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Freight Car Friday #4…

This edition of freight car Friday was two weeks in the making, so I apologize about missing last week. Things kind of piled up on me and I ran short of time. That, and this weeks car was not a casual 1 night project.

This week I present to you – a Custom Rail 89′  C&NW Bi-Level Auto Rack, part #4382. There was no notation of which year this was made and a quick check of the “Google” did not reveal anything. In fact I came up with very little info other than it represents a early 80’s auto rack. And they did not seem to be very well received. In fact the quote I came across in a review was as follows: “The Custom Rail cars were based on the old Custom Rail 89′ flat car which the whole kit was not all that user friendly to build and in all my travels I’ve seen few assembled examples so they didn’t seem to go over well.”


Had I read that before starting the kit it may still be sitting on the shelf waiting to be built. And, that description was rather accurate in retrospect.

The kit could be built as just an 89′ TOFC flat. It has all the pieces for that. Or you can build it as the intended enclosed auto rack. Additionally as the individual metal panels are applied to the side frames, I believe you could probably build it as an open auto rack as well. Also, since the panels are applied separately the etched metal panels from Plano Model Works might work and give the car a far more “open” feel. In which case you could then place scale cars on the rack and be able to see them inside.

Anyways on to the model. As I said the side panels are separate from the side frames and need to be glued on.

Prepping the first side for assembly.
Side panels glued in place.
Assembled panel from the outside.

Having done this I ran into the first”fussy” part of the build. You are to glue the second deck on to the inside of the side frame. There are very slight indentations marking where they go. In fact they are so slight that I tried to take a picture of them but they really didn’t show up. My fix, though a bit heavy handed, was to glue a strip of .100 x .100 styrene to the inside just above the indentations. And then glue the deck to the side and the styrene strip.

Reinforcement for the second deck.
Second deck glued to side and reinforcement.

This was not at all noticeable from the outside.

Outside view of side panel. Reinforcement strip does not show.
Two side panels glued to center deck ready for attachment to main deck and roof.

Next was the base deck of the flat car. The basic assembly is pretty straight forward. There is a stamped flat sheet weight that is glued on to the bottom (it was painted TTX yellow to match the underside) with the center sill glued on over it. The brake equipment is glued into place, although the is no marked location, you just work from the diagram as to where they should be.

The swing couplers are the big hang up. Things are kept pretty tight for prototypical appearances. Meaning that there is a very narrow cutout at the end of the car for coupler movement. Having doubts, I did a basic assembly to make sure there was enough swing for my 30″ radius  curves. That is how little swing there is. They worked though I’m not sure how much smaller a radius curve they would work on without modifying the underside of the car. Also, I did quite a bit of sanding/filing to get things to move freely, so that they could get around the curves.

The finished basic flat.

The main deck of the auto rack. could easily be finished as a 89′ TOFC.

Then it was time to mount the enclosure to the flat. There are only the base of the upright supports that make contact with the deck. Additionally these are close to scale thickness, so the contact surface is very small. It took time and patience as you worked you way down one side then the other.

Assembly finished, ready for decals.

One side note, I did not install the outside break levers to the side. The diagrams did not match anything on the parts sprues and nothing looked like what was on the Walthers model that I had on hand. So better then throwing something on that looked funny, I left it off.

Then it was time for decals. The decals were made by Microscale. However, the instructions are so poor and blurry that placement was totally unreadable. Luckily I had a Walthers C&NW car that I used for reference.

Assembly finished with Walthers C&NW Auto Rack behind it.
Decals applied and ready for revenue service.

I needed to add 1 1 /4 ounces to weight to the car and it received Kadee couplers. Metal wheels will have to wait till I can round up 28″ wheels.

It was a bugger to build but the finished car is nice. If you find one around I would recommend it, but know what you’re getting into.

That’s it for this week, till later…

Freight Car Friday #3…


Today for Freight Car Friday I assembled a Walther’s Single Bay Airslide Hopper #932-4611. The kit is from 1990.

Walther’s Airslide Hopper from 1990.

I like these cars as the little Airslides were some of the first covered hoppers used by the railroads. The 2600 cu ft hoppers were introduced in 1953 by General American Transportation Corp. (GATX). They were used to transport dry, granular or powdered commodities.

Compared to it’s bigger brother which was last weeks freight car, this one was a far more involved build. Whereas the PD hopper from last week has basically the same look/equipment, this one has a higher piece count. Case in point would be the top loading hatches. Most of the previous kits that I have built with top loading hatches, they have everything molded together.

