Category Archives: Tips

Fixing the Underframes on Brawa Era IV Models

Brawa has been producing some of the best German freight car models in the last few years. I’ve purchased a number of these models not knowing that a rather big detail had been overlooked on the era IV versions of these cars. A FREMO:87 colleague made me aware of the fact that German era IV freight car underframes were painted in the same color as the car body: RAL 8012 and not black as seen on the Brawa models.

Repainting Era IV Underframes

The solution is of course quite simple. All it takes is stripping the lettering off the underframes and repainting them. It does require extra time, though. When one doesn’t have much time for modeling to begin with, it becomes quite annoying especially because one has to reletter the frame.

To get rid of the lettering, I bathe the underframe in isopropyl alcohol. Five minutes is about the right length of time to get the fine lettering off these parts. Then, I carefully wash them with warm soapy water and put them out to dry.

Adding Custom Details

This is also a good moment to add any extra details to the already wonderfully detailed models. In the example of the Brawa Omm52/E037 open hopper seen below, I added custom brake system piping and axle holders that are from a Fränkische Modellbahn-Spezialitäten kit along with cast roller bearings and safety brake slings. One could even go further and replace the entire brake linkage and cylinders, but I didn’t want to overdo it on these models.

When everything is in place and secured with CA, it’s time for another bath and then it’s off to the paint booth. That’s exactly where I’m heading this weekend to complete this set of three Brawa hoppers along with a Tms851 and a Gls205 underframe.

Details of the Brawa E037/Omm52 underframes before and after repainting them.

Prepping Models with a Razor Blade

Currently, I have a number of projects waiting for completion as I’m getting ready for a fall FREMO:87 meeting in Germany. Among the cars on my workbench are three DB Snps719 flatcar models that were first made by Märklin and Fleischmann in the 1990s. As one can expect from models of this vintage, a number of parts, such as buffer mounting plates and steps, are molded on the main body. These details will need to be removed before separately applied detail parts can be added.

An Xacto Knife Didn’t Cut It

Removing these molded parts without compromising the surface of the model has always been a challenge for me. Usually, I tried using an Xacto knife for this but time and time again I would gouge the model’s surface. These nicks would remain visible even after applying a new coat of paint.

The Razor Blade Is My New Favorite Tool

When I was at the Amherst Railroad Hobby Show last winter, I bought a bag of straight edge razor blades of the kind that are used in the Chopper cutting tool. I started experimenting with the razor and realized that it is the perfect tool for shaving off molded on parts without leaving much of a trace. The trick is to tip the thick end of the blade slightly up so that the angled cutting edge moves absolutely parallel to the work surface. The shaving motion must be performed slowly and evenly, taking off layer after layer.

Below is an image of an Snps719 frame after the razor blade treatment along with a shot of the subsequently applied detail parts. Next, the buffer plate and step will be painted. The car will be ready for service on an era IV FREMO:87 layout once spring-loaded buffers and original couplers are added.

Märklin/Fleischman Snps719 prepared with a razor blade.

While working with my new favorite tool, I’ve also discovered that a razor blade is very handy for bending small photo etched parts.

Do you have any additional applications for this tool? Leave a comment to share your experience.

New Steps for an Ade Silberling

Ade passenger car models were way ahead of their time. Willy Ade offered un-compressed scale models with unprecedented interior details, built-in lighting as well as unmatched truck and underframe details in the late 1970s already. To this day, used Ade models and kits are traded at premium prices on eBay, including the Ade Silberling in this post.

Modeling has of course made advances over the past 30 years and there are small ways that one can enhance the appearance of these superb models. One thing that can easily be modernized with up-to-date parts are the steps.

Here’s the result of a recent Sunday afternoon project on my model of a German era IV Ade Silberling. The instructions of the aftermarket parts suggest that several layers of etched parts be soldered together. I found that carefully applying CA to the back of the parts works just as well. Just make sure that the layers are properly aligned so that they retain the nice see-through effect. Click on the image below to see the step detail up close.

Ade Silberling with photo etched steps.

Axle Lengths for Your Freight Car Trucks

One of the things I love about US model railroading is that trucks are interchangeable between cars from different manufacturers. With a multitude of trucks available on the market, it’s helpful to have a cheat sheet that indicates what axle lengths work with them. I found such lists on the Reboxx website that help me determine which PROTO:87 wheel sets I need to order from NWSL or Andy Reichert’s PROTO:87 Stores.

Checking the axle lengths for an Accurail truck.

Find Axle Lengths by Wheel Diameter

Reboxx Ho 33″ Wheel Application Chart (PDF)

Reboxx Ho 36″ Wheel Application Chart (PDF)

Maybe, you’ll find them useful as well.

Perfectly Legal Graffiti

A couple of weeks ago, a reader from Germany sent me a few links about weathering cars. One of them was the website of Mellow Mike, which I had visited and bookmarked years ago. If you have never heard of Mellow Mike, make sure you check out his extensive photo gallery of artfully weathered freight cars many of them with custom graffiti. You won’t believe your eyes.

Speaking of graffiti… The same day I got the email from Germany, I picked up an awesome book at the The New York Public Library called Freight Train Graffiti. The book is a great resource for any modeler interested in weathering American freight cars of the modern era. On over 300 pages and more than 1,000 photos, it chronicles the development of freight car graffiti.

Many of the images are close-ups of the artwork but there are also numerous larger images that show rust and weathering patterns on entire cars that can serve as inspiration for your own modeling. I just ordered a used copy and look forward to doing some perfectly legal freight car graffiti of my own.