Tag Archives: cars

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.

Building a Penn Central X58 50′ Box Car (Part II)

I have taken the last few weeks off from modeling because I was finishing up some coursework. With my class completed, it’s time to turn my attention back to my Rail Yard Models Penn Central X58 project. Today, I am installing a pair of Kadee® Barber® S-2 70 ton trucks outfitted with PROTO:87 wheels, the end platforms, handbrake and the Sergent couplers.

The Kadee® trucks look good and even better with with the PROTO wheels. They have a working suspension, which is pretty cool even though the springs look a little too large. Check out the difference between the factory-installed RP25 wheels and the PROTO wheels. There is no way I am going back to RP25…

Barber® S-2 70 ton trucks with RP25 and PROTO:87 wheels.

Barber® S-2 70 ton trucks with RP25 and PROTO:87 wheels. (click to enlarge)

The hole in the Kadee® trucks is too small to fit over the pin under the X58. A #30 (3.3 mm) drill bit will widen the hole just enough. When installing the trucks, make sure that the screws aren’t too tight so that the trucks can still move freely under the car.

The hole in the trucks needs to be widened to fit under the X58.

The hole in the trucks needs to be widened to fit under the X58.

So far the X58 project went quite well – until it was time to install the end platforms. Bending the platforms just right was a problem and I messed up a few of them in the process. Gene Fusco from Rail Yard Models sent me updated instructions to better illustrate the shaping of the parts, which did help me in my final attempt.

During installation, I also had trouble fitting the parts over the alignment pins on the car. The urethane body is pretty soft and the pins got damaged in the process. Eventually, I decided to completely remove them and install the platforms using scale screw imitations instead.  I shaved off the remains of the pins using an X-acto knife and drilled holes with a #79 (0.37 mm) bit in their place. Then I mounted the platforms with the scale screws, which also makes them feel sturdier.

Preparing the X58 for the installation of the end platforms.

Preparing the X58 for the installation of the end platforms.

B end with with handbrake and end platform installed.

B end with with handbrake and end platform installed.

As a last step, I installed the draft gear with the Sergent couplers prepared a few weeks ago. Looks nice doesn’t it?

The Sergent couplers are installed and the car is ready to be painted.

The Sergent couplers are installed and the car is ready to be painted.

In part III, I am going paint and decal the car.

Building a Penn Central X58 50′ Box Car (Part I)

Back in January, I bought my first craftsman freight car kits from Rail Yard Models. During the Vancouver Olympics, I started working on the first project – a Penn Central X58 50′ box car. I will tell you more about why I chose a Penn Central freight car in a future post. For now, let’s start with unboxing the kit.

As you can see in the following picture, Rail Yard Model kits contains everything you need to build the model. Besides the obvious urethane body, roof, shear plates, bolsters, coupler pocket lids, the two piece bolster alignment jig and many smaller cast parts, the kit comes with trucks and near-scale wheels, brake hardware, etched metal parts, several strands of wire, styrene strips, brake hoses, decals and a CD-ROM containing a 60-page manual, line drawings and a 14-page history of the car.

The only things not included are couplers, which isn’t a big deal. The coupler pockets are designed for Kadee #78s but I am going to use Sergent couplers instead.

Unboxing the Rail Yard Models Penn Central X58.

Unboxing the Rail Yard Models Penn Central X58. (click to enlarge)

After consulting the history, I decided to model the Penn Central 361825. This car is from the first series built by the Pennsylvania Railroad in 1964 and was equipped with the Hydra-Cushion. The kit comes with parts to either model the Hydra-Cushion or the Keystone underframe details giving you the flexibility to model different versions of the car.

Penn Central X58 with Hydra cushion.

My X58 is outfitted with the Hydra-Cushion.

Installing the brake hardware is fairly easy. All you need to do is put together the plastic brake appliances and mount them using etched metal parts. Getting the brake piping just right was a little challenging because the instructions did not provide a bending diagram. In the end it worked out fine, though.

X58 with brake hardware and piping.

X58 with brake hardware and piping.

Adding the brake rigging wasn’t that hard either but I made one mistake when bending a brake lever support the wrong way. When I tried to fix it by bending it in the opposite direction, the part broke. Luckily, I was able to reorder the etched parts and Gene from Rail Yard Models quickly mailed them.

X58 with brake rigging installed.

X58 with brake rigging installed.

The doors are detailed with styrene rods and strips, which is easy enough. I didn’t measure the strips and inadvertently used one of the pre-cut door tracks as door handles. Once I discovered my mistake, I carefully removed the thicker strip from the door, removed remaining glue and replaced the handles with the correct strips. For the door tracks, I got replacement strips at the local hobby shop. Lesson learned – now I got my digital caliper handy at all times.

X58 door opener details.

X58 door opener details.

In the late 1960s and 70s, some cars including the PC 361825 had the hand brake lowered and the tall ladders cut down when the roof walks were removed. The manual provides clear instructions where the etched ladders need to be cut and how the hand brake needs to be modified.

Cut down end and side ladders.

Cut down end and side ladders.

The PC 361825 had its roof walks removed but the roof walk supports were left in place. The etched supports are bent into an l shape and inserted into holes I had previously drilled.

Roof walk supports without transverse walking panels.

Roof walk supports without transverse walking panels.

