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Making a AF Dwarf Signal by Ben Swope

April 11th, 2015 · No Comments

As intending to signal a large single track loop for multiple train operation, I wanted to keep the layout pure American Flyer, so the obvious choice is to use AF’s # 761 semaphores. To keep the six signaled controlled blocks at an even length, one signal is required to be placed in a long hidden section under benchwork. Here the overhead restriction would be too low for these tall semaphore signals, standing 9-inches tall with the blade in the “clear” position.

The solution to this problem came in the form of a train show junk box find, were a # 761 semaphore was purchased so cheaply, experiments could be made without concern if the signal was destroyed in the process. However the first attempt at modification resulted in such a success, I thought other AF enthusiasts would be interested, and perhaps offer another signal option for use on your own pike.

This junk box purchased operate quite well, though it was not in perfect appearance, and had a few parts missing. This made it a good candidate to convert to a dwarf signal, yet once modified would operate identical to standard versions.

Start the modification by removing the semaphore blade, ladder, bulb socket, finial from atop the mast, and the coil & blade activation rod assembly from the base. At this point all you’ll have is the base casting, the signal head casting, both connected only by the hollow mast tube.

Using a small punch and hammer, carefully drive the mast tube out of the base from inside of the base casting. Work the punch around the tube’s end to avoid cocking the tube within the casting, as damage the base structure may result.

Once removed, measure and mark the mast tube 1-inch from the bottom of the signal head and cut the mast tube off squarely (I used a common hacksaw). De-burr and true-up the ragged cut to prepare resetting it back into the base casting. If done correctly, a few taps on the top of the signal head (using a block of wood to protect the signal head casting from the hammer blows) will set the mast back into the base casting. If necessary, some glue may be used to secure this connection. Ensure the signal head is located in its original orientation to the base.

This process should make the now exposed distance from the mast tube of the base structure to the bottom of the signal head about ¾-inch. This is about as short you’d want to allow for easy removal/insertion of the bulb and socket assembly.

Next is the activation rod modification (the rod that rides inside the tube). Place the coil and activation rod assembly back into the base and fasten with the original screws. Of course, this rod will now extend far out the top of the mast and signal head at this point. Push and pull the rod to its extreme motions while sighting through the signal head. Observe the rod’s end movements though this crescent shaped hole and mark its end strokes with a small felt-tip marker.

Remove the coil and rod assembly again. Note the marks on the rod and find the middle of the extreme motion marks. Remark this point with a different color marker (or score with a file, etc.), and replace the assembly to check the center marked point prior to drilling. Pear again in the signal head hole to double check its location as being the best point to drill a new hole for the signal blade pin hole and thus rotate the signal blade correctly.

Once satisfied of the location, remove the coil/rod assembly once more and drill a new hole sized for the pin that rotates the blade and de-burr. Follow this by cutting the rod to length just above the newly drilled hole and de-burr.

For my dwarf signal, I chose to shorten the signal blade as well; removing about ¼-inch off the fish-tailed end. At this point, it’s your choice to make this cut flush, recreate a fish-tail end or simply not shorten the blade.

Lastly, I chose not to replace the finial atop the signal head (as with a shortened signal blade, it looked too “busy”). I instead modified an old AF freight car truck rivet, and with contact cement, placed it in the same hole the filial once was, acting as a button cap to keep dust out.

This signal, once reduced in height, looks to have been an item Gilbert would have produced and advertised as a working dwarf signal, perhaps used in conjunction with power switches at the end of a passing siding, branch line junction or yard lead.

This entire modification took about two hours to figure out and perform. With these simple instructions, your time may be less. If you choose to do the same, your efforts will yield an interesting new addition to the many American Flyer accessories on your layout.

Ben Swope

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Trains Hit the Floor – Oh the Humanity!

February 16th, 2015 · No Comments

Last Saturday a good friend was due to visit, and was bringing his grandchildren to see my American Flyer Trains run. I have to admit I have not run any trains recently so I needed to get the tracks clean. Some years ago at the York Train Show I made an impulse purchase, a Trackman S-2000 cleaning car. For a lot of years this car has been faithfully shining up my rails, even in the hard to get places like tunnels. For those unfamiliar with this product, it basically drags a piece of scotchbrite around the track. It really does a good job, and I have gotten used to having and using it.

I hooked the cleaning car up to an E grade 293 engine, and started the construct around the track. I watched it approach a standard Gilbert switch, and to my horror the engine fell over, and it and the cleaning car went 3 foot to ceramic tile flooring. I have no idea why it happened, the switch was all the way in position, and the train crossed the switch in the direction that would not normally cause derailments. The 293 suffered a broken pilot wheel, and the front driver and axle are damaged. I will have to find good used parts to make these repairs, not too big of problem, and there doesn’t seem to be any significant cosmetic damage to the engine.

