Saturday, July 23, 2011

Transfer Caboose, Pt.1

Yesterday I received an old Athearn blue box Work Caboose I'd won on eBay. So I figured this would be a  good time to take a day or two away from the ovens. A big portion of future operations will entail moving special purpose cars within the steel mill complex, between the Coke Oven, the Blast Furnace, and the Open Hearth. For this I will need a transfer caboose, and I felt this Athearn kit was a good place to start. There were some glue runs, a few broken/missing parts, and  the couplers didn't center, but overall I was very pleased with its condition.

The first order of business was to completely disassemble the kit. Here it is after the chop shop was through with it.

I started with the deck.There are seven large holes in it to accept tabs from the cabin and tool boxes. I was moving the cabin to the center, and was not planning on using the boxes, at least not as-is. Covering it seemed the best solution. 150-grit sandpaper and some elbow grease removed the paint from the kit's deck. I cut a .020 thick scribed styrene sheet to exactly fit over the existing deck. The spacing on the scribed lines was .060.

Rather than notching the new deck, I undercut the molded-on brake wheel housing. It makes a cleaner fit.

A tedious chore, but it adds a lot. I'm taking a knife and slicing through the last 1/16th" of the scribed lines. This will make the sheet look like individual boards when viewed on-edge.

Real railroading is a rough business, and to represent the wear and tear on the wooden boards, I used a small knife to make random cuts on the ends of the boards.

Even though I was covering the old deck, I still needed to fill in the big holes. The new deck is thin, only .020, and the glue could soften it enough to produce sink-holes , which I hate with a passion. To back up the plugs, I glued a styrene sheet to the bottom of the car.

Next a .100 x .250" strip was sanded to fit the holes.........

........then cut to the proper depth. Then glued and sanded flush.............

..........and the new deck was glued on. A perfect fit.

Next I removed the cupola from the cabin...........

.........and removed the overhang from both ends. There wasn't much of an overhang on the left side. Here you can also see some of the molded on grab-irons. These needed to go, as the cabin was being moved to the center of the car, and the grabs were out of place. Besides, I am replacing plastic grabs with brass wire as much as possible.

This tool from Micro-Mark takes a little practice to master, but absolutely is the right tool for this job. It removed the plastic grabs without gouging the surrounding wood planking. OK, a few small gouges that sanded out easily.

Sanding, then using a razor saw to clear the plastic where the grab had been, then more sanding, more of the saw, and a final sanding, and I was ready to sand it again. I think once it's primed and painted, you'll never know it was there at all.

The next step was to fill the holes in the roof with styrene rod.

The rods were trimmed down, then sanded, puttied, sanded some more, and finally sanded again. At first I was going to cover the roof with a thin (.010) sheet of styrene, but decided to try and save a step or two and do this instead. When I prime the roof later today I'll know if this was successful.

I think this will look OK.

Coming up in Part 2, adding the underframe, weights, new couplers, new wheelsets, grab irons, and final details. I'll see you there. Don


  1. Thanks WHL, I am having a lot of fun with this one.

  2. When I was a kid I was really into HO stuff. My dad and I built a rollable 4' x 10' table to start building a layout, but I never went much further than cork roadbed and tracks. After a few years we turned it into storage space for boxes in the garage, and this spring my dad and I finally cut it down so we could fit more stuff in the garage. Now it's the home of the stray cat we've adopted.

  3. Well, maybe it was a sad day for model railroading, but I applaud your adoption of the cat. Funny, you may remember that big 5' x 9' table I made for wargaming. It was in the way when I built the new Workbench, so I added casters to it, and moved it out of the way. Now I'm trying to decide whether to cannibalize it, move it over to the woodworking side of the garage, or build the steel mill on top of it. Sadly, I never played a single wargame on top of it.