Monday, August 22, 2016

Modeling the Owl (Part1) - Post-WW2 to Korea

Let's look at the 1946-1950 consists of the Southern Pacific's Owl between Oakland and Los Angeles (No.57 & 58).  Most of my information comes from the SP Trainline (SPH&TS Magazine) and from the research that the Operations Dept at La Mesa Model Railroad Club has dug up over the years.  I'm also cross checking this data against that provided in SPH&TS's five fabulous volumes of SP Passenger Car books.

Links to my blog posts on the following related topics:
SP Heavyweight Passenger Car Models in HO Scale
Thoughts on Golden Gate Depot Harriman Cars
Modeling the Shasta (Nos.327/328) Consist in 1949 & 1952
Modeling the Tehachapi Mail (Nos.55/56) Consist
Kitbashing Pullman 16-Section Tourist Car (Part 1) TC 4242

No.58 lead by SP 4255 slips by in the night towards Los Angeles with a long string of varnish.

The Owl traveled the flat San Joaquin Valley from Oakland, north around the San Fransisco Bay to Fresno via the Mococo Line, then south to Bakersfield.  In Bakersfield the smaller engine used from Oakland would be changed out for usually at least a big AC-class, cab forward, and usually a point helper of some type, often the point engine was another AC-class engine.  Heavy 16 car Owl consists required big engines to move it over the 4000ft Tehachapi Summit and then over the Mojave Desert to Vincent Summit, south of Palmdale.

After the arrival of dual-service EMD F-unit sets in around 1952, the run between Bakersfield and Los Angeles was dieselized.  Steam lasted in the Valley, north of Bakersfield, until about 1956, when pairs of dual-service F-units took over that run as well.

In this first part, we will focus our look at the consists changes over the years between 1946 and 1950.  The post-1950 and dieselization will come in following posts.

1946 - Consist of No.57

Coaches, like this 60-C-9, were common on the SP passenger trains until replaced by chair cars.
Older coaches like this 60-C-4, made up most of the coach-class cars on the post-war Owls until A/C Chair cars took over.

BP Oak-Fresno (Probably 30ft Apartment) - to 2nd 60 at Fresno (Possibly entrained between the baggages and the coaches)
Baggage/Express Oak-Fresno
B/E Oak-LA
B/E Oak-LA
Partition Coach
Coach (News Agent)
Pullman Tourist Car (STD 16-Section)
Pullman Tourist Car (STD 16-Section)
Pullman STD 6-2-Lounge ("Mission Dolores" and "Mission Santa Ynez")
Pullman STD 12-1
Pullman STD 10-Sect Lounge-Observation

March 10, 1947 - Consist of No.57

An option for modeling a Postal Storage Car, ex-RPO SP 4261, now a Storage Car.

This is the standard consist planned for the Owl after March 10th, 1947.

Postal Storage
RPO Bag/RPO (30ft Postal Apartment to rear)
Coach - Partitioned
Coach - News Agent
Pullman STD - Tourist 16-Section Sleeper
Pullman STD 6-2-Lounge (Mission-Series)
Pullman STD 10-1-1 Sleeper
Pullman STD 14-Section Sleeper

The consists in this film is very interesting:

This is the consist as best as I can make out.

SP 4228 (AC-10 class engine) working as "road engine" between Bakersfield and LA on No.58 Eastward at Saugus after point helper was cut off, probably at Vincent after going over the Tehachapi mountains and over the Mojave desert.

An example of a MDC 60-B-9 & -10 baggage-express cars like SP 6043 in the consist below, note the large left door.

SP 6114 Storage Mail (60-B, ex-60-P-4)
SP 6043 Baggage-Express (60-B-9)
SP 6320 Baggage-Express  (60-B-1) (hard to read the last number)
SP 6336  Baggage-Express (60-B-2) (Very hard to read number)
SP 5076  RPO-Baggage (69-BP-30-2) (working RPO - Apartment to rear)
Pullman Tourist Car 2281 (ex-Schuykill, STD 12-1 non-A/C Sleeper) - Acting as Dormitory Car (Might be PC TC 2381, ex-Pennell)  - Not shown in regular consist
SP 2165 Partitioned Coach (60-C-9 Ice A/C floor)
SP 2500 News Agent Coach (Ex-ADL-Coach "CHAIR" 60-CC-1)
SP 1365? Coach (60-C-5,6,7,8,9,10 Ice A/C'd) - Number doesn't match up with historical data
SP 2306 Coach (60-C-5 Ice A/C roof end)
SP 10107 Diner (77-D-4 with A/C)
Pullman Tourist Car 4000-4200-series STD 16-Section Sleeper Tourist - usually US Military personnel returning from WW2.
Pullman "Mission Dolores" STD 6-2-Lounge - After 1948 to SP ownership regular on Owl until 1956
Pullman "Palouse Falls" STD 10-1-1 Sleeper - Regular with Prior Lake (10-1-1) on the Owl until 1954 or so.
Pullman "Overdale" STD 14-Section Sleeper

Pullman 16-Section Tourist sleeper, Kitbashed from a Walthers 14-Section model.

