NYC 399742 + Stone load

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(With large stone, a live load – no glue – looks best)

Yet another New York Central gondola is ready to enter service on my layout. This time, the CNR has borrowed the car to deliver a load of stone to Port Rowan from the quarries at Hagersville, further up the line. It’s pretty big stone – they must be rebuilding the breakwater in the harbour.

Like my previous NYC gondolas (NYC 399671 and NYC 399574), this one was built for me by my friend Pierre Oliver. He does this for a living through his Elgin Car Shops business, and I’m happy to send some business his way while I work on the parts of the hobby that aren’t so easy to ship to someone else. I finished this car with NWSL wheel sets, Kadee couplers and train line air hoses from BTS, plus weathering.

Googling “gondola loads” (imagine that!) turned up a nifty picture of a DMIR gondola with a load of large stone:

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(From the gallery on the Missabe Railroad Historical Society: Click on the image to visit the society’s website)

The Hagersville quarries were important the both the CNR and the NYC (through its Canada Southern operation). In addition to supplying ballast, they were a source of stone for highway building in southern Ontario. So large stone it’s a perfect load for one of these cars.

I pondered various adhesives to secure the load into the car, but the stone I used (coarse talus from Woodland Scenics) is fairly porous and I was worried losing that effect. Glue-covered rock = ugly! In the end, I decided the best solution was no adhesive at all.

I don’t expect this so-called “live load” to pose a problem, although since it’s loose in the car I did not fill the gondola above the car sides in the manner of my prototype inspiration. There’s less chance of spilling stone everywhere that way.

I now have two loaded NYC gons and one empty. They’re all different numbers, but by swapping a loaded car for an empty between operating sessions (and updating the paperwork appropriately) I can effectively model loaded and empty NYC gondolas travelling on and off my branch.

NYC 399671 + pipe load

I have finished a load of pipe for one of my new NYC gondola cars – and I like how it turned out:

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(Click on the image for a larger view)

The load is now taller than it was when I first blogged about this car last week, and the larger load is a big improvement. I found more K&S Metals 1/8″ aluminum tube (part #8102) on my travels this week, and cut and painted the tubes yesterday.

To paint the tubes, I made up a painting fixture from a block of pink foam insulation board, and a bunch of round toothpicks:

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I then sprayed the pipes with two colours – a brown and a black – applied with rattle cans. I tried to mist the paint on in many light coats, from far enough back that the paint dried a bit in the air before hitting the tubes to give it some texture, reminiscent of cast iron. I’m pleased with the effect.

An advantage of this is that the paint dried to the touch very quickly, so I was able to flip the tubes end for end and give them one more light spray to colour the ends that had been in contact with the foam board block.

I finished the load by tying E-Z Line across the stakes, following an AAR loading diagram in Railway Prototype Cyclopedia 20:

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What’s a load of pipe doing coming in from the United States in the mid-1950s, when Ontario is full of heavy industry that could supply this? Well, good question. I don’t know – and I don’t care.

I like these NYC gondolas (built by Pierre Oliver from Funaro and Camerlengo resin kits*)… and there are exactly zero CNR prototype gondolas available in S scale.

So, this is a case of making do with what’s available, and I’m fine with that. It’s all part of life in a niche scale. If and when CNR prototype gondolas come to market, I will gladly buy a bunch. Or, maybe I’ll build my own once I have the layout finished.

Meantime, the residents of Port Rowan will be happy, because the town is getting a load of pipe to upgrade their services.

(*This car was not one of the ones I picked up from Pierre during this week’s visit. I’ve actually had this one on my “to-finish” list for about a year while I decided what sort of load to put in it. I’m glad I waited…)

A day out with Pierre – and Thomas

On Friday, I visited my friend Pierre Oliver in St. Thomas. His house quite close to the Port Stanley Terminal Rail tourist train – which was playing host to Thomas the Tank Engine.

Pierre and I set aside our “serious hobbyist” attitudes to just enjoy watching a goofy train roll by… every 15 minutes. I couldn’t resist grabbing a quick video:

(You can also watch this directly on YouTube, where you may be able to enjoy it in larger formats)

Thomas wouldn’t look at us. Was it something we said?

While some of us joke about this guy – and I’m still not sure how successful he is at converting kids into railway modelling enthusiasts over time – Thomas is a huge draw for the PSTR and the Elgin County Railway Museum. The Thomas days provide a much-welcomed injection of funds to these organizations.

