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.

IMG_1464 IMG_1465 IMG_1466 IMG_1467 IMG_1468 IMG_1469 IMG_1471

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…


TH&B 70 Ton Hoppers Part 4

When a set of TH&B decals made by Aberdeen Car Shops grabbed my attention last summer, I decided I should extricate a pair of Stewart 70 ton hoppers from a plastic bin under the basement stairs.  With the help of Lance Brown and his archives of TH&B historical documents, I established the purpose and routing for these cars on the WRMRC.  It was time to build up the models.

Surely, someone like ExactRail or Tangent will produce a model of a 70 ton hopper that meets the current standards of detail that we’ve come to expect from ready-to-run models in 2013.  Until that time, we have to settle for the Stewart model of the same car.  The Stewart model represents and excellent overall rendition of the TH&B cars, but the cast-on grab irons leave much to be desired.  There is very little work left for the modeller bring the car up to the standards of commercially available models.   However, as crude as the details appear on this model, it provides the modeller with an economical path to amass a large fleet of hoppers.  A large layout with a hundred ExactRail hoppers would be a considerably larger investment a population of Stewart hoppers.  I doubt I would undertake these improvements if I had to build a hundred cars.  The stock Stewart car would have to suffice.

My models represent two of about four cars that will be required for slime service on the WRMRC, so I have no reservations about changing out the cast-on grab irons.  The most tedious part of this relatively easy project was the removal of the grabs.  A chisel blade and some patience rendered the car entirely denuded of a variety of cast-on detail.

A Stewart 70 ton hopper before the removal of its details.

A Stewart 70 ton hopper before the removal of its details.


The grab irons and brake wheel details need to be removed.


Here, both cars have had grab irons, stirrups, and roping anchors removed.


The overall dimensions and panel details are quite nice on the Stewart model. Oddly, they neglected to address this casting post in the centre of the hopper. A chisel blade cleans this up nicely.


The process I used to locate the holes for wire grabs was to first cut the cast-on rivets, leaving a clear location for each hole.  I’d lightly ream the location, then drill holes.  After all the drilling was finished, I removed the rest of the grab iron detail.  Once the details were removed, I used some 1200 and 1500 grit sandpaper to smooth out the areas where I’d worked.  This shows the progress at the b-end of both cars. Grab irons were custom bent for the ends. Those are 18″ grabs. The side grabs are stock Details Associates parts. Brake parts have yet to be added.


Similar to the b-end, the a-end of each car has hand-bent grabs on the ends and Details Associates parts on the sides. The various handrails on the end sills and between the end posts needed to be bent to fit.

Once the wire details were in place, the weight of the car needed to be addressed.  The car comes with two pieces of steel cut to fit under the slope sheets.  The weight of the car as it comes from Stewart is about half of what it needs to be.  One solution would be to cut new slope sheet weights out of lead to replace these steel pieces.  The lead I had on hand was too thick to double up, and the additional weight of  a single layer of lead was too minimal to make a difference. I opted to use the stock steel weights.


The car needed more weight to bring the car up to standard. The underside of each bay offers a hiding place for small bits of lead, but I also managed to insert long narrow rectangles of lead into the centre beam of the car.

Lead weight fitted into the centre beam and glued into place.

The shiny strip down the middle of the centre beam is two narrow rectangles of lead cut to fit and glued into place.

I decided that, in addition to what I added to the centre sill, I would add more weight wherever I could find space to hide it once the car was assembled.  At this point I added the brake details to the b-end of the car from Cal-Scale castings, chain, and bits of brass wire.  Because I had removed the thick platform cast for the brake wheel, I built a new platform from some walkway etching and .005 styrene.  Then I attached the brake cylinder, triple valve, and reservoir to the frame casting and ran some basic air lines.
IMG_1999I couldn’t find clear photos as proof, but I suspect that I mounted the air reservoirs incorrectly on both cars.  From the vague shadows I can see in my reference photos, it appears that the tanks are parallel to the rails instead of perpendicular as I’ve done on my cars.   The kit provides mounting tabs to build the cars as I did, and I discovered the possible error after I’d already used the tabs and added air pipe details.  I decided to leave this (possible) error.  If I get better photos of this area on the prototype cars, I’ll build the next pair of cars more accurately.  This is a trade-off I was willing to live with in order to keep some forward momentum happening with this project.

