AC 306 Painted and Assembled

This Sunday I had the advantage of having pretty much the entire day to myself and spent the afternoon masking and painting my modified troop sleeper-cum-baggage car. Earlier in the week, the sides were assembled into the body frame and the body, roof and pipe were separately primered and painted “Aluminum”. Sunday afternoon was spent masking and painting the letterboard stripe (CPR Tuscan/Maroon) and the underbody and sills (flat black).


Once the paint had set and the masking was removed, I installed the window glass (using the original clear parts from the Walthers model for the existing windows and a sheet of clear styrene across the baggage door windows using a bottle of Microscale Kristal Kleer I had on hand (which seems to be more or less basically just regular white glue…?) and then installed the roof. The final bit of assembly involved installing the (previously bent and painted) air? pipe down the roof centreline, gluing it into holes above the end diaphragms, and tacked down at a couple of points to the roof carlines to keep it straight and attached. A small weight was placed on top to hold the pipe down while the glue dried.

With the body painted and assembled, one of the last tasks was to letter the car, which in this case consisted of only adding the car numbers to the four corners of the car using some of the extra digits from the number jumble in the Black Cat ACR passenger set. The railway never did get around to actually applying their name to the maroon stripe on the real car either, so that completes the lettering of this car…

A few final details remain such as stirrup steps below the baggage door and a light (passenger cars usually stayed in pretty good condition) weathering job, but this car is nearly complete!

Troop Sleeper Baggage Conversion Body Modifications and Details

So this project has been on the shelf for a long time. A very long time. I last wrote about this here in September 2013, and even that was to recount work that I had done before I actually started this blog. So far, I’ve posted about scratchbuilding the new doors, and briefly about plating some of the existing windows and vents (the easiest possible part of the job). Some of the work of cutting out the new opening had been started, but never fully cleaned up.

So recently I’ve pulled this out and started to finish that off.

The original troop sleeper configuration has a narrow personnel door in the centre, with single windows on either side. The new baggage door takes up part of this space. So the new opening needs to be marked and cut out, but also parts of the original openings need to be completely filled in. This involves filling in the windows with sheet styrene and removing all of the detail around them, as well as some of the same for the very top of the original door, which was slightly higher than the new sliding door. I used some styrene strip along the inside of the new opening to frame it up and unify the edges where the old window openings were, although this also helped correct some sloppiness in my original cut.

Then body putty was used on all the seams and areas around the door and window fill areas to fill and smooth things out, and everything sanded smooth. A bit of a rounded bevel was also filed into the door posts, although the top edge was left as square as possible.


The new rivet strips along the door posts were added using Micro-Mark 3D rivet decals. The small plate above the door was added using an .060″ wide strip of .005″ styrene with more Micro-Mark decals for the corner rivets. (In older photos this plate seems to have mounted some sort of hook/hanger above the door, probably to assist in hauling up express cargo. It appears though that this hook was removed by 1980s era photos of the car I’m modelling, so I don’t have to try to bend wire into such a small feature. Phew.)

This is really getting this car starting to look like something now, and is pretty much down to a few coats of paint for the next step…

ex-Troop Sleeper Baggage Cars – Part 3: Plugging windows

The next step with these cars involves plating over the carbody vents and the unwanted windows. The upper vents were all plated over on these cars, but the windows varied from car to car, and were done later. Up until the late 1960s and probably into the early 1970s, the cars all would have had their original windows still. In the 1970s however, some of the cars started to have windows blanked out and plated over when they received a full shopping.

The car I’m currently working on represents AC 306 (ex-AC 205, ex-US Army 7883). Photos I’ve collected from various sources online show that on one side of the car, 3 windows (2 to the right and 1 to the left of the baggage door) were plated over, while on the opposite side, only one window to the right of the door was plated.

Note that the windows I’m referring to here are all in the first double pair of windows; the original troop sleepers have a single window on either side of the original entry door, but both of these windows and the original man door are overlapping with the space where the baggage car door will go. Those windows will need to be completely gone, not just plated over with the frame still in place. That’s a little bit more involved, so I’m leaving that until later.

I plated the required windows quite simply by cutting rectangles of .010″ styrene sheet to fit the window openings. (Actually I cut this just slightly oversize and then carefully file down the edges so that it fits in perfectly.) When you look at the windows on the model, you can see the riveted frame around the window, and then an inset window sash, which on the rear car would have been the moveable part of the window. To plate over the window, I just cut the plate to fit just inside the outer frame, and lay down on top of the recessed sash. The .010″ thickness of the styrene sheet set on top of the recessed sash perfectly represents the plated over opening.


Car with upper vents and two windows at left plated over. The two windows at right will remain open and receive the original kit window glass pieces when the car is fully completed.

Similarly the vents along the top of the car body were also plugged with .010″ material but in this case their narrow width meant a 010″x.080″ strip cut to length will fit perfectly in the vent opening. Again the recessed depth is such that a .010″ strip is almost perfectly flush.

