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Discussion Starter #81
Funaro and Camerlengo Caboose

I recently refurbished a damaged GP-18 a friend got for me from a yard sale (https://www.modeltrainforum.com/showthread.php?t=177766 ) and decided I needed a caboose to go with it. My father had one of the Athearn Bay window cabooses in the blue and gold paint scheme and I always thought it looked sharp but I also really like wagon top cars as a unique B&O item so thought a wagon top caboose would be fun to build. Wagon tops were originally in red with green trim which is a neat scheme that doesn’t match the engine so I did a little ‘research’ (looked it up on google images) and found the railroad painted wagon tops in the desired scheme in the 60’s.
Now, track-ready HO scale wagon top cabooses are fairly common and easy to find in any paint scheme, but the whole point of my railroading is to build things so, a trip onto Ebay found “B&O I-12 Caboose” made by Funaro and Camerlengo for Pro Custom Hobbies. I’d already built an F&C kit, the Great Northern boxcar (look back a few pages for the review) and I was impressed, so I figured this kit would be equally fun to build. I’m not sure whether this kit was made earlier or later than the other, but their quality either improved or devolved badly; I had numerous issues with it that I didn’t have with the boxcar.
The resin used for this kit was a little more brittle than the other, tan instead of white and worse, had bubbles that rendered some of the smaller parts incomplete. Also, resin is poured into an open mold and as a result there is a layer of flash on top of all the parts that has to be removed. For the boxcar this layer was even thinner than paper and easily cut off without any change in the part dimensions. The layer on this kit was up to 1/32” thick and uneven in many places (don’t look too close at the catwalk from the side, it bulges in the middle).
I ended up sanding many parts thinner and can’t imagine getting the thin air release valves off the thicker layer of flash; fortunately they were removed from I-12s in the 60’s so I didn’t use it. The brake wheels look terrible, the back is flat and I had to drill out the gaps between the spokes but the holes weren’t even. Because of the thick layer of flash the fit between the ends and sides is very poor, don’t look too close at mine (“A good coat of paint hides many ills.”). It’s a shame because the details that were molded in were nice, like the rivets and metal grating of the catwalks. Also I had to drill out several of the windows.
The bottom parts were resin and came out very poorly, they were in half and after sanding off the flash the seams didn’t align well. I really wish there was a diagram showing their placement and the piping underneath, I had to guess where the brake parts went and didn’t pipe the kit at all (not that that matters, no one can see under there anyway). Also, I replaced the corner support material with plastic angle iron, that’s what it looked like in the pictures on google. All the grab irons had to be bent out of soft green wire and the holes drilled out.
I had to give considerable thought to order of assembly. The problem is that painting both dark blue and bright yellow onto the same car is problematic. Grey is a better primer for dark blue but white is a better primer for yellow. Then if you get the blue where the yellow goes it will bleed through the yellow paint and look bad, so you need to mask the yellow carefully but that’s really hard on a kit that has such lumpy bits as this one. Also the bottom is black, I recommend painting that before any assembly as black is easy to touch up but hard to undo once you get it where you don’t want it. I ended up painting up yellow then blue, then painted over the blue that went to the wrong places with white then yellow as touch-up.
Also, you have to add the windows somehow but the caboose isn’t designed to be taken apart so you have to paint it partially assembled and hope for the best. I ended up making the ends and bottom one piece and the shell as another, once painted I added windows, assembled the bottom and top then made the handrails that stick above the car. (I added rods to the roof and base go in the angle of the corner pieces and serve as alignment and support.)
For decals there is a full set of late I-12 caboose decals available from Mount Vernon Shops, four different schema including after the B&O was absorbed by the Chessie system. I chose the earliest because although the second scheme would have matched the engine better (yellow letters and striping), the ends on that car were blue and I wanted them yellow.
Anyway, a frustrating kit because so much time was spent working the thick layer of flash. Worse, this was supposed to be a fairly easy kit to build between larger projects, but turned out to take far too much attention. In the end I’ll have to treat F&C kits like Silver Streak and check the contents of the box before purchasing the kit. There are simply too many more entertaining ways to spend your free time than impatiently sanding unwanted material off tiny parts.
 

