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.

This seems awfully modern…

What’s this then, its not from the 1950’s???

Every now and then, much as I build a plastic kit or do something else to work on skills, I work on models that aren’t actually for my layout. This is one that’s been kicking around for a couple of years since I picked up a decal set for the VIA Rail “Canada 150” wraps that ran in 2017. This is a moderate detail up project, using an unpowered Athearn “Blue Box” P42 locomotive that I got cheap at a flea market show. I don’t care if it doesn’t run, this is one for the display case as I really liked what VIA did for Canada’s 150th anniversary of confederation by decorating a number of locomotives and coaches with different names of Cities and Towns served by the train.

The project is a fun one, adding some rooftop and underbody details, the new high intensity headlight that isn’t in the old body, and adding some photo etched metal grills on the radiators at the rear. Then it will be a chance to practice on airbrushing and masking for painting. Not a high priority project, but one that as I’ve been cleaning and organizing around the layout room and workbench, I decided this week to make a start on for something to do aside from layout construction.

IMGP9501VIA Rail Canada P42 No.900 leads a train eastbound near Newtonville Ontario on June 26, 2017 showing off the “Canada 150” wrap.

When all Glues have failed you…

Learning, this is at the end of the day, a hobby about learning. Learning about prototypes, how to build things, how things work, how to get things done. There are so many ways people do things out there. I’ve previously written about a side project of an HO Scale police car I was building with LED lights. I’ve had nothing but problems with this project. I’ve mangled two sets of the fantastic LED lighting units from Evans Design LEDs. So what did I do, I recently ordered a third set!!

Hey, we’re looking like a police car again with flashing lights hidden inside the vehicle.

So, when I got the package on Wednesday this week, the LED set has been modified, instead of being pre connected to a giant hub, each string was separate, and once they were run instead of having a giant nest on the end of the wire, I’d have to wire them up myself. I thought, this would make life easier for maneuvering, and I was right. What was still going wrong, was all my technique for trying to install the LEDs and get them to hold in place. I was using LED wax, trying CA glue, just nothing. Then I thought of a product that was on my to try list for a while after seing how useful it was from friends. A product called Bondic, which, as they are quite clear, is not a glue. What it is, is a Ultraviolet (UV) light cured plastic. It comes in a dispenser with a UV LED, and you put a little bit of the liquid out, and hit it with the LED for 4 seconds, and it becomes solid. It may not be a glue, but it works like one when it comes to affixing LEDs inside a model. Now you only get one shot at it, so you need to be sure, but so long as you take your time, it works well.

The Bondic kit, and the inside of the police car with the wires Bondic’d? into place.

Its a product that takes some learning, as you need to build it up in thin layers if you need to fill a large area, as it only cures where the UV light can hit it, you can’t use it in a place where you can’t get the UV light to shine in, and if the layer is too thick, the top will harden and the interior won’t, but it’s absolutely fantastic to use. Saying all that about needing to learn, this lunkhead blasted ahead at 11pm on a Wednesday night to use it on a project after he got home from his Rec Soccer game as he was so frustraited at the project he either wanted it done, or dumpstered. As the short videos below show, the lighting now qualifies as done!! Some cleanup on the model, paint the bright red interior dark like a Toronto police car, and then decals and install. Hurray for progress!!



A CPR U3e 0-6-0 Switcher – A Project for Liberty Village

I mentioned back in April in a post about learning how the railroads served Liberty Village that a friend had gifted me half a Walthers/Life-Like Proto 2000 0-6-0 steam locomotive that very closely matches the dimensions of the CPR U3e class that worked in Toronto in the 1950’s.  I say half, as he wasn’t able to give me a tender.  Today, at the Mississauga Model Railroad Flea Market, I was able to buy a correct CPR Tender for the U3e locomotive.  Another vendor had a brass CPR tender that was missing the locomotive.  Put the two together, and I now have a plastic locomotive that I can strip down and modify the details on, and a brass tender that I can disassemble to add electrical pickups and a DCC decoder into.  I’ve been assembling the needed detail parts for the locomotive and to build the tender from scratch, but now I don’t have to scratch build the tender. I can focus on the engine and the electronics to make a reliable operating engine.

