champ HO decals. these are other accurate PRR schemes, and the car does look nice in all of them.

Readers might be interested to know, as an aside, that I did not even own one Lionel car for many years. I did not come to OO from an interest in prewar Lionel models, but rather from a model railroad history angle. So for me initially the $$ was too high to buy Lionel, and the standard lettering schemes were not of special interest. With the passing of years, I have obtained a few of these classic models that I enjoy working with (many of them are seen in the series that starts here). However, I hardly ever operate any Lionel OO models with the stock paint and decals, they just don’t fit with my layout theme, and boxcars lettered with 0044 as the car number especially don’t seem realistic enough. So these repaints are the ones I run, they all look good, and I must say I really like how the Tichy decals came out.

Saturday, November 23, 2019

More cars with Tichy OO decals

Back in 2017 (more here) I first purchased Tichy OO decals, which they will make on special order, scaled up from their HO decals. I purchased more this past summer, and finally have a few cars done to show them better.

First up is I think a particularly interesting comparison, a Scale-Craft stock car decorated for the Missouri Pacific with the Tichy decals, and an S-C car with the original pre-war decals for the same road. The S-C ones are a bit heavier looking, and of course they have yellowed with age. The Tichy set matches a prototype photo I found online, and I used that and their decal drawing as a guide. Each side of the car took 18 separate decals, but they went on easily on the gloss paint and flat surfaces of this model.

The other four cars I’d like to feature today are these, three MP hopper cars and a Rock Island boxcar. Although the MP hopper decals are for a different style of car, they worked well when laid out to match examples I found online. The Rock Island car was slightly more of a challenge and I’ll explain why. The issue is that Scale-Craft cars have relatively tall rivet details, and the paint used to print the decals does not really stretch and in large sections wants to begin to roll up. The Rock Island Logo as applied almost goes over the lines of rivets, and the printed logo won’t snuggle down over them. (Conventional decals the printed letters and images will stretch).

Which is all to say some of these sets will work great on SC cars and some won’t. I purchased two Frisco Fast Freight sets that I’ll need to use on a different style of car due to the large printed areas -- which is fine, I already found cars with wood sides that will do well.

Two other random footnotes. I don't normally use S-C couplers, but I opted to use them on the hoppers. At first the cars did not track well due to the couplers being overly tight. I then ran across a coupler that had been filed down a bit and it was an learning moment, I hit the worst offending S-C couplers with a file -- so that they would couple easily -- and they are working fine now. The other footnote is out of a longstanding habit I basically never oil trucks. But several recent projects, they were poor rollers in spite of my best efforts, and I finally gave oil a try. It works! I used French horn rotary valve oil, should use something thin for sure, really helps an otherwise correctly adjusted S-C truck.

Saturday, November 2, 2019

A look at The Model Railroader Cyclopedia

A classic publication that was hugely influential back in the day was The Model Railroader Cyclopedia. The classic version of this was published in one volume and was a very important, standard resource in those pre-internet days.

My copy is the 1944 version (copyrighted 1943), the fifth edition. Using that copyright page as my source, the previous editions were published in 1936, 1937, 1938, and 1940. Judging from searches I believe the version I have might be the most common, which makes some sense as by that year of WWII model railroad supplies were really short, but you could buy a book like this one and dream about what models you might build after the war.

The book contains several short and helpful articles, and pages and pages of scale drawings, many folding out from the book. Many of these if not most were published previously in Model Railroader, but I don’t think they all were.

It is a fascinating book to just look at periodically, you can tell that many of the models featured were actually produced for the hobby market. Then you have the question, which came first, the models or the drawings? I’m inclined to think the drawings, although who knows, maybe there was some coordination with manufacturers involved, and the drawings were produced for the manufacturers and then published.

In any case, the resource has come up in this site several times for models that were built from the plans in this book:

Drover’s caboose

The Scale-Craft 4-6-2

The Scale-Craft 4-6-4T

A scratchbuilt gondola

The Graceline quad hopper

The Gracelilne utility flat car

The Cyclopedia is pretty available (eBay, etc.), if you don’t have one I think this is one that anyone interested in older scale model trains really should pick up as a reference.

