Happy 4th, Happy Me

I finished up the staining of the 36′ flat car. I added some stirrup steps I bent from .015 wire, air hoses from insulated wire bits, handcut stakes, plus a couple topside side sill beams with NBWs and eye bolt rings. I decided to pose the car for the holidays with a log load after draping some loose chain (needs blackening) over the logs.

Enjoy. I will. Happy 4th. Cheers. And stay home and stay safe. Wear a mask.


Making Headway

The 36′ flat car is moving along. I’ve added couplers and Bitter Creek Heavy Thielsen arch bar trucks, some hand formed grabs from .015 wire and an array of nut-bolt-washers (Tichy NBWs).


I put two small pieces of scale strip wood for bumpers on the end sills that still need to be stained.

My plan now is to add two long beams on the sides of the floor and secure them with more NBWs and then add eye bolt rings, three per side on those beams. They’ll be used to secure loads with chains.

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Still up in the air about what load to add. I saw a neat model which added stakes along with eye bolts and chains to secure logs. But I may stick with my original plan to load my 1890 Gould Horse-drawn Fire Engine. We’ll see. But first more staining and painting. Then decals and weathering. I see it will be a while before I move on to the next scratchbuild car.

One Step Forward, One Step Back

When you last heard from me, I was embarking on my HOn3 build of a D&RGW wheel and tie car. But now I’ve gone back to one of my 36′ flats and resumed work on it while I wait for some of the parts I need to continue with the narrow gauge project.

So, where were we on the 36′-er? The 3D frame, bolsters and needlebeams were in place, a complete undercarriage brake system was there along with queenposts and truss rods and floorboards were “nailed” across the topside.

I have now “nailed” 2″x10″ (scale) end sills in place and rough-stained the entire top with my blend of brown shoe polish and isopropyl alcohol. The staining came after I roughened the boards with my hobby knife, a wire brush and a sanding stick. I also ran over the boards with a sewing punch wheel device inherited from my late mom, creating three lengthwise rows of simulated nail holes.


Right now, over in my makeshift spray booth, I have Tichy stake pockets and brake wheels and staffs drying after a coating of flat black. They’ll go on next and then I’ll start adding nut-bolt-washers (NBWs) — always a fun process of watching tiny bits flying off my workbench into never-never-to-be-found land.

One reason I decided to proceed was that I discovered a perfect prototype for the 36′ flat. It was a car made by the Seattle Car and Foundry company and shown in their 1913 catalogue.

I plan on “dressing” it up with a load, perhaps my model Scale Structures 1890 Gould Horse-Drawn Fire Engine. I’ll chain it down (if I find enough scale chain around). Maybe I’ll run the chains through the stake pockets or perhaps through some eye bolt rings I have ordered. We’ll see.

Building in HOn3

I started work today on my attempt to scratchbuild the Denver and Rio Grande Western maintenance of way “wheel and tie” car #06092. I thought first of using one of my 3D printed undercarriage frames but realized I’d be better off making the whole thing out of stripwood. The main reason is that the prototype length is 30′ and width 7’6″ and my 3D frames were longer and wider and cutting the hard resin material was not easy. (Full disclosure: I tried and failed.)

So, into my bag of scale stripwood I went, found what I needed, cut and glued.


I made the outer frame first, then slotted in the other sills. Then I flipped it over after the glue firmed up and cut a mess of floorboards and glued them on.


After some trimming and sanding to make sure all was even and smooth, I flipped it back over, cut a couple groves in the sills and put in the .015 wire for the train line.

All this was done in accordance with a prototype diagram I was steered to by a fellow modeler. It gave me all the major dimensions.

Now I’ll trim some bolsters to fit underneath and start on the brake gear. needlebeams, queenposts, truss rods and turnbuckles.

I’ve ordered some HOn3 trucks, and some loose wheel sets to set topside on this “wheel and tie” car. I also have to build the wheel set holders and the slanted rack where the ties were placed. I’m also awaiting some additional detail parts.

The mailman did bring me a decal set for this specific car and a partner MoW “rail and tie” car that I hope to build. The decals are from San Juan Decals. They should look good when I get around to painting and finishing. But that, I expect, will be some time off. ¬†Here’s another look at the real thing.


