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After a few weeks investigations - I think I'm going to start in the 50s and focus on finding the SHS ATSF F7 sets.  I'm thinking DCC with the ESU control system.

Strongly considering modeling Lawrence, KS - I spent a lot of time at the depot there as a kid.  That MCM depot went up in '56 - replacing the old depot which was damaged int he '51 flood.  I've got Sanborn maps as late as 1921 showing quite a few industries - and many of those buildings are still there.  Being in-between Topeka and Argentine, all rolling stock and locomotives would be fair game.  Route out towards Lecompton / Tecumseh is very scenic with the railroad sandwiched between the bluffs and the Kaw river.  Would make for a nice rural loop track element.

Thanks for sharing Joe!   I'm way too young for steam and F-units -  my dad worked yard in Topeka and Lawrence when I was a kid - first loco he drove was a F7. He came on board in '71.   I mostly saw him drive GPs in Topeka and Lawrence.  He hated the CF7s - hot boxes.  Air conditioning never worked - if they had it.  He switched to pool work in the second half of his career - running Argentine to Wellington, and later Oklahoma City.  His favorites were the GE built 9s.  Grandpa worked Argentine - FTs, F7s, GP9s.  I don't know if he ever ran steam - he got his start following the war.  I spent a lot of time as a kid in the depots at Topeka and Lawrence.

I will 100% share - I'll start my own thread on it when I get started.   Plan would be to start slow.  I tackled way too much when I tried to start my O empire 4 years or so ago - life got in the way - https://ogrforum.ogaugerr.com/.../first-layout?page=1  - but I know a lot now that I didn't know then about construction techniques.  This time everything will be built modularly, one unit at a time. I want to be able to tear it down and set it back up.  I'll use a blend of 2x4 and 1 x4 structure over the 1x4 and 1x2 L-Girder structure I used before.  I've learned a ton of scenic techniques watching Norm Charbonneau develop his most recent layout - and I plan to adopt some of the approach employed on Gary Schrader's O-Scale 2-Rail layout - particularly the high Scenery to railroad ratios.  I'm not a big fan of huge railyards - but lots of scenery and movement.  Lawrence will be interesting because of the congested yard along the Kaw - Bowersock Mill, Lawrence Paper, Power and Light, Lawrence Elevator, etc were all sandwiched in a narrow area along the Kaw.

  ku-sanborn_3012_JPG

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Last edited by Jacobpaul81

Jacob, you got a great start and I'm looking forward to follow your upcoming thread when it gets going.

The CF7s were a pain to switch with too.  It was wierd to see them working in Florida, so far from Santa Fe country, way out of place and out of sight as well.

Wonder how many are still in service today?

You mention the Kaw River.  A good read is The Long Summer of George Adams by Weldon Hill.  A 1961 published fictional that takes place on the Kaw & Wash- ita RR in a mid-50s small Oklahoma town.  The K&W is based on a Santa Fe line that served oil country.  Check Abe Books for a copy.  You'll like it.  George is an engine watchman where the Kaw has it's last two working steam locomotives and when the Diesels arrive George will be without a job.

Joe

I'd wager a CF7 was still easier to switch with than an F7.

BTW: The Long Summer of George Adams was made into a TV movie in 1982 starring James Garner.  The Texas State Railroad was used for the railroad scenes.

Rusty

@Jacobpaul81 posted:

After a few weeks investigations - I think I'm going to start in the 50s and focus on finding the SHS ATSF F7 sets.  I'm thinking DCC with the ESU control system.

The MTH F3 is excellent and it already has a modern DCC decoder in it that works very well.  Sidetracks has an A unit for sale for a great price: Sidetracks - MTH 20019-1 - F-3 A Unit Diesel with Proto-Sound 3.0 *Atchison, Topeka & Santa Fe (ATSF) 18

Last edited by Chuck K

I keep wavering on era.  I think with some add ons, the AM Pacific wouldn't look too bad. The Omnicon Mike could be reworked (though not for $700).  I'll keep thinking on it some more.