Saturday, October 12, 2019

The Scale-Craft 4-6-2 -- not an easy model to build (or rebuild)

For several years I’ve been working on this beauty, a Scale-Craft 4-6-2. A prewar model, it was sold in two versions (more here) in OO and O scales. I have, of course, the OO gauge version.

My model is made of from major parts obtained in three separate purchases: the boiler, the tender, and the frame/drivers. Yet other parts came in various parts purchases. Working little by little I got it to the point seen here. Shiny and black! But it was not easy….

The major parts of this model are all sand cast in bronze, it is quite a model really, and quite heavy. It is based on the SP P-13 design, but modified somewhat, most obviously visible with the oversized cab and small drivers. The model was originally developed by H. L. “Red” Adams (more on him here! A good read!) and subsequently added to the S-C line, with some of the drive parts utilizing elements of their 4-6-0 model (and look at the last photo in the Red Adams article just linked, it appears to me that the boiler was modified a bit by S-C, and in particular the cab extended a bit more than in his original castings, to accommodate their motor).

Starting at the back with the Vanderbilt tender, the body is a single bronze casting with a smaller bronze casting for the rear frame and coupler mount. The other parts are stamped brass and brass. The one I obtained was set up with all the holes drilled to pick up all power from the tender wheels and to have a rectifier in the tender, just like the setup for the 4-6-0 with the Universal motor. I first built it up for the DC motor (more on that in a bit), but then reworked my installation to make use of a rectifier and the big AC Universal motor. For better operation I used NWSL wheels in the S-C trucks, they roll great and pick up power great, but only from one side. For the other side I modified the S-C wiring scheme with the AC motor to pick up from the other rail on the engine side, and use an insulated drawbar. I tried my best to smooth out the castings (still visibly a little rough after quite a bit of sanding), and I had to tap some of the holes. Completely assembled the whole things weighs a whopping 1 pound 10 ounces.

The boiler is a big, heavy casting that by itself weighs 1 pound 11 ounces (for comparison, the Nason Hudson boiler weighs in at only 1 pound 3 ounces). The cab is oversized in length (and maybe width) to accommodate the big motors used by Scale-Craft. I’d rate it a very nice casting, and came to me having been on a built up model. To the boiler various parts are fit, among the most obvious the being the big pipes. Of course, it is all simplified compared to the prototype, but I did work my boiler over reflecting on the prototypical layout of the parts as seen in my copy of the 1944 Model Railroader Cyclopedia and a set of Scale-Craft O gauge 4-6-2 drawings (I have yet to find a set of the OO instructions). Due to the large casting I used a torch to add my parts. The boiler front is a separate casting, also in bronze.

Then we get to the frame and a tale of a whole series of complications in building up a working drive. Originally, I should mention I had only the frame, no wheels, but was able to buy a frame with wheels and valve gear, saving me a lot of effort, although I think the model would look better with bigger drivers. I first set up the drive with the big DC motor and its transmission. I had to modify the bottom of that transmission and the mounting holes, but I got it on and then the boiler would not fit. I puzzled about this for a while, then finally drilled a new hole in the cylinder block to mount the boiler further forward. It’s not prototypical, the cylinders should be centered below the smokestack, but there is no way to do that without grinding out a lot of material inside the cab/boiler. I’d rate this as a design issue/failing by S-C. Got it all running, even posted a short video in the Facebook group, then – the DC drive gave up the ghost. Gears chewed up, it had almost certainly been on the way out anyway, no practical way to fix it, the gearbox basically can’t be disassembled.

With all those holes there for the wiring for the Universal motor, I reworked everything, installed a rectifier, puzzled a lot, and got that big motor installed with its different gear box. Tried to run it, and the gears don’t mesh correctly between the drive and the frame. Need to be closer to each other. More puzzling.

The good piece of news is that the gearbox used with the Universal motor can be easily disassembled and repaired, and I have a few extras. So finally, I decided the best option was to work on cutting down the bottom of the gearbox to fit lower into the frame so that the gears would mesh.

Which brings me to right now, the model runs, the gears mesh but not great. I’m going to give the project a rest for now, but will eventually cut it down more, it is close! It will take the curves on my layout, which is the big piece of good news.

