Friday, July 30, 2021

Freight Car Models

A common question that seems to crop up on several Facebook groups on a weekly basis is something along the lines of, "what brand locomotives/freight cars should I buy?"

I find the comments interesting, although the answer for me is always the same, "whoever makes the most accurate model of a given prototype."

Accuracy and Fidelity

I differentiate two different aspects of a model when deciding whether it's a model I'll purchase.

Accuracy refers to whether the car properly represents a given prototype. Usually I'm concerned with the large details - roof, ends, proper configuration of the sides, etc. Doors are included in this regard, unless they are separate parts that can be replaced. Detail parts like running boards, brake wheels, brake gear are less important since I can replace them. Underframes are also of less overall importance to me, although I want anything that's visible when it's sitting on the track to be correct. For example, I won't usually correct the number of stringers that run the length of a floor.

In other words, I want all of the visible components to be correct, but focus primarily on the ones that are hard to replace with proper ones if there are descrepancies.

Fidelity refers to the quality of the model itself. Are the detail parts molded on or separately applied? How well are the details rendered? Athearn blue box cars suffer in regards to fidelity. They have molded on grab irons, but because of their desire to make operating doors on their box cars, they have grossly oversized door hardware ("claws"), and the tooling is often chunky, with oversized rivets, thick running boards, etc. (as was typical of many models of the time).

Accurail and Bowser models, on the other hand, also include molded on details, but the tooling is much better, with the rivets appropriately sized, grab irons have a thin profile and when well painted and weathered it can be difficult to tell that they are molded.

I have very, very few models that were produced with molded on details. When I got back into the hobby, there were plenty of options with separately applied details, so it wasn't necessary. Accuracy and fidelity is important enough that I'll go with a resin kit rather than a model that doesn't meet these standards. I replace the molded parts on the few that I do have.

For RTR cars, I usually just use them without modification to start. As I go through to weather them, I'll also make modifications/corrections as needed. I don't replace things like sill steps unless they are broken.

So what styrene cars on the market for my era meet my requirements? The majority of these are all available RTR, some as kits (at least on the secondary market) or RTR, and a handful only as kits.

Many models are produced by companies who acquired the tooling of earlier companies. I make note of that, but for companies, like Branchline, where I primarily own cars that were produced by that company, I've separated them out. 


To the best of my knowledge, every Accurail model is accurate for at least one prototype. However, with the molded on details I only have a few and those are primarily for kitbash projects. 

  • 41' AAR Gondola - easy to remove the few molded grabs
  • 40' Wood Refrigerator (both the 4800 and 4900 series) for kitbashes

Rib Side Cars (now Accurail)

This was an extensive line of most of the variations of Milwaukee rib-side cars. You can access their old site here. Accurail acquired the tooling and has released several variations. The tooling is interesting, the bracket grabs are molded on but they have separate ladders. I believe a few versions had separate bracket grabs. The Intermountain, Exactrail, and Sunshine have higher fidelity. I have the Exactrail and Intermountain cars, but these are much easier to get than the Sunshine ones. The quality of the lettering isn't fantastic, but Speedwitch has great decals.

Unless otherwise noted, they have the unique Milwaukee style roof with two narrow rectangular corrugations in each panel instead of the more common single corrugation. Accurail has released the 40' Double Door car and the 40' long-rib cars.

    • 40' Long-rib (1939-40)
    • 40' Short-rib "Phase 1" (1944) 5/5 Dreadnaught End with lumber door
    • 40' Short-rib "Phase 2" (1945-6) 4/4 Improved Dreadnaught End with lumber door
    • 40' Short-rib "Phase 3" (1948) 4/4 Improved Dreadnaught End, no lumber door
    • 40' Short-rib "Phase 4" (1948) 4/4 Improved Dreadnaught End, no lumber door, Diagonal Panel roof
    • 40' Short-rib Double Door (1942-4)
    • 50' Short-rib Single Door
    • 50' Short-rib Double Door

The Exactrail car is the 40' Long-rib car, and the best mass-produced car. Unfortunately, they haven't run it in years and it's hard to find.

The Intermountain model is the "Phase 2" car, and is very good, if not quite as good as the Exactrail one.

Sunshine did most variations, but are also hard to find. 

I have a "Phase 1" along with a 40' Double Door, a 50' Double Door, and a couple of the 50' Single Door cars. At some point I could get a "Phase 3" and "Phase 4" car if I wanted to.


Although probably half (or more) of my roster when I was a kid, I only have two Athearn freight cars at this time. 

  • 50' ATSF Rr-30 Ice Reefer (only "Super Chief" version, see article here)
  • 65' AAR Mill Gondola - Speedwitch has alternate ends


While I don't have that many Atlas cars, since they acquired the tooling for the ex-Branchline cars, and now many of the ex-True Line Trains cars they produce quite a few other accurate models. All of my models are from the original companies, but are now being produced by Atlas.

I used to have several of the 11,000 gallon LP tank car, but the Kadee one is more accurate.

  • AAR Standard Twin Hopper - The Intermountain and Kadee cars are much better for most prototypes, but this is the correct variation for LNE and Chris, Pete and I have been modifying several for that purpose.
  • 1932 ARA Standard Box Car - I covered these in detail here.
  • Rebuilt USRA Box Car - These weren't done nearly as well as the 1932 ARA car. They had a special run for the Club they used to have (there was an annual charge, and you got a car that was only available with that membership). The car that year was the SL-SF car, which is reasonably accurate.
  • Wood side reefer


A number of years ago Atlas acquired the tooling for all of the freight (and passenger) cars to the best of my knowledge. Since these were Bill's projects they are all very accurate and very detailed. Kits are still pretty easy to find. Just be aware that the styrene used seems to have turned quite brittle over the years (at least for some of the runs) so you have to be patient and careful trimming parts from the sprues. The Atlas produced versions seem to be a much softer plastic, and easily worked.

