SCRATCHBUILD A WOOD FREIGHT PLATFORM
BY "DO IT YOURSELF DAVE" CUMMINS
SO MANY BUILDINGS are now available to those of us modeling in the large scales it is possible to create a scene resembling almost anything from a European village to a "shoot 'em up" western town. But manufacturers seem to have neglected one important kit: the lowly freight platform.
At one time such structures existed in far larger numbers than freight houses or stations and often stood unaccompanied beside the tracks. They are particularly appropriate for narrow gauge modelers because so many narrow gauge railroads interchanged with standard gauge lines and virtually every interchange used a freight platform.
My model represents a generic 1:22.5 scale transfer point between a dummy Gauge 3 (2 1/2-inch) standard gauge siding and a Gauge 1 (45mm) narrow gauge railroad. A 1:22.5 scale standard gauge boxcar will stand on the siding next to the platform. Narrow gauge trains will arrive and depart to load or unload cargo for transfer with the standard gauge line. Of course, with a slight modification of size, your own platform could work just as easily as a transfer point between two narrow gauge railroads or between a railroad of any gauge and such non-rail carriers as trucks or horse-drawn wagons.
BACKGROUND AND DIMENSIONS
In the era most of us model, standard gauge boxcars were usually forty feet long. I made my platform exactly that length. Then I studied old train photos and found 12 feet to be a common width for freight handling. It is wide enough to provide room for stacking crates and moving about and narrow enough for a short trip between boxcar doors.
The floor of the standard gauge car pretty well determines the height of the platform. It works out to 4 feet 2 inches above the ground, allowing for rail height (code 250) and car height.
In 1:22.5 scale, those dimensions of 50 inches high by 12 feet wide and 40 feet long work out to be about 2 1/4 x 6 x 21 1/3 inches for the flat part of the platform. (The 6 inch dimension is really closer to 1:24 scale because I cut my own lumber and rounded off the fraction.) Most real platforms had a ramp on one end for incoming and outgoing freight and a ladder at the opposite end.
If you have access to a table saw I recommend you cut your own wood. Projects such as this can wipe out your hobby budget if you buy commercial wood but cost only a few dollars if you do it yourself. Then, too, commercial wood is far too "uptown" for a freight platform; they used only the roughest lumber.
White pine will work fine for this project. It is so inexpensive you may cut a little extra and be picky about using the best of the lot. Use dry, well aged wood. And when you cut the floor planks, try to cut the wide surfaces across the grain rather than parallel to it; the grain will look better. If you plan to leave the platform outside you would be better off using redwood. And I find it very helpful to set up a list similar to Table 1 so I know exactly how many pieces of each size to cut.
The first step in building is coloring the wood. I stained mine with a mixture of India ink and rubbing alcohol. I think it gives more realistic results than commercial weathering liquids and it is less expensive.
Next, decide whether you will leave your model outside permanently. If so, you may want longer posts than I have drawn. My model will sit outside only on operating days so it has short legs.
Now we'll jump ahead a little and mark the joist locations on the platform stringers. Line up all three together, be sure the ends are even with the top sides up, put a mark on one piece where each joist should go, then extend the mark across all three.
Posts. Let's start the actual assembly by gluing the posts to the platform stringers. White glue was fine for my model but be sure to use a waterproof glue if your model will sit outside. We'll make three post/stringer units. Start by putting marks on the work board where the six posts should go. Then lay the stringer on some kind of 1/8-inch thick material. It will center the stringer on the post. Use weights to anchor the stringer. That way you can push on the posts without moving the stringer to get a good glue joint. Make sure the posts are perfectly vertical on the ramp end of the dock, and be sure the stringer does not extend out past the post.
Make a similar set of marks to assemble three ramp stringer/post units. When you lay it out remember the ramp has no joists. The critical dimension is the top of the highest ramp plank; it should be at the same height as the tops of the platform planks. Again, be sure the end post is perfectly vertical. Cut one end of the stringers at 80-degrees to fit against the platform and the other end at 10-degrees to lie against the ground.
Bracing. You may use your imagination here because railroads used all kinds of methods. Some had braces such as I made. Some had extensive X-bracing. Others sheathed or planked all around. A lot of platforms had nothing at all! Take your pick.
I put angled bracing on all three platform stringer/post groups as the isometric view shows, but X-bracing only on the ladder end.
