CNR 3737 :: Soldering done!

There are watershed moments in any project. One of the biggest is getting the thing built and ready to paint. On Friday, I achieved that with CNR 3737 – my 2-8-2 project.

CNR 3737 - Nose

The extensive re-detailing has taken three years of off-and-on work under the tutelage of my friend Andy Malette. I’ll admit that’s about two years longer than I thought it would take – and my soldering leaves a lot to be desired. But Andy – and others – have looked at it and said “Don’t worry: it’s fine” and right now, I’m happy to take their word for that.

CNR 3737

It sure needs a good cleaning. I foresee myself picking up the tab for lunch with Ryan Mendell in exchange for a couple of hours in his workshop, with his grit blaster. With luck, that’ll strip off any oils, flux and other unwanted stuff, and provide a good tooth for the primer.

CNR 3737

And as Andy has noted, steam engines combined ash/soot, grease, steam oil, and water vapour to create truly foul gunk in corners and on surfaces. So whose to say that’s not what I’ve added as I’ve bashed my way from a USRA standard Light Mikado to a CNR S-3-a?

Thanks, Andy, for the lessons and the patience!

CNR 3737 :: Snow melter fittings

CNR 3737 - Prototype Photo

I’ve been thinking about the snow melter equipment on my CNR 2-8-2 project ever since I installed the big wrapped pipe for it last week. I know that this pipe supplied steam to equipment that melted the snow and ice out of switches in yards. But beyond that, the photo of 3737 that inspired this build (shown above) doesn’t really make the fittings clear to me.

So, I did some research with the aid of Canadian National Steam! – the the excellent series of books by Donald R. McQueen, published a few years ago. In one of these, I found a photo of CNR 2-10-2 4033 with a much clearer photo of the snow melting equipment – a portion of which is shown here:

CNR 4033 snow melter detail

I’ve highlighted three important points with white arrows. First, there’s are two shut off valves on this pipe – one near each end of the pipe. Second, the front end of the pipe appears to be fitted with the same sort of steam line connection that’s used on passenger cars for steam heating.

With this information, I look another look at my subject photo and things became more clear:

CNR 3737 snow melter (detail)

First, now that I know what to look for, it’s easy to spot the wheel on the shut off valve just ahead of the steam dome. And while I cannot see the second shut off valve, at the front end of the pipe, I will assume it’s there and model one accordingly. Perhaps it’s hiding behind the handrail in this photo.

Finally, while I had spotted the steam line connection back at the start of the project, I didn’t know if there was anything more to the system at this end of the pipe: now, I know that this is all I have to model.

Precision Scale offers valves in a number of pipe diameters, including ones cored for these wrapped pipes. So I’ll be placing an order for those soon. And BTS makes the passenger car steam line connectors, which will work fine for this application. I’m already building the shopping lists…

CNR 3737 :: ash pans and doors

Yesterday’s work session with my friend Andy Malette focused on the firebox of my CNR 2-8-2 project – specifically, the ash pans.

CNR 3737 ash pans and doors

The stock model has a pair of cast brass plates that run across the bottom of the firebox. These are screwed to the body of the model from underneath, as they must be removed in order for the motor slide into the firebox area. The plates project beyond the edge of the firebox but needed to be bulked up to better represent the bottom of the prototype. So I soldered some bar stock in place along the top of each plate, while they were still attached to the model – being careful to not solder them to the firebox wall. I then unscrewed the plate and shaped the bar on a bench grinder – working a little bit at a time and cooling the brass in a pot of water so that the solder would not melt and the parts separate.

Andy had prepared for the session by cutting some square tubing to create the frames for the four ash pan doors – two per side. I filed these to better fit against the curve of the base plates, soldered them in place, then returned to the grinder to finish them. A light touch was required, with regular checking to make sure I was grinding them so that their outside edge would be vertical when installed on the model. I finished these with a file.

