Volume 2 No. 6, New York, Westchester & Boston

The S Scale Journal

The Online Journal of the S Scale SIG
Volume 2 No. 6, October 30, 2013

New York, Westchester & Boston

by Dick Karnesphotos by the author

First published in the July 2012 Railroad Model Craftsman. The S Scale SIG would like to thank Carstens Publishing Co. for generously allowing this reprint and supporting the S Scale community.

Givens And Druthers

The late John Armstrong is my layout-planning guru. I have read and re-read his “Layout Planning for Realistic Operation,” and I have taken his methods to heart. I particularly like his “givens and druthers” approach, in which you write down your “must haves” (givens) and “like to haves” (druthers). My givens and druthers were as follows:


  • Heavy electrics
  • Car float
  • 1955 era
  • Passenger operations (MU, local, express, milk)
  • NH, NYC trackage rights


  • Design for operation
  • Lots of hidden staging
  • Point-to-point
  • Optional continuous running
  • Stub-end terminal
  • Freight yard

Heavy Electrics and passenger equipment can be a problem in S, my chosen scale. The only commercial electric locomotives are the ready-to run American Models PRR GG1 and a New Zealand 3.5-foot gauge boxcab kit. Therefore, my electrics are a rather eclectic combination of kit-bashed and scratch-built. Most of my electric loco bodies were bashed from components like American Flyer caboose bodies and resectioned AF Alco PA shells. Some sit atop modified diesel chassis; other chassis are scratch-built. Most steamers are brass imports, but a few have been scratch-built of brass and detailed with S scale brass castings. A few more are “interesting” combinations of AF, Rex, imported brass, and scratch-built components. For our older readers, think Bill Schopp, frequent author of brass-bashed locos in 1950-60 era RMCs.

Ready-to-run S scale passenger equipment is currently limited to American Models 75-foot heavyweights and Budd Empire State Express shorties. The Supply Car offers a large variety of full-length streamlined Pullman and Budd kits. There have never been any MU cars offered. But I have been fortunate over the decades to acquire equipment as it was available. Mine includes 1950-era Super Scale heavyweights, a Dayton Models NYC gas-electric from the same era, plastic heavyweight and streamlined Pullmans from American Models, brass heavyweights from SouthWind Models, and a fleet of MU cars bashed from American Models and American Flyer passenger cars with Black Beetle power trucks. My freight-car fleet’s lineage is similarly varied.

I have a 12-foot by 46-foot space for the layout with two closet doors at one end and a wall with doorway separating the space roughly in half. There were no obstructions (wash tubs, furnaces, etc.). I didn’t want the complication of double-decking, so I was willing to sacrifice some mainline route-miles. I knew I wanted a stub-end terminal, a wye for reversing specific equipment, and no reversing loops per se. I also wanted a single hidden staging yard that could ingest and disgorge trains, and I wanted the visible portion of the layout to support interesting point-to-point operation. Alas, I had to give up the idea of a single staging yard with multiple entrances and exits because the resulting hidden turnouts and crossings were just too complex. Instead, I settled for two separate four-track staging yards. Also, given the size of my space and my desire for broad curves, I had to give up any notion of even an abbreviated engine terminal, so I opted to model only minimal servicing facilities—water column, ash pit, sand tower, and two ready tracks.

I dreamed up a layout schematic that involved two primary routes – a single-track line that crosses a double-track line. These two lines would join, share common trackage and a station through one town, then diverge, creating an “X”-shaped configuration overall. The double-track line would have catenary and the single-track line would not. Then I put my mind to adapting a prototype concept that fit my favorite area of America – Upstate New York and western New England.

New York, Westchester & Boston Gallery


I had always been fascinated by what might have been, had the New York, Westchester & Boston Railway, a heavy-electric road, actually met its goal of connecting New York City and Boston. The NYW&B, what there was of it when the New Haven bought it in the 1920s, was built to incredibly up-to-date standards for really heavy traffic demand. It’s anybody’s guess what it could have evolved into, but I decided to give it an alternate, successful history. I chose to model the NYW&B circa 1955. The real NYW&B was mostly dismantled by the New Haven; the remainder was incorporated into various New Haven routes. In my alternate history, the NYW&B was never bought out, but thrived. As a result, the New Haven is confined to the Long Island Sound and Atlantic coast, and the New York Central’s Boston & Albany division trackage terminates eastbound at Springfield, Massachusetts. The NYW&B has three divisions: 1.) The double-track electrified New Haven & Northern division from New Haven, Connecticut via Troy, New York, to Montreal; 2.) The New York & North Eastern division from New York City to Boston via Springfield; 3.) The Westchester Connecting Line from the Brooklyn waterfront to the NY&NE in Westchester County.

The New York Central has trackage rights over the NYW&B between Springfield and Boston, as does the New Haven from New Haven to Cornwall Bridge, Connecticut, where the NYW&B’s NH&N and NY&NE divisions cross each other. In addition, the NYW&B has trackage rights on the NYC from Troy to Springfield. New Haven and CNR passenger cars provide through service on New Haven-Troy-Montreal trains.

This concept gives me a rationale to host electric, steam, and diesel power. The NYW&B runs anthracite steam (camelbacks only) and electrics. The single-tracked NY&NE runs steam only, and the double-tracked NH&N nominally runs electric only. Exceptions are a lone boxcab diesel at the Port Hudson float yard, and the way freight that’s headed by a steam loco because it switches some industries beyond the wires. Additionally, the NYC from Troy to Springfield is electrified in order to power NYW&B trains between Troy and Boston.

The NYC and New Haven run whatever they want – NYC steam and diesels, and New Haven diesels and electrics.

Modeled Portion

I model the “X” configuration centered on Cornwall Bridge (CB), which hosts a through passenger station, a stub-end commuter terminal for MU cars, and the line’s motor shop for electric loco repairs.

Common trackage of the NH&N and NY&NE divisions runs from South Cornwall Junction (SC) to Springfield Junction (SJ). The road’s home office is located at SJ, where the lines to Montreal and Springfield diverge. Beyond these points each division is separate, and each terminates in its own staging yard. Troy Union Station serves passenger trains of the NYC, NH, CNR, and of course the NYW&B. There is also a freight yard at Troy as well as the minimal loco facilities mentioned before. A branch line to Port Hudson serves a float yard and barge operation on the Hudson River. There’s also a branch line from Cornwall Bridge to South Cornwall that serves several industries including a bulk fuel depot and a whey-processing plant.


These days, S scale standard-gauge trackage products are plentiful. We have vendors who provide flextrack in various rail heights, nos. 6 and 8 turnouts, and made-to-order items like crossings, three-ways, and slip switches. That said, trackwork is my favorite thing, so I have hand-built some 67 turnouts, five crossings, one double-slip switch, and nearly all the visible track. I have used commercial trackage only on the farthest tracks from view and in tunnels.

Although I am somewhat saddened that I have no more track to lay, I am still getting a kick out of completing my catenary. I get my catenary spans, column bases, and rain caps from Model Memories, and I scratchbuild my catenary bridges from old .172 steel rail. It’s always a challenge to fit catenary properly over complex trackwork, but I really enjoy puzzles, so this doesn’t bother me. At this point in time my catenary is about 80 percent complete. You can get a detailed look at how I build my catenary in the NMRA’s March 2009 issue of “Scale Rails” magazine (“Juice for Your Juice Jacks”).

Control System

When I began building this layout, I knew I wanted walk-around control. I had experimented with wireless CTC-16 on my previous layout, but abandoned it because it was prone to cross-channel interference. This time I opted for Aristo-Craft’s “Basic Train Engineer,” a wireless system that controls the track, not the trains. At the time, transmitter-receiver sets were available in four different frequencies, so I used two frequencies to control each of the two tracks on my double-track main line. I installed power routing all over the place, through the auxiliary contacts on my switch machines. This allowed the power to follow the train through whichever off-main route I chose. Troy Terminal, the float yard, the South Cornwall branch, and the NY&NE were separately controlled.

This all worked great, at first. But as I added and activated more trackage and route alternatives, operation required the addition of several selector switches. I discovered that if I didn’t operate my railroad at least a few times a week, I would forget how! Ergo, it was time to bite the bullet and convert to DCC.

I plunked down major $$ for a wireless NCE DCC system, including a power supply, command station, five handheld controllers and two antennae. I also purchased an array of secondary equipment like locomotive decoders, auto-reversers, and power-district controllers. But I never could have pulled the conversion off without the help of Roger Nulton. We had to undo all the power-routing wiring, install four power buses, and hundreds of feeder drops. We had to connect everything up with power on so as to monitor for potential short circuits, easily caused by connecting feeders to the wrong bus wire. When we were finished, I had two large boxes full of scrap wire.