June 17, 1947 - Consist of No.57 Wrecked at Lerdo

SP 2701, a stand-in model for a non-A/C'd 60-CC-1, like SP 2512.

The consist was pretty much the same when the Owl derailed at Lerdo (in the San Joaquin Valley) on June 17th 1947.  Records of wrecks always include the involved cars.

SP 4376 (MT-5) - working between Bakersfield and Oakland

SP 6064 B/E (70-B-7)
SP 6073 B/E (70-B-7) Later * Baggage
SP 6457 B/E (70-BA-5) Later * Baggage (probably working TBM car)
SP 1836 Partitioned Coach 60-C-3
SP 1362 Coach 60-C-3 - plain Coach
SP 1084 Coach 60-C-3 - plain Coach
SP 2512 Coach 60-CC-1 ("old" Chair car)
PC TC 4246 - Tourist 16-section - For US Military personnel
PC TC 4242 - Tourist 16-section - For US Military personnel
SP 10107 (77-D-4 with A/C)
PC "Mission Dolores" STD 6-2-Lounge
PC "Prior Lake" STD 10-1-1
PC "Overcot" STD 14-Section
PC "Mt. Breckenridge" STD 10-Sect-Lounge-Obs

Old Walthers metal 10-Section Lounge-Observation, Similar to the Pullman Co.'s Mt. Breckenridge in the Owl consist above

It looks like on that ill-fated run the train was running the extra 10-Section Lounge-Obs, but no RPO or dormitory car listed.

February 27, 1950 - Consist of No.58

SP 2312, a 72-C-2, rebuilt with A/C and plated over transom windows as it would have appeared in 1947.

Note the changes in the consist as the chair cars replace the coaches.  These Chair cars were most likely arch-roofed 72-C, clerestory roofed 73-C, or 74-CC Heavyweight A/C'd "Deluxe" Chair cars after this time.  Also note the now standard Tourist sleepers behind the Diner.

RPO - Oak-Fresno (30ft Apartment)
Postal Storage - Oak-Fresno
Baggage-Express - Oak-Fresno
Baggage-Express - Oak-LA (ex-Tuesday, Storage Mail & Magazines)
Baggage-Express - Oak-LA (ex-Sunday)
Chair (probably a News Agent Car)
Pullman STD - Tourist 16-Section Sleeper - For US Military personnel
Pullman STD - Tourist 16-Section Sleeper - For US Military personnel
SP "Mission-series" STD 6-2-Lounge
SP "Night-series" STD 14-Single Bedroom ("Night Fern" and "Night Mantle" - later rebuilt into Baggage Dorms SP 3500 & SP 3501)
SP STD 10-1-1 "Prior Lake" & "Palouse Falls" regularly assigned
SP STD 12-1 - SP Pool 12-1s no specific cars assigned.

Sept 24, 1950 - Consist of No.58

SP 2337, a 73-C-1, is another example of a 48-seat "Deluxe Chair" car used on the Owl.

Note the movement of the RPO to stay with the train now.  No Fresno setout car now.  Also the last consist showing 16-Section Tourist Cars regularly assigned.

Postal Storage Oak-LA
Baggage-Express Oak-LA
Baggage-Express Oak-LA
RPO Oak-LA (30ft Apartment)
Chair (probably a News Agent Car)
Pullman STD - Tourist 16-Section Sleeper - For US Military personnel
Pullman STD - Tourist 16-Section Sleeper - For US Military personnel
SP "Mission-series" STD 6-2-Lounge
SP "Night-series" STD 14-Single Bedroom ("Night Fern" and "Night Mantle")
SP STD 10-1-1 "Prior Lake" & "Palouse Falls" regularly assigned
SP STD 12-1 - SP Pool 12-1s no specific cars assigned.

Feb 15, 1951 - Consist of No.58

This consist changes in a number of ways: 1. RPO car is now through LA-Oakland. 2. Pullman 16-Section Tourists replaced with standard 12-1s, possibly Pullman Pool cars. 3. Introduction of first regular Streamlined car to train, STD 6-6-4 sleeper, alternating with HW 8-5 "Clover"-series car.

Baggage-Express Oakland-Bakersfield
Baggage-Express Oak-LA
Baggage-Express Oak-LA
Postal Storage Oak-LA
RPO Oak-LA (30ft Apartment)
Chair (probably a News Agent Car)
SP STD 12-1 - PC/SP Pool 12-1s no specific cars assigned.
SP STD 12-1 - PC/SP Pool 12-1s no specific cars assigned.
SP "Mission-series" STD 6-2-Lounge
SP STD 6-6-4 "SP 9150-series" or STD 8-5 "Clover-series" on alternating consists
SP "Night-series" STD 14-Single Bedroom ("Night Fern" and "Night Mantle")
SP STD 10-1-1 "Prior Lake" & "Palouse Falls" regularly assigned
SP STD 12-1 - SP Pool 12-1s no specific cars assigned.

SP 12-1 "Los Angeles" brings up the rear of a very late running No.58 at Caliente.
That pretty much does it for Modeling the Owl (Part 1), stay tuned or follow to be notified when the next update is posted.