The Yardmaster series had molded on details. I don't have any of them, these are all from the Blueprint Series (now Atlas Master).

  • 40' Postwar AAR Box Car
  • 50' Postwar AAR Box Car
  • UTLX Reefer 

True Line Trains (now Atlas)

Atlas recently acquired a bunch of the tooling from TLT as well. To the best of my knowledge, only the models Atlas mentioned in their announcement was acquired, as I wasn't involved in the sale. I've listed other TLT models separately below. 

  • Canadian 1937/1944 AAR Standard Box Cars -  Despite our marketing some of these as 1944 cars, they are actually 1937 AAR Standard Box Cars. There was the Modified 1937 AAR Standard in 1941, which added an optional 10'6" IH variation. Otherwise, the standard wasn't updated again until 1948 when the 10'0" IH version was eliminated. 
The Canadian cars differ in that they don't have "tabs" (including poling pockets), and have integrated stirrup steps at the bottom of the ladder. Normally these steps at the corners of the cars are properly termed sill steps. But these weren't attached to the sill, so...

They also used different ends than most US-built cars, including two unique ones (NSC #1 and #2) used on the CN cars, and 5/5 Dreadnaught ends on the CP cars. Many of the Canadian cars also had flat roofs, with no rectangular raised panels, much like the Murphy Solidsteel roof, although I don't know if they were that specific roof. 

  • Slab-Side Hopper - We did all six of the major variations of these cars. the CN cars with 12 square hatches and the CP ones with 10 square hatches or 6 rectangular hatches are all appropriate for my era. 


Years ago Bowser acquired Stewart. Both lines are quite accurate (although the paint schemes and road numbers aren't always). However, the majority of the line have molded on parts, and more accurate versions are available in resin (or starting to be released in updated versions, such as the Rapido X31 and F30 and the Intermountain 1958 cu ft covered hopper).

However, for inexpensive, easy-to-build, and finely detailed and accurate kits these, along with Accurail and Tichy, are fantastic and, if you aren't as picky as me, an affordable way to built a fleet. They acquired Stewart years ago so you may find some models under that brand.

I haven't decided whether I prefer the Accurail or Bowser AAR Standard Triple Hopper, nor have I researched whether they are the exact same prototype, or similar, since both have molded on details they are further down my list of potential projects. 

  • H30 covered hopper - their first model with separately applied details
  • Fishbelly Hopper - this is based on a WM prototype which is convenient since it had ladders which are separate parts. There's still modifications to be made, but CNJ and RDG had welded variations of these so it's not too difficult to modify them.

Broadway Limited

They have a surprising number of freight cars for some interesting prototypes. While not quite the best execution (for example the sliding doors on the USRA Steel Design Box Cars), they are quite good.

  • AAR Standard 70-ton Quad Hopper
  • H2a Triple Hopper
  • ACF Type 27 Chlorine Tank Car
  • H32 Covered Hopper
  • K7 Stock Car
  • USRA Steel Design Box Car

Eastern Car Works

These are available only as kits. They are relatively simple kits, often with a mix of molded details and separate parts. The tooling isn't of today's standards and they tend to be a bit chunky, but otherwise accurate. 

  • Depressed Center Flat Car - based on a NH and NYC prototype, so it's a must for me.


Exactrail has excellent models, although they do have a several lines that vary a little in their fidelity. Unfortunately, they only produce 3 cars that are useful in my era. All are of their highest level of detail, though.

  • B&O Wagontop Box Car - the Fox Valley model is a close second and easier to find.
  • GSC 42' Flat Car
  • MILW Rib Side Box Car

Intermountain Railway

I have a lot of Intermountain cars, in part because they have a lot of prototypes, but also because the prototypes were owned by many, many roads. I don't have any of their PS-1 Box Cars, as the Kadee is a superior model.

  • 12-Panel Box Car
  • 1937 AAR Standard Box Car
  • 1937 AAR Modified Standard Box Car
  • 1937 AAR Modified Standard Box Car with 4/4 Improved Dreadnaught End
  • 1958 Cu Ft 2-Bay Hopper
  • 1958 Cu Ft 2-Bay Hopper with closed sides
  • AAR "Alternate" Standard Twin Hopper
  • ACF Type 27 8,000-gallon Tank Car
  • ACF Type 27 10,000-gallon Tank Car
  • ART Refrigerator Car (Amarillo Railroad Museum/MP Historical Society has a custom run)
  • ATSF SK-R, -S, -T, -U Stock Car
  • Caswell Gondola
  • FGE Wood Refrigerator Car
  • Milwaukee Rib Side Box Car
  • Plywood Panel Box Car
  • R-30-18 Refrigerator Car
  • R-30-21 Refrigerator Car
  • R-40-19 Refrigerator Car
  • R-40-10 Refrigerator Car
  • R-40-23 Refrigerator Car
  • R-40-25 Refrigerator Car
  • Santa Fe Refrigerator Car
  • SP Stock Car
  • USRA Composite Drop Bottom Gondola
  • War Emergency Box Car

Red Caboose

Intermountain purchased the majority of Red Caboose's tooling (for a while Intermountain was producing RTR models for Red Caboose). Red Caboose had acquired the tooling from IMWX years ago.  It doesn't matter if it's in an IMWX, Red Caboose or Intermountain box, they are the same models and all excellent.  Des Plaines Hobbies also tooled some parts (the Viking Roof being the most important) for the AAR Standard Box Cars, and special runs were produced with that roof. So you'll often find IMWX or Red Caboose models with a Des Plaines Hobbies label. 

