To paraphrase Vane Jones, "Knowledge is of little value until shared with others."

Saturday, January 14, 2012

Sunset NSL Silverliners #1 - Introduction

Please Note - My comments are limited to the 2-rail/trolley Silverliner models and not the Greenliners. I haven't had to chance to see and look over the Greenliners or any 3-rail models to see where there maybe any problems and/or corrections needed.

Words for modelers to live by:
· Measure thrice; cut once!
· 30 g of prevention is worth 454 g of cure!
· Murphy was an optimist and fecal material happens!

The history of the North Shore Line (NSL) Electroliners and Silverliners can be read in the C.E.R.A. Bulletins #106 and 107. What most traction fans didn't know is, once per week 1 of the 2 Liners (common Chicago traction fan name for the Electroliner) underwent a bi-weekly maintenance at the Harrison St. shops. This process was alternated between the 2 Liners.

For the day the Liner was shopped, the NSL replaced the Liner with a 3-car train consisting of 2 of the newest series coaches plus 415, originally a diner rebuilt into a tavern-lounge. When passenger equipment was rebuilt into Silverliners, so was the 415. Henceforth, the replacement Liner was a Silverliner train.
                                                   W. Jansen photo, J. Terrell Colson Collection

I always wanted a model of the 3-car replacement Liner train painted in the Silverliner paint scheme. To me the Electroliner was the ultimate in interurban passenger service. The 3-car replacement Liner Silverliner train was the epitome in standard interurban passenger service - high speed transportation while being able to enjoy a meal or just a drink under trolley wire.

When I heard Sunset was planning on making O scale models of the 3-car set in the Silverliner paint scheme my heart jumped for joy. The announcement included the price plus the possible release date for the models. As time went on, it started to look like the entire project was placed on hold due to lack of interest (reservations). Down deep I knew the longer the time from the announcement with a fixed price to actual release of the final models, with the value of the dollar doing down, the value (parts, items, etc.) found in the final model would be less. More regarding this at the end of this series of postings.

About 4 years transpired between the initial announcement to final release of the model. During this time at least one modeler from the Chicago area John Marton had sent information to Sunset on the Silverliner coaches and 415. Then just as the set of models were to go into production Greg King, a diehard NSL fan from Australia, sent additional information especially regarding the 415.

Initial info on potential production models was less than uplifting. For example, the Silverliner coaches were painted orange!
                                             Greg King Collection

Corrections were made, the production models made, packaged, and shipped. After a long boat trip the models were here for modelers' eyes to finally see. My initial impression was mixed!

When the models were packaged both of the coaches had the same car number. This was easily resolved by finding another modeler with cars with the other number and swapping one coach.

The models ran well but the sideframes on the trucks were a tad oversize with no leaf springs. Each coach had a headlight firmly attached to the model. The headlight was on no matter which direction the train was going. The couplers were Kadee's mounted in a fixed location, etc., etc., etc. ad nauseum. That said, the Sunset models are extremely well made. The models are heavy. They are made of 0.040" thick brass.

You might ask, why if Sunset made the Electroliner models just a few years ago and did a great job; what happened to the Silverliner models. The answer is simple. The Liner has a sleek body shell. Once the contours of the ends are taken care of, the rest of the model is easy. Not true with the old standard cars of any interurban. There is more detail and more items to be on the watch for - all the horns, grab irons, roof mats, hooks, poles, roof boards, steps, stair wells, and on and on. There are more "things" to go wrong with any old car model than a new one. We all know this is true! BTW - I'm the fella who wrote the review of the Sunset Electroliner appearing in Issue No. 176 of 48/ft O Scale News.

Having spent the money and seeing the models were so well built, the only thing to do is to correct the problems. I stated making a list. After typing 3 pages of a Microsoft Word document I stopped! Then, I started the re-building!

Before going too far into the re-building, my philosophy towards building O scale models is very basic. If you see it on the prototype it should be on the model. Also, there is a point at which no matter how much more you try to add to a model, the "WOW factor" has been met. Additional detail will have no effect to enhance the "WOW factor".

In building traction models I haven't gotten into DCC operation yet. For some models I like LED lighting, for others I like the old fashion light bulb with a constant voltage lighting unit. There is a reason for each. More on this in future postings in the blog.

Over the past several weeks I have been working on the Sunset models and sharing my work via email to a few chosen friends. There are a number of "things" to be done. Everything cannot be covered in 1, 2, 3, or more postings in this blog. From time to time info on non-related material will be inserted. However, the 3-car train will be completed as the new and improved Halstead Car Company version of the Silverliner Replacement Electroliner.

I once worked with a fella who would walk around saying, "Give credit where credit is due!" I've been building models long enough to realize there is no one way of doing things. I will tell you my way of changing something on the Sunset models. If need be, my reasoning will be included. If I have been told of another way of doing the same process, I'll pass the info along to you. The fella who gave me the info will be given credit for his work.