Overall though, I’d rate this model as being a fairly difficult model to build. No wonder S-C took it off the market, and no wonder it is somewhat rare. As to my drive issues, perhaps S-C shipped out the model with a slightly modified gearbox? Maybe the seeing the actual instructions would clear up some questions I have. But respect for the builders that completed these models back in the day, and if you have one, this is a model to treasure.

Friday, October 4, 2019

The lure of the yellow 0014 boxcar

I have at this point a pretty solid quantity of vintage American OO models, but one model, a pretty iconic one, I did not own: the yellow boxcar. This was produced by Lionel in 1938 only. Any good example will sell for more than I’m willing to pay, and also I’ve focused on all the other OO lines much more.

But clearly, from this photo, I do own one now. People who follow eBay closely probably saw this one a couple months ago in a lot with some other cars that had little more than parts value. This yellow 0014 has, of course, been modified. If it were me, back in those prewar days, I would have likely of repainted the model totally. A yellow boxcar? Although, of course, there were yellow MKT boxcars (I built this nice pair of them in fact), and colorful reefers and such.

Whoever owned this example of the yellow 0014 had an idea how to make it better, and they painted the roof and ends boxcar red. Of course this has ruined the remaining collector value of this somewhat beat model. But to be honest the boxcar red areas added result in kind of a nice look for the car.

I’ve worked on it to the extent it is on good trucks, has couplers, and has been cleaned up a bit. I need to replace the door on the other side and I’m inclined to think about touching up all the boxcar red areas when I do that door. No rush, though, and I’m enjoying this rare if modified model.

Saturday, September 14, 2019

Finishing up the Shapeways FA, and looking back briefly at The Orient

Among many projects of the summer was this American OO scale FA1, built using a body from Shapeways and riding on Schorr RS-2 trucks. The model is first seen in this post, then later just prior to painting here, and now it is done.

It took quite a while to decide how to letter it. Originally my plan was to letter it for the MKT, their red scheme was the inspiration for the scheme I developed for my Orient and I had some decals. Eventually, running it on the layout paired with the best of my Schorr F3 models brought me around to I should just use one of my two remaining sets of Orient decals on the model.

It is not powered and operates very well as a dummy locomotive. In terms of detail level, it ultimately came out similar to a sand-cast model like the Schorr F3. Sanding the 3D printed model was difficult and did little to improve the rough surface. I did what I could to improve it with the paint job, using a heavy coat of Mr. Surfacer as primer, followed by a heavy coat of the rattle can Testors red paint I’ve used since high school for my Kansas City, Mexico, and Orient Diesels. It took a while to really cure hard and I ended up setting the model aside for several months. The decals in the number boards I think help the look a lot. Someday I may get motivated and add windows, but for now I’m enjoying this model.

Back a few years ago I posted an article “Why the Orient? Why in American OO Scale?” I came up with several freelance road ideas when I was in high school. In terms of working in OO, the concept of taking a road absorbed by the Santa Fe in 1928 and projecting it forward in time as an independent in a world that was a little more prosperous/profitable (so that the road could survive!) has worked well.

My initial interest was sparked by reading the 1968 book Destination Topolobampo by John Leeds Kerr and Frank Donavan, a book on the history of the Kansas City, Mexico, and Orient Railway. They broke ground in my home town and operated in the USA from Wichita, Kansas, to the Mexican border (with additional lines in Mexico, aiming toward the Pacific port of Topolobampo).

These models seen with the FA all date from my high school days and early college. I’ve always liked the look of the Alco FA running paired with an F unit. The HO FA, under the paint I can see a faint remnant of a prior paint scheme, prior to settling on the Madison-Quincy-Southern as another of my roads I called that line the Verdigris Valley, and that FA was the only model receiving that lettering. Changing it to the Orient was a good move.

I knew there was another more recent book on the real Kansas City, Mexico, and Orient Ry., and a tip (thank you out there!) reminded me that with just a little searching, I could find and buy a copy. I located one pretty quickly, and have been hugely enjoying reading The Orient by Robert Pounds and John McCall. Published in 2011, this book fills in a lot of details I had been curious about, with more photos and also rosters of equipment which I had only been guessing about. It confirmed that I made some good decisions in my proto-freelancing world, and likely will inspire me to scrathbuild a few models of actual Orient equipment, in particular their most common caboose type.

