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BCDR
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I'm modeling a named train from the early 1920's - the Great Northern Railway Oriental Limited. The train ran from St. Paul, Minnesota, to Seattle, Washington, 1829 miles in less than 2.5 days. Heading up the train behind the engines was a traveling post office (Railway Post Office, RPO), one or more mail baggage cars, then the passenger cars.

The RPO baggage car I'm looking for was modeled by AHM/Rivarossi, one came up on eebuygum last week, and arrived in the mail on Saturday. Good body, very close to what the Great Northern ran, lettered for the Sante Fe railroad but importantly in Pullman green paintwork. The Sante Fe lettering will go (IPA apparently is the solvent to use), and I'll replace with Great Northern, along with a replacement car number. Photo below shows the model. Mail bag pick-up apparatus on both sides. These RPO cars were built around 1910-1920 and were still working in the 1950's. Many continued working as MOW equipment until well into the 1980's.




First job was the wheels. One of the criticisms about original Rivarossi passenger stock (which includes RPO and baggage cars) is that it is lower than other manufacturers offerings. This is an issue with wheel diameter, not incorrect body design. It came with the original wheels, 33" scale diameter and in plastic. These were replaced with 36" diameter as per the prototype (and which in HO have half-insulated wheels and live axles), this will allow me to have some interior lighting later on when I install some electrical wipers in the trucks. I used Reboxx wheels, as these come with different axle lengths to suit the particular model. In this case a length of 1.02" was a good fit. The photo below shows the Reboxx wheel next to the original pizza-cutter wheel. Big difference in tread width (and the Reboxx wheels are NMRA standard, not finescale), and of course they are non-magnetic.




Next up was the couplers. The model came with horn and hook couplers attached to the trucks. These are a simple push fit over a post in the truck. Self-centering plastic springs, which are a "Works some of the time. Maybe." as they break with age (this one has one spring, the other end had both missing),




Some work was required on the trucks in order for the replacement Kadee couplers to be put on the body. The large locating plastic piece used to keep the horn and hook arm in position vertically (next photo) was removed with the Xurons (following photo) to give a bit more room for the replacement Kadee coupler boxes.

 





I used Kadee #58 couplers, the components are shown in the next photograph. From left to right, top to bottom: Coupler box, coupler box cover, 0.01" and 0.015" spacers, Centering springs, and couplers. I would normally use whisker couplers, none in the coupler spares box, I'll replace with these later when I've ordered some. The spaces shims are the same size as the coupler box, which means a much neater job.

I


I filed the end of the floor  flat to have a good gluing surface, and then test-fitted the assembled cover box to check the height with the Kadee coupler jig. Next photo shows that it was clearly too high, spacers would be called for. In the end I needed 0.045" (3 x 0.015" spacers) glued to the coupler box with styrene cement. Following photo shows the coupler is now at the correct height. This also means no unsightly white styrene spacer pieces (the last photo).



 

The shimmed box was then glued to the underfloor. A self-tapping screw was used to keep the cover in place.




That's it for the moment, a pleasant afternoons work. Total cost so far: $4.00 for the wheels, $2.50 for the couplers. The RPO baggage car was $9.00 +$4.50 postage. The current offering of a similar new model by Rivarossi (Hornby) is $42.99 retail, $33.99 discount from my favorite mail order store.

Nigel

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Wow, the springs on those Rivarossi couplers sure suck. And yeah, rubbing alcohol on a cotton swab should get rid of that lettering nicely.

Have you given the car a running test?

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Hi Brendan,

Only down the test gradient (5% slope) to compare with the plastic wheels. Much less rolling resistance. It needs a lot more weight (current weight content is, well, nothing). It weighs in at 3.35 oz (and that's with the metal wheel set), it should be 6  oz (10" long). A 1.5 oz steel bolt over each truck should get it up to standard. Couple of white metal mailmen would help as well, as would some white metal mail sacks. then again, a lump of plumbing lead sheet does a good job.

Those Talgo-type couplers are OK if the springs do what they are supposed to do. Given the age of the plastic that's problematic at best. A Kadee 451 extended swing, body mount coupler is probably the way to go when you have tight radii to negotiate. 

Nigel

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It's how poorly the plastic aged on them that I'm talking about. I've seen similarly-old Tyco cars whose couplers may as well be brand new.

Metal slab weight is a good fit for a model heavyweight car, it reflects the concrete slabs the real deals had.

Any plans to make it an operating RPO, or are you not that crazy? ;)

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Hi Brendan,

If you make them properly Delrin would be the plastic of choice. Unfortunately cheapest was normally the rule.

