Sunday, December 10, 2023

Lionel O-Scale Southern Dome 1613

Southern only had two dome cars on the system.  One of them was 1613, originally Wabash 203/Norfolk and Western 1613, found its way to the Southern via Central of Georgia in 1970-1971.  It found itself on the rear of both the Crescent as well as the train #3 - the Salisbury-Asheville (formerly the Asheville Special).

Lionel released a relatively accurate rendition of Southern Railway's 1613 dome, SKU 2027310 "Southern Vistavision Dome #1613". Suggested catalog retail price was $329.99, despite the website currently showing $399.99. I don't remember the specific release date, but I ended up ordering my model from a dealer in May 2022.

Lionel had and continues to have a hard time handling colors despite using the Pantone Library for consistency.  When I saw the original catalog artwork (which is still in the link above), I reached out to Lionel with a number of corrections.  They originally wanted to match some other previously released cars and had an incorrect color and font.

Lionel ended up taking my recommendations below into account:

  1. Corrected carbody color (I had recommended Pantone 5535c)
  2. Corrected roof color to black.
  3. Corrected yellow of lettering/striping (either Pantone 141c or 142c)
  4. Corrected letter/number font
  5. Corrected placement of numbers
  6. Corrected stripe width and placement
I remember spending an hour or two trying to figure out the best Pantone color for the lettering from photos. Metallic gold was on the table, but in all photos, it always looked a shade of yellow. Lighting and photo exposure then affects that yellow.

Beyond that, two things I asked for didn't make it in:

  1. Black underbody. The underframe came with the green used on the carbody. Simple fix.
  2. Accurate 41-CUDO trucks. I did try to ask that they provide these trucks, as I thought they had made them based on other catalog artwork, but turns out Lionel didn't have tooling for them, only the 41-ND trucks they use on every streamlined car.

I didn't pre-order as I was scared what might actually show up from the factory (which mistakes can still happen despite what you provide a factory). I was pleasantly surprised and made an order once I saw from others what was delivered.  I can't speak to the interior layout, but the car was built well and the paint/lettering came out as I had recommended.  Below are the additional updates I made to my model:

  1. Add a PSC-40823 brass vestibule end gate to the vestibule on the 5-window side of the dome.
  2. Paint the underframe black.
  3. Paint the interior from tan to a set of "accurate" colors.
  4. Add Antimacassars decals with SOU emblem to every seat.
  5. Add MTH figures to the interior.
  6. Add window film to all windows except for the camera window
  7. Convert to #746 long-shank Kadee couplers using the provided adapter.
  8. Add working magnetic air hoses. (Did not add steam line or anything else.)
  9. Convert to Wasatch brass 41-CUDO 2R trucks
  10. Add power pickups to the 41-CUDO trucks.


  • I didn't note exactly what colors I used, but I painted the seats some shade of red, the floors/walls maroon, and the dome seats green.  The prototype photos show that the seats were more of a mix of a pattern of colors, so I just went with the general color.
  • The Antimacassars decals are my own design, and made custom to the measurements of the this car's interior, so I could place each pair of seats at one time.
  • There were etched mirrors on various walls inside the car. I used a reflective product I found at Michael's that I could cut to size and glue to the walls.
  • Tinting the windows could have been multiple ways. I decided to use a window film I found on Amazon.  It did take a bit of effort to cut to shape and get it to stick to the sharp curvature of the window.
  • I had to modify the bolster and retap the holes to mount the 41-CUDO trucks.
  • I run DCC, so the lighting and camera work just fine as the electronic components convert the square-wave AC similar to the 3-rail AC.
  • The Lionel Wireless Camera app that is required to connect to the camera is interesting.  Definitely not the most robust Chinese piece of software, but essentially the camera board has a WiFi chip that advertises its own unique SSID.  You connect your iOS/Android device to it and then open the Lionel Wireless Camera app and then it should detect the camera and you go from there. You can watch in real time, take screenshots, and also take video recordings.  Relatively easy, but quality is only decent, not even 1080p. 
  • Somewhere between 20-40 hours went into these modifications including testing/prep.

