An Auxiliary Train for Liberty Village

Recently I built one of the Tichy Trains 40′ flat car kits. It was such a well designed kit and a joy to build, that it finally pushed me over the top to take on a project I’ve thought about for years, but never pulled the trigger on buying. So, out I went onto the interwebs with stores closed, and ordered a Tichy 120 Ton Crane and Boom Car kit to build an auxiliary train to go with the flat car and its junk box.

Both Canadian National and Canadian Pacific had very similar cranes, in fact, in my Tuesday Train post last week, the CPR crane at the New Brunswick Railway Museum is a 100 Ton American Crane rail crane, but as I’d already gone down the road of starting a CN auxiliary, I was in for this to be a CNR recovery train. That said, this project was so much fun, I could actually see myself buying another and doing a CPR one as well!

I didn’t take a lot of pictures of the early part of the build. These show the parts strewn about as i got started, the ugly looking”Steel” roof before I sanded it down to turn it into tar paper & add wood roof walks, and the boom car cabin walls being modified to add side windows to match CN prototype reference photos.

Having found photographs of both sides (here and here) of CNR 50031, a 100 Ton crane of a similar design that was assigned to the Toronto Auxiliary out of Mimico, I decided to make modifications to the cab of the crane, to enclose it which would go almost all the way to making the model match the Mimico crane. There are some small visual differences in the boom and how its rigged from the pictures, but I decided I could live with my crane being a 90% prototype model based on the information I have, as this isn’t a core piece of layout equipment, but something to look cool and fill some space in staging, and occasionally run out when I want to have some fun with something different.

I also made changes to the boom car. The roof in the kit is frankly, one of the few ugly bits, a blobby styrene attempt to be steel, with thick plastic roof walks. Looking at pictures of CN Boom cars, they tended to have side windows in the cabs, so those needed to be added, and the roofs looked to be tar-paper or something similar, and have wood roof walks. All of these as can be seen in the pictures were easy changes. Take a chisel blade in an xacto knife to remove the ribs on the roof (I left the standoffs for the roof walk, they were useful, and glue on some of my chosen tar-paper material, 600 grit sandpaper! A white metal casting caboose chimney added on completed the roof improvements on the boom car.

Working to enclose the cab. After assembling the sub components, I rolled 0.020″ styrene to match the body curves, and started adding windows and doors to match the prototype photos as best I could.

I can’t say enough how well designed the Tichy crane kit is. It went together so nicely, and was well organized into sprues of parts for sub assemblies to make putting it together into the sub components for painting a dream. I wish all kits were this well thought out and with nice molds. And this kit is by most standards, ancient, I don’t know how long it’s been on the market, but I know its been out there a very long time.

Working on the cab enclosure, and starting the painting process with some primer.

For the boom, similar to the flatcar, rather than using styrene deck walls, I made my own from strip wood. This let me weather them with stains, so the inside looks like weathered wood, then spray the outside boxcar red like the rest of the car before adding decals. I have decaled the car and crane using decals from three different Black Cat Publishing sets, a CN Crane Set, a CN Work Car Set, and the leftovers from the flat car set. The only wording I had to do by individual letters from a letter sheet was the “Toronto” on the boom tender “Toronto Auxiliary” label, which was good as one thing I hate is lettering with individual numbers and letters!!

Weathering the steel deck plates on the boom car with Bragdon Powders.

I weathered the steel deck on the boom car using the same technique as on my Dominion of Canada model, Bragdon weathering powders. They have a variety of rust and grime shades, and they have a built in adhesive component, so they stick to parts before sealing. I did still flat coat the finished car to blend and hold, just so the little bit of powder that can still come off even with the adhesive is stopped. I find it tends to get onto your fingers and wind up on things you don’t want rusty fingerprints on if you don’t seal it!

One of the nice aspects of this kits design, being modules for painting ease, means I could paint parts and rig the boom before I had received the detail parts (steam generator on roof, wire for ladders) and paint the cab later.

