Wednesday, November 14, 2018

Disguise Track Cleaning Cars (Part 1) - P2K Gondola

In this post I'm going to cover an issue that plagues many model railroads, and doubly so for operating model railroads!  Dirty Track!

A large string of gondolas and flat cars roll through Bealville at La Mesa Model Railroad Club.

The "Old Solution"

One of the long standing ways that track dirt was combated at LMRC (since I jointed in 1996) has been the use of track 'slider' cars using un-tempered Masonite, with the textured side down.  Often many modelers will drill holes, countersink, and glue a pair of nails through the Masonite pads under Athearn or other 'high sided' boxcars.

A pretty obvious "track slider" installed under NP 20107, an Accurail boxcar.

Note these pads have small knurling on one side, this actually helps accumulate the dirt and oxidation.  I've tried using smooth Masonite pads and they just skip along the top of the rails.  Cutting a few slots into them with a razor saw immediately clog when in operation.  The knurled finish seems to make a very good cleaning pad.

Over the years of operations before 'wet' track cleaning was used (always a debatable subject), the minimally 'wet' operations at LMRC resulted in pads that could almost be self-cleaning.  Evidence of this was regularly found in the form of black powder along side the rails in curves, especially at Caliente, where the rails moved on the pad, knocking excess oxidation and dirt off the pads.  This was easily vacuumed up.

After moving to 'wet' cleaning of the rails, this powder depositing stopped.  Instead we get black 'tar' catching in the frogs of the switches.  I'm interested to see if more sliders and minimal 'wet' cleaning will again return to cleaner operations and the 'dry powder' on the curves.  Time will tell.

A "New Concept" On Pads

However, I've been pushing for several years to instead use cars which already have deep carsides; such as the Daylight Triple-Unit Diner, 'fishbelly' sided flatcars and gondolas.  The trouble has always been that the nails would stick through the floors of flatcars or gondolas.

Parts for the MTH Daylight Kitchen Slider Conversion.

I started to cover the solution (SP 10250-10251-10252 Part 3 - Track Cleaning Pad) a couple of years ago with my work on a MTH Daylight Triple-Unit Diner, with the big water tank replaced with a slider pad in a 'dagger-board' trunk system (a sailboat term), which allows the pad to remain captive and float up and down on the track.

Ground-level view of SP 10259-260-261 with slider pad disguised under the right side of the kitchen unit.

The Daylight triple-unit diner does a good job of hiding the track cleaning slider pad, as seen in the photo above. 

SP 10260 with the pad catching a little bit of light.

The pad can be seen at certain angles even though it's painted black, some light will be caught on it and reveal it.

On with the Gondolas!

Starting point of  a P2K gondola and Masonite pad, rough knurled side down.

For this example I'll be showing the step-by-step installing a plain Masonite pad under a Proto2000-Walthers 52ft 6in mill gondola.  I'll be showing the same technique on several other types of cars in the future.

Checking that the Pad will Fit

I first hollowed out the underside of the P2K gondola by removing the center section of underframe, the brake cylinder mounting tab, and cutting away the crossover section of the train line pipe.

In this photo I've removed the parts listed above.  New 'bulkheads' have been installed to contain the pad.

The next step is to confirm that the pad will fit between the removed section of the underframe, in this case the pad's about 1/4" shorter than the cut away sections of the underframe.  I glued a piece of 0.020" styrene sheet, cut to fit, onto the top (smooth side) of the Masonite pad with thick ACC.  This was allowed to dry overnight.

Here's the laminated pad with the styrene top under the gondola, checking the clearances.

Next, I fabricate stripe styrene 'bulkheads' to contain the pad.  These are made out of 0.125x0.060" styrene, cut to the width of the inner edges of the sides.  Note that you'll have to cut away the trainline air pipes under these bulkheads, so that they may lay down flat on the floor of the car.  I attached the horizontal strips with ACC because of the rough detailed surface of the flooring, and the vertical strips with Tamyia liquid cement.

Forming the Containment for the Pad

The 'Trunk' was formed by two strips of 0.156x0.030" styrene cut to length between the bulkheads.  These were 'welded' in with Tamiya liquid glue down the underframe beam slots, locking them into the carbody.

Trunk installed forming a box and the pad with 'keel' glued on.

