Wednesday, January 24, 2018

4400 "Washboard" M. U. Cars Part 3


The delivery paint scheme with green ends as seen in the 1957 photo at Danbury in part 1 was picked for this model.

The bare body shell was sanded smooth to a fine 400 grit wet/dry sandpaper. Sanding the stainless side fluting is difficult without distorting the fidelity of the flutes, this was made as smooth as possible with a maroon 320 grit Scotch-Brite flexible sanding pad.

The shell was primed with Alclad II black primer with micro filler, the shell was re-sanded again with 600 grit paper and the flutes were sanded with a light grey 800 grit Scotch-Brite pad.

The roof was painted acrylic grimy black. The ends were painted New Haven 401 green with Accu-paint.

I had never tried Alclad II metal finishes before but decided to give it a try on the stainless side fluting. I had read on the net somewhere before that chrome was the best choice to represent stainless steel so I decided to try that.

Alclad is a two step process, first coat is their gloss black lacquer base coat, after drying followed by the chrome lacquer coats.

I was actually amazed it does look like chrome plating as seen below, to shiny for stainless though.

To dull it down some, a mixture coat of  1/3 dullcoat 2/3 glosscoat lacquer was applied over the chrome, see below.

I am happy with the result on the fluting, but I would try the stainless steel paint next time. I will use the chrome when vehicle modeling going forward.

A light coat of chrome was also applied to the outside of the corner steps. To help mask the white of the paper that the step risers are printed on, a very light coat of chrome was over-sprayed but not enough to obscure the printed "holes". The letter and number boards are separate pieces of .005 styrene, they are painted a cream color to try and match the prototype. These appear more white in the photos than they actually are because of the lighting used to take the photo. There are no interior details, the window shades are a print out from Rapido.

Below is a new 4400 washboard.

MU cables, air hoses and a few extra details added as per prototype. Need to find some small decal numbers to fit in the number boards next to the vestibule doors and add some weathering to finish.

I am happy with the final model, it was a needed prototype for the layout. The car runs great with just a base non sound decoder.

Sunday, January 14, 2018

4400 "Washboard" M. U. Cars Part 2

Body Shell

The body shell from Island Modelworks is cleanly cast and fits the Lifelike Proto 1000 power chassis well. The clear cast windows that come with the kit fit the window openings in the shell very well and simply snap into place, but they must be cut from the window strip and installed individually.

The suggested Bachmann E 33 Pantograph is used.

Adding Detail To The Body Shell

I decided to remove the cast on body on details like the grab irons, horn, headlights, etc. for a detail upgrade and replacement.

One thing that was most bothersome about the shell was the inset depth of the front and rear doors, they did not appear to be set far enough into the shell. The Danbury Railway Museum has a 4400 "washboard" in their collection, during a visit there the actual inset depth of the front and rear doors was measured, using that measurement the inset of the doors were corrected on the shell.

First step was the removal of all the molded on roof details except the roof air vents on the rear of the car. The lightning arrester was carefully cut off and put aside for remounting later. The roof was sanded smooth.

The front and rear doors were were cut out of the shell, the doors were then reset further back into the shell as per measurements taken of the prototype.  As seen in the photo below of the rear of the car body, styrene strips were used to make the passageway wings on both sides of the door and also the passageway ceiling not seen in photo. The molded on air vents were shortened on both ends, then a longer styrene cover was made to fit over the molded on vents so there would be a prototypical opening on both ends of the vents. A styrene platform walkway and buffer plate were also added. 

This next photo shows the inside of the body shell, this again shows the styrene strips used to frame the inset door.

Also shown below and above a coupler lift bar from a Branchline coach kit was installed on a styrene bracket. The coupler yoke is also from Branchline, a styrene cover was made to look like the washboard prototype.

A headlight lens a bezel ring was harvested from a F-7 body shell to replace the molded on headlight.

