CNR 209540

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One down – two to go: The first of my three eight-hatch refrigerator cars is finished and ready for service on the Port Rowan branch.

Having installed a new running board, described in yesterday’s post, I stained the wood pieces with Weather-It. I then airbrushed the styrene crosspieces of the running board (as well as the upgraded hatch rests) with CNR Grey #11 to blend them into the finished car. Some overspray on the wood suggests that the running board was originally painted but has worn off over time.

After the grey cured, I weathered the car with Acrylicos Vallejo paints.

My next task is to create waybills for this car. Obvious commodities include apples out of Port Rowan, and other produce out of St. Williams. The adjacent Port Dover branch shipped fish and flowers, too. I could borrow some of the fish traffic to ship out of Port Rowan, and I’m sure a greenhouse in the St. Williams area could ship flowers.

But these cars carried a wide range of commodities. As the GHQ Forum notes, these are not “Refrigerator Cars”, but “Temperature Control” cars – they were equally good at keeping things from freezing as they were at keeping frozen things frozen. Commodities hauled included chicken, beef, pork, fish, crabs and lobster, cream, juice, canned goods that shouldn’t freeze, pickles, peanuts, trees and shrubs, flowers, veggies and fruit of all kinds, condensed milk, blacking liquid, ball bearings, bakery goods, chocolate, eggs, beer, syrups, candles… the list goes on.

I’ll have fun filling out waybills for this car, and its unique paint scheme and busy roofline will make it a real attention-grabber during operating sessions.

Thanks to Andy Malette at MLW Services for creating this kit, and Pierre Oliver at Elgin Car Shops for building it for me.

Tim Trucks

Regular readers know I’m unhappy with the six-wheel trucks under my passenger cars. They look fine, but they do not track reliably. Earlier this month, I wrote about how I would love to modify these trucks with a subframe to provide rigid beam compensation on the axles.

Well, my friend – the very talented Tim Warris at Fast Tracksvisited last week and he was intrigued by the problem. Tim went home with a set of wheels and a pair of stock American Models passenger trucks, and over the weekend he drew up, then laser cut and assembled, a solution:
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As Tim writes on the Fast Tracks Facebook page,

Took a break from trackwork designs this past weekend and designed this set of S scale equalized 6 wheel trucks for Trevor Marshall’s Port Rowan layout. While custom projects such as this aren’t something Fast Tracks typically does, we made an exception as this seemed like an interesting quick project. The entire assembly is laser cut from plywood, the same wood we use for our QuickSticks. This is a sub-assembly that will have cast sideframes added to it when installed onto the passenger cars they are designed for. While it’s kind of hard to see in the image, two of the three wheelsets are able to rock and twist within the side frame, allowing for very smooth operation over uneven track. These should go a long way to eliminating some operational issues Trevor was having with the poorly designed trucks available in S scale. There is no limit to what can be done with a laser cutter and some imagination!

Tim has posted a video to YouTube showing the trucks smoothly navigating an uneven surface. The two floating axles rise, fall and twist as needed to keep all six wheels in contact with the surface at all times. The threaded rod and trapped nuts make for a very smooth pivot, and the wood construction means there’s no need to insulate the wheel sets from the subframe:

I wondered about the choice of wood, but Tim reassured me: “Wood will outlast almost any other material,” he reports. “Hydro electric dams installed wood bearings 100+ years ago and are still using them, very durable, won’t cause any issues.” That’s good enough for me.

Tim is going to cut a few more sets of these for me so I can retrofit my three passenger cars. We compared schedules and as he notes, trying to find a time when we can get together in the next week or two turned out to be more difficult than designing the trucks, so he’ll pop them in the mail. I’m already standing by the mailbox…

Thanks for this, Tim. I feel like a kid in the days before Christmas – waiting to open my presents. I’m looking forward to putting side frames on these, slipping them under my passenger cars, and saying goodbye to bad running!

UPDATE (JUNE 22, 2015): Tim now offers these on his web site. Having had them in use on my layout for about 18 months now, I’ve written up some construction and operation notes on these to help others decide whether they want to try them.

