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

Monday, June 24, 2019

An idea for making a better caboose cupola

One vintage American OO model you rarely see is the Graceline caboose. I have two that were built up really well (more here!) but they were not built up in the standard manner. But then an example with no cupola appeared on eBay and appealed to me, as I knew I had the comprestic (cardboard) parts to make a cupola for it. I could at least fix it, and if it turned out well maybe it would become a car for one of my roads.

The car arrives, and I finally get started a few days ago. One thing I learned was that if you cut out the parts exactly as laid out by Graceline the two ends of the cupola are slightly different, and they don't match the pitch of the roof! Maybe a part of why this car was not made for long....

Having dealt with those issues, I still needed a roof, and then also the cupola to be nice and square and solid.

Exhibit "A" is the one of my original examples on the left in the photo, that builder was good! Somehow he glued it all together really clean and solid with windows and handrails on the top.

What I wanted was some sort of inner frame to support the sides and roof,  and then an idea occurred. What if I took a Tyco HO cupola (the type on their big modern caboose that is essentially OO scale, more here) and cut out everything that would be visible behind the Graceline parts, and use the roof too?

The cut up cupola is seen in the first photo and this second photo shows the cupola with the Graceline parts sitting with the frame/roof.

Where this is a great thing as I could easily substitute scribed plastic siding material for the vintage sides and use this to form a cupola on other models.

I have other caboose projects stalled, in particular a Hawk caboose that someone started and abandoned. I've never seen one of those built up. My thinking was to upgrade the siding with plastic material, and with the cupola idea there to help with that critical part I might get to this model sometime soon.

Friday, June 21, 2019

Progress on the Shapeways GP20 and FA

Progress has been slow on projects for several months, but finally some progress is visible on my Shapeways Alco FA (more here) and GP20 (more here).

Progress, as in both are now ready for paint. The biggest single project was making the handrails. I opted finally to use soft 22 gauge wire for the railings and, on the GP20, to use Athearn HO handrail stanchions.

A tip being you have to use the tip of a scraper to begin the location of the hole (as you would with drilling in metal), and with my motor tool in the drill press I use the slowest speed. Another tip is pull the wire straight by putting one end in a bench vice and pulling with pliers.

Laying it all out took some time, and little compromises had to be made due to the way the bodies were made. Such as the GP20 was made with two Fireman's sides (!), each side is a mirror image so the area behind the cab in the side in the photo is incorrect. I did make a few modifications of details that stuck out that were practical to modify, most notably to the GP20. There was an extra bulge from the middle fan and an extra knob on the hood, I got rid of the ditch lights, and most notably I modified fuel tank area and the ends of the frame near the steps. The ends of the frame had extra material not seen in the prototype photos, and I opted to use fuel tanks modified from HO TYCO fuel tanks rather than what was on the body as produced. Oh, and I wish I could lower the bottom step! It would be quite a jump down for the crew.

Another compromise to mention on the FA is that the bottom end of the handrails should be attached lower, but there was no practical way to duplicate that. On both engines I used Athearn horns.

The bottom view shows a few more details of the build. One is that the FA fuel tank was hanging too low as produced, I cut it off and have mounted it to the body higher, with screws. Also note that both engines are dummies. I was going to power the GP20, but was missing some key parts and these models are so light these make great dummy locomotives. So for now the GP20 has my last spare pair of Kemtron GP trucks (it may get switched out to Schorr trucks, depending on needs), and the FA has a pair of Schorr RS-2 trucks.

And of course I made a frame for the GP20 out of thick aluminum stock. All that is lacking right now is paint and couplers. I have some ideas to test on painting, I'm hoping to better overcome the grainy finish, and I'll report on those in a future post. The FA came with unusable truck side frames that I'm going to use for painting experiments.

UPDATE: The finished GP20 is here

AND: The finished FA is here