CNR scale test car : A first look

 photo SWM-ScaleTestCar-01_zpsjslvwmgd.jpg
(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:

 photo SWM-ScaleTestCar-02PRR_zpsjzi7e9gs.jpg
(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:

 photo CNR-ScaleTestCar-1958_zpsrhmhr82a.jpg
(Click on the image to visit RD McDonald’s page on this car – and be sure to check out the entire blog)

 photo CNR scale test car in Richmond_zpszvdb7bj4.jpg
(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:

 photo CN 52257 scale test car_zps5rjdg6qi.jpg
(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.

5 thoughts on “CNR scale test car : A first look

  1. Trevor–
    This is the first time that I’ve seen “hornblocks” referred to on a North American modeling blog.

    CN appears to have purchased at least one of these cars from the PRR. The Carmer coupler operating levers are correct for a CN model, and must have frustrated the odd trainman who would try to lift the lever to pull the pin. I remember handling this car a few times. 30 MPH was the maximum speed for these cars at the time that I handled these, but a higher speed prevailed in the 1950’s as I recall. ( I can check a 1954 CN Form 696 if you want.) I know of two derailments occurring (one happened to me in a yard while it was coupled to an 89′ long flatcar) with these cars. Another occurred when the train crew was unaware of a scale test car being in their train. At 60 MPH the car made its presence known by derailing itself and part of the train that it was in while running on the Guleph Sub !

    The cars with railings running alongside the body like 52108 were an older fabricated design, CP having at least one similar car that I photographed years ago.

    These cars were sealed with Government of Canada seals and certified by Weights and Measures (annually?), the date of weighing being stencilled on the car. The panel attached to the central handrail had a contact number stencilled on it for CN’s regional scale inspector.

    The short length of this car allowed it to be placed at different parts of a track scale, known as “three spot weighing”. Weights were taken at both ends of the scale and the centre, scale tickets being printed out. If indicated weights matched, all was good. If not, the scale mechanic would be called in to address the cause of the different readings.

    Industries would use these cars as well, either hired out from or loaned by CN. In Hamilton, Dofasco, Procter and Gamble, and National Steel Car all used these cars to verify weight on their private scales for Federal certification. (Stelco had their own scale test car–while I took some clandestine rail photos in their Hilton Works plant, I never got a chance to photograph IT.)

    Looking forward to seeing this done up as a CN car!

    Steve Lucas.

  2. Trevor,
    Thanks for sharing your modeling through your blog and Train Masters TV.
    I enjoy your videos and have learned from them.
    I have also been enjoying your posts and the related links.
    Even though I do not model Canadian prototypes, I enjoy most rail related subjects.
    I model the Raritan River Railroad. It was a 12 mile shortline in NJ. Unfortuately, it was absorbed, kicking and screaming into Conrail.
    Research is part of the challenge and reward found in model railroading.
    It’s good that you are getting things done even through the disrupptions caused by renovations. Been there done that.
    As time permits, keep the info coming.

  3. Trevor,

    While researching prototypes i found two pictures of CN scale Test Cars form 1957. The pictures are in the Morning Sun Grand Trunk Book. The cars appear to be painted the colour you painted yours but the handrail is silver and the tread plate is black. Thought you’d like to know.


    • Hi Ryan: just found them, too. Thanks! (Pages 14 and 124.)

      The grab irons are also silver. These are easy modifications: a bit of brush-work and I’m done.

      These cars have high-mounted handbrake wheels, which my models do not. But I’m fine with that.


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