Tuesday, July 31, 2018

Resin Car Body Assembly

Today each resin kit we build is either a flat kit or a one piece car body kit.  The difference is the flat kit requires you to assemble the sides, ends and roof or floor to build the car body. Of course, the one piece body has this step complete making it easier for the kit builder. When building a flat kit, building the car body is just an extra step.  I will show you the steps I use to build the car body from the parts found in a flat kit.

Flat kit resin parts
(tap or click on all photos to enlarge)

Before beginning the assembly of the flat kit car body I complete the following basic steps: wash the kit parts with Dawn liquid detergent soap, remove flash and make sure the sides of the car body are of equal length.  If one side is longer than the other, a Northwest Short Line True Sander is a great tool to use to sand off the same amount of material from each side end to make it equal in length to the other. I count the number of sanding strokes used to remove material on each end to attempt to remove the same amount of material from each end.

Flash is removed from car body parts and underbody

I begin the build of a flat kit car body by first building the "box."  I make the "box" by gluing an end to a side to create a "L" and repeat the process for the other end and side.  I use machinist blocks to keep the "L" square to accomplish this task. The two "L" units are glued together to create the basic box. Again, the machinist blocks are used to complete the task.

Custom machinist blocks with chamfer edges used to create "L"

Purchased angle plate machinist blocks used.
  Use glue sparingly to prevent "L" attaching to machinist blocks
or move block with clamp to the right, back along side away from corner joint

Two "L"s glued together to make basic box or car body

Next, the roof is fitted to the box and cemented in place to complete the car body.  Some kit instructions have you  install the underbody rather than the roof first.  Inside the car body, corners are reinforced with Evergreen #164, .080"x.080" strip styrene or Evergreen #165, .080"x.100" strip styrene.  On the sides the same strip styrene can be used to create underbody supports. The reinforced corners can also be done using kit sprues.

Underbody supports installed on sides only

Underbody support added on ends; however, not really needed.

Finally, a baffle made from Evergreen. 040" sheet styrene is added in the center of the car body to prevent car body from bowing in.  I use a caliper to obtain the measurement for the width of the baffle.  I take the width measurement inside at one end of the car.  An angle plate machinist block is used to align baffle.

Angle plate machinist block used to align baffle

Baffle installed

Once the car body is complete, the underbody is fitted via sanding to the box and car weights, electric outlet box punch-outs,  are added.  I also add couplers and trucks to the underbody at this time.

Underbody fitted to car body via sanding

Weights, couplers and trucks added to underbody prior to install

After the underbody is fitted and cemented into the car body with coupler pads flush with bottom of ends for proper alignment, the basic car body with underbody installed is complete.

You are now ready to complete the detailing of the car body and underbody.

Thank You for taking time to read my blog.  You can share a comment in the section below if you choose to do so.  Please share the blog link with other model railroaders.
Lester Breuer

Thursday, July 5, 2018


In 1917 the United States Railroad Administration (USRA) took over the nation's railroads.  To replace old outdated equipment and ease car shortages, the USRA developed three standard boxcar designs .  One of the designs was a 40 ton double-sheathed composite box car. Vertical tongue-and-groove wood sheathing, a flexible steel-sheathed wood roof, 5-5-5 Murphy corrugated steel ends, and a fish-belly center sill were some of the features of this design. Trucks for these cars were Andrews U-section cast-steel trucks with spring planks. The USRA ordered 25,000 of these double-sheathed cars to be allocated among the railroads.  The Chicago Rock Island and Pacific, CRI&P, accepted 1,000 of these 40 ton double-sheathed cars from the Mount Vernon Car Company and placed them in series 155000-155999.  The cars proved durable so the CRI&P rebuilt the double-sheathed cars in the 1950's keeping their original appearance except for the addition of a fascia board along the roof line and replacing the KC brakes with AB brakes. A complete history, details, and photos of these cars is found in Railway Prototype Cyclopedia, RP CYC 16, published by RPC CYC Publishing Company.

Rock Island 155939
Funaro & Camerlengo  photograph on kit box cover
Circa 1950, George Sisk photograph, Charles E. Winters collection

My build of this USRA rebuild 40 ton double-sheathed Rock Island box car, numbered 155945, series 155000-155999, is a Funaro & Camerlengo 40 ton double-sheathed box car, flat resin kit 3061. In addition to the kit instructions, I used data and photo, page 42, in RP CYC 16.  Being a flat resin kit, I began by building the basic car body "box." I make the "box" by gluing an end to a side to create a "L" and repeat the process for the other end and side.  The two "L" units are glued together to create the basic car body box ( for photos of using machinist blocks to keep assembly square  click on label machine blocks).  Next, the underbody was fitted via sanding to the box and cemented in place using the coupler pads for proper alignment to complete the car body without roof.  Inside the car body, corners were reinforced with Evergreen #164, .080"x.080" strip styrene.  And, a baffle made from Evergreen. 040" sheet styrene was added to prevent car body from bowing in. Now, I attached Kadee #262 narrow "whisker" coupler boxes with Kadee #148 "whisker" couplers installed with Zap CA glue to hold them for drilling.  I drilled the bolsters and coupler pockets for 2-56 screws and added the Accurail, #150, 2-56x3/16" screws to the coupler boxes. Next I added weights, electrical outlet box punch-outs, to bring the car weight to 3.8 ounces. Finally, Accurail Andrews trucks with InterMountain 33" metal wheels were installed with Atheran, #99002, 2-56x1/4" round head screws.

