Building a special run Mac Shops kit for a Class S-25 B&O 5 roomette / 3 drawing room /1 bedroom sleeper “Starlight Dome”
In 1948 the Budd Company built three dome sleepers for the C&O, which invested heavily in new passenger cars but then withdrew their orders. B&O bought the three cars for its Capitol Limited. The styling was post-War modern, featuring a ‘fast back’ styled dome similar to new automobiles of the time. Below, Moonlight Dome wears temporary paper signs for a rail fan special assignment in the 1960s.
Stairway to the dome of the three Budd dome sleepers. The 24 dome seats were open to all sleeping car passengers, whether they had reservations in the dome sleeper or another car. The stairway was illuminated with small lights in the risers near the tread on both sides.
Views of the dome seating, forward and aft. The dash contained a clock, speedometer, compass and radio speakers.
A custom made Mac Shops kit was made for modeling this car. A built-up dome in brass was included with the usual cast pewter car ends and vestibule doors. A Mac Shops car only needs a good cleaning and installation of the castings and floor to be ready for details. Here the ice breaker bar in .030”dia. brass rod and floodlights made from Berkshire Valley funnel castings with strip brass brackets, rhinestones and clear lenses have been attached. Below, the dome floor and its details were made, using Keil Line ‘1950’s coach seats.
An image of the dash detail was cropped from a photo, printed on glossy photo paper, which was cut to fit the dome forward wall, which has a polished, thin aluminum veneer.
The seats were put on risers, like the prototype, after the dome floor height was established from the main floor level. The rear bulkheads were made with .020” thick styrene sheet and included the stairwell walls. Gray fabric was used for carpeting the dome and stairway. This dome seating part is a removable module, as will be the other interior detail sections. This is to make the car serviceable if any attention is needed for the interior or the LED lighting system.
The next module was for the bedroom, porter’s room and conductor’s office that are under the dome. The exterior bottom sheathing is aluminum sheet, which will become part of the lighting circuit. The notches in the top of the wall will allow some light to reach the dome for floor illumination.
Here is how the two modules interface in the car. Below each seat is a small slot in the riser to allow some light to reach the dome floor, just as the prototype had. At night underway, the dome lights were off except for these low intensity lights along the floor. In a fully lit up dome at night, all one can see is their reflection in the glass!
The masked body for a B&O paint job, which easy for this car. Just a stripe of B&O Royal Blue on the letterboard. The underside of the floor and the trucks will be flat black.
Now for seats in the drawing rooms. They are made from milled wood stock, with .025”dia. nickel silver jewelry wire arms and PULLMAN head rest covers printed on paper.
From the B&O diagram, there were three such chairs in each drawing room, which oddly could sleep four! Also seen is the forward main floor drawing room module, which includes details for the vestibule: an aluminum floor to mimic stainless steel and a Keil Line porter’s step. Below, the roomettes being built for the rear main floor module. The car skirting was scored to represent access panels as seen in photos. The dark rectangles are vents in the AC unit access.
All four interior modules are done. LED lighting strips have been applied along with plugs in the wiring to assist any need for disassembly in the future.
Now, on to the dome: how it fits and how to glaze it with tinted clear styrene sheet. The brass dome was checked for any loose or misaligned solder joints and alignment to fit the car body roof opening. Once it fit, the dome frame was given three coats of aluminum paint. Tinting the clear styrene was done with a 50/50 mix of Tamaya clear blue and green colors air brushed on one side only. The tinted side faces inward. Because of the unusual design of this dome, each glazing pane had to be individually cut and fitted. Making paper patterns first helped with this.
The glazed dome was attached to the car body with JB Weld and metal strips on the underside of the roof to cover the dome to body joint at each end. Similar strips were applied to each of the dome to car body interior walls for a finished appearance. The seats on the dome floor were thankfully inset far enough to clear the side panels. Then came the decal lettering by Micro Scale along with removable glazing strips with window shades for the body. The roof vents were darkened with a black Sharpie pen. ”Starlight Dome” was the name chosen by the owner, who one rode in the prototype. The other two car names were “Moonlight Dome” and “Sunlight Dome.”
The completed Mac Shops model of B&O “Starlight Dome”, ready for delivery. Although these were Budd-built cars, B&O equipped them with clasp brakes in place of Budd’s disc brakes. It rides on a pair of Golden Gate Depot streamline trucks, modified with flat brass bolster plates for mounting on a kit built O scale car.
Due to the complexity of building this model so it could be disassembled if any attention is needed to fix loose parts or the lighting system, a nine page manual was prepared with photos and text, showing the steps needed to remove all the modules and replace them.
It was worked out during the tedious trial and error of construction, which entailed a great deal of fussy fitting and refitting to get it together and in a manner that it could also be taken apart!