(One last thing: those 34′ 3D frames I prepared are now sitting idle. If I finish these MoW projects, I’ll figure out what prototypes I can turn them into.)

Installing the Floorboards

With the undercarriage finished, it was time to flip the car-to-be over and lay down the floorboards. I used Northeastern Scale Lumber Co. HO scale 2″x8″s — 49 pieces per top for each of the two 36′ frames I had ready.


And here is a view more directly of the side, showing the undercarriage details.


With that done, after the glue dried, I trimmed the overhanging boards with a saw and knife and set the first frame aside and installed the boards on the second frame, as before using Alene’s Tacky Glue (which is helpful as it gives you time before the glue sets to shift the boards around to ensure they are parallel with the ends and evenly overhanging the sides.)

I’ve been doing more research on prototypes to decide how to finish these two flat car frames and I’m leaning toward some MoW (maintenance of way) type rolling stock. These offer rich detail and of course perform a useful function for any railroad, especially older era railroads.

Here are two examples, both from the Denver and Rio Grande Western RR.

That’s a tie and rail car on the right (ties in the upper level, rails on the flat bed) and a wheel and tie car on the left.

In the meantime, I intend to prepare two more frames. These will be 34′ frames vs. the 36′ used for the first pair.

More Progress on the 3D Underframe

When we last left your intrepid modeler, ahem, me, I had added the bolsters and needlebeams to the undercarriages of the two 3D printed frames along with the train brake line (.015 wire running from one end to the other, crossing over at the center of the frame). After hours of additional detail work, I added the full brake gear complement.


This is, frankly, a maddening process of snipping off bits of .010 brass wire, somehow managing to keep it on the worktop, bending a bit of one end and fitting it into the miniscule holes I managed to drill into the levers. Gasp! Naturally several popped out while I attempted to add the next bit of wire, but eventually, hours later, I prevailed. Sigh.

Then it was on to the next step: adding the queenposts to the needlebeams, stringing monofilament fishing line (10 lb. test courtesy of my nextdoor neighbor) as truss rods, remembering to add turnbuckles one at a time before feeding the line through the next set of holes I drilled in the frame and, eventually, dabbing a bit of superglue to hold the line (and the turnbuckles) in place. Hurray!


Of course it all looks a bit messy right now, especially when photographed atop my well-worn cutting mat.

But it’s going to look great when, in the next step, I spray paint both frames with some flat black paint! ¬†Only then can I move on to building something on the topside of these undercarriages. At least I’ll have some time to think about it (and won’t have to go blind manipulating all those tiny bits and pieces.)

As they say (who said it?), model railroading is fun!


3D Rolling Stock Progress

Well, I now have the 3D printed needlebeams and bolsters for those 3D printed undercarriages… and I couldn’t resist taking some time to add them to two of the frames. I also cut slots in a couple of the beams on each and fitted some .015 brass wire to make the train brake lines.

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Next step will be to install the actual brake system. Then the queenposts and truss bars with turnbuckles.

Once the undercarriages are done, I plan on going back to cutting and fitting strip wood for the end blocks, side panels and the flooring on the topsides. Then I have to decide whether to add additional parts to make something more than a flatcar — perhaps a gondola? Or perhaps a tool car with a shed on top? Who knows?

Cars and Trucks

If you’re going to model pre-1900 railroads, you have to find a source for period-appropriate trucks for your rolling stock. And in my opinion, there’s no better source than Bitter Creek Models (https://bittercreekmodels.com/index.html).

Right now the owner is retooling his line of trucks. But I was fortunate enough to get in my order just before his working sabbatical through October.


Here they are, laid out on my workbench, drying after receiving a Q-tip rubdown with isopropyl alcohol in preparation for painting.

These include two different types of wood beam trucks, the T-21 1870 (Right) and the T-22 1880 (Left).

The other pair are T-31 Heavy Thielsen trucks.


The early wood beams will go onto the BTS kits I recently built: the conductor car, the open cattle car and the gondola. But the others will be used on the cars I have to start scratch building in pursuit of the NMRA Master Builder-Cars certificate.

It’s good to get back to some fresh projects for model railroading!