As mentioned in a previous post, blocks of loaded pulpwood flatcars have been common rolling though southern Ontario on CN M397 for the last year and a half since CN has put the south end of the former Algoma Central on mothballs. I believe that these are loaded on a busy log spur at Mead on the former ACR and routed around Lake Huron via Toronto and Chicago to get to mills in Wisconsin.
Most of these cars bear WC reporting marks, and are a wild variety of former CN-family cars from different groupings, including BC Rail, Duluth, Winnipeg & Pacific, CN, and even other Wisconsin Central and Algoma Central cars.
Most of the old Algoma Central-marked flatcars in the 2384xx and 2385xx series are also still in service, and also occasionally show up mixed in, although they are dominated in terms of sheer numbers by the hundreds of cars in the WC 237000-238xxx block.
Last Sunday’s 4-car pulpwood block on 397 contained this treat for an ACR fan. AC 238405, formerly of AC 2401-2425 series built new for the ACR in 1975 as standard 52’10” bulkhead flatcars and converted to a pulpwood car by Wisconsin Central in 1998. The original lettering is quite worn, but you can still see the original “ALGOMA CENTRAL” lettering to the right of the new car number.
Catching up on some projects that I worked on a while ago, but haven’t posted to this blog recently. One of those projects is my pair of scratchbuilt ACR steam heater cars.
I assembled the bodies, and then these sat for a while while I worked out the roof details.
The main details are of course the various vents for the steam boiler. These are placed on top of a hatch on the roof. The hatches were made with .005″ styrene sheet glued to the surface of the roof. *Good* roof photos are hard to find, most of the detail is only worked out from side or oblique shots, but I have enough to go on to make out the size and positions of the hatches. Photos also seemed to indicate the one car had an extra hatch in the middle of the roof (not sure if and/or when this was added to the car, so it may or may not have been there in the mid-eighties, but it makes for a good visual variation). A couple of bits of flat brass wire formed into lifting loops finishes off the middle hatch.
The actual steam vents were an interesting challenge to build from .010″ styrene sheet and strip. The mushroom-shaped stack ends were carefully cut and filed to shape, then assembled with simple sides, and then the top was added by curving strips cut from styrene sheet over the top. Liberal use of styrene cement and patience holding the part in place while the solvent evaporated and dried was involved.
The boxy vent was fairly simple by comparison, assembled from assorted .010″ strip and sheet. The “grillwork” on top was cut from a scrap piece of walkway material in my junk/parts box.
There’s not much more to do on this pair of cars any more before painting them, but I have a few other passenger car related projects in the works as well, and I’ll probably hold off on the painting for a bit yet until I can put a bunch of them into the shop. Need to get some appropriate shades for the grey and maroon paint…
Since sprint of 2020, when CN mothballed the former Algoma Central line between Sault Ste. Marie and Hawk Junction (no freight has run south of Hawk since April 2020) loads of pulpwood in AC/WC flatcars have been a relatively common sight running through southern Ontario on Toronto to Chicago train M397. A log loading operation at Mead (former location of the old Newaygo sawmill that operated between 1974-85) is one of the only major customers on the former AC line, and with the line unused south of Hawk these loads take the long route to northern Michigan/Wisconsin via Toronto and Chicago.
It’s not uncommon to actually see AC-marked pulpwood cars mixed in with the WC ones – most of the AC 238100, 238400, and 238500 series cars are still active – but this WC car in particular happened to catch my eye out of a block of nine loaded WC cars on August 2nd’s CN M397 through my hometown of Sarnia.
The WC 237000-238000 series of converted pulpwood flatcars is a wild range of old flatcars from many previous CN-family (mostly DWC and BCOL, but also other former CN and WC cars) rebuilt and renumbered with very little organization to what prior groups the cars are pulled from, just renumbered into the series as they’re converted.
The orange colour of WC 237703, and some of the paint patchwork underneath the most recent patches for the new WC number and the log bunks suggested a North American Car Co. (NAFX) heritage – likely via AC 2476-2494 series. Some cooperation on facebook with a couple of guys with access to the UMLER (Universal Machine Language Equipment Register) – the common electronic equipment database used by North America’s railways – helped confirm that the previous identity of WC 237703 was in fact AC 2489, and its original number before being acquired by the Algoma Central (in 1994) was NAFX 53201 (from NAFX series 53200-53249).
As the large Algoma Steel plant in Sault Ste. Marie is arguably the primary industry on the Algoma Central Railway in any era, steel traffic forms a major part of the tonnage carried by the railway, and included in that is “coil” steel (as far as I know, the only major steel product not produced by the Algoma mill is wire). Thin sheet steel is wound into coils that are shipped out to manufacturing plants across the continent to be turned into all manner of steel products.
