Bucket Car Progress

My scratchbuilt model of bucket car AC 10591 has continued to make some good forward progress this weekend. Both this car and boom car 10588 now have a styrene floor, and basic bolsters and a piece of lead sheet glued in for weight, and this evening I made some additional progress on a basic interpretation of and underframe for 10591. The second car is yet to be done, but will be similar.


The cars were rebuilt from flatcars, so in addition to the interesting fish-belly side reinforcements, the cars have a heavy fish-belly centre sill underframe as well. I just have a few more pieces of bracing to fabricate, and then adding brake detail to the underframe.

Also on one end of the 10591 is this large boxy structure. I’m not entirely sure of its purpose but suspect it to be an oil tank of some sorts. Most of the photos I have of the car are all from the end with the box, making visual inspection of the inside face of it difficult. What can be seen from any angle, however, is a large vent on top, and what appears to be a lifting ring in the middle of the top surface (possibly attached to an access or filling hatch?). This 1981 wreck photo from Ted Ellis shows the railway’s wreck crane in action, with this bucket car included in the train, and provides a partial view of the inside face of the box. From what is visible here, the face appears mainly plain, with no doors (so it’s does not appear to be a storage cabinet), although a short drip strip across the middle third of the top edge is interesting. Perhaps there is a drain valve or some sort of access hatch to such at the bottom?


I’m hoping to find some ex-ACR guy that might remember this car and might be able to confirm those details, but in the meantime I’ve progressed with fabricating the box structure itself and the top vent. I’ll continue on with other details for now, but if I don’t find any more information I’ll just have to go with my best guess for the details to apply.

Boom Car Scratchbuild

Here’s the second gondola car in progress. This one will end up becoming AC 10588, which is one of several cars modified as a boom car for one of the ACR light diesel cranes.


Completed sides for 10588

Rebuilt from one of the cars in the AC 4804-4850 series, the additional unique features of this car include the angled cut offs at each end which allow the crane’s boom to clear and swing over the car. Also, slightly hidden inside the car’s side walls appears to be several equipment lockers as well as a support frame for the crane boom to rest on in transit.

ACR from Blair 001 (2)

AC 10588 with crane 10215 at Steelton yard in the 1990s. Blair Smith photo.

This evening I managed to assemble the sides of this car with low ends, and also applied the basic end bracing to both cars. Major parts still to be done on both cars is the entire underframe and floor (obviously) and the finer details like grab irons. Then of course the additional equipment storage lockers for both cars.


Both bodies assembled (sides and ends). Still needs floor and under frame.

ACR Home Built 40′ Gondolas – Drawings and Scratchbuild

In the late 1940s, the Algoma Central Railway’s car shops rebuilt 250 old 40′ flatcars into gondolas by fabricating new bodies on existing underframes. This fleet comprised two unique series: AC 4601-4803, 203 cars with 39’5″ inside length rebuilt from late 1946 to late 1947; and AC 4804-4850, 47 cars with 40’10” inside length rebuilt in mid-1948. In addition to the extra one foot of length, the latter cars can be visually identified from the former by a different spacing of the side ribs. These cars lasted in revenue service into the 1970s by which time most of them were retired, but several cars remained in work service for a longer time.


AC 10591, ex-4601-4803 series gondola in work service as a bucket car for the railway’s diesel host in the early 1990s. Photo courtesy Blair Smith.

As “new”, the cars were painted in a simple black scheme with what is probably the first usage of the black bear logo on freight cars. The logo was ringed in red, and a partial example of a 4601-4803 series car in original paint can be seen on the left edge of this 1956 photo. (Another 350 brand-new 48’6″ gondolas were also acquired in September 1947 from National Steel Car in the AC 3501-3850 series, and also painted this way when new.) Meanwhile, this 1979 photo of AC 4849 shows the paint scheme they wore in the 1960s-1970s.

