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THE FUEL OIL for diesel locomotives on most shortlines usually came from a small tank next to the tracks. Railroads tended to make them from anything they had lying around and, frequently, that might be an old tank car. A construction gang would mount the tank on relatively low concrete or wood supports because the fuel tanks and filler pipes on diesel locomotives are low.

Sometimes railroads made water tanks from old tank cars. Water tanks were usually at least fifteen feet high so gravity would pull the water down into a locomotive tender. In a fuel facility for an oil burning steam engine, the tank would have to be as high as a water tank because tenders loaded oil from the top just as they did water.

Bachmann now has a perfect oil tank for such a project. I bought their new tank car kit (number 98901), used the tank for the 1:22.5 scale engine fuel facility, and plan to use the car portion as a flat car. The kits are very inexpensive and they come unpainted so you may finish them however you want.


Let's begin by assembling the tank. It is really straightforward but be aware of the following: Be careful to identify the two short handrails having greater curve than the rest; they fit onto the dome. Be sure to install them with the molding imperfections facing down.

You may have a problem inserting the dome top cover all the way into the dome. Remove as much material as necessary where the inside locks into the dome.

You'll have to square up the long wire handrails. The wire is fairly soft, so it should be easy with the help of a machinist's square. Also, notice the four handrail supports with the long "pipes" belong in the middle; those with the shorter "pipes" plug into the tank ends. The instructions neglect to mention the handrails butt together in the middle, inside the long "pipes".

After you remove all the flash along the tank body where the top and bottom sections mate, use plastic filler (such as Squadron Green putty) to obscure the joint between them.

Various adhesives would work, but I found Walthers' Goo very good for every joint, including those involving the metal handrails.

Before you paint the tank, clean off any remaining mold release agent with warm water and dishwashing detergent. After that, avoid touching the parts any more than you have to before painting. For a gray tank, such as mine, Krylon dark gray primer worked fine. Then airbrush on a mixture of about 30-percent Floquil Grimy Black and 70-percent Floquil Diosol thinner, mostly on the top, fading out down the sides. That will represent dirt and soot dropping from the air.


Now let's do the woodwork. Since it is an oil tank I only elevated the tank bottom about seven feet (3 3/4 inches) above ground level. The plans show the dimensions of the various timbers. I kept the length of the legs short because my model will sit on the ground rather than in it and I will take it inside when I have finished running trains.

I carved five beams to the contour of the tank. For me, the simplest way to do that was first to make a paper copy of the curve of the tank (3 1/2 inches in diameter), then to trace that curve five times onto a long piece of wood, and finally to use a grind stone to hog out most of the material. I finished the inletting with a wood file. The entire operation took about six minutes! Hint: Do your carving before cutting the five pieces apart. Handling one long piece of wood is much easier than working with five short ones.

When you cut the cradles apart, make one end of one piece 3/8-inch shorter than the others. Use it in the center of the tank with the short end toward what will be the front. That way the cradle will clear the base of the tank ladder.

Before you assemble the frame, stain the wood. I brushed on a mixture of 24 drops of India ink per ounce of rubbing alcohol. I brushed more onto some pieces than others to vary the shading, allowing the wood time to dry between coats. That lets the wood soak up a little more color.

I used white glue to assemble the pieces, though Walthers' Goo would work for the wood, too. I started by making three identical stringer/leg units, keeping all pieces square. Do that by drawing a gluing guide on white paper. It will be worth the time you spend.

Lay the stringer on a piece of 1/32-inch wood (remember, the piers are wider than the stringers), then glue the legs in position. Glue an X-brace on the top side and let the glue set. Then glue the braces onto the back side.

I like my models to be strong. To reinforce the stringer/leg joints, drill a number 56 hole about 1/4-inch through the stringer into the top of each leg. Cut .046-inch brass rod into 1/2-inch pieces, smooth one end with a file, put a dab of epoxy into the hole, and insert the smooth end of the rod. Use another short piece to drive the top end of the rod about 1/8-inch into the stringer. That leaves a little hole to insert a nut/bolt/washer casting. If the rod goes in only part way, cut and smooth it to the wood line.

Next, lay the cradle pieces upside down and glue the stringer/leg units to them. Glue on the end X-bracing and insert more brass rods through the cradle/stringer joints.

