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.


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…

2 thoughts on “Steam Generators: One step back, one step forward

  1. This reminds me of a scratchbuild project I thought you may have done before. Have you ever built a bulkhead flat car? I would like to try that project as I want to take advantage of your wrapped lumber load project. I am starting to crate wrapped loads for some flat cars I have but I don’t have any bulkhead cars. Any help would be appreciated.

    • I did do a kitbash of a CP flatcar with unique wrap-around bulkheads, but this was a sort of rare car:

      Walthers makes a 52’8″ square-bulkhead flatcar that is accurate for a Hawker Siddeley built car that CN, Duluth, Winnipeg & Pacific, Algoma Central, and British Columbia Railway rostered. This is a good choice if you’re modeling traffic from any of these roads. Sadly, Canadian Pacific did not buy any of these cars, and their smaller bulkhead cars (with angled bulkhead bracing) were 51’6″ cars that were sorta unique to CP. These would need to be heavily kitbashed. The larger 66’6″ bulkhead flatcars that most of the Canadian railways had is sadly also not produced in any scale, and would have to be scratchbuilt or kitbashed as well.

      The old Athearn (former MDC/Roundhouse) bulkhead flatcar is a (crude by today’s standards) model of a 60′ Thrall Car and the Atlas bulkhead car is a modern (~2000+) 66′ Trenton Works car. Both of these would be stand ins for anything else.

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