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B&O GP38 #3823

Here we have an Atlas Master Series GP38, modified and painted to match prototype photos of a Baltimore and Ohio unit from the early 1970s.  Many thanks to the owner of this unit, Charles, for his permission to blog about this royal blue unit.

This would have been the final iteration of the B&O paint scheme before being absorbed into the Chessie System's bright yellow paint.  Thus, the unit was to have a haggard appearance, and be adorned with all the modifications made to the unit throughout it's service life.  Most notable among these differences is the dynamic brake blister, with it's distinctive lack of taper at the leading edge.  This was obtained by splicing an angled filter box to the as-supplied dynamic brake section.

The addition of a Details West brass horn and whip antenna, etched steel wind deflectors, train line hose and Kadee #158 couplers compliments the hand-formed coupler cut bars.  These had the large yellow yokes soldered to faithfully reproduce the modifications made to the prototype unit.  A Details West speed recorder with #24 gauge single-stranded wire was used to decorate the Blomberg-B sideframe on the fireman's side of the unit. 

Polly-S acrylic "royal blue" and Testor's acrylic semi-gloss black, along with Microscale decals, were used to decorate this unit.  The prototype unit had some very distinctive weathering patterns that I wanted to reproduce.  These included the rust pattern on the step kick plates, probably from the crews striking their steel-toed boots while climbing the stairs; this was accomplished using dry-brushing and Prisma-color pencils.  The same technique was used for the wear along the chassis.  The paint on the walkways looked badly faded from years of use, abuse and sun-bleaching.  My trusty chalks to the rescue for this effect.  A diluted airbrush wash was used to obtain the exhaust soot.  The entire unit was sealed with Testor's dull cote from an aerosol can- a durable finish that just cannot be beat!


CNR RSC14 #1758

Here we see a rare and beautiful specimen from Overland Models; an RSC14.  These units started life as RS18s, and were re-trucked as A1A units in the mid 70s, using the trucks from retired RSC13s and RSC24s.  They spent their life in the Maritimes, serving branch lines where the A1A trucks served to distribute the weight of the locomotive on the 85lbs rails.

The owner of these fine units, Alex, has kindly agreed to let me display them on my blog.  This was my first attempt at painting an undecorated brass model, and it was a learning curve, to say the least!  The trucks are fully sprung, with independent gear boxes on each axle.  They are finicky affairs, but are also the highlight of any Overland model.

The unit was first disassembled and cleaned.  Alex desired certain modifications to the shell, including the Farr etched grilles (courtesy of Kaslo Shops,) and an all-weather window, (courtesy of Details Associates.)  Also added was a Details West re-rail frog, which was hung on custom-bent wire hangars.

The unit was painted using acrylic paints from True Line Trains (CN red-orange #11,) and Testors (semi-gloss black).  Masking was done using Tamiya 6mm tape, simply the best product on the market!

Adorning the unit are Sean Steele's CNR decals: the most prototypical decal set produced to date.  They are a joy to work with and the results speak for themselves.  

The unit was weathered to appear as though it was in the latter phase of it's service life.  The effects were achieved using  Testor's "dull-cote," chalks,  acrylic washes and dry-brushing techniques, (in said order.)p  Once the overall look was achieved, the unit was sealed using Testor's acrylic flat clear paint. 


CNR M420W #2508

This Kaslo Shops Distributing kit, riding on a highly modified Atlas U23B chassis, was masterfully built and painted by my good friend, Sean Steele.  It is modeled after an "as-delivered" locomotive, built by Montreal Locomotive Works.  It would be their final foray into the North-American diesel locomotive market.  Delivered in 1973, MLW produced this distinctive unit before being adsorbed by Bombardier.  My thanks to Sean for allowing me to post this unit on my blog.

Some thoughtful aftermarket additions to this kit was a Details Associates antenna and M.U. hoses, Miniatures by Eric horn and bell, A-Line wipers and Details West plow.

As delivered, these units lacked many features with which they were retired.  These include ditch lights, relocation of the horn to the long hood, the replacement of all hood door latches with "knuckle-busters," and the addition of several "Farr" paper grilles ahead of the radiator flares.

