36′ Wooden Box Bunk Cars

Like every railway, especially those with extensive trackage through remote areas, the Algoma Central rostered a number of bunk cars to use as crew cabins for work crews working on construction or maintenance projects. Many of these cars are customized and home built for specific needs, usually from retired passenger or freight equipment.

The Algoma Central had a number of such cars converted from their old 36′ boxcars originally built in the early 20th century. There appeared to be a number of these in the 10600-10620 range, with a few others scattered elsewhere in the 10000 series work car numbering. A few of these cars were still in service in the early 1980s although starting to be replaced by pre-fabricated bunk units on flatcars (some of which reused the same numbers), and hoistman’s bunk car 10607 was even still in service in the late 1990s at Steelton yard.

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Engineman’s bunk car AC 10608 (above, Ted Ellis photo September 24, 1983) is a good example of the typical configuration of the ACR’s bunk car conversions from the old 36′ boxcars; although from the photos I’ve collected of about 4 or 5 different examples of these cars each one is slightly different from each other in the specific details.

Since I’ve been working on a few crane support cars, I’ve also wanted to have that old hoistman’s bunk car (AC 10607) to match up with the crane equipment set (also, that particular car was repainted in a VERY eye-catching bright yellow in the early 1980s). And if I was going to build one, I was going to at least build a second one.

I actually started these around Christmas, but during January and February I basically did absolutely no modelling as I was working on some home improvement projects. However with some of the work out of the way, lately I’ve been able to dive into this project again and make some progress on this pair of bodies.

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(Left/rear AC 10608 Engineman’s bunk, right/front AC 10607 Hoistman’s bunk)

Each of these two cars are based off of specific prototype photos to match the subtly different details of the cars. (In this case, primarily the end doors on 10607, and differences in ladder details (still to come). Otherwise, the side door and window arrangements on these particular two cars are virtually identical, although other cars had some variations.)

The bodies are fairly straightforward, being built from .040″ scribed styrene sheet. The roofs so far are plain styrene sheet with some internal bracing to maintain the proper shape along the length of the car with some scale 1×8 for the fascia strip along the top of the body at the eaves.

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The windows were definitely the most involved and time-consuming part of the project so far. Not having anything that would match both the small windows are larger windows by the doors (I probably could have used some Tichy windows for the smaller ones) I scratchbuilt all the windows entirely from styrene strip. The single small window shown above is 12 individual pieces of styrene strip.

After cutting a scale 24″x24″ opening for the window, the outside of the window was trimmed with scale 1×4″ strip (with a piece of scale 2×3″ for the thicker horizontal sill). The inner frame (sash) of the window was made up of individual .030″x.030″ strips and the window mullions were painstakingly assembled by three pieces of .020x.020″ strip carefully cut and filed to fit exactly in the opening. (An exercise in patience and precision if there ever was one.)

This completes some of the major work on the body however. There is some additional detailing to do, and the doors need to be fashioned and all the ladders/grab irons added to complete the body details and then the roof and underframe will need to be completed yet. I’m looking forward to getting these a bit more detailed and sitting on trucks. I think some of these cars will come together into an interesting looking collection of old cars for a work train at Hawk Junction.

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.

Algoma Central’s Home-Built Steam Generator Cars

When the Algoma Central dieselized in 1951-52, their varied roster of steam locomotives was replaced by a pair of SW8 switchers for duties in Steelton yard, and a fleet of 21 all-purpose GP7 road switchers for mainline power.

Unlike many other larger railroads that acquired some engines with optional built-in boilers to provide steam heat for passenger trains, the ACR opted for a standardized fleet of dual-purpose locomotives and none of their locomotive were ordered with steam generators. Instead, the ACR converted several cars in the Steelton car shops to act as stand-alone steam generators for passenger trains, allowing the entire locomotive fleet to be used in either freight or passenger service. Four cars, numbered AC 71-74 were custom built in the car shop on the underframes of old 40′ steel-braced wooden boxcars. One additional car, AC 76, was converted from baggage car 204, itself a conversion from a former US Army troop sleeper car from the Second World War.

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AC 72 at Steelton Yard in the early 1990s, courtesy Blair Smith. Coupled to the left and right are other steam generator cars converted from an old Northern Pacific steam locomotive auxiliary tender and a former US Army troop sleeper car.

I haven’t been doing much modelling work this summer on account of on top of the normal summer busyness I moved into a new home in mid-August. So there’s been a lot of preparation and settling in over the last while. Over the Labour Day long weekend however I was able to get a couple of projects out, and one of them is this scratchbuild of a pair of the home-built generator cars. AC 71 and 73 were retired and scrapped in the mid-late 1970s but 72 and 74 lasted in service through the 1980s and into the mid 1990s. Since the ACR locomotives did not have generators, every ACR passenger train would run with a generator car so I definitely have a need for some of these unique cars.

I actually started the sides and ends for this pair of cars quite some time ago, but have never wrote about them before now. The sides for one of the cars are almost complete, and the sides for the second car are still just blank rectangles requiring windows to be cut out yet. I did however do the basic fabrication for all four ends for the two cars. On the holiday Monday I was able to do the basic assembly of the first car using the completed sides.