    • 1923 AAR Recommended Practice Box Car (X29 with AAR Body and Steel Plate Ends)
    • 1937 AAR Standard Box Car with Square Corner Ends
    • 1937 AAR Standard Box Car with W-corner Ends
    • 42' Fishbelly Side Sill Flat Car
    • F-70-6/7 (Owned by Southern Pacific Historical & Technical Society now)
    • Mather Refrigerator Car
    • Wood Side Refrigerator Car (R-30-9)
    • X29 Box Car - 1924 Body with Steel Plate Ends
    • X29 Box Car  - 1924 Body with Steel Plate Ends and side panel patches 
    • X29 Box Car - 1928 Body with Steel Plate Ends
    • X29 Box Car - 1928 Body with Dreadnaught Ends


Kadee doesn't release a lot of freight cars, but their injection molded details are second to none. The NH PS-2 covered hopper is just past my era...

  • PS-1 Box Car
  • PS-1 Box Car, early version
  • AAR Standard 55-ton Twin Hopper
  • 11,000-gallon Insulated Tank Car


Scale Trains recently acquired the HO scale tooling from MTH. I only use one of their models, but it's an important one and I'm hopeful that Scale Trains will finally release them in useful (and accurate) paint schemes - the USRA 55-ton twin hopper. This is the best detailed and most accurate model available of this prototype in my opinion.

  • USRA 55-ton Twin Hopper

Owl Mountain Models

Available in kits only, they are very well designed and highly accurate. I can't wait (or as my daughter corrects, can hardly wait) for more models from OMM.
  • SP F-50-5, -8, -9 Flat Car
  • SP F-50-10, -12 Flat Car

Rapido Trains

With Bill (formerly of Branchline) and other train buddies responsible for the research and design of freight cars (and New Haven prototypes), they are always accurate and very well detailed. However, they appear to be willing to produce more "close-enough" freight car models compared to their passenger cars and locomotives, such as their Armour and Swift lettered GARX reefers. I have them anyway and will make modifications later. Some of these models are forthcoming.

  • GARX Refrigerator Car
  • GLA Hopper 
  • PRR F30A Flat Car
  • PRR X31A Box Car
  • PRR X31A Automobile Car
  • NP 10,000-series Double Sheathed Box Car
  • USRA Double Sheathed Box Car
  • USRA Single Sheathed Box Car

Spring Mills Models

A small company with some beautifully tooled and detailed models. Only one is necessary for me, and it appears all of the cars that they have released are hard to find.

  • B&O Wagontop Hopper (the F&C resin kit is still available).

Tangent Scale Models

One of my favorite manufacturers right now, although I wish they would release more products for my era. They've filled some big holes in tank car fleets.

  • ACF Welded 70-ton Gondolas
  • Bethlehem 70-ton Riveted Gondola
  • GATC 1917-Design 8,000-gallon Insulated Tank Car
  • GATC 1917-Design 8,000-gallon Radial Course Tank Car
  • GATC 1917-Design 10,000-gallon Radial Course Tank Car
  • GATC 1929-Design 6,000-gallon 3-compartment Tank Car
  • GATC 1948-Design 8,000-gallon Welded Tank Car
  • GATC 1949-Design 8,000-gallon Acid Welded Tank Car
  • GATC 1952-Design 8,000-gallon Welded Tank Car
  • PS-1 9' Door Box Car

Tichy Train Group

Primarily available as undecorated kits, Intermountain does produce some RTR versions as well. These are very detailed and very well engineered models, but I use them mostly for kitbashing material as I've detailed in my series on their flat car model. Unfortuantely, some of them have some issues. The tank car is notorious for being a model based on a car that was never built, the USRA hopper has the center panels too wide, and the USRA Single Sheathed Box Car is now being supplanted by the forthcoming Rapido release. But the USRA hopper with panel sides is beautifully done, with full interior detail. Much of the tooling is formerly from Gould.

  • 40' Flat Car (Central of Georgia Railway Historical Society has a custom run with decals)
  • USRA 55-ton Twin Hopper with panel sides
  • War Emergency Gondola

True Line Trains

I'm listing these separately because these are models that Darren and I produced and were not (to the best of my knowledge) purchased by Atlas. You'll have to find these on eBay or at shows. I know Atlas wouldn't have the Minibox, and I'm about 80% sure they didn't get these other two.

TLT was formerly known as Life-Like of Canada (the name was changed in 2005 when Walthers acquired Life-Like's tooling), and a number of the projects were joint projects between L-L and L-LoC. Although Life-Like didn't release any freight cars that I'm aware of as Proto 1000 models, the Fowler box and Stock cars, along with the Newsprint cars, were. These didn't have as much detail as the Proto 2000 cars (typically underbody detail), but they did have separate grab irons. We referred to them as Proto 1500 models. The P2k gondola were released that weren't perfect matches for the Canadian paint schemes that were used and carried a sticker with a disclaimer.

