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Archive for the ‘Rolling Stock’ Category

Some time ago I bought this Rusty Stumps kit because I liked the look and the size of it. I had already built a passenger/freight depot for Silverton that was of my own design. It more closely followed the D&RGW style for depots. When I finally got around to building this kit, I still wasn’t sure exactly what I was going to do with it, but I had a space on my track plan for Silverton that was simply marked for a generic “industry”. I assumed that inspiration would follow as I built the kit.

 

The rectangle on the plan shows the location for the “industry”. The light green block is where the passenger/freight depot will go. I have three earlier posts on the construction of the Silverton Depot.

 

As I was assembling the kit, I decided that this model could be an earlier Silverton depot and freight house that was left standing when the new one was built. This building could then be used for overflow freight, long term storage, etc.

 

I followed my usual methods for staining the wood parts of the kit, then lightly dry brushing them with acrylics. I find that this is the quickest way for me to get the look of worn and peeling paint. Weathering powders complete the effect.

 

Simultaneously I was completing the last of my Leadville Shops reefers. I decided to use one of the Bachmann under frames for On30 cars for several reasons. The plastic under frame fit the car, and came with couplers already installed that matched the rest of my rolling stock. This would save me the time and frustration of trying to assemble all of the tiny (but accurate) details that come with the kit. I am not building models for a contest; I just want reliable running, and the underbody details don’t really show that much. The biggest difference in doing things this way is the look of the trucks, but I figured my railroad could have replaced the earlier trucks.

 

This end view shows the unusual venting technique for keeping the shipment cold. The grill just above the end bolster would let in cool air as the car moved, and the vent pipe at the top of the car would exhaust the warmer air. Ice was loaded through the side doors, and placed near this passive re-circulating system.

 

In order to get the car floor to come close to the loading dock height, I put a strip of California Roadbed under the track. This brand of homasote roadbed is no longer being sold, but Steve Cox at Cascade Rail Supply promises to stock a matching product.

 

This is the view of the backside of the building. It will hardly show in the position in which I plan to use it, but at some point in the future I’ll probably add a loading dock here.

 

There are two choices of shingles with this kit: shakes and the more conventional style. I chose to use the more regular type. The On30 track shown here is Micro Engineering Code 83, which I plan to use throughout the layout. The figures are from Railroad Avenue, and I’ve placed them so that the two fellows on the dock look like they’re talking to each other, and the third guy in the doorway is listening and waiting on whatever decision they come to.

 

An outhouse is also included with the kit, as well as seven castings for a variety of freight. I decided that just using the included castings would be sufficient.

 

I put two lights in the model. One was placed over the office doorway, and the other inside the freight room.

 

I located the inside light out of sight so that all that can be seen is a soft glow.

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I often work on two or more projects at once. By doing that, I can shift gears when I need to let something dry overnight. I only wish I had a larger workbench surface, but I can get by. While pushing bravely ahead on an HO scale backwoods water tank that will become a background scene on my layout, I decided to tackle one of the two On30 Leadville Shops cars I had purchased some time ago.

This is the photo that Leadville Shops uses on their web site for the Denver, South Park & Pacific Tiffany refrigerator car. These are sold as “craftsman kits” which means you not only have to have a fairly high degree of modeling skills, and a good stock of modeling tools, but also the patience of Job.

This is my finished car. One thing I have found with many of these craftsman rolling stock kits is that the modeler really needs to have a comprehensive knowledge of how the prototype was constructed. I think the companies that make these kits assume that you will know what every part of the car was called, and how it connected to the other parts. The instructions could sometimes be a bit more helpful.

Having said that, you could easily build a contest quality model with this kit, but since I was only interested in a car that would run reliably, and be detailed enough to pass momentary inspection, I took a few shortcuts.

Underbody detail…..You have to furnish your own trucks and couplers, and that requires some fiddling around with the car’s frame to get everything to fit. I left off the brake detail on the trucks for the sake of being able to operate the car. It also looked like the brake gear would not easily fit on the trucks I used. Some of the brass wire piping, air lines, etc. interfered with the ability of the trucks to pivot cleanly. Since it doesn’t show very much unless you pick the car up and turn it upside down, I left some of that detail off. 

Instruction sequencing….I like to stain, paint, weather and decal the sides and roof of the car before assembly, not after. I also paint all the detail parts first. I always start by staining the wood with my alcohol and leather dye mix. The next thing I did on this reefer was to dry brush the sides with some acrylic Depot Buff. My research said that some of these cars were painted a pale yellow, and the Depot Buff turned out to look like a weathered pale yellow. As the car nears completion there are more and more fragile detail parts hanging off all sides of it. The less you have to handle it the better, so I saved some of the detail like the brake staff and brake wheel for last.

After the initial staining on the roof, I used a rusty brown dry brushing as well as some light brown weathering powders. Research said that some of these cars had dark brown roofs. There is a nice brass etching set, and I weathered this right away with Micro Engineering’s rail weathering solution. The door hinges and the corner braces show this effect.

There wasn’t enough wire in the kit for all the grab irons, so I substituted some white metal grab irons that I already had. These came with the NBW detail already cast into them. There is an ample supply of small detail parts, like the tiny NBWs. Leadville shops correctly assumes a fair percentage of these will go flying off into never-never land as you try to handle them with your tiny tweezers. There were no stirrup steps with the kit, but I used some from my detail supply. The holes on the ends of the car are for ventilation to help keep the ice from melting too fast, and to keep the vegetables and meats from spoiling. You will notice that there are no rooftop ice hatches. The ice compartments at the ends of the car were filled by carrying ice through the large side doors. When the ice had been loaded, then the contents to be kept cold were put in the center of the car. I am making progress on the water tank scene, and should be able to post something about it in the not too distant future.

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Some weeks ago I purchased one of Bachmann’s newest offerings. It is the On30 Derrick Car in MOW Grey, Item #26901.

Almost all railroads needed a piece of maintenance of way equipment like this. Derailments were a fact of life, and other large things needed to be picked up along the right of way, or loaded on and off flat cars.

All D&RGW MOW cars were originally painted in Tuscan or Boxcar Red after rebuilds in the 1920’s etc. However, just about all of them were painted MOW Grey in the mid 1940’s. My railroad is set in 1915, so technically I should have purchased the version of this car that Bachmann does make in what they call “Oxide Red”, but all of the rest of my MOW equipment is grey, so that’s what I went with.

I did some light weathering with acrylic paints, chalks and Testor’s Dullcote. I wanted to take the shiny plastic newness out of the model, but leave it looking like it was in good working order.

This close-up shows some of the nice mechanical detail that Bachmann has included inside the enclosed portion of the car. Now my maintenance of way trains will really be well-equipped to deal with problems out along the line. 

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Steam Powered Log Loader

I decided to take a break from track and controls for a week or so.  The lure of the workbench was overwhelming.  I pulled out a kit for a steam powered log loader that I will use at my Cascade Canyon Lumber Company site.

I decided to take a break from track and controls for a week or so. The lure of the workbench was overwhelming. I pulled out a kit for a steam powered log loader that I will use at my Cascade Canyon Lumber Company site.

As you can see from this photo and the one below, these types of devices were sometimes mounted on rails on flatcars.

As you can see from this photo and the one below, these types of devices were sometimes mounted on rails on flatcars.

After they had loaded logs on one flatcar, they could roll backwards to the next empty car, and load logs on to the car they had just left.  They worked their way down the train until all the lfatcars were loaded.

After they had loaded logs on one flatcar, they could roll backwards to the next empty car, and load logs on to the car they had just left. They worked their way down the train until all the flatcars were loaded.

This is the picture that came with the kit.

This is the picture that came with the kit.

I decided to gauge the wheels to match On30 track in case I ever wanted to pose the loader off the flatcar.

I decided to gauge the wheels to match On30 track in case I ever wanted to pose the loader off the flatcar.

Here I am using a short section of track to set the wheel gauge.  The spacer between the wheels is a small piece of heat-shrink tubing that I slipped over the plastic axle.

Here I am using a short section of track to set the wheel gauge. The spacer between the wheels is a small piece of heat-shrink tubing that I slipped over the plastic axle.

After adjusting the axle so that it fit evenly between the axle supports, I trimmed off the extra plastic, and sealed the ends of the supports with a small piece of styrene.  The wheels do rotate.

After adjusting the axle so that it fit evenly between the axle supports, I trimmed off the extra plastic, and sealed the ends of the supports with a small piece of styrene. The wheels do rotate.

Many of the parts of this kit are cast resin.  Here I have base coated them with engine black, a shade which is just a little bit to the gray side of full black.

Many of the parts of this kit are cast resin. Here I have base coated them with engine black, a shade which is just a little bit to the gray side of full black.

As you can see, some of the valves and piping in this kit are very, very tiny.

As you can see, some of the valves and piping in this kit are very, very tiny.

I dry brushed these parts with Model Master Steel colored paint, then brushed on Bragdon Weathering powders rust.

I dry brushed these parts with Model Master Steel colored paint, then brushed on Bragdon Weathering powders rust.

To tone down the rust, I gave the model a light spraying with Testor's Dullcote.

To tone down the rust, I gave the model a light spraying with Testor’s Dullcote.

More of the piping and mechanics are in place here.

More of the piping and mechanics are in place here.

The model comes with three wooden sides which could completely enclose the steam bioler, but I opened up the two long sides so much of the detail would show.

The model comes with three wooden sides which could completely enclose the steam boiler, but I opened up the two long sides so much of the detail would show.

After putting the curved roof on the side walls, I basically have three sub-assemblies.

After putting the curved roof on the side walls, I basically have three sub-assemblies.

The next step in the process was to scratch-build a flatcar to carry the steam log loader.  I've detailed my process for doing this

The next step in the process was to scratch-build a flatcar to carry the steam log loader. The kit does not come with one of these.  I’ve detailed my process for doing this in other places on this site, so I won’t repeat that here.  Note one rail is spiked in place, awaiting the second.

