Saturday, June 16, 2018


Once I began building model railroad rolling stock and structures I quickly realized I was going to need a measuring tool to accurately take and transfer measurements.  As most model railroaders my first tool to make measurements to aid my kit and scratchbuilding was a scale rule.  And, that HO scale rule was the first measurement tool of many to follow.  One of my favorite later acquired tools for measurement was a caliper.  The definition of a caliper is an instrument for measuring thicknesses and internal or external diameters.  As rules, various types of calipers are available. I now have a collection of different types I have acquired over the years.

calipers most used in my collection (tap or click on photos to enlarge)

Normally, the two six inch calipers that immediately come to mind when the word "caliper" is mentioned are the dial or digital calipers.  I have one of each. Why?  I purchased the dial caliper and used it for years before the digital caliper came to the market place.  The digital caliper is the easiest to read; however, I still use the dial caliper the most because of habit and no battery is necessary. I use the caliper to measure wire, drill bits, plastic rod, and brass tubing to determine their external diameters and styrene, brass and other materials for thicknesses. I also can use the caliper to determine the internal diameter of brass and plastic tubing.  The caliper is also a very useful depth gauge.  I have one more caliper which is just a simple four inch caliper purchased from Garret Wade.  I use this caliper on every project I work on. If you do not have a caliper in your tool collection I encourage you to get one.

calipers: digital on top, 4" in middle, dial at bottom

I find I use a caliper for small measurements rather than a rule. I open the caliper to make the measurement between two points, move the caliper to the material, hold the caliper so one bar edge touches the edge of the material to be cut and place a rule next to the other side.  I do this at the top, middle and bottom of the cut line and remove the caliper. I now mark the cut line on the piece if it is to be cut with a saw.   If a knife is used to make the cut no marking is necessary.  Just keep the rule in place when caliper is removed and then use the knife and run it along the rule to make the cut.  I have enclosed a photo to attempt show how I use the caliper to do it.

Measurement being transferred to styrene via caliper

In addition to the above described calipers, I have acquired two special calipers that have an HO scale rule, the scale I model in. One such caliper is a stainless steel one made by Pacific Fast Mail (PFM) years ago.  I was lucky to have one offered to me for purchase by a modeler knowing I was a scratch-builder.  Of course, being a "tool junkie" I had to have it.   I am glad I purchased this caliper as I use this caliper most on structure projects to take and transfer measurements of parts I need.  A valuable tool I wish was still available to a model railroader.  Other than the PFM caliper I have a plastic one made by General with a HO Scale which still can be purchased for your tool collection. With either of these calipers you can take a measured distance and transfer it to your project material.  The General caliper in addition to the HO scale does have an O scale as well.  If this type of caliper is available for other scales I do not know.

calipers with HO scale

Another tool I have in the tool drawer for measurements is a Starrett Co. 1" micrometer.  A micrometer is a gauge that measures small distances or thicknesses between its two faces, one of which can be moved away from or toward the other by turning a screw with a fine thread. I use it to measure wire or drill bits to find the size just as the caliper; however, it can not be used as a depth gauge like the caliper.  The micrometer is a handy; however, not a necessary tool you need in the tool drawer.

 An old Starrett 1" micrometer

Again, if you do not have a caliper in your tool collection, I encourage you to purchase one.  I am sure you will find it will become a valuable measurement tool for you as it has for me.

Thank You for taking time to read my blog.  You can share a comment in the section below if you choose to do so.  Please share the blog link with other model railroaders.
Lester Breuer

Tuesday, June 12, 2018


Pulling Sunshine Models, kit 77.5, Northern Pacific double sheathed box car, number 9785, in series 9480-9999, for this build continues to reduce my unbuilt kits stash. The prototype cars, built in 1937 by Pacific Car & Foundry, have a likeness to the AAR 1937 10' IH boxcar. The design used tongue in groove siding applied over Pratt truss steel framing with a square post 4/5 Dreadnaught car end. You can see the ends of the Pratt truss framing below the edge the side siding. The Prototype Data Sheet #77A in the kit tells us the cars had a Murphy all steel panel roof with wood running boards. In addition, the Prototype Data Sheet #77A has a good black and white 3/4 view photo of car 9792 to assist with the build. A black and white side view white photo of car 9747 is found in the Steam Era Freight Cars Reference Manual, Vol. 1, page 145, published by Speedwitch Media.  A color photo appears in the NP Color Guide to Freight and Passenger Equipment, p. 37, published by Morning Sun Books Inc.  A diagram for this series car taken from a Freight Car Diagram book is available for download from the Northern Pacific Historical Society on their website.