  • CP Minibox
  • Fowler Box Car
  • 8-Hatch Reefer


While I have some passenger cars, I don't have any freight cars that were originally produced under the Walthers name. Most have molded on parts, and even those that don't have issues with accuracy (at least the ones for my era). I do have a few that were sold under the Walthers name that were produced by Life-Like in their Proto 2000 line. After Walthers acquired the tooling, these cars have been released under several Walthers monikers. I believe the current one is Walthers Proto.

Life-Like Proto 2000 (now Walthers)

At the time these were a revolution in styrene models. Initially available as kits, then as "Time-Saver" kits where some of the assembly was completed, making it possible for most to complete the model in about an hour. Also available as RTR. What made them unique at the time is that not only were they vary accurate in their detail, but they made a point of only releasing them for roads and in paint schemes that were documented. This was unheard of. Gondolas and hoppers had interior detail. This didn't mean that they were all 100% correct, for example not all of the owners of the Greenville mill gondolas had interior folding stake pockets as were molded into the models. To the best of my knowledge, Walthers hasn't added any bogus roads/schemes to the former P2k models. I'm not sure they've added any new roads/schemes at all (although I don't follow them that closely, I already have what I need). 

    • 50' Single Door Box Car
    • 50' Automobile Car
    • 50' Automobile Car with End Door
    • AAR Standard 50-ton Flat Car 
    • ACF Type 21 8,000-gallon Tank Car
    • ACF Type 21 10,000-gallon Tank Car
    • ACF Type 21 10,000-gallon Insulated Tank Car
    • Greenville 70-ton 53'6" Mill Gondola
    • Mather Box Car
    • Mather Stock Car

Resin Freight Car Models

I have many resin cars from Funaro & Camerlengo (and the many small companies that they produced models for, such as NEBW, NHRHTA, Steam Shack, Yankee Clipper, etc.), JJL, National Scale Car, Resin Car Works, Smoky Mountain Model Works, Speedwitch Media, Sunshine, Westefield, Yarmouth Model Works.

Plastic kits mostly cover the major prototypes (although that is changing). That leaves lots of holes that are needed to fill for a proper mix of cars. Plus, I just like freight cars. Resin kits are the primary source for these prototypes, followed by kitbashing and scratchbuilding.

I won't likely do a similar list for resin kits, simply because they are, on the whole, very accurate models. As I build specific kits I'll highlight any issues I have come across.

Brass Freight Cars

Brass cars are also an option, but they offer (usually?) suffer from inaccuracies, and also tend to lack details, such as brake rigging, etc. There are certainly some beautifully produced models as well. But I don't have any of them, primarily since there are generally much less expensive options in plastic (sometimes) or resin (more frequently). I don't have enough knowledge of the models that have been produced to comment on them further.

Wednesday, July 28, 2021

Pratt & Whitney Loads

My plan was to keep up my posts through vacation (and usually I have some done ahead of time), but that didn't happen. Things got hectic, Emily had a medical emergency, Laura lost her wedding rings in the ocean, and yet somehow we still had a great vacation. 

Fortunately, Chris has been posting again, including some very helpful ones for when I get my ProtoThrottles.

In the meantime, here are three related photos, all flat cars loaded with engines at Pratt & Whitney. 3D printing folks, here's a new load for you to make!

Based on the notations on the shipping containers, it would appear they are these types of engines, built between 1944 and 1955.

The photos aren't dated, and two of them are of the same car.

Those two are labeled Exhibit E and Exhibit F, so probably part of a claim of some sort. Sure enough, in Exhibit E, NH 17259 is missing a coupler knuckle. This flat car is the Speedwitch kit.

The B&O car was reweighed in 1-50. Most cars had to be reweighed after repairs, but no later than 30 months. However, starting in 1949 this was extended to 48 months. So this could be any time between 1-50 and 1-54. No road number (well, it includes "90"). But closer inspection reveals a double door car. Since the left door looks like it may be the same size as the right, it would be an M-27A class car, once produced by Sunshine, although their model has Youngstown doors instead of the Creco doors seen in the photo. I don't know if the kit comes with Creco doors as an option.

We can also see NKP 22212. This is a steel double-door auto car. I'm not aware of any available models for these cars.

Exhibit F shows us that Southern 75346 (assigned to New Orleans Terminal, I think. Note the "NOT" in the upper left corner) was reweighed 12-48. So now the date of these two photos is between 1-50 and 12-52. In addition, we can see the missing knuckle on the deck. I believe that the road number is actually 375346, part of the 375000-375499 series, originally assigned to the NO&NE subsidiary (still lettered "Southern"). Sunshine produced the models (although I've never seen the "NOT" lettering). I still love the way these cars look.

So it's interesting to note that in the Wikipedia article it says these engines were the first product produced at the P&W Kansas City, MO plant. It doesn't indicate whether they were only produced there, but it's quite possible the two related photos were photographed there, and the photos sent to NH to document the need to replace the coupler (since they would likely charge the NH for the repair made to their car). 

The other photo is an SP flat car, but the car number isn't visible. This seems to be unrelated to the other two photos, other than it is also a P&W Wasp Major engine load.

Note the handwritten "this piece isn't necessary" on the end of the center board. I think this photo was taken for a different purpose, to update their process for securing these loads. There isn't anything in this photo to identify the date (unless somebody has S/N production records for the engines, which is clearly visible). The diagonal bracing behind the flat car resembles that in the other photos, although the markings on the loading dock don't match.

The other thing that I find useful is the general condition of the decks. They aren't heavily damaged or weathered. We can't see the color of course, but if you examine the SP car closely, you can see the tongue and groove in the end of the deck boards. The New Haven car doesn't seem to have this feature.

