RAIL SHOP, INC. PRR H30/N&W HC-1 & 2 Covered Hopper kit: Notes on assembly.
Denny Anspach <danspach@...>
As noted briefly previously, assembly of this very interesting-prototype car kit from RAIL SHOP, INC ( http://www.railshop.net/product_info.php?products_id=70) has been one of my several absorbing summer kit assembly projects (summer is over: windy 39º F. on screen porch this a.m.)! For those interested, while it is still fresh in my mind, I thought I would share some notes from building this type of new-to-me kit.
These early bridge-truss-sided 37' 70T 10 hatch, 3 bay covered hopper cars were produced by and for the PRR 1935-46 with the N&W copying them in 1958 almost verbatim in in two series- HC-1 and -2- (and an additional third series HC-3 with 12 hatches and four bays).
The kit is a composite of molded styrene and etched brass parts, and retails for $42.50 (my kit was purchased by my Chicago agent from Al's Hobby Shop in Elmhurst, IL for what I believe was somewhat less). There are no resin parts. The assembled model is pretty striking, and as a visitor (and respected STMFC lister) commented, it will be a "brass quality" model when finished.
Tools that I found either useful or essential were: 1) Fine-tipped serrated tweezers, 2) Xuron etching cutters, 3) P-B-L extra fine sprue cutters; 4) A fine pin vise for quite a bit of #80 drilling. 4) Very sharp (honed-sharp) #11 and spade Xacto blades. I used Testors Styrene cement to assemble the principal styrene parts, as well as some of the smaller ones. I used quite a bit of both thin and thick ACC for most everything else. I used Barge cement freely to spot/tack in place tiny or reluctant assemblies that needed to be immovable and in place until more quick methods of security could be applied. As a universal solvent for all, I had at hand some 90 proof.
The major styrene parts (sides and roof) have very fine sharp rivet detailing with minimal or no flash, and they, plus the slope sheets, hatches, and hoppers all fit together quite nicely, secured with styrene cement. Some of the smaller styrene details do not have this same high "fit & finish" quality, especially in the case of some brake components (I substituted some Tichy parts).
The very handsome etched brass ends (also some tiny hinges and levers, brake step, running board end supports, and a large brake lever w. bracket) require multiple folds ("origami"). Using the dictum "measure twice, fold once", all folds were performed fairly quickly "as advertised". However, one fold, a "angle iron" bracket to support one of the brake step supports I could not fold without hazarding another major component (neither the specific instruction nor a related diagram were clear), so a small piece of styrene was later substituted. All holes for grabs, etc. are pre-drilled and resulting fits are precise.
One of the brake step supports broke off at the first bend, and it will still be a bit of a chore to fashion a new one quite as fine.
All stirrups are etched brass, integral with the ends. These are super-delicate, and with casual but careful handling, these soon still got bent inward, where I have left them to be f carefully bent outward as the very last move. Replacing them would be a chore-and-a-half considering that the fine 0.008" brass side sills above have absolutely no meat for any kind of purchase of A line or other stirrups. I am considering the possibility of some sort of bracing, although not prototype, and also not easy to hide.
All grabs, lifts, ladder rungs, and bars are finely and precisely shaped from 0.010" stainless steel (1" prototype), very hard springy stock that is all but impossible to re-shape. All have short legs that require little or no trimming. a tremendous advantage considering that our usual fine wire cutting bench tools are specifically designed only for non-ferrous wire cutting, and would likely commit Hari-Kari with the first attempted cut on these steel parts.
No prototype information of any sort is provided, a real deficit in a kit of this price and quality. All my information has had to be derived from good STMFC and Google sources. MR has good drawings by Chuck Yungkurth in October 1981, although reportedly some of the text is not correct.
No decals are provided, although five different decal sets (4 PRR, 1 N&W) are offered @$5.50 on the Rail Shops web site (see above).