But I have never looked back. I love it!

Milk Runs

I designed my NYW&B for operation, and it has lived up to that goal. It supports way freights, local passenger trains, interchange via two staging yards as well as a car float operation, and arrival and departure of long-distance freight and passenger trains. For open houses, the layout also supports continuous running with a choice of eight different trains.

A relatively complex set of operations centers on the dairy industry, which was still strongly rail-oriented in the Northeast in the mid-1950s. The southbound local passenger train stops at several milk platforms along the right-of-way where dairy farmers leave cans of raw milk. There are three such platforms actually on the layout, at Springfield Junction, North Cornwall, and South Cornwall. The cans are loaded into the train’s railway-owned milk reefer. At Putnam Hills, the milk reefer is dropped off at the Quaker Hills Creamery for processing. While there, the local picks up a dairy-company milk reefer filled with yesterday’s bottles of pasteurized milk and cream for retail trade distributors in New York City.

Later on, the northbound local stops at the creamery, drops off an empty dairy-company reefer, and picks up the railway-owned milk reefer, which is now loaded with empty cans to take back to the milk platforms along the route.

The way freight always picks up empty freshly-iced reefers at Thompson Ice. One is dropped at the creamery for loading cheese and ice cream. Another reefer, loaded with whey, is picked up at the creamery and trundled off to the Federal Whey plant at the end of the South Cornwall branch. While there, one or two reefers loaded with whey-based products are picked up. In other words, a single produce-laden reefer in a through freight from Boston can arrive at Troy Yard, be taken in a way freight to Ilzeb Wine & Produce at North Cornwall for off-loading, then taken to Thompson Ice for re-icing, then off to the Quaker Hills Creamery at Putnam Hills for loading. If its load is dairy products, it then goes back to Troy in yet another way freight, where it is reassigned to a manifest freight to Boston or New Haven or New York City. If its load is whey, it’s taken to the Federal Whey plant for off-loading, and remains there until loaded with whey products and then taken back to Troy, then on to its destination.

King Coal

As mentioned earlier, the NYW&B’s steamers all burn anthracite coal. The anthracite, from Pennsylvania, arrives on NYW&B property via hopper cars on the Port Hudson car float. These coal loads are trundled off to Troy Yard in the twice-daily transfer freight, where two are set aside for local delivery to retailers and the rest are coupled into through freights, to be taken to coaling station sites along the routes.

Typical Operating Sessions

We run with a four-to-one fast clock, so operating sessions take around three real hours. During this time, crews will have run two local passenger trains in opposite directions, stopping at milk platforms and Quaker Hills Creamery in addition to the station stops. Meanwhile, the Port Hudson boxcab has offloaded several cars from the car float into the float yard, assembled them into a transfer freight, delivered them to Troy, and picked up a half-dozen cars to take back to Port Hudson. And then there are the two trains that the way freight has encountered on its rounds – the Grand Isle Limited, with CNR, NYC, and New Haven equipment, speeding off to New Haven; and a through freight bound from Troy to New York City.


Today’s S scale is better than ever. Despite my eclectic motive power preferences, and my lengthy history that includes being at the right place and time to acquire what I wanted, there’s a large variety of currently-available ready-to-run plastic and brass equipment, trackage products, and structure kits that make it easy to do a lot in S. There’s also a lot of stuff in people’s shelves and drawers that they’ll never get to. So it pays to develop a network for trading/selling/buying purposes. Most of what I have is based on products that are currently produced or can still be found. To this end, the photo captions highlight the sources of the items in the scenes.

Volume 2 No. 5, Alkem Scale Models C&O Cabin Kit

The S Scale Journal

The Online Journal of the S Scale SIG
Volume 2 No. 5, August 12, 2013

A River Runs Through It

reviewed by Chris Rooney
photos by the author except as noted

C&O Cabin (kit), $99.99
Alkem Scale Models
415 E Alexandria Ave.
Alexandria, VA 22301
(S scale C&O Standard Cabin listed under “HO”)


Figure 1 shows the prototype for this Alkem Scale Models S scale kit, the Chesapeake & Ohio’s Alleghany Cabin (tower), which lies 29 miles west of Clifton Forge VA and 51 miles east of Hinton WV, at the summit of the Alleghany Mountains. During the steam era, helpers stationed at Hinton were turned at Alleghany to return to Hinton. Alleghany was a busy place with 30 to 40 train movements a day. In 1936 a new tower incorporating all the latest technology replaced the older manually operated tower. In the new arrangement, turnouts at Alleghany were operated by electro-pneumatic switch machines (hence the piping seen in earlier photos of the cabin). Low-voltage electric switch machines were used at Tuckahoe, East Alleghany and Jerry’s Run forming a five-mile-long CTC installation. And yes, not quite a river, but a stream did run through, or better said under, the building as seen in this late 1960s – early 1970s prototype photograph (courtesy of North American Interlockings at www.northamericaninterlockings.com).

Inside the tower, the CTC-type control machine in is arranged in two panels, the end section at the right being set at an angle with the main section, so that the operator can readily reach any of the levers without leaving his chair. The machine has 15 levers for the control of 7 single switches, 2 derails and 6 crossovers; 23 levers for the control of 44 signals, 2 traffic levers and 4 levers for the control of electric switch locks and as selector levers on hand-operated switches. The levers are of the usual miniature type, each lever being equipped with indication repeater lamps, so that the leverman knows the position of each switch and the aspect of each signal. An illuminated track diagram, mounted just above the levers, indicates the location of all trains on the main tracks in the five-mile controlled territory.

The tower without the base is 25 (scale) feet wide over the roof eaves by 37 feet long with the annex, or 25 feet square without. The stairs are fully covered by the roof over-hang. With the base, my model is 48 feet long by 29 feet wide.


The kit is not a shake-the-box production, but rather the kind of a kit that a professional model builder (i.e. Alkem’s owner Bernard Kempinski) would make for himself. That should not be taken as a put-off though, as this a very pleasurable and rewarding kit to build. Rather than repeat all of the instructions here, I will just add tips and work-arounds that I found while constructing the model.

The kit is laser cut from sheet acrylic plastic (Plexiglas) and the stairs and windows are cut from a very thin but strong micro-plywood. I have done a little work with Plexiglas and find it to be an excellent medium, requiring no internal stiffening (unlike many modern laser-cut wood or styrene kits). However, a couple method changes are needed to deal with it. First off, acrylic is transparent, so sorting out the walls and roof before painting is like losing your rimless glasses on the work area after putting them down. This problem is solved by using a piece of black construction paper to help define the edges of pieces and by liberally marking all the pieces with a magic marker, which won’t mar the acrylic and wipes off with alcohol.

The walls come precisely cut with nicely defined mortar lines around the bricks, and the edges that have exposed bricks are cleverly cut through to match the facing bricks. I used a magnetic positioning setup with machinist squares to get the walls as square and close-fitting as possible. I used Plastruct Plastic Weld cement for all plastic joints. It’s wise to mark all the critical matching points and cut out notches in the floors for lighting wires at this stage.

One tip worth mentioning is the second storey floor. This should be installed before the four sides are joined and should be lined up so the threshold of the second storey door and bay window are flush with the floor. The bay floor overlaps the second storey floor; see Figure 2.

The annex goes together the same way. You can decide whether you want to attach the gutters to the sides now or mask and paint then glue them on. I added a 0.030 x 0.125 evergreen capstone to the tops of the annex walls after painting, as the structure looks a bit bare in S scale without them.

Roof construction is straightforward per the instructions with one caveat. Mark the pieces and be sure the base piece with corbel holes is properly aligned with the chimney hole and its mating roof piece so that the side with no corbel holes is over the bay (voice of experience). Also be sure to mark off the short special corbels that go under the bay window; these are found under the chimney cap pieces on the corbels’ acrylic sheet.

Now it’s time to mask and paint. I masked off the base, window sills, and the top of the walls above the bricks until the red oxide primer for the bricks was sprayed and the bricks were finished so that the mortar did not get on these surfaces prior to painting. If you have not already joined the annex to the tower, don’t forget to mask their mating surfaces for that. And a caution: If you intend to illuminate the interior, you will need to paint the interior even if you don’t do any interior detailing. This is because the walls will transmit interior light if painted only on the outside.

