New Project: Penn Central N5B 22923

Another project has moved from the workbench to the layout. This time, it’s the first of three ex-Pennsy N5B cabooses I’ve been working on.


To build Penn Central 22923, I started with an undecorated Bowser N5B kit. I removed all of the molded-on grab irons and replaced them with Bowser detail parts from their N8 kit after drilling all of the necessary mounting holes. I plugged the holes in the roof where the roofwalk would have been and used small pieces of strip styrene to represent supports left behind when the roofwalk was removed at the car shops. I installed brake rigging and air lines underneath using Cal-Scale parts and brass wire., then and modified the coupler pocket to more closely resemble the prototype. The model is painted and lettered with Pollyscale paints and decals from Microscale and the Penn Central Railroad Historical Society. Weathering powders provided some grime and dust.

Two more to go. I’ll post pictures of them as they come off the workbench.


Finished Projects: PC SW1500 and N-12 Caboose

Two more projects came off the workbench today.


Penn Central 9570 is an Athearn RTR SW1500 that I bought through an online group two years ago. The only work I did to it was install a decoder, renumber it, and add an ACI label. I had to mess with the handrails for a long time, and they still aren’t quite right.  I might some day replace them with hand-bent wire handrails, but for now, I’m calling it finished. I weathered it using artist oils, airbrushed acrylics, and Bragdon powders. I expected that these locomotives would have been relatively clean because they were some of the newest power that PC bought.  Photos prove that they probably didn’t see the wash rack until they got repainted by Conrail. This model has been on and off the bench for some time. My friend Jurgen helped me get the decoder programmed properly, so it was time to finish off the last of the weathering.


Penn Central 24520 is a stock Walthers N-12 caboose.  I weathered it with airbrushed acrylics and Bragdon powders.  This is the second “road” caboose that I’ve recently added to the fleet.

Two New Projects off the Bench: S-3 and NE-6

I’ve been finishing a few projects over the past few days.

IMG_9564Penn Central 9365 is a Proto 2000 Alco S3 that I bought used at the Springfield show in 2014.  I really like the way this model runs but the factory lettering was completely wrong and annoyed me too much to let it be. I stripped off the original lettering, repainted it and used Microscale decals to make it a more accurate rendition of the prototype. I renumbered it while I was at it. Here’s a shot after a quick first-pass of weathering.  Looking at the photo I noticed a couple of things that I missed, so it’ll be back on the workbench for a 15 minute touch up.

IMG_9568Penn Central caboose 19825 is a completely stock model of an NE-6 by Centralia Car Shops.  I dirtied it up some and now it truly is “ready to roll.”

I have no evidence of this combination of equipment ever working the paper plant at North Tonawanda.  In fact, I’ve no evidence of an S-3 working anywhere around Buffalo, but this is as good as it gets until I get an S-2.  The NE-6 is part of my growing fleet of road cabeese. My trio of N5Bs will be coming off the workbench soon, and two of those are earmarked for the local crews at North Tonawanda. For now, this NE-6 will be the rolling lunchroom/bathroom for the crew switching the International Paper plant.

More Work on the N5B Fleet


As a result of having an operational layout, I find that I’m splitting my time between modelling and operating now.  This is good because I’ve been able to test out my operating scheme and work out some problems.  However, all of this playing with trains has slowed down the pace of building  a fleet of rolling stock.  It’s nice to have options now.

I’ve made it a priority to try to populate the switching layout with the appropriate pieces of rolling stock.  To that end, I’m pushing to finish a caboose project that stalled when I ran out of the numeral “2” from my decal sheets.  A recent package in the mail solved that problem.

Penn Central’s fleet of former N5B cabooses were apparently ubiquitous on the Niagara Branch during the ’70s.  The most common arrangement for the local switchers working from North Tonawanda yard appears to have been a pair of Alco S-2s, each with an N5B caboose, though sometimes an RS-1 or SW-1 appears to have been rotated into the mix.  Knowing that I’d need at least two N5Bs (and thinking I’d add one just for good measure), I bought three undecorated models when I visited the Bowser company store last August.


I’ve nearly finished lettering one side of all three N5Bs. I’ve decided to letter one of the three for the Canada Division, which means it will be seen on CASO St. Thomas trains running across the  Niagara Branch.  The proud and independent shop crew at the St. Thomas shops had the luxury of working in the company’s colonial outpost, far from the watchful eye of upper management, and they took advantage of the fact by exercising some creative license with the corporate image.  I’m not sure, but it seems to me that this was the case with the N5B cabooses that showed up to replace the old NYC wooden cabooses some time in the very late 60s.  My model  on the far left in the photo above is lettered following a photo of a Canada Division caboose.  A different font size and spacing was used for the name, and the numerals were placed differently.

I’ll put up some better photos when I finish these models, which hopefully won’t be too much longer.  I’m currently running an N8 caboose into the paper plant.  These were newer cars, and were not likely relegated to branch line and industrial/transfer assignments.  I should be able to correct that soon.

Tangent GATX 8000 Gal. Acid Tank Cars

A few weeks before the holidays, I ordered and received a pair of 8000 gal. acid tank cars from Tim at Action Hobbies in Kingsville.  These cars are by Tangent Scale Models and, like the rest of their product line, are very nicely detailed and finished.  I dare you to click on the link to Tangent’s web site and not be overcome by the urge to buy at least one model.

Models like these are expensive, by any measure, but one of the benefits of building a small layout is that I can put more resources into each model.  The paint scheme on the two cars I bought represents cars from a GATX lease fleet.  You may have noticed them in a photo from my December 29, 2014 post celebrating the installation of an NCE DCC system on my home layout.  Here is a shot of GATX 24941, off-spot at International Paper (on my layout, of course).


A keen eye will reveal that the car in the photo above is lettered for a pool of cars assigned to haul phosphoric acid, a food additive that provides tanginess.  As they stand, these models are out of place at a paper plant.  By default, my plan is to cycle these cars into the consist of trains TF-2/FT-1, COJ-32, or any of the CASO trains once I build the North Tonawanda yard across from the paper plant.  However, I’m exploring another possibility.

According to my limited understanding of the paper making process, sulphuric acid is used to manage Ph levels of the digested pulp as it passes through the washer and thickening machines.  It’s also used to make chlorine dioxide to bleach fine paper products to a brilliant white.  I’ll definitely need some sulphuric acid tank cars for my paper plant at Tonawanda Island.

Sulphuric acid is very dense, and is therefore moved in tank cars of relatively small volume, by modern standards.  At 8000 gallons, the prototype for these spectacular models by Tangent are approximately the right size to have been in pool of cars assigned to haul sulphuric acid.  I’ll have to do some research and reach out to my friends who are more knowledgeable about the details of freight car useage to figure this out.  The best-case scenario would have me undertaking some minor relettering to repurpose these two models.  I’m hoping that will be the case, but if not, these cars are fine addition to the various through trains that will be modelled in the next phase of the layout.