Scratch-building CN’s 40′ Wood End Bunker Reefers PT:5 [Underslung Charcoal Heaters & their Piping]

Small update coming at y’all- and while it’s small, the process behind this was large.

Last night, in the final hours of my 20s I installed the underslung charcoal heaters and their piping onto the under frame of the Reefer cars.

The heaters were resin copies I cast of a certain manufactures underslung charcoal heaters that I was unable to purchase individually from a kit. I cut a notch out of the previously installed Z-bracing and then affixed the heater right to the car floor with CA.

The piping was .032” Tichy PB Wire threaded through the car floor into small holes drilled into the heaters. I made the “T” joint by first filing the ends of the cut wire totally flat, then used masking tape to hold the wires together in the desired formation on top of some scrap wood. Flux was applied and solder was liberally applied to the joint, then I cleaned it up with 400 grit sandpaper, rubbing alcohol and a wire brush.

The bracing / strapping that holds the heaters to the car floor on the prototype will be installed after the final under-frame installation is made.


One of the first things I had to consider before taking on this project (almost a year ago !!!) was availability of certain parts that would be rather difficult to scratch build- the big concerns being the roof hatches and the underslung heaters.

Well, I was able to find suitable hatches to use (Details West RH-1003), but underslung heaters were going to be a different story.

I tried emailing a certain resin kit manufacture multiple times to see if I could purchase some of their cast underslung heaters that they include in their Reefer kits, but received no response.

Second, I took to Shapeways to see what I could find. I placed an order with a certain shop for some heaters that looked to be promising, but when I received them- though they were nice, they just didn’t look as nice as the other manufactures part. And that just couldn’t do.

So, as a last resort I raided a couple of unbuilt 8 Hatch Reefer kits I have in the closet, got a casting kit at Great Hobbies and cast my own resin copies of the underslung heaters; something I’d never done before.

I’ll spare the casting process, but I’m happy with how they turned out. And while it was a minor headache to not be able to just buy the parts I wanted, this turned out to be a great learning experience and I’ve learned a new skill.

[A note on ethics: I wouldn’t condone doing something like this (even for personal use only) if the parts in question were still in print and / or readily available. You should always support hobby shops and manufactures whenever possible. Don’t be a dink.]

PEIRwiki.ca

Well, to put it simply: the time has come.

The time has come for the PEIR (Prince Edward Island Railway) to have its own collaborative, indexed, searchable and accessible corner of the internet.

After a few years of on and off thought and consideration, and after seeing one previous attempt: I have taken it upon myself to follow in Steve Meredith’s footsteps (DARdpi.ca / DARwiki) and start a PEI Railway wiki website entitled the “PEIRwiki.”

With the PEIR I’ve always found that while there is a vast amount of information out there it’s all quite scattered. When I was new to the interest of railroading I found this scattering of information daunting.

I want to change that.

I want anybody with even a passing interest of this railway to have access to detailed, accurate information. I also suspect this will augment my own research in the railway.

So with that said, I present to the world PEIRwiki.ca.

Anybody who is interested in or knows somebody who would be interested in contributing, please get in touch.

I dedicate this effort to Steve Hunter.

C.M.

The ties that bind…

Ok. So, before the world exploded my focus in Vernon River land was more or less on preparing for the laying of ties, ballast and track.

For a man who hasn’t even laid flex track before, you could imagine how deep of a daunting rabbit hole this could be.

It has been my full intent since Day 1 with not only this project it’s-self, but my modelling as a whole to hand lay my track. It just seems like the right thing to do and nothing looks exactly like wood, but actual wood.

Instead of just going in blind and starting to lay track on my actual bench work I figured it might be fun / a good idea to teach myself this group of skills by building a display / test track.

So that’s what I did.

I ordered a “Ultimate Track Sample Starter Pack” with Code 55 rail and 8ft ties from Proto87, snagged a 1×3 that a buddy of mine had from his old deck, got some 1/2in extruded foam left over from a different buddy’s garage build and got to work.

I’ll go over the actual test track it’s self another time. What I want to show off here are my ties.

Hunter Hughson has a great post on Weathering Ties with Acrylic paints over at his blog that I more or less followed to a tee, and man am I ever happy with how they turned out. The only thing I changed from his process was how I went about beating up the ties. Instead of a dental pick, chisel tip and #7 Exacto blades I used a dental pick and wire brush at the suggestion of Chris Mears.

I had the idea to perhaps switch it up and represent a later era with my test track; say the late 70s or early 80s, where tie plates would be more prevalent on the prototype [AKA a excuse to use more of the beautiful Proto87 tie plates that came with the sample pack]. However, I’m leaning back to sticking with the late 50s. I’d still perhaps throw a couple tie-plates down here and there on newer looking ties.

Next up will be ballasting. If I stay with the late 50s it’ll be cinders, if I go with the late 70s / early 80s it’ll be a mix of crushed rock.

C.M.

Back In The Game

“I’m back.“

While some people found a great opportunity to focus on their modelling during the COVID lockdown, I found myself in the exact opposite headspace.

It’s difficult to articulate in writing, however, with so many big life changes, world changes, etc. occurring in such a short time frame my brain was knocked into such a position in which the things that I usually love to do and enjoy no longer brought me any joy or interest.

In summary: depression happened.

As I am no stranger to depression (something I’ve battled my entire adult life) I was able to recognize that I was not myself and knew that it was something I would have to ride out until I worked through it.

Yesterday while I found myself collecting a bucket of ballast [which will likely make its own post someday soon] on the abandoned Borden Sub in the rain, I realized that what I was doing was being done out of genuine interest. “I’m back” I said to myself, out loud.

The brighter days are indeed on the immediate horizon and I am starting to find interest in the things I enjoy again: one of which being my interest in railroading and modelling.

I’m not writing this for sympathy, I just don’t think it’s something we as modellers talk about enough. It’s important and we all deal with it at some point.

Let’s face it, we’re all artists here: artists historically feel their emotions vividly, and we all do things to escape our realities, aka modelling.

But sometimes even those reality escaping mechanisms don’t work.

What I am writing this for is to say that if you didn’t do any modelling at all during this pandemic and maybe are even now still finding it hard to concentrate or be interested, don’t beat yourself up.

It’ll come back. I did. Talk to me if you want.

C.M.

Scratch-building CN’s 40′ Wood End Bunker Reefers PT:4 [Rivets & installation of the centre sills, z-bracing and crossmembers]

Well, it’s been longer than I would have liked between updates.

This whole COVID-19 mess has certainly affected every single one of us, and us in the aviation industry especially in terms of employment. My employer has placed myself and roughly 15,000 other of my union brothers and sisters on off duty status, which has admittedly been hard to comprehend given how quickly all of this has erupted.

Without getting too personal I’ll just say this whole mess really hasn’t left me with much motivation to write. However, as the dust of our new reality begins to settle I’m starting to feel a little better. That said, this post isn’t nearly as beefy as I’d like it to be and I must apologize.


 

Progress has continued on the reefers and I’m really starting to get excited about where this project is headed. The fishbelly sills have been riveted with MicroMark surface decals and installed along with the z-bracing, cross-bearers, cross-members and train line.

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After installing the z-bracing (which I put on the wrong way somehow! whoops!), I used my UMM saw to cut through the bracing and installed the cross braces and cross members. I went with 4×4″ Evergreen for the cross members and used my Cricut Maker to cut the cross bearers from .030″ Evergreen sheet. The cross bearers will receive a 1×6″ cap over them after the floor is glued into the cars.

 

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With the sill, z-bracing and supports installed I figured now would probably be a good time to install the tramline as it needs to be threaded through the cross-bearers. I bent .020″ Tichy PB wire directly over top of the scaled down general arrangement drawings, cut it into two pieces and installed it into the car with CA. This was repeated for both cars.

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Another view of the under frame.

For next time I intend to make a drill jig for the side and end grab irons using the engraving tip on my Cricut Maker. I plan to design the jig in 2D with CAD, engrave it onto .010″ brass sheet (or a soda can), cut it out, fold it with a vice and then use my pin vice to punch the holes before using it to drill out for the grabs.

We’re all facing a lot of stress right now… I encourage you to take some time and work on or run your models. We all need to get our mind off of things. Please wash your hands and stay home.

CM

A new tool arrives at the Charlottetown Car deptartment- a brand new Cricut Maker.

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I have a confession.

Out the many of the aspects of this hobby I absolutely love, some of which are pretty niche in nature, theres one very common practice that I abhor: cutting styrene.

I could say I don’t know why this is problematic for me, but I do.

I’m a perfectionist to a fault. I need my parts to be identical, my cuts to be perfectly straight- the same measurements every. single. time. I will not accept less, it’s just built into me- and it’s not just within the bounds of the hobby.

The amount of time and materials I go through trying to get the perfect cut and fit is incredibly frustrating. Even with lots of practice, and I’ve had a lot of practice, it’s just not something I enjoy.

Until now.

A employee rewards program has allowed me to obtain at a very reasonable cost a brand new Cricut Maker and Knife Blade attachment.

I’ve had a few chances to use it and I am absolutely thrilled with its performance. This machine will be an absolute game changer for me and I can’t wait to explore its abilities in more depth.

I will of course blog about my process and findings as I put this new machine to use at my workbench.

 

CM

Scratch-building CN’s 40′ Wood End Bunker Reefers PT:3 [Fabricating Fishbelly Centre Sills and Z-Bracing]

After a brief break from the CNR Wood Reefer project, this weekend seemed like a good opportunity to get back to it; with the recommended social distancing and all. Might as well use a not-so-good situation to have some fun at least, right?

The next thing I needed before proceeding with the cars under frame was Z-Bracing. The general arrangement drawings show two lengths of Z-bracing running end to end of the car. The problem I faced here was that Evergreen does not make Z-angle small enough, but I didn’t want to mail it in and use just plain old strip in place of the Z-angle.

Luckily, while cruising around the internet looking for pictures of scratch-built fishbelly centre sills I happened across Chris van der Heide’s blog. Lone behold Chris had ran into the same problem as me at one point and took the time to detail how he fabricated and used a jig to create his own Z-Angle stock in this post. I decided that this is how I would proceed.

The jig was not at all hard to make and the process of feeding the three strips of styrene (HO scale 1×3″ on the top and bottom and 1×2″ as the web) through the jig was made easier by brushing a little bit of powdered graphite into the hole as a lubricant.

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The final product.

As you can see the finished product is just as good as anything you could buy on the market. Thanks for your help Chris even though you may not know you helped! LOL. Make sure you check out his blog post for a better explanation of how this was done.

With the Z-Bracing out of the way the other major component needed for the under frame was the fish belly centre sill.

First, I used the scaled down general arrangement plans as a guide to draw the general shape of the sill plates in TinkerCad. Then, I used my Cricut Maker to cut the fish belly sill plates out of .030″ sheet styrene. The great advantage to using the Cricut for this purpose is that all of the sill plates will be accurate and of identical measurement. One disadvantage is the cutter does create a bit of a burr around the cut but it is easily cleaned up by carefully using a single edge razor blade to slice it off. The Cricut Maker is an amazing machine and deserves a post of its own.. I see a lot of potential for this machine in the hobby of model railroading…

After the sill plates were cut and cleaned up I added 1×6″ Strip to the bottom of the plates by pushing the strip and plate against 1-2-3 blocks and gluing them together. Then, I added 1×4″ strip to the top of the plate as well as 1×3″ along the bottom of the plate where it meets with the 1×6″ strip.

After all of the sill plates were built, I glued the tops of them to a piece of 2×12″ strip to create two full fish belly sill assemblies- one for each car. When the glue dried, I wedged strips of 2×12″ styrene vertically between the plates to prevent them from warping inwards. I trued the edges up with my NWSL true sander.IMG_1327.jpeg

One of two completed fishbelly centre sill assemblies.

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While the fishbelly isn’t glued to the car floor in this photo, this shows how it will look attached to the car.

I’m very pleased with how the fish bellies turned out. Once they are glued to the model a strip of 1×3″ strip will be glued against the car floor and the side of the sill plates to create a “L” channel with the 1×4″ plate on the sill.

