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  • The Great Northern Empire Builder

    Dave Schumacher

    Prototype Modeler - August 1977 - Page 8 Prototype Modeler - August 1977 - Page 9


    Although no single manufacturer offers a complete Empire Builder consist, you should be able to put together a full train by combining cars from several sources and, if you are confident of your scratch building, some scratch built cars to supplement what you are able to find or afford.

    Before going into a car-by-car description of the consist, I should make some general comments about painting.

    Plastic cars, such as the Bachmann "Full Dome," should be stripped first in cheap brake fluid. Use a stiff toothbrush to remove the stubborn paint -- especially helpful in corrugated areas. Clean the shell in a bath of warm, soapy water, scrubbing with a soft toothbrush to remove the brake fluid. A primer coat helps shield the plastic from the possibility of unfriendly action by the solvents in the paint, and helps highlight touch-up work necessary after modifying the shell.

    On brass cars stripping can be done with a commercial stripping paste, such as "Stripeze," available at most hardware stores. This is strictly a "rubber gloves" and "no kidding around" type of job. Remove plastic or soft metal roof details. Remove the shell from the frame and let it sit in the stripper a deep baking dish at least 12" long is ideal. The paint may come right off; or may require several attacks with a soft wire brush that won't scratch the brass. A toothbrush will go a couple of rounds before it disintegrates.

    When the shell is down to bare brass, you can avoid the need for a primer coat by etching the shell in a bath of metal prep solution for several hours. I used DuPont Metal Conditioner (5717 S), not generally available at auto parts stores. Your auto body shop may be able to help you; or check the Yellow Pages for auto supply wholesalers. The DuPont product seems to be available only in gallons; but its a good investment: you'll need a tray full at a time; its reuseable and avoids the need for a primer. Follow the directions on the label.

    After a soak of a few hours, rinse the shell in clear running water (no soap) and bake dry for about 510 minutes in your oven at 1250. Don't touch the exterior surface from now on; handle from the inside of the shell. I bend old wire coat hangers into a support frame for "no hands" painting.

    There are two ways to apply the Great Northern paint scheme to plastic or brass cars; the hard way and the easy way!

    The hard way was the method I used before Micro-Scale came out with the nice set of passenger car striping for GN cars. I had the MHP paints produced by Wright Enterprises: an exact match for the Duco Dulux Gold stripes (this can be matched closely with one jar of Floquil "Mud" (RR83) mixed with two jars of Scalecoat "UP Yellow" (22). Dick Miller suggests Flo-Paque "China" is close).

    I oversprayed the two sides of my shells with the gold striping color and baked the brass ones for several hours (preferably overnight) at 1500. Plastic cars should be air dried for several days; they don't bake well. You might test one car first to make sure the sold& doesn't melt; but I haven't had any problem with the West side or Nickel Plate cars at this temperature.

    The next step is masking the stripes: I used "chart tape," such as the Chartpak brand, available at most art or draftsman supply stores. Get a narrow tape (such as Formaline .66mm x 648' for $1.00). This size is exactly to scale for the 2" stripes used on this Empire Builder paint scheme.

    Page 10: Figure 2. Masking and removing masking on "Empire Builder" cars. Use Grifhold "Dualcutter" (available at most art supply stores) to cut constant widths of masking tape.

    Page 11: Great Northern "Empire Builder" Baggage-RPO car 39. Photo courtesy of Burlington Northern.

    Westside (Balboa) Baggage-RPO car in its unmodified form. Note the recessed doors which are incorrect for the Great Northern cars (see text). This is the ready-to-run car, including trucks and lighting, painted. Photo by Dave Schumacher/Bob Moore.

    Westside (Balboa) Baggage-RPO car in its modified form. Note the flush doors which are correct for the Great Northern cars (see text). Stainless steel kick plates by the RPO doors have been added as has been the door bars. Photo by Dave Schumacher/Bob Moore.
    Prototype Modeler - August 1977 - Page 10 Prototype Modeler - August 1977 - Page 11

    I layed out my tape by eye. The official striping dimensions can be found on the instruction sheet for Micro-Scale's Great Northern Passenger Car Stripes (87-154, available from Marketing East at $2.00 each). You will need to mask three gold stripes on each side; the first two spaced evenly above and below the window band a scale 28 3/4" apart. The third stripe is a scale 20" below the second stripe.

