Proto48 · Ruminations · Trackwork

Retreat from P48

I started the Dominion & New England layout in P48 as a personal challenge to raise my level of craftsmanship and the prototype fidelity of my models. As I write this, I’m looking at four locomotives, none of which are running on the layout. The steamers are just beyond my ability to convert to P48. Enlisting help with the basic P48 conversion runs about double what I paid for the locomotives. The diesels I can handle but I’ve allowed myself to be sidetracked into building better drives. I’ll continue with that effort. Upgraded motors, DCC and sound are well within my ability. Turning new driver tires, narrowing frames, etc…, maybe not.

I’m also staring at a dozen freight cars that could be running on the layout but are waiting for P48 wheelsets or complete trucks. And they’re not cheap either.

I started the conversion to the Protocraft Symington-Gould AAR Type “E” operating couplers. They are beautiful! But my layout is a shortline with lots of switching and I’m finding they are just too finicky for me. As it happens, Kadee is selling a more prototypical “E” coupler now — no, they’re not as nice looking as the Protocraft but they’re not bad. And they operate much better. The spring is hidden so there is no obvious give away.

There is simply not enough done on the layout to prevent me from starting over in Ow5 (1.25″ O gauge). I can relay track a lot faster than all of these other chores and it’s a whole lot less expensive. I’ll continue to lay the track to a high standard even if it is a slightly wider gauge.

Please don’t let me discourage you from trying P48. Others have successfully built large P48 layouts. In my case, my machining skills and my pocketbook just aren’t deep enough. I’m not getting enough done to really enjoy my efforts.