I will say, in all honesty, one part of building a crane kit is absolutely terrible, even on a well designed kit like this, rigging the cables on the boom. It sucked. It is what it is, but its a fiddly part of the project that took a couple of stabs as I would start, and start getting caught on the wrong pulleys or having the thread cable cross, and I just needed to stop and walk away.

Mostly finished and on the layout in CN Staging. A few paint touchups, and retaining chains between the boom and the frame of the crane, then some weathering!

All in all, this was a fun project, it is a really well designed kit, and anyone reading who has ever wanted a crane for their layout, in my opinion this is the way to go. In due course it will get some touchups and weathering, but for now, it looks good sitting at the back of staging waiting on someone putting a car in the dirt that they can’t just rerail by dragging it back onto the rails!

The Hazards of Second Hand Kits

Sometimes you get a deal on something and it isn’t actually a deal. One of the fleet of freight cars I’ve been working on is a Kaslo Shops Canadian Pacific Railway 36′ Fowler Boxcar. Its actually a better kit than I’ve given it credit for, though the instructions aren’t the best I’ve ever had to work with.

A lot of the problems with the kit, have actually been because a previous owner (I bought the kit at a model railroad flea market, I have no idea if I bought mistakes from them, or passed on mistakes that they bought). As I’ve been working on the kit, I discovered that castings were missing, or damaged. At some point, parts of the car around the roof line that are actually part of the car, but could be mistaken for flash from the resin casting were partially cut away, So I’ve had to rebuild parts of the car, and source new parts. That said, the car is now about 98% ready for paint. I’m just waiting on an order of parts including door stops and supports to replace missing castings, then it will be off to paint.

Shots of the almost finished body of the Kaslo CPR Fowler kit.

The other part of my problem, is I hadn’t been planning on starting the freight car kits anytime soon, wasn’t really at the top of my to do pile, but given the extra amount of spare time with staying home and not commuting to work (gets me almost 3 hours a day to model I didn’t have before), so I didn’t have phosphor bronze wire in the sizes I needed to do brake lines and mechanisms and such. Those arrived last weekend, so all the levers and piping have now been done to provide underbody detail on the car.

IMG_2413Underbody details at pretty much the maximum amount of effort I’m willing to make on piping and such.

This will be one of several Fowler cars on the layout. I have a couple of CPR Accurail kits that while basic, look decent in the background (or will once I weather them), this car, and I have a Speedwitch Media Canadian National 5′ Door version on order. There were thousands of these 36′ boxcars built for CN and CP, and while they were nearing the end in the 1950’s era I model, they were still hard at work and earning their keep.

A gondola box and Finishing a Flatcar

As I’ve decided to build a small auxiliary train, with a crane, boom car and service car, I decided to turn the 40′ Tichy flat car kit I’m building as part of this, as there isn’t really an industry on the layout that used flat cars.

Building a box for the deck of the flatcar. Using the stake pockets in the car to support it.

To build the box, I dove into my strip wood drawer, and found appropriate sized pieces of scale lumber. 4×4’s for the supports, to be inserted into the stake pockets, and 2×6’s for the side panels. The box is a simple rectangle. I built it in place with the stake pocket supports, I wasn’t going for super accuracy, but a home built look as this would have been built by shop staff as needed.

Finished box, then staining and weathering the wood before painting the outside boxcar red to match the flat car.

With the box finished, I wanted it to look beaten up, but not as weathered as the car deck. I figure a box like this in the pictures I’ve seen would have been a later addition, so beaten up, but not as old and beaten up.

IMG_2402Decals for the flat car, using a random number in the series CNR service cars seemed to be in.

I weathered the box with a commercial stain, then a mix of Isopropyl Alcohol and India Ink I keep around for darkening and making things look grungy. I had decals for Canadian National Flat Cars from Black Cat Publishing. The set provides a range of decals for cars in different eras. I don’t have a specific prototype for this car, so I just made up a number in the range of CN Work Train cars from pictures I’ve found.

Finished build on the layout, just need to give it a dullcote then move onto weathering.

