The online magazine on the history and operation of vintage scale model trains in American OO gauge

Saturday, April 14, 2018

Castings! Part VI, the Nason Cast Boxcar

Since last summer I have been working on a project to reproduce a couple of uncommon, classic American OO models in resin castings. In the previous installment of the series (here), both of the cars are seen before painting and lacking some decals. The first models completed with decals are two Nason cast boxcars.

In this first photo the comparison is between an original Nason sand cast aluminum boxcar and my reproduction. Visually there is hardly any difference, with probably a slight edge for the reproduction car (in the rear), as the sides are a bit smoother. They are assembled in the same manner, with screws and pins. Also, you would say there is hardly any difference if you were holding both in your hands, as I weighted the resin cast copy to the exact same weight as the original, they feel the same. Both are riding on Nason trucks and have Kadee couplers; they look great as a pair on the layout.

I should note the decals, I used parts of two Microscale HO sets, the PENNSYLVANIA is from a 50’ boxcar set and makes the decal job work visually. The ladders are Eastern parts.

In the second photo we get to the comparison of the Nason model to a Lionel model, decorated similarly. Of the two, the Lionel model is the better one in a variety of ways, better details, etc. I think the doors on the Nason model are more effective looking, the Lionel doors are relatively toy like, but on the other hand I wish I had a roof walk for the Nason car that did not have holes drilled in it. (The only original I could find had the countersunk holes. Of course, I could replace them with wood parts, and I might opt for that on subsequent cars.)

What got me started on this part of the casting project was I had parts for 1.5 aluminum Nason boxcars. I wanted to build them up, and I should this summer finish up the half car with reproduction parts -- and will have a few extra sets of parts when this is all done if someone else out there is crazy enough to build a few up.

For me in general there is a division between cars intended for the layout and cars that are part of the collection. These are honestly on the borderline between the two groups of models. I like how they look and operate, they give a little more variety to the layout, but they do have a bit of a rougher look in the end.

Coming soon – quad hoppers, the conclusion of this series!

Wednesday, April 4, 2018

Cleaning up Sand-Cast Parts

One material used for many pre-war American OO models, especially locomotives, is sand-cast bronze.

As implied by the terms used, the mold used to make the part is actually packed sand, which leaves a characteristic rough finish on the finished parts. The process is described further in this article.

In addition, bronze is not at all a soft material. The only way to clean the surface up is by sanding it. To achieve a very fine finish you will have to sand the model with multiple grades of wet or dry sandpaper, working your way down from rough to fine grades. However, the tip of this post is for your initial sanding do as much of it as you can with your part safely in a bench vice and strips of belt sander sandpaper.

I picked up this tip from a natural horn maker. What is great about the belt sander strip is it is very strong and you can sand the part relatively quickly and vigorously using both hands. For curved surfaces such as the end of the Scale-Craft 4-6-2 tender seen in the photo the sander strip is ideal. Also, you can tear it into thin but strong strips for hard to reach places.

Some areas of course you cannot reach in this manner, which means you will have to use files, small sanding blocks, etc. A perfect finish can be obtained, but it will be slow going.

When I see sand cast parts that come to me all cleaned up (especially with tapped holes!), I know and respect the effort it took back on some cold winter’s night before the internet.