Car body basic box.
Note: click or tap on any photo to enlarge.
Underbody installed to basic car body box.
Corner bracing, baffle and weights installed.
The roof was now glued to the car body to complete the basic car for final detailing. Detailing of the car body began with the roof to which I installed the longitudinal running board with Barge contact cement and Zap CA glue. Next, I installed the longitudinal extension brackets, made using Evergreen, #8102, 1x2" strip styrene, on both ends. I continued with the detailing of the "B" end. First the ladder stile was installed followed by the kit provided drop grab iron ladder rungs for which .080" holes had been drilled.  And, the same was done on the "A" end.  Back to the "B" end to install the kit provided brake step, Tichy Train Group (Tichy), set #3013. The brake step brackets were formed from ordinary wire staples found in your home stapler using the plastic kit brackets for a pattern.  A Sunshine Models resin retainer valve and retainer line, Tichy, #1100, .008" diameter phosphor bronze wire (PBW) with brackets, a "U" bolt shape bent from .010" diameter wire using a Xuron wire bending plier were installed. A vertical brake shaft step, A-Line #29000, and the vertical brake shaft made from Tichy #1102 .015" diameter PBW with a brake shaft bracket formed from Details Associates #2503 .010" diameter brass wire were installed next. A Tichy brake wheel from kit provided set #3013 was installed and a bolt head made with a MEK Goop (plastic melted in MEK) was added to the top of the brake shaft. Sill grab irons, bent from Tichy, #1106, .0125" dia. PBW and right side kit grab iron were installed. Now the kit placard board into which board and metal mounting strap detail was scribed using a scriber made from a dental tool was installed. Placard board fasteners were made with MEK Goop. Finally, the uncoupling levers fabricated from Tichy, #1106, .0125" dia. PBW with eyebolt brackets formed from Detail Associates, #2503, .010" dia. brass wire were installed. With the "B" end complete the grab irons and placard board were installed on the "A" end.

Now for the sides. The ladders consist of drop grab irons provided in the kit installed in #79 holes drilled below the molded on nut/bolt/washer castings.  Two drop grab irons are installed on the left side.  The sill steps in the kit did not match prototype photo so I replaced them with A-Line #29000, style A, sill steps. The molded on door handle was carved off and a door handle bent form Detail Associates #2503, .010" diameter brass wire was installed. One final detail item for a rebuilt Rock Island car is the addition of a fascia strip along the roof line.  After studying photo of this car I used an Evergreen, #8104, 1x4" strip styrene for the fascia board.

Back to the roof to finish adding the latitudinal running boards.  The USRA cars had a special mounting bracket (see photo below) that was not in the kit.  I fabricated the mounting bracket by cutting strips .005"x.045" from shim brass and added fasteners made with MEK Goop.  Once the mounting brackets were glued in place, the kit provided running boards were installed.  Before installing the running boards the corner grabs irons were installed with Yarmouth Model Works, #YMW356, etched eyebolts with shoulder, used for corner grab iron leg. Installing the grab irons on the latitudinal running board before attaching them to the mounting bracket enables you to easily cut off any portion of the grab iron or corner leg that protrudes on the underside of the running board.

Special mounting bracket for the latitudinal running board.

With car body detailing done, only the underbody was left to complete.  Bake components, Tichy #3013 brake set in kit, were drilled for piping and mounted on the left side (correct for the Rock Island) of the fishbelly center sill.  A Sunshine Models bracket was used to mount the brake cylinder. To install a train line, holes were drilled thru underframe members using a drill made from a four inch long, .032" diameter, piano wire.  A train line, .018" diameter flora wire in the kit, was installed.  Train line unions were added with MEK Goop. Brake levers made from, Evergreen, #8108, 1x8" and #8106, 1x6" strip styrene and a universal slack adjuster made form a .005" styrene was installed. Brake piping from the air reservoir to the control valve was installed using Detail Associates, #2503, .010" diameter brass wire and Tichy, #1106, .0125" diameter PBW  was used for the pipe from the brake cylinder to the control valve. All brake rodding is Tichy, #1106, .0125" diameter PBW with a half of a Tichy, #8021, turnbuckle for a clevis to attach it to the brake levers. Finally, a dirt collector, Tichy,# 3013 set, was installed.  The dirt collector pipe was connected to the train line with a tee made with MEK Goop.

