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Well, can't really say that you turned the sow's ear into a silk purse (due to the nature of what they gave you in the box), but it still looks "more than good enough" as a result of your handiwork!
 

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Strombecker also made similar airplane model kits. IIRC, they were kind of like, "remove all extra wood that doesn't look like an airplane". They had a pretty full line of railroad rolling stock, including a steamer and a diesel model. I'd call the collectible curiosities.
 

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Discussion Starter #105
Strombecker also made similar airplane model kits. IIRC, they were kind of like, "remove all extra wood that doesn't look like an airplane". They had a pretty full line of railroad rolling stock, including a steamer and a diesel model. I'd call the collectible curiosities.
Agreed, but I collect too many things already. Any kit I don't plan on eventually building will be sold. Right now I have 14 in my queue and am trying very hard to keep that number manageable.
 

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Discussion Starter #106
Old Roundhouse Steam Locomotive

(Dennis461 has already made some comments about a Roundhouse Consolidation he’s working on, his kit is one generation newer than this one. The biggest difference is plastic; his kit makes generous use of it and mine has none, so separate reviews are in order. I look forward to a full report on the newer kits when he finishes his.)
I really enjoy making steam engine kits, the thrill of having a product of your handiwork that actually moves far outweighs the frustration of trying to make a hundred separate parts all trying to travel different directions function smoothly together. I have several different types of steam engine kits but none from Roundhouse, so when the opportunity came up to buy an Atlantic from Roundhouse, the draw of an engine I didn’t have from a manufacturer I never built was too much.
I checked the auction carefully and it looked like all the parts were there (of course, you can’t count screws in the baggies but they were all there anyway). In fact there was an extra driver, but the rest of the parts looked OK and the box and instructions said Atlantic. So I hit Buy Now and became the proud owner-of a Roundhouse Prairie locomotive with Atlantic instructions and box top. Unfortunately other than the extra driver and different tender from the picture (and why can’t they be different?) there was no other clue visible that it was the wrong engine.
Now I don’t have a Prairie either so the mistake was a matter of timing and not price. I mean, how many sellers would really know the minutia of 50 year old steam locomotive kits? When I contacted the seller and explained I only asked if they had the instructions for the Prairie ‘And by the way, if you did have the Atlantic I’d be happy to pick that up too.’ He did, complete with a Prairie box top and instructions. So now I have two engines in my to-do pile. Awesome!
Here is the review for “Roundhouse Productions HO Prairie 6L1 2-6-2 Complete Kit”. The box still had a price tag of $32.50 and 12/71 date from ‘JMC’ whatever retailer that was. This kit mentions the Scott Special, but the Santa Fe Prairies involved all had their drive rods hooked to the middle driver and this one has it on the last driver. Maybe Roundhouse shortened a Mikado for this kit? The drivers are larger than even those on the Mantua Pacific that pulls my B&O passenger train, and certainly larger than those I found on the internet. In fact the whole drive train from cylinder to wheels looks like it is from a heavyweight road engine.
Instructions are two sides of a 10*14 sheet, step-by-step, well-written and illustrated except there’s no mention of how to hook up the electrics.
