Virtual RPM – 3

A number of prototype modeler events are just ahead on the RPM calendar. I enjoy attending these RPMs, displaying models, attending presentations, and meeting other modelers. I’ve met several people over the years who are also focused on modeling a Pre-Depression Era, but we don’t all get a chance to attend the same RPM. I thought it would be fun to post a Virtual RPM featuring some of their work

Dave Parker kicks off the display. His HO scale focus is the Boston & Maine, Connecticut River Line at Claremont Junction, NH, circa 1934-35.

Prototype:  MDT Post-war reefer, Lot 469-R, built 1923

The model is a custom cast-resin body and underframe, using a 3D-printed master. Details include:
Tichy brake and roof-hatch hardware
⦁ Detail Associates ladders
Yarmouth sill steps
Hi Tech air hoses
Kadee #1572 T-section Bettendorf trucks, semi-scale couplers
⦁ Custom art-work and home-printed decals (HP Laser Jet), ca 1934 scheme

PMcK&Y 92327 started as a Walthers Trainline 46-foot USRA mill gondola with the following additional details.
Tichy KD brakes
⦁ Scale grab irons
Yarmouth 203 sill steps
Bowser 70-ton Crown trucks (#70490) with Kadee brake shoes and Reboxx wheelsets
⦁ Scrap load is Motrak #8179 (discontinued)

The model was overpainted and re-lettered with a mix of Westerfield and home-printed decals. 

A Red Caboose X29 undecorated kit was the starting point for PRR 573479. Modifications and additions include the following:
⦁ Replaced some plastic parts with wire (e.g., all brake rigging, roof grabs)
Tichy KD brake set
Kadee semi-scale couplers
Yarmouth #404 Carmer levers
Bowser trucks (#74286) modified with Kadee shoes and Reboxx SS wheels
⦁ Decals are cobbled together from a couple of Mount Vernon sets, plus some home-printed items


Frank Hicks models the Macomb Industry & Littleton in HO scale, along with some of the CB&Q in western Illinois, circa 1915.

This Westerfield Models resin kit was built to reflect a Heinz 36-foot reefer in the Teens. These are a colorful addition to the era. Kadee trucks and couplers completed the model.

The core of this model is a MDC/Roundhouse Old Time tank car. Frank built the model to reflect a UTLX Class X tank car, built in 1906 but with a 1915 in-service appearance. Here are the parts and details to make this model.
⦁ MDC tank
Shapeways frame and running boards
Bitter Creek trucks
Tichy brakes, steps, and grabs
⦁ Details Associates air hoses
⦁ custom decals

This CRI&P 40-foot boxcar began as a LaBelle wood kit. The prototypes were built in 1906 and rebuilt with Van Dorn ends about 1910. The stamped steel car ends and truss rods makes for a unique appearance.
LaBelle body
Shapeways ends
Tichy trucks
⦁ scratchbuilt truss rods and details

The Merchants Despatch Transportation refrigerator car fleet numbered in the thousands. Although this custom cast-resin kit represents a prototype built in 1924, Frank needed one for his 1915 era. Details include:
Kadee T-section Bettendorf trucks
Tichy brakes
⦁ Details Associates ladders
Hi Tech air hoses

Frank believes this MDT reefer model is virtually identical to MDT cars built in the early Teens. Those early M4 cars had 5-foot doors and four hinges per door, while this later M4 car had 4-foot doors and three hinges per door. He feels it “looks right” for the 1915 era even if the door details make it a few years off.


Jeremy and Kristin Dummler have several rail interests ranging from the Yosemite Valley to the Central Vermont. They are currently working on a pair of HO scale 2 x 11 layouts focused on prototype switching locations. Check out their blog for more details.

Kristin built this Norfolk & Western Class HS coal hopper from an Ambroid wood kit. She was able to rescue the original decals using Microscale liquid decal film.  Kadee trucks and couplers were installed.

During World War 1, the Norfolk & Western built about 1400 hoppers using an “A” frame design and constructed using mostly wood components. These cars served through the war but were quickly withdrawn afterward and rebuilt into HSa class hoppers, retaining only their trucks and some of the metal components.  

