CNR “A-3” Pre-war Flat Cars (Scratch-bashing Tichy #4021)

CN #651731 – BLT. 1.19 for the CNor in Trenton, NS, sold to CN in the 1920s, is seen on spot at the sawmill on Trevor Delaneys yet to be named layout. We are so lucky to be doing as well as we are in terms of COVID-19 in PEI; we are allowed to have indoor gatherings of up to ten people, which allows us to continue to have operating and work sessions for the time being.

In the early 1920s, during the founding years of the Canadian National Railway, a wide array of freight and passenger equipment was inherited from its predecessors. Amongst these inherited cars was a venerable fleet of flat cars of steel construction, initially built for Canadian Northern Railway (CNor), Canadian Government Railways (CGR) and Grand Trunk (GT).

These steel cars were the subject of a duo of Stafford Swain articles entitled “CNR Pre-War Steel Flat Cars – Part I” [CN Lines Vol 5, N3 – focuses mainly on prototype information] and “CNR Pre-War Steel Flat Cars – Part 2” [CN Lines Vol 5, N4 – focuses primarily on building the cars in HO scale, includes scale drawings].

As I’ve mentioned before, you can buy a thumb drive that contains every single back issue of CN Lines, and these two articles were worth the price alone.

The articles cover the A-1, A-2, A-3, A-4, B-1, B-2, C-1 and D-1 series cars- all of which can be built with relative ease from Tichy #4021, Athearn donor cars, or just straight up scratch-built.

I decided to build two “A-3” cars: #651731 from the CNor order and #652125 from the CGR order, using Tichy #4021 as a starting point. Both orders were handled by the Eastern Car Company of Trenton, NS, just 66 kilometres as the crow flies from Vernon River, PE, in the winter of 1918 / 1919.

I began by first installing 2×8″ styrene strip substrates in substitution for the kits supplied side sills. Next, I raised the height of the car by 6″ by first installing the kits provided truck bolsters and then a 6″ styrene block at the pivot point of the bolster. I also added a 6″ styrene block where the coupler pockets would later be installed.

At this point, I used a CAD program to create and print a template to aid in the positioning of the stake pockets on the scratch-built side 1×10″ sills. The spacing measurements for the stake pockets are provided in Stafford’s article.

The kits provided stake pockets are inaccurate for the CN prototype as supplied. This was remedied by filing off the details on the front of the pockets while still attached to the sprue. After this was done, I used the previously mentioned template taped to a sheet of glass to aid the placement and installation of 13 stake pockets per sill.

Once I had 4 side sills created, and I was sure the glue was dry, I went back with a #17 chisel blade and removed the remaining “u-bolt” details from the top and bottom sides of each stake pocket. With all of these details removed and a coat of Tamiya Extra Thin styrene cement quickly applied over the entire pocket to dissolve any leftover detail fragments and “melt” everything together, the stake pockets now more closely resembled the cast metal pockets of the CN prototype.

With the significant structural work of the side sills complete, I glued them to the car and then drilled out the holes for the grab irons. At this time I also drilled out end pockets in the cars decking. To clarify: the reason I used a 2×8″ strip for the substrate and then 1×10″ for the actual sill was to create the illusion of a more “thin” side sill if the car is viewed from track level while still maintaining the overall thickness of the kits supplied sills.

Visible are the guide sheet I made along with the new side sills and the styrene blocks used to raise the height of the car.

Next, I began work on modifying the supplied centre sill.

I began by filling in the notches in the kits sill sides that normally accept the kits’ super deep cross-bearers. After these “notches” were filled in with styrene and filed level, I installed the centre sill.

After the centre sill was installed, the next task was to establish an AB brake system and its piping in place of the kits provided K system. Because all of the drawings in the article have the K system, I had to turn to prototype photos to figure out where everything went. I mounted the brake cylinder to the mounting bracket for the K system, and then with a prototype photo, figured out the location of the air tanks. With these two locations known, it was easy to extrapolate the location of the triple valve.

I added the kits provided weight at this time and also added some lead shot in an attempt to add even more weight to the car. The prototypes more shallow cross-bearers were fashioned from sheet styrene and installed. (Again, the measurements for the replacement cross-bearers were in the article.)