On this kit the top hatch consists of four pieces, the round hatch and three retaining bolts. The bolts are molded more as long pins that push between fingers on the hatch and then into a hole on top on the car. Nothing wrong with this and not a problem while assembling the kit. It just made for a more involved build. Fortunately for these aging eyes, they included extra small parts in the kit.

It also got the Kadee’s and metal wheel sets. The weight was almost spot on to the NMRA recommended practices. I only added a 1/4 ounce to bring it to weight.

Again, much like last weeks build, this one was a nice, relaxing build. Though not available from Walthers anymore, you can find them readily available on secondary markets.

Till next week, take care and stay safe..

Intermodal Update #1…

As I left it in the Intermodal Cars post I was trying to figure out paint. To update you as to where I’m at with that, I’ve got something that will work.

I probably had not mentioned that the decals that I gotten for the cars were: SeaLand and TTX for the Gunderson Twin Stacks. And APL (American President Lines) for the Thralls. One set of the Thrall well cars are TTX yellow. And the other set is the powered set done in a red.

PPW/A-Line’s recommendation for the red for both the SeaLand and the APL powered set is a  50/50 mixture of Floquil Daylight Red and SP Scarlet. I could find neither one. Now I have paint in the shop in two places. One is in the racks on the workbench. These are colors that I use all the time. The other spot is a drawer that has paints that I bought but never had a use for. I’m sure I thought I did at one time.

Turns out in that drawer was a bottle of Pollyscale TTX yellow. It also had a bottle of Pollyscale Lehigh Valley Cornell Red. The red is awfully close to the photo colors of the Sealand well cars that I could find. It could be why I own it.

I should mention real quick. I got the grab irons that I needed for the other Thrall well car set. Went to mount them and broke the only #80 bit that I had left. Ordered more bits, so this set will wait.

As I had said before one set of the Thralls had been painted. So the Gundersons headed off for the spray booth. Gave them a coat of primer, waited 24 hours and then gave them their final color.

Gunderson Twin Stack well cars in the paint booth.

When they were dry they came out onto the workbench with the other well cars to await decaling.

Well cars awaiting decals. The unpainted ones are waiting for new drill bits for the grab irons.

Up next, adventures in mass decaling. Till then…

Freight Car Friday 2…

For this weeks freight car Friday I have a couple of hopper cars from Walthers.

They are models of Trinity Industries’ Power-Flo pressure differential covered hoppers. The cars are from 1994 and are models of the Trinity demo car, Walthers #932-5807 and a Grace Industries chemical car, Walthers #932-5803.

Walthers Pressure Differential Covered Hopper from 1994.
Project of the week, a Walthers Pressure Differential Covered Hopper from 1994.

The cars are pretty straight forward. A long rectangular box makes up the core of the car and the rounded sides are added to complete the hopper portion of the car. When adding the rounded sides one does have to be careful with the glue. To much and it will show and ruin the looks of the car. The brake hardware is added to the “B” end. And then the pressure piping for loading / unloading is added to the bottom. And of course the roof walkways.

The only fussy part was adding the piping to the bottom. One set simply goes into holes on the bottom of each of the five hopper bins and there is a second pressure pipe the fits into slots in the cars side frame. Then the individual pipes are glued to the bottom of each bin (no holes or location marks) and the end is bent to match up to the other pipe. That was the one that was fussy.

Once together Kadee couplers were added as well as Intemountain metal wheel sets.

Like I said, nothing splashy or time consuming. In fact the two of them made for a nice relaxing evening.

That it for now, will see you again next week. Stay safe…

A Couple of Small Filler Projects…

This will be a quick little review of a couple of small filler projects. I had seen these kits in the Micro-Mark catalog. They are from their Scientific Models brand. The line was reintroduced back in 2018 and they have been adding a new kit roughly once a week. They have some great kits in both O scale and HO.

The two kits I got hold of were the corn crib for the farm scene and a bleacher set for the ball field.

I started with the corn crib. The kit itself is a pretty straight forward laser cut kit. The parts remove easily from the sheet they are cut from and the fit is very good. I did run into a problem with the wood for some pieces being pretty brittle. This happened in the frames for the structure, but they have extra frames so it worked out.

Scientific corn crib kit.
Handle with care, the wood is very brittle.
Base frame work together.
Sides and ends on.

As i said it went together rather well and needed very little sanding to even up corners. I hit it with a light coat of flat white, without primer, as i wanted it to show some age.

Painted and ready for corn.

Before gluing on the roof I plan on painting or dying with possibly food color some rice. It should stand in for corn cobs rather nicely i think. Once I figure out exactly where it place is, I’ll add a bit of weathering to age it a bit more.

