CNR 3737 :: Tender

I’ve been tardy in updating my blog because it’s been very busy lately, so this is actually a report on two work sessions with my friend Andy Malette. Both focussed on the tender for CNR 2-8-2 number 3737

Let’s start with a reference photo – the stock tender that came with the URSA light Mikado from Overland:

CNR 3737 - stock tender

In the first session (held at the end of January), I reshaped the side walls forward of the coal bunker. On the stock model, these slope back to the deck. But CNR 3737 has a semi-enclosed cab, which meant these needed to be modified. The trick is the fine strip of beading along the top of the side walls: We wanted to preserve that.

A careful application of heat and a single-edged razor blade lifted this off, about one third of the way back along the bunker. I was then able to cut and file away the angles on each side. Finally, I cut and shaped new wall sections to build up the front of the side wall. Once these were soldered in place, I carefully re-bent the bead and soldered it down. Here’s the result:

CNR 3737 - tender mods

When I got home, I realized that the tall walls to either side of the coal bunker doors would also interfere with the back of the semi-vestibule cab…

CNR 3737 - tender mods

… so, off they came:

CNR 3737 - tender mods

The deck to either side of the coal doors is pretty messy now – but the good news is, my prototype photos show spilled coal all over these small decks, so I’m not going to worry about it. I will have to do some clean-up and filling around the side wall extensions that I added, though.

While I was doing that, Andy was prepping for our next session (held yesterday). He cut some channel and angle to length and drilled it for me so I could build new steps at the front of the tender. Thanks to his prep work, the assembly went quickly. Compare this image to the stock photo:

CNR 3737 Tender - front steps

Each ladder assembly consist of 14 pieces. Andy tells me his took a lot of time to assemble, and he was surprised mine went together relatively quickly. Of course, what goes around comes around: The other project during yesterday’s session was building a three-piece assembly for the rear number board. It consists of two C-shaped brackets and the number board itself… and for the life of me I could not get everything to solder properly. Andy eventually stepped in and got it mounted – and I will have a lot of clean-up to do on the rear wall of the tank:

CNR 3737 - tender number plate

The tender still needs a ladder on the fireman’s side, plus railings, power conduit, rear light, and other details. But it’s already looking a lot more like it belongs on the CNR.

CNR 3737 :: Piping near the cab

CNR 3737 - Piping.

I’ve been exchanging notes with a reader and he mentioned he’s hoping for more progress reports on my CNR 2-8-2 – so this one’s for you!

Progress has been slow, so there’s not much to report. Our schedules have conflicted more often than not, so my friend Andy Malette and I have only been able to hold a couple of work sessions over the past several months. That’s fine – it’s a hobby, and the work will wait until we’re able to do tackle it.

At our last session – late last year – I installed some piping ahead of, and underneath, the cab. Unfortunately, I’d forgotten to take along some brass castings that were essential to this work, so I had to revisit the piping, cutting into it in some places and re-bending it in others. But the result can be seen in the photo above.

I still have to do the other side.

I have to confess that tracing pipes on photographs makes my head swim. The pipes duck in and out, behind appliances, under running boards, and so on. And the old photos are often a bit grainy or taken at a typical, 3/4 front view from track level. So sometimes, it’s a guess at best. Now, it’s an educated guess: I’m following piping diagrams from various sources, including the Model Railroader Cyclopedia – Volume 1. But those sources are guidelines, at best. As any student of steam locomotives knows, appliances and piping typically varied from unit to unit, based on where and when the locomotive was last shopped and what was on hand at the time.

I find that printing out the photos – or sections of photos – in a larger size helps. I can then use a selection of markers to trace each pipe in a different colour. Assuming, of course, I can see them in the prints…

Locating piping is further complicated by the fact that the pipes cannot always go where the prototype put them. In the photo above, I’ve had to run the lowest pipe parallel to the running board until it clears the space required for the trailing truck, then curl it downwards. On the prototype, this pipe cuts across that open space at more of a 45 degree angle. But of course, I want my model to be able to negotiate the curves on the S Scale Workshop modules (for which I’m building this model) – and my own layout.

