CNR 8789 :: First Run

CNR 8789 in train
(The Daily Effort rolls through St. Williams, Ontario. Those green over black passenger cars sure are handsome!)

I’ve installed glass in the windows, added the roof vents (kitbashed from Pullman Vents – Part 02442 from BTS), and airbrushed some more black paint to blend them into the roof. With that work done, I was able to reassemble the car and put it on the rails. It’s a handsome addition to the mixed train service:

CNR 8789 in train

My passenger cars still require diaphragms – I ordered some from “S”cenery Unlimited and I’m told they shipped a couple of weeks ago, but they haven’t yet arrived. They’re not overdue yet – I’m just playing the International Postal Game. Once I have those installed, I can weather this car. But in the meantime, I do a lot of test-runs with it.

This is the first time I’ve cut into a brass model to kitbash it. It was a bit nerve-wracking to make that first cut – but now I’m really glad I did.

CNR 8789 :: the express car is lettered

That was easier than I thought…

CNR 8789 - lettered

I spent a relaxing few hours at the kitchen table this week, and applied the decals to my CNR express car. It’s now officially “CNR 8789”.

CNR 8789 - lettered
(Applying decals is a clean project that can be done almost anywhere)

When doing the CNR post-1954 scheme, there’s a lot of lettering to apply. In addition to the road name and number, there are round shields, the car type (“Express”), and three sets of yellow stripes. The decal set (CNR#PASS-DS from Black Cat Publishing) provides all of this, and I’m impressed by how well the yellow stripes turned out on these decals. They’re opaque, and it’s possible to overlap the stripes without having a stronger yellow spot show up in the line. That makes it a whole lot easier to apply stripes: I worked with pieces about 3″ long for the most part.

I sprayed a clear coat over the decals yesterday, so today I can install the window glass. I’m still waiting on some details but I can carefully airbrush them after application, so I’m not letting that hold up progress…

Two-tone express car

Two-tone express car

My CNR express car now sports its post-1954 two-tone paint scheme. I masked the green parts of the car with Tamiya tape, which I’ve been using exclusively for about a year and a half now. I love this stuff – it has solved lots of problems for me in the masking and painting department. I then gave the roof and lower sides a coat of Warm Black – a paint that is sadly no longer offered by the CNR Historical Association. (It’s not shown in this post, but I also airbrushed black onto the frame and trucks.) I let the Warm Black cure for an hour or two, then carefully pulled off the masking.

The trickiest part of the painting job was the ends. The lower black panel wraps just onto the ends, and it took a lot of cutting and fiddling to mask under the roof, and around the diaphragm. I have some brush-painting of details still to do, but I’m pleased with how the airbrushing turned out, particularly around the ends:

Two-tone express car

The photo above also shows the new rain strip over one baggage door. I added four strips, bent from 0.010 phosphor bronze wire.

I filled the vent holes in the roof by backing each hole with styrene then applying Squadron Putty and sanding. With a coat of paint, I’m pleased with how these turned out. They’re not visible in photos, and barely visible in person – and only if you really look for them. I am waiting for parts to arrive so I can kit bash some correct vents for the roof. Fortunately, I only need a few and they can be easily applied at any time, then spot painted with an airbrush to blend into the rest of the roof.

I’m less pleased with the factory diaphragms on this brass car. They’re good as far as they go, but they do not have the bellows between the striker plate and the door frame. I’ve ordered some parts to help me tackle that. Also, they’re sprung and they’re too aggressive – they’ll push a car off the tracks if two cars run back to back. Again, something else to tackle when the parts come in.

Meantime, I’m going to let the black cure for a few days, then I can start applying the lettering, including a lot of yellow stripes. This is a handsome scheme but challenging to letter. I’m looking forward to the challenge and to the finished result.

Blended by Green (CNR Express Car)

A shot of paint blends everything together…

Express car - green

I’ve made more progress on my CNR express car. As the photo above shows, I’ve given the car a coat of CNR green, using the paint offered by the CNR Historical Association. It definitely blends together the styrene and brass that I’ve used to model this express car.

Next steps: I’ve ordered roof vents from BTS, and I’ll install those before I mask and paint the roof and lower portion of the sides in black. I’ve also ordered some passenger car diaphragms from “S”cenery Unlimited – for this and for other passenger cars on my layout. I’ll wait until these arrive, then modify the ends to install the diaphragms.

Meantime, I’ve received the decals for this car from Black Cat Publishing. Service, as always, was quick and excellent (thanks, Al!).