    Secure each tape on the end of the car (to prevent slipping) and pull firmly on the tape so that it is taught; but take care not to stretch or break the tape. Lay each strip over the opposite end of the car and secure it there as well. Make sure the tape is straight by checking with a straight edge and "eyeballing" it; then tack it gently to the side with your finger tip. Gradually run your fingernail or a smooth buffer tool along the tape to press it securely to the side.

    Use a dentist's tool or small screw driver to make sure the tape is pressed firmly into the vertical grooves around the doors or windows.

    I didn't mask any further at this point; I simply sprayed on the Great Northern Orange (you can use Scalecoat 46) making sure it covered the area between the window band strips and the area between the third strip and the bottom of the car skirts.

    Set the shell aside to air dry for several days (baking at this point would bake the tape strips to the side).

    Prepare the model for the green coat by masking the orange bands with mask ing tape strips cut to fit; it is easier to cut two strips for each area to be covered, and overlap them, than it is to cut one strip to fit precisely between the chart tape stripes. Cutting the masking tape into narrow strips is easier on a sheet of window glass and use a sharp knife. Rich Miller says that Ed Sutorik uses 3M's 1 mil mylar "Magic Masking Tape," which is fine so long as you don't use a "barrier" coat and the lacquer bonds to the shell.

    Spray the sides and roof with the Great Northern Green (Scalecoat 45); don't bother with the ends at this point. When you are sure the green has completely covered the roof, the panel below the window and the skirts, remove all the masking immediately; chart tape and masking tape. Grasp the tape firmly and pull back at a sharp angle (1790) relative to the surface of the car. Pull on the tape firmly and evenly. You should be reward ed by an instant transformation of the olive drab shell into a Great Northern car in full color; orange bands and gold stripes. (On the first Balboa cars I painted I was rewarded with a lot of bare brass; removing the masking tape removed virtually all the underlying paint. I cried for a week. Etching the car with metal-prep, as out lined above, prevented an encore.)

    Spray the car ends with Great Northern Green; you won't have to mask for this if you spray directly from the end. Rich Miller says the ends may have been black in later years but the ends were green originally. Bake the brass shell overnight.

    The easy way wasn't available when I started out on this project: Micro-Scale's Great Northern Passenger Car striping decals (87-154, available from Marketing East, lnc., at $2.00 each). There is no need with these to mix the gold striping color and do the exotic masking with the chart tape.

    After preparing the shell with metal prep, I simply sprayed the car sides orange; baked overnight; then masked off the orange areas, sprayed on the green and baked again. The shell is ready for striping with decals.

    The Micro-Scale sets have been noted above: 87-153 for lettering and 87-154 for striping. Before the Microscale sets came out, I used Champ sets which have been revised to correct the lettering in some of the earlier sets which were not accurate. Champ offers 3" aluminum stripes; their 2" yellow is off color. I used both of Champ's Great Northern sets: the "Empire Builder" set (PH-45) and the Great Northern Streamlined Passenger Car set (PH-122). This gives you a greater variety of car names.

    All of the regularly assigned Empire Builder cars, except for the Baggage-RPO, had the train name on their letter boards; the Baggage-RPO had Great Northern on the letter board. This means you will need at least one set of the PH-122; some of the car names in this set are accurate for the "Empire Builder". The Champ decal sets are excellent; but don't include any prototype lettering information as Microscale does.

    The original MHP decals are still available from California Locomotive Works, Post Office Box 14226, San Francisco, CA 9114. These are excellent decals, particularly if you wish to merely add the correct letters and numbers to the Balboa or Westside cars without repainting them: the lettering is broader than the Champ or Micro-Scale sets and a close match for the silk-screened Balboa letters.

    The following sets are available separately at .50c each : 509 Full Baggage (300-303); 510 RPO (37-39); 511 Baggage-RPO (1100-1102); 512 Baggage-Dorm (1200-1203); 513 48-seat "Day-Night" Coach (1225-1227), 514 60-seat Coach (1209-1212); 515 "Ranch" Lounge (1240-1242); 516 "Lake" Diner (1250 etc.); 517 "Glacier" series Pullman (1170 etc.); 518 "Pass" series Pullman (Second "Pass" series -- 1176 etc.); 519 "Pass" series Pullman (First "Pass" series 4-4-8, 1160 etc.) 520 "River" series Pullman 2-3-1-4 1260 etc.); 521 "View" Dome-Lounge (1390 etc.); 523 "Coulee" series sleeper-observation (1190 etc.).