Now we'll add nut/bolt/washer castings to the X-bracing. I used Grandt Line On3 2 1/2 inch nuts on 6 inch round and square washers on the outside of the framework only. They're too hard to see anywhere else under normal outdoor viewing conditions so why go to extra trouble? Be sure to paint the castings before you install them and allow the paint plenty of time to dry. If you drill a hole the same diameter as the stem you may usually get by without using glue. If a brass reinforcing rod failed to go all the way in and you have no hole for the stem, cut off the stem and epoxy the casting in place.


Now it's time to install the ladder, walkway, and fuel pump platforms. Glue the two walkway support beams to the top of the center legs and two more lower down for the fuel pump and ladder. Do not put in the long pipe brace yet! Add the floor boards, four for the walkway and two for the pump.

Make the ladder unit separately, then attach it. But before attaching it, drill holes for the most visible nut/bolt/washer castings and glue them in. At this point I added more stain to the tops of the ladder rungs and the walkway leading to the tank ladder.

I used a seat-of-the-pants arrangement for the fuel filling and delivery pipes, just as a real railroad would. The pump/motor unit, 1/8-inch pipe, elbows, and valves are from Plastruct. I punched the pipe flanges out of .040-inch styrene with a Whitney Junior hand-held hole punch. The hose is electrical test lead wire from a radio supply store. The nozzle is a piece of brass tubing. I left off any weather covering to show off my hardware.

Before you make your piping, decide whether your facility will represent the modern era (with welded piping) or the period from the late '20s to the early '50s (with bolts and elbows). I like the character of the earlier era so I went to the trouble of adding a bolting flange at every pipe joint.


Before you assemble anything, paint or blacken all appropriate fuel and electrical parts. I painted the pipes and hose Floquil Engine Black, the valve handles Floquil Caboose Red, the valve stems Brass, the valve bodies Pullman Green, and the conduit Reefer Gray. The pump, motor, and couplings are au naturel. I glued the tank to the timber framework with Walthers' Goo. Then, to insert the fuel pipes, I drilled a 1/8-inch hole on each side of the pump body, in the center of the dome, and on the underside of the tank.

The front face of the pump has a short fuel-in pipe. Make it just long enough to slip on a valve, then put a coupling on the outboard end. Make the coupling from 5/32-inch brass tubing and .028-inch wire. I also drilled out the visible end of the pipe. When you paint the pipe, be sure to blacken the inside of the coupling end.

I assembled the long pipe in sections because I ran it under the tank handrails. Fit in a pipe support brace after the long pipe is in place.

Cut the tank discharge pipe just long enough to slip a valve over the section above the pump platform. Insert the copper wire core of the test lead "hose" into the end of the tube and epoxy it in place. I put another piece of 5/32-inch brass tube 1/8-inch long over it to represent a mechanical clamp.

The hose rack consists of three pieces of 5/32- x 3/32-inch wood. Cut enough test lead to loop over it three or four times, form it to shape, then epoxy on the nozzle. You may also have to epoxy the hose in place on the rack.

I made the delivery nozzle from a piece of 3/32-inch brass tube about 1/2-inch long. It is very similar to what you would have seen at a gas station.

The electrical power conduit for the motor is nothing more than .033-inch brass rod. I ran it along the front of the model from the motor to the ground to add visual interest.


Well, you still have to roll up a locomotive and a tank car to fill up the little fueling facility. And you may want to take a photograph or two, because it really tends to dress up an engine terminal. What's more, the entire project costs under thirty dollars, and you get a "free" flat car as part of the deal! If you have been thinking about trying a simple scratchbuilding project and your railroad uses a diesel, why not begin with this one?


1 Bachmann tank car kit (number 98901)
2 feet 1/4" x 1/2" wood
4 feet 1/4" x 3/8" wood
4 feet 5/16" square wood
10 feet 1/16" x 1/4" wood
5 feet 1/8" x 1/4" wood
1 foot 1/16" square wood
2 feet 3/32" x 5/32" wood
2 feet Plastruct TB-4/S 1/8" diameter tube
6 each Plastruct E-4 elbows
1 Plastruct PCM-7 pump/motor unit
3 each Plastruct 6V-4/S valves
6 square inches .040 styrene
1 foot .028 brass wire
1 foot .033 brass wire
2 feet .046 brass wire
1 inch 5/32" brass tubing
1 inch 3/32" brass tubing
nut/bolt/washer castings to suit


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