Lawrence presents some interesting modeling opportunities - the 6th street crossing was dangerous.  Many people died there at 6th and Vermont.   In 1918, the primary businesses served by this  were Boehner Cigar factory, an Ice House, Bowersock Iron Works, and a Lumber yard.  The Ironworks was pictured in the bottom left of my last post.

download [13) CIGAR-FACTORY


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There was a small engine house south of the depot with a kinda unique reverse entry.  The Theo Poehler Mercantile building was restored a few years ago.  You can see it serviced below: 

download [14) 204CC468-B697-4F93-9A71-A23A690C84D8

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Rusty, indeed, CF7s were in fact much easier to switch with than F7s.  I held dual senority (switchman/brakeman) and would catch an F7 once in awhile though we didn't have to ride on the steps to pass signals since we had walkie-talkies.  Still were a pain when they were in the consist.

The TV movie Long Summer... was a disappointment.  I know movies don't always follow the book but they could have done a much better job of making the flick.  Read the book and you'll see what I mean.

Joe

@Chuck K posted:

Here are some thoughts/opinions on things you asked about as well as others:

- Continuation of MTH's S scale line - There are recent rumors that a group of employees will be buying out MTH, but I have nearly zero hope that even if they do that they will continue S scale products.

- Freight & passenger cars

  • In S there are only three manufacturers making ready-to-run non-brass rolling stock, Lionel-American Flyer (LAF), American Models (AM) and S Scale America (SSA sold by Des Plaines Hobbies http://www.desplaineshobbies.c...22/Railroad-S-Scale/).  MTH still has some leftovers and they are supposed to make the S stuff from their last catalogue before closing shop. But there is also lots of rolling stock available on ebay and elsewhere from out-of-business companies like SHS, Pacific Rail Shops (PRS), and Downs.
  • For freight, SHS, MTH and SSA are all excellent. The AM stuff is great and they have a huge selection for our little S scale market, but slightly less detailed than the three aforementioned.  The LAF stuff, except for the cylindrical hoppers which do not match your modeling era, is all hi-rail with trucks, wheels and couplers that bear no resemblance to reality.  With some customization and some specialty products you can change the trucks and couplers.
  • As for passenger cars in non-brass, your only choice for something decent is AM and some of the old SHS passenger cars which are harder to find.  AM has streamlined Budd cars and heavyweights.  Their web page has good pictures of these http://www.americanmodels.com/.
  • Couplers is another decision you’ll need to make.  Kadee 802/808 are the most common.  You can also use Kadee HO #5’s which are compatible with the 802/808’s as are the San Juan ON30 Evolution couplers which are very realistic but a little big looking for some modelers. I use the Kadee 802/808’s and the San Juan Evolutions.

- Track

  • There is scale only track and then there is track that accommodates both scale and hi-rail.
  • If you are seeking true prototypical scale track, then the options are limited and most true scale folks actually hand lay the rail and ties themselves. If you want scale flex track, then http://www.tomalcotrack.net/ or https://www.custmtrax.com/index.html are probably your best bets. Both of them sell turnouts too.  I don’t know if either of have much inventory.
  • However, my strong recommendation is that you go with code 138 rail which will accommodate hi-rail and scale.  There is a much greater supply of flex track in this size and they are interchangeable.  Products are readily available from Fox Valley Models (FVM), MTH and the former S Helper Service (SHS).  Furthermore you can get good scale turnouts from FVM and they have plenty in stock.  They also make hi-rail turnouts which can be modified to accommodate both types of wheels but they are currently out of stock and being manufactured. When I eventually do my layout expansion it will be all code 138 flex track with 33" radii curves to accommodate brass steamers with scale wheels and FVM hi-rail turnouts that I will modify to accommodate both types of wheels.
  • Curve radius - This really is a matter of what you want to run.  I agree with Rusty though that if you do 36" you should be able to run just about anything ever made in S with the possible exception of some of the largest brass steamers from the likes of Overland and Sunset.

S scale in general

  • I love S scale.  The product selection is FAR, FAR less than HO or 3-rail O, and there is nearly zero new stuff coming out in S.  But the size is fantastic.  I initially wanted to do O, but having space to do an interesting layout drove me to look at S.  I knew I didn’t want to do HO because it is too small for me to do the repairs, customizations and kit construction that I want to do.
  • And regarding the selection, while much smaller than the popular scales, I have spent $thousands, and yet there is still plenty out there in the first or second-hand markets that I like but don’t own, particularly in brass.  So I am not that worried about it.  I suspect in 20 years there will be no new S scale coming out other than from some of the small kit makers, but I will still be having fun with working on what I have and probably buying from the second hand market, especially (and sadly) as estate sales of train collections seem to be coming more frequent.

