More on the scale house

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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:

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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:

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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…

Scale House project underway

Having recently completed a second CNR scale test car, I’ve decided it’s time to start on a third aspect of this project – a scale house:

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Back in the summer, I acquired a Moffett Models kit for a CNR scale house. I thought I’d get to the project sooner, but other things came up. Regardless, this project is now on my workbench (or, more accurately, my kitchen table).

The kit is very nice, but consists largely of cast-resin pieces and I prefer to represent wood with wood. So after careful consideration I decided I would use the pieces as patterns to scratch-built my own structure. I’ve used the kit’s laser-cut window mullions, but in my own walls, building them up board by board.

The kit is based on a CNR scale in Brantford, Ontario. I also worked from a photo of a similar structure in Palmerston – this one showing clapboard on the rear wall, with novelty siding elsewhere.

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I built up my own clapboard, using a piece of clapboard styrene sheet as a sub-wall, to which I glued individually distressed boards. The styrene clapboard creates an excellent guide for laying in the boards. I also created my own novelty siding by scraping and sanding down the top edge of each board to represent the narrow edge that goes underneath the board above. These were glued to thin plain styrene sheet. The window frames and the door were built from pieces of stripwood of various sizes.

I built each wall as a flat. Then, I carefully introduced each wall to the spinning disc on a workbench sanding station to bevel the sides of the five walls that make up the front of the structure, so that I could glue the angled sections together with tight corners. After the six walls were assembled, I equally carefully sanded the angle into top of the structure so I could attach the sloped roof. (I must admit this took nerves of steel and very steady breathing…)

I airbrushed the assembled structure with Scalecoat CNR mineral red, while the roof is a piece of thin styrene sheet covered with masking tape brush-painted grey-black to represent tarpaper. I cut microscope slide covers to size for the window glazing, and secured them in place with Microscale’s Krystal Klear.

With all the windows in this structure, some representation of an interior is called for. As I’ve mentioned elsewhere, Volume 12 of the Railway Prototype Cyclopedia includes a terrific feature on weighing freight cars – complete with drawings of several track scales. I worked from this information to fashion the visible portion of the scale using styrene rod and strip, brass bar, Details Associates eyebolts, and two queen posts from a Grandt Line set for O scale, RGS boxcars:

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It doesn’t look like much in its raw state, but when it’s painted and installed inside the scale house it’ll do the trick nicely…

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The lead photo for this post shows that I’ve added two stacks behind the scale house. These are often mistaken for stove pipes – but are actually the ventilators for the scale pit. I’ve also fabricated the tops of the concrete pit walls from strip styrene, and added a door next to the scale house to provide access to the pit for maintenance. Scrounging in my Home Hobby Shoppe turned up some O scale boxcar door hardware and hinges to detail the door.

I will build the top of the scale pit – including live and dead rails – on a piece of styrene that will fit between the tops of the concrete walls. This will make it easier to secure the rails without damaging the structure.

There are still a lot of details to add to this track scale, including working lights to the scale operator can read reporting marks on the equipment being weighed. As I work on these details, I’ll ponder what to do with my scale house. I still like the idea of creating a small module for the S Scale Workshop exhibition layout. Meantime, I’m enjoying learning about these important pieces of railway equipment.

Special move

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The daily freight extra out of Hamilton included a special move in the consist – a pair of test cars to calibrate a track scale. Here, they’re crossing Chartolleville Street in St. Williams.

Apparently, the crew thought it would be easier to lift them en route to Port Rowan, so they’re along for the ride.

The scale test cars have no air brakes – just hand brakes – which means they have to be hauled in front of the van and the train can’t exceed 20 mph – but it never does, anyway…

Earlier this week I realized I had spare time and nine pieces of equipment to weather, so I spent the afternoon spraying dust, dirt, soot and grime. My second scale test car – to the right in this photo – received a light coat of road dust. The cars were kept in good condition and kept fairly clean, since dirt would affect their weight.