One thing I will mention is that I created a foam cradle for flat car projects like this.  I used a piece of foam from a Bachmann Spectrum box, and carved it with a sharp Exacto knife.  This supports the flat car, minus its trucks, so that no pressure is put on the stirrup steps, the truss rods or the couplers while I work on the top side.

One thing I will mention is that I created a foam cradle for flat car projects like this. I used a piece of foam from a Bachmann Spectrum box, and carved it with a sharp Exacto knife. This supports the flat car, minus its trucks, so that no pressure is put on the stirrup steps, the truss rods or the couplers while I work on the top side.

The main support beam for the loading arm is sandwiched between the roof extension and the gear on the deck so that it can pivot.  From any given location, the pick up arm can rotate beyond 180˚ in any direction.

The main support beam for the loading arm is sandwiched between the roof extension and the gear on the deck so that it can pivot. From a given location, the pick up arm can rotate beyond 180˚ in any direction.  The figure is from Railroad Avenue Model Works.

Here is a straight side view of the finished loader on its flat car.

Here is a straight side view of the finished loader on its flat car.

From this angle you can see some of the wood chip clutter on the deck.

From this angle you can see some of the wood chip clutter on the deck.

And here is the other quarter-view.

And here is the other quarter-view.

A close-up of the operator and the piping.

A close-up of the operator and the piping.

Because of the movement of the loader, a standard height brake wheel won't work.  Railroads were very inventive with brake wheels.  I've even seen some that pivot down out of the way.  I created this one with a Grandt Line narrow gauge brake wheel, a brake hanger, also by Grandt, a short piece of music wire, and a small section of scale chain leading to the brake cylinder under the car.

Because of the movement of the loader, a standard height brake wheel won’t work. Railroads were very inventive with brake wheels. I’ve even seen some that pivot down out of the way. I created this one with a Grandt Line narrow gauge brake wheel, a brake hanger-ratchet-and-pawl, also by Grandt, a short piece of music wire, and a small section of scale chain leading to the brake cylinder under the car.

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D&RGW Flanger

A flanger is a specialized piece of MOW equipment designed to clear snow from between the rails, and for a short distance outside each rail.  You can think of it as a kind of snow plow.

A flanger is a specialized piece of MOW equipment designed to clear snow from between the rails, and for a short distance outside each rail. You can think of it as a kind of snow plow.

I had always thought of having one of these on my pike, and i finally saw a kit for sale on eBay that wasn't going to break the bank.

I had always thought of having one of these on my pike, and I finally saw a kit for sale on eBay that wasn’t going to break the bank.  The kit parts were well organized in separate little plastic sleeves, and it looked like there were ample instructions and diagrams.

I had never seen a kit with walnut wood before, but it didn't turn out to be too hard to work with, and it does give the model some added weight.  As it turned out, whoever was selling the kit on eBay had included some extra instructions and diagrams from some other kit.  You would think that would be helpful, but it wasn't.  As I got further into the construction, it became harder and harder to make sense of the kit's instructions, and to identify the parts, or how they were to go together.

I had never seen a kit with walnut wood before, but it didn’t turn out to be too hard to work with, and it does give the model some added weight. As it turned out, however, the seller of the kit on eBay had included some extra instructions and diagrams from some other kit. You would think that would be helpful, but it wasn’t. As I got further into the construction, it became harder and harder to make sense of the kit’s instructions, to identify the parts, or how they were to go together.

I finally gave up trying to follow the directions at all, and started to approach the job as if I were scratchbuilding a flanger, and had some useful parts from the kit.  Many of the parts, like the large blades, had to be cut from sheet brass and curved by hand anyway; I might as well have been scratch-building.

I finally gave up trying to follow the directions at all, and started to approach the job as if I were scratch-building a flanger, and had some useful parts from the kit. Many of the parts, like the large blades, had to be cut from sheet brass and curved by hand anyway; I might as well have been scratch-building.  I also spent a couple of days digging up prototype pictures on the internet.  This proved to be the most helpful, because I was often able to tell where a certain part went from looking at the prototype.

I finally have the model to the point where I'm ready to paint it.  I sort of gauged how close to finishing I was by how many parts I had left to find places for...very similar to putting together a jig saw puzzle.

I finally have the model to the point where I’m ready to paint it. I sort of judged how close to finishing I was by how many parts I had left to find places for…very similar to putting together a jig saw puzzle.  Some parts I could never figure out what they were, or where they went, so I either put them back in the box, or put them in places on the model where I thought they looked good.  Many of these flangers survive in museums today, and the details on them are all a little different, anyway.

I used several different glues to assemble things...a little carpenter's glue, a lot of CA with Zip Kicker (marvelous stuff), and good old 5-minute epoxy when all else failed.

I used several different glues to assemble things…a little carpenter’s glue, a lot of CA with Zip Kicker (marvelous stuff), and good old 5-minute epoxy when all else failed.  The kit, of course, came with On3 trucks (too big for On30), and no couplers.  I installed Kadee #5 couplers to match my other rolling stock, and a standard pair of Bachmann Arch-Bar trucks.  All of this necessitated modifications to the kit model, but I just kept fiddling with it until it all worked.

Prior to the 1940s, these flangers were painted MOW light gray with black lettering.  Since my layout is set in 1915, and the kit only came with black decals, I'll be doing a paint scheme similar to the one in the first picture in this post.

Prior to the 1940s, these flangers were painted MOW light gray with black lettering. Since my layout is set in 1915, I’ll be doing a paint scheme similar to the one in the first picture in this post.

And here is the flanger after painting and adding decals.  I'll probably still do a little light weathering, so it doesn't look so brand new and clean.

And here is the flanger after painting and adding decals. I’ll probably still do a little light weathering, so it doesn’t look so brand new and clean.

Finding weathered pictures of these things is not easy because most of the surviving examples are in museums, and they wear fresh coats of paint to help preserve them.

Finding weathered pictures of these things is not easy because most of the surviving examples are in museums, and they wear fresh coats of paint to help preserve them.  However, I did find this photo of one that is still working on the Durango & Silverton, of all places.

You'll notice that I've left of the "W" from D&RGW, and that's because in 1915 the railroad was just called the Denver & Rio Grande.

You’ll notice that I’ve left off the “W” from D&RGW, and that’s because in 1915 the railroad was just called the Denver & Rio Grande.

One more view showing the end of the car.  I think the decal on the side that reads "ALA 11-13" means that the most recent servicing was done at Alamosa in November of 1913.

One more view showing the end of the car. I think the decal on the side that reads “ALA 11-13” means that the most recent servicing was done at Alamosa in November of 1913.

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The MOW Caboose for England

This is the first of several research pictures I used to design and build a Maintenance of Way Caboose for a friend of mine in England.  He models On30 Colorado Narrow Gauge, like I do, but considerably further away.

This is the first of several research pictures I used to design and build a Maintenance of Way Caboose for a friend of mine in England. He models On30 Colorado Narrow Gauge, like I do, but considerably further away from Colorado.  The ideas I borrowed from this photo are….taking a caboose body and mounting it on a flat car, and having one end set up as an open-air workshop.

This picture shows a caboose body that has been shortened to provide more flatcar deck work space, and I like that, as well as the fact that it gives the car some unique character.

This picture shows a caboose body that has been shortened to provide more flatcar deck work space, and I like that, as well as the fact that it gives the car a unique character.

Here is an example of a workbench on that open deck.

Here is an example of a workbench on that open deck.

In this instance, both sides of the work area have been lined with tool boxes.  I'll do one side like this, and the other with a work bench.

In this instance, both sides of the work area have been lined with tool boxes. I’ll do one side like this, and the other with a work bench.

Here is the beginning of the actual work on the caboose.

Here is the beginning of the actual work on the caboose.  I shortened the caboose body, eliminating the symmetrical look of it by removing about 7/8 of an inch including the second window.  The bottom of these pieces became the basis for two under-body tool cabinets on my MOW caboose (see earlier post).

I find that a lot of the Bachmann under-frames come from China with a slight warp to them.  This can be eased by snipping the truss rods beyond the point where they are visible, and clamping overnight with the wooden side and end sills glued on with CA adhesive.

I find that a lot of the Bachmann under-frames come from China with a slight warp to them. They are probably removed from the mold too soon, as Bachmann has had similar problems with the plastic gears in their Shay locomotives…they shrink and crack as the plastic sets.  This warping can be eased by snipping the truss rods beyond the point where they are visible, and clamping the frame overnight to a flat surface as soon as the wooden side and end sills are glued on with CA adhesive.  It is amazing how much force these little plastic truss rods actually exert on the frame.  They do the same thing as the real ones, only more.

I didn't use the interior details from the Bachmann caboose on my caboose, because they would have blocked the windows, and the interior lighting.  This caboose has fewer windows, and the body is designed for these details, so I used them here.

I didn’t use the interior details from the Bachmann caboose on my Mount Blue Models caboose, because they would have blocked the windows, and the interior lighting. This caboose has fewer, smaller windows, and the body is designed for these details, so I used them here.

I decided not to use the roof walks for two reasons.  On one end of the caboose body, you couldn't steps across to the next car, anyway.  Roof walks were for brakemen to get to the brakes on boxcars, which were mounted above the roof line; the brake here is accessible on the back platform.

I decided not to use the roof walks for two reasons. On one end of the caboose body, you couldn’t step across to the next car, anyway. Roof walks were designed for brakemen to get to the brake wheels on boxcars, which were mounted above the roof line; the brake wheel here will be accessible on the back platform.  I filled the holes left by the removal of the roof walks with Squadron Green Putty, and sanded it smooth.

here is the project after some preliminary paint work, and the instaltion of the smoke jack,

Here is the project after some preliminary paint and stain work, and the installation of the smoke jack.

Here is the end with the work bench and tool boxes.  To get an idea of how small those laser-cut tools are....the whole work bench is a little less than two inches long.

Here is the end with the work bench and tool boxes. To get an idea of how small those laser-cut tools are….the whole work bench is a little less than two inches long.

