Three more CNR boxcars – lettered

 photo CNR-4811472-Lettered_zpsda8aeec0.jpg

Over the weekend, my most recent batch of CNR boxcar builds took a step closer to entering service on the layout. I lettered the three cars using decals from Black Cat Publishing.

Still to do:

– A coat of clear gloss to protect the lettering and blend the decals into the paint.

– Replace the wheel sets: I leave the kit-supplied sets in the trucks while painting to protect the bearing surfaces and give me something to rest the car on, then substitute NWSL wheels before the cars go into service.

– Replace the couplers: These kits came to me pre-built although I re-detailed them. Two of the three had couplers in place, but I prefer to start with fresh couplers in situations like this.

– Add BTS air hoses/glad hands.

– Weather.

– Create waybills.

That’s not a daunting list and it shouldn’t take me too long to complete – at which point I’ll have five of these boxcars in service on the layout. And that will really change the appearance of operating sessions.

Plus, I have two more of these kits to add to the CNR fleet…

Shiny boxcars

3 CNR 1937 AAR boxcars - painted photo CN-SteelBoxes-Painted_zps561e7654.jpg

Yesterday was perfect painting weather, so I airbrushed these three boxcars. They’re 1937 AAR steel boxcars from Pacific Rail Shops that I’ve detailed for the CNR:
3 CNR 1937 AAR boxcars - ready for paint photo CNR-1937AARx3-ReadyForPaint_zps4c255afe.jpg
(Click on the image for more information about the detailing changes I’ve made)

The cars are dry to the touch now, but still smell of paint so I’l leave them for a few days before I start lettering them.

The wheels will also get replaced (with wheel sets from Northwest Short Line, which I use on all of my rolling stock), which is why they’re coated in paint. Same with the Kadee couplers, which started out black and were already mounted on these kits when I bought them. I prefer the brown Kadee couplers since I am careful to not add any paint or weathering to couplers so that they operate properly.

While the paint cures, I can peruse my prototype photos and decal sets, and start choosing numbers, build dates and other markings. These three cars will expand my in-service CNR boxcar fleet by 50% so I’m looking forward to getting them finished!

Three of five for the paint shop

3 CNR 1937 AAR boxcars - ready for paint photo CNR-1937AARx3-ReadyForPaint_zps4c255afe.jpg

Today I finished upgrading three 1937 AAR steel boxcars that will become CNR models. As the (arty-farty, back-lit, glass table top) photo shows, they’re ready for the paint shop. Or, they will be as soon as I remove couplers from two of them.

I have two more kits to build – but I’ll get these three into service first, then decide what I’m working on next.

It feels good to turn kits into models.

Segmented running board

Segmented Running Board photo CNR-RunningBoards_zpsbe580aa4.jpg

An email conversation with reader Steve Lucas alerted me to the fact that several classes of CNR boxcars featured a unique, “segmented” running board. Steve noted:

If you have Canadian Rail Car Pictorial Vol. 2 – CN 40′ boxcars Part 1, page 18 has a shot of 485956 blt. 6/44 with missing running boards between supports, and page 19 has a shot of 421057 (renumbered from 515000-522499 series built with the “CANADA’S LARGEST RAILWAY” herald and still on this car in 1975) with the supports quite visible in a side view of the car.

I’ve modelled this segmented running board on a 1937 AAR 10′ IH steel boxcar, as shown in the foreground in the photo at the top of this post. Another kit, with a standard running board, is shown to the rear for comparison.

The prototype has upside down “T” supports on the running board saddles. I built these from two sizes of .010″ styrene strip, cementing them to the existing saddles on the kit. I then cut my running board material to fit between pairs of supports, securing them in place with CA. The work went surprisingly quickly and was not as fiddly as it sounds. When everything was secured, I trimmed and sanded the styrene to align with the wood.

I have a couple more of these Pacific Rail Shops kits to build, and will do the segmented running board on them. I will try to remember to take in-progress photos (now that I have figured out how to do them) and share them here.

Since roofs are so visible on our layouts – far more visible than details below the frame – it’s great to have the opportunity to model a variety of running boards and well worth the effort.

Thanks Steve!

Upgrading PRS boxcars for CNR prototypes

A reader asked for some more details about the upgrades I do to boxcar kits from Pacific Rail Shops to make them more accurate for CNR prototypes. I am not an expert on freight car detailing so all mistakes are my own – and I may offend those who are when I say I can live with the mistakes / omissions / etc.

An excellent source for information about accurately modelling equipment is Steam Era Freight Cars. If you look at only one thing on that site, I recommend the feature by Ted Culotta that shows out to properly model AB brake systems. It’s available as a PDF and every serious modeller should download it and keep it near the workbench. In addition to the web site, there’s the wonderful Steam Era Freight Cars Yahoo Group – full of smart people who can answer serious questions and point members to sources.