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Discussion Starter #82
Main Line Express Reefer

I hadn't heard of express reefers before, then I ended up with two from a couple random lots of car kits off ebay. It seems there are some things that were just as time sensitive as passenger traffic and tacking those things (like strawberries and blood) to a passenger train was a convenient way to get them to their destination quickly. Passenger trains had different standards than freight so express reefers had to be set up different from regular reefers and presented a unique appearance, in this case a 50' car with wooden sides and ends, passenger trucks and an arched roof.
I reviewed a Main Line reefer previously and this kit appears to be contemporaneous. Everything I said about that kit applies to this one. The car is the same shade of orange as the other one, but In this case I think it's to match the rest of the cars on Milwaukee Road's Hiawatha train rather than because orange was a popular color for reefers.
Anyway, a fun kit to build if mildly frustrating. Too bad I don't have an appropriate train to stick it in.
 

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Discussion Starter #83
Mantua Tank Car

Before I start the formal review I want to comment that a recurring theme in these reviews is missing parts in the kits. Either the part got lost some time ago as the kit was moved around, opened, examined, inventoried etc., or the part was missing in the first place. In fact, it’s easy to imagine that someone opened the kit, did an inventory, noted the missing part and put the kit on the shelf until they could contact the manufacturer to replace it then forgot about it. I’m used to finding missing parts and have no problem replacing small parts with modern equivalents or assembling my own replacements out of wood or cardstock. But in this case…
Before plastic tank cars were sold model railroad cars used a tube or cylinder of some kind for the tank. The tubes were usually sheet metal (tin or steel) and the cylinders were wood. A wrapper was provided made of paper or thin cardstock with all the text and logos printed on it. The fancier ones even had rivets embossed on them. The wrapper was missing from this kit. Back then your only choice would be to write the manufacturer, in fact this kit’s instruction sheet even included a form to send back requesting missing parts.
Obviously I couldn’t do that but thanks to modern technology (Google and PowerPoint) I was able to find an example of a tank car and recreate the wrapper. After printing it out (and running my printer out of black ink) I sprayed it with Dullcoat as a preservative. (BTW, if you do this I would plan on printing out more than one copy, for me mistakes are the norm rather than the exception.) Anyway, it came out pretty good other than I think the tank car I found may have been bigger than my kit because some of the text ended up under the tank bolsters.
Also before I start I must apologize, I forgot to take a picture of the parts in the box. I have a similar Athearn kit I haven’t assembled yet, between that and the train wreck of a Texaco car I’ve already reviewed that should give you an idea of what the parts look like.
On to the review of the ‘Mantua “Perfection” Tank Car Kit, Complete Dry Kit with Automatic Couplers’. Now, the ‘dry’ part is a bit of an exaggeration as you have to glue the wrapper to the shell but other than that it can be assembled without glue though I don’t recommend it. The automatic couplers are the old hook-and-loop type, completely useless for modern railroading. The box says “All Metal Tank Car Fair Trade Price $2.95”, seems pretty fair to me.
The tube is a piece of sheet metal bent into a cylinder but open at the bottom, with a hole for the dome and eight more little holes for the handrails and platforms. Most pieces of the kit are held in place by bending them in place or with screws. First step is to glue the wrapper to the tank. Then you have to clear the holes. They recommend fishing around gently with a pin but I cut a pin in half and poked through the holes from the inside using a pair of needle nose pliers to hold the pin. Then I drilled out the holes from the outside with the appropriate sized bit and cut out the dome hole with an Exacto.
The handrails are held in place with cotter pins you make out of flat wire (conveniently cut to size) and collars. The ends of the pin go into the hole and are splayed out to hold it in place. The dome is held in place with a long screw and brass rod as spacer, the only way I could get it in was from the bottom of the tube. The tank end caps have a hole in the bottom for a screw and the instructions say there’s a special tap in the kit to thread them but I think the screws and tap were missing. I ended up using 2mm brass machine screws instead.