On both ends the upper sheetmetal sheets were replaced with a .005" styrene overlay. This gives a crisper edge between the ends and roof. This photo also shows the door and end hand grabs. Archer rivet decals were applied as the prototype.

A styrene filler strip was added above each vestibule door to bring the top of the door opening in line with the top edge of the stainless steel side fluting. Molded on hand grabs were removed and the door was framed with styrene strips then rivet decals applied.

Styrene channels were added to the roof to match the mounting holes in the Bachmann pantograph.
A Hancock air whistle casting from Branford Hobbies replaces the molded one.

The lightning arrester will be remounted on a styrene channel and brass bar mounting bracket.

I really don't know what the roof details below actually do on the prototype!  My assumption is that the release mechanism has something to do with the pantograph, as well as the detail marked ? Motor ? below, maybe this raises and lowers the pantograph? Anyway they were modeled as well as possible from photographs with pieces of styrene, solder, brass wire and bits and pieces from the scrap box. The short piece of running board is from Kadee. The lightning arrester sits on its new mounting bracket shown above.

A second look.

Ready for paint!

The model is presently in black primer, color to be added next. Final results in part 3.

Thursday, December 21, 2017

Michigan Central RR Gondola 15319

An Old Friend From Christmas Past

Christmas 1957, the Varney HO Scale train set under the tree was a gift from my parents. This set consisting of a F-3 locomotive, hopper car, refrigerator car, stock car, caboose and Michigan Central RR gondola #15319.

I always favored this particular car for some reason, maybe it was the Varney arch bar trucks it came equipped with differing from the rest or maybe just descriptive lettering on it's sides, I don't know but I still favor this old friend of a car.

M.C.R.R. 15319 has traveled many miles in the last 60 years, wearing out that original pair of arch bar trucks to be replaced be Kadee's. Changing from XF2 horn hook couplers to Kadee MKD # 5's in the 1960's then Kadee "scale" whisker couplers in the last decade. Stirrup steps broken off over the years till none remained only then replaced with metal ones. Never weathered just the grunge it has collected over six decades, but receiving a big detail upgrade when the brake wheel went missing a few years back, then having a Kadee brake wheel and air hoses installed.

That train set originally purchased from Hobby Land in Hackensack N.J., being only a 2 mile bike ride from home this became my first "train store". Additional purchases while building a first layout that winter included more brass Atlas Snap Track, switches, 18" and 22" curves and flex track with fiber ties.

Additional car kits from Varney and Athearn, structure kits from Revell followed. Had a lot of fun with that first layout!

A few layouts since then have come and gone with each move, M.C.R.R.15319 has had the honor of being the first car to traverse the "golden spike" of each successive layout including this latest.

Yes, this old friend of a car and I have gone many miles together in the last 60 years and maybe a few more yet.

As it turn out this Christmas gift was not just a gift of a train set, but a gift learning, fond memories and a life long hobby, what a gift, thanks Mom & Dad!

Merry Christmas and Happy Holidays to all, Joe

Friday, December 15, 2017

4400 "Washboard" M.U. Cars

"The Washboards"

The 4400 class of 100 multiple unit cars were built by Pullman Standard at their Worcester Massachusetts plant delivering them to the New Haven Railroad during 1954, nicknamed "washboards" for their fluted stainless steel sheathing applied to the car sides.

All 100 cars were driven by four 100 horsepower DC traction motors receiving power from the 11,000 volt AC overhead catenary thru a single pantograph, this power then rectified to DC before powering the traction motors. Each truck also had 2 retractable third rail pickup shoes one on each side of the truck for use when operating on the New York Central Railroad 650 volt DC trackage between Woodlawn junction and New York's Grand Central Terminal.

Cars with the 120 seat coach floor plan were the most numerous at 89 cars, combination cars with a baggage section and private cars filled out the roster.

Coach 4464 at Danbury Connecticut

The photo below of coach 4464 at Danbury station was taken by W. T. Clynes during 1957, era correct for the layout.

This photo is a good reason/excuse to have a washboard for the layout, same for a RDC seen in the background.

The RDC car has been offered in HO scale by many manufactures over the years and easily obtained but not so with the washboard.

The 4400 washboards have been offered in a brass 3 car set by NJ Custom Brass many years ago, these can be expensive and hard to come by.

Island Modelworks offers the coach kit pictured below that features a one piece body shell, a chassis with the underbody detail cast in place and comes with a pair trucks. (note that the trucks are on backwards in the photo).

Island Modelworks Photo

This kit is designed to accept the mechanism from the Life Like Proto 1000 RDC cars which are easy to obtain.

This kit is available and affordable, needing only one on the layout for the Danbury CT - South Norwalk CT shuttle, one was purchased. Several modifications to the kit were made during the build to make it operate as well as possible and raise the detail level , these modifications were to suite my personal likes only and are not meant to be a critique of the kit itself. 

Building the Kit, Part 1 The Chassis/Trucks

Needing only one washboard for the layout this car has to be a powered unit, unpowered trailers could be used in a string of several cars with only one being powered on a layout with different needs.

Wanting the finished car run as reliable and smoothly as possible for the long term the decision was made to use the entire Life Like RDC chassis and not just adapt the RDC drive mechanism to the resin cast chassis and trucks that come with the kit.

The first step was to remove the washboard underbody details that are cast as part of the kit chassis for transfer to the LL RDC chassis. Unfortunately no photo of the kit chassis was taken before modification, the below photo shows the part of the kit chassis with the cast on washboard details that was saved for transfer.

The thickness of the kit chassis is about the same as the LL RDC chassis. The thickness of the flat chassis portion of the kit that the details are molded to was thinned downed to about 1/32", enabling these details as a whole unit to be transferred and attached to the bottom of the RDC chassis. Thinning was done by placing a piece of aggressive sand paper grit side up on a piece of glass and rubbing the part back and forth till it was the needed thickness.

The 1/32" thickness is shown in the photo below.

This is the sanded side that will be attached to the bottom of the RDC chassis.

To make room to transfer the kit's chassis underbody details to the chassis of the RDC, the cast on underbody details on the RDC chassis must be removed first. The chassis was striped of all components and mounted in a vise, a reciprocating saw with a fine blade was used to cut off the unwanted RDC underbody details, a hacksaw with the blade turned 90 degrees could also be used. A flat file was used smooth the saw cuts and flatten the surface preparing it for mounting the washboard underbody details.

To secure the washboard body shell to the chassis, a sturdy strip of styrene was glued crosswise in the center of the shell then drilled and tapped for 2-56 screws. Corresponding clearance holes for the screws were drilled in the metal chassis and underbody detail piece as below.

This next photo shows the relative positioning of the underbody detail piece to the RDC chassis, it will be painted black and permanently glued in place later in the assembly process.

Note the two styrene strips glued to the outside edges of the chassis, these take up the void between the chassis and body shell making the shell fit snugly to the chassis and preventing any inward warping of the shell when mounted to the chassis at a later date.

The Trucks

The prototype washboard trucks pictured below are unique and far different from the RDC trucks in appearance.

The RDC trucks and sideframes are to be used on this model for their good operational qualities and long term reliability. The resin cast washboard truck sideframes provided with the kit have the necessary details, so these unique details were removed from the kit sideframes and transferred to the RDC sideframes the combination making the faux washboard truck sideframe shown below.

The metal castings of the mounting bar for the third rail shoes and the fuse box cover are from Branford Hobbies, these parts are from a kit they offered and may not be available separately but could have been easily made from styrene. The fuse box cover is incorrect for this truck, it should be just a plain flat cover, I did not realize this before gluing it in place but would be difficult to remove so it stays.
Also if the third rail bar was scratchbuilt from styrene the third rail shoe could be moved to the correct location under the shock absorber. In retrospect I should have scratchbuilt these parts and would do so if another car was to be built, but I will be satisfied with what I have and move on!