Jeremy cleaned and then painted this Beaver Creek brass model using a variety of Scale Coat paints. He installed Kadee #153 couplers were installed and lettered the model with decals from yosemitevalleyrr.com. Lightly weathering was applied with a variety of media to represent the caboose as it appeared in 1939.

Jeremy modified a Westside Models YV #15 brass caboose to represent YV #16. After removing a tool box from the model, Jeremy followed similar steps as he did with #15 to clean and paint the model.

Decals from http://yosemitevalleyrr.com were used to letter the model and it also received a light weathering touch to reflect a 1939 appearance.

This car is a close stand-in for the original Yosemite Valley Railroad MOW #10. Jeremy assembled this model from an Ulrich kit. Intermountain semi-scale wheels and Kadee #153 couplers were installed. Lettering came from a
yosemitevalleyrr.com decal set.

Jeremy built this Southern Pacific B-50-13 from a Sunshine Models kit. He added interior reinforcements following Jack Burgess’ techniques in “Reinforcing Resin House Cars” in the April 2012, Railroad Model Craftsman. Jeremy also installed Kadee trucks, Intermountain semi-scale wheels, Kadee #153 couplers, and Hi Tech air hoses. He painted the model following Tony Thompson’s suggestions for a proper car body color, with black underframe and trucks. After painting and decaling, Jeremy weathered the boxcar using various media.


Corey Fischer models a few railroads serving Rochester, NY, circa 1929, in HO scale.

Delaware, Lackawanna & Western 43338 is a 1917 product of American Car & Foundry. I based the number off a car I found in a 1929 NYC consist list. The model started off as a stock Accurail DL&W 36-foot boxcar kit with the following details added.
A-Line sill steps
⦁ scratch built uncoupling levers
⦁ a brass brake wheel
⦁ retainer line
Hi Tech rubber air hoses
Kadee T-section Bettendorf trucks
Sergent scale couplers

I painted the car with Vallejo acrylic paints and decaled it with custom made decals suitable for a 1929 modeling focus. The car was weathered with a mixture of acrylic washes and pan pastels. Chalk markings are a mix of decals and colored pencil.


Ray Breyer has many railroad interests. He attempts to stay focused on the 1929-30 years modeling the Nickel Plate Road, Lake Erie & Western Division through central Illinois. He sent several images of his HO model projects.

Nickel Plate 602 began as a stock Broadway Limited (BLI) USRA light Mikado. The NKP rebuilt many of their USRA Mikes in 1924 with feedwater heaters and other improved appliances. These became the H-6a class locomotives.

Ray sanded off most of the cast-on small details, replacing them with brass wire, styrene and detail parts from Cary, Cal-Scale, PIA, Precision Scale, Kemtron, and Bowser . Behind the engine, Ray used an Athearn tender, as the BLI tender details are a bit too heavy, especially the rivet heads.

NKP 587 is an off the shelf BLI USRA light Mikado, reworked to represent a Nickel Plate Road H-6o class USRA Mike, inherited with the purchase of the LE&W in 1924.

Ray worked on the front end of the engine, replacing all details including the pilot with prototype-specific details ( Cary, Cal-Scale , and scratched). The cab area received new appliances (Cal-Scale & scratched), including injector controls hung outside of the cab. The tender is a Bachmann USRA Long tender re-detailed to represent a tender that the NKP stretched in 1922.

The re-detailed engine was painted with Polly Scale paints. Decals are custom, with the artwork generated by Dave Campbell and printed by Rail Graphics.

This scratchbuilt Lake Shore & Michigan Southern 4000-series Vanderbilt-standard boxcar was built from plans in the 1895 Car Builder’s Dictionary. The completed body and underframe were constructed from Evergreen styrene and Tichy details.

These in-process photos illustrate that it doesn’t take a lot of time, effort, or money to add an early rail prototype freight car to your roster. Ray had worked about three hours on the carbody and two hours on the underframe at this point, including the time to dig out tools and the plan. The only real time-consuming part of a project like this is adding the dozens of bolt heads.

Once you get a complex scratchbuild under your belt, your skill and confidence levels rise. So you wind up tackling more complex projects, like this New Paris, Indiana, Wabash depot.

