Tuesday, June 28, 2022

Pliers For Freight Car Builds

 In recent months I have received several emails asking if I would write a blog entry on the pliers I use when building a freight car for my Minneapolis & Northland Railroad Company.  I thought I can do that.  And, here it is.

I opened the tool drawer at my work bench to show you the pliers it contains.  Of the pliers in the drawer I use three or four every modeling session.  Other pliers in the drawer are used when needed.

Tool drawer with pliers
(Click on this or any image to enlarge)

The three pliers that are on the bench during every build are a BeadSmith fine nose (no serrations), a Xuron 450S (with serrations) fine needle nose with “tweezer” like tips and a Xuron 450 ( no serrations) fine needle nose with “tweezer” like tips.  Both Xuron pliers have soft rubber handle grips for comfort and control.  All three pliers will handle the most delicate parts but are strong enough for forming and bending operations.

My three most used pliers

A closer look at the plier tips

My BeadSmith plier was purchased at a Hobby Lobby in the craft, specifically bead, section of the store. The Xuron pliers as other Xuron tools were purchased directly from Xuron at a show booth or mail order.  The BeadSmith, my first choice due it having the smallest needle nose jaw,  is used for bending wire grab irons, wire ladder rungs, and bending uncoupling levers; however, not for installing the bent parts.  The Xuron 450S with the serrated jaw is used for that.  Why?  The part before install  if held with non serrated jaw may be sent into one of the “black holes” under or near my workbench for lost parts.  For install of small plastic and resin parts the BeadSmith or Xuron 450 ( no serrations jaw) is used to prevent serration marks.   And, yes the sending of the plastic or resin parts into one of the “black holes” before install also exists.

Pliers and jig used for bending grab irons.
Normally .010" phosphor bronze wire is used for
grab irons and ladders rungs rather than .0125" in photo.

If the freight car I am working on needs to have drop type grab irons, the flat nose pliers comes out of the plier drawer to help with the bending task.  After bending a wire grab iron with the BeadSmith plier, it is inserted into a flat nose pliers on side or nose to the depth of the drop grab iron portion and jaw is closed to hold the grab iron while the legs on the exterior of the jaw are bent down.  Now when the bent jaw is opened you have a formed drop grab iron.   The depth of the grab iron into the flat plier jaw can be determined by a mark or a piece of tape on the inside of the flat plier jaw.

Bottom two flat jaw pliers used most.

Closer look at plier jaw tips

In addition to grab irons, ladder rungs and uncoupling levers there are other parts that require bending as bends in under body piping.  I make these bends with a Xuron 488 Round Nose bending pliers used for looping and forming wire.  Plier blades are round at the tip and transition to an elliptical shape for multiple forming possibilities. Although delicate in appearance, the pliers blades will stay aligned (not cross) when in use, unlike less expensive alternatives.  I also have a BeadSmith round nose bending plier that I may use for underbody piping bends.

Loop bending pliers.

Closer view of jaw tips.

I also use the Xuron 488 Round Nose bending plier to bend two other parts that require bending a round eye as on an eye bolt or the eye on the underbody brake rod that holds the chain that attaches to the brake cylinder lever.  The eye on the brake rod that holds the chain is always bent with the smaller tip of the Xuron 488.   If  I decide to bend rather than use a commercial eye bolt for the mounting bracket of the an uncoupling lever (cut lever), the Xuron 488 round nose bending plier using the smaller tip is used.

Eye bolts  and loop on brake rod to hold chain
bent with Xuron 488 in lower right corner. 

Commerical eye bolts if not bent with
loop bending pliers.

During the build of a freight car there are times the part to be installed on the freight car is so small that  the jaws on the already mentioned pliers are too large to hold it.  If this is the case, I reach for an ultra fine tweezer like point needle nosed polished stainless steel pliers with serrated jaws.  In the past I  used this plier to bend tiny eye bolts; however, I broke a tip off in an attempt to bend an eye bolt from too heavy wire so I purchased a second one.  I purchased these pliers from the Tool Man (no longer in business); however, MicroMark has this plier available.

Ulta fine tweezer like serrated jaw. 

On all freight cars I build Kadee couplers are installed in the coupler pockets.   I add an additional slight upward bend to the trip pin with a stainless steel wire loop bending plier for better operation.  I purchased my plier from the Tool Man (no longer in business).  Kadee has their version of this plier available as does MicroMark.

Pliers to adjust coupler trip pins if used.

On many freight cars I build I install A-Line metal sill steps to replace molded plastic sill steps that have been cut off.   The A-Line metal sill steps have a slightly round bend rather than a true right angle bend at the corners as a prototype may have.  If I want the sill steps installed to have a true right angle bend I use a Xuron 575 Micro Forming plier to make the corner bends a true right angle.  I do not heat the sill step in a flame prior to bending as other modelers have suggested.  The Xuron 575 micro forming plier has unique forming blades to shape wire and light gauge strips of brass and aluminum. It can also be used for adjusting trip pins on Kadee coupler trip pins.