Everyone has a favorite brick-making formula, so I’ll just add mine. I used ACE red oxide primer SKU 1037605, Plaid No. 20575 “Sandstone” acrylic craft paint and denatured alcohol. Let the primer dry overnight, brush on slightly thinned craft paint, let this partially dry, and wipe off the surface excess with an alcohol-soaked paper towel. The more you wipe, the neater the mortar lines become. They can be darkened with an India ink wash if desired. After the bricks were done I used Model Master White Primer 2948 for the fascia board above the bricks and underside of roof and corbels. I sprayed the concrete surfaces with Model Master 36440 Gull Gray using brush-painted Plaid craft paint on the window sills.

The next step was the bay window. There is a kink and workaround in this step. The floor for the bay window is too wide. The solution is illustrated in Figure 4. It is necessary to cut down the width of the floor and realign the corbel cutouts as shown. Leave material toward the inside of the bay to overlap the second story floor (see Figure 2).

I put off the shingles for as long as I could. While doing this step I was constantly reminded of the words of my wise old roofer: “I drop a chalk line every two courses to make sure everything is parallel.” It would be a good idea to scribe such lines before assembling the roof, but if not, pay careful attention to keep the spacing of the shingles parallel and even. I coated the shingles with a light coat of decoupage to keep the shingles and the cap shingles from curling then sprayed the roof with Model Master Panzer Gray 36076. The box gutters supplied were not long enough on two sides and warped when painted for an unknown reason. I used square white strip wood with the dark gutter drawn with a Sharpie. I painted the annex roof with black gesso and sprinkled cinders over that.

Finally, I pondered the stairs instructions for a long time and then went my own way. The stairs make the model. They are delicate enough to look like the prototype grating, yet when assembled are sturdy enough to support themselves. I made a simple soldering jig by using the stair stringers as a guide; i.e., drilling through the holes in the stair stringer pieces for the first and second flights and soldered the railings from 0.020 half hard brass wires leaving enough excess at the ends to allow mating the two stair sections and inserting the upper end into the building.

The micro plywood frame pieces have some inscrutable cutouts that may be required for N or HO scale. I simply stacked two stair step pieces onto the stringers being careful to keep the inside and outside assemblies correctly referenced versus the building. When all steps and landings had been inserted I carried the upper outside stringer over the end of the lower frame, notching the risers as required. I butt-joined the inside upper stringer to the lower one as shown in the underside photo (Figure 5), keeping as close to a 90º angle as possible. I attached the railings and joined them at the junction between the upper and lower rails. Paint is Panzer gray. I also installed a plate across the end of the top landing.

I made a base out of Plexiglas scrap to protect the stairs and give the cabin a small setting of its own. The stream tunnel, bridge and bases are model scraps. The electro-pneumatic piping is simply a sprue left over from another project. The nearly finished model is shown in Figure 6. I haven’t decided how much to weather it, but it is clear from B&W steam era photos that it wasn’t as pristine as shown here, and there may have been screens on the windows.


I am very pleased with the Alkem C&O cabin, and am looking forward to “planting” it on my layout.

This tower, characteristic of the standard design C&O adopted in the 1930s, is quite suitable as a representation of modern towers elsewhere in the U.S. As inspiration, a PRR standard 8- to 20-lever tower with a pop-up dormer above the bay is shown in Figs. 11a and 11b at York, PA. Another tower at Duplainville, WI on the Soo/Milwaukee is shown in Figure 12 without the bay but with nearly identical dimensions. These would be fairly easy kitbashes.

1 From Railway Age, August 15, 1936. This and other reprints prepared by Tony Liccese and photos are available from the Chesapeake & Ohio Historical Society.

Volume 2 No. 4, American Models 4-6-2 Conversion

The S Scale Journal

The Online Journal of the S Scale SIG
Volume 2 No. 4, July 31, 2013

American Models 4-6-2 Converted
to a Southern Pacific P-10

by Bob Hogan

Photos by the Author except as noted

The arrival of American Models’ new Pacific was greeted with great enthusiasm.  For most people, just the production of the first new S scale steam locomotive in a generation was enough to get excited about.

However, for those of us who have been superdetailing American Models’ Geep and FP-7 diesels over the years saw even greater kitbashing opportunities with the new Pacific model.  I knew I had to have one of these fine running locomotives, but as a modeler of western railroading, I was not certain how best to modify the Pacific for my favorite prototype.  The answer came with the July 1997 issue of Mainline Modeler, which had an article on the Southern Pacific P-10 Class Pacifics complete with 3/16″ scale plans.

Modeled after USRA Pacific

The American Models 4-6-2 is modeled after the USRA heavy Pacific.  Their B&O version is intended to approximate the P-7 “President” series, numbers 5300-5319, delivered in 1927 by Baldwin.  Jeff Madden did a fine job of discussing the history of these B&O engines in the December 1997 NASG Dispatch.  The article includes plans for both the “as-built” and “as-modified in 1930” versions.  Jeff’s article should be sufficient to motivate any B&O modeler to try modifying the engine to any of several specific prototype locomotives.  Most of these projects require only minor changes involving adding castings and minor detail revisions to produce a specific engine.

This project covers the process of making major modifications to the American Models Pacific to create a reasonable model of the Southern Pacific P-10.  I selected the Southern Railway version of the AM 4-6-2 as a starting point because it came with the six-wheel tender trucks needed for the SP conversion.  I must confess it took considerable courage to begin the disassembly of the good-looking stock model.

Once begun, however, the process was far easer than I imagined, and the results were worth the effort.

I closely followed the photos and excellent plans by Al Armitage in the Mainline Modeler article.  The overall dimensions and boiler/cab shapes were very close to the Espee locomotive.  By using a combination of S and HO scale castings, I was able to produce a good approximation of the prototype P-10.  The same methods I used for the Southern Pacific P-10 modifications can be used to convert the American Models 4-6-2 into prototypes for most roads using locomotives based on the USRA heavy Pacific.

The History

Southern Pacific’s P-10s were the last new 4-6-2s received by the Pacific Lines of Espee.  They were the direct descendents of the highly successful P-8 Class (#2461-2475).  A total of 14 P-10s were delivered by Baldwin in October 1923 #2478-2483) and April 1924 (#2484-2491).  Like the P-8s, the P-10 class engines were designed to provide power for Southern Pacific’s long haul name passenger trains like the Overland Limited, Pacific Limited and Fast Mail.  They were able to make the 536-mile run between Salt Lake City and Sparks, Nevada without the customary engine change at Carlin.  They were able to do this hauling 11 heavyweight cars (weighing 875 tons) over a 1.5% grade, eliminating the many helper districts on the Overland Route.

The new P-10s were nearly identical to the successful P-8 class.  They weighed 300,000 lbs.  Eight of these locomotives eventually received the Espee “skyline” casing, inspired by the GS Class “Daylight” 4-8-4s.  Three (#2484, 2485, 2486) were rebuilt, streamlined and painted in Daylight colors for service on the new “San Joaquin Daylight” in 1941.  Like all steam locomotives, each P-10 developed its own identity as various modifications were made over the years, including the removal of air tanks and the Delta booster engines and the addition of air horns for commute service.

As the larger Mountain and Daylight locomotives took over the name trains in the late 1930s, the P-10s were relegated to secondary passenger and freight service.  They worked right up to the end of steam on the Espee, sprinting Harriman suburban cars in commute service between San Francisco and San Jose on weekdays and racing long freights up and down the California central valley on weekends.

The first of the P-10s to be scrapped was #2478 in January 1954.  The last was cut up in Los Angeles, #2487, in July 1959 … nearly three years after the Espee dropped the last fires of regular steam service.  One P-10 (#2479) was saved for display along with two P-8s.  The #2479 has been on static display for many years at the San Jose fairgrounds.  One of the P-8s (#2472) has been restored to active steam service after many years of display in San Mateo and is currently stored and operated for special events on the Niles Canyon Railway at Sunol, CA.  The second (#2467) was restored to operation for Rail Fair at the California State Railroad Museum in Sacramento, CA by the Pacific Locomotive Association.  It is currently out of service and displayed inside the roundhouse at the museum after suffering a blown cylinder head.  The #2479, like its older sisters, is now also receiving serious restoration efforts with the hope that it too may steam again.

The Conversion


The most difficult step in the entire project was the first:  Beginning the process of cutting away all of the detail from the stock boiler casting.  I used a motor tool with several; cutting bits to remove all of the detail from the boiler shell, including the two domes, stack, running boards, piping, tanks and power reverse.  When this task was accomplished, I spent several hours filing the boiler smooth with both a large flat file and smaller jeweler’s files.  The cavity created by removing the sand dome was filled with Squadron Green putty, as were all handrail and marker light holes.

