Sunday, July 21, 2019

Brake Levers

When I begin freight car underbody detail work I first mount the major brake components: brake cylinder, air brake reservoir, and control valve.  Prior to mounting, I drill holes in the major components to receive piping if needed.  Next I mount the brake levers, defined in the 1949-1951 Car Builders’ Cyclopedia ( Simmons-Boardman Publishing Corp., 1949) as “a general term designating the levers used as part of the Foundation Brake Gear” which also includes the brake rods, etc..  A detailed description of the foundation brake gear with diagrams can be found in Freight Car Underbody Detail  paper by Gene Green.  Typically on a freight car underbody there are two brake levers:  cylinder lever (live) and the floating lever ( dead, fulcrum).  The brake levers are supported by brake lever hangers (brackets, lever carriers or guides) attached to the underframe.

Brake levers and hangers diagram from
Freight Car Underbody Detail by Gene Green
(click or tap on any image to enlarge) 

Brake levers and hangers on model.

When you mount the brake levers you need to decide whether to model them in the brakes released or brakes applied position.   I normally mount them in the released position.  For brake lever hangers I use straight grab irons, Tichy Train Group (Tichy), #3021, 18” straight type or I bend them from Tichy, #1106, .0125" diameter  phosphor bronze wire (PBW) or Detail Associates, #2504 .012" diameter brass wire.  Sometimes I use plastic straight grab irons for the brake lever hangers.

Brake levers and hangers diagram from
Freight Car Underbody Detail by Gene Green

Brake lever hangers are plastic grab irons.

When I first began doing freight car underbody work I quickly eliminated the various plastic and resin brake levers for various reasons.   Soon the brake levers I used were only from two manufactures: Tichy and Cal-Scale.  The Cal-Scale levers have holes molded in them into which wire brake rods having a tiny ninety degree bend on the end are installed.  Tichy brake levers have molded clevises with slots into which the brake rods are installed.  My preferred choice was Cal-Scale.  The Tichy  and Cal-Scale levers are available in the AB sets, Tichy, #3013 and Cal-Scale, #190-283.  The Cal-Scale brake levers only are available in Cal-Set, # 190-494.

The AB style brake sets with brake levers.

Cal-Scale brake levers.

In one of Ted Culotta’s “Essential Freight Cars” series in Model Railroad Craftsman he stated he made brake levers from strip styrene, 1" x 8" for the cylinder lever and 1" x 6" for the floating lever.  I decided making the brake levers from styrene was a fast and economical way to have and make brake levers I needed.  To make the brake levers I decided I first had to make a pattern.  I could have used actual dimensions to make the pattern; however,  since I really liked the Cal-Scale brake brake levers I used them to make a pattern via tracing on cardboard.

Brake levers dimensions diagram from
Freight Car Underbody Detail by Gene Green

Brake lever pattern  made using
 Cal-Scale brake levers

After the pattern was made, I cut blanks  3’ 6” from Evergreen #8108, 1" x 8” strip styrene for the cylinder lever and 2’ 6”, #8106, 1" x 6” strip styrene  styrene for the floating lever using a NorthWest Short Line chopper.  Each type was placed in a storage bag until needed.

Styrene blanks for brake lever types
 cut and placed in package

When I need a brake lever, I pull a blank of proper size cut styrene for a cylinder lever and floating  lever out of the bag they are stored in.  I place the blank on the brake lever pattern to draw a pencil line on the blank at the middle line location.  Next I use a single edge razor blade to cut a minuscule slice off the styrene blank from the edge of blank from the pencil line to just inside the end of it creating four slightly angled sides.  And, again the single-edge razor blade is used to cut off the corners on both the ends.  An emery board is used to round each end after cutting off the corners to complete the brake lever.

With the blank positioned on the pattern
 draw the middle line on the blank with a pencil.
(the hard to see blank is below the pencil point in the above photo)

Cutting a very tiny amount off an edge on the blank.

Brake lever cutting complete.

