CN 3737 – Cab back and railings

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(Click on the image to filter this blog for all posts about this project)

Last Friday, Andy Malette and I held another joint work session on our CNR 2-8-2 projects. This time, work continued on the cab.

The first order of business was to finish the cab back. In a previous session, we’d squared off the rear of the roof – something the CNR did to make it easier to hang curtains to protect the crew in cold weather. This time, we added a back wall to the cab roof:

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The wall is simply a piece of brass sheet, cut to match the curve of the roof and with two windows added according to prototype photos. Some of these cabs had the back wall flush, while others – like CNR 3737 – had a lip. Two small lengths brass were added under the side roof extensions, next to the back wall, and then trimmed and filed to length to complete the major modifications. This work required one to get in and out quickly with the resistance soldering probe, so as to not unsolder the roof extensions. I was really pleased that I was able to do this with no rework required.

As the above photo shows, we also added stanchions and railings to the cab roof. This was a relatively simple operation: mark and drill the holes, tin the stanchions, string them on a wire to keep them all properly aligned, then add lots of flux and hit them with the heat.

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We left the wires long to the rear of the stanchions, then trimmed them after soldering. At the front, the handrail loops 180 degrees then bends parallel to the front cab wall, so we did that too:

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The cab still needs an armrest under each window, but we’ll add that after painting. I think it’s pretty much done, and can be set aside while we start on the next phase. I’m not sure what that is, but I’ll find out at our next work session. I’m looking forward to it!

If you ever get a chance to learn from someone who knows their way around a brass engine… do it! (Thanks for teaching me, Andy…)

CNR 3737 :: starting on the cab

On Friday, I spent another pleasant afternoon with Andy Malette in his workshop, as we worked on our CNR 2-8-2 projects. Our main task was to start work on the cab.

When the CNR acquired its USRA Mikados from its US subsidiaries (Grand Trunk in New England and Grand Trunk Western in Michigan), it retrofitted many (or all?) of them to accommodate cab curtains to help crews cope with Canadian winters. This required re-shaping the back of the cab roof, above the footplate, to square it off and allow the curtains to hang properly. It also required adding a back wall to the cab, over the tender.

There were several variations on how they did this. One such is shown in the photo of 3715, below – found in CN Lines Volume 6 Number 4. I had this issue on my CN Lines DVD – which I highly recommend.

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As the image suggests, CNR simply scabbed in some metal to square off the bottom edge of the cab roof. On 3737, the added piece drops down slightly after the walkway, but not every locomotive had that feature. Based on prototype photos, the 2-8-2 I’m modelling – CNR 3737 – did not: Its cab roof went straight across, or ever so slightly upwards, with a very small rounded corner at the rear. The rear cab wall was also inset slightly – not flush as shown in the photo of 3715. My prototype did, however, have the two small vents in the cab back and the smoke deflector on the roof.

As the photo above shows, I’ve soldered in angled pieces of brass – then cleaned up the excess solder and filed, sanded and polished them to shape. I’ve also cut a piece of 0.020″ brass for the back wall of the cab, and started laying out the location of the vents.

Other progress of note:

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I’ve stripped the boiler and smokebox front of many of the appliances that are either not needed, need to be relocated, need to be out of the way to work on things, or need to be replaced with CNR-appropriate versions. There are a few holes to fill. I also need to rework the walkways, which have a step-up to clear the air compressor and water pump on this side of the locomotive.

Finally, thanks to our friend Simon Parent, Andy and I have lovely CNR-style spoked wheels for the pilot truck:

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These are the same wheels that Simon used on his CNR 2-10-2s. He sent us some (along with castings for the Elesco feed water heater), and Andy mounted them on axles for us. They sure complete the CNR-ization of the pilot.

I’m pleased with the progress!

CNR 3737 :: Pilot details

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This morning, I put my new workshop chair to good use by adding more details to the pilot of CNR 3737. As the photo shows, the pilot beam now sports a coupler cut lever and flag holders. I also added four safety-tread steps – large ones in the lower corners, and small ones above the boiler tubes on either side of the coupler draft gear housing.

There are a few more details to add, such as piping from the air tank and a train line and signal line. But the pilot is otherwise complete and I can move on to the next part of this project. Andy Malette and I have another work session planned for later this week…

CNR 3737 :: More work on the pilot

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Last Friday, Andy Malette and I held another work session at his place to build CNR 2-8-2s. We continued our work on the pilots.

