Scratch Built Flat Part 4

Since my last update I’ve been slowly pottering on with the scratch build. I’m building off instructions that were part of a four part series of clinics on building a flat car on the Lonestar Region of the NMRA ( the four parts labeled Flat Car Clinic but not Wood Flat Car Clinic). I was provided the PDFs and didn’t realize till now that they were publically accessible.

Anyway I came to the conclusion that while the instructions are probably right, there is probably a better way for *me* to build it. I’ve already got some good ideas on ordering would help reduce the mistakes I made. An example would be the horizontal bit on the bottom profile of the four beams. The instructions have them installed right away and then bits are tucked underneath but trimmed to fit first (like the bridge beams). But I’m thinking if that horizontal bit isn’t there they can be installed untrimmed and then trimmed on the model to be the right height. I’m just trying to work out how best to document it. I’ll probably have a series of posts on it with lots of pictures but I’m thinking it might be helpful to learn a little CAD to aid in creating represntations and made some videos too.

But none of that has anything to do with the current build which is starting to make some actual progress. I managed to get some “good enough” bolsters carved out (literally) and installed. I’ve also got all the stake pockets installed. I need to do some putty work on some gaps (naturally my model putty has disappeared at the moment) and then installing brake wheel, grab irons, wheels, and then paint. I suppose I’ll also have to figure out some weight as well either on the bottom of the car or in the load. Sorry for the lousy pics, it was late when I finished up and wrote up this post.



It’s hard to believe I’ve actually made it this far in about 2 months. This does bring me to a new dilema in that I have never done real decals (aside from sticker style that you find in entry level model car kits) and painting isn’t a skill I have a lot of confidence in so I’ll have to work to get through the mental barrier as well.

Monday Motivational 5

Monday Inspirational Modeling is out, and the more alliterative and catching Monday Motivational is in. This weeks motivational isn’t modeling, it’s the photography website It’s not specific to railroading at all but has some great railroad pictures like this and this. These photos are all licensed under the Creative Commons Zero license which means you can copy, modify, distribute, and use the photos free for any purpose without permission or attribution required.

Weekend Update 20

When I was last at the hobby shop I found a Walthers Heavy Duty Front End Loader kit (#933-3162 but not in the Walthers catalog, it appears Kibri #405-10756 is an updated version, the Walthers kit appears to be a rebranded Kibri kit anyway). I passed on it but thought it’d make a good flat car load. Once I got home I decided to find more details on it and found it wasn’t terribly easy find anymore (this was before I discovered it was available under the Kibri name now) so I picked one up online and put it together this weekend.


It was a fun build, probably took me about an hour of casual building time and is fairly well detailed. I’d definitely build this one again if I come across another at a good price.

I’ve been fairly busy lately, including preparing for a bunch of family to visit this week. This has required some heavy cleaning of the garage which has the positive advantage of cleaning my garage workbench off so once the family visit is done it’ll be clean enough to use it to try and get my airbrush working again.

I’ve also been doing some thinking on my scratch build flat car project, I think I have some ideas on improving the build process for the next one I build. I’ll probably have a post on that… when I have time to write it.

Scratch Built Flat Part 3

I’m kind of behind in posting updates on my flat car build, things have been slowly chugging along. I was able to get the longitudinal and then secondary cross braces installed.


After that I got the sub deck installed (you can see my markings for stake pockets).


And in the most recent pictures I have the stake pockets cut out of the subdeck.


I’m currently working on the bolsters which has been to put it some what dramatically a nightmare. It’s kind of become a carving exercise to get them close enough as it’s fairly tricky cuts. I’m trying to figure out a way to do it better for the next one. A couple ideas include using a Silhoute Cameo machine to score some sheets of styrene (and then layering them to get the right thickness) or 3D printing. Definitely open to suggestions.

I was short a few supplies to finish (not counting paint or decals) so a trip to the hobby store was in order. I ended up picking up some brass wire (I’m not doing brake lines on the bottom but going to use it for brake wheel and cut levers), stirrups (already have plenty of grab irons), trucks, and deck wood. I’m not sure what paint scheme I want to go with, I’m currently leaning toward the grey and red CNW scheme.

The trucks I found are pretty cool, the scratch building instructions I have included a prototype photo which seem to be S-2 Barber trucks. I was about to purchase some Kadees when a set of Kato trucks grabbed my attention. Not only where they cheaper they have rotating bearing caps which is super cool. I put one cap on just for a demonstration video.

PDC Roadside Mobile Sign

Recently Bill Brillinger of Precision Design Co was on A Modeler’s Life (Episode 53). Mentioned on the episode was his 6×9 Roadside Mobile Sign, long story short now he has some A Modeler’s Life (AML) specific artwork available. He also has versions of it with text based on real signs and for an additional fee will do custom versions. Since I didn’t have anywhere planned out for it, and because they were funny I got the AML ones but the actual assembly is the same for all of them.


