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  • Northern Pacific Standard Motor Car House in HO Scale

     
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    by Ron Tarjany and the Prototype Modeler Staff

       The Northern Pacific, like most major railroads in this country, have developed standard designs for their railroad-owned structures. Economics was and still is the primary reason for standardization of almost every type of structure on the protoype.

       The drawing presented here is a Northern Pacific Railway Standard Plan of a motor car house for signal maintainers. It was designed in 1929 and had replaced another, older design of 1917. This design was known as "One Car House" as it could shelter only one speeder. The other part of the structure had storage shelves, a work bench with drawers underneath and a caboose stove.

       The drawing was made from an official Northern Pacific Railway print from the collection of Mr. Tarjany.

       The staff of Prototype Modeler found this small building very intriguing. Since it is one that is seldom modeled, but found frequently on prototype roads, and should be found on all layouts, we decided to build a model of it in HO Scale. Motor car houses of similar designs were found on all roads, and although this project covers a Northern Pacific design, we hope it inspires you readers to seek motor car houses on your favorite prototype road and build a few for your layout. We will be covering similar buildings in future issues.

       Although the building we assembled included the joists, beams, and rafters plus some of the interior details as shown on Ron's drawing, you don't have to build your model the same way. You can eliminate all of the interior details, painting the interior walls black. However, we went to the trouble of building the model in detail in order to illustrate what can be done to come up with an authentic-looking model. Also so that those of you who choose to build the motor car house as we did, can enjoy the extra flexibility of superdetailing the interior, even including some appropriate figures, and make the doors so that they are in the open position. The point we are making is that a building of this sort can be a fine example of a railroad structure that lends itself very well to installation on a remote portion of your layout or right up front where your guests can view it in detail.

     
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       The Materials List includes all of the basic parts and styrene pieces you will need. You can substitute wood for the styrene. We began by building the foundation and floor of the model, and Figure 1 illustrates this for you. You can eliminate the floor beams and simply substitute a solid piece of styrene of appropriate thickness (about 6 scale inches), with the simulated wood board scribing running lengthwise to the building. We do, however, recommend the construction of the foundation plate surrounding the floor for the sake of realism and to make installation of the sides and ends a bit easier later. Whether you elect to build the floor as we did or use a solid floor, remember that if you plan to superdetail the interior to include the flangeway grooves as shown in the drawing.

       Figure 2 illustrates the front side of the foundation only in order to illustrate the foundation sill (4" square) and the installation of the 4" x 4" plates atop the foundation sills all around the building except where it is to be notched at the flangeways in the motor car storage section. You will then notice that we installed another 4" square plate atop the 4" x 4" units all the way around except at the two doorways.

       Building the framing of the building follows Ron's drawings. However, as we stated before, this framework can be eliminated entirely, using the clapboard siding only to build the sides and ends. Just use the door and window openings as illustrated in Ron's drawings of the framework. Do not use the finished sides and ends for the locations of the windows and doors because we will be building up the window and door frames as shown. It is very important that the door and window openings be cut very accurately and square whether you elect to frame the building or just use the clapboard siding alone.

       Figure 3 illustrates how the small doors at the peak of each end are made. These are easy to make and will give you some practice before tackling the windows. The first piece to be installed is the inner panel of the little doors; then install the outer framing of the doors. This can be done right on the cut out area of each door so that you will have a snug fit. If you make the doors first and install later, you will find that due to slight inaccuracies in cutting that the doors may not fit. We always install windows and doors into the sides, cutting the various pieces to fit the opening. Unfortunately, no commercial door or window suits this model, otherwise making these units could be avoided. The rear wall, by the way, doesn't have windows or doors, however, another window could be installed if wanted. Keep in mind, though, that we are not aware whether the Northern Pacific ever installed an optional window on the back.

       Installation of the window assemblies is next. Building up the window frame, sash, and mullions is really very easy, particularly when usine styrene strips. The only strips that mus be facbricated are the 1" x 2" pieces for the mullions. Here is what we did. Use 1" x 6" material and cut off a 2" strip by lightly scoring several times until the piece separates. It will be easy to see if you did your job accurately. Just try another if you spoil the first effort. Just follow the step by step illustrations shown in Figure 4. once you complete one window, the other two are much easier to do, and you'll be pleased with the results. If you like, install clear plastic window material on the back of the sash or use Clover houses thin laboratory glass. We didn't install window material in our model. If you elect to install window material, don't forget to "dirty" the windows with some "dust."

     
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       Installation of the door is next. Figure 5 offers step by step illustrations. you can, particularly if you are going to superdetail the interior, repeat the door outer paneling on the interior of the door. Again, styrene makes the job very easy. Don't forget to add the hasp on the left jamb of the door.

       Last, install the speeder bay doors by following the illustrations in Figure 6. The interior side can also be repeated as in Step 5 if desired.

       At this point, it is time to install the interior superdetailing. We installed the shelving as shown in Ron's drawing first. You may find this a bit tedious, but the results are well worth while. You may wonder why we didn't install the shelving prior to erection of the walls. You will soon discover that proper installation requires that the walls be in place first. Since we "framed" out the building prior to installation of the clapboard siding, we found it convenient to install the shelving before the siding was erected. Install the wall and floor "tin" as shown in Ron's drawing. We used .010" styrene for the purpose. Paint the floor a dirty gray, allowing a bit of the white styrene to show through as if weathered. Then paint the "tin" with silver which has been toned down a bit with some grimy black. A ratio of one drop of grimy black to three drops of silver seemed to work best for us. Then install the passenger car stove. A note of caution is in order here. We discovered that the Grandt Line passenger car stove comes in many tiny pieces. The large sprue is the stove pipe. Cut the stove pipe so that it reaches to within 6" of the underside of the garret floor and install.