    A complete assortment of all fifteen sets is available for $6.75.

    An accurate reference for correct lettering and numbering is essential in any case, I recommend Car Names, Numbers and Consists or Zephyr to Amtrak.

    After applying decals I overspray with a half-and-half mix of clear gloss and flat; either Micro-Scale or Scalecoat. Under-bodies are semi-gloss black.


    (1) BAGGAGE: Although not originally built for the "Empire Builder," baggage cars were quite commonly seen in the consist from the late 50's on. The Balboa-Westside car, unfortunately has no Great Northern prototype; however, Soho offers a Great Northern 200 series baggage (1402, $58.).

    (2)BAGGAGE-RPO: The next care we need is the Baggage-RPO built by ACF in 1951 for special assignment to the Empire Builder. The cars were numbered 37 through 42.

    This car has been available from Balboa and Westside in two all-brass versions: the Balboa car has flush doors -- which are correct; the Westside version has the doors set in about 6 scale inches from the the side -- which is not correct for the Empire Builder cars (but is correct for similar cars built for the Union Pacific). If you get the car with the inset doors, you should remove these and replace them with doors which are flush with the car side. In later years, the 4 windows in the baggage door were replaced with one. Although the MHP (Wright Enterprises) kit (WE-19S) is no longer generally available; you may be able to get this car from MHP on a "custom" basis ($29.95).

    Page 12: Westside (Balboa) Baggage-RPO as modified for the "Empire Builder " Baggage RPO 37. Note the paint scheme continues around the front end; note, too, the absence of a diaphragm. Photo by Dave Schumacher/Bob Moore.

    Figure 3: Vestibule buffer pad for Great Northern "Empire Builder" RPO (leading end).

    Figure 4: Lowering coupler mounting shims on Balboa and Westside cars.

    Page 13: Space for baggage and quarters for train personnel were provided in the baggage-dormitory cars of the "Empire Builder." The cars made a comfortable "home-away-from home" for the crews. Photo courtesy of Burlington Northern.
    Prototype Modeler - August 1977 - Page 12 Prototype Modeler - August 1977 - Page 13

    A third all brass r-t-r car is available from Soho (1401). It conforms to the same high quality standards of recent Soho cars and, as such, is well worth the asking price ($58.).

    I used the Balboa car: I stripped the shell and painted and lettered it according to the general procedure outlined above with one variation; the orange banding and gold striping scheme on the sides is carried around the forward (RPO) end as on the prototype.

    I decaled the car with the Champ Great Northern Streamlined Passenger Car set (PH-122) as these cars carried the "Great Northern" on the letter board rather than the "Empire Builder."

    Photos of the actual car were used to add some details: (A) Stainless steel kick plates (to protect the car sides; some of these were painted over later) were simulated with metallic tape (I used Chart pak's half inch chrome mylar tape, 5019 it is very thin and comes with an adhesive backing). I cut two rectangles for each side, 2' x 3'-9" scale (eyeball measurements from prototype photos). (B) I added a 1/32" (.03 12) section of wire cut 4 feet (scale) long across the leading RPO door; I used the original mail hook assembly that came with the car on the second door.

    (C) The leading (RPO) end of the car (painted orange and green) had diaphragms added in later years; as originally delivered, it had only a buffer and torsion bars. The buffer plate was cut out of a piece of styrene approximately.07" thick. Buffer torsion bars were made out of 1/32" wire (.0312") cut about 7 scale feet long and bent to a 900 angle at a point 6'-3" scale from the bottom end. These two wire pieces were inserted in 1/32" holes drilled on either side of the door about 6 scale inches from the top of the door. The wire was bent out slightly W from the 900 angle and cemented in the small notches on either side of the buffer plate; the ends of the wire should be flush with the bottom of the buffer plate. Drip rails should be added over the three doors.

    (D) I used a plain piece of gray styrene to fill in the blind end door opening; there is no window in the door.

    (E) On the rear end of the car I applied a Walthers diaphragm.

    (F) Kadee 5 & 10 couplers fit easily to the underframe; however, to get the correct coupler height, you may need to shim the location a bit with styrene or bend the metal coupler mounting pad on the Balboa frame down somewhat and re level it.

