CP Executive train in Albany

CP Executive train in Albany

Monday, June 29, 2020

Weathered RS-36 engines!

Finally, after what seems like an eternity my three RS-36 engines have come back! Actually, it wasn't that long that they were gone but ever since I installed my display cases I wanted ALL of my D&H engines together at once to see what they would look like. As it turns out, I really enjoy just staring at them. Pierre at Elgin Car Shops did a great job of weathering them exactly how I wanted. I sent him pictures and descriptions of each of the three RS-36 engines and he masterfully made them look like old, hard working Alcos (are there any other types?) And they aren't all the same either, as each one is different.

What's more, these started off as Atlas Trainman line engines so they didn't have details such as separate grab irons, lifting eyes, and antennas. I purchased Bowser / Cal Scale detail kits (190-527) and he installed them at the same time. I am especially happy with the treatment of #5016. The D&H had small "Delaware & Hudson" lettering on the sides of the hoods but then patched over it with gray paint and stenciled on large numbers. They didn't wash the engine before doing this, so as the engines continue to get dirty you could tell where the newer paint was starting to get dirty and the older paint was really bad. He captured it well.

While nearly all of the D&H engines got dirty over time, the most obvious change was that their gray "lightning stripe" scheme would transition from light gray to filthy dark gray. Oil and grease would accumulate along the door ways, and start to creep up the sides of the doors. Each engine was different, but most had a similar change in appearance. However, while reviewing pictures of #5018 from 1984 I noticed that there was a lot more brown dirt and mud along the trucks and fuel tank than other engines. I don't know why, but here was a chance to open up the color palate a bit. Again, Pierre did a great job in showing this off. The large numbers also had been blanked off, but like the prototype this wasn't as stark a contrast as with #5016.

Finally, I didn't know what to do with #5015.As was mentioned here, this engine went through three different paint schemes in three years. By 1984 it ended up in solid blue with a yellow nose. But, I couldn't resist purchasing this limited edition Atlas model of the engine in the experimental "Billboard" scheme. Some pictures I found from the mid-1970s showed it lightly weathered but also with a lot of dirt on the cab (again, not what D&H engines typically had) so I went with that. It doesn't fit my layout anyway, so I didn't have to match it to 1984. I won't pull it out often to run, but when I do it will make a nice change of pace. And I am glad they didn't do more engines like this!

So did I actually get a picture with all the engines together? Nope, I cropped out a couple by mistake. And my two recent RS-11 acquisitions (#5003, 5005) are already on their way to Pierre for his special treatment, so a full family portrait will just have to wait!

Thursday, June 25, 2020

Scratchbuilding a GWR cattle wagon - Part 2 (Doors and Wheels)

I assumed the next part would be easy. Take the Bachmann axlebox castings that I had salvaged from the car I had started with, patch them up with some styrene strips to repair the broken bits, mount them to the underframe of the car, and be on my way. However, several factors conspired together to make this impossible to do. First, the plastic that Bachmann used is impervious to MEK and I had to use superglue to bond it. Since at least one side's axleboxes would need to be glued in place while also supporting the wheel assembly itself (they were too fragile to spread apart and add the wheels later), I couldn't risk gluing the wheel solid.

So, I tried building a cradle of sorts out of styrene pieces, I-beams, C-channels, and everything else under the sun. They had to securely hold the wheels while also allowing them to rotate properly. However, nothing looked even remotely prototypical and I was hoping to include at least some underframe detail. Interestingly enough, even some of the superdetailed O scale kits I have seen online for these cars cheat and use an inverted "C" cradle to hold the wheels too. The picture at right shows my first four sets of axleboxes, including one attached to the car. But, the second and third problem kept rearing its ugly head: the flanges were too large and hitting the diagonal crossbraces I added.

To remedy this, I elected to cut away portions of the offending diagonal bracing and turn down the wheel flanges on my belt sander. As it is, the wheels now have only a small flange but they still do run on track. I wouldn't trust these cars on my HO layout but these "fine scale" wheels do look a bit better. But I was left with a fourth problem: the axles were metal and any styrene bearing supports I made had to have conical holes drilled in them for the ends of the axles to ride in. In O scale this was easy for my bobber caboose, but not so much in OO scale where minute differences in axlebox depth could make the axles run skewed. So, I removed the wheels from the axles and mounted them on new ones made from 0.080" styrene rod.