Sean was very specific about the weathering of this unit, sending photos of a well-used unit shuffling cars in a yard.   Of particular interest was the sun-bleaching and resultant patchy appearance of the roof.   Also, it was apparent that someone in the maintenance department had liberally applied hinge lube, causing it to streak down the hood and cause boot prints on the walkway.

The weathering effects were captured with a multistage process.   Firstly, Polly-S acrylic flat glaze was applied with an airbrush to make the unit appear to be in sunlight at all times.  Secondly, chalks were applied to achieve the lightened horizontal surfaces, the soot from the exhaust, and the dirt along the running boards, steps, pilots and walkway.   The chalks were sealed with more dull cote.  Following this, diluted and dry-brushed Dollar Store acrylic paints were used.  These were applied with a sponge for the bleaching effect, and with a small brush for the grease stains and fuel tank filler spillage.


CNR M420 #3536

The M420, another fantastic resin rendering by Kaslo.  This kit requires skill and patience to complete, but it is well worth it.  There is something so iconic, so Canadian about the M420. It would make any CNR roster seem more authentic. It also has a special place in my heart, as one of my first cab rides was aboard an M420 at CNR's Ottawa Walkley yards, back in my childhood days.  I can still remember the way the unit idled irregularly, sending intermittent vibrations through the cab.  
These units were the first units to be delivered with comfort cabs, as per CNRs specifications with input from the locomotive engineer's union. The "comfort" cab was a concession given to crews in order to reduce the amount of crew changes.  This meant that trains traveled further within less time and required less staffing.  These units were delivered between 1973 and 1977, and didn't make it past the end of the 90s.  They were notoriously cantankerous, and had a penchant for darkening even the brightest of summer skies with thick, black exhaust smoke.  

This model was built based on photos found on  This website is an invaluable research and inspirational tool.  Thanks to Micheal Folemsbi for his photos of 3536 in Niagara falls, circa 1994.  The kit was a pretty straight-forward build, as far as the shell is concerned.  Adorned with beautiful, kit-supplied etchings, the only additions to the shell were the horn and antenna by Details West, and the carbody filters by Railflyer Model Products.  MU and train line hoses, along with plough are all Details West products.  The rear pilot is by Juneco, and the ditch lights are by Miniatures by Eric.

The kit even came with etched bronze stanchions, which support the hand-bent brass railings.  The wipers are supplied by A-Line.The Atlas U23B chassis required significant milling and filing to accept both the shell and fuel tank arrangement.  The trucks are modified AAR-B trucks, having had the axle ends cut flush, the contact wipers moved inboard of the wheels and new mounting pins fabricated from styrene rod. 
The model is painted in True Line Trains CNR Red/Orange, Testors Semi-Gloss Black, and is lettered with Microscale Decals products.  The weathering effects were achieved with chalks and dilute airbrush passes.


The merger era: Burlington Norther SW1s #78 and 80.

These two pint-sized powerhouses were customized and weathered for one of my loyal clients, JB.  Without his patience, these units would not have been possible.  They are both based on photos of SW1s during the merger of the Great Northern (GN) and Chicago, Burlington & Quincy, (CB&Q,) to form the Burlington Northern (BN.)  This was a unique opportunity to recreate replicas far removed from my era and locale.

Both these units started life as Walther's Trainline SW1s, resplendent in their original schemes.  As was the case with all plastic models of this age, they lacked much of prototype-specific details.  They also sported handrails that were inaccurate in both arrangement and cross-section.  Having said that, they are truly well-proportioned models with great looking relief detail, and especially nicely executed truck sideframes.

BN (ex GN) #80 has had numerous additions to match (scarcely available) prototype photos.  They include a Cal-Scale whip antenna, a Details West rotary beacon, single chime horn and bell.  Smokey Valley supplied 1st-generation EMD stanchions to support hand-bent brass railings.  The re-rail frog is a fine casting by Juneco. Windshield wipers are from A-line, and the marker lamps are a Cal-scale item. The all-weather window is a Proto2000 spare part that JB supplied, and I simply love the flush-fitting window casting it comes with.

The "faded" herald was obtained using an HB pencil eraser, GENTLY and PATIENTLY.  The usual array of hoses attest to this unit's ability to be MUed to other diesels.  The footboards on this unit are from a scrap Proto200 GP9 shell.  The see-through tread is a nice touch.  The BN markings and numbers are Woodland Scenics dry transfer.  Weathering was obtained with chalks and dilute airbrush sprays.

