Friday, July 29, 2016

Building SP 5199 (Part 3)

I last left off with the second part of the Building SP 5199, Part 2 with the installation of stirup steps.  In this part we'll get the underframe mostly finished, finish detailing out the body, painting and decaling.

Decals, smokejack, window plug.

Finish Stirup Steps

The next step is to finish up the bracing on the passenger stirup steps.

Installing Stirup Steps & Braces
The KitBits #87 (Link here to Bethlehem Car Works parts page) steps ended up being a bit more fragile than I like.  In fact I broke one just trying to get the leg into the hole I drilled in the floor! (Oh no!)  Don't worry, we'll deal with that in a minute.

I drilled a hole in the floor, centered down the length of the step and about 1/16" inside the edge of the floor of the car.  This will give the brace enough angle to help support the steps.

I fabricated new braces for the three baggage stirups that I didn't break from 0.025" phosphor-bronze wire.  The holes were slightly oversized for the wire allowing me to adjust the positioning while the ACC was wet in the floor hole side.  I made sure the step ends of the braces were as close to touching as I could get them.  Several checks with the body on to be sure the steps came out to the car side were done and also check that the step legs look vertical in side-view of the body.

Be sure to line up the brace and the bottom rung of the step before soldering.  The extra flexibility in the steps helped here because I could set up the brace and then bend the step back to it.

I put a small drop of liquid flux on the stirup with a dipping stick, and then with only a very small amount of solder on the my little 15 watt fine tipped pencil iron (slightly more than the tinning on the tip).  Quickly touched the iron to the joint.  The liquid flux pulls the solder into the joint instantly.  The total time to solder all four of the braces was about 4-5 minutes.   In and Out, that's the deal... I think it's also a burger place... but not to get derailed... back to the build!

End of brace bent and soldered to the stirup.

So, one of the KitBit Baggage steps broke a leg when I was bending it during installation.  I didn't feel like being short a one stirup out of the set.  The new legs for the replacement were fabricated the same way as the braces above.  I pulled out all the pieces of the etching that broke off.  (The middle section of the leg broke at the "half-etched" bend points.)  I kept the broken part safe until I was ready to solder on the other braces.

I checked the holes again and drilled them a bit deeper across the floor than before with the etchings.  The wire was bent at about 85 degrees and then about 1/8" below the floor I made another slight bend of about 5 degrees to vertical.  I want these steps to angle outward slightly from the edge of the floor to the edge of the car side when the body is attached.

New wire legs on the repaired stirup step & brace.
I pre-tinned the backs of the double step etching and the new wire legs.  This makes it MUCH faster and easier to solder than if I was having to flow in the solder like I did on the braces.  The challenge in attaching this step was that there was no reference for the height it needs to be.  I ended up eye-balling across the underframe to the other baggage door step that was finished to see where it would need to go.  Holding the broken steps in a pair of self-closing tweezers, I positioned it against one of the legs with the vertical edges aligned.  A quick pass with the iron solders that side and secures it.  This is a bit of a tricky two-handed operation in that you need to have steady control of both the part and the iron.

Find a good comfortable position to be in to do this soldering work.  Another thought is to use one of the magnifying stands with the two alligator-clip "hands" to hold the parts in alignment where you want them.  Then make the quick pass with the iron.

The a bit of bending is needed to get the second leg aligned.  At this point I noticed that the steps were wanting to hang outward and didn't want to reach the second leg.  I ended up desoldering the first leg and trying again.  This time I got it closer to flat on the second leg, but not good enough.  A small amount of gentile pressure from my tweezers pulled it down to the second leg, but this would have built-in tension that I don't want within the step.  Once the second leg joint was secured, I quickly touched the iron on the first joint again to allow it to adjust to the proper position.  It worked very well.

Bottom view of the RPO-end truck, the angle on the step braces were set up such that they did not foul the truck.
This bottom view shows how the RPO-end truck can swing.  The RPO door steps are bent out far enough that they clear the truck's swing and just as the back of the inboard wheel touches the center frame the side frame of the truck almost touches the steps, both at the corner of the car and the RPO steps.

