Saving your C-D-S sets to use another day


Examples of HO scale C-D-S Lettering sets transferred to decal film for later use as wet decals.  The blue-handled tool on the right is an X-Acto dry transfer burnisher.  The CN wood caboose set that I’m working on here did not give up without a fight.  I won the battle, but…

Years ago, C-D-S Lettering sets were THE lettering sets to use for modelling Canadian and North American rail equipment.  They’ve not been printed for five years.  Some of C-D-S’ work has been replaced by better quality decal offerings from Microscale and Allen Ferguson’s excellent Black Cat Decals.  Some of my C-D-S sets are for US roads’ freight cars, and I don’t see many options for replacing them.

Yet many of us including myself still have on hand old C-D-S Lettering sets.   Some are still offered on eBay and other resellers.  As these sets age, the usefulness of these for lettering models is endangered.  But there is a solution–you must do this soon as possible.

You can make wet decals/transfers out of the C-D-S sets by rubbing them onto decal film.  I used Microscale’s Clear TrimFilm. 

Some of my C-D-S sets transferred readily to the film with almost no pressure required with the burnisher.  The CN caboose set above required such force rubbing the lettering onto the film with the burnisher that I would have destroyed the model if I’d tried to burnish it on.

I placed a small sheet of glass (that I often use as a flat surface when assembling small parts) with its edges ground smooth under the decal film as I burnished on the lettering.  This gives a hard, unyielding surface under the decal film to allow one to use the necessary force to transfer the lettering to the film.  Be sure that the glass is on a firm and FLAT surface so that the glass does not break due to one’s forcefully transferring the lettering to the decal film.  Best and safest is if you can find a piece of tempered glass.   Be careful–it is glass,after all!

First scrape the surface of the glass with a single-edge razor blade or utility knife blade  repeatedly as if to shave it.  This will remove traces of glue, CA, etc. from it and make a smooth surface to burnish the lettering on.

Handle these decal sets that you’ve made–carefully–so as not to flake the lettering off.  I put them back in the C-D-S packaging.   You can overspray them with a clear flat or gloss coat if you like, but keep in mind that this will thicken the decal.  I prefer to Dullcote the whole model after applying the lettering, which does the same thing but does not add thickness to the decal alone.

Good luck!


The CN wood caboose C-D-S set after transferring to decal film.  I don’t know if I’l ever use it, but at least I have this lettering on hand if I want to.

Modelbuilding away from home


From when I last worked as a conductor.  The LED bulb in my handlamp did a decent job of lighting up the work surface.  The grates from the room’s refrigerator weigh the desk lamp down to correct the imbalance caused by the added weight of the handlamp.  I’ve built more than a few models in this situation.  Here’s how you can, too!

I have the “good fortune” to spend a lot of time in hotels at the away-from-home-terminal while waiting to take a train back to my home terminal. Rather than wasting this time watching TV or on the web (for most of the time anyhow), over the years I have developed a system for building models while laying over in hotel rooms.


All set up for serious modelbuilding.  A Westerfield freight car kit is in a corrugated cardboard outer box–this combination has surely prevented finished models from being destroyed. Various grades of sandpaper and wet-or-dry abrasive paper are in the envelope.

As I cross the Canada/US border regularly, I use a modified clear fishing tackle box to hold my modelling tools. This allows Customs to see readily the contents including scalpel and razor blades, etc.  I advise Customs staff when they examine my toolbox, etc. of the presence of sharps–this is usually appreciated by them.

In the toolbox are whatever tools that I think that I’ll need, plus spare freight car parts such as grabirons, couplers, air brake details, etc.  Bring lots of spare knife blades and commonly used drill sizes–it’s not fun to have to stop work because you broke the last one and have no replacement.   First aid dressings are an ESSENTIAL item in a toolbox.

Cutting mats are available in various sizes–this small one fits nicely in a work bag and yet has enough space to cut long pieces of styrene, etc.  Bring the adhesive or solvent that you use, and you’re all set.  I suggest a stand of some kind to hold solvent and paint bottles, thereby preventing having solvent fall over and make your room uninhabitable, as well as really getting the hotel management mad at you.  This is one of my travelling solvent/paint bottle stands.  It’s just a six-inch square piece of 1/4″ thick acrylic with pieces of ABS and central vacuum pipe solvent-welded to the sheet–img_3103

Today’s water-base paints clean up easily off a paintbrush in a hotel sink.  A small container of dish soap is a good thing to have handy in your work bag for this purpose–or the hotel shampoo can be used.