Finally, when I was satisfied with the door frames, I made the doors themselves. These are simply pieces of styrene sheet cut to fit between the sides of the door frames, left long and soldered in place, then trimmed level with the top of the ash pan.

With these built, I test-fit the new ash pans in place. I had to gently bend some piping out of the way to get them to fit, but otherwise it went fine.

The last step was to add two blow-downs to the firebox, on the engineer’s side. These are spare castings from Andy’s CNR K3 Pacific project from a few years ago. I cut off a large discharge pipe on each. Then I drilled holes in the firebox side, soldered the castings in place, and added smaller discharge pipes that line up with the bottom of the ash pans. There’s a large hole from a removed casting that I’ll need to fill – the easiest way will be to simply solder a brass NBW casting or a piece of brass plate over it and be done with it.

There’s lots more to do, of course. But I have a busy couple of weeks ahead of me so we may not get back to the project until next month. Meantime, I’m putting together a list of details that I need to buy to continue this build.

CNR 3737 :: The big pipe, and other progress

CNR 3737 - Prototype Photo

I had some time today, so I put the phone on mute, turned off the computer, and spent the day in my basement workshop. The result is, I made a lot of progress on my CNR 2-8-2 project.

The first order of business was piping…

The big insulated (wrapped) pipe across the top of the locomotive in the prototype photo is the primary reason I picked CNR 3737 to model. This unusual feature was to deliver steam to an appliance at the front of the locomotive that was used to melt snow and ice out of yard switches in the winter. The melters themselves are not visible in the prototype photo – presumably, they were removed in the summer, and this picture was shot in August. But the steam delivery pipe is very obvious.

Months ago, my friend Andy Malette provided me with a length of wrapped pipe from his stash. I straightened it and re-bent it with pliers to approximate the path of the prototype pipe:

CNR 3737 - Snow Melter pipe

I drilled a hole in the steam dome to accept the end of the pipe, then realized that if I soldered it in place, I would never be able to remove the smokebox front. Given that there are lights to install and maintain, this seemed like a bad idea. So, I made sure the pipe was long enough to fit firmly in the steam dome hole, then soldered the pipe to the smokebox front. It now comes off with that front piece, all as a unit. As I add additional details, I will see if this will continue to work. If not, I’ll have to come up with something else.

Now, I have to do more research on the snow melters themselves. Time to go through my CNR steam books, looking at photos…

CNR 3737 - condenser pipes

While piping, I also installed the condenser coil under the running board. This runs from the air pump, behind the feed water heater pump, to the small tank under the running board. It then runs from that tank to the larger tank that’s between the front ladders, on the pilot deck. I bent up the pipe using some 0.032″ wire and mounted it to photo-etched brackets supplied by Andy – although a simple L-shaped piece of brass bar would serve if the brackets were not available.

As a bonus, the pipe to the large air tank is soldered to the short running board next to the smokebox, which helps strengthen this. It has frequently come unsoldered as I work on the locomotive – but it’s not moving now. (I’ll have to come up with a similar pipe to support the running board on the other side.)

Further back, I realized I could add the cover to the steam turret housing, just ahead of the cab. I cut some thin brass sheet to size, rolled one end around a piece of brass rod, and installed it:

CNR 3737 boxtop

Finally, I tackled a fiddly project: the seven triangles that support the cab roof smoke deflector. I cut triangles oversize, tinned them, and soldered them in place. I then ground the backs of them down to size.

CNR 3737 - 7 triangles

This was a messy process, but it worked – although even now I see triangles that need some adjustment. That’s easy enough to do with metal.

While this represents a lot of progress, the biggest step forward is something that can’t be seen in the photos: Namely, that I did this work on my own, without Andy’s guidance. The point of this project, for me, has been to learn how to do this work – and I realize I’m starting to gain the confidence to forge ahead on my own. That’s very good news, because it means I’m internalizing the skill set. I’m certainly no master – and there will be many more sessions with Andy, including one scheduled for tomorrow afternoon – but it feels great that the work is paying off…

Maybe we’ll even get our CNR S-3-a Mikados finished this year? Tonight, it feels like anything’s possible!