Unsurprisingly for kits without plastic or wood all the parts of this engine are held either by screws or force (jamming parts into holes), though glue is an option. The screws are all self-threading (except a couple). The motor is from Japan and the drive tires brass as are several of the valve gear pieces.
Most of the bigger pieces are made from pot metal, most likely Zamac and the cab exhibited crazing and brittleness, the screw hole shattered when I tried to thread it with the screw and part of an awning broke off. The rest of the metal did not, which is good because the drive rods are made of it which is kind of a surprise, though maybe they are heavy enough they won’t wear? Time will tell.
Anyway, the drive rods require some careful fitting and testing to ensure there is no binding, which is almost guaranteed due to the imperfect nature of casted metal. I’m still trying to work out a jink in there somewhere. The Walschearts valve gear is held together mainly with teeny tiny brass rivets guaranteed to give you fits and at least one will end up on the floor. Each side has a dozen parts and mine doesn’t look quite right but it’s complicated and looks neat when the engine moves.
The tender is weird: there is no floor, the trucks are held in place with a post that comes down from the top of the tender. The whole thing is one piece and weighs a whopping 9 ounces, but that doesn’t stop the rear truck from derailing all the time (turns out one of the wheels was too wide, fixed). Also, the trucks are free to rotate 360 degrees, they shouldn’t be able to because they are insulated on one side for power purposes. I glued a small chunk of wood to one side of each post, sticking up far enough to interrupt the truck rotation so they don’t end up shorting out the track. The instructions didn’t mention how to connect the motor to the tender but there is a screw post in it that I assume is for the wire.
The boiler has a bunch of detail molded to it already and there are only a few pieces under the catwalks and the handrails that must be added. Most of them don’t fit and will need either glue or forcing ‘When all you have is a hammer everything looks like a nail.’ The jewel for the headlight was missing (I know I have some spares, just a matter of where they are…). Nicely, the back of the boiler has plenty of detail so if you wanted to finish the cab it would be possible. Someday I’m going to put engineers in all my engines.
This engine is complicated and each step in the assembly builds on the last one. That means, when you get the whole thing put together you are loath to take it apart again. That means if the engine jinks when it runs (in this case badly enough to derail it) you have to take it back down to parade rest to figure out what is wrong. I didn’t want to and sat on it for a week, hoping it would go away on its own which of course it didn’t. Good news is that at this stage when you look at it it looks like an engine and not an agglomeration of stray parts. Small compensation for the inevitable string of “before I can take this off I have to take that off…” resulting in entire disassembly.
I put the engine back together a second time and it still has some issues related to getting the gear right. I’m not so proud I can’t admit that I don’t have the craftsman gene and maybe the drivers just need a little more work, but I also wonder if the drive wheels are all aligned properly with 90ᵒ offsets?
So now it’s completely assembled and the jink will take time to figure out (last engine that jinked took 40 years to smooth), so I’m going to let it sit a bit while I think about it. I have to admit, the engine looks pretty sharp. I am also surprised at how big it is, I was expecting a switcher but this is definitely a road engine. Bottom line, I’ll buy more Roundhouse kits when the time is right. They have a Shay…
 

