Ready for Service

Walthers All-Door Boxcars
Walthers All-Door Boxcars

I picked up these two Walthers all-door boxcars at a toy show in Morden, Manitoba. I just had a few steps to go through before they were ready for service.

This kind of car was used for paper service and most were owned by paper companies, such as Boise Cascade and Weyerhauser as seen here. I paid $30 for the pair and I was pleased to have them, as I didn’t have any cars of this type.

 

Coupler Height Check

First it gets put on the test track to check coupler height.

Coupler height check
Coupler height check

That end was good. I flipped the car around to check the other end.

Coupler height FAIL
Coupler height FAIL

This was a FAIL. The coupler was way too low, with the whisker hitting the plate before it could even couple up. It was also obvious that the coupler itself was too low.

I checked the coupler and there wasn’t much play in the box so the solution was to add some washers between the truck and the car body to raise that end.

Adding washers
Adding washers

It ended up taking two washers before I could get the end raised enough. I also snipped off most of the whisker using side cutters.

Good coupler match
Good coupler match

When you raise one end, you have to check the other end again to ensure it didn’t throw that end off! In this case it was OK.

 

Weight Check

Now it was time to check the weight of the car to see if it matched NMRA standards.

Car Weight Check
Car Weight Check

5 ounces was about right for the length of the car, so there was nothing to be done here.

 

Wheel Check

Finally I checked the wheel spacing using an NMRA standards gauge.

Wheel Spacing Check
Wheel Spacing Check

No problems here! There is rarely a problem with wheel spacing on cars, but if there is, the usual fix is to twist one of the two wheels until the spacing is correct.

 

Finish the Paperwork

I printed up the car cards in Easy Model Railroad Inventory and stuck some destination cards in the pocket, then put the car cards into the appropriate slot.

Car Cards - Check!
Car Cards – Check!

 

Ready for Service

The last step was to actually put them on the layout, ready for operation. They are on the CN-CP interchange track now and will get picked up by CP 948 on my next operations session.

Ready for service!
Ready for service!

Further reading:

Car Knocking

BNSF car on measuring device

On real railroads, a car checker / carman (or “car knocker”) would inspect cars as they passed through yards to ensure they were in good operating order, and “bad order” cars that were not. These rejects would be repaired on the “repair in place” (RIP) track or be forwarded on to another location if heavy repairs were required. The “knocking” came from the hammer that the carman used to bang on the wheels to see if they were OK.

On my layout, I inspect all of my rolling stock to ensure it meets certain standards. Once it passes these standards, it is permitted to be on the layout and should operate well. In general I use the NMRA standards for weight and coupler height.

As you can see from the top photo, I mounted a piece of track and a coupler on a scrap piece of wood. This is not my idea – I read it in Model Railroader.

Length/weight check

The length is marked off and the corresponding weight is listed underneath. The NMRA RP-20.1 recommends a car weight of 1 oz + 1/2 oz per inch of length, for HO scale.

The BNSF car above is about 7.5″ long so it should weigh between 4.5 and 5 oz.

I use the Kadee HO coupler height gauge to check the couplers. The couplers should meet at the same height – the BNSF car is just a tad high but within tolerance in my opinion. Also, the trip pin under the coupler has to clear the shelf of the gauge. If it doesn’t, it has to be bent or clipped. Make sure you check both ends of the car!

Coupler Height Check

I use a common kitchen scale to weigh the cars.

Weighing a car

When a car derails or otherwise has an issue on my layout, I check it and if it needs work, I fill out a Bad Order Form. This provides a record of what is wrong so I can remember later!

Bad Order Form

You can even route the car to a nearby yard for repairs if you like. A RIP track is a great traffic generator.

On my layout the CEMR shop in Winnipeg does the car repair, so any cars requiring repair get sent there. I’ll provide some photos of that facility once I add some more scenery.

 

 

Track Cleaning

Everyone who has a layout knows you need to keep the track clean. Without it, trains stutter and frustrations grow. There are different ways for track cleaning:
– use a “track eraser” like a Bright Boy
– use a chemical track cleaner
– use a cleaning pad on a train car

Normally I use a Bright Boy but it is totally clogged with debris now. I decided to try the third method, a cleaning pad. I went to Fredericton’s only hobby shop, Thomas Hobbies, to see what they had. There was one track cleaning car there, a Trains Canada CN through baggage car.

It has a cleaning pad mounted between the wheels on a spring-loaded pad. The springs help keep the pad pressed against the rails. Here’s a shot of the clean pad before use on my layout:

I coupled it up to one of my diesels and took it for a drive around the layout. I let it run several times around the continuous running loop, on the main line and through sidings. After that, I ran it into some of the staging yard. Here’s the result:

It seems to be picking something up! All in all I would say this first run was a success. I will have to pick up some replacement pads soon, of course. The only negative thing I will say about this particular car is that it is too light. You can’t push it backward through a switch without it derailing. It needs a little more weight to keep it firmly on the rails. Perhaps once the springs wear a bit, it will stay on the rails better.

What do you use to clean your tracks?