Center sills with bottom notches filled in.

Will the side-sills and centre sills installed in both cars, it was time to make the new ends. For this, I used a 2×10″ styrene strip for the “web” and a piece of 1×4″ styrene on the top and bottom of it to create the flanges. These new ends were glued to the car ends, and I drilled in the holes for the grabs as well. At this point, I took the time to install the retainer detail on the car’s side and placard and defect boards as well as the car’s “end caps,”; all with .005″ styrene.

With the construction of both cars primarily completed, the only remaining significant structural details to add were the brake staff, cut bars, coupler pockets, grab irons and stirrups.

Before priming the cars, I used Archer rivet decals to complete the look of the scratch-built car sides, ends, and new cross-bearers.

After the cars were primed with Tamiya Fine Surface Primer, I painted them with my go-to mix of Vallejo Model Air paints for CN #11 red. I masked off the decking and sprayed the decks with Tamiya Wood Deck Tan, and once all of this had time to dry, it all got a coating of Vallejo Gloss Varnish.

Lettering in progress.

The cars were then lettered using the data charts from the articles. Since both cars were from different orders, they required different data, which needed some cobbling of the Black Cat Decals. Once I was satisfied with the lettering, the cars again got a coat of Vallejo Gloss and then Matt.

Pan pastels were applied to the decking using the same method I described in my previous post. I did this time, however, have a happy accident. After applying the initial coating of pastels, I decided I overdid it and went to wash them off the car. While I was gently scrubbing the decking with my thumb while holding the vehicles under the sink, I realized this actually created just the effect I wanted, so I stopped washing the pastels off and let the cars dry as is before giving a final coat of Vallejo Matt. After the matt dried there was only one final detail to install: rubber air hoses by Hi-Tech Details.

Overall I am very satisfied with how these two flat cars turned out.

I have already begun a scratch build of a “Group C” car, which is already well along and should be the subject of a blog post soon / someday.

C

The Best $50 You Can Spend In Canadian Prototype Model Railroading.

The CNRHA (Canadian National Railway Historical Society) and its magazine, “CN Lines,” are undoubtedly well-known entities within Canadian modelling circles.

However, you may not have known that as of July 1st, 2020, you can now purchase a USB drive containing every single back issue of CN Lines for only $50. I sure didn’t, anyway.

That’s right. EVERY. SINGLE. BACK ISSUE on a USB stick for only $50.

This is undoubtedly among the best $50 I have spent in this hobby as a prototype modeller.

The back-issue USB drive paired with the free online index means that I now have over 32 years of accurate and relevant prototype information gathered within the CN Lines Magazine at my fingertips. This has already saved me a substantial amount of research time on my next project, two CNR 40ft flat cars to serve the Vernon River sawmill, which will be Tichy kits modified using a Stafford Swain article.

If you’re looking for a great source of prototype information as a Canadian modeller, look no further and order one of those USB sticks today.

I have no affiliation with CNRHA; I just can’t get over the value!

– CM

Scratch-building CN’s 40′ Wood End Bunker Reefers PT:5 [Underslung Charcoal Heaters & their Piping]

Small update coming at y’all- and while it’s small, the process behind this was large.

Last night, in the final hours of my 20s, I installed the underslung charcoal heaters and their piping onto Reefer cars’ underframe.

The heaters were resin copies I cast of a certain manufactures underslung charcoal heaters that I could not purchase individually from a kit. I cut a notch out of the previously installed Z-bracing and then affixed the heater right to the car floor with CA.

The piping was .032” Tichy PB Wire threaded through the car floor into small holes drilled into the heaters. I made the “T” joint by first filing the ends of the cut wire totally flat, then used masking tape to hold the wires together in the desired formation on top of some scrap wood. Flux was applied, and solder was liberally applied to the joint. I cleaned it up with 400 grit sandpaper, rubbing alcohol and a wire brush.

The bracing/strapping that holds the heaters to the car floor on the prototype will be installed after the final under-frame installation is made


One of the first things I had to consider before taking on this project (almost a year ago !!!) was the availability of certain parts that would be rather difficult to scratch build- the big concerns being the roof hatches and the underslung heaters.

