The Terracotta Army: Assembly-line construction of CP ore cars.

The Terracotta Army is a collection of clay models representing the armies of the first Emperor of China, and dates back to around the 3rd Century B.C.  It is comprised of over 8000 soldiers,100 chariots, and around 700 horses, not to mention a bevy of non-military characters.  I’m told that to witness these models in formation renders the viewer awestruck by their magnitude, which is part of the military strategy the Emperor pursued with his real army.

This massive collection of models required a great deal of labour to construct.  When the stock of artists among the citizenry proved insufficient, a crew of workers was hired.  It soon became apparent that a project so grand demanded some efficiencies in construction if it was ever to be completed.  Assembly of the model soldiers was broken down into sub-assemblies that were manufactured elsewhere and brought together with other relevant parts, creating a single soldier from a torso, arms, head, and weaponry.  They were essentially kits that were, in may ways, outshone by individual sculpted works created by one artists through the painstaking and relentless application of talent.  What the soldiers of the Terracotta Army lack in individual refinement (not to imply that one would be unimpressed by a single statue) is redeemed by their collective impact: they resemble an intimidating and seemingly endless procession of armed men.

I think of this analogy when I imagine the goals of the club I belong to.  We strive to carefully compress the complexity and immensity of a real railway system into a space that is manageable for a few people to build and operate.  I was attracted to this club for this specific reason.  I’m a fan of this approach to building model trains, but I could never, in my lifetime, amass the knowledge and skill necessary to pull it off by myself.  In fact, I’d go so far as to say that I wouldn’t be involved in the hobby if I couldn’t be part of an organization that is doing what we do.

We’ve selected the Canadian Pacific in and around Sudbury as our “army” to model in HO scale instead of clay, and in so doing, we’ve challenged ourselves to the very limit of our abilities.

To effectively model the resource industries served by CP in Sudbury we often confront the obstacle of not having the appropriate models available to represent the equipment.  In one instance, we needed 40 nickel ore cars that were unique in appearance to anything commercially available.

Jurgen Kleylein took the photo.  A larger version of it can be found here, on Chris van der Heide’s database Canadian Freight Railcar Gallery.  The welded, drop-bottom ore cars were built by Hawker-Siddeley in 1970 and were numbered from 375500 to 375699.

Members of the club were able to pool their collective energy and ability to research the prototype.  Claire at Sylvan Models put together a resin kit which we promptly bought in large quantities.

When I joined the WRMRC about a year ago, I took up the task of bringing the Crean Hill mine online, along with other scenes adjacent to this one on the layout.  I decided to help build some of the ore cars required for this mine operation.

The kit is typical of most resin kits in that it takes some time and effort to put together.  Once I had built one of them, I realized that it was going to take a very long time for all of these cars to get built, especially if they were being built one at a time by different people.  I decided to build five a time, but soon after I was given ten more to work on.

I’m going to document the construction of these cars in a group.  It’s a bit of a misnomer to describe this as an assembly-line.  Really, I’ve broken the construction sequence into specific steps that are undertaken on each car.   But the steps contribute to streamlining the construction process in the same way that an assembly line works.  I’ve managed to save some construction time because I’ve developed an understanding of the way the kit was designed to be put together.  Each step in the construction sequence involves the same tools and the same operation, which isn’t a big deal when you’re building one or two cars, but amounts to significant saving of time when you’re building fifteen of them.

I’ll add entries as this project progresses.  Expect this process to take quite a long time to finish!

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