Freight Car · Model Building · Research · Roster

B&M Rebuilt USRA Gondola

90374 Complete In 1919, Pressed Steel built 1500 USRA 1002-B 50-ton composite drop bottom gondolas for the B&M. The B&M designated them as class G-4 with nos. 90000 through 91499. These AAR Class GS gondolas had drop doors opening toward the outside of the car and, hence, you’ll sometimes see them referred to as side dumps. They rode on Andrews trucks and spent much of their lives hauling “tide coal” from New England tidewater ports to inland locations over the B&M. They were rebuilt in 1933 at the B&M Concord, New Hampshire shops with 4-rib dreadnaught ends replacing the original 6-rib Murphy ends. The cars were painted black and the reporting marks changed to “BM” with the simple rectangular herald centered on the side. Fully half the cars were gone after the war and only four appear on the 1950 roster. The 1953 ORER (Official Railroad Equipment Register) shows only two (90374 and 90724) still around, probably hauling cinders in their last days. It appears these last two were retired sometime in 1953 as their K brakes were outlawed. B&M GS GondolaB&M gon 91439 loaded with scrap at the Billerica shops in 1942 has been rebuilt with dreadnaught ends. The diagonals are also gone from the end panels. It looks like the Perfection handbrake has been replaced by a power handbrake. Note the newer “BM” reporting marks and the newer rectangular herald. (Library of Congress photo.) I wanted one of these cars on my circa 1953 Vermont shortline. Given the period, it would have to be a rebuilt car and it would be near to its last days. Kitbashing a rebuilt B&M USRA gondola from an O scale Intermountain kit turned out to be feasible. Construction followed the kit instructions except for a few alterations (well, actually, quite a few). First, I got out the hacksaw and cut a steel plate to hide under the laser cut floor bringing the car up to 16oz total weight. As an afterthought, a notch was cut into the weight directly under two of the drop doors so they could be left partially open as in the NYC photo seen below. NYC USRA Gon Top ViewSimilar NYC gondola with original Murphy ends and Perfection handbrake. Notice a couple of drop doors cracked open. (NYC Historical Society) An Intermountain steel reefer body from the scrap box (it had taken the fatal plunge years ago) donated a pair of 4-4 dreadnaught ends. The bottom half of each end became a 4 rib dreadnaught end to substitute for the 6 rib Murphy ends found on the rebuilt gondolas. (I wish they had corrugations on the inside face. Oh, well…) Photos show that the diagonals went missing on the end panels after the rebuild so those were also removed on the model. A pair of beefy old Athearn metal Andrews trucks were substituted for the Intermountain Bettendorf trucks included with the kit. The couplers are Kadee 745 AAR Type “E”.
Split-K brake installation.
The brakes on this car are the split-K type. As far as I know, none of this class were converted to AB brakes. The plumbing and rodding are brass wire with Tichy turnbuckles cut in half for clevises. Also, from the photo above, it looks like the Perfection handbrake was replaced by a more modern power handbrake when the car was rebuilt (I couldn’t tell which from the photo). 3D printed parts for an Ajax handbrake came from Eastern Road Models (Shapeways). Other parts came from the scrap box. Tichy grabs were substituted for the fragile plastic ones in the kit. The brake step was scratch built from brass strip and styrene as were the end ladders and cut levers. Included with the kit were nice laser cut wood panels representing the floor and sides. I removed the paint on the laser cut sides as I wanted to do a weathered finish. The inside facing surfaces were stained with artist oil washes to represent well-worn wood. Rather than paint the outer wooden sides with the car’s framing, I stained them separately with washes of Vallejo Black, Sea Gray and Burnt Umber emphasizing the individual boards. All but the wood parts of the model were cleaned in a bath of Dawn detergent and warm water. The inside of the side framing and the floor were masked as the wood parts would be glued in later. The model was then sprayed with a coat of Tamiya Surface Primer. Boston & Maine gondolas in this era were black. These cars would have some rust showing through so an undercoat of Vallejo Burnt Umber was applied first followed by Vallejo Black Gray. The underbody and trucks were sprayed with a mix of burnt umber and dark gray. Lettering came from a Protocraft B&M boxcar set and a Microscale Freight Car Data set. B&M reporting marks became “BM” as of 1938. I numbered the car 90374, one of two still in the ORER in 1953. The simple rectangular herald applied to the center of the car is correct for the rebuilt gondolas. These cars never received the “Minuteman” herald. Reweigh data is “CS 7-51”, denoting Concord, NH, July 1951. Other data includes: CAPY     100000                              IL    4-6 LDLMT 125200                              IW   9-1 LTWT      44500    BLT 12-19    CUFT 1770     GS Before installing the floor, the two drop doors over the cut out in the weight were backed with paper and then cut free on three sides. After the floor was glued to the weight, the moving doors were pressed down and glued to the subfloor showing them cracked open. Then the finished sides were glued to the side framing. Further weathering steps included artist oils and Pan Pastels to give the model a worn, rusty look as time was running out for these cars in 1953. The floor was littered with bits of dusty coal and dunnage. I’ll make three loads for this car: coal, gravel, and rip-rap. For the most part, it will bring steam coal to the Idlenot Farms Dairy creamery in St. George and haul out stone products from the nearby Trap Rock Quarry. Other inbound loads could be lumber, sand or a load of fresh railroad ties from the Koppers Tie Plant in Nashua, NH. Outbound, perhaps scrap metal or pulpwood billets stacked on end. So there are more loads to build. A signature Boston & Maine car soldiering on in its last days as it might have been seen on a northern Vermont short line, circa 1953. ——- The Jul-Aug81 issue of Mainline Modeler has an article on USRA composite gondolas with plans and photos. Ted Culotta describes an RPM project, Kitbashing USRA-Design Gondolas, on his Speedwitch website. James B. Van Bokkelen’s website, Boston and Maine Freight Equipment after 1920, has much useful information on the B&M gondolas. Tim Gilbert’s notes in the B&MRRHS Modelers Notes #72 (May-June 2001) helped with the placement of B&M freight car heralds. And Earl Tuson’s web page, Boston & Maine Railroad Coal Cars 1900-1930, describes the tidewater coal traffic on the B&M and includes some photos of the USRA gons. Tim Gilberts B&M Freight Car Roster 1915-1955 in the B&MRRHS online archives provided important data for lettering the car. [An early version of this article appeared in the B&M Railroad Historical Society Modelers Notes in issues 169 and 170.]
Model Building · Narrow Gauge · Nostalgia