Like many CNR steam engines, the prototype Mikado I’m modelling had an air tank mounted crosswise on the pilot deck, between the front ladders. On this particular engine, the tank was welded – so with Andy’s guidance, I had my first experience with a metal lathe, and turned my tank out of a solid brass rod. While it’s not apparent in the photo above, the tank ends have a lip around the circumference, which I also modelled. And they’re drilled to accept the piping that will connect this tank to the rest of the air system.

The tank sits on two brackets – casting that Andy produced for his CNR 4-6-2 kit – and is held in place with retainers bent from 0.020″ dia. brass wire. Soldering the tank in place on the brackets required the massive heat of a torch – another first for me.

As we inspected the finished tank against the prototype photos, we realized that the model’s pilot deck was too long for my locomotive. Here’s a photo of the stock Overland model:

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Note the distance between the ladders and the pilot beam – and how far back the headlight is from the pilot. Comparing this to the prototype photo, it’s easy to see that the deck is too long:

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(Note also that the model has deck braces running from the smokebox sides to the deck – another feature absent from CNR 3737.)

At home over the weekend, I unsoldered the pilot beam from the deck, cut back the deck with a cut-off disk in my Flex-Shaft Tool, then re-soldered the beam to the deck. The shorter deck is apparent in the lead photo: The bases of the ladders are much closer to the beam. (I’m temporarily re-installed the smokebox front to better compare the face of the prototype, the as-built model, and the modifications. The smokebox will be significantly reworked at some point.)

In the process of re-attaching the pilot, I also bent up some L-shaped braces to solder underneath the deck and to the back of the pilot assembly: I was worried that over time, the solder joint along the edge of the deck would fail, given that this joint will be subject to shocks when coupling. The extra bracing can’t be seen and provides me with additional peace of mind. I’m enjoying working through these problems and devising solutions.

Once again, I have homework: I will go through various documents and photos, and remove details from the boiler that are either wrong, or in the wrong place. Meantime, Andy tells me that we now have suitable spoked pilot wheels, courtesy our friend Simon Parent, so the front end is going to look even more like a CNR engine after our next work session – scheduled for later this month. I’m already looking forward to it!

Happy New Year, everyone – best wishes for 2017!

A new pilot for CNR 3737

On Friday, I spent about four hours in the shop with Andy Malette – our first work session on the previously-announced CNR S-3-a project. Appropriately enough, we started at the front – removing the pilot that came with the model and replacing it with a CNR-specific pilot:

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(A new pilot, and my first effort at resistance soldering)

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(The factory-installed pilot can be seen in this photo of the “before” model)

We worked from instructions that Andy wrote for kits he created to model CNR 4-6-2s in S scale, and used some of the casting he had produced for those – including the beam, the draft gear (coupler box), and the boiler tube pilot. (You can find a photo of one of Andy’s 4-6-2s – CNR K3 #5575 – on the S Scale Workshop gallery.)

Once the old pilot was removed, I marked and drilled holes on the top of the new pilot beam for flag holders and the supports for the front coupler cut lever. Those will be added later.

Next, I used a resistance soldering rig to attach the boiler tube pilot and the draft gear (coupler box), then attach the completed pilot to the front deck.

We actually ended up with the drat gear mounted too high. In my enthusiasm, I did not refer to the prototype photos. Oops! Big lesson learned. Fortunately, I also learned other lessons – like, “It can be unsoldered and moved!” and “You can do this!” So last night – following consultation with prototype photos – I hauled out my own resistance soldering rig and moved it lower. I then cut and filed a piece of brass strip to go behind the box, to close the hole in the pilot beam. Sharp-eyed readers will see a U-shaped piece of brass behind the box in this photo:

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It may not seem like much – it’s just a pilot, and there’s a lot more locomotive behind it. But I’m really pleased with my progress so far. It was an excellent first class on bashing brass steam locomotives, and I’m looking forward to Lesson #2. That’ll happen in the new year sometime, when we continue to detail the pilot.

Thanks for a great work session, Andy!

I’m tackling this project for several reasons. As mentioned previously, I felt I needed a group project to motivate me – and I needed help figuring out how to proceed with the modifications I’d like to do to the stock model to make it into a CNR locomotive.

Andy is just the person to guide me in that regard. I’ve never worked on a project like this with him, and it very quickly became apparent why he was such a good teacher professionally. He would demonstrate on his 2-8-2, then let me do mine. And he’s incredibly patient. I’ve learned a lot in the first four hours, including that it’s going to take many, many hours to get the locomotives ready for the S Scale Workshop layout – but that’s wonderful, because I’m enjoying the process and the social side of the project.

