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…

CNR 3737 :: More work on the pilot

CNR 3737 - pilot

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:

OMI Light Mikado - Left Side

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:

CNR 3737 - Al Paterson prototype photo - left side.

(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:

CNR 3737 - new pilot
(A new pilot, and my first effort at resistance soldering)

OMI Light Mikado - Front
(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:

CNR 3737 - new pilot - underside

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

CNR 3737 - Al Paterson prototype photo - left side.

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.

OMI Light Mikado

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:

Andy's 2-8-0 at the supper club
(Click to learn more)

Andy's CNR 2-8-0 at Exporail
(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:

OMI Light Mikado - Brass Dunk

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!