The Corner Steps

The corner steps of the RDC are a separate piece from the body shell and easily removed. These were chosen for reuse over the resin kit steps because they are less likely to be subject to breakage and are nicely injection molded and require no flash cleanup. These steps are permanently glued directly to the power chassis with the aid of styrene blocks to reinforce the glue joints and properly locate the steps on the chassis as seen below. Thin styrene caps were also added to the top of the steps.

The molded on block at both ends of the top side of the chassis were removed at the lines shown below, this was done so this portion of the chassis will not show thru the windows. There is still plenty of weight left on this chassis for it to track and operate well.

The couplers boxes will still securely attach to the chassis as they did with the RDC, another plus.

This photo shows a comparison of a Proto 1000 RDC on the left and the washboard body shell with truck and steps in place on the right

Part two will look at the detail additions made to the washboard body shell.

Thursday, October 12, 2017

Modeling Danbury - Susnitzky's

Susnitzky's, a luncheonette/variety store named for the proprietor family during the era of the layout was located in the bottom corner of a two story brick building. I refer to the entire building as "Susnitzky's" only because this was the largest named occupant at the time. This building had one additional store front on the bottom floor and apartments on the second floor, also a large imposing billboard structure on the roof.

With this buildings close proximity to the Danbury passenger station a model of this signature structure is a must to complete the station scene on the layout.

Locating Photos for Modeling.

Like most of the prototype structures modeled within the Danbury diorama portion of the layout the actual structure no longer exists, therefore historic photos for modeling need to be located. First a search online of Danbury historical photos provided no help.

The building that Susnitzky's is located in often appears in the background of photos where a railroad related subject is the focus of the photograph. One example of these photos is below, the building is obscured by the RPO car that is the subject of the photo, but a portion of the roof billboards can be seen above the cars roof providing a hint of that detail. This photo also shows the roof pitch and part of the front facade of the building to the left of Susnitzky's that will also need to be modeled.

Courtesy Bob's Photo

This next photo shows a street corner view of the building, this side is not seen from the operators isle and will not be modeled in detail. The photo does show the buildings cornice detail and the angled door of the corner entrance to Susnitzky's store front (a tavern in this photo from the WW I era).

Copyright NHRHTA Inc. Reproduced by Permission

An online aerial photo from the 70's shows the building and its relationship to the surrounding structures and yard, but to small in the photo to glean any detail.

Using the three photo examples above, finding a workable photo that showed enough detail to build a creditable model of the building was very frustrating.

Albert Comes to the Rescue!

During a visit to the Danbury Railway Museum I noticed a display about the Albert Hitchcock movie, Strangers On A Train. This 1951 movie has several scenes shot on location at the Danbury passenger station.

Watching the movie at home I was able to get a screen shot of the scene below. Although the building where Susnitzky's was located is partially obscured by the station platform cover that was still in place when the movie was made, this view of the building was good enough to be the "blueprint" to build a reasonably accurate model from.  More details are also revealed about the building to the left that is on the list to be modeled. This movie was made only six years prior to the era of the layout therefore provides photo information about signage and details that are close as possible to 1957. Thank you Mr. Hitchcock!

The Model Structure

Leftover 1/4" plywood from the Danbury station model and some dimensional lumber cut to the estimated building height form a solid base for the model stricture in the photo below.

The four building sides are each cut from a single piece of .040" styrene. The predominant side that is in view when the structure is on the layout is shown below with the door and window openings cutout.

In the next photo cornice detail has been added to the parapet wall at the top of the building, the corbels are ready molded ones from Tichy Train Group.

After painting the cornice, the adhesive backed textured brick paper from Micro-Mark is being applied in this photo. The windows and doors are from Tichy, the larger store front window to the right is from a Smalltown USA kit.

Pre-painted lintels are glued over the windows and door, sills under the windows, these are made from .010" styrene strips.


The billboards and other signage took more time to construct that the structure its self. The billboards taking the most time to build because of the lattice work below and between the billboards.