I glued a strip of 0.125x0.060" styrene on edge down the center of the pad to form the 'Keel'.  I decided for durability to keep the Keel the same length as the pad.  The operations of the pad will not be hurt by the pad sliding fore and aft in the car as it operates.  Generally the pad will stay nested to the rear during operation, one reason for the 'bulkheads' being well built and glued to the sides of the car.

Completed "Keel" (left) and "Trunk" (Right)

Notice that I cut down the corners of the bulkheads to match with the sides of the car.  Most of this will not be seen on the finished car, but it's nice not to have something hanging down that will catch the light in a bad way.

The Pad Retaining System

The next step is to make the retaining system which will keep the pad from falling out when the car is picked up.  I will use a section of 6 pound-test fishing line to secure the pad under the car body.  Note: this whole system needs to be strong enough for cleaning of the pad with a wire brush!

Guide tubes installed on the pad.

For the guides on the pad, I next cut some 3/16" long sections of 1/8" styrene tube and glued them to the top of the pad, about 1/8" in from the ends, and about 3/16" inboard from the edges of the pad.

Next, I drilled four holes in the bulkheads, approximately in-line with the tube sections on the pad.  These holes are about #65 holes, which are plenty large enough for the fishing line to be free-running.

Guide tubes installed and holes drilled.  Car masked for painting.

The car was then masked for painting of the various new cleaning components.


I used some Testors Flat Black 'rattle-can' paint to give the whole underbody between the sides and the **TOP ONLY** of the pad a coat of paint.  NOTE: Painting the BOTTOM of the pad defeats the whole reason to have it be a 'cleaning pad!'

Painting complete

Test fitting of the pad "Keel" into the "Trunk."

Rigging the Pad

The last, and sometimes trickiest step, rigging the pad under the car.

Masking removed, ready to rig!

The rigging of the fishing line is pretty simple.  It forms a loop from outside one bulkhead, through the hole, through both guides on the pad, to the hole in the bulkhead at the other end of the car.  The line is then lead across to the other side and fed to the other hole back to the other pair of guide tubes to the first bulkhead.

Fishing line fed through the bulkheads in the car and guides on the pad forming a loop.

The line is then tied off.  I used two overhand knots, which allows the knot to slide on the line, forming a noose, with which I can adjust the ride height of the pad.

Adjusting the ride height...

Make sure to adjust the ride height so that the pad will sit level on the track and can actually ride lower than the 'level' line between the wheels.  This will allow the pad to get into any 'hollows' in the trackwork and clean evenly.

Adjusting the Height

Originally my pad tended to be a bit too tight and the left end was riding up, not sitting on the rails.  A small adjustment to the line through the knot corrected the issue.  Be sure that the pad can also freely lift up 0.03-0.04" in case there are any humps in the track that the pad needs to ride over.  The last thing you want is the pad lifting one of the trucks off the rails and derailing the car!

Fishing line tied off and glued.

Once I was happy with the ride height and flexibility of the pad, I tacked the knot in place with a very small drop of ACC glue.  This will prevent the knot from sliding any more on the line, locking it in place.

Finished pad under the NKP 66031, ready for service!

Ideally the glue will not keep the line from being able to adjust in and out of the hole as the car rides on the track.  Likewise, make sure the line is not so long that the pad can become jammed under the car as it is being rerailed or the line drag and catch on trackwork while in operation.

How Obvious Is It, Really?

Let's look at this pad more on the track from 'normal viewing angles.

A slightly higher side view, the pad's there if you know to look for it...

In these shots on my workbench, the rail's not been weathered and the rest of the background isn't finished, as it would be on a layout, but everyone should be able to get the idea.

Here's a slightly higher 3/4 view.  The pad covers the side of the rail, which should be weathered dark gray or rusty anyway.

Also note, I'm using a lot of 'side lighting' on this shoot because of the black carbody.  Normally the pad does just blend into the under shadows of the car.

In this higher view, the pad really starts to blend into the shape of the 'fish-belly' side of the car.

In these three views, the effectiveness of the camouflage can be evaluated.  Having a black-bodied car also helps!

In Closing

So how many sliders could you see in a shot like this?

One of the reasons for doing this is to make a concealed cleaning pad car which will be able to operate normally during any prototype operating session or public display day and keep the layout clean.  In the LMRC Carshop Reg's for over 20 years, it is specified that each train of 30 cars MUST have a track cleaning pad car in it.  I believe over the last 15 years or so that has been left un-enforced, however with these techniques, it will not be hard to get a number of pads in operation up.  Hopefully the cleanliness of the track will improve too!