That takes care of the easy part of the car side modifications; cutting out the door, removing the single windows and smoothing everything up again will be considerably more invasive surgery.

ex-Troop Sleeper Baggage Cars – Part 2: Doors

The doors for these cars was an interesting scratchbuild project. It’s been a while since I worked out the measurements, but I was able to come up with something that looks pretty good. Here’s my drawing from my notes:


Measured construction drawing of the baggage car door.

The scratchbuilt door master consists of a .020″ styrene door blank with the trimming made from scale 1″x6″ strip (except for the centre vertical that divides the lower part of the door into 2 panels with is a little wider – 1″x8″. Working carefully and measuring with my dial calipers, the trim was fixed by applying liquid styrene cement with a fine brush. My favourite here is the Testors liquid plastic cement. I highly recommend against Plastruct’s Plastic Weld in this application as I’ve found it to leave a nasty surface residue when used on styrene.

To get a nice clean upper window, I applied the trimming to the door blank before cutting out the opening. I don’t remember doing the cutting anymore, but the best approach would be to drill out the corners and then play “connect-the-dots” to cut out the rough opening. What I definitely do remember is carefully opening up the window opening with a series of fine needle files, filing the opening even with the 1×6 trim strips.

Since I knew I wanted to probably make more than one of these cars, I planned on making one door master which I could then make molds from to cast several copies in resin. The door blank was therefore cemented to a piece of .060″ styrene backing.

The window mullins were added after the door was cemented to the backing plate. This ensured that they were nice and flush. The mullins are .030x.040″ strips, laying on their wide side to match the ~.030 thickness of the .020″ door + 1×6 (.011″x.066″) trimming. These should be evenly spaced. (I didn’t keep notes for this spacing, but measuring the door master shows each window pane to be an average of .145″ wide (within a variance of .005″, well within a margin of error and not detectable by the eye).


Finished door master.

Following the completion of the master, I was able to create the rubber mold from the master and use it to cast several copies of the door. I now have more than enough doors to do several cars.


Rubber mold and scratchbuilt door master.

ex-Troop Sleeper Baggage Cars – Part 1: Background

In 1949, the Algoma Central began to replace their older 1914-built wooden passenger coaches with “new” secondhand steel cars acquired from the United States. (Ironically the coaches acquired from the D&RGW were actually older than the wood cars they were replacing!) Included in the AC’s acquisitions were five surplus troop sleeper cars from the US Army.

These cars were built during World War II by Pullman-Standard, and following the end of the war, many of them ended up on railways all over the continent as they became surplus, many of them rebuilt as baggage or express cars or work service bunk cars. (The Alaska Railroad had perhaps the most interesting conversions, chopping up pairs of old troop sleepers and turning them into 50′ high-cube boxcars!) The five acquired by the ACR were rebuilt as baggage cars, initially numbered AC 201-205 and painted in the ACR’s then-current dark green scheme.

These cars were rebuilt with a sliding baggage door and remained in baggage service for many years. One car, AC 204, was later rebuilt to steam generator car AC 76 in 1952 following the dieselization of the railway. The ACR also built 4 more home-built steam generator cars on the frames of old 3100 series boxcars. (No original ACR locomotives were ever equipped with steam generators. The ACR preferred the flexibility of multi-service locomotives and stand-alone steam generator cars were built to heat the passenger trains.)

In 1981 the ACR’s baggage cars were all renumbered into the 300 series to make room in the numbering for the new AC 200-205 series GP38-2 locomotives. The remaining troop sleeper cars became AC 303-306. Since my modeling time frame is 1985, this is the series my cars will be numbered within.

Over the years, windows on several of the cars were plated over. This seemed to vary a bit between the different cars, so working from photos is essential.

Most of these cars were still painted in the ACR’s handsome 1955 maroon and grey colour scheme in the 1980s. One exception was AC 306, which got painted into the 1974 silver scheme with maroon name band, but never actually received the Algoma Central lettering along the top, just the road numbers on the corners of the car. That’s just so silly, it needs to be modeled.

Here’s a link to a Ted Ellis photo of AC 205 (later AC 306) in 1979 in the silver colours:

And AC 303, looking a little the worse for wear, in the late 1980s still in the 1960s maroon and grey colours:

And lastly, a 1979 shot of steam generator AC 76, coupled to AC 74, one of the home-built generator cars just out of frame:

In HO scale, Walthers has produced a model of the Pullman-Standard troop sleeper car, which can be modified in much the similar fashion to the prototype in order to model these AC cars. Windows and vents will need to be plugged, enlarged door openings cut out and the doors scratchbuilt.

I’ve completed the doors and I’ve been working away on one of the Walthers cars to convert it into baggage car #306; ultimately I’d like to do the steam generator car 76 and possibly one more baggage car for a nicely rounded fleet.

Next: Scratchbuilding the baggage doors.