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Discussion Starter #161
Athearn Tank Car
This is another pre-plastic Athearn kit. I’d intended to build it earlier but of course it was missing the instructions. Fortunately Hoseeker had the instructions so I printed them out. They are more reminiscent of plastic model instructions, well-illustrated with close ups of the places where life is a bit more complicated.
This is an all metal kit, with the tank made of stamped tin in four pieces with stencils and the rest cast. Apparently they used Zamac because several of the pieces suffered from Zamac cancer. Worst is the bolsters, they are damaged and missing chunks. In this case there was enough metal there to use.
The frame did not have Zamac cancer but it was warped. There are a few pieces missing but nothing I can’t replace.
Otherwise this is a nice kit. Little glue needed and much of it held together with screws and metal tabs. I couldn’t get the straps right (a problem with most old tank cars) because they are supposed to end in holes in the bolsters but the bolsters are damaged. The straps are too far apart and uneven. Also I put a block of wood under the brake wheel because it wouldn’t stay vertical otherwise.
I imagine when it was first produced this would have made a nice car, but because of the Zamac cancer I can’t recommend it. I’ve included a picture of three contemporary tank cars, the center one is Silver Streak and the three dome is Crown.
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Discussion Starter #163
Silver Streak Reefer

I pulled this car (‘SP-UP DOUBLE HEAD HERALD REFRIGERATOR SS 405 PRICE $2.60’) out of the bottom of my to-do pile and have no recollection where or when I got it. This has to be one of the oldest Silver Streak kits I’ve seen based on the box art, it’s as crude as I’ve seen. The car has 11-47 date on the sides so the kit must be later than that.

Anyway the first thing I noticed when I opened the box was the smell, it reminded me of a used book store, not one of those run by Aunt Betty in a strip mall with a section of romance paperbacks bigger than all the rest of the books combined but one of those stores in an ancient building downtown full of old hardbound atlases, encyclopedias and autobiographies by Julius Caesar.

The next thing I noticed was a chip missing out of the corner of the roof. Fortunately while I emptied the box I found it and glued it back in place. In addition to the loose larger parts (originally held together with a rubber band long since gone to brittle) the box had a bunch of labelled envelopes with descriptions of what they held: working ice hatches, brake parts, door hardware etc. The wood sides and ends were painted (must match the brown…). Happily this kit included all the parts and the instructions, a rare occurrence.

The instructions are typical for Silver Streak, with nicely done line drawings of the assembly process and cogent advice on the back in all caps, including the admonition “YOU HAVE BOUGHT THE FINEST KIT ON THE HO MARKET DON’T RUIN YOUR MODEL WITH SLOPPY WORKMANSHIP.”

The kit follows the normal frame made of roof, floor and end blocks. The instructions want you to start by building the frame, but I’ve found it’s easier to put all the underside detail in before you start with the walls and roof as the kit doesn’t sit flat when upside down on the roof. This kit has the brake pipe snaking through the bolsters, fish plates and cross bearers and adjusting the wire so it goes through all the holes and grooves takes some patience and care. Also, the top of the fishplate casting isn’t 90 degrees and the interlock with the cross bearers is sloppy so I put spacers in between the plates and clamped another in at the bottom while the glue set.

The roof ribs are stamped metal, probably steel because they rusted badly. I wire-brushed them and used them anyway, after all they don’t move and will be under paint. There’s a nice hole that marks the center and ensures the rib doesn’t crumple when you bend it over the crown of the roof. The ice hatches had the most flash in the kit, some busy work with a knife and file is necessary here.

The wood roof is warped. I didn’t notice until I fitted the sides. Can’t see anything to do about it at this point. The ends provided were cardstock with embossed plank slats and painted boxcar red. I thought it would look neat to paint all the end hardware black but once I finished I was unhappy with the aesthetics and repainted everything boxcar red. At least it all matches now.

I ended up having to cut off parts of the brake system because the rods interfered with the trucks. Not the first time for that. I ran out of trucks so put an old set on that doesn’t roll very well until the new ones come in the mail.