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Discussion Starter #107
Unreview of Ideal Models Reefer

I'd hoped I found another obscure old-time car company to review, unfortunately the kit is missing what is probably the most important part, the paper cover that has the sides and ends printed on it. What's more, the box says it is a 36' reefer and the kit looks like a 40' boxcar, as do the instructions. So I'm going to hold off on a proper review until I get ahold of a kit that is basically intact. I ended up buying cardboard sides off Ebay and put the car together but it isn't a proper Ideal kit.
 

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I once built an Ideal crane car kit that I picked up at some show or auction a lifetime ago. It was NOT an easy build. The body, roof, and sides of the crane boom were all covered with the printed cardboard, and none of it really fit well. I might still have it buried in a shoebox somewhere. Not one of my better efforts.
 

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Discussion Starter #109
Varney Gondola

Varney is almost a name of legend to model railroaders at this point. One of the first HO model train companies, the company flourished from 1936 to 1970, when the company was folded into Life-like although Gordon Varney retired in 1960. Varney’s equipment had a reputation for high quality, so I was excited to try an early Varney kit.
I actually have three Varney freight cars in my to-do box but one is incomplete so I selected “Giant Gondola G-10 Virginian Ry.” for my first kit (to be honest, the Milwaukee Olympian boxcar looked more interesting but this one was higher in the pile). This car is 10 feet longer and two feet higher than a typical gondola, though ‘giant’ may be pushing the superlatives. Naturally, the kit is missing the directions but thanks to hoseeker.com I was able to find Varney instructions for a 1941 gondola and although there were several differences it made the kit workable. BTW, there was a “Packed by” slip, dated 1946 and stamped with the number 17 that puts a distinct date on the kit.
This kit has a wood floor 1/8” thick with cardboard sides, ends and center flange. The cardboard is embossed with a great deal of detail, including rivets and all the stenciling provided. The paint was a little brittle so I had to touch up all the bends and scratches. The first step is to bend the cardboard to double its thickness and provide a black interior, but the bending process didn’t work well for this kit as there is an inlet embossed along the top rim of the car and the cardboard bent along that instead of the proper line, so I cut the inside off and glued it instead. I also added some angle iron along the top of the car to hide the seams between the pieces of cardboard.
The car went together easily, but careful fitting of the cardboard and trimming the base were necessary. Trucks provided had a brass bracket screwed to two cast frames and brass wheels (the screws are hard to get to). Plastic brake parts and ends were crude by today’s standards. Oddly enough, Kadee number five couplers were the perfect height without shimming. I had to cut the coupler pockets off the end sills to make room. Grab irons were missing but fortunately I had spares from other kits, as well as ladders. Steps had to be made from wire.
This kit was about three ounces too light, and I need to make a load for it but it came together nicely. Something about it though looks crude when compared to modern kits. Can’t make my mind up whether I like it or not, maybe the next Varney kit will help make up my mind. It really is large compared to a normal gondola.
 

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Those VGN cars were sometimes referred to as "Battleship Gons" because they were so much larger than conventional gons. They were used to haul coal to the VGN's coal piers in Norfolk. The car-dumpers turned the cars over to dump, so the road didn't need a lot of conventional hoppers. The model you have lacks some of side detail and looks to sit too high on the trucks. Varney went to cast plastic kits in the early '50's. They made a number of nice (for the period) loco kits -mostly cast Zamac and brass parts. Some at least came in two styles - conventional and Super. The Super kits had sprung drivers. Their Consolidation kit is very close to the Reading's I-10 heavy Consols. They later dropped those kits and replaced them with the Old Lady 2-8-0 and Casey Jones 4-6-0, advertised as "screwdriver assembly" kits. They were pretty basic, using the same boiler/cab casting, cylinder block, drivers, and tender. They actually ran pretty well for the period, and you could dress them up a bit with Cal-Scale or Kemtron details.
 

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I think I built an "Old Lady" back in the early 60's. I even think it traveled with me for several moves, but so far its eluded me as to its location. I had a Dockside, and Athearn GP7? I know both were some how destroyed, but I'm sure the "Old Lady" is around somewhere!
 

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Discussion Starter #112
Those VGN cars were sometimes referred to as "Battleship Gons" because they were so much larger than conventional gons. They were used to haul coal to the VGN's coal piers in Norfolk. The car-dumpers turned the cars over to dump, so the road didn't need a lot of conventional hoppers. The model you have lacks some of side detail and looks to sit too high on the trucks. Varney went to cast plastic kits in the early '50's. They made a number of nice (for the period) loco kits -mostly cast Zamac and brass parts. Some at least came in two styles - conventional and Super. The Super kits had sprung drivers. Their Consolidation kit is very close to the Reading's I-10 heavy Consols. They later dropped those kits and replaced them with the Old Lady 2-8-0 and Casey Jones 4-6-0, advertised as "screwdriver assembly" kits. They were pretty basic, using the same boiler/cab casting, cylinder block, drivers, and tender. They actually ran pretty well for the period, and you could dress them up a bit with Cal-Scale or Kemtron details.
Thanks for the history lesson, I planned on filling it with gravel but coal is better. If I get a chance at a Varney engine I’ll take it.
 

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Love seeing the builds of the older kits.

The VGN is an interesting story. For all intents and purposes, a one-use RY, it's construction funded almost entirely by one man, Henry Rogers.

I'd never heard of the VGN until about 6 months ago, and hadn't heard of these "battleship gons" until now. But it's no surprise because, as Wikipedia says...