    (G) I added the Cal-Scale air, steam, and signal hoses (available from Walthers: part 190-275 at.85c).

    I didn't touch the underbody detail, which is not correct on the Balboa car, but is pretty well hidden by the skirts. This is a project for the future: however, it should be noted that the underbody detail is very easy to remove for this correction: simply remove the trucks and the one Phillips screw in the center of the plastic underbody casting. Use a razor saw to cut the bolsters off each end of the casting. You can cement the bolsters back in place; save the underbody to cut up for detail parts. The interior was installed as shown.

    (3) BAGGAGE DORM: The third car in our consist is the baggage dorm: six cars (1200-1205) were built by ACF in 1951 for assignment to the "Empire Builder."

    MHP (Wright Enterprises) offered a metal and wood kit (WE-16S) several years ago; you can get the kit now on a "custom" basis from MHP at $29.95.

    Soho has this baggage-dorm car in stock as kit 1403 ($58.).

    I used the MHP kit. Construction follows the standard MHP pattern of soldering the stamped metal ends to the die-cut metal sides; the hardwood roof and floor are trimmed to fit. The wood roof should be sealed with sanding sealer and sanded smooth with Flexi-grit wet-or dry sandpaper (600 grade). The metal sides were painted as described earlier (baked dry).

    The car was delivered with full-width diaphragms; but I chose to install the Walthers' diaphragms. Cal-Scale air, steam, and signal hoses were also added. Kadee 5 & 10 couplers were mounted on a.030" styrene shim to the correct height.

    Page 14: Great Northern "Empire Builder" Baggage-Dormitory cars in the 1200-1205 Series built from MHP kit WE- 16S. Model uses MHP paints and Champion decals. Photos by Dave Schumacher/Bob Moore.

    A coach, seating 60 passengers, used in the regular Great Northern "Empire Builder" consist. Photo courtesy of the Burlington Northern.
    Prototype Modeler - August 1977 - Page 14 Prototype Modeler - August 1977 - Page 15

    Interior, roof, and underbody details are installed according to the excellent plans furnished with the kit. The three middle windows should be frosted. In later years the four windows in the baggage door were converted to a single window. A drip rail should be added over the baggage door (see roof plans).

    (4) 60 SEAT COACH: ACF built six 60-seat passenger coaches for the "Mid Century Empire Builder" in 1951. The cars were designed primarily for short distance passengers; one such car was carried in each consist. The cars were numbered 1209-1214 and were lettered for the "Empire Builder;" however, they were quite similar to coaches built for other Great Northern trains (such as the "Red River") and the 60-seat coaches built for the 1947 "Empire Builder" which became the "Western Star" in 1951, (coaches numbered 1110-1114).

    This car was offered by Blue Line as a metal extrusion kit with wood floor; but is no longer generally available.

    Similarly, the MHP metal and wood kit for this car (WE-14S) is no longer available; Wright is offering "custom" kits, however, at $29.95.

    Balboa offered this car in a painted, r-t-r brass car with trucks and interior lighting; Westside sold a second run.

    Now, Soho has this 60 seat coach in stock as kit 1404 ($58.). The model is, excellent and well worth the price.

    I used the Westside (Balboa) coach. The car was stripped of the factory paint and repainted and lettered as described above. The ends were completed with trucks, diaphragms, hoses, and couplers as per the Balboa RPO. The full skirts hide the incorrect underbody detail fairly well; however, I plan to remove the cast plastic section and install correct details in the future.

    Interior detail was installed following the diagram which came with the car. The floor plan is also reproduced in the Car Builders Cyclopedia of recent years (page 473 of the 20th Edition; reprinted with permission of Simmons Boardman.

    Page 16: Westside (Balboa) 60-seat coach, unmodified. Ready-to-run, this car includes trucks, lighting, and is painted. Photo by Dave Schumacher/Bob Moore.

    Westside (Balboa) 60-seat coach, modified to include repainting with MHP paints and relettered with Champion decals. Note the venetian blinds and interior details. Photo by Dave Schumacher/Bob Moore.

    Westside (Balboa) 60-seat coach modified and including interior details and venetian blinds in the windows. Car was repainted with MHP paints and relettered with Champion decals. Photo by Dave Schumacher/Bob Moore.

    Page 17: End detail of the 1215-1231 series 48-seat day-night coaches. Photo by Richard Miller.