BN (ex CBQ) #78 has some significant differences from the ex-GN unit.  Most notably is the lack of MU hoses and full-length long hood railings.  The piping above the fuel tank was hand-bent from brass wire using a jig.  The supporting straps were then soldered to the serpentine piping.  The fuel tanks were donated from a Proto2000 SW9.  The horn, antenna and bell are all from Details West.

The three-pane all weather window was fabricated using several Kaslo etchings (left over from an M420 kit,) strip styrene and clear acetate.  This was the only option, as there was no commercially-available window that captured the distinctive shape of the prototype.  The stock exhaust stack was removed and replaced with K&S aluminium tubing, cut to length with a pipe cutter.

Once again, the railings were made from hand-bent brass wire threaded through Smokey Valley stanchions.  The coupler-cut bar is another hand-formed brass wire item.  

Additions to the stock paint job were Microscale decals for the "Burlington" and "Burlington Route" heralds.  The BN lettering and numbers are, again supplied by Woodland Scenics.  The numberboard numbers are tricky, at exactly 1.5mm in height!  The ACI tags are decals affixed to styrene.  White pencil was used to highlight the doors on this model.  Otherwise, this model is entirely weathered with chalk and sealed with Testors Dull-Cote.

CNNA SD40u #6024

CNR, not afraid to experiment, has been home road to more customized diesel units than any other railroad.  Amongst the most visually appealing were the AMF/Alstom-rebuilt SD40Us.  Starting with aging 6-axled SD40s, these units received numerous visible upgrades in the early 90s as CNR was amidst a program to upgrade many of it's 1st generation diesels. 

Unique upgrades and modifications on this Kato SD40 include CNR ladder-style steps (courtesy of Jay Rostch,) CNR anticlimbers (modified Miniatures by Eric,) a custom built arrangement of battery boxes (from Athearn,) a "snoot" nose (a relic by Canadian Prototype Replicas,) and a custom-fabricated cab face (from Cannon & Company parts.)  The revised roof line and cab face gutter, numberboards and sand hatch were constructed from Evergreen styrene sheets and strips.  

The snow shields, lengthened from Details West castings, are adorned with Archer Fine Transfers rivets.  The split tank arrangement was made using cut-down Details Associate air tanks. The waste retention tank, aft of the fuel tank, was built using styrene stock.  The brake lines are represented with hand-bent phosphor bronze wire.  The sand lines are recreated using the insulation from 24g electrical wire.  Note the absence of visible wheel-speed sensors on the prototype.

The myriad underframe details, including brake rigging, were all fabricated from dimensional styrene and wire.  The extended-range dynamic brake section was donated from an Athearn SD40-2, but not without having the aft tapered portion replaced by a hand-shaped piece of styrene.  The steps and step guards, along with cab ran gutters are fine etchings made by Railflyer Model Products.  The brake stand is a Details West pewter casting.  All the fans were replaced with etched Cannon & Company parts, to allow for visible fan blades.  

Acrylic water-based paints from Testors, Tamiya and True-Line Trains decorate this model.  Decals are by Microscale.  The white "slash" was hand-masked.

Weathering on this model is subtle, as CN had (until recently,) kept these units in tip-top shape.

This model was the recipient of "Best in Show" as well as garnered a NMRA merit award at the 2014 "Grapevine Express" convention in Niagara-on-the-Lake.


CPR GP9u #8252

This is a Kaslo shell,  riding on a Proto2000 chassis with Tsunami DCC sound.  I must extend my sincerest gratitude and appreciation for Nadeem's continued patronage and patience on this project. Nadeem was precise:  He wanted a "fresh out of the paint shop" build.  A big challenge for me, and I thank him for trusting me whilst I was in relatively "virgin" territory.

The shell, supplied by Kaslo Shops via Point 1 Models, is a resin casting with CPR-specific details.  Nadeem wanted a road unit with a "Pacman" logo, so unit #8252 was chosen.  Most of the CPRs unit with a "Pacman" were built to yard unit specifications, and lack ditch light and pilot-ploughs.