The rest of the kit is pretty straightforward, the trucks provided have brass wheels and pot metal frames. They don’t roll like modern trucks but seem to track pretty well. There are two screws provided with collars (instead of having pins on the frame) that work perfectly with these trucks.
The biggest problem I had was with couplers. The ones provided were probably cutting edge way back when but are no good now. There isn’t enough room for normal Kadee housings, so I cut down the end sill and drilled a hole for screws. Then I created my own personal nightmare. You see, I broke my tap on another project (the broken part is forever planted in a tender truck) and so instead of patiently waiting for the hobby shop to open and buying a replacement tap I tried to use a screw to tap the hole instead. It worked on one side (though the screw head is completely buggered) but the screw sheared off in the other hole.
I ended up ruining two drill bits and three grinding wheels trying to remove the broken screw, then in a fit of frustration used a punch to knock out the last little bit. Oddly enough, the hole still holds a screw(!) I had to use the couplers with the low head to get them lined up right but it least they work. Then it was just a coat of black paint and all is right with the world again.
I may have saved some trouble if I’d worked the couplers before I assembled the rest of the kit, but getting the height right is always an issue and usually you can’t figure out coupler height until the car is mostly built.
In spite of all the craziness that went into assembly I recommend this kit if you can find it. I look forward to finding more Mantua’s products in the future. If you don’t know how to use PowerPoint I recommend it, very useful for making decals and cardstock or paper decorated siding.
 

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MDC Roundhouse Old Time 2-8-0 HO scale

MDC Roundhouse Old Time 2-8-0 HO scale.
Cleaned flash off of major parts.
Had to straighten the chassis which had a slight bow. Used heat and gentle pressure.

Starting to find the model is missing some screw holes (during assembly)

No place on tender to attach wire from loco.
And no mention of it in the instructions.
I've already drilled and tapped a hole so I could test run this.
The top of the tender is also missing the headlight and marker light holes.

I will need to disassemble and re-check worm gear alignment and add 'glass' to the cab.

Also, I am trying to determine how to get wires to the non-working headlight for some small LED's. If I can find very thin wire in my junk box, I may run wiring on top/side of boiler.
 

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Discussion Starter #88
If the tender frame is metal the kits I built attach to the drawbar screw.
 

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Discussion Starter #90
Your instructions show the electric lead is supposed to go on the forward right side of the tender frame. It looks like the frame is supposed to be metal. Also, is it possible you've got the frame backwards, front to back? Nothing suggests it but that's one possibility. Also, maybe that's not the original tender frame. I really like the color of the engine.
 

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Your instructions show the electric lead is supposed to go on the forward right side of the tender frame. It looks like the frame is supposed to be metal. Also, is it possible you've got the frame backwards, front to back? Nothing suggests it but that's one possibility. Also, maybe that's not the original tender frame. I really like the color of the engine.
Zinc frame, one piece with integral large weight shaped to match tender plastic shell, so cannot put it on backwards. Also, rectangular coupler pocket at rear.

Another problem is the stack. The model is designed to have interchangeable stacks, you can use the funnel, the diamond, or two versions of straight. This is done by having a 'pin' glued into firebox hole, then slip any of the four stacks onto the pin. Problem is , only one stack fits onto the pin, the other three need to be drilled larger.

Boiler color might also be a problem as the detail parts are black plastic, so something is going to have to be painted.