Xuron plier I use to square A-Line sill step corners.

Of course, there are many pliers on the market that could perform some of the tasks mentioned above and I have purchased a few.

Needle nose plier in lower left corner I have used
for many tasks before finding a better tool
to preform the task.

There is one more plier that I use; however, it is not for bending.  Rather the plier was and is still used for breaking loose bottles caps on PollyScale and Floquil paint bottles for cap removal.  My way of getting to the paint to hand paint details added to a freight car or to use with  an airbrush to spray a freight car.   The channel lock plier I call  “the persuader.”

Channel lock "persuader" plier.

You now know pliers I use to build  a freight car for service on the Minneapolis & Northland Railroad Company.  I have attempted to purchase the highest quality pliers my budget could afford.   I encourage you to do the same.  I believe quality tools help one build a better freight car.

Freight cars in McGregor Yard in Northfield, Minn.
on the Minneapolis & Northland Railroad Company
were built using pliers described above.

Freight cars on the Great Northern Interchange
in Minneapolis, Minn.  on the 
 Minneapolis & Northland Railroad Company
were built using pliers described above.

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 sign your comment with your name if you choose to leave one.  Please share the blog link with other model railroaders.

Lester Breuer


Monday, June 13, 2022

Northern Refrigerator Line 17080

 While looking through the to build inventory I found Northern Refrigerator Line, NRC 17080, Red Caboose kit RC-442-6, a kit I had purchased in 2002.   I am guessing  I never built the kit because the car kit provided wood ends; however, that was about to change.  I began my search for information and photos for the build. 

I found the information and photos for my build in Roger C. Hinman’s book Merchants Despatch It’s History And Equipment (Signature Press, 2011).  Merchants Despatch Incorporated (MDI) purchased  the stock of Northern Refrigerator Car Company in 1928 and a new organization, Northern Refrigerator Line was set up.   In late 1936 Despatch Shops Incorporated (DSI) was formed to produce new refrigerator cars.

The car I chose to build was built in DSI in 1941.  A fine photo of NRC 17000 with the “B” end showing is in the book.   The photo caption tells us NRC 17000 was transferred to MDT in 1962.  Another fine photo of NCGX 1100 renumbered in 1963; however, built for Northern Refrigerator Line as NRC 17046 in 1946 with "B" end and underbody frame members showing is in the book.  I used these photos for my build.

The car kit lettering on NRC 17080 is an excellent match to the prototype lettering on NRC 17000.   The kit car body was also a fine match with the exception of wood ends.  The ends not a problem as I could use resin 4/4 dreadnaught ends I cast in the Minneapolis & Northland Railroad Company (M&N) Shops using InterMountain ends for a master.  I was also pleased the underbody frame matched the photo of NCGX 1100.

I began the build with the install of the underbody.  Center sill, bolsters, crossties, were installed per kit instructions.  A kit weight was attached to the floor with Permatex silicone general purpose adhesive  and two tire weights (self stick) to weight the car to 3.8 ounces.  Once weight adhesive set the underbody was installed.  Bolster center plates and couple pocket pads were drilled and tapped for 2-56 screws.

Basic underbody work done.
(Click on this or any image to enlarge)

Next, the roof was installed.  Now, the 4/4 dreadnaught ends were installed on the “B” end after fitting.  I laid the kit wood ends on the cast resin 4/4 ends and marked the top with a pencil to cut off some material to get the proper angle for a proper fit.  The cuts were made with a UMM-USA saw, razor blade with fine teeth type, sanded for final fit, and installed with super glue/CA.

Resin end cast in M&N Shops installed.

3/4 view of resin end installed.

The install of kit ladders followed.  The kit ladders were shortened to have six rungs to match prototype prior to install on sides and ends.

Ladders installed.

Ladders installed.

Onto the roof to install running board, ice hatch frames, ice hatches and ice hatch latches provided in kit.  The running board was milled and scraped with single edge razor blade (SERB) to .025” before install.  Kit extension running board brackets were installed on ends.

Running board and ice hatches installed.

Roof grab irons were bent from Tichy Train Group (Tichy) #1101, .010” diameter phosphor bronze wire (PBW) and installed with Yarmouth Model Works (YMW) photo etched eye bolts without shoulder for corner leg.  The final detail, ice hatch rests of unusual design were bent per prototype photo from .005” shim brass and installed with CA.

Ice hatch rests installed.

Ice hatch rest installed.

The addition of side details was next.   The side grab irons were bent from Tichy #1101, .010” diameter PBW and installed.   A-Line #29000 sill steps were installed; however, they were not double sill steps as on the prototype.  Therefore, .005” brass was cut to create and add the second step with CA to create a double step.

