Freight Car Friday #6…

This week we have not one but twelve cars. They are Front Range Products ACF 3 bay Grain Cars. Front Range Products were around in the late 80’s and early 90’s. Their demise is something of scandal, but their products had some of the nicest detail at the time.

A side note. Most of the Front Range cars that I have are “inherited”. I was working with a guy back in the early 90’s who was “in search of a hobby”. After talking to me and another coworker about model railroading he thought it might be for him. Doing some research he decided on the Duluth, Missabe & Iron Range. He bought a bunch of engines and cars. I helped him finish off some space in his basement for a small layout and work bench.

One day he walks up to me and tells me he’s getting out of the hobby. It’s just not for him. He was able to return some of the stuff to the LHS. Sold some of it off. And he gave me a bunch for helping him out. Thus, “inherited”.

Anyways, I pulled one of the boxes out from the “to be built” shelf. It was a Southern grain car. No Instructions in the box. Although the only thing I really needed to know was the correct placement of the triple valve and the brake actuator. Remembering that I had seen some more FRP cars down in the “completed” section (I keep the cars grouped pretty much by manufacturer) I went and looked. Turns out there were a dozen cars there. Going through the boxes I found that they were in various stages of disarray. A couple were not assembled, some were OK and others had various things broken off.

And so the construction and repair began. FRP used pins to hold the trucks on. My friend used super glue to hold the friction pins in place. Most were either too tight or not tight enough. He also used super glue to secure the draft gear boxes. Some of the couplers were glued in place.  I assembled the cars that weren’t put together, the one Southern car, a Chicago & Northwestern car and a CanCarb car. On these I tapped out the truck mounting hole and used 2-56 screws to hold them in place. The draft gear boxes I went with the friction fit covers and if they were a bit loose I used canopy glue on them. Canopy glue is great, it’s tacky and sets fast, dries clear and you can remove the part without damage if you need to.

The rest were handled on a case by case basis. All had the truck pins removed (ie. broken off) and then I drilled and tapped the hole and mounted the trucks with screws. The couplers that were free moving I left alone at this time. The ones that were frozen (glued) in place or didn’t move freely were handled like the trucks. I broke the cover off and then drilled and tapped for a screw.

The broken truck mounting pin.
Holes tapped for the 2-56 screws, ready to assemble.
Trucks and one of the draft gear boxes done.
Both trucks and both draft gear boxes.
Trucks done, the draft gear boxes are using the push in plates to hold the couplers.

As it turned out, the Southern car was one of a six car set. Each had it’s own separate reporting number. There was one car I tossed. The weights inside had come loose and he had glued the car together. So no fixing it. It was also missing a bunch of parts. So rather than having it sit around, away it went.

And I present to you the cars…

The Front Range Products fleet of ACF grain cars.
The Southern set of grain cars.
The miscellaneous grain cars.
And that’s not all…

Rather than a separate post, I’ll just include them here. I came across another bunch of center beams. It’s a three car set from Walthers. Same as the others, I added a load and secured it using thread to simulate cabling holding the load in place. Because the cars were a lighter paint color, I painted the spool of the ratchet black so that it looks like more cabling is wrapped around it. The single thread stood out as just that, a single thread stuck to the side of the spool. It looks pretty good painted.

The latest found set of center beams.
Painted the spool of the tie down ratchet so that the thread by itself doesn’t look weird.

Have a great weekend, I’ll see you next week. Till then…

Freight Car Friday #5…

This weeks freight car Friday is a bit late, sorry, small family emergency.

This week I have a Con-Cor PS-2 covered hopper from 1989. Grabbed it off of the shelf thinking it would be one of those quick builds. Turns out back in the 1980’s the cars had pin mounted trucks with the coupler as part of the truck. It’s my understanding that these cars were originally from AHM and that Con-Cor had bought the molds.

The truck mounted couplers for the Con-Cor hopper. They had to go.

Didn’t want truck mounted couplers and the trucks themselves were horribly out of scale.

The first step was to drill out the pin hole and put in a new styrene post. Once the glue had hardened I made a spacer out of .060 sheet styrene. This gave me the correct height for the thickness of the new trucks to be mounted.

.060 cutting spacer in place.

It was then just a matter of cutting off the excess post.

Cutting down the truck mount pin.
Cut down truck mount ready for the drill and tap.

I then drilled out the post and tapped it for the 2-56 screw. In the photo you can see the shim for the coupler mount. The styrene for the shim was included in the kit. Con-Cor had not yet started to change over the kits to body mounted couplers. They did offer very basic instructions for mounting Kadee #5 couplers and boxes. In the instructions they wanted you to cut off the coupler mounting portion of the truck. That would have made an ugly truck just that much more ugly. That’s why I replaced them.

