Tidewater Southern Railway Motor 100 in O Scale Part 3

Written by Chris Allan, photos by the author.

Obsessing over the details is what makes this hobby so great for me. I want to be able to set a scene in miniature that takes me back to a time and place I would otherwise never be able to witness. As I see it, if I can get enough of the picky details right, then the larger picture will hopefully take care of itself. Of course too much detail can be detrimental; something that looks “too busy” will not fit in if everything around it seems plain. Balance and restraint must be exercised. This is my excuse for not including every rivet and every bit of wood grain on a model. Of course it may just be laziness, but it works for me.

That’s enough of that, back to finishing up the build.

Now that the frame, cab and hoods are finished assemblies they are screwed together to be detailed as one unit. For the running boards, I opted for a basswood deck, since I like a natural weathered look for wood that isn’t painted, something that is much easier to achieve with the real thing for me. Even if this deck was painted on the prototype, the paint would have disappeared fairly quickly with weathering, wear and tear. Each deck board was fitted individually and glued down with ACC. Several washes of “Weather-It” were applied until the look was achieved; used but not decrepit. The trolley boards on the cab roof received the same treatment. At about this point I find it beneficial to mount the chassis on a fixture that can be clamped up in a desk vise. Using this fixture the model can be held in any plane. A few scraps of styrene and a few minutes to build this tool are well worth the minimal cost and effort.

Bending wire for hand grabs, railings, cut levers, etc. came next. A lot of my projects never used to get past this step. I learned to put my head down, put on some soothing music, and plow through it. Locomotives especially are bristling with places to grab on, especially later in the 20th century when safety appliances were mandated by government entities. The California Railroad Commission (CRC) dictated that even more safety measures be taken on locomotives operating within the State, in addition to what the Federal Government mandated.  These days safety regulation is all done by the Federal Railroad Administration (FRA), for the most part. One example was a ruling that all steam switching locomotives in California had to be equipped with power reverse gear. In the case of motor 100, about all that was added were the running board and footboard railings. The original places to grab on were the stakes at the corners. The pocket castings remained as there was no reason to remove them, except for a couple of them that seem to be missing in later photos. This may have been due to a couple of switching “mishaps”. The “pie plate” cover on the right side of the front hood, and the small brake reservoirs under the front cab windows were turned out of brass on the lathe. Grandt Line marker light brackets on the corners of the cab add a nice touch.

Modification of a San Juan models wire bending jig from one of their fine boxcar kits made quick work of the grabs up both sides of the cab. A NBW was added above each side of each grab to achieve the right look. A handy jig was made up for soldering the corner steps out of brass strip stock from Details Associates.

A similar jig was made up for the lacy footboard assemblies; very simple using pencil lines.

The underbody posed a few challenges. I wanted to capture the cluttered look with all the resistor grids, switch group cases, air tanks, etc. but I didn’t want to make a career out of it. I opted for a minimum of detail, just what is seen in the few good photos I had. Thankfully it is all eventually painted black, and would give the proper “busy” look. Piping was kept to a minimum. I opted for a cab interior even though it would not be visible to a great degree. Brake valves, motormen’s stools, a floor, and the compressor were as far as I took it. The screw heads would be giant in scale, but painted they tend to disappear. A cast white metal Grandt Line Porter “engineer” (my default figure) helps set the scale of the motor. With a scale human in the cab one can really see how small the 100 was.

A few switch boxes on the cab ends, a big clunky cable running down from the pole to the arrestor coil, bell, headlights, more brass wire handles, sand boxes on the ends of the hoods, brake wheel and staff, and on it went. But eventually you have to say to yourself, enough is enough. Lastly I added the sunshades, using wire and blue masking tape to give a rough canvas look. The delicate details were done last, so as not to get wiped out early on. Time to paint.

After painting the cab interior a dark green color which, based on WP practices of the day, may have been close to correct, it was masked off along with the running boards. I prefer good old fashioned Floquil lacquer, I’m old school. Basic “Engine Black” followed by Floquil’s “High Gloss” gives a smooth surface to allow the decals to settle into the cracks. The cab roof got an overspray of “Weathered Black” to represent the fading canvas covering.

Decals were the elephant in the room that I refused to acknowledge until this point.  The lettering in photos dated in 1947 was fairly basic, but nothing commercially available was close. I ended up making up custom decals based on artwork I created in AutoCad. Custom lettering was time consuming and pricey, but I am happy with the result. It has the look of something applied by a human, imperfect, with a brush by hand, as opposed to something cut out by a robot. After decals were applied, a couple coats of Testor’s Flat give the chalked out look of a piece that has been baking in the Central Valley sun for a few years. Coupled nose-to-nose with 44 tonner 135, which as modeled would be just about a year old, the look is right.

Weathering was mostly chalks, and dry brushing, as I doubt the 100 traveled along fast enough in it’s later years to get too much grime on itself, aside what the winds brought to it. Additionally, I am assuming that Tidewater trainmen did take some pride in the appearance of their equipment; at least, that is my hope. A couple of re-railing frogs from Miniatures by Eric glued to the running boards at random spots topped it off. Given the apparent track conditions on the TS in the 1940’s, these definitely weren’t for decoration.

Final assembly, wiring headlights and a last check to see if it actually runs, which miraculously it does! Weighted down, it likely pulls as many Atlas PFE reefers as the prototype probably did, and that makes me happy.

Now for a matching caboose…

About the Author

Chris_Allan's picture

Chris Allan


iandrewmartin's picture

Great set of articles Chris;
Thanks for sharing.

Yours sincerely
Andrew Martin
Owner of Andrew's Trains and the Hunter Valley Lines
Modelling and Operations blog, layout designs and photos: