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 26' Flatcar in Fn3
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Author Previous Topic: Intro.- the Holt house-the Church 2-25-21 Topic Next Topic: structures on the LP&N RR vol. 5
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Engine Wiper

Posted - 07/24/2020 :  05:07:18 AM  Show Profile  Visit BreizhSteamer's Homepage  Reply with Quote
Hello everyone,

long time no see - yet, I've managed to keep going with model railroading. This year has seen some new life pouring in those old projects.

I've started building a flatcar for my semi-fictional railroad company. And since I've drawn many inspirations from these forums, I'd like to share something in return.

For our next operation session I'd like to contribute a few waggons of my own. In that way I will stick to my intentions, that is to focus on a complete train for the time being.

One better starts small. That's why I've picked the construction of freight waggons, precisely: flatcars. The reasons are natural:
most US freight waggons based on flatcars or were closely related to them. Furthermore they make the easiest waggons to model, apart from disconnects and skeletons.

First order of the day is research: How were flatcars constructed? Which dimensions and particulars come into play? How are they built as models?
The web offers a host of construction reports on waggons and flatcars, you can even find some for my Fn3 scale.

After some looking around, I zeroed in a model of a prototypical length of 26'. The Old Machinist published drawings on pixorails, the image file has such a high resolution that one can print it for almost any scale.
Courtesy to Union Pacific Historical Society I've got the permission to construct my model based on those diagrams.

The drawings are printed on large sheets of paper. Courtesy of Union Pacific Historical Society http://uphs.org

On the web site made by Bernhard Schröter, US-Models of 1900, there are several construction reports on building flatcars and gondolas.
Those are constructed in H0, but with such a perfection that one can learn a lot of hint and tricks that still apply for greater scales.
Many thanks for those reports, they do help a lot when one is beginning and making the first own steps!

And of course, there's still Gerd's Waldbahner-Blog, where he relates how he constructs and continually improves his flatcars built for 5' railways.
There, one can find invaluable hints that really ease the way and avoid a lot of frustation.

You can find the whole story and high-res pictures on my website: https://zamit.eu/en/2020/07/new-construction-reports-flatcars

Next week, construction is up.

Edited by - BreizhSteamer on 07/24/2020 05:11:23 AM

Country: France | Posts: 126

George D

Premium Member

Posted - 07/24/2020 :  08:08:28 AM  Show Profile  Reply with Quote
This looks like an interesting thread to follow, Frédéric.


Fly Army

Country: USA | Posts: 16783 Go to Top of Page


Premium Member

Posted - 07/24/2020 :  08:59:13 AM  Show Profile  Reply with Quote
I'll follow along.


"And in the end, it's not the years in your life that count. It's the life in your years." A. Lincoln

Country: USA | Posts: 13204 Go to Top of Page


Premium Member

Posted - 07/24/2020 :  09:47:31 AM  Show Profile  Reply with Quote
Good to see you back posting, Frédéric.


Country: USA | Posts: 33283 Go to Top of Page

Michael Hohn

Posted - 07/24/2020 :  10:49:30 AM  Show Profile  Visit Michael Hohn's Homepage  Reply with Quote

After looking at some of the projects on your website, I expect the flat car will certainly be out of the ordinary in detail and fidelity to the prototype.


Country: USA | Posts: 7213 Go to Top of Page

Engine Wiper

Posted - 07/25/2020 :  12:41:47 PM  Show Profile  Visit BreizhSteamer's Homepage  Reply with Quote
George, Jerry, thanks for your interest. I will make sure to keep you posted.

Bruce, thank you - sometimes, life has a tendency of getting in the way of any relaxing activities.

Mike, that's very flattering. I consider myself very much a beginner, there's still so much to learn.

Country: France | Posts: 126 Go to Top of Page


Posted - 07/25/2020 :  4:31:43 PM  Show Profile  Reply with Quote
I'll be following along.

Country: USA | Posts: 2351 Go to Top of Page


Posted - 07/27/2020 :  06:17:03 AM  Show Profile  Visit adrian_batey's Homepage  Reply with Quote
Keen to see this one develop. I'm fascinated by people who take on F scale and always impressed by the result. My layout room would become very small in F scale.

Owen Pass Lumber Company
HO Logging Layout in a Shed.

Country: Australia | Posts: 1308 Go to Top of Page

Engine Wiper

Posted - 07/30/2020 :  03:47:00 AM  Show Profile  Visit BreizhSteamer's Homepage  Reply with Quote
Terrell, thanks for your interest!

Adrian, we'll have to see if I can add to those impressive results... I really like the pictures of your layout that you've posted on your website, do you have some overview pictures?
As a matter of fact, I don't have any layout to speak of, only a small loop of test track tugged away in the corner of the garden. I operate my trains on layouts that belong to friends of mine, since I lack the funds and time to build a proper outdoor layout.

Country: France | Posts: 126 Go to Top of Page

Engine Wiper

Posted - 07/30/2020 :  09:37:43 AM  Show Profile  Visit BreizhSteamer's Homepage  Reply with Quote
Before I start the actual construction of my planned flatcars, I'd like to know first which limits the tracks will pose on them. I've only ever known classic model waggons, which have their couplers on beams attached to the bogies. This design ensures high operational reliability because the couplers can follow even the tightest curve radii. However, it's not a pretty sight.

So I'd like to build a few test waggons in order to learn how the couplers perform when attached to the waggon's body.

To build these test waggons, I'm using some old plywood found in my leftover box. Their only purpose is to test different waggon lengths and their behaviour on actual track.

Testwaggons representing 26' und 16' length are made from plywood.