And when one looks past the little blue fella, one finds an interesting consist in that tourist train and on the property. In addition to the GE 44-Tonner in the video, the PSTR owns three other small locomotives from a variety of builders. Meanwhile, the passenger fleet consists primarily of re-worked cabooses, which would make for interesting kit-bashing challenges. And everything is painted in a very attractive scheme.

Have another look at that video and check out the consist. Not all that easy to model after all, is it? Perhaps Proto:Thomas is in our future?

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Hmm… perhaps not.

In addition to playing at rail fans, Pierre and I did a lot of hand-waving in his future layout room. I think we made some great progress on figuring out what will fit, and how. I look forward to helping Pierre build the new layout when the time comes…

Finally, I picked up a few freight cars that Pierre built for me. I have some finishing to do on them so no further details now.. But I’ll share them in the fullness of time…

Great to see you Pierre – and the new house looks wonderful. Exciting layout-building times ahead!

Two American tourists

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The branch to Port Rowan will start seeing two more American tourists as I finally got around to finishing a couple of freight cars that Pierre Oliver built for me last year.

I did the weathering… added my preferred wheels, couplers and train line air hoses… and, in the case of the gondola, built a load.

Let’s look at the gondola first:

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NYC 399671 is a resin kit from Funaro and Camerlengo. This is the second such car to enter service on my layout. I’ve decided to give this one a load of pipe: Perhaps the town of Port Rowan is doing a major upgrade to its municipal services.

The load is about half-completed here. I visited my local supplier of K&S Metals, and cleaned out their rack of the 1/8″ aluminum tube (part #8102). In all, I had 18 foot-long pieces, which I cut in half to give me 36 pipes. I painted these with rattle cans of medium brown, oversprayed with black.

I would like this load to rise above the car sides, so I’ve added stakes to the inside of the car, cut from S scale 4″ by 4″ lumber. I’ll tie the load using AAR loading rules after I add more pipe to the load – but that will have to wait until more comes in at my dealer.

The second car is this terrific boxcar:

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PRR 503798 is a plastic kit for an x29 boxcar, released in 2013 by Des Plaines Hobbies. Pierre was curious to give this one a go, since relatively few plastic kits are available in S scale compared to HO, and the release of a brand new plastic rolling stock kit in 1:64 is pretty remarkable these days. Kudos to Des Plaines for continuing to support the scale!

(Fellow S scale enthusiast Peter Vanvliet has documented his build of this kit on his website – here is the link to his X29 construction journal.)

As with the gondola, I finished this car by adding couplers, wheel sets, and train line air hoses. I then weathered it using my favourite combination of colours: a black-grey, a sandy beige, a medium brown and a light grey, all from Acrylicos Vallejo. I think it’s important to pick a colour palette for weathering and use it on all equipment go give the layout a unified look.

The final step is to generate some waybills for these cars, but once I do that they will be ready to enter service on the layout.

CNR 52274 :: Scale Test Car

The decals arrived this week for my CNR scale test car, and I couldn’t wait to letter it. In fact, the car is finished and ready for service:

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I pulled the road name (“CANADIAN NATIONAL”) from a set of Black Cat Publishing decals for an HO scale CNR van (caboose). For the rest of the lettering, I used the HO scale CNR Scale Test Car decals from Andy W. Scale Models. While the lettering may be a bit undersize, I think it actually works quite well on this S scale model.

I lightly weathered the lower part of the car with some beige paint, applied with an airbrush. The rest of the car is relatively clean – these cars were designed to shed water and dirt, which could affect their weight, and they did not see the kind of use that a freight car would see, so they didn’t get as dirty. That said, I did apply some weathering powders to the walkway, and dry brushed some points on the handrails with silver to represent worn-away paint:

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I’m very pleased with how this car turned out. It was a fun diversion. At some point, I will build a track scale and scale house to go with it. Since I have no space for this on my layout, I will probably do this to the Free-mo standard used by the S Scale Workshop

Weighing Freight Cars : RPCYC 12

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(Always check the Railway Prototype Cyclopedia… Always check the Railway Prototype Cyclopedia… Always check the Railway Prototype Cyclopedia…)

Earlier this month, I wrote about a model of a scale house that I plan to build this summer. I mentioned that I’ve been collecting information (and many readers offered suggestions on sources: thank you!) but there’s one place I should’ve looked right from the start.

The Railway Prototype Cyclopedia – now at 29 volumes – is a marvellous resource for prototype modellers. While scanning the covers to look for information on another project, the words WEIGHING FREIGHT CARS jumped at me off the cover of RPCYC-12.