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Sides and ends assembled, showing 2×6 ridge line for roof.

The dimensions for the sides and the window locations were worked out from photos and an ACR painting/lettering diagram in the Sault Ste. Marie Public Library Archives. It’s designed to fit over an Accurail underframe for their 40′ wood boxcar kit. (I’ve used this kit to model a trio of AC 3100-series boxcars, and these generator cars were built using underframes from retired cars from this series.)

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Basic car assembled with sides, ends and roof.

The sides and ends are cut from .040″ styrene, with basic end details added using various sizes of styrene strip. There’s a lot more to do there yet though, so stay tuned. The side windows have some framing trimmed around the openings using thin strip to replicate the prototype frame. More work needs to be done yet to actually model the window sashes within the frame, and to frame and model the doors.

Note that the car sides are not mirror imaged – the door is to the left-hand end on both sides.

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Detail of window framing.

That’s about as far as I’ve gotten so far, although I’m hoping to chip away at making more progress on this project over the next week or so. Probably starting with getting the sides for the second car completed so that both cars will be at the same point in order to progress forward with the finer detailing on both cars at once.

Gondola Details and Dimensional Information

I had some requests for some more details on the dimensions and parts used in the scratch build of these two gondolas, so I’ve scanned my rough sketches for the post spacings and overall dimensions, and will attempt to provide some further details of specific measurements and strip sizes below.

I posted a scan of my scale drawing that I used as my official guide in my previous post, here are the rough sketches with a few more spacing dimensions jotted down.

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AC 4601-4803 rib spacing sketch, not to scale. (Click on image to enlarge)

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AC 4804-4850 rib spacing sketch, not to scale.

Also, for reference, here are actual dimensions from a 1960s Official Railway Equipment Register for the two series:

4601-4603 4804-4850
I.L. 39’5″ 40’10”
I.W. 8’11” 9’0″
I.H. 4’0″ 4’0″
O.L. 40’0″ 41’8″
Ex.W. 9’9″ 9’10”
Ex.H. 7’11”

Sides

Height of the side pieces (cut from .020′ sheet) is five scale feet, even. Overall length of the sides is 40′ for the 4601-4803 cars or 41′ for the 4804-4850 cars. (This probably shortens the inside length a little, but the scale foot difference and the different rib spacing makes a pretty good difference between the cars.)

For boom cars 10587 (ex 4601-4803) or 10588 (ex 4804-4850) the angled cut out reduces the end height by 2’6″ and runs in 7’9″ from the end.

Top chord along the top edge is .010x.080″ strip.

Drop Sills

For the drop side reinforcement, I cut the pieces from .040’x.060′ strip (.060′ in the vertical direction). I started the drop 6′ in from the end on both cars. The horizontal drop portion is 10’6″ on the 4601-4803 cars or 13’6″ on the 4804-4850 cars, centred. The bottom edge of the fishbelly is 1’6″ below the edge of the side sheet.

Ribs

The prototype cars actually appear to have ribs that are a Z angle, which isn’t too hard to custom fabricate (I’ve done it before), except for the rounded off bottom bit. I ended up just making them a little more solid on this pair of cars, using plain .040x.040′ square strip on a .010x.060′ flange piece. The square stock is not centred on the flange, but aligned to one edge. Note when installing the ribs that the flange edge faces away from the centre of the car. (i.e. the “open” end of the Z would face the centreline of the car.

The height of the rib pieces then is of course cut to length – 5’6″ near the car ends, 6’6″ in the centre and cut to size when placed over the angled part of the drop.

See above diagrams for spacing.

Corners and Ends

Ends are .020″ styrene sheet again like the sides, and 9 scale feet wide.

The corners are trimmed up with .010x.080″ strip. Rivet decals will be applied later to the corner strips and at places along the bottom edge of the side.

The end bracing is .010x.060″ strip applied flat to the end sheet, and a .010x.030″ strip applied on edge on top of that to form the distinctive T section stiffening ribs.

Floor and Underframe

The styrene floor is also .020 sheet, cut to fit within the assembled body sides and ends. I used .080 spacer strips to recess it from the bottom edge, and I’m planning to apply a wood floor with 1x? strip after the body is painted.

The bolsters are built up from styrene to an overall depth of .165″ for the truck mounting following similar commercial parts. This seems to be about the right height, although may still require an adjustment washer. (I’m really hoping it doesn’t end up too far off.)

I used a piece of lead sheet for the weight (we had some old leftover flashing at the club – I’m not sure how readily available the lead sheet is still these days but there must be somewhere to find it) and then built up the underframe on top of that. The centre sills are .040 sheet and should roughly match the profile of the sides. The rest is all cut to fit to give an impression of the framework.

Lots more to be done yet, but I think that covers the current build progress so far. Hope this is of interest or help to those curious. This is an interesting build so far, and it’s been fun to have some questions and feedback.