I insert a length of brass rod through the main glue joints on any model I plan to handle at all. It adds a lot of strength. I did that on the stringer/post joints by drilling a #56 hole vertically, down through the stringer, into the top of the post. Then I inserted a 3/4- to 1 inch long piece of .046-inch rod. It's a tight fit, but if you want to feel even more secure, put a dash of epoxy on the rod. It is easier to insert the rod if you smooth one end with a file.
Joists. I added the joists by starting upside down, using weights to anchor the two endmost pieces while I laid the stringer/post units on top. Take plenty of time to be sure everything comes out square. After the glue on the end joists has set, flip over the model and add the remainder of the joists at the marks you made earlier. I suggest first completely planking the platform, then the ramp frames, and finally gluing everything together before planking the ramp.
PLANKING AND DETAILS
The planks on the platform run the long way and on the ramp they run across the width. Planks on freight docks usually came from the mill in lengths between 10 and 20 feet. Workers cut them to fit at the job site. Only one rule applies: When planks butt end-to-end, the joint must sit over a joist. The old timers also took care to stagger the joints. On the platform, be sure the planks extend out past the joist no more than 1/16-inch but are flush with the stringers on the ladder and ramp ends.
I found it easiest to cut and fit each segment of each plank before starting any gluing. Then I began gluing from one side, doing all the pieces of the edge plank before going on to the adjacent plank. Keep in mind the total of your twelve plank widths may add up to slightly more or less than the exact 6 inch width you made the joists.
Plan to compensate as you go. If the total is slightly undersize, add a tiny space between each plank as you work across the width. Arranging all the unglued planks in place as you glue will help you even out the spaces between them. If you come out too wide you could either let both edge planks overhang the joist ends a tiny bit or you could shave some planks to make them narrower. But, again, don't be fussy. Remember you're making a model of a pretty crude original!
You must trim the side of the highest plank on the ramp by 10-degrees to avoid any open space between it and the platform planking. Cut the length of the ramp planks exactly to fit the finished plank width of the platform.
The ladder is the only part I built from scale lumber. Start by cutting the two sides about 5 inches long. That allows a little extra so you may lightly glue together the ends while you cut and file out the slots to a tight fit for the rungs. That way the rungs will be perfectly parallel. It is also easiest to cut the rungs themselves a little too long, then trim them after you glue them on.
Cut off the ends you glued together, then set the up two sides of the ladder square and 1 inch apart. Glue in the rungs and trim as necessary. The ladder mounts on two short pieces of wood 1/16- x 1/4-inch.
If you want, you may add nut/washer castings and nail marks now. I suggest Grandt Line On3 castings for the bracing and the points where the ladder attaches. You could also simulate nail holes and rust on the top surface of the planking but I doubt their absence would hurt much. I added neither to my model.
That's all this project requires. It was simple enough to let a beginner dip a toe into the waters of scratchbuilding but was also a worthwhile model for the experienced hobbyist. No matter what your level of experience, I hope this article has encouraged you to add a similar structure to your own layout or diorama.
Item Size of Original Size of Model Length Number Needed Number Needed Total
for Platform for Ramp Feet
Planks 3" x 12" 1/8" x 1/2" 21.333" 12 0 23'
Planks 3 x 12 1/8 x 1/2 6 0 22 11
Joists 3 x 9 1/8 x 3/8 6 31 0 16
Stringers 6 x 12 1/4 x 1/2 21.333 3 0 6
Stringers 6 x 12 1/4 x/1/2 11.75 0 3 3
Posts 12 x 12 1/2 x 1/2 1¼ 18 0 2
Posts 12 x 12 1/2 x 1/2 1¾ 0 3 -
Posts 12 x 12 1/2 x 1/2 1¼ 0 3 1
Bracing 2 x 6 1/16 x 1/4 4½ 15 0 6
Bracing 2 x 6 1/16 x 1/4 6 2 0 1
Bracing 2 x 6 1/16 x 1/4 2, 3½* 1 ea. 0 1
Ladder** 1/8 x 3/32 4½ 2 0 1
Ladder 1/16 x 1/16 1¼ 5 0 1
* Use 1 piece of each length as ladder supports.
** Make ladder from commercial scale lumber.
Last issue we inadvertently left off the bill of materials for Dave's diesel fuel
facility. It appears below. We apologize for any inconvenience the omission may have
BILL OF MATERIALS
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