CP Executive train in Albany

CP Executive train in Albany

Sunday, February 24, 2019

Scratchbuilding a Caboose - Part 4 (brake gear)

Lately I have been really enjoying the whole "modeling" experience. I can't explain it, but I love just sitting at my workbench with the radio or television on and working on any and all projects that cross my path. For this caboose, I estimate that I have about 25 hours invested in it so far. It doesn't make sense really. It is a tiny caboose, even in O scale. But, I have spent a lot of time just studying the drawings, making measurements, shopping for stock and parts online, cutting, gluing, sanding, etc. I am not complaining. They have been 25 enjoyable hours. (Had the caboose come out looking terrible like I thought it would, I probably would replace "enjoyable" with "wasted.") 

I am no stranger to projects taking a long time. I am building a 3.75" scale (roughly 1/3) working model of a Welsh narrow gauge steam locomotive to run on 7.25" gauge track. That has easily consumed 1,000 hours so far. And it isn't even running on air yet. If I am having fun I don't mind investing the time. And I don't rush myself, either. Sometimes, I will just sit at my workbench with my dog next to me and sort my styrene scraps into piles, or rearrange my tools, or do something else. Just the act of being at my workbench is therapeutic.

But, some projects need to keep moving on like my caboose. Like the brakes, which aren't shown with much detail on the prints I have. There were a pair of brake shoes which rubbed on the inside of each axle, but how they were connected to the single brake wheel at one end of the car wasn't shown. The prototype is enclosed in a glass box and there is snow on the ground, so I am not driving down to look. But, thankfully, I doubt the NMRA judges are either. So I am going to build a representation of the brakes based on what I could glean from the plans.

I started by looking at brake shoe castings online. Several companies sell them in O scale but they didn't really match what I was looking for. I needed small brake shoes and some of the castings were too large. There were some that looked pretty good but they were only available from the U.K. and I didn't want to place an international order. I found these for dirt cheap on EBay though the seller didn't know who made them. Do they look familiar to anyone? I only care about the shoe part itself I will cut away the rest and throw it out. Only one side is detailed, but that might not matter once it is all painted.

I cut away the brake beams from four of the triangle shoes. I then trimmed off the "bolt" that held the shoes onto the beams, and rounded over that corner to better match the prototype. They were too long so I also trimmed the top and bottom portions of the show arc. In the end, I am not sure how much time I saved by going this route. The portion of the shoes that attaches to the brake beams was cut to fit, and then two shoes were glued to each of the two beams. Thankfully, MEK worked on this black plastic as I really didn't want to use superglue or epoxy.

Then, I drilled holes in the bottoms of the underframe and then bent some steel wire to make a "U" shaped bracket that would fit into the holes. Then, I threaded a pair of shortened Athearn blue box handrail stanchions onto each wire. These stanchions were then glued to the brake beams which had the brake shoes previously attached, and then everything was glued to the underside of the caboose. I used superglue for all of the joints, which gave me a little bit of working time to align the shoes with the wheels but make sure they weren't touching or rubbing. It was fiddly, but surprisingly it all worked.

Next, I had to tie the two brake beams together and also to the brake wheel. The prototype was set up so that when the brake wheel was rotated it tightened a chain which pulled one brake beam into contact with the wheels. This was represented by using a length of steel wire and a couple of Grandt Line truss rod support brackets left over from a previous project. The wire was just left hanging for now at the area where the brake wheel will drop down, but the other end was bent into an L shape. This L fit into a vertical beam that I drilled two holes in (one on each end) and then glued to the brake beam closest to brake wheel.

The other end of the vertical beam was also fitted with another wire that ended in an "L" shape and fit into the hole. This second wire ran to the farther brake beam and was connected to it via another modified Athearn handrail stanchion. In all, it actually looks quite similar to how the plans laid it out. In all, I admit that I looked forward to building the brake gear and linkages because I thought it looked simple enough to pull off and I had never done it before. I am glad I attempted it. Sure, the leverage won't be there because my pivot points are secured with super glue but if this little caboose had its coupler link break I have confidence the crew could bring it to a stop!

The brake wheel casting is by Precision Scale Company and the shaft is some metal wire. I will install it later after the platforms are finished.

Oh, one of the other things I have been working on is having custom decals made for me by Modern Rails decals. Ricky Rupp, the owner, and I go back a long ways. He used to be in Western NY and when I lived there he made a bunch of decals for me for my Arcade and Attica Railroad projects. He also made me a custom set of decals for some D&H blue glass hoppers (which I might get around to working on someday). So, when I needed decals for this caboose I reached out to him. Thankfully, I had a scale drawing of the car and he send some proofs for me to double check on the actual model. They look perfect. The cost was quite affordable, and his turn around time is fast.