BUILD A RAILCAR
THE FAIRMONT GANG CAR
BY DEAN LOWE
FAIRMONT RAILWAY Motors, Inc. of Fairmont, Minnesota has produced many kinds of railcars over the years. Most had six cylinder Ford engines and some as much as 120 horsepower. As a result they found favor on most major railroads. Gang cars moved track workers, tools, and often a trailer to the job site. Rail inspectors and touring V.I.P.s generally rode in the optional, fully-enclosed body. The White Pass and Yukon roster includes an enclosed model.
A year or two ago Ron Gibson took some photos of the WP&Y railcar and, when he returned home, scratchbuilt a model of it. When I saw the model I decided it would be a fun project requiring little skill, effort, or time. [Editor's note: As I recall, Ron kept showing Dean the railcar until Dean decided to try building one of his own. Then one day, as Dean tells it, an LGB 2017 motor block mysteriously, showed up on his doorstep.]
Since I model Colorado narrow gauge I decided to do a freelance version such as the Denver & Rio Grande might have used.
You could probably think of many ways to power a railcar but, for the sake of reliability, I chose to follow Ron's lead and use the motor block from an LGB 2017 or 2015 powered tender. [Editor's note: What did I tell you?] The tender motor block is preferable to one from a locomotive because it has no traction tire. That gives it an extra wheel for power pickup--an important consideration on a model as light as it is. And I know the wheels are too big! Don't worry about it. Once the body covers them and the car is running outside the size of the wheels will be almost unnoticeable.
BILL OF MATERIALS
The bill of materials for the project is about as simple as it gets:
-One sheet of .060 styrene
-One sheet of .020 styrene
-One length of Plastruct 3/8-inch by 3/8-inch angle
-One length of 3/16-inch x 3/16-inch angle
-One length of 1/16-inch diameter brass rod
-One LGB 2017 or 2015 tender motor block
-One 1/16-inch drill bit (and a drill)
-Four Number 6 x 1/4-inch screws
-Plastic compatible paint
-Decals or dry transfers.
LET'S GET ROLLING
Start by cutting two pieces of .060 styrene into two rectangles 3 x 5 1/8 inches for the body sides and two pieces 3 x 2 3/4 inches with a four inch radius on one end for the front and back (see Figure 2).
Cut out your windows at this time. The window configuration may be any way you think looks good. The White Pass car has windows all the way around. My version has a windshield and two windows on each side. I made the cut-outs with a very thin abrasive wheel in a Dremel tool and filed them to the finished size. [Editor's note: If you use a motor tool, run it at low r.p.m. to avoid melting the plastic.] Since the motor block fills the body, eliminating a detailed interior, clear window glass is a poor idea. I used an old scrap of smoke colored Plexiglass for my "glass". Ron painted a clear piece of .020 styrene black on the inside. Either looks fine. Do not glue the windows inside the body yet; wait until after you've painted the model.
Now that you have cut out the four body sides, glue them together using four pieces of the 3/8-inch angle for corner braces. Round the body corners slightly with a fine tooth file.
ADDING THE POWER PLANT
Cut two pieces of the 3/8-inch angle to fit snugly when you insert it crossways in the body. Glue them in place with their bottom edge 1 9/16 inches from the bottom of the body. They will become the mounts holding the body onto the motor block. Place the body over the motor block and press it down so the mounts sit on top of the block and keep the body centered.
Now drill a hole in each mount to clear a number 6 x 1/4-inch sheet metal screw. Before you remove the body, use your drill bit to mark the screw locations on the motor block. Then use a 1/16-inch drill bit carefully to drill through the block's outer shell. Drill slowly so you can feel the bit as it starts to break through. You'll notice a little leeway on the break-through, so try to avoid going any further than necessary. Screw the body onto the motor block.
Put aside the body for a while; it's time to build the roof.
Cut a piece of .020 styrene 3 1/16 x 5 1/4 inches. Cut four pieces of .060 styrene 2 3/4 x 1/2 inch with a four inch radius on one end. The radius pieces will be the roof formers.
Glue a former at a point 1/8-inch from each end of the roof piece. Glue the other two formers two inches from the end pieces. Cut six pieces of the 3/16-inch angle to fit between the formers and glue them to the roof 3/16-inch from the side edges. They are for reinforcement.
At this point the roof should drop onto the body with the end formers just touching the body's end walls. With the roof in place, drill a hole through the body end pieces and the roof end formers so you can use two more number 6 x 1/4-inch screws to retain the roof.
That completes the basic body. The roof is removable for access to the body mounting screws.
For the doors, cut two pieces of .020 styrene into rectangles 1 3/8 x 2 3/4 inches. Cut window openings in the doors, then glue the doors to the center of each side of the body, 1/16-inch from the bottom edge. Now you're ready to paint.
PAINTING AND FINAL DETAILING
I spray painted my car Floquil D&RGW Reefer Orange. Then I masked the ends and sprayed on black safety stripes. I sprayed the roof with Floquil Grimy Black. After three or four days, when the paint had dried thoroughly, I applied lettering with dry transfers. It is a good idea to protect the lettering and the finish with an overspray of Testor's Dullcote, Krylon Flat or Semi-gloss Finish, or some other clear finish. After about 24 hours you may glue the window "glass" to the inside of the body.
At this point you may detail your railcar to whatever degree you like. I made bumpers and steps from .060 styrene, painted them, and mounted them with .060 brass rod. You may form a radiator from strip styrene with an insert of screen or a piece of styrene tread plate. I bent my door handles from .060 brass rod and my grabirons are leftovers from a USA Trains boxcar. I used a Trackside Details horn on the roof. The tailpipe is 1/8-inch rod and the muffler is K&S tubing with styrene ends.
I also added headlights and tail lights. It was easy. I soldered light wires directly to the two brass electrical contacts at each end of the motor block.
So there you have it: A really fun piece of scratchbuilt equipment, and it should take no more than about three evenings of "TV time" to build. And before I end the article, a special thank you to Ron Gibson for the inspiration and technical information for this project.