MODELING: Northern Pacific 52′ Flat Car Build

It is time to get back to the workbench and build a freight car.  This time the subject will be a car that I have tried once before but lacked lots of technical details, correct stake pockets, hand brake style and correct decals.  All of those barriers have been taken away.   Here is the model that was constructed from styrene and wood decking using a diagram published in the NPRHA magazine Mainstreeter.   I used the few photos and simple drawing which gave some dimensions to build the model.  Building models with limited information does give you a certain artist license.  Now days with the rise of the resources on the web and in print, building starts with a lot of more research.   I find that I postpone constructing a car until I amass a ton of data.  Wonder if this could be a disease called anaylsis paralysis?

Recently, the Railroad Model Craftsman published an article and plan of this car in the November 2016 issue.  That got me interested in trying my hand at this car again.  Armed with this as a starting point, I tried to search what might be available in my friends who model NP. The Northern Pacific Railroad Historical Association is one placed I searched to see what might be in their extensive archieves.  The group has been scanning lots of drawings to create a large library of technical data on the railroad. Unlike some historical societies, the NPRHA makes their information available to members.  One major historical society on the West Coast has a significant amount of data. The information seems to be hidden away from the public but available to a select few.   I was never able to get the secret decoder rink to access this data.

My first attempt at building the car used a Grandt Line stake pocket that had similar features to the prototype.   I decided that in this day and age of 3D design and printing that one could do better than that.  I approached a friend to see if he would be willing to take a shot at the part.  And while you are at it, you could do the poling pockets.

Once the design was rendered, I contracted with Terry Van Winkle and Jon Cagle to print the parts and then make a bunch using the normal resin casting route.  Stake pockets are difficult to cast in a rubber mold but Jon Cagle has the “street cred” when it comes to difficult casting jobs.  The process was not inexpensive but I wanted to do this car right.  I had Jon cast some extra parts for a few friends who had an interest in building of these cars.

So all of the pieces are  falling into place.  At about that time Norm Buckhart decided to produce a Northern Pacific flat car decal set that covered this car as well as the AAR 50-ton cars.  I have starting to fabricate underframe parts like the fishbelly center sill. Unfortunately a few projects derailed the progress but I am back on the build.   

My friend, Robert Leners, is building the same car and managed to get a significant amount of work done.  I have included pictures of Robert’s work to provide an idea of what will be next for me. 

Robert started construction with the center sill.  It is an ideal place to add weight to the car.  You will notice that this car has a lot of rivets which is typical of cars built in the pre-WWII period.  Forming the rivets is an important step in construction.  Robert used a press made by Precision Manufacturing of San Antonio.  They sold a lot of these tools but closed their doors twnety years ago or so.  The press is heavy and well made.  You used the adjustable guide to locate rivets the following in a line.  Hand pressure is used to press the rivets. 

NWSL has made a similar press and I remember buying one from England.  My go-to-presss is an old sewing machine.

Robert is building one side and then the next.  Oh yea, the frame is sitting on top of the Soo Line AAR flat car model.

The side channel is 13″ high and is impressed with rivets and holds the stake pockets.  I was able to get a laser-cut plexiglas drilling jig from Jon Cagle for this car when he cast the pockets.

He added the steel strap to the deck and the end stake pockets.

Robert has started the decking.

 I will starting to post the details of my car build.






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