Tony Koester’s recent book on Allen McClelland’s Virginian & Ohio was an incredible tribute to a man who’s work made the hobby I’ve known my whole life. It also inspired me to do a little “What would Allen do?” work to bring little bits of the V&O to my own world.

If you haven’t read the book, do yourself a favor and pickup a copy. One of the things that Tony beautifully illustrates is how Allen’s work contributed to so many of the things we take for granted in the hobby today. He may not have created all of the modern fundamentals, but his combination of innovation and evangelization is what cemented his reputation as one of our hobby’s true innovators. The book was also an incredible touching tribute written by one of his dear friends and the friendship shone through the text. We can all hope to be so well spoken of when we pass.

Anyway, I’ve always enjoyed working freelance stuff into my fleet as a nod to our hobby’s pioneers. To that end, I was inspired to do what Allen would’ve done: re-letter some factory cars for the V&O.

I used K4 Decals V&O lettering sets. I’ll be honest about these, I wasn’t thrilled. The decal film never really dissolved after application, despite over a week’s worth of regular Solvaset applications. I talked with the gentleman at K4 and he indicated that this was a problem with some of their early sets. I hope that was my case, but as a warning: if you’re using these, do everything you can to help them. Don’t skip glossing before application (like I did).

Here I used a pair of Pennsylvania Atlas 90 Ton Hoppers to make V&O cars. It took some doing removing the 20+ year old Atlas lettering, but they turned out ok. Good from afar, but far from “good”. Still, following Allen’s “Good Enough” philosophy, these will look perfectly at home buried in a train.

Fortuitously, there was a Great Scale show in Timonium while I was “thinking V&O”. This allowed me to bargain hunt for a good car to slap some V&O lettering on. I found the perfect candidate on an old Kadee (yes, Kadee, not Micro-Trains), bulkhead flat car painted for the Columbia & Cowlitz. This car also gave me the opportunity to try out Micro-Trains new printed wood decks.

This car took some work. I lowered it using Atlas former BLMA trucks and lowered bolsters then body mounted the couplers. The printed deck was good but looked a bit “printed deck”. I took some advice from Dave Meek (one of my current favorite modelers) and roughed up the deck with a #11 blade. I then used some craft paint to tone down the edges and hit it with Pan Pastels as I weathered the rest of the car. I’m happy with how the car turned out, but now I need to figure out what it’s doing on the Northern Central. Is it going to be hauling plywood from the hills of West Virginia? Steel plate from around Dayton OH? Time will tell.

While I was at it, I also finished up work on another classic: a Cat Mountain and Santa Fe boxcar I picked up many years ago. This car was a special run that I sullied with COTS stencils, ACI labels and a U1 dot, readying it for service in the late 70s. The CMSF is David Barrow’s pioneering railroad that laid the groundwork for successive modelers.