Masochism: The Building of a Sunshine Standard Brands Vinegar Tank Car.
Denny Anspach <danspach@...>
This kit (variously identified as kits #60.1, 60.2 [mine], and 60.3)
came out as a special "Anniversary Kit" in 2003. It created quite a
stir because of the prototype's exotic appearance, and because of the
kit's pretty esoteric complexity. It surely is a sophisticated- but
not precise- kit that models a very complex and very interesting
prototype that was seemingly more ubiquitous than might be otherwise
Several lengthy early posts by Bill Darnaby (#20484) and Ted Cullotta
(#36207) provided considerable information on the challenges that this
kit posed, and later- almost nothing- as most purchasers seemed to
then put the kits on the shelf. A more recent illustrated blog by
Bill Herbert at- http://forums.rrarchives.com/viewtopic.php?f=79&t=332&p=491&hilit=vinegar+tank+car#p491
-provided more recent information. All- particularly Bill's detailed help- succeeded in keeping my mind focused on at last
tacklng the kit.
Recognizing that most listers will likely push 'delete', but also
recognizing that some might find my own experiences useful for their own future tackling of this benchmark kit, this post can be copied and
stuffed into the kit box.
The kit directions are rudimentary to say the least; much is left out;
and close and continuing study of the enclosed prototype photos and
web model photos are essential.
The parts also fit together with more "slop" (Ted's term) than I have
ever previously experienced.
Nevertheless, at the very end, Bill Darnaby describes the finished
model as "Really Neat", and Ted comments that this is the type of kit
that makes one realize what a wonderful hobby model railroading really
is. They are both "right on".
Car architecture overview: It really helps to first understand the
fundamental architectural elements of this car: a long cylindrical
wood-stave tank- encircled with 37 rod bands- that is then secured on
its side on an open steel flat car between steel bulkheads . The
tanks rest on transverse bunks or saddles. Because such an unsupported
wood stave tank would not likely stand up more than a nonosecond to
the vicissitudes of slack action, etc. the tank has also been
longitudinally-braced between the bulkheads by wood timber blocking
and X-braces, and supported from below by fitted wood blocks or
dunnage driven between the resting tank and the saddles. The tank is
held tight to the saddles by four encircling flat straps with rod
The kit has more parts than Carter has pills, and taking the time to
identify and separate the parts into different bags was helpful for me
to get organized. The instructions are rudimentary for such a
complex and different model, so one should be prepared for a
wonderful exercise in patient craftsmanship, keeping always in mind
the very wise aphorism of "Measure Twice, Cut Once".
The Tank Wrapper: Beware: trouble ahead. The tank wrapper is a very
nicely detailed flat casting that was rolled at Sunshine into a
cylinder when still warm. However, the resulting cylinder ex factory
is commonly neither perfectly round, square on the ends, or with
seamed edges that are flat. Required reading: Bill's and Ted's
cautionary comments on the list, in this regard. The kit instructions
have meaning when they caution that the finished tank should be 7'6"
in diameter. If it is either larger, or smaller problems large and
small will pop up later on.
To obviate the anticipated problems with the wrapper I "re-rolled" the
wrapper- a fairly easy process, as it turned out; and I avoided
trimming the seam edges, even by a fraction.
By serendipity I deduced that Martin had probably rolled the wrapper
around a standard heavy-duty mop handle armature, several of which in
my house measured an exact 0.975" in diameter- virtually a dead net
fit for the correctly-oriented wrapper edges to touch each other
evenly and squarely along their lengths. I wrapped the cast resin wrapper around the mop handle armature forcibly adjusting it to the
extent I could do so safely, and then secured it along its length with
a thousand discarded newspaper rubber bands out of the kitchen drawer.
I then tossed into a hot water bath (from a tea kettle). I let the
water cool, bathed the wrapper/broom handle under cold water, removed
the rubber bands and- amazing- after several of these attempts- the
wrapper morphed into a true and square cylinder of proper diameter
that needing no final trimming whatsoever. Electing to not fix which
ain't broke, at that moment I tacked the edges together with ACC to
close the cylinder; and once set, and armature removed, I flooded more
ACC along the seam in the interior. A very satisfying result that FIT!
When set, I squared the cylinder tank ends on a NWSL True-Sander, and
proceeded with fitting the tank to the saddles already mounted on the
car frame. Just as on the prototype, the tank cylinder on the model
has to fitted net to the saddles with 'wood' blocks, shims, or wedges
driven between the curves of the saddles and the tank. The end
saddles over the bolsters have these blocks already cast-on, while the
others do not.
To begin the fitting process, It is best to simply wrap sandpaper
around the mop handle armature and sand the principal end saddles-with-
blocking to shape, careful to not sand through the cast-on blocks.
This will still leave the tank to be cantilevered in thin air over all
the five intermediate saddles, the needed blocking obviously to be
added by the modeler out of styrene or strip wood scraps. My advice is
to tape the tank cylinder in place and fabricate/fit/cement the
blocking now (I added it at the end, and although successful, it would
have been a lot less work, and probably better modeled, if I had done
Tank Cylinder Strapping: There are 37 encircling rods that bind the
staves of the tank together- all to be installed by the modeler. The model eliminates four in the way of the principal saddles, leaving 33,
and also (wisely) ignores the fact that each rod has not one (1) but
two (2) rod tighteners. The kit models only one. The kit give
rudimentary instructions on bending a forest of enclosed 0.015" wire
for the rods, but I instead opted for Bill's great advice to 'forget
the wire' and use instead 0.013" monofilament fishing line- a sheer
stroke of genius (when stretched and painted monofilament looks like
rod or wire; and it is unexcelled in it affinity for ACC). That is
exactly what I did- especially when a length of just the right
fishing line fortuitously showed up wrapped around the propellor of my
antique Hacker wood speed boat.
The rod tighteners (a sort of "turnbuckle") have correct and incorrect
orientations (not pointed out in the directions), but evident from a
close study of the photographs. Each and every one requires drilling
#78 or #79 holes into both of their ends sufficient to grab the
monofilament, an exercise in patience, preparation, and a careful
setup both sparing of these tiny parts, and one's fingers. Most of
tighteners have a dimple for drill centering, but not all. I used a
very sharp steel scribe to reinforce the dimple and/or create new
ones. A number of the tighteners are "reversed". I have no idea
whether this was an accident or whether this a subtle esoteric
modeling detail that I overlooked.
The monofilament line is easily and strongly secured into these
drilled holes with ACC, and I secured one end of a measured piece of
line into each of the tightener. With the help of a small stainless
radiator clamp on which to draw a true circumference (Jeff Aley's
suggestion), I marked with a pencil each every place where the bands
could NOT go- fill hatch on top, and most saddles below- and with
the help of small pieces of tape to hold each band in place around the
tank, I then secured both ends of the encircling band into the
tightener. I did NOT ACC the bands to the tank, however, leaving that
to later. This method worked quite well, and as I moved forward I
was able to install almost all the bands in one sitting. When pulling
these bands tight, not a single one pulled out.
Later, I rotated each still-loose band so that the visually-prominent
tighteners were in a pattern roughly approximating that seen on the
prototype. Continuing to use the photos as a guide I then positioned,
squared and cemented each band in the careful sequential parallel
patterns seen on the prototype, using calipers to measure in from the
previously-squared ends of the tank. I tacked each monofilament band
at 90º points. They remain remarkably impervious to routine handling.
I also took the opportunity to also model the "missing" rods or bands
(those in the way of the saddles) once the tank was finally installed
(with dabs of Barge cement). I did so by drilling a #78 hole in the
middle of the outer facing seam between block and tank , ACC'd the fay
end of a segment of monofilament line in the hole, pulled each facing
pair together over the top of the tank and secured them into a
tightener. With a surplus of one, there was just enough of the
tighteners in the kit to do this.
The printed directions direct that the tank drain is to be installed-
but where? Although, by exclusion I finally figured what had to be the 'drain part', I joined Bill Darnaby in drawing a blank as to where
it should reasonably go (inasmuch as all brake gear and piping is on
one side of the center sill, and would be unlikely to have the drain
course though the midst of the heavy center sill, I would presume the
the drain would exit on the other side of the sill in some fashion- h-
There are a number of holes for securing important braces and hold
downs to be drilled where no dimples, or directions actually show the
way. This was more daunting in theory than reality, and by studying
the photos, things become pretty obvious.
Both Bill and Ted (and the kit directions!) take considerable pains
to point out the absolute necessity of drilling the holes for X band
tightener rods toward the far outboard edges on the top bulkhead end
frames. They are not kidding! If the tank that you have fabricated is
over-size, the problems here are increased. To forestall problems, I
first temporarily installed the tank into the frame and with a sharp
pencil marked the outline the tank end on the frame. Because these
ends also have some pretty obvious detailing on their outer faces that
visually line up with the X band rods, there is a overwhelming desire
to "fudge" and not drill out far enough. Resist the temptation!.
Important: Note also that Ted notes that these end details have a
definite orientation- not noted in the directions- and making this
distinction is cosmetically important.
I Barge-cemented some sheet lead in the tank for weight, and selected
Kadee trucks (Reboxx wheels) for added weight. I installed Accumate
Proto couplers and PSC brass air hose brackets and hoses.
I have yet to install the hand-railing, and some other pesky small
details. Painting will be Amtrak Platinum Mist, with the kit's red
lettering. The real challenge will be to effectively weather and age
a model of a car of composite construction that has more details
sticking up and out than a porcupine.
This is by far the most difficult kit that I have ever put together.
It took as much patience as skill, and it sopped up the same time that
I would have ordinarily devoted to building four or five more
conventional prototype models- if not more.
However the final result speaks for itself: it is a spectacular model.
Denny S. Anspach MD