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Wednesday, September 22, 2021

Four Flats - Finished!

 Feels fine to finish these four flats.  Forgoing alliteration, finally, the fotos:

This has been a great project, though I'm not in a hurry to begin another with so many cars in one fell swoop.  The next one like it will be the Purina (former freezers) ventilated box cars and that's only three cars but they will require more work to refurbish.  Look for that in 2022 when I will hopefully build the corresponding feed mill and delivery truck.  The Milk & Mail series continues and I've once again pushed aside the Shifter in favor of a different locomotive kitbash/detailing project.  More on that in upcoming posts.

As always, open the images in a new tab for a closer look, and feel free to click on the Four Flats tag in the Labels list for all the posts related to this project.  Thanks for following along!

Monday, September 6, 2021

Four Flats - Decals

After a few days waiting for the mail (and working on the Fruit Car in the mean time) I set to the task of applying decals to the flat cars.  Here's my setup:

And here's a closeup of the right-side data.  Note the decaling casualty, the vertical brake staff:

I've gotten pickier since I lettered box car 1603 a few years ago.  That's why I had to order new data sheets to go on these flats.  Research is wonderful and terrible, especially as a freelancer.  For these flats I came across a car builder's catalog with similarly sized and constructed truss rod flats that showed a capacity of 80,000 lbs, and a light weight of around 28,000 lbs.  The data sets I had from Rail Graphics (unfortunately out of production) didn't include a light weight anywhere close.  I would have had to chop up tiny little numbers and rearrange them - not fun.  Decaling already stresses me out a little.  I didn't want to complicate it any further.

Sure, some modelers would have said, "So what?  Just use any number, nobody's going to look that close, and once weathered it won't be that legible."  But, just like detailing building interiors, I would know it's there.  In fact, looking closely at box car 1603, I may go back and re-weigh that car.  Right now I've got it a little too heavy for its age and construction.  Wouldn't take long, especially since I've got all the tools and parts out and handy...

Friday, September 3, 2021

Milk & Mail - Fruit Car Underframe

After describing the project overview, I decided to begin working on the Fruit Car first.  No particular reason, just the whim of the muse.  I began by deciding how much detail I wanted to add to the underside.  Here's where I landed:

This amount of detail seems sufficient to indicate brake gear.  I'm always hesitant to add the connecting rods that extend from the levers out toward the trucks for fear that it will interfere with the wheels.  This time I just left the rods off altogether.  

I want to upgrade the car beyond its original kit parts using materials and methods that would have been available to the original builder, as much as possible.  But these days I'm feeling more of a pull to just get things done and move on to the next project sooner than later.  Maybe it's my age, or perhaps it is the circumstances of our world driving this feeling.  Regardless, I press on.

Up next I will turn my attention to the fascia boards and sides.  Though, at the time of this writing, I have received the data decals for the Four as soon as I commit to a lettering arrangement, I may return to them.  We'll see.

Monday, August 30, 2021

The Morning Milk & Mail - A First Look

A few days ago in my post, End-of-Year Goals, I described the projects I hope to complete by the end of 2021.  One of those is the set of cars that will become the "Morning Milk & Mail", an all-stops passenger train that leaves early in the morning, handles the mail and picks up the milk on the Pine Branch.  I also have a set of Selley short passenger cars that will become the limited express hot-shot which will make no stops, but I decided to start on these Binkley cars, and the Red Ball (Binkley?) Fruit Car that will run with them. **

Originally I had planned to use a Selley Combine on this train, but then I found the elusive P-35 Binkley "Shorty Combine Caboose" that was marketed as a companion car for their "Oldie" Baggage.  These weren't "Sierra" cars*, or "Overton" cars; at least they weren't marketed that way that I've seen.  Interestingly, if you take the Binkley 1870 Baggage-Mail car and chop it in half right down the middle, you'll get the Shorty Baggage and the Shorty Combine.  Is that what they did?  I can only guess, but I think I'm on to something.  It would explain why the baggage door isn't centered, and why the small baggage door on the combine is so close to the windows.  Hmmm...

What I'm starting with are three cars in varying degrees of completion.  The Fruit Car I purchased used.  It was missing one truck and had some damage.  Close examination reveals it may have taken a tumble to the floor at some point.  I will be replacing the damaged parts and making a few upgrades.

The Baggage is a complete kit - but with incorrect parts.  Instead of the two-part end sills per the instructions, it has a nice set of end sill castings from Binkley made for their Business Car et al.  I will be building it as instructed, making few changes or upgrades.

Finally, the Combine is a real challenge.  Somebody built it years ago and it has seen better days.  Fortunately it only needs a new baggage door and some cleaning.  I will do as little as possible to repair this car with the aim of bringing it up to a better standard of construction.

