1:24 SCALE NARROW GAUGE FLATCAR KIT
Manufacturer: Ryan Equipment Company, Inc., Railway Products Division, 749 Creel Drive, Wood Dale, IL 60191. Price: K-6500 urethane, metal, and wood D&RGW 40-foot 6500 series flatcar kit, $98.50 each.
WHEN ED RYAN does something, he does it right. His first Colorado narrow gauge car kit is absolutely excellent.
The Denver & Rio Grande Western's 6500 series narrow gauge flatcars originally came from the standard gauge. During the last decade of narrow gauge operations, the Farmington branch in particular needed cars capable of hauling long sections of pipe for petroleum industry customers. The railroad narrowed a number of standard gauge flatcars, set them on narrow gauge Andrews trucks, and put them into service. By the 1960s the cars were everywhere, from Alamosa to Chama to Durango, and carried anything from machinery to railroad ties.
Research through OR's growing collection of books, plans, and photographs has turned up only one notable inconsistency between Ryan's model and the actual 6500 series flatcars: The kit has no retainer valve on the brakewheel end. Since it has virtually every other visible detail of the original and since it so perfectly matches our plans, that single nit may be worth picking.
The only other fault you could find with the model is its scale/gauge relationship. The correct gauge for 1:24 scale models on 36 inch gauge track is 1 1/2 actual inches. Ryan's model comes with trucks for 45mm Gauge One track, so the distance between the wheels scales out to 42 inches. Yes, Ryan does offer bolsters to correct that discrepancy and, of course, almost every 1:24 scale narrow gauge model on the market runs on Gauge One (LGB) track. Still, in the case of a model so otherwise perfect we thought we should mention it.
Everything else about the model is almost perfect. Here is what you get: Excellent urethane side and end body castings, real wood decking, three bags of top quality brass and white metal detail parts including the underbody brake hardware, Kadee« 820 (Number One scale) couplers, correct Andrews trucks with Gary Raymond metal wheels, decals, and a complete set of plans and instructions. What do you need? Spray paint, a few basic tools, and glue.
How difficult is the construction? If you can assemble a POLA structure you can produce a top-quality model from Ryan's flatcar kit. It involves no tricks, no prior experience, only the most elementary cutting and fitting, and about ten hours of your time.
The plans are full-size and crystal clear. They show the location of every part and make the instructions almost unnecessary. But the instructions are equally clear. I would make only one suggestion: Add the couplers before installing the brakewheel and coupler release levers. That way you may lay the model on its deck without the possibility of damaging hardware.
The color photo Ryan includes shows a black car. More 6500 series flats were boxcar red so I painted my model with Krylon Ruddy Brown primer. Its shade is very close to that of Rio Grande boxcar red on a car in service for a year or two. Light oversprays of very dilute Floquil Grimy Black or Earth will further enhance that image.
The wood deck looks magnificent. Each piece of stripwood is exactly the right size. Some are straight, some come slightly bowed, and Ryan has sandblasted others. The instructions suggest staining them in three or four batches, each with a different dilution. When the wood has dried, mix the pieces together so the finished deck has a random assortment of shades and textures. I also rubbed the center of the deck with fine (OOO) steel wool to impart a subtle, worn appearance.
I stuck my deck planks to a piece of masking tape. That way, instead of gluing the planks to the frame one by one, they went on as a unit. I used Walthers' Goo to attach them; it allows a little time for final adjustments.
CA (super glue) turns out to be best for assembling the body and attaching the detail parts. Installing some parts requires you to drill a hole. I used a Dremel Moto Tool at its slowest speed setting to avoid melting plastic and zip through an otherwise tedious job. Also, I have read several product reviews where the builder smugly writes something similar to, "The instructions say to glue together brass parts A and B but I soldered them instead." I no longer suffer from an inferiority complex when reading such braggadocio because I soldered the brakewheel to its staff, just to see whether I could. Glue would have been quicker and more simple.
Install the brake hardware exactly as the plans indicate. If you vary by more than a fraction, the rods will inhibit truck swing and the model will derail on any but the widest curves. As it is, it will barely negotiate 4 foot (LGB 1600) radius curves.
Also, follow the plans literally when you add the coupler release levers. They are the most tricky parts to install and, if you set the deck brackets even slightly back from the car end, the levers will bow.
And about those decals: Their quality is fine; the lettering style is wrong. It is a standard "Times" typeface instead of the Rio Grande's distinctive "Railroad Roman". For a more accurate model, replace them with decals or dry transfers from a company with correct graphics. My model uses (what else?) Larry Larsen's dry transfers. It matches photos of actual 6500 series flats perfectly.
Finally, the vital statistics: The car scales 41 feet 6 inches long, 8 feet wide across the deck (add 9 more inches to account for the width of the stake pockets), and 3 feet 2 inches from the deck to the railhead.
If you build in 1:24 scale or if you want a near museum quality model for your mantel, by all means consider Ryan Equipment Company's D&RGW 6500 series flatcar kit. Its combination of simple, relatively quick construction and superb appearance result in a truly great model.-RR