    Great Northern mid-century "Empire Builder" 48-seat Day-Night coaches were in the 1215-1231 series. This is a Nickel Plate model and comes unpainted, with trucks, but no lighting. These Pullman-Standard cars were replaced by Budd-domes in 1955. Photo by Dave Schumacher/Bob Moore.
    Prototype Modeler - August 1977 - Page 16 Prototype Modeler - August 1977 - Page 17

    The Balboa cars come with a plastic strip inserted in brass rails along the inside of the shell to simulate window glass. I added frosted glass to this strip in the restroom areas at either end of the car. I also added "venetian blinds", as per the prototype, which were simulated with the Chartpak white 1/32" chart tape (3110.M) as follows:

    The chart tape was laid out, face down, in overlapping strips on a 12" long strip of Scotch "Magic Tape" which was facing sticky side up; five or six strips of the chart tape should do it. You can tack the whole length of this "blinds" material on the upper edge of the window glass trip; or you can cut it into stripes slightly longer than the window width so that the height of the blinds can be changed from window to window. The vertical cloth tapes which hold the blinds can be simulated by 1/32" black dry transfer striping or decal striping: three to a window; one in the center and one on the side of each blind about 6 scale inches from the edge of the window.

    For the floor I cut a piece of .020" styrene to fit the frame; holes for the electrical "nipples" coming up from the trucks were cut out of the styrene floor with a one hole paper punch after the styrene had been covered with a light green Contac paper (Mystic tape might also be used here).

    The Balboa car has a brass right angle running the full length of the interior; this strengthens the carboy and provides a place to attach the underframe -- but makes interior detailing tough: you can't glue your details to the floor and insert it.

    I overcame this hurdle by building the interior detail into the shell: seats (941-789, $1.10 a dozen from Walthers) were painted dark green and glued on inside facing away from the vestibule. (I would prefer the seats which came with the Balboa car for a lighter total weight and greater ease in cementing to the side; however, the car comes with only 48 total seats, so you'll need to scrounge 12 additional seats -- six more 2-seat castings -- from another Balboa car).

    The interior detail was completed by adding partitions in either end for the washrooms; cementing a thin (69) wire across the windows in the passageway areas across from the rest rooms; add "curtains" between the windows with short sections of corrugated material (Northeastern wood, etc.) cut to window height and painted brown. Radio antenna (added in later years) can be made with wire and Kemtron O Gauge Wabash Mogul handrail posts for supports (this from Rich Miller).

    (5) 48-SEAT "DAY-NIGHT" COACH: Both the 1947 and the 1951 "Empire Builder" carried three of these long-distance coaches in their consists. Pullman-Standard built eighteen such coaches in 1950 for the "Mid-Century" consist; these cars differed slightly in window arrangement on the ends from the 1947 cars (1120 series).

    Page 19: The interior of Great Northern 48-Seat "Day-Nigh t" Coaches was roomy and pleasant. Photo courtesy of Burlington Northern.
    Prototype Modeler - August 1977 - Page 18 Prototype Modeler - August 1977 - Page 19

    These "Day-Night" coaches were replaced in 1955 by three Budd dome coaches (see below); occasionally the Budd domes were out of service for an overhaul and one of the 48-seat coaches would "pinch hit" for the duration. (See "Vanishing Vista" card JT-786.)

    American Beauty sold a car, no longer generally available, which was close to the'47 car; however, it was a fairly crude kit which would require too extensive work (including the drilling of additional windows in the stamped steel side) to make this the preferable model.

    The best route to go is to locate the MHP kit (WE-11S) or buy Nickel Plate's recently released brass model which rep resents the 1950 cars (Great Northern 1215-1231; SP&S 350); these were sold in a set with a "GN" (really REA) reefer.

    The Nickel Plate model, which I used, is similar in construction to the Balboa and Soho cars: all brass with a brass right angle running along the inside bottom. The underbody detail is correct - and nicely done; the window frames are etched around the die cut openings, a nice detail.

    I painted and decaled the unpainted shell as described earlier; and I added the couplers, diaphragms, and hoses on the car ends just as indicated in the description of the Balboa RPO above.