The bleacher set is for the ballpark, or rather along the right field line of the ballpark.

Basic scenery in along with the town’s new ball field.

The kit went together quickly with no problems. I still need to figure out how I want to paint it. Probably paint the railings and the supports and leave the benches a weathered wood.

Scientific bleachers for the ball field.

Again, they were great little builds. Micro-marks line has become rather extensive, from little scenic adds to some nice small structures. And granted, they were only sitting around for months and not years (decades), it was nice to get them built and off  the workbench.

Next time will be something more substantial. Till then…



And now, Freight Car Friday…

I am starting a weekly update, Freight Car Friday. Nothing profound, just thought I would highlight the kits that I am putting together while I wait for other things to dry / set / orders from suppliers to arrive.

All the kits are from forever ago – late 80’s through the early 2000’s. Much like the well car kits. Most are basic assembly type kits, think Athearn Blue Box. I didn’t think I had anywhere near as many unbuilt kits as I am finding. Who am I kidding, I’m a model railroader and we’re natural born kit hoarders. In fact I was recently in the LHS and thought about picking up another bulk pack of Kadee couplers and figured there would be no way I would need that many.

The other thing you may have noticed or will is that everything is newer than the current era on the layout. That is because until Bachmann  came out with their Spectrum line, steam was just too expensive. Athearn followed as did Broadway Limited and Life Like. When this happened I rather quickly made the change over to the transition era.

I find building freight car kits to be a nice diversion from other things. They generally go together quick and upgrades can be made if so desired. The basic “adds” are adding Kadee couplers to the cars. I have just recently added to that list metal wheel sets from  Intermountain.

All cars are now getting metal wheels. They are from Intermountain.


And the first car is…

First up are a couple more Walthers 72′ centerbeam cars I dug out. They are Walthers #932-24129 from 2003. The loads are Walthers SceneMaster as they are made to snap into the cars. I added Kadee couplers and metal wheelsets. I also added the tie down cables by drilling holes along the top of the center beam at the indicated locations. Then I ran thread though the holes and then added the loads.

Close up of the added tie downs.
Adding the tie downs to the center beams for the lumber loads.

Once the loads were in place I stretched the thread down to the corresponding ratchet and super glued it into place. Then moved on to the next one.Once I finished a side I carefully cut each thread off as close to the ratchet as possible.

Loads added and the tie downs in place. New wheels and Kadee couplers added.
Alternate view of the centerbeams.

And then (will weather later) they were ready for the layout. That is when the railroad shifts back to a more modern time.

I will have another quick project for next Friday. Another post on general projects on the layout is in the works, although I’m not sure what. I have pretty much been bouncing around on things. The thought process on what to work on has been a lot like a squirrel in traffic.

Till then, stay safe and Happy Railroading…


Intermodal Cars…

The one project that has been hauled out and put away the most have been the intermodal cars. These kits are from Proto Power West, now Proto Power West/A-line/Arrow Hobby. I have two sets of Gunderson Twin Stacks and two sets of Thrall well cars. A set would be a five car set( although somewhere over the years I have “misplaced” one of the intermediate cars for the one of the Gunderson sets ).

I bought these sets somewhere in the neighborhood of 30 years ago. They are no longer available new but can be picked up on the secondary markets. You can also pick up parts for them new on the PPW-Aline website.

When building the kits you can build as basic cars or if you want highly detailed cars, complete instructions for super detailed cars are provided. The basic assembly on the Thrall cars are merely adding the walkways and the brake equipment to the well bodies. The Gundersons need to be fully assembled ( sides, ends, car bottoms, walkways and brake equipment ) for basic assembly. I had done a basic assembly on one of the Thrall sets and had painted them with rattle cans. The paint is a bit heavy, but I decided not to try and fix it. I had also done a basic assembly on a Gunderson set but did not paint it.

The Gunderson well cars…

I started by doing the basic assembly of the other Gunderson set. Once together I started the extra detailing, doing the two like cars at the same time.

The Gunderson well cars awaiting detailing.

The finished yellow car is from a factory assembled/detailed set from A-Line/Intermountian. I had forgotten that I had the set, but it was nice to have for reference.

The extra detailing added to the Gunderson cars are:

  1. External brake piping along the outer side.
  2. Brake piping protectors over the lines.
  3. External brake rods and chains on the sides of the B and C units.
  4. Control rods for the container flippers.
  5. Stirrups.
  6. Grab irons.
A “B” end car with detailing done.
Close up of the detailing on the “B” end.
The Thrall well cars…

On the Thrall well cars there was more detailing to scratch build then on the Gunderson cars.