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    LIST OF MATERIALS
     Qty
     Meas. 
     Description
    EVERGREEN SCALE MODELS
    1 pkg  1" x 3" Styrene Strip
    1 pkg  1" x 4" Styrene Strip
    1 pkg  1" x 6" Styrene Strip
    1 pkg  1" x 8" Styrene Strip
    1 pkg  1" x 12" Styrene Strip
    1 pkg  2" x 4" Styrene Strip
    1 pkg  2" x 6" Styrene Strip
    1 pkg  .010" Styrene Sheet
    1 pkg  .040" Styrene Clapboard Sheet (.060" Spacing)
    1 pkg  .020" Styrene Clapboard Sheet (.060" Spacing)
    PLASTRUCT
    1 pkg  No. 108 Angle (optional)
    GRANDT LINE
    1 pkg  No. 5008 Passenger Car Stove with Stack
    HOLGATE & REYNOLDS
    1 pkg  No. 1070 Asphalt Roofing

       The interior of the building has all sorts of possibilities. A speeder could be installed such as the kit by Durango Press which is a two man hand job appropriate for the 1900 to 1920 era. A gasoline speeder would have to be fabricated using the wheels and frame of the Durango unit as a base. Quite a few prototype photos of gasoline speeders are available, and, of course, most modelers will see them in use. Earlier speeders were open affairs which could have a canvas top erected in bad weather. Today's speeder hasn't changed much in basic design, but some have permanent metal flat roofs with canvas side curtains, and others have semi-permanent enclosures built of sheet metal and plywood which are removed in summer. Since the building is meant for signal maintainers, the interior would be littered with various appropriate tools such as a vise, hack saws, wrenches, and so forth. Spare parts would include light bulbs, lenses, spools of wire, juction boxes, major spare parts for the signals such as in the case of target-type signals, if these are the kind used by your favorite prototype. These might include some of the signal housings, round discs painted black, and so on. If semaphore signals were common, appropriate lamp housings would litter the exterior of the building grounds and there would be stacks of new semaphore blades here and there. Keep in mind that signal masts would be outside of the building, too. You might even include some signal parts that were damaged or broken by train wrecks. After all, prototype roads would want to salvage as many parts from the damaged equipment as possible. On some roads, but we aren't sure if this is universally true, we suspect that the signal maintainers would also maintain crossing signals and gates, so spare parts for these devices should be in evidence both inside and outside of the building, too.

       We might suggest that if it is convenient, you may wish to make personal observations of prototype maintainers motor car house buildings to get some ideas. Just remember to ask permission first prior to tresspassing on railroad property. Many railroads take a very dim view of non-railroad personnel walking around the property, and after all, it is privately owned property, and unauthorized tresspassers are subject to arrest. We emphasize this with all of you simply because some unthinking railfans and model railroaders have created friction by unauthorized entry on railroad property, and there are several railroads who will not hesitate to "send in the bulls", and you could wind up in the slammer and/or pay a stiff fine, and the railroad in question will be more inclined to refuse permission to others in the future.

       Installation of the "garret" beams and floor is next. You could skip this if you like, particularly if you do not plan to superdetail the interior. However, we built our model so that the roof can be removed. We built the garret floor as in Ron's drawings. You might find this quite tedious, but why not try it? It's kind of fun to go through the process, and the result, as you can see in the photo, is quite convincing. Incidentally , if you elect to do this, you will have to notch the flooring adjacent to the beams to receive the roof rafters. Please note that the drawing doesn't call for a roof ridge pole. Whether this is in error or not we are not sure. Nevertheless, we installed a ridge pole which vastly simplified installation of the rafters.

       A word of caution. Removable roofs must be very carefully made so that they fit snug, but not tight. Install the roof itself. You will find that the Holgate & Reynolds roof ing material isn't the same plastic material as used by Evergreen. Therefore , common MEK solvents such as Pactra do not work well when joining the two different materials. The solvent we used took quite a while before it softened the Holgate & Reynolds material. Just be patient and reapply the solvent and carefully squeeze after the rafters to the roof material.

       Last, install the roof smoke jack as supplied by Grandt. Drill a hole where shown so that the smoke jack fits snug and and cap it with the rain cover from the Grandt Line kit, if you like.

       We painted our model with Floquil Buff on the interior walls, windows, and doors including the shelving, and did the same with the exterior walls. We trim the doors and windows with Floquil Tuscan Red, and painted the roof grimy black. Don't forget to "dry brush" streaks of rust on the smoke jack and on down slope side of the roof adjacent to the jack. We didn't weather our model otherwise. However, oxidized Tuscan Red streaks running lightly below the window sills and down the scribed paneling of the speeder by door would be logical. You can, of course, weather the building as little or as much as you care to in order to reflect the state of repair you wish to depict. Generally, buildings of this sort were infrequently painted, and due to the nature of the use, would be fairly dirty, even to the point where you might want to show an outline of a signal component on the wall where one of the workers had leaned it against the wall while painting it silver (the usual color used) or even black where one of the circular discs had been leaned while being painted. Just remember that the men wouldn't normally have used a spray gun, but would have used a paint brush instead. Nevertheless, paint spatter would appear in silhouette, particularly aluminum paint which by its very nature is "messy."

    Article Details

    • Original Author Ron Tarjany and the Prototype Modeler Staff
    • Source Prototype Modeler
    • Publication Date April 1980

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