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Alan Curtis Land Train

The term "land train" is not in common use here in the US, but that’s what we called those multi-trailer lash-ups that plied the autobahns of Germany when I was stationed there in the last century. Up until Alan Curtis came out with his line of N Scale intermodal equipment, there were no credible models of what is becoming one of the most frequent sights on US highways and piggyback flatcars – a tandem set of 28 foot trailers. Let’s put together a couple of these trailers and a Showcase Miniatures tractor and see what we get.

The trailers come first. Alan Curtis has two styles in his line: ribbed side and smooth side. Each style comes packaged three to the box. He also offers a box of six converter dollies, which are necessary to model the highway version.

Shown here are the parts for the smooth side trailer upper left; Rib side trailer upper right; converter dolly bottom center.

Photo 1 shows the "out of the box" parts for one each of the smooth side (left rear), ribbed side (right rear), and converter dolly (center front).

As you can see, there really aren’t many parts involved. The two "box" shells are resin moldings and the rest of the parts are white metal castings.

The resin castings need virtually no cleanup work, save slightly filing the bottom edge to make sure it is uniformly even. The details on the castings are sharp and the supports for the floor castings are smooth and even.

Like the container chassis kits that Alan produces, the running gear and the converter dolly metal castings are high quality with a minimum of flash and very few parting lines to clean up. I found that I had to clean out the holes in the back of the tires with a #57 drill so that the axles fit more easily into them. That was about the biggest job.

After checking out all the pieces, I test fit everything together. The only major filing I had to do was on the floor assemblies. Each was just a tad too long to fit flush into the box castings. Make sure you file on the front end of these pieces – that’s the end without the wheel and axle supports. Not only is it easier to file here, the other end has to fit "as is" in order to properly accommodate the rear bumper. You don’t have to take off much material. I used a large flat mill file that I keep around for special occasions such as this. A couple of quick swipes and you’re done.

After I got everything to fit, I cleaned off the metal pieces with alcohol. I washed the resin castings in warm water to get all the release materials off of them. I then used Granddad’s Extra Thick Maxi-cure (purple cap) CA glue to assemble the wheels and axles. I decided to paint these before attaching them to the floor assembly. I also painted the floor assembly and rear bumper separately. I find that doing this not only makes getting to the details easier, it also provides for excellent color separation on the finished model. Photos 2 and 3 show the assembled trailers before being decorated with decals.
Assembled, undecorated rib-side model.
Assembled, undecorated smooth side model.

Of course, the land train won’t move without motive power. I selected a Showcase Miniatures #23 – Kenworth 600T, 2 axle version. I picked this one because most of the tandem rigs I have seen have two axles, which makes the whole combination still an 18-wheeler. The parts for the Showcase kit are shown in Photo 4.

These are the parts for the Showcase Miniatures tractor. Not very many of them, are there…

The four parts for this model are crisply cast. The white metal seems to be a little softer than that in the Alan Curtis models, so you need to be careful not to distort them. There is a minimum of flash, but because the metal is soft the model cleaned up very easily with small files. It also went together quite well, despite the fact that there is no set of assembly instructions provided with the model. The parts fit together very intuitively. Because there are so few parts, painting becomes somewhat more of a challenge. However, if you take your time, the results can be extremely rewarding, as Photo 5 shows. I didn’t want to crank up my airbrush, so this model is brush painted. I also used Microscale Micro Krystal Kleer to form the windows. The front windshield isn’t perfect, what with the compound curves involved, but the representation is reasonable.

Assembled, painted, and decorated tractor.

As you can see, I decided that I wanted to decorate the models for Overland Transportation out of Richmond, VA. You see a lot of these on the roads in the southeast. I especially wanted to see if I could represent the way Overland applies its logo to the sides of its rib side trailers. They mount them on a sheet of metal affixed over the ribs, which gives them a "stand off" effect on the sides. I used .005 sheet styrene and applied the decals to a small piece. I then trimmed around the decal and CA glued the resulting panel to the trailer ribs. Photo 6 shows how this worked out. I used the #60-4169 decal set from Micro-Scale.

The assembled and decorated tractor-trailer pair showing the "standoff" nature of the company logo on the ribside trailer.
Photo 6. The assembled and decorated tractor-trailer pair showing the "standoff" nature of the company logo on the ribside trailer.

Photo 7 shows the results of the modeling project as the Land Train plies the roadway across an unnamed part of our country Anywhere in the Southeast.The complete Land Train providing substantial competition to the Road of Rails.

I hope this little project encourages you to try building some simple kits on your own. We have a lot of new companies putting out accessory products like these for the N Scale niche of our hobby. We need to support them by buying and trying their products to ensure they don’t disappear and to further encourage them to keep on widening the breadth of their product lines.

All photos by the author.