Refrigerator running board

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It’s a hobby of course, and people engage with it (or at least, they should) in the way that gives them the most satisfaction. But I find it interesting that so many freight car enthusiasts pay so much attention to accurately modelling the underside of a car.

I’m really impressed by the work that people do below the frame – and I’m pleased when the owner flips over a car to show me the fine details. But I know we don’t see most of it when we’re running trains on a layout. And I’ll admit that while I have built freight cars from kits – including resin kits – it’s not the part of the hobby that raises steam for me. So when I’m building cars for the layout, I tend to leave off details that one isn’t going to see. It’s rare to find the train air line running through the sills on my models, although I do add the valves, hoses, and glad hands at the ends, since they’re so visible.

At the same time, those who sweat the small details belowdecks often gloss over what we do see: The roof. They’ll take the one-piece cast resin or plastic running board – a piece that often includes the lateral running boards too – glue it in place and be done with it.

I don’t always upgrade running boards, but when a model deserves it I like to put some extra effort into them. And I like using wood to model wood running boards, since nothing takes stain quite like the real thing.

Therefore, when I asked Pierre Oliver to build three of Andy Malette‘s S scale CNR eight-hatch refrigerator cars for me, I told him to leave off the resin running boards. I’d add them myself.

Many cars on the CNR had an unusual, segmented running board – and looking at prototype photos I realized this style of running board was found on the eight-hatch refrigerator cars. They’re pretty easy to spot, even from ground level, since each carline (roof rib) is topped by an upside-down T-shaped piece of metal which provides support for adjacent segments of running board. As the wood wears, these even start to sit a little proud of the surface – which must’ve made them a great tripping hazard.

I’ve modelled a segmented running board before, on a PRS plastic kit that I detailed as a CNR boxcar. Click on the image below to read about that project:
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The refrigerator car required a different approach. The roof on this model is built from two halves, and the cast running board saddles do not line up precisely during construction. In addition, a number of the saddles were damaged when the castings were removed from the mould. I would not be able to add individual supports to the saddles. Instead, I would have to build a new running board as a unit.

I started by selecting appropriate materials. I decided I could build a subframe out of styrene strips designed to lie directly below the three rows of wood that form the running board. I would use styrene strip, laid on edge and glued to these three long strips, to represent the T-shaped supports. I would then measure, cut and glue the wood segments on top.

The photo below shows the styrene parts, assembled and ready for wood. I used two of the kit running boards determine the spacing of the styrene strips – which are actually narrower than the wood I will glue to them, so they will disappear under the finished running board. Note that at the ends, I cut the long styrene supports shorter than the last pieces of wood. I did this so that the styrene would remain hidden under the finished running board. The kit running boards also supplied the correct spacing for the “T” supports. I’ve cut the cross pieces longer than needed, and glued them in place.
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To finish the running board, I distressed a length of strip wood, then measured for each section, cut wood, and used thick CA to carefully glue the pieces in place between the styrene crosspieces. Here’s a photo of the finished running board, viewed from underneath:
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As the lead photo for this post illustrates, I also used wood for the lateral running boards. I measured these from the kit’s resin castings, and used thin brass bar to create the supports. At this point, the car is ready for L-shaped grab irons on top of the lateral running boards, then it’s off to the paint shop where some careful airbrushing and weathering will blend everything together.

2nd anniversary layout tour

As I noted previously, yesterday marked the second anniversary of breaking ground on my Port Rowan layout. Here are some photos I took of the layout to mark the event. Click on any image for a larger version…

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The first view of the layout as one enters the room. Port Rowan in the foreground, St. Williams at right rear, staging at left rear.

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Looking up the line from end of track in Port Rowan.

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Traffic on Bay Street in Port Rowan. The red mock-up at left represents the feed mill.

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The main operating/viewing aisle. St Williams at left and in front, Port Rowan at right. Adding the valance this year made a huge difference to the presentation of the layout.