Inside, I found 45 pages of terrific information on Fairbanks-Morse and How track scales, the test cars, and more. (For a full description of the contents, click on the image above to visit the issue’s information page at the RPCYC website.)

There are several drawings of the scales themselves, which answer many questions about how to model them. And I didn’t even know about the scale tool car – a car that would often accompany a test car to calibrate and maintain the scales being tested. The examples in this article are from the Baltimore and Ohio, but I’m now going to keep my eyes open for similar cars on the Canadian National Railways.

I really do need to remember to check my own resources. In the case of the RPCYC, I should make a habit of checking the covers whenever I embark on a new project – especially one involving rolling stock.

Three-dome tank car: Painted

I’ve given my recently-acquired three-dome ACF tank car two coats of Floquil CSX Black (because that’s what I had handy) and by the time the decals arrive from Al Ferguson at Black Cat Publishing, the paint will be cured and the tank ready for lettering:

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(Lacquer-based paints produce a lovely, high-gloss surface that’s ready for decals)

I’ve removed the masks from the wheels and will brush paint the front and back faces after applying and sealing the decals.

Three-dome tank car: Painting prep

I recently picked up an Overland Models import of an ACF three-dome tank car. This is a really nice looking model and I was pleased to discover that I can use it to model a car operated by a distinctive Canadian shipper:

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(BAOX 378 from the TA Watson Collection of British American Oil photos. Click on the image to visit the collection online)

Over the weekend, I confirmed with Al Ferguson at Black Cat Publishing that he could resize his HO scale decals for this car and print me a couple of sets. (Al often does this for S scale enthusiasts. As a custom print, the price is 2x the HO set – which is completely understandable. Kudos to Al for his willingness to do this, as it opens up so many options for those of us working in 1:64.)

I sent off my cheque for the decals, and then prepped my car for painting. I thought I’d share a couple of tips related to this.

As with other rolling stock, I planned to use train line air hoses from BTS (Item 02302). On this car, the hoses would attach to the bottom of a mounting plate on each end of the frame – and given the small surface area involved, I decided the best way to attach them would be by soldering.

The problem I faced was how to hold the air hoses in position while applying the heat. Fingers would burn… yet metal tweezers would act as a heat sink.

My solution – a set of “soldering tweezers” – is shown here:

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This is simply a common spring-loaded clothes pin. I marked a line across the two jaws of the pin, then took the pin apart and put each wooden half into my miter box, and cut the end back on a 45-degree angle. When I reassembled the pin, a couple of passes with a file evened up the jaws so they mated properly.

With this tool, I was able to hold onto the end of the valve and solder the detail in place without burning my fingers. As well, I realized that if I needed a different shape – for example, a narrower set of jaws – I could carve/sand a clothes pin as required.

This is not my invention – I’ve seen this done before – but it’s the first time I’ve needed such a device. It’ll live in my box of soldering tools and accessories and I predict it’ll see frequent use.

With few exceptions, I prefer to use the same profile wheelsets in all of my rolling stock. Accordingly, I swapped the factory wheels for 33″ P:64 wheel sets from Northwest Short Line (Item number 27787-4).

The amount of work to install these depends on the trucks involved. In this case, I had to completely disassemble each truck – a process that required removing four really small springs in each side frame. I almost lost one of these, and was only saved by the fact that they ferromagnetic: I was able to find it by sweeping a magnet across the floor.

On the plus side, the new wheel sets slipped in perfectly and I was able to reassemble the trucks without any further incidents.

Normally, once I’ve confirmed that the NWSL wheels will fit (and I have made any modifications to the trucks to ensure they roll smoothly), I will remove them and replace the factory wheel sets for painting. However, I didn’t want to take a chance with losing those springs: One close call is enough. So this time, I felt it prudent to leave the wheels in place.

I plan to paint this car black and did not want to get paint on the wheels. So I taped them up, using my new favourite product for this – Tamiya masking tape:

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I’ll brush paint the faces of the wheels when I’m finishing the car, and leave the treads shiny.

Two things about painting a scale test car

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(The scale test car, painted CNR mineral brown. The paper masks kept paint off the wheels)

As mentioned previously, in researching paint schemes for my scale test car I decided to paint my all-black model. So yesterday I gave my scale test car a coating of CNR mineral brown (the colour used on CNR boxcars, also known as CNR Red #11).