Jason Hill

Follow these links to other related posts on my blog.
SP Heavyweight Passenger Car Model Index in HO Scale
Thoughts on Golden Gate Depot Harriman Cars
Modeling SP Trains 55/56, the Tehachapi Mail
Modeling SP Baggage cars with MDC/Athearn 60ft "Harrimans"
Modeling the Shasta (Nos.327/328) Consist in 1949 & 1952
Modeling SP 1005 (Part 1), Soho 60-C-5.
Modeling SP 2701 (Part 1), Model Power 60-CC-1.
Modeling Pullman Mt.Nebo (Part 1), 10-Section Lounge-Obs from old Walthers metal passenger car

Thursday, August 18, 2016

Golden Gate Depot's New "Harriman" Cars - Thoughts on the prototype cars

Golden Gate Depot

Recently, Sunset Models' affiliate Golden Gate Depot announced that they're taking reservations for a selection of "Harriman" arch roof to be imported and made in injection molded plastic.  This is great news for those of us that have been wanting to expand our SP fleets of passenger cars without going into budget brass or working with resin kits.  Not that I'm saying either of those two options are bad, but I know many people will like the ease of R-T-R plastic passenger cars!

I am not affiliated with Golden Gate Depot (GGD), but there's certainly been a big buzz about this project lately.  I've been asked repeatedly by various people what the prototype cars for the planned models were, where they're used, what they're painted like in various eras, etc.  I'm going to try to answer some of these questions...  I will put this disclaimer here, that I only know of what they're planning to do from their posts and a few emails.

So I'll assume based on the photos of the cars what classes they're planning to make, and then comment on those prototypes.  So, until we actually get the GGD models in our hot little hands this will have to do.

Paint Schemes

First a quick comment about paint schemes... GGD is taking reservations for a whole host of railroads to have these cars painted for.  I did some poking, at at least as far as I can tell UP didn't have any 70-Bs instead going with 69-Bs.  I also don't think they had any RPOs exactly like the 70-BP-30, although I don't have a lot of materials on the UP.  So let's look at the SP paint schemes that are offered.

One thing to remember is that general painting of SP heavyweight cars into TTG didn't start until 1954. - So basically any headend cars until 1954 (unless for special assignment) should be SP Dark Olive Green.  Some head-end cars did stay with "SOUTHERN PACIFIC LINES" on the letterboard until about 1951-1952.  The RPOs and other first class cars were repainted within about a year or two after the 1946 change to "SOUTHERN PACIFIC".

The coaches seem to have lasted longer in the pre-1946 scheme than almost any other type of car.  There are some pictures of a few cars in 1951-1952 still with SPL on the letterboard.  My guess is the cars freshly repainted just after WW2 in the SPL Scheme and then in late 1946 the new SP letterboard scheme was only applied to cars that hadn't been repainted yet.  This left those cars in the SPL scheme that had not been repainted to SP, started being repainted in 1954 to the TTG.  Also a good number of the non-A/C'd coaches that were mechanically shot were downgraded out of passenger service before the TTG scheme was introduced.  Many Dark Olive SP coaches and chair cars lasted until 1960 or so before being repainted into TTG or retired.

Remember that a good number of the coaches have lived on at various tourist railroads around the country.  I know of at least two people that are considering buying a few of these cars for their modern layout's tourist operations!  Some cars were also sold to various Mexican railroads over the years as well.

Let's look at what they're offering... (I will also be subbing in photos of models I've taken as examples of the classes of car I'm talking about.)

"Baggage 70 ft - Harriman" 70-B-series

SP 6444, a 70-B-1/9 from a Soho model

These look like the standard SP 70-B-1/9 series of cars.  There have been models made by Soho and several other brass manufactures of these cars, and also the beautiful resin model kits from Southern Car & Foundry, which you can see under construction on my blog pages here.

SP rostered a total of 75 70ft arch roof baggage cars in the 70-B-series.  The SP had 20 additional cars of similar design with Autodoors at the A-end of the car.  The T&NO rostered an additional 42 70-B-series cars and one 70-BA-class Baggage-Auto car.  This gives a combined total of 138 cars intermixed in the SP 6000-6500-series and the T&NO 100 & 600-series.  Many T&NO cars eventually made their way to the SP numbering system eventually.

Six 70-B-series cars were modified with streamlining, moved truck centers, changed roof profiles, etc for use on premier trains.  Two of these were painted for the San Joaquin Daylight in the early years, but quickly were moved to the Noon Daylight and then the Starlight.  The other two were for the Lark and then two more converted when the Cascade was started in 1950.  -  I would personally start with a SC&F baggage to do these cars, the same way I'm building the SP 5069 (RPO car) as I don't feel as bad cutting up an undecorated kit, rather than a R-T-R model with all the finished details to not destory.

This is a very SP signature car, and welcome.  Pairing a few of these with some MDC/Athearn 60ft Baggage cars would be a great start at an SP mail train from almost any Division of the SP.

"RPO 70ft - Harriman" 70-BP-30 (rebuilt)

SP 5148, a Soho 70-BP-30

The photos on GGD's announcement show a car in the 5145-5154-series, which were rebuild from 70-BP-15-3s between 1946 and 1951 to class 70-BP-30.  They're unique from the SP's other series of nearly identical 70-BP-30-3 class cars in that the 70-BP-30 cars had the closest windows on each side to the RPO door blanked out when converted to 30ft RPO Apartment cars.  This I don't believe would be an easy thing to change back.

The rest of the 70-BP-15-3s were being converted to Baggage-Express cars, and having the RPO apartment removed between 1941 and 1954.  Often this just meant the RPO lettering was painted over.

SP 5130, a 70-BP-30-1, along with other cars kept it's 4th RPO window into the 1960s.

The nearly identical class of SP 70-BP-30-1 SP 5129-5138 and 5161-5163 kept their 4th RPO window.

This isn't a bad RPO to choose, as each signature group of SP 70-BP-30-series cars were a little different, and there were never more than about 10 or so cars in any one group.  This class is a fairly good choice as it was used on many secondary passenger trains (Owl, etc) during the 1950s.

"Coaches 60ft - Harriman" (60-C-5, and later classes)

A Soho 60-C-5, SP 1005, as refitted in 1943 as a chair car with transom windows and end windows intact

According to the reply from Golden Gate Depot that I received last week, they said these will be 60-C-5 class cars.  This is good because about 40% of the SP's 60ft coaches were of this body style.  These cars had paired windows, originally under a transom window - but later painted over or plated over after WW2.  Check your photo collections and you'll see a few transom-window cars lasted until about 1952 with them intact or only painted over.  These were probably the "crumbiest" of all the 60-Cs that the SP didn't think were worth rebuilding and probably ended up in MW, caboose, or express rider pool within a few short years.  Follow my build of the SP 1005 (Part 1) here.

I've not seen any photos of cars with transom windows after about 1954 at the very latest.  I would say that any transom window car after about 1950 would be very rare.  Most by 1950 would look the like the 2178 shown below.

A Soho 60-C-9, SP 2178, with plated over windows and June 1946 lettering applied.

The following classes of 60-C-6, -7,-8,-9, & -10s had various changes to the roof, mainly changes in the type, location, and number of vents.  The first ten cars of class 60-C-6 had square "utlity" vents and the 60-C-7 cars returned to using "Globe" vents.  The later cars of class 60-C-6s and 60-C-8/9/10 had square vents.

Some 60-C-5s were down graded and renumbered into the 2800-series for use as express rider cars, some were also assigned to various Overnight LCL trains.  There's one nice photo of one marked for the Arizona Overnight out of LA.

Caboose SP 998 started as a MDC 60ft coach, which can stand-in for either a downgraded 60-C-3/4 or 60-CC-1.

Lastly, you could of course use them as the next lower rating of non-passenger service as a "CABOOSE".  About 20-30 cars were downgraded and patched as cabooses.  Some were fully repainted into Freight Car Red (FCR).

Here's a very weather beaten model of SP 973, a stand-in model using a modified MDC as a 60-C-5 used in local service.

The ultimate fall from grace were the 60-C-series cars that were downgraded to MOW service.  These were often repainted in the standard MW paint scheme of the era, either FCR (pre-1958), or light gray (post-1958).

Good models of SP 60-C-5 will be a nice addition to the selection of available models!  T&NO and NWP had a number of these cars as well.  Even if you're not modeling the San Fransisco Commute pool, these cars made up the backbone of SP's third rate mail train rider cars, any remaining branch line passenger service (Mexico! SPdeM, etc), they would also see use as express train messenger cars and Banana Messanger cars. - I will cover some of those trains in more detail at some point soon.

The 1910-1930s era modelers would be hard pressed if these cars do have plated over transoms.  Most SP modelers between 1940 and 1960 could probably find a use for this car somewhere on their layout if they have plated over transoms.  Modern modelers after 1960 could probably justify 1-4 of these in their tourist trap train behind some old diesel switcher, steam engine or GP.

"Lunch Car 60ft - Harriman" 60-C-3 & -4 ADL

Ken Kidder 60-C-3/4, showing what the ADL's were converted from.

The ADL's started life as 60-C-3 and -4s, such as this model of SP 1190.

Non-Kitchen side of 60-C-3/4 ADL coach - This is not changed from the standard 60-C-3/4s.

Kitchen side of 60-C-3/4 ADL coach.  Notice the far left window is modified with the standard diner kitchen window.

The photograph of the Golden Gate Depot CAD model on their advertisement suggests one of the 60-C-3/4 that was rebuild for All-Day-Lunch (ADL) service for coach passengers in certain trains.   The 60-C-3/4s differ from the 60-C-5s in that they have the longer "picture" windows, with one small window at one end and a pair of single windows at the other.  I am not clear on if they're doing the SP 10517 and SP 10518 that received A/C and were regularly assigned to the Suntan Specials in the San Fransisco-San Jose-Santa Cruz service - or if they're doing some of the non-A/C coach-ADLs that worked around the SP in the 1930s and early 1940s.

Many ex-ADL cars were converted back to coaches in the years between 1935 and 1937, some would keep a the ADL space and become News Agent Coaches.  Most of these without air conditioning.  There are some consist sheets calling out a News Agent Coach on the 1946 Pacific Limited between Ogden and Oakland, I don't know if those were air conditioned cars.  There were also a good number of A/D'd 60-CC-1s that were converted to News Agent cars during 1944 as well.

By the post-war (1947-1949) time frame, SP was upgrading the rest of their secondary trains on the main routes to full "CHAIR" cars with A/C and the more spacious seating.  The Owl (Nos. 57/58) consists show the coaches from the 1947 consists replaced by chair cars in the 1950 consist lists.  Usually this meant 44, 48, or a max of 64 seats per car, where as a coach of the same size would seat between 64-80 people with much less legroom!  News Agent Chair cars were regularly assigned to these secondary trains, which had A/C and Chair configurations.

This means that the coach ADLs were downgraded to News Agent/Coaches by this time, still basically serving cold sandwiches and soda drinks and coffee to coach-class passengers.  The question then becomes - "Where did the extra News Agent Coaches get assigned?"  I'm still looking into this, but it would appear that the non-Suntan assigned cars were back in the regular coach pool, perhaps in the Commute Pool around San Fransisco?

I am going to get one or two of these and see if I can back-convert it into a non-ADL 60-C-3/4.  Basically I think this will involved rebuilding one window where the SP installed a "Diner Kitchen" style high window, back to a standard coach-type window.  I'm not at all sure how this will go... I sense another blog about that in the future!

I would say these would so up after 1960 about the same way the 60-C-5 Coaches would, for your local tourist railroad behind steam and early diesel.  After all you got to have that on-board snack and memorabilia car selling stuff!

"Business Observation 60ft - Harriman" 60-O-1

SP "Redwood" NWP's Superintendent's car.  (model and photo by John Ruehle 2016, used with permission)

These would be 60-O-1s primarily build for the T&NO and rebuilt as Business cars for the Superintendents of certain divisions along the SP.  After rebuild these cars had a "home" and would usually not wander too far from that assignment.

The classic 60-O-1 that everyone thinks of is the Business Car "Redwood" assigned to the Northwestern Pacific.  This photo above is John Ruehle's lovely kitbashed and super detailed Soho model, photo used with permission.

In Closing

The second to the left most window is the higher "Kitchen" window, not completed in this photo is the mid-window bar.

I think it will be very interesting to see the GGD passenger cars, and I'm looking forward to seeing them in person!  I hope they'll fill a very much needed vacancy in many modeler's rosters.

As always, for more information on these cars I highly recommend looking into the Southern Pacific Historical & Technical Society's series of books on SP Passenger Cars, Vol.1-6.  Specifically for these cars Vol.1 Coaches, Vol.3 Head End, and Vol.6 Business cars.  I believe they've been sold out of Vol.1 for several years now.

I'll probably start referencing these cars in my consist posts for various trains.  Pairing these with Walthers HW Pullmans and MDC or SC&F 60ft baggages would be the foundations for some good lookin SP Heavyweight trains!

Saturday, August 6, 2016

Building SP 5199 (Part 5)

In the last post of Building SP 5199 (Part 4) I roughed in the couplers, this time we finish the mechanicals and the outside of the car's paint.

Right side of SP 5199 in the afternoon sun

Couplers and Low Riding Cars

Checking the car against the Kadee Coupler Height Gauge, it shows the car sitting about 0.025" high. I temporarily made some 0.015" shims of sheet styrene to lower the coupler boxes.  I usually don't like to use more than one shim, as it makes the car ride too high.   I did a bit more investigating around the underframe.  As I suspected earlier the plumbing running under the bolsters is fouling the trucks.

I cut away the plumbing above the trucks.  This keeps the details under the main body, but again like the detail parts of the bolsters, it clears up the space above the trucks.  I cleared a bit of extra material from the edges of the center sill flanges to clear the arc of the truck swing with my Dremal burr tool.  The truck bolsters are still too high, I shave them down with the Dremal as well.about 0.020".  Checking the ride height every so often against the Kadee gauge.  I kept the 0.015" Kadee shims.  The shim will provide a good bearing and also will allow the truck to track over vertical curves.

With these modifications the car now rides at the correct height.


SP 5199 with decals overcoated and flat finish applied - Windows still masked.

During the finial building steps after the decalling, there were some chips on the painted grab irons and stirups.  The modifications for the ride height also caused the underframe to have many rub marks and was much in need of touchup.

The interior was painted at this step as well.  I didn't have the exact color match to the US Mail's standard cream color for the mail apartment, so instead I used Tamiya Wooden Deck Tan.

Touch up work around the grab irons was done with StarBrand Dark Olive Green and I repainted the underframe again with my off-black mix.  I wanted to touch up the inside of the side sheets as well.  I put the underframe back into the body.  Using a piece of plastic card-stock to mask off the finished outer car sides I shot the black mix around the inside of the car side.  Taking the floor out again, I did some additional touch ups where the frame details masked the touchup work.