    After you have added window material (not furnished) and blinds, you can cover the interior walls with a strip of colored Contac (or Mystic tape) above and below the windows. According to Railway Age of June 11, 1951, these cars were finished in 3 lots of six cars - each with a different interior color scheme; one lot of cars had "blue seats, light coral ceilings, and light gray walls with the portion below the window in gray-blue;... blue flooring with inlays of blue and gray in the aisle...; six more cars had red seats, gray ceilings, green walls, and beige coral colors below the windows,... flooring is creme with white and burgundy inlays. The last six cars had green seats, ceilings of light green, and gray-green colors below the windows. The flooring was beige... with white and burgundy... in the aisle."

    So you get to pick the color combination which appeals most to you - or which comes most readily out of the paint jars already on the shelf. The interior photo (courtesy of the Burlington Northern) gives you some idea of the designs for the blinds, curtains, bulkheads, and floor patterns. For seat placement, note that cars U21, 1124, 1127, and 1130 ran with vestibules to the rear. The balance of the 1947 cars were designed to run vestibule forward, according to Great Northern plans. Apparently this was done to permit vestibule ends to be "paired" face-to-face in the consist (see Cox cards JT-237, JT-238, JT-239, JT787, and JT-789).

    (6) 46-SEAT PASSENGER DOME COACH: The 48-seat "day-night" coaches described immediately above were re placed in 1955 with three Budd dome coaches in each consist. All of these cars were lettered for the "Empire Builder;" the 12 Great Northern cars (1320-1331) carried the road name in small letters on each end of the letter board; the CB&Q cars (1333-1335) and the SP&S car (1332) carried their owners reporting marks in stead of the road name.

    Westside made a close replica of these cars; Soho has added this car to their line of brass kits (1405, $62.).

    I used the Balboa (Westside) cars; the chief problem with these cars is the smooth roof: the prototype had the typical Budd corrugated roof, although the sides were not corrugated (rare for Budd cars); I expect the Soho model will come out with the correct corrugated roof: the Soho products to date have exhibited superior fidelity to detail.

    I expect that the Balboa or Westside roof could be "corrected," but it would take some work and ingenuity. One approach might be to cut out the brass roof on either side of the dome and splice in sections of the plastic corrugated roof offered by Con-Cor. It might also be possible to apply corrugated material over the smooth brass shell; perhaps the Northeastern corrugated wood or the corrugated metal offered by Suydam or Walthers. This is a problem I haven't adequately resolved at this point; reader suggestions are most welcome.

    Page 20: The Budd "Dome Coaches" of the 1320-1335 Series replaced the 48-seat day-night coaches in the "Empire Builder" in 1955. Of these cars the 1320-1331 were Great Northern, the 1332 was SP&S, and the 1333-1335 were CB&Q cars. The cars were designed to seat 46 on the lower level and 24 in the dome. Photo courtesy of Burlington Northern.

    Upper and lower level floor plans of partial dome coach seating 24 passengers in the dome and 46 passengers on the lower level. Drawing reproduced through the courtesy of Simmons-Boardman Publishing Company.

    Page 21: Great Northern dome-coach in "Big Sky Blue" paint in Chicago, May 1969. This car, built by Budd in 1955, was originally the CB&Q 1335. Even though painted in GN colors, note the reporting marks of the CB&Q below the car number on the close end of the car. Photo by Richard Miller.

    The Westside (Balboa) dome-coach, repainted and relettered as the 1320. The 1320-1331 were GN, 1332 SP&S, and 1333-1335 CB&Q. Photo by D. Schumacher/B. Moore.

    The Westside (Balboa) dome-coach in unmodified form. Ready-to-run, the car comes painted, with trucks and lighting. Photo by Dave Schumacher/Bob Moore.
    Prototype Modeler - August 1977 - Page 20 Prototype Modeler - August 1977 - Page 21

    The Balboa dome coach also has a problem common to the other Balboa cars: the underbody detail isn't correct; this is currently hidden by the skirting but one of the projects for the future is to trim the dome car skirts back to the section beneath the dome: this was the only skirted area on the prototype. When I begin this project I will remove all the plastic underbody casting, except for the bolsters, and apply the correct underbody details. Railroad Model Craftsman for April, 1967, (pp. 34-35) has excellent side elevations to use in this project.

    After you have re-inserted the plastic "window-glass" strip in the brass strip inside the shell, you should add the venetian blinds made up following the method described above for the 60-seat coach. Add curtains between the windows with some colored corrugated material, such as Northeastern makes.