Trucks and metal wheels are included, neither of which I have at hand- so cannot describe. At the moment, Accurail trucks with Reboxx 0.088" wheels are mounted, but on return to California more suitable 70 ton types will be chosen- but still with Reboxx wheels. The PRR prototypes reportedly had a wide variety of trucks under them, while one source that I have read indicated that at least some of the N&W iteration had trucks "like under locomotive tenders" (??).
The trucks and wheels seem to be the only third party parts in this kit.
The coupler boxes are designed for Kadee #78s (not provided). Considering the high visibility of the extremely fine open detail through the car ends, I felt that that more prototypical boxes were appropriate, so I instead installed Accumate Proto boxes and couplers. I have yet to add PSC brake hose hangers.
The instructions are simply not very good, even incomplete, with too many poorly-reproduced grayed out low-contrast detail photos (photos of gray on gray styrene pieces), a real downer for such a complex kit that requires such meticulous attention to detail. Too many times with a given meticulous operation, instead of outlining the sequences envisaged by the kit designer, the builder is simply directed to "use photo X as a guide", and photo X is truly not decipherable. This resulted in too much guessing, and in this regard, some significant errors did indeed creep in.
There is no parts list in the kit to which to refer to identify parts, their names, or where they are to go. Many, if not most steps only referred to "Part N attaches to Part Y" without giving any clue as what these parts in fact might be. Some photos are annotated with arrows and letters with no clue as to what they might be referring to. This alone caused many hours (yes) to be wasted to sleuth-out, and/or simply attempt to divine just how things were to be done. I ended up making my own incomplete list (some of which only were identified in time by default). The instructions make reference to such a list, so apparently one exists (I eMailed an inquiry to Rail Shop some weeks ago, but no answer has yet been forthcoming- perhaps a vacation gap).
*A major issue is just how the etched brass ends are to accurately mate to the styrene body. A basic key to such a careful uniting of the two is how to interpret the directions on just how to join the hopper body to the center sill so that the space between the roof above and the coupler box below is just right for the insertion of the brass ends. The directions simply do not make clear whether this measurement is to be inside-to-outside, i.e. to the "outside" of the roof peak; or inside-to-inside, i.e. to the "underside" of the roof peak- the latter measurement complicated by a deep slot centered to the gable. Even an accompanying drawing is inconclusive.
I guessed wrong: I guessed "inside/inside" and it should have been "inside/outside", and as a result I have been having to do some &%$###* fiddly fudging to cover up the error.
**My strong suggestion to avoid this trap is and to make this critical step an awful lot easier is to have already cut out and bent the brass ends so that they can be used for real time test fits (you only need one end to do so). The goal to be pursued is that the upper edges of the brass side sill extensions should be flush with the slightly deeper molded body side sills; and the gabled peaks of the brass end sheets should reach/cover almost the entire gabled roof end (with the bent-around top edges of the side extensions also being ideally-flush with the top corner of the roof edge). Below, the brass end sill should rest on top of the styrene coupler box. Note that this fit -as described- cannot be perfect inasmuch as the gable angle of the styrene roof is slightly greater than the gable angle of the brass end sheet. Any discrepancy can be disguised effectively with a surfacing compound.
The molded AB brake cylinder provided on a spue already had in its clevis a molded long vertical lever arm- no mounting bracket- presumably a one piece assembly designed for a different kit (Carbon black hopper?). This discrepancy is not noted in the instructions and the builder is directed to simply cement a supplied brass lever arm (with an integral mounting bracket) to the cylinder. A simple option would have been to substitute a Tichy brake cylinder and clevis- a dear item here a long distance from the nearest LHS, however. Instead, I carefully clipped off molded lever arms above and below the provided cylinder, leaving the external molded clevis detail intact. I then used a razor saw to open up the "clevis" so that the brass lever could instead be ACC'd in place. It worked, and it looks good.