Crowsnest Tramway Redux

Roger Marler from Calgary, Alberta, contacted me recently with more information on the The Crowsnest Tramway Co. Rather than adding it as a comment I thought it made more sense to put it up front. BTW for some fine model building, be sure to check out his blog — see his link at the end. Here’s Roger…

This diorama was built by Roy Link in Norfolk, England in the early 1980s and sold to Mike South a few years later. At that time it had just 1 loco, 3 tipper wagons, and a flat wagon. The loco was based on Bagnall’s 0-4-0 IST works number 300 built in 1880 and was scratch built by Roy, as were the other items of rolling stock. Mike had it all shipped to his home in Calgary, Alberta, Canada where it stayed until Mike’s death in August 2009, when it became mine. And it immediately disappeared for a few months until I discovered it in someone’s garage in rural southern Alberta. Coincidentally, Craig Parry had posted a request for information about this diorama in the ezine of the Calgary Model Railway Society. A few emails back and forth and, after help in crating it all up again by some other friends of Mike South, it made its way to Craig in Belleville, Ontario, where it now resides. However, in the meantime, Craig has been successful in obtaining some of the other 20 or so locomotives, and other wagons that had been built by various artisans around the world, on commission for Mike South, but which had somehow been divorced from the layout. Craig has also taken the diorama on the road to a number of shows on both sides of the 49 parallel to much deserved acclaim.

I am so glad it is now in the right hands and is promised a safe and enjoyable future.
Roger Marler, Calgary, Alberta, Canada.

Freight Car · Proto48 · Roster

C&EI 1937 AAR Box car 64471

C&EI 64471 spotted at the St. George freight house door #3.

Chicago & Eastern Illinois 64471 is a class XM steel box car. It’s an AAR 1937 design built in 1949 with an inside height of 10′-0″. It’s in the 1953 ORER (Official Railroad Equipment Register).

I built this car from an Intermountain 1937 AAR box car kit back in the 90s. Being only four years old, the prototype would be in pretty good shape in 1953. I doubt the details are spot on so it’s likely a stand-in —  but no worries. The ends are dreadnaught 4-5, the roof is Viking and the roof walk is wood. Based on info compiled by Ed Hawkins and Ted Culotta the doors should be CRECO 3 panel, not Youngstown, and be painted black; the ladders should be 8 rung, not 7. The build date is conflicted: one table says built 1949, the other 1937. The car is lettered 1949 so that’s what I’ll believe.

Weighing 13 oz. it’s a little light in the journals. It has a light filter spray to tone the lettering down (typical technique in the 90s) but needed a little more weathering. I decided not to replace the doors but I thought they should at least be painted black.

Here’s what was done to bring it up to snuff:

  • Replaced the wheel sets with NWSL P48s.
  • Replaced the couplers with Kadee 745 AAR “E” Type.
  • Painted the doors black.
  • Added light weathering with Pan Pastels and artist oils.
  • Sealed it with Testors Dullcote.

In operation, this box car might bring in bricks, tires and other goods from the upper Midwest. Outbound it might be loaded with chairs, piano stools or maybe a load of famous Green Mountain Baskets destined for a Chicagoland distributor.

It’s a nice model. Not exact in every detail but a great example of a typical 40′ box car of the era.

Freight Car · Proto48 · Roster

D&H 5794 Twin Hopper


D&H 5794 is a class HM fishbelly style twin hopper built in 1942. The D&NE roster needs a few twin hoppers to haul anthracite coal to various fuel dealers along the line. The coal comes from Eastern Pennsylvania and typically arrives in hoppers lettered for one of the anthracite roads (LNE, D&H, CNJ, Reading and PRR are examples).