Sunshine Models Prototype Data Sheet #77A
I began the build of this flat kit by first building the "box."  I make the "box" by gluing an end to a side to create a "L" and repeat the process for the other end and side.  The two "L" units are glued together to create the basic box.  Next, the plastic Murphy all steel roof was fitted to the box and cemented in place to complete the car body.  Inside the car body, corners were reinforced with Evergreen #165, .080"x.100" strip styrene and on the sides the same strip styrene was used to create underbody supports.  And, a baffle made from Evergreen. 040" sheet styrene was added to prevent car body from bowing in.

The underbody was fitted next.  Some sanding on the sides and ends was required to obtain a proper fit.  After fitting, I attached Kadee #262 narrow "whisker" coupler boxes with Kadee #148 "whisker" couplers installed with super glue to hold them for drilling.  I drilled the bolsters and coupler pockets for 2-56 screws and added the Athearn, # 99002, 2-56x1/4" screws to the coupler boxes. Next I added weights, electrical outlet box punch-outs, to bring the car weight to 3.8 ounces. Finally, Accurail trucks were installed with Atheran, #99002, 2-56 screws to represent the five spring package cast side frame style. A Kadee, #208, thickness .015" fiber washer was added on each bolster to obtain correct coupler height.

The underbody was now glued to the car body to complete the basic car for final detailing. Brake components were installed.  I replaced the control valve and brake cylinder mounting bracket in the kit with spares from another Sunshine Models kit. A slack adjuster, cut form 2x2x14" scrap styrene was attached to the center sill for attaching the floating brake lever. Brake levers cut from Evergreen, #8108, 1x8" and #8106, 1x6" strip styrene were added. Brake lever hangers were bent from Detail Associates, #2503, .010" diameter brass wire. Brake rodding was made using Tichy, #1106, .0125" phosphor bronze wire (PBW) to which clevises, half of a Tichy turnbuckle, #8021, were added to attach to the rodding to the brake levers. Chain, attached to the brake rod via an eye bent into the brake rod, is A-Line #29219,40 links per inch.

Detailing of the car body began with the roof to which I installed the longitudinal running board with Formula '560' canopy glue and super glue. I left the install of the longitudinal running board extension brackets as the first step on the end detailing. I made latitudinal running board support brackets from .005"x.040" brass shim stock to which I glued the latitudinal running boards.  Prior to gluing the latitudinal running boards to the supports I had attached the kit provided corner grab irons using Yarmouth Model Works, YMW 256, etched eyebolts for corner brackets.

Next I began adding the "B" end detail by installing the longitudinal extension running brackets made using Evergreen, #8102, 1x2" strip styrene. To easily find the length of the brackets, I use a 4 inch caliper to obtain the length. The ladders were installed next. Prior to installing the end ladders I always install the side ladders first to allow rung ladder alignment on the end ladders with the side ladders. I installed a Plano Model Products, #131-12, metal etched brake step next. The kit provided brake housing, chain, and bell crank followed. The molded brake rod was cut off at the end of the chain and replaced with a Detail Associates, #2505, .015" diameter brass wire one. A Sunshine Models resin retainer valve and retainer line, Tichy Train Group (Tichy), #1100, .008" diameter PBW with brackets, a "U" bolt shape bent from .010" diameter wire using a Xuron wire bending plier were installed. A Kadee #2030 Ajax brake wheel followed. Sill grab irons, Tichy, #1106, .0125" diameter PBW were installed. The special bracket grab iron on the right was made using a plastic bracket kit grab iron cut in half, gluing a half grab iron with bracket to the right side of the grab iron location, cutting off the molded grab iron portion with a sprue nipper leaving only the bracket, and finally installing a grab iron, bent from Tichy, #1106, .0125" with only one leg and rung installed in the right side location. Yes, a bit of work to create this special end grab iron. A Evergreen, #291 .060" angle, about a 1/4" in length, was glued next to the push pole pocket plate in the lower left corner and shaped with a sprue nipper to form the uncoupling lever bracket. The uncoupling lever was bent from Tichy, #1106, .0125" PBW, and installed.  With the "B" end complete, the same extension running board brackets, grab irons, special bracket grab iron, uncoupling lever bracket and uncoupling lever were installed on the "A" end.