After this, things got a little easier. I was able to make styrene bearings for the axles that held the wheels in the proper alignment and also allowed me to set the wheels at the proper height relative to the rest of the car. The flanges just barely cleared the diagonal bracing (or where it would have been had I not hacked it out). However, just to be sure I took the car around the house with me and rotated the wheels every couple of minutes to make sure that the wheels weren't being glued to the bearings, and also to make sure the flanges weren't hitting anything. The picture shows one axle trimmed roughly to length and the other left long.

Finally, I carefully trimmed all the axle ends to length and then superglued the black Bachmann plastic axlebox castings onto the styrene bearings I had made. Since some of the axlebox pieces had broken during extraction, I had to replace those parts with white styrene. Again, superglue and MEK were used. I won't claim that they are perfect, but I am content with them. All told, it took eight different attempts to attach the wheels and axleboxes to the chassis. Having to hold one sides' axleboxes and wheel assembly in place while the glue set was annoying but in the end it worked. There will not be a second car in the future built this way though!

Finally, the missing crossbraces were bugging me. A lot. I had spent a lot of time adding them, and even more time trying to figure out ways to keep them with the wheels as they were, but in the end I had to cut them. But now that the wheels were running true and the flanges were clearing them I wanted to rebuild them. There was no easy way to get pieces of angle into position because the bases of the angles were still lumped on the floor. I hadn't been able to perfectly chisel them off. So, instead I used super thin (.010") pieces of styrene to first bridge the gap on top and then on the sides, essentially filling in the missing pieces. I think it looks a lot better now.

I moo-ved on to detailing the sides of the car. I added some vertical angle iron per the prototype, and also added the doors and hardware. The GWR believed in redundancy and nearly every piece had a back-up piece in case something failed. As a result, it is all way more complicated than it should be. Still, I did my best add the lower portion of the doors which fold down and the upper portions of the doors which swing to the sides. Why couldn't they just build it simple with sliding doors, or bi-folding doors, or something? An interesting project trying to find bits and pieces to replicate all of the little things that make the car so complicated.

Next, I began final framing of the car. The four corners each received vertical L-angle (0.080") and in places I had to back-fill with styrene. Then, the lower corners received their diagonal bracing. There were horizontal steel bars across the open ends (were the cows so inclined to jump out that they had to be restrained?) and they were added with stainless steel wire. Finally, the upper edges of the car were framed out with more square styrene in preparation for the roof. After taking this picture I realized that I needed to trim the lower edge of the left diagonal brace... actually, my wife pointed that out. Taking pictures while building models is a useful trick.

As noted earlier, I want to add some cattle to this car and it won't be easy with the wire rods and the roof in place. So, I had to plan ahead. But I didn't do a good job of it because I attached the sides to the base, which means the roof has to go on last. It is foreseeable that I could bend a thin roof from styrene and hold it down while the glue dries after the car is painted and loaded with cows, but that seems finicky. Much better would be a metal roof that will hold its bent shape which I can paint and then attach with glue and leave it to cure on its own without having to press it down. So, I went to the hobby store and picked up some 0.015" thick sheet brass.

I am blessed to have friends with fully stocked machine shops, so bending brakes and rollers are at my disposal if I want. But, the metal I bought was thin enough that I was able to coax it into shape by slowly working it over from the inside out. I first cut a piece roughly to the dimensions I needed (leaving lots of overhang on the sides, because getting a smooth curve is toughest on the edges) and then I bent it by hand. Once it looked good, I trimmed the ends and sides with a pair of scissors and then I took it over to my belt sander to finish up the work. I also gently rounded over the corners so that they wouldn't cut anyone. And with that, I assumed the top of the car was done.


...but...

While showing my wife what I had built, she innocently asked if I would build more to which I responded "No, I would rather buy them!" This was not the correct answer apparently, but I had so much trouble with the wheels and axles that I decided I won't build more 2-axle cars unless I can find commercial axleboxes. As it is, the wheels roll but not perfectly and my wife pointed this out too (she is good at things like this, bless her heart). So, I ordered some more wheels and probably will have a go at rebuilding the rolling parts of the chassis for a ninth time. I also have to add brakes, buffers, and couplings.