I like the Atlas diecast 50 Ton fishbelly hoppers. They’re perfect for the transition era I model and they are heavy! I try to weight all of my cars up to a pound or so. Marshalling heavy cars is very railroady. These bad boys go two pounds! Being RTR, they’re a relatively easy addition to the roster.

Here’s what was done to D&H 5794:

  • Replaced the Atlas couplers with Kadee 745 AAR “E” Type.
  • Retained the Atlas trucks but replaced the truck bolsters with the Shapeways DIR OAtOP48 Andrews Conversion Bolster designed by Jim Lincoln and the wheel sets with NWSL 33″ P48s.
  • Updated the reweigh data to “O 8-52” (Oneanta, Aug 1952).
  • Painted the trucks and couplers a grungy color.
  • Weathered with Pan Pastels and artist oils.
  • Sealed it all with Testors Dullcoat.
  • Added a coal load from DC Rail and Hobby Depot.

This is not intended to be a finescale model but just a good looking runner to fill out the roster. I didn’t want to make a career out of getting it on the layout. The brake detail is not complete but good enough. The details are a little heavy, I guess, but I can live with that.

BTW the weathering is inspired by Mike Confalone’s excellent video, “Weathering Freight Cars and Locomotives”. This video is available as a series now from

D&H 5794 will usually be seen bringing in a load of anthracite coal for home heating to the King Coal Co. coal shed in St. George. It might be confiscated from time to time to haul out a load of gravel from Trap Rock Quarry.

Freight Car · Roster · Ruminations

Transition Era Roster

From time to time as I build the D&NE I think about where I’m headed with the equipment roster. The D&NE is set in August, 1953, the late transition era. Much of the wood sheathed and composite equipment, worn out during the war, is gone by now. K brakes are a thing of the past in interchange. You won’t see any arch bar trucks. 40′ box cars still dominate the rails.

The D&NE is situated in north central Vermont. It is no longer a bridge route to the Canadian transcons but a rural shortline. St. George, now the end of track, is just a few scant miles short of the Canadian border. The southern end of the line is a nondescript interchange with the Central Vermont near Montpelier, the state capital.

There is no large industry in the area. Primarily, the D&NE serves agricultural and rural customers. Inbound is coal for steam and home heating, animal feed, petroleum products, tires, hardware, machinery, building supplies and some food stuffs. Outbound you see products from light industry, furniture, lumber, pulpwood, stone products and fresh milk. Trap Rock Quarry, just south of St. George, is the largest shipper.

Much of the freight traffic is regional so it stands to reason that most cars you see on the line are from northeast roads. Everything travels via the CV, now the D&NE’s only connection to the outside world. Traffic to southern New England goes by B&M. Mid-Atlantic traffic goes by NYC then maybe PRR or B&O. Traffic to and from the upper midwest and beyond might be routed via NYC but also CN or CP.

The most frequent roads that appear on the D&NE would be NYC, CP, CN, CV, PRR, B&O and B&M. Of course, a car from any road might appear from time to time. I have my favorites. A few cars from the sunny southland (SAL, C&O). A western box car or two (UP, SP, AT&SF, MILW). A Park & Pollard (PRKX) insulated box car is on the list. A pair of Swift reefers, one red and one yellow for a weekly delivery to the Swift house in St. George. Twin hoppers from the anthracite roads (D&H, CNJ, RDG) deliver fuel for home heating.

So how does this lead to planning a roster for the D&NE? First, how many cars will I have, eventually? My guess is two dozen or so. Well, maybe three dozen for some variety. How many will be on the line at any given time? Two or three in St. George, two or three at Trap Rock Quarry, another five or so in transit. When the line is extended to Morristown one day, another two or three there. By then maybe I’ll want four dozen cars. But that’s a ways off.