While I do not have a track scale on my branch, these will look great on the S Scale Workshop modular layout.

More on the other weathering projects in a future post…

Scale Test Cars are like peanuts

You can’t have just one!

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(CNR 52247 is painted and lettered. It will receive very light weathering – as shown on CNR 52274 – before entering service.)

Actually, you can – it’s your railway, after all.

But when I researched these prototypes so I could finish my first scale test car, I learned that they were often used in pairs to calibrate railway scales. Many prototype photos show them running in pairs, too – right in front of the van, as required because they are not equipped with air brakes.

So, as reported earlier on this blog, I acquired a second example of these South Wind Models brass imports. I had purchased extra decals when I did my first car so I had everything I needed to finish my second model. (To read more about my models, check out the Scale Test Cars category on this blog.)

I finished the second car like the first, although I changed up some of the lettering – especially on the ends:

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(CNR 52247 – on the left – includes a “DO NOT HUMP” warning)

I did run into two slight problems while lettering the second car:

First, I discovered I had run out of the “CANADIAN NATIONAL” lettering, which I pulled from a set of Black Cat Publishing decals for an HO scale CNR van (caboose). A trip to the local hobby shop – combined with other errands – solved this issue.

Second, the lettering set from Andy W. Scale Models only includes one road number – 52274 – and no number jumble. Since the cars would likely be in the same series – specifically, “522##” – my only choice was to letter this car 52247. An extra line of numbers on this otherwise excellent decal set would’ve been much appreciated – especially since these cars often ran in pairs.

This was a terrific little “kitchen table” project to work on while most of my tools and materials are packed away (and the renovation continues on schedule, so I should be able to unpack things soon). I’m looking forward to building a scale house – likely as a module for the S Scale Workshop – so I can put these neat little cars to good use.

A second scale test car

In doing my research while preparing to finish my first scale test car, I learned that these important pieces of equipment were often used in pairs to properly calibrate a track scale. That means, also, that they would often travel in pairs. I mentioned last week that I was looking for a second model and within hours I had a lead on one. (Thanks to Sam McCoy for the lead!)

I placed the order and the model arrived today:

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When I did my first scale test car, I bought extra decal sets for it – so I have everything I need to tackle this project as soon as I can unpack my tools and rebuild my workshop.

CNR 52274 :: Scale Test Car

The decals arrived this week for my CNR scale test car, and I couldn’t wait to letter it. In fact, the car is finished and ready for service:

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I pulled the road name (“CANADIAN NATIONAL”) from a set of Black Cat Publishing decals for an HO scale CNR van (caboose). For the rest of the lettering, I used the HO scale CNR Scale Test Car decals from Andy W. Scale Models. While the lettering may be a bit undersize, I think it actually works quite well on this S scale model.

I lightly weathered the lower part of the car with some beige paint, applied with an airbrush. The rest of the car is relatively clean – these cars were designed to shed water and dirt, which could affect their weight, and they did not see the kind of use that a freight car would see, so they didn’t get as dirty. That said, I did apply some weathering powders to the walkway, and dry brushed some points on the handrails with silver to represent worn-away paint:

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I’m very pleased with how this car turned out. It was a fun diversion. At some point, I will build a track scale and scale house to go with it. Since I have no space for this on my layout, I will probably do this to the Free-mo standard used by the S Scale Workshop

Weighing Freight Cars : RPCYC 12

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(Always check the Railway Prototype Cyclopedia… Always check the Railway Prototype Cyclopedia… Always check the Railway Prototype Cyclopedia…)

Earlier this month, I wrote about a model of a scale house that I plan to build this summer. I mentioned that I’ve been collecting information (and many readers offered suggestions on sources: thank you!) but there’s one place I should’ve looked right from the start.

The Railway Prototype Cyclopedia – now at 29 volumes – is a marvellous resource for prototype modellers. While scanning the covers to look for information on another project, the words WEIGHING FREIGHT CARS jumped at me off the cover of RPCYC-12.

