Scale Test Car 10302 Model

In the previous post, I discussed background information on the Algoma Central’s old steel ore hoppers from the early 1900s, and the surviving example that was converted to a scale test car and operated into the mid 1980s.

Fortunately Westerfield makes a detailed craftsman kit for a couple of variations of the Pressed Steel Co. ore hopper, making it possible (although a bit of work) to model either the early 1900s ore fleet or the surviving scale test car.

The instructions provided with the kit are quite detailed, so I won’t go into a detailed blow-by-blow of the construction, except to point out the major deviations and additions I made based on the modernizations performed on the prototype car.

The most obvious modification when modeling the scale car conversion is of course the steel roof that was added to the car. This was simply fashioned from some .020″ sheet with some interior bracing and a 1×4 ridge pole to set the appropriate peak height and slope. This was glued to the tops of the sides with ACC. Fascia trimwork on the ends was added with 1×4 strip cemented to the roof.

Tichy running boards support and brass wire corner grabs added. I plan to try to add the actual wood running boards using weathered strip wood later once the car is painted.

Another modernization feature on the prototype car is upgraded grab iron arrangements with full ladder grabs at the opposite corners of the car. This required drilling a number of new holes for the additional grab irons and bending them from brass wire.

Also, the original hand brake was upgraded with a power hand brake with the familiar vertically mounted brake wheel with geared housing, although the car retained the original split “K” air brakes. This was added by building up the mounting bracket for the brake wheel housing with styrene strip and adding a brake wheel & housing from a Tichy brake detail sprue.

One last note I should make on the brake equipment is that the kit box contained a Tichy parts sprue for a standard “one-piece” K brake, when the car should have a split K brake with separate piston and air reservoir. This may have just been a packaging mistake on my car, but I had to obtain another Tichy part sprue for the split version of the K brake system. The extra Tichy parts may eventually find their way under other old work equipment at some point.

The car still needs to be painted, and custom decals made to finish it off.

Scale Test Car 10302 and AC&HB Pressed Steel Car Ore Hoppers

In the early 1980s, the Algoma Central rostered a single scale test car, for testing the calibration of track weigh scales, that was also a historical artifact from the earliest days of the railway.


Scale test car AC 10302 was originally built new in 1901 for the Algoma Central Railway as an ore hopper in series AC 4201-4399 (odd numbered only) and is the only remaining survivor of the original fleet that served the iron ore mines of the Wawa range at the beginning of the 20th century.


This ancient car was pretty much celebrating its 80th birthday when photographed in active service at Wawa in March 1981 (photographer unknown, my collection), present to test the calibration of the local scale. Amazingly, this car still survives to this day, its existence having been discovered by members of the Canadian Historical Railway Association in the 1980s and acquired for preservation at the Canadian Railway Museum/ExpoRail in St.-Constant, Quebec as an extremely early example of an all steel hopper car. While restoring the car, volunteers actually managed to find traces of the previous Algoma Central & Hudson Bay Railway lettering, and this was recreated and restored.


(Above photo at ExpoRail in St-Constant, QC., courtesy of Michael Eby.)

Roster information is a little spotty for the early years, but there appear to have been 200 such cars built in 1900-1901 for the AC/AC&HB, and another 100 were acquired second-hand in 1916 from the Duluth & Iron Range Railroad in Minnesota. They seem to have been eliminated from the roster by the early 1930s.

Based on the best information available, the following roster information is compiled:

Series Qty. Build Date Notes
(Original Series 1900-1904):
3101-3150* 50 1900 re# 4001-4050 /1904
3151-3200* 50 1900 re# 4051-4100 /1904
4201-4399 (odd) 100 1901 re# 4101-4200 /1904
(Secondary Numbers 1904-1933):
3901-4000 100 1901 ex-D&IR 3050-3399 series /1916
4001-4050 50 1900 ex-3101-3150* /1904
4051-4100 50 1900 ex-3151-3200* /1904
4101-4200 100 1901 ex-4201-4399 /1904

