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

Saturday, September 29, 2018

A scratchbuilt gondola

With the end of summer I’ve needed some simpler projects, and went back to the collection of cars built by James Trout to do some gentle cleaning.

One of the first that caught my eye was this gondola. It is lettered for his West Coast Lines (West Coast Southern) and on a brief glance you would think it is a Schorr gondola. It is of a similar or the same prototype, but is actually scratchbuilt in brass with a wood floor. In the photos the car is with a Schorr gondola for comparison.

The Trout car is completely hand lettered with his steady artist hand. The new/built date is 10/38 and may or may not reflect when the model was built.

It is hard to be sure but I believe that his prototype is the car in the upper portion of page 120 of the Model Railroader Cyclopedia (I’m looking at the 1944 edition). The car depicted is a 45’ long Erie 70 ton all-steel gondola. The end details match the drawings well on the Trout car and also the side panels are the same spacing and size. The rivets were all impressed by hand into the brass sides, with the vertical pieces between the panels neatly formed and soldered into place.

In comparison, the Schorr car is 42’ long with the same types of details pressed into the ends and sides. It may just be of a different prototype, the end panels are different, but it is interesting how they are largely the same but the Schorr car is smaller in every dimension -- as if it is slightly underscale relative to the full scale size of the Trout model. The top view shows this pretty clearly. Seeing them together really makes me wonder it the Japanese makers of the Schorr car built it slightly too small.

The only commercial parts on the Trout model are visible in the bottom view, Schorr trucks (which may not be original to the car, judging on the new and too long screws) and a Nason brake cylinder. And also the plastic, Kadee style couplers of which one is broken. Subsequent to the building of the car those were added. I will be replacing those with a fresh pair of Kadee couplers to return the car to operable condition.

My cleaning was very gentle with only a Q-tip and water. I really don’t want to lose any lettering! I’m not sure what happened to the basic paint, if it is an issue with the original application, some effect from storage, or if he meant it to look weathered. In any case, now the car has a weathered look and it is an extremely interesting car to see in comparison to the Schorr import.

Sunday, September 9, 2018

An HO Arch Bar Truck Conversion

One thing you need on train cars are trucks. Bill Gilbert has been focusing on building a fleet of 19th century cars lately, and with a truck shortage came up with an interesting conversion.

What he noted was, to quote him, “the Mantua HO arch bar trucks with the steam engine have a sheet metal bolster that can be flattened out with pliers.” You would do this just enough to put widened out HO 36” wheelsets in the frames. “They are short (4’-6”) vs (5’-0”) but look good under the short tender.”

As he noted, the wheelbase is short on these Mantua/Tyco trucks but it is a decent stand in, and I think better than another possible substitute, On3 trucks. I tried to arrange the trucks in the photo to show the bolsters and side frames. These are not yet modified for OO and I’ll be sending them to Bill.

The best though I still think are Sn3 conversion trucks, the PBL trucks being a little pricy but they roll and look good, worth the effort. More on those here.