main category for rolling stock

HOn3 Mogul

When building dioramas, I sometimes want locomotives in the scene – an example being my roundhouse diorama.

These days, I can obtain some very fine loco models … “cheap” being in the hundred or two dollar range; better quality in the $300 and up range.

Can’t see spending the type of money necessary to have 5 engines on a static display. Nor being able to sell same even at cost.

I would love to see “cheaper” static models such as the apparently now-defunct “Derelict Shay” or “Derelict C-16” (although I see that model offered by Wiseman in On3).

I have a 3D resin printer … use it!

So I did.

Knowing it best to not show how the sausage is made, I continue on my merry way on not only the path less travelled, but occasionally proceeding where there is no path through thickets and hedgerows …

Here’s how I made the sausage:

The laser printer is relatively new; it had been well tuned in for one type of resin but that resin proved unsuitable. Working on this project is the first real pass with a new resin recipe. The end result of this recipe is a structure which may be drilled and sanded. However, the printer is capable of features small enough to be very fragile when separating the model from the process support structures.

For no particular reason, I selected a narrow gauge 2-6-0 Mogul type engine loosely based on the “Glenbrook”. The actual engine has been restored and is operational; I recall first seeing it stuffed and mounted outside the Carson City Mint many, many moons ago.



“Loosely based” … and intended as a background model as well. Many finer details are omitted.

So let’s see what I ended up with.

So … in tuning in the recipe at the same time as refining the CAD model results in several “missed-it-by-that-much” results.

Eventually, I got all the pieces to fit together well-enough to produce a “1st Draft”.

Paint was slapped on just to get a “flavor” of the end product. The boiler spent some time under a saw exhaust.

A model suitable for wa-a-ay in the background … behind the closed doors of a storage shed perhaps.

But it served its purpose from an engineering point of view

A few iterations later … and a marginally better paint job

I’m thinking of offering this as a kit. These are the parts as currently defined. One might call this a final draft; ready for beta testing. I need to find a moderately skilled railroad modeller that can attempt to put this engine together as a kit so that I can work the “user-end” bugs out.

Perhaps in the $60-$75 range … Unpainted.


Tichy Ore Cars

Although there no specific protype, this particular model is based on “turn-of-the-century” iron ore cars of the Lake Superior railroads. there’s no reason to believe these cars weren’t used for precious metal ores – the Virginia & Truckee used similar cars in the late 1860s.

I like these Tichy models; I wish their cars models included truss-rod era.

The kit includes these two cars; I have another set in the pipeline.


Athearn Stock Cars

Part of a grab bag at a garage sale. Although not “contest quality”, the quality of this model is suitable for the majority of model railroads and these dioramas.

The only changes were the couplers and some paint. The lower board on the door is white; the floor is white with weathering representing the condition of the floor of a stock car. It is assumed a lime wash is used to clean the cars. There should be additional lime staining on the lower sides of the car.

I had an “as-it-came” version for comparison. The differences are more noticeable “in-person”


Accucraft Fowler Boxcar

Just outside my main era but within my outer limits. First developed for Canadian railroads in 1908, they were built between 1909 and 1914 and some saw service into the 1970s. These would be new cars in my modeling world.

I didn’t modify this model other than a bit of paint on the roofwalk and trucks. I’m of Canadian descent (the “old country”) and the Grand Trunk ran through the town I grew up in.


LaBelle Flat

While my preference for rolling stock for dioramas is “RTR”, there is a better selection available as kits. I had built a number of LaBelle wood kits in the past; I went ahead and ordered the “2-in-1 Flat Car Kit”. The 2 cars are identical except for length

The provided road names … which I won’t apply. I’m building “generic” rather than follow a specific prototype

Two LaBelle cars from my near-scrap line. I forget how long I’ve been carrying these around … no later than 1992 and maybe 10 years earlier …

[The new version (HO-50-06) costs $30 (the flat cars cost $26)]

These two might be salvageable … later.


Anyway, back to the new kit.

Not too much here. I bought the trucks from LaBelle (could have bought direct from Kadee, but why not support the smaller business?)

Everything unpacked. I bought truck sets; I have a number of Kadee #5 couplers which will be used.

First page of instructions.