Once all the soldering is done, I cut off the extra length on the new wire legs on the repaired step.  Then I clean and dressed all the brace solder joints with a file cleaning off the extra solder.  Also shaping the cut end of the wire leg to match the step shape.

Don't Loose the Floor

The issue of keeping the body on the underframe is a bit more challenging.  I decided that it would not be a good idea to just glue the body to the underframe.  I am going to add lighting in the RPO section and a single light in the Train Baggage Man desk area in the baggage section.  This means I'll be opening the car and closing it several times.  Of course, if anything ever goes wrong (and it will!) it will be good to be able to open the car without destroying it!

There is a hole for the future screws between the battery box and the needle beam.  Another will go on the opposite side.
I drilled the holes in the underframe earlier in the build.  The sides of the car were tending to bow outward when I was fitting the stirups,  Even with the notching of the inside of the body, the sides are a bit wobbly.

Blocks glued in and match-drilled with #50 drill.
I measure down the thickness of the floor past the ledges with my calipers and scribed a line.  This marks the point where I can glue some plastic 1/8"x1/4" Evergreen styrene strip as an anchor block for a 2-56 screw.  The length of these blocks don't really matter, just that they're over where the holes in the floor are.  This was rather tricky to do as my calipers didn't want to scribe at the angle because of the one-piece body of the car.  I eventually just Sharpied a line in red and roughly glued the blocks in.  I also glued blocks in the ends of the car as a way to secure the floor and body at the end of the car.

End blocks glued in to secure the floor near the ends of the car to the body.
Don't be super concerned if it's off of flat slightly - I planned a little extra gap between the blocks and the future floor which accounts for a bit of error in positioning.  I'd rather have air space between the blocks and the floor when assembled, than having the blocks "go solid" and not let the body sit down low enough on the floor.

I match drilled the holes in the floor up into the body.  Be sure to hold the sides of the car firmly against the floor while doing this.  Once these holes are located and drilled the sides won't be able to wobble anymore, so get this right!  One option is to use rubber bands to hold the carsides.  I had too much detailing on the underframe at this point to risk doing that, so I just held the sides firmly against the floor.

I will point out here that, like with anything dealing with a model like this, I'm not using very much force.  The resin is extremely forgiving and has some flex to it.  Even the pressure from a firm hand-shake would likely crush the body of the car without the floor installed.  Also with all the detailing around the car care must be taken to handle the car with as light a touch as you can.

The holes in the side blocks are then tapped for 2-56 machine screws.  I did over-size the tap holes in the blocks slightly to allow for easier tapping.  Hold off on drilling and tapping the end blocks until the coupler position is figured out later.

Body mounting screws installed, holding the body to the floor.
The piping, stirups, and screws will be painted again before the under frame is finished.


Overview of the 5199 with grabirons installed and stirup steps finished.
The holes for the grabs were drilled several steps ago.  I ran a drill through the holes again to be sure they're clear.  The grabs are hand bent, the more you bend the better you'll get at it.  I'm using 0.015" phosphor-bronze wire from Tichy Train Group.

Left Baggage door with stirup and grab iron. - The center of the car and RPO apartment are to the left.
First, bend a 90 degree angle on the piece of wire.  Insert the bent angle into the hole and then grabbing the wire with a pair of good tipped pliers, mark the point where the second bend will need to be made.  Remove the grabiron from the carside and make the second 90 degree bend where the edge of the pliers are holding the wire.  Make sure that the bend lines up with the first bend.  Cut the newly formed grab iron off, leaving about 1/8" of leg on each end to go into the holes.

Grab irons installed and some slight chips in the primer coat of Dark Olive Green paint.
After, each grab was bent and test fitted I trimmed off the excess length from the legs.  The lower leg of most of the grabirons would interfere with the floor, so it's best to trim them flush when the grab is pushed in against the body.  Then pull the grab away from the body and glue in place with ACC.  Usually I did this from the inside.

If the hole has enough clearance that the ACC will form a good bond all the way around and not pool on the surface of the model, then putting a very small drop of ACC on the wire leg before inserting in the carside will work.  If the hole is too close of a fit to the wire, then the glue will not be able to get into the hole, and be skreeted off on the exterior of the model.... and we certainly don't want that!

Star of the Baggage

Since this car will be modeled as it appeared after upgraded Train Baggage Man (TBM) facilities were installed, and the forward baggage window on the right side was plugged as I showed before in  (Part 2).  At this point, only the smoke jack for the stove remains to be installed.

Smoke jack and plugged window on the right side of the car.
I've found more useful things from salvaged medical items, of course dispose of or destroy all sharp or dangerous items in the recommended methods so they can't be reused or otherwise get into trouble.  However, as I've found the harmless components, such as syringe plunger seals from 3/10cc insulin syringes, make great pipe fittings, bolted caps, etc.  It turns out that the plungers themselves with the seals removed make great smoke jacks too!

I drilled a hole in the roof, located per photographs of the SP 5199.  The plunger was slightly too large in diameter for the drill I had handy, so I quickly filed and sanded the diameter down slightly.  Always test fit something like this!  I think the top of the smoke jacks were a little higher, but as I know I'll have the car on its back several more times during this build and I don't feel like replacing this part several times, I kept the height to match where the max height of the other roof vents to protect it.   I glued the plunger into the hole and conveniently the block that I glued in for the screw to secure the body with was in the right place to support the bottom of the pipe.  I decided to keep the stack long, so it will be visible when the detailed interior is in place though the windows.  I cut the plunger off even with the bottom of the body block at the floor level.

Time to get the DOG on (Airbrush Painting)

Right side painted with Dark Olive Green
With the grabirons, drip strips, stove smokejack, and all on, it's now time to paint the car with the final coats of StarBrand SP Dark Olive Green (DOG) on the sides and a dark gray blend for the roof.  This will cover any of the scuffs that happened when I was installing the grabs, etc. as well.

Left side painted with Dark Olive Green
Then I painted the roof and underframe with a custom mix of StarBrand Black and a bit of DRGW Gray which make a nice gray-black which looks like slightly faded black.  It's easier to paint this color as a base than to try to later over spray and weather the car to get this color.  I free-hand masked the edge of the roof and body with a piece of sheet plastic with a straight edge.  I only did about 1/4 of the length of the car at a time as I really prefer not to slip and get black on the letterboard.  If any does then I reverse the process and mask the black of the roof and reshoot the letterboard with the DOG.  The ends of the roof are shot the same way by holding the card against the diaphragm bellow and "rolling" the airbrush over the space following the curve of the end-roof down to the car side.  This takes some practice to get used to doing, but done right it doesn't take long.

Underframe and body securing screws painted dark gray-black.
The roof paint came out a bit grainy, but that's ok as the sealing "car cement" (a.k.a. tar) was slobbered on with a mop.  I plan to do some extra weathering on the roof at the end anyway so the extra texture there will help.

I applied the paint in several light coats and made sure to leave a glossy surface for the decals to go onto.  Rough paint will make removing the air bubbles from under the decals very hard later.  Best to just get a good smooth coat to start with.

Let There be Lettering

The decalling actually went very quickly on this car.  ThinFilm 160 set was used with the post-1946 "SOUTHERN PACIFIC" letterboard per SP standards and photos.  Thankfully the SP did have a pretty consistent set of painting and lettering standards for their passenger fleet.  However there are some documented variations from car to car and class to class.

Right side of the 5199 after decalling.
In the photos of the SP 5199 in 1947 the reporting marks were off-center slightly towards the baggage end of the car, so this was followed.  The 5199 looks a bit weird at this point, so close to being finished, but with the windows still masked.  The masking will stay on until the car is finished.

Left side of the 5199 after decalling
The "UNITED STATES MAIL - RAILWAY POST OFFICE" lettering was centered up under the RPO apartment's three windows.

SP 4119, the Lark Protection RPO, with the "US Mail" lettering centered on the car body on 60ft RPOs.

Since we're talking about the lettering, it should also be pointed out that the "US Mail - Railway Post Office" lettering is ONLY applied to cars that are internally setup the the apartment for use as US Railway Post Office.  Fifteen-foot RPO cars were lettered with a more condensed version, "US Mail - Railway - Post - Office."  RPO cars that were removed from RPO service had this lettering painted over.  The big 60ft apartment RPO cars had the same "UNITED STATES MAIL - RAILWAY POST OFFICE".

Cars that were used for Train Baggage (for passengers) were so marked with "BAGGAGE".  Cars available for lease to the Railway Express Agency were also lettered for that service.  Of course the SP covered its bases by lettering basically all of their cars for both.  Of course the SP also moved company express in these cars as well, so the "BAGGAGE" lettering also seems to cover that too.

Notice the little star above the "SP 5199", that shows this car to have improved TBM facilities on board.
The star above the reporting marks is the mark on cars that had the improved TBM facilities.  Train Baggage Men would ride on the "working baggage" car in the train which would drop off and pick up any baggage along the route.  Non-TBM baggage cars moved either sealed US Mail, sealed REA express shipments, or other sealed company shipments, such as checked baggage that was traveling the full route of the train.  Railway Express Agency also sent Agents with some of their more valuable or perishable shipments (including live animals).  These cars could also have private "messengers" sent to ride along with other valuable loads not shipped by the railroads or REA.

Next Time - Building SP 5199 (Part 4)

That concludes Part 3 of this series on building the SP 5199.  In the next part I will show how to fit the Hi-Tech Diaphragms and couplers.

Jason Hill

Sunday, July 24, 2016

Building SP 5199 (Part 2)

My continuing build blog of the SC&F SP 5199.

Progress on the SP 5199 in Part 2...
I left off on the SP 5199 build (Part 1 linked here), with the underframe mostly complete and the trucks mounted.

Bolster hole drilled, tapped, and screw installed.

Body Work

At this point I move to working on the main one-piece resin body of the RPO.  I cut out the windows and then cleaned the edges of the doors and windows.

I also sat down with the photos of the 69-BP-30-3s that I am using for reference and marked the centerlines for the roof vents and drip rails over the doors.

I used some of the styrene strip provided in the kit to fashion the drip rails on the roof, above each door.  ACC glue was used to mount the drip rails.

The flashing on the doors were cleaned up and the doors are installed.  Car must be taken as the thin flash extends over the window openings.   I use a fresh No.11 Xacto blade to remove the window flashing.  I then went back around each pane and carefully shaved down the battens until I couldn't see any more flashing around the edge.  Notice the door handles on the doors... this will show which door goes on which side of the car.

Doors, drip rails, and mail catcher arm installed.
The working RPO cars were always fitted with the distinctive 'Mail Catchers Arms' used to snag mail pouches at speed when passing smaller towns along the route where the train did not stop.  I used a No.66 drill two holes 0.572" above the "floor" of the door opening and just outside the door post rivet lines.  The catcher arm kit I'm using on this model is CalScale 190-345 RPO Car Mail Pouch (pair).  There are 5 brass eye-bolts and two catcher arms in the kit.  I checked that the eye-bolts would easily fit the catcher arms and then used ACC to mount the eye-bolts.  After the eye-bolts are mounted, then slide the long "front" rod of the catcher in, then put the rear rod in the rear eye-bolt and slip the arm to the rear until it seats nicely in the eyebolt.  I have did not glue the arms at this time, and the fit was good and stiff, so the arm didn't flop around.

Catcher Arm in the lowered position.
Catcher arm, pivoted up to catch a mail bag

If you'd like to learn more about how the RPOs work, here's a link to my RPO page.

Well the main body's coming along nicely now.  I drilled out the grab iron holes with a No.76 drill.

I installed the windows next.  The SC&F cars have laser etched windows.  The masking is laser cut to provide masking by peeling off the mask from the window frames, but leaving the center window panes covered.

SC&F laser kit windows, the one on the left has been filed to fit properly in the body

I test fit each window, but encountered the only real fit problems so far in the kit.  The windows are laser kit too large to fit in the recess in the back of the body sides.  I had to file about 0.020" from each side of the window.  Also I filed an angle on the windows.

Installing laser cut windows.

Masking still in place and ready to paint.  I chose to not install the windows in the doors yet, as those do not need masking at this time and will be easily installed later when painting is complete.