Back to staring at photos and taking notes. It’s all part of the learning process.

Steam Locomotives (the Cyclopedia)

More accurately, Model Railroader Cyclopedia – Volume 1: Steam Locomotives:

Steam Locomotives - Cyclopedia

This arrived for me this week, after a discussion with my friend Andy Malette about research materials for our CNR Mikado project. Andy noted that this book taught him a lot about the various appliances on steam locomotives, as well as the myriad of pipes that connect them. So, I grabbed a copy via ABEbooks. And Andy is right – there’s a ton of information in this tome.

The caveat is, the information is of course “ex-Works”, “best practices” and so on. If you’re detailing a locomotive, as we are, it’s important to check prototype photos of the exact locomotive you’re trying to model. This is particularly important with steam engines, and even moreso if they’ve been around for a while: just like a subdivision can start out looking like it’s built from Monopoly houses, yet acquire character through the passage of time, individual steam engines often developed a unique character as shop forces worked to keep them in service, and to modernize them.

In fact, that’s one of the joys I’m experiencing in doing this project with Andy. We’ve each picked different numbers – I’m doing 3737, while he’s chosen 3702 – and the two locomotives are very different. The plumbing is different. The location of appliances is different (for example, on Andy’s locomotive, the location of the feed water pump and the air pump is reversed). The smokebox fronts are different. The sand domes are in different spots. And so on. When we’re finished, we will have two locomotives of the same class that each exhibit their own character, and have their own back stories.

This is what makes prototype modelling so rewarding. As a friend is fond of saying, “Details Matter”.

CNR 3737 :: Piping

A muscular face

For many sessions now, the work on CNR 3737 – my S-3-a Mikado – has involved removing piping from the boiler, to the point where it was starting to look like a tube. On Friday, Andy Malette and I started adding piping – and already it’s a definite change for the better.

CNR 3737 Piping

CNR 3737 Piping

We started by removing the rest of the handrails (but keeping the stanchions in place), so they’d be out of the way. Then I bent up and added the exhaust pipes from the Elesco Feedwater Heater. This required a fair bit of trial and fit to get the pipes to hug the smokebox. We then installed the cold water supply pipe from the feed water pump. Next, we added the Hancock check valve on the top of the boiler, then fitted the hot water pipe from it.

I still have to add the condensate pipe, which runs from the side opposite the water supplies, down the smokebox, under the boiler, and back along the length of the locomotive towards the tender.

Before wrapping up the session, we managed to add the four sand lines, too.

While there’s a lot to do – and still some stuff to remove/reshape – it feels like we’ve turned a corner in this project. Thanks in part to its piping, this model is going to have a lot of character – and a very different look than it did when I bought it.

(Thanks for another great work session, Andy!)

CNR 3737: Test of Wisdom

On Friday, Andy Malette and I returned to working on our CNR S-3-a Mikados. With other commitments we had taken the summer off, and much of the autumn – our last day in the workshop was in mid-May – and it was time to get back at it.

Andy had cut and filed some sheet brass for us to fold into the covered steam turret located immediately in front of the cab. (Thanks, Andy!) I removed the exposed turret and the various lines that radiated from it, then bent the shroud and soldered it into place. It took some doing, and some cleaning up afterwards, but it’s in place.

CNR 3737 turret shroud

The next step was to start plumbing the turret (and the air pump, and the feed water heater, and…) … but I looked at the photos and looked at the model and nothing was making sense. We still had an hour set aside to work on things, but I realized that due to a combination of things (including lack of sleep the night before), I just didn’t have the focus to tackle the plumbing on Friday. So, we called it a day.

It was hard to do that – it has been months since we worked on these locomotives and I’m enjoying the process as much as watching new models come together. But I realized that I could do more damage than good if I kept at it. Upon reflection, it was the wisest decision I could’ve made.