National freight car distribution lists don’t help very much for a local shortline. I don’t care what percentage of railroad cars are stock cars or TOFC flat cars. Or cars that carry industrial chemicals or bananas. Solid reefer blocks won’t be seen on the D&NE.

Looking at photos of northern New England consists in the 1950s, the most prevalent car is, by far, the 40′ box car. There are still a lot of coal hoppers and more and more petroleum tank cars. Gondolas are often seen too. On the D&NE, steam coal comes in by gondola from the New England coast and there is a large quarry operation shipping stone products so there’ll be more of these than average on the line. You’ll also see the odd flat car and an occasional reefer or insulated box car. And of course, milk cars. That’s about it.

With a budget of three dozen cars, what might a potential roster look like?

                       US  RTR or                               
Car type      Target  1946 Built  Unbuilt 
------------- ------- ---- ------ ------- 
Box           16 45%   36%     5       10
Hopper         6 17%   27%     4        1 
Gondola        6 17%   16%     2        2
Flat           2  5%    4%     0        2
Reefer         2  5%    7%     0        0
Tank           2  5%    7%     2        0
Stock          0  0%    3%     0        0
Milk           2  5%  <<1%     1        1
------------- ------- ---- ------ -------
Total         36               2       28

So I guess I’m off to a pretty good start. There are about a dozen cars from my Ow5 days that need conversion to P48. There are a few RTR cars (Atlas) that need little work. And, no surprise, a shelf full of kits, largely resin type. I have culled what isn’t appropriate so whatever I have is useful. I plan to scratchbuild a caboose, a triple combine, two Swift reefers and a Park & Pollard (PRKX) insulated box car.

There’s plenty to do.

Freight Car · Model Building · Proto48 · Roster

Report From the Car Shops

Car Shops
l. to r., West Shore Line NYC gondola, Lee Turner 1932 ARA SAL box car, IM USRA composite B&M gon, IM 1937 AAR C&EI box car, Atlas twin hoppers

Since finishing up the St. George freight house, I’ve been busy at the workbench getting a few cars on the track. Putting the finishing touches on a NYC class GA gondola. This car was built from a West Shore Lines kit and has been around for 20 years but needed a little sprucing up and conversion to P48. Also nearly done is a USRA composite gondola I’m building from an old Intermountain kit. I’ve taken a few liberties with the kit replacing much of the fragile polystyrene detail with brass and styrene fabrications. It’s in the home stretch and will be lettered for B&M.

Two Lee Turner 1932 ARA box cars are under construction. The Seaboard  car is on the rails but not finished. The C&O car is barely started. These kits have been haunting the shelves for 20 years. Before I start on some new models, I thought I should get them on the track.

A C&EI box car that has been appearing in photos lately has been converted to P48 but needs Protocraft couplers and some more weathering. It’s an Intermountain kit I built 20 or so years ago and has held up well. In a similar state are a couple of Atlas fishbelly twin hoppers that are on the rails but need Protocraft couplers and weathering. Most of my existing rolling stock needs P48 truck conversion or replacement, Protocraft couplers and reweigh data appropriate for Sept. 1953 along with minor repairs.

With these cars running it will be time to get back to the 44-tonner. I’m not happy with the original drive and hope to come up with something a lot better involving a couple of Faulhaber micromotors.

Several USRA box car kits, a couple of flat cars and a CP minibox all are waiting to be built. And that’s not to mention a dozen or so cars still on Ow5 trucks that need to be dusted off and converted to P48.

Plenty to do for years to come!


Model Building · Structures

The Freight House at St. George (part 2)

St. George Freight House

See The Freight House at St. George (part 1)

Before painting the freight house it got a bath in Dawn dish detergent and warm water. After it dried overnight I sprayed a coat of Tamiya Surface Primer (beautiful stuff) thinned 1:1 with lacquer thinner. I let this dry a few days until the smell was gone.