I’m very excited about this project: I look forward to adding this car to my mixed train, and I’m pleased that the project is coming together so quickly…

New doors for the CNR express car

My friend Joe Smith – himself a superb modeller – correctly guessed that I would build the new doors for my CNR express car from styrene:

New doors for the CNR baggage car

I framed the openings with styrene strip of various sizes, including quarter round for the vertical jambs. I then built up the doors from various widths of .010″ styrene strip. I sized the windows based on photographs of the 8775-8799 series that I’m trying to represent with this car.

For the eight-foot opening, I built two doors and when I installed them I left a very slight gap between the two so they don’t look like one very big door with odd window spacing.

Time to figure out roof vents, and to order some decals from Al Ferguson at Black Cat Publishing.

CNR express car: Nibbled

Well, that’s an unusual headline, but that’s exactly what I did.

As previously noted, I’m turning a model of an SP baggage car into a reasonable stand-in model of a CNR express car, in the 8775-8799 series. The most noticeable difference – and therefore the one I simply must address – is the doors. The SP car has two 5′ doors on each side, whereas the CNR car has a 6′ door and a pair of doors in an 8′ opening. The doors on the CNR car are also taller, reaching almost to the roof. (I provided more detail about the doors in a previous posting.)

I disassembled my SP model, and opened up new spaces for the doors:

CNR baggage car - door openings
(Modified car, with new door openings)

Southern Pacific SP brass baggage car
(Stock SP car from South Wind Models)

The brass walls are fairly thin on this car, so to do this work I simply marked the size of the new openings, then removed material with a “nibbler” – a tool used in electronics:

Nibbler
(Check your local electronics supplier, or even your hobby shop, for one of these)

As the name implies, it nibbles away thin brass, PC board materials, styrene, you name it. (It’s a great tool for making openings in walls for window castings.) I’m really glad I have one in my toolbox. Using the nibbler is like playing The Price Is Right: I tried to get as close to the line as I could without going over. I then finished the openings with a good mill file.

The other big change I have to make is the roof vents. As the photos above suggest, I’ve removed the SP vents and will be replacing them. Here’s a close-up of the roof, with vents gone:

CNR baggage car - roof vents removed

Removing them was easy: I held the car body shell with an oven mitt, and used a micro-torch to melt the solder from the inside of the roof. A few passes with the torch was all it took. I would heat a post, set down the torch, then grab the vent with a pair of pliers and pull it out of the roof. I still have to fill the holes, and add new, longer rain strips to the roof over the larger openings.

I guess I’m committed to the project now.

Next up: I’ll build some new doors for the express car.

Express car mods via Photoshop

As noted in a previous post, I ordered a model of an SP baggage car with the intent of creating a stand-in for a CNR express car in the 8775-8799 number range. These CNR cars had a “turtle roof”, plus six-foot and eight-foot doors.

CNR baggage car - prototype photo
(Click on the image to read more about why I decided to model this series of cars)

The car arrived this week, and – for my purposes – it’s an excellent start. The discrepancies that are most immediately apparent are the vents on the roof and the baggage doors. There should be fewer vents, of a different style, and the doors should be larger and taller – almost touching the roof line.

I did a quick bit of Photoshop work to see if I could get the SP car to look more like the CNR series I’m trying to represent. I built each image out of several photographs so I could take close-up pictures of the car to capture the detail:

Stock Southern Pacific baggage car
(Stock SP car)

SP baggage car - modified in photoshop
(Photoshop modifications)

Based on this virtual kit bash, I think the modifications will be worth the effort.

Modifying the doors should be fairly easy: I can simply cut larger openings, square them with a file, add some strip to the interior if needed, and build new doors. They don’t even need to be built out of brass – I’m happy to use styrene for the doors. (The larger of the two openings should have two equal-sized doors with two lights each – not the 3+2 arrangement shown in the photo.)

The vents will be a little trickier – only in that I’ll have a lot to remove, and then a lot of holes to fill in a very visible part of the car. I will think about the vents issue some more before I start unsoldering castings.

Stand-in CNR express car

Mixed train - missing baggage car
(This mixed train is missing something: a CNR express car. The proper one is not available, but I’ve found a suitable, temporary stand-in)

Good things come to those who wait. But in the meantime, “close enough” is better than “none at all”…

I’ve decided I need to compromise – at least, temporarily – in order to fill out my 1957 version of the mixed train to Port Rowan. There are two significant differences in this train, when compared to its 1953 version: CNR 10-wheelers had replaced the Moguls on the head end and – with the demise of the postal contract – the baggage-mail car had disappeared, to be replaced with a simple express (baggage) car.