And I will leave you with this thought, brought to my attention by my father who occasionally follows my blog: "First a milk car. Then a "butter dish" car. Next a cattle wagon. Coincidence? (Holy cow!) I think not. Perhaps an ice cream car is in your future." Well, the TCDA car carried milk to an ice cream plant so I suppose that counts as an ice cream car. My last four cars have been centered on cows, and my final car definitely won't be!

Monday, June 22, 2020

Scratchbuilding an On2 boxcar - Part 3 (Frame)

The wheels arrived from NorthWest Short Line, who makes them by hand to order. They were awesome. They were available as kits (which you must press together) or ready-to-run, and I selected the later option because I didn't want to screw them up. The trucks, on the other hand, were less than ideal. I ordered them from San Juan Details, and they were originally manufactured by Grandt Line. They were thin in cross section, a bit warped, overall very springy and riddled with stringy flash. I don't know if I got a bad batch or not but I talked with San Juan Details who agreed to replace them. It was disheartening to say the least because it causes the project to grind to a halt.

So, while waiting for replacements I started working on other projects. Several weeks later, I was pondering if I could do something to replicate the trucks on this car. Then, I looked in my parts inventory and found two pair of Grandt Line On2 trucks just sitting around! They had On30 wheels and I had bought them several years ago for projects that never came to fruition. But here they were, begging to be used. And they were perfectly straight and true. Nothing at all like the set I had above. The prototype car had notched longitudinal beams to allow the trucks to rotate without binding, and I notched my car's beams accordingly. It looks a bit drastic now, but you can't see it when the trucks are installed.

I then had to confirm if the couplers were going to end up at the right height. Per the Maine On2 FAQ if you have the underside of your car 0.375" from the top of the railhead and you mount the couplers in Kadee boxes the height will be perfect. There are several methods of measuring 3/8" from the rails but I built a quick styrene go/no go check gauge of sorts. It helped that I had tiny piece of 3/8" styrene I-beam in my scrap box. Once I set my car up on the gauge, I confirmed that the coupler mounting pad needed to come down about 0.040", which was easily accomplished with some styrene.

The prototype car has functional truss rods which tie the ends of the car together and help adjust the sag and bowing of the car as it ages. In my O scale parts box (which is slowly growing larger) I had some Grandt Line turnbuckles and queenposts that were purchased for my D&H caboose project. They were perfect for this car too. First, I had to glue two crossbraces to lower the queenposts sufficiently. The prototype car had these crossbraces too, and now I see why. Then, it was a matter of cutting and bending some 0.020" steel piano wire that I had on hand. I had to use special hardened cutters as this stuff is strong. Superglue attached it all together, though the ends of the rods just hang underneath the car (where they won't interfere with the trucks).

And with that, I was able to notch the ends of the car for the coupler shank and get everything ready for paint.

The moral of the story is: always check your scrap box for miscellaneous On2 trucks!

Friday, June 19, 2020

Scratchbuilding a GWR cattle wagon - Part 1 (Frame & Body)

Red notations are car dimensions in OO scale
I swear this wasn't what I had planned! I was hoping to be done with my two other cars that are currently under construction and then I would jump onto car #7, a "unique" American prototype freight car. But, some research material I had ordered for it got stuck in the mail so I had to wait. And, during that time I talked with my friend Irwin. He is the president of the local NMRA Division, and we have a lot of common interests. One big one is that we both love British trains. He is my "supplier" of British railway modeling magazines. He is also working on several MMR certificates. And when I was telling him about my freight cars under construction he made the off-hand comment "Why not anything in OO scale?" And that question resonated with me.

I hadn't thought about making a model of a British train, though I had in the past built many scratchbuilt models of G-scale British trains to run in the garden. They were fun, but I had just glossed over them for the MMR program. In fact, as a fall-back plant I had a Welsh Talyllyn Railway coach drawing set that I was going to use for the Passenger Car requirement if necessary because it was a simple design. But, that was pushed aside. So what to do? I considered Talyllyn Railway slate wagons, and then Isle of Man fish wagons. But finally I thought about a Great Western Railway wagon. Built in OO gauge (1:76 scale), they run on HO scale track but appear slightly larger. However, because their prototype trains are so small to begin with they don't look too out of place.

