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.

Wawa Station Roof Profiling

I’ve been taking advantage of free time over the long weekend (“Family Day” civic holiday in Ontario today) to tackle the next major construction piece of the project – the “flat” roof.

In actuality, the roof is not quite flat in order to allow rainwater to properly run and drain and not build up on the roof and cause rot, leaks or other problems.

The architectural blueprints show how the roof slopes away from the edges to drains. On the upper roof over the second story a 2×6 board on edge establishes the height of the roof at the edge of the roof, sloping down to “zero” at the central drain. Construction details are: 7/8″ sheathing flat on the second story roof/ceiling joists, 2×6 support at perimeter (with successively cut down supports to allow roof to slope), 7/8″ top sheathing and finished with a tar and gravel surface.

This first photo (above) shows the styrene 2×6 strip added all the way around the perimeter of the roof. The second story roof was actually divided into two drainage areas, so an additional pair of support 2×6 strips run down the centre of the roof dividing it into half.

Roof sections made of .020″ thick styrene sheet being added.

Short pieces of .020, .040 and .060 styrene strip help support and reinforce the joints between roof sheets.

Roof sheets completed, and joints touched up with spot putty. The slope effect ends up actually being pretty subtle overall, but is obvious in the indented corner on the second story, as well as over the passenger waiting room wing where the drain is at the edge of the roof and everything slopes down to this point. On the large open area of the baggage room where the entire roof slopes to a central point, the effect is difficult to see without laying a straightedge on the wall caps, but the modeler knows it’s there!

The final finish work to the roof will involve a bit of trimming around the chimney and wall caps, and the final surface will be a representation of the bonded tar-and-gravel surface of the prototype. This however, will likely be one of the last steps after painting the rest of the structure.

Wawa Station Brickwork

Construction progress on the Wawa station continues to move forward. A major (but relatively simple) step in the progress is applying the brick texture to the lower levels of the structure, as well as constructing the brick chimney.

In these first two photos, we see the brick sheet in progress of being added to the lower story of the structure. I had some sheets of Plastruct HO brick that I’ve been using on this station; similar brick sheet products are available from JTT, N Scale Architect and other sources.

The brick sheet is cut to size, window and door openings roughly cut out and glued to the structure core using liquid plastic cement. Then the windows and door openings carefully cleaned up with needle files.

Fashioning the chimney is slightly more interesting, as the core is build up from various “4x” (4×12, 4×8 and 4×6) styrene strips and then laminated with the Plastruct brick texture sheet.

Wawa Station Trimwork

The Wawa station build keeps moving forward with the detailing of the structure.

The station featured these decorative eaves around the entire structure below the tops of the walls. To represent the proper shape of the eaves, I built them up out of styrene strip. The core is a 4×12 strip on edge forming the base of the protruding eave, with a 1×12 laminated on top to achieve a proper thickness and cover the joints between the larger strip.

To represent the decorative edging, fascia strips of 1×6 and 1×3 are added around the outside edge after the main core is built up.

Starting to look a bit more like the drawings and photos, but still much more to do…

Wawa Station Build

One of the signature scenes that I plan to include on my eventual ACR layout is the Algoma Ore Properties sinter plant and ACR yard at Wawa, Ontario. Built in 1939 and expanded and upgraded many times over the next five decades, the sinter plant at Wawa upgraded the iron ore mined at nearby mines in the so called Michipicoten Iron Range in which the community of Wawa is located. The processed ore was then shipped south via the ACR to supply the Algoma Steel blast furnaces at Sault Ste. Marie.

Along with the heavy industrial facility of the AOP plant, two other key structures to model at Wawa would of course be the Algoma Central station and freight house. I knew that modelling the station had just become easier a few years ago when I arranged access to view certain archival materials at the public library in Sault Ste. Marie during my 2014 visit. One of the items listed in the inventory was “Plans for Jamestown Station Building”. (During the 1950s there was an attempt to renamed the station and community “Jamestown” in honour of Sir James Dunn, the head of the Algoma Steel Co. It didn’t stick.) When I saw the plans at the library it became instantly clear that I had hit the purest form of gold – original, large format architectural blueprints, showing every detail.

Previously my best material to go off of was a handful of black and white images from the michiwawa.ca site. (A good collection of various period photos of the facilities at Wawa, but not very high resolution. And not every single angle is fully covered.)

The original architectural blueprint for Jamestown (Wawa) station survive in the collection of the Sault Ste. Marie Public Library Archives.

The plans show a two story building with an overall footprint of 78 by 25 feet, with a 28′ baggage/express wing on the west side and 35′ long second story for the station agent’s living space located above the main part of the station. The interesting part of the design is the cut corners on the public waiting room end of the building, making it not quite a simple rectangular building.

The lower story is brick, up to the lower overhanging eaves (not sure of the technical term for this type of decorative overhang), and wood-frame with asbestos shingles above the overhang and for the second story.

My HO scale front & back elevation drawings to lay things out to scale and plan the build before putting blade to plastic.

The first step in the project was of course to convert the images I took of the original plans into my own HO scale drawings in order to lay out the overall dimensions and locations of doors, windows, etc. on paper before I start cutting plastic and wasting material. I spent some time working on figuring out the drawings from the various images of the original plans this fall, until I had HO scale elevation drawings of all four sides and a top-down drawing of the roof/building footprint. With the scale drawings in hand, I could begin to transfer the measurements to plastic and start cutting out walls.

Front and rear walls with window and door openings rough cut out and ready for cleanup.

All of the wall pieces were cut from .040″ plain styrene sheet, with door and window openings carefully measured, cut out and filed clean.

Detail of wall cap over passenger waiting room wing.

Above we see a detail of the treatment of the top of the walls. The architectural plans show the upper walls to be constructed of 2×6 framing. The very top of the wall is capped with a standard 2×6 header and then an overhanging 2×8 header above that, capped with copper flashing.

To represent this, and also to set up for the next step in constructing the recessed roof, I installed 2×10 strip around the inside of the tops of the walls, to bring the thickness of the top of the wall to near 6 scale inches and provide a proper depth to install the plastic sheet for the roof substrate. (More to come on roofing in a future post…)

Then the top of the wall was capped all around with a scale 2×8 strip to create the slight overhang at the top of the wall.

Basic form assembly complete, track side.

In the last two photos we see the basic assembly of the walls and roofing base completed, forming the basic structure.

There’s still a long ways to go on completing and detailing this structure, but with the walls and basic roof substrate assembled, it’s definitely starting to look like something!

Basic form assembly complete, street side.

So there it is so far. Stay tuned for more.

Note: if you use facebook, there are some additional images from this build in an album on the facebook page I have there tied to this site. You can find some additional project photos and other bonus materials shared there in addition to the regular blog post links.