No. 178: Freight Car Modeling, November 2022

Above. This former PRR Express X29 greets you at the gate of the Age of Steam Museum in Sugarcreek, Ohio. Unfortunately for me, this was as far as I got into the museum, as they were closed the day I got there.

In September I flew to Baltimore to pick up a car at the port and drive it to St. Louis.  I flew to Baltimore the morning of Sept 20th, picked up the car, and drove all the way to Sugarcreek, Ohio.  On the way I stopped in Blue Ridge Summit, PA to visit Mainline Hobby Supply—that was cool—and finally I stopped for the night in Sugarcreek, Ohio so I could visit the Age of Steam Museum the following morning.  The “AOS” Museum closed unexpectedly that day—they told me they had to move locomotives around.  Instead I spent an enjoyable morning railfanning the brickyards in Sugarcreek before getting back on I-70 and heading “home” to O’Fallon.

The active rail line through Sugarcreek is former PRR, later famously taken over by the Ohio Central and now operated by Genesee & Wyoming.   The Belden Brick Co. is the major shipper here, with warehouses in several places in town and a few dozen active beehive ovens at their facility on Highway 39 in town. 

Several long, open warehouses like the one below were built for box car loading. There are four or five of them around town.

The railroad property in town includes a short branchline into town to serve the original Belden plant. The branch still has a grain elevator on it, and in the old days it probably had a few more customers. Check it out on Google aerial view.

Below. As I get older I geek out on the little stuff, like track–particularly older track. This branch to one of the brickyards has rail from 1913, and a neat mix of new and old ties. Some of the ties appear to have been hand-made. In this photo, look how somebody drove a spike into the end of this tie to apparently keep the tie plate in place, but over time it split the tie.

I spent the morning exploring and photographing the area, and the rest of the day dreaming how to model the branch with the grain elevator, team track and brickyards.  There’s nothing like a day railfanning to spur one’s imagination.  

Latest Modeling Efforts

I was able to get a whole lot of model building done in September and October.  I completely built up 12 new freight car models and am currently working on another three models—a 21-year-old Bachmann 2-10-0, a Branchline 40-foot box car, and an O scale Intermountain USRA hopper. 

Below. Here’s the 2-10-0 with the prototype–SAL 501. This model has a long way to go!

Below. This model under construction is one of the awesome Intermountain O scale USRA hoppers. This is a beautiful model. I’ve been working on this model here and there for two weeks. Two processes which have taken a lot more time are bending all those grab irons by hand and installing all the piping on the brake gear. It’s coming along though. This model will become a New York Central car, circa 1949.

I’ll wrote more about this model when it is finished and painted. The photo below shows the hand-bend grab irons being installed. This wasn’t easy and contributed to long time needed just to construct the model. The end of the model is an entirely separate piece, and I used the tape to hold it in place while the glue set.

Makes me sad to think that this kit has been in the box for probably 35 years, waiting for somebody to build it. Every model deserves to be built.

Back in HO scale land, here are two of the new Rapido USRA single-sheathed box cars. Back on October 13th I sent this to the Steam Freight Cars group on Groups.io:

I received my two cars this week–one Milwaukee Road and one C&NW. First Impression: Very nice models, good paint color, good lettering, nice weight, very well built, nice detail all around. A welcome addition to the fleet.

Second Impression: I really don’t like the spaces between the boards but I understand why the manufacturer did that. The wood sheathing on the Tichy model is much better rendered. Both my cars came with K brakes (with AB brake parts in a separate baggie–a nice touch). However, I think both K and AB brake renderings are poor, and paint on the underframe is very heavy (obscuring what little detail is on the brake parts). I’m replacing the brakes with Cal Scale. The trucks: No. Replacing with TMW Andrews. Running board is alright but both of mine came a little bent out of shape. Running board detail is poor. Nothing a modeler can’t fix.

I received my two cars this week–one Milwaukee Road and one C&NW. My First Impression: Very nice models, good paint color, good lettering, nice weight, very well built, nice detail all around. A welcome addition to the fleet.

My Second Impression: I really don’t like the spaces between the boards but I understand why the manufacturer did that. The wood sheathing on the Tichy model is much better rendered. Both my cars came with K brakes (with AB brake parts in a separate baggie–a nice touch). However, I think both K and AB brake renderings are poor, and paint on the underframe is very heavy (obscuring what little detail is on the brake parts). I’m replacing the brakes with Cal Scale. The trucks: No. Replacing with TMW Andrews. Running board is alright but both of mine came a little bent out of shape. Running board detail is poor. Nothing a modeler can’t fix.

Below. Here is the new Rapido car, pretty much right out of the box, next to a Sunshine Milwaukee 714000-series single-sheathed box car. The Rapido car looks great up against the Sunshine models, but it’s got a lot of weathering ahead of it. I’ll need to replace the trucks on the Rapido car with Tahoe Model Works Andrews trucks.

Below. I’ve removed the factory-installed K brakes and am halfway done installing a Cal Scale AB brake set. I retained the brake lever hangars and that was about it. I also replaced the Rapido #5-size couplers with Kadee #58s. I’ve drilled out the turnbuckles and added Tichy bronze .0125-inch wire for the brake rigging.

Below. This photo shows AB brakes installed on my Milwaukee Road car, at top, and my C&NW car at bottom. Once painted and weathered the cars will fit more into my 1949-1950 modeling era.

My Bottom Line: These are great models and I’ll keep them, but a carefully-built Gould/Tichy car with TMW trucks beats this model hands down.

Plans for Modeling Season

Last week I made my modeling plan for this winter. If I can stick to it, in three months I’ll have completed a bunch of models and be on my way to rebuilding the Hermitage Road layout.

  • The plan for November is to continue building new models and finishing unfinished projects.  A lot can be done in 30 days assuming that I have an average of one hour a day to work. 
  • The plan for December is to build a new Hermitage Road layout “box”.  My current layout, seen below, took quite a beating during the move, and—with a lot more space for modeling—I plan to rebuild the layout to be a little bit longer and also incorporate some new tech to the layout.  The track plan will be adjusted somewhat, and I will incorporate the traversing table of course.

Above. The layout took some damage during the move.  Several of the switch machines were broken off, and some of the switches (the ones that control the switch machines) got crushed.  The front fascia was broken in two places, and the Masonite backdrop is warped and needs replacement.

  • Then, in January, I’ll begin laying track on the new layout.  I’ve got a lot of turnouts to build.  Lucky for me I love that work and have slowly been collecting track and parts “in case I needed them”…

Time to get to the basement! – John G

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