FINISH WITH A FRED
ADDING A FLASHING REAR END DEVICE TO YOUR ROLLING STOCK
BY GARY RAYMOND
SOMETIMES THREE WORDS can ruin your day.
Last year I had carefully assembled a very authentic 1:32 scale local freight consist to run at a public event. Three Union Pacific GP35 diesels headed a string of boxcars, reefers, and hoppers I had painstakingly weathered and equipped with correctly proportioned wheels and couplers. The train rolled by with headlights burning brightly, sound system rumbling realistically, metal wheels clicking charismatically. Everyone stood in silent awe until the last car passed. Then somebody asked, "Where's the caboose?"
The answer to the question, of course, is that nobody manufactures a 1:32 scale caboose appropriate to a western railroad. (Aster did offer an expensive brass model of a Pennsylvania caboose but that had two drawbacks for my Union Pacific train.) Since I usually prefer simple and inexpensive kitbashing to complicated scratchbuilding I opted for an E.T.D. (end of train device).
An E.T.D. is a small box containing a flashing red light. It fastens to the coupler of the last car in a train. On modern consists it replaces the caboose to warn an overtaking train to back off. Such devices only began to see widespread use in the 1970s but, on my trains, they provide the "period" at the end of the "sentence" when somebody asks, "Where's the caboose?"
I used an HO scale Tomar E.T.D. circuit board and replaced the bulb they provide with a grain of wheat bulb. I also substituted a D cell for the AA battery Tomar recommends because the larger bulb needs more current. The "box" for the flasher is a subminiature (1/8-inch) phone jack. I cut off all but one of its electrical connections.
I used black silicone to fasten the Tomar circuit board to the underside of the hopper and the battery holder to the inside of the car. I drilled a hole through the end of the hopper bin for mounting a toggle switch. Then I drilled a second hole through the same side to feed through the battery wires. The toggle switch wiring interrupts the power between the battery and the circuit board. You may use either battery wire-positive or negative-it makes no difference.
The bulb will fit snugly in the jack but I used a dab of silicone as insurance. If you use Polyzap to glue the bulb wires to the end sill, the entire assembly will stay in place. Before gluing, bend the bulb wires so the assembly sits in the correct position. Then add just enough Polyzap to hold the wires.
When everything is in place, paint the battery, battery holder, and circuit board to match the car body. If you put a dummy load in the hopper it will hide the battery completely.
The battery should last several hours and the flasher will be bright enough to see indoors and outdoors on overcast days. In full sunlight the flasher is harder to notice; at that point an approaching engineer would be able to see the end car clearly, anyway.
But the best part? Next time somebody asks, "Where's the caboose?" tell him, "It's in the box!"
Model Die Casting hopper car
Tomar E.T.D. No. 806 or 822
Red tinted grain-of-wheat bulb, 1.5 volt
Alcoswitch subminiature toggle switch-single pole, single throw, No. TT 13E-2T
Battery holder, single D-cell
D cell battery
1/8-inch (subminiature) chassis-mount phone jack
Drill and bits
Needle nose pliers
Soldering iron and solder
Paint to match hopper body