Obviously such a strikingly unique car with those open fish-belly side sill reinforcements is just begging to be modeled, and this home-built car is just the thing to help capture the character of the railway. To that end, I’ve used known overall dimensions from ORER listings (thanks to Railwire user “Kisatchie” for looking up some numbers for me as my oldest copy is from 1975 which no longer includes either of these series) and photographs to try to work out some sketches and a “reasonably close” scale drawing.


Side elevation drawings comparing AC 4601-4803 and 4804-4850 series gondolas.

Over the last couple of weeks I’ve been slowly working on a pair of these cars – one each of each type. Both will become support cars for my diesel crane: bucket car 10591 (ex-4601-4803) and boom car 10588 (ex-4804-4850).


In progress model of 4601-4803 series car.

The sides are .020″ styrene, with side posts consisting of a .040x.040″ strip on a .010x.060″ bottom flange – although it appears the ribs on the prototype car are actually a Z-angle. The drop side sill is .040x.060″ strip and the top chord is .010x.080″ strip.

Stay tuned for more progress on what should be a very unique pair of cars.

Freight Car Friday #47 – MWCX Copper Concentrate Gondolas


One interesting source of current bridge traffic over the former Algoma Central is copper concentrate heading over the Ontario Northland Railway to be smelted at the large facility at Rouyn-Noranda, QC. This traffic apparently comes from the Michigan “Upper Peninsula” from the concentrator at the Humboldt Mill which was recently rebuilt and started ore production in 2014 and travels across CN up to Hearst to interchange with the ONR. The three photos of MWCX cars in this post were photographed on July 16, 2015 in Cochrane, Ontario, but had just arrived from Hearst that day. Several more cars (possibly even the same ones actually) were seen from a distance in the northern section of Hawk Junction yard a few days earlier.


MWCX 200115 is an older car originally built by Greenville Steel Car for the Pittsburgh & Lake Erie Railroad, and has had a few interim owners since them, one notable operator of these former P&LE cars being the Chicago & Northwestern Railroad. Its acquisition by Midwest Railcar Leasing (MWCX) is pretty recent however.

This closeup shot shows a fair amount of load spillage around the top edges of the car; you can see the buildup of the greenish-coloured ore copper ore concentrate in the dust on the side of the car.


This car, MWCX 200475, is a good example of the modern gondola on today’s railways, having been built in early 2015. One other car in this set of five was also built in 2014, and the others were older, but clearly quite recently shopped and repainted in 2014-2015.

While this movement (and certainly in these particular cars) seems to be a fairly new one, copper mining in the upper Michigan area seems to have been a sort of on-again, off-again affair, and shipments of ores from the states to the Noranda smelter seem to have occurred at various times in the past, so I might be able to make some sort of justification for adding a bit of this sort of traffic onto my eventual layout. (In older, contemporary cars of course.) There also seems to be some westward (to or from) interchange of ore concentrates in CN cars at Oba, possibly from as far away as Trail, British Columbia.


This SOO gondola photographed on July 17, 2013 in Sudbury (cars seen here would have been routed to/from points south via the ONR, OVR and CP) also shows telltale weathering of having been in concentrate service and provides a good look at the inside of the car. Note the caked-on greenish gray concentrate material on the interior sides. Today concentrates are shipped with fiberglass covers applied to the cars to prevent any loss in transit for both economic and, significantly, environmental concerns, but in the 1970s and early 1980s the stuff was actually shipped open. Bram Bailey’s book “Ontario Northland in Color” from Morning Sun Books has a couple of photos of trains with concentrate gondolas and a large greenish dust cloud trailing behind it…

Woodchip Gondola Basic Underframe and Body Assembly

Another project starting to look like something.

I’ve been slowly working on the basic underframe for these three cars over the last several weeks, and this afternoon I got the all of the body components put together.


There’s a lot of underframe & body details to do yet, obviously, but with the main pieces assembled into bodies, they at least start to give the impression of what these will look like.