Flat Finished undrframe of SP 5199, the axle-belt electric generator will be installed later.

I also painted the trucks and wheels with the black mix.  The StarBrand paint leaves a glossy finish, so I over spray the underframe and trucks.  The Flat Finish really leaves a dead flat finish, which is not what we want for the car sides.

Many SP headend cars did weather quite heavily and would look pretty flat, this RPO was most likely repainted in late 1947 or 1948.  The car's paint then would only be 4 or 5 years old.  The car was repainted in 1954 or 1955 into TTG.  I don't want the car to look totally decrepit so.  I used Testors Wet Clear to overcoat the car sides and seal the decals.

The Wet Clear is super glossy, which is a bit more glossy that would look appropriate.  The car is basically pre-weathered by using the off-black color for the underframe and roof.  To blend the finish of the car together I dust on the flat finish to the carside by bouncing it off the spray table.  I wanted to make the car look like it's faded and flat from the road dust.  The flat finish comes about half way up the bottom side sheets of the car and then fades out as it goes up the car side back to the high gloss.

After each of the rounds of touch up and over spraying I left the car to "gas off" in the warm summer heat for a day or so.  I did check in on it every hour or two, making sure the parts were not getting too hot.  The StarBrand paint is a lacquer and doesn't need to be "baked" like enamel paints, however I do like to be sure the paint has finished nice and hard before putting down any more paint.

The Unmasking

Windows demasked looking into the RPO section from the right

With the body off I carefully started removing the masking from the pre-laser cut windows.  With the heat from the car being out in the sun drying, I think the masking also baked on too!  It was harder to get off than I remember from doing the windows on the SP 5124.  It took the better part of an hour to do.  Being VERY careful not to scratch or cut through the masking onto the clear window glass.

One window popped out during this process.  I removed its masking and then remounted it with Testors Canopy Cement from the inside with the window in place.

What's Left on the Outside

The car still needs to have the door windows mounted.  The diaphragms are also riding a bit low on the couplers.  The baggage-end coupler is sometimes fouled and will not center by the striker.  I will be fixing this issue with a small wire spring to tease the striker up toward the top of the free-play in the diaphragm, but I'll leave that for next time.

Interior Progress - CAD and 3D Printing to the Rescue?

The interior's the next major project on the car.  If interior lighting is not going to be mounted, then this portion of work really wouldn't be seen.  However as I plan to put lighting in the car, that pushes the issue of scratch building all the bag racks and letter cases for an RPO, which is a daunting task.

Current status of car's interior

I'm not really an advocate of doing **EVERYTHING** with 3D printing.  While there are amazing models being made with it, often there's a LOT of clean-up work to do.  Sheet styrene can make thinner parts and we're sure of the long term stability of styrene and ABS plastics.  I do believe there are certain times that a one-off 3D print will really make a project shine, I feel this will be one of those times.

I spent about 2-3 hours drawing up the car body and floor in quite a bit of detail.  This is critical to making following parts fit correctly.  I even modeled the styrene blocks I used to mount the body to the floor.

Pouring over the standard RPO drawings, photos of the interiors, and the video linked in my RPO page on this blog I was able to work out what the interior of a 30ft RPO Apartment should look like when it's working.  Rivarossi has made interiors for their RPO cars, however they worked only off the drawings and didn't read the fine print that says that both sides of the car had "Bag Racks" and both sides also had "Paper Boxes" along the windows.  The Bag Racks folded down off the interior wall where the windows are and the Paper Boxes were bins over the windows with a door to dump the contents of the bin into a bag suspended from hooks at the bottom of the bin when dumping the bin.  The interior of RPO cars were truly an amazing exercise in practicality and form matching function.

Additional bags and modular sorting tables could be set up on center floor stanchions to work the Bag Racks, Paper Box bins.  The center stanchions were cut 8" shorter so there was room at the letter case at the car-center end of the apartment.

In the Baggage section I drafted up the desk, stove, enclosed toilet partitions, water cooler, safe, and electric locker.  The baggage door windows and the one center-car window will be the only way to view these, so again, it doesn't have to be too fancy.

The drawings are based on plans for SP 5164 & SP 5166, but it's the only 69-BP-30 floor plans shown in the SP Passenger Cars vol.3: Head End Equipment book, so you work with what you have.  Also as mentioned in the RPO video, each route could have different setups for the sorting table, etc.  While it would be esoterically cool to be able to look up what the proper setup for the Tehachapi Mail (Nos.55 & 56) or the Owl (Nos. 57 & 58) RPO would be in 1952, I'm not going to loose any sleep over it!

I didn't bother drafting the storage mail stanchions or the RPO door dividers, those will be either made from scratch or omitted if they can't be seen from outside the car.  I do want at least something resembling the letter case as viewers might be able to see into that part of the car with the interior lighting.

Dropping the Mail

Where we're leaving it now - Left Side

Where we're leaving it now - Right Side

That covers it for Part 5.  Building SP 5199 (Part 6) will be coming along when the 3d printed interior parts arrive, probably about a month or so.  I'm sure some of you are probably ready to go "Postal" with all these posts about RPOs...  I hope to work on some other blog projects for the next few postings.