Below is the photo essay:


Finished car

View of the dome w/ tinted windows

Camera window left untinted

View of interior with tint

Another view of interior with tint

Provided Kadee Coupler mounts

Where mounts mount to underframe

Visualizing how the car will mount with a PSC bolster

Mounted PSC bolster

topside view

View of modified truck

Tension partially keeps board in place

Side view of painted Wasatch 41-CUDO truck

Another view of finished truck

Back of Antimacassars decals

View of completed dome section. The dome comes off separately.

Interior view

Interior view 2

Completed interior

In progress airbrushing

Bottom of dome seating. Hole is for camera to slip through.

Comparison of window film vs Tamiya clear blue. This film was redone as it tore in the corners.

Used Gila film solution and styrene to press film into corners. Then came back and trimmed with an Xacto knife.

Mix of paint used to match PSC gate to body color

How it was mounted into the plastic diaphragm piece

You can see the leftover green before I painted the underframe. On/Off switches for Camera/Lighting.

View from Camera on the Lionel Wireless Camera app



Here's a short video taken from the app. Sorry for the mess, that OMI RS-11 box will be written about on this blog at some point.


Thanks for looking.


Monday, December 4, 2023

OMI O-scale Southern Railway Scale Test Car

Wanted to share some work I did to try to model a scale test car related to Southern based on one type.

It's not perfect, but close enough for my needs.  I drew the decals needed based off this photo:

Other than styrene used for the ACI plate, the rest of the car is an Overland Models, Inc. (OMI) Baldwin Scale Test Car with Vertical Brake.  Plastic Kadee couplers were used and had to be heavily sanded to get it to fit the existing coupler box. After primer, it was painted Polly Scale Acrylic Reefer Orange.

Weathering was a mix of acrylic paint and pan pastels.

Looking back on it, the decals maybe should have been black and not a dark turquoise.  On deeper review, I believe the black is heavily faded and not green in the photo. Oops. Maybe I'll fix it one day.

Sunday, December 3, 2023

DCC Decoder Function Cheat Sheets

I had this blog post drafted since 2017, but never posted it.  I wanted to document and standardize things on my DCC Decoder fleet to make it easy to remember what functions do what and minimize troubleshooting as I grew my fleet of locomotives.  This initial decoder sheet was my attempt to build a framework that I would reuse as I installed new decoders.

My plans changed shortly after I created it as I left QSI decoders for Loksound. I've left some exceptions such as the Southern E8's since the QSI decoders provide real stereo sound and EMD E8's had dual prime movers, so the stereo sound is a must. Maybe when the QSI patent expires, and the feature is offered, I'll look to replace them for better interoperability.

The full throttle capability of the Loksound sold me years ago, along with a large and varied library of prime movers. Way more than QSI at the time.  Their horns still need work though, even with Loksound 5. I don't know why QSI stopped investing in their product to bring these realistic features to market, but Loksound makes a very solid decoder and had become and still is a clear market leader.  Yes Blunami is a hot ticket now, but I still don't see anything that will make me want to switch away from Loksound.

I do use a few other decoders on the layout for various things, but they are not on this decoder sheet, as they will more or less be on/off type decoders for lighting. The SoundCar decoder is an exception and is on the cheat sheet.

  • Soundtraxx Soundcar - installed in a few freight cars
  • Various Digitrax/NCE decoders - installed in passenger cars and cabooses for lighting control
 Below was what I was going to do for QSI and MTH.

My sheet reflects my exclusive use of first and second generation diesels from the 40s to the early 70's.  There is no steam. There are no ditch lights, and I've decided to not install step lights for the most part. The two middle (modified) columns show how I was going to configure my MTH and QSI decoders going forward.  The SoundCar column is the factory setting.  The orange/yellow cells are the cells I modified from the factory columns to get my desired settings.

Below was an initial draft of what my Loksound decoders will do across all 28 functions. I've yet to merge them together with a column for QSI. Originally, I was going to keep the MTH PS3 decoders since it worked well enough and there was a cost to upgrade, but again, for the sake of standardization and consisting, I replaced them all with Loksound.

The next step here would be consolidate the information here and merge in the QSI decoder column for my one set of E8's that will most likely remain together as they are run. That is below:

O-Scale EMD 645E3 3D-printed Models

I received these really nice O-Scale EMD 20-645E3 and 16-645E3 3D-printed models from Railroad LC3DP back in May 2021.  A little late in posting this, but better late than never. Came packed better than most everything I've purchased in the last decade. I highly recommend if you're in the market.