It was well known for operating the largest and best equipment, and could afford to. It became nicknamed "the richest little railroad in the world."
Looks like the prototypes had 3-axle trucks, which may be why ebtnut says the model appears to sit too high on the trucks.

https://www.ttnut.com/battleship-gondolas-t1024.html
 

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Discussion Starter #114
Finished the second Strombecker car, this one an Illinois Central Reefer. While my opinion of Strombecker doesn't change, I'm warming to the Tichy parts and will sooner or later try a kit from them.
 

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Discussion Starter #115
Northeastern Scale Models Container Car

Northeastern Scale Lumber has been around since 1946 and still exists. I suspect this is the same company that put out this kit because it contains a great deal of engineered wood. Anyway, I bought this car in with a lot of old kits and initially hadn’t planned on building it, thinking container cars were strictly post-diesel inventions. But the decals for the kit give it a 1921 build date and the containers don’t look anything like modern containers. A little routing around the Innertrode showed that the New York Central offered this service between Chicago and New York City. There’s even a picture of a container being loaded onto a Ford truck from the car via crane.
At first blush this kit is a lot like Ambroid kits: A grunch of little slivers of wood and an instruction sheet that consists of diagrams and “build the model like the pictures.” Where this kit differs is the complexity of many of the parts. For example, the tombstone-shaped container ends come with the top already curved and with the clapboard sides cut in. The bolsters too are preshaped and partially cut apart.
The instructions consist of a total of seven sentences, the first being “Start construction by gluing the triangular section side pieces to the sub floor.” This didn’t make sense to me because in order to do all the work on the underside you have to lie the car on its top, and the triangular pieces would get their tops broken off, plus you were stressing the subfloor along the grain, making it more likely you crack it. Instead I went ahead and installed all the underside detail then went to work on the top.
The truss system used some bendable wire (but not enough) and cotter pins for the queen posts. The cotter pins were an interesting choice but the holes were too large. Several parts of the brake system were missing but the junk drawer had extras. BTW, don’t use any “spare” cotter pins to install the decoupling levers, there aren’t any spares. Don’t ask how I know (the levers are a nice touch though).
Like most flat cars there’s really nowhere to hide the 2.5 ounces needed to properly weight the car, so I hid lead sheet in the containers. I don’t plan on removing them so the car won’t be running empty. Sooner or later I’ll have to come up with a better solution for wood flatcar kits.
The containers are perhaps the most interesting part of this kit, but I have to warn you, if you build them to the dimensions of the strap diagram they may not fit in the car. Mine ended up being too long and I had to take the separators out of the car to make them fit. Otherwise the straps are the most complicated part by far, but with patience and a lot of cutting on the diagram you can make them look pretty good. They certainly add to the car visually.
Also, I found out when assembling the containers I’d used the wrong-sized slats for the floor of the car. Oh well, hopefully no one will look too closely… (Last comment on the containers, making four of them is boring. I should have made two before the car then two after, but then I’d need to know how much to weight them and blah blah blah) The decals were too thick to sink into the boards and stand out, an issue I still haven’t resolved. Final comment, this is an excellent kit for an advanced builder and I look forward to more Northeastern kits if the opportunity avails. Next up, a box cab diesel.
 

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It's a lot like Ambroid kits because Northeastern once WAS Ambroid. This kit is a re-release of a "One of 5,000" kit. Ambroid had a series of these limited run kits back in the late 50's/early 60's. They included this kit, a U.S. Navy helium tank car, a pickle tank car, an N&W early coal hopper, and others. Incidentally, you can improve the decals some in the following manner. Apply as normal with decal-set and let dry well. Take a really sharp blade and cut through the decals along the scribed wood grooves, then re-apply the decal-set. Let dry and apply decal-set again. That does help them blend into the siding better.
 

