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.