The side details were added next. The ladders, as I said above, were already installed so I began with the left side grab irons. I used Detail Associates, #6209, 22" wide bracket grab irons rather than the kit grab irons. Sill steps provided in the kit; however, bent into the shape of the prototype per photos, were installed. The molded on door handle was carved off and replaced with one bent from  Detail Associates, #2503, brass .010" diameter wire. Placard boards included in the kit were installed on the doors and on the ends.

Detailing complete, I moved the car to the paint shop. The car body was first washed with a makeup cotton swab dipped in 91% isopropyl alcohol.  Once dry, the underbody was sprayed with Vallejo Model Air, #71.054, Dark Grey Black ( tarnished black).  The car body was sprayed with Polly Scale, #414350, mineral red.  I used the last of my Polly Scale mineral red so in the future I will use a Vallejo Model Color mix of 2 parts Black Red, #70.859 and 1 part Flat Yellow, #70.953.  No matter what water base paint I use, it is thinned with a custom thinner mix of distilled water, Vallejo air brush thinner and flow improver. After a couple of hours the car body is sprayed with Model Master,4638, Gloss Clear Acryl for a decal application surface. Decals in the kit, except for the Slogan "Main Street of the Northwest" from Microscale set 87-184,were applied using Microscale Set and Sol decal setting solution.  You may experience some frustration as I did when applying the three layer Mondad decal. And, you can see I also had trouble with the old Microscale slogan on this car.  I plan to remove the slogan and attempt again as I have extras. Once the decals were dry, a single-edge razor blade was used to cut through the decals on the board lines and again coated with Microscale Sol and Walther's Solvaset decal setting solution.  And, when dry the car body was sprayed with Model Master, 4636, Flat Clear Acryl to protect the decals.

Car sitting on GN Interchange
The finished Northern Pacific double sheathed box car box car 9785 joins a Sunshine Models Northern Pacific box car 9978, kit 77.5, built in 2014, to serve customers on the Minneapolis & Northland Railroad Company. Having these two NP double sheathed box cars with small Monad herald built, I only have one Sunshine Models NP double sheathed box car with large Monad herald left to build.

NP 9978 built in 2014 on GN Interchange
NP cars on GN Interchange waiting delivery

I wish thank Frank Hodina of Resin Car Works for the creating the masters for these kits.

Thank You for taking time to read my blog.  You can share a comment in the section below if you choose to do so.  Please share the blog link with other model railroaders.
Lester Breuer

Thursday, May 31, 2018


I pulled from my to build kits, Milwaukee Road, single- sheathed box car, Sunshine Models, kit 47.3, number 711470, series 711000 to 711999, for this build.  The prototype information and photos of this car are in the Prototype Data Sheet #47A provided in the kit which contains the only good  photo of the “B” end I could find, Steam Era Freight Cars Reference Manual, Vol.1, pages 70 and 71, and several color photos are in the Milwaukee Road Color Guide, Vol. 2, page 7.  A diagram of the car is in The Milwaukee Road Freight Cars–Official Employees’ Shop Diagrams for 1937 book, p. 16.

Click or tap on photo to enlarge

I began the build of this flat kit by gluing an end to a side to create a “L” and repeated the process for the other end and side.  The two “L” units are glued together to create the basic box.   The underbody was now cemented in place.   Car body inside corners and sides were reinforced with Evergreen #164 .080” x .080” strip styrene. Next I attached Kadee #262 coupler pockets with super glue to hold them for drilling.  Now the coupler pockets and bolsters were drilled for 2-56 screws.  I like to complete this step before adding weight to the interior of the car body so I do not cover the holes with weights, in this case electrical outlet box punch-outs, used to weight the car to 3.8 ounces.  With the weights in place I cut a baffle from Evergreen .040” sheet styrene and installed it in the center of the car body to prevent sides from bowing in.  Hutchins all steel roof resin casting was now installed to complete the car body.