Once the boiler shell was smooth, the re-assembly process could begin.  This was the fun part!  The difficult part of this process was the measuring and cutting of the new running boards from sheet brass.  I began by making cardstock patterns to ensure the running boards would match the contours of the boiler.  The motor tool with a cutting disc was then used to make the rough cut in the brass stock.  I then filed these pieces to achieve a tight final fit.  Brass wire pins were soldered to the finished running boards to fasten them on the boiler.  Holes were drilled in the boiler shell for the running boards and the wire pins on the running boards were inserted into these holes.  The completed assembly was glued in place with ACC (cyanoacrylate cement).  This method has proven to be very strong and has held up well with prolonged use.

Next I formed and soldered brass wire to brass strapping material to create the sets of air piping for both sides of the locomotive.  The brass strapping supports were then soldered to the undersides of the new running boards.  The larger replacement castings were added next, including the stack, domes, injector, lubricator and turret.  Boiler bands were constructed from .10 x 1/16″ styrene strip and added to the boiler with ACC.

Boiler side detail was added by applying the three air tanks, air pump, feedwater heater and power reverse with ACC.  Cast piping for the feedwater system, injector, check valve and booster engine piping was soldered to the appropriate brass castings, pinned with brass wire and ACC where required.  Lastly, the smaller details were ACC’d to the boiler including washout plugs, blowdowns, boiler steps, sander valves/piping, regulators, stanchions/handrails, indicator boards, marker lamps, five chime whistle and bell.


The large switch inside the cab was removed, along with the factory plug system.  This allowed me to add a styrene firebox extender to cover the flywheel and provide a platform onto which I could add the appropriate cab detail.  I used Cal-Scale HO castings for the throttle, air brake stand, oil valve, reverse quadrant and gages.  Actual glass windows and Arttista figures were added after painting.

Pilot and Running Gear

The PBL Sunbeam headlight was cut from its base and remounted on a River Raisin headlight bracket.  This assembly was then ACC’d to the boiler front along with the new stanchions and hand rails.

A full width step assembly was constructed from styrene and ACC’d to the pilot platform along with air and steam lines.  Handrail stanchions and brass wire were used to construct the coupler lift bar and this was added, together with a Kadee #5 coupler, to the pilot.  River Raisin makes a complete brass pilot assembly using the Espee’s unique pressed-pilot and this assembly has now been installed on my P-10.

The crosshead was modified to resemble the correct Walschaert valve gear and a lower crosshead guide added to complete the illusion.  Precision plastic locomotive brake hangers and shoes were added to the back two sets of drivers and a brake shoe assembly was fabricated using brass wire and Precision plastic brake shoes to the pilot truck.


The prototype P-10s carried large four-hatch Vanderbilt tenders.  Having no desire to fabricate one of these complicated monsters from scratch, I obtained a four-hatch C-100 tender from SouthWind Models and equipped with the six-wheel trucks from the original American Models tender.  The still larger C-120 tender was imported in brass by River Raisin and is also an appropriate tender for the P-10.

Because I use a PFM sound system, I removed the American Models chuff and smoke feature from my model.  The tender was then rewired with a new connector plug to replace the original oversize switch and plug arrangement.

The Finished Model

The locomotive was airbrushed with Accu-Paint black and weathered with various Floquil colors to resemble an engine after moderate use.  Numbered 2484, the model is intended to represent the prototype during 1940 when it was equipped with a working Delta booster truck and feedwater system (prior to streamlining).  The resulting model provides the unique image of the prototype Southern Pacific P-10, yet retains the fine running qualities of the original American Models Pacific.  I hope this conversion example provides an incentive for others to try their hand at creating their favorite USRA-style heavy Pacific, be it the easier B&O super detailing project (see Brooks Stover’s article elsewhere on this website) or a major conversion to something like Union Pacific’s massive 2900 or 3100 Pacifics.

On The Layout

About the photos…

All the model photos were taken by the author.  They represent the various stages of construction described in the text, as well as the finished model.  The prototype photos were, we think, taken by William Raia.

The model photos show a shorter-than-prototype three-hatch tender that has since been replaced by the proper four-hatch tender from SouthWind Models, refitted with the same American Models trucks described in the text.

Plans courtesy of Mainline Modeler magazine.

Bill of Materials

1 PBL-004 Five chime whistle
1 PBL-017 Pop valve cluster
1 PBL-49 Westinghouse cross compound airpump
2 PBL-62 Handrail stanchions (8″)
3 PBL-63 Handrail stanchions (6″)
1 PBL-075 Pyle generator
1 PBL-82 Westinghouse triple valve
1 PBL-84 Westinghouse air pump governor
1 PBL-87 Boiler steps, top brackets
1 PBL-88 Boiler step
1 PBL-100 Bullseye lubricator
1 PBL-101 Nathan injectors
1 PBL-105 Sander valves
1 PBL-148 Equalizing tank
1 PBL-153 Smokestack
1 PBL-173 Sunbeam headlight
1 PBL-423 Bell with bracket
1 PBL K-36 Steam dome
1 PBL K-36 Sand dome
1 PBL Power reverse
1 BTS-3008 Marker lamps
2 Cal-Scale 190-451 Water tanks
1 Cal-Scale BO-308 Blow off cocks/plugs
1 Cal-Scale HL-741 Headlight bracket
1 Cal-Scale BH-367 Air brake stand
1 Cal-Scale BH-370 Throttle
1 Cal-Scale BH-372 Gauge assortment
1 Cal-Scale BH-373 Reverse quadrant
1 Cary CV-132 Boiler check valves
2 Cary SP-104 Booster steam pipes
2 Cary SP-192 Booster steam pipes
1 Cary SP-214 Steam pipes
1 Cary SP-222 Steam pipes
1 Cary SP-237 Elesco water pipes
1 Precision Scale 3-1106 Steam turret
1 Precision Scale HO-0337 Worthington feedwater pump
1 Precision Scale HO-3390 Injector plumbing
1 Precision Scale S Washout plugs
1 Precision Scale S Train indicator boards
1 Precision Scale HO Brake hanger with shoes
2 MV Products L-230 Headlight lenses
1 Arttista 701 Engineer
1 Arttista 702 Fireman

Volume 2 No. 3, Lionel USRA 2-8-8-2 Reviewed

The S Scale Journal

The Online Journal of the S Scale SIG
Volume 2 No. 3, March 25, 2013

Lionel USRA 2-8-8-2 “Y-3” Review

by Dick Karnes
Photos by Gary Schrader except as noted

An S scale Locomotive From Lionel? Yes!!

The USRA 2-8-8-2 locomotives, built by Alco and Baldwin, were
delivered to the Virginian, Norfolk & Western, Baltimore & Ohio, and
Clinchfield railroads in 1918 and 1919. Later, the Santa Fe, Pennsylvania,
and Union Pacific bought some second-hand from the N&W. The B&O
subsequently converted theirs to a 2-8-8-0 configuration. These
locomotives were compound articulateds, utilizing exhaust steam from
the trailing engine unit to drive the pistons in the larger cylinders on the
lead unit. These locomotives, with their 57” drivers, were well suited for
long coal drags at 30 mph.

This new S scale USRA 2-8-8-2, as conceived by Lionel, marketed under
the “American Flyer” name, and converted by SSL&S, is a real treat! Its
dimensions are accurate and detailing is thorough. Piping and fittings
are individually applied. It even has drive wheel brake shoes. The only
obvious compromise is that the steam exhaust pipes leading forward
from the rear cylinders are integral with the boiler casting, and therefore
do not actually connect to the cylinder chests. The reason for this is that
both the front and rear engine chassis are separately pivoted on the loco,
thus minimizing outward swing of the smokebox on curved trackage, as
well as allowing the loco to negotiate sharper curves. On the prototype,
the rear engine does not pivot.

The loco comes from Lionel painted and lettered for VGN, N&W, PRR,
ATSF, and UP. The N&W, with by far the largest fleet of these locos,
designated them Class Y-3; thus the Lionel nomenclature. The
locomotive comes with sound, smoke, and compatibility with AC, DC,
and TMCC Legacy, and American Flyer-compatible wheel profile. The
locomotive’s electronics suite senses the nature of the power supply and
automatically initializes itself accordingly. Lionel and S Scale
Locomotive & Supply Co. (SSL&S) have entered into a mutual
arrangement whereby SSL&S will replace the AF-compatible wheels and
driver tires with scale-profile wheels and stainless-steel driver tires per
the NASG/NMRA wheel profile and gauge standards. This conversion
service also includes a Kadee S scale tender coupler. (The front coupler,
a scale dummy, is standard on the Lionel product.) On request, SSL&S
will also program the built-in decoder for DCC compatibility.