I’m quite happy with this car, for an older kit, the Tichy kit is really well designed and engineered. I’m going to weather this car more, but want to do all the cars in the auxiliary train together so they resemble cars that have been working together. For now, its another car down on the pile on the workbench to eventually have enough cars to operate the layout.

Painting a Flatcar

In the paint booth spraying boxcar red and light grey on the flatcar.

I wrote last week about the many freight car kits I am building. The first of these has made it to the paint booth, the 40′ Tichy Flat Car. This is a gorgeous little kit, it goes together well, and looks fantastic, and a coat of paint helps to bring out the details. Its nice and simple to paint too, Boxcar red overall, and then spray the deck light grey to be a base for a weathered wood deck surface.

Weathering the wooden deck. Thinned Vallejo greys and browns, with each board individually painted.

I’ve painted wood decks before, to varying degrees of success. I recalled seeing my friend Ryan’s comment’s on his build of this Tichy kit, and thinking that it sounded like a more successful technique than my past efforts. In short, a number of different shades of grey and brown are thinned, and each board on the deck is painted individually with a microbrush.

Finished deck, and on the layout on a test run. The car is super light and needs more weight.

Once the boards had dried, I did multiple washes. A couple with a Vallejo war gaming grey wash (which I added some more water to to thin further), and then a mix of Isopropyl Alcohol and India Ink that I made years ago and have around for general weathering. I am ecstatic with how the deck came out. I am going to use this car in a model of an Auxiliary Train with a rail crane, not really for the layout, just something I’ve always wanted to do, so I’m going to work up a wood gondola box as I’ve seen in some pictures of cars like this. That will hopefully let me add some weight, but I don’t want to put so much junk in it that you can’t see the deck! That will be a post for another day. I need to get some decals on the car, and give it a coat of flat finish, but that will be a weekend project.


Building a Fleet of Freight Car Kits

Compared to many, I don’t have an overly full project drawer/shelf/closet of freight car kits to build, but I’ve got a dozen, and in the past few weeks, I’ve started on five of them. I’ve written in the past about how much rolling stock I think I need, and making a dent in the kit drawer will make me feel better about inevitable future kit purchases!! Presnetly underway are two “mini-kits” from my friend Ryan’s company National Scale Car, one full resin kit from my friend Pierre’s Yarmouth Model Works, a Kaslo Shops kit and a Tichy Train Group kit. I’ll talk a little about each of these below, as I am in various stages of the builds, and as I noted earlier today, discovering all kinds of things I’m out of, like phospher bronze wire for making brake lines!! All needed supplies I’ve uncovered thus far are on order at least, and there is plenty I can do to advance kits while I wait on parts arriving.

National Scale Car CN & CP 10′-6″ NSC3 End Mini Kits

Ryan’s kits are “Mini Kits”, which allow you to use a commercially available kit as the core, and he provides accurate resin cast doors, car ends, and instructions on making other changes to make a more accurate representation of the car you are modelling. I have six of his mini-kits in total, four of them are for 10′-6″ interior height boxcars, two for Canadian National and two for Canadian Pacific. The other two kits I have are for 10′ interior height cars from US railroads for some variety. The donor kits are made by Intermountain Railway, and build up quite nicely.

For the Canadian cars, the Intermountain roofs in the kit are not right, but they and others sell the correct styles of roof, so these are also being added, along with etched roof walks from Yarmouth Model Works and Tichy brake components. When done, these will be four backbone cars of the fleet given the hundreds of them owned by CNR and CPR.

Yarmouth Model Works YM-104 40′ Wabash 12 Panel Welded Boxcar

Pierre’s kits are fantastic, they have everything you need except for paint, glue and couplers, and fill niches that big manufacturers in the ready-to-run market will never touch. I have four of his kits, and I want more of them as money permits!

This car is the first one where he attempted to capture the wavy look of welded cars where the heat from the welding warps the metal carbodies. You can see it in the picture below, I know its hard to keep it visible when the car is finished and painted, but it looks really cool, so hopefully I can keep it. I haven’t done much work on this other than test fitting things and mounting the trucks temporarily, but it looks like it will build up nicely based on the quality of the resin and etched parts, and the clarity of the instructions.