Windows installed and ready for paint.

I primed the body with SP Dark Olive Gree and the underframe with a light black mix.  I left the roof unpainted at that point as I need to do the roof vents still and stove jacks.

Roof vents and shaped hole.

I marked the top edge line of where all the vents would need to line up.  Then drilled a No.50 hole for the vents to fit into.  The square vents I use on this car are recycled sqauare vents from other modernized Soho cars.  Details Associates vents could be used as well.

Overview of all but the last two vents on the right side (forward end) installed.

Little Change of Era....

On further examining through the car photos and information of the 5197-5199-series cars.  The cars are fitted with upgraded baggage facilities, in comparing floor plans and other photos it seems that cars so upgraded had the right side forward baggage window plugged for the desk and stove to be installed.  There's some question as to when these cars were upgraded, but some pictures show cars in 1952 with upgraded facilities.

Styrene plug dry fitted to a press fit and then glued.

I removed the acrylic window where the plug will be inserted.  The new plug was rough cut 0.04" styrene sheet and then dressed down with a file to a friction fit into the opening.  As I'd already painted the body with the first priming coat, I did not want to have any fitting issues requiring filling and sanding.  The plug was glued from the inside with ACC.

The plug fitted and glued in.

Diaphragm Fitting

Rough milling of end relief for diaphragm

Dremal mill out end door openings to 0.480" wide for diaphragm bellows to retract into. (door was 0.320") scribe line 0.080" outside each door frame.  A 1/16" 4-flute burr-mill in my Dremal was used to cut away most of the unwanted resin.

Milling edges cleaned up and bellows fitted.

I used a file and a No.11 blade to clean up the roughly shaped relief cut.  The filing along the top of the bellows is required because of the curvature of the car end, and the diaphragm needs a flat mounting.

The rest of the assembling of the diaphragms will come later after finish painting.

Back to the Underbody

The next steps will be back to the under frame.  I drilled holes in the frame to route the plumbing for the brake systems.  I should have done this before mounting the brake components.

Plumbing laid out

The piping on the model was mostly just bending up some pieces of 0.018" wire and ACCing the parts into the holes.  I used a battery box off of a Soho 70ft Baggage car which was the right length for the RPO's box instead of the kit's resin box.

Stirups installed. Notice the interfering parts of the stirups in the step of the underframe.

The stirup steps I'm using on this car are KitBits #87 "Baggage Car Steps" by Bethlehem Car Works which has 4x 12" corner steps and 4x 30" baggage/RPO steps.  Holes drilled with a #65 bit horizontal right above each vertical stirup leg into the side of the underframe casting.  I plan to solder on angle braces to stiffen the stirups.
I file notches in the bottom sill of the floor casting for the brass stirup etchings to fit through.  The etchings do protrude into the shelf which fits into the body.

Filed notches for stirups.

To regain the proper fit with the body, and not forcing the sides outward, notches are filed into the back of the body where each leg is hitting the side.

That does it for Part 2 on this post.  Stay tuned for Building SP 5199 (Part 3)!

Jason Hill

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Monday, July 18, 2016

SP 1050 Coach (Part 2) - Modeling Update

In SP 1050 Coach (Part 1) - History of SP Coach & Chair Cars I covered the history of the EPSW prototype cars and the early history of my SP 1051 model that I built around 2006.  This post continues the upgrades I've been doing to the car in 2016, bring the car to my current standards.

Updated 1-15-2017

Updated SP 1050, October 2016

I decided to do a bit of updating on the progress with SP 1050, but instead of making a new post, I will update the very short update from August 2016, with some photos taken during September.  Also of interest is this car's relation to the materials I found for the SP and SD&AE Consist Modeling blog post from last week.

I also did some editing of the SP 1050 Coach (Part 1) blog post, with more reference photos, information, and links, since it was one of my oldest posts.

Completing New Decals

The windows are still out of it for a bit longer, until I overcoat the car to seal the decals.

A photo indoors under LED lighting, bit more blueish than the photo below.
Here's the way SP 1050 looks after applying the decals.  The Dark Olive Green really changes color between my indoor shop lighting (above) and outdoor natural sunlight (below).