Jason Hill

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Tuesday, August 2, 2016

Building SP 5199 (Part4)

In the previous posting, Building SP 5199 Part 3, I put down the final coat of Dark Olive Green paint and decalled the car.

Today we will cover installing the Hi-Tech Diaphragms (Western Short in this case) and installing the couplers at the right spacing for close coupling.  These two steps are highly critical to the operations of a passenger car, primarily to ensure there is no fouling of the diaphragm or binding which often cause derailments.


Left-to-Right: Striker (etching), Plastic Strikers (right one with installed bellows), Bellows sprue, rubber leaf springs, etc.

Diaphragms are fitted to any passenger car in which persons must cross between while the train is in motion.  They have bellows on each side made out of rubber or heavy canvas.  A Striker plate which is designed to rub against the striker plate of adjoining cars or engine Buffer Striker.  The striker plates are sprung with leaf springs top and bottom.  Some diaphragms are also fitted with anti-rattle bars which apply spring force to the left and right edges of the diaphragm to ensure the striker doesn't pivot left and right and risk opening up a gap between the strikers, which would highly dangerous.  Often the diaphragms between two coupled cars are made safer by connecting across rubber aprons from the door frame of one car to the door frame of the other car to ensure no fingers or hands are caught in the press of the two strikers plates.

Hi-Tech's diaphragms are very nicely rendered in multiple materials.   On this car I'm using the Western Short type diaphragm kit.  Hi-Tech also offers a Common Standard profile as well.  The kit includes plastic inner striker plate, and bellows to mount to the car end and another set to mount to the striker plate.  There are rubber leaf springs.  Once the springs are glued they don't allow the striker to fall off the car.  There is also a pair of stainless steel etchings for the actual striker faces.

Partly assembled Hi-Tech Diaphragm kit.  Notice broken section at lower right.

I've installed at least a dozen of these diaphragms so far.  The particular set I pulled out for this car had some breakage on one section of the bellows.  This isn't a real problem as the break happened on a piece that will be glued together and will be plenty strong when complete... Just don't loose the parts until then!

Prior Prep Work

On my SP 5124 and SP 5069 builds I found that it's ideal on Southern Car & Foundry passenger cars to have extra clearance for the inner bellows of the Hi-Tech Diaphragms for more retraction of the bellows into the car-end while negotiating curves.  I start these modifications by marking out the area to remove with Dremal motor tool with a burr-type bit.  Burr cutters are ideal for this as they have multiple cutting knobbs and will always keep several cutting edges in contact with the work, reducing chatter.  Normal fluted endmills, even 4-fluted ones tend to chatter too much for free-handed cutting.

ALWAYS BE CAREFUL using any type of motor tool for cutting.  I always rest my forearms, palms, etc against solid objects during this operation to keep the work and motor tool steady..

Double Check that the area to remove will be enough for the "outer bellow" to still fit.

Rough milled end of car.  Some cleanup with a file and No.11 Xacto blade follows.

Small amount of filing at the top of the car end to flatten it so the bellows will fit flat and properly.  Testors Canopy Cement is used to glue the outer bellow onto the end of the body.

Assembling the Strikers

The I start by removing the diaphragm bellows from their sprues.  There are two parts; one which is a thinner part with a flat back, this mounts to the plastic striker.  The other is a full form of one scallop of folded canvas.  This glues onto the thinner part to form one-and-a-half folds of bellows on the striker part of the diaphragm assembly.  This assembly telescopes into the bellow half that is mounted to the car end.

Because of the broken thinner bellow part, I mounted it to the striker first.  Then I glued the broken fragment in place with liquid plastic glue.  Once this is done, the fracture can't be seen.  The full bellow piece is then glued on top of the thinner one.  There is a front and a back to this part.  Make sure that it sits properly into the thinner part before gluing.


There's some glossiness from the liquid glue on the back of the striker.  This will all be covered with paint later so it doesn't matter.  Notice there are two small nubs at the bottom of the plastic striker.  These are to mount the anti-rattle bars, if used.  Most of SP's older Harriman/Arch-Roof HW cars didn't have the anti-rattle bars.  A few of the diners and lounges upgraded in the late 1930s seemed to have been fitted, but it was a car-by-car basis.

The Etched Striker Plate is glued to the outer face of the plastic Striker with ACC glue.  I "painted" the etching once installed with Sharpe markers.  I generally use black (grease) and brown (rust) colored markers.  Sometimes I'll do a little bit of paint as well, but whatever you do, Don't make the striker sticky.  They must slide effortlessly on one another while going around curves, etc.  The Sharpe will tend to rub off if there's any serious contact or scraping.  Which actually looks realistic as there would be some bare metal parts of the diaphragm strikers where the friction rubbed off the rust and grease.

I trimmed a small amount, about 0.015", off the bottom of the striker bellows to ensure that they will easily fit into the car end bellow.