The locomotive and tender coupling is a simple hook-and-slot
arrangement. There are no wires between the two units. The tender
drawbar’s clever design provides extremely close coupling while
preventing the loco and tender bodies from interfering with each other
on sharp curves. The sound system, entirely contained within the
tender, is synchronized with locomotive performance via an infrared
signal transmitted from beneath the cab floor and received via a receptor
beneath the fireman’s platform on the tender. Sound volume can be
altered via a thumbwheel beneath the tender’s water hatch.

In addition to the usual steam locomotive sounds, the superb sound
system’s effects include brake squeal, amplified chuffing upon
acceleration, intermittent steam emission and crew chatter when idling.
The sound system electronics are very sensitive to electrical input
fluctuations, so Lionel has provided space and connections for an
optional nine-volt battery inside the tender. I highly recommend
installing this battery, which provides continuous current to the sound
system regardless of track-to-wheel current interruptions. Another
advantage of the battery is that it allows the sound system to bank the
fire after the DCC system is turned off. Yes, after turn-off!

I tested the locomotive using DCC. Electrical pick-up is through the
wheels on both sides of the unit. The loco weighs 3 pounds 7 ounces; the
tender weighs another 2 pounds 3 ounces. Loco pulling power, without
the tender, is 11.3 ounces at full slip while drawing .50 amperes. The
loco’s efficiency (pulling force divided by loco weight) is 20.5 percent –
an incredibly high number. The stainless-steel driver tires’ excellent
adhesion properties allow the loco to pull practically everything you can
throw at it. The loco begins to crawl at 3.4 scale mph at step 1 on the
DCC 28-step speed control table. Its speed at full throttle (speed step 28)
is 76 scale mph; the prototype could be wound up to 50 mph. Using
DCC’s configuration variables, the speed profile can be reprogrammed
to approximate the prototype if one wishes.

I had a problem with drive wheel set No. 1 lifting off the rails at the
beginning of downgrades. After much theorizing and tinkering, I found
that the pilot truck spring is much too stiff. I removed the spring and
did not replace it. To compensate, I added a quarter-ounce rectangular
weight to the top of the plastic lead truck frame to keep its wheels on the
track. MicroMark makes half-inch-wide peel-and-stick quarter-ounce
lead weights, perfect for this application. These simple alterations
eliminated the driver lift-off problem. And, although I did not retest,
elimination of the spring increases pulling power by transferring more
weight to the lead chassis.

The smoke unit can be turned on or off via a hidden switch beneath the
cab roof hatch. Lighting effects include a reversible headlight and tender
rear light, illuminated classification lights, red firebox glow, firedoor
flicker, and cab interior.

Note: Scale conversion by SSL&S voids the Lionel warranty. However,
SSL&S separately warrants its conversion work.
List price: $995. SSL&S scale conversion price: $550. DCC
implementation: $75. Shipping is not included in these prices.

Volume 2 No. 2, Lionel’s USRA 2-8-8-2 – First Look

The S Scale Journal

The Online Journal of the S Scale SIG
Volume 2 No. 2, March 4, 2013

Lionel’s USRA 2-8-8-2
First Look

by Dick Karnes

Lionel’s new USRA 2-8-8-2 in VGN livery powers a freight through the North Cornwall industrial district on Dick Karnes’ S scale NYW&B railway. Beautiful, isn’t she? Are those scale wheel flanges? … and a scale front coupler? Yes on both counts. But is it running on DC? Well, yes and no. It’s actually running on DCC! Is there sound? You betcha! Are those individually applied pipes and fittings? Well, … yes! The loco comes from Lionel ready for hirail, compatible with AC, DC, and TMCC. S Scale Loco & Supply (www.sscaleloco.com), owned and operated by Fred Rouse, has an agreement with Lionel to convert these locos to stainless steel scale driver tires, scale wheels elsewhere, and Kadee rear coupler; and add DCC compatibility.

Besides Virginian, the new Lionel S scale 2-8-8-2 is available decorated for Norfolk & Western (Class Y-3), Pennsylvania, Union Pacific, and Santa Fe. And how does she run? Stay tuned…!!

Volume 2 No. 1, Lionel’s SD-70ACe S Scale Diesel – First Look

The S Scale Journal

The Online Journal of the S Scale SIG
Volume 2 No. 1, February 22, 2013

Lionel’s SD-70ACe S Scale Diesel
First Look

reviewed by Ed Loizeaux
photos by Gary Schrader

Last year, Lionel released its first brand-new American Flyer diesel – the GE U33C (sscale.org/579/volume-1-no-6-lionel-u33c). This year, Lionel’s American Flyer (AF) line has produced another modern diesel — the SD-70ACe. As with the U33C, Lionel’s SD-70 is convertible to S scale operation without too much difficulty. It’s definitely worth a look-see to evaluate its possibilities. The prototype sample model loco shown in the accompanying photos and video has AF wheels and was run on my S scale trackage, but not through any turnouts. A video clip of that operation is embedded above.

The SD-70 offers some significant improvements over last year’s U33C. Two major new features are the addition of DCC compatibility and an ingenious semi-swinging pilot. DCC compatibility is clearly an effort to appeal to the scale modeling market segment and is much appreciated.

The new semi-swinging pilot will satisfy serious modelers who disliked the traditional AF diesel design of having couplers and pilots rigidly affixed to trucks. With that older approach, the pilot, coupler and truck moved as one solid assembly and appeared unrealistic on curves. The new semi-swinging pilot is not rigidly attached to the trucks or couplers. Instead, it can independently move sideways only as needed. Thus, trucks can swivel on curves while the front pilot and front coupler do not need to move at all. This is a big improvement in prototypical appearance. Figs. 1 and 2 show the difference between the two locomotives.

The rear pilot and rear coupler, being coupled to a long freight train, will experience some sideways movement depending on the sharpness of the curve. For a gradual curve, as used by most scale modelers, only the coupler needs to swing sideways while the pilot remains in the straight position. On sharp curves, both the coupler AND the pilot can swing sideways to accommodate the radius of typical AF trackage. This magical feat is accomplished with loose springing of the coupler and stiffer springing of the semi-swinging pilot. It works!

For the fastidious among us, there are two pre-drilled holes in both the pilot and the frame to enable screwing the pilot to the frame to absolutely prevent any movement of the pilot at all. Fig. 1 shows a comparison of pilot swing between last year’s U33 and this year’s SD-70. The improvement is obvious. Again, this design concept is aimed at the scale side of S and is much appreciated.

Other features, now becoming typical for Lionel, are the inclusion of brackets for Kadee S couplers and, for some paint schemes, scale wheels. Some cataloged SD-70 engines have an alternate product number for the scale-wheeled version, whereas other paint schemes will not. As of this writing, it appears that the UP Heritage Series SD-70s all have alternate product numbers for scale wheels. The NS Heritage Series does NOT have alternate product numbers for scale wheels. Thus, the availability of scale wheels for the NS Heritage Series paint schemes is unknown. However, Lionel’s Customer Service tells us that, in the near future, scale replacement wheels will be available for all SD-70 locomotives.

Let me add that the photos speak for themselves (Figs. 3, 4, and 5). The body casting is beautiful. The SD-70 comes with smoke and sound, headlights, ditch lights, cab light, and backup light. Two motors are inside – one on each truck. The die-cast metal sideframes (Fig. 6) are very three-dimensional. The SD-70 runs very well at slow speeds when DCC momentum is added. I did not operate this engine on Legacy, AC or DC, and so cannot comment about operation in those power modes. The loco weighs in at two pounds five ounces, so should pull well. The AF version comes with rubber traction tires and remote-controlled couplers when using Legacy. Individual metal fan blades can easily be seen. All in all, this loco should meet with satisfaction from most S scale modelers. Purists, as usual, can add more details to personalize their locos as desired.

I would suggest careful review of Lionel catalogs and the Charles Ro product listings to determine all the various paint schemes that will be available. It is my understanding that most all of the NS Heritage Series paint schemes will be produced. Scenery Unlimited has some nice color photos on their web site. Locos with alternate product numbers for scale wheels should arrive with factory-installed scale wheels. Locos without alternate product numbers will have scale wheels available for separate purchase in the near future, according to authoritative sources at Lionel.

Volume 1 No. 11, Converting the American Models GP-9 to a GP-7

The S Scale Journal

The Online Journal of the S Scale SIG
Volume 1 No. 11, May 21, 2012

Converting the American Models GP-9 to a GP-7

by Robert Frascella

The American Models GP-9 is a fine starting point toward creating a very nice GP-7. Historically the GP-7 predated the GP-9 with the first production models introduced in 1949. Aside from EMD’s less popular BL-1 and BL-2 models it was the manufacturer’s first successful road switcher with 2,729 units produced and originally purchased by more than 50 railroads.