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

AND: The finished FA 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.

Sunday, March 24, 2019

A look at the Nason “All Service Express Car”

A car I have long puzzled about is the Nason All Service Express Car. It is a 60’ baggage car of a somewhat unusual design that, being more familiar with western roads, I did not recognize.

One of the most notable things to mention first is this car was a part of the initial line of sand cast aluminum passenger cars, introduced by Nason Railways in 1934 (more information here, with photos of a completed model). This scan shows the parts of the car and also a built-up example, as shown in their sixth edition catalog.

The car body, thanks to help from the America OO Facebook group page, I now know is based on the PRR B60 Baggage Express Car. The Nason model would be of the original version of the car, not the later/updated version with porthole windows.

The trucks seen on the Nason model are Commonwealth 4 wheel top equalized passenger car trucks, a type only used, so far as I can tell, on the Erie, the New Haven, and the Boston & Maine. And apparently not on very many cars. Why Nason decided to make this truck and put it on a PRR prototype car I don’t know. Probably it is just a danger of guessing the future, it was a modern truck design for the time that caught the eye of Hugh Nason, but was not a winner in the longer term.

This photo shows what I have of this model: a floor and three of the trucks. It’s a start I suppose, or parts that might complete the set of sides and ends someone else has.

I should mention that the castings of these models are so fine, people might think they are die cast. But they are sand-cast aluminum, and Nason must have used a fine art foundry to make the parts, they are very well made. The cast parts are meant to be screwed together.

This is an uncommon model and I would think desirable, one to look out for.

Sunday, March 3, 2019

Building a better Baldwin, Fleischmann HO to OO conversion 2.0

A few years ago, I did an initial conversion of a Fleischmann Baldwin switcher to operation in OO. This is a vintage HO model that is rather overscale for HO (more here), the only major dimension that is off really for OO is height, the model is a bit short.

As the first conversion ran well and came out looking great in the ATSF “zebra stripe” scheme I finally decided to build a second model up, using the same methods but improving things a bit. The first model used the original Fleischmann paint, and I kept the original Fleischmann number that is cast into the cab. The new model as it came to me had several heavy coats of paint on it that I had to remove, and in the process of prepping the body I also sanded the numbers off.

The body and the handrails were spray painted black. As I noted in the article with the original model (here) the zebra stripe scheme hides very effectively the fact that the box ahead of the cab is close to twice as big as it should be. Painted black, the eye is drawn away to the stripes. The black handrails on the new model are an improvement on the original model, and I may go back and paint those black as well. The big headache was applying the decals, straightforward but time consuming. I used Microscale HO decals.

I had a request to show how the drive was put together, which hopefully this photo reveals better. I tried to improve on the first drive, but I think the first one might have come out better, so this photo is of the original drive. The frame, motor, and front truck on the new model are from a blue box era Athearn road diesel. It has to be cut down a bit to fit, cutting as much off as possible while maintaining the original motor mount. I have had very good luck with the converted Athearn drives, more on that process here. The Athearn frame is held secure using the original screw holes that held on the original front truck. On both models I did not correct the shape of the fuel tank, it is not quite right but I can live with that detail being off, it is not obvious to the eye being painted black.

The back truck is the front truck from an AHM SW1 which also donated that portion of the frame (cut down) and all four side frames. The fit between the base of the Athearn motor and the AHM truck is very tight and requires careful trimming of the Athearn frame and the truck itself. You will also need to cut part of the Athearn drive shaft off to not interfere with the truck mount. When it moves freely you will be good to go! I attached the remnant of the AHM frame to the body with screws into some heavy wood strips glued to the body.

Looking at the bottom, you can also see how the truck sideframes are mounted. On the Athearn end donor HO Athearn sideframes were cut down and the AHM sideframes glued on with clearance not to interfere with the wheels. On the AHM end, spacers were inserted to give sufficient clearance for OO gauge wheelsets. All the wheels are somewhat undersized for OO but it is not I feel very noticeable.