    The Balboa car comes with a clear plastic glass section for the dome: I dipped this in a glass jar containing 1 part aqua glass dye (available at most craft shops) and 3 parts lacquer thinner. I shook the jar a few seconds so the glass dye covered the casting throughly; then removed it and set it on a towel to dry. It will take at least a day to dry. The resulting tinted dome is a very effective re production of the prototype appearance, yet easy to do.

    Cut a sheet of styrene to fit the floor and cover it with colored Contac or Mystic tape (I used a light brown and light green). Interior partitions should be installed in the shell; the Balboa, Westside, and Soho construction all are similar in that it is impossible to install interior details, such as seats or partitions, on the floor.

    You may refer to the RMC article cited above for your interior detailing; Balboa's plans are very short on detail. The Burlington Northern photo can help. The Balboa or Westside car also includes four plastic rows of coach seat castings, six to a row, for a total of 48 seats. You will need to separate each casting from the base in order to properly space them (two to a window) on the lower level. Cement the seats along the inside coach wall; the seats face away from the vestibule as these cars ran with the vestibule to the rear. (Refer to the prototype photo.)

    (7) COFFEE SHOP - LOUNGE ("THE RANCH"): This car was intended to provide meal service for the coach passengers; thus, it invariably ran behind the coaches in the "Empire Builder" consist. (The Diner moved around somewhat; at one point it ran ahead of the "Great Dome" back among the Pullmans; later photos how it moved up along with the "Great Dome" to run directly behind "The Ranch.")

    Prototype Modeler - August 1977 - Page 22 Prototype Modeler - August 1977 - Page 23

    Page 24: The view from inside the dome on the dome coaches was as spectacular as would be expected. The domes were very popular and were enjoyed by a great many travelers on the "Empire Builder." Photo courtesy of Burlington Northern.

    This is a photo of the prototype lunch counter-lounge (sometimes called a coffee shop-lounge) 1240 used in the regular consist of the Great Northern's "Empire Builder." The interior had a western ranch decorative motif (see text). Seating was for 14 at the lunch counter and an additional 12 at tables. The lounge section had chairs for 18 passengers. These cars certainly added to the relaxation of a long trip. Photo courtesy of Burlington Northern.

    "Empire Builder" car of the "Ranch" series lunch counter-lounge car 1241. This car is modeled from the MHP W E-12S kit by the author. Photo by Dave Schumacher/Bob Moore.
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    The "Ranch" cars were named for lakes, as were the diners, but with this difference: on the "Ranch" cars the word "Lake" was the final word in the name; e. g. "Crossley Lake" (1 240), "Running Crane Lake" (1241), "Hidden Lake" (1242), "Iceberg Lake" (1243), "White Pines Lake" (1245). The diners' names had "Lake" as the first word in the name.

    MHP offered this car in kit form (WE-12S); you can get a similar "custom" kit from MHP for $29.95.

    Soho has added this car to their line of kits (1406, $58).

    I used the MHP kit: construction follows the familiar MHP format -- metal sides and ends with wood roof and floor -- outlined above in the description of the MHP Baggage Dorm. The assembled car was painted and lettered following the general procedure discussed earlier.

    The MHP cars are just about the best you could ask for from the interior detailing point of view: the roof lifts out to permit easy access. Mr. Wright has kindly consented to permit reproduction of the interior floor plan.

    The interior detail is unique: "The Ranch" nickname was derived from the "rustic, homey atmosphere of a western ranch house" (Railway Age, June 11, 1951, p. 56; a picture of the interior appears on p. 57; other interior pictures may be found in the Car Builders Cyclopedia, 20th Edition, p. 476). The Railway Age description continued: "Embossed leather panels adorn the bulkheads and piers,… seats are… pinto leather… Polished Red Cedar posts form the bulkheads between the coffee shop and lounge…" The interior was accented by decorative curtains (non-functional) between the windows; the windows had venetian blinds which may be simulated with chart tape as described earlier.


    Article Details

    • Original Author David Schumacher
    • Source Prototype Modeler
    • Publication Date August 1977

    Article Album (16 photos)

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  • Ron Catoire and Joe Stuart like this
  • Michael Fleming
    Michael Fleming Dave Schumacher was a good friend and spurred my Union Pacific modeling efforts. We met about the time that his article was published. He died prematurely in 2010 and will be missed. This article is a good example of his meticulous attention to detail and...  more
    December 8, 2011 - 1 likes this