Canadian Mill Gondolas – Part 2

In this post, I’ll continue from the previous post in this series where I described the history of the CP and TH&B mill gondolas I’m building in HO scale.

TH&B 70 ton mill gondola 2495 in Aberdeen Yard on October 15th 1988. his car was servicable at the time of scrapping which occurred at United Steel Metals in Hamilton, ON on April 6, 1989. Lance Brown photo.

TH&B 70 ton mill gondola 2495 in Aberdeen Yard on October 15th 1988. This car was serviceable at the time of its scrapping, which occurred at United Steel Metals in Hamilton, ON on April 6, 1989. Lance Brown photo.

Having established that there are no suitable models for these Canadian built cars In HO scale, the old Proto 2000 52’6″ drop end mill gondola will serve as a stand-in because it matches the overall dimensions of the Canadian cars, despite the fact that it falls short of representing the Canadian built cars.  The P2K kit was purportedly based on a car built by the Greenville Car Company for the Erie Railroad in the 40s  [if anyone has a prototype photo they’d be willing to share, send it to me and I’ll insert it into this post].  I’ll use this model as a stand-in until something accurate comes along.

P2K gondola box

I considered bashing this model into an accurate representation of the TH&B and CP cars.  In my estimation, the process of removing and then replacing details worked out to be nearly as much work as scratch building.  All of the ribs would have to be removed and replaced in different locations with ribs of a different cross section, the entirety of both ends of the TH&B cars would need to come off and reconstructed, and all of the tie downs would also need to be reconfigured.  I still have plenty of other projects on the go that require a great deal of my time (cough, ore cars, cough), so in the interest of getting a few cars up and running quickly, I decided to follow the lead of my colleagues at the WRMRC. They’ve been doing one simple modification to the P2K kit to bring it a step closer to representing a Canadian prototype, and perhaps more importantly, to set it apart from the gondolas in our fleet that are from American roads.

Notice that the P2K kit has sloped side sills, just like the Canadian cars.  The slope on the P2K car spans the distance between the 2nd and 4th rib from each end.  The slope on the Canadian cars only spans the distance between the 2nd and 3rd ribs from each end. The modification that was shown to me by the WRMRC guys involves slicing the bottom of the sill between the second rib from each end.  The sill now looks more like the Canadian cars.

There are still major discrepancies between the model and the prototype, not the least of which include the incorrect number of ribs and their spacing, and the shape of each rib.  I agree with my friends who’ve already done this modification; this work represents the threshold beyond which it becomes a major reworking of the model.  In the photo below, taken after the slicing of the sill, you can see that the slope spans only one panel between two ribs.

Sliced Sill

I had three of these P2K cars cars on hand.  I had already assembled one of them years ago.  This one was factory painted TH&B.  Two others were still unassembled and factory painted in Canadian Pacific with script lettering.  One additional car that was an abandoned work-in-progress was given to me when I was almost finished the first three.  I decided to keep the factory paint on the TH&B car.  The TH&B scheme on the car is an accurate representation of a car that was repainted since delivery from National Steel Car.

The two CP cars needed to have their factory paint stripped.  The CP script lettering that the model came with was applied to new cars for a relatively short period of time by the original builders long after these cars gondolas were built.  The script scheme was never applied by in-house car shops crews at CP.  Therefore, these gondolas painted in script lettering were either non-existent, or extremely rare.  I wanted mine to be in block lettering because the vast majority of the prototype cars, if not all, were painted this way.

Once I had stripped the two CP cars, I used a low powered soldering iron to heat the plastic.  I used a variety of small metal tools with rounded surfaces and edges to push the soft plastic outward from the inside in order to create dents in the sides of all three cars.  With the soldering iron clamped in place, I heated the plastic on each individual panel by placing the model close to the soldering iron, being careful to never let it touch the plastic.  Alternating between the inside and the outside of the car helped to soften the plastic enough that I was able to push the metal tool onto the plastic panel from inside.  Once I was satisfied with the damage, I painted both of the newly stripped cars with black and shot them with gloss coat to prep the surface for decals.

CP gondolas ready for decals (2)CP gondolas ready for decals

I used Black Cat Publishing’s HO decal set BC129 for the CP cars.  These are excellent decals to work with, and the artwork is superb.  Unfortunately, I didn’t take any shots of the cars with fresh decals on them.  Once the lettering was applied on the CP cars, I proceeded to assemble them.  Before I got too far into the assembly, I painted and weathered the floors with a variety of commercial weathering powders, and some that I made from artist pastels by sanding them and collecting the dust.  I had to work with the TH&B car in its assembled state, which required some masking of the insides in order to weather the wooden floors differently from the metal sides, but the process and techniques were otherwise the same.  Here are the two floors just prior to being glued into the CP cars.