To transport this valuable cargo by rail, the rail industry developed cars with V-shaped wood-lined loading troughs to transport the coils without damaging them. Some of these cars were flatcars or gondolas with the loading troughs added, but by the 1960s several builders were producing various specially designed cars for coil steel service.
Note – There seems to be a bit of a gray area in whether or not to class these special cars as flats or gondolas – indeed today most of the modern equivalents are now pretty universally considered as gons (“GBSR” AAR designation), and while many identical cars were also classed as “GBSR” by their owning roads, the cars I’m about to discuss were classed (at least initially) as “FMS” by both CN and CP.
A major builder and innovator of this type of design – a coil car with lengthwise loading troughs, removable hoods, tracks for moveable load restraint bars, and cushioned underframe to protect the contents – was Evans Products which built hundreds of these cars for most of the major American railways. A minority builder was Canada’s Napanee Industries (NI) of Napanee, ON which built a total of 75 cars in 1967 following the Evans design (probably under license for the Canadian market) for Canadian National (25 cars – CN 190200-190224) and Canadian Pacific (50 cars – CP 313500-313549).
A model representing the Evans Products coil car was and is produced in HO by Walthers. (A very similar US Railway Equipment car is produced by Intermountain (formerly Red Caboose tooling) but the body is different and has a straight sill). The Walthers car is somewhat of an older model, dating back to when Walthers actually sold their cars as kits (and I picked up a 3-pack of kits quite a number of years ago that lived for a [long] time on my shelf), but with a few upgrades these can still make respectable models, and an easy kitbash to one of the Napanee cars.
The first thing to do to the Walthers model is to cut away the original walkway and throw it out. Not only is this part rather thick and crude by today’s standards, the Napanee cars did not have the full-length side walkways featured on the model. I also carved off moulded grab irons and stirrup steps to replace them with finer wire parts.
To cover the holes left by the walkway supports and seam between the body halves, rather then trying to fill and sand body putty along the length of the body between the upper and lower flanges (or to be more honest, trying and giving up), I simply laminated 0.005″ styrene sheet cut to fit to the car side to get a smooth result.
Since the NI cars didn’t have full walkways, the removable hoods did not have lengthwise handrails on them either, which the Wathers model has. This is a pretty simple matter to carve off the handrail supports and sand them smooth. At the same time I took the opportunity to replace the corner grabs on the hoods with wire. Otherwise the hoods are essentially “stock” with all the kit parts, although I did scratchbuild matching hoods using the kit part as a pattern for a fourth car that had come with rounded hoods…
Wire grabs were mounted to the body, and step handrails also added from brass wire. The walkway grating on the ends of the cars was added using Plano etched material. The final modification is a small triangle of styrene strip angling from the side sill outboard of the trucks to the bottom of the main body, and a small loop of brass wire representing a protective guard around the brake control valve on the side.
Painting and lettering the cars is where things get a little interesting, as there’s no specific decal sets available. I built and painted two cars for CP, one in original black and one in red (2 more cars for CN are still in the paint shop).
The red CP car was painted and lettered following a prototype photo of
freshly painted CP 313500 on pg. 99 of “Canadian Pacific Color Guide to Freight and Passenger Equipment: Volume 2” by John Riddell and published by Morning Sun Books. This shows a car in a 1970s repaint.
The car and hoods were sprayed with Rapido ProtoPaint “CP Action Red”, and then masked off to paint the underside of the car and the draft gear black. Also the multimarks on the hoods were custom masked and painted as no decal was exactly the right size. The rest of the lettering was cobbled primarily from a Highball gondola set (although almost any CP Rail freight car decal would work as a source) and some Microscale consolidated stencils. The prototype was a 1979 repaint, so no ACI label is present on this car. Numbers and data were painstakingly put together with a magnifying visor.
The black car consumed no less than three sets of Black Cat decals – 2 sets of a gondola with script lettering (CPR340998) for the hood logos and end reporting marks, and a skeleton “stake” flatcar (CPR305560) set for the correct size reporting marks and numbers. This provided ample data to work with. Incidental decals such as ACI labels and consolidated stencils were added from Highball and Microscale sets. As these are 100-ton cars, U-1 wheel dots do not apply.
Perhaps if I were doing a larger set of these cars in the future I might commission a custom set of specific decals, but I was able to piece enough of it together from existing sets.
The cars still need to be sealed and weathered, but for now the paint and lettering work is for the most part completed on these two CP cars. Hopefully the CN fleet will have its pair completed soon as well.