I will use MicroMark surface decals for the rivets and I’ll likely apply them to the sill before gluing it to the cars (with the exception of along the previously mentioned 1×4″ strip.)

Next time I will glue the centre sills onto the car floor, install the z bracing and fabricate and install the cross ties / cross bearers. After that it will be time to install the underslung heaters and install the break rigging (my favourite!).

[Worth noting: the underslung heater may become a project in its self, 3D printed part which may end up being molded and cast as a precaution- I don’t entirely trust the chemical stability behind Shapeways’ Fine Detail Plastic. We’ll see.]

Thanks for reading,

CM

Special delivery… (70 Tonner decals)

Just wanted to poke my head in and give a little mail-day update..

Backstory: Last fall I designed and 3D printed a accurate footboard assembly for my long-stalled Kaslo 70 Tonner project. This was a detail that had been bothering me for some time and I just couldn’t seem to get it right by scratch-building with styrene. This 3D printed part gets me over that hump, but in order to finish the project I still needed decals…

Receiving the test parts from Shapeways was the inspiration I needed to finally get off my behind and get decals made so I could finish the project.

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CNR #38 at the Moncton, NB diesel shops. CSTM Collection.

Shortly before Christmas I began talks with Bill Brillinger from PDC.ca to make a custom set of decals for the ‘simplified’ second iteration of the green and gold livery the CNR 70 Tonners wore. I mailed him some reference material and to work he went.

After a few weeks of back and forth, I was very excited to see the PDC.ca envelope full of 70 Tonner decals arrive in my mailbox today.

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As you can see, the decals turned out beautifully. Bill is an absolute joy to work with and he nailed what I was looking for. The decal set will do three locomotives with the ability to label any unit on the roster, although not all of them got this paint job.

While my super-detailed 44 Tonner will see lots of action on the layout, 70 Tonners were just as common and I’m excited to finish this project so I can run 70T #38 in mixed train service.

CM

Finding inspiration from a later era

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Loading potatoes at St. Peters Bay, PE – Late 60s 1970s? Jim MacKinnon collection.

While looking for photos of tractors on The Prince Edward Island Railway Facebook page, I came across this photo of a reefer being loaded with potatoes at St. Peters Bay.

The author of the post incorrectly labeled it as the 1950s but as we know by the noodles on the boxcars this is post 1961. Further, the presence of the American reefer car makes me believe it might even be the late 60s or 1970s.

While this photo isn’t within my era it really strikes some inspiration. The railway on PEI had many, many public sidings or team tracks- but not many of them had permanent loading ramps. The public siding at Vernon River did not have a loading ramp.

This scene might as well be Vernon River, it would be a very similar scene. Farmer or merchant backs truck or trailer right up to the car, plywood ramp bridges the gap, potatoes are transferred across- probably a lot of the time “hand-bombed”.

I am very grateful to find this picture, it will be used to as a direct reference to develop the scene along the public siding.

As mentioned at the beginning of this post, I’ve in passing begun to research era appropriate vehicles for the layout. My first purchase was an Alloy Forms 1947 Clark Forklift which will live at the Co-Op Warehouse.. just need to figure out the proper color to paint it.

I’ve mentioned this before to friends and you may disagree, which is fine,  but I really find that to many vehicles is the easiest way to break the realism of a layout. Luckily for my era Route #3 wouldn’t have been nearly as busy at it is today, hell it probably hadn’t even been paved to long before- there won’t be any vehicles on it and that won’t look out of place. I’m thinking a car or two parked at the station, a truck parked at the warehouse, a tractor and potato trailer along the siding and maybe an abandoned truck in the corner of a farmers field will be sufficient.

CM

Vernon River Co-Op Warehouse: a study on shared building plans.

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The former Vernon River Co-Op Warehouse built in 1947. July 2013. Chris Mears photo, used with permission.

Since the very conception of this layout a mystery has been at the back of my mind and that is the mystery of the Vernon River Co-Op Warehouse.

I guess perhaps not as much of a mystery, as a minor annoyance. You see, the photos I have are only but a tease- only providing partial views of how this building looked while it was still rail served.

