Tuesday, September 18, 2018

More building the Litchfield & Madison Gondola

This post gets into the meat that I teased on my last post about these cars. It has proven to be an immensely gratifying project. First, I want to highlight a few things I will recommend that others not do or things that I hinted I might do that, in the end, I did not.

I do not recommend modifying the coupler box on the model. It would not be a great deal of work to leave it intact and work around it when adding the ends. It also would not be a great deal of work to remove it entirely before doing any serious modification to the body, in the instance where you wish to add your own different style of coupler box. The "halfway" method, as employed by yours truly, meant that I had to add strip styrene to "complete" the box in the place where I had removed it earlier. See the presentation for more detail.

I also wish to strongly hint that one need not go to the extremes that I did. A fine model with significant detail may be created with less effort.

During the clinic, I intimated that I would do both 0.005" styrene as well as brass to provide two different avenues for the braces in the end panels on the sides. In practice, the 0.005" styrene versions proved far easier to make. I abandoned the brass versions midstream. I suspect that Mylar would be a good compromise.

Most of what follows will be photos with some accompanying text and/or commentary. If you have questions, comments or suggestions, please feel free to post them in the comments section at the bottom of the page.
I posted this image because it serves as a basic view of the underbody components, but is also before paint was applied, allowing the viewer to more easily identify the various materials. These various items are covered in greater detail later in this post. Note that I left the operating rods for the drop doors in place... they're not visible from the side and removing them would have been more effort than worthwhile.
This is the basic view of the side. Note that I used styrene for the side boards. I recommend using the resin side boards as they are quite nice (courtesy of Bill Welch) and the styrene added no appreciable improvement.
I believe this view of the end provides a good view of the various materials used. I will note here that the discs and rivets used on the brass stiles and for the towing loops rely upon the RP Toolz punch and die (see post about this useful tool here).
Brakes can be confusing to model. I hope that this image is worth a 1,000 words. I do not know if this arrangement is 100% correct for this prototype. My assumption is that the arrangement would have been the same for tight bottom cars like this as well as for the drop bottom versions that the L&M retained, as the shops would have liked such consistency (I assume). This arrangement would not foul the drop doors on cars with drop doors so it is what I chose to model.
For the reservoir mounting arrangement, I replicated something I recently saw on a vintage prototype gondola. I have no idea if it is correct for this car, but I wanted to try it. 
Similarly, I am unsure if the dead lever was arranged as shown here, but I wanted to try this arrangement in model form. You are welcome to try something different. I used 0.0015" brass in several places on the model. I have a large sheet. I simply cut what I need and then make the necessary bends to meet the application. It is so thin that it can be easily cut in one pass with an Xacto knife. Erroneous bends can be flattened easily and the material simply re-bent. I glue it with Walthers Goo thinned 50% with MEK followed by sparing application of ACC to strengthen the joints.
The towing loops are rather self-explanantory. The corner braces proved to be simpler than I had envisioned. I created strips from 0.005" styrene that are 6 scale inches wide. I glued them to the car sides. I then created strips from 0.005" that are 0.030" wide. These were glued on edge against the edges of the strips that I had glued to the sides. I ran some ACC into the joints where the strips were glued to each other. I created the "scallops" for the lower right grab after I had glued the strips in place. The lower right grab shown (as well as the lower ones on the ends) was made by trial and error. All the grabs on the model were created from 0.010" wire. NOTE: the corner braces should extend all the way up to the top steel side member. I ended mine adjacent to the member, as shown.
I opted to use the lever hand brake included in the kit, but used wire for the "staff" portion. I simply drilled a hole through the hand brake and threaded 0.015" wire through the part.

Watch for another post very soon showing the steps to completion, including modeling the trucks with Huntoon bolsters.

Here is a parts list for the project:

  • Intermountain USRA Composite Gondola body and details
  • Cast resin ends and sideboards
  • Strip styrene (for floor boards)
  • Decals
  • Styrene - 0.005” plus various strip
  • Brass - 0.0015"
  • Wire - 0.008”, 0.010”, 0.012”, 0.015”, 0.020”
  • Nut-bolt-washer details (Detail Associates)
  • Eye bolts (bent from wire, although there are commercial options)
  • Chain
  • A-Line sill steps
  • AB brake components
  • Grab irons (ones on model shown herein were bent from 0.010" wire)
  • Pressure retaining valve (Precision Scale part used; most brake sets include one)
  • Angle cocks/air hoses
  • Angle cock/air hose brackets (Yarmouth Model Works part 507)
  • Rivets - both from Archer Surface Details and as harvested from models
  • Trucks - Tahoe Model Works ARA 40-ton used; no currently available commercial offerings with Huntoon bolsters as used on prototype so I "made" my own
  • Couplers
  • 0-80 and 2-56 screws
  • Paint


  1. I appreciate why this was such a gratifying build, superb detailing Ted!


  2. Hi, and thank you for sharing this. It's a really beautiful model and you've done an outstanding job. May I ask how much time you invested into this project?


    John V.

    1. Hello John,

      I will preface by saying that I will not include the pattern-making for the ends, since that work is not relevant since there are now castings of the ends. Also, I will deduct the scratchbuilt sideboards, since the parts set includes resin versions of those. Finally, my path for the coupler pockets should be deducted, as well, since it created unnecessary work. With those exceptions, I estimate that I have about 20-25 hours in the project (typical for my freight car efforts). Others would likely report shorter times as I tend to be a more deliberate (slow) worker. Others also would likely eliminate steps and/or details, reducing the time considerably. I would guess it could be done in about 12-15 hours.



Comments always welcome!