There's been a lot of helpful info in this thread and I've been absorbing and researching.

It's sounding like (looking like) I should accept hi-rail over fighting the scale rail issue.  I was considering laying my own track  and using micro-engineering - code 100 or 125 - since it's made here locally - but the 138 Fox track and switches might be a better option for guaranteed success. 

I was hoping to go all scale - but given a better understanding of what's available, I might have to go hi-rail but otherwise scale appearance.   I'm primarily interested in steam era - which it appears my primary options for ATSF are AM Northerns, SHS Consolidation, and anything else in the future will probably be Lionel Flyer with hi-rail wheels - like the Pacific just announced.

So here's a question -  since some of these come in both AC and DC versions - am I better off just going with all AC power Hi-rail versions and not dealing with the DC / DCC issue?   What is the general consensus?     I'd really wanted to go with DCC and try the new esu system http://www.esu.eu/en/products/...-control/cabcontrol/  but it's sounding like in the future, any new locomotives will likely have to come from Lionel - making TMCC  / Legacy the route I should take.   

@Jacobpaul81 posted:



So here's a question -  since some of these come in both AC and DC versions - am I better off just going with all AC power Hi-rail versions and not dealing with the DC / DCC issue?   What is the general consensus?     I'd really wanted to go with DCC and try the new esu system http://www.esu.eu/en/products/...-control/cabcontrol/  but it's sounding like in the future, any new locomotives will likely have to come from Lionel - making TMCC  / Legacy the route I should take.   

Stick with DCC.  Any American Flyer Legacy locomotives made since 2012 are DCC compatible.  The DCC basically controls the Legacy electronics.

While it's not a full blown DCC package with dozens of CV's to play with, you will get fairly good basic operation on DCC systems without setting any switches or plugs.

Rusty

Stick with DCC.  Any American Flyer Legacy locomotives made since 2012 are DCC compatible.  The DCC basically controls the Legacy electronics.

While it's not a full blown DCC package with dozens of CV's to play with, you will get fairly good basic operation on DCC systems without setting any switches or plugs.

Rusty

Do you think I should look at the AC Hi-Rail, DC Hi-Rail, or DC Scale Northerns? 

@Jacobpaul81 posted:

Do you think I should look at the AC Hi-Rail, DC Hi-Rail, or DC Scale Northerns?

Honestly, the best selection of easily available equipment is with HiRail.  The common understanding is S consists of 85% Flyer/HiRail and 15% scale.  This hasn't appeared to vary much in my 35 years in S and I'm in the 15%.

Most S Scale America (Des Plaines Hobbies) comes with HiRail wheels installed.  Some don't include scale wheels.  The former S Helper Service defaulted with HiRail wheels but had scale wheels in the box, except for the 2-8-0's.  Undoubtedly, more of MTH's version of SHS were ordered with HiRail wheels.

And of course, AM can be ordered either way...  However, right now the only Northern's in stock at AM are DC with scale wheels, so the secondary market is where one would have to look for a DC or AC HiRail version.  The only difference between the AC and DC versions is the electronics in the tender.  The AC versions have an electronic e-unit (and maybe a sound board of dubious effectiveness.)  The DC versions have simply a pair of wires.

Rusty

I faced the same choice a long time ago and decided to use high-rail track and switches and simple DC power. High-rail allowed me to run my first American Flyer set from 1952 as well as almost every release of S scale product with the exception of more expensive brass items. Had I chosen scale track, I would not have been able to run Legacy steam and diesel locomotives without extra or extravagant costs. My track is American Models flex track, code 148; but if Fox Valley were available then, I would have chosen their smaller 138 track. All couplers except those on the old AF models are scale Kadee 802/808 versions.  Track is not the problem with either scale or high-rail wheels; it's the switches. There are some workarounds with Fox Valley switches to allow both types of wheels to pass, but I have not experimented with them.