At this point, I sprayed the car with Polly Scale Engine Black with a bit of primer grey mixed in to dial back the intensity and fade the car a bit.  The corner stirrups and cut bars will be added later because these parts are fragile.  Once the decals are finished and weight is added to the hollows between the bays, I’ll add the remaining parts and weather the car.


This photo nicely depicts the level of detail that I find sufficient to improve the overall appearance of the Stewart kit. This is still not the same level of detail one finds on many kits nowadays, but I’m fine with moving on from here.

 Next time I’ll write about how I chose the numbers and paint scheme for these cars.

TH&B 70 ton hoppers – Part 3 Sudbury Slime Service

In the previous post in this series on TH&B 70 ton hoppers, I outlined the assignment of these hoppers during the 1970s.   Because I want to include these TH&B hoppers in regular operations on the WRMRC, I was particularly interested in their deployment to  slime service for INCO in Port Colborne.

TH&B 70 ton hopper 1228 in Kinnear Old South Yard. Photo by Gerry Schaefer

TH&B 70 ton hopper 1228 in Kinnear Old South Yard. Photo by Gerry Schaefer

Lance Brown had done a great deal of research for the background information included in the Aberdeen Car Shops decal set for this car.  I approached Lance to provide me with specific information about slime service so that I could know the approximate frequency of carloads.  When I asked Lance to dig through his records he discovered that, not surprisingly, slime production rose and fell dependent upon INCO’s manfacturing, and the volume of slime load generally decreased over the years.  Lance used records for 1971 and 1979 to compile a list of slime shipments from INCO in Port Colborne.  Here are the 1971 shipments showing the date of the shipment and the car number that carried it.  Car numbers are TH&B 70 ton hoppers unless otherwise noted.

January 1971

04 – 1234
08 – 1219
12 – 1200,1211
21 – 1234

5 Slime Loads Total

February 1971

01 – 1229
05 – 1200, 1246
08 – 1219
10 – 1211
11 – 1206, 1234
17 – 1243
23 – 1246
24 – 1200
25 – 1219
26 – 1211

12 Slime Loads Total

March 1971

01 – 1206
05 – 1230, 1234
09 – 1243
16 – 1219, CP 348969 *
22 – 1211
25 – 1230
26 – 1200
31 – 1206

10 Slime Loads Total

April 1971

06 – 1247
07 – 1234, 1211, CP 348346*
12 – 1246
19 – 1206
21 – 1243
22 – 1230

8 Slime Loads Total

May 1971

06 – 1234
11 – 1211, 1246
12 – 1230, 1206
18 – 1247, CP 348316 *
26 – 1200

8 Slime Loads Total

June 1971

03 – 1219
11 – 1234
16 – 1243
17 – 1238, 1230
18 – 1200
22 – 1205
24 – 1247
29 – 1243, 1234

10 Slime Loads Total

July 1971

05 – CP 348288
06 – 1219
07 – 1230
08 – 1200
09 – 1247 – 1205
12 – CP 348235
27 – 1211
29 – 1238
31 – 1248

10 Slime Loads Total

August 1971

Data not available.

September 1971

Data not avaialble.

