Since the COVID-19 virus hit I’ve been working on rounding out my passenger car roster. First up was rebuilding from the rails up a tired PRR PLB85R baggage bar lounge model I purchased 3rd hand at an estate sale. I was interested in having a PLB85R as it would go well with Golden Gate Depot P85R coaches and a mix of heavy and lightweight sleepers and parlor cars in a not-quite first class Blue Ribbon train I wanted to run on the railroad.
The estate sale model was built many years ago and started life as a Richard S. Bregler “kit”. Dick was well know among older O scale Pennsy modelers and was a long time member of the PRRT&HS. His 2002 list offered prototypically correct punched brass sides for over 30 different PRR lightweight passenger cars. It was left to the modeler to furnish the floor, roof, details, and trucks. At Chicago March meets I learned that many of Dan Pantera's (Calumet Shops) beautifully custom built passenger cars used sides created by Dick Bregler. While the PLB85 car I bought at the estate sale didn't come close to Dan Pantera's standard of fit and finish - I knew with work it could be upgraded to a reasonably good looking model. What I under estimated was how long that would take.
The rebuild started with disassembling the body. The roof was held in place with hidden tall machine screws at each end making access to the interior easy. I was surprised to find that the sides were also removable. They were fastened to the wood floor with a series of horizontal tabs soldered to the side wall and fastened with small wood screws. With the body apart I removed most of the existing details to facilitate refinishing the roof, underbody, and interior. One of the first tasks was to smooth out the wood grain on the roof. After applying 4 or 5 coats of sanding sealer the roof looked almost a smooth as the one on Golden Gate Depot's aluminum body P85R coaches. With the roof prime painted and prototype photos as a guide, I installed a radio antenna using Keil Line/Scale City Design's antenna mast set. Other details applied to the car from Scale City Design included roof vents, water tanks, generator, parlor chairs, and diaphragms with dampening rods. The trucks were upgraded with ones from Golden Gate Depot. The interior was lit by strip mounted LED's attached to the underside of the roof. The LEDS were driven by an adjustable intensity constant lighting board from Henning’s Hobbies - it works nicely on DCC. I learned of the board in reading one of gunrunnerJohn's LED lighting posts on the traditional 3 rail side of the OGR Forum.
I airbrush painted the car's sides and ends with Scalecoat I Tuscan red. Scalecoat Matte black was used for the roof and underframe. To get a tough high gloss surface for decaling the sides were over sprayed with with Pledge (the acrylic floor stuff) thinned 40% with isopropyl alcohol. That tip came from military modelers on the Internet (Note that Pledge is the same product formally sold as Future). The Champ PRR dulux lettering and stripe decals were applied using Micro Sol. They went down nicely over the smooth Pledge finish. To protect the decals and provide a final semi-gloss finish I sprayed body with a 50/50 mix of Testors Dullcoat and Glosscoat lacquer.
Note - having learned from past disasters, I ran several tests with Scalecoat, Pledge, Champ Decals, and Dullcoat/Glosscoat on an aluminum sheet to confirm their compatibility in a layered application.
The most daunting element in the build was creating the stainless steel thermopane window gaskets prominent on the prototype. Fortunately I discovered the model had .020" Bristol Board window area backing strips that were punched with the same tooling as used on the car sides. All I needed was to find a way to run a round bead around the inside edge of the windows punched in the Bristol Board. Somewhere I got the notion to make the bead using soft highly flexible .020” solid wire solder. I was able to form fit it to each window by pressing a length of solder into the corners of the Bristol Board widow openings and carefully cutting it to length in a way that the ends met. When satisfied with the fit the solder was tacked to the Bristol Board with dabs of thin ACC (this had to be done for 12 windows ). With the "gaskets" in place the outside surface of the window backer strips was sprayed silver before being glazed on the opposite side with clear acrylic plastic. The window backers were then cemented to the inside of the car body using spots of Goop adhesive. Goop’s relatively high tack and slow set provided time to align the windows for an even reveal of the simulated stainless steel window gaskets. After the widow phase of the project was finally done, it was a piece of cake to install tables, chairs and a bar in the lounge section of the car.
While not a prize winning contest model, I'm pleased with the result and enjoyed doing the project. Next up a string of PRR P70 coaches.