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  • Monon 40' Gondola

    Figure 1. MON 3117 is in brown paint, white lettering of earlier years. Photo at Newcastle, IN, March 1966. - Montford L. Switzer photo.

    In Figure 2. MON 30005 in later years black paint. Photo taken on March 10, 1974. - Montford L. Switzer photo.
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    by William Darnaby


       In this article I will describe a simple conversion that will result in a near perfect model of the Monon's 3000 series 40' steel gondola cars. These cars, Figures 1 and 2, were built in 1948 for general service and were numbered 3001 through 3300. They had fixed ends and flat steel bottoms so there was nothing special about them. They could be found on all parts of the system and in all types of service.

       Figure 1 illustrates the original paint scheme of these cars. They were delivered with CIL reporting marks but these were changed to MON over the years.

       In late 1969 these cars were rebuilt by the U. S. Railway Equipment Corporation; they emerged with the paint and lettering scheme shown in Figure 2. In the original paint scheme the car was box car red while the 1969 scheme was in black.

    Figure 3. The original model, before stripping, from which the Monon model was made. - William Darnaby photo.

    Figure 4. Clean off the center ribs with a sharp knife. - William Darnaby photo.
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       These cars have nine side panels as you will notice. This caused me a lot of frustration for several years as nobody makes a nine panel gon in model form. You can get anything from eight to eleven - but not including nine - panels. An odd number of panels is needed to get the centered lettering so for a long time I settled for Tyco's gondola (Figure 3) which has eleven panels. However, the results were not quite satisfying. The solution came when Wabash Valley Models marketed the old Red Ball line of car parts which included the No. 1089 braces or, if you prefer, ribs. These are nice little castings that are complete with rivets and can be cut to any length you want. All I had to do was take the Tyco gon, which has the correct ends, remove the unecessary ribs and substitute enough Red Ball ribs to get nine panels. This is what this article is all about, it's easy.

       After stripping the factory paint off the car, refer to Figure 4. Carefully remove the center six ribs from each side of the car. I suggest using a flat knife blade and just peel each rib off as shown. Be as careful as you can and try not to remove any rivets. I found it best to clean off the ribs from between the rivets with a narrow blade. Clean up your scrapping efforts with a little 400 grit sandpaper until your car looks like Figure 5.

       Now, we are going to replace those six ribs that we removed earlier with only four. Carefully mark off four equally spaced points in the center of the car and scribe lines where the new ribs are to go. I might point out that the Red Ball ribs are not exact duplicates of the existing ribs on the car. If this is a problem to you then you have some more scraping to do; I was satisfied with leaving four of the original ribs on each side of the car.

       This next step is optional. This type car begs for proper weathering and I decided to bend up the sides a little before going any further. I do this by heating up the sides (shown in Figure 6) with a soldering iron and deforming the plastic with a blunt instrument before the plastic cools. I prefer the soldering iron method because it provides locaized heating. I tried doing it with larger heating sources but had trouble controlling where the heat went. Basically, I hold the iron just next to the surface to be deformed for a few moments and push it out with some thing blunt like the end of a paint brush.

       Hold the iron as close as you can to the plastic without touching it because the hot iron will mar the surface if it touches. I suggest you practice on something you don't care for if you've never done this before.

       Now we are ready to apply the new ribs. Refer to Figures 1, 2, and 7 and note that the four center ribs we are adding are longer than the others and extend below the sides of the car. Remove eight ribs from their package and cut them to 5 3/4' in length. Note that the ends of the Red Ball ribs are rounded; one end of the rib must be filed square before making your measurement.

       After the ribs are cut to length, fasten them to the car over the lines scribed earlier with a little cyanoacrolyte adhesive. I'm sure you have noticed by now that the leg of each rib sticks out beyond the lip running along the upper edge of the car side. After the adhesive has set, file down this leg until it matches the lip. Also, file a small bevel on this leg at the bottom of each rib similar to the molded on ribs. Oh, I almost forgot to mention it, cut these castings are soft enough to be bent so they will conform to the car sides if you've taken the extra trouble to bend up the sides with a soldering iron.

    Figure 5. The car side with the center six ribs removed and the side cleaned and sanded. - William Darnaby photo.

    Figure 6. Car sides being malformed to reflect service abuse. - William Darnaby photo.

    Figure 7. Four new center ribs added equally spaced. - William Darnaby photo.

    Figure 8. Grab irons added to the car ends as used on the prototype. - William Darnaby photo.
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       Unfortunately, the removal of the six ribs has left voids where there should be rivets. I get around this by drilling holes where the rivets should be with a No. 80 drill and filling them with small pieces of .010" wire. The bits of wire can be filed flat after they are in the car side; they make fairly effective rivets, especially if the car is weathered. There is a lot to be said for weathering.