This is the finished caboose.  I think I'll add some hand grabs at the corners of the caboose body to assist in getting up with

This is the finished caboose. I think I’ll add some hand grabs at the corners of the caboose body so climbing up from the stirrup steps is easier.

The work bench end, showing the tool boxes.  The air hose for the brake system should actually come out under the side sill, but i didn't model the under-frame brake line, so there was no where to attach it.

The work bench end, showing the tool boxes. The air hose for the brake system should actually come out from under the end sill, but I didn’t model the under-frame brake line, so there was no prototypical place to attach it.

This shows the prototype location of the air hose.

This shows the prototype location of the air hose.

The other end of the car has the brake wheel, hanger, ratchet and pawl, and the coupler cut lever, and the other air hose.

The other end of the car has the brake wheel, hanger, ratchet and pawl, the coupler cut lever, and the other air hose.  There should be a chain running from the small hole in the coupler cut lever over the coupler to the top of the coupler itself, but it might interfere with the operation of the coupler on the model.

You can see the function of that chain better on this prototype photo.

You can see the function of that chain better on this prototype photo.  Raising the handle for the coupler cut lever (not visible to the left in this photo) pulls up on the chain attached to the coupler pin, allowing the coupler to open.

Here's another view of the work bench side of this end.

Here’s another view of the work bench side of this end.  In addition to various detail castings, I painted black embroidery thread from Michael’s for the coil of rope.

My English friend wanted these letters and numbers on the side of the caboose.  I used Micro-Scale water-slide decals, because they are much easier to apply than dry transfers.

My English friend wanted these letters and numbers on the side of the caboose. I used Microscale water-slide decals, because they are much easier to apply than dry transfers.  Microscale’s suggestion for weathering the decals is to scrape them with a pink eraser before application, and apply another coat of Microscale Liquid Decal Film, but I think some careful dry-brushing achieves the same result with a lot less work.

This is the most detailed car I have ever scratch-built, but I think the extra effort was worth it.  When I get my other cars out of storage, I'm going to super-detail them, too.

This is the most detailed car I have ever scratch-built, but I think the extra effort was worth it. When I get my other cars out of storage, I’m going to super-detail them, too.

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I’m making a Maintenance of Way caboose for my friend in England that will look somewhat like this one, and I’m using some of the parts from the Bachmann Spectrum narrow gauge short caboose.

Here is the disassembled caboose. Since the MOW caboose will have a longer car body, I decided to build one of Blue Mountain Models bay window cabooses for myself. This kit is designed to fit on the short car body of the Bachmann caboose which I will not be using for the one going to England.

Here is the instruction sheet for the model, showing the finished caboose. I have assembled the end and side walls into two sub-assemblies which will form the caboose body.

Here are the side walls with the roof supports added, and the body test-fitted to the underframe.

This photo shows the roof assembled, painted and glued on. The roof walk boards were also stained and added.  I later decided to do the roof a darker color, so there wasn’t so much contrast with the roof walk.

This caboose has nice big windows, so I didn’t want all the Bachmann interior details blocking them. After removing everything but the stove and the benches that are molded into the floor, I had to do something with the floor itself.

I cut an old piece of N scale scribed siding to fit over the floor, and stained it with a tan color made from leather dye and isopropyl alcohol.

The walls are finished and the trucks mounted. The hand rails come from the Bachmann caboose, and Blue Mountain has pre-drilled holes for an exact fit. They include a nice little brass nail to use for a door handle.

The smoke jack, as it is called, also comes from the Bachmann caboose.

Several steps later, here is the finished caboose on a photo set-up.  The roof is now a nice grimy black. I lettered the caboose for the Denver, Durango & Silverton with Woodland Scenics dry transfers.  I would have preferred to use water-slide decals, but they didn’t have any at the hobby store.  Dry transfers are hard to align, as you can see.

A close-up three-quarter view that shows the weathering with Bragdon Powders. The color is called Dust Bowl Brown.

Sometimes cabooses had tool boxes mounted under the bodies and between the trucks. When I shortened the original Bachmann body (see next post) I had two pieces of scribed siding that were the perfect size. Grandt Line contributed the hinges, and the handles were made from a bit of Ophir Depot roof trim.

The Bachmann caboose had a lighted interior, powered through axle wipers on the trucks, so I kept this feature for my bay window caboose. I created “night” with some blue theatre gel over the camera lens.

The light works in the daytime, too. If I want to get fancy, I can install a DCC decoder in the caboose to control when the light is on and off.

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Another Rail & Tie Car

Today I completed another rail and tie car for a client in England. I changed a few little things from my original version of this car. I felt my spike kegs were a touch too large, so I ordered some new castings that were supposed to be actual spike kegs, not just generic barrels. They may be the correct size, but when they arrived, they just looked too small, so I settled for some other barrels I had on hand that were midway in size between the two.  I’m sure the small size of the castings I ordered has to do with how much a keg would weigh when filled with spikes, but I gave preference to the visual aspects.  I had also ordered spike mauls and pry bars, but again, they just didn’t show up much when placed in the car because of their small size, so I just made ones to match those I have in my car. They may be a little over-sized, but they look good as the car rolls along.

Another small change was the inclusion of grab-irons on all four corners of the car.

I decided it might be easier to brake the car if the brake wheel could be operated from the raised car bed, so I extended the brake staff. I left the ratchet and pawl down on the car’s deck, because there is no place for them up in the air, so the MOW help will still have to release the brake from below.

Another shot of the brake end of the car.

Here is the side profile of the car. It can’t really be seen because of the shadows, but the trucks on this car, which came from a Bachmann Lumber Camp car, were already weathered with a fine dusty black spray. I decided not to paint over this spray, but just to apply the usual rust colored powder.

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Tonight I finished a rail & tie car to sell on eBay.

I made a few minor improvements to this car from the one I built for myself. I’ll go back and update my car later.

I gave this car three kegs full of rail spikes, and I scratch-built a spike maul and a pry bar.

I also added grab irons on all four corners, just above the stirrup steps. This will help the little 1/4 scale workmen get up into the car.

I also noticed that the truck side frames on my original car were upside down. This one is correct.

Close up on the spike maul and the pry bar.

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Here’s a load of freshly milled 12 x 12 beams to ship on a flatcar. I got the idea for this project from an ad in my favorite magazine, the Narrow Gauge & Short Line Gazette.

When you look at the end of this load, you see that the wood part is just an outer layer. The core of the load is a small block of pink insulation foam. I didn’t use foam to save on weight, I used it because I had some, and for its ease of sculpting to the shape I wanted.

Here is the foam block and the wood pieces before I glued them together.  The block is about 3/4 inch square by 3 inches long.

One side glued on.

Two sides.

Three sides.

Four sides. I just used plain Elmer’s Carpenter’s Glue. It works on both wood and foam. Some glues will eat into foam.  To fill the ends, I cut short pieces of the scale 12 x 12 material.  By making these interior pieces just false ends, I saved on a lot of wood.

The finished load is actually two bundles, separated by strips of wood to keep them dry in transit. At this point I had no trucks on the flatcar.

Long side stakes keep the bundles from shifting laterally.

In operation, the wooden bundle will be removable from the flatcar. The flatcar will be shipped back empty, ready for another load.

Here are a couple of shots of the finished car in front of the Durango Depot on the photo/test board.

I suppose I’ll do a little weathering on the flat car. The wooden bundle should stay fresh and new looking.

I had just finished this project when it was time to turn the page to August on my narrow gauge calendar, and look what I found! This phenomenon has happened to me before, when I was working on the San Juan and Shavano trains (still to be finished).

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I built one of these wheel and tie cars for myself, and since it is kind of a rare type of car to find, I thought I’d build one to sell on eBay.  Railroads often had to transport ties and wheel sets to other locations, so they used cars like this, which were part of their maintenance of way fleet.

I used many of the same detail parts on this car that I have been using on my scratch-built flatcars. This car actually starts out as a flatcar, much as it would on the prototype. Railroads often built their own maintenance of way cars from other rolling stock that they happened to have on hand.

One new detail part I used here is the Kadee 24 inch Griffin ribbed-back On30 wheel on the deck of the car. The ribbed backs are more visually interesting. I filed the axle ends from their original pointed shape to more closely represent the prototype, which had a blunt end that fit into the truck side frame behind the journal box.  You can see the journal boxes on the truck in this photo.  The journal box contained the grease which allowed the axle to rotate.  This had to be frequently checked, because if the grease ran low, the truck could get what was called a “hot box” from the friction.  These often caused fires, and damage to wooden equipment.

On my wheel and tie car, I placed the stirrup step, and grab iron, on the end by the diagonal steel rod brace. This is to the right of the photo above. I had already positioned some grab irons on this end when I decided that stirrup steps and grab irons mid-car made more sense. A worker climbing on to the car wouldn’t have to fight his way around the diagonal brace.

The wood on the car is weathered with alcohol and leather dye as I usually do, and when that was dry, I gave it a thin wash of acrylic light gray. Light gray is a pretty industry-wide standard color for maintenance of way cars.

I made the ties from balsa wood because I didn’t have any basswood that was the correct size for narrow gauge ties. I wouldn’t normally use balsa ties under any track work because they are too soft, but here they take the creosote-looking stain nicely, and they only have to “look” like rough hewn ties, which I think they do pretty well.

Here you can see the special wooden carriage that was fashioned to hold heavy wheels when they moved them.

There should be some other brake-related hardware here. On the prototype, you would see a chain running from the ratchet at the bottom of the brake staff, through a guide on the end sill, and under the car to the brake’s air cylinder. I’ll have to see if anyone makes this as a stand-alone detail part.  Another missing part is the brake shoes, which would be visible on the edges of the wheels.

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On30 Cars for eBay

I’ve been selling some more things on eBay, and I made this flat car in On30 scale, just to see how it would do.

If it looks like the sale will be worthwhile, I may make some others along the lines of the MOW cars I built earlier, or offer to do some on commission.

