Monday, September 16, 2013

Homage to two great resin kits

I have built a number of resin kits over the years (in fact, way back in the 1980s, I wrote a review for Railroad Model Craftsman for the very first Sunshine kit), and they naturally vary in ease of assembly, fidelity to prototype, and excellence of castings—not to mention clarity of instructions. I’ve also traded some of my surplus kits to the guys who build kits professionally, in exchange for them building some of the kits I don’t have time to do. But however they get built, occasionally a kit really stands out. This post is about two such kits.
     One of them is among the true pioneer resin kits. Dennis Storzek, back when he was a resin kit manufacturer, made several kits, two of them Soo Line prototypes. One was a caboose, about which I heard raves, and the other was the signature Soo box car, a “Fowler-like” design on which the diagonal braces connected to the underframe crossbearers below the side sill, a distinctive look. I had no use for a Soo caboose, but could certainly operate the box car; the Soo had over 2000 of them, and they are truly a “signature” Soo car.
     I bought one when they were new, soon after the initial release in 1985, and it has sat on my shelf ever since, until recently. The castings in this kit are simply superb, very sharp and with little flash, and I had long wanted to “get to” this project. Finally, I had Dennis Williams build it, as part of a recent trade, and as always, I did my own lettering and weathering. This kit can certainly result in a handsome freight car!

     The other kit I want to praise is a Funaro and Camerlengo product, the Southern Pacific Class A-50-5 or A-50-6 kit. Steve Funaro has come a long way in his resin kits, from the early ones (cast in a kind of yellow resin) with numerous air bubbles and often warped parts, all the way to often excellent ones today. This SP automobile car, which is the familiar “door-and-a-half” design made famous by the Ambroid kit, is among his very best. The castings are crisp and well-detailed, and all dimensions are correct. Again, Dennis Williams did the basic construction and I finished with lettering and weathering.

Though built in the 1920s, the prototype cars survived in SP service into the 1950s, no longer carrying the automobiles they were designed to carry, but carrying other bulky loads and especially lumber. That’s how I’ll use it.
     These two kits are a joy to operate on the layout, and are outstanding examples of what is possible in resin freight cars. Funaro’s success after a long period of improvement deserves respect, and is understandable as steady progress. The perhaps startling point to be made is that the impressive Storzek kit was among the very first resin car kits ever made. How can a pioneer be among the best ever? Because such design and production is more art than engineering, and great insight into both prototype and modeling does not depend on whether the result is a pioneer or not. Dennis Storzek certainly proved that.
Tony Thompson


  1. The SOO Line car was one of the first resin kits I built in about 1993. It almost falls together. I purchased it from the RPI Hobby Shop. I have two more under the Des Plaines label to be modified and built as cars owned by two Missouri Pacific subsidiaries using an article by the late Martin Lofton in a RMC article.

    I built the F&C car as a TN&O car and think this kit represents F&C really maturing as a producer of resin kits in that it featured really good detailing and the parts fitting very well. His current releases continue this theme.

    Bill Welch

  2. The Storzek kits remain some of the best pattern work and resin casting done. Period.
    Of the over 1000 resin kits I've built, Dennis' work has rarely been surpassed.

  3. Dennis Storzek passed away April 21st, 2024 from ALS. I apprenticed with him for a couple years in his machine shop at Accurail. He was a great boss and mentor. His knowledge of history and skill with machinery was impressive. His wife Patty was incredible in helping through his mobility and life needs.

  4. I'm sorry to hear this. I have had great respect for Dennis and his work at Accurail, and his remarkable historical knowledge, often shared on the Steam Era Freight Cars list. I am among the many who will definitely miss him.
    Tony Thompson