I turned back to the underbody to install Kadee #148 “whisker” couplers and Tahoe Model Works, TMW-006, Buckeye ARA trucks with InterMountain 33” metal wheel sets with 2-56 screws. Underbody work was now completed per the kit instructions with the following changes.   I used Detail Associates #2503 .010” brass wire for the piping from the air reservoir to the control valve and Tichy Train Group #1106 .0125” dia. phosphor bronze wire for the pipe from the back of the brake cylinder to the control valve. Tichy Train Group #1106 .0125” phosphor bronze wire was used to make the brake rods which were attached to brake levers with clevises made by cutting Tichy Train Group # 8021 turnbuckles in half.  The chain between the brake cylinder lever and brake rod is Campbell 42 links per inch black chain.  A train line fabricated from Plastruct #90851 .020” dia. styrene round rod installed.

With underbody complete I now began the detailing of the "B" end.   As with the underbody I did make changes from the kit instructions. The longitudinal running board extension brackets, seen on the "B" end, were made from Evergreen #8102 1” x 2” strip styrene with fasteners made with MEK “Goop” (styrene plastic melted in MEK).  On the “B” end the brake shaft step was fabricated using an A-Line #29000 sill step shaped per prototype photo.  To install the A-Line brake shaft step the top mounting pins were bent back ninety degrees and then half of that bend was again bent back up ninety degrees which when installed moved the brake shaft step forward from the underbody to enable to brake shaft, .015” brass wire, upon install to rest on it.  To complete the brake shaft step to look like the prototype in photos, additional parts of the brake shaft step such as the angle brace from the side to the underbody were made using Evergreen strip styrene.  A Precision Scale #31796 retainer valve was used and a retainer line fabricated from Tichy Train Group # 1100, .008” dia. phosphor bronze wire was installed.  A bracket for the brake shaft was made using the kit provided shim brass.  The uncoupling lever brackets were made by cutting one of the spare resin mounting “L” brackets in half and attaching it to the underbody under the left side of the end ladder.  Yarmouth Model Works #355 eyebolts were installed in the resin “L” bracket to complete the uncoupling lever bracket. The uncoupling levers were bent from Tichy Train Group # 1106 .0125” dia. phosphor bronze wire and installed in the fabricated resin mounting brackets and the Detail Associates #2206 eyebolts provided in the kit for the mounting brackets above the coupler pocket.

On the car body sides the grab irons for the left side in the kit were not the correct length so new left side grab irons were bent from Tichy Train Group # 1106 .0125” phosphor bronze wire and installed.  The car body detailing  was now complete.

With car body complete the car was now moved to the paint shop for paint and lettering .  First, car body and underbody were washed with an all-cotton cosmetic applicator dipped in 99% isopropyl alcohol prior to being sprayed with PollyScale Box Car Red, F414281.  After drying, car body was sprayed with Model Master 4638 Gloss Clear Acryl for decal base.  The paint  and gloss for spraying were thinned, 2 parts paint 1 part thinner,  with a custom mix thinner of distilled water, Vallejo Airbrush thinner and airbrush flow improver mixed per formula found in Guide to Acrylic Painting by Joe Fugate.  Paint was sprayed with a Paasche Talon airbrush at 28 psi.  Decals by Rail Graphics provided in kit were applied using Micoscale Micro Sol.  Photos in various sources were used to position lettering.  Once decals were dry the car body was sprayed with Model Master 4636 Flat Clear Acryl.  Trucks were painted with PollyScale Tarnished Black, F414140.

Car is sitting on Schwenke Cement siding for loading

Building this kit provided me with many fun filled hours.  The fun continues when the card car is made to put Milwaukee box car, number 711470, in service on my Minneapolis & Northland Railroad Company, an operating railroad.  I wish to thank Frank Hodina who created the masters to make this kit possible.

Thank You for taking time to read my blog.  You can share a comment in the section below if you choose to do so.  Please share the blog link with other model railroaders.
Lester Breuer