Shipping took a little over a month to finally reach my doorstep from Czech Republic, but these are really nice. As I expect with most 3D prints, they will need a little bit of cleanup, but will work just fine in the Pegram Shops. For the late 60's Southern Railway, the 16 cylinder's were used on SD40-2's and the 20 cylinder units were used on SD45's.
I just need to figure out what colors I need to paint these with. The more I think about it, these are too new for my era to be rusted up and sitting outside, and I doubt they had complete engine blocks sitting around waiting to be put into locomotives (vs. just replacing part in and around them the engine block), but it should still look really cool and add interest anyway.
He has done some other prime movers, such as the Alco 539 and 251, but not yet a 567. I really hope he finds the time and motivation to do the 567 as well as he did the 645. He says he hopes to finish the 567 in 2024.
Here are some photos from when they first arrived, with nothing done to them:
20-645E3 and 16-645E3

Lube Oil and Water Pumps
 3/4 View with Turbo on the left

Turbocharger and Flywheel

I attempted to sand flat surfaces where it made sense and then paint these as new for use with an eventual engine shop.  I will warn you though that you need to read labels.  I ended up painting these with Model Master High Gloss and low and behold, that particular paint leaves a yellow tint.  The directions even warn of it.  Lesson learned.  Luckily these will be used as scenery and not in locomotive model.
You can see the difference where the glossed primer mover is on the right. 

This gloss will turn your models yellow.

Prepped prime movers - yellowish on right

Prepped prime movers - yellowish on right

Sunday, April 17, 2022

The 2022 RPM-Valley Forge

First, I'll start by stating, I'm not sure if this RPM advertises anywhere, but if it wasn't for a friend telling me about it after seeing my RPM-Cocoa Beach post, I wouldn't have known it existed and I do visit more than just O-scale related forums/groups and subscribe to RMC/MR as well. (If it was in the latter, than I must have missed the announcement.)

With it being so physically close, I used it as motivation to do more modeling. In preparation for this RPM, I spent about a month finishing a handful of projects and upgrading/repairing some models I built over a decade ago to my standards of today (magnetic air hoses, coupler lift bars, etc.) I also had fun figuring out how I was going to package everything for transport in my vehicle without putting everything back in their OEM box. I ended up using some spare Pelican case foam I was given by a friend.

(Note if you've never read anything on blogspot before, that all photos are clickable to see the original size.)

Here's an example of one such model that had broken or missing details that I fixed up for the RPM:

Transportation Tetris:

The RPMVF already took down their website schedule before I could write this, but here is a snapshot of Saturday's events with my notes.

For various reasons, I actually ended up going to the following:

  • Ramon Rhodes: The railroads of Birmingham, Alabama
  • Ted Dilorio: Hands on weathering clinic
  • Nicholas Kalis: Using artistic principles to enhance the story of your RR
  • Rich Mahaney: Perishable Operations in the 1950's
  • Larry DeYoung: What's available in O-scale modeler in this minor scale
  • Doug Chapman: A look at the Ralston Steel Car Company of Columbus, OH

I had arrived at the hotel before the start of the meet (even after stopping at the Chic-Fil-A across the street for breakfast) and was pleasantly surprised to find the registration table manned early and the model contest room open not long after my arrival.  I made good use of the luggage dolly and was able to setup my display, photograph the rest of the model room, and spend some time in Bob's Photos before the second session of clinics started.

Plenty of dollies to move models


Model Room

My first clinic of the day was with Ramon Rhodes and his childhood stories of riding the Southern Railway intertwined with his desire to model Birmingham AL...not to be confused with Baltimore MD. The mixture of story telling and historical significance of various railroad landmarks was rather entertaining, and I learned a bit about how the Southern did some of its operations in the area.

During the lunch time, I briefly visited the Vendor Room and outside of tools and books, there was nothing O-Scale as I expected.  I spent more time with Bob's Photos (he brought almost everything he owns, which was quite impressive) looking for more interesting rolling stock photos that I could use for modeling or weathering purposes. I ended up also buying a heavily discounted NP rolling stock color guide as it had a ton of useful rolling stock overhead photos for how to weather roofs in the late 60's.

