Volume 4 No. 1, Gilmaur Etched Brass U18B Diesel Body Kit

The S Scale Journal

The Online Journal of the S Scale SIG
Volume 4 No. 1, February 18, 2015

Gilmaur Etched Brass U18B Diesel Body Kit

by Dick Karnes

The S scalers at February 2015’s O Scale West Plus S meet in Santa Clara CA were pleasantly surprised to see the American debut of a new brass kit from the United Kingdom. Mike Calvert was there, off in an O scale corner, displaying the new Gilmaur etched brass kit for an S scale U18B. Mike did the etching drawings; his friend Colin Stewart assembled the pilot model.

The kit consists of brass etchings, cast white-metal components, an envelope of machine screws and nuts, and a detailed instruction booklet. Detailing parts must be supplied by the modeler, e.g., handrail wire, grab irons, windshield wipers, door handles, coupler lift bars and brackets, and various items specific to the particular prototype road being modeled. Most of these can be obtained from BTS. The modeler also needs to provide a motor, power train, and power trucks and sideframes. Prototype U18B locomotives sported a variety of truck sideframes, but AAR Type B (as on American Models RS-3 trucks) and EMD Blombergs were most common.

The hood, radiator grid, and underframe stiffeners are pre-formed. All other brass parts are flat, reverse-etched with bend grooves for easy, crisp bending to the required angle. Where appropriate, the etchings are designed for slot-and-tab placement of the components (e.g., step treads) for soldering. Handrail stanchions are also included, etched to represent the prototype’s U-shaped cross-section. These are particularly fragile; Mike recommends tinning the rears of the stanchions with solder before removing them from the fret in order to provide added stiffness.

Two kinds of motor mounts are provided: One U-shaped set for mounting American Models-type trucks that require a mounting nut high up inside the hood, and another set for under-the-floor power trucks such as Black Beetle and the forthcoming Jim King/NWSL Stanton drive.

You need soldering skills to assemble the model. A soldering iron is the minimum requirement. However, if I were to build this model, I would prefer to use a 140-watt trigger-operated soldering gun for the lighter work such as installation of steps, stanchions, and smaller details.

Retail price: $200 USD (check or PayPal), including shipping. Contact Mike Calvert (mike.calvert@btinternet.com) to order.

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. 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. 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)

Volume 1 No. 6 Addendum, Altering the Lionel U33C

The S Scale Journal

The Online Journal of the S Scale SIG
Volume 1 No. 6 Addendum, March 20, 2012

One Modeler’s Observations on
Altering the Lionel U33c

by Don Thompson

I am attempting to fix the pilot to the body per the prototype. Actually, that’s the easy part! The hard part is getting the truck to move at all. The reason is that the front of the truck is trapped between the steps. Lionel did a great job putting the trucks in the correct longitudinal location, and now I can see that taking the pilot swing approach may have been the wise way out for model radius curves. The prototype photo clearly shows the truck nestled between the steps, which creates a problem for us modelers who cannot accommodate prototype curves in our train rooms.

I removed the pilot mounting fixture from the truck, hoping that would help, but more surgery will be needed. There is room to move the sideframes in toward each other because the scale wheels are a lot narrower than the tinplate wheels for which the sideframe spacing is designed. I’ll try this to see if the result will be enough swing for 45″ radius curves and No. 6 turnouts. Grinding off the backs of the steps may also help somewhat.

I’ll keep the SIG informed as I progress.

Volume 1 No. 6, Lionel U33C

The S Scale Journal

The Online Journal of the S Scale SIG
Volume 1 No. 6, March 3, 2012

Quick Look:
Lionel’s U33C S Scale Diesel

by Ed Loizeaux
photos by Dick Karnes

The General Electric U33C is the first totally new diesel locomotive made by Lionel for American Flyer and S scale enthusiasts. “Lionel is not the company it used to be!” was my first thought as I opened the box: a new diesel featuring scale wheels. Yes, you read that correctly. It ran for six non-stop hours on my home layout, which features code .100 rail throughout, laid to NMRA specifications. There was nary a trackability or performance problem with through dozens and dozens of turnouts – quite a change from the goode olde daze of A. C. Gilbert.