October 1971

01 – 1209,1247
07 – CP 357757, 364027, 359433, 357904, 357939, 364939 **
08 – 1200,1206, CP 364299, 364348, 359087, 357561, 357677 **
14 – 1234, CP 343714 ***
16 – 1219
20 – 1230, CP 348252 *
22 – 1238, 1243
26 – 1201

21 Slime Loads Total

November 1971

02 – 1211
05 – 1200
08 – 1204, 1234
10 – 1205
12 – CP 348765 *
16 – 1247
17 – 1243, CP 348101*
18 – 1238, CP 348006 *
25 – 1211
27 – 1234
30 – 1205, 1219

15 Slime Loads Total

December 1971

03 – 1243
04 – 1200, CP 348863 *
08 – 1230
09 – 1211, 1206
10 – CP 348484
14 – 1219
21 – 1234, 1238
23 – 1243

11 Slime Loads Total


87 Shipments in 1200’s
23 Shipments in CP Equipment

Total Number of Slime Loads Handled (10 Months) 110 Cars
Monthly Average 11 Slime Loads (10 Months)
Weekly Average 03 Slime Loads (10 Months)

* High Side Drop Bottom Gondolas (Otis Design)
** 70-Ton Triple Hoppers (Similar to 1200’s)
*** High Side Woodchip Gondola

With an average of about 3 car loads per week in 1971, we would need a small pool of TH&B 70 ton hoppers on the WRMRC.  But one interesting revelation was the fact that there were CP cars assigned to this service as needed.  Laverne Tritton, former Freight Agent for TH&B at Welland confirms that the majority of slime shipments went in TH&B 70 ton hoppers, but CP drop bottom ore cars sometimes showed up at Welland to be loaded with slime at Port Colborne.  And if there is any doubt about Lance’s primary source documents and Laverne Tritton’s memory, here is a photograph of a drop bottom ore car in Aberdeen yard, just to the right of and behind TH&B 58.

TH&B 58

CP’s 70 ton hoppers and older woodchip cars were also assigned to slime service as needed, but I like the fact that the drop bottom ore cars I’m building found a way into this series on the TH&B hoppers.  According to Lance’s records, INCO received a variety of inbound raw materials by rail including nickel matte, soda ash, borax, pellets, firebrick, chlorine and charcoal. Outbound shipments consisted primarily of slimes and finished nickel in TH&B and CP boxcars.

For comparison to the 1971 data, Lance Brown provided me with the same data from 1979.  As before, the data shows the date and car number(s) assigned.  All car numbers are TH&B unless noted.

January 1979

Data not available.

February 1979

Data not available.

March 1979

Data not available.

April 1979

No Slime Shipments From INCO.

May 1979

No Slime Shipments From INCO.

June 1979

26 – 1226, 1205, 1223, 3662, 3628
29 – CP 357780, 357453, 57133 **

8 Slime Loads Total

July 1979

No Slime Shipments From INCO.

August 1979

01 – 1205
02 – 1202
10 – 1223
17 – 1205
20 – CP 348631 ***
21 – 1218, 1238
22 – CP 357649 *
23 – CP 358327 *
24 – 1220, CP 357837 *
31 – CP 358594

12 Slime Loads Total

September 1979

05 – CP 358827 *
07 – CP 358527 – 365807 *
13 – 1238
17 – 348359 ***
20 – 348172 ***
24 – 1201, 1226
27 – 1218

9 Slime Loads Total

October 1979

02 – 1234
04 – 1214
12 – CP 348029 ***
15 – CP 348573 ***
16 – CP 348088 ***
17 – CP 348179, 348294 ***
18 – CP 54143 **
19 – CP 365821 * , 348354 ***
23 – 348637 ***
29 – 1214, 1220

13 Slime Loads Total

November 1979

05 – 1218, 1200, 1231
06 – 1234, 1249
09 – 1211
16 – CP 348088 ***
19 – CP 348294 ***
21 – 1202
26 – 1225
30 – CP 348637 ***

11 Slime Loads Total

December 1979

04 – CP 348809 ***
07 – CP 348573 ***
12 – CP 348294 ***
28 – CP 348088 – CP 348637 ***

5 Slime Loads Total


26 Shipments in 1200’s
02 Shipments in 3600’s
29 Shipments in CP Equipment

Total Number of Slime Loads Handled (9 Months) 57 Cars
Monthly Average 6 Slime Loads (9 Months)
Weekly Average 1.5 Slime Loads (9 Months)

* 70-Ton Triple Hoppers (Similar to 1200’s)
** 40′ Boxcar
*** High Side Drop Bottom Gondolas (Otis Design)