I reminded myself of this today, while revisiting the model in the comfort of my own workshop. I again took a look at plumbing and, after installing one pipe between air pump and turret, pushed back from the bench and called it a day. Again, a hard decision to make – but the right one.

CNR 3737 turret shroud

I will look at the project later this week. Meantime, Andy and I are planning another day in his shop, later this month. I’ll do my best to get more sleep beforehand!

CNR 3737 :: Pump for Feedwater Heater

CNR 3737 feedwater heater pump

On Friday, Andy Malette and I held another session at his place to work on our CNR S-3-a class 2-8-2s. Having installed the Elesco Feedwater Heater during our previous session, we moved onto the pump that supplies water to this appliance.

The water pump sits ahead of the compressor, under the running board. But before I could install the water pump, I had to make room for it. This involved cutting away part of the running board on the fireman’s side then fabricating a new section of running board.

CNR 3737 - Al Paterson prototype photo - left side.

Using my fireman’s side photo, I planned the running board modification. I measured and marked the running board, then used a pair of tiny metal shears to cut the running board in two places, from edge to boiler. I then used the resistance soldering iron to remove the isolated midsection. More heat and a wire wheel in a Dremel Tool took care of the lumps of solder left behind on the boiler. I also removed the sand lines, which need to be re-routed.

Before installing the new running board and the water pump, it seemed like a good time to fill the holes left by the model’s check valves.

CNR 3737 - feedwater heater - check valve hole
(That hole in the boiler, just behind the foremost sand line, is the location of the original check valve. There’s one in the same location on the other side of the boiler, too)

I found a piece of brass rod just larger than the hole, and used an appropriate drill bit to open up the hole to accept the rod. I then tinned the hole and the rod and used plenty of flux and the resistance soldering rig to secure the rod. One it was in place, I used a cut-off disc to carefully cut the rod as close to the boiler as I dared. I then ground down the rod flush with the boiler, and finished up with progressively fine grades of sanding paper.

CNR 3737 - check valve hole - filled
(… and the hole is filled. I still need to polish the scratches out of the boiler)

I then fabricated a new running board segment from .020″ brass sheet. I used CA to spot-glue the segment I removed to my piece of brass sheet, with the outside edge flush to a sheet edge. I then used a pin so scribe the inside edge, which needs to follow the shape of the boiler and fit around the boiler bands. I made sure I had extra sheet stock to the left and right of this pattern, then sliced the original running board segment off the brass sheet, sanded off the CA, and cut out the new segment with shears. I then filed the new running board segment to final shape.

The new segment sits above the original running board, with tightly curved ends that meet the running board segments ahead and behind it – hence the need for extra material to each side of the new running board. I located the point at which I needed to make the bends and folded them down using pliers. I then measured the height of each folded down section and used shears to cut off the excess material. There are also various notches along the boiler edge to allow for the passage of piping, so I marked those out and filed away the unneeded material.

With the new section fabricated, I soldered it to the boiler then used photographs to locate the water pump. It’s centred just ahead of the boiler band over the third driver.

I cut and folded an L-shaped bracket for the pump, then soldered the pump to it using the provided mounting post. I trimmed the bracket so it would support the pump in the proper location, then soldered this to the boiler.

I finished up by placing the boiler on the chassis to ensure that the new water pump doesn’t interfere with the valve gear. It barely clears – but it’s sufficient.

Every work session brings this bog-standard USRA Mikado closer to my chosen CNR prototype. Compare the photo above with this photo of the stock model, taken just before we started this project:

OMI Light Mikado - Left Side

The main reason I’m doing this project with Andy is I did not have the know-how required to tackle it myself. I’m learning more at every session, What’s more, I’m throughly enjoying this project and look forward to what we tackle next!