So many rolling stock 'orphans' I see were built with good intentions, probably by someone just starting out in the hobby making the kind of mistakes we all might make, even being careful.  But these cars aren't the Athearn or Roundhouse plastic shake-the-box kits of my youth, or even some of the more complex plastic kits.  These were kits that summoned the craftsman in the builder, using terms in the instructions like 'measure', 'shape' and 'cut'.  Simple words, but they are qualitatively different from 'assemble' or 'insert'.  They require the builder to think differently, to assess the work and make decisions based on the state of construction and desired outcome.

*Binkley did market a set of Sierra cars, but these were the cast metal bodies from the same molds as the Laconia Sierra cars, later sold by Ulrich and Walthers.  I have a pair of these, have built one, and the other is awaiting construction.  They're narrow enough (for me at least) to be HOn3 cars if riding on suitable trucks...

**At the time I'm writing this I'm waiting on decals for the Four Flats project.  Turns out I didn't have the ones I wanted to use, but thankfully I located some on eBay.  Hated to lose the momentum I had going on that project, but glad to put my energy into this one!

Friday, August 27, 2021

Four Flats - Decks Weathered, Sides Painted and Ready for Decals


A quick update to show the decks fully painted and weathered.  The first application of color was a thin coat of Mudstone over the gray primer with a few boards picked out in a lighter tan to show replacement work by the shop.  Next was an all-over wash with Burnt Umber acrylic ink, thinned with Matte Medium and water.  After that dried I applied a black oil wash, cleaning select boards with a pointy cotton bud for variation of the effect.  The black wash seeps into the cracks, defining the boards as well as all the gouges and distressing I had applied earlier.

The sides were brush painted with Brown Iron Oxide.  Brush painting took me about as long as it would have if I had taped off the decks and undersides, strained and thinned the paint, and applied it with an airbrush.  I noticed this time around that my brush work has improved; at least I'm more comfortable with it, thanks to the miniature painting I've been doing lately.  That, and using the Matte Medium and water mix to thin the paint.  This mix makes the paint flow well and settle down without losing coverage or showing brush strokes.  The craft paint I use is too thick straight out of the bottle and benefits from a proper thinning.

Once the sides had dried I gave them a coat of gloss varnish from a rattle can and have allowed that to dry/cure for over 24 hours.  I gauge the time to let it dry based on how well I can still smell the odor.  Not scientific, but it hasn't failed me yet.  Today I spent some time laying out the spacing for the decals and selecting what I will use from the Rail Graphics freight car lettering sets.  Funny thing - they didn't make a Flat Car set for the 1900-1920 period, so I'll have to cobble together the relevant data from other types of rolling stock.  I also spent some time looking at historic shots of other prototype flat cars to get ideas for what to include and how it might look.

Thanks for reading, if you made it this far, and check back soon for the next Four Flats installment or click on the tag in the list on the right to read any of the previous posts.  As usual, open the pictures in another window or tab to see them larger.

Thursday, August 26, 2021

End-of-Year Goals

Yes, I know it is only August.  But August is nearly over, the kids are back to school, and the Chinese Pistache trees are beginning to blush.  So, I'm looking ahead to what I'd like to accomplish by year's end.  The Fall brings birthdays for my wife and both my boys as well as the holidays.  Not sure if we'll make it to Thanksgiving in Nevada this year, due to the virus, the weather, or both.  

All that to say, I'm trying to be realistic about what I might accomplish.  The Trail Drive of Christmas 2020 stretched well into the Spring of 2021.  I do have a tendency to fall prey to the planning fallacy.  That said, here's a look at what I'm thinking I'd like to accomplish.  All are projects in need of completion:

Firstly, the 0-4-0 Shifter.  I started this project not long after I got 2001.  It is time to complete it.  Back when I started I had planned to use incandescent micro bulbs for the headlights.  I need to decide if I'm going to keep them or find suitable LEDs.  Next, the Ice Factory.  I have all I need to complete this scene, it is just a matter of chipping away at it.

Finally, the Fruit Car and the two passenger cars are going to become the Ocali Creek's Morning Milk & Mail train, an all-stops out-and-back on the Pine Branch.  Once completed the 2-6-0 will pull this until I detail and repaint the 4-4-0.  Not that this train will actually go from anywhere to anywhere on the railroad as built - I'll need staging wings on the main line to make this a reality.  Until then it'll run loops just for fun.

I'd also like to get track painted and weathered, and perhaps some scenic contours roughed in, but I'm not going to put that on the list.  Same with installing the passenger station scene or streets.  And of course, I'm going to finish the Four Flats first.  I'm in no hurry, but I'm ready to set some goals again and work towards them.  This post is, in a way, going on record and staking my claim.  Here's to a productive Fall!


Monday, August 23, 2021

Four Flats - Shakedown Run!


Three of the four flats in this short clip have only been assembled, minus brake wheels and a couple minor tasks yet to do under the deck - adding a brake rod and additional weight.  However, at this point they are fully operational as you can see.  The car with the gray deck is the pathfinder model, built first to see how the rest should go together.  Up next, final assembly, priming, and then on to painting.

Oh, and if you want to know more about the engine pulling this train click on the 2-6-0 tag in the labels menu, likewise click caboose to learn more about the caboose.