Ray used a multi-core wall construction technique to build a long-gone depot that only survives in photos. The Wabash had very fancy buildings and painted them quite drab. The semi-sloppy trim paint job may not look good but is appropriate: the railroad would hand a couple of pints of trim paint to the local agent every couple of years and tell them to have fun. Most Wabash depots ended up as plain gray structures by the 1940s.

I prefer scratchbuilding over kitbashing, especially when it comes to structures. Model buildings are generally made of 0.080-inch” thick (or more) side walls and are difficult to cut up. Sometimes though, kitbashing is faster and simpler, especially with the right kit.

Rix Products used to make the “Old Henderson Warehouse” kit. It was a bag of useful side walls with door and window openings pre-cut (the most tedious part of any project). The door and window castings included with this kit were EXCELLENT. As raw material for projects, they’re perfect for pre-1920s built structures. I think we all need to call Rix and tell them to make these kits again!

This large Big Four freight house is a perfect example of how to use these kits to create realistic buildings. The model is based on photos of a common Big Four design. This kitbash took no time at all to build. While isn’t 100% accurate for its prototype, it does look appropriate. Besides the eave brackets and chimneys all the parts for the building came from the Rix kit. It’ll eventually sit on a basswood foundation with a scratched loading platform made of styrene (which is FAR faster than building with wood).

Toledo, St. Louis & Western caboose #33 is almost completely scratchbuilt, only utilizing Roundhouse components for the roof core, cupola, and inner body ends. Plans for the car were drawn based on prototype photos and a circa 1928 NKP lettering diagram. The body and underframe were completely scratchbuilt, including the side windows, out of assorted Evergreen styrene. Ray couldn’t find plans for the car’s underframe, so based it on standard car construction practices as illustrated in William Voss’ excellent car construction book from 1892.


I thank the fellow Pre-Depression Era modelers for sharing some of their work. There are lots of RPM events in the upcoming months. Check out the RPM event calendar and make plans to attend a meet. I’ll be attending RPM-East later this month and am looking forward to seeing friends, a wide variety of models, and many solid presentations.

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10 thoughts on “Virtual RPM – 3”

  1. Suggest making people aware of the Facebook Pre-Depression group and otherwise there is a coherent group of people banded together to help model this era.

    1. True. I was focused on getting this post done. If you are on Facebook, there is the Pre-Depression Era Railroad Modelera group. We share lots of modeling and prototype detail. – Eric

  2. Inspired by Ray’s part of the Virtual RPM, I found one the Rix’s “Old Henderson Warehouse” items on Ebay and made an offer on it and think I got it as a fair price.

    This virtual RPM is a wonderful idea!

    1. Thanks Bill. Even if all you wind up using are the doors & windows the kit is definitely worth the price. One of the nicest features is the the doors, transoms, and muntins are separate from the frames, so you can model each part as open or closed. You also get three styles of windows and three freight door styles.

  3. Eric is your RPM event open to models of another era using kits available or what used to be available? Examples of F&C, Blueprint, Proto 2000, Intermountain, and Tichy come to mind? It seems you might attract quite a following with this RPM event of yours even if you limit it to the 1920s time frame. That era is too early for my models but very interesting to see. Excellent work by all the folks posting their models they are a joy to behold.

    1. Don’t do it Eric! Modern guys get plenty of exposure. We early railers need a home too! 🙂

    2. Thanks for your comment, Rob. I like keeping to an earlier focus on this blog. I’ve coordinated a Virtual RPM or two over on the Resin Car Works blog that encompasses models of later prototypes. Sometimes the post may focus on just one person’s models. I don’t have a schedule for these, just when there’s a lull in the RPM schedule or just before it heats up. – Eric

  4. These Virtual RPMs are the only kind i get to see being based in Tasmania Australia. Modeling events are few and far between and usually only the annual show unless I fly interstate.
    I certainly appreciate these posts and all the modeling notes that are added. It adds to a long list of bookmarks for possible future projects.

    Look Forward to the next one and do keep sharing notes on the ones you attend. the rest of us around the world really appreciate it.

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