Next, a variegated undercoat of Vallejo Basalt Gray and Medium Sea Gray was applied to everything. These being the Vallejo Model Color paints meant for brushing, I thinned them 2 parts paint to 1 part Vallejo Airbrush Thinner with a drop or two of Windex as a flow agent and sprayed at about 35# pressure.

The doors, railings and weather boards got a coat of Vallejo Military Green taken down a bit with gray. The walls were painted D&NE mustard, a mix of 10 parts Vallejo Golden Yellow and 1 part Flat Earth with a touch of gray. Windows, roof trim and soffits are Vallejo Off White.

Afterward, I came back lightly with a fiberglass brush to reveal just a little of the undercoat. I followed that with dry brushing Basalt Gray to show some weathered wood, then a dry brushing of Golden Yellow on the battens for highlights. Now was a good time to install the windows and doors. But no glass yet. A light dusting of Pan Pastels helped tie everything together. I used grays and earthy shades to take the brightness down a bit.

St. George Freight House trackside
The slate roof with “snowbirds” and copper flashing

The slate roof is intended to be the original roof with some repairs through the years so the slates don’t all match in color. Luckily, there are a lot of old slate roofs around Manchester to go by. But you must be careful not to over do this on a model. I brush painted Vallejo Basalt Gray with touches of Medium Sea Gray and Burnt Umber blended in at random. The copper flashing was painted Game Color Verdigris, the color of oxidized copper, knocked down with some gray. I touched the snow birds with Vallejo Black Gray and Burnt Umber. The chimney was brush painted with Vallejo Burnt Red and Leather Brown. Testors Model Master Old Concrete was used for the chimney top. The mortar is a soupy mix of Durham’s Water Putty brushed on and then wiped off the brick faces. A final dry brushing of light gray from the bottom of the roof highlighted the tips of the slates. Various gray Pan Pastels were used to knock a little shine off of the roof and black to soot up the chimney area.

Office entrance
Busy platform area. Much detail to come after it’s embedded in the scenery.

The decks were sprayed with Tamiya Surface Primer and then Vallejo Basalt Gray. After giving that a few days to dry. Testors CreateFX weathering colors were applied board by board to highlight the grain I had worked into the styrene surface. Again, a dusting of Pan Pastels gave the decks a worn, weathered look.

Signage for the ends was setup in Word, laser printed and sealed front and back with Dullcote. The paper was glued with spray adhesive to a cardstock base and then glued to a #40 styrene back trimmed with black.

Finally, the entire model was then sealed with Testors Dullcote and the window glass finally installed.

In the end, I mounted the structure on a 1/8″ hardboard base thinking I’m likely to remove it from the layout from time to time.

I think this is the largest structure project I’ve ever taken on. Styrene is a joy to work with and can be brought to whatever finish you’d like. Assembly is fast, relatively speaking. Scratch building siding and roofing (doors and windows too for that matter) is time-consuming but, after all, this is a hobby.

Cleanliness is next to, well, certainly not railroadiness. So, the freight house will be surrounded by dunnage and other junk scattered among the weeds and puddles. There’s almost always a boxcar or two spotted trackside at the freight doors. Trucks come and go throughout the day. Sometimes the lights are still burning late into the autumn evening. A busy place indeed.

My next structure project for St. George is the passenger station inspired by the long gone B&M station at Peterborough, NH. (The Toadstool bookstore now occupies that site.) It has clapboard siding. I’m carefully laying up my own to get that subtle effect of not quite absolutely perfect. The doors and windows are scratch built or bashed using Tichys as a starting point. A few are pretty elegant. It’s going to take a while…

Model Building · Narrow Gauge

A New Life for Penrhyn Carriage “H”

Here’s another story about a 7/8″ scale Welsh two foot narrow gauge model I built a couple of years ago…

Idlenot Light Railway open third No. 7 built from ex-Penrhyn workman carriage “H”.