Wednesday, July 21, 2021

Planning - Layout

Yep, I'm a couple of posts behind. Things got a little busier than expected since Emily's nurse ended up not being able to come on vacation this year.

The biggest post-vacation/summer push is to get the layout running. There's quite a bit of work on the layout and the room to get that going, but progress is good.

Just so I feel like I've made some progress, here's a shot from February 2010:

Often building a layout seems like two steps forward, one step back. But the overall progress is forward. So what's the plan for August and into the fall?


I have all of the lights that need to be installed in the ceiling, and just need to install them. I've come to the conclusion that it's probably best to hire an electrician, but that takes a bit project out of my hands.

Trackwork and Feeders

I have a turnout that I need to hand lay to complete rebuilding part of the mainline. That east side of town also needs new feeders, I want to get that running so I can start thoroughly testing the mainline with passenger trains. It may need some tweaking. After it's running well, I can let trains run while working on other things.

Stanley Works and most of the west side also needs feeders. I also need to finish the coal trestle for Russell & Erwin.

There's some track to lay for the turntable, and then wire everything there, plus some feeders in staging to address. That will take care of the main layout.

The Berlin Line in its entirety needs feeders, and I need to lay rail for the bulk tracks.

I want to get the track scale operational, which requires the installation of some sensors.


I have more of the racks to install for paints and supplies, along with general clean-up and organization.

So while there is a fair amount of work (outside of locomotives, cabooses and passenger cars as I've been covering), I think that a lot of this can get done within 30-60 days. The trackwork is largely redoing what was running before (just better), so it will be good to get back to that point, but I think it's the lights that will feel like the biggest step forward. 

Wednesday, July 14, 2021

Planning - Cabooses

To be prepared for ops sessions, I'm also going to need to finish some cabooses. I have some information as to which cabooses to use, but there are some holes in my current research.

For regular trains (such as a local freight), a caboose was frequently assigned to a specific conductor/job. The conductor was responsible for ensuring the caboose was stocked with all of the supplies required. By always having the same caboose, they could set it up to their liking and not have to remove their belongings/supplies at the end of each run. So there is quite a bit of consistency once some data is acquired.

The first information I had to work with were the caboose assignment books for 1950, 1951, and 1953. Photos are useful to confirm or fill in holes in information, but unfortunately the caboose is often not identifiable since people tended to take pictures of the locomotive.

Here are a couple, though:

C-139 on YN-3 in Berlin c1946. Kent Cochrane

In this photo the train was hauled by an I-4, it could have been earlier. This was fortunately taken from the back end, and an earlier shot of the same train had the caboose right behind the locomotive.

In another Cochrane photo of YN-3, this time in Plainville on July 7, 1947 with DEY-5 (S-2) No 0606, it has an NE-5. Unfortunately, I can't make out the road number.

I also have photos of NE class C-116 on HDX-5 hauled by K-1-d No 479. This is consistent in any picture Kent took of this train.

I initially pulled the assignments for all trains running through New Britain. Since the NE-6s were delivered in 1948, other than the first 4 in 1947, I figured a number of the trains in 1947 and earlier had wood cabooses. I also had a video of an NE-2 going through New Britain.

So I built a small collection of cabooses, a couple of NE, an NE-2, four NE-4s, five NE-5s, and five NE-6s. But once I narrow the focus to trains that will run during diesel-only ops sessions, I end up with only four potential trains:


The earliest assignment I have is 1950 and it's NE-5 C-546, which is also noted in 1951. It's reasonable to believe it was also assigned in 1949. This became NX-25 in 1952 with the elimination of the Hartford Division. I don't have assignments for 1952. In spring of 1953 it was C-706 with C-546 as a spare assigned to Hartford, so either is a possibility for late 1952.


Running through 1952, this train always has two cabooses assigned to it. I'm not sure why, and I don't think they run two together, but they are NE-6 class C-708 and C-709 in 1950 and 1953, and C-707 and C-709 in 1951. In 1951 C-708 is a Hartford spare.


In 1951 this is NE-6 C-701, the train also ran in 1952, so I'll assume it's the same.

So a lot fewer cabooses than I thought I'd need.


Only one NE-5 and up to four NE-6s. It's interesting that these are the final four NE-6 (or any for the NH) cabooses. I could get by with one caboose for NY-4/YN-3 and reduce that by two cabooses. At some point I'll need to add one or more NE class cabooses as well, but it's looking less likely that I'll need an NE-4. But I can cover 1949-1953 with only three cabooses:

  • C-546 (NE-5) (HDX-5), with a possibility of C-706 (NE-6) for NX-25 in 1952.
  • C-701 (NE-6) (OA-2/AO-3)
  • C-709 (NE-6), optionally with C-707 and C-708 (YN-3/NY-4)

I'll get into the details and the modifications I'm making to these in future posts. But here's a list of what I think are the most accurate models of these classes:

  • NE - Crown Custom/Railworks brass with the F&C/NHRHTA resin kit a close second
  • NE-2 - Overland brass
  • NE-4 - Challenger
  • NE-5 - Overland brass (1999 release)
  • NE-6 - Atlas

I haven't examined any potential NE-3 caboose models, I don't even recall if one has been released. I'm not finding one with a quick search.

The NE, NE-2, and NE-4 cabooses need only minor corrections, although none of them have an interior. Ironically, it's the NE-5 and NE-6 models that need the most corrections.

Ce la vie.

I'll probably work on these in August/September since I don't have too many to do (and I've completed a lot of the work already).