Vendor Room (No O-scale)

Interesting Model Loads

What looked like one new product announcement for the HO guys.

Bob's Photos (He got that all in one large van. Impressive)

My next clinic was with Ted Dilorio to see what he could teach with hands-on weathering in about an hour.  As I expected, it was very much geared toward fleet weathering and how to weather a car in about 20 minutes using Mig weathering enamel washes and powders.  I think for those in a hurry and/or just want basic soot and grime, this was well worth the time. I brought a Lionel GLa hopper that I essentially wanted to rust out looking EOL. He was nice enough to let me experiment with some of the rust powders in addition to basic carside weathering. I'll have to do some more experimentation to get the look I'm looking for, but was able to see how the enamel washes worked. Congrats on your upcoming retirement.

I next sat in on a clinic with Nicholas Kalis, that he's apparently given several times with regard to telling stories throughout your layout. He provided steps to consider, but also highlighted several books that are key to understanding the topic.  Ray Anderson's The Art of the Diorama and Van Gils Dioramas are the two primary sources he said to buy and use.

As for the 4pm clinic slot, the clinic on Airslide hoppers of the BO, CO, and WM was cancelled and so I decided to actually listen in on Rich Mahaney's clinic on Perishable Operations despite its focus on an era earlier than my modeling era.  It's no wonder he gave five clinics that day. It was really thorough and provided great technical detail and advice for modeling reefers and gave historical perspective on how things came to be over time. I think the most interesting fact he provided was that by 1965 85% of refrigerator cars were actually owned by the railroads vs. private companies. Also interesting was the discussion of in the early days - heating the cars to keep them at certain temperatures.

For dinner, I ended up driving out to try Nick Filet to see what the hype was over their Filet Mignon sandwich (I thought it wasn't anything special) and across the street from it - an unexpected find - a decent Szechuan restaurant, in which I took a bunch of takeout to take home for the week's meals.

Filet Mignon Sandwich with Parmesan Truffle Fries

Double Cooked Pork

Chongqing Chicken

Cumin Lamb

I came back in time for Larry DeYoung's clinic on O-Scale resources.  The audience was extremely small (The title didn't exactly reflect the contents and most RPM attendees perhaps already know the resources for their given scale), but it was a good story on the prototype Larry was modeling, and how he was modeling it. Interestingly, when he goes model car shopping, he walks around with a template to measure the length of the wheelbase to help determine if a vehicle is 1:48 or not.

The last clinic I attended was with Doug Chapman on the Ralston Steel Company.  He went other a a decent set of cars built for the Mid-Atlantic railroads.  At some point in the past, someone had dumped a bunch of records about the company, and Doug picked up the mantle to go through it. I took a few notes on the N&W B-1 and B-5 series along with the SOU 45650-45999 stock car series. I can't remember specifically how much more material he has left to dig through, but he's looking for anyone who has ANY information on cars built by Ralston Steel Car Company to contact him.  In some cases, he only has bits and pieces, so any information others have will allow him to continue to piece more information together. At minimum he is trying to assemble the full list of every series of cars they built for all roads. TOC1885  AT yahoo dot com

Overall, I had a great time at this RPM. Thank for to those who took the time to put this on. Having helped with an O Scale National, I know there is a lot to do to put these on behind the scenes. I learned some interesting things, saw some great models. The venue is also a fine choice. If I had to change anything, it would be the model room. IMHO, some of the lighting left a lot to be desired, especially once the daylight wore off. Just very inconsistent. Get there early to get a table with better lighting!

Maybe this post will help get a few more O-scalers to bring their models out to the RPM the next time it is held. Other than myself, only one other O-scale model was on display, and I believe that its purpose was to get a sale. For those who are curious, I did get some fanfare when I was nearby my table, so it's nice to feel welcomed by the HO modelers. The MTH SD45 was the most discussed model I brought.  There were also maybe about a dozen 35 or younger attendees, which was something I wasn't expecting.

Here's a few photos of the model room...

My assortment of models

Ted Dilorio's weathered cars using his techniques

The only other O-scale piece, which was for sale at the time of the RPM.

And video of a really cool operating rotary plow.

The full assortment of my photos can be seen here: