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Stumpy’s Station – “Prairie Dog” Part Four

December 3rd, 2013 · No Comments

Older locos had taller stacks because boiler diameters were generally smaller and there was the need to raise the smoke above the cab. Later locomotives had larger diameter boilers to increase power, so to fit the clearances of tunnels and low bridges, the stack got shorter.
To raise the stack, we’ll use a piece of plastic tubing to match the outside diameter of the original smoke stack, just a tad smaller than 1/2inch. (You can always file the diameter the small amount to match the original stack diameter.) We’re adding just 1/8” to the stack, so you’ll be carefully cutting a “ring” from the plastic tubing. Glue this to the top of the stack.

Another thing that was a hallmark of many old locos is a pronounced flange around the top of the stack, called a “capped stack.” This can be made in two ways; 1. Use very thin model auto pinstripe tape wrapped around the stack until a ring is easily visible (about three rounds.) 2. Get a small rubber O-ring from the home supply or auto parts store with a slightly smaller diameter than ½” and stretch this over the top edge of the stack. Mine came from the NAPA Auto Parts and is 3/8” Inside diameter and 1/16” thick. I dabbed glue on the stack extension and stretched the o-ring on. Once the glue is set, paint with a couple coats of gray primer to “seal” the work.

There is an alternative to making these “back dating” parts. Find a Casey Jones loco shell and cut off the headlight, stack, number plate, even the bell and cowcatcher for parts to graft onto the “Prairie Dog.”
The Casey Jones, like the F-9 diesel, are examples of a failing American Flyer going “on the cheap” to survive. Both are poor running and poor looking locomotives (particularly the F-9), a sad farce of the quality and semi-scale fidelity American Flyer had been known for.
The common Casey Jones can be had from parts boxes under tables at train shows, or whole, running locos and tenders can be bought for $10. to $25. Paying more is robbery. The exception is the better #21168 Southern version which had smoke and reasonably correct side and main rods. These often demand $70. to $120. depending on condition. Cutting one of the Southern Casey Jones up for parts will have lynching parties of collectors at your door.
It seems a shame to “waste” a locomotive, no matter how poor, but there is always something else you can make out of “parts.” For instance, you have a plastic tender for customizing or up dating a Franklin project.
The boiler without stack, headlight, bell, cowcatcher, boiler front, domes, and cab can be reworked with a few internal pieces made from card stock and a good coating of “rust” colored paint to be a “scrap boiler” beside an engine house, or as a flat car load.
Even the chassis can be stripped of the drivers so they can be used parts or scrap too. Keep that pilot truck for other uses too, like a track “Speeder” chassis topped by a card stock or plastic body. Again it’s scenery detail you might pay good money for that you can build yourself far cheaper.
One of the things I like to do on all my locomotives is to put an engineer at the throttle. This icon of the steam age, arm on the window, watching the track ahead, brings “life” to your locomotives.
On the Flyer Pacific, it will be necessary to remove the bar in the center of the cab window to get a figure in there. I like to use figures by “Fun n’ Games” miniatures. Their website is: http://scalefigures.com/ . I like their S scale numbers S223 or SA005 Engineers. It may be necessary to bend or cut off a leg to get them in and still clear the motor, depending on if you’re using the Flyer motor or a DC can motor.
I have used a number of the Fun n’ Games figures in three scales and they are nice. The standing figures have a pin cast into one foot so that you can mount them anywhere on the layout and they remain standing. If you don’t want to use the pin, it pulls right out with a firm tug with needle nose pliers.
You can also place a fireman on the other side of the cab by the same process. On stoker fed boilers, the fireman spent more time on his seat watching gauges, for signals on his side of the boiler, and attended to feeding the fuel and water to the boiler by use of hand controls.
On non-stoker equipped locomotives, he would spend a lot of his time hand shoveling coal into the firebox. Depending on how much steam the engineer, load, and schedule demanded, he would get little “seat time!”

Stumpy Stone

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New Erector Set Model – Falkirk Wheel

November 27th, 2013 · No Comments

I recently took a cruise to the British Isles, and one evening at dinner met a delightful fellow whose hobby was restoring Erector Sets. The next day, I ran into Rich Hooper again at an excursion to The Falkirk Wheel, which is a very interesting tourist destination in Scotland. I mentioned to Rich that a Falkirk Wheel that moved train cars instead of boats, might be a fun build. Rich has built a model from his Erector sets that certainly displays the idea behind the real thing. (I have yet to make my train car mover accessory version, maybe later!)