A brief history of GWR cattle wagons: the railway had three sizes (small, medium, and large) which first entered service in 1888 and some lasted until the 1960s. After 1902, many were converted to vacuum brakes and oil type axle boxes and were given the designation W5. After a while, the GWR realized that three sizes of wagons was silly so they standardized on the long one (18 feet long) but it had internal dividers that could be set up to reduce the amount of space inside. Apparently this is necessary to keep the cattle tightly packed in, or else jolts in the train while running could injure the cows. Screw couplings and vacuum brakes were often fitted to cattle wagons to allow them to run in passenger trains and express goods trains. The design was so successful that it was later adopted by British Railways as their standard cattle wagon.

While the British love to build trains in crazy scales (OO scale, EM scale, P4 scale, 4mm, etc.) finding scratchbuilding parts on short notice isn't easy for an American modeler. Like axlebox castings. I have reached out to several companies and none have gotten back to me. I could buy a full wagon kit for just the axleboxes but that seems crazy. So, I asked Irwin if he had a spare wagon to sell that I could cut up for the axlebox castings and he agreed. So on Tuesday I paid him a visit and picked it up. Behold... the beginning of my cattle wagon! As it turns out, it had molded on brake levers that aren't prototypical and so I couldn't use the axleboxes as is. I may have to scratchbuild some. I have done it before... it isn't tough. I did keep the sprung buffers, though. Everything else was set aside.

Looking online for for plans, I was generously sent the works drawings shown in the lead picture. But that didn't show the underframe, so more research was necessary. I found that the wagons were an interesting fabrication of steel c-channels and I-beams, all topped with a wooden deck. This I replicated in miniature using O-scale freight car siding laminated back to back and Evergreen 1/8" tall I-beams (#274) and C-channel (#264). Some additional styrene strips were added to tie it all together, as well as frame out the edges. One thing is for sure, though... this car is tiny! It is less than 3" long, and this was the "long" version!

The sides can't be built using my normal methods of an inner substructure with laminated boards, because it is a cattle wagon and there are openings on the sides. So I started on the ends instead. These were cut to rough size and then laminated with horizontal boards, which were later trimmed. I selected this GWR prototype in particular because it had an interesting pattern of "X" bracing on the ends. This picture doesn't show it finished yet because the two vertical L-angles need to be added. But, it is coming along. They were then attached to the car frame and braced on the inside with a piece of styrene.

The tops of the car sides threatened to bow in so something had to be done about that. Per the plans, horizontal stringers of 0.060" square styrene were added tying the ends together. Next, I added roof supports which were rounded and notched to perfectly match the curved profile of the ends. And then I had a crazy revelation... I just built a car in the wrong order AGAIN! I don't plan to superdetail it but I am going to add cattle and straw. If I glue on the roof, I won't have access to the interior after painting. So, I can't attach the roof until after painting, which is really tough with styrene. I might have to roll my own roof out of metal, which can holds its shape. It will be a new challenge. Success... TBD!

Next I added some of the boards on the floor that allowed the GWR to adjust the length of the car into something smaller if necessary. I don't exactly know how it worked, as it didn't appear from the plans that the ends came in, but there must have been some temporary walls or something that shifted closer together and locked into the upstanding boards on the floor to reduce the size. Or perhaps these boards were just to give the feet of the cattle some purchase in the shifting wagon as the train jolted along, and the size reduction boards were something else entirely. Who knows? And once the car is painted you probably won't be able to see them anyway under the straw.

I had noticed that overnight the ends of the car had started to bow out in the middle. The tops were securely attached by the square stringers, and the bottoms were braced to the frame, but the middle portion had no support. The missing sides of the car don't go up the whole way, so they wouldn't be of great help. I considered gluing a vertical brace on the inside of the car but one of the size required would be visible through the open top of the car. I hadn't planked the inside of the ends yet, so I did that and then I set my metal machinist's square inside the car (it just barely fit... what an amazing coincidence!) and then clamped the square to my work bench. It will now dry flat.

The sides of the cars have horizontal planking boards, but unlike American stock cars there aren't spaces between them. Instead, the three lower boards are profiled a bit to remove some material to allow a bit of air to enter. I suspect it also made it easier to clean out the car after a day of hauling livestock. Yuck! The result was that sometimes hay would stick out of the gaps, and interesting feature that I wanted to model. But I needed the sides to be strong too. So, I took some 0.020" styrene and laid out each side, but cut away a portion where the slats would go so that there would be open space in those areas. It didn't have to be perfect.