       To finish detailing the car, I removed all of the molded-on grab irons and replaced them with Northeastern formed grab irons. The prototype cars had a small ladder at each end and I approximated these with some ladders I had left over from an old cushion-underframe kit as shown in Figure 8. I also replaced the Tyco brake wheel with an Athearn wheel. Finally, install your favorite couplers and the car is ready for painting. Oh yes, if you are picky about wheel sets as I am, I found that the Tyco sets can be replaced with Kadee's.

       I stuck with the older box car red paint scheme as the black cars are too new for the period I am modeling. I recommend a 50/50 mix of Floquil Box Car Red and Roof Brown for newer appearing cars. For cars that are going to be more than lightly weathered, I would suggest almost the straight Box Car Red though you might want to add just a touch of Brown. Black is black for the rebuilt cars but you can mix in a little Floquil weathered black to give the car a slightly faded appearance if you're modeling the 1970's.

    Figure 9. Making "rust" spots by "roughing-up" with solvent and a stiff brush. - William Damaby photo.

    Figure 10. "Rust" spots after painting and lettering look realistic. - William Damaby photo.

    Figure 7. Four new center ribs added equally spaced. - William Darnaby photo.

    Figure 11. The completed car with weathering applied. "Rust" spots and service "dents" really add to the prototypical appearance of this model. - William Darnaby photo.
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       If you plan on giving the car a fairly heavy weathering job there is a little trick that you can play with some liquid plastic cement to simulate large rusty patches in the sides of the car. Just pick a location at random and apply a little of the liquid cement to the side of the car. Let it sit for a moment to soften the plastic. Next, take a stiff bristled oil paint brush and poke at or stipple the soft plastic to give it a very rough surface as shown in Figure 9. When painted over, this looks just like a rust spot.

       For lettering the old paint scheme use the herald off Champion Decal's HN-27 set along with the reporting marks whe ther you're using the CIL or MON marks. To get the large Monon I had to use the one that comes with the Walther's 42-12 set, this is necessary to get some that were large enough. Actually, these letters are slightly too large but the next closest thing, the small Monon from the Champion Decal N-27 set (O Gauge), is slightly too small so I chose to err on the large side. I got the dimensional data from the Walther's set D-635. The black cars can be lettered with the same sets only leave out the herald.

       After the car is lettered, it can be weathered. Note how, in Figure 10, my letters overlapped a couple of the rust spots. Deteriorated letters can be simulated by picking away the decal with your knife and painting in the rust spot with a little rust color. My favorite medium is oils and, while this is not intended to be a disertation on weathering, I will describe the steps I took to weather my car.

    Figure 12. While weathering the outside of box and other closed cars is sufficient, it is essential to do something along the lines of both weathering and load for open cars such as flats and gondolas. This car is certainly no exception. This photo shows the author's approach to a base for the loading of limestone blocks to his car. - William Darnaby photo.

    Figure 13. Limestone blocks added to the base shown in Figure 12. This added "touch" is what "makes" a car like this as it rolls along the layout. - William Darnaby photo.
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       Weathering is not particularly complicated and it doesn't require an accomplished artist but it does take a little care.

    1. Take the same shade of base color or, preferably, a little lighter shade than that used to paint the car and thin it down about haif of what it was. Then very carefully overspray the lettering to blend it in with the rest of the car and make it appear faded.

    2. Mix up a little yellow ochre and burnt sienna in a shallow container or flat surface using the consistancy of the paint as it comes out of the tube. Straight burnt sienna alone is good for old "established" rust and by adding yellow ochre you lighten this color to represent "new" or "recent" rust. Mix what looks good to you and spread it around with a stiff oil paint brush. Try applying different shades for good effect.

    3. Paint in the details with the rust color and, especially for the rust spots, use a different shade to contrast with the rest of the car. Floquil Rust is good for painting details like grabs and couplers.

    4. Take a little of the Floquil Dust and spray it around the underbody, lower sides, ends, and interior.

    5. Give the whole car a shot of Scalecoat Flat Finish to give the car a very dull finish. The finished job is shown in Figure 11.

       One final weathering touch I gave to my car was to leave the reporting marks and the paint in the immediate vicinity of the reporting marks unweathered to simulate recently applied reporting marks.

       I chose to give my car a load of limestone. You can do this by throwing in some timbers, a little of your favorite earth material, and some small plaster chips to represent stone debris as shown in Figure 12. Finally, make some lime stone blocks out of plaster as shown in Figure 13. I made mine by pouring plaster into a shallow rectangular mold made of wood and then breaking it up into small chunks when the plaster has set.

       Well, that about wraps it up. I hope you find making this car as satisfying as I did.

    Article Details

    • Original Author William Darnaby
    • Source Prototype Modeler
    • Publication Date June 1978

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