I used a Bachmann underframe and trucks (parts which can be purchased separately). On top of those I used scale lumber from Kappler and Midwest, and plastic castings from Grandt Line Products for the NBW castings, stirrup steps, side stake pockets and brake wheel.

The corner braces are from my own design using thin pieces of clear plastic packaging material. The bolt heads are simulated by embossing them with the tip of a small file.

The wood is stained with my alcohol and leather dye mixture, and then lightly weathered with Bragdon Weathering Powders.

I set the coupler height to match other “out-of-the-box” Bachmann models. I did not add weight to the car in case the buyer wanted to do that with a load. The NMRA recommended weight for this car is about 6.5 ounces.  Articles about other Maintenance of Way cars I have built are in the “Rolling Stock” section of the ‘Topics” menu on page one of my web site.

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Back a few months ago, when I was making an N-scale cable car for a client, I purchased an O-scale plastic cable car kit, just to get a closer look at how they were put together. At the time I decided I would make the kit into a trolley for my downtown Durango.

I can't remember if I had seen the photos of an actual trolley in the streets of Durango yet or not, but I did find some, so my sense of fidelity to prototype was appeased.

Here is one of the photos I found. Durango's trolleys were electric, and operated with current conducted through overhead catenary, but I also had a nice set of horses in my "things to be used someday" box, so I decided to make my trolley horse drawn. The prospect of building all that catenary was a bit daunting, and why bother if the trolley wasn't going to actually run, anyway?

Here is a photo of a two-horse trolley like mine, that clearly shows the tack and rigging for pulling the trolley.

Here is another photo that I really like. It's a one-horse rig, and smaller than mine, but the clarity in the picture is great.

The kit that I had purchased was for a San Fransisco cable car, which uses a different propulsion system altogether from horses or electricity, but I figured it was close enough, and it had some nice details.

I pre-painted all the parts, because it would be insanity not to.

The pre-painting included some little figures, which did not come with the kit. Some of these would have been impossible to even glue in place once the enclosed trolley cabin was assembled. When painting figures, I like to use flat enamels. When the enamels are good and dry, I dunk the figures in a thin wash of black acrylic. Since the acrylic is water based, it won't cause the enamel to dissolve, and it settles in the finest recesses to accent features, and shadow clothing. You can get the same effect by painting your figures all black to start with, and kind of dry-brushing the colors on.

I wanted a photo backdrop to shoot my finished trolley in front of, so I searched on Google Images and found this picture of Turn-of-the-Century Ames, Iowa. Except for the lack of mountains on the horizon, it could be almost any small western town a hundred years ago. And there is a trolley in the photo!

I'll lay track in my Durango street, but this is a static model, and the plastic wheels don't even turn.

I put one advertising sign on each side of the trolley.

If you look at the latest version of my track plan, I have the trolley running from the top of the hill (another modeler's license) in Durango down to the depot. At the depot is a small "armstrong" turntable, like those used in San Fransisco near Fisherman's Wharf. In order for this to work, I had to make it so that my horses could be unharnessed from the trolley while it is turned.

If you look closely, you will see that the chains from their horse collars feed into a wooden bar that hooks on to the front of the trolley. When I want to pose the trolley on the turntable, I can unhook the horses and have them standing nearby. I put the reins into the driver's hand with rubber cement for the photos.

The rigging arrangement shows even more in this photo, as well as the ad lib "cow catchers" that I made. I thought for a while I might have to order a special pilot for my trolley, but then I spied some old N-scale plastic lumber piles. Since I think some trolleys did have flat, rather than V-shaped cowcatchers, I painted these black and they look great. For a little variety, I angled the forward one, and made the rear one hang straight down.

Here's a good close up of the rear one. I was going to be running my trolley in reverse from the way the cable car ran, so I painted the cable car's headlight red. Look back one picture to see the headlight lens I found and mounted on the former "rear" end of the cable car to make it the front. In Durango, the depot was at the end of Main Avenue, so that's why I put the route sign on as I did.

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Wooden Coal Cars

I was going to use D&RGW style drop-bottom gondolas to supply coal to the loading facilities at Durango and Silverton. I found a couple of Grandt Line kits on eBay at reasonable prices, but the center sills on the under-frames were designed for On3 trucks, not On30 trucks.  On30 trucks couldn’t turn without hitting the center sill, and it would have taken some extensive modification to get them to work, so I’ll finish building those models, and sell them back on eBay. In the mean time, I started to design my own coal cars. I’m keeping the drop-bottom feature because I want to supply my coal towers with a through-the-track dumping system.
Research turned up a number of features that I liked such as the end slope sheets and outside framing on these two cars.
Here’s a nice “woody” look on this East Broad Top model.  Notice the top bracing, and the handles that release the dump chutes under the car.
Here you can see the chain mechanism that opens and closes the bottom doors.
Here’s the start of the project. I’ve taken one of my flat car underframes, and put on wooden side and end sills. I’m not going to completely plank the deck on this car, because I need to engineer the dumping mechanism. Here are also the starting pieces for the car sides.
Decking to a certain point, and more bracing on the side panels.
Decking completed, underframe painted black, side panels glued on.
Support bracing for the two slope sheets.
Slope sheets installed.
Styrene jig for creating eight identical slope sheet braces for each car. I’ll need to build three more of these cars, so I can have a loaded and an empty car for each of my two towns, and this jig will speed things up.  Note the additional piece on the bottom of the side panels.  Next time, I’ll make the vertical side braces long enough to bolt to these.
The center slope divider took some tricky compound angle cutting.  Those V-shaped ends on it are sanded underneath to match the angles of the end slope sheets. Two top cross braces installed.
This picture shows the difference between a truck with only paint (on the left), and a truck with paint and weathering powders (on the right).
Here the pipes for the chains to open the bottom hatches are in place, and the chains are on them. I may not bother to detail the actual doors; on the loaded cars they won’t show, anyway. I have also added Bragdon’s “Soot” weathering powder to simulate the left-over residue from a coal load.
This photo shows the large number of NBW castings I had to mount on the sides and ends. I am still looking for suitable round handles to mount on the tips of the pipes sticking through the sides. I may use something like a brake wheel casting.
When I build the two loaded cars, I’ll hide some weight in the load, and top it off with finely ground real coal.
I decided to go with the Grandt Line O-scale 16″ brake wheel for the wheel that turns the rod to unwind the chain attached to the bottom chute door.
So, aside from a little more weathering, the empty wooden coal car is finished. Now on to the one with a load….and then two more to build, so I can have service to the coaling towers at both Durango and Silverton.

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Wheel and Tie Car

Another kind of MOW car for the DD&SRR.  The wheel and tie car transported just that….wheels and railroad ties.
There were minor variations in the research photos I used, but that’s nice; you can decide which features to use to give your car just the character you want.
Here’s the real deal. It may be sitting in the yard at Chama, New Mexico, in this photo.
I began this car, like many others, by taking one of my “cheap falt car” bodies, and adding planking and then side stake pockets from Grandt Line.
Here is the start of the “pen” for the railroad ties.
I created little carraiges for the wheels. When I get back to it, I might try my Dremel tool with a grinder on it to blunt the axle ends. It would give a more prototypical look.  On these wheels I used Testor’s “Rust”, and painted everything, including the axles.
Two carraiges are complete, the wheels have been weathered with Bragdon’s Dust Bowl Brown, and the “pen” for the ties is complete.
The other end of the car has a short fence with steel diagonal braces and hand grabs. The white glue is Aleene’s Tacky Glue, and it will dry clear.
A close up of some end details with powdered weathering.
I wanted the finished car to look like it had once been painted with the light gray color that the D&RGW has used…..
I also wanted to try Woodland Scenics dry transfer lettering. “Railroad Roman” is the font style, and I bought a set in black and another set in white.  Although they looked nice, and my clumsy first attempt at using them just contributed to the worn look I was after, I might eventually go with custom decals because I can only letter a couple of cars from a Woodland Scenics set before I’m out of letters.
To get the painted, but weathered, look I was after, I used several thin coats of a light gray acrylic that I had mixed up. On top of that I dry brushed a little full strength acrylic white, and then powdered everything down.  To get the best mileage out of my ties (which I stained with the leather dye/alcohol mix to look like creosote), I stacked them criss-cross, and only used tie ends in the middle; the pile is actually hollow inside.

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Water Cars

As far back as the Civil War water and other liquids were being transported by rail in large wooden cylindrical barrels. Shortly after the Civil War, metal tank cars began being used in the oil fields of Pennsylvania. If my layout is set in 1915, these wooden tank cars would really be on their last legs, if even still in use at all. That’s the nice thing about having your own layout; I like the look of these cars, and so I built one.
I used several research photos to design my car, like this one from a site that specializes in Civil War era trains.
I decided to go with the three-tank version.
I didn’t have to look very far to find the perfect size cylinder for my tanks. A toilet paper roll from the bathroom fit nicely on the flat car with space left over on each side. As a bonus, it also fit snugly around my Aleene’s Tacky Glue bottle, so I could hold its shape as I worked on it.
I decided to make my tanks exactly one-third the height of the TP roll. Here I am gluing on some pre-stained basswood strips. I cut the strips a little taller than the cardboard base, so that my wooden top could inset into them.  I used a clear plastic square to make sure the strips stayed perpendicular to the flat car deck. 
By accident, I put my stained basswood strips in a piece of plastic packaging to dry, and I found that the sides facing down took a very heavy stain. This made for a nice variety in the coloring of my barrel staves.
Here are the three barrels sitting on top of the flat car under-frame.
For the banding on the barrels, I took a piece of 3M blue painter’s tape, stuck it on a piece of glass, so it wouldn’t lose any of its stickiness, and painted the non-sticky side of it with Testor’s Flat Black enamel. I let that dry overnight, and then cut 1/16th of an inch wide strips of it, long enough to go around the barrels. I didn’t have to use any glue to apply them; because the sticky side still worked just fine.  To get the bands level and all in the same place on each barrel, I held a pencil on top of blocks of various heights, and turned the barrels by it.  You can see the pencil lines very faintly on the barrels.
I used a compass to draw circles on some nice hard, thin, tag-board. I find emery boards make handy little sanders. I filed the edges of the cardboard until the fit was perfect.
I glued the same thin strips of basswood to the cardboard tops, sanded the edges for a nice fit, and then fashioned a hatch to get to the water inside the barrels.
The hatch is about half an inch square, and has a two-part styrene hinge, and wire fashioned for a clasp.
Then I cut boards to secure the barrels to the flat car deck. These are held in place by long stay bolts that go through both boards, and down through the flat car deck.
I didn’t need to put cardboard in the barrel bottoms because the glue container had held them perfectly round until the glue dried hard. So the bottoms were open, and I could weight my car with one inch square lead pieces stacked inside the barrels, glued to the flat car deck and each other.
In the research photos there were blocks on the deck to keep the water barrel bottoms from sliding. I used four little NBW castings to suggest how these were secured to the deck.
This photo shows one of the long stay bolts. I used wire blackened with ME Rail Weathering solution, and put a small NBW casting at the top.  There are four of these on each barrel.
These are pictures of the finished car. I still have to add a brake wheel. I put Grandt Line stake pockets along the sides even though they won’t be used on this car.  I’m getting so I feel my flat cars are naked without them.
I got some larger NBW’s from Grandt to use on my end sills. Compare here to the smaller ones in the deck block.
Side view. Truss rods and brake detail come with the Bachmann under-frames.
Top view. Hatches and stay bolts.  I used both “Rust” and “Dust Bowl Brown” Bragdon weathering powders on this car.
I can’t wait to see this car running water to the lumber camp and the mines.