IMG_1628 IMG_1627

Once the cars were assembled, I experimented with a variety of techniques for weathering.  The TH&B car was done only with weathering chalks and very subtle airbrushing.  The CP cars were done with a combination of artist oils, weathering chalks, and airbrushing.   In the next post in this series, I’ll show you how the TH&B car turned out.


12 thoughts on “Canadian Mill Gondolas – Part 2

  1. Sorry if I let the cat out of the bag. I got the impression you were going to use something else other than the P2K car at first. Maybe I can go back and delete my previous post…

    I agree that the P2K car is the most reasonable stand-in for now. I would really love to see a proper model of a Canadian gon come out though, since there are still a large number of detail discrepancies with this conversion. The biggest is the number and placement of the ribs on the side. In another example of “we just gotta be different, eh,” all riveted 52′ gondolas built in Canada I’ve seen have 13 ribs down the side, while American cars have 14. This is not something which is extremely obvious, but it does cause problems with lettering placement with certain paint schemes, most particularly Algoma Central.

    I like the battered sides effort you are making. It’s a difficult job, but just about every gon over a few years old from that era starts looking that way. I think an enterprising manufacturer should make gons with pre-battered sides–they just don’t look right otherwise.


    • No worries about the loose cat. The whole idea for this series is based on the cars you and the rest of the guys have already done, so the cat was out of the bag long before I decided to write it up as a blog post.

      Here’s a thought: maybe we can convince someone to take the body casting from one unbuilt kit and modify it for a CP car. Then we find someone to crank out a bunch of a resin duplicates of that part. We can use the parts from P2K kits with the new resin body casting to make a fleet of correct CP cars. Actually, we’d need a CP version and a TH&B fixed end version. 🙂

    • As tricky as it is to properly batter a car, I have to side against manufacturers making pre-battered or pre-weathered cars. Then you end up with dozens of cars all with the exact same dents, and if you’re modeling a period when the cars are actually new you can’t un-batter them.

  2. Hunter,

    I’ll echo Jurgen’s comments about the sides- they look very good. And it is very difficult to do this withour either making a mess or making the damage too severe. I’m in the process of finishing the same model but lettered for my home road and I elected to skip this step on this one. We’ll see how it looks when its finished. I’ve “battered” the sides on previous gon projects and I’m curious to see just how different they look from non-battered once the weathering is complete.

    Tom Patterson

    • Thanks for the compliments on the battering 🙂 I treated this whole project as an experiment and it was successful in that I learned a few things. The soldering iron I used is 22 watts. It takes a great deal of time to soften the plastic sufficiently to be deflected. The benefit is that, short of touching the iron to the plastic, I was less likely to have the battering get out of hand. I probably spent almost two hours bashing up each car. I’m going to do more of the CP cars once I get my hands on a few more P2K kits. I’ll try using a more powerful soldering iron (unless I manage to come up with something entirely different.

      • Applying more heat can be dangerous. The problem is that if the ribs get too hot they may distort in an unrealistic way, so keeping the heat away from them is important. If the entire side gets too warm, you may find everything “pulls” in one direction or another, based on how the plastic was originally injected into the mould. Slow and steady is a good approach.

  3. Erie definitely had these, and so did others. Here’s the ERIE car: (and these of course later became EL, and some Conrail)

    Here’s a couple more cars that pretty much exactly match the model:

    Bethlehem Steel also built cars to the same basic design, and variations thereof:

    This BLE car may be either a Greenville or a Bethlehem version.

    Similarly, the Canadian cars were built to identical designs by NSC and ECC. (to each other, not to the GSC/BSC pattern.)

  4. I had a bunch of these lettered for CP in block that I’ve gotten rid of when I saw the pilot for Rapido’s new car. The only ones I kept were two that I milled the sides off and rebuilt new ribs with Evergreen Styrene and Archer rivets. Your comment about the script cars is not exactly true, since I used to see plenty of script gons at the Paris gravel pits. I’ve ordered two six packs from Rapido. The reason I need so many is all the gravel pits on the LE&N used lots of these cars and triple offset hoppers. 90% of the online traffic generated was from these gravel pits in 1953.

    • Thanks for sharing your real-world knowledge of these cars Roger. I appreciate the details.

      Like you, I probably would have sold these three cars already, but they’re in the rolling stock fleet at the WRMRC and we need them until their replacements arrive from Rapido. We’re putting together a pretty big purchase of these cars for the club.

      I’d love to see those two cars that you rebuilt with new ribs and rivets.

    • Hi Roger:

      You may well have seen script 52 foot gons in Paris, but I expect that you will find that they were welded cars built in the 60s. I’ve never seen a riveted car with script lettering, and I don’t think CP ever made any stencils for lettering a car that way. It was a case of too much work for old beat-up cars when the old block lettering was a lot easier to apply. The script cars came from the factory that way; CP didn’t have any qualms about making the manufacturers jump through hoops they weren’t willing to jump through themselves.

      There may have been a handful hand-painted to evaluate the script scheme on the riveted cars, but I’ve never seen a photo of one.


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