Can’t say I’m sure what Step 4 is telling me – but it’ll become obvious. [later note: No, it didn’t. I placed the queenposts where the plans indicated. No holes drilled … but I didn’t place underframe brake linkage]


Steps 1, 2, & 3 completed. Put Step 4 aside for the time.  I’m changing the construction order because I wish to do the tie rods differently than the instructions state. I need to get the under-frame configured before I work on the top side.
Here, the end sills are being placed.

Now the side sills

 *  *  *  *  *

I use a piece of 1/4″ plate glass as a build surface. Here I use 220 sandpaper with a 1-2-3 block to sand the sills flat and normal to the deck.


Before parts get attached a base color needs to be applied. These being wood cars, the base color is a light brown: “Fawn” in this instance. This is applied more as a stain than paint. 2 drops of Fawn diluted with 4 eyedroppers of water. This represents “new” wood – additional staining will be applied.

After the first wash set up, a brown/black alcohol mix was applied

A black wash was applied, then the queen post mounted – with epoxy; this should be a strong attachment.

I think another blackish wash or two, a touch-up of Dark Rust on the queenposts, then the truss rods need to be applied.

 *  *  *  *  *

Stringing rods …

I varied from the directions a bit. I drilled holes through the sub-floor in the proper locations but strung each rod individuly. Using the provided nylon line (I often use fishing line), I strung a turnbuckle then passed each end through theb proper hole. Clamped with hemostats, weights were applied to pull the strings tight. A hair dryer was use to soften the lines before glue applied. Superglue was used at first, then epoxy overlaid while still weighted down. Another shot with the hairdryer, then left alone for a while

Both cars trussed up

One might notice the air reservoirs were not placed. That could be appropriate given the supposed age (in my mind) of these cars, but it was an oversight and was corrected.

Before additional detail is added (and paint applied), the trucks should be mounted to protect the finer details.

 *  *  *  *  *

Now I recall a problem I’ve had with these kits – the bolsters are too low. Here I jury-rigged some scrap into shims. two of these cars are from the “RIP line” – they are at least 30 years old and have never had feet. It’s time to finish these two cars as well

and if I really get into car repair, I’m going to check my inventory of trucks and couplers. Later.

Couplers and trucks mounted and on their feet at last. Time for paint and details

What color  … ? Brownish-red (or reddish brown) is “typical” in the model world – possibly because of the remnants of the D&RGW?

I have one flat car in yellow …Gray brings to mind “maintenance”. Blue maybe, but a darker blue that what I have in “color” inventory.

So, a shade of reddish-brown it is. Within my last paint shipment was a “sample” color. No color defined, not able to find it on the company web site. I figure it was experimental out for beta testing. The color is a bit off from Flat Red and Red Iron Oxide, so I find it suitable for providing “variation in the same color”

The first coat of paint is applied. A bit thinned but more pigment than a stain. Details will be added: stirrups, brake wheel, maybe side pockets? Though not all prototype flats of my intended era had them and the Tichy models do. So these won’t.

I hadn’t paid attention to my limited color stock. I’ve been mostly working with chalks except for specific colors (not shown on my paint strip) like various rusts, blacks, and the like. I’d like a deeper, less bluish green and a darker blue. Maybe some darker yellows.

In the future …

Grandt Line Flat Car – Beginning Steps

Contents of the primary bag of parts

Drill holes, file down flash

The first steps are to clean out the semi-pre-drilled holes. #72 & #78 are recommended; I use one size larger: #71 and #77.

The two frames halves are glued together.

The bolsters are notched; this makes it easier to make sure everything lines up. once laid out, weights are used to hold everything in place and straight MEK is used to weld the styrene pieces

Notice the bolsters weren’t glued onto the frame just yet. The (presumed)wooden frame is painted “Mahogany Brown”; the deck – top and bottom – is painted “Fawn”. The bolsters – cast iron? – are black.

Once the paint dries, the bolsters are glued in place. The “trainline” is bent into shape – a bit of length needs to be cut off – and will be placed as directed after being painted “Dark Rust”

Tichy Flat Cars

Looking at the prices on some of my old boxes, I can understand why I get flummoxed at the prices. I could use some “cheap” engines and cars – say old Roundhouse quality.

First of all, there ain’t no such thing no more … furthermore, ain’t no such thing as cheap no more neither.

But then, cheap is relative.

I need models as display elements, not contest entries (though there are some beauts in that category …). So poking around the trade magazines and wundernet, I found a set of 6 flat cars sold by Tichy Train Group for $85 – just over $14 each – including trucks. That’s cheap these days.