Mounting the Strikers

The rubber leaf springs hold the striker to the car body.  There are two ways I do this.  The Hi-Tech recommended way is to drill holes for the "legs" of the leaf springs to be mounted into the car body.  On car bodies that I can easily drill into this works.  On brass car bodies, I prefer to cut off the "legs" and ACC the rubber leaf springs directly to the car end.  Since this is a resin car body, I drilled No.61 holes at the top and bottom of the car end bellows.  I've found that I like to go slightly narrower with these holes than the instructions state.  Making them narrower will force the leaf springs out farther from the car end.  This is good on the models because it will keep the bellows from "going solid" against the end of the car body.  This is why I milled out the inner profile of the bellows on the car end several steps previously.  Also this extra space gives the diaphragms extra movement for tighter curves etc.

The upper holes are drilled just below the eave-line of the roof.  On some models there's no option but to make a pad higher on the roof line and mount the upper leaf springs higher.  The bottom holes are drilled about half way between the bottom of the car-end bellow and the bottom of the end sheet.

I always mount the diaphragms before the couplers so I can adjust the coupled length to the actual diaphragm length.

The leaf springs have a small tab which is designed to fit into the square hole in the back of the plastic striker.  Usually I ACC glue the leaf spring to the striker.  On this car with the legs still on the leaf springs, I reversed this and mounted the leaf springs to the car end first.  The trick is always mounting the second side, whichever way you have started.  I put a small drop of ACC glue on the tab and then carefully pressed it into the hole on the striker.  This is a bit trick, as it has to be done accurately the first time.

One slight problem was that when the upper leaf spring was glued it, it took a downward set.  This will cause it to sag down against the coupler.  I plan to fit a piece of phosphor-bronze wire as a spring to keep the diaphragm pulled up.

Shaking Hands... Coupler

The ideal place for the couplers to be mounted is with the inside pulling face of the knuckle fingers should be even with the face of the striker or slightly proud of it.  I do this by assembling a coupler in it's box and measuring the spacing from the center of the coupler screw mounting hole to the inside face of the coupler knuckle.

I trimmed back the centersill members and filed the remains down flat with the frame.  I don't glue the box on at this point, I expect that I will need to change the ride height of the car and the coupler still.

As seen in this photo above, the inside face of the knuckle is even with the face of the striker.  Perhaps 0.005-0.010" proud of the striker, this will allow a slight gap between the diaphragms.  Some cars will be even or slightly tight.  Keeping it slightly proud will also help when attempting to uncouple a pair of cars without a stick to pull the magnetic pin to the side.

Also per LMRC standards I rotate the uncoupling pin off about 15-20 degrees further to the side.  This will allow the car to couple to engines with pilots without fouling and causing uncouplings.

Starting the Interior & Weighing the Car

I cut a section of sheet plastic for the bulkhead between the RPO apartment and the baggage sections of the car.  I measured the distance between the two side walls as far up in the body as I could with my calipers.  Then scribe transferred this measurement to the sheet styrene with the calipers.  Next I measured up to the first step where the body narrows behind the letterboard.  I roughed out the roof contour and cut the marked bulkhead from the sheet plastic.

Bulkheads placed temporarily in the interior of the car.

Weight becomes an issue now that I'm working on the interior.  I measured the width of the floor, coming up with a width of 1.125".  Weighing the car on a postal scale at 3.4 oz., the car would need to weigh about 7 to 7.25 oz.  A quick check of brass bodied cars of equal length show at least 9 oz.  This means I need to add between 3.5 and 4 oz of lead to the car.

Styrene pads for mounting the body, can't let the weights foul these.

The weight was cut to length to provide the desired weight.  I then cut the weight in half.  It is desirable to have the weight as low as possible in the car and also over the trucks.  On some of my baggage cars I have the weight concentrated down the center floor.  However this car I plan to do more interior than most baggage cars, so I'm staying with the sheet lead and keeping it away from the various body mounting screws and pads.

Weights and RTV Silicon for mounting.

I mounted the weight halves with RTV Silicon.  Note the blue lines to keep the weight from getting too close to the coupler body securing pads.

RTV Silicon used to mount the car weights.

This is what the weights look like installed.

Weights glued in and drying.

I wanted to make the interior removable for painting and detailing.  There will also be lighting to install.  Remembering that I had glued pads into the ends and mid-sides of the body shell, I need to keep those spots clear of the extra thickness of the weights and interior parts.

Interior and weights coming together. - The holes for the screws to hold the body on are visible in the 0.015" interior floor

The interior will have the various details yet to install.  The small gusset strip styrene support the bulkhead and will form the base for the letter sorting case.

The notch in the top of the bulkhead is for the lighting installation

The preparation for the lighting has started already with the notch in the top of the bulkhead, it will be installed to have some light in both sections of the car.

Almost There...

Right side in sunlight at this point in the build.

Left side in sunlight at this point in the build.
At this point, the car's nearly done.  I could finish up the couplers, put on the glosscote and install the windows in the doors and call the car done.  However, there's still the interior detailing and the lighting that I want to finish.  In my next post in the Building SP 5199 (Part 5), I will get into the interior, lighting, and working out the coupler heights.

Jason Hill

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