On the OST Publications Facebook page, people have been asking about Tony Sisson’s long promised book on diesel modeling.

The project started several years ago when I approached Tony about doing a book on his outstanding work as an HO diesel modeler. I felt that thoroughly documenting one of his builds would provide a valuable resource for others. He agreed to the project and we selected his Conrail SD50 as the subject. (You can follow that build at the ProtoModeler Forum.) Several months went by and I thought about the limited scope of just covering a single build. So Tony and I met up at the Collinsville, IL RPM meet that year where I essentially tripled his workload by outlining my vision of a much broader book project, one that comprehensively looks at contemporary techniques of modern diesel modeling. Tony thought about it overnight and the next day agreed, with his typical enthusiasm, that it would be a more valuable resource for modelers and set to work. During 2015-16, he supplied me with six CDs worth of material that included a nearly 80,000 word text and close to nine hundred photos representing, to date, almost three years of concentrated work on his part.

To put those numbers in context, 80,000 words approaches a James Patterson mystery novel in length, while 900 plus photos adds a second novel’s worth of pages. Even with significant editing and culling, there was simply too much material for a single volume. It would be a massive and expensive work that few would shell out for. I had a dilemma on my hands: how to do justice to this project and the amount of time and effort Tony expended at my request. The answer of course, was a series of books.

In looking through the material, several distinct options for organizing things eventually presented themselves, which resolved a major hurdle. I now had a direction to work toward and a foundation to build upon. The first book in the series introduces his modeling philosophy with a project many of us have on our to-do lists: breathing new life into a used loco from a train show or flea market. In this case the subject is an old Athearn SW1500 dummy unit Tony picked up for “silly money” as he put it. As seen in the lead photo, the build turned out wonderfully and is close to the finish line as Tony wraps up work on the weathering and final details.

The amount of research and effort Tony puts into one of his models is extraordinary. For this build he kitbashed a new radiator core with a scratchbuilt grille and the large fan and a new etched grille for the front of the loco (photos above). He added numerous details and modifications, along with a new drive train, all to bring the model as close to a prototype loco, NS 2216, as possible. He’s also experimenting with different weathering techniques used extensively by military modelers. The results seen below are amazing.

Beyond modeling to high standards, Tony spares no effort in documenting each build. His step-by-step photography is the gold standard in my view, with each part and procedure clearly indicated. I also hasten to add how inspirational his writing is. He doesn’t write from “on high” but simply explains what he does to make a part along with why he made the choices shown. Coupled with such clear photos, you feel that you could achieve similar results with practice.

My philosophy is to provide readers the best material I can. From day one, when Joe and I talked about setting up this business, I made it clear that I wasn’t interested in chasing the mass market by dumbing down the work. I wanted to do work I could look back on with a certain pride and satisfaction. Tony feels the same way about his modeling. He states: “…I do like things to be correct if at all possible within the confines and limits of the discipline I’m working within.” I’m aware this approach flies in the face of the generic but OST Publications has never been about generic modeling.

My original thought was to do an ebook only. However, after learning that a significant number of you prefer print, the series will be available in both formats. Print is expensive to do and entails a considerable amount of prep work to produce a quality product you would be pleased to own. This factor along with the increased scope of the project is why the book is taking so long.

At this time, I’m waiting on the final installment of material from Tony that covers the weathering and last details on the model, so that I can finish the editing and layout of both versions of the book. I hope to have the print books ready by the Collinsville,IL RPM meet in late June and I’m debating on whether to release the ebook earlier or release both simultaneously. For now, I can’t quote a cover price for either. I will post updates on the blog and Facebook when it’s ready. Regardless of the era or modeling scale you prefer, if you’re modeling diesels, you will benefit from this series.

Detailing Track
Detailing Track will be six years old this year and continues to find an audience. It has sold very well and I’m down to less than 370 copies left in inventory, so if you haven’t picked one up, I encourage you to do so soon. Once the current print run is gone, it’s gone. You can purchase a copy directly from me via the OST Store menu link or from Protocraft, Red Cliff Miniatures and when Jay Criswell, the new owner of Right-O-Way Products gets organized, he should also have a few copies for sale. Thank you to all who have purchased and recommended the book. I hope you’ve found it useful.

The Missing Conversation
It won’t have escaped your notice that The Missing Conversation hasn’t progressed beyond Volume 12. The news is that I have decided to discontinue the series as an ebook. I feel it served the purpose I intended for it, which was to bring an awareness to aspects of modeling beyond how-to techniques. The existing volumes, 1-12 will always be available in the OST Store and I’m considering a new project to fill the void and will discuss it at a later time. As a one man shop, my resources are limited, and right now my focus is on getting Tony’s series to market. I thank you all for your support and encouragement of this work. Please feel free to ask any questions and let’s make 2017 a great year for railroad modeling.



  1. Chris Mears

    Thank you for the book update and background. It’s sometimes easy to be ignorant of the effort made in creating content and we overlook that. It must be quite enjoyable to have so much content and compare options on how to best present it – both in terms of messaging and style.


  2. Trevor

    Hi Mike:
    As Chris notes – thanks for the update. I’m very excited about this book, and appreciate just how much work is going into it. I don’t care what it costs – sign me up for a print copy! 🙂
    It’s also good to know that you have some thoughts for what comes after The Missing Conversation. I enjoyed reading it – and contributing to it – and look forward to what’s next.
    – Trevor (Port Rowan in 1:64)

  3. mike

    Hi Chris,

    Every time I go through this process, I develop a new found respect for the amount of unseen craft that goes into creating a published work.


  4. mike

    Hi Trevor,

    You’re signed up! I do have ideas about the future direction of the business. I just need the time and resources to bring them to life.


  5. Simon

    Sign me up, too!

    And for those haven’t bought Mike’s book on track, get a move on before they are gone. You won’t be disappointed.

    Thank you for your customary openness, Mike.

    Happy New Year, everyone.


  6. mike

    Thank you Simon. Detailing Track seemed to fill a void, one I believe still has plenty of room for conversation.