Some questions and a lot of unknowns still exist here though as some sources list the original two 1900 groups as AC 3001-3099 and 3101-3199 (both groups odd numbers only) instead of the AC 3101-3200 (unbroken) series I used above, but a builder’s photo exists which shows car ACR 3200, which is not accounted for under the apparent odd-numbers only numbering scheme suggested for the original cars. The next year in 1901 another 100 cars were acquired numbered AC (or AC&HB) 4201-4399 (odd numbers only). The entire mess was renumbered around 1903-04 to AC&HB 4001-4200 (unbroken) to clear up the jumbled numbers. Another 100 cars acquired secondhand in 1916 from the Duluth & Iron Range Railroad were slotted directly under the existing cars as ACR 3901-4000.

The ACR 3200 builder’s photo also shows a completely different style of lettering than the restored lettering on AC&HB 4341 above (and displaying the railway’s original name as only “Algoma Central Railway”, not the later “Algoma Central & Hudson Bay Railway”); and Dale Wilson’s newest book “More Black Bear Tracks” has a 1917 photo of ACR 3903, one of the ex-D&IR cars, with a simplified paint job with only “ACR” initials and basic car data.

These ore hoppers were primarily used to transport iron ore from Algoma Steel’s Helen, Magpie and Josephine mines in the Michipicoten Iron Range around what is today the Wawa area to the ore dock at Michipicoten harbour. However the last of these mines shut down in the early 1920s and Helen Mine wouldn’t be redeveloped until nearly two decades later in 1939 at which point a “new” fleet of secondhand twin hoppers from various American roads was acquired to handle this service, making it all the more amazing such a relic ever survived.

Scratchbuilt underframes for 36′ boxcar bunk cars

I’ve been cycling through a few different projects on the workbench lately, including updating a few older projects. One of which is this set of old bunk cars rebuilt from 36′ wooden boxcars from the turn of the century. I started on the first pair last year, building up the bodies, adding basic styrene floors and also adding a third modernized car to the collection. I never finished detailing the underframes though and the project rotated to the side as other projects like Wawa station took the forefront this winter.

As I work through various smaller projects, I decided it was time to finish detailing the brake system on the underframes and move these projects a bit closer to completion. The main underframe is of course scratchbuilt from a floor of .040″ styrene sheet and the bolsters, main sill and braces built up from various sizes of styrene strip. I also scratchbuilt the coupler pockets right into the frame with a styrene strip box and a piece of .125″ O.D. tube for the mounting point, securely welded in place with styrene cement and tapped for a 2-56 mounting screw.

(I ended up locating the mounting point a bit far back, not accounting properly for the full thickness of the end sill on the body, but a long-shank Kadee coupler compensated for that, and having the mounting point a bit farther from the edge of the floor sheet is probably more stable.)

The truck bolsters are also built up from various pieces of strip and sheet, with a solid block formed from a stack of styrene pieces drilled and tapped for a 2-56 to mount the truck.

Brake details were added using a Tichy K brake detail set and brass wire for the rodding. It’s not a “contest-level” brake rigging system, but it gives approximately the right impression and shows an appropriate level of rigging detail for a track-level side view.

Work Car Wednesday #9

ACR From Blair 026

AC 10634/10365 is a twin unit articulated set (each half with its own number), converted from a twin unit coach originally built for the Southern Pacific Railroad for the famous Daylight passenger train. In the early 1970s the Algoma Central acquired at least half a dozen of these sets from SP, with a few being reconditioned and put into active passenger service, and a few others were converted into bunk cars for work service (or some of the former were later retired and converted).

According to my roster notes, 10634-10635 is possibly formerly AC 454-455 (may not have actually operated in service under those numbers, but the passenger series allowed holes for all these sets), ex-SP 2453-2454, ex-T&NO 506-507, and in its latest configuration shown here was a kitchen/diner (10634) and sleeper (10635) set.

ACR From Blair 025

Note the interesting truck design, original to these cars.

Both photos courtesy of Blair Smith, at Steelton Yard (Sault Ste. Marie) ~1997.