Interesting how the sun picks up the lighter shades and the brown of the Dark Olive Paint

Gloss Coating - Near Disaster!

The next step is to seal the decals to the car side.  This will both protect them and also further blend in any remaining edges of the decals that are visible.

Showing the interior from the right side in the sunlight before decal sealing

The Gloss Coating went badly, as it seems that the newer batches of Testors GlossCote are not compatible with the StarBrand and even the Testors Wet Clear Gloss Coat.  This was the first car where this has EVER became an issue... Very strange indeed.

Showing the interior from the left side in the sunlight before decal sealing

The Testors GlossCote turned the whole car side nearly white and opaque instantly.  Looking it over quickly I realized that the new layer of overcoat was attacking the underlaying paint layers.  The pitting was also making the light refract out causing the white look.

This does happen if DullCote is sprayed onto a car, followed by weathering the car using alcohol, however I hadn't done that on this car.  Dullcote uses Teflon powders to create the dulling effect of the finish, which is attacked by the alcohol and turns white.  Is that what happened here?

I decided it was too much work to completely strip the car body AGAIN, so I risked overcoating the whole car body with my usual Testors Wet Clear overcoat.  If this didn't work, then I'd not really have lost anything to have to take an extra layer off stripping the car again, but I might be able to save it....

Thankfully, the Wet Clear overcoat leveled the pitting from the ClearCote and restored most of the proper color of the car.  I start to wonder if the newer bottle of GlossCote had a formula change because of some new EPA reg.  In any case the new bottle of Testors GlossCote went straight into the trash can so this mix up will not happen again!

The Wet Clear overcoating left a few spots that I decided to leave a bit of the "frosted" look on along the bottom and at the end of the car over the truck as weathering.

Right side of the SP 1050 after recovering from near disaster.

These cars were usually assigned to the Argonaut running through the deserts of the southwest, so it would fit into the light weathering of the car.

Window Glass 

The next step after sealing in the decals is to reinstall the window glazing to the car.  Thankfully the glass sections were able to be popped out rather easily.  They go back fairly easily too.

Window Shades

With the window glass back in, I can focus on installing the window shades.

Shades installed

I use manila file folder card stock to make my window shades from.  Tamiya Masking Tape is cut into thin strips to tack the shades in place while a few small drops of Testors Canopy Cement dry holding the shades in place.

Left side of the car after window shade installation.

Right side of the car after window shade installation.

The window shades are cut with a Xacto blade to various heights to appear used.  Cars leaving a originating terminal will have all their window shades set at a standard height by the car attendants before departure.  The shades then start to become more randomly set as passenger adjust them during the trip to suit their desires.

LED Lighting

I plan to light the car with my standard LED strip lighting.  These are 30 LED/Meter material.  There is also 60 LED per meter strips available.  I use the "Daylight White" (bluish) LED strips in modernized cars with fluorescent lighting and the "Warm White" (yellowish) for the older electric lighting in cars.

Similar dropping resistors (2x10k Ohm) and marker installed on SP 2701.

Dropping resistors of about 10k Ohms upto about 20k Ohms are used to control the lighting intensity in the car.  I don't like the light so over powering that it's blinding in a darkend layout room.  The lighting is subtle and when the room lights are on, it is barely noticeable.  The wires will be feed down from the ends of the LED strip to the trucks.

Planning of the LED lighting strip installation.

On the SP 1050 I plan to install the LED's pointing down, not like the SP 2701's which are facing up and using a defusing reflector to bounce the light back down into the car.  I expect the SP 1050 will need a higher dropping resistance than the SP 2701 uses because of the direct lighting.

In Closing

SP 2701 brings up the markers for now on No.56, the Tehachapi Mail, until SP 1050 returns to service.

Well, that's it for this update.  In SP 1050 Coach (Part 3), I will be covering the installation of the LED Lighting, Installing the rear-end marker light, and the car's unique A/C ducting on the roof.

Jason Hill

Links to Related Blog Posts:

Modeling Index SP Heavyweight Passenger Cars

How to get SP Dark Olive Green painted cars

SP 1050 Coach (Part 1)