My 1953 train accurately reflects its consist…

M233-CNR867-Port Rowan

… but my attempts to model the 1957 version have been stymied by the lack of an accurate CNR express car in S scale. Fellow S scale enthusiast David Clubine and I have badgered our mutual friend Andy Malette at MLW Services to fill this gap, preferably with a four-axle NSC steel car – like this:

CNR 9269
(Jim Parker photo from the Canadian Freight Car Gallery. Click on the image to learn more.)

Andy has “expressed” interest (see what I did there?), and he’s done a great job on some other CNR passenger car kits in S scale, including the combines that bring up the rear of my mixed trains. But I also appreciate that Andy has other projects he wants to tackle, and that a market of “Dave and Me” isn’t a very good reason to devote the best part of a year to developing a kit. So while the NSC car is on his “someday” list, I’ll content myself with being thrilled when (or even if) he does this car.

In the meantime, however, my modern mixed train falls short. It doesn’t look right, and operating sessions with this train suffer without the express car and its associated activity. My choices are either to build my own NSC four-axle express car or find a suitable stand-in.

Building my own isn’t beyond consideration, but I have other projects that are more of a priority. For starters, there are still a number of structures to build and trees to create. If I decide to build the NSC car, it will be a few (several?) years before I can tackle the project – and that leaves me with the same unsatisfying situation I’m in today.

So, I prefer the second option – the suitable stand-in. The next task was to determine whether any such model exists.

For this, I combined two sources.

First, the National Association of S Gaugers has an online Product Gallery, in which the organization is trying to collect and share information about every locomotive and piece of rolling stock ever produced for 1:64. It’s a tall order, but the Product Gallery is remarkably complete – and most of the entries include photographs of the models.

NASG Logo
(Click on the logo to visit the NASG, where you’ll find the product gallery)

I searched through the gallery’s “baggage car” section, and compared the photographs to pictures in the Canadian National Color Guide to Freight and Passenger Equipment Volume 1, written by John Riddell and published by Morning Sun Books. And, I found a match – or, at least, a model that’s a close-enough stand in for my purposes:

CNR Baggage Car - Proto Photo
(Click on the image to visit Morning Sun Books)

The prototype is a series of 25 cars built by National Steel Car in 1940. They’re almost 65 feet long and have a distinctive “turtle roof”. And, while they’re not dead-on matches, they sure look close to the Southern Pacific baggage cars imported by SouthWind Models – an example of which is shown below:

Southern Pacific brass baggage car - Southwind Models

Yes, there are discrepancies – some pretty big ones. Notably, the baggage doors on the CNR cars extend almost to the roof, whereas they stop at the letter board on the SP cars. Also, the roof vents are all wrong. But for a stand-in car, until Andy produces (or I build) the NSC baggage car that should be on my 1957 mixed train? I can live with that – or try my hand at some simple brass-bashing. Dan Navarre at River Raisin Models had an unpainted example in stock, which is current en route to me.

I’m looking forward to having a more accurate mixed train: More accurate, because “wrong express car” is better than “no express car”…

The view from the cab (or the cupola)

 photo 4205-Copetown2016-01_zpssttbwlqf.jpg
(CNR T-3-a 2-10-2 number 4205 leads a coal train on company service on the S Scale Workshop layout. The photo is actually a screen capture of a video, shot with a small but powerful camera mounted on a flat car)

I’m always on the lookout for new ways to view my hobby, and to capture and share the effort with others. I’ve taken a lot of photos of my layout – and even some video – using a variety of image capturing hardware.

Now, thanks to a conversation with my friend David Clubine, I’m able to capture the view from the cab in video, too.

 photo ReplayXD-Copetown2016_zpspi53rt9n.jpg
(Is it a circus cannon? The Prime X from Replay XD, mounted on an S Helper Service flat car and ready to capture on-track video of the S Scale Workshop modular layout. The plow-shape lets the camera capture more of the layout, and less of the ceiling…)

As the members of the S Scale Workshop prepared to exhibit their Free-mo style modular layout at this year’s Copetown Train Show, we were looking for a way to share our effort with a wider audience. Someone had suggested we should some trackside video and I thought that would be a novel way to see the layout. But what to use?