Double sill steps made.

I moved on to work on the underbody.  Kadee #262 coupler pockets with Kadee #148 couplers were installed.  Accurail trucks with InterMountain 33” metal wheels were installed.   Fastenal 3/16” screws were used to install the former and Fastenal 1/4” screws were used to install the latter.  Kit AB brake components and bell crank were installed.   At this point, I hand painted the underbody Vallejo Black Grey 70.982.

AB brake components installed.

Time for the “B” end work which included the following:

  • Kit ladders
  • cut off sill tabs with poling pockets off resin casting and on “A” end
  • Poling pockets cut from Evergreen #223 3/32” styrene tube installed on sill per prototype photo
  • Brake step and brackets in kit installed
  • Brake gear housing and chain in kit installed
  • Retainer valve in kit installed
  • Retainer line and brackets, Tichy # 1101, .008” diameter PBW installed
  • Brake rod clevis on previous installed bell crank (plastic brake rod cut off)
  • Brake rod, Tichy #1102, .015” diameter PBW installed
  • Drop grab irons, Tichy #3015, 18” drop type installed and on “A” end
  • Placard board from part box installed and on “A” end
  • Brake wheel, Kadee #2031 Equipco style
  • Uncoupling levers bent from Tichy #1106, .0125” diameter PBW
  • Uncoupling lever brackets, eye bolt bent from Tichy #1101 .010” diameter PBW
  • Detail parts and ends of dreadnaught ends hand painted with Vallejo Cavalry Brown 70.982 

"B" end details.

"B" end details installed and painted.
Note poling pockets have been installed.

To finish the adding of detail parts, I moved to the underbody work.   Parts added to the underbody were as follows:

  • Train line .018” diameter flora wire
  • Piping from air reservoir to AB valve, Tichy #1101 .010” diameter PBW
  • Pipe from brake cylinder to AB valve, Tichy #1106 .0125” diameter PBW
  • Dirt collector, resin cast in M&N Shops
  • Universal slack adjuster, parts box
  • Brake cylinder lever cut from Evergreen #8108, 1 x 8 strip styrene
  • Floating lever cut from Evergreen #8106, 1 x 6 strip styrene
  • Brake lever hangers, plastic grab irons from kit
  • Brake rods, Tichy #1106, .0125” diameter PBW
  • Brake rod clevises, Tichy #8021 turnbuckles
  • Chain, A-Line #29219 black 40 links per inch
  • Hand painted with Vallejo Black Grey 70.892

Underbody details installed.

Underbody painted.

Northern Refrigerator Line NRC 17080 was moved to the paint shop.  The sides were taped off and remaining car body was airbrushed with Vallejo Cavalry Brown 70.892.

Car ends being airbrushed.

NRC 17080 was left in jig for paint to dry overnight.   The next day car body was airbrushed Vallejo Gloss Medium 70.470 to provide a gloss base for decal application.

Car ends and roof airbrushed with gloss.

Car ends and roof airbrushed with gloss.

After drying overnight, decals on the ends were applied.  Reporting marks and number decals for ends of NRC 17080 were made by applying Clover House dry transfer lettering, #9600-11  Railroad Roman Condensed Bold-White, to decal paper.   Once lettering was applied it was coated with MicroScale Liquid Decal Film complete the decal.

Decals were soaked off in distilled water and applied to the car body where MicroScale Micro Set had been applied with a brush.   After the decal was applied in the Micro Set and positioned the edges had MicroScale Micro Sol applied.  Any excess solution was sucked away with the torn edge of a paper towel.  Again when dry, car body sprayed with Vallejo Gloss Varnish 70.510 to better hide edges of decals and protect decals during handling.  Again when dry, the car body was sprayed with Model Master Acryl, #4636, flat to protect decals and provide a flat finish for weathering when applied.

End decal reporting marks and number applied.

One more step before putting Northern Refrigerator Line refrigerator, NRC 17080 into service was to weather the cars with Artmatic eye shadow and Pan Pastels.  An Artmatic eye shadow color like a Dark Box Car Red was applied over roof and car body ends.  Pan Pastels used were Paynes Grey Extra Dark 840.1, on roof and over safety appliances on car body and Neutral Grey 820.5, on placard boards.

NRC 17080 weathered.

End view NRC 17080 of weathered.

Northern Refrigerator Line NRC 17080 ready for service on the Minneapolis & Northland Railroad Company, The Lakeland Route, “Serving today, Shaping tomorrow.”  A car card was made for NRC 17080, the final step to put the a car in service on the Minneapolis & Northland Railroad Company Railroad.

NRC 17080 spotted at Kruger's at seen
from rear of building.

NRC 17080 spotted at unloading door.

NRC 17080 spotted at unloading door.

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 sign your comment with your name if you choose to leave one.  Please share the blog link with other model railroaders.

Lester Breuer