So with that out of the way, here’s what I do on my CNR boxcars. Whether you do the same is up to you…

I start with the Pacific Rail Shops kit for the 1937 AAR 40 Foot Boxcar. The ones I have are all factory-painted for the CNR, but the colour is too brown and I’ll have to repaint after adding all the details anyway, so pretty much any prototype would do. I don’t bother stripping the paint and lettering, since the paint I use – CN Red #11 (Mineral Brown) from the CNR Historical Association – covers really well and sticks to just about anything. In any case, I’ll be lettering over top of the original lettering.

End Details:
CNR (PRS) Boxcar Details photo BoxcarDetails-01_zpsac6e037a.jpg

The 8 Rung Ladders are by S Scale America (Part SSA400) from Des Plaines Hobbies. Each kit includes four ladders – two for ends, two for sides. They’re designed to fit in the same holes as the ladders in the kit.

The running board supports, brass brake platform, L-shaped grab iron with eyebolt and cut lever with mounting bracket are part of the Boxcar Detail Set (BC01) from Andy Malette at MLW Services. Andy’s kit includes brass wire to form cut levers and grab irons, plus a thorough set of instructions for installation of these parts.

I provide my own wood for running boards. I have found that HO scale 2″ x 8″ strips work really well – they add up to the correct width on the long running boards, and seven pieces on the lateral running boards work out about right too. The kits include plastic running boards which are easy to measure from when upgrading with real wood.

Side Details:
CNR (PRS) Boxcar Details photo BoxcarDetails-02_zps15611087.jpg

There’s a grab on the door that I like to carve off and replace with a piece of wire. This photo also shows the cut lever bracket, which is part of Andy’s BC01 kit and mounts to the ladder.

Andy provides a couple of spare eyebolts in his kit. I use one of these, and a spare cut lever bracket, to mount the release rod for the air brake system. (The release rod is detailed in the Ted Culotta article referenced above.)

Underside Details:
CNR (PRS) Boxcar Details photo BoxcarDetails-03_zpsbff30e20.jpg

This is another look at the release rod for the air brake system.

Al Ferguson at Black Cat Publishing offers several S scale decal sets for CN equipment. Al does not have a web site but here’s a full list of Black Cat decals – scroll down for the S scale offerings. For these cars, the 10′-0″ inside height sets are appropriate.

When finished, the cars will look similar to this one, which is already in service on my layout. Note the difference in paint colour!
Finished CNR steel boxcar photo CNR-487747-Finished.jpg

More CNR boxcars on the way

On a small, steam-era Canadian branchline like the one I’m modelling, home road boxcars would represent a lot of the traffic. The CNR (or, CPR for those so inclined) was a continent-spanning system so a lot of domestic traffic would have been handled by a single carrier. Goods from across Ontario (and, indeed, from across Canada) would have been loaded into home road house cars and transported to the people and businesses in Port Rowan.

Of course, foreign road cars appeared on the branch. I have photos that show this – even, a photo of a Southern Pacific boxcar being used as the LCL car on The Daily Effort. But to convey the sense that this is Canadian railroading – as opposed to a branch in the United States, where not even the biggest railroads spanned the country – it’s important to have a large fleet of home road boxcars.

Fortunately, a few months ago I did some (iron)horse-trading with a friend who was interested in some stuff in my collection that was not in 1:64, and I acquired five more of the Pacific Rail Shops kits for 1937 AAR 40′ steel boxcars – the same ones I used to model these two:
CN Boxcars in S photo CN-Boxcars-01.jpg

This week, I started working on my new additions.

As with these earlier cars, I’m upgrading the five new cars with detailing kits from Andy Malette at MLW Services plus some parts from BTS, eight rung ladders from S Scale America (Des Plaines Hobbies) and a scratch-built running board. Here’s a photo that shows the modifications I did on one of my earlier cars:
CN 484036 photo CN484036-01.jpg

Three of the new kits have been built, but it’s easy enough to remove US-style ladders, the plastic running board, and other details I am upgrading. In fact, it’s speeding up the process. The other two cars are still in kit form, so I’ll tackle them last.

No photos yet – but if I do it right they’ll look just like the models shown above, so there’s not much need for fresh images. I’ve finished detailing the first of five kits and will do all of them before putting them through the paint shop in a batch. I have a mix of appropriate decals from Al Ferguson at Black Cat Publishing and correct paint from the Canadian National Railways Historical Association, so I’m ready to go.

The new cars will give The Home Team solid representation on my layout. They’ll also force operators – including me – to pay close attention to reporting marks, to make sure the right boxcar goes to the right customer.