This shell comes cast nearly to perfection. Minor modifications include removing the battery box aft of the cab on the fireman's side of the long hood, adding the louvres below the cab window and the addition of two small "rain gutters" over the louvres on the cab end of the long hood.  Other upgrades include the plate over the dynamic brake fan opening with hand-embossed rivets.  The roof is adorned with a Details West antenna and brass horn.  The fans are some of Cannon & Company's newest products, and they are beauties.  The winterization hatch with etched grille is included in the Kaslo kit.

The chassis is a modified Proto2000 drive system.  The sideframes are from Athearn, with hand-bent sand and brake lines.  The fuel tank was modified with strip styrene.  Details such as the sight glass and fuel filler (recessed into the side sill,) are from Cannon & Company.  The bell and sand filler hatches are Miniatures by Eric brass castings.  Note the hand-bent air tank piping.  The step wells are etched bronze, which also come included in the Kaslo kit. They are superb renderings!

The usual array of hoses, supplied by Details Associates, adorn the pilots on both ends.  To complement these details, Kadee #58 scale couplers were installed.  The decals are by Microscale, and the paint is Acrylic water-based tints from Badger Model-Flex, (CPR Action Red,) and Testors (Semi-gloss black.)  The unit is semi-gloss coated with Testors enamel, from an aerosol can.

...Now... If I could only convince Nad to let me weather this iconic and historic unit...


Wisconsin Central SD45 #6605

Having been in a business agreement with CNR since 1996, the Wisconsin Central was bought by the CNR in 2001, along with the Illinois Central.  Though 2001 would be at the very end of my operating era, it is possible to find mixed WC/CN lashups in the mid-90s.  Spying one of these behemoths in the picturesque countryside of Wisconsin in mid 2001, I knew I'd have to have one of my own... in 1/87th scale.

The heritage of this unit is unmistakably AT&SF, with it's assortment of antennae decks on the cab roof, along with the distinctive horn placement.  Having snapped photos of this unit in the mid-90s, it hadn't gone "under the knife" at MK Rail.  This is evident from the Flex-ix-oil trucks with low-slung brake cylinders.

The remnants of a 3-pane, all-weather window is evident on either side of the cab, but in unique ways.  The engineer's side was fabricated from 2 Detail Associates frames, spliced together.  The fireman's side was made using styrene stock and pounce wheel.  The antenna plates were scratch-built with styrene and brass stock.
The head-end of the unit sports the usual pilot face details from Details Associates, (M.U. hoses, ditch lights and coupler-lift bars,) Details West, (train line hose and headlight casting.)  The wipers are by A-line, and the plough was a re-shaped Atlas product.
The flex-i-coil sideframes sport scratch-built speed recorders.  This was done with styrene stock and single-stranded wire.  The conduits across the sideframes were made using the metal wire inside the single-stranded electrical wire.   Sand lines were made using 24 gauge electrical wire insulation.

The usual array of eyelets adorn the roof of the unit.  Future upgrades for the unit include the installation of see-through fan grilles with blades.  Revised handrails would very much improve the appearance of this project.  Note the A-Line etched steps.  The unit was painted with Testor's Polly Scale WC Maroon acrylic paint.  The yellow, along with the lettering is Microscale Decals.  Weathering is the usual array of chalks, dilute airbrush washes and dry-brushing.


CPR GP38-2 #3038

These EMD units first made an impression on me in Smith's Falls, Ont.  They were repainted into the "Two Flags" CPR scheme and assigned to haul the "Iron Highway."  This was the pilot project that lead to the current "Xpressway" trains being aimed at diverting truck traffic from the 401 between Montreal and Toronto.  Watching these units scream out of the station, as the engineers wrung their necks in an attempt to keep on a strict schedule was impressive, to say the least.

This unit started as an undecorated Proto2000 GP38-2.  Among the numerous modifications, it received, Miniatures by Eric CPR step wells, anti-climber, M.U. stands, ditch and headlight lenses, brake wheel and bell.  A Cannon and Co. angled blower housing was assembled and replaced the original, rounded type.

The inertial filter screens have scratch-built framing installed.  Details Associates antennae adorn the roof of the cab.

