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…

Throwback Thursday #3

Late fall, when all the trees are in full autumn colour display, is always a popular season for riding the Agawa Canyon Tour Train excursion. At this time of year, the length of the tour train swells to capacity as tourists time their trips for the best fall colour viewing.

Private car Agawa brings up the rear on a northbound Agawa Canyon Tour Train at Frater circa 1996, with several rented Ontario Northland coaches in the consist. Blair Smith photo.

In the 1980s and 1990s when the tour train reached full capacity, the railway’s entire coach fleet would be pressed into service on the tour train, and it was common for additional cars rented from Ontario Northland and VIA Rail to cover service on the daily regular train to Hearst as well as overflow cars for the Canyon tour. In addition to nos. 3 and 4 running as the dedicated Tour Train, northbound no. 1, the regular train from Sault Ste. Marie to Hearst, would also expand with overflow cars as a sort of “second section” to the tour train. On arrival at Canyon, the overflow tour train cars would be set off in the siding to be picked up later by southbound no. 2, which during this time of year would operate with a 30 minute “run late” order to give the overflow passengers an appropriate amount of time to enjoy the Agawa Canyon Park.

Generator End Details and Body Trim

A few more steps forward on these cars in getting the bodies finished up this week.

End details have been added with some electrical plugs from a Detail Associates locomotive M.U. stand detail kit, and the step platforms scratchbuilt from styrene sheet and strip. Mounting holes for all of the end of side grab irons have been located and drilled out, but these will be installed later after the bodies are painted. The final remaining details yet to be done on the ends are adding the brake wheel and hardware to the “B” end of the car, and adding ventilation louvers on the end doors using the 3D louver decals from Micro-Mark, which I do have on hand.

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One of the interesting visual features of these cars is the sheet metal overhang over the ends; I replicated this with .005″ styrene sheet wrapped around the roof of the car. The trim work on the upper fascia of the car side and the corners was also cut from .005″ strip, and then the joints were filled and sanded down. (And rounded off on the side corners.) I also added a few more pieces of .005″ sheet (barely visible at the far ends of the cars) for the roof hatch where the steam exhaust vents are mounted.

This project may pause for a bit while I work out how to do the roof vent/stack details (try to scratchbuild, try to draw up some parts for 3D printing?) but there is also some minor underframe work to be done yet as well.

Steam Generator Doors and Windows

Over the last couple of weeks I’ve been making slow but relatively steady progress on my pair of steam generator cars, with both bodies assembled and window and door trim installed. I’ve also managed to make the side and end doors and start adding the window sash detail. (The doors are completed on both cars, and the window sashes are complete on one of the two.)

The doors are a simple construction of .010″ styrene sheet cut and filed to fit the opening with the raised framing laminated on using .010x.040″ and .010x.080″ strip. The window openings in the doors were cut out after the trim work was applied and filed flush with the trim. Once complete the doors were cemented in place in the opening. The end doors were similar but without any of the strip trim work.

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The last step to finish the side windows is adding the window sashes inside the frames. I initially began to attempt framing this in with individual 2×4 and 2×2 strip, but after managing to get the bottom piece of the sash in all the windows, the process actually convinced me to pop them back out and take a similar tack to the doors and laminate the sash frame using .010″x.020″ and .010″x.040″ strip on a .010″ sheet backing and the VERY CAREFULLY cut and file out the opening. The .020″ thin sash frame is extremely fragile at that point, but once installed the effort is worth it and I found the process to be going much better than trying to build up the sash frames inside the opening from individual strips.

I have a few more windows to do on the second car yet before I move on to the next detailing stage in construction.