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In another post I laid out plans for an inexpensive method of building large numbers of flat cars. My intention was always that most of these cars would become some sort of specialty car or carry some specific kind of load for my railroad. I have recently finished construction on two of these specialty cars. One is a wooden gondola for delivering drilling mud in barrels to the San Juan Oil Company drilling site.
According to Wikipedia drilling mud is: “Often used while drilling oil and natural gas wells and on exploration drilling rigs, drilling fluids are also used for much simpler boreholes, such as water wells. Liquid drilling fluid is often called drilling mud. The main functions of drilling fluids include providing hydrostatic pressure to prevent formation fluids from entering into the well bore, keeping the drill bit cool and clean during drilling, carrying out drill cuttings, and suspending the drill cuttings while drilling is paused and when the drilling assembly is brought in and out of the hole.” My San Juan Oil Company drill site will need some of this stuff, and I envision it being shipped in wooden barrels, at the time I am modeling. At a recent swap meet, I picked up a number of barrels for a real bargain price. Here they are on an un-altered “cheap flat car”.
The Northwest Short Line “Chopper” is a handy tool for cutting multiple lengths of strip-wood to the same size. Here I am making the side stakes which will support the walls of the gondola I am creating.
And here is the car with the side stakes in place, and the gondola walls started.
This photo shows several of the Grandt Line Products castings I used on the flat car…..side stake pockets, stirrup steps, brake wheel and NBW castings on the end sill.
Here the sides are done, and the barrels set in for testing. You can also see the (cheap) method I am using for creating metal corner plates where special reinforcement might be used. The black corners are made from clear plastic from packaging with bolt heads pressed in from behind with the tip of a file.
Close up of corner plates on end of car.
The model is finished with NBW castings inserted into each joint between the side stakes and the gondola side boards, and some colored chalk weathering.
The barrels have had their bright silver bands toned down a little, too.
One of my side stakes split at the top, and didn’t have enough width to drill a hole for the NBW casting, so I fixed it the way a narrow gauge railroad would…..by improvising a metal (plastic) sleeve to hold the top of the stake to the car. Little touches like this give the car character and personality.

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Rail and Tie Cars

Steel rail is heavy. Even narrow gauge rail, which carried lighter loads than standard gauge rails, could weigh close to 100 pounds per yard, so it is usually, even today, carried in a manner which would best facilitate unloading it in the same direction it would be used…..lengthwise to the track or roadbed. It also made sense to transport the ties and spikes in the same vehicle, hence the origin of the rail and tie car.
The rail and tie car was basically a flatcar, where the rail rode, with a kind of raised gondola bed above it, which carried the ties and kegs of spikes.
A common practice when transporting rail was to separate the rails with ties. This made a good solid stack that usually needed no other tying down.
I used a method I developed earlier for reinforcing wooden corners, and bolted the side stakes to the side boards as I have on other scratch-built cars.
For the best tracking and operation, On30 cars are supposed to weight 1.5 ounces plus .75 ounces for each inch of length. That makes 6 ounces for this car. Even with the rail load, it was still 2 ounces under weight.
The purists would howl about messing up the under-body detailing, but in normal operation, nobody is going to pick the car up and turn it over, so I like to put weight into a flat car between the frame members.
Last year I bought an eight pound sheet of 1/8 inch thick lead from a company that supplies x-ray shields. It is easy to cut with a tin snips, and small pieces of it can be glued out of sight beneath the car.  I also bought a 25 lb. bag of lead shotgun pellets to use in the same way, but the sheet lead is faster, and with wooden decked cars, I don’t get any glue leaking through the deck.  I’ll use the shotgun pellets on cars where I’ve kept the solid plastic deck.
After I had completed my rail & tie car, I saw this ad in a magazine showing a pair of small triangulating braces on each end of the car.
The photo made good structural sense, so I added the braces to my car.

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How to make great looking pipe gondolas and idler flats from stock Bachmann flat cars.

It’s a bit anachronistic for my 1915 modeling era, since the D&RGW’s peak years for transporting oil and related products to and from the San Juan oil fields was 1920s-1950s, but oil was discovered in the San Juan Basin in 1896, and I wanted to build an old wooden oil derrick on the D,D&S, so I’m going to need to ship some oil pipeline.

One of the more interesting modifications to freight cars was what the D&RGW did for transporting pipe to the oil fields. Since the pipe was usually longer than a standard gondola, they removed the gondola ends, and let the pipe hang out in both directions. Steel plates were then bolted on to the ends of the sides, as can be seen in this picture, to protect and reinforce those boards.
The weight of the pipes called for some extra weight bearing boards across the floor of the gondola (just partially visible in this picture). The other modification for the transportation of the overlong pipes involved creating what was called an “idler” flatcar.  Two of these flatcars accompanied each pipe gondola, one on each end, in order for the oversized load in the gondola to keep from hitting other cars in the train.  This photo also shows the section of used rail that was clamped under the edges of each side of the flatcar for extra strength.
Here is another research photo from Google Images showing the arrangement of pipe gon and idler flat.  Notice that the brake wheel on the idler flat was lowered so that it wouldn’t hit the pipes on the next pipe gon.

The following pictures show my completed models of a pipe gondola and two idler flats.

The oil pipes were made from plastic drinking straws, spray painted flat black, and weathered with rust colored weathering powders. The grab irons on the side of the gondola are staples, and you can see the rail clamped under the idler flat just under the letters “C&S”. There are 24 individually applied Grandt Line Products nut-bolt-washer castings on each side of the gondola….48 tiny holes to drill, and 48 tiny castings to glue in place.
Here’s an even better view of the rails used to reinforce the side sills. Note the lowered brake wheel.
And, here’s a close-up of the end of the gondola, showing the steel reinforcing plates. Rivet detail is embossed in thin plastic with a pounce wheel before the plastic is painted and glued on. On all of these flat cars I have been covering the plastic floors with real basswood. When you are modeling wood, nothing in the world looks as good as real wood. To give you an idea of size, the stakes that support the side boards are 1/16th of an inch square.
The end of the idler flat with a good view of the attachment for the reinforcing rail. This car is riding on another project, which I will be writing up soon. I’m taking a short section of the track I will use on the actual layout, and making a photo track.  In my earlier posts, I had been using Peco Code 100 On30 track; this is Micro Engineering Code 83 On30 track. There are some subtle differences. The rail height on the Peco track is .10 inches; on the ME track it is .83 inches, which is closer to prototype. Also, the tie size and spacing on the ME track is more accurate for narrow gauge lines. I’ve laid this track on a homosote product made by California Roadbed Co. that accurately models the roadbed profile. I’ll be doing ballast and scenery on this little stretch of railroad, too.
I later came back and added chain to secure the pipe load, but the chain is not actually attached to the car. This way I can convert to an empty car by simply removing the load of pipe.

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Low Sided Ore Gondolas

Several techniques for creating realistic looking, loaded or empty, ore gondolas.

I’m going to use low-side gondolas on the DD&SRR to haul ore from the mines above Silverton to the smelters in Denver. My research shows that there were smelters in Durango and Silverton at one time, but I probably don’t have room for them on my layout, and having to ship ore to Denver makes for a nice longer trip.

Model of a small low-side gondola from Google Images.
I really like the unusual look of the gon where the long sides are slightly shorter than the flatcar bed beneath them. This is also a research photo from Google Images.
Technically this model picture is a high-side gon, but I liked the weathered and worn look of it, and it was D&RGW equipment. This is also a research photo from Google Images.
I could use the plastic sides that come with the Bachmann low-side gondola, but I’d like this car to have the “woody” look that my logging flatcars have, so I’m going to make my own sides from real basswood. The plastic sides are composed of two planks, probably 2 x 12s. My reference photos above show two to three planks on most of the cars, which would make the bed of the low-side gon about 24” to 36”.
As I did with the logging cars, I’ll be making one car full and a matching car empty, so that in the operational scheme of things on the DD&SRR, I can ship loads to Denver or Farmington, and bring back empties to Durango and Silverton. Eventually I plan on designing my own decals, so for the time being, I am not too concerned about the existing road names on these cars. I might save the lettering on the C&S (Colorado and Southern) and the D&RGW (Denver and Rio Grande Western) cars, just because my road could have purchased those cars from those respective railroads. The real town of Durango was served by both the D&RGW and the RGS (Rio Grande Southern), so a mixture of road names on equipment is not out of the realm of possibility.