So tonight I get an email from Rich, announcing his Falkirk Wheel model, which is displayed in his photo album on this website. I suggest you take a look at Rich’s photo album, and in particular his photos of his Falkirk Wheel, and then you might want to Google Falkirk Wheel and take a look at this engineering marvel.

Thanks for sharing Rich!

Chuck Harrington

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Stumpy’s Station – “Prairie Dog” Part Three

November 4th, 2013 · No Comments

If you have built last year’s “Project Atlantic” you will find much of the following to be old news. We’re going to move some details around to give the locomotive a different look.
We’ll start by removing the cast metal bell from the plastic shell. These are pressed in, not glued, so you can pull them out. Work carefully so as not to damage them. A little firm prying with a screwdriver is better than the crushing grip of vice grips!
Next, we’ll remove the bell mounting bracket by carefully cutting it of with a hobby saw. File and sand the remaining area smooth to make it look like there was never a bracket there. This will destroy the bolt detail, so you’ll have to “make” replacement bolts. This step will be better done after the headlight is removed.
Next, remove the headlight lens (you can often just place a small screwdriver behind it inside the shell and pop it out) and cut the headlight and bracket off. Fill the headlight hole with a piece of plastic rod, wooden dowel, or putty, and sand smooth. For all such “body work,” use gray primer to bring out the surface to check your work. Sand/paint/sand/paint as necessary until smooth just as auto body shops do to make car body surfaces smooth.
Stand the shell up so that the boiler front is flat and use a toothpick to place small dots of white glue in place of the missing bolt heads. This takes a steady hand and patience. Start small, allow to dry completely, and build up the glue dots until they are about the same size as the original ones. Use gray primer to check the placement and size each time and also to seal the white glue.
With the shell standing on end, you may also want to place a “number plate” in the center of the boiler front. You can buy these as detail parts or make your own quite easily and cheaply. I use a common paper punch and punch-out three to five circles of cardstock (3×5” file card, available at office supply or craft stores very inexpensively.) I glue these together in a “stack” and then glue this “number plate disc” to the center of the boiler front. Paint with gray primer to “seal” the part.
Next, drill a 1/16 inch hole atop the boiler between the domes for the bell, but don’t glue it in until all painting is done.

By the way, Duco Cement from the home supply store, or Walther’s Goo from the hobby shop work well for adding such details.
To back date the engine somewhat, we’re going to mount a headlight on top of the boiler. Up until the Turn of the Century, placement of the headlight high up was in vogue because they were kerosene fueled. The need to get as much light as possible on the tracks ahead pretty much required such a high mounting.
However, with the use of electric lights, powered by a steam generator, some railroads began mounting the headlight on the upper smokebox front or in the center of the boiler. Therefore, a headlight mounted high atop the boiler gives the engine’s profile an older appearance.
Quite possibly an early 2-6-2 would have a square headlight atop the boiler. However, since we’re representing our “Prairie Dog” as it would be later on, after years of upgrades, we’ll use a cylindrical headlight.
So that we can use light from the regular headlight bulb, drill a 1/16” pilot hole in the exact center of the top of the boiler shell about a quarter inch behind the boiler front. To get this right, it is easier to measure and work from the inside of the boiler shell. In this way, you don’t drill into the thickness of the plastic of the boiler front and block some of the light off.
The actual finished light accessing hole would then be drilled to a “loose” 1/8,” and no more than 3/16” inch.
We’ll make our more modern headlight from a piece of 5/16” outside diameter plastic tubing, about the same diameter as the cut off headlight and big enough to put the original lens in. This plastic tubing should be 1/2“ long.
Drill a hole in what will be the “bottom” of the headlight tubing so that with the headlight protruding slightly in front of the boiler front, the hole lines up with the hole in the top of the boiler shell. This will allow the light to enter the headlight and be channeled through the plastic lens like a crude form of fiber optics. The inside of the headlight tubing should be white to further help the light on it’s way by reflection.
Cut a piece of flat material (plastic, wood, even cardstock) to the back of the headlight, or putty the back of the headlight tube closed. File the “bottom” of the headlight tube slightly flat and glue it into position on the top of the boiler.

When the glue is set, paint the headlight and entire smokebox with gray primer. You will insert the lens later after all painting is done.

Stumpy Stone

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Stumpy’s Station – “Prairie Dog” Part Two

October 3rd, 2013 · No Comments

We’ll start off by removing the boiler shell from the locomotive chassis and tender shell from the tender chassis. To build our “end of steam” version of the 2-6-2 Prairie, you’ll want to get a later American Flyer Pacific 2 wheel trailing truck with the outside bearing frame, or order one of these from LBR Enterprises at: lbrenterprisesllc.com
Of course, the first thing we have to do to change the AF Pacific into a Prairie is to remove one axle from the four wheel “pilot” or lead truck of the Pacific. Remove the front truck/valve crosshead assembly from the engine. This assembly generally has the truck riveted to the crosshead with a coil spring between crosshead and truck frame.
Turn this assembly over until the underside of the truck frame is “up.” Cut the truck frame about half an inch from the center spring/rivet so that you have just a two wheel lead truck assembly. While you can hand saw, I have found a Dremel tool to be far better for this. The rapid cutting motor tool will heat up this part quickly, so work in spurts or wear gloves!

The frame and wheels still attached to the crosshead is now the two wheel Prairie “lead truck” and the cut off piece goes to the scrap/parts bin.
If you had a cast lead truck frame for this, you’ll probably not need any additional weight between the coil spring and front axle. If you have the stamped steel pilot truck frame, a bit of lead weight will be required. In either case, the strength of the spring will often determine if you need weight and how much. I like to use the lead sheet available at hobby shops as it can easily be bent and cut. Tungsten is a new material that is popular in Pinewood Derby racing because of it’s heavier weight for the size, but is VERY hard to cut and work.
Now, lets go to the rear of the locomotive chassis. Since the old 1910 locomotive would probably been upgraded from it’s inside bearing trailing truck at some point, you’ll want to get an outside bearing trailing truck. You have three options; 1. Find an original American Flyer later Pacific two wheel trailing truck. 2. Get the two wheel trailing truck from LBR Enterprises. 3. Get a two wheel truck COVER from LBR to use on the original tender drawbar if you use the 4-6-2 tender. If you change tenders as I did, you’ll need option 1 or 2.
If you use the LBR two wheel truck cover, you simply attach the part over the original trailing truck. If you use the complete trailing truck option, you’ll have to remove the original truck wheels and axle by grinding off the rivet. Once this is done, the complete truck will fit right in the hump in the drawbar left open with removal of original wheels and axle.
Another option would be to remove the entire original drawbar by grinding off the rivet on the tender and making a new drawbar from wood, metal, or heavy wire. This would allow you to get the tender prototypically closer the locomotive cab too.
I have successfully used Popsicle (craft) sticks cut to length and holes drilled for a bolt and nut to attach to the tender. At the other end, an old Flyer or LBR two wheel trailing truck can then be placed in position, and if the truck casting at the pivot point is filed down, the original mounting screw can be used.

In the case of this project, I had the make a slightly different wood drawbar by doubling the Popsicle sticks at a point where the drawbar went over the trailing truck. I then filed the portion of the “lower” stick away over the trailing truck. The drawbar now had a “hump” in it for clearance.
This will also work with changing to a Franklin style or other tender because you have to make a new drawbar anyway and allow the engine trailing truck to pivot separately. Changing tenders makes an instant visual change to the appearance of any locomotive, particularly the more common Flyer ones everyone is so used to seeing.
On my locomotive, I decided to use an old Marx 3/16 size tender. This required that I come up with a new floor for the tender shell to mount S gauge trucks and couplers.
There are two options for this. 1. An AF tender floor cut down, or 2. Make your own new tender floor.
An old Flyer tender floor was too long, so I cut equal lengths from both ends until the floor fit under the Marx tender. Holes for mounting screws were the only other modifications.
On an earlier project where the tender floor was badly rusted, I made my own floor out of sheet balsa and strip wood and used American Models trucks and with their electrical pick ups. I only needed a coupler on the rear truck of course.

Stumpy Stone

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Stumpy’s Station – “Prairie Dog” Part One

September 1st, 2013 · No Comments

With this, we begin another multiple part locomotive kit bashing project of a comparatively common American Flyer steam engine, the plastic boiler shelled (#282 etc.) Pacific. You can find these in junk boxes almost as easily as the plastic boiler Atlantic. Even one purchased complete and running off a vendor’s table can be had for between $50. and $70. Any higher price than that takes it beyond “bash quality.”
If your engine doesn’t come with the later, common plastic tender, get one of those too, or a Franklin tender, or a Marx tender.
In this series I will turn the common plastic Pacific, which pretty much represents a “modern” engine built in the twenties and thirties, to a Turn of the Century locomotive not commonly seen. This was the 2-6-2 Prairie.

Let’s start with some history: By 1890, the railroad car builders had begun using a lot of steel because this stronger metal was able to support longer cars and heavier loads than the wood which had been used until then. This led to the cars themselves also being heavier. Increased traffic required longer trains.
The engines mostly in use at this time were the 4-4-0 American, 2-6-0 Mogul, and 2-8-0 Consolidation wheel arrangements with the fireboxes between the driving wheels. (Unlike most people’s guess, the 2-8-0 Consolidation, not the 4-4-0 was the most produced locomotive in history.) To pull the increased weight and length of trains, boiler and firebox size had to be expanded. For this reason, locomotive builders and the railroads themselves began considering the placement of a larger firebox behind the rear drivers and as wide as the clearances allowed. To carry the addition weight, a “trailing truck” would have to be used.
On the earliest of these experiments this “trailing truck” did not move laterally and increased the wheelbase of the locomotive. By making the rear truck “swing” the locomotive could operate more reliably through tighter curves such as those found in rail yards or on branch lines.
With the firebox moved back, the boiler size could also be lengthened. This provided longer flue length, hence more water evaporated into steam, and the added weight created more traction. In the first experiments the 4-4-0 American became a 4-4-2 Atlantic, and the 2-6-0 Mogul became a 2-6-2 Prairie.
The 2-6-2 Prairie was built as both passenger and freight type engines, the size of the drivers being the deciding factor. The Prairie was also the first engine to be seen by many roads as a “Dual Purpose” locomotive when equipped with “medium size” drivers, being used for passenger locals and fast freight service interchangeably. As they were demoted to low grade service in later years this trend continued, and on some small roads was expanded. The 2-6-2 also became the “big power” on many logging, mining, and industrial railways.
Unfortunately, in this era of “cut and try” technology, many of these early 4-4-2 Atlantic and 2-6-2 Prairie engines had stability and balance problems. The railroads themselves made running changes, and this led to a second generation of wide firebox/trailing truck locomotives.
By proving the concept, the Atlantics and Prairies were soon relegated to secondary service or sold off to smaller railroads to make room on the roster for the 4-6-2 Pacific and 2-8-2 Mikado. The last Class One railroad to use 2-6-2’s was the Nickel Plate Road, which used them as branch line power into 1957. For this reason, the lowly Prairie can be placed on your railroad right up to the end of the Steam Era.
Our “Prairie Dog” project will depict a Prairie which might have been built in about 1910, and updated over the years to run until the end of steam, probably on a Class Two or “Shortline” railroad.
There will be changes to the lead and trailing trucks on the locomotive chassis, and the tender. Most of the customizing will take place on the plastic boiler shell to backdate it to that early 20th Century look. I’ll use weathering to age the older style engine to look as it might when it was last operated in about 1957.
To speed up the whole process, I’ll forgo the information on purchasing, cleaning, inspecting, and repairing the locomotive. This can be found in the “Project Atlantic” series here on the My Flyer Trains website, Stumpy’s Station section. More information can be found in depth in the “Guide to Kit bashing American Flyer Steam Locomotives,” also here on My Flyer Trains.

Stumpy Stone

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Stumpy’s Station – “The Junkyard” Part Five

August 2nd, 2013 · No Comments

We have the cars, we have spare parts to place, we know what a small yard was like from the earlier parts of this series, but how do we make our own scene?
First of all, how big an area do you have, or need? The junkyard that I built about ten years ago in O scale for the modular club could have been 8×21,” in other words, almost a whole module except for track area. In that much space, even in O scale, I could have built a sizable yard!
As it was, I chose to do a small yard, just enough to give a flavor of such an operation, not a full scale representation. I used a piece of thin wood veneer as a base and made it 6×12” which allowed a two stall garage, a gate shack, and room for just a few cars.
In S scale you could go a bit smaller. Or of course any size, if you really enjoy this project and have built a dozen or more cars. Perhaps build a large yard with all kinds of salvage besides automobiles, and run a siding into it equipped with a magnetic crane.
A small junkyard could have about six junkers spread around with spaces between a couple of them as if a car or two had been stripped out completely and cut up.
Almost all of the old yards I’ve been in used corrugated metal sheeting for the perimeter fence with wooden posts and stringers. Making the wood part could be done with scale lumber, but being basically cheap, I bought a whole pack of kabob sticks for under two bucks at the grocery store.
Scale corrugated metal panels are available and expensive, but I stumbled onto a “Corrugating Tool” in the Scrap Booking area of a local craft store. Using common card stock (3×5” file cards, also from the craft store) I “rolled” my own corrugated metal fencing. I cut the cardstock to 8 scale feet high and sent it through the tool. This was laid on the work table and the kabob sticks cut to 6 scale foot lengths and glued on as posts. These posts go from the “ground” to a point below the top of the fencing. Other kabob sticks go between these horizontally as stringers. Actually, the stringers are much heavier than they should be in S scale, so perhaps scale lumber would work better for them.
I made enough fence to surround the yard and decided to do my garage the same way. It had no windows or doors, the “front” was open so you could see the structure and vehicle and junk inside.
All timber on the fence and in the building was painted with a dark wood stain I had left over from a furniture project, and then the corrugated sheeting was painted with gray primer. After the primer had dried, I dry brushed rust streaks down it and in some places did a “wash” of rust color over the whole surface. As with all weathering, less is more, it is very easy to overdo! After this weathering, the fence was glued in place and the garage was assembled and placed.
For the gate shack, I used a small shed kit and painted and weathered it well. The gate itself was built similarly to the corrugated fence and glued in the open position.
I spread some light gray ballast at the entrance to the yard, inside and in front of the garage building. The rest of the yard was painted tan to represent dry dirt. Around the fence (on both sides) I dabbed green paint. Once I decided which junk cars would go where, the most stripped ones had green dabbed where they would go, under the “active” cars were left “dirt.”
I next placed the junk cars and glued ground foam weeds in the green areas along the fence and around the older, more stripped cars. Fenders and doors, tires and wheels and bits of painted aluminum foil “sheet metal” bits were then randomly placed to create debris. A stack of tires was put near the garage as was an engine. Placing “clutter” can be an art form.
I did not glue my “Pole Truck” in place so that I could move it from time to time. I made it from a die cast Model AA stake bed truck with the bed cut off and the tripod made of Plastruct plastic “pipe.” This also was “dented” and had lots of rust spots and grime on it.
If you add people, you’ll have to do some painting on available figures, but this will be adding smudges of oil, or dirt. Customers would be common male figures in t-shirt nad blue jeans. You might want to paint bib overalls on a couple of them to represent “Pa” and his helper. “Ma” could be out of sight inside the gate shack, counting money.
For many of you a few junk cars behind a gas station would be enough, while I know of at least one S gauger who turned such a project into a large operation loading scrap onto gondola cars with a crane!
Turning toy cars like “Hot Wheels” into realistic ones, or creating junk cars can be addictive once you get into it, especially if you like cars to begin with. Adding such a “sub-hobby” to trains can be lots of fun!

Stumpy Stone

Next month we start another locomotive project!

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Stumpy’s Station – ‘The Junkyard” Part Four

July 2nd, 2013 · No Comments

Last time we were into wrecking cars, so we’ll “take up where we left off.” Another way to create dents is to use a Dremel with a grinding stone on it. You just grind into the body the make and shape a dent. If you grind through the body, just fill the hole from the back side and sand the outside to shape.
If you want to mash a large panel such as a roof or trunk, sometimes you have to use a hammer. NO! Not a large one! If you want to take your frustrations out on something, don’t do it on the car! In wrecking (or for that matter weathering or scenery) less is more.
Make a wooden block that fits under the car to support the body area and work the area with a small hammer. The block helps support the die cast metal as you stress it. Work slowly and carefully. If you do break the roof, you might save it by gluing it back in place in a damaged position. File rough edges and use putty to smooth it up and round things off to look like bent areas.
Whether the car was wrecked or just “died,” it will be partially stripped in a junkyard. Perhaps the side trim will be gone on one side, but not the other. A door handle may be gone, hood ornaments, wipers, glass, and other small parts might be as well. All cars got disassembled at random as customers took only the parts they needed off them. If you needed the door trim on the right side, why take the one on the left side too? Parts cost money, even at a junkyard.
These parts are almost always part of the body casting and will have to be carefully filed or ground off. You might even go so far as drill or use a toothpick to paint tiny holes where there parts were because that’s what you would see without that part on the body. You can create “rust out” by drilling or filing rough edges around wheel openings and under the doors.
Once you have done all the “surgery” on the body shell and parts, it’s time to start painting. I sand the entire body shell to smooth marks made by hammers, pliers, and grinding, then paint the shell and chassis inside and out with red primer or Tuscan red-brown to give finish some grip and create the illusion of old rust. Do any “parts” except “glass” or tires too.
Different metals “rust” to different shades of color. Cast iron; engine blocks, transmissions, rear ends, are darker than sheet metal; fenders doors, and so on. “Newer” rust is also a lighter color than “old” rust too!
If you are going to install windows or seat and dash board, prepare them now. Missing windows are common, so cut one or more off the plastic “glass” part. Cracked glass is left behind. You can easily scratch “cracks” into the plastic “glass” with a hobby knife. If the car is a wreck, remove or crack the glass toward the point of impact.
If there was one, replace the dashboard and steering wheel already painted similar to the final body color but a different shade. If you want to put the front seat in, paint it the same color as the dash before installing. Don’t bother with the rest of the interior.
You can now reassemble the junk car. Forget rivets and screws to mate body to chassis, use glue or epoxy.
The junker has been sitting in the yard for a long time, so the color paint would be well worn. The older the car, the longer it will have sat deteriorating. Such a car could remain completely rust coated. By the late fifties a thirties car would fit this appearance.
Later cars would show thin paint on the roof hood, trunk, and tops of fenders. Dry brush the selected paint color in these areas and paint normally on the sides and ends of the body. There is no need for gloss paint or an air brush here! The paint of the day dulled quickly if not regularly cared for!
Using a toothpick, you can paint “rust spots” here and there, mostly a few on upper surfaces, more around wheel openings and the bottoms of fenders. Paint silver the chrome on remaining trim parts, hood ornaments, door handles, and bumpers. Side trim was often stainless steel, but other parts were chrome plated steel and would show “rust spots” on them. Remember, less is more in weathering!
You might want to add dust and rain streaks if you’re good at weathering, but only enough to give the SUGGESTION of long exposure.
While you’re at it, modify and weather the junkyard’s vehicles too. They are usually just repaired junk equipment and little thought was given to appearance, just keep them running. They will have dents and rust too, as well as spilled oil and some grime.
In our final installment, we’ll “dress the set!”

Stumpy Stone

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Stumpy’s Station – “The Junkyard” Part Three

June 3rd, 2013 · No Comments

Okay, let’s makes junkers! Plastic cars are harder to find in 1/64 scale, but are easier to disassemble and mangle. For the most part, we have to use die cast cars. Cheapest are the cars from Big Box stores or Dollar stores, which are often clones of those “Hot Wheels” or other toy cars. I try to avoid mangling the better 1/64 scale cars that are very nice and rather expensive, but occasionally that may be necessary.
The first thing you’ll want to do is play junkyard owner and strip your cars. Die cast cars are usually held together with “rivets” underneath. You can drill these out or grind them off with a Dremel tool. Sometimes you’ll get lucky and the car was assembled with screws! Take the car COMPLETELY apart, and set all the parts aside for later use. If the car has working hood or doors, remove them as well. We’ll be doing most work on the body shell and chassis.
In a real junkyard, you would find FAR more cars that have just died and been towed in, than cars that have been wrecked! We’ll start with the “dead” cars because you’ll do most of the same steps to wrecked cars too.
If the headlights and taillights are cast on, cut them off, leaving holes in the fenders. Remove any cast on bumpers. If you want to depict a car with the “front clip” missing, cut that away carefully, saving everything behind the line of the hood and fenders. If you want a door off, cut it away leaving as much of the body as possible. File all ragged edges.
Remember you want the body shell to LOOK like someone unbolted these parts! The removed parts can be kept for a scrap metal pile. Sometimes you can buy toy cars so cheap that you can buy two the same, cut them apart differently, and have hood, fenders, and doors leaning against the body in the yard. The parts you ruined in cutting them off and the body shell you ruined cutting off the “removed parts” become odd wrecked bits for the scrap metal pile.
Another good trick is to cut doors and hoods off carefully, ruining the shell. Next use layers of aluminum foil bent around the part, trim it, and you have a duplicate foil body part! Handle carefully of course. This foil “body panel” can be bent to depict wreck damage and glued onto a ruined shell, or the panel can be lying nearby. Undamaged body panels could be leaning against the wall of the garage or shed.
Most die cast cars cheap enough to mutilate don’t have an engine, but some do. If you cut away a “front clip” you can use an engine sitting there on the chassis. Just paint the engine black as if coated with oil and grime. Use a piece of paper or clothes dryer sheet painted a dull gray over the top of the engine as if it was a cover to keep rain from going into the motor. Otherwise, there can be a group of engines lined up and similarly protected by a cover beside the garage building or inside but visible to onlookers.
Most of the time you won’t need the interior of the die cast car, and some don’t even have one. Most real junkers might have a dashboard still in them, but seats are generally gone or rotten. You might have a few “later model” cars with the front seat inside just for variety. Interiors were most often a lighter or darker color than the paint job, or were black or gray.
You’ll want to “wreck” some cars too! Most people get out a propane torch and have at it. But it’s very easy to go too far with many of the cheaper die cast toys. Just what kind of crash turns a car into a blob?
To get an idea what cars really look like, start watching TV and taking notes, or better yet, hunt down old crash pictures on the Internet. Most wrecks are frontal impacts with trees, walls, or other vehicles, or roll over accidents. In the old days, Rescue crews didn’t cut roofs off, they pried or cut doors open, so you won’t want any roofless cars in your “old” yard.
Use a small torch carefully to soften the metal just enough to bend the metal with pliers. However, if you don’t want to use or don’t have a torch, “cold bending” is very effective too. The idea here is to work slowly using little force. I have done a bit of bending, then let the car sit for an hour to let the metal somewhat “stabilize,” then bend it a bit more. I repeat until the bend is enough, or the part becomes over stressed and breaks.
Breaking off a part is not the end of the line as you can glue it back on, in the “crash” position, and round the edges with a file and body putty to make it look bent.
More “wrecking” next time!

Stumpy Stone

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Stumpy’s Station – “The Junkyard” Part Two

May 6th, 2013 · No Comments

Last time we learned what cars of the twenties through early sixties looked like as manufactured. This time, we’ll step through the gate of a small junkyard typical of the early sixties. Being a “Car Guy” of that era, I was a denizen of the junkyards of the day while looking for parts to restore old cars, build hot rods, or keep Stock Cars running. About ten years ago, I built a small O scale junk yard for a modular club I was in.
Most yards were known as “Mom & Pop” operations. They were far smaller and less business–like than today’s yards! Today’s salvage yard operators will not let you into the yard at all, but you go to a building and ask for parts like a common auto parts store. And you pay a high price for that as well.
Not so in the sixties. In fact if you wanted a part, “Pa” (often in scruffy overalls or blue jeans and dirty t-shirt, would tell you where cars were that had such parts. Sometimes he had a similarly dressed “helper” with fewer functioning brain cells. You carried your own toolbox into the yard and took the parts off yourself! Back at the gate, you’d haggle over a price with “Pa,” and then pay “Ma” at the shack at the gate. Sometimes she would even give you a receipt!
Most yards were surrounded by either a high board or corrugated steel fence with tall weeds growing along it. There was always a gate with a small building of some kind, and not far from it was a garage building, shed, or lean-to, where car stripping was done, bumpers, body parts, and tires stacked, or yard equipment was kept. This structure was generally built like a pole building using the same material as the fence, but sometimes an old barn or other permanent building had been taken over.
Usually, there was a set of cutting torches, a big work bench, and a wall with tools hanging on it. Various jacks and large wood blocks (bits of railroad ties were VERY popular) were nearby to lift and hold up cars.
Junkyard machinery was usually an old farm tractor, a pick up truck at least ten years old, and a “Pole Truck.” The “Pole Truck” (in this era was generally a WWII military surplus “six by”) truck with the bed gone and a tripod of steel pipe welded on. A winch behind the cab supplied a cable that went up over the top of the tripod and ended in a hook. It was a home built “wrecker” to drag and lift cars.
Pavement was virtually non-existent inside the gate. Often, there would be slag or gravel around the gate and building, but otherwise the grounds were just hard packed dirt.
Cars that had been there a long time and were pretty well “picked clean” had tall weeds around them and were generally solid rust in color, their paint long stripped by years exposed to sun, wind, rain, and so on. Often they were missing the hood, which was probably the first thing to go so that the engine could be more easily reached. The interiors were had long rotted away because the windows and doors were open or gone.
More “active” cars would generally be surrounded by trampled, dusty ground. They’d be missing wheels or blocked up with those wheels, concrete blocks, or old railroad ties. The hood would be ajar, up, or gone, as would doors, trunk, and windows. Headlights were prized as were taillight lenses, so the fenders had blank holes where those parts had been.
Cars were usually stripped randomly, depending on what parts were needed. Mechanical parts were the most common thing to go first, but front fenders and hoods would sometimes sell quickly as well because most auto accidents damage the front end. Sometimes the entire “front clip” would be gone; hood, fenders, bumper, and radiator support. The rest of the car would be there, with chassis and engine exposed!
Cars could be found on their sides so that chassis parts, transmissions, gas tanks, rear axles, and so on, could be more easily removed. Once in a while, there might even be one upside down! Cars stacked on top of one another was usually done in bigger yards and those cars had been well stripped before they “went on the pile.”
Glass was also a hot item. Old safety glass would turn milky or bubbles would appear between the layers of the glass as it aged. And, of course in the days before seat belts, victims would strike or go through windshields and other windows even in minor accidents. Good glass was always in demand.
Wandering a junkyard was a great lesson in automotive engineering, history, and how cars crumpled in accidents. It could be a real education while you got parts cheap.

Stumpy Stone

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Stumpy’s Station – “The Junkyard” Part One

April 2nd, 2013 · No Comments

Way back last Fall, there was brief discussion on the S Trains Yahoo group about making junk cars out of 1/64 scale die cast cars. I gave the subject a brief overview, others added their ideas and experiences, but there is far more to the subject. While admittedly of interest to only a small group of hobbyists in S gauge, it nonetheless is an interesting subject because there are so many other things to be learned on the way to the junkyard.
For instance, before we even get ready to put up the corrugated fence and drag in junkers, there are questions to be answered and a LOT to learn about real cars in order to make the yard as authentic as possible. We’ll start with a very basic question: What year is your layout set in?
When the junkyard scene takes place, you have to have an idea of the era involved. Obviously a junkyard, or the entire layout for that matter, would not have eighties era automobiles in a fifties era scene! We don’t have to be exact here, because setting a time for your railroad can quickly involve the types of buildings you must use and even the billboards will “date” a layout. You wouldn’t have dozens of steel buildings in the early 1900’s or cigarette advertising on a modern day operation!
Nothing sets the era of your railroad better than automobiles, especially in North America! After the end of Model T Ford production, car styling changed every three years, with “facelifts” in between. Therefore your time window could be as narrow as three years! That certainly narrows down “when” your railroad is set in time.
But it need not be quite that precise. Since most “Baby Boomer” modelers like the era when steam was on the way out and diesels were becoming mainstream, let’s say that our sample time frame is the early sixties. This gives you the widest range of railroad equipment to choose from, but also gives you quite a range of automobiles too.
Your streets and roads can have several early sixties cars, and fifties cars in large numbers. Late forties cars will be fewer, and pre-WWII cars will be there, but rare. Anything older than the mid-thirties will be most unusual by then.
However, in a junkyard, there will be some twenties autos, a lot of thirties and forties cars, early fifties cars and maybe a few late fifties cars. Having anything in a small junkyard as modern as three years old was rare then because specialist salvage operators grabbed them.
Cars built in the twenties and thirties will generally be one color, almost always a dark one. Black, Maroon, or dark blue, green, or brown were common. Autos of that era in “two tone” were always the higher end cars, but the combination was usually black or dark color fenders and running boards with lighter body color. The lighter colors were often a medium blue, green, or brown, but sometimes tan, cream, or light green would appear. Sometimes wheels were painted different colors, with red, yellow, and tan being favorites. Vehicles for police and fire departments, or specially painted commercial vehicles would be different of course.
Just before World War Two, some cars started to be painted with the body and fenders a dark color and the tops a lighter color. This style continued into the fifties. But by the mid-fifties, better paint and more color was available and some companies went wild with two and even three tone paint jobs, often in tasteless, even bizarre combinations. Most disgusting of all was a FOUR tone 1958 Nash (Rambler) Ambassador station wagon I saw painted white, yellow, pink, and black from the factory! I certainly hope it was a special order beast! In the early sixties, cooler heads prevailed and paint jobs returned to those designed by Earth people instead of Martians!
Full wheel covers were extremely rare until about 1950 and were uncommon until late in that decade. Most cars had “hub caps” as they had since the twenties to cover the lug bolts that held the wheels on. Some cars from about 1935 onward had “trim rings” which were thin chrome or stainless steel rings around the outer edge of the wheels.
White sidewall tires were limited to high cost cars or as owner purchased replacements until after the war. Those huge “rim to road” white walls were found on late twenties and early thirties Cord, Lincoln, Packard, Cadillac, Auburn, Pierce-Arrow, and Duesenberg cars, but you didn’t find these cars in small junkyards! Otherwise you just didn’t see many white wall tires on older cars in junkyards. If they had them when they were dragged in, and they had any tread left, the yard owner snatched them up right away!
Painted bumpers were standard until the thirties except on high end cars, or by special order. Chrome bumpers on pick up trucks were rare into the late fifties. Even then, they were optional and most pick ups had no rear bumpers unless the owner added one.

Stumpy Stone

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