Inside, I found 45 pages of terrific information on Fairbanks-Morse and How track scales, the test cars, and more. (For a full description of the contents, click on the image above to visit the issue’s information page at the RPCYC website.)

There are several drawings of the scales themselves, which answer many questions about how to model them. And I didn’t even know about the scale tool car – a car that would often accompany a test car to calibrate and maintain the scales being tested. The examples in this article are from the Baltimore and Ohio, but I’m now going to keep my eyes open for similar cars on the Canadian National Railways.

I really do need to remember to check my own resources. In the case of the RPCYC, I should make a habit of checking the covers whenever I embark on a new project – especially one involving rolling stock.

Two things about painting a scale test car

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(The scale test car, painted CNR mineral brown. The paper masks kept paint off the wheels)

As mentioned previously, in researching paint schemes for my scale test car I decided to paint my all-black model. So yesterday I gave my scale test car a coating of CNR mineral brown (the colour used on CNR boxcars, also known as CNR Red #11).

It looks too bright – more orange than mineral red – but that’s the way my chosen paint goes on. Experience tells me that with a light weathering treatment it will tone down to a browner look that’s more appropriate to the prototype. To see what I mean, check out the “CNR Boxcars” category on this blog, and note the difference that weathering makes.

This was a fairly straight airbrush job, but it prompted two things that I wanted to note here:

First, I wanted to keep the paint off the wheels but did not want to disassemble the unit. I made up the masks shown by cutting them out of notepaper.

I folded the paper and used the fold as the centreline to freelance the slots for the wheels with a pair of scissors. When I unfolded the paper, I had a nice U-shaped slot to slide over the axle between wheel and horn block.

Note that I didn’t try to make the masks for both ends of the axle from a single piece. Instead, I cut pieces for each wheel, and left enough paper that they would overlap under the car. I fitted the pieces, then taped them together. The weight of the car kept them trapped between the model and the much-abused plastic Lazy Susan that I use as a painting platform in my spray booth.

Second, a lament for lacquer-based paints. The paint I used was made by Scalecoat for the CNR Historical Association, and it’s awesome stuff. I airbrushed this model directly over the black paint it wore from the factory. The paint covered 90% of the black in the first coat and by the time I sprayed the other side I was able to go back and shoot a top coat to cover the rest. What’s more, the gloss finish will be perfect for applying decals.

I’m going to miss this stuff when it’s no longer available – but given some of the bone-headed, lung-threatening things I’ve seen people do with airbrushes and rattle cans, I’m not surprised that it’s being phased out. (A friend and I were discussing this recently – and wondering why people are so eager to pay $300 for a new locomotive and yet are so reluctant to spend that kind of money on safety equipment, like a proper paint booth, to protect their health. But that’s a rant for another day…)

Following the notes on scale test cars found on the White River Division blog by George Dutka, I’ve emailed Andy at Andy W. Scale Models to find out more about his CNR Scale Test Car decals. These are HO scale, but I’m hoping he prints these himself and can do a couple of sets in S for me. If not, well, I’ll just have to buy the HO ones and see what use I can make of them.

CNR scale test car : A first look

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(The S scale brass import from South Wind Models, with minor modifications)

As noted previously on this blog, I recently purchased a scale test car – a brass import offered years ago by South Wind Models – and it arrived in the mail yesterday.

I’m very impressed by this model – not only because it’s nicely rendered (it is) but also because it tracks surprisingly well for such a small piece. South Wind Models and their Korean builder did a great job: it’s well-weighted and the springing in the horn blocks is just right, so the suspension actually performs as it should. The car positively glides on my track work – even through turnouts.