The larger problem for me, is the track cleaner car which has a broken truck. The side broke off, and maybe it can be glued, but probably not. The truck is unlike anything I have on any of my other rolling stock, so I am not sure what my next step is. I could use some help if anyone knows who makes the Trackman S-2000 cars. I searched the Internet and emailed one vendor who replied to me “Sorry sold out and backordered”, nothing else. I am not sure if that reply was for an entire cleaning car, or just the truck I was trying to purchase. I can’t seem to locate the manufacturer’s website. If anyone knows who the manufacturer of the Trackman Cleaning cars is or where parts can be purchased, I would be very grateful for the information!

The story of the train hitting the floor takes me back to Christmas day 1955, when I got my first American Flyer Train, with an Atlantic engine. It was set up for me in the basement on a 4×8 green painted sheet of plywood, complete with 2 switches. I ran my train over the switch, which was in the wrong position. The engine went to the concrete floor, and the plastic shell broke off. My father used some Duco cement to glue it back together, and I was running again, until I sent the train to the floor a 2nd time. The cement came out again, and I am pacing the floor waiting for it to dry so I can play with my new train that had gone from mint condition to Fair in one fall! While the cement was setting, my father cut two strips of wood that he fastened along side the switches, so if the train derailed, it stayed on the table. The fix worked, as I tried to send the train to the floor later that day, but it just tipped over, but stayed on the table. From then on, if my childhood switches were mounted near the edge of a table, they always had that strip of wood next to them. Maybe I should add that strip of wood to my current layout!

One Last Note: As some of you have noticed, Stumpy has taken a well deserved break from his kitbashing articles. We look forward to having him back in the future!


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Stumpy’s Station – “Ten Wheeler Project” Part 4

December 5th, 2014 · No Comments

With the boiler shell/cab construction complete, we need to add a tender before running the loco through the paint shop. Probably the best tender to use to back date this engine to the “Turn of the Century” look would be the American Flyer “Franklin” tender. About the only thing you need to do with one of these is to add a coal pile in the opening left when you remove the wood pile. Many locos of the Nineteenth Century had short, low sided tenders, somewhat like the common 4-4-0 tenders. However, Franklin tenders are often hard to find.
The next “oldest looking” American Flyer tender is the one from the 0-8-0 switcher. You might want to remove the back up light, as these didn’t become common until the Twenties, but it’s not really necessary because your Ten Wheeler could have been “upgraded” during it’s years on your railroad. But again, these are hard to come by.
Next in line to give and old look are tenders from some of the cheaper Marx steamers or Lionel “027” steam locos. Look for the ones with the squared coal bunker like the Flyer 0-8-0 tender. Lower cost Marx and Lionel engines had these and they are cheap when you find them. Often you can just buy the shell, which is all you really want anyway.
This shell can be fitted to the Pacific or Casey Jones tender frame by cutting the tender chassis in half and shortening it to fit under the shell. As an alternative, you can make a floor/chassis out of plastic or wood and use American Models or S-Helper/MTH tender trucks and coupler. Just remember the tender weight must be used on any tender for good tracking and to help with electrical pick up.
The last alternative for a tender in the more modern American Flyer common plastic tender. This could be used as is to represent a later tender use dto give the Ten Wheeler added range. (This WAS done as water towers were removed toward the end of steam operations, and some small locomotives pulled tenders as long as the locomotive!) You could also back date the common tender by cutting off the fuel bunker above the main body, adding a deck of plastic sheet and building a coal box on top (it would be made to look like the 0-8-0 tender, only longer.) Shortening the tender would back date the look as well.
In the case of my Ten Wheeler, I used the Marx tender already on hand from the “Prairie Dog”.

Once you have the tender ready that you want to use, it’s time to make up a drawbar to connect the Ten Wheeler locomotive to it’s tender. I’ve had good success using craft sticks for drawbars. They are remarkably durable in use, electrically insulated, cheap, and easy to work.
Since there is no trailing truck to work around, making a drawbar is very straightforward and simple. Measure the distance between the trailing truck screw and the front screw/rivet hole of the tender drawbar. Mark where your screw holes have to go on the craft stick to connect the trailing truck screw and the rivet/bolt hole in the tender or tender drawbar, depending on which tender you’re using.
Because the craft stick wood is very hard, drill the holes and THEN cut the craft stick beyond them. This eliminates any splitting of the wood that some times happens by drilling too close to the end of a stick. Use a file to round off the ends of the new drawbar and paint it black. Test fit and you’re ready to “couple up!”
The final step is to test run the finished loco and work out any problems. Once everything is working correctly, the locomotive and tender go to your paint shop. Even though I started with the “Prairie Dog,” I sanded and primered the loco again. Then I painted the boiler and cab black. The cab roof and tender rear deck were painted boxcar red.
The smokebox and firebox were painted silver to represent a fresh coat of graphite. (Graphite was used on areas not covered by asbestos and jacketing where the high heat would burn paint off quickly.)
The bell and parts of the safety valves were painted gold to represent brass, and so were the handrails on the boiler and the grab irons on either side of the cab. As was popular in the old days, I painted the window frames of the cab red. Finally white stripes were painted on the bottom edge of the cow catcher and along the running boards of the boiler.
As is the “policy” on my railroad, a number was decaled on each side of the tender, but no other markings applied. Then the engine and tender got a coat of Testor’s Gloss Cote to give them a nice shine, as if right out of the shop. Last but not least, and engineer was placed in the cab.