For the S Scale modeler interested in modeling the GP-7 few options exist. American Flyer produced a GP-7, but converting this particular model to scale would be a significant challenge because the only usable feature would be the body shell and the shell itself is a crude representation of the EMD car body. Sunset Models imported an S Scale brass version in the 1980s. Outwardly the models were quite nice but those modelers that purchased the units have complained about mechanical problems.

By contrast, the American Models GP-9 is a relatively smooth running locomotive that has for the most part been accurately modeled in S Scale. So it would be only natural that their GP-9 would make a fine starting point for modeling the GP-7. In addition, a few years ago Des Plaines Hobbies produced a GP-7 long hood specifically intended to convert the American Models (AM) GP-9 in to an accurate GP-7. I purchased the long hood and related parts a few years ago and decided to give it a try recently.

The Prototype

The prototype for my GP-7 conversion is PRR 8551, which was a very unique version of EMD’s first road switcher. The Pennsylvania Railroad purchased 66 GP-7s and only three were ordered with roof mounted air tanks. PRR nos. 8551, 8552 and 8553 were passenger units equipped with steam boilers and the space in front of the fuel tank, where the air tanks would normally be mounted, was occupied by a cab signal equipment box. Of the thousands of hood units order by the Pennsy, only these three have roof-mounted air tanks. I model the PRR’s Elmira Branch in the mid-1950s and 8551 and sister unit 8552 were frequent visitors on the branch. They mostly handled freight assignments when they weren’t handling the remnant of passenger service from Canandaigua to Williamsport.

The Model

The techniques that I’ve use for building the GP-7 can be applied to any prototype and thanks to suppliers such as Des Plaines Hobbies (DPH) and Bill’s Train Shop (BTS) just about any version of the GP-7 can be modeled in S Scale. I’ve included a parts list at the end of this article, but the most important item that you’ll need is the GP-7 long hood conversion kit from DPH. This is a beautifully reproduced plastic casting that is designed to replace the AM GP-9 long hood. You could also purchase the DPH short hood as well, but there is really nothing wrong with the AM short hood. I chose to replace mine with the DPH version because I like the detail of the hood doors which were flush like the prototype instead of the raised door panels on the AM version.

The DPH GP-7 long hood represents a Phase I GP-7 car body with 86” high engine access doors. There are subtle differences in the door height arrangement in the various phases. Chances are that if you’re building one of the later phase units no one would notice difference in door heights particularly on a non-dynamic brake unit. The real PRR 8551 is actually a Phase III GP-7.

An excellent article along with plans for the EMD GP-7 appears in the October 1982 issue of Mainline Modeler (long out-of-print but back issues can be found on-line). The plans are drawn in 3/16ths in scale and are accurately drawn.

The first order of business is removing the long hood from the GP-9 body shell (and the short hood if you go that route). This is where an extreme amount of care needs to be exercised because you don’t want to mar the surface of the portion of the Geep body that must remain. Before making any cuts remove the cab body section and completely cover all walkway surfaces with masking tape. I cut the long hood from the GP-9 with an X-acto™ no. 13 micro saw blade in an X-acto™ knife holder and made the cut flush with the top surface of the walkway. The DPH hood is designed to sit on top of the walkway so after making the cut sand any remnants of the old hood flush with the walkway tops. Pay particular attention as to how the DPH shell fits around the raised portions of the walkway as additional vertical cuts are needed in those areas to properly seat the new long hood.

Once the new long hood is in place the remainder of the details can be installed. Regardless of which version of the GP-7 you build, the roof top cooling fans need to be installed. All GP-7s had four cooling fans – two above the rear radiator section and two above the generator area. These are available from BTS, or alternately, you can use HO cooling fans from Details West. As it turns out, 48”dia. HO fans are very close to 36” dia. fans in S Scale. The conversion kit does not include exhaust stacks, but brass stack castings are also available from BTS. I added lift rings using Northeastern Models eye pins which are a bit oversized but they look much better than the HO equivalent. On my version of the GP-7 I installed the roof mounted air tanks, Pennsy antenna wire conduits, steam generator details, and a three chime air horn. If you’re modeling a dynamic brake version of the GP-7 you can use the AM GP-9 dynamic brake components without modification, otherwise your roof details are complete.

One thing lacking from the DPH long hood components is the raised marker light assembly. I fabricated mine from a piece of 1/8”- O.D Evergreen plastic tubing cut on an angle and glued in place. I then filled in with putty adjacent to the tubing to provide a smooth taper to the car body. I chose not to illuminate the number boards so I mounted strips of 0.02” styrene behind the openings. This created too deep a recess and I then added another piece of 0.02” styrene to fill the recess and bring the number board surface closer to the face of the car body. DPH produces a set of air intake screens that mount on the sides of the long hood below the cooling fans. The AM intakes will work fine but the DPH screens are see through and have much nicer detail. I also added grab irons fabricated from 0.015” dia. brass wire to the ends of both hoods. The DPH hood ends are pre-drilled to ease the installation of the grab irons. To complete the long hood I added a BTS lever-type hand brake casting.

One important detail that distinguishes the GP-7 from the GP-9 is the set of louvers located on the battery box door below the cab window. All GP-7s had these louvers while the GP-9 did not. Fortunately, plastic louvers are available from DPH. They come on an injected molded sheet and must be cut out individually. They are very thin in cross-section but I chose to make them even thinner by sanding the back side of each louver until they resulting thickness was about 0.005” thick. Even with that, the edge of the louver material is still visible, but the end result is certainly not objectionable.

The prototype GP-7 was offered with two different fuel tank options. A combined fuel/water tank was provided for passenger Geeps and a fuel only tank was available for freight units. The AM model featured the passenger version. The cross-section profile of the two tanks is noticeably different. The passenger tank is more rectangular in cross-section and the freight version is more rounded on the bottom. I used the AM tank which is approximately 6-scale inches too short meaning it rides too high above the rails. I extended the sides of the tank by adding 0.08” strips to compensate for the difference and added a spacer under the mounting tab. If you’re modeling the freight version, I recommend using the AM fuel tank from their GP-35. This has the correct cross-section, but may need to be shortened to the proper length.

Another area on the AM body shell that definitely needs improvement is the pilot/coupler mounting area. The AM pilot has a large opening where the coupler mounting tab from the frame protrudes through the pilot opening. This opening is extra large because the AM GP-9 is designed to accommodate the American Flyer coupler used on the hi-rail version of the model. I chose to body mount the scale couplers in lieu of using the frame mounted tabs. In order to do so, you must cut off the die cast frame extensions and build up the area behind the pilot and beneath the end platform to accept the scale coupler. The pilot opening was altered with styrene strips following the plans in Mainline Modeler in an effort narrow the opening and create a draft gear box to mount the coupler.

The GP-7 had distinctive handrails stanchions that were not used on subsequent EMD road switchers. I used the early GP-7 handrail stanchions which were originally available as brass castings from DPH, but are no longer listed on their web site. Fortunately, they are available from BTS as part no. 02066. The stanchions are very delicate but well worth the effort in completing the finished model. I used 0.015” wire for the handrails. Though the handrail stanchions are located at the same locations on both the GP-9 and the GP-7, the mounting hole on the AM GP-9 are too large for the mounting pins on the brass handrail stanchion castings. I filled the AM holes with 0.035” styrene rod and drilled new holes in the correct diameter.

Most GP-7s were ordered with multiple unit capabilities, so adding the MU cables and MU stands are a necessary feature. BTS offers different versions of the MU stands and MU hoses though most early Geeps were ordered with high MU stands. Other pilot details worth considering are drop steps at the end platforms to enable worker passage between units when MU’d together; coupler pin lift bars; pilot steps; a front grab bar, and a small section of chain spanning the end handrail opening above the drop step.

The AM GP-9 corner step wells are not accurately represented on the body casting. The tread portion of each step is too short. I chose to modify the steps so that each tread was closer to the scale dimension. To do so, I removed the riser from each step and applied a new 10” wide tread as an overlay to the old tread. For this I used a strip of 0.01” styrene and perforated each tread using a no.72 drill bit to represent the pattern on the prototype. Once these were glued in place, I added new risers made from strips of styrene.

Since I went through the effort to keep my crews safe by perforating the ends steps, it is only natural that I would want to have a non-skid surface on the walkways. To achieve this I used the new tread plate texture made specifically for S Scale Geeps by Archer Fine Transfers. The texture is applied in a manner similar to applying decals and once set resembles a metal surface with small raised dimples just like the prototype.