In Ted Culotta’s Essential Freight Car series that ran in Railroad Model Craftsman, he used Tichy Turnbuckles, #8021, to represent the  clevis used to attach a prototype brake rod to brake levers rather than drilling holes in brake levers to accept the ninety degree bend in a wire brake rod.  He felt installing the brake rods with turnbuckles representing the clevis  provided a more realistic look.  After seeing the article photos showing the brake rods attached with the Tichy turnbuckles and liking the realistic look I began using this method.

Tichy turnbuckles used to attach brake rods to brake levers.

I also went back to some freight car models with installed brake rods using the ninety degree bend at the end of a brake rod to attach it the brake lever and created a clevis over the inserted wire using MEK Goop.

Clevis to attach brake rod to brake lever is made with MEK Goop.

After I began making the brake levers I use from Evergreen strip styrene, Yarmouth Model Works (YMW) came out with photo etched brass brake levers without holes, similar in appearance  to the ones I was making.   A good looking brake lever that I now have in the parts box for freight car underbody detailing.

Yarmouth Model Works photo etched brake levers.

Yarmouth Model Works photo etched brass brake levers
installed on a resin freight car underbody.

If your freight car underbody detailing includes adding brake levers I am guessing you have used one of the above described brake levers; however, you may not have tried making your own.   Above, I have attempted to describe the method I use to make my own brake levers.   If you have not tried to make your own brake levers I hope you will give it a try.

A completed freight car underbody detailing.

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

Monday, July 1, 2019

Soo Line Box Car 45398 Upgrade

After upgrading Soo Line box car 45938 I felt I should do the same with Soo Line box car 45398, Front Range kit 1951, number 47 of 1000, purchased from the Soo Line Historical & Technical Society in 1987.  The construction on this series of cars, 45100-45498,  was essentially identical to the 45938.  Therefore, the upgrade would be similar.

The prototype was built in the Soo Line North Fond du Lac Shops in 1950.  Construction of this series, 45100-45498, 198 cars for the Soo Line and the rest for the Wisconsin Central, had similar features of the later cars: steel sides, 6 foot doors, R+3/4 dreadnaught ends, Standard Railway Equipment diagonal-panel roof, steel running boards, eight rung side ladders, various hand brakes including Superior or Equipco, nailable steel floor and rode on ASF Ride-Control A-3 or Barber S-2-B stabilized trucks.  One difference was the triangular reinforcing plates added on each side of the doors along the frame.  Another difference was the paint scheme.  The cars had black ends rather than the light oxide ends as the later cars and the billboard lettering was near the doors rather than near the ends.   A black and white photo of Wisconsin Central 137100 ( identical in construction and lettering to Soo Line car except for the additional lettering including a small W.C. in the upper left corner) appears in Soo Line Freight Equipment and Cabooses book ( Soo Line Historical and Technical Society, 2014) on page 20.  Front Range painted box car 45398 an oxide red and lettered it with the Soo Line road name in large white “billboard style” lettering near the doors. The lettering  on the model matches that in the photo  well.  A car diagram can be viewed in Soo Line  Freight Equipment Diagrams ( Soo Line Historical and Technical Society, 2013). 

Author collection
(Click or tap on any photo to enlarge)

Both Soo Line cars have essentially the same construction;
 however, lettering has changed.

I began the upgrade with the roof.  I installed Kadee Apex, #2000, running boards with mounting pins and mounting pins on end brackets cut off to be installed.

Kadee running boards installed.

Next I removed the seven rung side and end ladders (ladders were separate parts, not molded on).  I found I had plastic seven rung ladders ( manufacturer unknown) in the parts box that could be used on the ends.  And, I had several extra ladders so I cut one ladder up to add a rung to two seven rung ladders to make them eight  rung ladders for the sides.  Once fabricated the eight rung side ladders and end ladders were installed.   I chose to leave the side and end bracket grab irons I attempted to replicate when I assembled the model.  If I were to replace them I would use  Kadee bracket grab irons.

