Ore Cars Part 18 – Poorly designed Kato trucks

The members at the club advised me that the Kato Barber S-2 70 ton truck is the preferred option my ore car project.  These particular trucks feature roller bearing faces that actually rotate with the wheels.  A few of the members pooled their resources and bought the 16 pairs of trucks I needed for this project, so I set about readying them for the cars that they would eventually be mounted beneath.


These are supremely smooth rolling trucks, and the detail is outstanding.  As I went through them to install the roller bearing caps and prep them for paint and weathering, I discovered that they didn’t conform to NMRA standards.  The gauge on all of the wheel sets was uniformly too tight.


A simple opposing twist of the wheels slides the wheels  outward from each other, but then things got a bit complicated.


These trucks are not designed with needle ends that fit into conical impressions in the back of the truck frame, like standard old-school plastic trucks.  In order to get the animated affect of the roller bearings, Kato designed the axles with a finely machined race just inboard from the ends of each axle.  The race snaps into the plastic truck sideframe from underneath and the roller bearing caps fit onto the ends of the axles.  Kato gets extremely smooth performance out of this approach.

However, when the wheel sets are pulled into gauge, too much friction is created between the inner edge of the race and the side frame.  The trucks roll very poorly when set to the NMRA standard, and some sets would not roll at all.  This would be great for modelling cars with the hand brakes applied, but otherwise it looked like we might have to return them and find another solution.

Before I completely threw in the towel on these, I found that if I set the wheels to be at the very minimum to meet the NMRA standard, the trucks still roll well. The adjustment had to be very precise, because if I set them even the tiniest bit too wide, they wouldn’t spin when they were mounted.  In the photo above, you might notice that this wheelset is set as tight as it can be and still conform to the standard.  For those of you keeping score, that’s 16 cars or 32 trucks, or 64 wheelsets.

They don’t roll as nicely as they did when they came out of the box, but they still roll well.  Anyone using flextrack and commercial switches on any kind of “normal” layout would probably never have a problem with using these trucks straight out of the box.  But our layout is anything but normal.  The magnitude of what what we’re undertaking pushes everything to the extreme.  We wear out and rebuild model locomotives that would serve the typical hobbyist a lifetime without any kind of failure, so we’re quite disciplined at adhering to standards.

In the end, we decided that we could use the Kato trucks as long as each wheel set was very precisely tuned to be in gauge and still roll reasonably well.  You can see that they are very nice models of the Barber S-2, so I’m pleased that it worked out.



Ore Cars Step 17 – Action Red

I shot all of the cars with a coat of True Line Trains CP Action Red and moved them from my work bench to the club.  The rest of the work will take place there, so I’m going to store them in the Crean Hill Mine scene while they’re being finished.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAObviously, the scene is still very much a work in progress.  Back in September, I started a series of posts that give an overview of this part of the layout (all of those posts are under the “Copper Cliff” category on the side bar).  I managed to connect the spur track that comes off the Webbwood Subdivision at the Victoria Mine Switch some time ago.  The spur comes off the Webbwood at the far east end of the shelf with the Nairn scene, just above this shelf.  Jurgen started to work on the loader and then got sidetracked by dozens of other projects, but these shots give a bit of an overview of what’s happening there, and how these ore cars fit into the operation.

Ore Cars Step 16 – Wire grabs

The last step in the assembly of these ore cars takes place on the ends, and is another very finicky part of the project.  Both ends of the car have an angled grab iron in the bottom right corner, and at the same corner there are two grabs that wrap around from the end to the side of the car.  Because the floor on these cars is rather high, and because workers had to walk to the end of the car to manually open the doors in the floor, a pair of U-shaped safety bars extend down from the last cross rib.  There is also a handrail from the sides into the centre of the car.  And, of course, there is a coupler lift bar at each end.  Some of that detail is visible in this shot by Jurgen Kleylein.

Here ares some shots of the first model I finished.

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I put this first car together late one evening, and then took a closer look at a number of photos of these cars on the Canadian Freight Car Gallery site, only to discover that the configuration of end grabs on these cars varies a bit.  The photos show the cars after they’ve been reconfigured to work with a rotary dumper, and by that time some of them might have had repairs and modifications to the grabs as well.  The kit has dimples for the grab iron locations as you see in my photos, which are probably accurate for the car or cars that the kit was modelled after, but does not represent the car in its as-built condition.