Two small deadblocks are glued to these simple waggon bodies. The knuckle couplers are screwed onto them, with the screws being long enough to gain hold in the body. That lends the whole contraption the needed stability. Meanwhile, the bogies mady by Piko have arrived and after fitting them out with steel wheelsets, they are being mounted with a wood screw.

Bogies by Piko and knuckle couplers by Accucraft.

In less than one hour four such waggon bodies were prepared. The first pair have got a length of 40 cm, representing 26' as defined by my diagrams from Union Pacific Historical Society. These waggons labor by the skin of their flanges through a curve made from R1-tracks by LGB, which sport a 600 mm curve radius. In order to avoid derailments, easements, made from R2 curves (780 mm radius) are necessary. S-curves are a complete no-go unless one adds a piece of straight track into the curve.

A curve radius of 600 mm (LGB R1) quickly causes the 26' waggons to derail.

The second pair boast 24 cm of length, representing 16' waggons. That's about the shortest piece of freight waggon that I could find during a swift online research. Those have absolutely no problem to navigate R1 S-curves. So they will obviously have the advantage during visits on other people's layouts.

The 16' waggons run even through s-curves with a radius of 600 mm.

Nevertheless, I'm going to build the 26' flatcars. For the next operating session I'm going to use the Piko bogies anyway and I will mount some LGB hook and loop couplers, AKA "bottle openers". That will allow us to swap waggons between train sets.

Otherwise I will wait for the operation session and gain some experience bevor I ultimately decide on my coupling system. Next time I will proceed with building the frame.

Country: France | Posts: 126 Go to Top of Page

Engine Wiper

Posted - 08/07/2020 :  01:17:05 AM  Show Profile  Visit BreizhSteamer's Homepage  Reply with Quote
Based on my experiences from the flatcar experiments I've decided to construct a prototype for 26' flatcars. The model is going to be built from red cedar and purchased Piko bogies.

At the beginning, slats are ripped from sheets of 5 mm thick red cedar, which are going to become the sills. The side sills are a bit higher, measuring 13.5 mm. The end, intermediary and center sills have only got 9.5 mm of height.

In the beginning there was the saw... slats for the sills.

While cutting the end sills and dead blocks to length, I simply made a few more of both of them using my sled. It's a matter of convenience and I do plan to build a whole fleet of waggons... or at least two, or three specimens.

The deadblocks are cut to length.

After all the sills are cut to length, I'm switching to manual. The side sills are notched to accomodate the end sills.

The side sills are notched manually.

In the prototype, the whole frame is assembled by hidden mortise and tenon joints. One can model that, it's even not that difficult. But it's very time consuming and afterwards it's completely invisible. So I decide to use pegs made from 4 mm beech rods. In order to drill the needed holes repetitively, I construct a drilling template.

In order to drill the end sills, a template is being made.

The template is placed under the first end sill while it's being drilled. The next step is to white-glue a fence onto it. Again, no metal screws or pins are used in order to save the expensive drill bits.

A fence is white glued to the template.

The template is used at once to drill the second end sill. One can see clearly how I fix the template to the slat using pegs, so that drilling the inner four holes is child's play.

The template with markings on duty.

Fitted out with aptly sawed pegs, all the longitudinal sills are assembled to one end sill...

End sills and side sills are connected with pegs.

...and then the second end sill is put in place. The gentle reader will notice that even the dead blocks are held in place with pegs: The end sills' holes for the center sills are drilled through and connected with longer pegs. Equally important: No glue at this time! One often has to disassemble the whole contraption in order to make small corrections or adjustments at this stage.

The frame is fully assembled for the first time.

After roughly constructing the frame I've tackled the floor boards. First off, as a test-run so to speak, the edge boards are prepared, which are grooved only at one side. I create a small stack for additional waggons, again.

Boards for the end of the floor are cut and grooved.

And then it's sled-time: The grooved slats are cut to length in order to create floor boards.

The boards for the floor are cut to length.

These steps are all quite simple, but time-consuming. Especially while building a prototype, patience is of the essence. One rather measures four times and second-guesses three times than cutting or drilling too hastily once. Next week, floor and trusses are on.

Country: France | Posts: 126 Go to Top of Page


Premium Member

Posted - 08/09/2020 :  8:06:12 PM  Show Profile  Reply with Quote
That is some really precision work!

Looking forward to the next installment!


"And in the end, it's not the years in your life that count. It's the life in your years." A. Lincoln

Country: USA | Posts: 13204 Go to Top of Page

Michael Hohn

Posted - 08/09/2020 :  10:48:39 PM  Show Profile  Visit Michael Hohn's Homepage  Reply with Quote
Beautiful model and already impressive in these early stages.

Country: USA | Posts: 7213 Go to Top of Page


Posted - 08/09/2020 :  11:49:28 PM  Show Profile  Visit acousticco's Homepage  Reply with Quote
This is some fine woodworking. I'll be following along closely.


Country: Canada | Posts: 1767 Go to Top of Page


Premium Member

Posted - 08/10/2020 :  10:46:20 AM  Show Profile  Reply with Quote
Very nice craftsmanship, Frédéric.


Country: USA | Posts: 33283 Go to Top of Page

Engine Wiper

Posted - 08/15/2020 :  01:24:24 AM  Show Profile  Visit BreizhSteamer's Homepage  Reply with Quote
Thank you all for you kind words! :)

What I really find interesting about this project is that you don't need machine tools to achieve the precision. A jewellery saw, some fine needle files and some precise measurement tools are all you really need. The table saw only speeds up the process.

Country: France | Posts: 126 Go to Top of Page
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