A photo of the NKP 66031 after some time running around cleaning track.  Much more than this is worth cleaning with the wire brush!

I plan to cover installation of this type of pad under several other models, to expand the locations that will be 'automatically cleaned' during normal operations.

Jason Hill

Related Articles:
SP 10250-10251-10252 (Part 3) - Track Cleaning Pad

Open Loads (Part 1) - Building a Steel Load

Monday, November 12, 2018

Open Loads (Part 3) - Deck Weathering

One thing that I would like to touch on about open loads is the treatment of the wooden decks of flatcars.  These wooden decks were exposed to the elements for years while enduring rough treatment of D-nails regularly being driven into them, and then pulled out again during the unloading process.  Various tracked loads which could self-load and unload also tended to tear up the deck while maneuvering.

NP 62109's deck with cracked, split and torn up board ends.  This is a wooden deck.

A few years ago I started on three NP flat cars.  Two were kitbashed from Tichy 40ft USRA cars, with the goal being to make two of the 52ft NP 60250-60499 cars built in 1936.  The third car is a repainted ex-CNW P2K/Walthers 53ft flat car, 300 of these cars built during WWII.

I'll be talking about how these cars have been rebuilt in a later post.  This post will focus on some deck weathering, both painted without ripping up the deck, and also these physically weathered and painted decks.

Previous Projects

Let's look briefly at some of the previous deck weathering examples I've done over the last 15-20 years.  One thing I don't like to do is exactly copy the weathering techniques onto multiple cars that will be seen side-by-side, unless they're all roughly the same era, and assigned to the same loading, which would result in more similar weathering.

SP 140195

SP 140195, an old Athearn 40ft flatcar with wood strip deck.

The first heavy deck weathering I did was on a couple of old Athearn flats many years ago, when I applied an individual wood strip deck to it, and broke out several of the boards.

PRR 925534

Next I followed with an F&C PRR F22 'Gun Flat' which I again removed a couple of boards from.  Those models will be best saved for another time.
PRR F22 'Gun Flat' by F&C (Resin)

I've done some deck weathering with paints.  Among these are several Espee Models' F-70-6/7/10 decks and some decks on kitbashed flatcars I've done over the last 10 or so years.

SP 49592

SP 49592 is an SP F-50-14 kitbashed from a couple of Tichy 40ft USRA flats.  This deck weathering is about 18 years old.

For several years I was weathering with Floquil paints and achieving various levels of weathered decks with it.  Around 2002 I moved away from Floquil and started using more acrylics to do my weathering.  I'll be covering how I'm approaching the kitbashing of these classes of SP flatcar over the next couple of years.

T&NO 24550-24649

Espee Models' F-70-7, which will become a T&NO flatcar.

I used light weathering on the deck of this F-70-7, being built in 1946-1949, these cars wouldn't be very old, so their decks shouldn't be falling apart yet.

SP 140234

Kitbashed SP F-50-16 from EspeeModels F-70-7

The SP 140234 is a great example of a minimal weathering job over the gray deck.  Some of the brown colors come from over-spray of the Freight Car Red used on the car sides.  Because these cars are only supposed to be 3-5 years old, I'm not looking for a super heavy weathering on these 'newer' cars.

SP 79934

Again, basic light deck weathering over the neutral gray plastic deck.

Again, a kitbashed Espee Models F-70-7 into one of the 130, F-70-3 class, 60ft flatcars.  This car was photographed transporting the SPNG #9 to and from Bakersfield for shopping with wooden 'rails' spiked to its deck.

Paint-Only Deck Weathering

SP F-50-series flatcar deck weathered with only paints.

The deck weathering I've done on several OwlMtModels F-50-series flatcars for publicity photos used only paints to 'weather' the decks, no physical distressing was done to the actual deck.

SPMW 1413 with Light Distressing

On this SPMW flat, I did some light scratching to aid in the paint washes highlighting the damage.

On the SPMW 1413, I did a bit more scratching to the deck so the washes and final painted weathering passes would show a bit more.