Working arms. I had considered it, even have a brass casting in the "Oriental" box. Unlike mail cars in the UK, which could pick-up and drop mail pouches, North American practice appears to have been pick-up with the arm and dropping-off by throwing it out. Mechanism would be complicated. Cosmetic operation only. Mailman at an open door would be a nice touch.

nigel


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Well, for the "mailman at an open door" part, you could imitate the mechanism from Bachmann's old Action Caboose. I plan on doing that for my Athearn RPO at some point, possibly after I finish the tender build (one of the projects currently on my desk, have a pic up of it ).

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Hi Brendan,

Problem is that it's a one-go system. See http://model-railroad-hobbyist.com/node/14589 for what I had in mind. Having the door open and the collecting arm come out and then have the sequence reversed would be sufficient for me. Hornby did an operating mail car that depended on a track ramp/mail car lever system that opened a hopper and collected the mail bag from the target. Nothing really like the real thing, which I saw in operation at the GWR site at Didcot in the UK on an exhibition day a few years ago.

We have some limitations in this hobby - train stops at station, mail car opposite the trolleys loaded with mail bags, train departs, mail bags are still there.

There is a short publicity film on You Tube (Night Mail) showing a typical working night in a US mail car. Interesting from a modeling perspective if the interior of an RPO is modeled. The agents were armed with government issue revolvers, serious stuff. I liked the section where the mail was picked up using the arm, then the bags for delivery were simply thrown out of the open door. Up to the receiving agent to go and find them in the bushes.

One thing I've noted is that head-end mail was a serious business for the railroads, it could account for 50% of the passenger train revenues (and more than 50% of the cars in the train). Without it passenger service was not profitable. One of the major reasons passenger service was dropped when the railroads lost the mail delivery contracts in 1967.

Nigel

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Well, of course they were issued revolvers. Mail was valuable, especially if carrying money orders and the like, and was also supposed to be private. It had to be protected.

And yeah, I know about mail being the only means by which most US railroads turned a profit on their passenger trains.

My thought had been to draw the door open with a catch on the car and a hidden trip lever that could be raised as the mail car approached, or maybe a magnet.

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Hi Brendan,

Bit of history around what is being modeled doesn't hurt. Not everybody knows why passenger train service in the US and Canada became scarce, and almost overnight.

Nigel

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Hi All,

Bit more work on the RPO.

Sante Fe lettering was removed with IPA, which also removed the underlying green. Checking with the Sante Fe Historical and Modeling Society produced some interesting takes on what this green might have been, and some suggested mixes to achieve it. none of which are now feasible, as manufacturers have either changed their formulae or simply gone out of business. The GN for many years ran this sort of stock with a lighter green cantrail, so a quick peruse of the Vallejo color chart gave USA Olive Drab as a close relative.  This paint is my NBF, painted it goes on like it was airbrushed. Tad lighter than the Rivarossi interpretation of Sante Fe green, but close enough for me. It should darken up with some weathering and a coat of matt varnish.

Security bars at the windows. I experimented with some brass bars, steel bars, styrene rod bars, ink bars, and then came across some HMRS pressfix gold/black lining for the GWR in the spares box (in real life gold/breen/black). Spacing looked about right, so I cut some clear styrene sheet to size and pressed away. Glued in place on the inside using Testors clear styrene glue, job done. Close-up it looks shadow, from 3 feet it looks like brass bars.

Up next will be some smokestacks for the coal fires inside (one in the mail compartment, one in the Express Baggage compartment), and a dynamo for generating electricity. It's there on the model, but in real life could be seen. And some wivets on the clerestory woof inline with the ones on the lower roof, followed by a matt-black respray (the only time I use an aerosol can). Plus some "Great Northern" decals in Dulux gold/yellow. Easier said than done, another company now defunct, I may have to make my own. I'm leaning towards commercial laser printing to get the color intensity. I have the code for the Dulux gold, so it should be a good match.

What I'm doing is close to the prototype, not exact (that would require scratch building). I've been using prototype pictures and drawings for the modifications, The Great Northern Railway Historical Society (GNRHS) has lots of information and reference sheets on the various prototypes, as well as authentic paint codes. Highly recommended (I'm a member).

Cruel close-ups below. New paint could do with some touching up and a second coat. Might add some brown and or black to the buff olive to see if I can a bit closer.

Nigel





 

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It's looking pretty good, Nigel.  :thumbs

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Looks pretty good, your added rivets are much neater than most of the rivet holes I put in the scratchbuilt tender so far (no photo up yet of that aspect, but there will be)

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Hi Brendan,

Very kind, but all M. Rivarossi's work. Mine is yet to come.

