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Our Trains

Here we share our family adventures in model railroading.    Discussion and photo's range from model building to how we operate trains on model railroads in a prototype manner.    Construction techniques and visits to area layouts will also be featured.    Although we currently have no model railroad layout of our own, we work with several of our friends building models for use on their layouts.   It is our way of thanking them for sharing their model railroads with us.


This is Rockledge Yard on my friend Bob Winkler's Central Maryland model railroad. The yard is unusual in that it has a road running down the middle. The near tracks in the pic are the departure track (near the road) and behind it the thoroughfare track from the engine terminal. On the far side of the road are the house track (center), freight house -(left) and the REA depot (right. On the departure track can be seen a flat car with a lumber load. This is a kit from Owl Mountain Models. I'd always wanted to model a lumber load such as the but the idea of cutting the necessary lumber and constructing it from scratch was daunting. OMM solved the problem. And yes, the load is removable and will fit any Athearn 40' flat. On the road in the background the can be seen the MiniMetals stake body truck mentioned earlier.


shown is the interior of a stake body I created on a MiniMetals flat bed truck using the cut down sides from an Ulrich flat bed semi trailer. I wanted the Ulrich trailer to have stake sides on only half the trailer. This left me with two short stake body sides. I'd had the MiniModels truck on my display shelf for some time. A quick check showed the Ulrich stake body sides to be just the right length. Some bit of strip wood brought the front wall up to the height of the sides. Scale chain created a tail gate. Barrels and other detritus from my parts bins dressed up the cargo area. A quick project that came out quite nicely.


I've had a pair of 1949 International KB series box trucks on my shelf for a good long while. The KB series International trucks do a good job placing the era of a model railroad. Unfortunately, the models came painted in bright, modern color schemes. I wanted to backdate them with the more somber colors of trucks of the 1959s. Assuming them to be all metal, I disassembled one of the trucks and removed the tires, failing to notice that the box roof and the headlights were plastic. A liberal application of 'Strypeeze' had the effect of softening the box roof and disintegrating the tiny tractor style headlight buckets. By filing the end of a 1/16 styrene rod into a cone shape I was able to recreate the headlight buckets. Bits of square styrene rod recreated the stalks. I'm not sure what I want to do with the roof. I may try to fabricate a canvas roof with side tie downs as was often done with box trucks in that era. I'll probably paint the truck a medium green with black fenders. My problem now is where to get truck decals.


This was an old Mantura/Tyco 1880's combination car. I decided it might make an interesting side door caboose. Railroads often repurposed old rolling stock. To that end, I cut a slot in the roof for a metal cupola that was in one of my parts bins positioning it over the passenger portion of the car. I then blanked out the two windows directly under the cupola with small pieces of scribed siding. As is often the case with projects like this, it has taken on a life of its own. The truss rod wires underneath were rusted out and had to be replace. I attempted replacing them with wire but that turned out to be impractical Nylon line solved the problem but had the unintended effect of warping the floor. Brass rod reinforcement will solve that problem. Now to install the grab irons and hand rails.

My model railroad buddy Bob Winkler had an out of service flat car lettered for his Central Maryland Railroad.   I had an old Silver Streak and before that Tru-Scale crane among my collection of ancient model kits.  Not sure where I acquired it.   I decided to build a work train for the CM.   Not sure where the boom tender came from,  whether it was Wink's or mine originally.   Either way, the flat car was a necessity as the boom on the crane is too long for the boom tender.    Some barrels, rail, chain and other detritus, a bit of weathering and we have a work train.   I thought it came out rather nicely.  It is seen her in the engine terminal of Rockledge  Yard on the CM.


One of my recent project was to backdate a half dozen steel bay window cabooses for my friend Don Florwick.   His Pittburgh and South Penn model railroad is set in the 1950's.   Don originally purchased these modern cabooses as a stop gap measure till he could build a set of 19000 series wood cabooses he'd purchased.   I offered to build them for him.  Upon examining the kits however, I found they were plastic craftsman kits.   The steps for which had do be assembled from a half dozen  small and exceedingly thin parts.   Since eight or more cabooses would be needed and Don had sixteen kits altogether, this wasn't an option for the short run.   It occurred to me that the existing six steel bay window cabooses could be repainted and back dated to suit the era of Don's layout.   

I didn't want to disassemble the cabooses so opted to use liquid mask to protect the windows.   I painted them box car red as the NYC did with their cabooses, lettered them for the P&SP with an NYC logo.   My scrap box provided enough  end ladders and Tichy Train Group offered steel mesh (plastic) roof walk material.   The roller bearing trucks were also replace with Tichy friction bearing caboose trucks.   I little touch up with yellow on the  grab irons and the cars were ready to go.   Much nicer than the modern Chessie System/ConRail livery they had originally.  