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The yard at Port Rowan. This area received lots of scenery over the past year, plus structures. And I’ve worked many trains in and out of the terminal. I continue to be pleasantly surprised by the challenges presented by working in such a small yard. There are no extra tracks so sharp thinking is essential.

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The section house and oil shed at Port Rowan. I must still add MoW supplies around the two structures but I’m really pleased with how these buildings turned out and love how the red draws the eye.

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The apple orchards at the entrance to Port Rowan. Building these convinced me of the value of giving farms sufficient space to look like they are commercial operations.

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The west end of the Lynn Valley. As I’ve noted before, I relocated the valley from the adjacent Port Dover branch to better use the space in the room and give me opportunities to model a river scene. I remain glad that I did. I really like the S curve through here, although it looks tight when there’s a passenger train on the line…

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The Lynn Valley water tank. This adds a nice bit of operation and helps lengthen the apparent run on the layout as crews stop to fill the tender.

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The trestle in the Lynn Valley. The wire tree armatures hint at scenery to come. I’m looking forward to seeing how this scene develops in the coming year.

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Stone Church Road overpass. This area will receive more attention in year three as well.

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The west end of St. Williams. I’m surprised at how much activity I can add to operating session when switching the single spur in this town. St. Williams has progressed nicely over the past year, with the addition of crops, fences, trees and other details. Still a lot more to do here, though…

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… but I’m starting at the east end of the town instead. I built the station this year, and have detailed the area around the road crossing. The trees are underway and this year I hope to finish the rest of the structures in this scene.

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East of St. Williams, the trains head to staging – representing Simcoe, Jarvis, Hagersville, Caledonia, Hamilton and the rest of the world. Staging – a sector plate – has worked out really, really well and I think I hit the right combination of open staging but dimly lit.

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Other progress this year included many things to help run the layout, such as the two slide-out operator’s desks. This one is at St. Williams. Fast clocks, pigeon holes for paperwork, and other details help bring the layout to life during operating sessions.

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Last but not least, the year brought the addition of new equipment, including CNR 2-6-0s and several new CNR boxcars. These are helping to give the layout a unique personality. More equipment will hit the rails in the coming year.

Now we are Two

Two years ago yesterday, my friend Pierre Oliver visited and stayed overnight.

Two years ago this morning, we went for a hearty meal at Boom Breakfast & Company on College Street, then broke ground on my Port Rowan layout. Five hours later, the layout room looked like this:
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Last year at this time, I took a set of photos to document the progress of the layout on its first anniversary. I’ll have to do that again.*

I’m really enjoying my foray into S scale, and I’m looking forward to the next two years!

[*UPDATE – October 14th: I’ve done that, and they can be viewed here.]

Upgraded reefer trucks and couplers

My three new CNR eight-hatch refrigerator cars are a step closer to going into service on the layout. Today I installed couplers and NWSL wheel sets.

I use Kadee’s S scale couplers but I modify them to eliminate excessive slack action. I’ve written about this before on the blog. Click on the image below to read more:
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The running boards will be next. Meantime, I can do a bit of testing on the layout to make sure the cars roll and couple properly.

Pigeon holes

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It’s been a while since I introduced my ideas for representing LCL and Express during operating sessions, so I thought I’d provide an update.

I’ve now created some freight receipts to represent shipments from St. Williams and Port Rowan. To make it easier for conductors to organize their paperwork, I filled these out in red ink – but it may be too obvious a difference, so I’m thinking about other ways to help operators track inbound and outbound shipments. One thought that occurred to me is to fill out all freight receipts with blue ink, but add a red dot in one corner to highlight outbound traffic.

I’ll work on that but in the meantime, I have generated enough receipts that I can start testing the system in earnest. As I started using the freight receipts while running sessions with The Daily Effort, I quickly realized I would need something to organize and hold receipts on the slide-out work desks at St. Williams and Port Rowan. I looked for something suitable at office supply stores, but came up empty handed. Therefore, I decided to make my own.

