A Saturday Afternoon Boxcar Build

While the Liberty Village layout is reasonably small, it still needs a healthy fleet of freight cars to come on and off the layout, if only so it doesn’t look the same at every operating session.  While the Ready-to-Run and Resin kits out there make some fantastic looking cars, and I have plenty of them both built and unbuilt for the layout, I’ll also need enough cars that look decent to fill sidings and such.  A few weeks ago, I was at Credit Valley Model Railroad to pick up a few things, and my friend Roger Chrysler who works there pointed out the recently arrived Accurail CPR Fowler wooden box cars.  By the 1950’s these cars would have been a bit long in the tooth, with the 33,000 the CPR owned being built between 1909 and 1915, but they were still going.

An Accurail kit. Nothing fancy.  A great cost effective way to populate a layout, or a starting point if you want to super detail it.

These cars were used in all kinds of service, but were primarily used for hauling grain in the era before covered hoppers.  On the layout, the mill building at Standard Brands would have received grains for milling for use in making their yeast cakes and other products.  Given the affordable price of these cars (under $25 Canadian) per car, I can have a fleet of 4 or 5 for the cost of 2 Ready-to-Run on resin kits, and, they go together in a couple of hours.  They need some new wheels (the cheap plastic wheels in the kits are junk), and Kadee couplers, but that will add about $5/car to the cost.  Accurail even sells a decal set by mail to re-number the cars so you can have a fleet, as they all come with the same number from the factory.

IMG_6002.JPGThe underframe and brake rigging assembled. Simple, enough detail that its there, but not super detailed or fiddly.

While I love building detailed kits, and I have a few fantastic ones from Elgin Car Shops to build for the layout, there is something to be said for a simple kit.  I like many grew up with a layout full of Athearn “Blue Box” kits, which weren’t even as detailed as this car.  They were cheap and plentiful and allowed you to populate a layout with all kinds of different cars without going broke.  While I’m in the middle of building the layout, cheap and simple projects like this to give me something to do in between big spurts of layout action as just what I need to keep me going and provide distraction when construction inevitably gets bogged down for some reason.

IMG_6007.JPGAnd a finished car, if I had wheel sets and couplers, it would be done done and ready to weather in about an hour and a half.  I’ll be picking up a few more of these, re-numbering them, then making them dirty to be the backdrop cars in my fleet.

I have a resin kit for the same kind of car, but with narrower doors, so eventually I’ll have one super detailed car and a fleet of less detailed ones.  I’ll hold off on weathering this newest project until I have them all done and can give them treatment at the same time to make them look used, but not identical.


One load of Tractors

It always feels good to “finish” a project.  I say that in quotations as there are a few spots where I’ll need to clean up some little bits of over-applied glue, and probably add a tiny bit more weathering, but I’ll do that down the road when I’m going to be painting/weathering other items as there is no point going through all the setup to do that for touchups on a car that’s going to sit in the display case for a while now until there is actually some track on the benchwork to test!

View of the flat car with all six tractors loaded up and chained down.

I’m really pleased with the effect of the chain strapping on the tractors, but it was a nightmare to get wrapped and installed. It’s one of those things that you’d think would get easier as you went along, but if anything it got harder as I was trying to not knock off the tractors already glued into place as I went.  I used A-Line 40 links per inch blackened chain, I think the effect is really good.  The chain is glued into the stake pockets on the side of the car.  Each tractor has three chains, one on each of the rear wheels, and one wrapped around the front wheel column.  The cars are blocked into place in front and behind the wheels, and though they aren’t in the pictures, I realized I’d forgotten the side blocking to keep the wheels from moving off the side of the car, which are now in place.

IMGP9338RawConv.jpgClose up view of the chains on the first two tractors while I was working on the loading.

Weathering a Flat Car

I wrote a few months back about a small project to add a load to an older Life-Like Proto 2000 flat car.  While I am not modelling the huge Massey-Harris (Massey-Ferguson) factory just to the northeast of my layout, I wanted to have a flat car with a load of new tractors on it that I could put in a consist to get in the way and be a nuisance from time to time.

IMG_5940.JPGBefore any weathering, nice plasticky shine on the 1990’s vintage model.

The car is perfectly good-looking in terms of detail, I bought it probably while I was in university or even before.  It’s maybe not as detailed as a modern RTR car, but with some weathering and a load of tractors on top, it will look just fine.  Not every piece of rolling stock needs to be super detailed and crazy to be effective.

I recently subscribed to Trainmasters.tv, a paid online video site that is affiliated with Model Railroad Hobbyist, a free online magazine.  Trainmasters is a subscription service, but so far in a couple of weeks, I’ve picked up some great tips and tricks, including the weathering techniques I applied to the flat car.  I’m not affiliated, but after years of hearing about it from friends, I’m glad I finally subscribed.  The “minimalist” weathering techniques are demonstrated by Joe Fugate in the video, and an article in the magazine.