A closer view of the contents of my travelling toolbox.  This Flambeau brand tackle box is easily modified by cutting down a moulded divider to hold pliers and side cutters–note the crude hack job between the plier jaws.  Included in the tackle box are blue dividers to segment the interior of this box to best suit your choice of tools and supplies.

I hope that this gives those who travel for a living as I do some ideas for model building on the road.




Two cranes from England–for the Midland.


British Rail Booth Rodley 15-ton crane.  Photo from RMweb.

While in London, UK this February I visited Invicta Model Rail in Sidcup, Kent, an eleven-mile and half-hour ride on SouthEastern Trains from London’s Waterloo East station.   On offer were a number of UK models on the main floor, and American/Canadian models on the second floor.  Including a couple of HO scale Rapido LRC loco’s!

I just had to bring back a few souvenirs of my stay.  I walked out the door a hundred pounds and change lighter.  Pounds as in GBP or £, not my weight in pounds–I wish that losing the latter was as easy!  My purchases included a Hornby OO scale London, Midland, and Scottish Ry. suburban service 2-6-4 tank loco, and a Dapol Booth Rodley OO/HO scale rail- mounted crane kit.

The model is based on a Booth, Rodley 15-ton diesel-hydraulic crane used by British Railways.  Booth Cranes was a cranebuilder and heavy equipment manufacturer with works located in Rodley UK.  Booth cranes were also used in British industry and exported around the world.  Post World War II, Britain needed to pay off its massive war debt.  One way to pay this debt down was to sell British-made goods to the world, and especially the Commonwealth.  Australia’s Victorian Railways bought Walker diesel-hydraulic self-propelled cars and Dick, Kerr Works switching locomotives.  Canadian National Railways bought “Briton” brand hydraulic door closers, British-made steel roll-up doors used in many of their buildings, and other manufactured goods.

It’s not a big stretch of the imagination for a freeelance model railway that a small regional railway in Central Ontario might have a British-made, self-propelled, diesel-hydraulic, rail-mounted crane or two in 1956. And so the Midland Railway’s Bridge and Building department winds up with a Booth Rodley crane.

The Dapol Kitmaster crane kit has been around for half a century or more, made originally by Airfix. It’s a classic model in the UK, inexpensive and popular with UK outline modellers.  I recall buying this for about £ 8 or so, taxes included.  Here’s what you get—


Inside the bag are a number of plastic mouldings on runners, instructions, and four metal wheelsets scaling out to 42″ diameter wheels in HO scale.  I’ve already started building the crane base. 

While a bit dated, the mouldings go together easily using styrene solvent such as Testor’s liquid.  A bit of cleanup is needed, especially with the crane jib.  A few minutes’ work with a no. 11 scalpel or X-Acto blade serves to thin the various jib members’ appearance.


Most of the model built, with the crane jib temporarily in place to check fit.  UK-pattern wheelsets supplied with the kit were replaced by Intermountain 36″ wheelsets. Coupler height will be checked as well.  

The bogie (truck) sideframes in the kit were drilled #42 before assembly and Tichy nylon bearings inserted to receive the axle ends of the Intermountain wheelsets. This will hold up better than the soft styrene of the Dapol sideframes.


Kadee couplers are temporarily glued to coupler mounting pads using white glue to determine if the correct coupler height will result when the model is completed.  This glue simply peels off afterwards. 


I made coupler pads of styrene sheet and framed them to make coupler pockets.  A piece of tube is inserted in a drilled hole in the coupler pocket to mount the coupler onto.  Truck bolsters are filled with styrene tube.  Both are drilled 2-56 to receive screws for mounting trucks and couplers.  A larger machine screw mounts the crane body to the base and allows 360-degree swing of the crane.


The age of Dapol’s tooling is evident in the thickness of the window frame members.  I’ll cut them out and replace them with thinner muntins. I added etched stainless steel grating to allow the crane operator to get in and out of the cab in Canadian weather.  UK buffers supplied with the kit were glued in place, then cut off and the leftover stubs filed and sanded smooth.  I’ve painted the inside of the cabs an industrial green before attaching the roof.  Holes are drilled for grabirons.  Bondo body putty fills slight imperfections in the mouldings.


I thought that this was such an interesting model to build that I purchased another one.  Crane jibs are painted to determine what colour looks best to me.  I’m thinking that I’ll go with black as it will make the structural members look thinner.  Here are the sub-assemblies, along with a neat looking crane bucket from GLX Scale Models for online excavation work.

I’ve still some work to do on these, but they’ve been a couple of fun little modelling projects.