Then, I started adding the horizontal boards to the sides. For the lower three boards on each side of the doorway I trimmed away two areas and then glued the board on. The result was the open space I was looking for. The boards themselves are barely an 1/8" wide (or tall) and trimming the parts out resulted in kinked and bent boards. I glued them up and let it all become very solid, but not every opening is exact. I will later come in with a needle file and try and profile the openings more. I also didn't open up the lower boards on each side as that would just make the entire bottom area too weak. Still, I think it is a neat detail.

Finally, the sides of the car were glued to the body core that had slowly been forming on my workbench. The joints on the bottom and ends were pretty solid, but there was nothing supporting the middle from bowing in and out. I added some more 0.060" square styrene to frame out the doorways and tie the sides to the roof horizontal braces. There is still a lot more to do, such as building the unusual folding door assembly and adding trim and angle-irons to the corners, but the styrene L-angles are on order (my local hobby store didn't have any suitable ones) and I want to give the joints more time to dry. Plus, I need to start working on the axlebox assemblies.

There are two ways to do things, "The Great Western way or the wrong way." I hope I am in the first camp!

Tuesday, June 16, 2020

Scratchbuilding a "butter dish" car - Part 3 (Paint & Handrails)

The body and frame were painted separately. For the frame, I washed and then primed the underside. I didn't need to cover every last speck of the car, but I wanted to hit the yellow and black brake detail parts and also the neon green marker residue at some of the joints. The prototype as it sits in the Illinois Railroad Museum has a faded blue underframe and I first tried Testors Gloss "Light Blue" (#1208) to replicate this. It ended up much lighter than the spray can cap and I wasn't happy with the color (it looks faded.... which sadly matched the prototype). So I purchased some Tamiya "French Blue" (TS-10) and after several light coats it looked better.

Then, before I painted the deck I had some work to do. First, I tapped 2-56 the truck and coupler screw holes which I had previously drilled. The truck screws will be hidden in the wood tank block but the coupler mounting screws holes might be visible (drilling and tapping through the frame seemed smarter than trying to drill and tap a shallow, blind hole). I screwed in the couplers from below, then filled the hole in from the top with putty and let it dry. After sanding smooth, I painted the deck the same light blue. The couplers are now firmly attached with screws, and the holes are hidden. Repeated removing of the screws might mess this up, though, so make sure of the proper coupler height before painting.

The deck was then flipped over and the car was given a light misting of Dullcote (after protecting the couplers with some blue tape). Then, I drybrushed various shades of brown and black to represent rust, dirt, and grime along the underside. I have no actual idea how bad the car looked underneath but there are three known facts: it is made of metal, it is stored outdoors, and it will only get worse over time. So, I lightly weathered it to reflect what would normally occur to all railroad cars that have to survive rainstorms, blizzards, and the like. If it is anything like the museum trains up here in NY, I should have really rusted it out. But I exercised restraint.

The trucks were drybrushed with brown and black around the edges, and the suspension springs were picked out in orange. I painted all surfaces of the wheels except the treads with black, and then went over them with a mottled black/brown paint mixture. Since the car is on display it most likely is getting covered with rust instead of oil and dirt from running along the rails, so I tried to reflect this. I think it came out pretty good. You can also see in this picture the Precision Scale Company glad hands and the Bowser/Cal Scale air and steam hose castings. They were painted and then lightly weathered as well.

The handrail stanchions, which came from Precision Scale Co., are brass castings and super tiny. What's more, they come 12 to a package and I needed 12 exactly so there was no room for error. I strung them on some brass 0.010" wire I had lying around and made a bunch of twists on the ends so they wouldn't fall off. Then, I dunked them all in lacquer thinner to clean them. They were all handpainted with gloss black paint while still on the wire. I accidentally knocked one off the table when I cut the end of the wire to free them, and I thought I was going to be sick. Thankfully, it landed in a space where I was able to find it. Otherwise, I would have had to order more.