Friday, July 9, 2021

Planning Ahead

DERS-2c (RS-3) 529 with a circus train in New Britain c1954. K. Cochrane.
I think this is during the summer of '54 when the Highland Line was single-tracked.

I've been working a lot of extra hours lately, we're getting ready for vacation, and I'm still working on rebuilding the main website, among other things. Plus it's mid-year so it seemed a good time to take a step back to refocus my efforts. Usually I would be doing this about this time after the NE Prototype Meet.

I do want to finish those flat car models, and paint more, but the primary focus needs to be getting the layout fully operational for ops sessions. A lot of time will be spent on the layout and basement.

Another thing I need to work on locomotives. There's a good chance that I'll have a friend do the decoders, not because I can't do it, but it's time consuming and I'll be putting that time into other projects. I'll still need to detail them as well. 

For now, the focus will be solely on diesels, since they will be easiest to get running. That narrows the focus to 1949-1954, but the reality is that the line was single-tracked in the summer of '54, so if I'm sticking with November, I'm really modeling through 1953.

The goal is to be able to start some sort of Operating Sessions in September.


This is the obvious starting point since it's only the 44-tonners and RDCs, and priority No. 1. I'll plan on one major locomotive project per month, and I should be able to complete this in August.
  • 44-tonners (3)
    • Repair/replace the gears.
    • Install decoders/speakers/weight.
    • Paint and letter.
    • By completing all three, one can be leased to Stanley.
  • RDCs
    • Decide whether to apply the Fight Cancer decals.
    • Weathering.


The other years require quite a few more locomotives. This is probably the easiest in terms of the amount of work to be done to get them ready. I'd like to get these done by the end of the year to be able to add a more complex session. 
  • FA-1/FB-1/FB-2
    • Two Maybrook freights. This is late enough that they can be the factory painted Proto 2000 FA-1/FB-1, plus the Rapido FB-2. These will need a look for final details, then weathering.
  • Two RS-3s.
    • I'll be detailing three total, at least to start. These will need some work, particularly the pilots. 
  • RS-2 0503
    • Already done.
  • DL-109 
    • The brass one, since it would be rebuilt by then. It will be the first brass locomotive running on the layout.
    • Paint, letter, and weather.
    • DCC.


There are two locomotive projects, a bit more involved:
  • RS-1
    • Since I've decided to go ahead and make modifications to the shells, these will take some time. 
    • Acquire one more.
    • Modify the shells
    • Paint (hopefully just touchup) and renumber at least two of them.
    • DCC if I get one with DC only.
    • Weathering.
  • S-1
    • I'll need two different road numbers, one for 1949, and the other for 1950-1.
    • Get KV Models to produce the correct fan grates (the P2k model is wrong).
    • There will be other modifications, but not too many.
    • Build the cabs.
    • DCC
    • Paint, letter, and weather.


Only one additional locomotive project.
  • DL-109
    • If I haven't completed it with the other DL-109
    • Complete roof and other shell modifications
    • Touch up paint, letter and weather.
    • DCC


This will be last simply because I'll need to custom paint and get custom decals made for the Comet. Other than that, all the other locomotives needed will already be completed.

To model operations for any year other than 1953 will require cabooses and passenger cars as well. I'll work my way through those lists in another post or two.

Thursday, July 8, 2021

Road Trip

John and I took a little road trip to Selkirk and the surrounding area. I'd never been up there, but John went to college (and met his wife) in Schenectady.

They yard itself is basically inaccessible to railfans, although we stopped and walked up an overpass to watch a bit of switching from a distance. Of course I didn't take any pictures there (duh!), but a long freight of auto racks was getting prepared to run west so we decided to head down to a grade crossing to get a better vantage point.

We went further down the road to Voorheesville which has parking for the rail trail right at the crossing. The rail trail is the old D&H line, and this is right about where it crossed the NYC/B&A There were several other railfans waiting here and we caught a small train that appeared to be a clean-up job and probably the last for the morning/day.

After that we went up to a point where the line crosses the tip of Watervliet Reservoir at Twin Bridge. There's a pair of single track bridges built at different times, although one clearly has a pier for a double track. I don't know if it was built as a single track, but the design itself is really interesting.

I'm not sure what to make of the truss, or the angled lattice structural members at the pier. It would be quiet interesting to model, it's such an odd looking bridge.

For my AML buddies, we had lunch at one of John's old favorites, Slick's in Schenectady. I think I could have made four sandwiches with this. It was delicious.

We also caught a couple of Amtrak trains on the way, but I didn't get pictures/videos, plus saw another freight at a distance headed by a couple of NS units.

It was great checking it out, but even better to be with somebody who knew the area and the history.

Monday, July 5, 2021


I'm writing this post simply because I seem to be responding to this sort of question multiple times a week on Facebook and elsewhere. Of course, I don't have to respond, but...

The context and specific questions don't really matter, because the same myths and comments inevitably arise in the comments. Usually the post isn't even asking which is better. Instead, it's somebody asking how to do something in DC and the thread is flooded with folks trying to convince them to convert to DCC.

This gives me a post to refer to when responding, instead of writing it over and over again.

Obviously, I'm a DCC guy, and find that there are a great many benefits. But this isn't intended to convince somebody using DC to convert. Just to provide some info to address some common myths, even after all these years. If you want to stick with DC, that's just fine with me!