Brass_TenderIt looks something like a U3e, and will look a lot more like it by the time I’m done modifying it. May be while still before it gets to the top of the to-do pile, but it will get there.

It was a nice find at the show, and at a price where using it was light years better than the time and effort to build one in this case, as when I start working on the project in earnest, it has another big head start with the tender I now have.



Modern HO Scale Vehicles for 587 Yonge St.

One of the bigger gaps in the model railroad world is modern (really 1980’s onwards) cars for layouts.  If you model the 1950’s and 60’s, finding cars and trucks to populate your scene is relatively easy in terms of both ready to plant cars, and a variety of models in white metal or resin.  For the diorama of 587 Yonge Street I am building, its set circa 2016 before the building was demolished.  This poses a bit of a problem, as suitably generic cars appropriate for the era can be hard to find.  I’ve never bought any as my previous and future layout as planned are set in the 1950’s.  The only modern car I have ever bought was an Atlas 1996 Ford Taurus, and that’s only because my 2nd car was a used silver 1996 Ford Taurus my parents helped me purchase me in university to replace a life expired hand me down 1986 Mercury Sable!!

IMG_4949.JPGYup, I bought this years ago when I owned a silver 1996 Ford Taurus. Now it has a home on a diorama project.

So, with that, I’ve been searching online and at shows in recent months for a couple of more modern vehicles.  One was easy, one of the Rapido Trains GMC “New Look” buses in the modern TTC Scheme.  While these were retired by 2016, it’s a high quality modern transit vehicle that helps clearly set the scene as being Toronto.

IMGP4954RawConvNothing says Toronto like the TTC. A Rapido “New Look” bus in the modern TTC paint scheme.

While thinking about options, I decided that I wanted to have a modern police car in the scene.  After some searching, I found a few sources for Ford Crown Victoria’s, which currently form the backbone of the Toronto Police’s fleet, though they are slowly being retired after production of the Crown Vic ceased in 2012.  The Toronto Police retire cruisers after 5 years, but they bought a big surplus of Crown Victoria’s in 2011 and their last “new” one entered service in 2015, so they’ll be gone by sometime in 2020 if things go to plan.

IMGP6865RawConvModern Ford Crown Victoria Police Car in HO Scale from “Cop Car Collection”

There are a few different models in HO Scale for the Crown Victoria out there.  They represent different variants of the car, as there were subtle design changes over the years.  I was also looking for one that would be easily modified to add LED lighting to the car.  I figure why make the effort if I wasn’t going to go all out with it.  I eventually settled on a model from a company called “Cop Car Collection”, and found an eBay seller with old new stock of them going cheap.  When it arrived, I was both pleasantly surprised by the quality of the car, but the ease with which the all plastic car came apart, and the room inside for hiding lights and wiring.  All pluses for my project!!

IMGP6869RawConvCop Car Collection Crown Victoria stripped down to its parts for paint stripping the markings off the car

The car easily pulled apart, with nothing being glued together, its all pre-fit tight parts.  This meant I could put the body into some paint stripper, and the police markings quickly came off.  For lights, I ordered a set of pre-wired flashers from Evan Designs in the US.  The set contains a pair of headlights and taillights, and a pair of bulbs for the roof.  You can request different colour combinations for the roof.  Over the past few nights I’ve been slowly working on figuring out how I am going to get the LED’s installed and set in place.  The following videos show the work and the lighting effect better than pictures can.

Working on getting the LED roof lights into the right position for the roof light bar.

Re-assembled with the roof light bar installed and being held in place while the glue sets.

Flashing front headlights installed.  Just the rear tail light flashers to go, then I can get the wiring adjusted for installing on the layout.

I’ve got the front headlights and roof light bar installed.  For the light bar, I’m using a set sold by Herpa to hold the LEDs in place, when they aren’t on it looks like a modern light bar, and disguises the LED’s a bit.

I have decals on order from a small supplier of custom printed police decals for modellers to get the Toronto Police graphics onto the car.  In order to minimize handling after the decals are on, I wanted to have the lighting installed first.