The body was prepped for painting, but I didn't dare get the car too wet because I was concerned the wood might swell and blow off the styrene! But, it got a good wipe down with a damp paper towel. Then, I sprayed it gloss while. I used a Krylon white spray paint in a large can. The next day, I added the handrails one side at a time. I don't know if the prototype is one large piece or two- one per side- but the stanchions are too small to hold two ends of wire, one from either side. So, the end fins had a second hole drilled and the wires overlap those two holes on the ends. Gluing the stanchions with superglue wasn't too bad because they were captive on the handrail wire and couldn't "escape" very far.

I then went around the car and touched up the black paint. The stanchions had been pre-painted (thank goodness, as there is no way to paint them properly without touching the white by mistake) but the handrails between them were painted the same gloss black. Where the handrails pass through the fins and terminate, I left that part black. It is less noticeable that there are two wires instead of one if they are dull brass going into white, instead of bold black going into white. At least I think so. I wish I had a better solution. The corner grabs were also painted black, but I didn't worry about getting every last bit that went into the body because I didn't want any black paint showing on the white body. From a foot or so away, you can't tell.

And this is where I am at. I am letting everything dry, and then the body will be screwed to the frame with some small #1 x 3/8" wood screws. Then it is just wait for the decals to arrive.

Saturday, June 13, 2020

Scratchbuilding an On2 boxcar - Part 2 (Floor, Roof & Trim)

The floor of the car is just a piece of 0.060" styrene, cut to drop into the bottom of the car and perfectly rest on the styrene pieces I had attached to the lower walls earlier. The prototype car was planked so because the bottom would be visible I added an extra layer of wooden "boards" (the same Evergreen #126 stryene strips I had used earlier) as well. Those red and blue lines represent where the six longitudinal frame members would go, and I had originally planned to glue them directly to the floor before I remembered that the car should have boards showing. At least I caught that mistake in time, or I would have had to cut/fit boards between each member... ugh!

The floor was then flipped over and I added styrene pads which will later be drilled and tapped for coupler and truck mounting screws. I usually drill the holes before painting but leave the tapping until after, because I don't want paint to get into the threads and fill them in. I also use the holes for mounting the car on pieces of wire to support it while painting, and the wire could mangle the fragile plastic threads. But, drilling the holes is definitely better now than after painting. I also added several ounces of weight in the form of epoxy mixed with lead shot. Not too much, though, as Forney's are known for their anemic pulling power!

I started working on the frame but couldn't go any farther with it until I know how much clearance the trucks would need, and how tall the bolsters would be on them. So, I ordered the NWSL metal On2 wheels. The emailed me recently to say that unfortunately, due to the pandemic they are back-ordered for months. Then, yesterday I received an email that they were shipped! So, we shall see how that plays out but for now I can only focus on the body of the car for now.

The roof is two layers of 0.040" styrene. The first layer went on okay and there was no bowing or warping, but the roofline joint wasn't nearly as straight as it needed to be. So, I added a second layer which made the roof pretty strong. In real life, the was constructed from boards that ran perpendicular to the track. I thought about adding them, but then realized that they would be hidden under the final "tin" layer of the roof. It wasn't worth going to the trouble of adding them when they wouldn't be seen. The roof joint was further reinforced below with styrene rod running along the seam.

I then left everything dry and flipped it over, and was a little dismayed to learn that one edge of the roof was just slightly too short. Thankfully, with plastic styrene and MEK there is very little you cannot fix! So, digging into my styrene strip pile I quickly built up a couple of layers and then let it all dry. Once trimmed, the roof was perfectly flat, level, and overhanging evenly on all sides. At this point, I went around the car and added some Evergreen #125 strips along the lower portions of the overhanging roof. It really made the car look classy, and it helped to cover up any rough edge joints at the same time. I wonder if it served the same purpose on the full-size cars?

The ladders on the prototype car are interesting, and almost look childish compared to modern ladders. They are made up of vertical, square profile wooden boards with metal rungs bolted across them. I wonder how strong they were in real life? I remember reading that the museum installed extra wood behind the ladders to give the bolts some additional "meat" to go through for strength. I used Evergreen #153 square stock for the vertical risers, and some Tichy #8144 nut/bolt/washer castings for the mounting hardware. The rungs are bent from straight wire, which was conveniently stored in a stapler on my desk! Just some bending up and they were at


The sides were then detailed. When building my large scale (1/3) steam locomotive, I take a chunk of metal and mill/turn/drill away unnecessary parts until all that is left looks like a train part. When working with styrene, I add bits and pieces here and there until what I have left looks like a train part. The doors had already been roughed in but they needed hinges. Small pieces of rod formed the barrel part of the hinge, and then two other pieces formed the rest of it. A small Grandt Line N/B/W casting (#127) finished it off. But I had to make 12 of them! For consistency, I cut and attached all of one piece and then moved on to the next. Other door hardware like the locks and handles were more styrene.


