Activity on the NPP

After several months hiatus from the layout, there’s been some activity.

Rolling Stock Weathering/Upgrades

From the previous post you can see that having another go at weathering the fleet morphed into new flatcar decks. I figured that as I was making new decks, I may as well install the stakes and replace broken details.

I took all the stakes I had plus a pack of Micro-Trains replacement stakes and painted them Flat Red, then Flat Black. A dusting of Raw Umber pastel finished the prep. Five brake wheel sets fashioned from 0.5 mm rod and PE brake wheels from Gold Medal Models got the same treatment.

I opened the stake pockets with a #70 drill bit in a pin vise. Prior to insertion I touched the end of the stake with CA. I found that I much prefer Atlas stakes to MT. The Atlas stakes are molded with a stop that makes insertion consistent, and they fit into the pockets more easily than the MT version. A small pair of spring-loaded needle-nose pliers was the insertion tool of choice because it was the most comfortable and gave the most control. There were a lot of stakes. As with all cars this weathering go-round I removed the coupler trip pins by grabbing them with the pliers and gently twisting until they came out.

There is ample opportunity to see log flats where I live, and they all have wood debris on them. To simulate this I dabbed the car decks with spots of diluted white glue applied with a cotton swab, then sprinkled sifted sawdust I’d saved from the lumber stack project.

After the glue sets I shake off the excess and remove larger pieces with tweezers. Very little stays on the car, but I’m just looking for the suggestion of debris.

Completed Flat Cars

Cars at various stages

‘New’ and ‘Old’

The flatcars turned out to be more of a project than I was planning on, but one thing led to another, as things will tend to do. This took about four baseball games, including pre-and post-game.

Continuing On . . . 

With Cheney Lumber nearing completion and a decent looking flatcar fleet, my thoughts turned to a project I’d had in mind since doing the woodpile at the mill: loads for the flats.

The operating scenario is that logs come in by ferry from the Peninsula, and then shuttled to wood products mills around Tacoma. The timber dimensions are determined by the Cheney Lumber log pile, so making loads is a matter of making more logs like that.

During the flatcar upgrade I’d acquired enough Northern Pacific flats to fill out the fleet, and I figured I’d need loads for about half. Prototype photos show gondolas hauling timber, so I wanted enough loads for four of those.

As for quantity, the Cheney lumber pile took about 750 individual ‘logs’. A little arithmetic revealed that to make the number of loads desired would require a similar number. Oh my. I wasn’t ready for that. ‘Trainload’ takes on a new meaning when you have to make one’s worth of cargo. Well, at least I had experience.

After painting a number of bamboo skewers with Apple Barrel’s Nutmeg Brown, Honey Brown, and Black acrylics, I set to a-choppin. I’d say at this point my Chopper has paid for itself several times.

I built a simple form from 0.40 styrene scrap matching the cross-section of a flatcar with stakes, then piled in the logs and soaked them with wet water and diluted white glue.

The log load manufacture. The form in the middle of the plate is shorter than the load so it can be peeled out when the glue dries. For the narrower gondola loads I glued a suitable piece of scrap to the interior walls.

The loads were done over the course of about a week.

Loads ready for the mills.

The last two ‘original’ flats are headed to the shops.

I noticed in photos that the prototype didn’t seem to bother with tie-downs if the load wasn’t much higher than the stakes, so I didn’t model them. I’m glad this is done, and I got to listen to a couple of baseball games.

Cheney Lumber

Amid the other projects I poured the Cheney Lumber log pond. The prototype had a log containment area, and I needed something to fill a corner, so I put in a log pond. The actual mill’s ‘pond’ was actually off Commencement Bay, but photos show it to be similar to tamer bodies of water: dark and flat. I’d prepped the area a while ago, and went ahead and poured the pond.

I was hoping for three pours but there was only practically room for two. The basin is coated with Durham’s Water Putty and stained with India Ink. I was hoping for a translucent effect along the shoreline and on the left you can see that a bit but I made the first pour too dark.

I believe the first pour was also too cool. There was a bit of cloudiness and that can happen if the ingredients are too cool. For the second pour I warmed the bottles in the microwave for a few seconds and it came out clear.

The first pour was stained with Black acrylic, while the second was very sparingly stained with Black, Light Blue, and a medium green oil paint, but it’s mostly clear. After about an hour I inserted the logs.

I’m OK with the way this turned out, but compared to the texture of harbor, it’s a little boring. ‘Flat as a millpond’ is an expression for a reason, but this is too flat. I probably should have added a little texture prior to inserting the logs. There is some visual interest along the shoreline to salvage the situation. I’m thinking this might be a good place to try static grass.

Home Road Boxcars

I found these at a local hobby shop. I’ve been looking for Northern Pacific boxcars and these Atlas Master Line renditions in two road numbers are decent models. They are free-rolling and mass enough that you’d consider kicking them into sidings. The 1948 build date makes them new cars for the NPP, so they will be lightly weathered.

Besides having to replace the wheels, the primary drawback to these cars is the incredible coupler spacing. I don’t think cushioned underframes were common on the Northern Pacific in 1948, so the spacing is hard to fathom. My Atlas flatcars closely couple. I suppose I could install short-shank couplers, but it’s an annoyance for something that turns a Jackson into a Washington.

Absolutely Don’t Try This At Home

While making the lumber stacks I needed to plane some basswood strip by 1/8″. Not having a planer, I looked around the garage for parts to make one. I came up with this contraption:

A contraption.

That’s a section of 2 x 4 in a bench vise with a router clamped to it. I know that as a work surface the 2 x 4 is crap but there wasn’t any aluminum bar stock around. The rig is pure kludge but was adjustable to the tolerances I needed.

This actually worked pretty well for the first stick. The second had different results:

From the bit marks I figured the stick exited the work area at about 25 MPH. Who says math isn’t useful?

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