Lunch and Locals :: A visit from Andy

My friend Andy Malette visited yesterday, for pub lunch and an operating session.
Andy and reefers photo AndyKits_zpsdb018739.jpg
(Andy’s always a happy guy, and a great promoter of S scale. He’s also a manufacturer, responsible for the two CNR combines on my layout and three CNR eight-hatch refrigerator cars yet to be built. Click on Andy’s smiling face to visit his web site.)

Andy has seen my layout several times, but yesterday was his first opportunity to actually run a train.

Things went really well, although one of my recently-finished 460000 series CNR boxcars derailed in St. Williams:
CNR-461000-0 photo CNR-461000-03_zps8eb52a6a.jpg
Embarrassing, but not surprising given that it had recently come off the bench and I had not had an opportunity to test it on the layout. I made note of the problem and afterwards I adjusted the truck screw, which ought to do the trick. I guess I’ll find out in future sessions, right?

(One of the many advantages of a modest layout such as the one I’ve built is that it’s easy to keep on top of maintenance issues such as wonky wheel sets.)

It was also Andy’s first exposure to the Lenz DCC system – he uses NCE at home, and Digitrax when he participates in exhibitions with the S Scale Workshop. My choice of Lenz once again proved wise as it’s very intuitive to use and Andy was impressed by the ergonomics of the throttles. (I wish I could take credit for the decision, but I chose Lenz because that’s what my friends were using when I was first exposed to DCC.)

Andy – who runs MLW Services – also brought along some decals and details to help me finish some CNR boxcars, including the CNR double-door boxcar that’s currently on my bench:
CNR Double Door Box - Sills and Doors photo CNR-DD-Box-SidesDoors_zps77605234.jpg

Unfortunately, we ran out of time about halfway through the operating session – we were able to get a local freight to Port Rowan and start the switching before Andy had to leave. I finished the run myself – but that’s fine: Andy will just have to come over another time, soon!

Progress on the CNR Double Door boxcar

CNR Double Door Box - Sills and Doors photo CNR-DD-Box-SidesDoors_zps77605234.jpg

I’ve been making lots of progress over the past couple of weeks – including on my CNR double-door boxcar project. As the photo shows, I’ve started working on the Superior Six Panel Doors. I’m scratch-building these from styrene sheet and strip, with rivets from Archer Transfers. This is my first experience with Archer’s product and I’m really, really impressed. (I ordered directly from Archer and service was excellent, too – so check them out. Archer offers four sizes/styles of rivets for S scalers – I bought one sheet of each.)

The doors are ready for detailing – tack boards, latching mechanisms, etc. I’ll do this work before gluing them in place.

As the photo also shows, I’ve replaced the side sills on my PRS donor car with longer sills made from styrene strip. I will add appropriate rivets to the sills – again using Archer’s product.

This has turned into quite a project, which prompts two observations:

1 – I’m glad I only want / need to do one of these cars for my layout!

2 – I expect the S scale resin kit to appear about one week after I finish my model – because that’s how it works!

On the subject of boxcar surgery, my friend Andy Malette points out that I should carve away the lower side extensions and the poling pockets in the corners. That’ll be a bigger job so I’ll decide whether I can do that neatly enough to be happy with the end result. And, before I install the doors, I will have to extend the upper and lower tracks to accommodate these monster doors: There’s no point in having a 15-foot opening if the doors can’t be slid all the way out of the way, right?

At that point, this will become a “normal” kit again – with the surgery giving away to the usual process of adding details such as ladders, roof walks, brake rigging and so on. I’m looking forward to the return to normalcy!

Three new CNR boxcars (461000-463999)

A while ago, I wrote about the possibility of using S Helper Service single sheathed boxcars as stand-in models for CNR cars in the 461000-463999 series:
CNR 461000 series - model and prototype photo CNR-461000-01_zps98abb6e4.jpg
(Click on the image to read that post, which includes more background on the project)

Well, over the past week or so, I did minor modifications to three such models in my possession, followed by a quick paint and lettering job. The result is three new home-road house cars for my layout:
CNR-461000-Fleet photo CNR-461000-02_zps221177b3.jpg

The modifications were straightforward. I stared by adding styrene ribs to the centre of each panel to create the Hutchins Dry Lading Roof:
CNR-461000-0 photo CNR-461000-03_zps8eb52a6a.jpg

This is the most visible of the modifications, since roofs are what we see when we’re operating on a layout.