One thing that always throws me is how big it looks online compared to I get it. These things are small.


First step is to remove all the parts. The concrete pads have a paint tab to hold them all for painting so for now they get cut out as one piece. The sign itself also has a tab for painting.


All the parts cut out with a dime for scale, it’s small! While gluing the sides on together I needed a place to set the sign to hold it at the right angle while the glue dried. I happened to have my Raspberry Pi 3 sitting on my desk and found one of the heatsinks made a great stand.


Once I got to painting I found how genius the paint handles were. We should all applaud Bill on that idea, I guess if you are reading this at work you can wait till your at home, but I expect to hear some clapping🙂

I used a soldering stand to hold the sign for painting which was very handy. I started with Vallejo (Unofficial sponsor of  Matt’s Railroad Blog… in that they don’t pay me anything and don’t know they are a sponsor.. I just love the products) Surface Primer Grey 73.601 and the main sign body Model Air Black 71.057. For the concrete feet I used Model Air Cement 71.131 over the primer. I happened to have this color as part of the weathered wood painting set and I think gave it a nice aged concrete look.


The last step was to cut the signs out you want and since they are decals (they are from Canada so you have to use the Canadian pronunciation of decals) and stick them on the sign. I touched them up a little bit with black paint where any white was showing from the edge of the decal paper (mostly because of my cutting or placement mistakes). I used black paint because I still had it out but a felt tip marker or other would also work. Just make sure the market matches the color of the sign body.

Here’s mine finished:



I still have one left to build, my plan was to build one as a practice and then film a build video. I might still do that, things weren’t going well with tripods and getting a good shot and lighting tonight so that might still happen but isn’t going to happen tonight.

As some reviewy type details, I didn’t time myself but I spent a decent amount of enjoyable time with it so for under $9 US that seems like a pretty good value. The kit itself is a little fiddly but only because of the size of the parts, not because of the design of the kit. You definitely have to take care of the legs because they are so small but the parts sprue is definitely designed to transport safely but easy to remove the parts safely when you want to. And to top it all off I got them in 2 days via USPS!

I could sum up my opinions of the kit as such, I look forward to building the next one and wouldn’t hesitate to get some more if a project needed it. For example, once I finalize the industries on my shelf layout I would be interested in getting one or more signs with industry specifc custom artwork.

“Flex” Track

I mentioned almost a month ago getting some Micro Engineering Flex Track as a temporary track while I decided which way I was going to hand lay it. The idea being get it operational and then update sections of track removing the ME rail from the plastic ties and then hand laying it.

The operative word was flex, and I’d forgotten just how “flexible” ME Flex track is. I even tried the warm water trick, that made it flex easier but flexing one end would make the other end go crazy. I decided 5 minutes of futzing was all I was going to put up with and I made the decision I was just doing the non-tie plate handlaying. I’m still going to work at the P87 track but save that for future projects that have more of a display aspect to them (like a diorama or exhibition style layout).

I’m setting myself a new goal that hopefully gives me plenty of time in that I’ll have the track fully operational by January and there’ll at be at least one scratch built flat car. Why January? Well I made my first locomotive pre-order, a Scale Trains SD40-2 from the operator line. Since it’ll be ready to run… I should have somewhere ready to run it.

I’ve got a small kit on the way that I’m going to try doing a video of, if it goes well you should see that in the next couple of weeks. If it doesn’t go well… you won’t…🙂

I’ve also been making some progress on the flat car build, occasionally I’ll post quick pics as they happen on the facebook page so check that out if you use Facebook. Otherwise a post is very likely to show up summarizing the recent work soon.

Making Bridge Beams

I was able to make a little progress on the flat car project today. I’ve got the main beams attached to the sill plates (so it’s starting to look like a flat car) so the next step was bridge beams.


The trouble with the bridge beams is you need to compensate for a slight height difference between the inner beams and the outer beams. It’s about a 2 scale inch difference (which is a bit more than half a millimeter). So my task was to make a 4 scale foot long beam and angle the bottom so one side is full height and the other 2 scale inches shorter. My first attempt was cutting it. This ended up being more of an exercise in carving and sanding smooth. It worked but was kind of a mess so I ended up doing it a new way.

First I put a small notch in one end of the beam


Then I sanded it trying to keep the un-notched end unchanged


That was a slightly awkward picture to take. It didn’t take much sanding to get what I wanted, definitely faster than trying to cut it.


Then it’s just installing them, it’s a little fiddly but if you have a slower glue it’s not too hard to make sure they are in position


This project has gotten more and more fun for me, it’s almost relaxing to come fiddle with little bits . I’ve got some ideas for paint scheme and lettering but I’m quite a way out from that so that’ll be a future topic🙂