Well, I was able to find suitable hatches to use (Details West RH-1003). Still, underslung heaters were going to be a different story.

I tried emailing a certain resin kit manufacture multiple times to see if I could purchase some of their cast underslung heaters that they include in their Reefer kits but received no response.

Second, I took to Shapeways to see what I could find. I placed an order with a certain shop for some heaters that looked promising, but when I received them- though they were nice, they just didn’t look as nice as the other manufacturer’s part. And that just couldn’t do.

So, as a last resort, I raided a couple of unbuilt 8 Hatch Reefer kits I have in the closet, got a casting kit at Great Hobbies and cast my own resin copies of the underslung heaters; something I’d never done before.

I’ll spare the casting process, but I’m happy with how they turned out. And while it was a minor headache to not just buy the parts I wanted, this turned out to be a great learning experience, and I’ve learned a new skill.

[A note on ethics: I wouldn’t condone doing something like this (even for personal use only) if the parts in question were still in print and/or readily available. You should always support hobby shops and manufacturers whenever possible. Don’t be a dink.]

PEIRwiki.ca

Well, to put it simply: the time has come.

The time has come for the PEIR (Prince Edward Island Railway) to have its own collaborative, indexed, searchable and accessible corner of the internet.

After a few years of on and off thought and consideration, and after seeing one previous attempt: I have taken it upon myself to follow in Steve Meredith’s footsteps (DARdpi.ca / DARwiki) and start a PEI Railway wiki website entitled the “PEIRwiki.”

With the PEIR, I’ve always found that while there is a vast amount of information out there, it’s all quite scattered. When I was new to the interest of railroading, I found this scattering of information daunting.

I want to change that.

I want anybody with even a passing interest in this railway to access detailed, accurate information. I also suspect this will augment my own research in the railway.

So with that said, I present to the world PEIRwiki.ca.

Anybody who is interested in or knows somebody who would be interested in contributing, please get in touch.

I dedicate this effort to Steve Hunter.

C.M.

The ties that bind…

Ok. So, before the world exploded my focus in Vernon River land was more or less on preparing for the laying of ties, ballast and track.

For a man who hasn’t even laid flex track before, you could imagine how deep of a daunting rabbit hole this could be.

It has been my full intent since Day 1 with not only this project it’s-self, but my modelling as a whole to hand lay my track. It just seems like the right thing to do and nothing looks exactly like wood, but actual wood.

Instead of just going in blind and starting to lay track on my actual bench work I figured it might be fun / a good idea to teach myself this group of skills by building a display / test track.

So that’s what I did.

I ordered a “Ultimate Track Sample Starter Pack” with Code 55 rail and 8ft ties from Proto87, snagged a 1×3 that a buddy of mine had from his old deck, got some 1/2in extruded foam left over from a different buddy’s garage build and got to work.

I’ll go over the actual test track it’s self another time. What I want to show off here are my ties.

Hunter Hughson has a great post on Weathering Ties with Acrylic paints over at his blog that I more or less followed to a tee, and man am I ever happy with how they turned out. The only thing I changed from his process was how I went about beating up the ties. Instead of a dental pick, chisel tip and #7 Exacto blades I used a dental pick and wire brush at the suggestion of Chris Mears.

I had the idea to perhaps switch it up and represent a later era with my test track; say the late 70s or early 80s, where tie plates would be more prevalent on the prototype [AKA a excuse to use more of the beautiful Proto87 tie plates that came with the sample pack]. However, I’m leaning back to sticking with the late 50s. I’d still perhaps throw a couple tie-plates down here and there on newer looking ties.

Next up will be ballasting. If I stay with the late 50s it’ll be cinders, if I go with the late 70s / early 80s it’ll be a mix of crushed rock.

C.M.

Scratch-building CN’s 40′ Wood End Bunker Reefers PT:4 [Rivets & installation of the centre sills, z-bracing and crossmembers]

Well, it’s been longer than I would have liked between updates.

This whole COVID-19 mess has certainly affected every one of us, and us in the aviation industry, especially in terms of employment. My employer has placed myself and roughly 15,000 other of my union brothers and sisters on off duty status, which has admittedly been hard to comprehend given how quickly all of this has erupted.

