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ZM-11 North Coast Limited Observation Car

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Joined: 18 Oct 2004
Posts: 677
Location: Minneapolis, MN, USA

PostPosted: Fri Aug 14, 2009 4:47 pm    Post subject: ZM-11 North Coast Limited Observation Car Reply with quote


The North Coast Limited was the Northern Pacific’s premier name train going daily from Chicago to Seattle/Tacoma and Portland Oregon. Up until 1942 the North Coast Limited had observation cars #1710 - #1719 in it’s consist. Wartime regulations altered things by restricting cars not directly used for ticketed passengers. The North Coast Limited observation cars had no ticketed seats but rather a small buffet, smoking rooms, a barber shop and large sun room, all for the paying passengers from other cars. They were replaced by 10 section buffet lounge observation cars in 1942.

The #1710 - #1719 series are easy to make from the Rivarossi “obs” car (catalog # 541). Most of the cars in this set are based on Sate Fe prototypes. As with all my North Coast Limited conversions, most of the work involves changing windows by blanking out some and shifting, or reducing, the size with Evergreen styrene.

This conversion also entailed changing out a section of side at the left front with a new section from another car (the diner will work here: #539/552/565) with four large windows. Remember the Zenmaster’s admonition that all kits are nothing but a bag of parts: in this case each Rivarossi heavyweight car is considered the same way. I had to sacrifice one car side in order to accurately duplicate the Northern Pacific observation car that I really wanted. Over this section I also added an extension to the air conditioning duct using epoxy putty.

Other roof details were crafted from styrene, including an auxiliary Baker heater. The radio aerial was made from .012” brass wire and etched handrail stanchions from an etching in GHQ’s W-3 Mikado conversion kit.

The windows containing inside hand railings on the left side of the car where the corridor is adjacent to the windows were scribed inside the windows. If this doesn’t work, replace the glazing with a different piece of clear plastic with the scribed lines. I filled the scribed scoring with white acrylic paint rubbed on the plastic and wiped off with a paper towel. This gives the illusion of a handrail.

The various etched glass windows such as the two on the observation deck were done by scribing lines closely on the outside of the window to simulate leaded windows.

The observation deck was rebuilt dropping it down to a more prototypical position. The Rivarossi deck handrail was used, but was carefully thinned down with a brand new, sharp #11 hobby knife blade.

A patch was placed over the observation deck to cover the hole the clerestory makes.

Underbody detail was added from my own castings made for heavyweight cars. (As noted in the ZM-5 Dining Car article, if enough of our readers request these parts, GHQ will make them available for purchase.)

The model was painted in a lightly pasteled Pullman Green. Most N scale models should be painted in purposely lightened colors to look more natural. We made our own North Coast Limited decals on the Alps Printer.

As always, thanks for looking. Please share your feedback with us. Did you like this article? Why? Why not? Was there enough detail? Did this inspire you to actually do this project? Did it inspire you to do a different project? We are trying to stress that model railroading is actually a modeling hobby, and that literally anything is possible in N-Scale. Model railroading is also a social hobby. We are sharing some of our projects with you here. Do you have any that you can share? Anyone who is registered for our forum can post, and that includes posting pictures of their own projects. If you aren't registered, then register**. Please share your pictures of your work, ask questions, answer questions...get involved.

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Joined: 27 Jul 2009
Posts: 2

PostPosted: Sat Aug 22, 2009 6:17 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Thanks for sharing another amazing project! I would love to see the underbody parts available to the public. I think there is a market there if we can get the word out.
Andrew Hegstad

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Joined: 16 Jun 2009
Posts: 9
Location: San Diego CA

PostPosted: Fri Aug 28, 2009 6:13 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

These are some GREAT articles!
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Joined: 14 May 2009
Posts: 5

PostPosted: Fri Nov 06, 2009 3:53 am    Post subject: N.P. NCL Observation Car Reply with quote

I am working on getting together the parts for this. Casting of the pewter items for sale would be quite useful.

Glad somebody of your talent is interested in the N.P. and same era as me.

Keep up the good work.

Any CMSt&P projects, say for prototypical steam locos (2-8-0, 2-6-6-2) in the Seattle area would be interesting.


Richard J Lee
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Joined: 17 May 2009
Posts: 5
Location: Dallas, Texas

PostPosted: Thu Nov 19, 2009 11:40 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Another great article. And my time frame as well (wrong side of the country but nobody is perfect)

I'd like to see the underbody details offered too. Besides getting the right look to the cars it would add weight and down low for better tracking I'd think.

Thanks again.

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Joined: 06 Oct 2009
Posts: 4
Location: Portland, OR

PostPosted: Fri Aug 06, 2010 10:42 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Wow! Great article.

I have never bashed passenger cars before, but your article is enough to get me started. I see how you reduced the window sizes, but not expanded them. As for input, I would have liked to see how you lowered the observation deck. The final shot looks great, but not how you got there.

Thank you, Rick
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