The Ten Wheeler is a sharp reminder of the long past glory days of steam railroading.

Stumpy Stone

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Stumpy’s Station – “Ten Wheeler Project” Part 3

November 2nd, 2014 · No Comments

I wanted to use the Casey Jones pilot (cow catcher) on the front of the 4-6-0, so after some trimming and filing, I glued it to where the Pacifc pilot was removed. A couple of pieces of plastic strip filled in the ends.
The last thing that we’ll be fitting onto the modified plastic Pacific shell is the cab. Before doing this, cut the fake firebox area off the bottom of the cab since it won’t be used on this project. As we considered in the last part of the project, the top of the cab should not be higher than the stack. With the fake firebox gone from the cab, the bottom of the Pacific shell and the bottom of the cab will line up to put the cab at a nice height.
The opening in the front of the cab and the outside diameter of the boiler shell is close, but not the same. To make this connection point a bit stronger, I used a piece of plastic sheet glued to the front of the cab and cut out the inside of this sheet to closely match the boiler opening.
Test fit the cab to the back of the boiler before gluing them together.

On engines without a trailing truck under the cab, as much space as possible was needed for the firebox. In many of the Ten Wheelers the firebox extended all the way to the back of the cab. This was know as a “deckless” cab because the engineer squeezed in between the side of the firebox and the inside wall of the cab with the fireman doing the same on the other side of the boiler, if he had time to sit down at all.
In our case, the Casey Jones cab has an enclosed rear bulkhead with narrow doors for the engineer and fireman. This was a rare style of “all weather cab” popular on many roads operating in cold climates, so we can use it. If the motor doesn’t clear the back of the cab, you can open the center area between the doors, as most deckless cab arrangements were hand fired from the front deck of the tender.
As an alternative, you could also open up the entire back of the cab to clear the motor and then use cab curtains to disguise the motor. Cab curtains were used in cooler weather to enclose the back of the standard cab type to keep the crew warm. These were made of heavy canvas, one on each side of the cab, and arranged on a slide so that they could be tied back at the sides of the cab while not in use or pulled around to enclose the open rear of the cab. I make these out of used dryer sheets glued together and cut to size, then painted an off white or tan color and use them to hide the back of the exposed motor. Install cab curtains (if used) after attaching the cab to the boiler.

Once you’re satisfied by the fit, glue the cab to the boiler. Be careful to keep
everything in alignment, blocking everything into position while the glue sets. It’s a good idea to allow extra time for the glue to set as this is an important structural connection. Once set, I added extra strength by mixing up a little epoxy and spreading it liberally along the joint, then let that set overnight.
Once the cab is on, test fit the complete chassis and do any minor cuts or filing to adjust the fit. If there are any openings between boiler and cab, use some putty the fill these and then file and sand these areas smooth. As with our previous projects use gray primer to check your “body work,” then sand and repaint as necessary.
As I said before, many of the Ten Wheelers had a deckles cab because the firebox extended to the back of the cab. To help disguise the gap between the back of the drivers and the end of the cab, we’ll add this firebox under the cab. I started by adding a piece of plastic strip ¼” wide by 2 1/4” long to the bottom of the cab on each side, front to back. To this I glued a piece of 1/8” wide plastic channel material along the edge closest to the opening under the cab. Once the glue sets I used a ½” wide by 1 7/8” long plastic strip standing on edge to go below the bottom of the cab to block side view of the motor. This makes a “L” shape under the cab on either side. I left the front and back open for clearance when installing the chassis to the shell and to allow wiring to exit below the cab. It will also not interfere with the drawbar to the tender.