The exhaust hatches are, again, Miniatures by Eric parts.  The access door ahead of the dynamic break "blister" is scratch-built from Kaslo etchings and a piece of 0.005" styrene.  The horn is a brass casting by Details West, and Details Associates supplied both the winterization hatch and "Q" fan.

The roller-bearing caps are Miniature by Eric.  This is a vital piece of detail, in my opinion.  I love watching the caps spinning as the locomotive moves.  Maybe I can engineer scale, working roller bearings someday?  

The handrails and stanchions across the front anticlimber are Utah Pacific stanchions with hand-bent brass wire railings.  The stock handrails, conveniently, come cast with the vertical runs as seperate pieces. The vertical runs are hand-bent brass wire attached to the stock stanchions.  The paint is Tamiya Gloss Red and Testor's Semi-gloss black.  The decals are Microscale.  The unit was weathered with chalks, dilute airbrushing and dry-brushing.  Note the patches left behind when the class lights were removed.

NYS&W B40-8 #4002

With handsome and utilitarian lines, along with a smart and attractive paint scheme, these turbo-charged GE, BB-axle units got a lot of publicity for units that had a short tenure on the New York, Susquehanna and Western.  (They were sold to P&W in 2004, after only being with the NYSW since 1988.)  Travelling to Syracuse and Binghamton for model train shows, I would always insist on watching some trains, sometimes dragging the family along.  These units, along with any of the other NYSW fleet at the time, captured my imagination, and will always have a spot in my heart.

Starting off as a beautifully-executed Atlas Master Series decorated model, the stock model needed only minor tweaking and weathering to best represent the prototype.

One of the only details omitted from the model were ditch lights.  I built custom stands for Details Associates lenses.  The M.U. hose and receptacles were removed, and replaced with Details West plugs and single-stranded wire.  The plow was re-countoured, and Kadee #58 couplers were added.  Though Atlas considerately drilled holes and provided sun shades, they were absent on the prototype.
Lastly, the horn supplied did not match my photos of #4002.  A Details West brass casting was used to replace the stock unit.  One highlight of the GE units tends to be the myriad of cooling grills at the end of the long hood.  Using some Grimy Black mixed with Railroad Tie Brown really invokes the illusion of depth and strikes a nice contrast with both the black and yellow.

Check out all those factory-supplied truck details!  Sand lines, speed recorders and brake lines, all done!  Weathering was done using chalks, dilute airbrush washes and dry-brushing.  It was all sealed with Testors' Dullcoat.  To finish off the model, I used MV lenses for all lights, including the distinctive red markers.


RPM Naperville 2012 Gallery

It seems there was a distinct shortage of media coverage for one of the biggest Railroad Prototype Modeller's meets in North America.

Posted below are just some of the supreme modelling and craftsman skills displayed at Naperville 2012.

I apologize for the lack of pertinent information on builders, etc.  I wasn't planning on becoming an impromptu reporter.

If anyone is the builder or knows the builders of any of these models, please email me.  I will gladly add captions.  

Such beautiful model builders deserve the encouragement!


(You can click the thumbnails for higher-resolution images.)

A fabulous N-scale "free-mo" layout, sporting superb scenery and details such as scale switch stands and joint bars.
Amtrak's Heritage paint schemes adorn these well-built HO scale Athearn GE P42s with full Details West "upgrade" kits.

Probably the most convincing rust I have ever seen with my own eyes.  Stand out!

An elegant CB&Q E9.   Note the cab sun visors.

Meticulous craftsmanship abound on this brass, HO scale loco.  Soldering skills like these are few and far between in model railroading.

A CRI&P rebuilt E6a. Fine craftsmanship on the scratch built cab.

An N scale AT&SF C44-9W.  The weathering is extra impressive when you consider it's 1:160th scale.

A fully scratch built cab interior on the left, in a Proto2000 GP cab.  On the right, beautiful weathering on a C&NW SD40.

A Conrail slug set, with an MT6 slug. It was heavily kit bashed from the frame-up. A complete Railflyer Model Products fuel tank on the left. 

Z scale. Note my index finger, for reference.

This BL20-2 was scratch built using styrene and Cannon and Co. components.  It displays the most immaculate and detailed under-frame plumbing I have EVER seen.  Sublime!


Note the windshield washer streaks in the windows of the Conrail ALCo C628.