Custom Finishing Log Truck Kit – Frame and Modifications

With pulpwood loading operations being a major feature of the Algoma Central Railway, I want to have some vehicles and loading equipment as well to feature at at least a few of the loading spots on the layout. To that end, some while back I picked up a couple of Custom Finishing pulpwood truck conversion kits. These kits are cast in white metal and contain all the parts including log bunks and parts for an integrated loading crane to kitbash from a semi truck model (you have to supply the base truck to combine with the kit.)

The Custom Finishing Kit has a cast metal frame piece and the instructions indicate that it is designed to fit the old Atlas Ford “LNT” truck. I didn’t have any Atlas trucks but I did have an old Athearn Kenworth truck kicking around from my old 4×8 layout in my parent’s basement 20 years ago. I didn’t have any other real use for this truck cab so I decided to convert this into the pulpwood truck.

I did my own frame modifications on this one, removing the fifth wheel and filling any remaining nubs and raised detail flat on the top surface of the rear frame and cutting the frame right in front of the axle springs. The frame was extended with pieces of HO 4×10 strip and capped with a piece cut from .040″ sheet. A few pieces of .010x.040″ strip along the bottom of the frame also helped reinforce and strengthen the joints.

The fuel tanks in the Athearn kit are designed to sort of clip on over the frame, which looks rather toy-like. I cut the mounting clips off of the tanks and glued them directly to the sides of the frame, which looks a little better.

The rest of the frame conversion consists of gluing the protective bars and log bunks to the frame with CA, as well as the assembled base for the integrated log handling crane. There’s also an end piece for the frame.

Pulpwood Loads/Jigs

As I may have mentioned a few times on this blog, pulpwood logs are a significant traffic item on the Algoma Central, and a type of load I’ll need quite a supply of for my flatcars and gondolas. I’ve been doing some playing around and simulating with some car cards and waybills and I figure on using anywhere from 15-20 pulpwood loads during a future operating session (when I have a layout to actually operate on some day), and these loads can be moved in at least five different types of cars (52′ flatcars, 40′ flatcars, 52′ gondolas, 61′ gondolas, 48′ gondolas), so I need a lot of loads and several different types of loads.

While there are some cast resin or plastic loads that you can get to fit certain models, they won’t fit some of the customized cars I have, and I’ve never really seen one made for a standard gondola. Moreover, just nothing looks as good as a load made of real logs.

Fortunately these aren’t too complicated to make, collecting real twigs of an appropriate size and cutting them to length. (If you – or a friend – has a bandsaw, cutting a lot of them very quickly is a breeze.) Really the trickiest part is selecting good twigs that are nice and straight so you can actually get a lot of logs out of them without “wasting” most of it.

Pulp logs in northern Ontario are typically cut to ~8′ lengths. This is a perfect size for loading crosswise in bulkhead flatcars and gondolas (with usually a 9′-9’6″ inside loading width) and purpose-built flatcars (or rebuilt/modified from plain bulkhead flatcars) for pulpwood service with side stakes have the stakes evenly spaced out for logs of this size. Once the “logs” are cut, they’re just stacked up on the cars. On the prototype, gravity and the friction of the rough surfaces of the logs is usually enough to keep everything in place (although trains carrying pulpwood loads “without side stakes and chains” are often subjected to speed restrictions and ACR timetables included special footnotes in the Special Instructions section to keep a close watch for shifted or protruding logs en route so it obviously isn’t 100% perfect and an obvious reason why the side-stake cars really took over in popularity.) On the model these physics don’t quite scale the same way, and we can make it much easier to load and unload the cars by gluing the logs together into a solid load.

To make it a bit easier to work on making some of these loads, I spent a little time in the workshop this week and tossed together some sheet styrene fixtures to the exact loading dimensions of some of my common car types for pulpwood service. This lets me assemble and glue together some loads on the workbench without banging actual cars around and risking damaging their details or getting glue on them. (And white glue peels right off the styrene when dry so a bit of liberal over-use is no bad thing when building in the fixture.)

Assembly fixtures for 52’8″ bulkhead flat, 52’6″ mill gondola, 40′ pulpwood flatcar. The flatcar load at top was previously a load for a kitbashed 51′ flatcar at the club which got dropped on the floor and turned into several pieces to be re-assembled. The missing area at the one end and a few gaps at the bottom still need to be filled in here

52′ flatcar load completed in assembly fixture

Finished load on Walthers 52’8″ bulkhead flatcar

Finished load in Rapido 52’6″ gondola. Note vertical logs at ends to extend the height of the load. This was a common practice for loading pulpwood in gondolas.

Next steps: collect and cut a LOT more branches. I have three loads completed and I’m out of logs. I need at least 15-20 more to cover my eventual needs. Maybe more spread out across all the possible car types just so I have enough if the mix of loaded car types changes session to session (e.g more 52′ flatcars one session, more 61′ gondolas the next).

Freight Car Friday #73 – CPAA 89958 Model

The prototype for this car was built by Pullman-Standard in late 1962 for their Transport Leasing Company and leased to Spruce Falls Power & Paper Co. of Kapuskasing, Ontario for what appears to have been a ten-year lease. Originally numbered TLCX 1001-1075 and decorated in an attractive dark green paint scheme with large and eye-catching yellow logos for the paper company, the lease expired by the end of 1972 and by early 1973 the cars were then leased to Canadian Pacific and they were renumbered into the CPAA 89910-89980 series and had their original lettering patched out. These lasted on the CP roster until about 1987 at which point they disappeared, disposition unknown.