SPMW 3605 - Beat to Heck & Back Deck

The last physically distressed deck flatcar I worked on was an OwlMtModels SPMW flatcar.  During this project I wanted to experiment again and get the feel again for distressing plastic decks.  Each section of the deck I experimented with different techniques.

Early distressing of the deck and removal of two boards at the left end of the deck.

Early distressing took the form of scratching the deck with my carbide scribe, dragging a razor saw across certain parts of the deck sideways, so each tooth made a scratch.  Worse damage was caused by using the razor saw and cutting at angles along the boards to create splits and cracks, some of these were then carved on with a No.11 X-acto blade to remove chips and sections of board.

One of my newer 'favorite' techniques is using the saw to cut up and distress the ends of the boards.  This was common on flat car decks as the end-grain, despite be coated with two coats of paint when new, would still tend to split and draw additional water into the ends, causing further splitting.

Major deck sections removed, to be replaced with wood strips.

Next I weathered the deck roughly with color before putting the new wooden strips into the broken board sections.  I did this because in previous board replacement attempts, I never could quite get the natural strip-wood to match the colors and textures of the plastic/resin decks.

Strip wood broken boards added and mostly finished weathering.

In the later stages, I did some pre-painting of the strip wood replacement boards, with the same colors as used on the deck.  Doing this separately let me adjust the color to account for the wood soaking up the wash colors, and also get the color on before any ACC would 'harden' the wood to being colored.

Dusty San Joaquin Valley living at its finest, should also reflect in your weathering!

 Notice also that the deck tops of the SPMW 3605 are designed to match the 'dirt' and 'dust' colors of the Tehachapi Pass, where the 3605 has been 'living' for the last 6-8 years, at least in my mind's storyline of events. - The result will be more sun-baking and dust blowing on to deck boards, and getting washed into the boards, where as a car in wetter climates will have more water streaking and mud effects.

SPMW 3605, retired 1944, modeled as it might have appeared in 1952-53, starting with OwlMtModels 2002, F-50-5 kit.

Additionally, I decided to try some additional distressing experiments in the middle of the car with the razor saw at extremely low angles to the deck.  Basically shaving off a slice of the boards.  This caused some very interesting effects.

While I enjoyed working on the extreme damage examples where boards are completely missing, cars in revenue service wouldn't be allowed to get 'that bad', because of safety issues for both trainmen and men loading and unloading the cars.  Many flatcars in museums today have decks that are twisted and warped so badly I wouldn't even want to try standing on them, also many boards are broken too!

I actually tend to like the weathering I was able to do in the plastic areas of the deck more than the extreme damage.  I feel the deck of the SPMW 3605 is one of those 'extreme' examples, one which generally shouldn't be used very often.  The deck effects in the middle are more typical of the 'rough' decks that I'd expect to see in regular service cars.

Turning a New Splinter

In September, I went to San Jose to visit with TSG Multimedia and film a "How-To" video on building and weathering lumber loads.  I'll be using many of the same techniques here, but with different - more weathered colors.  Enjoy watching the video, it hopefully will help seeing some of the techniques I'm describing here as well.  I'll probably do a blog on some other lumber loads I'm working on soon.

On to the NP Flats

On the NP cars, I want to experiment more with this moderately rough deck techniques.  More examples of chipped boards, but without the whole board missing.

The starting point for this project before the physical distressing started.

These three cars give an example of three starting points: The NP 62109 is in the foreground with a repeatedly weathered and repainted deck, currently mostly black with a misted layer of Krylon 'Almond' sprayed on.  The 60430 in the middle has been weathered with my usual painting techniques and some places are wearing through to the neutral gray plastic.  Finally, in the background is an un-numbered NP 52ft flat with its natural neutral gray plastic deck, and only a bit of over-spray black on a few boards.

My basic tools, razor saw, No.77 X-acto blade, carbide scribe, small file, and two cheap Michael's craft brushes (the ones with glitter in the handles)

My tools for these projects are very simple.  The more unique being the carbide scribe, which is a machinist's tool, and the razor saw, which is VERY SHARP.  The No.11 blade should also be sharp enough to easily carve the plastic decks with easy control, and not slip and skip along the top of the deck - which can be very dangerous to fingers and such.

Apple Barrel acrylic craft paints from Walmart, less than $10 of paint in this shot total.
On the deck below I used Apple Barrel Paints: Pavement (for the darkest gray), with lighter colors coming from: Sunkissed Peach, Light Mocha, Khaki, and Territorial Beige.  It's handy to have White available also to bleach out the colors and be able to to make more neutral gray colors again.