Weathering the Wheels, applying a coat of Vallejo model air earth, and then burnt sienna Pan Pastels into the damp paint.
Weathering the truck frames, shiny black plastic; a coat of Vallejo earth brown; black Pan Pastels over that when dry, and then some more burnt sienna pan pastel for rust and to pick out the details.  All sealed with a coat of Dullcote spray.

I liked the video and the technique, its simple, and mostly uses supplies I already owned.  I haven’t done a lot of weathering, and this seemed like a good opportunity to try some techniques on a car.  I wanted to weather the flat car and have it look like it’s been used a bit.  The tractors on the car for the load will be bright and shiny and new, so the car should look a bit road weary, but not ruined at the same time.

Using the Armor All Window Cleaner as thinner as recommended in the technique seemed to work well, I’ve always had trouble thinning paints and such for doing washes, but this seemed to work for me as described and demonstrated.  It’s nice to find simple techniques that I can now experiment with as I go knowing that it seems to work for me on the first attempt.

Trying to show the weathering on the side and on the deck, not my best pictures unfortunately.

I wanted the deck to look a bit more worn and beaten up.  The plastic deck didn’t look terrible, but I gave it a couple of washes with the thinned grey I used to weather the sides, and when dry, worked some black pan pastels thinly across the deck to make it look a bit dirtier and beaten up.  When sprayed with the Dullcoat, the brown shades of the original factory paint job that attempted to have different shades of grey/brown boards came through just enough to create the effect I was looking for.


The car on its own with the weathering sealed and reassembled, and with the load of factory fresh tractors sat in place to see how the look.

Next steps for this car are to start installing the tractors and the blocks/load chains to hold them in place.  A couple of nights fiddling with tiny chain and swearing are clearly in my future!

The start of a small project – a Nuisance load

As we are still unpacking and setting up our new house, I did want to do some modelling, since I haven’t touched a model since mid-April with packing for the move.  For the Liberty Village layout, because of the space, I won’t be including the very large Massey-Harris or Inglis plants.  They would generate too much bulk traffic or loads/flows that don’t make sense given the amount of space I have.  That doesn’t mean I can’t have some carloads that are coming or going from them that show up every now and then, as a “nuisance” to the operator where it was marshaled between cars that needed to come into Liberty Village and rather than shunting it in the yard, it just comes along for the ride.

IMG_5593I bought two packs of Walthers Scenemaster tractors a few weeks ago. I wasn’t sure how many would fit on the flatcar. Looks like I can buy another pair and load 6 on.

The car I am using for this load is an old Life-like Proto 2000 flat car in Toronto Hamilton & Buffalo paint.  I bought four tractors (they come in 2-packs), as I wasn’t sure how many would fit, and didn’t want to have too many.  Now that I’ve got them out, I like the look of four on the car, but it almost feels underloaded.  I was looking at my friend Trevor Marshall’s post about his tractor load on his S-Scale Port Rowan layout, and he has 6 on the same length car, and the AAR (American Association of Railroads) directions from the 1940’s for loading tractors!


Painting extra detail onto the basic looking Walthers tractors to make them look more like Canadian built Massey-Harris equipment.

As I want the tractors to look like they are Massey-Harris built at the plant in Toronto, I am painting the wheels yellow, as Massey-Harris tractors had bright yellow wheels when new.  I suspect the Walthers tractors are a nominally a John Deere or International Harvester (they also come in green), so they are not an exact match for what was built-in Toronto, but with yellow wheels and some details like the exhaust picked out in silver, they will make a passable load of Massey-Harris equipment.

IMG_5598Starting to look at cutting pieces for the blocking.  This is confirming I really need to go out and buy a new strip cutter.  Mine is done for and I can’t get clean consistent and square cuts from it anymore! NorthWest Shortline Chopper 2 here I come!

This probably won’t be a project I finish quickly given the need to buy more tractors, and I can’t seem to find my fine scale chain (though I may wind up using super fine wire as it’s easier to work with than the chain is to tie them down, But it was nice to sit down at my new desk for an hour and actually work on a model again.  Who knows, maybe whenever I start preparing load cards and waybills for operation, I’ll tag this cars eventual destination as Port Rowan on Trevor’s current layout!

Dominion of Canada Shipping Out

There is nothing quite so satisfying as looking at a project, and saying, it’s done!  I am happy with the finished product, I don’t see any more big glaring issues that I need or want to resolve, its ready to hopefully go on display somewhere in the apartment (conversely, it’s very frustrating when I finish a project I’ve spent months working on, and realize I have no where for it to go on display and have to carefully pack it away).

I have reached the finish line on my model of former British Railways locomotive 60010 “Dominion of Canada” being shipped from Exporail in Montreal back to the UK in 2012 for a celebration of the 75th anniversary of the world speed record for steam set by Dominion of Canada’s sister locomotive Mallard.  Past postings on this project are here, here, here, here and here.