The model is a Kadee PS-1 boxcar that was factory decorated for Spruce Falls Power & Paper. I gave the car a basic layer of airbrush grime weathering and masked and painted over the original logos much like the prototype did and added the new numbers using MicroScale stencil decals. This should be a unique and eye-catching addition mixed in with other CP and CPAA marked boxcars for paper and pulp service via Franz.

Freight Car Friday #72 – CP 80967 Model

CP 80967 is a simple study in very minor paint and decal tweaks to update the appearance of a (basically) RTR car.

The subject is a factory decorated model originally produced by Life Like under the Proto1000 brand label. (This tooling is now owned by Walthers.) It’s basically Ready to Run, other than the ladders and door rods being modeler-applied parts although they don’t really take any special skill to install.

One thing about the model is the colour of the roof. The roof is factory painted a pale grey colour to represent a bare galvanized steel roof, but just being a flat grey fails to really “pop” properly. So to improve the car (actually a trio of cars I have in these colours) I masked off the roof and re-sprayed it with Model Master “Steel”. The overall colour is almost the same shade except the Steel actually gives it a proper metallic finish. Next, as the 80967-81216 (yep, this car is actually the “class unit” for the series) were delivered in 1967 and actually originally painted in script, the Action Green MultiMark represents a repaint of these cars, and a little bit of Action Green overspray was added around the edges.

Standard decal additions of COTS and U-1 stencils in varying locations on the different cars and updated weigh dates completes the standard lettering updates before weathering.

One really neat feature of this model also needs to be addressed here. Life Like tooled two body version with different styles of plug doors – an inside-post (flush appearance) as shown on this car, and an exterior-post (recessed appearance). The interior post doors were on cars built up to 1968, and cars built 1969 or after had the exterior post doors. Another key difference between the earlier and later cars was the wheelbase, with cars built up to 1967 having a shorter 38’10” length between truck centres, and cars built 1968 and later have a longer 40’8″ truck centre distance. The model does something super clever here that a lot of people may not even be aware of – the truck bolsters are actually separate pieces that can be removed, rotated 180 degrees and reinstalled to shorten the wheelbase. (The truck centres should be narrowed on this car, but I took the photo before addressing the trucks.)

A roster of prototype cars that match the models, with door and wheelbase information (via Jim Eager on the MFCL list):

Series Date Door Wheelbase UF Notes
CN 401483-401882 12/66-1/67 YPD 38’10” C
CN 400600-400999 1-3/67 YPD 38’10” C
CP 80967-81216 4/67 YPD 38’10” C
PGE 4601-4642 5/67 YPD 38’10” U re# BCOL 4601-4642
CN 400350-400599 6-7/68 YPD 40’8″ C re# CNIS 400350-400599 /70
DWC 403000-403149 1-2/69 YPDX 40’8″ C
CVC 402000-402499 2-4/69 YPDX 40’8″ C
PGE 4651-4750 4/69 YPDX 40’8″ U re# BCOL 4651-4750
CPI 85000-85499 5-7/69 YPDX 40’8″ C re# CP 85000-85499
MDW 7001-7099 7/69 YPDX 40’8″ C re# CPAA 86000-86099 /88

Door: YPD = regular interior post Youngstown plug door, YPDX = exterior post Youngstown plug door.
Underframe (UF): C = cushioned underframe, U = un-cushioned underframe

Steam Generators: One step back, one step forward

Sometimes a project takes a step back before going forward. It can be easy and natural to only share successes, but mistakes are also a source of learning.

The Algoma Central’s quartet of home built steam generator cars were built in 1951-52 using the frames of old 40’ steel braced wood boxcars. These wood boxcars were a pretty good match for the Accurail car and I have a trio of these decorated for the AC using CDS transfers. In building these scratchbuilt heater cars, I built them to fit the same Accurail 40’ boxcar underframe, since the real cars were built on the same boxcar frames.

Except…

With the .040” styrene walls of the scratchbuilt body married to the Accurail frame the overall width of the new body was only equal to the width of the wooden sheathing of the original box and did not take the width of the car bracing which would have been attached to the outside of this. The original scratchbuild was FAR TOO NARROW and at least a foot or more narrower than the other passenger cars they will run with.

This major error has really bothered me, as while otherwise the cars built up quite nicely so far, the too thin bodies can’t be unnoticed. So being unhappy with its current state, the project was shoved off to the side for a while.

Teardown and disassembly of assembled car to salvage the sides.

This past week I pulled the cars from the back of the workbench and resolved to correct the mistake and move forward on the project again. The sides turned out well and I didn’t want to throw the entire project out and re do that effort, so the ends and roof were cut away and the corner trimwork removed with a razor blade. A few minor pieces such as the doors and aftermarket detail parts for the electrical plugs were removed from the original ends and salvaged for reuse. New, wider versions of the ends were fabricated and reassembly of the cars is now well on its way.

Old (left) and replacement (right) car ends.

New underframes will have to be scratchbuilt next, and then hopefully I can continue with fabricating the roof vents and other details for the generator, which I had started but put aside when it became obvious I didn’t want to continue with the original bodies.

Scrapped steam generator components.

More to come hopefully, now that this project is rolling again…