Below the billboards have been assembled with finished lattice in between. Gray paper is in place of where the signs will be inserted, the billboards are made so that the signs can be slid in from the top making it easy to change signs if desired.

Below the long lattice that is located under the billboards is being constructed. Equally spaced long strips of .010"styrene that will be the horizontal lattice bars are taped to a glass work surface using a straight edge at the bottom to keep everything straight. Shorter same width pieces of styrene keep the bars equidistant while gluing on the vertical bars. Vertical bars are glued in place one at a time using a same width piece of styrene as a spacer while gluing.

The finished billboard.

This will be the long horizontal sign that is seen on the prototype building in the screen shot from the movie, Coca-Cola button signs will be on each end where the mounting holes are drilled. The fluting at top and bottom are 1/2 round styrene strips.

The Finished Model

Below is the finished model with all the signage in place, again using the movie photo as a guide to make and locate the building signs.

John A. Devine that had the real estate and insurance business on the lower floor left later served as the Mayor of Danbury.

The Coca-Cola fountain service sign on the building corner came from an old magazine, it is mounted on styrene and hung by a bracket made from brass wire.

The green curtain, tobacco and lunch counter menu signs in Susnitzky's window are all from the net.

The OK used cars and trucks billboard sign came from the net, Dan-Ridge Chevrolet once had a used car lot just to the east of the Danbury station. I bought my first new truck from Dan-Ridge in the 1970's.

The Schaefer beer sign again is from the net, Schaefer was a New York City brewed beer and a favorite of mine until it was sold to another brewer.

"Dave's Old Six" bar & restaurant is the building partially seen to the left in the movie photo, that is the next building to be modeled and will complete the station area scene, hope to get started on it soon.

Thursday, August 17, 2017

Narrows Light

The passenger car "Narrows Light" is another one of the rolling stock oddities that makes modeling the New Haven Railroad a fun challenge and the research to do so very interesting.

Car History

The heavyweight 36 seat parlor car Narrows Light was built by Pullman to car plan #3916B in 1929. This car entered service as part of the Pullman owned & operated roster for use on the New Haven's Boston to New York or Boston to Washington runs. In late 1945 the car was purchased by the New Haven then leased back to Pullman, under NH ownership the car retained it's Narrows Light name but was renumbered NHRR # 2056. The car continued in parlor car service until it was withdrawn from the Pullman lease in January 1950. In 1953 this car was converted into a diner.

Diner Conversion, Interior

During 1953 the Narrows Light was converted at the New Haven's Readville Car Shops to what was shown in the public timetables as a "cafe-coach", but the official NH Passenger Train Consists book referred to it as a "diner". The new interior configuration consisting of a small all electric kitchen with cafeteria style serving, this kitchen using compact electric equipment that was developed during WWII for use in the cramped quarters of Navy submarines, an eight table dining area seating 32 and a 12 seat lounge area. The below photo shows the new compact all electric kitchen on one end of the car. Click to enlarge

This second photo shows the dining area from the lounge area at the other end of the car. Why the two end tables have checkered table cloths is a mystery but an interesting modeling feature.

Both Photos Copyright NHRHTA Inc. Reproduced by Permission

Obviously food and drink including alcohol was served but no known menu from this car has survived to my knowledge.

Diner Conversion, Exterior

After the diner conversion the car continued to retain the Narrows Light name. Initially the car most likely would have been painted a light silver gray with the possibility of a Hunter green window band for a better color match when assigned to operation with the New Haven's new stainless steel clad fleet of light weight streamline cars with their green window band, but there is no photo evidence of this. A few years later the car was repainted in the McGinnis era "black knight" scheme of all black with a red-orange letter board and white lettering as in the two photos below.

The side with the air conditioning duct retained the same window configuration as the original Pullman plan #3916B after the conversion to a diner as seen in this out of service photo below.