I designed a set of pigeon holes to hold receipts, making them wide enough to hold a receipt inserted lengthwise and not quite as deep as a receipt so that the conductor would be able to grab them. The pigeon holes are a lot like the boxes people mount on their fascias to hold car-cards, but designed to lie flat on the work desk. I had some nice poplar project wood to hand, so that’s what I used.
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As the above photo shows, five square strips are sandwiched and glued between two boards. A third board is glued across the back so receipts could not be pushed through. This board is taller than the box and hangs below the assembly so that the finished organizers hook over the back of the work desk surface. (In the above photo, the organizer in the foreground is upside down to provide a better view of this board.) I’ll add a screw or two next time I’m under the layout to hold the organizer in place, if I decide it’s needed.

I lightly sanded all corners and edges on the finished boxes to make them “finger friendly” – a practice I learned from Steve der Garabedian of Black Walnut Studio, who has taught some excellent wood-working courses at my local Lee Valley Tools. I’ve learned lots from Steve, but that’s one lesson that I use over and over on my layout now. (Thanks Steve!)

With the back board hooked over the rear of the work desk, the organizers peek out from under the fascia when an operator slides the desk all the way open. This makes them easy to see, but keeps them out of the way: Perfect!
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As the photos show, I designed these with four slots although only two are needed to sort LCL and Express. But I’m sure I’ll come up with uses for the other two slots so this is one instance where I’ve planned ahead!

Upgraded hatch rests

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While looking at the information about CNR Eight-Hatch Refrigerator Cars that I stumbled across on GHQ’s forum, I noticed that the hatch rests on the roof are L-shaped. I checked my models and of those that were intact, they were straight. (A number of the hatch rests on my models were partially or completely missing. Judging by the ones that were still sort of there, I concluded they’d torn when the roof segments were pulled from the mould.)

I decided I could – and should – do something about this since the tops of rolling stock are so visible on most layouts, including mine. So before I tackled the running boards I filed away the remaining hatch rests and replaced them with new rests I built from pieces of styrene.

For each car, I cut 16 pieces of 0.010″ x 0.080″ styrene strip, 0.080″ long – so I ended up with 0.080″ squares of thin styrene. These became my vertical supports. Using CA applied with a pin, I glued these in place on the three carlines (ribs) that are located between the hatches. The supports are located on the side of the carline closest to the end of the car. On the centre carline, they’re located on both sides.

While these cured, I cut 16 pieces of 0.010″ x 0.040″ styrene strip, 0.080″ long. I mounted these on top of my verticals, so that they created upside-down L-shaped supports, with the L pointing towards the hatch they would support. It’s hard to explain, but easier to show, so have a look at the lead photo. A bit of CN Grey carefully airbrushed onto the rests, followed by weathering, and they’ll blend right in.

With this done, I can move on to installing segmented running boards. I’m going to use a hybrid of wood and styrene for these and will write about them when I work on them. But that’s not going to happen tonight…

8-hatch reefer info at GHQ

GHQ Models has an interesting forum post about CNR Eight-Hatch Refrigerator Cars. Published in April 2010, the post includes info on the technology used on these cars, plus info on the types of traffic they carried and where they travelled across North America. There’s more information on these cars in GHQ’s online instructions for their kit.

I’m definitely putting a copy in my files…

A chill in the air

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The days are getting colder in the part of the world where I live, so it’s appropriate that when my friend Pierre Oliver visited yesterday he brought along three CNR eight-hatch refrigerator cars for me. Pierre built these from the recently-released resin and photo-etch kit by another friend, Andy Malette at MLW Services. They’ll be a wonderful addition to my fleet. Their grey sides will really stand out in a train of reddish-brown boxcars.

I should point out that the cars are not finished. Obviously, they need couplers added and need to be weathered. Less obviously, I will add real wood running boards and NWSL wheel sets, then make up waybills for them.

Finishing these cars is at the top of the to-do list – I’m keen to get them into service. Thanks for creating the kits, Andy – and thanks for doing such a great job on building them, Pierre!