It looks too bright – more orange than mineral red – but that’s the way my chosen paint goes on. Experience tells me that with a light weathering treatment it will tone down to a browner look that’s more appropriate to the prototype. To see what I mean, check out the “CNR Boxcars” category on this blog, and note the difference that weathering makes.

This was a fairly straight airbrush job, but it prompted two things that I wanted to note here:

First, I wanted to keep the paint off the wheels but did not want to disassemble the unit. I made up the masks shown by cutting them out of notepaper.

I folded the paper and used the fold as the centreline to freelance the slots for the wheels with a pair of scissors. When I unfolded the paper, I had a nice U-shaped slot to slide over the axle between wheel and horn block.

Note that I didn’t try to make the masks for both ends of the axle from a single piece. Instead, I cut pieces for each wheel, and left enough paper that they would overlap under the car. I fitted the pieces, then taped them together. The weight of the car kept them trapped between the model and the much-abused plastic Lazy Susan that I use as a painting platform in my spray booth.

Second, a lament for lacquer-based paints. The paint I used was made by Scalecoat for the CNR Historical Association, and it’s awesome stuff. I airbrushed this model directly over the black paint it wore from the factory. The paint covered 90% of the black in the first coat and by the time I sprayed the other side I was able to go back and shoot a top coat to cover the rest. What’s more, the gloss finish will be perfect for applying decals.

I’m going to miss this stuff when it’s no longer available – but given some of the bone-headed, lung-threatening things I’ve seen people do with airbrushes and rattle cans, I’m not surprised that it’s being phased out. (A friend and I were discussing this recently – and wondering why people are so eager to pay $300 for a new locomotive and yet are so reluctant to spend that kind of money on safety equipment, like a proper paint booth, to protect their health. But that’s a rant for another day…)

Following the notes on scale test cars found on the White River Division blog by George Dutka, I’ve emailed Andy at Andy W. Scale Models to find out more about his CNR Scale Test Car decals. These are HO scale, but I’m hoping he prints these himself and can do a couple of sets in S for me. If not, well, I’ll just have to buy the HO ones and see what use I can make of them.

CNR scale test car : A first look

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(The S scale brass import from South Wind Models, with minor modifications)

As noted previously on this blog, I recently purchased a scale test car – a brass import offered years ago by South Wind Models – and it arrived in the mail yesterday.

I’m very impressed by this model – not only because it’s nicely rendered (it is) but also because it tracks surprisingly well for such a small piece. South Wind Models and their Korean builder did a great job: it’s well-weighted and the springing in the horn blocks is just right, so the suspension actually performs as it should. The car positively glides on my track work – even through turnouts.

In the photo above, I’ve replaced the cosmetic but non-functional cast couplers with Kadee 808s. I also addressed one weak point in the model – the train line air hoses were brass castings that looked far too small and probably wouldn’t survive more than a few inadvertant knocks with an uncoupling tool, so I removed them and replaced them with detail parts from BTS (Item 02302). These featuring two nicely-done brass castings with flexible tubing for the hose itself, and they have become my preferred air hoses – I use them on everything.

South Wind Models includes some nice decals in the box, to do a car for the Pennsylvania Railroad. Here’s an example as finished by modeller Jack Sudimak and included on the NASG’s product gallery page:

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(Click on the photo to learn more about these models via the NASG website)

With couplers in place, I assumed it was time to start lettering this car. But not so fast…

A quick search for suitable prototype photos turned up some CNR examples and enough information to suggest that in the 1950s the railway painted its scale test cars brown – as shown here:

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(Click on the image to visit RD McDonald’s page on this car – and be sure to check out the entire blog)

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(Here’s the same car on the Lulu Island branch in BC. Click on the image to see more, as Mike Mastin shares his memories of this branch – including this photo – on the Caboose Coffee blog)

I have yet to find a black CNR scale test car, although this black and white photo looks like it could be of a black car:

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(George Dutka shared this photo – from the Bill Dewar collection – on his White River Division blog. Click on the image to see George’s HO model of a CNR scale test car)

However, “could be” is a slippery slope. I’d rather go with something known. So, regardless of how tempting that black and white photo is, I’m going to bite the bullet and airbrush my model with CNR #11 mineral brown. Fortunately, the official paints from the CNR Historical Society are Scalecoat and will cover the model’s as-delivered black paint without any problem.

The good news is, I should be able to use a lot of the data on the PRR decal set to letter my model and I’m sure I can find a suitable set of HO decals to supply the CNR-specific information like road name and number.