So here are four common myths, in no particular order:

Myth No. 1 - It's Complicated

You don't need to know about CVs, programming, etc. to use DCC. You need two things:

  1. The DCC system needs to be connected to the track. You do this the exact same way as DC. Two wires, or a bus, and make sure there are no shorts. A short in DC is a short in DCC. And if your locomotives work on the layout in DC, they will work with DCC. 
  2. You need a decoder in your locomotive. This is where I think there's a lot of mystery about it's purpose and how it works. So here's my explanation.

With DC, you control the power and direction of the locomotive directly through the track. The polarity determines the direction, and the amount of voltage determines the speed. Very simple.

With DCC, the track voltage is always at the equivalent of full power on a DC throttle, and you don't have to be concerned about the polarity. Instead, your throttle tells the decoder how much voltage, and the polarity, to apply to the motor. 

In order to do that, each locomotive has an address. By default this is 3. If you're only ever going to run one locomotive at a time, then there's no need to change this. Press Loco on your controller, then 3, then enter, and you're running a train.

Otherwise you'll want to change the road number. This will be a little different on each system, but it's often the only programming you'll ever have to do. Some stores (online or brick and mortar) will set this for you if you ask. Otherwise I'll use the MRC system as an example. No need to connect a programming track, you'll do this on the main. Just make sure there is only one locomotive on the track with the default number of "3."
  1. Press Prog
  2. Select Prog Main Track
  3. Press Enter
  4. Type "3" to select locomotive No. 3
  5. Press Enter
  6. Adr will flash on the screen
  7. Type the number that you want to use for that locomotive (usually the road number).
  8. Press Enter
Although another option will flash in the screen, if all you are doing is changing the locomotive number, then just press Loco, type in the new road number to select it, then press Enter. You are now ready to run that locomotive under that number.

For the majority of modelers, it doesn't need to get any more complicated than that. However, there are many other features that DCC offers that you can't do easily, or at all, with DC. This includes things like consisting, sound, speed matching, tweaking motor performance, etc. I'm not going to say that these are all simple, and some systems are better than others in these regards.

Myth No. 2 - Wiring is Complicated

I'm sure we're all familiar with the, "DCC only needs two wires," marketing copy. While it's technically correct, in practice you'll probably want to do a bit more. The bottom line is, if the wiring is sufficient for reliable running under DC, then it is for DCC too. But I have a few comments:

DC can often be far more complex to wire than DCC. This arises when you want to be able to run multiple trains independently at the same time. So you have to create different electrical blocks, with separate controllers, etc. 

With DCC you'll need multiple throttles as well, but you don't need to wire in blocks for independent running. This is one of the biggest advantages in my opinion. It's often described as, "controlling the train, not the layout." In other words, you don't have to worry about flipping switches on the layout, or not running into a block controlled by another throttle as you might with DC. You just choose your locomotive and run it.

You might use separate blocks to install circuit breakers in case somebody causes a short (a derailment, for example) in one section of the layout. By doing this, that short won't shut down other sections of the layout. But it's not required.

It's also much easier to wire a reversing loop in DCC. With DC you usually have a manual switch (although there are options to automate it). But there are more options with DCC.

Some other areas you'll often see mentioned are using boosters. A booster is needed only when you are drawing too much voltage. That's determined by the number of locomotives and how much each locomotive draws. The number of boosters doesn't have anything to do with the size of the layout itself. a 4' x 8' or 40' x 80' layout can both be run on a single booster. If you're considering DCC, start with one and see what your actual usage requires. 

Then there's the idea of "DCC Friendly" switches. This isn't a defined term, so it means different things to different people. Switches should generally not be wired for power routing. Some use it to refer to whether the frog is powered or not. Another common description is when the points are electrically connected. All of these situations will work for DCC. 

If your layout is already built, then yes, there may be some alterations that you might choose to make. The advantage to a powered frog is the same as DC, it prevents stalling (particularly for small wheelbase locomotives). I'd recommend that the points should be electrically isolated whether DC or DCC, but they will work with either.

But if you have a fully wired DC system, with blocks, etc., then converting is certainly something that may require some work. In fact, for a reasonably large existing layout I would consider this a more valid reason to not convert than probably any other. 

Myth No. 3 - It's Expensive

Obviously, "expensive" is a relative term, so what you consider is expensive, somebody else may not. So instead let's say, "it costs money."

Unless you have a fixed budget for all the money that you will ever spend on your layout in your lifetime, the question isn't about how much it costs, but whether you'd prefer to spend the money on something else. You could buy several more freight cars, or get a DCC system. Get a new locomotive, or install a decoder in one or more existing ones. 

Certainly if you have a large roster of locomotives, then converting them all to DCC may be a considerable expense. If you actually use all of those locomotives on a regular basis, then this may be a very reasonable reason not to switch. Having said that, I've known plenty of people with extensive rosters that have used a number of approaches to switch.

In my observation and experience in this (and other) hobbies, people will spend money on something if they want it enough. If DCC doesn't reach the level of "want it enough" then you probably won't spend the money on it. 

That's really the reason why people don't switch - they don't think the potential benefits are worth spending their time and/or money on. "It's too expensive," is really, "it's not worth that to me."

The fact is, the DCC system will usually cost less than the benchwork. Or the track. There's a good chance that it's less expensive than the switches and wiring needed for a complex DC block system. Or many other things. If you consider what you'll spend on your layout over a lifetime, a DCC system isn't going to rise to the level of a "major" expense. So you'd rather spend the money on something else. Nothing wrong with that.

Myth No. 4 - "DCC Ready" Means Something

"DCC Ready" is a marketing term. It is not defined, and thus can mean something different to every manufacturer. There are two general categories, though.