Without getting too personal, I’ll just say this whole mess really hasn’t left me with much motivation to write. However, as the dust of our new reality begins to settle, I’m starting to feel a little better. That said, this post isn’t nearly as beefy as I’d like it to be, and I must apologize.


Progress has continued on the reefers, and I’m really starting to get excited about where this project is headed. The fishbelly sills have been riveted with MicroMark surface decals and installed along with the z-bracing, cross-bearers, cross-members and train line.

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After installing the z-bracing (which I put on the wrong way somehow! whoops!), I used my UMM saw to cut through the bracing and installed the cross braces and cross members. I went with 4×4″ Evergreen for the cross members and used my Cricut Maker to cut the cross bearers from .030″ Evergreen sheet. The cross bearers will receive a 1×6″ cap over them after the floor is glued into the cars.

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With the sill, z-bracing and supports installed I figured now would probably be a good time to install the tramline as it needs to be threaded through the cross-bearers. I bent .020″ Tichy PB wire directly over top of the scaled down general arrangement drawings, cut it into two pieces and installed it into the car with CA. This was repeated for both cars.

IMG_1448

Another view of the under frame.

Next time, I intend to make a drill jig for the side and end grab irons using the engraving tip on my Cricut Maker. I plan to design the jig in 2D with CAD, engrave it onto a .010″ brass sheet (or a soda can), cut it out, fold it against a vice and then use my pin vice to punch the holes before using it to drill out for the grabs.

We’re all facing a lot of stress right now… I encourage you to take some time and work on or run your models. We all need to get our minds off of things. Please wash your hands and stay home.

CM

Scratch-building CN’s 40′ Wood End Bunker Reefers PT:3 [Fabricating Fishbelly Centre Sills and Z-Bracing]

After a brief break from the CNR Wood Reefer project, this weekend seemed like a good opportunity to get back to it; with the recommended social distancing and all. Might as well use a not-so-good situation to have some fun at least, right?

The next thing I needed before proceeding with the underframe of the car was Z-Bracing. The general arrangement drawings show two lengths of Z-bracing running end to end of the car. The problem I faced here was that Evergreen does not make Z-angle small enough, but I didn’t want to mail it in and use just a plain old strip in place of the Z-angle.

Luckily, while cruising around the internet looking for pictures of scratch-built fishbelly centre sills I happened across Chris van der Heide’s blog. Lone behold Chris had run into the same problem as me at one point and took the time to detail how he fabricated and used a jig to create his own Z-Angle stock in this post. I decided that this is how I would proceed.

The jig was not at all hard to make and the process of feeding the three strips of styrene (HO scale 1×3″ on the top and bottom and 1×2″ as the web) through the jig was made easier by brushing a little bit of powdered graphite into the hole as a lubricant.

IMG_1332

The final product.

As you can see the finished product is just as good as anything you could buy on the market. Thanks for your help Chris even though you may not know you helped! LOL. Make sure you check out his blog post for a better explanation of how this was done.

With the Z-Bracing out of the way the other major component needed for the underframe was the fish belly centre sill.

First, I used the scaled-down general arrangement plans as a guide to drawing the general shape of the sill plates in TinkerCad. Then, I used my Cricut Maker to cut the fish belly sill plates out of .030″ sheet styrene. The great advantage to using the Cricut for this purpose is that all of the sill plates will be accurate and of the identical measurement. One disadvantage is the cutter does create a bit of a burr around the cut but it is easily cleaned up by carefully using a single edge razor blade to slice it off. The Cricut Maker is an amazing machine and deserves a post of its own. I see a lot of potential for this machine in the hobby of model railroading…

After the sill plates were cut and cleaned up I added 1×6″ Strip to the bottom of the plates by pushing the strip and plate against 1-2-3 blocks and gluing them together. Then, I added 1×4″ strip to the top of the plate as well as 1×3″ along the bottom of the plate where it meets with the 1×6″ strip.

After all of the sill plates were built, I glued the tops of them to a piece of 2×12″ strip to create two full fish belly sill assemblies- one for each car. When the glue dried, I wedged strips of 2×12″ styrene vertically between the plates to prevent them from warping inwards. I trued the edges up with my NWSL true sander.IMG_1327.jpeg

One of two completed fishbelly centre sill assemblies.

