The On-Line Magazine of Rideable Model Railroading

  NUMBER 176


© October 03, 2011   

 ©Discover Live Steam. This material may not be published, rewritten, or redistributed without written permission.

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Southern Pacific Project in 1.5" Scale
Part 1


 Written  by Gordon Payne

Many riding railroads include gondola cars. Riding-scale gondolas can haul most anything, including people, tools, buckets, rail, and anything else you can think of. I guess that's why real railroads have so many.

The original LT&P plan called for a gondola, and I patterned it after an old Atlas O scale car I acquired in the 1970s. My new car also has elements of gons from the web page. Click here.  I scaled the model up 600% and used internet photos to determine the placement of ladders; my model and the photos had different ladder set ups.

The following manufacturers provided materials for my car:

  • Precision Steel Car Co. - ladders, brake parts (brake wheel, reservoir, valve, cylinder, etc.), body bolsters, car ends

  • Mountain Car Co. - couplers, roller bearing trucks

  • Real Trains - coupler pockets

  • Connie Miracle - vinyl lettering

  • Lowe's - aluminum stock for frame, ribs and sills, 10-24 screws and nuts, Valspar spray paint, ¼ and ½" plywood
    MicroFasteners - miniature bolts, washers and nuts

The first step was to lay out the frame. I used ¾" x ¾" x six-foot square aluminum tubing for the main frame and cross pieces. The bolsters are 3/8" x 2" x 7" steel from PSC, with a tapped 3/8 x 16 hole for the truck mounting screw.

I measured the PSC ends to be sure the floor and sides would fit. The floor is ½" plywood, which was cut very carefully to ensure it is square and the edges are straight. The frame and floor were assembled and bolted together. The sides are ¼" plywood, sealed with two coats of sanding sealer and two coats of brown paint. I had to trim about 1 ½" off the top of the PSC ends to match the height of the car I was modeling.

With the sides and ends clamped in place, I drilled the ends and side panels for 4-40 bolts. The lowest hole fits an 8-32 screw, as it goes through the main frame, too.

I laid out the centers for each rib on the car sides. The ribs alternate between 5/8" and ¾" aluminum. At the centerline of each of the larger ( ¾") ribs, I drilled a 3/16" hole through the side into the main frame aluminum tubing for a 10-24 x 1 ¼" bolt. This made the side/floor connection very strong

I mounted the Real Trains coupler pockets so they extend past the end of the car to better match the set up in the prototype photos.

I used ¾" x six-foot aluminum angle for the sills on the inside face of the sides and ends. I ran a 4-40 x 1" bolt through each 5/8" rib to hold the angle in place, then added the outside angles, made from ½" stock. I used 4-40 screws here, too, run through the outside ½" sill, each ¾" rib, and the inside sill. Now, the ¾" angle on the inside of the sides is held in place by a screw on each rib, enhancing its strength.

 The outside angles do not reach the ends of the car in all my reference photos, so I duplicated this facet of the model.

In Part 2, I will go over the ladder and brake details, final painting, and lettering.


Continued in Part 2


Written  by Gordon Payne

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