Basic Paint-Only Weathering

The unpainted deck after several minutes with only three colors of paint.

The deck painting is pretty simple, I'm using the paints with a bit of distilled water to help keep it thin and able to have the pigments adjusted by the brushes until I'm happy with them.  Remember to set the model aside for an hour or so to let the layers your happy with dry before doing anything with scrubbing actions that might tend to lift off the previous layers.

Final washes of black or dark gray offer a way to highlight the board edges.  This deck is meant to show a 'graying deck' but not one that's fully cracking or chipping.  Remember to wait around a day or so for full drying of the acrylics before doing anything with washes, which could still lift off older laters.

There's a certain point with the acrylic paints that I find a happy medium working it, where the paint's not sloppy wet, and it's not too dry.  Often 'dry brushing' with acrylics can quickly lead to putting paint down that dries hard before it can be properly blended out.  To help combat this I'll lay down some water on the model before putting any paint to the model, that way as the paint goes on it forms a mixture of dry brushing and a wash. - It's very hard to describe, but it works well.  On the drying side of things, remember also that acrylics have a point where they 'cook off' and will set.  The wet shine of the paint and water will start going flat, showing that it's dried.  As this happens you have about 5-10 seconds to choose if an area you're still working with the brush is good, or if you need to work it more.

If it's good, *STOP!*  Let that area dry and finish curing.

If there's anything you don't like... a water mark especially, Get water on it **NOW**, before it 'cooks' and locks the defect into the finish.  Once the 'cooking' starts (polymerizing of the paint into longer strands and sheets), the only option is to hit it with water (or alcohol) and rub it back off in larger sections with a paper towel.  This often results in a challenge to be able to blend the later weathering back into the original parts that don't come off.

Physical Distressed & Painted Weathering

Much of the 'fuzz' on this deck is from the razor saw dragging across it.

On the NP 60430, I used my razor saw techniques and some additional work with the scribe to make smaller scratches.

Highlighted here are the chipped ends of the boards and some splintering of the mid-deck boards as well.

On the NP 60430, I didn't really use a lot of carving with the No.11 blade, which I did on the NP 62109 (P2K car) below.  Same basic shot, but with different lighting to show effects.

Basic overview of the distress to the deck of NP 62109.

The largest damage is in near the center of the car with a large cracked section of a board missing.  This could happen when a board fractured, then became loose, and was discarded.  The missing section does not extend through the deck, but only a couple of inches, which the low angle light shows better in the photo below.

A more yellow low-angle lighting of the same deck.

Several other gouges along the edges of the boards exist around the deck.  Some of those are made with the razor saw at low angles to create an overhanging ledge.  Then the No.11 blade is used to carve it and remove some of the resulting splinters.

Here's another darker image of the deck.  Notice the chipped and cracked ends of the deck boards.

Given that the deck of the WWII built NP flatcar is going on 8-9 years old, assuming I'm modeling 1952-53 with this car, with a reweigh date of 1950.  This deck's getting toward the point there may be some replacement boards coming in the next 3-4 years.

Detailed view of the damage to the boards.

In the photo above, the scribe marks are visible, along with the carved No.11 splinters taken off, and some of the saw work making the damaged board ends.  The painting effects were a mix of paint for the basic color, then washes to get darker colors down into the scribes, and finally small amounts of dry brushing to highlight the splinters and physically higher details resulting from the physical distress made on the deck.

In Conclusion

A lower angle view of the NP 62109's deck.

The NP 62109 will now go through final detailing repair (grab irons, stirrups, brake wheel, etc) before returning to service in the new paint scheme.

An OwlMtModels 3001 "Wide" Lumber Load partly completed, the deck damage is still visible between the lumber stacks.

I'll be talking about Lumber Loads soon, so here's a teaser using the NP 62109...

Jason Hill

Related Articles:

Open Loads (Part 1) - Building Steel Loads from Scratch - And Operations of Loads.

Open Loads (Part 2) - Lumber in Boxcars - A concept for the odd 'open door' boxcar load.

Modeling an MOW Supply Train (Part 1) - Overview of Supply Train Consist and Operations.

Two Years of Blogging - Reflections - Links to previous and future blogging ideas.