The hobby isn’t a job. There are no hard deadlines – only self-imposed ones. Sometimes, in our eagerness to get to the point where a project is finished, we forget that the project itself is as enjoyable as the end result. Yes, I’m going to love giving CNR 3737 its debut on the Workshop at an exhibition sometime in the future. But I’m also loving learning about working with brass, and adding to my skill set. Which brings me to another point…

Something I hoped to learn from this project was techniques for using various tools that I’ve collected over the years. I’ve had a resistance soldering rig for several years now – I’d picked it up from the estate of a friend who passed away and I always thought that someday, I would have a use for it. But it’s been slumbering in a box for more than a decade now because I didn’t really know how to use it, and didn’t have a project upon which to learn. Other approaches to soldering always did the trick, so there was no need to put the rig to use.

Now, however, I’m learning how to use the tool – to the point where I was able to do some rework on my own after our session, as noted above. And I’m already thinking about how I can use resistance soldering for future projects.

And a technical update…

I’ve now added a new category filter: CNR 3737 will return all posts related to this project. I’ve updated previous posts with the category, and will use it on future posts – although with the holidays upon us, you may not see more on this until well into January…

CNR 3737 :: A 2-8-2 for the Workshop

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In “Dip Job“, I hinted about a new locomotive project I’m undertaking. As the photo above shows, the project is a CNR S-3-a class 2-8-2 – and I’m working on this one to share with my friends in the S Scale Workshop on our exhibition layout.

CNR 3737 was one of 25 USRA Light Mikados ordered by the Grand Trunk Railway of Canada in 1918. It spent some time on the American side of the border before being imported to Canada for good in the early 1940s. It was scrapped in September of 1958.

There’s plenty of information about the class in Roster Book 6 of the highly-recommended Canadian National Steam! series, which is where I found the above photo. If you have any interest in Canadian steam, this is a must-have series.

The starting point for this project is an Overland Models S scale (yes – Overland used to import S scale brass) USRA Light Mikado. OMI imported 150 of these Ajin-produced models in 1985. I picked up one on the used market a few years ago with the intention of converting it into a CNR specimen.

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This project has been sitting on the back burner until now because I was unsure how to proceed. I’ve never bashed brass before, and a comparison of the prototype and model photos shows that while the general lines are right, there are a number of fittings to be moved about and some modifications to make.

But in a recent conversation via email between members of the S Scale Workshop, my friend Andy Malette mentioned he also had one of these Light Mikes to tackle. The lightbulb lit: I suggested to Andy that we work on these together, and we’re going to have our first work session tomorrow.

I will share some updates on this blog, but it won’t be a blow-by-blow accounting of how I built CNR 3737. I think that’s more suitable to a magazine feature, so I will be taking photos and notes with that in mind.

Andy is an excellent builder in brass. A couple of years ago, we wowed the Workshop with a CNR 2-8-0 that he built by extensively reworking a brass consolidation based on a Missouri Pacific prototype:

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(Click to learn more)

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(Click to learn more)

Andy also designed a kit for S scale (and HO scale) CNR 4-6-2s, and has built a few CNR locomotives from the kits designed by our mutual friend, Simon Parent. He certainly knows his way around brass bashing, and I know I can learn a lot from him about this. I’m keen to get started. In preparation, I’ve been removing the protective clear coat from the OMI model. I disassembled the model, soaked the brass parts in lacquer thinner for a couple of days, then ran them through my ultrasonic cleaner:

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The model is now clear coat-free and ready to go.

Lately, I’ve found it difficult to find the enthusiasm to begin large projects. There’s just a lot of other things going on in my life right now. These aren’t bad things, but they have meant that my hobby has been on the back burner a bit. I’ve found that when this happens to me, one way to address this is – to rekindle enthusiasm, even when I’m otherwise occupied – is to launch into a project with another modeller as a co-operative effort.

Having a schedule – such as a work session once or twice per month, which is what Andy and I are planning – gives me a deadline to work towards. Plus, the anticipation of a day of model-building with friends is always inspiring.

I’m certainly looking forward to this particular project!

Dip job

I’m starting a new project in the time-honoured tradition…

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Beyond saying “this is a CNR locomotive” (which sharp-eyed readers would deduce given the categories linked to this post), I won’t elaborate just yet. Stay tuned!

(UPDATE: I’ve now added a new category filter: CNR 3737 will return all posts related to this project)