1:24 SCALE SKELETON LOG CAR
Manufacturer: Rio Grande Models, Ltd., P.O. Box 4463, Santa Clara, CA 95056. Price: Kit number 1001, 1:24 scale Gauge One (45mm) Westside Lumber Company 38-foot log car with 4 foot wheelbase trucks $90.00 (car $60.00, trucks $30.00).
IT LOOKS LIKE a museum model. It acts like a museum model. It takes as long to build as a museum model!
The skeleton car has been a staple in the logging industry since the early part of the century and has appeared on nearly every logging road in the country. Such cars came in standard and narrow gauge versions and probably everything in between. Shay, Climax, and Heisler geared locomotives often pulled long strings of skeleton cars through the mountains and forests of California and the Pacific Northwest.
The model represents a Swayne Lumber Company design. California's Westside Lumber Company bought more than 150 of them. Other logging companies built their own but based their cars on the Swayne design.
The Rio Grande Models kit is a very accurate 1:24 scale replica. The actual scale length of 37 feet 9 inches is consistent with the almost arbitrary dimensions of the original cars. All other dimensions are perfect. The only discrepancy is the gauge. Our sample was for Gauge One (LGB 45mm) track, so its gauge is 42 inches instead of 3 feet. Even so, it is a breathtaking model.
Construction is for the brave. The first and easiest step is to glue together the wood center beams. I must admit, your editor glued together the three pieces before he realized what an undertaking the model would be. He promptly dropped it off at my house and informed me I should be building more cars. He has subsequently reminded me no less than forty-three times that he was responsible for gluing together those beams and the success of the model has depended upon their perfect alignment. Funny, but nobody else seems to share that thought. [My mother does. What's more, I reminded Larry seven times and he had to drag the last two out of me.-Ed.]
The log car is nothing you should expect to whip together in one or two evenings' work. Be prepared to spend fifteen to twenty hours. The result, though, is magnificent. I have only a few suggestions about deviating from the very good instructions.
First, be very skeptical when the manufacturer says you can drill the nut/bolt/washer holes all the way through the car from one side to the other. The small drill bit you must use is flexible; it will wander all over the place and come out anywhere but where you want it to. Mark and drill the holes from each side and go only halfway through.
Then, when you begin running the piping and brake detail on the underside of the car, make sure you know the difference between a moisture trap and a triple valve. The drawings are accurate and very clear but I would like to have had an isometric of the brake plumbing. Oh, yes. On our sample the manufacturer left out two small (1/2- by 3/4-inch) pieces of plastic to cover the Kadee« coupler boxes if you use them. Actually, you could use link and pin couplers if you model the early part of the century. AAR standards required knuckle couplers on all cars in interchange service by 1904. Either way, it appears the brake layout and air lines on the model date it at 1940 or later.
For the most part, the castings are well made and accurate. I was a little annoyed with all the flash on some of the small, plastic nut/bolt/washer castings. The white metal parts were straight, clean, and of high quality. [Of course they were clean; I spent more than an hour working them over with a file!-Ed.] The decals with the kit decorate it as Westside did after 1959, with numbers and two white stripes. Westside called them "safety stripes".
The trucks most closely resemble those from Pacific Car & Foundry. They originally accompanied the Swayne cars to the Westside Lumber Company. They had a four foot wheelbase. Westside also used Hammond and Carter Brothers trucks. The trucks are a combination of white metal and plastic. I needed a drill press to drill out the axle holes in the journals accurately. You might be able to do it with a hand held motorized drill, but you would have to be very careful.
The plastic Gauge One wheelsets with the trucks in our kit had large flanges. The model is so beautiful, it really should have wheels with finescale flanges. I plan to replace my model's wheels and that probably means it will become a display model instead of one able to run on my outdoor layout.
Rio Grande Models' skeleton log car kit is for neither the faint of heart nor the hobbyist wanting to be up and running in a few hours. It is for the discriminating craftsman, the modeler with an eye for excellent accuracy and detail. The kit builds up into a remarkable model. It will be a joy to behold either on a display track or on the logging branch of your large scale railroad.-Larry Larsen