For some reason, despite 3 or 4 unfinished projects on the workbench, I got the bug to build a model of the original Talyllyn No. 7 for my 7/8” scale Idlenot Light Railway. The prototype was the Penrhyn Quarry Railway quarrymans carriage “H” but with a roof – essentially an open third.

In the early days of the Talyllyn preservation society, six Penrhyn quarrymans carriages made their way to Pendre. The Talyllyn shops constructed three cars from them: Nos. 7, 8 and 9. Nos. 7 and 8 were simply Penrhyn carriage bodies (“H” and “P”) with their 2′-0″ wheels replaced with 2’-3” gauge wheels from Corris slate wagons to suit the Talyllyn’s gauge. Each seated 18 passengers. (The Penrhyn though squeezed 24 workmen into each carriage!) No. 9 was an 8 wheel, bogie trucked frame with 2 Penrhyn carriage bodies (“C” and “D”) mounted on top.  The volunteers added a roof to No. 7 while Nos. 8 and 9 ran open to the sky. Being a bit decrepit to start with none of these cars were in service all that long (we’re talking the early ‘60s) but they helped fill a shortage of passenger rolling stock at a critical time. By the way, the frame from No. 7 was later repurposed for the Talyllyn Refreshment Van or “tea van”. The Idlenot is certainly going to need one of those. It’s on the short list.

Despite laser cut kits being available in 7/8” scale for these carriages I decided to build mine from scratch. I worked primarily from old photos and plans in Bernard Rockett’s Penrhyn Quarry Railways, Part 1. In addition, Great Railway Eras No. 9 Talyllyn 60 has nice photos of both No. 7 and No. 8. The Association of 16mm Narrow Gauge Modelers’ Penrhyn Quarry Railway Modeler’s Guide had a few pages on building the 16mm kit versions of these carriages and that was helpful too.

John Bate’s tome, The Chronicles of Pendre Sidings, provided much behind the scenes information – he was there, after all! I learned of the channel underframe stiffeners from the text and a photo showing No. 7 tipped partly over. The stiffeners were added to stop the shimmying that was causing alignment the axleboxes. That’s certainly something we want to avoid on the Idlenot.

The body and underframe of Idlenot No. 7 are made largely from basswood. The ends are aircraft ply scribed to the correct board width. A 16g steel subfloor gives the car a little heft. 7/8ths Railway Equipment Co. axleboxes and Sierra Valley gauge 1 spoked wheel sets were used in the spirit of the basic running gear on the prototype. Many brass “lil” pins were added for carriage bolt detail. (I always thought my English granddad was saying “Lillpins”. Fifty or so years later, I realized they were just small.) Corner strapping was formed from styrene strips and dress pins. Angle braces for the seat backs and the underframe’s channel stiffeners came from styrene shapes.

Here’s the second go at the body in gray primer. Its inspiration is in the right, top photo in Talyllyn 60.

Accucraft round face chopper couplers – standard on the Idlenot – were mounted along with Penrhyn style eye rings from Talisman. The inevitable holidays were filled with Squadron Green putty and the body given a coat of sanding sealer, then gray primer. In deference to its Penrhyn roots, the finish coat is a dark, brownish, purplish eggplant color. Not having a color sample to work from I mixed Polly Scale PRR Maroon and AT&SF Blue to get a shade I thought close – maybe aubergine. It took quite a few airbrush coats to get even coverage. The number “7” was hand painted in white on each end.

The seats are bench slats, as on the later run of home-built Penrhyn cars, with a varnished finish. These went in last. Two letters “H” were fashioned from brass, shined up and attached to each side. Not trusting adhesive to hold these on for very long a sturdier mounting method was sought. I drilled through #70 twice on each letter then through the car sides. Dress pins were pushed through from the inside, soldered to the front of the letters, trimmed and cleaned up. They’ll never come off!