First I decided to make this set a generator set. The generator was there to provide power to refrigerated containers. This means the walkways between cars had to be reworked.

Then there was the basic brake piping added. Additionally there was a lot of styrene scratch building added. These included side sill reinforcement, reinforcement to the bottom of the cars, gussets added to the lift rings and the electrical connections between cars.

Labeling the ends of the well cars. At this point it makes no difference, but eventually it will.
Details added: Angle braces to the hoist plates, piping for the braking, well reinforcement along the top of the car, electrical connection on the end of car and reinforcement along the bottom of well.
Adding the super detailing to the well cars.
close up of piping and end of car. The added blocking over the coupler pocket was angled.
The kit details with the added scratch built details. The box would be for the electrical connection for refrigerated containers.
Alternate end of well car. The electrical connections evidently come in different shapes and sizes. Also added the angle brace to the hoist plate.

Also, stirrups were added and I would have added grab irons but I ran out and have to order more for the Thrall cars.

I didn’t realize it when I started this project that Plano Models has etched brass walkways and supports for both types of cars. If I knew they were available I would have ordered them. The fine detail would have made these cars really stand out.

Finished (kind of) and waiting for paint…

I ordered the grab irons and decided to line up paint. The problem is, thanks Rust-Oleum, that Testors has discontinued the whole Model Master line. This after they bought and then discontinued the Polly Scale and Scale Coat paint lines. I know that Vallejo has a wide range of colors, but as far as I know not railroad specific. And Micro-Mark now has railroad specific colors in their acrylic paint line but not much depth.

I shall wait for the grab irons to arrive and while waiting figure out my paint problem.

Till next time, happy modeling …






What Started It All…

Before I move on with other projects done or in progress, I should give you a little history of what started it all. And no, I’m not talking about what got me going in model railroading, but rather what led to the slew of unfinished projects getting done.

A couple of things came into play that acted as a catalyst for the change that led to the projects. First was that the kids had tons of Lego sets as they grew up. Those sets ended up in pieces in a couple of large totes. One of my projects over the years has been to sort the pieces out by color and type. And with the help of various Lego based websites I have been reassembling the sets. I was looking for a place to display them.

Second was that the layout that I am working on now is not the layout that I would build if starting today. After the previous layout failed so miserably, I was determined to build a successful multi deck layout. Kind of a “failure is not an option thing”. Thanks dad. Also, ops sessions are becoming not a thing as it has become harder to get people together for whatever reason. If starting today I would probably go the Pelle Soeburg route. Staging yard, a town to switch and a couple of signature scenes for photography / railfanning.

The Change…

To solve the problem of wanting wall space for shelves and a little less railroad, I decided to do away with some of it. Looking at what was there I decide to do away with New Brighton yard and the area of Duluth that was above it. I would then slide the staging yard into the New Brighton space and move the wharf scene of Duluth into the Duluth “Docks” space on the upper level.

The sections going away.
The sections that are moving.

That meant that New Brighton and the Duluth Docks area were completely disassembled. The sections being moved were moved as 8′ sections.

Disassembly continues.
Removing New Brighton yard.

Once all the old bench work was out of the way I prepped the end wall. I used a sheet of 1/8″ hardboard to act as a backdrop for the end of the staging yard / Duluth wharf scene. The rest of the framing on the wall was removed.

Prepping the end wall .
And The Reason Why…

With the space ready it was time to move the base cabinets. Some of the stuff, mainly engines and cars, had to be removed to get to the mounting screws. That and lighten them up some. I’m sure you can see where this is headed, the last cabinet was the “project” cabinet. Things not scene in a long time.

Most of these are somewhere in the neighborhood of 25 to 30 years old. I have hauled all of them out many times, thought that today is the day. And then put them back. First, back to the project at hand.

Like I said the base cabinets were moved first.

Base cabinets going into the area of the former New Brighton yard.

Once in the framing went back in.

Reinstalling the frame work.

Then the plywood sections with the yard was reinstalled.

reinstalling the staging yard.
The staging yard going back in.

Then added the upper deck.

The upper level and upper valance frame work.

In addition I also added the upper valance over the upper deck with lights. Below are views of the finished scene and with the room lights on and the layout lights off.

Upper valance installed.
Room lights off.
With That Done…

With the layout sections moved (I still don’t have everything completely hooked up) I finished putting things back into there respected cabinets. But as I was reloading the project cabinet, I started to look at the different kits thinking someday I have to finish this or that. I mean everyone always talks about all the kits they have collected. Kind of a rite of passage. And at some point I decided today was the day. I’m not getting any younger.