CNR 3737 :: details, details

I visited my friend Andy Malette yesterday, for another work session on our CNR 2-8-2 project. This time, we tackled a couple of details.

Up front, I added the CNR’s triangular number board to the smokebox front. This really completes the face of any CNR steam locomotive. I do like the appearance of CNR engines – very stylish, yet purposeful:

CNR 3737 - front number board

At the back, we realized we had not yet installed the smoke lifter on the cab roof. This seemed like a good time to add that part. We cut a piece out of thin brass, curled it in our fingers, then soldered it in place. It was easier than I expected:

CNR 3737 - cab smoke lifter

I like to think of it as the rear lip spoiler – keeping the rear of the locomotive planted on the track at speeds above 50 mph…

The smoke lifter needs seven small triangles added behind it as braces. I’ll tackle that next.

CNR 3737 :: that’s MUCH better…

Last week, I wrote about a wonky headlight on my CNR 2-8-2.

This week, I stole a bit of time from other commitments to hit the workbench. I unsoldered the assembly, repositioned it, and secured it back in place. I even managed to add the mount for the number plate, complete with grab iron. The face of CNR 3737 now looks like this:

CNR 3737 - Headlight fixed

I’m back on track. And it occurs to me that I will have to ask Andy Malette about number plates for our project.

CNR 3737 :: That’s just SO wrong…

Yesterday being Friday, it was time for another work session on the CNR 2-8-2 project with Andy Malette. Andy had prepared a bunch of parts for me to install on the smokebox front, and he warned it would be a challenging day. Boy, was he right.

Mounting a pair of class lamps was straightforward enough – the stock model featured class lamps in the same position as the CNR lamps, so it was a simple process to enlarge the holes to accept the castings, line them up, and solder them in place. I also rebuilt the hinges, which had lost some of their material while turning off the dogs during our previous work session.

The headlight was another story – and all I can say is, it’s a good thing brass is so forgiving because I’ll be removing it all and trying again. Do not judge me for this picture, which I’m sharing to remind myself that this isn’t an easy thing I’m attempting, and there will be set-backs:

The Headlight: SO wrong
That headlight is just SO wrong…

The headlight is a complex assembly. There’s the headlight itself, plus the platform upon which it sits. There’s an angled brace between the bottom of the platform and the face of the smokebox. And there’s a vertical plate (not shown) at the end of the platform, to which the number board is attached. This vertical piece also has a grab iron.

At one point, I had most of these pieces in place – just the grab iron to adjust. And that’s when the smokebox face popped out of the vise and hit the floor. Back to square one, with some swearing and scrounging for parts under the workbench. The second attempt ended miserably, too. And the third attempt – almost four hours into the session – ended up wonky despite my best efforts. I’m going to have to pull the #&$%#& thing off the smokebox face, clean up everything, and try again. But not today.

I’ll get it, eventually – and the sense of accomplishment will be even greater for all the effort that went into it. Then I’ll tackle the number boards…

CNR 3737 :: Smokebox front

On Friday, Andy Malette hosted me for another work session on the CNR 2-8-2 project – and we tackled a major modification: the smokebox front.

New smokebox front

Our donor engines are USRA-designed light Mikados from Overland Models, which feature a smokebox front held in place with 20 dogs. Depending on the class of locomotive (and possibly the builder) Canadian National Railway steam engines featured either 10 or 12 dogs on the smokebox front.

We tend to notice these things, so it was obvious that the old dogs would have to come off and be replaced with new ones in the proper pattern. In this case, I would need 12 dogs – which means I couldn’t even cheat and simply grind away every other dog on the USRA smokebox front.

The Overland Models smokebox front is removable, but the dogs are cast as part of the face. So the easiest way to remove them was to turn them off on a lathe. I worked with very light passes, checking my progress frequently until I was happy with the results. After using the cutter, I finished up with progressively finer grits of sanding paper until all evidence of the dogs had disappeared. (This process also removed a portion of the hinges, but they will be relatively easy to replace with brass strip.)