I may try a couple of different methods for loads on the cars.  One concern I have about the loft in general is not to put more weight up there than there is with the current storage.  This will affect the way in which I build bench work, and scenery forms, and what kinds of rock or rock castings I use in the scenery.  Rocks can also simply be carved in styrofoam, if one is skillful enough.  No matter what I do to keep weight out of the scenery and bench work, the cars will need to be weighted to the NMRA (National Model Railroad Association) standards.

Bachmann has recently been releasing its On30 narrow gauge cars with a lower profile, which looks more like the prototype cars. In this photo, and the next one down, you can see the difference. The deck of the Baltimore & Ohio car (an older release, on the left) is nearly 1/8 of an inch higher than the other car.   This translates to six inches difference in quarter-inch scale.  Since the couples are body-mounted, this also affects the way they mate from car to car.  In another article, I’ll write about how I’m dealing with these older cars to lower them to a more prototypical height.
Side view of the height difference, and how it miss-aligns the couplers

I took a little road trip to Patio Town, and picked up a bag of rocks.  Half are what is called “Western Sunrise”, and the other half are “Bryan Red”.  I like the color of these stones.  The Western Sunrise has a lot of the pink and gray color found in the rocks along the Animas River, and the Bryan Red is a nice beige color.  I can sift, or crush these into different sizes for use as talus and riverbed rock.  I’ll mix them together as I use them, and a little paint work will make them all look like they belong in one geologic area.

Western Sunrise.
Bryan Red.

The other method I like for creating talus rock and other miscellaneous rock around the railroad involves the use of casting plaster.   I will take old rock castings that I probably won’t be using on this layout, put them in a soft cloth wrapper, and crush them up with a hammer.  This produces a rock size and shape similar to the real thing, but with less weight.  These also take paint nicely, just like rock castings on scenery.

Here are the short (¾”) side stakes for supporting the 2×12 planks. I made them all the same size, because they are supporting an even board along the top. I did a test fit on one side before staining all the lumber at once.
I’m not going to repeat the discussion of how I planked the deck of the car. You can read the details of that process in the article on the logging flat cars.  (Update:  On future cars I will probably use all six side stake pockets instead of just four.)
In the days before common use of the automobile, my Grandfather from Sweden worked for a time in Illinois as a harness-maker. I now have his harness making tools, and I’m going to use this pounce wheel to emboss some styrene to make it look like corner braces bolted to the car ends. (Update: I have since gone to using the tip of a very small file for this process, and I have a pounce wheel from Jo-Ann Fabrics to use for this or making nail holes on structure walls.)
My plan was to insert a piece of ¼” black foam-core to fill the bottom half of the gondola bed, and then put stone on top of it, but I realized that I would be losing that nice deck work on the flat car if I did, so I’m going to finish this car as an empty, and on the loaded cars, I just won’t model all the central part of the deck, since it will get covered up anyway.
Here you can see the use of the pounce wheel to make bolt/rivet detail in the plastic.
I did the pouncing first, then cut out, and painted, the little strips.
Here is one of the strips, unpainted, as a corner brace in position on the end of the car.
Here are the painted corner braces in their final positions on the car.
And here they are after some weathering powders have been added to bring out the bolt head detail.
The Hermosa Creek Bridge project left me with a large number of very small NBW castings, so I’m drilling out small holes in the side stakes, and putting some in to resemble the bolts that would have held the side planks to these stakes.
The under-frame of this car is unpainted reddish-brown plastic. Here I’ve masked it, and the couplers, prior to spray painting them black. (Update: Bachmann also makes underframes alone in black plastic, so I now use those on all my scratch-built flat and MOW cars.)
For the ore load in the car, I’ve taken some of the Bryan Red stone I got at Patio Town, wrapped it in old canvas, and crushed it into smaller pieces. Even though it is called “Bryan Red”, the stone is more of a beige color. (Update: Home Depot also sells a product called paver sand, which I think is decomposed granite, and is already crushed into various small pieces. This can be filtered to various sizes for use as talus, river rock, and even track ballast.
Here is the finished empty car. I used a “wet water” mixture to prepare the stone for sealing into the car bed. This is plain water with just a drop of dishwashing liquid adding to break the surface tension, and make it soak into the stone. (Update: Isopropyl alcohol will also work for “wet water”.)  Then you take either diluted white glue, or Woodland Scenics scenery glue, which is pretty much the same thing, and overspray with that. When it dries, everything is nicely held in place. This is the same basic method used for ballasting track. After this process, I re-applied the weathering powders.
Here you can see how some of my deck work shows through in the empty car.
This photo shows the painted and weathered wheels, trucks and stirrup steps. This car presently has the same road number as one set of my logging cars, but I’ll fix that in the future, when I put my custom made decals for the DD&SRR on a lot of the equipment. For the best operation on the layout, cars should be weighted according to the NMRA recommendations, which for On30 are 1.5 ounces, plus ¾ ounce for each inch of car body. That means that this car, at roughly six inches long, should weigh 6 ounces. Currently, the finished car, detailed as an empty, weights only 2.5 ounces, so I’ll need to add 3.5 ounces of weight to it.  I have some lead weight, and some lead shotgun pellets, I can put between the members of the under-frame. Whatever I do, it will be painted black and it will not show. In the cars modeled as loaded with actual stone, I will need to add less artificial weight.

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Logging Flat Cars

Wooden decked flat cars and “real” logs for the Cascade Canyon Lumber Company.

For my On30 layout, the “Denver, Durango & Silverton”, one of the industries I will model will be a working lumber camp.  In operating sessions, flatcars loaded with freshly cut logs will make their way first to the yard at Silverton, and then to Durango.  Along the way, some of them will unload at a facility designed to dump them into the Animas River for a trip downstream.  Others will go by rail to Denver to an (offline) lumber mill.  On the return trip, empty flatcars will be shipped back to the lumber camp at Cascade Canyon.  So, I need a fleet of matching cars, one set full, and the other set empty.  For the time being, I am making three of each.

Like many On30 modelers, I love the detail on the Bachmann Spectrum Series On30 cars. I also love the affordability of these cars, especially if you buy them on eBay auctions. I highly recommend looking at “The Favorite Spot” on eBay. They sell in high enough volume that they can afford to let their merchandise go at bargain prices. Here is the out-of-the-box D&RGW flatcar that I started with.

I am converting all my couplers to Kadee #5, and I think this flatcar is one of the newer models with the lower frame, because the Kadees slipped right into the existing coupler pockets, and came out to the right height to match the Kadee #205 HO Height Gauge.  The other loaded car pictured in this article (without the road name decals) took a lot of fooling around, cutting and shimming to get the Kadees to fit at the right height.

I like to re-floor my flat cars with wood, because the plastic, even though nicely molded, still looks like plastic. I have used the commercially available, laser cut, flatcar floors, and I like them, but the boards have the same regularity in their width that the plastic has. I prefer something a little more random, so on this project, I am cutting basswood strips of a variety of widths. They all have the same thickness of 1/16th of an inch, or 3” in O-Scale. I also cut them a little wider than the plastic floor of the flatcar, so they can overhang on the sides and hide the remaining plastic floor. Here I used cuts in the neighborhood of 49 mm.

I then gave them a light wash of Model Master flat enamel mixed with thinner to the consistency of a light stain.  Here I am using #1763, Leather.  You can stain the strips before cutting them, which will leave the ends looking like fresh cuts, or you can cut them first and have the ends come out looking like the tops.  I figure these boards led a rough life, and needed periodic replacement, so I don’t mind a few unstained ends showing.

I also prefer a slight variety in the length of these boards across the car, so although I use a couple of lines marked on a piece of flat ¾” ply as a cutting guide, I purposely try to vary the cuts by small amounts….plus or minus a millimeter. You’ll see the results later in the process.
Since I very rarely use my paints right out of the bottle, I like to use a small painter’s mixing tray to get the desired colors and consistencies.
Once the boards were painted and dry, I secured them to the flat car with DAP Kwik Seal Plus, clear Kitchen & Bath Adhesive and Caulk. This product seems to work really well in glueing wood to plastic, and it sets up quickly, making the job go fast.
As I have done with most aspects of this project, I try to vary the widths of the boards in a random manner as I place them into a very thin layer of caulk. The caulk grips them immediately. (Update: I now do a little light sanding on the end of each board to remove the cutting splinters.)
Also visible in this picture, and the one below, is the grain detail you can get from using the real wood.
Close up of ends and grain detail on deck planks.
At the end of the car there is a small raised area where the brake wheel goes in. I just notch around it, so the detail is preserved.
I am going to use traditional side stakes, chains and side deck beams to secure the logs to the cars. I am making the side stakes out of strip basswood that is 1/16th x 1/16th of an inch. This equates to 3” x 3” in O-Scale, but more importantly, they fit perfectly into the side stake pockets Bachmann has provided. Just to help them get started into the pockets, I cut a small taper on the end of each one. When I insert them, I put the tapered edge to the outside. These stakes will often go through the pockets, and the tapered end looks cool against the car side. I use the Google Images search engine to collect research pictures for my projects. It is a fantastic resource, and the pictures can be stored electronically in files on your computer for future reference.
Here is an installed side stake. If I had shot the picture at a little lower angle, you could see the tapered end protruding below the coupler pocket. I used CA adhesive to secure these stakes.
This photo shows the side stakes installed and the strips along the deck that help to keep the logs from rolling.
This picture shows how I varied the height on these side stakes. I just figure that everything done in a lumber camp was guided by functionality, not style or perfection, so there wouldn’t have been any particular concern for having these stakes exactly the same height. Also shown here are the holes drilled for the lift rings in the side deck beams. I used carpenter’s white glue to secure these beams to the deck, since it is a wood to wood joint.
For the lift rings, I turned to a couple of craft products I purchased at my local Michael’s Craft Store.  Shown here are black glass seed beads which are under 2 mm in diameter. I was thinking these might look like a large nut, but I’m not sure I really like them; they seem to cause the lift rings to stick up too high. Maybe I’ll try the other cars without them. I was very happy with the look of the 2” copper eye pins, which I bought for the small “eye” on their tops, which will become my lift rings.  See my other post on High Level Switch stands for how I used the straight shaft portion of the eye pins.  (Update: I have since discovered that I can get plastic castings of actual lift rings, albeit at a greater cost.)
I drilled some small holes in my ¾” plywood scrap, and inserted the eye pins for painting. By painting them before I put them on the car, I avoid getting paint where I don’t want it on my side deck beams.  (Update:  I have since taken to blackening these wires with Micro Engineering’s Rail Weathering solution.  It is less vulnerable to scratching off, and cannot leave a shiny copper spot.)
Here are the pins with just the “eye” part painted.
This photo shows the lift rings in place. I put three on each side, and secured them with CA adhesive. On the second car, I got a little smarter (isn’t that always the case!), and installed the chain to one side’s lift rings before glueing the lift rings to the car. It just made it easier to get the chain secured, and made for less handling of the car in the process.
The next step is to give the entire car a light wash of gray paint to weather and age the wood, and take a little of the shine off the plastic parts. I used Model Master FS36081, Euro Gray, mixed with thinner. In doing the deck, I followed the board direction, and left some boards without the wash. You might want to roughen up the side deck beams by taking a track saw, and carving detail into them. I didn’t do this, because this wash provided some texture, but it’s all up to individual taste.
Pictured here is the whole car with gray wash and lift rings installed.