Plastic eight rung ladders have been installed.

I still had work on the sides.   I continued the upgrade of the side by cutting off the molded on sill (stirrup) steps and replacing them with A-Line, #29002, style “C”, sill steps installed in #76 holes drilled prior to install.  I removed the molded on door handles and replaced them  with Tichy Train Group (Tichy) #1101, .010” diameter phosphor bronze wire (PBW).  Now to add the triangular reinforcing plates added on each side of the doors along the frame.  I used Evergreen .005” sheet styrene from the bits box to make them. The reinforcing plates in prototype photos appear to be welded on rather than riveted so no rivets added.

Other details: sill steps, door handles, and reinforcing plates
on side of doors are installed.

The “B” end upgrade came next.  I removed the kit brake wheel, plastic over-sized brake rod ( separate part), solid incorrect brake step (platform) and incorrect brackets.  A brake step was cut from a Kadee Apex running board and installed.   A Plano photo etched brake step could be used.  New triangle shaped brake step brackets were cut from Evergreen .010” strip styrene from the bits box.   A brake rod cut from Tichy # 1102, .015” diameter PBW was installed in-between chain and bell crank.  A retainer valve cast in the M&N Shops was installed followed by a retainer line and brackets #1101, .008” diameter PBW.  Uncoupling levers bent from Tichy # 1106, .0125" diameter PBW with eye bolt brackets formed with wire bending pliers from Tichy #1101, .010" diameter PBW.  The final upgrade item, a Kadee Champion Brake wheel #2044, was installed.

"B" end with details added and painted.

With the car body work done I turned to the underbody which had brake components and molded oversize brake piping, brake levers, brake rods and train line. 

Under body with some molded on brake rods cut off.
Piping and train line still to be removed.

 I cut off the over-sized piping, brake rods except for the one connecting the two brake levers and train line.   I drilled holes in the installed brake components  with a long drill.  Next the piping and brake rods were installed. Piping from the air reservoir to the control valve, Tichy #1101, .010” diameter PBW.  The pipe from the back of the brake cylinder to the control valve Tichy #1106, .0125” diameter PBW.  I did not use Tichy turnbuckles to attach the brake rods due to the thickness of the molded brake levers.  Instead, I drilled holes with a #79 drill in the ends of the brake levers into which the ninety degree bend made on the end of the brake rods, Tichy #1106, .0125” diameter PBW was installed.  A Train Line, .018” diameter floral wire was installed.  The holes for the train line were drilled with a four inch piano wire drill I made from K&S .032” piano wire.  A M&N Shops dirt collector was installed.The chain  between the brake rod and brake cylinder lever is A-Line #29219, black 40 links per inch.  The final detail, brake lever hangers, plastic grab irons cut from other cars, were added.

Under body with upgrade details installed.

The car was ready for paint.  The under body parts were hand painted with a mix:  50% Vallejo Black Grey 70.862 and 50%  Model Color Black #70.950.

Under body with upgrade details painted.

The added car body details were hand painted with Vallejo Model Air 71105, Brown RLM 26, a match for Polly Scale Special Oxide Red.  The trucks were painted Polly Scale Tarnished Black, F414140 when the car was assembled.  Vallejo Model Color Black Grey 70.950 is a match for the no longer available Polly Scale Tarnished Black. Once the paint was dry, weathering was applied with a Pan Pastels sponge applicator using  Pan Pastels: Burnt Sienna #740.5, on roof and sides and Black #800.5, on roof and ends.  The sponge does not get material into small areas such as in-between ladder rungs so micro applicators were used to add the weathering to these areas.

Car weathered and ready for service.

Once out of the paint shop the car was put back into service on the Minneapolis & Northland Railroad Company to serve customer needs.

Soo Line box car 45398 in Minneapolis Chestnut Street Yard
waiting to be put into train.

Soo Line box car 45398 sitting in
 Minneapolis Chestnut Street Yard.

Soo Line box cars sitting in Minneapolis Chestnut Street Yard.

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