CNR 3737 :: Feedwater Heater

CNR 3737 - feedwater heater
(Well, that’s looking very different…)

It’s been a while since Andy Malette and I worked on our CNR 2-8-2 brass-bashing projects. It’s just that time of year when other commitments get in the way. But last Friday, we got back at it by installing the Elesco Feedwater Heater on each engine.

The prototype S-3-a class did not come equipped with these. According to Canadian National Steam! – an essential resource for anyone modelling The People’s Railway in the steam era – shop forces in Battle Creek, Michigan added the appliance to CNR 3737 in September of 1940. I’m assuming that this was done as the Grand Trunk Western prepared to sell this locomotive to parent CNR – which occurred on February 18, 1941. CNR 3737 would retain its Grand Trunk Western livery at least until December 1948, when the Canadian government settled the duty, sales tax, and War Exchange Tax.

(As an aside, at the same time as they fitted the feedwater heater the Battle Creek shop forces also swapped in Boxpok main drivers – third driving axle from the front. Thanks for that, guys! I’ll have to retrofit that in a future work session. Andy and I are still discussing how to approach this work.)

A close look at our collection of prototype photos shows that on the engines that Andy and I are modelling, the feedwater heater was installed by cutting into the top of the smokebox and adding a platform. Side-on photos show that daylight can be seen in the lower corners, between the feedwater heater and the smokebox. With the aid of the flashlight on my phone, I’ve tried to capture what that looks like on the model:

CNR 3737 - feedwater heater - close up
(BTW, the boiler is set loosely on the chassis for these photos so there are gaps that will disappear when it’s properly screwed together)

Following Andy’s lead, I measured, marked and then cut the smokebox top to accept the feedwater heater. (I can admit that taking a cut-off disc in a Dremel tool to the top of a brass steam engine was a bit of a brown trouser moment, but I did not slip. There are no nasty gouges to fill.) I finished the hole with some careful filing. I then cut a platform out of a piece of brass sheet and soldered it into the hole. Andy and I considered building arched side walls for this platform but in the end we decided that they would be completely obscured by the feedwater heater, so there was no point.

The feedwater heater itself is a brass casting provided to us by our friend Simon Parent, who created them for his 2-10-2 models. He also provided us with the spoked pilot wheels. (Thanks, Simon!)

For our models, Andy and I had to slightly modify the connections. As provided, they have two small pipe connections on the back, at the edge, that run parallel to the handrail, one above the other. I had to remove the upper connection and relocate it to the front, pointing down. This involved clipping away the unneeded connection, filing the end to shape, then drilling a hole for the new connection, soldering in a piece of brass rod, and then soldering a flange to it.

CNR 3737 - feedwater heater

Finally, I tinned the mounting plate and the bottom of the feedwater heater, and Andy hit it with a propane torch – in and out, quickly! – while I held everything in place with pliers. That casting needed a lot of heat…

I need to clean up a bit of solder on the end cap – easy enough to do – and decide whether I want to fill the vertical notch. The prototype had a solid cap, but the mass of this casting will make it difficult to fill without unsoldering the new pipe connection and flange. I might just leave it. It adds character, and the caps could certainly be swapped from engine to engine – or even left off: one of the photos of Andy’s prototype (3702) shows it left bare.

With its new pilot and now a feed water heater, the model is really starting to take on some CNR character. There’s still a lot to do, including reworking the face of the smokebox and adding the water pump ahead of the air pump – a modification that will require us to chop the running board and elevate a portion of it. And of course, there’s that nasty Boxpok driver!

I’m not sure what we’ll tackle next, but we’re returning to Andy’s shop in just over a week. I can hardly wait!

CN 3737 – Cab back and railings

CNR 3737 - Al Paterson prototype photo - left side.
(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:

CNR 3737 - cab back

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.

CNR 3737 - cab roof rails

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:

CNR 3737 - cab roof rails

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.

CNR 3737 - cab

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:

CNR 3737 - boiler stripped

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:

CNR 3737 - spoked pilot wheel

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

CNR 3737 - pilot details

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…