Once the old dogs were gone, it was time to install new ones. Andy has some dogs cast by another friend of ours, but I would have to drill the smokebox face to accept them, then solder them in place. We moved the smokebox front from the lathe to the mill and added a 12-position indexer to evenly space the holes:

Index and centre drill

I started with a centre drill, then carefully drilled for the dogs, adding cutting oil for each hole. The last thing I wanted was a broken drill – Andy said he’s ruined a couple of smokebox fronts that way – and I’m pleased to report I drilled 12 perfect holes with no incidents.

Andy then locked the smokebox front in the vise and demonstrated how to solder these tiny dogs into place. He did the first one – I did the next 11. A minimal amount of flux, heating near – but not on – the dog, and a light touch with a thin length of solder on the side away from the heat was the key: Done right, the solder would melt onto the face of the smokebox than draw itself under the dog.

Here’s a composite photo showing the smokebox front, before and after the alterations:

Smokebox before and after

I think it was definitely worth the effort.

As part of this work session, I also added a drain pipe to the feed water heater, which I’d somehow missed during last week’s piping session. It’s the smaller pipe in this next photo, just ahead of the large exhaust pipe:

CNR 3737 Piping progress. Engineer's side front.

There are still a few details to address – including the various appliances that mount on the smokebox front. But I now feel confident that CNR 3737 is heading towards the paint shop this year. I’m really pleased with the progress made so far this month and look forward to the next session…

CNR 3737 :: The engineer’s side

After a hiatus for the holidays – and a month of avoiding the outside as much as possible due to heavy snow and bone-chilling cold in our part of the world – Andy Malette and I emerged like Wiarton Willie (a month late), saw our shadows, and decided it was time to continue working on the CNR 2-8-2 project.

At yesterday’s session, I turned my attention to the engineer’s side of the engine:

Piping - Engineer's Side

Here, I added some new piping, including the assembly in front of the cab and the angled pipe leading to the Hancock check valve on the top of the boiler, to the right (ahead) of the steam dome. I also reinstalled some piping under the cab and below the running board. And, I fabricated and installed the raised running board section that spans the power reverse unit.

For some reason – still a mystery to me – my soldering was much better today than it has been in the past. Maybe I’m finally getting the hang of this? I won’t inquire too closely – I’ll just roll with it, and keep doing what I’m doing. We’re having another session in a week, when I’ll tackle a project that will make major change to the appearance…

CNR 3737 :: Reworking those big pipes

Much better:

Feed water pipes fixed

I hate going back and re-doing things – but sometimes, it has to be done. A case in point is the big exhaust pipes hanging off the back of the feed water heater on my brass CNR 2-8-2 project.

Given the size of the brass rod involved, these pipes were a royal pain to bend. And they soak up heat like nobody’s business, which made them a pain to solder in place, too. The problem was, they should drop almost straight down after coming out of the appliance – but I’d made the top bend too far back and then compounded the error to bring them back forward, around the front of the cylinder saddle. It really changed the look of the whole front end of the model and I wasn’t happy.

When I mentioned this to my friend Andy Malette at the start of yesterday’s work session, he advised that it’s up to me to decide if I can life with the inaccuracies – but that if I was having doubts, I should probably correct it now, before the locomotive is painted, etc. Andy also pointed out that brass is forgiving, and relatively cheap. If I don’t like something, I can unsolder it, either re-bend or fabricate another one, and reattach it.

He’s right. So I did: I unsoldered the pipes from both sides, re-bent them, and put the new pipes in place.

Looking at an older photo from 2017 (below) and the lead photo, taken after yesterday’s work, I’m glad I spent the work session addressing the problem. It looks a lot better now.

Old piping
(This older photo shows my first, failed attempt at fabricating the exhaust pipe from the feed water heater)

Speaking of piping, there’s more to do – but probably not until sometime next year…