The AB valve from the same sprue is well detailed on the face, but it was substantially too thick. Again, I could just substitute a Tichy product, but again I chose instead to cut it down to size, and it does look good. The air tank is quite OK. I used a Tichy manual brake mechanism, but will await access to my Kadee stash for brake wheel choice.
I have referred to the very fine open detailing in and about the ends that the fine brass "fretwork" allows. In this regard, surprisingly, no instructions or provisions are made for the otherwise quite visible brake component piping details, or even a brake staff or retainer valve that would be, and are in fact clearly visible on the prototype. To correct this, I installed the usual piping detail between the three AB brake components, an operation somewhat akin to applying parts to a ship in a bottle! Well worth the effort.
I drilled a hole in the end sheet and Barge-cemented in place a PSC retainer valve with an already-mounted and shaped 0.008" piping directed to and reaching the vicinity of AB valve.
I assembled the brake staff from Tichy "chain", 0.015" styrene rod, and a small styrene clevis serendipitously found in my scrap box. The latter is connected to a horizontal fabricated styrene "lever" reaching back to the brake cylinder (the MR drawings show a chain performing this function in some way). These added brake details on the ends were well worth the effort: they are all so very visible, and they absolutely decorate the fine brass end "fretwork" so that the ensemble just sparkles.
The hopper gate frame assemblies are far more difficult to fabricate than is necessary. Again, the only instructions are : "use the photo as guide". There are many pieces and there are no indexing points to reliably position the principal support arms onto the hopper gates. Also, about half of the support arms had some significant positioning detail missing (molding problem) making assembly even more difficult. My suggestion here is to make a simple jig and assemble the frames individually on the bench. This will make final installation on the hopper bottoms much more more precise and faster.
GRABS & LIFT HANDLES: All of the grabs fit perfectly in the etched brass work. Because the 0.088" thick brass offers almost no purchase for these flea-weight grabs, anchoring them, cementing them, and keeping them stood-off in good position without flying off, or in the process coming disengaged with the slightest misstep was an exercise in steadiness and concentration (one extra grab of each type is supplied, and two extra hatch handles). I used several different styrene 0.030" standoffs to keep things even, and managed in the process to actually not glue any of them in place permanently.
One SS corner grab bounced on the bench top and sprung off into space- I still know not where. I substituted a brass DA corner grab from stock. No corner lift eyes are provided, so I simply glued in a small wire pin and butt-cemented the top to the grab. IMHO, it looks better than the eye, which seems always to be oversized. For the long rodding connecting all the hatch-latches on each side of the roof, I also substituted brass .015" wire for the same sized SS wire included in the kit. Again, I did this to spare my cutting tools.
The distance between the drilling dimples for each individual hatch handle @10 is slightly narrower than the distance between the actual wire leg centers. As a result, unless carefully secured in place early on, the springy-ness of the these stainless wire handles causes them to suddenly launch themselves into space.
There is still considerable fiddly work to be done, i.e. preparations for painting. Principal tasks will the careful scraping of ACC from around joints, and filling gaps with surfacing putties. I have yet to install cut levers or brake hoses or a brake wheel, or select the correct trucks. One tiny (tiny!) pole pocket went flying during installation, and has yet to be found (no extras).
I have yet to confront the spider-webby stirrups.
So, in sum, IMHO this kit can result in a truly extraordinary model that in the process demands of the builder high levels of careful attention, dexterity, good eyesight ,and patience in thinking through each and every step. With better-written and more complete instructions, things could be, and in fact would be a lot easier. The end product promises to be a show piece.
The kit would be a poor choice for beginners.
p.s. Speaking of brake wheels (were we?), I showed two outstanding distinguished and prolific prototype house guest freight car modelers ) a photo of the desired brake wheel, asking them to identify it. Both replied that they identified brake wheels by name by "matching it to what was on the label of Kadee brake wheel packages"!
There is no God.
Denny S. Anspach, MD