“Early” for these cars is 1917 – a few years beyond my time period of about 1880-1915. However, for the most part, pre-1920 will fit most of my scenes. This is a story about building these flat cars though.

Delrin trucks (with screws) are provided; couplers are not. Swapping out trucks would not be difficult but I’m not going to do it – at least not on this one.

These are standard gauge cars, Kadee #5s are the go-to couplers for standard gauge (running) cars.

Opening the box …

Bless the saints, the grab irons are pre-formed
This is a pretty straight-forward kit – no truss rods to string up and fewer “connecting” rods

Each car is bagged separately – this is the contents of one bag. Each pair of trucks is packed separately; metal parts – wire, grab irons,  and such – are packed together

The instructions can be boiled down to three parts: deck and outer frame, center beam and brake hardware, finer details.

Looks to be a quick build … let’s get to it.

 *  *  *  *  *

I didn’t record every step – this is a straight-forward fairly easy model.

The first thing is to prepare the undercarriage. The end sills and bolsters have been painted and added to the deck. Sandstone, Dark Rust, and Red Iron Oxide are the colors used here. The wheels are made of black Delrin – the wheels were painted Dark Rust, the treads Oily Steel. This car is not intended for layout use.

A few more assembly steps gets me to here. I had misplaced the stake pockets and brake gear; I snuck into one of the other 5 model packages and left an IOU for the parts I need for this assembly.

Then I found the parts intended for this model.

The stake pockets are in place. Not shown – the sides fit!

At this point, all that remains of assembly are the grab irons and brake wheel mechanism. I hold off on that until last – I can still place the car flat upside down.

Since I choose to use the metal grab irons rather than the plastic ones, I need to drill holes. The instructions recommend a #80 bit – I’ve had so much trouble fitting grab irons, I used a bit 2 sizes larger – #78

The holes on the sides penetrated the side rails OK but the end sills had the holes lined up with the edge of the deck. I needed to trim the length a bit on these; the grab irons on the sides went through and were glued from the inside.

 *  *  *  *  *

So a little more of this and that – adding the brake wheel and touch up work mostly – and I end up with the finished model. The sides are press-fit in place – The car will mostly be used as a flat but there may be occasions where sides are desired. The next Tichy build (5 more to go) will be “the other” configuration.

An enjoyable build; wish they built truss-rod versions (along with a wood boxcar).

Could be a future modification project …

Junkbox Flat Car

There are two types of rolling stock: those pieces which can handle moderate handling and those that shouldn’t even be touched during construction. Building dioramas requires some “junker” stock; engines and cars which may be handled a fair bit between scenes.

Problem is – the days of relatively high-quality, low cost cars such as those once produced by Roundhouse and others are long gone. Roundhouse went out of business, Athearn bought the model dies and a limited number of the Roundhouse “Old-Timer” line are still available … mostly boxcars. Geopolitical supply line issues? Limited demand? They cost about $35 each these days. Most of the available models are now geared to the “contest-quality” market. A good thing but the construction effort and fragility make them unsuitable for the projects I present here although I may use them as display props.

Such high-end models will not be sold along with dioramas unless special arrangements are made.

I was digging through some old boxes my brother had in storage and found the remnants of someone’s old HO set. Most of the stuff was damaged beyond repair effort, much was of little interest to me. I don’t know anyone who would be interested – so off to the (real) junk heap. After scavenging a few items.

*  *  *  *  *

Like this wasted flatcar. I didn’t think to take a “before” picture; this is “almost before”. It wasn’t in this good a shape when I first saw it.

Stripped down to “parts” – not much here.

Tone down the “plastic yellow” with “Yellow Ochre”; give the deck a “wood” look, change the couplers, a bit of work on the trucks, and fix the brake wheel. Quite acceptable for the purpose intended … eventually to be mounted on a diorama of some sort I suspect, but a “fit-test” and photography model car for now.

Grandt Flat Car Build

 This kit’s been sitting a while …

 Doesn’t look like much … the manufacturer suggests this “not a difficult kit”.

 First page of instructions

 HOn3 Archbar trucks; Kadee couplers (not shown) will also be used

 The not-quite complete gondola. Not a pretty build – probably designated to “test car”. The undercarriage is identical to the flat car’s.

Let the build begin.

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