Most of the photos in this blog are mine. My friends have supplied other photos. Please take note of the comments at the bottom of this page regarding the intellectual propriety of others.

In some of the photos you'll notice I work on plate glass. The surface is hard, smooth and "flat". Almost nothing sticks to the glass. The exclusion to the sticking is ACC. One time a part stuck to the glass thanks to ACC. A portion of glass remained stuck to the part when the part was removed. The "gouge" in the glass was the focal point for a crack when stress was placed on the glass. Be careful! I'm now working on a replacement for the original glass.

You need at least 3 books beside the 2 C.E.R.A. Bulletins 106 and 107. These include:
  • Chicago North Shore and Milwaukee Railway In Color Volume 1: Streetcars & Electroburgers by Geoffrey H. Doughty
  • Chicago North Shore and Milwaukee Railway In Color Volume 2: Point of No Return
  • by Geoffrey H. Doughty
  • North Shore South Shore by Russ Porter

These books are rich in color photos. The newest series of coaches the North Shore had were the 1928 Pullman Car Company #737 - 751 and 1930 Standard Car Company #752-776. Most of the coaches converted to Silverliners were from this series of cars. From what I can tell the Sunset Silverliner coaches are numbered 738 and 739. This means the models are of the series of cars made by Pullman.

There is a problem with the trolley bases of the trolley poles. The models come with 4-spring vertical trolley bases. The Pullman coaches as delivered to the North Shore came with 4-spring horizontal trolley bases. The NSL never changed the trolley bases on these cars. At some point in time the trolley poles on the models have to be changed. Don’t forget to paint the aluminum “sox” at both ends of the pole. The NSL used the aluminum paint to reduce rusting thus making it easier to change poles from the trolley base or the trolley shoe.

Get your books and start looking at all the photos of the Silverliners you can find. Using a straight edge, go from one corner or edge of the photo to the opposite corner or edge noting all the details on the car. The list you make is a good start for the parts you will need.

Next, holding one of the models in your hand, look at a photo of that car or series of car. What do you see that is the same or different. Write these down. Don’t try to remember things in your mind. There are 3 cars and lots of details.

Decide what your budget is. You can do all the changes I’ll mention. However, you may decide not to do all of them. You may decide to do some now and more later. This is up to you.

The 2 coaches will be done 1st followed by the Tavern-Lounge car 415. However, there will come a time when all 3 cars will be worked on at the same time.

What is important is to protect the painting of the side and ends of each car. What makes the models unique is the Silverliner paint scheme. Don't damage it unless you are a professional painter or know of one who can repair any damage. You'll find me wrapping cars in foam cushions available from Bowser, cloth towels or other soft cloths. Do not get any tape on the gray shadow decal. Many fellas laughed at the white cotton gloves packed in with the models - the paint scheme is important! It's the only reason I purchased the models!

I damaged the decals on my models. An email has been sent to Sunset to see if replacement decals are available. More on decals will appear in future postings.

The C.E.R.A. Bulletin 107, Route of the Electroliners has plans for the Silverliner coaches plus info on the 415 as a tavern/lounge car. Make multiple scale photo copies of these.

The Morning Sun Books Chicago North Shore and Milwaukee Railway In Color Volume 1: Streetcars & Electroburgers and Volume 2: Point of No Return have numerous color photos of the cars. Find and bookmark the pages containing photos of Silverliner cars plus the 415.

One major thing to notice is the end doors on your models. They are painted all red without Silverliner paint/corrugations. This means they are of a later vintage - perhaps after 1957 or later. To save money the NSL started painting the end doors all red about this time. As we get to talk about painting and/or touch-up of your models you will be given the name of the manufacturer of the red paint plus the color to use.

When the 415 is started you will be shown photos and drawings of the interior and roof of the tavern/lounge car for your use in upgrading this model.

There is a great photo of 738 on page 31 of a book titled North Shore South Shore by Russ Porter. This photo was taken in 1960 when 738 was just released from the paint shop - never run on either the shop spur from North Chicago to Highwood or on the main line. The most surprising thing is the lack of the small skirts on the sides between the passenger steps and the truck cut-outs. Here's your chance to individualize your Sunset models. I might cut off the small skirts on my 738!

In the same photo, since 738 was never run on the "road", all of the white or silver "striping" on the steps can be seen. You'll not find the "striping" in any photo of a car once it has been run up to Milwaukee from Chicago and back. Once the car has been on the road the steps are a dark brown-black color of the underbody

More to ponder includes each time a car would be shopped for routine annual overhaul; the dimensions, curvatures, plumbing, electrical, etc. would be altered. Or, another way of say this is, the car would start to deviate from what the manufactured specifications were (are).

If you are pondering ordering replacement trucks, hold off. Replacement trucks are an important topic. I'll make some suggestions and then show you what I did in the next posting.



  1. Very informative posting. A good collation of the facts and I really must get some Silver Liners.

  2. Very definative. You have done a ton of work to get all the detail down on paper. Thanks Ed.