This was the best Silver Streak kit I have built. It is in sharp contrast to the Zamac-ridden newer kits. It was a joy to build and I’m pleased with the results and look forward to building more this age, if I can find any.
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Discussion Starter #164
Timberline Warehouse

As already mentioned I am trying to make my layout look a little less like a football field. While trolling about on epay looking for a stock yard kit made of wood I ran across this kit “Timberline II Single Run Kits 2 Story Brick Warehouse 1004-2495”. I hadn’t thought of a warehouse but it had a railroad siding and I can put wagons at the truck bay just as easily as trucks. It looked interesting and challenging so I bought it.

The kit consists of a bunch of wood and cardboard pieces with a couple sheets of vacuum-packed castings, mostly windows and doors. The instructions are 6 pages: four full-sized side views of the building from each direction, one an exploded view of the construction and a sheet of written instructions. The kit includes the interior for the office, something I’m going to save for a roundhouse I plan on scratch building with clear plastic roofs so it will need a full interior.
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Bricks

I’ve always had issues making bricks look right. This kit has embossed paper sheets to glue over the cardboard sides. Before I started painting them I pulled up a couple you tube videos on how to paint brick. The first one from the UK showed how to paint a cut stone tunnel entrance, apparently stone blocks are called bricks there? The second used laser-cut wood pieces with flat fronts and decent grooves. Neither was at all helpful for my material. Embossed brick is rounded along all the edges the bricks are very small.

The instructions recommended ‘oil crayons’ so I went to the local craft store and found ‘oil pastels’. Not sure if they are the same thing or not. Then I picked a shade of grey out of the paint drawer that turned out to be too green and too dark and painted all the paper, then went over the paper with the pastels, gently so not to fill in the crevasses. The results were terrible. There was too much green-grey and not enough brick color, and the crayon never dried.

I went ahead and started with construction, at the same time trying to figure out a way to clean up the mess. Painting a wash over the brick smeared it, and I doubted painting over it would stick over the crayon. Finally I tried spraying on a white wash and that made the brick look – not good but not totally embarrassing.
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Windows and Doors

After adding the brick to the sides you get to install the windows and doors. The castings have the window frames around them but interestingly for this kit the frames go on the inside of the building. This changes the appearance of the building significantly, and I think is an interesting way to use the castings in different ways. In order to hide the cardboard the instructions were very clear during the gluing stage that you slice the brick vertically through the window openings then fold it inside the building. That gives the sides of the window frame a brick pattern. It’s a good idea in theory.

In practice the paper isn’t perfectly locked into the cardboard and of course, the printed holes aren’t the right size for the windows. End result is I had to cut the cardboard behind the paper, scrape out the cardboard then refold the paper. Also many of the windows I had to stuff the brick back behind the frame or cut it off after installation with more or less success. Once they were installed though they really look sharp, or would if the window holes are cut perfectly even..

Once you glue all the walls and floors together it really starts to look like a building. One thing that occurs at this point is how easy it would be to add a complete interior. The floors are already there, as is the elevator shaft and office furniture. Install a light kit, paint the floor and walls, a few stacks of random crates plus maybe a couple flat car loads and you’d have a nice highlight for a layout. There enough large windows that people would be able to peek inside and see the detail.
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One of the neat things about buildings like this out of wood and cardboard is that all the details have to be done individually. Unlike plastic where everything is molded on and waiting for a coat of paint the window sills, wall caps, roof lines etc are all added piecemeal and the building’s appearance changes noticeably with each addition.

The office is just like the rest of the building but smaller, other than the interior that I didn’t install. At this point I gave thought to where I’d install the building. I found a roughly triangular area on the layout formed by track, an extra switch later and there’s a siding ready for use. (The switch was originally remote operated but I cross wired the track and it melted the guts of the switch. In this location I’m going to need a remote switch, will have to invest in that…)

After all that detail work on the building the platforms are relatively simple, just frame the floorboards, glue on the verticals and attach to the building. I ended up adding diagonal supports extending from the bottom of the building to the outside edge of the walkway to give them more support. In that position someone would have to get to within an inch of the ground to see them. The posts under the platforms are not square but I couldn’t figure out how to lock them in place so they’ll be wobbly regardless.