In the photo above, I’ve replaced the cosmetic but non-functional cast couplers with Kadee 808s. I also addressed one weak point in the model – the train line air hoses were brass castings that looked far too small and probably wouldn’t survive more than a few inadvertant knocks with an uncoupling tool, so I removed them and replaced them with detail parts from BTS (Item 02302). These featuring two nicely-done brass castings with flexible tubing for the hose itself, and they have become my preferred air hoses – I use them on everything.

South Wind Models includes some nice decals in the box, to do a car for the Pennsylvania Railroad. Here’s an example as finished by modeller Jack Sudimak and included on the NASG’s product gallery page:

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(Click on the photo to learn more about these models via the NASG website)

With couplers in place, I assumed it was time to start lettering this car. But not so fast…

A quick search for suitable prototype photos turned up some CNR examples and enough information to suggest that in the 1950s the railway painted its scale test cars brown – as shown here:

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(Click on the image to visit RD McDonald’s page on this car – and be sure to check out the entire blog)

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(Here’s the same car on the Lulu Island branch in BC. Click on the image to see more, as Mike Mastin shares his memories of this branch – including this photo – on the Caboose Coffee blog)

I have yet to find a black CNR scale test car, although this black and white photo looks like it could be of a black car:

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(George Dutka shared this photo – from the Bill Dewar collection – on his White River Division blog. Click on the image to see George’s HO model of a CNR scale test car)

However, “could be” is a slippery slope. I’d rather go with something known. So, regardless of how tempting that black and white photo is, I’m going to bite the bullet and airbrush my model with CNR #11 mineral brown. Fortunately, the official paints from the CNR Historical Society are Scalecoat and will cover the model’s as-delivered black paint without any problem.

The good news is, I should be able to use a lot of the data on the PRR decal set to letter my model and I’m sure I can find a suitable set of HO decals to supply the CNR-specific information like road name and number.

Moffett Models Scale House Kit

As mentioned yesterday, I’m about to start a new project:

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(A fun summer project)

A couple of weeks ago while surfing the net I found a neat little model for sale – a scale test car once offered in brass by Southwind Model Works. The car is en route to me as I type this, so I don’t yet have a photo of it to share – but there’s a write-up on these models, with a couple of photos, in the Product Gallery* on the NASG’s website.

Once I determined I could get the model, the question became: “What to do with it?” My branch does not have a track scale, and there’s no room to add one even if I felt like straying from the prototype (which I definitely do not).

Still, I like oddball pieces of equipment (which was the primary reason behind building a CNR snow plow, despite modelling August) and I think relocating a scale test car can provide an interesting wrinkle to an operating session: the car must be handled directly in front of the van (caboose) and a train with one of these in tow cannot exceed 20 mph.

I may not be able to run such a train at home, but it occurred to me that it would be a great talking point on the S Scale Workshop modular layout.

It also occurred to me that I might have room to build a small module for the Workshop that features a track scale. They’re interesting structures, and we could weigh cars during a session – perhaps as they come out of the brewery that’s the focus of a module set by fellow Workshop member Andy Malette:

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So, I started looking for photos and other information to scratch-build a model of a track scale. Andy saw a post I made to the CN Lines Yahoo Group, put the call out to some mutual friends, and I ended up relieving Jim Martin – another member of the Workshop – of an unbuilt kit for a scale house in S… once offered by Pete Moffett, who is also a member of the Workshop.

It’s a funny, small world in S.

The kit looks like a fun project – although I’m going to consider my options for finishing the structure and then decide whether I will build the kit or the resin castings as patterns to make my own walls in wood. Windows, doors and other hardware will be useful, regardless.

But I have a great, small, fun project to tackle this summer – perfect since our house is under renovation so many of my larger projects will be on hold. Regardless of whether I build this kit or use it as the basis for a scratch-built scale house, I’m looking forward to it!

(*The NASG Product Gallery is a terrific resource for those working in 1:64. It’s a great way to figure out what you’ve got – or what might be available for one’s layout. I like it so much, I’ve gone through the gallery looking for gaps in its coverage, and have supplied photos to the gallery’s manager to help fill some of the holes.)