CNR 470000 series boxcars : 1

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I’ve started another CNR boxcar project as I continue to diversify the fleet on my layout. This time, I’m creating some credible stand-ins for the CNR 470000-series of USRA rebuilt boxcars.

According to the Canadian Rail Car Pictorial – an excellent series of softcover books for any student of Canadian freight cars – these were the CNR’s first all-steel boxcars. There were 250 in the class, rebuilt for CNR from ex-Grand Trunk auto boxes in 1936. The Grand Trunk Western did the work.

My donor car for this is a USRA rebuilt from S Helper Service. I picked up five of these a while ago from my friend Simon Parent, because they are too new for his layout. As with the three single sheathed CNR boxcars I did back in 2013, these will be close-enough models – suitable stand-ins for the prototype. There are discrepancies – notably in the pattern of the stamped ribs on the ends (the prototype is 7/8, while the model is 5/5/5) – but I can live with those.

I decided that I’d upgrade a few details on the model, starting with the roof walks. The lateral roof walks at the ends of the car had boards running parallel to the ends, instead of parallel to the longitudinal roof walk. So, I removed these and their supports:

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(“Wow!” I hear some of you exclaim from the other end of the Internet. “What the heck is that thing stuck on the end of the car?” That’s a Hi-Rail coupler. My buddy Chris Abbott refers to them as “Knock’em-Sock’em Robot” couplers, and they’re huge. But here’s a cool thing – they make great handles while working on the car. I will replace this monstrosity with a Kadee 808 in due course.)

When I went to remove the longitudinal roof walk, I found I couldn’t do so without damaging the car. I’m not sure what glue was used at the factory, but this wasn’t going anywhere. In the end, I sanded the top of the plastic roof walk to remove the rivet detail, then glued strips of 1×6 scale lumber over top. With those in place, I then fabricated new lateral roof walks from 2×6 scale lumber and brass strip.

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I was able to re-use the car’s L-shaped grab iron on each lateral roof walk.

Turning to the under frame, I removed the K-brake and replaced it with AB brake components from BTS – catalogue number 02301. These are beautiful detailing kits. I added some phosphor bronze wire and Builders In Scale chain to complete the detailing belowdecks.

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Not shown in the above photo, but visible in the first picture in this post, are the BTS air hoses (part 02302) and some (HO scale) A-Line stirrup steps. These are a little narrower than the prototype’s stirrups, but the same height – and they’re much finer looking than the clunky stirrups that were cast as part of the body side.

(I wish someone would do suitable, metal stirrups in S – but I suspect if the market was there, somebody would have by now…)

With the addition of Kadee coupler boxes in place of those Hi-Rail couplers, this car is ready for the paint shop and I’m one step closer to adding a new class of CNR boxcar to the layout.

One down – four to go!

Three more CNR steel boxcars finished

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I’ve upgraded wheels and couplers, added air hoses, and weathered my three newest editions to the CNR boxcar fleet.

My previous posting on this set of cars generated a lot of discussion after Jared Harper asked why I plan to have so many CNR boxcars on my layout. It’s a good question. The full discussion can be found in the comments section on that previous post, but here’s a quick recap:

In the 1950s, as today, the Canadian railway scene was dominated by two nation-spanning systems. The CNR and CPR went virtually everywhere, from coast to coast. This is quite different from the situation in the United States, where railroads were confined to specific regions. Even the mightiest stopped at the Mississippi, and hauling freight across country required interchange with one or more partners.

In Canada, most freight would have been carried by a single road, without interchange. One reliable source suggests 75% of the boxcars on a mid-century Canadian layout should be home road boxcars. A distant second would be traffic exchanged between the two major railways. A distant third is cars from American roads.

Most traffic would’ve been domestic. And in the 1950s, Canada did more trade with the UK and other members of the Commonwealth than it would have with the United States. For the most part, that foreign traffic would’ve arrived in Canada at Canadian ports such as Halifax and Vancouver. Or, it would’ve landed in North America at an American port and forwarded, in sealed cars, to Canada. (Marty McGuirk pointed out that half of the cars carried by the Central Vermont through White River Junction VT were CNR cars. That makes sense when one considers the CV was owned by the CNR and linked Canada to the port at New London, CT.)

What’s more, I’m modelling a tiny backwater on the CNR’s system. Therefore, every car that arrives on my branch is there because it’s delivering something to St. Williams or Port Rowan – or picking up a load from these places. If delivering, chances are slim that the load came from anywhere other than a place where it could’ve been loaded into a CNR boxcar. If it’s a load originating on my branch, it’s likely to be packed into a CNR car. (This isn’t a hard and fast rule, but it’s a good guideline.) There’s no bridge traffic, so I can’t run many American cars – or even specialized Canadian ones – and say, “Well, that’s just using this line to get from Point A to Point B”.

(There were exceptions, of course – and I’ll deal with those in a future posting.)

Finally, the reality of S scale is there’s limited choice for rolling stock. One reason I will have so many CNR 10′-0″ steel 1937 AAR cars on the layout is that Pacific Rail Shops made a suitable plastic kit for this prototype, and decals are available from Black Cat Publishing. That said, I’ve done quite well in adding variety to the CNR fleet. I have examples of the following on the layout or in the planning stages:

– CNR 36′ Dominion boxcar (the Fowler Patent): One on the layout, one in kit form. I’d like a couple more. This is a Ridgehill Scale Models resin kit.
– CNR 40′ single sheathed car: 3 suitable stand-ins on the layout. This is an S Helper Service RTR car that I’ve detailed and painted.
– CNR 40′ AAR 1937 steel boxcars (10′-0″): Like the cars in this post. With these three, I have five on the layout – plus two more in kit form.
– CNR 40′ double-door box: I have one on the bench. It’s an extensive modification of a PRS kit.
– CNR 10′-6″ steel boxcars: I have one kit to build and am in the process of acquiring a second one. Like the double-door boxcar, these will require extensive modifications to a PRS kit.

So, that’s 15 cars in five varieties. Not too bad a representation of the CNR’s vast fleet. And since I think I have four to six boxcars in paint schemes other than CNR, my ratio of home road house cars is about right…

Three more CNR boxcars – lettered

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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

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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:
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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:
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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!
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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:
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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.
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(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:
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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!