Progress has slowed since I have to kitbash or scratch build a crosshead :mad:
 

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Discussion Starter #92 (Edited)
Gloorcraft Grain Elevator

I’ve mentioned before how my layout looks like a football field (but without the stripes), and so I’m building buildings between cars and engines to fill it in. The grain elevator is a natural building to have on a flat railroad table, practically every small town in the Great Plains was built around one. I’m still aiming for steam and no automobiles on my layout so a wooden elevator seemed the obvious choice. I found that Campbell and AMB have wood grain elevators but cruising on ebay I found a Gloorcraft kit. My last building was a Campbell kit and I’ve built a Gloorcraft caboose so I thought that would be a good choice. So here is the ‘Gloor Craft Models Midwestern Grain Elevator Kit 417’.
First comment: I can’t believe how big a structure came out of such a small box. I left a switching engine in one of the pictures to give you an idea just how large this thing ends up being, but of course most of it is empty space inside. The slabsided walls are made from chips of bass wood about 2”*5”, pieced together to make the height needed. This leaves noticeable seams (enhanced by using stain instead of paint, see below) but otherwise the box would have to be even bigger. The instructions say this kit was modelled on a real grain elevator located in Bowling Green OH, and boasts it is still in operation. I checked Google Maps and while there is still a grain company there, they are using round steel silos instead of wood so the old elevator was torn down in the last 30 years. Kinda sad in a way.
The kit comes with three 11*17 sheets, one with 1 ½ pages of instructions and four black and white pictures (of the N scale kit) and the other two with blueprint-style drawings complete with drawing numbers, dates (1986) and approved by S.R. Gloor. The building is broken down into five sections (upper and lower elevator, warehouse, large and small lean-to) and wood for each is in a separate bag with a slip of colored paper stapled to it that coincides with the instructions.
The sides are basswood, roofs are cardboard and ‘tar paper’ appears to be black construction paper (not that I’m complaining). A bag of lead castings and clear plastic sheet for the windows rounds out the kit. Door hardware for the big sliding doors would have been nice. Oh yeah, there’s a bag full of 1/16” and 3/16” strips used in constructing all sections.
I decided early on that gluing the side pieces edge-on was going to create major problems with alignment and strength so I cut up a piece of cardstock into ½” strips and used it to support the back of the boards. I also made little strips for the window corners. I also put a diagonal piece at the bottom of the elevator, it just seemed prudent to keep it from wobbling out of square.
Windows are an issue here. The instructions are to cut a rectangular hole out of the wall and glue the window into it. This was the same as the caboose and it leaves absolutely no room for mistakes. If your window hole isn’t rectangular, you don’t measure perfectly or the knife wanders at all you end up with a noticeable gap around the edge of the window. Having inset casings on the window castings (like the door does) would solve the problem, even small ones but I guess Mr. Gloor was enough of a craftsman that he didn’t need them.
The boxes were framed on the inside with 3/16” basswood, which did the job I guess but I would have preferred ¼” for more stability and a better chance of 90ᵒ angles in the corners. It didn’t need to be basswood either, once the building is assembled no one would see it. The buildings were all glued together by the walls which didn’t seem wise to me but once the glue set it didn’t matter.
The instructions said to stain the boards with Driftwood. I went to the hardware store and got a small can but it doesn’t look like real driftwood to me which is usually grey. Maybe they meant wet driftwood; not an unpleasant color though. I have mixed feelings about staining models like this. The grain pattern on the wood has to be tight enough that it doesn’t extend across individual boards, a larger pattern overwhelms the side and draws attention to the fact that it isn’t a bunch of separate boards (for example, see the knot on the warehouse wall). But if the basswood doesn’t have a larger grain pattern stain gives the wood a more varied appearance than paint does and honestly I haven’t figured out how to make painted wood on a model look like aged paint on a real building; I’ll leave that to the guys who get photographed in the magazines.
The signs were provided in one of the diagrams, I copied them onto cardstock. I had thoughts of either doing something in color (like the Dekalb Corn logo) or maybe a funny name (what’s a good pun that goes with ‘grain’?) but decided to leave it the way it came. The photos show the kit as it came out of the box, with a base from garage wood. I ordered some fences, wagons, cobbled together an outhouse and plan on putting an open-air workshop in one corner to give the building some character. I’ll take a picture when I’m finished (but don’t expect much, scenery isn’t a natural skill for me).
So that’s the review. It was an interesting kit and I would build more from Gloorcraft if I have the chance. A quick search on the innertube didn’t reveal any current activity so I assume the company isn’t in business anymore but will pick more Gloorcraft kits up if chance avails.
 

