Some weeks ago an acquaintance was giving an informal clinic on using Pan Pastels down at the local train shop (Credit Valley Railway Company).  He is a very fine railway modeller and his freight cars looked outstanding.  Besides the usual Pan Pastels used for weathering, he also uses Pearl Medium – Black COURSE #014 to refresh/enhance coal loads.  The model on hand showed this to be effective.  I thought that this was a rather creative idea. Basically this is a black powder with glitter added.  Last Saturday I decided to give it a try, first on a removable coal load … Continue reading ALL THAT GLITTERS…


Here’s how I make rod-style coupler cut levers for freight cars.  To achieve some consistency, I made two jigs from styrene (shown above).  In retrospect, their function though could be combined into one jig. I generally use .010″ Tichy phosphor-bronze wire.  The first thing I do is run some 400 grit paper along the length while rolling the wire – this roughness helps the paint to bite onto the surface better. Next I cut a length (longer than I need) and put a 90 degree bend into it. The first fixture has a groove for the wire built-up with .015″ … Continue reading CUT LEVERS


In my era of interest, the 1930’s and early 40’s, the standard railroad coupler in North America was the Type E.  It was found on both freight and passenger cars.  Here are two pictures from the 1941 Locomotive Cyclopedia: When lightweight high-speed passenger equipment was introduced a new coupler was too, effective March 1, 1940.  The Tight Lock Coupler (later called Type F) was designed to eliminate free slack in the contour (vertical plane).  It has a tapered protrusion on one side that engages in a tapered pocket on the mating coupler.  It can couple to a Type E and has … Continue reading TIGHT LOCK COUPLERS


Here’s an old trick for making fine plastic rod.  It is very easy to do.  Take a piece of the runner (or often called a sprue) from a polystyrene plastic model kit.  The sprue is what holds the parts making the kit “tree”. To take the clunky thick sprue diameter and turn it into finer useable stock, simply cut a length and hold it over a flame (a candle works best) while rotating, as below… …as it gets soft, it will droop down… …then stretch it by pulling on both ends… Presto!  One can make many different diameters by varying … Continue reading STRETCHING SPRUE


My very good friend Bill Nesbitt works Saturdays at the local train shop (Credit Valley Railway Company).  On occasion he runs trains of his on the impressive store layout.  One such day in September 2015 saw his MTH 20th Century Limited seven-car set headed by Dreyfuss J3a Hudson 5446 making the large circuit.  At some point in time a derailment went unnoticed and when discovered the Dining Car 680 suffered damage.  Bill brought the car along to an operating session here at Fillmore and when he left, he left the car sitting on my work bench.  It sat forlornly for … Continue reading REPAIRING NYC 680


We HO scale railroad modellers have so many choices of locomotive and car models with very fine details.  Obviously, these models cost more, but to those of us who like the finer detail, we spend the money.  In almost all cases, though, the packaging is not really meant to store the model it came with as it is not really designed with that in mind.  The packaging is made as inexpensively as possible in order to get the model to our workbench.  Putting the model back into the box, well, isn’t as easy as getting it out (and even at … Continue reading LOCOMOTIVE & CAR STORAGE


Earlier this year I made trials on Sergent couplers as they look great and promised prototypical operation.  I found that they work very well for frieght cars, so I have decided to equip all terminal service trains and locomotives on the engine terminal side of the layout with them.  I buy the pre-assembled ones direct from Sergent (SergentEngineering) as I did not want to fuss with the assembly of the tiny steel balls. They operate easily and in a prototypical way: To couple, both couplers need to be aligned and the jaws opened.  The Sergent coupling wand has an offset wire … Continue reading FREIGHT CAR COUPLING


All of my open-topped terminal service trains (coal, ash, sand) feature removable loads. In the photo above, the two lower items are loads for hoppers.  They are made with a tray made from .040″ sheet styrene with .125″ x .125″ and .060″ x .125″ strip styrene stiffeners.  The trays are smaller than the opening in the car by about 1/16″ per side.  This does leave a gap when installed in the car, but not too noticeable in my view.  I opted to go for reliable function over scale appearance.  Once built up, I “CA” four 2″ steel nails in the … Continue reading REMOVABLE LOADS


It seems that whatever prototype one follows, one thing or another makes it different than what other railroads use.  Then the challenge is to figure out how to model it.  Such was the case with my Russell snowplow, NYC X662. A unique feature on NYC snowplows is the hand railing found on the roof behind the cupola. I spent a fair bit of time trying to figure out how I could replicate this.  I decided to use what I call now disposable fixturing. The first thing I did was make a jig to drill the holes in the roof of … Continue reading DISPOSABLE FIXTURING