One of our members suggested an iCar – a laser-cut car that holds an iPhone and allows one to aim the camera down the track. But they’re not available in 1:64, and I was looking for something that would shoot better quality video. A GoPro was also considered – but while they’re small as cameras go, they can be quite large.

Then David suggested the cameras made by Replay XD. David runs a company that serves and supports professional racing teams, and he uses the Replay XD to capture high definition video of the cars in action. It’s small yet rugged, and its “lipstick” shape doesn’t compromise a race car’s aerodynamics.

While we don’t need to worry about drag coefficients in the railway modelling hobby, I realized the small size of this camera might be just the ticket for mounting on a flat car to capture video from the engineer’s perspective. So I ordered one from the California-based company.

At just over 1″ in diameter and under 4″ long, the Replay XD Prime X is smaller than a GoPro, and weighs just 3.5 ounces. But this small camera packs big performance – capturing high definition video and audio, and it’s WiFi enabled so it can be controlled from a smart phone with the Replay XD app. One can start and stop recording, and the camera will stream what it sees. Pretty slick.

 photo ReplayXD-Copetown2016-Meta_zpsimtnosfo.jpg
(With the Replay XD app installed, the iPod Touch is linked to the camera via WiFi and displays what the camera sees – including my friend Stephen Gardiner, who is taking the photo: That’s him to the right of the mainline in the screen of my iPod Touch!)

The camera arrived Friday and I got to work building a suitable mount so I could secure it to the deck of an S Helper Service flat car. (These are great candidates for this as they’re all metal: their weight means they track well and glide smoothly on the rails.) At first, I mounted the camera mount on a piece of 0.060″ thick sheet styrene. I marked out and drilled four holes in the corners, arranged to line up with stake pockets on the flat car, and glued short lengths of .025″ phosphor bronze wire into the holes. This worked well: the camera was easy to mount on the flat car, it stayed put, and I didn’t have to modify the car in any way.

 photo ReplayXD-Mount-Flat_zpsyfdbhwxi.jpg
(A good start: the mount doesn’t flail about, and there’s no damage to the car itself)

I did some testing on my layout but I found that the camera – equipped with a wide-angle lens – captured too much of the ceiling in the layout room. So I went back to the workbench and built a wedge – like the front of a snow plow – so that I could mount the camera pointing down at the track. This worked much better, and is the version shown in the photos of the camera car at work on the S Scale Workshop modular layout.

 photo 4205-Copetown2016-02_zpsvvnslsno.jpg
(The camera car attracted a lot of attention from attendees at the Copetown Train Show. Here, several people grab shots of it as it shoots video of CNR 4205. This image is a screen capture from the video.)

I took the camera car to the Copetown Train Show on Sunday and shot several minutes of high-quality video. The camera and app are easy to use and I’m very pleased with the results.

I’ve posted two videos shot with the Replay XD to the S Scale Workshop blog. Click on each of the photos, below, to visit the Workshop’s blog and watch the videos. I hope you enjoy them.

Cab Ride at Copetown
 photo CabRideAtCopetown-Poster_zpstjirh8c9.jpg

CNR 4205 at Copetown
 photo CNR4205Copetown-Poster_zpsrvvsyefh.jpg

And yes, I plan to press the camera car into service on my Port Rowan layout, and elsewhere. Stay tuned…

(Thanks to Stephen Gardiner for the photos, and David Clubine for the lead on this big little camera!)

More on the scale house

 photo ScaleHouse-07_zps7sbmquik.jpg

Further to yesterday’s post about the scale house project, I have some more progress to share.

Having sprayed the entire scale house with CNR mineral red, I let that dry and then I brush painted some pale grey on the back wall and the ceiling, to lighten up the interior somewhat. (It’s easier to see the scale mechanism now that it’s not so dark inside.)

I also painted the scale and stained the floor:

 photo ScaleHouse-08_zpszlottjbq.jpg

I mentioned the ventilator pipes in a previous post. They’re scratch-built from styrene tube sized to match some HO scale white metal castings for mushroom-style roof vents from Scale Structures Limited.

Finally, I added a latch to the door, made from a rectangle of paper (cut from one of the “Train Shop Wish List” pads from a local hobby shop, which I thought was entirely appropriate) and a bent-over Details Associates eyebolt:

 photo ScaleHouse-09_zpsj7776duu.jpg

Still lots to do, but I wanted to get a good start on the project so I would have something to show at Hunter’s place this past Saturday – and the in-progress model was well received. I’m looking forward to tacking the next piece of the scale house…