As for power, straight DC works with all models except some older American Flyer TMCC/Legacy models such as the U33Cs, Mikado, Pacific, and Challenger. The Y-3 and modern diesels work with DC. I can switch in Legacy AC power to run the older AF models and the newer Legacy equipment with all the features available if I like, but I find myself more often running most everything but the TMCC locomotives on DC because it's simpler and at 4-10 volts applied to the track instead of 14-18, a bit more comfortable.

Although I like DCC and its open architecture, converting to it would be an expensive and time-consuming project. Lionel has done a very good job with Legacy features and sound; and in my calculations, Legacy gave me the most desirable features of DCC at less expense--but with the limitations of a proprietary operating system.

DCC does allow you to add sound and better control to the simple DC American Models locomotives, and Legacy equipment such as the newly revealed American Flyer Pacific in "fantasy" AT&SF livery will work with DCC. On the other hand, Carl Tuveson offers a way to add Lionel's electronics to American Models locomotives so that the Santa Fe Northern can run on a Legacy system. Now that American Models and Lionel are the major suppliers of 1/64-scale equipment, high-rail wheels/scale couplers is a powerful attraction unless highly accurate modeling is an important criterion. A decision at this stage as to the type of wheels and power source will keep your initial investment costs lower, but S does offer a lot of flexibility if you change your mind at a later time and are willing to invest more.

Honestly, the best selection of easily available equipment is with HiRail.  The common understanding is S consists of 85% Flyer/HiRail and 15% scale.  This hasn't appeared to vary much in my 35 years in S and I'm in the 15%.

Most S Scale America (Des Plaines Hobbies) comes with HiRail wheels installed.  Some don't include scale wheels.  The former S Helper Service defaulted with HiRail wheels but had scale wheels in the box, except for the 2-8-0's.  Undoubtedly, more of MTH's version of SHS were ordered with HiRail wheels.

And of course, AM can be ordered either way...  However, right now the only Northern's in stock at AM are DC with scale wheels, so the secondary market is where one would have to look for a DC or AC HiRail version.  The only difference between the AC and DC versions is the electronics in the tender.  The AC versions have an electronic e-unit (and maybe a sound board of dubious effectiveness.)  The DC versions have simply a pair of wires.

Rusty

All good tips.  I will be patient and keep an eye out for some cheap used Northerns and Consol with hi-rail wheels and plan to gut it for DCC.

We thinking the new Legacy Pacific is the old molds but updated electronics?  If so, I might keep my eyes out for an old one.  Ain't too hard to gut down to base wires, install a board and repaint.  I'd have to detail the new ones anyway!  Might even convert to oil.

Plus going DCC would allow easy addition of MTH F3s - or anything that might show up down the road if someone buys MTH.

Last edited by Jacobpaul81
@TOKELLY posted:

I faced the same choice a long time ago and decided to use high-rail track and switches and simple DC power. High-rail allowed me to run my first American Flyer set from 1952 as well as almost every release of S scale product with the exception of more expensive brass items. Had I chosen scale track, I would not have been able to run Legacy steam and diesel locomotives without extra or extravagant costs. My track is American Models flex track, code 148; but if Fox Valley were available then, I would have chosen their smaller 138 track. All couplers except those on the old AF models are scale Kadee 802/808 versions.  Track is not the problem with either scale or high-rail wheels; it's the switches. There are some workarounds with Fox Valley switches to allow both types of wheels to pass, but I have not experimented with them.

As for power, straight DC works with all models except some older American Flyer TMCC/Legacy models such as the U33Cs, Mikado, Pacific, and Challenger. The Y-3 and modern diesels work with DC. I can switch in Legacy AC power to run the older AF models and the newer Legacy equipment with all the features available if I like, but I find myself more often running most everything but the TMCC locomotives on DC because it's simpler and at 4-10 volts applied to the track instead of 14-18, a bit more comfortable.

Although I like DCC and its open architecture, converting to it would be an expensive and time-consuming project. Lionel has done a very good job with Legacy features and sound; and in my calculations, Legacy gave me the most desirable features of DCC at less expense--but with the limitations of a proprietary operating system.