But I also recognized that a key feature of these cars is the fish-belly frame sills. The models, as purchased, did not have these. I fixed that with some styrene strip, measuring off another S scale car that does have a fish belly. The great thing is, the new sills would be painted black and be, well, underneath the cars – so I was more concerned with getting the silhouette right than with counting the rivets. I used a nibbling tool to cut notches to fit around the existing brake rigging, glued the new sills in place, and after a coat of paint, they provide the correct profile when viewing the cars at track level:
CNR-461000-Sills photo CNR-461000-04_zpsbfeb3ea6.jpg

(While working on the frames, I also cut away the cast-on stirrup steps and replaced them with brass bar, which I bent using a Grab-Handler from Mission Models – a great tool, by the way!)

I’m pleased with how this project turned out. The three cars were quick to modify and I was able to obtain appropriate lettering from the Black Cat Decals line. While some discrepancies remain between model and prototype, they’re minor and I can live with them – especially since I now have three more CNR cars on the layout. Already, they’ve made operating sessions more challenging since I cannot simply remember that “the Maine Central boxcar goes to the mill” – I have to pay more attention to the reporting marks.

These cars are a compromise – but a reasonable one. That’s S for you…

CNR 461000-463999 (or, “S” is for “Stand-in”)

CNR 461000 series - model and prototype photo CNR-461000-01_zps98abb6e4.jpg

The reality of S scale is that the selection is not what it is in HO, or even O. And while I hope to scratch-build some rolling stock at some point, I have too many other projects on the go (for the hobby and that non-hobby time called “life”) to tackle a freight car right now.

That said, I’m thinking about ways to boost the Canadian content on my layout. And as the lead photo shows, I’ve found a suitable stand-in model for a CNR car that will be little more than a paint-and-decal project.

Volume two of the Canadian Rail Car Pictorial series includes a photo of CNR 461244. This is a 40 foot, single sheathed, steel frame boxcar – part of a series of 3,000 built in1921 by Canadian Car and Foundry for the Grand Trunk Railway. These cars were originally for auto service, but outgrew their usefulness by the early 1930s and were rebuilt with a six-foot wide door. The cars lasted into the 1970s.

The model in the lead photo is a ready to run single sheathed car from S Helper Service. I have three of these in my collection, all painted for U.S. railroads.

Comparing the prototype and model, there are a few obvious discrepancies:

First, the prototype has a fishbelly frame – while the model does not. However, that should be relatively easy to correct: I can cut and shape a pair of styrene strips, notch them for the brake rigging, paint them black and glue them in place on the model’s centre sills. Not perfect, but they should look just fine when placed on the layout.

Second, the roof is almost correct: It’s a Hutchins roof, with the correct number of flat panels between the ribs. According to the book, the prototype has a narrow rib down the centre of each flat panel. (Here’s an example on a Proto:48 boxcar built by Jim Zwerneman.) This would be relatively easy to fix on the model with some styrene strip.

Third, the prototype features a 7/8 Murphy end, while the model has a 5/5/5 arrangement of ribs. There’s not much I can do about that without resorting to major surgery, at which point I may as well scratch-build (and if I’m doing that, I’d look at the CNR’s 1929 standard design, like this O Scale offering from Sylvan Scale Models. However, the ends are not a glaring issue – they’re not, say, 4/5 Dreadnought Ends – so I can live with the discrepancy if it lets me put some more Canadian National equipment on the rails.

The horizontal brace on the door is higher on the model than on the prototype. Again, not a deal-breaker. I may even be able to carve off the brace and add a new one, lower down.

That’s the bad news. Here’s some of the good news:

The sides are correct, with the right number and configuration of bracing. Even the corner braces are present.

The ladders are correctly made from grab irons on sides and ends.

The model car needs a stirrup step added to each end, under the ladder. That’s easy to do and I would want to replace the plastic stirrups on the sides anyway.

The finished cars will boost my CNR fleet even as they add variety – a nice intermediate design between the Fowler cars and the all-steel cars. They’ll help me get rid of some American equipment (which, while nice, would have been rare on my branch). And they won’t take that much time or effort to finish so I can fit them into my task list.

I think they’ll also force crews to pay more attention to reporting marks, since operating sessions will require more than “putting the Maine Central boxcar over there”.

I’ve written to Al Ferguson at Black Cat Decals to determine whether appropriate lettering is available in S.

Beyond this project, I have a number of other CNR boxcars to build:

I have a half-dozen Pacific Rail Shops boxcar kits to build and detail, which will join two already on the layout – including this one:
Finished CNR steel boxcar photo CNR-487747-Finished.jpg

I have another kit or two for Ridgehill Scale Models Fowler boxcars to join this one on the layout:
CNR Fowler Boxcar photo CN408756-01.jpg

And there’s the CNR double-door boxcar project…
New Ends for a CN Boxcar photo CN-DD-Box-NewEnds.jpg

… which is currently on hiatus because, frankly, I’m not in the mood to scratch-build the doors and I have other projects I’d rather tackle at this time.

I’ve decided that it’s really nice when S Scale gives me a bit of a break…