I think for the diorama I want one more modern vehicle.  They are surprisingly difficult to find generic everyday cars.  Everything is either a truck/work vehicle, or a high end luxury car.  Good thing I’m not in any rush.  Sooner or later at a train show somewhere in the province I’ll find one.

EDIT: Update 1 March 8@9:30am

I hate being ham fisted.  I broke one of the battery leads off the wiring last night after installing the rear lights (and it looked so good with all the lights in too, didn’t get a video before I broke it 😦  ), and my initial efforts to fix it clearly didn’t work.  I’m waiting to hear back from Evans if my attempt at re-soldering the lead has somehow potentially melted something else in the wiring. Depending on their response, I’m either going to need to order a new set of lights, see if I can solder it back together right, or pass it off to one of my more electrically inclined friends to see if they can fix is.  Blah.

Damaged lead on left after cutting away heat shrink protection on lighting rig, and my re-soldered but now not working repair attempt on the right.

Update 2 March 8@3:30pm

Got an email back from Evan Designs. Basically what I screwed up can’t easily be fixed, that’s why the wiring rig is so heavily glued and protected with heat shrink (aka I broke it good, stupid fumbling around).   Going to get a replacement sent though, so my project is only setback and not killed.  The great customer service is appreciated as Evan Design is really fast at replying to queries on my orders in the past, and now my self caused issues with the product. Nice to know that there are still companies out there willing to help their customers!

Research Research Research

Model Railroading is a hobby of research as much as it is of doing.  At least it is if you area “Prototype Modeller” who wants to ensure their models are as accurate a representation of what we are modelling as can be achieved in a scale model.  I spend a lot of time in libraries, archives, scouring online for information and pictures about models that I’m working on.  This is OK, as I love research and gaining knowledge.  It keeps me inspired to do better at my modelling by having as much information as possible before I start a project.

This means that modellers tend to have a lot of books and photographs around, as we are constantly looking for information and references for what we are building.  Last week while I was out to dinner with a group of modellers, a potential simultaneous build project to modify a ready-to-run steam locomotive to be more accurate to its Canadian National prototype came up.  With motivation, I finally went out and bought a book that I should have bought when it came out in 2013, “Canadian National Steam”, a book which provides as complete a history as likely will ever be possible of every steam locomotive owned by Canadian National Railways.

IMG_4436.JPGCanadian National Steam published by Railfare DC Books.  This is Volume 1, an overview and details on different aspects.  Volumes 2-8 are detailed rosters of different wheel arrangements, with lots of pictures and details of when major modifications to the locomotives were made.

Budget considerations dictated that for the moment, I bought Volume 1 and one roster book, though I should have at least 6 of the 7 roster books eventually.  I’m not sure I need Volume 2 on oddballs and Newfoundland.

Like most modellers I know, the last thing I need is another project to be added to my pile, and I’ve written about my stack of projects in the past.  Despite that, this would be a different project, a chance to collaborate with a friend on something I’ve wanted to do for a while with the locomotive I already own.  I only need to settle on which specific locomotive I am going to model, then find the appropriate detail parts to update and improve the model.  As part of this project, it will give me the opportunity to work on my electronic skills as well, as the headlight LED in the locomotive is a sickly shade of green light, and I’ll be installing DCC and sound, once I make sense of the non-standard 9 Pin plug on the locomotive and how to re-wire it for an ESU Loksound decoder!

IMG_4435Fergie “helping” with my research in one of the Roster volumes of Canadian National Steam. I think she felt it was bedtime and I should stop reading and start providing a place for her to cuddle in the night.

The good news is that I am contemplating this project the weekend before one of the larger train shows in the area, the Hamilton & Ancaster Model Train Show (formerly the TH&B Society Flea Market).  This show happens twice a year, in January and November.  The next two are Sunday November 12, 2017 and Sunday January 28, 2018.  I try to go to both, but winter roads can make the January one iffy, so whenever possible I go to the November Show.  I went with friends last year and hopefully will do so again.  The show is a good chance for me to start searching for detail parts and supplies for new and ongoing projects, as the show tends to have lots of these available.  I’ll post somewhere in the future about the specifics of the locomotive project I’m going to be working on.  For now its just the research phase!!