A firebox has hundreds of rivet heads appearing on it, so the represent these, I used card stock with “rivets” rolled on with a Ponce wheel. Ponce wheels are hand held tools used in sewing and other craft work. They consist of a small handle with wheel at the end that looks like a tiny saw blade. You place a piece of 1/2”x 1 7/8” card stock on a soft surface such as sheet balsa, rubber, or soft plastic. Then you roll the Ponce wheel along the card stock lengthwise making about four straight lines 1/8” apart. When done, turn the card stock over and you have lines of “rivet heads” sticking out on the other side!
Make a second such sheet for the other side and glue each to the ½” x1 7/8” plastic firebox structure. This makes for an easy and inexpensive firebox under the Ten Wheeler’s cab. When the glue is dry give this a light coat of gray primer.
With the boiler modifications complete, we’ll move on the adding a tender.

Stumpy Stone

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Stumpy’s Station – “Ten Wheeler Project” Part 2

October 2nd, 2014 · No Comments

We’ve run the “Casey Jones” shell “through the scrap line” and salvaged useful parts. Now it’s time to make few serious cuts to the plastic Pacific shell.
For the major cuts, I use a Dremel Motor Tool with the cut off wheel and then go back and dress up the cuts with a file. Filing to final form allows you better control to make sure parts are straight.
We’ll cut off the Pacific’s pilot (“cow catcher”) along the straight vertical line of the front of this part, the thickness of the front of the pilot, leaving the two wedged shaped area intact to help strengthen the replacement part. The pilot removed from the Casey Jones and the cut line of the Pacific shell should be filed to fit tightly. The pilot of the Casey Jones is a slightly narrower than the Pacific pilot deck, so carefully center the Casey Jones pilot when gluing. We take care of the excess deck on each side later.
The next cut is the important one. We’ll be cutting the cab and firebox of the Pacific away to make room for the Casey Jones cab. Turn the Pacific shell over and locate the rear chassis mounting posts. Mark a line just behind these all the way around the shell because this is where we’ll make the cut to remove the rear portion of the Pacific shell.

You can either cut right on the line, or a little rearward of it to give yourself extra material to work with if you need to. The plan here is for the Casey cab to just cover the back of the motor. There is a slight difference between using a can motor and an original Flyer motor so measure twice and cut once!
Once again, file the cut lines of both the Pacific shell and the Casey Jones cab to fit tightly. I like to use some gray primer in all areas where modifications are to be made since working marks will show up better, and the gray allows you to see how your “body work” is as you build better than the normal black plastic.
At this point I had to turn my attention to how high to mount the cab as well as make sure there was enough length to cover the motor. On an old Ten Wheeler, the stack, domes, headlight, and cab would sit well above the boiler. Those old locos had smaller diameter boilers than later engines so vertical clearances were not as important. However, in our case, we must build the locomotive to fit the S gauge clearances of tunnels and bridges.
In this case, I wanted the top of the stack to about the same or a little taller than the cab roof. I used the stack height I had used on the “Prairie Dog” project since that had been set to clearances for tunnels and bridges, so the stack would be ½” above the top of the boiler. While looking things over
during the planning this project, I decided to just go ahead and use the Prairie’s shell to build the Ten Wheeler! The Casey Jones stack is about a ½” tall anyway! This also let me skip the steps to make a stack and headlight during construction, but I’ll describe them here for you.
I cut the original headlight and stack off the plastic Pacific shell and filed these areas flat. The hole where the headlight was can be filled with plastic rod or wooden dowel and touched up with putty. I like to make a few punch outs of card stock with a paper punch, glue them together in a “stack” of punch outs, and then glue this to the front of the boiler to represent a number plate.
A new headlight will be mounted to the top front of the boiler, typical of older style locomotives. This headlight will be made of a piece of plastic tubing 5/16” inch outside diameter. Cut a round piece of plastic to fit the diameter of the new headlight and glue it on the “back” of the tubing.
Next, drill a 3/16” hole in the top of the boiler as far forward as you can. Then drill another 3/16” hole in the “bottom” of the headlight that aligns with the hole in the top of the boiler.
Leave the inside of the headlight white or paint it silver to reflect the light from the light bulb in the front of the engine. If you can, use the original Flyer headlight lens. A short length of clear plastic rod that fits inside the new headlight will also make a good lens, but a flat piece of plastic cut to fit the “front” of the headlight will work too. Do not install the lens until after the locomotive has been painted so you don’t accidentally get paint on it.
Once the headlight is installed, you can add the Casey Jones stack at it’s full length. This will be a simple and straightforward installation.
Since the bell will be moved, carefully pry the original metal bell out of it’s hole with a small screwdriver. The bell is just pressed in. Fill this hole with some putty.

I wanted to use the Casey Jones safety valve turret to help back date the Ten Wheeler, so I filed off the three safety valves at the back top of the cab. This is where the Casey Jones turret will go. The Casey Jones bell will go right in front of the rearward dome. File the parts to fit tightly and attach.

Stumpy Stone

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Stumpy’s Station – “Ten Wheeler Project” Part 1

August 28th, 2014 · No Comments

One locomotive that I have always wanted in S gauge is the 4-6-0, known as a “Ten Wheeler” because it had six drivers and a four wheel lead truck. As a direct “upgrade” of the common 4-4-0 “American,” the 4-6-0 wheel arrangement gave the superior high speed tracking of the “American” with the four wheel lead or pilot truck to help turn the locomotive, and the tractive effort of six driving wheels. Most “Ten Wheelers” had as big a boiler as the technology of the time and the space available could provide.
Most railroads used 4-6-0’s interchangeably for both passenger and higher speed freight traffic. In later years, these locos avoided scrapping by being downgraded to lesser assignments such as local freight and passenger trains, work trains, and even switching duties. Many 4-6-0 locos could still be found in daily operation to the end of steam on the mainline railroads because they were easy to maintain, and light weight enough to work on the lightly laid rail and light bridges found on branch lines. Short lines and tourist lines loved smaller locomotives like them for the same reasons.

Of course American Flyer never made a 4-6-0. But during the sixties and seventies when S scale guys had little to work with aside from old Flyer, a LOT of custom rebuilt locos appeared and the “Ten Wheeler” was one of them. Generally, these were made from Atlantics by a bit of modifying of the frame and adding a third set of drivers where the trailing truck would be.
A few guys used the Pacific because all you had to do to get the 4-6-0 wheel arrangement was remove the trailing truck. The problem was to somehow cover the long gap under the firebox/cab area or disguise the motor sticking out of the back of the cab in full view of anyone. Few got it right.
I’ve been giving this project some thought for years, and this series will follow my “Ten Wheeler Project” kit bash of a common Flyer plastic Pacific into a 4-6-0.
The biggest problem with this kit bash is to do something about covering up the motor while at the same time shortening the shell enough to look fairly realistic. The only actual chassis work will be taking the trailing truck off and making a longer drawbar to connect the tender. As usual, I made a new drawbar out of craft (popsicle) sticks because they’re durable, an electrical insulator, and easy to work with.
As part of this conversion, I decided to back date the Pacific shell to look like a typical early Twentieth Century loco that had been updated from time to time and worked right up to the end of steam. There are two ways to do this: buy brass castings of various parts, or cut up an old Flyer “Casey Jones” shell.
Castings can quickly become expensive, while a common “Casey Jones” can be had complete and running for about fifteen dollars, a bare shell for one might go for five dollars. You can’t buy detail parts for prices like that!
The Pacific used for most kit bash projects can be pretty scruffy looking because it’s going to get some cosmetic work anyway, just be sure the mounting posts are in good shape. You might consider buying a Pacific shell for customizing if you have a nice Pacific on hand, and you can swap the customized shell onto your nice loco’s chassis.
Another consideration is the tender. A Franklin tender would be perfect to help back date this project. The tender from behind the 0-8-0 would make a nice slightly more modern choice. You also might consider a Marx or even “027” Lionel tender shell on a Flyer tender chassis. In some cases you may have to shorten the chassis to make this work. Yet another option is to get a common Flyer plastic tender (use the one from the “Casey Jones” you buy for the boiler shell) and cut the fuel bunker sides off even with the top of the tender tank. Add a sheet of plastic to cover the remaining hole and build a coal box on top to get that older tender look.

Once you’ve decided what you want to do and gathered the various tid-bits, it’s time to start. I began by salvaging parts from the “Casey Jones” loco shell. Using a Dremel motor tool with a cutting wheel (a hobby saw works well but is just slower,) I cut off the cab, stack, bell, safety valve turret, headlight, and pilot (“cow catcher.”) I also removed the two domes by cutting into the shell rather than cutting the domes. This gives you extra material to work with for this and other possible projects. After all, once you remove the cab, the rest of the shell is pretty much scrap anyway. I keep a number of parts and “junk” boxes for possible future use and therefore a project is less often stalled for lack of parts.
We’ll be using the cab in this project, and one of the ugly things about the “Casey Jones” is solid cab windows. These can be opened up by drilling a series of small holes all around the inside of the windows and then cutting between them to remover the plastic. Dress the windows up with a file.
Next time, we really get started with the project.

…Stumpy Stone

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Stumpy’s Station – “Out of the Woods” Part Six

August 8th, 2014 · No Comments

The windows are in, the door installed and the roof is ready to go on if you’ve filed the braces to shape. Go ahead and glue it on, allowing a bit of overhang on each end and the sides.
Obviously, the roof had to be covered to keep it from leaking. This was often done by applying tarred canvas, and later with regular roll roofing material. The roof was covered in the same manner as any other building. To depict either of these in texture, common ¾” mashing tape will stand in.
Start at the bottom edges of the roof and overlap the next layer slightly as you move to the top of the roof. Wrap the ends of the tape over the edges of the roof at each end of the car and trim off the excess. Also trim off any excess tape when you reach the roof peak. Cut a 3/8” inch wide strip and apply it to equal width along the center of the roof peak to overlap the tape on both sides of the roof. This keeps rain from getting under the roll roofing at the peak.
If you wish to give your Outhouse Caboose a “worn” look, you might wrinkle the tape as you apply it or tear pieces of it as if the roofing was coming loose with age. When done, paint the roofing black. Under the roof, paint the underside of the roof overhang the car’s color.

Many of these tiny cars has a small wood stove inside for winter heating, so we need to add a stack of some kind. This can be as simple as drilling a hole in the roof and using a piece of brass or plastic tubing. To keep rain out, use a paper punch to pop out a disc of card stock and add it to the top of the stack.
An alternative is to use a small diameter flexible alcoholic beverage stir straw to have the stove pipe come out an end wall, turn 90 degrees and go up the side of the car. A regular “flexi-straw” is really too big in diameter, but could be used. Stove pipes would be black, maybe with a little rust.
How does anyone get into the car? Well, next we’ll put handrails on either side of the door. I like to use “mechanic’s” or “farmer’s” tie wire. This is a very flexible mild steel wire less than 1/16” thick. Cut two pieces of tie wire 1 3/8” long and make a 90 degree bend in each end with about ¼” “legs.” These legs will go into holes drilled in the side of the car either side of the door frame. To attach them, put a drop of glue in each hole and carefully place each end of the handrail in the hole, leaving a gap of about 1/8” between the railing and the car side.
Often, anyone entering the door would grab a handrail and use the truck as a step to get into the car. However, some companies used a ladder of some kind, usually made somewhat like a strap step, while others preferred wooden steps on iron hangers.
To make the wooden with iron hanger style steps, all you need do is cut seven pieces of 1/16×1/8” strip wood ½” long, or cut these parts out of left over scribed balsa sheet. Two of these will represent vertical “iron hangers,” one will be the horizontal brace across the “back” of these “hangers” at their upper ends. The other three will be the evenly spaced “steps,” one at the bottom, one halfway up the hangers, and one just below the top of the hangers.
Once the gluing is done. Glue the “brace” end to the car floor directly below the door and handrails. The “hangers” could be painted black, the rest the car’s color, or the entire part could be the same.
An addition to this car could be a small red flag sticking out of the opposite end of the car from the coupler. A length of “cable” might be hanging on the side or rear of the car. This might be just string painted gray, black, or “rust” color. The paint drying stiffens the string and makes it easy to glue to the car body. A detail casting of a lantern and a few “waybills” or “notices” tacked to the car side would make a nice addition as well.
Since Outhouse Cabooses tended to “get no respect” you might try your skills at “weathering” the paint job, very suitable if you have made the “roll roofing” look damaged.
The construction methods you have learned will also allow you to try building wooden “house cars” (box cars, reefers, etc.) and if you leave off the truck, coupler, hand railings and steps off, you have a nice model of a small trackside shack.

This completes the series on logging. These cars seldom saw mainline use, but the theme of a small logging line would be excellent for layout builders with limited space. As I said at the beginning, this would be a good use for the AF 0-8-0 switcher or 4-4-0 Casey Jones, the SHS 2-8-0, the Flyonel 0-6-0 “Docksider” tank loco, or in more modern eras, diesel switchers or road switchers like the “Geeps.”

For scenery, just buy up a bunch of model trees, some small footprint buildings, and a few ragged old trucks. You might even find researching logging railroads and operations a lot of fun too.

Stumpy Stone

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Stumpy’s Station – “Our of the Woods” Part Five

July 3rd, 2014 · No Comments

Last time, we cut out the balsa sheet walls for our Outhouse Caboose. Our next task is to make door and window “frames” from 1/8” wide strips of card stocks and glue these to the walls. Make the vertical “frame boards” The length of the sides of the door or window openings and glue them on. The horizontal “frame boards” should be longer in order to overlap the side boards and create a square border around the windows and door.
While the frames are drying, cut four strips of 1/8×1/8” strip wood 1” long. These will be glued to the vertical edges of the side walls on the “inside” to brace the walls as they are glued together. You’ll recall that we already added this sort of bracing to the floor.
Glue one wall at a time to the floor, blocking the floor and wall into a square right angle until the glue sets. The bottom of each wall will be even with the bottom of the floor. I started on the door wall and worked my way around the car. With the walls and floor assembled, it’s time to make two roof haves. Each of these will be 2” long by 1” wide. The scribed boards run long ways.
Before you mount the roof, paint the interior of the car black. Once the paint dries, cut out two 3/4×3/4” pieces of clear plastic for window “glass.” Glue these to the inside of the car. I use the “free” plastic cut from “blister packs” that many products come on cardboard display cards.
Next, we’ll have to install the door. Here’s where I discovered a trick a long time ago that you might want to try. Glue a piece of card stock to the back (unscribed side) of the door 1 ¼” high by 5/8” wide. Glue this so that the card stock does not go beyond the bottom of the door and interfere with the floor to wall bracing. Paint the card stock black around the edges of the door.
Next paint the walls and the door itself the color of the finished car. Work carefully around the edges of the door itself. When you glue the door/card stock to the inside of the wall, you’ll notice that the edges of the door will stand out visually, giving an enhanced impression of a working door.

Once the door is in, we’ll go back to the roof. Cut two pieces of 1/8×1/8” strip wood to brace the roof halves. Glue these to the unscribed side of each roof half along the edge that will be the center of the roof. Once the glue is set, place these in position and notice that you’ll have to file away a bit of the these braced to get the two roof halves to fit together at the roof’s peak.
We’ll mount the roof and other items next time.

Stumpy Stone

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Stumpy’s Station – “Out of the Woods” Part Four

June 4th, 2014 · No Comments


While Skeleton log cars were unique to the timber industry, many logging railroads used common flat cars for hauling the logs or equipment needed into the woods. The flat car was more versatile and could be had used from mainline railroads very reasonably.
Most of these cars were used with long stakes in the standard stake pockets to keep the timber aboard. A few had log bunks mounted on them.
While many loggers used steam “donkey engines” with winches and cables at a forest “load out” location. Other companies mounted light rail on the flat cars and used moving cranes running on these rails to load the cars. These could run the length of the empty cars and load the train one car at a time until they worked their way to the end. Other loggers stationed rail cranes at locations until the area was “logged out” and then moved them to the next site.
The flat car is a common car and instead of build one here, you can simply buy a well used American Flyer car inexpensively and put scribed balsa decking on it. Add some weathering and you’re set. If you want to build a car from scratch, allow me to direct you to my “Easy S Scratch Building Rolling Stock Guide” to be found elsewhere here on My Flyer Trains.
One of the cars that was especially unique and characteristic to industrial railroads was the “Outhouse” caboose. Basically this was a shack on a single four wheel truck in many cases, although some larger, purpose built four wheel cars were made which were known on regular railroads as a “Bobber” caboose.
The outhouse car was a tiny office for the foreman at the “load out,” carried train crew, or transported tools. Usually only larger operations had enough railroad to use a conductor on a train, but a place for brakemen to ride was needed if the locomotive cab was too crowded.
The tiny four wheeled car looked somewhat like the infamous “restroom” of the day, hence the nickname “Outhouse” for these cars (although I can’t find reference to them having a “facility” inside.) Today we might call them “Porta Potty” cabooses!
Our “Outhouse Caboose” starts with a single truck of any brand that you wish. Since the caboose was the last car in a train, only a single coupler is required. Since trucks and couplers usually come in pairs, you might make two of these tiny cars or save the extra for another project.

The “floor” will be a piece of scribed balsa sheet with 1/8” “boards.” We’ll use this same material for the sides and roof as well. The floor will be 1 ¾” long by 1 5/8” wide. Run the boards end to end for the car and they’ll be on the bottom.
Next, you can make a “bolster” from 2 pieces of 1/8×1/2” strip wood, each ½” long. Glue these one on top of the other. While the glue is setting on these, drill a 1/16” pilot hole in the center of the floor.
Once the glue of the bolster pieces are set, glue them to the center of the bottom of the car. Since the bolster on this car does not have to allow for swing, the bolster will mount the truck and coupler solidly with a small screw. With the glue set between bolster and floor, drill a 1/16” pilot hole through the bolster, using the hole in the floor as a guide.
Wall braces must be made for the upper side of the floor. These will be made of 1/8×1/8” strip wood, 2 are 1 ¾” long, and 2 will be 1 3/8” long. The longer ones go atop the edges of the floor the length of the car, and the shorter ones between them at the end edges.
Now we’ll do some careful cutting on the 1/8” scribed sheet balsa to make walls with a door and windows. Balsa cuts easily with a sharp hobby knife, so all you have to do is mark the area carefully and cut slowly with several even strokes of the knife.
The side walls of the Outhouse caboose will be the same sheet balsa used for the floor and the boards will run vertical. These walls will be 1 ¾” high by
1 ¾” wide. On one side wall, carefully cut out the door opening which will be
1 1/8” vertically by 7/16” wide and the bottom of the door opening will be 1/8” up from the bottom of the side wall. Save the piece removed as it will be the door. Use a slice of small dowel or a sliver of balsa for a “door handle.”
The end walls will start as a piece of balsa sheet cut 1 7/8” high (remember the boards go vertical) and 1 ¾” wide. This extra width will allow for the end walls to overlap the side walls.
Once you have these pieces cut out, mark the center of what will be the top of each end wall. Then measure 1/8” down each side of the end walls and mark that. Draw a line from the side marks to the center mark to show what needs to be cut away to create the shallow roof pitch on both end walls.
Now mark and cut the windows. The windows will be 1/2×1/2” square. Each will be centered on the wall with the bottom of the window 1” from the bottom of the wall.
Stumpy Stone

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Stumpy’s Station – “Out of the Woods” Part Three

May 6th, 2014 · No Comments

Your log car is built and now it’s time for details and painting. Last time we were going to “forge” iron parts. But we’ll use card stock. The first parts are straps or “bands” to hold the center beam together. They are made of 1/8” wide strips 15/16” long. Into the first ¼” of each end, use a ballpoint pen to press a pair of “bolt heads” into the bands. Two bolts of each side of the car. Once pressed, carefully bend the card stock around the center beam (there will be no strap across the car bottom.) When you glue each band on, it should appear as if the bolts go through the beams to the far side, thereby holding the beams together. And remember the pressed “bolt heads” face out!
Bands will go around the beam at each end, beside each log bunk on both sides, and the last few equally spaced along the beam between the bunks. Again, with so many variations in the real cars, it’s hard to get the spacing “incorrect.”
Some Skeleton log cars had additional strap iron from the center beam to the top of the middle part of each log bunk. This not only strengthen the bunks connection to the center beam, but allowed logs to slide up these onto the bunk without catching on the sides of it. This is an option you might consider which will be just four more 1/8” wide strips of card stock per log bunk.
Next, you’ll need to make iron straps for the ends of the log bunks to hold stakes. These will be made the same way, to the same length as the center beam bands. You’ll need two straps for each bunk, one at each end. Make sure there is a 1/8×1/8” opening to insert a stake (which you’ll do later.)
Some loggers trimmed down and “jammed” stakes into place, while others preferred to run a long bolt through the log bunk end to “pin” the stakes in place. This can be represented by a tiny drop of glue to form a “bolt head” on each side of the bunk ends. Others used triangular wedges that could slide in the open center of the log bunks to adjust position for the logs. You can make wedges of 1/8×1/4” strip wood cut diagonally. In the case of using wedges, strong chains held the logs both together and securely to the car.

For a brand new car from one of the major Car Builders, the wood and iron parts were universally painted to the customer’s color specifications, usually gray or black, but other colors were used. In later years “Safety” yellow or orange became popular. For a car fresh out of the logger’s shop, the wood can be left unpainted, but the iron bands and straps will need to be painted black.
As cars aged, the paint became faded and chipped and the metal hardware got rusty. Creating the “aged” wood look is difficult, so I paint the wood a light gray, often using a light “wash” of darker gray or even a little black.
Hardware gets a wash or coat of “Rust” color or a dull light brown over the iron black paint. Sometimes one band could be left black to show that it has been replaced or just hasn’t started to rust as fast as the others.
By the way, “rust” is not always the same color! Different alloys of metals oxidize to different shades of red, orange, or brown, and the age of the rust seems to darken the color of the rust, especially on heavy cast iron. If you want to start an argument among model railroaders get a group of them together to tell you what color “rust” is!
You may want to weather and/or “rust” the trucks and couplers for log cars as well. Equipment used in the timber industry was rarely well maintained, at least cosmetically, with the occasional exception of the locomotives or other steam machinery.
Skeleton Log cars were seldom lettered for the company they were owned by because they didn’t leave company rails! Not all cars were numbered either and those which were had their numbers “touched up” or replaced by hand painted numbers, usually not too neatly. This “hand painting” can be done by carefully using a toothpick dipped in paint to hand apply numbers.
When logs or cut lumber were shipped off line, they generally used regular railroad flat cars, but for our purposes, Skeleton cars can be used anywhere.
After you have detailed, painted, and assembled the Skeleton car, the last thing to do is put long stakes in each end of the log bunks. I use 1/8×1/8” strip wood ¾” long for stakes. ½” of each stake is above the log bunk to hold the lower logs from rolling off the car. These are left natural bare wood color because they were broken often and replaced quickly and cheaply. I sand or carve with a hobby knife some rounded edges on the portion of the stake extending above the log bunk to depict the wear of constant loading and unloading.
Skeleton cars were also made in all steel, but by this time many logging operations were moving to trucks and heavy equipment. Rail based operations were in decline and usually opted to buy used rolling stock and locomotives to hang on until they could change operations to the road.
More “Out of the Woods” next time.

Stumpy Stone

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