DCC does allow you to add sound and better control to the simple DC American Models locomotives, and Legacy equipment such as the newly revealed American Flyer Pacific in "fantasy" AT&SF livery will work with DCC. On the other hand, Carl Tuveson offers a way to add Lionel's electronics to American Models locomotives so that the Santa Fe Northern can run on a Legacy system. Now that American Models and Lionel are the major suppliers of 1/64-scale equipment, high-rail wheels/scale couplers is a powerful attraction unless highly accurate modeling is an important criterion. A decision at this stage as to the type of wheels and power source will keep your initial investment costs lower, but S does offer a lot of flexibility if you change your mind at a later time and are willing to invest more.

All good information!  Thank you for sharing your thoughts.

@Jacobpaul81 posted:

Do you think I should look at the AC Hi-Rail, DC Hi-Rail, or DC Scale Northerns?

Since you would be throwing away the circuitry in the AC version in order to install DCC, get the DC version to save a few bucks.  My AM Northern has hi-rail wheels, but I have an AM Pacific with scale wheels.  This loco does pretty well on code 138 track, including some tight radius curves.  I can accommodate hi-rail and scale wheels on my layout, but scale are my first choice so that I have the freedom to run my stuff on scale rail layouts such as our local club's.   

@Chuck K posted:

Since you would be throwing away the circuitry in the AC version in order to install DCC, get the DC version to save a few bucks.  My AM Northern has hi-rail wheels, but I have an AM Pacific with scale wheels.  This loco does pretty well on code 138 track, including some tight radius curves.  I can accommodate hi-rail and scale wheels on my layout, but scale are my first choice so that I have the freedom to run my stuff on scale rail layouts such as our local club's.   

I'll keep that in mind.  I would prefer scale wheels.

@Chuck K posted:

Since you would be throwing away the circuitry in the AC version in order to install DCC, get the DC version to save a few bucks.  My AM Northern has hi-rail wheels, but I have an AM Pacific with scale wheels.  This loco does pretty well on code 138 track, including some tight radius curves.  I can accommodate hi-rail and scale wheels on my layout, but scale are my first choice so that I have the freedom to run my stuff on scale rail layouts such as our local club's.   

To clarify, the scale locos just do ok on the 138 track?  If I go full scale, I won't be concerned about accomodating hirail.   Would I be better off with a lower rail height for operation?

The scale wheels do not care how tall the rail is as long as the profile of the rail head is correct. All the .138 rail made today works with scale wheels. The concern is the turnouts. Chuck uses Lionel FasTrack turnouts successfully, I use handlaid #5,6&8 turnouts made with MTH rail. The turnouts were made using the jigs from FastTracks. Fox Valley also make scale .138 rail #5 turnouts.

Code 100 rail might be easier if you are willing to never run a high rail engine or car. There are more off the shelf track components with Code 100. I chose .138 rail because there are so many nice Lionel S gauge items without a scale wheel option that I wanted to run on the layout.

@Jacobpaul81 posted:

To clarify, the scale locos just do ok on the 138 track?  If I go full scale, I won't be concerned about accomodating hirail.   Would I be better off with a lower rail height for operation?

Rail height has nothing to do with it.  It's the turnouts where the issues lie.  When I was with the CASG modular group, we used AM's code 148 rail and could run scale wheeled stuff on the outside loop because it had no trunouts.  The inside loop had one turnout and was limited to HiRail or Flyer.

There is a mod for Fox Valley's HiRail turnouts I've attached below from the S Scale Facebook site that will allow both Scale and Hirail operation.

I haven't tried it, but reports are the mod works well.

Rusty

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Rail height has nothing to do with it.  It's the turnouts where the issues lie.  When I was with the CASG modular group, we used AM's code 148 rail and could run scale wheeled stuff on the outside loop because it had no trunouts.  The inside loop had one turnout and was limited to HiRail or Flyer.

There is a mod for Fox Valley's HiRail turnouts I've attached below from the S Scale Facebook site that will allow both Scale and Hirail operation.

I haven't tried it, but reports are the mod works well.

Rusty

Sure looks familiar...

Tom Stoltz

in Maine

TT ssecond gen

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Rail height has nothing to do with it.  It's the turnouts where the issues lie.  When I was with the CASG modular group, we used AM's code 148 rail and could run scale wheeled stuff on the outside loop because it had no trunouts.  The inside loop had one turnout and was limited to HiRail or Flyer.

There is a mod for Fox Valley's HiRail turnouts I've attached below from the S Scale Facebook site that will allow both Scale and Hirail operation.