Nigel

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Hi All,

Wiveting done on the roof, clerestory ends have had panel strips added, two smoke jacks were fabricated to go on the roof (chimneys) for the coal stoves in the mail room and the baggage room, and roof ventilators added to the top and box ventilators to the sides. I followed the prototype as far as possible, but the Rivarossi model is at best a close cousin (bit too short and the panel sizes are all wrong, although the number of windows is correct). Paint is Testors matt black spray for plastic, 3 coats. Pictures tell the story.

I'll add some rain strips above the doors when the paint has hardened, after that some under frame detailing, plus the buffer ends need a ton of work (pipes, chains, brackets).

Nigel


Roof masked up before spraying. Archer HO decal/transfer rivets, roof ventilators from an old Pullman Palace kit, side box ventilators (white metal) from Kit Bits. Smoke jacks scratch built from styrene rod and tube. Roof panel tape from Comet Models.
 



Baggage room smoke jack and box ventilator detail. The end of the bottom section was chamfered by putting it in a drill bit, running at slow speed and sanding away with #400 paper. Box ventilator attached using plastic compatible CAA. Close-ups are cruel!
 



Clerestory end detail showing panel tape.




Sprayed up.




Clerestory end panels. Interestingly Archers rendition of HO riveting is a tad smaller and with tighter spacing than the original riveting on the model (lower clerestory panels).




Roof finished except for the clerestory window glazing, which will go on the inside, and the rain strips above the doors. The model looks a bit more interesting than the original by Mr. Rivarossi, and is reasonably close to the Great Northern Prototype I'm modeling (52-71 series), built by American Car and Foundry in 1918 and still running as built in the 1950's and early 1960's. Many cars were running in MOW service well into the 1970's, and one car was on roster in 1983.




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Excellent, Nigel.

You must be pleased with that.  :thumbs

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Hi Max,

Thanks. So far it's going to plan for a change. and within budget ($25.00 limit) thanks to the spares box. Most expensive items have been the wheels ($8.00) and couplers ($3.00). I need 2 of these RPO cars, one for the 1920's in wood and one for the 1950's in steel. The GNHRS has a nice laser-cut kit for the wood-sheathed version of the RPO at just under $50.00, hints have been dropped, birthdays and all, deaf ears unfortunately...I may have to resort to the "old back-order" excuse. Or bash/scratch build a Pullman palace car in the spares box, which will probably turn out nearly as expensive. another item for the roundtoit list.

One other thing that will need addressing is the lack of foot rail steps below the doors. Left off by Rivarossi so that it will go around 18" curves. Ruling radius is now 36", so a lot more room. Brass rod/strip soldered-up methinks (only 2 joints and 4 doors), as the etches are not cheap (the slippery slope of diminishing returns which I'm trying to avoid).

Nigel

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Beautifully done Nigel, well made and finished!

Cheers, Pete.

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Hear Hear !

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Your work is looking excellent, Nigel. I'm not surprised about the difference that came up with the rivets - Rivarossi's rivet details on the Pullmans are actually oversize and spaced too widely. Almost like they were OO rivets put on an HO model.

What all would you need aside from wheels to turn a Roundhouse Pullman Palace Combine into an RPO?

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Hi Pete,

Thanks.

Nigel

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Hi Reg,

Thanks.

Nigel

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Hi Brendan,

Thanks. Re the rivets, more likely limitations in tooling and minimum mold distance.

Pullman Palace Combine to 70' RPO/baggage. Remove sides completely below the cantrail, retain baggage doors. Shorten body and roof to desired length (cut and shut). New passenger car wood siding from Evergreen - 3025 is the closest to the PPC, which represents  2" planks (which in reality were 4" planks with a groove). You could always scribe some styrene sheet to suit, or use styrene strip glued to a backer frame. Or 1" x 2" strips from Northeastern Scale Lumber. Windows and doors from Grandt Lines cut down to size as required, or make using styrene strip and sheet. Mail catchers are available (eg La Belle) or make up using brass or P/B rod/wire. Brakes were KC type, Tichy or Cal Scale. It will need a fish-belly frame, not stays and Queen posts.

Two Pullman Palace combines cut and shut can be used to give a double door baggage car and a 70' passenger car.

You could of course splash out on the latest Rivarossi/Hornby RTR offering for around $40.00. but where's the fun in that? I've decided I'll be going the Pullman Palace combine route (I have one in the spares box) as the latest Rivarossi wood sided model needs as much work as the old metal-sided one (which you can find at $10 or so), and is only a scale 60' long. Too short for me.

I use reference sheets on head-end cars from the GNRHS, which gives some possible methods to make the cars. The above is based on these. The sheets date from 1985, so availability of the kits and various bits and pieces is often problematic now (Champ decals for example).

Nigel


                 

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