IMGP8542RawConv.jpgFinal touches on the flatcar deck, a coat of dullcote to seal the weathering and decals up before installing the locomotive.  Sadly, the locomotive hides half the pretty good-looking rust job on the deck, oh well, I know it’s there at least!

With all the major work done, what was left was painting and detailing and a bit of weathering.  I used Bragdon powders for the rust effects on the main deck.  I like this material as it comes in different shades, and has a fine adhesive worked into it, so you don’t necessarily have to seal it with dullcote.  I did in this case to be sure as the deck ends can get a bit of handling when moving the car and inserting/removing the span bolsters for the trucks, so it saves the weathering getting worn away.  I used an oil effect stain on the end decks on the span bolsters.  Based on the pictures i had, the main deck was a steel sheet, and rusted, where the end decks were more permanent and had a black/oily appearance on the diamondplate deck.

For the locomotive, I used 1/16″ lining tape to create the look of the fabric load straps being used to help hold the tarps on.  It remains a bit brighter than I’d like, even after dullcoting, but at the moment I’m out of options as any kind of wash would also stain the fabric “tarps” which I don’t want to have happen.

All tarped over with load straps made out of lining tape and ready to attach to the flatcar for shipping.

With the steel deck of the 3D printed flatcar weathered and sealed, and the locomotive tarped over, the major sub components were ready for final assembly.  Because I wanted to have the option down the road of removing the locomotive from the flatcar, I choose to use Woodland Scenics accent glue to attach the locomotive and chains to the deck.  Its designed for placing figures in a scene so you can move them later.  It dries clear and holds well, but it can be gentle prized away to remove glued down items.  This means the hold isn’t maybe as tight as it could be, but this is a display model, as I don’t have anywhere to run it, so this wasn’t my biggest concern.  For load chains, I used an injection molded chain from Lone Star Models, it has a representation of a load tightening unit on one end, and some chain that you can cut to length.  These were then touched with some paint and rust powders once installed to blend them in and take away the plasticy look.

The image galleries below shows the finished cars.  Sometime when I next beg an invite to someones house with a layout I will try to take some pictures of them running in scenery, but that could be some time, so for now, please enjoy the image below shot in the high tech bristleboard photo booth on top of our chest freezer!

QTTX 131344 & Dominion of Canada Locomotive

QTTX 131207 & Dominion of Canada Tender

Combined Shipment


Tarping a “Locomotive”

So I tried something new tonight.  I’m sure it’s been done before, as its very similar to the technique used to dope tissue paper by model aircraft builders.  In my efforts to replicate the appearance of tarps on top of the steam locomotive Dominion of Canada when it was shipped from Montreal to England in 2012 (see here), I settled upon using cheap fabric as it had the right lime green colour of the tarps used on the shipment.  I’ve spent several months mucking about on and off with the “tarps” to figure out how to make them and get them to sit right.  The goal for them was to look like they were draped, so the general shape of the locomotive is formed.

IMGP8154RawConvThe 3D printed HO Scale “wire frame” A4 locomotive.  As 95% of the locomotive was covered by tarps,I didn’t need to create the whole thing, just enough to give it shape.

I’ve finally gotten to a point where I was happy with the look of the tarps, so to glue them down, I’m trying a mix of white glue thined with water.  It should, in theory form a hard shell when it dries and form the shape around which it is being glued, at least, that’s my theory, my results may vary!!

Working from the ends in, covering the cab and nose with smaller sheets, then two larger sheets over the centre sections.

At this point, this post is a bit of a tease, as the material is still quite wet, so I’m watching to make sure it holds in place (hopefully) as it dries, and will make any adjustments after.  If this is a colossal failure, I’ll hopefully be able to take the material off and re-use the frame, or in a worst case scenario, I’ll be ordering another wireframe A4 from Shapeways and starting over.  Hopefully it doesn’t come to that, but this is a bit of a live and learn project as I’ve been making up techniques for what I’m doing as I go.

IMGP8156RawConv3D printed flatcar QTTX 131344, now with weathered decks, all set for a tarped over locomotive to be installed.

Fortunately, while the experiment in tarping a locomotive is an unknown, the experiment in rusting and weathering the flatcar deck has been more successful.  Ever since I re-designed the deck to be able to add structural rigidity (see here), I’ve been much happier with it, and slowly working on painting and decaling the 2nd edition.  I applied Bragdon Enterprises weathering powders to the deck tonight.  I find these powders nice to use for rust effects, as a fine adhesive is in the mix, so as you work them, they bond to the surface.  They are also forgiving, in that its easy to wipe away too much, or go back and add more to darken an effect.  Despite that, they will come off when a model is handled if they are not sealed, so now that it’s close to done, just needs a light spray of dullcoat to seal the rust and weathering powders,

Sometime later this week I’ll post an update on how things have gone with the tarps adhearing and if tonights project is a success, a failure, or a bit of both.