The hand rails are hard to get straight and even, especially the longest one along the back side. Also I glued them, perhaps soldering would have been a better choice but I’m not good at it.

And there you have it. This was a challenging kit to build that was well-thought out in terms of detail and layout. The bricks proved to be an issue but overall a good project. I’ve ordered the materials for the diorama and when they come in it will be finished, but in the meantime here’s the first carloads arriving at the “Edwards Mining Equipment Company.”
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Murv2:
Wow, nice job!
I really like that structure!
Looks great!
 

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My old buddy just died and I inherited some of his unopened HO kits. I have a Silver Streak Caboose kit , Southern Pacific. It looks all there. I believe everything can be fixed and if a part is left out or warped lets make a new one. We grew up building a layout back around 1960 and one buddy wanted a bay window caboose. There wasn't one on the market at that time so we went down to the S P yard and measured one top to bottom. This guy built two from scratch and they are beautiful.
 

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Discussion Starter #170
Comet Reefer Kit

I picked this kit in a lot and it came in an Athearn blue box, so I wasn’t sure who manufactured it. The instructions didn’t have the logo on it, only signed by Fred Schlieng. The only clue was a note under the first paragraph “Use Comet cement for best results.” I just happen to have another Comet kit and it looks the same, so There you have it. The other Comet kit is a Hormel reefer so I won’t have two of the same cars.

This is your typical wood-frame roof, bottom and two ends with sides stuck on later. There are wood sides plus embossed cardstock with the side decoration printed on, and embossed cardstock ends and hatches expected to be painted. This car is marked American Refrigerator Transit Co with a 1924 build date.

The underside only has a chunk of wood down the centerline and the brake cylinder turned out of wood, no other detail. I added a few ribs to help reinforce the sides where they project below the bottom block of wood. The center sill will have to be checked to make sure it doesn’t block the trucks and coupler pockets. Trucks and couplers are not provided and the only picture shows a cast metal coupler, so modern couplers will take some care fitting. The coupler height is just right.

One of the things I noticed about older kits is that the wood isn’t cut as uniformly as modern bass wood. It gets fatter and thinner and is often tapered. Obviously manufacturing techniques have improved since the 40’s. Also, this kit is cruder than even the early Silver Streak reefer I reviewed recently. It’s especially evident in the ice hatches and ladders.

So there you have it, a halfway decent kit for the era but not as high quality as others. I plan on finishing the other Comet reefer but will stay away from them in future in preference to other manufacturers. I do hope to try a different kind of car from them when the opportunity avails.
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Discussion Starter #172
Red Ball Bunk Car

I already built a Red Ball kit, the rotary snowplow and I thought it well done, so when the opportunity presented itself to pick up another I couldn’t resist. This one is “Special Car No. 1 Bunk Car”.

The instructions are mostly text with a half dozen diagrams showing the important elements. Well written and fairly comprehensive, I wish the had measurements for the length and location of a couple things like the smoke stack and grabirons.

It looks a lot like a fancy old boxcar kit and basically it is. Standard wood roof, floor, end blocks. One nice thing about this kit is the number of castings. It has enough that you don’t actually have to add weights. Also, the coupler pockets are just the right height. The included trucks are not modern but roll fairly well. There was a bit of rust on them.

The floor and sides of this kit are embossed cardstock. Oddly, the holes for the doors and windows are rounded at the corners and have to be cut to fit. The floor isn’t really even needed, the screens on the windows ensure no one can see inside the car. The sides are black and unmarked, and after some thought (and routing around in google images) I decided to leave it black and unmarked. The instructions didn’t have a road name and there were no decals.

The car came together nicely but I screwed up the painting. I didn’t have any flat black so used ‘Velvet Black’ then flatcoated it. The flatcoat went grey and even the second coat didn’t help. So I guess it’s going to be faded by the sun. The car has some nice screen windows that scream to be drybrushed with rust.