There is one fact working for me and that is that the building still stands today- rails to trails uses it as a workshop. Having an accurately sized model will not be a problem.. however its freight doors and roof vents have been removed and the roof and siding have been replaced.

I’ve reached out to local area Facebook groups to try to find a better photo of the building with its freight doors still intact, to no avail. I’ve reached out to the archivist at St. F.X. University, which does have a giant photo collection of Co-Op buildings, PEI included- to no avail. (One avenue I have not yet explored is to contact rails to trails and see if I could be allowed inside to see if the door framing is still visible.)

This has largely left me to fill in the blanks myself.

However, just this morning I had a bit of a “ah-ha” moment.

I don’t know why this didn’t hit me before now, but I had already been aware of direct evidence that the co-operatives routinely shared building plans, being co-operatives and all. One such example of this is the case of the Co-Op Potato Warehouses at Morell, Tignish and Souris being nearly identical.

Could the Vernon River Co-Op warehouse just be a shortened version of these other warehouses?

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Morell’s Co-Op Warehouse. Year and photographer unknown. St. F.X. University Archives.

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Souris Co-Op Warehouse. Steve Hunter photo, year unknown.

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Tignish’s Co-Op Warehouse. Year and photographer unknown. Note that the building is nearly identical to Morell’s warehouse, a county away.

What caught my attention is how similar the front of the Morell warehouse looks to the front of the Vernon River warehouse. The large double door and loft door are of identical construction. The chimneys are identical. The man-door and window, while in different locations are of very similar construction. What we can see of the first freight door shows us that these doors are also very similar if not identical to the Morell warehouse.

To corroborate my theory I took to Google Earth and went back in time to 2015 when the Morell warehouse still stood. Now, the length of the two warehouses obviously differ- we don’t need Google to tell us that; but what I was most interested in was finding out if the buildings were the same width.

I’ll be the first person to tell you that Google Earth’s measurements aren’t always so accurate (they even admit this themselves) but I figured that if I at least measured the buildings from a satellite image taken on the same day I’d be able to figure out if they were the same size.

What I came out with was this:
Morell warehouse= 43.24′ x 122.82′
Vernon River warehouse = 44.91′ x 82′

The widths are very close indeed given Google’s inaccuracies and the variables of satellite imaging. I’ll take that as a win.

So now we know that the Vernon River and Morell warehouses were in all likelihood the same width. The similar width dimension, look, owner and use of the building makes me feel comfortable using the Morell and Souris photos as a reference for the Vernon River build. The Morell and Souris photos along with a scale drawing of the Morell warehouse Steve Hunter gave to me will most certainly get me most of the way there.

Without a photo showing the full side of the Vernon River warehouse, we don’t know how far apart the two freight doors were.

I can figure this out in two ways:
– Obtain permission to enter the warehouse as it stands today and see if the door framing is still visible from the inside.
– Measure the outside of the warehouse and use the 1958 air photo to scale out the door centres.
Both of these methods will have to wait until the snow melts but I’m happy having figured out the process I’ll have to follow.

One final question I may never have a firm answer on involves the relationship between the truck door and the foundation.

In the Souris, Tignish and Morell photos, the land is built up to the top of the foundation to meet the truck door- meaning the truck door doesn’t go through the foundation. However, in the Vernon River photos it appears as if the foundation has been cut to allow for a taller truck door. The placement of the man door above the foundation caught my suspicion and makes me believe that perhaps the ground was originally built up like the other warehouses but for some reason the height of the door needed to be increased so the foundation was cut into to allow for this.

As you can see in the 1981 Vernon River photo it looks as if a whole new door frame has very recently been installed and the earth around the foundation excavated. The man door remains above the foundation. Perhaps this is all the evidence I need.

After studying the images I’ve have come to the conclusion that it’s very likely that at some point the foundation was cut to accommodate a taller truck door- most likely in the early 80s. If the building was originally built like this, wouldn’t the man door be cut into the foundation as well? I feel confident I can build the door as shown in the Morell photo with it being accurate.

Unfortunately I’ll have to wait until the spring to go much further with this research as it requires a field visit but I feel confident that I have most of the information I’ll need to scratch-build this building.

If you’ve stuck with me this long, thanks for reading.

CM