I am thankful that I have such a good selection of styrene to work with. In the old days, I might have one thickness of sheet and a couple types of strips and I would need to slice and rip and sand that down to make whatever I needed. By now, my inventory is such that I can make almost whatever I need with what I have. I discovered that the plans published in a book for this car don't match the replica car I am modeling in a couple of respects, including window height. I crudely opened it up (shown in the last photo) and framed it with more styrene. I will hold off glazing them with real glass until after the car is painted. 

The ends of the replica car are simple but have various nuts, bolts and washers along the bottom to tie the ends and the longitudinal beams together, as well as support the coupler box. Without them, the end of the car is pretty plain. And while I have a good selection of styrene, I needed to either purchase or several types of n/b/w castings. I chose to purchase them from San Juan Details (formerly Grandt Line). There are three types pictures: small (#127), with square washers (164) and with round washers (16). The coupler pocked will be cut out later when I receive the trucks and set the final height of the car.



Per the Maine On2 FAQ website these were later covered with tin panels that were soldered up. Some cars, either late in life or as part of their later careers in museums, received tar paper. I am going to simulate a tin roof, which per prototype pictures wasn't perfect. Some people model it by embossing aluminum foil, and others overlay rectangles cut from thin styrene. One gentleman used thin (.010" x 0.020"... the smallest Evergreen sells) to replicate the folded over seams in the tin roof panels, and then sanded down the styrene so it was barely visible. I decided to try that. I first laid out a grid in pencil on the roof, and found that 1 centimeter was nearly the exact width of the tin panels. A shingle pattern was drawn out, though certainly the lines didn't have to be perfect.

Then, I used some Evergreen 0.010 x 0.020" styrene (#100) to replicate the standing soldered seams. This stuff is the smallest dimensional styrene strip that Evergreen makes and boy is it tiny. And it isn't perfectly straight either. As a result, I had to do each joint a little at a time whilst trying to hold it in place and then gently touching a brush with MEK onto the piece. Any little bit of extra force and it would go off course, leading to problems. I started by doing the two longitudinal pieces, and then added the perpendicular pieces. In the background I had on an old PBS "Nova" show about the building of the pyramids. That sounded about as tedious.

After a while it was all cured, so I took a knife and went around the edges to trim everything up. Next, the center roof joint was addressed. At first I planned to hide it under a roof walkway, but further research revealed that the replica car doesn't have them yet (perhaps to keep tourists off the car when it is on display.) So, I had to clean up the top joint. I squared up the upper ends and then pieced in more of the styrene to make a joint rail at the peak. Finally, I went over each joint of the roof again with some MEK to make sure that they were all in fact set up. While it sure looks strange, soldered tin roofing was common on 2-foot cars.

It is important to point out that several things are missing from this car that might be on a traditional operating car. First, there are no brakes on the model. Some WW&F boxcars had no brakes, some had handbrakes installed on only one truck, and some had no brakes themselves but did have vacuum brake lines to connect the engine with trailing coaches. Since the replica is sans brakes, my model is too. Nor does it have the roof details like a roof walk, as mentioned above. Finally, it is missing corner stirrup steps. Some WW&F boxcars didn't have them either though it looks like the original car #65 did. But, because it is usually on public display again the museum chose to leave them off. So is this a model of a real railroad car or a display piece? Both! While it is usually on display, the car does run on occasion on the railroad during photo charters (see some great photos here) and such and as a result I will stand by the fact that it is a money-making piece of railroad equipment.

I don't want to paint the car yet because there are plates by the coupler pockets that need to be trimmed for the couplers to gain swing clearance, and until I can set the coupler height (again, tied to the receipt of the On2 trucks) the car will remain white styrene. The decals are on order though.