All of the corner grabs have to bent by hand, so I built a jig and used .012″ brass wire for these. I found it too difficult to work with steel wire, but your mileage may vary. This step in the process involved many evenings of patient bending and fitting using my home-made jig, a variety of small metal brakes and pliers, and the help of a magnifying visor.

The car in the photos above is going to stay in the configuration its in.   It will have to represent a car that had some damage and was quickly repaired at the Sudbury car shops.  I’ll get a detailed shot of one of cars with the as-built grab irons and post it later.

The next step is pretty simple: paint.

I had promised to post a photo of the “as-built” end grab irons.  Here it is…


Ore Cars Step 15 – Mechanical Brake Parts

In the previous post, I described how I built the air brake components for the ore cars.  In this installment, I’ll describe how I represented the moving parts of the brake system on each car.

There are many moving parts in a freight car braking system.  The kit greatly simplifies everything to incorporate only the largest parts.  The floor of these ore cars sits very high and leaves the space between the trucks visible, so some brake parts are necessary.  I think the parts included with the kit amount to an appropriate level of detail, so that’s how I proceeded.

The two largest visible moving parts of the brake system are the cylinder lever and the fulcrumed lever.  Basically, the brake cylinder moves a lever that balances across the slack adjuster.  The slack adjuster runs down the middle of the car between the two levers.  On the real car, this part is a bit bigger because it has mechanism that adjusts for wear on the brake shoes.  The movement on the opposite side of the cylinder lever moves a rod that transfers movement to the linkages in the “B” truck.  Incidentally, the brake wheel is attached by rods and chains to pull on the cylinder end of this lever, manually actuating the brake mechanism.

At the “A” end of the car, the fulcrumed lever pivots on one end and moves the rods connected to the brakes in the “A” truck.  The slack adjuster mounts at roughly the middle of the fulcrumed lever.

I started by drilling out the marked hole in both levers with a #80 drill. I didn’t drill out the holes in the ends of the levers because the cast-in dimples were not close enough to the middle to prevent the drill bit from creating an open slot instead of a hole.

Again, to help hold onto the parts, I left them connected together on the resin sheet. Once they were drilled and cut from the sheet, I stockpiled them, sorted by size (the brake cylinder lever is longer).

On the real ore cars, these levers move within a channel suspended beneath the car.  This is represented by scale 18″ wire grab irons.  I marked the locations for three of these on the center beam with drafting dividers and drilled them out with a #80 drill.  I made an  .080 inch thick spacer by laminating two pieces of styrene.  This helped to keep the parts evenly off-set from the center beam.  The image below shows the spacer in place for clarity.

After I’d glued the wire parts, I went back through the assembly line and glued the clevis directly onto the end of the brake cylinder, and then glued each of levers into their corresponding guides.  It’s not really clear, but in this shot, the brake cylinder lever is in place.

In the next shot, you can see both levers have been glued in place.

With the levers in place, I measured and cut a piece of .015″ steel wire to represent the slack adjuster.  I used two pieces of .015″ brass wire to represent the rods that go to the “B” truck and the brake wheel.  In the next image, you can see the finished product.

You’ll notice in the above photo that I chose not to include the rod that goes from the fulcrumed lever to the “A” truck.  This part ends up between the wheels of the truck and when the car is finished, and is not at all visible when the car sits right-side-up. This and the train air line are two things I omitted, but they could easily be included.  I chose to cut some corners at this step because I doubted how much these two details would contribute to the overall appearance of the finished car.

I’ll move on to the corner grab irons and some other wire details next time.

Ore Cars Step 14 – Air Brake Equipment and Piping

Having already built one pilot model, I knew that this step was going to take a while.  Three major components of the air brake system are represented on the model.  These are the triple valve, the brake cylinder, and the air reservoir.  Each of these components is assembled from two or three very small resin parts.  I have to question the wisdom of designing the kit this way.