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Well I managed to glue the air compressors on upside down. I may cut them off and reverse. Trying to hide headlight wires without drilling through the boiler.

CA glue made a mess of the paint. I'm also having trouble matching the color for detail parts and may need to repaint.
 

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Discussion Starter #94
Silver Streak Combination Caboose

I swore off Silver Streak after the first caboose turned out to have serious issues with Zamac cancer, but of course then I bought a lot of car kits off epay and didn’t look too closely at them. Thus I ended up with “929-131 Combine Caboose CB&Q, less trucks and couplers”. This is apparently a car railroads could substitute for a regular caboose that lets them take on a few passengers and light freight on lines with less passenger traffic than would warrant a full car.
Everything I said about the WM bobber is true about this caboose as well. I had to glue one of the ends together, the end platforms were extremely fragile and one of the stacks needed extensive filler because of Zamac cancer. Not all pieces had it though, the cupola, queen posts and one stack were clean castings.
One thing I did like about this car is the truss rods. They are prebent pieces of wire, thick enough to hold up to gentle finger pressure (like when you pick the car up) and the turnbuckles were glued on after the fact, not threaded onto the wire. Simple, but effective.
Otherwise the pictures tell the story. I repeat my warning about looking in the box before purchasing a Silver Streak kit.
 

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I really enjoy your reviews of old kits! I know I have a few of those old zmack kits around and probably need to check them out to see if their viable. Keep up the great "reviews"!
 

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Those cars were also knows as drover's cabooses. Livestock being shipped via railroad has to be given periodic rest periods where the animals are off-loaded into enclosures for exercise, rest, water, etc. Oftentimes, the animal handlers accompanied the train to handle this work, and rode in these expanded cabooses.
 

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Discussion Starter #97
I finished detailing the base of the grain elevator: The fence was from Monroe Models (nice, but you'll have to trim the corners if you want to cram the poles into 1/8" holes as instructed), the workshop is an old Lifelike commuter shelter (meh), the figures from the Preiser farm set (nice; still have a couple wagons and bunch of farm animals for the eventual cattle yards), the outhouse cobbled together from scrap wood. The dirt is not well done and I put a little too much effort in the workshop which faces the wall and no one will see it. C'est la vie.
 

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Discussion Starter #100
Strombecker Boxcar and Reefer

I bought these two cars after one look at the boxes. They scream out old age. A quick rout through the internet revealed Strombecker has been around for over a century, but these kits appear to be dated just after WW2. These kits are “Illinois Central Refrigerator Car” and “NYC Pacemaker Boxcar”. The pacemaker car dates these kits to 1946 at the earliest.
Bottom line, these are kid’s toys, not model railroad cars and were even at the time they were produced. The sides are cardboard, the printing cartoony and all details like grab irons, ladders and doors are simply printed on. The “trucks” are blocks of wood with turned wood wheels, metal axles and cardboard covers to hold them together. Interestingly, the couplers are a hook and eyelet screwed to alternate trucks so when you pull them across the floor they stay in line. Most offensive to a modeler is the dreadnought ends which were simply printed on.
There is only one unique feature of these models and that is the roof. The catwalk is part of the same moulding, so you can’t lose or break it. Looks pretty good too, though there is no detail on the roof like ribs.
In the end I cannot recommend these kits for serious railroaders. It’s a shame too, they had a ‘model’ of a Winans Camel, one of my personal unicorns.
But what to do with the kits now that I spent money on them? The answer is of course to spend even more money to make them useable cars. A quick trip to the Tichy website and plastic ends, undercarriage and brake system were headed for my basement. Some trimming and fill were necessary to make the plastic parts fit the typical wooden frame. Two ounces of lead sheet brought the car up to the recommended weight and a good coat of paint rendered the car useable if not particularly attractive. It won’t win any awards but hopefully no one will look too close when it’s in the middle of a string of freight cars.
 

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