CNR 8549

CNR 8549

Last week I visited my friend William Flatt, an accomplished modeller who works in S. William is 80 and has determined it’s time to pare down his hobby – a wise but difficult decision that many people refuse to make in their senior years. As part of that, he has been selling off some of his equipment to local hobbyists prior to putting surplus gear up for auction to the masses.

I picked up a number of things from William, including this CNR wooden express car that will be a perfect addition to my mixed train to Port Rowan. William says he built this from a resin kit, years ago. It’s beautifully done and I’ll be proud to run it on my layout. I will swap couplers and wheels to match my layout standard, but that’s it.

Thank you, William!

(I picked up some other equipment too, which I will describe in a future post)


Passenger car diaphragms

Today, a big box of passenger car diaphragms arrived in the mail from “S”cenery Unlimited* and, since I was in the mood, I immediately got to work installing them on some passenger cars.

The diaphragms are quite nice. They consist of a flexible rubber bellows, fitted with steel plates inside, and a brass striker plate on the end.

Some quick dry-fitting made me realize I would have to modify the stock diaphragms. For one thing, the brass striker plate includes interlocking tabs that connect adjacent cars. It also includes etched “Made in Korea” and “Scenery Unlimited” markings. Obviously, these are intended for passenger trains that run as units, without switching. On my layout, the exposed ends of the passenger cars would look odd with tabs and writing. Also, on my layout, the 42″ radius curves are a little tight for full, working diaphragms.

Once I decided how I would modify the parts, the work went quickly. I had four cars fitted in about two hours.

I started by determining that I would use the brass striker plate as the mounting plate for the car. That would require removing the two tabs designed to interlock with an adjacent diaphragm. I clipped these shorter with a side-cutter, then carefully filed away the remaining material:

Passenger car diaphragms
(Stock diaphragm on the left. Modified diaphragm on the right)

Each diaphragm has a bellows with three folds. They were too deep for my purposes, and I determined that I would have to remove one of the folds. I carefully sliced the rubber between two of the aluminum plates with a sharp knife to remove the fold farthest from the brass plate, then trimmed the rubber with a pair of scissors:

Passenger car diaphragms
(Stock diaphragm at left. Sliced diaphragm at right. Remove the aluminum plate from the sliced-away rubber and save it)

I repurposed the aluminum plate from inside the third fold as my new striker plate. I blackened the edges of the plate with a permanent marker. I noticed that one side of the plate has sharp edges, while the side is smooth. I glued the plate to the thinner diaphragm with CA, so that the smoother side is facing outward:

Passenger car diaphragms
(Stock diaphragm on the left. Modified diaphragm on the right, ready to install on a car)

I glued the diaphragm to the end of a car with CA, positioning the brass plate adjacent to the car end. At this point, I realized that despite removing one third of the thickness of the diaphragm, it still projected beyond the coupler. This, I knew, would cause no end of problems:

Passenger car diaphragms
(Asking for trouble)

Since I already modify all of my couplers, the fix was pretty straightforward. Normally, as part of my coupler tuning procedure, I replace the spring in the draft gear with a piece of styrene, as shown here:

Passenger car diaphragms
(Standard installation)

This prevents the coupler from sliding in and out of the pocket, thus minimizing the slack action. (There’s still a bit of slack, but it’s all in the coupler knuckles – not in the shanks.) I realized I could solve my diaphragm clearance problem by moving the styrene spacer to the other side of the draft gear post, as shown here:

Passenger car diaphragms
(Extended shank installation)

The coupler works the same as it did before, but it now enjoys a longer shank – and it now projects sufficiently to solve my diaphragm clearance problem:

Passenger car diaphragms
(All clear!)

In addition to preventing the diaphragms from pushing passenger cars off the rails on my curves, I’ll also be able to get a manual uncoupling tool into position between a passenger car and a freight car or locomotive.

In operation, adjacent diaphragms don’t quite touch. This photo shows two cars equipped with modified diaphragms, and with the slack stretched:

Passenger car diaphragms
(Mind the gap…)

I can live with that gap. It’s certainly better than the space between cars before the diaphragms were added. In addition, my mixed trains only had one passenger-carrying car on them, and I’m not sure the diaphragms would even have been hooked up between the combine and adjacent express car during normal operation on the line to Port Rowan.

I’ve now done the four passenger cars that I regularly run in mixed train service, and I bought extra diaphragms for future projects.

I think they look rather striking…

(*Check the “Links” section on this blog’s home page for the most up-to-date links)

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:

(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.

(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”…