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While the fishbelly isn’t glued to the car floor in this photo, this shows how it will look attached to the car.

I’m very pleased with how the fish bellies turned out. Once they are glued to the model a strip of 1×3″ strip will be glued against the car floor and the side of the sill plates to create an “L” channel with the 1×4″ plate on the sill.

I will use MicroMark surface decals for the rivets and I’ll likely apply them to the sill before gluing it to the cars (with the exception of along the previously mentioned 1×4″ strip.)

Next time I will glue the centre sills onto the car floor, install the z bracing and fabricate and install the cross ties/cross-bearers. After that, it will be time to install the underslung heaters and install the brake rigging (my favourite!).

[Worth noting: the underslung heater may become a project in its self, 3D printed part which may end up being molded and cast as a precaution- I don’t entirely trust the chemical stability behind Shapeways’ Fine Detail Plastic. We’ll see.]

Thanks for reading,

CM

Special delivery… (70 Tonner decals)

Just wanted to poke my head in and give a little mail-day update..

Backstory: Last fall I designed and 3D printed a accurate footboard assembly for my long-stalled Kaslo 70 Tonner project. This was a detail that had been bothering me for some time and I just couldn’t seem to get it right by scratch-building with styrene. This 3D printed part gets me over that hump, but in order to finish the project I still needed decals…

Receiving the test parts from Shapeways was the inspiration I needed to finally get off my behind and get decals made so I could finish the project.

STR21235a.001.aa.cs

CNR #38 at the Moncton, NB diesel shops. CSTM Collection.

Shortly before Christmas I began talks with Bill Brillinger from PDC.ca to make a custom set of decals for the ‘simplified’ second iteration of the green and gold livery the CNR 70 Tonners wore. I mailed him some reference material and to work he went.

After a few weeks of back and forth, I was very excited to see the PDC.ca envelope full of 70 Tonner decals arrive in my mailbox today.

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As you can see, the decals turned out beautifully. Bill is an absolute joy to work with and he nailed what I was looking for. The decal set will do three locomotives with the ability to label any unit on the roster, although not all of them got this paint job.

While my super-detailed 44 Tonner will see lots of action on the layout, 70 Tonners were just as common and I’m excited to finish this project so I can run 70T #38 in mixed train service.

CM

A sunny winter’s day prototype visit.

After Wednesday’s hangout with Taylor, Chris and David I was feeling pretty pumped about the direction of things.

That feeling was only amplified after a Saturday afternoon spent in New Brunswick operating on Doug Devine’s Island Central Railway and Steve McMullin’s Carelton railway.

Even though we we’re very much in the dead of winter here on Prince Edward Island, spring was definitely in the air this Sunday afternoon. I couldn’t resist making the first of what is likely to be many visits to the prototype location.

I can look at photos all day but to catch onto the feeling of the layout I really needed to get out to Vernon River its self and get an idea of how the land lays in 1:1.

Instead of photos, I thought it would be easier to just make a short video which you can find right here:

 

I will return when the snow melts and again in the summer. I plan to take many photos of the right of way,  trees, buildings, farmers fields and farm roads in the area to get a good idea of how I’ll model them.

C.M.

Testing the track plan.

A little update…

Taylor, David, Chris and myself got together in Taylor’s shop on a Wednesday evening and laid the paper plan out on the modules. It was nice to have some knowledgable friends on hand to help me properly orient the plan and decide where the staging cassettes would go.

Of course, with a huge plan on the table we just had to put some cars and switches on it to give it a bit of a “look” test.

Seeing this plan come to life is so exciting. I was really excited to see the track plan on the modules, but I got even more excited after I saw the track plan with the cars on top of it.

A lot of work lies ahead but I feel really great about how it’s all coming together. This layout really is going to be more than a nice thought, this is really happening.

I will have the paper plan reprinted to include the high-res 1958 air photo I purchased from Natural Resources Canada, after that it will be time to finalize the orientation of the staging cassettes..which means road bed isn’t far off.

Hopefully next weekend Taylor and I will be able to finish off the benchwork.

CM