Kaslo Shops HK-11 36′ Fowler Boxcar

The Kaso kit is a model of a car that the CPR and CNR had thousands of, 36′ wood box cars to the Fowler pattern design. I have several Accurail Fowlers which are cheap and cheerful fleet builders. This car should be a slightly higher fidelity one, though I bought it second hand at a flea market for $15.00, and the original owner had started to build it and made some missteps. I’ve been able to undo some of them, others I am still working on, but at this point, I’m comfortable that it will at least be a half decent looking car, even if I determine in time that it will become a siding filler on the layout. Its good practice on kit building, and overcoming problems with a kit and project.

Tichy Train Group 4021 – 40′ Flat Car

The Tichy kit is one that has been around for ages. Ryan and I found a guy selling them for $4.00 at a flea market a couple of years ago. We each bought one. I wish the guy had more, but I don’t really need a fleet of flatcars. I suspect in time I will track down a Tichy 120-Ton Steam Crane and Boom Car, and build a representation of the Mimico Auxiliary train, I doubt there was ever a derailment bad enough in Liberty to have needed to try and bring the rail based crane in (I’m not sure it would have made the curves into the area), but hey, it will look good in staging or in the display case.

The kit itself is really nice, injection moulded styrene and goes together easily and with minimal fuss. Following along with Ryan’s notes here on making the car more like a Grand Trunk/Central Vermont prototype, and from pictures of similar vintage CN cars, I removed the ribs from the stake pockets. I have decals for CN flatcars coming, and will hopefully be finishing the painting of the car this long weekend, with decals and weathering to follow.

That leaves 7 kit projects un-started in the drawer, I will probably start the other two mini kits for the CN and CP cars when they arrive, as then I can paint the two cars for each railroad at the same time with the same base paint. Its been nice to see a bunch of kits come to life, the beige boxes in the drawer aren’t nearly as much fun as the kits are when you get to working on them!

IMG_21935 kits in various states of progress in the CN staging yard, their storage location off the workbench when I’m not actively advancing them.

Helping a Friend with a Side Project

A friend and co-worker Adam who is also an N-scale model railroader had been asking me for some help with a project, as he doesn’t have any experience airbrushing, or facilities to do so. Ordinarily, I would suggest for teaching I would have gotten together on more than one occasion, but he has a bit of a rush to finish this, so I told him if he dropped the parts off to me at work last week, I could prep and prime them, and he can come over to do the finish airbrushing of colour next week and take everything home to assemble.

Micro Trains N-scale Tie Crane, a part of a 3 pack of service gondolas they sell. The small print on the purchase is the crane is a “multimedia” kit. The largest part is 3D printed, but comes complete with the print raft attached still.

The project is a small crane that rides above gondolas, and can walk its way between cars that is used on MOW service. Its actually a pretty cool model, but when I was searching online after he told me about what he needed to work on, it wasn’t clear in any of the marketing material that part of what you are buying is a kit, along with the three weathered gondolas it comes with. I think this caught out Adam’s dad whose model this actually is too! Eventually, I found the instructions online, its pretty simple assembly. The parts are actually quite nice once the 3D print support material is removed, and the flash on the resin castings cleaned up. It even has a really nice etched claw for the tie grabber.

Conveniently, the only N-scale car I have is the Rapido Trains Mike McGrattan Memorial Car (RIP Mike). The Micro Trains tie loader fits it to check everything is ok after cleaning up the parts.

Since its snowing like crazy in Toronto today, and I was doing train stuff, I pulled out the spray booth and painted a few sets of wheels, and put a quick coat of primer on the parts for the crane. As I said, in a perfect world, Adam and I would have been able to schedule a couple of get togethers so he could prime and paint, but at least I can work with him on the painting, and of course, as Maintenance of Way equipment, he wants to paint it yellow, so he’s at least picked a hard colour to get right for his learning!!

IMG_1283Hit with primer, my work here is done other than to show Adam his way around my airbrush Monday night.