Our friend and fellow modeler Jay Beckham has a 3D printer and has agreed to print the steps for the 19000 series caboose kits.    I found that the steps from an Athearn 'blue box' caboose were an almost perfect fit for replacing the step assemblies that came with the craftsman kits for the 19000 series cabooses.  If Jay can print those for us, we'll have a nice fleet of cabooses for the P&SP.


These are a pair of Tichy Train Group trackside detail kits.   Tichy has, in my estimation at least, by far the best plastic casting in the industry.   All of the parts in their kits are exquisitely detailed and incredibly  delicate.   They also fit precisely.   Very  little, if any flash also.  My only problem with these kits is in working with the extremely small, delicate parts.  That and drilling the #80 holes for the fine phosphor bronze wire used to replicate control rods.   On the jib crane for instance, I threaded the chain at least 20 times before I got it right.  The pulley blocks are composed of three pieces and the winch is five.  I bit of work but beautiful when done.  And as you can see, they're inexpensive too.   Quality products need not cost a fortune.   I'll post more pics when they're painted and installed on my friend Bob Winkler's Central Maryland RR.   I have two more cranes and one more water column to construct for his layout.

A DPM (Design Preservation Miniatures) structure weathered by Dotti.   A Tichy fire  escape has been added and I scratch built the pool table for the interior.   Side walks had yet to be constructed when the photo was taken.  This structure stands just across the intersection from the entrance to the station at Rolee on Bob Winkler's Central Maryland model railroad layout.

Above is a kit bash I did on an inexpensive Atlas turntable.   The Atlas turntable is just a half inch or so too short to comfortably handle the Bachmann 2-8-0 or 2-10 -0.   I raised the deck by building another deck atop the original making it a quarter inch larger all around thereby increasing the diameter by half an inch.   The deck was made of styrene sheet and the gallows structure is  wood.

Unfortunately , the mechanism went south shortly before completion and the turntable was never installed.    Repair will require removing the entire surface structure.

An example of Alex's paint and weathering skills.  The tractor on the right began life as the tractor on the left.   It now looks right at home standing in a farm field.

Below is a photo of a roundhouse I built for my friend Bob Winkler.   

We added an interchange yard to Wink's layout accessible via a track running between the roundhouse and the wall behind the layout.   The difficulty was the corner of the roundhouse was in the way.   The structure had to be modified  and ended up also hiding a switch machine for the three way switch at the throat of the interchange yard.

Me checking something out in the main yard area of a layout I designed for my late friend Paul Rausch.   Here you see what would have been two yards separated by double sided backdrop down the center of the bench work.   This area would have depicted a pair of division point yards at either end of the modeled main line.  In the distance can be seen the double helix that took the two mainlines down to the staging yards which can just be seen below.    I drew it, but Paul Engineered the, one within the other, double track, double helix.

A flea market find.   An out of production model of an early travel trailer, manufacturer unknown.   The deck and steps were scratch built from scale stripwood.   The skirting is Evergreen styrene.   A bit of work with the airbrush and some chalks and it begins to look pretty good.   Total investment, probably under $2.


This caboose was built from a Silver Streak kit in the 1970's by my friend Don Florwick.   It has been in service on his current Pittsburgh and South Penn model railroad on the local freights that operate out of Somerset Yard.   Don originally built the caboose as it came, right out of the box.  The stock kit sides were  painted plain orange and were without lettering of any sort.

Don had painted the roof, underside and ends weathered black as those parts were unpainted.   Since the model was now in service on the P&SP, Don wanted it to look the part.   As the yardmaster at Somerset where the caboose was based, I offered t bring it up to date.    Don had done a nice crisp job of assembling the car and I had no desire to attempt dismantling it in order to spray paint it.  I decided to leave the ends walls and cupola weathered black and brush paint the sides box car red to match the other NYC cabooses.   I used Scalecoat II paint and it brushed rather nicely.   One cannot really tell the model was brush painted rather than airbrushed.    Micro Scale provided the NYC logo and an ancient Champ decal set provided the remainder of the lettering.   Some light weathering with airbrush and chalks and the caboose is ready to resume its duties on the local freight out of Somerset Pa on the P&SP.

Dotti and I are available for custom  work in the way of weathering model railroad rolling stock, building structures with character and model railroad layout planning.   Designing model railroads for prototype operation has been a fascination of mine ever since being introduced to the idea by Doug Smith and Frank Ellison through the pages of Model Railroader magazine.   For those interested, I am available for consultation as well as final design. 

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