I suppose that casting these parts in resin was likely done to keep the cost of the kit down.  On close inspection, these parts look blobby and vague when compared to the quality of injection moulded styrene detail parts.  If I was only building a relatively small fleet for a home layout, say fifteen cars or less, I might opt to buy styrene parts.  In fact, I had to substitute some Details Associates and Cal Scale parts on one ore car because some of the small brake parts had come loose from the resin sheet and were lost at some point in the distant past.

Our club has to eventually roster fifty of these cars, so building these fifteen ore cars with injection moulded styrene parts with more detail than the other thirty five doesn’t make much sense.  Nor does it make sense to improve the detail on all fifty cars, despite the much simplified assembly that injection moulded parts would afford.  I guess I’m whining a bit because it took so long to build parts that are passable in a large fleet, but don’t provide stellar detail.  I’ll get on with it now.

The three components are: cylinder, reservoir, and triple-valve.  The brake cylinder is comprised of three parts: the body, a cone on the end where the shaft comes out, and a dish on the opposite end.  The reservoir has four parts: two halves of the tank, and two L brackets to secure it to the frame of the car.  The triple-valve is cast in two parts: one that comprises about 3/4 of the part, and curiously, a tiny piece that gets glued onto one end.  When comparing the part to photos of the prototype, the triple valve looks more accurate without the addition of the little bit on the end.  As in most instances when I’ve been confronted with opportunities to make the car more accurate, I built the car the with the parts provided in order to simplify construction and make the fleet  fifty cars consistent.  Around a dozen of these cars were built at some point in the past, and I won’t be building the remaining unbuilt kits at our club, so that’s a something that I needed to consider when making a decision at a moment like this.

Before the nine parts for these three components could be removed from the resin sheet and cleaned of flash, I drilled #76 holes to anchor the air pipes that would be added later.  The triple valve got three holes on the side facing inward, the reservoir got two holes on the side facing inward, and the brake cylinder got one hole in the end that looks like a dish.  There are dimples to guide the bit in the reservoir.  The holes in the back of the cylinder and the triple valve go where they seem most appropriate.  After they were all drilled, I removed them from their sheets, cleaned off the flash, sorted them into piles, and assembled each component in turn.

After the tedious process of assembling the components, I glued one of each to all fifteen cars.  That step in the sequence went more quickly.

There is probably an easier way to measure and bend the piping that goes between these components, but I approached it in a way that was easiest for me, given the tools and materials I prefer to use.  I don’t have details of the actual routing of any of these pipes, but I think that what I came up with is a suitable representation of a network of air brake lines, based on drawings I have of other types of cars.

There are three pieces of air pipe that I built from .015″ brass wire: two that go between the reservoir and the triple valve, and one between the triple valve and the brake cylinder.  The prototype car has more piping than this, but in keeping with the underlying goal of building this fleet cars like a terracotta army, I settled on representing these three important air lines.

I built one master for each pipe by trial and error.  When I was satisfied that I had come up with something that was workable, I wrote down the dimensions of the sections between the bends.  I unfolded the wire to measure its straight length and then chopped up fifteen similar pieces.

The first pipe that I built is the shorter of two pipes between the triple valve and the reservoir.  Through trial and error, I determined that I wanted to build a z-shaped pipe with right angles.  The overall length of that pipe is .800 inches.

I used a grab iron bending tool that is marked in thousandths of an inch to bend all of the pipes the same way.  I made the first bend .350″ from the end.  I made the next bend .450″ along from the first one.

I had to adjust the fit of the pipe to each individual car.  There is some variation in the location of the three brake components on each car because there are no guide pins to locate the parts precisely, and there are limits to the precision of my skills to located them in a “freehand” way.

After I’d installed this first pipe to each car, I repeated the process for the pipe that runs more-or-less beside this one.  This second pipe measured exactly 1 inch long overall.  The first bend was done at .250″ and the second bend was done at .450″ from the previous bend. I made fifteen duplicate parts this way.  Again, this pipe fit a bit differently on each car, but starting with the basic part already bent saved a great deal of time.

The third pipe goes from the flat side of the brake cylinder to the triple valve.  This pipe is so short that it was a simple matter of cutting it from scraps left over from making the masters of the first two pipes.

In the next step, I’ll install the moving parts that include the clevis and the various rods and levers that transfer the movement of the brake wheel and the brake cylinder to the brake shoes on the trucks.