This product represents Lionel’s toe-in-the-water venture into the S scale market. Compared to older American Flyer products, it’s quite an improvement in the realism department. The very nice body molding, while not perfect, is realistic enough for most S scale modelers. The engine comes with large AF couplers on both ends that can easily be removed (one screw) and replaced with a scale coupler bracket (two screws). A Kadee #802 coupler screws to the bracket with two more screws. Lionel even includes the needed screws in a small parts bag. The purchaser can easily make a flat plastic filler piece to fill the large hole in the pilot resulting from the removal of the AF coupler. Someone at Lionel was thinking ahead on this feature.

All twelve metal wheels are powered and all wheels pick up electrical power from the track. Rubber traction treads are in the box, but not intended for use with the scale wheels. Headlights and back-up lights are LEDs that automatically reverse with direction changes. Sound and smoke are also included, as well as a motorized fan to blow the exhaust smoke upwards continuously. The horn sounds were particularly appealing to my visitors who watched the U33C circle the layout.

Lionel’s Legacy proprietary command control system (similar to DCC, but not the same and not mutually compatible) comes installed in the locomotive. For this product to operate with all features functioning, a Lionel Legacy command control system and Legacy throttle/cab must be used. Otherwise, the loco will operate on conventional AC, but some of the special features cannot be activated. As it comes from the factory, the loco will not operate on DC or DCC.

If desired, the internal Legacy electronics can be removed. Once removed, the conventional DC motor that resides in the fuel tank may be powered with ordinary DC or a DCC decoder if desired. Some scale modelers have already sold off Legacy electronics to their AF buddies, which helps pay for a new DCC decoder. My prediction is that Legacy electronics will soon appear on eBay. As my evaluation was done with Legacy, I cannot predict how the loco will perform with conventional DC or DCC.

This is only a “quick look,” not a review. I did not compare every detail to the prototype, instead concentrating on the features easily noticed without a magnifier. In no particular order, my observations are listed below:

  • Metal grab irons are separately applied details.
  • Handrail stanchions and handrails are a flexible one-piece molded Delrin part that’s quite resistant to breaking from excessive bending.
  • Lettering is precise and apparently complete, including features such as the GE builder’s plate and stencils such as “Air Filter,” “Danger High Voltage,” and “Diesel Fuel Fill.”
  • The body is injection-molded plastic with lots of detail.
  • Frame/floor/chassis is a heavy hunk of metal which is very rigid and firm, great for tractive power.
  • Trucks are metal, rigid, with cast springs and nice detailing. The fuel tank is cast metal and heavy.
  • There are twelve air hoses on the pilots.
  • The MU walk-through platform can be positioned “up” or “down”; there’s a detent to hold it in place.
  • Headlights (white), backup lights (red), number boards (white), and cab lights (white) are all illuminated. However, the infamous bluish tinge is present in the white LEDs.
  • The body molding has molded-in machined brass threaded inserts which are used when attaching the frame to the body. Thus, there is no chance of stripping out the screw threads.
  • The flared radiator on the top of the body can be removed to expose two small electrical switches. One turns the smoke generator and fan on and off. The other is to set the loco up for programming or for running. The radiator is held in place by four tiny super magnets. Cool!
  • Both pilots swivel with the trucks around curves. This design looks rather toy-like, but it appears they could be firmly attached to the frame without too much difficulty. My first thought is to use a piece of 1/16” thick black plastic and cut it to the proper shape and then epoxy it to the underside of the frame. Then attach the pilot parts to the plastic piece with epoxy or JB Weld (if sufficiently strong) or with small screws (drilling and tapping required). Eventually someone will actually do this and we’ll have a better idea of the difficulties involved, but it doesn’t look particularly difficult for an experienced modeler.
  • Due to the swiveling pilot, the end handrails do not extend downward far enough to match the prototype. The handrails could be extended, if desired, once the pilot is firmly attached to the frame.

In closing, it appears that Lionel is seriously testing the S scale market segment with this product. While not perfect, it’s a remarkable step forward toward greater realism, worthy of a serious look. Is it possible that Lionel/AF is the sleeping giant of S scale? What a thought…

Volume 1 No. 4, River Raisin Model’s USRA 0-6-0 – First Look

The S Scale Journal

The Online Journal of the S Scale SIG
Volume 1 No. 4, February 12, 2012

River Raisin Model’s USRA 0-6-0
First Look

reviewed by Ed Loizeaux
photos by Dick Karnes

This past weekend I had the opportunity to see and handle River Raisin Model’s newest brass imported steam locomotive – the USRA 0-6-0. When this project was first announced, I expected to see one loco in several different paint schemes. Instead, I saw six different locos and six different tenders in six different paint schemes – plus the painted, but unlettered version as well. To start with, the locos shown in the photos are “production samples” which means the pilot model has already been evaluated and corrections made. These production samples have also been evaluated and corrections made. The production models are expected to be shipped to customers in late February or early March of 2012.