The couplers I should mention are mounted directly on the Fleischmann body casting but in the Kadee plastic boxes; if mounted directly on the bodies there would be a short between the two models operating back to back.

Together the two models run great and can pull 8 of almost any type with ease on my layout. Of course, this is actually me using modelers license, as so far as I know the prototype ATSF models were not MU equipped.

Among models I run regularly the Fleishmann Baldwin deserves a quick comparison to an AHM S-2 (the “Alco 1000”, more on this model here). The S-2 is clearly overscale for HO but it looks small next to the Baldwin, which gives a better impression of being to scale for OO. In reality, both models are a bit small for OO, but overall the Fleischmann is certainly a good looking model. I don’t imagine it looks right on a HO layout, however!

Finally, sharp eyed readers who clicked on the very first link in this article might have noticed I also have a Garco Baldwin in bronze. I’m on the fence what to do with that model. Originally I was thinking to rebuild it, but it is not quite as close to OO scale size and a little rougher model -- and actually has the original HO drive too. No rush anyway, and I'm thinking most likely a HO collector might appreciate it as it is.

Sunday, February 24, 2019

A nice interior in a Scale-Craft coach

From time to time I will luck into a vintage model that catches my eye. This is one such model.

From the outside, this looks like a nice but pretty standard Scale-Craft coach. It is on the six wheel trucks instead of four, so that is a slight upgrade.

The real upgrade is a rather nice interior. Sometimes I will see these built up using Suydam (HO) interior parts, but these are not those.

What the builder did was use a “T” shaped wood strip and cut it to length and smooth it out. After painting, to those he added cloth pieces for the headrests. Also there is a simple floor added inside as well.

There are no people except for the people in the rest room, represented by a silhouette behind the frosted glass.

Kind of makes me want to kick it up a notch and work on some interiors again. It is the type of project I seem to never get to, but is well worth addressing on some cold winter’s night or two.

Saturday, February 2, 2019

A look at the Nason B&O gondola

One of the rarest American OO models manufactured by Nason Railways is their gondola. Introduced in 1940 and decorated for the PRR, in 1941 a version for the B&O was added. Thanks to a tip (thank you!) I was recently able to purchase one of these models

The article that is an overview on the Nason gondola is here, and my PRR car may be seen more closely in this article. 

There is one big difference between this B&O model and my PRR model. The PRR has stamped brass ribs, and here you can see the ribs are soft metal castings.

Also several of the ribs are missing on this model. The instructions for this model don’t specifically say the kit includes brass ribs, but it does say that they are attached with brass pins which would be the way my PRR model is set up. Either Nason ran out of the brass ribs, or the builder opted for on this B&O model to use Selley part number 20037 “Gondola reinforcement strips” (more on Selley here).

Fortunately, I had a memory that I had seen ribs of the same type in my parts and found the supply, enough to fix this car and build at least one more. I’m planning to finish a partially built Picard gondola with the Selley ribs and other matching parts, it should turn out nicely.

UPDATE: See this article for the restored version of this model and more

Tuesday, January 29, 2019

A look at the Nason cast combine, with notes on the trucks

Among the most desirable I feel of the early Nason passenger cars are their sand cast aluminum cars; an overview of the line may be found here.

This combine was a recent eBay purchase, nicely built up. The floor, sides, and ends are all finely cast, with the roof being wood.

I don’t have the original instructions for this model, but I do have them for a couple other of the sand cast cars, the line was developed in early 1934.

A word on the trucks. Set up right, these are great trucks, they roll well and look fine. But note that a percentage of Nason 6 wheel passenger trucks, maybe a third of them, are soldered together, as are the trucks on this car. That for sure saved time, as the other type has holes drilled and tapped for screws, and that is a tough job in bronze sideframes. I’m sure too, as built up and sold, the soldered truck was a fine arrangement. The problem is if you ever need to fix the trucks basically you can’t. So if wheelsets keep falling out or the middle one gets wonky you are out of luck.

In the case of this car, one of the trucks the outer wheels fall out.

As I don’t plan to run this car at this point, I’ll live with that.

I have a number of these soldered trucks saved in a box, if I really get low on trucks someday, I’ll get back to them.