The roof and stanchions are constructed from brass for strength. Using the car body as a jig, the stanchions were cut from square brass tubing, drilled and mounted to the sides with 0-80 nuts and bolts. Then, when everything was squared up, the letterboards were soldered to the tops of the stanchions with resistance soldering tweezers.

The brass bits for the roof assembly are being readied. I choose brass for strength. A wooden frame would be just too dainty.

Brass crosspieces were fashioned to the arch of the roof by sawing and filing. Soldering the two frames foresquare to the crosspieces was problematic until I thought to leave the side frames bolted to the car sides and push them together against the crosspieces with bar clamps. I turned to an 80W iron for this work being careful to keep each stanchion clamped to the letterboard as I went around. Now the entire roof assembly could be easily handled as a unit.

I decided on tinplate sheet as a sub-roof. It solders so easily. And it was easy to bend to the arch of the roof. The roof frame was turned upside down and soldered to the sub-roof in a rolling fashion, again using the 80W iron. Once in place, the sub-roof was trimmed to size with a pair of household scissors.

After an overnight bath in citric acid the roof assembly was clean and ready for paint. Masking off the roof top, I gave the frame a coat of rattle can etch primer in that lovely new shade of monkey vomit green followed by an automotive satin black.

The finished appearance of the roof was to be a canvas look which I do with cotton cloth. Since I couldn’t shellac to the nonporous tinplate subroof I instead used rubber contact cement. After ironing the cloth smooth and wrinkle free I coated it with cement. The tinplate was cleaned with acetone and it too was coated with cement. In 20 minutes or so the cement flashed dry. Then, the cloth was carefully draped over the roof and, with the help of a warm dress iron, bonded to the tinplate. Finally, the rooftop was given a coat of gray primer and several coats of white to represent a heavily leaded paint finish. I don’t weather my passenger rolling stock as the Idlenot volunteers take loving care of their roster so it’s finished off with Testors Gloss Cote.

Now, I don’t want to give the impression that everything went smoothly. I made a lot of mistakes along the way. Ask my wife about the film of rubber cement I left on her iron. Some ideas just didn’t work out. I can be ham fisted and sometimes a little impulsive. Part of the model building craft is learning to overcome or at least skillfully hide your mistakes. Don’t be afraid to throw out a part or an entire assembly for that matter and do it over! The first body for No. 7 went straight into the tipper. I didn’t like it. It just didn’t look right.

My large scale models are meant to be viewed from several feet away in the garden so I try to strike a balance and not rat hole into too much fine detail. The three foot rule is in force. Or is it the ten foot rule? I forget. Generally, I don’t bother much with underframe or interior detail if it can’t be seen with the car upright on the rails.

No. 7 in the dappled sunlight on the Isle of Shoals Tramway. 
No 7 parked at the Drew Road Station platform on Rich Chiodo’s lovely Isle of Shoals Tramway.

With the roof assembly bolted to the body the carriage was finally complete. It’s numbered Idlenot Light Railway No. 7 and, I must say, looks quite the tart – making the scene in aubergine.

Train Shows

Springfield Show 2019

Just returned from the enormous Springfield, Mass., model railroad show. Picked up a few things for the layout. Not really much scale O there. In fact, there’s more scale S given Des Plaines Hobbies’ presence. Stopped by the new San Juan Model Co. tables for their excellent AB brake sets to find someone had just bought them out! I suppose they were the biggest scale O presence albeit narrow gauge. We swapped a few Cliff Grandt stories and I wished them well as they have taken on quite a project that we’ll all appreciate in years to come. Still hard to realize Grandt Line and San Juan Car Co. are gone.

Crusader Hobbies was there too and always has a great selection of O scale figures and details. I picked up a few items for the freight house. Bought a few hand tools for the workbench. Picked up a supply of SuperTrees from Scenic Express. A great day was had by all!

Monica was with me and, as usual, we finished up at the Steaming Tender Restaurant in Palmer, Mass., where, if you close your eyes, the Central Vermont still crosses the Boston & Albany.