Newer models, that were released in DC and DCC versions in their initial run, generally just need a decoder added. Those that were initially released with sound may even already have a speaker installed. Regardless, they were designed with a place for the decoder (and for sound units, a speaker). This makes it very simple to upgrade.

Older models, that weren't initially designed for DCC, can be more complicated. I've purchased "drop-in" decoders for a "DCC Ready" model that required some modification of the frame to fit. I've had others that required you to cut several traces on the circuit board when you install a decoder. 

I usually remove any circuit boards when converting an older model.

The fact is, any locomotive can be converted to DCC. But older ones can be somewhat complicated. My advice is to plan on paying somebody to install a decoder if it's an older model, regardless of whether it's "DCC Ready." If you learn how to do it, or it's a simple installation, then all the better. And sometimes "paying somebody" is working on something else for a buddy who installs a decoder for you.

DC(C) Works for Me

This is not a myth.

If DC works for you, then great! It's worked for decades and will continue to do so. I do understand that if you are happy and continue to use DC that you'll be subjected to a lot of people trying to convince you to switch. Again, that's not my intention here, but on the flip side I do think most people will find operating with DCC "better" and want to help dispel the myths that might prevent you from switching.

I would recommend that if you prefer it, then don't bother justifying why. If you say, "it's too expensive," then somebody will try to prove to you that it's not expensive, and may actually cost less than the DC system you're building. 

Just tell people you're quite happy with how it's working for you, and it's what you're using now. In particular, I wouldn't say the reason you are sticking with DC is one of the ones that I've listed, because many folks will see that as an invitation to dispute that myth. 

It really doesn't matter why somebody chooses to use DC or DCC.

Why DCC?

Like I said, this post isn't intended to promote DCC over DC, but I think it might be useful to know why I use it. This is probably more for new modelers rather than those who have used DC for a while and are happy with how it works for them. But for those on the fence, or new to the hobby, why consider it at all if it will cost more for a DCC locomotive than DC?

I mentioned several advantages like independent control of locomotives, consisting, motor control, etc.  Overall, I think DCC is more flexible, and offers many features that DC just doesn't. The ease of installation (of the system, not decoders in locomotives), are all reasons for me. As a prototype modeler, I want my model railroad to operate like the prototype as well. This includes how the locomotives move, things like sound (because the use of the bell/horn and a number of other features) is important for actual operations. But that's me.

But the No. 1 reason why I prefer DCC is its ease of operation.

Most of the reasons that people give for not switching to DCC are focused on the layout owner. This makes some sense, since it's their layout and they are paying for it. But as somebody who has operated on dozens of layouts, I can tell you that it is absolutely the best option for operating somebody else's layout.

I can go to a layout that operates using DCC and immediately know how to run my train. I've also operated on a number of DC layouts, and it's always a much more complicated process. For the layout owner, who is used to their particular block and control design, it may seem simple, but for a visiting operator that's usually not the case.

With DCC all I need to know is the road number (or consist number), select a loco, and run my train. It's the same on every DCC system. 

This is also one of the main reasons I love the ProtoThrottle. It's very intuitive, and simple. I'm also not interested in more "advanced" DCC capabilities. For example, I've operated on layouts where turnouts were controlled by DCC. This is fine if everything is operated by a Dispatcher, but not if each operator is expected to control switches from their throttle. 

Like DC, the layout owner will say, "it's easy." But I find that in both cases we spend more time asking for help in getting the layout to work when I'd prefer that my focus (as an engineer) is on my train. I appreciate it from a technology standpoint. But I don't want to use it. 

I want it to be simple for operators coming to my layout.

What System?

If you do decide to go with DCC, obviously, I'd recommend MRC, which I've been using for over a decade, although I'll be switching to ProtoThrottles for the actual throttle. So any base system that works with them is fine with me.

But when asked which system I recommend, the answer always starts with whatever your modeling buddies use. They will be your first point of technical support, and can also bring throttles over so you don't have to buy several at once. Around here that would be NCE. I'm comfortable going my own way, so will stick with MRC. I'm not a fan of the Digitrax design, but they are also a very capable system. Outside of the "big three" there are varying degrees of features, flexibility, and complexity and you'd have to be willing to go that route knowing that you many not know anybody else that uses that system. Although I think a lot fewer modelers use MRC, I can say that I know it is a fully capable system, like NCE and Digitrax. On the other hand, I've never used something like the Bachmann system, so I can't tell you if it has all of the core features I'd expect.

Each system does have its strengths, and since I'm not familiar with all of the latest features of all of the many systems, I'm not really qualified to answer anything more than that generalization. 

Friday, July 2, 2021

Speedwitch L&M Gondola

I pulled out a kit I started a while ago, the Speedwitch L&M USRA clone gondola. At the time I was having issues getting the ends glued on.

The problem (I should have taken a picture) was two-fold. First, the ends were slightly warped top to bottom. Second, the sides had warped inward. Because the original frame is cut out to accept the new ends, probably combined with the styrene boards I glued to the styrene bracing, the sides had bowed in quite a bit.

In both cases, with some fairly firm bending, I was able to correct the issue enough so they weren't all pulling in different directions when trying to glue the ends on. I also learned that CA actually has a shelf life at which point it's effectiveness decreases. I had purchased an entire box several years ago, and even though I was using newly opened bottles, I decided to go with a fresh one I purchased recently.

How much work is left depends on how much more of the detail I want to add. Ted's described what he did here. here, here, and here. I don't have the set of punches he uses (yet...), but I'll probably do most of the other details.