Wednesday, June 10, 2020

Scratchbuilding a "butter dish" car - Part 2 (Frame & Details)

I started researching the frame in early 2019, over a year ago. The RMC article called for using a modified Accurail kit reefer frame, but I wanted to scratchbuild my car. So, starting last Saturday morning the first thing that I worked on was the trucks. They are nice but the details didn't match the plans. Specifically, they had molded on brake shoes and the profile around the sides and edges was too curved. So, I trimmed and filed them down to match the magazine drawing. It was only later that I realized that there were several errors with the drawing and these cars did have outside-hanging brakes on the trucks, so I should have left them molded on. Oh well.

I have searched the internet high and low looking for plans for the underframe arrangement of these cars. To date, I have come up empty. People have referred me to regular reefer plans which are nice but I can't guarantee they are accurate. Several manufacturers have made kits of these cars and I reached out to them asking about plans but none responded. Maybe they thought I was going to make my own kits? The HO and N scale articles modify commercial frames but I wanted to build it all myself. So, I did the best thing in this situation: made logical guesses. I started off using some Evergreen O-scale freight car siding (#4067) with the board detail pointed down. I then framed it with styrene strips. Its dimensions match the plans.

All of the cross braces, truck bolsters, and longitudinal braces were formed from styrene too. I would just set the piece in place and add some MEK. Within a little while, I had a nice solid joint. The prototypes two main beams had caps on the bottom surface (which faces up when the car is upside down) and I built them by first profiling the long beams, and then adding thin styrene strips on top. I had to glue them down in phases. Here, the picture shows the center portion glued down but the ends are still hanging up in space. I later glued them down and held them in position with wood toothpicks (which prevents my fingers from marring the softened plastic).

I then began adding the brake system. Using parts from my scrapbox, I cobbled together the necessary items and attached them to the frame. The first part was the copper rod steam line (this car did run in passenger trains, after all) which had to be cut and fit between every cross brace. Next, a Walthers tank (yellow), a MDC cylinder (gray), an Accurail triple valve (black), and sytrene rod connected all of the parts together. I held off adding the brake line and air hoses on the ends until after the car is painted because they are fragile. I don't claim that this brake system perfectly matches the prototype, but without underside photos I did the best I could.

With all that done I turned my attention to the body. The sides of the car have doors that appear to be plug doors, with hinges on one side and a locking apparatus on the other. Originally the car had triangular hinges but over time they were replaced with the rectangular ones. Using some scrap styrene and few pieces from the parts box, I fabricated these details based on the pictures of the prototype. They also have angled drip rails above the doors which I guess serve to keep water from seeping into the car. Finally, the ends also had grab irons which bent around to the sides. Because the corners of my car are essentially hard right-angles, I mounted the handrails on the sides which look better.

The ends were detailed in much the same way. The end ribs were cut from 0.030" styrene, making a template with one and then tracing and filing down two more to match each other perfectly. The bottoms of the ends have various steel patch plates (I don't know if they were there on the original cars or are repairs by the museum) but I modeled them with styrene. The ribs were notched to fit around it. The braking hardware is a Tichy brake wheel support and Precision Steel Co. plastic chain. The control box on the right side of the rib is just styrene bits. These details are on one end of the car only. The brake wheel was left off until after painting so it wouldn't get filled in with paint.

Finally, there was the matter of little things here and there. For example, the upper ends of the tank body had small little metal protrusions in the corners. I don't have a clue what they were for, but since the cars existed during the steam era if I had to guess it would be that they were designed to hold marker lamps in case they were the last car of the train. Small plastic bits replicated what exists on the prototype now. I also added eight grab irons and six stirrup steps to the frame. The corner stirrups are dangerously close to the trucks, and it limits their swing somewhat. They were omitted from the model in the article for this reason, but I added them. My car won't take 18" radius curves though, that's for sure.

And now the frame is ready to be washed and painted. The shade of blue is a cross between baby blue and sky blue, and I am not sure what is available in a spray can at the hobby store. I won't be able to check it out until the weekend I think. So it will have to wait. The body is nearly done, but I still have to add the wrap-around handrails and for that I need the stanchions that are on order. Then, the body itself will be finished and ready for washing and painting with a nice, glossy white paint. And that is where I left the project on Sunday evening. All in all, it wasn't bad for a weekend's worth of work. I had a lot of fun building it, and I am sad that it is nearly done.