I painted the body shell with Scalecoat™’s PRR Brunswick Green. I didn’t prime any of the surfaces because I applied a dark color, but if you’re using a lighter color, I would definitely recommend priming all surfaces before painting. The Scalecoat™ finish creates a glossy enough surface so that decals can be applied without applying a gloss coat. I painted the window frames silver to represent the aluminum frames found on the prototype.

I have not solved the headlight lens issue yet as no commercially available clear plastic lenses are available as inserts for the dual headlight castings. Recently I found some clear plastic rod that is close to the diameter of the opening, but as of this writing I have not installed them.

I installed DCC with sound and mounted the speaker in the short hood above the gear tower. The space is rather tight, but I used a rectangular speaker with enclosure and mounted it to the gear tower support by fabricating a bracket from styrene and securing it to the tower with short 2-56 machine screws after drilling and tapping the tower support.

PRR 8551 is now ready for service for just about any assignment from hauling passengers to helper service to everything in between. Truly a General Purpose locomotive as EMD had intended.

Parts List

American Models
Undecorated GP-9

#SSA160 – GP-7 Long Hood Kit
#SSA164 – GP Short Hood Kit (optional)
#SSA123 – GP-7/9 Grills
#SSA122 – EMD GP/F/FP Louvers
# 64-45 – PRR Single Stripe Diesel Decals

#02057 – Pilot Steps
#02002 – Air Horn
#02004 – Exhaust Stacks
#02062 – Drop Steps
#02065 – MU Stands, Early
#02302 – Air Hoses, Flexible
#02015 – 36” Cap-Top Cooling Fans
#02055 – Torpedo Tube Tanks and Pipes
#02058 – Hand Brake
#02066 – Handrail Posts, Early GP
#02012 – Steam Generator

Details West
#CF-143 HO 48” Cooling Fans (alternate cooling fan source)

Archer Fine Transfers
GP-7/9 deck tread plate transfers

Northeastern Scale Models
Eye Pins

Various sizes of Evergreen Styrene, brass wire, plastic cement and paint

Volume 1 No. 10, Breaking Marley’s Chains – On2 to S

The S Scale Journal

The Online Journal of the S Scale SIG
Volume 1 No. 10, May 1, 2012

Breaking Marley’s Chains – On2 to S
“Givens” don’t fit? Change everything for a better layout

by Trevor Marshall

This article first appeared in issue 45 of the “Layout Design Journal” the publication of the Layout Design Special Interest Group, Inc. The S Scale SIG would like to thank the LDSIG for permission to reprint this article. Learn more about the LDSIG at www.ldsig.org.

Making the Switch to S

I’m relatively new to S scale, having started my first layout in 1:64 in October of 2011. My conversion to S actually started several months prior to that as I considered what prototype I could model in S scale and what would fit in my layout room.

Rather than write a feature on switching to S for an S-specific site such as this one, I thought it more valuable to share my experiences with a broader audience – one comprised of modelers working in a range of scales and gauges. So I penned a piece for the Layout Design Journal – the excellent quarterly publication from the Layout Design Special Interest Group (www.ldsig.org). This appeared in issue #45 – the Winter 2012 edition.

I have to admit that I took an unusual route into S scale. I had several friends working in S but until about a year ago, I hadn’t considered it as the scale for me. As the LDJ feature explains, instead of deciding, “I’m going to work in S” and then figuring out what I could do in it, I asked myself, “What do I want out of a layout – and what’s available, product-wise, to make it happen?” All scales and gauges were on the table – but I found that S standard gauge would provide the best combination of models big enough to appreciate detailing efforts yet small enough to fit an interesting layout into a relatively modest space. I also found the social aspects of working in S to be second to none and I’m grateful to have such a fantastic group of friends in my area who also work in 1:64.

Shortly after the feature was published, a comment on an S scale newsgroup made me realize those looking at S as a potential modeling scale might find my experience valuable. So I contacted the Journal’s editor, Byron Henderson, and secured permission to share the article on the S Scale SIG website. You’ll find it here as a PDF. If you’re not a member of the LDSIG, I encourage you to join. I find it great value for the money and the Journal is a tremendous magazine. Membership information is included at the end of the PDF.

If you’re considering the switch to S scale, I hope you find this feature informative and encourage you conduct an exercise similar to what I’ve outlined.

Download Trevors' artricle form the Layout Design Journal

Volume 1 No. 8, Modeling Cut Bars

The S Scale Journal

The Online Journal of the S Scale SIG
Volume 1 No. 8, April 4, 2012

S Scale Uncoupling Bars
Locomotives and Freight Cars

by Edwin Kirstatter


Commonly called “cut bars” by railroaders, uncoupling levers are not included in most S scale kits and some ready-to-run models. Many brass cars include them, although sometimes they must be attached by the modeler. For our cars, we often have to make our own.

There are two basic types: top- operated and bottom-operated. Older couplers were uncoupled by pulling the locking pin up. The newer types use a rotary motion, below the coupler body, to lift the locking device. Additionally, there are several variations within the top-operated type.

Making cut bars really isn’t very hard; here’s how I do it.


To build these bars I use .016″ (26 gage) brass wire. The wire I use comes on a spool and needs to be straightened. It’s very hard and breaks easily when making 90 degree bends, so I anneal the wire to make it soft. A match will do the job, although a small torch or cigarette lighter will work better. Be careful, since too much heat will melt this small wire. Straight wire of half hard brass, phosphor bronze or iron would work better. Music wire will also work, but your bends must be right the first time, as you cannot straighten it without breaking. Tichy Train Group has .015″ phosphor bronze straight wire that works very nicely.

Bottom-Operating Cut Bars

The bottom-operating type is the easest to make, as it only requires one pivot point near the left edge of the car below the poling pocket or where it would have been. First, if there is no place on your model to mount that outer pivot, you need to add a mounting plate made from plastic or metal. Drill a hole in it for the eye bolt and cement or solder in place. Now you can make a bar from .016″ wire. Bend a loop in the end of the wire to fit around one of the Kadee coupler box mounting screws. Then bend the wire toward the trip pin and finally to the left and upward at an angle going toward the eye bolt. Fish the wire through the eye bolt and secure the looped end with one of the mounting screws. Bend the brakeman’s handle down and cut off at 15 scale inches.

Top-Operating Cut Bars

To make the top-operating bar for the “A end” (the car end opposite the brakewheel end), start by bending a small loop at the end of a piece of wire. This simulates where a link, which would have gone down to a prototype coupler’s lifting pin, would be attached. The link will not be represented, as we can’t operate Kadees using these. Now, measure the distance from your coupler’s knuckle pivot pin back to the end of the car. Using this dimension, make a 90 degree bend to the left, keeping your loop horizontal. Now measure from coupler center to the near left edge of the car. If your model has a poling pocket, you will measure to just inside of it. With this dimension, bend your wire down 90 degrees. This will form the handle the brakeman grabs to lift the bar and uncouple the car. Reference the illustrations and prototype photographs included with this article to further understand these bends. Cut the wire off a scale 15″ below the bend. You have now formed your cut bar.

You need two pivot points for this bar, one at each end. For these I use Detail Associates #2206 HO Eye Bolts, or lift rings as they are sometimes called. Mark the car end and drill for these. One will be in the center of the car end just above the end sill. The other will be at the left edge where the bar drops down. String the two eyebolts onto the bar; then press their shanks into the holes you drilled. The shanks of the Eye Bolts are slightly smaller than a #80 drill. Cement them in place with Super Glue, Pliobond or Walthers Goo. You have now completed the A end of the car.

The cut bar on the “B end,” or brake wheel end, is a little different. At the B end, the uncoupling bar passes over or around the handbrake staff. You will have to make a little bulge in the bar at this place to clear the brake staff.

Carmer Coupler Lifting Levers

There is another type of top-operated uncoupling bar called a Carmer coupler lifting lever. You will find these on many older cars and especially on the Pennsylvania Railroad. This type has a pivot at about the mid point from car side to coupler. The Carmer coupler lifting lever requires the brakeman to push down rather than lift up. This lever is more difficult to make. I cut the basic shape from .015″ sheet brass. Standard Railway Supply made an etched brass version that is usable and may still be found.

Steam Locomotive Cut Bars

The cut levers used on steam locomotives and diesels are different from those used on cars and the levers used on diesel locomotives differ from those on steamers. The steam loco type, used on both the engine and the tender buffer beam, is a long bar going from one side to the other supported by four cast stanchions, one at each end and two in the middle. The cut bar could be lifted from either side but the brakeman had to lift the whole thing. These cut levers were heavy. Make them from .025″ wire.

