Getting ready to apply decals to my N5B cabooses. It looks like I’ll be piecing together the lettering from two different Microscale sets and a set from the Penn Central Railroad Historical Society.
Over the weekend, I made a great deal of progress on the three N5B cabin cars I’m building.
I decided to take a break from track work this evening and get started on a project that I’ve been planning for some time. I’m trying to build up the necessary rolling stock to populate my layout as I build it, and to that end, I have a running “to-do” list of models I eventually need to build. My research indicates that the N5b cabin cars were deployed in abundance on the Canada Southern and Penn Central’s Niagara Branch, both in local service and on through freights. Indeed, North Tonawanda yard was where two local jobs tied up their Alco S2 and N5b cabin.
Bowser has a nice HO model of the N5b in their catalogue, and I’ve been meaning to get around to building one. I’m not thrilled with molded-on grab irons, and Bowser’s model is so equipped. My best approach to building a model of an N5b would be to start with an undecorated Bowser model, replace the molded-on grab irons with wire parts, and then paint and weather them. That was the plan, as I envisioned it. The problem was finding these kits in undecorated form.
Back in August, I was on a cycling trip on the Pine Creek Rail Trail, the south end of which is close to Montoursville. For those less familiar with Bowser Trains, Montoursville PA is the home of Bowser Trains and the adjoined store English Model Railroad Supply. It was a short and very scenic drive out of my way to pop in on the Bowser World Headquarters and pick up some new toys.
The sales guys were great, and when I asked for undecorated N5b kits, they said they would have to put them together for me. I figured it was a good time to buy all of cabins I’d need on the layout, so I took three (and an Alco C430 in Penn Central, while I was there). They put three kits in one box for me, and I was happily on my way.
To start the project, I made up an extremely sharp and very small knife from a dental scraping tool. I needed this to scrape the grab iron details off the shell without removing any rivets. The trick to doing these cabeese is to buy the grab iron sprue (one per caboose) for the Bowser N8 kit. These are beautiful plastic grab irons parts that are a close enough match for the prototype, as far as I’m concerned. Tonight I finished the scraping and drilling of all of the grabs on the car body. Next up, I’ll do the grabs on each corner of the cupolas. Here’s how things looked when I finished up tonight.
When Colin asked me in a recent post whether I had finished this project, I realized I hadn’t written an update. For some background on this project, check out this post from March. This was a fairly straightforward upgrade of an older but still very nice kit. I used Kadee trucks, some wire details underneath, paint and Microscale decals, and just a quick once-over with the Pan Pastels to get a start on the weathering. It needs some more attention to the weathering and a few more detail parts, but for now, I’d be happy to run Penn Central N8 cabin 23298 in its current state. For those of you less inclined to build and paint your own, Bowser has announced that they are adding this model to their “Executive” line of products. Presumably, this means they will be improving some aspects of the model and selling it ready-to-run. I wasn’t interested in building another N8 caboose, but I might buy one of these “Executive” models if they’ve improved the trucks and offer it in the more common Penn Central scheme without the horizontal stripe.
As the ties are getting glued down to the benchwork on my switching layout, I’ve been thinking ahead to the day that I will actually be able to operate. I’ve made relatively few investments into locomotives and rolling stock for the layout, so to begin, I’ll be drawing on the equipment I already own.
The benefit of building such a small layout is that I won’t need to invest in a massive fleet of rolling stock. That’s not to say I won’t do that over time. But it won’t be required in order to start up.
I’ve been researching the location I’m modelling, and according to Doug Kroll (an important source of historical information for me), Penn Central kept at least a pair of switcher+caboose combos at the small yard in North Tonawanda because two jobs operated from there. One job was responsible for switching the paper plant and industries in town, and the other went up to branch line to Lockport and back. Photos have revealed that the typical power for these assignments included Alco S2, S4, and RS1, all maintained out of Buffalo.
I bought a P2K S3 decorated in Penn Central at the Springfield show. It’s a very nice model, but I have no photographic proof of an S3 having been assigned to North Tonawanda. Still, I have no issues with using it on my layout. It will likely be repainted at some point in time because I’m not pleased with the lettering font. In addition to the P2K S3, I already owned an Atlas S2 and S4 from the original run of these models that was offered some time in the late Medieval period. These are a bit crude by the standard of today’s models, but at a time when I’m spending a great deal of money on other things pertaining to the layout, it’s convenient for me repaint these and convert them to DCC. They’ll serve as stand-in models until such time as I decide to flea-market them to help fund upgrades.
Here’s a photo of Penn Central 9741, an Alco S4 that was assigned to Buffalo. At the time this photo was taken, I’d invested about 90 minutes of my time and maybe 30 bucks for a decoder and other consumable supplies, including Tamiya paint Microscale decals. I’ll do some weathering prior to reassembling it. I’m waiting on another decoder so that I can do the same treatment to the S2.