The next step involves two other products, a fine black wire I bought at Michael’s, and miniature scale-sized chain from Richard Engels at Comstock Car Shops.  Richard was also very helpful in suggesting ways in which lumber companies might have secured their logs to flatcars.

Very thin copper wire.
Scale size logging chain.

I must digress here to refer to another article about my experiments with making tall pine trees from segments of Mulberry tree stems with armatures from Juniper bushes for branches.   I find both products right in my yard, which is handy, since I want to build a large number of these trees.  For this project, I am only showing three cut log trunks mounted to my flatcar, and I still have to find my beige paint to finish the cut ends of the logs.

As I explained in the other article, I roughed the bark of the Mulberry with a sharp tree saw, creating vertical grooves in my “pine tree” bark. One fortuitous result of this process was the creation of a very fine “hairy” texture on the surface of the bark. I put a double cut on the large end of each log, like the loggers would have made when they cut the tree down. To do this, I clamped the logs in a small bench vise, and cut them with a small-toothed coping saw. I was originally just going to let the chain hold the logs down, like it would in reality, but I wound up putting a little diluted carpenter’s glue between the logs for security.
The next step involved installing the chains, and creating an empty flatcar to correspond to each loaded one. This photo shows an empty car. I’ll eventually match up the decaling on the sides, and so forth, so that I have two exact cars, one loaded and one empty. I used a little diluted carpenter’s glue to secure the chains to the deck, so they looked like they had just been laid there after the logs were removed. I also painted and installed the brake wheel at this point.

The chains were installed by threading them through the lift rings, and creating tiny wire connections just above the rings with the 26 gauge blackened copper wire shown above.  I then secured the whole connection with a small drop of CA adhesive.

After securing the logs to the loaded cars, and the loose chains to the empties, I took a few pinches of my own “ground cover”, that I have been collecting beneath my work bench as I make trees, and glued it to the surfaces of things. Again, I used a diluted mixture of carpenter’s glue and water, which dries nice and clear and flat. I saw this technique in one of Carsten’s On30 Annual publications, and I really like it. It gives the cars the look of having just come from the camp, covered in bits and pieces of forest detritus. It also gives the empties visual interest and texture.  In some of these photos you will notice that I removed the side stirrup steps, and on others I simple painted them black.  I have ordered some replacement steps from Grandt Line Products, but the Bachmann steps (which are actually pinned to the cars, not cast on) have all the detail I could want, so I may just stick with this method in the future.   (Update:  The Grandt Line steps turned out to be plastic and identical to the Bachmann steps, so I use those, now, on my scratchbuilt flat and MOW cars.)  I painted the side stake pockets, and the bolts on the ends of the car next to the couplers with flat black.

I have recently purchased some very nice weathering powders from Joel Bragdon at Bragdon Enterprises, so I was eager to try those out.  He makes a very fine powder that is chalk-like, but is mixed with a dry adhesive, and can be applied directly to the model with a stiff bristled brush.  The powder requires no additional adhesive or fixatives.

The loaded car with chains and wood chips.
The next step in the process was to give the car frames a little light weathering with the Bragdon powders. I used one called “light rust”, and was very happy with the look of it.
Finally I weighted the cars by gluing lead inside the members of the under-frame, where it would not show, and painting it black. I adjusted the car weight to get as close to the NMRA recommended weight as I could. This makes it ride nicely on the rails. I’ll be putting Kadee #5 couplers on all my cars, and setting the truck bolsters for a three-point suspension to minimize rocking.
I also painted and weathered the wheels and the truck frames, as you can see in the photos below. It can’t really be seen in the photos below, but I painted the ends of the logs with a beige acrylic to get a good freshly cut look on them.  I plan on making a loaded and an empty version for every car where the load shows, so these pictures show road number 7216 as the loaded and the empty version.
A good close up of the painted and weathered trucks.  (Update:  From this angle, you can plainly see both the original plastic flooring, and my added wooden flooring.  It’s not as noticeable from overhead, and on my scratch-built flat cars, the plastic flooring doesn’t exist.)

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Drop Bottom Gondola Kits

A couple of months ago I bought two Grandt Line Drop Bottom gondola kits on eBay. I’ve always liked the look of these cars, and my plan was to use them to supply my coaling towers at Durango and Silverton.
When the kits arrived, and I started building them, two concerns led me to revise my plan. The kits are designed to used On3 (scale 36″) trucks, and I thought I could simply substitute On30 (scale 30″) trucks.  When I tried this, the scale 30″ gauge trucks fit too tightly across the center sill (pictured above) to pivot. I would have had to carve away massive parts of the sill to get my trucks to turn very much.
The other problem I noticed was that the overall length of the Grant gondola was about 8 inches, or 32 scale feet. Most of my other freight cars are in the 6-7 inch range, or about 24 to 28 feet long. This car just looked TOO BIG next to all my other rolling stock.
…..but I had already started construction on one of the cars, so I decided to finish that one, and then sell the completed car, and the unopened kit, back to someone with an On3 layout on eBay.  I have to say a few things about the kit.  First of all, this is the most complicated and detailed kit I have ever tried to build (see under-body detail above).
Here is the side rod and chain mechanism for opening the bottom hatches, which make this car so unique. I’m sorry to have to say, but the instructions for the kit were not too helpful, for me. A person would have to know the name and location of every little part on the prototype car to get through this building process very smoothly.
I sometimes spent up to an hour trying to locate a part, and its corresponding location on the model. Even then I made a number of mistakes and omissions.
Which is not to say that the finished model will not be beautiful and intricately detailed….it will.
I have just about finished with the car, and will paint it next. At this point, I am going back through all the left-over parts (some of which were extra, as the instructions noted) to see if there are any other I should add. I came upon the air hoses that way. I plan to leave the couplers off, because the Grandt Line couplers are different from the Kadees that most modellers use, and I don’t know if they will mate with Kadees.  When I sell the car, I’ll include all the left over parts and instructions.  I’ll post more pictures of the finished work when the painting is done.

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I had a set of three Bachman side-dump ore cars that I wanted to run as a connected consist, so I removed the couplers between the first and second, and the second and third cars, and connected the cars with what is known as a draw-bar.  I used a small piece of flat plastic with holes drilled in both ends, and reconnected the cars with the coupler pocket screws through the plastic draw-bar’s holes.
My ore load in these cars is paver sand, sifted through a spaghetti strainer.
Notice how careful dry-brushing can bring out the cast-on detail of these cars.

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In between shows, “Harriet’s Halloween Candy” (set and light design at the Phipps), and “Joseph and the…you know the rest”…lighting design only), at the River Falls Community Theatre, I have managed to eke out a few hours to complete this latest project. You will remember from one of my last postings that I had purchased, by mistake, a set of HO scale Donkey engines, which I then painted and weathered and re-sold on eBay (at a very nice profit). This project started with the purchase of the correct size model, and a stock Bachmann D&RGW flat car.
I treated this car to the same techniques I have used on other flat cars…wood decking added, painting and weathering. This car had an interesting “sway-back” look to it that I made permanent with beams along each side designed to hold the lift rings. If you got my post about a year ago on the lumber cars, you will remember that I fashioned these lift rings with small brass eye pins and tiny black beads from Michael’s.
The donkey engine came with the top of the boiler stack and one of the side spools detached, so I decided to leave them off and create an open-topped crate for them. I actually think donkey engines were usually shipped without the smoke stack attached. I also saw a photo of a donkey engine stack with a flared top, so I added a small rubber o-ring from my scrap box to approximate this. Donkey engines in the woods traveled on heavy wooden skids. They could actually be rigged to pull themselves along sometimes. Bachmann’s model comes with a plastic skid that is the right size and shape, but looks like…..well, plastic….so, I removed it, and fashioned a real wooden skid for my model. I hadn’t done this on the HO scale models I worked on because the skid was glued on, but on this O scale model, you can remove the plastic skid by taking out a couple of screws, which is very handy.
The boiler itself is nicely modeled in black, but the metal frame and gears are in brown plastic, so they all had to be repainted. I wanted them to look new, so I went with a sort of shiny look.  Another reason for not playing around with the boiler color was the nice detailing job that Bachmann has done on the valves and gauges.
I created a small platform on the back of the skid for a water tank. Sometimes these were wooden, but they could also be steel tanks, and that’s the choice I made here. This was made with styrene sides and pounce wheel rivets glued over the same small wooden blocks that I’m using to create shipping crates.   I had to furnish a hose to connect the tank to the boiler, but because I was going to ship this rig in an unassembled fashion, I made the hose from a little piece of insulated wire that I painted black, and left  it coiled between the tank and the boiler in this photo.  With everything finished that belonged on the skid, I glued the skid to the flat car deck.
I took a couple of finished shipping crates that I had built for another article, and glued one on just ahead of the skid, and placed the other in the open-topped crate that contained the smoke stack and side spool. This top view shows the various crates supposedly containing small parts for the donkey engine. Next I used beige thread to simulate rope, and tied everything in place.
And now I can include a nicely detailed shipment for the Cascade Canyon Lumber Company when we do operating sessions.