Diesel Locomotive Cut Bars

The Diesel locomotive type can also be lifted from either side; however, it differs in that the brakeman is only lifting half of the lever. An independent loop in the center, on which the lifting links slide, is lifted by either side’s lifting lever. Four mounting rings are required to support these three separate pieces. I make them from .020″ brass wire.

Since the original publication of this article, S Scale modeler Pieter Roos submitted additional examples of cut bars on S Scale rolling stock. His examples can be viewed in the gallery below. –editor

Volume 1 No. 7, B&O I-1 Caboose Laser Kit

The S Scale Journal

The Online Journal of the S Scale SIG
Volume 1 No. 7, March 29, 2012

B&O I-1 Caboose Laser Kit

reviewed by Brooks Stover, MMR

Available through: The Supply Car, LLC
356 Conrad Circle
Columbia, SC
Website: www.thesupplycar.com/
Price: 69.95 Basic Kit (trucks, brake details and decals available at extra cost)

Manufactured by: Lake Junction Models, LLC
673 N. Forest Ave.
Webster Groves, MO 63119
Price: 69.95 (less trucks, decals & couplers)

It was a long time coming but S scale now has a beautiful laser-cut kit of B&O’s familiar I-1 caboose, the first model of this prototype ever available in S. The prototype I model, the Buffalo Creek and Gauley of West Virginia, obtained two B&O I-1’s in 1958. It is generally believed that they were gifts to the then BC&G Superintendent, Richard Manning, from a former associate at the B&O. In any case, I was thrilled to learn that at long last I could have an accurate model of an I-1 for my layout. The kit is available in both narrow and wide platform configurations (Figures 1 and 2) and a transfer caboose version is also now available. This is an advanced kit but builds into a beautiful model.

(figure 2)

The Supply Car, LLC & Lake Junction Models, LLC

The I-1 kit is produced by Lake Junction Models and is available through both them and Supply Car, LLC. The Supply Car’s owner, Bob McCarthy, was instrumental in making the I-1 kit a reality. When purchased through The Supply Car, the kit can customized by specifying whether AB or K brake details are to be included ($7.00), if scale or hi-rail trucks are desired ($7.95), and whether B&O decals are needed ($6.50). The Supply Car, LLC also sells other S cars and structures in both kit and RTR form. Bill Hoss, owner of Lake Junction Models, has had his own company about four years and has had kits on the market about three years. He currently produces structure and rolling stock kits in HO, N, O and S using laser, photo etched and polyurethane parts. Prior to his current venture, Bill designed kits for over 20 years for a major model manufacturer. Lake Junction Models sells the kit less trucks, couplers and decals.

Kit Contents

The kit contains about 175 laser-cut wooden pieces in five different thicknesses ranging from 1/64” up to 1/8”. A good number of these, most notably exterior walls, the window frames, window sills and underbody parts are peel-and-stick. There are three small sheets of parts cut from what is called ‘stencil board’ which are also peel and stick. Also included are three sheets of etched brass parts, window glazing and adhesive backed paper roofing material. There are polyurethane castings for the coupler pockets and the smoke jack, as well. As mentioned, brake rigging details are available, too. Brass wire is included for the handrails. A bending jig is available separately.

The most detailed set of instructions I have ever seen on any kind of model is included on a CD and online at www.LakeJunctionModels.com. When printed out it is 25 pages long. Every step of the assembly is illustrated, not with a sketch or drawing, but with an actual color photo of the model being assembled (Figure 3). These couldn’t be any clearer or more complete. Included with the instructions are a couple of pages of prototype photos showing various lettering schemes used by the B&O over the years on these cars.

(figure 3)


This kit was the first laser-cut wood kit I ever built, so I don’t have anything to compare it to in terms of ease of assembly, accuracy of the parts, etc., but suffice it to say I found the parts to be very accurately sized and all cuts were clean and precise. As is always good practice, I test fit each part before assembly but only on very rare occasions was it necessary to do any substantial sanding to make things fit. In the comments below, I highlight the areas where things did not go exactly as planned, not as a criticism of this fine model, but as ‘lessons learned’ for those who might want to build the kit themselves.

(figure 4)

Most of the entire floor and chassis assembly is made up of peel-and-stick parts and so can be put together almost without glue (Figure 4). The floor inside the cabin as well as the floor visible between the frame rails from the underside is scribed to represent individual boards. The platform steps at each corner are each made from one piece of etched brass which is simply folded and bonded to the underbody. Wooden step treads are then added. What looks like a complicated piece of the model actually goes together easily. The instructions call for the couplers to be installed as the very last step in the assembly but I installed them while the floor was still a separate part. This allowed using the needed pressure on the screws holding the couplers in place which would potentially damage the finished model (Figure 5).

(figure 5)

Not surprisingly, the most tedious part of the construction is the hand rails on each end and the grab irons elsewhere. There are clear instructions for assembling the railings and the end ladders, but a great deal of patience is required here. Anyone with experience soldering/gluing railings or ladders shouldn’t have too much trouble. I chose to use plastic ladders from another kit only to speed things up. One word of caution relates to the “height gauge” in Step 59. This gauge is intended to establish the proper height for the horizontal railing on the ends of the car. Unfortunately, it can be positioned incorrectly resulting in railings which are too low. I know, I did it! Be sure and look at the gauge carefully as the lettering printed on the gauge must be upright for the gauge to be oriented correctly. There are instructions for accurately forming the grab irons, including those on the roof of the cupola but frankly these were beyond my level of skill. I fabricated ‘reasonable representations’ for my BC&G model.

The kit design includes a very clever inside-outside wall arrangement for the main body that automatically creates offsets for the window frames. The adhesive on the outside wall panel remains exposed and bonds the inside window frames when installed from the inside and the glazing attaches to adhesive on the inner surfaces of the inside window frames. The outside window frames and sills are also peel-and-stick. The construction of the entire main body goes very quickly and, again, with little glue required. It’s a very clever design, indeed.

The cupola is a bit of a different story. It is made of four pieces of rather thin material and considerable care is required to get the four sides glued up firmly and square. Once the four sides are assembled, however, the remaining pieces, though small, go on nicely and give the cupola a very detailed appearance. It looks like every board on the prototype is represented on the model.

One other area which gave me trouble was the adhesive-backed paper roofing material. I could not get the backing to come off properly and so did not use this material. Instead, I simply covered the roof with crepe-textured blue masking tape which when painted looks like tarpaper. I was very happy with this compromise.

As mentioned, correct trucks are available when the kit is ordered, but these are optional. The underbody is designed to mate with the available trucks resulting in the coupler pocket at the proper height. In my case, I chose to not use the coupler pocket in the kit and simply mounted Kadee #802 couplers. I also had to shim the trucks and the coupler because of my use of hi-rail wheels.


The instructions suggest painting all the parts before assembly and then caution that paint must be removed from surfaces that later have to be glued together. I took a somewhat different approach as I carefully thought through the assembly sequence and determined what parts could be built into sub-assemblies before painting. This approach seemed to work fine. First I buiIt up the floor and chassis and painted it when compete. The underside I painted Floquil Grimy Black and the interior floor I left unpainted to represent a well used floor. The steps and railings were painted red and yellow respectively. I built the entire main body as an assembly and then painted and decaled it. I built up the cupola as another subassembly before painting (Figure 6). I pre-painted the grabirons and ladders before installing them and then did whatever touchup was necessary after installation.

(figure 6)


(figure 7)

When I started assembling the chassis and saw how nice the individual boards on the floor looked, I felt the model just begged to have an interior. What I decided to do was build a greatly simplified representation of an interior and then leave both end doors open so you could get a glimpse inside (Figure 7 & 8). Of course, you can also see a bit of the interior through the windows. I did not make the roof removable so I could get away with a considerable approximation of the interior. I did a little research on the internet to find interiors of typical cabooses and went from there. I built the center cabinets and restroom and a suggestion of cushions on the cupola seats. At one end I installed a sink with overhead water tank, a potbelly stove, and a built-in table with seats. At the opposite end of the car I put a long bench with a cushion and a couple of buckets of parts and tools. The effect is exactly as I hoped…the impression of an interior without having modeled one in great detail. Just enough light falls through the doors and windows to let an observer see there’s something in there.

(figure 8)


This is an advanced kit, but it is extremely well engineered and well made. The parts are accurate and fit together very well with little trimming. Using care, a very nice model can be built. My BC&G crews are extremely happy with their new crummy (Figure 9) and so am I. I highly recommend this kit to anyone who is interested in this classic wooden caboose.

(figure 9)