I haven't tried it, but reports are the mod works well.

Rusty

I have the instructions and photos in a Word document that I am happy to email to anyone who wants it. I also have videos of some of my tests. The problem at present though is that FVM is sold out of hi-rail turnouts and the new run that was due in November have still not arrived and it is not known when they will.

Last edited by Chuck K
@Jacobpaul81 posted:

I figured this all was the case.  Couldn't figure how rail height would be an issue with scale wheels other than maybe tipping issues.   I'm gonna investigate Micro Engineering code 100 rail (it's made here in STL) and Tomalco turnouts which are also made with ME 100 rail.

My former railroad was code 100.

SL 071006 01

KGB 011517 004

I used Shinohora flex and turnouts along with Old Pullman turnouts.  Both companies are gone now.

Rusty

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@Jacobpaul81 posted:

I've been in an and out of different scales over the last few years. Built an O high-rail layout (tore down), then toyed with both HO and 1:32 One for a while.  I don't like the smallness of HO or N and O is too big for inside running.  All the scales have gotten crazy expensive.  I've always felt like S was the "right" size but I've been concerned about the viability of it - given lack of manufacturers.  What's the current take? My interest is ATSF - late 30s steam through F7s.  I'm a locomotive guy.

Locally, at my large train shop it is dying......

Locally, at my large train shop it is dying......

I can't make a case that it is growing, but I can say with confidence that it can't be measured on the basis of sales performance at brick & mortar shops.  I am aware of some enthusiasts who have spent $10's of thousands on S scale motive power and rolling stock over the last 5 years and not a penny of it was spent at a hobby/train shop. 

@AmFlyer posted:

Chuck, I could be one of those S people you are talking about. The one store I did buy a lot from is Des Plaines Hobbies, but all by telephone/mail.

That's a good point Tom.  My comment was not allowing for purchases from hobby/train stores that have an online store.  Like you my online purchases have certainly included Des Plaines as well as Charles Ro, Nicholas Smith and a couple of others.

Last edited by Chuck K

They're just posed for photo's on the layout.  Much nicer that way.

Rusty

Rusty - I saw it posted on an O-27 post from a few years ago that some Lionel O-27 double doors scale out to S nearly exactly (like the Industrial Rail caboose).   Can you clarify for me that it's these Lionel cars?

https://images.app.goo.gl/Toq3t3SWguzZFbLS8

My local used shop sells them for like 5-10 bucks if this is the correct car.

Last edited by Jacobpaul81
@Jacobpaul81 posted:

Rusty - I saw it posted on an O-27 post from a few years ago that some Lionel O-27 double doors scale out to S nearly exactly (like the Industrial Rail caboose).   Can you clarify for me that it's these Lionel cars?

https://images.app.goo.gl/Toq3t3SWguzZFbLS8

My local used shop sells them for like 5-10 bucks if this is the correct car.

Yep, that's the one.  It's a continuation of the Lionel Scout boxcar from the 1950's

I have converted one to scale. The green unlettered body came from the "Black Cave Express" set.

The underfame is from Downs Models (no longer available)  added some American Models parts and modified the side sill.  I just put Styrene strips where the rivets would be because rivet decals weren't available in the late 1980's.  It's not a "fine scale" model by any means, but it does provide some variety:

Scout Conv 040616 001 [2)

When the 3-foot rule is applied, it pretty much blends in with other cars.

KGB 020710 06

Rusty

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Last edited by Rusty Traque

Yep, that's the one.  It's a continuation of the Lionel Scout boxcar from the 1950's

I have converted one to scale. The green unlettered body came from the "Black Cave Express" set.

The underfame is from Downs Models (no longer available)  added some American Models parts and modified the side sill.  I just put Styrene strips where the rivets would be because rivet decals weren't available in the late 1980's.  It's not a "fine scale" model by any means, but it does provide some variety:

Scout Conv 040616 001 [2)

When the 3-foot rule is applied, it pretty much blends in with other cars.

KGB 020710 06

Rusty

Unfortunate the underframe on the original is just a flat sheet of metal - however, I could live with that for a cheap yard filler. Maybe find some underframes from some broken PRS kits.   I found the Lionel car # 6004.  I think it looks pretty darn good.  Add some rivets, ladders, repaint, and decal it up. 

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