Dan Navarre, sole proprietor of RRM, says he has a few unsold models of some versions. So if any of these look appealing, it would be best to order them promptly. The NYC version is sold out. I learned that one of Dan’s favorite remarks is, “If you wanted that version, you should have ordered it during the reservation period.” The versions seen include the NYC, B&O, UP, NKP, GT and PRR.

The amazing part of this project is that each loco and each tender is designed and built to be “road specific” which means the detailing and features are different for each railroad being modeled. Here are some of the unique features for each version:

1. Builder’s Plates – Each loco has a builder’s plate that is correct for the actual builder. Thus, the Baldwin-built locos have a round builder’s plate; the ALCO locos have a rectangular one and the Altoona Works (PRR) have an oval one. If that was not enough, each builders plate has the exact same number as on the side of the cab. How much accuracy can we tolerate?

2. Most of the smokestacks look similar, but the B&O version is noticeably shorter and fatter. Dan assures me this is not an error, but prototypically correct.

3. Between the six locos, there are five different headlights. Each headlight is correct for the road being modeled. If that were not enough, the number boards and number plates are also correct for the prototype railroad.

4. The NKP version has the unique “front end throttle” used by no other of the six. How many in S-land know the difference between a “front end throttle” and a “dome throttle”? Ask Dan. He can explain it to you.

5. All clear vision tenders are different and each is correct for the road being modeled. The USRA standard tender has a coal pusher included which Dan says has never been done before in any scale.

6. The GT version has a very unique and interesting handrail arrangement on the front. All versions have different handrail arrangements to be correct for the road being modeled. In addition to the handrails, each loco has different piping to be correct for the road being modeled.

7. Each version has a different whistle location to be correct for the road being modeled.

8. The prototype GT version had number plates (made from sheet metal) attached to the cab sides. The RRM GT version has 3-D numbers etched into the cab sides. The thickness of the numbers can be seen and felt. No Optivisor needed.

9. The GT 0-6-0 prototype tenders had different logos for each division. The size and case (upper vs. lower) were unique for each division. RRM got it correct for the road and division being modeled.

10. The GT version has handrails on the cab roof per the prototype.

Features common to all versions are listed below:

A. All versions have working headlights, backup lights and cab lights.

B. The defacto DCC standard 9-pin connector with shorting plug is wired in place.

C. The tender floor looks like Swiss cheese to let the sound out. Customer has to put the sound in.

D. A very high quality MAXON motor was used for high torque at low rpm. Slow switching speeds should be excellent (in theory). Note: I did not operate the locos. This is a visual report only.

E. All drivers have stainless steel drivers. No more nickel-plated brass! Personally, I am very happy to see this become a new standard. Thank you to Boo-Rim (and Dan).

Dick Karnes clicked a few photos on the Bay Area S Scale (BASS) modular layout. They are included here for your visual enjoyment.

As usual, the question for RRM is now: “What’s next, Dan?”

Volume 1 No. 3, The Outhouses from Wild West Scale Model Builders

The S Scale Journal

The Online Journal of the S Scale SIG
Volume 1 No. 3, February 1, 2012

“The Outhouses”

reviewed by Dick Karnes

Kit No. 317, $14.95 MSRP
Wild West Scale Model Builders
P.O. Box 1971
Englewood, CO 80150
(303) 842-6106

The kit builds two typical peaked-roof outhouses. This particular kit is front-gabled; kits for side-gabled and shed-roofed outhouses are also available (Nos. 216 and 218 [HO], No. 316 and 318 [S], same prices). As a Northern New Jersey teen-ager, I spent a fair share of my Boy Scout summer-camp time in outhouses. Even though my camp’s facilities were two-holers, I can tell you that this kit’s one-holers are quite accurate!

This is a well-conceived kit. The experienced modeler will be able to assemble one outhouse per hour, not including painting. The inexperienced modeler will learn a lot about laser-cut kits, will make a couple of mistakes, and yet will produce a model indistinguishable from that of an expert.