Adding the coupler mounting draft gear (the box the coupler goes into) was very easy. The shim was the proper height so it was just a matter of drilling a hole and then tapping it for the mounting screw. Once mounted I gave it a quick coat of Green Zinc Chromate paint as it was the closest to BN green that I had.

Coupler box installed and painted. The truck bolster is drilled out and tapped.

After that it was ading the trucks along with 1 1/4 ounces of weight to get it to NMRA standards.

Finished Con-Cor hopper.

Con-Cor is still selling HO scale cars, however the PS-2 hopper are not currently something they offer. And the couplers are now body mounted. It really is a rather nice basic car and will be a nice addition to the road.

Thanks for stopping by and we’ll see you next week. Stay safe and Happy Railroading…


Intermodal Update #2…

In a couple week, something of a marathon session I have gotten all painted intemodal cars decaled. The process got off to a slow start as I tried to figure out how to keep track and apply so many different, small decals to each car. With the first unit it was locating and identifying each small decal on the sheet. Then cutting out and applying the decal. Time consuming and tedious. Plus I had to use a magnifying lens to read most of the decals.

After doing only one side of one car I figured there had to be a better way. My solution was to grid off a sheet of paper. Then each square was labeled with each decals text, large enough to read.

Decals for the Gunderson Twin Stacks cut out and labeled. Makes application go quicker then cutting out each one as needed.

Once this was done I then selected the needed decals for the car side I was working on and laid them out as they would go on the car. This sped up the process greatly. I would do a side, hit them with Solvaset and while they dried lay out the decals for the other side. With this method I was able to get a couple cars done in an evening.

Side note, the decals are from Proto Power West / A-line and I bought them at the same time as the cars. For their age I had very few problems. I had considered buying new except that PPW/Aline was only selling off what they had left and I figured what they had left might be as old as what I was using.

After each car was decaled it then moved to the paint booth for a coat of Dullcoat.

The first problem…

One thing that did slow me down for a night was that I found one of the SeaLand mid unit cars was missing the brake piping along the side. I had to add the brake piping, piping protectors and then paint that side of the car. After letting it dry for a day it was then ready for decals.

Some how missed the extra detail on one of the cars and had to add after painting, before decals.

After the cars were all Dullcoated it was time to add the wheel sets. The wheel sets on the ends of the 5 unit set are 33″. The wheel sets on the shared bolsters are 36″. I had use a  spacer washer on the 33″ trucks to get the cars to set level.

And then the second problem…

As part of the construction process I ran a drill through all the holes in the metal parts that act as bolsters or car connectors. I then tapped any hole that would be receiving a screw. And that was working perfectly till I was screwing on the last (why is it always the last) truck. The screw got stuck. I could not screw it in and when I tried to back it out it broke off. I removed the bolster from the car with the thought that I would try and grab the screw with a pliers and turn it out. There wasn’t enough to grab onto. My thought then was to drill it out. The problem there is that the screw is harder metal then the bolster.

The casting with the broken screw. Tried to drill out, but the screw is harder then the surrounding metal.

The bolster was toast. So I built a new one out of styrene. And I believe that it turned out rather well. For your consideration.

Because it’s the way it always goes. Screw broke off in casting. Had to make a new one out of available styrene.
Replacement in place ready for paint.
Replacement painted and ready for service.

Anyways, the Sealand cars:

The SeaLand set done and ready to hit the table.Next up the cars in TTX yellow.

And the BN Gunderson set:

The second set of Gunderson TwinStacks decaled and ready for the layout.

And finally the Thrall well cars:

Alternate / better view of the Thrall well cars.

I still have the set to be painted, but I felt a tremendous sense of accomplishment getting these done after all these years.

Maybe next time I’ll have the last set done. Till then, take care…


Danny, This One is for You…

About a week ago, I was contacted by a gentleman who was building a Quality Craft Model of the GATX #96500 whale belly tank car. He was having trouble deciphering the drawings/instructions for mounting the bolsters to the tank. He asked for some pictures of the bolsters. I have tried emailing these to him but have had the emails returned.

So, Danny, if you stop by again here are the photos that you requested. I will try again to email them to you also.

GATX 96500 bolster detail 1.
GATX 96500 bolster detail 2.
GATX 96500 bolster detail 3.
GATX 96500 bolster detail 4.
GATX 96500 truck detail.

And to everyone else. If you have questions, need clarification, additional photos or my opinion on something, I”l be happy to help you out.

Till later…


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…


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