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Discussion Starter #117
It's a lot like Ambroid kits because Northeastern once WAS Ambroid. This kit is a re-release of a "One of 5,000" kit. Ambroid had a series of these limited run kits back in the late 50's/early 60's. They included this kit, a U.S. Navy helium tank car, a pickle tank car, an N&W early coal hopper, and others. Incidentally, you can improve the decals some in the following manner. Apply as normal with decal-set and let dry well. Take a really sharp blade and cut through the decals along the scribed wood grooves, then re-apply the decal-set. Let dry and apply decal-set again. That does help them blend into the siding better.
Thanks, I’ll try that.
 

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Discussion Starter #118
Shapeways/Bachmann Boxcab Diesel

I am not fond of diesel engines, they simply don’t have any moving parts like steam locomotives do. I have to admit though that my best runner is a diesel, and I have a certain fondness for boxcab diesels. They have a vintage look that fits well into a steam layout (though no automobiles on mine makes even them slightly out of place).
Roundhouse has a boxcab diesel but it isn’t in kit form, so when I found out there was a boxcab conversion kit 3D printed on Shapeways.com I thought that would be a fun thing to do. The engine advertised was painted in Central Railroad of New Jersey colors but I prefer the B&O so a little research showed that they had a similar model so that sealed the deal for me. The B&O has steel sides and the model has wood, but otherwise they look close.
I picked up a Bachmann GE 44 tonner from Epay and ordered the conversion from Shapeways. First thing you have to do is clean off all the wax. The 3D printing process consists of printing thin layers of the object one at a time, and in between passes something has to hold it together, this wax ends up coating the whole piece and so must be cleaned off. Shapeways has excellent instructions on how to clean it off, but I just use Isopropyl alcohol then scrape off the big chunks remaining. It’s not perfect and to be honest I would research a proper cleaner but the alcohol is always within arm’s reach for me and oil-based paint and Walther’s Goo cut through the wax pretty well.
The conversion is a single piece for the sides and ends plus roof, cooling pipes and a few other details separate. You have to drill out the indents for grab irons and make them yourself but it isn’t too great a burden. Construction is extremely simple, just glue the roof then other bits on and paint after the glue sets.
The shell simply replaces the old shell, to the point where you use the same screw holes. I used a tap on the Shapeways piece to make sure the screw went in right. The Bachmann engine has head lights and the boxcab has a fixture (hole) where the headlight is, but the entire front of the engine glows when it is running so I’m going to have to take it apart and paint the inside black some time.
Anyway, a neat project
 

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Discussion Starter #119
Unreview of Red Box Gondola

Here's another kit that unfortunately was missing the instructions. What's more, the original owner used the box to store whatever odds and ends he wanted to save for some reason. There were parts to a passenger car and a ship anchor in there. Anyway, I couldn't find instructions on the web but found a line drawing of the 65' gondola from a catalog, including showing how the pipes were stowed. They are were made from paper tubes. I put it together but will have to buy another Red Box kit, hopefully with instructions. Still have to glue down the load but for now moving on to something with instructions.
 

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Discussion Starter #120 (Edited)
Ambroid Hopper Car

Ambroid seems to make the most challenging kits. This one wasn’t the most difficult built so far but it wasn’t too easy either. Everything I’ve already written about Ambroid (and Northeastern) kits in the past applies here. Two comments on this specific kit “H-17 Erie-Susquehanna 50 ton 3 bay hopper”: first this kit uses lead castings of Z channels for the side ribs. These castings are nice, but they are all the same length and you have to abut two or three together to make the horizontal ribs, then either you have a gap (like I do) or fill in the gap and (carefully) sand it smooth, without ruining any rivets. Second, all the grab irons (and there are a lot) have to be made by hand. I made a crude jig out of a piece of wood but the irons still aren’t consistent and let’s just say that some came out better than others.
The decals were missing the film over the top but thanks to some cogent advice from the General Discussion forum I was able to rescue them and now have no use for the decals I ordered when I first found out. I’m sure sooner or later I’ll end up with another hopper to decal. Anyway, another kit that is more for serious modelers than casual builders but a fun project.
 

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