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Cupola for the Combine

The Pagosa Junction style cupola on a combine.  Narrow gauge lines tried to save money wherever they could, and if they could make one car serve the purposes of two or three, then that’s what they did.  The Combine is already, as its name implies, a car that serves a combination of functions, baggage car and passenger car.  By adding a cupola to the top, the railroad also enabled this car to serve as a caboose.  The purpose of the cupola on a caboose was to enable the brakeman or conductor to keep an eye on the train ahead of it for hot boxes or other problems.
Here is the Bachmann model of the D&RGW combine. The current Durango & Silverton Narrow Gauge line also uses these same colors on much of its passenger stock. The cupola in this article was run on the line to Pagosa Junction.
Banta Model Works makes a nice laser cut wood kit for a cupola for this car. Here are a couple of pictures from the instructions that come with the kit.

Laser cut wood kits are a relatively new phenomenon, and they are a joy to work with because the wood parts come 99% already cut, and the cuts have the precision of…..well, lasers. You only have to separate them from the rest of the sheet by cutting in a few small places.
And here are the assembled sub-walls for the cupola. I used my trusty Gorilla CAA glue to bond the pieces together. (Update: See article Durango Depot Part 1, for why I no longer use this glue very extensively.)
The cupola has a second layer of what might be called car-siding. This material has a peel-and-stick backing that makes it easy to apply. When it is time to fashion the corner grab irons, there is a nifty little wooden jig to do this with, so that you get the length of each side, and the corner angle exactly right on every one.
The support wire for the corner of each of the “grabs” is glued into the roof, and to the corner of the grab-iron, and then the wire will be cut off after the glue has had a day to set.
It’s time to check the fit on the roof of the combine, and begin to get an idea of what the finished project will look like.
This photo shows several things. The cupola has been painted. Testors Silver made a pretty good match for Bachmann’s silver roof, but it took quite a bit of playing around to mix a yellow that matched the combine’s sides. The kit comes with two small wooden pieces to cover the combine’s clerestory windows that will be blocked off by the cupola. I painted those black. Then there are the ten supports for the roof walk, which I also painted black and glued in place.
And here is the painted cupola in position on top of the combine.
This photo from the instruction sheet shows the roof walk, end ladders, and the roof handrail in place.
And here is my completed car with the same pieces attached.
Close up of the roof walk hand-rail. These joints were actually soldered, not glued.
I also added wire grab-irons next to the baggage doors, where they would have been on the prototype.
Part of the plastic end rail had to be removed to place the cast metal end ladders leading to the roof walk.

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I use a Kadee Ho Coupler Height Gauge to make sure that all my rolling stock couplers will match up for smooth operation. If you’ve looked closely at some of my other pages on this site, you may have noticed some arch bar trucks with the side frames upside down!  I confess….I was so preoccupied with getting the couplers to the right height that I chose the wrong direction to mount the trucks. Here’s a better solution.   (Update:   One thing I know about the internet is that you can’t always trust the information that’s out there…..even when you put it out there yourself!  After writing this article last night, I did some more poking around this morning, and discovered some things about arch bar trucks that I didn’t know….or had forgotten.  See below.)
I was assuming that the flat bar on an arch bar truck needed to go at the bottom, like this illustration.
As I poked around, I was running into the term, “inverted arch bar truck”, and that made me curious. Here is an illustration of an arch bar truck with the flat bar at the top.  Coincidentally, this is a photo from Bachmann of the exact truck I was writing about.
I started finding images of arch bar trucks with flat bars top and bottom…..
……and images with no flat bar at all! The one consistent factor in determining right side up or upside down seemed to be the direction of the diagonal bars leading down to the center springs. On all of these trucks, the diagonal bars sloped down towards the center springs.  But even more important for the truck to function properly is that the bolster has to exert downward pressure on the springs…springs beneath bolster ends should line them up correctly for you every time.  Therefore, what follows is a treatise on how to mount your trucks UPSIDE-DOWN.  C’est la vie!
In this article, I’m using Bachmann’s 29906 underframes, that are designed to give a car a lower more prototypical narrow gauge look. Then I am using Bachmann’s 29904 Arch Bar trucks, but if the trucks are applied right out of the package, they result in a coupler that is about 4 mm too low. I’m sure there are other ways of doing this, and as a matter of fact, I’ve messed around with filing or shimming the coupler housing, but this method is quite a bit faster than anything else I’ve tried.  First, I remove the arch bar trucks from their packaging, and put aside the two little washers and screws that come with them. I never throw anything away, so these little bits of hardware go in my coupler “tool box”. I purchased longer machine screws at Ace Hardware.  I think these are a number 2 or 3 shaft, and they are one-half inch long.
This is the Bachmann Arch Bar truck as it comes out of the package.  (And, upside-down, as it turned out.  If I had just thought about it a little more, the springs couldn’t function in this orientation!)
I like to hold truck side frames on the end of a paint brush to paint them. They fit tightly, don’t move around as you brush them, and you don’t wind up with paint all over your fingers.  I do eventually plan on investing in an air brush, but that’s a step I haven’t taken, yet. Here I’m painting the side frames with Polly Scale “Grimy Black”.
After the Polly Scale dries, I lightly dry brush with some Testor’s “Rust”.
I also do the wheels themselves with “Rust”. I paint both sides, but try to keep the paint off the treads. I have seen rigs you can buy to mask the treads for air brushing, so maybe I’ll invest in one of those when I get an air brush.  If a little paint gets on the treads, just wipe it off right away with a small piece of paper towel.  Holding the wheels with a good tweezers keeps the paint off your fingers.
After the paint is dry on both the wheels and the side frames, I dust them with some of Joel Bragdon’s marvelous weathering powders. Here I’ve used “Dust Bowl Brown”. Notice how the dry brushing and the powders have visually unified the whole truck, which started out as two distinctly different colors.
Now it’s time to look at some little plastic spacers I also bought at Ace Hardware. They are about a quarter of an inch tall, and have an interior opening that just fits over the little spacer that Bachmann provides with the car under-frames. It is important they they fit over this narrow end of Bachmann’s spacer because the hub on the under-frame bolster is the same size, and the white spacer needs to fit over it.
As it happens, half of one of these little white spacers is just about the exact height that I need to raise my couplers. I put the spacer in my hobby vice, and using my track saw that has a very fine blade, I cut the spacer as nearly in half as I can.
Here is what half of the spacer now looks like.
And here is the white spacer on top of the bolster hub.
Sorry about the focus on this picture; my camera’s auto-focus beam missed the small drill bit and spacer, but you can understand what I’m doing here….drilling the hole on the Bachmann spacer just a hair larger.
I found that by using a 5/64 drill bit, I could enlarge the hole just enough that the 1/2 inch screw would thread its own way in.
The screw is only partially inserted in this picture. I wanted to show the orientation of the black spacer, screw and side-frame.
Now the screw is tightened down on both the black and the white spacer, and I’m ready to snap the wheels back in place.  Then I’ll put the car on my coupler height gauge test track and see how I’m doing.
It worked!

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Cheap Flat Cars

One of the most ubiquitous, and useful cars on a railroad has always been the flatcar. Just about anything, as long as it isn’t granular or liquid can be transported on a flat car. Early tank cars were actually just a cylindrical tank mounted on a flat car. Beyond this, the basic flat car can be used as the foundation for any number of special use cars. See my article on the idler flats used with pipe gondolas in the San Juan oil fields in southwest Colorado. My operating system proposes to use both loaded and empty cars where the loads will show. I will need twice as many flat cars to manage this, so an inexpensive method of building a large number of flat cars is called for.
Bachmann sells separate parts for some of its equipment, and one of the items you can buy separately is a standard freight car under-frame, pictured above (they come three to a package).
You can also buy the trucks for freight cars separately. They come one pair to a package, and I would suggest you check the prices at “The Favorite Spot” on eBay. With these two elements as starting points, I can create a generic flat car for about half the cost of buying one already built.
The first step, as with any new car on your railroad, is to make sure that the couplers match up with your coupler height gauge. This is one of the most critical factors in good railroad operation, so I always take care of it first thing. I use the Kadee coupler height gauge for HO scale Kadee #5 couplers.
Adjusting the coupler height to match the gauge can sometimes involve a little filing or shimming at either the coupler pocket, or the bolster, but it must be done or your trains will be coming apart unexpectedly when you run them.
After that, I measured the under-frame to see what length pieces of basswood would be needed to create the side and end sills. I also measured and cut wood for the decking, and then I threw all the precut pieces into a mixture of isopropyl alcohol with a few drops of leather dye. For this project, I used two colors of dye…black and mahogany. If you cut your wood pieces to length before staining them, the cut ends get stained as well. Because it is alcohol based, the wood dries fairly quickly after being removed from this stain, and you can proceed to glue things together without a long wait. Here is the car with the end and side sills in place. You can also see the NBW castings on the end sill, and some more of those scratch-built plastic corner braces I have been creating.  I also have to point out an embarrassing mistake which I will need to correct on a number of cars…..the arch bar truck side frames are on upside down.  They got this way because I was paying more attention to the simplest way to fit the bolsters on to get the couplers to the right height…..so now I’m in for more fiddling, but I can’t leave the trucks upside-down!
Once the side and end sills were done, I started gluing on the decking. I’ve found that a product called “Aleene’s Tacky Glue” works really well for connecting wood to plastic. I’ve used it before on all my wood replacement decks on flat cars. It is non-toxic, water-based, faster drying than Elmer’s, and can glue just about anything to anything.
The flat car with deck completed, but still needs side stake pockets and brake detail.

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