And that is where we are at. Projects to follow.

Till then, stay safe…



Repairing an Athearn Challenger…

So this is my tale of repairing an Athearn 4-6-6-4 Challenger. SPOILER ALERT: it has a happy ending.

I had bought the Athearn Challenger back when they were first released. I believe in 2005 or 2006. And it has been a solid performer ever since then.

While working on other projects, I will quite often get 2 or 3 trains orbiting the layout. It’s really nice to look over and see the passing trains while sitting at the workbench. I will get them going and match their speeds as closely as possible to avoid a collision.

This particular time I happened to look up and see that the Challenger was struggling to pull its consist while another train was about to catch up from behind. Jumped up and started shutting everybody down before the impending impact.

Having stopped all trains, I walked over to the Challenger and as I was picking it up to see what was wrong I noticed that the front set of drivers spun freely.

I debated what to do. My first thought was to contact Athearn, but since the engine was 14/15 years old I figured they would probably not cover it under warranty. I decided to tear it apart and see if I could figure out what was wrong and fix it. Being pretty sure that parts would be available. Very happy I chose this route.

I got the engine to the workbench (had to clear the current project at hand out of the way) and looked it over trying to figure out how to get it apart. Had that DUH moment and grabbed the owners manual with the exploded view.

The disabled Challenger on the bench for repairs.

Turns out that there are two screws that hold the super structure / shell to the frame. One under the sand dome and one under the steam dome.

To remove the superstructure you need to remove only two screws. Plus pull the front of the smokebox off.

Plus you have to pull the front of the smokebox forward as there is a pin on the top and bottom that helps release the shell. Also you need to pull the rear grab bars (?) out the holes on the back of the cab.

Once the shell is off (it won’t go far as there are wires for the head lights attached to it) you encounter the circuit board on top of the weight.

The circuit board on top of the drive. Made a diagram of where the wires go.

The black caps pull off and the wires can then be removed. Made a quick diagram of where the wires go.

Circuit board wiring diagram.

With a working diagram of where the wires go once I started putting things (hopefully) back together, I pulled the plastic caps off and removed the wires. A couple of screws got the circuit board off and more screws released the top half of the weight. With the top weight removed the layout looks pretty much like any Athearn diesel.

Motor and drive set-up, just like the diesels.

Looking at the setup and marveling at how it was very familiar, I absently reached out and pressed on the front tower clip. With a little pressure it clicked back into place.

The tower that popped off.

That was it. After 14 years the front tower had popped off. The engine was fixed. Problem solved. How very anti-climatic.

Since I had it apart i figured I should add an Engineer and a  Fireman.

Source of the engineer and fireman.
Engineer and fireman installed.

The engine is now fixed. It not only is running as well as always, it has a crew in the cab.

Another problem encountered and solved.

Till next time, Stay Safe…






A Tale of Bulkhead Flats and Centerbeams…

First up is a set of loads for the bulkhead flats and a centerbeam that I have on hand.

First I should mention that these are something that I’ve had on hand for a very long time. I believe that they are from Jaeger HO Products ( I went onto their site, but did not see the loads listed. Probably because the cars that they fit were the old Roundhouse bulkhead flats. Which is what I was fitting them to. The centerbeam is from Front Range. Also, no longer available.

The loads are wood blocks that a wrap is glued to. The wraps are almost like photos printed on paper. I don’t have any shots of them not wrapped as I had done that long ago. I just never had fitted them to the flats. Included are some balsa pieces for dunnage and blocking.

There is four different styles. The first is a block that is approximately 7/8″ H x 1 1/8″ W x 7 11/16″ L. The other three are only 9/16″ wide and work on the centerbeam style car or doubled up with blocking in between on the bulkhead flats. They vary in height from 1 1/4″ to 1 1/2″. The fourth style has several different heights.

I added the balsa strips on the bottoms and in between where applicable. They were then glued in place on the cars with canopy glue. As I have mentioned before I like canopy glue because it holds well and can be disassembled later if I want. I then used rigging thread for the tie downs.

After I finished the loads I looked at the cars and wished i had weathered them before loading. Undaunted I went ahead and weathered around the loads.

Here are the finished cars.

First set weathered and loads secured.
Second set weathered and loaded..
Weathered and loaded centerbeam.

I did have one more bulkhead flat than loads.

Weathered bulkhead flat.

Below a view not weathered and weathered.

Without weathering.
Weathered and loaded, need more tie downs.

Will have an update with another project real soon. Til then, take care and stay safe.