Anyway a neat kit and one that will be joining my maintenance of way train. I look forward to getting more Red Ball kits.
(Forgot the before picture)
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Discussion Starter #173
Athearn Flatcar

I had the good fortune to pick up 8 old wood and metal Athearn freight car kits at less than half the usual price but when I got them in the mail there was something odd about them. First the package was a plastic bag instead of a yellow box. Second the package said Athearn on the front but G. F. Menzies Co. on the back. I did a little research (googled the internet) and found that Athearn sold off their metal line in the 60’s and this company made them for a while. I got a total of 8 cars, almost all different and look forward to building them.

This one is “HO ATHEARN METAL LINE HO FLAT CARS A-605 50’ UNION PACIFIC”. The instructions were copies of the old Athearn instructions, signed B. E. Danielsen and dated 10/53. They were clear and well illustrated, but terse.

First, this kit has riveted narrow coupler pockets. I crammed the springs in for this one and am not happy with that. Next car I’ll use a Dremel and grind down the sides of the pocket a bit. Also there was some flash that had to be filed off the mouth. They were the right height.

The stake pockets are stamped on a single strip of tin and go into square holes in the sides but are just a smidge too close together so when you try to stick them in the first one fits and they progressively get more misaligned. I ended up cutting them in threes and fours, may have been better to do each one individually. I used pins instead of toothpicks to hold them in place while inserting the inner tin sheet so they are rounder rather than squarer. If you want to add stakes you’ll probably need to file down the wood deck.

There are a bunch of pre-bent grab irons in this kit that go in holes stamped in the outside cover then bent on the inside to hold in place. Unfortunately there’s a sharp angle on them that broke almost every time I tried to fold the inside over and I ended up making new grab irons out of gardening wire. Also the grab irons hold the corner steps in place.

Underneath: The cast frame lacks any brake equipment, not really something anyone will miss and gluing it together makes assembly easier but isn’t required. The trucks are shiny plastic and the bushing and spring you are expected to use seems an unnecessary embellishment, especially since the screw is too short for the spring. I ended up using a thin bushing from a Kadee coupler kit instead. The washer underneath turns out to be needed to separate the truck from the surface detail on the frame.

Because the sides are pre-painted I intended not to paint this kit but the gardening wire is green and the brake wheel just doesn’t look right as bare metal. Next flatcar I’ll paint the stake pockets too. I stained the wood deck just to darken it up a bit. The sides are pre-painted and stenciled. The text is readable but not sharp.

Overall a nice quick-build kit, not too much work and comes out pretty sharp. That’s a good thing because I’ve got seven more just like it. I think a boxcar next…
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Discussion Starter #174
Athearn-G.F. Menzies Boxcar

After finishing one of the Menzies flatcars I figured a boxcar would be a cinch, but boy was I wrong! This kit, “A-193 SANTA FE SUPER CHIEF” only has one chunk of wood (floor) and more tin than a tomato can. The pieces fit together poorly and construction includes trying to hold a piece inside the car over the trucks with a finger stuck through the door then screwing in a screw that is too short with a head too small for a standard replacement while holding the rest of the car together with a pinkie.

A great deal of force had to be used to assemble this car. The shell is held together with four rivets sticking down from the roof walk (one was bent and broke when I tried to straighten it, had to drill a hole for a screw) and the rivets pass through the roof, ‘W’ plate, car body and end stamps then through a block of zamac. This all flexes and of course when you pound the rivet it ruins the paint on the roof walk.

Speaking of paint, I think this kit expects you to hand paint everything because there is simply no way to partially assemble the kit then paint everything but the sides. I ended up building up the underside and adding the roof ribs, spray painting everything (Scalecoat flat boxcar red is a perfect match) then assembling and touching up (fortunately I have both hand and spraypaint for that color).

In addition to the broken rivet the grabirons were easily broken and had to be replaced. Of course the wire used got in the way of all that tin and getting the end caps on was problematic. Also half the wire pieces they said to push into the wood were misaligned in one tin sheet or another and had to be cut and glued in place or ended up bent and nasty looking.

So overall, not a great kit and I don’t recommend them just because they are difficult rather than complicated. The good news is I checked the rest of the kits and they have the usual wood roof and ends, so I expect they will be more like the Southern boxcar than this one.
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