With car body detailing finished, the car was moved to the paint shop. The car body was first washed with a makeup cotton swab dipped in 91% isopropyl alcohol.  Once dry, the underbody was sprayed with Vallejo Model Air, #71.054, Dark Grey Black ( tarnished black).  The car body was sprayed with Vallejo Model Color, #70.940, Saddle Brown.  After a couple of hours the car body was sprayed with Model Master,4638, Gloss Clear Acryl for a decal application surface. All paint is thinned with a custom thinner mix of distilled water, Vallejo air brush thinner and flow improver.  After letting the car dry overnight, decals in the kit were applied using Microscale Set and Sol decal setting solution.  Once the decals were dry, a single-edge razor blade was used to cut through the decals on the board lines and decals were again coated with Microscale Sol decal setting solution.  When decals were dry the car body was sprayed with Model Master, 4636, Flat Clear Acryl to protect the decals.  After letting the car sit to dry for several days, weathering was added to the car body using Pan Pastels and eye shadow makeup.

RI box car 155945 sitting on Dawkins Siding.

Rock Island 155945 now joins Rock Island 155939 in service on the Minneapolis & Northland Railroad Company.  When looking at the two cars sitting next to each other, the paint color is different.  Rock Island box car 155939 was painted in 2014 with Floquil Oxide Red, F110186, no longer available.  Rather than matching this color on Rock Island number 155945 with Vallejo paint, I decided to change the color to attempt a faded paint look.

Cars sitting on Dawkins siding.

Thank You for taking time to read my blog.  You can share a comment in the section below if you choose to do so.  Please share the blog link with other model railroaders.
Lester Breuer

Tuesday, July 3, 2018

Machinist Blocks

During two of my college years I worked in a machine shop to help pay college expenses.  While working in the machine shop I used tools that I could use to improve my modeling.  The caliper and micrometer were two measuring tools I used there that I have written about on this blog ( see the labels caliper or tools).  Another valuable tool I found to assist my modeling was machinist blocks.  The machinist block is a tool that will help you keep model freight cars and structures and other projects square.  I want to share with you several types of machinist blocks I have in my collection that help me and may help you in your modeling projects.

Various commercial and custom made machinist blocks

If you and I do an internet search for machinist blocks and look at images, the most common machinist blocks I find are called 1 2 3 machinist blocks.  The precision milled, ground parallel, flat, square and hardened blocks are useful for setup work. The holes can be used to bolt them together to form custom shapes.  The 1 2 3 blocks are available from various vendors. I purchased my pair of 1 2 3 blocks, 1"x2"x3", from a tool vendor at a railroad show.  I use these blocks mostly to help keep projects such as model structures square during assembly.  The blocks have some weight to them so I also use them for a weight when called for.

1 2 3 machinist blocks

For freight car assembly, the machinist blocks I use frequently are called angle plate blocks.  In my tool drawer I have the following three sizes: 1"x1", 2"x2" and 3"x3" that I purchased from MicroMark.

Angle plate machinist blocks

I use angle plates to keep the car body "basic box" square when building a resin flat car kit. I make the "box" by gluing an end to a side to create a "L" and repeat the process for the other end and side.  The two "L" units are glued together to create the basic car body box. I use the angle plates to keep the "L" square while glue is applied. I clamp one of the resin sides to the 2"x2" angle plate and use a second one to support the car body end against it to form the "L".  The small 1"x1" is used on the inside to support both the side and end.

The car body "basic box."

Machinist blocks to create an "L"section

The angle plates work well; however, I had a custom set of machinist blocks made for me that I like even better and use to assemble ever freight car I build. The blocks were made in two sizes: a small block 1/2"x7/8"x2" and a large block 5/8"x1-1/8"x2."  The special features of the custom made blocks are size and chamfered edges.  The blocks were machined for me by my friend Gary Wildung; therefore, I call them the "Gary blocks."

Custom machined Gary blocks

I use the Gary blocks , as the angle plate blocks, to build the car body basic box for a freight car build. In the photos you can see the Garry blocks have several chamfered edges.  The chamfered edge allows them to be placed in a square corner to which glue is applied without the machine block getting glue on it and attaching itself.

Custom Gary blocks in use

The Gary blocks, placed in a vertical position,  or the small 1'x1" angle block can be used inside the completed car body basic box to install a baffle.

The machinist blocks I have described above should sit on a flat surface when being used. In the machine shop the machinist blocks were used on a "surface plate" made from granite.  Of course, this type of surface plate is cost prohibitive and does not work well on a model workbench.  After a search for a good substitute, I decided a piece of plate glass obtained from a local glass company was my best option.  I had the glass company cut the plate glass to the size I wanted for my workbench. I keep a gray sheet of cardborad, a photo framing mat found at an art supply store, under the plate glass to enable me to see easily kit parts laid on it.  The plate glass is also easy to clean as you can easily scrape off the glue that collects on it during the basis box assembly with a single edge razor blade (SERB).  The plate glass can be etched if cutting directly on it when using a knife or a SERB so I keep a small healing cutting mat in one corner to cut on.

If you do not have machinist blocks in your collection of modeling tools I urge you to give them a try.  The machinist blocks act as extra hands to hold the resin car ends and sides together square when applying the glue.  I am guessing you as I will soon be convinced of their value in your tool drawer.

Thank You for taking time to read my blog.  You can share a comment in the section below if you choose to do so.  Please share the blog link with other model railroaders.
Lester Breuer