In part II, I will install the end platforms, hand brake, PROTO:87 wheels and Sergent couplers.

Kits for the Modern Era – Interview with Rail Yard Model’s Gene Fusco

At the Amherst Railroad Hobby Show, I bought my first Rail Yard Model kits. I am working on a Penn Central X58 box car right now and really enjoy putting it together. This is largely due to the detailed 60-page instruction manual with numerous photographs and a 14-page documentation of the history of the car – all provided in PDF format on a mini CD-ROM. I wanted to find out who’s behind these extraordinary kits and interviewed Rail Yard Model’s Gene Fusco.

Johannes: How and when did Rail Yard Models get started and why the focus on the modern era?

Gene: I started Rail Yard Models in the spring of 2002. Before that, I worked in the hi-tech world as a software developer for almost 16 years. I was laid off in a 25% corporate reduction in force and decided it was time to do something different. At the time this all happened, I was in the process of building patterns for the X79 Kellogg’s box car for my own personal modeling use. As a Penn Central fan, I had long wanted some of these cars for my collection. When I decided that I was going to try to run a business making craftsman kits, I was already most of the way to completion.

My focus on the modern era is multi-faceted. There was a hole in the niche market of special interest “modern” freight cars. (Modern is in quotes there, mostly because the 60’s are 40+ years ago now!) There were already several craftsman kit manufacturers that had the 1920’s to the 1950’s quite well covered. So, as far as a business is concerned, I saw a market segment that wasn’t being satisfied.

Another aspect of the time period selection was pure personal interest. It’s the time period I model and am most familiar with. Finally, there is the availablilty of data. Large amounts of hard data are still readily available for cars in this time period. This includes data such as builder’s drawings, roster information, builder’s and fan photos. And finally, if all that fails, the actual cars are still around which can make it possible for field measurements to be made.

Johannes: How do decide which prototypes you model?

Gene: Again, a complex answer with many factors. The primary consideration is if good data is available to make high quality patterns and decal artwork. Simple line drawings in that back issue of your favorite railroad magazine just don’t cut it in today’s modeling environment.

The next hurdle to clear is the engineering: is the model manufactureable? This requires some mental analysis of the prototype to decompose the big picture into the individual parts and decide what can and can’t be done with the materials and technology available to me.

The next consideration is the possibility of the model being produced by one of the “big guys” in the hobby. This isn’t limited to exact duplication of a specific car, but includes cars that are close or similar in appearance. If a ready to run version of one of my kits becomes available it would essentially kill market demand for that kit. There are a number of people that would still buy the kit based solely on their desire to build models themselves, but not enough to support a profitable product line.

Johannes: Do you work from original drawings when designing the models or do you take measurements from the cars yourself?

Gene: When possible, I try to work from copies of original builder’s drawings. This proves to be a two edged sword on many occasions, since there is often a big difference between “As designed” and “As built.”  Careful observation of prototype photos is essential to pick out these differences. In some cases, the differences amount to substantial “phases” that can be represented in the model. For instance, the PD3000 model represents two distinct body weld seam arrangements that were only seen through prototype photo research. The builder’s drawings only showed one of the patterns.

PD3000 in NAHX original paint scheme on Phase Ia body.

Phase Ib Penn Central H58 with a different weld seam pattern.

When drawings are not available, field measurements are used. The Mo-Pac SBW was designed in this manner, since Union Pacific was kind enough to keep one of these parked on a local siding for a year or so. The risks with field measurements are that the car you may have access to is an oddball and not representative of the others in the production run. Again, a great deal of research is required to ensure a realistic model is produced.

Johannes: You put a lot of effort in the documentation of the prototype history supplied in your kits, which I find very helpful. How do you compile this detailed information?

Gene: This tends to be the most time consuming aspect of the design process. A great deal of the history data is actually collected while doing the research for the decal artwork. During this phase of product design, I solicit images from some of the better known photo and slide collectors as well as searching the Internet for photos of the car.

Keep in mind that all data collected through public means is classified as “Reference Only” until I can contact the original owner of the images and secure reproduction rights. Very often, the people that supply the drawings will also have access to associated historical data and are great resources to tap when assembling the car history.

Johannes: Will you offer kits with the nicely detailed Exactrail Barber S-2 trucks in the future?

Gene: I can’t make any promises at this time. As with this specific product or any other third party component I include in my kits, there are a number of business and design issues that must be resolved before a decision is made.

Johannes: Are you at liberty to tell me what new releases are you working on?

Gene: The simple and quick answer is no. Since I started Rail Yard Models, I have kept a policy of announcing a product once it is very near to full production. The primary reason for this is to avoid the perpetual problem of announcing a product, then having customers endure delays while the unforeseen, but always present problems are worked out.

Johannes: Thanks for taking the time to talk to me.

Gene: You’re very welcome!

Find out more

More information about the excellent range of Rail Yard Model kits is available at www.railyardmodels.com.

Are you a prototype modeler and interested in being featured on this blog? Contact me at blog@eisenbahnstudio.com.

Images courtesy of Gene Fusco. Used with permission. Eisenbahnstudio.com is not affiliated with the manufacturers of the products mentioned on this site and did not receive payment or samples for review.

Update: Rail Yard Models has ceased operation. You may still be able to find kits on eBay.