Peter C. McLachlan photo

The kitchen side of the car also retains the original window configuration but the windows that back up to the new kitchen were covered over on the exterior with individual sheetmetal panels welded in place of each window. A vent was added onto the roof presumably for exhausting cooking fumes from the hood located over the range/oven and a fan added to the clerestory again presumably to vent the ambient heat of the kitchen area. The photo below of the kitchen side was taken at Danbury CT in the late 50's while the car was in NYC-Pittsfield MA service.

 Peter C. McLachlan photo

Modeling the Narrows Light

The Narrows Light was assigned to the Berkshire beginning in 1957, the era of the layout, therefore a model of the diner in the black knight color scheme is a necessity for prototypical operation. The completed model shown above in front of the sanding tower at Danbury motor service on the layout is an attempt to mimic the the black & white prototype photo above this one.

This model was built several years ago. Unfortunately the very few construction photos that were taken then have been lost to the passage of time so none can be offered here, only a description of how it was built.

No Pullman plan #3916B parlor car kit was available, a Branchline Trains Blue Print Series 6-3 Pullman Sleeper kit was used as a core to kit-bash the Narrows Light. This kit was one the many great highly detailed sleeper kits that used to be available from Branchline Trains, the 6-3 was used in particular because it had the most symmetrical rivet pattern on the sides (this model was built before the availability of rivet decals). Using a Pullman sleeper car as a core kit will never render a totally accurate finished parlor car model because the clerestory section of the roof is to narrow, overlooking the roof discrepancy this kit seemed the best choice for a starting point at the time the model was built.

An advantage of the Branchline kits is that the sides are separate flat pieces that can be modified before assembling the kit. The first step in this kit-bash was to convert the window layout of sleeper sides to the correct window layout of the #3916B parlor, essentially first converting the sleeper to parlor car.

The fully windowed food serving and AC duct side of the car as modeled to parlor car plan #3916B is shown below. To achieve the correct window arrangement the window band from the 6-3 sleeper was removed, then 9 paired windows harvested from additional Branchline sleeper sides were installed in the correct locations. Sheet styrene was then cut to size and installed to fill the gaps between each pair of windows.

No Branchline roof had the correct air conditioning duct arrangement for this car, the 6-3 roof was used as a starting point but the left side of the AC duct was to long. To shorten the left side of the AC duct, an end harvested from the roof of a 14 section sleeper kit that matches the length of the right side of the AC duct on the 6-3 roof was spliced in at the lines shown in the photo. The duct is still incorrect in length but judging from the prototype photo of this side of the car is a lot closer match and the best that could easily achieved with the Branchline parts.  

A note about the Branchline Trains parts. All the extra parts to build this car were once easily available from the manufacture direct. All the extra parts like the roof, side sets and undercarriage set details were only $3 each, so the total cost of extra parts was only $9 plus $5 shipping. I sure miss Branchline Trains, those were the days!

The kitchen side of the model below had the window band changed to a #3916B arrangement with the same method as the opposite side. When the kitchen was installed into the prototype car the windows behind the kitchen area were blanked out by covering over the openings with welded in sheetmetal panels, the same was done to the model using sheet styrene. An attempt was made to simulate the panel warping on the prototype caused by the heat of welding in the panels.

Vents were changed or removed as necessary in the clerestory and a vent was added to the roof over the range hood as per prototype.

Branchline undercarriage details were arranged on both sides of the car to best represent the look of the prototype.

Using the interior black & white photos of the prototype as a guide a basic interior was modeled with styrene and various readily available seating. The interior colors of everything except the white tablecloths and stainless steel kitchen are a mystery, so the blue seat color used on other models on the roster was used here too and a red & white checkered tablecloth was chosen for the two tables that required them. Below the kitchen/serving area shows thru the windows.

Below is the dining area and lounge.

A special thanks to Peter McLachlan for the loan of the very hard to find photos of both sides of the Narrows Light and his remembrances of the car, and to Ted Jones for providing the file to print out the HO checkered tablecloths.