The two outhouses are very similar. The only differences are just two: The door of one has a diamond-shaped vent hole, whereas the other has no vent hole. Also, one outhouse has horizontal sheathing, whereas the other has vertical sheathing. Either door can be built with or without “Z” trim, and opening either left or right. You also have the option of using three blank walls or two blank walls plus a windowed wall.

A sixteenth-inch thick scribed fret contains the floor, sides, rear, front, and roof decking. Two more thirty-second-inch thick frets contain most of the rest of the laser-cut parts. Additionally, there is ample laser-cut rustic shingle material plus wood angle stock for corner caps.

Before cutting the parts from the frets, I brush-painted the parts with Floquil BN Green for the walls, door, and window sash, and Floquil Southern Green for the trim. I left the toilet seat and floor in their natural wood color.

I followed the instructions for my first outhouse. The instructions suggest installing the window sash and frame on the side, and the door frame on the front before assembling the four walls and floor. Based on my experience, I deviated from the instructions for the second outhouse. I waited until the four walls and floor were assembled before gluing the door frame in place. The reason is that you are nearly certain to break the front wall, which means that you’d also break the door frame in the process. Let me explain.

The front wall is U-shaped because of the door cut-out. As such, it is much weaker than the robust side and rear pieces, which are solid or nearly so. Furthermore, the interlocking edges of the adjacent wall sections that form the vertical corners of the structure are extremely tight – So much so that dry-fitting is not possible. You just can’t force the parts together. The solution is to use a slippery adhesive like a water-soluble white glue. I prefer Aleene’s Original Tacky Glue because it begins to set up rapidly while still allowing some adjustment, and it dries clear and non-shiny.

You will need to force-fit the adjacent wall sections together. This goes well for the rear and two sides. I was unable to get the front wall in place on either of my outhouses without breakage. The best approach is to assume it will break. Slice the front wall into two pieces before attempting to attach it. With your modeling knife, cut the front wall along the pre-scribed line nearest to one of the upper corners of the door opening, because that’s where the part will break anyway. This allows you to fit each side of the front wall to its adjacent sidewall independently. Then work a little glue into the butt joint where you made your cut to separate the front wall into two pieces.

Finally, glue the door frame in place. This piece, flimsy as it is by itself, will stiffen the front wall once it is glued in place. Then glue the floor, with toilet seat already installed on it, into the bottom of the entire wall assembly. This will “square” the building and trap the bottom of the front wall so it won’t go anywhere. Be sure to do this before the glue sets up permanently (about 20-30 minutes).

I contacted Wild West’s Mike Pyne to discuss this fit-up problem. Here is what he said:

“I started producing kits with a very calculated offset that would allow for assembly of the model without glue for a “dry-fit” as you mentioned. This allowed me a way to build a prototype structure without permanently gluing any parts so that I could change them if I needed to. It takes a lot of time to adjust all of the tabs, rather than just making the male and female parts the same in the drawing file. [This is because] when the laser cuts the parts, it burns away part of that line that it cuts, so if there is no planned offset, the pieces will fit very loosely.)

“It sounds like I might need to revisit the outhouses and check on their tab offsets! The kit should be able to have a “dry-fit” assembly, and, as you mentioned that it was not possible, there must be something wrong that I need to look at.

“On two of my upcoming not-yet-released S scale kits, I have modified the offsets just slightly. I hope this helps with the problem you describe.“

You will need to be careful with the corner-cap angle material because the four lengths are just enough for both outhouses. Instead of pre-cutting the lengths in half, I glued each uncut angle cap to the outhouse corners, flush with the bottom of the floor. Then, with a new No. 11 X-acto blade, I carefully cut the excess angle off, even with the slope of the roof. Then I did exactly the same with the second outhouse. You may have to try the angles in different corners to get sufficient length against the slanted side. The resulting shavings are miniscule.

The rustic shingle material is beautifully done. I applied mine with Aleene’s glue, which required me to be patient. This is because the last two tiers of shingle need to be trimmed at the ridge, which requires the glue to set up first. Alternatively, I could have used a thickened version of CA glue for much faster curing. Two ridge cap strips are included in the kit. I folded and glued the ridge cap in place on one outhouse. For the second, I chose to cut the individual cap shingles apart and apply them individually.

Construction of each outhouse should take about an hour for an experienced laser-cut wood kit builder, two or three times as long for a neophyte. If you are new to laser kits, this one’s the one for you. You will probably make mistakes, you will be able to recover, and you’ll get an automatic second chance to do better. And you won’t spend much money for the experience!