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Peter's Model Railroading | The Layout | Equipment | PRR FM
Construction: Exterior Details

Since I have these containers, I thought I'd check out to see what the flat car looks like with them. As I mentioned in this article, the FM flat car that was dedicated to container service had many different exterior details, which I am not modeling with these cars.

I noticed that the end sills actually had a bit of lip to them. It was probably because they were fabricated out of some sort of C-channel shape. I added these using some scale 1"x2" strips of styrene. These were quite a challenge to apply at this stage.

Behind the pole pockets I noticed there was a plate wrapped around the corner of the car. It starts at the end sill and wraps around to the side sill. I used some 1"x10" pieces of styrene that I carefully glued, two separate pieces for each corner.

I spent an inordinate amount of time trying to come up with a solution to making believable pole pockets. After studying many prototype photos, I learned that each type of car seems to have its own style, so there is no universal solution to them. I am not aware of these being available as separate details from any of the S-scale manufacturers. After trying several approaches, I settled on the one I'm showing here. I found this plastic tube in my scrapbox. The outside diameter was close to the 10" diameter I was wanting. The interior diameter is way too small.

I used a drill bit in a pin vise to drill out the end of the tube to approximately match the curved interior of the pole pocket. Next, I cut a small piece of the tube off using the NWLS Chopper II, and glued it to the car. I first used Testors plastic glue, and, after that glue dried, I put a drop of superglue in the hole to really solidly attach it. When the superglue was thoroughly dry, I used a file to put the angled shape to pole pocket that the FM car seems to have.

There are triangular pieces on the inside edge of the pole pockets (probably to reinforce them). I mimicked those by cutting some tiny triangular pieces of 1x styrene and gluing them in place at an angle to the pockets. The prototype shows three or four, but I compromised with just two; those were difficult enough.

I formed some grab irons, two at each corner next. These were installed with superglue.

I used S Scale America air hoses (part #SSA399). These are made out of a flexible plastic, so they should last. In the prototype the air hose was right next to the coupler housing. However, when I test-fitted that on my model, I noticed that the coupler wouldn't swivel all the way over, so that wasn't going to work. My philosophy is to make my models as accurate as possible, unless that interferes with operation. I wound up moving them about 4.5mm away from the coupler box.

The way I installed them was by holding them at an angle (the glad hand and hose usually lean at an angle toward the center of the car), and applying Testors glue. I used a weight and ruler to keep the part from slowly falling over. I let the glue set for a good while. I then cut some 2"x4" scale pieces of styrene and fabricated the bridge you see, each part installed using Testors glue. When all of that was dry, I reinforced the joint by applying a drop of superglue to the back where the air hose sticks out into the car. By the way, that extra piece of air hose had to be cut off, because the wheels rub up against it. I actually need to file down the styrene "bridge", because it too just gets hit by the wheels.

The stirrups are next. I formed them out of scale 1" x 2.5" brass flat stock. I originally made them a scale 24 inches wide, but that turned out to be too wide, because the wheels would hit them. I changed them to be 9 inches wide and about 15 inches tall. Superglue holds them in place. I reinforced the joint with some 5-minute epoxy.

To make these stirrups, I use a pair of flat-bladed pliers and bent the flat stock at 90-degrees, as shown in this next photo.

The next photo is out of focus, but I then grab the vertical side and, using another pair of pliers, I give the upper section a 90-degree twist. It is then just a matter of cutting them to length, doing some fine-tuning, and then gluing them in place.

The brake shaft and wheel are mounted above the deck. Originally, the prototype FM flat cars had a brake wheel at each end of the car, but I've decided to keep it simple and only do one end. The prototype eventually removed the brake wheel at one end. The brake shaft seems to be mounted to a metal bracket that wraps around the deck and the end sill. I temporarily clamped a board to the car's end and formed the brass strip to fit. The brass "clip" was then attached to the end sill using superglue.

I use a brass rod to represent the brake shaft. I drilled a matching hole in the bottom of the brake wheel and in through the brass clip and the styrene body. This provides lots of glue points for the brake shaft, which should keep it from breaking off of the car body. The brake wheel is the standard one that comes with the Grandt Line AB brake parts kit, which is not the correct one, but I don't have the standard PRR five-spoke brake wheel (I think S-Helper Service used to make them available). If I ever get some, they should be relatively easy to replace.

Below the brake shaft is the infrastructure that connects the brake shaft to the under-the-car brake system. I built that up from some small pieces of styrene. It was kind of an after-thought, so that didn't line up with the brake wheel. In the future, I need to build the underside stuff first (since that is harder to fit against the fixed coupler housing), and then place the brake shaft on the top of the car accordingly.

Here's a head-on view of the finished car end. For this car the brake wheel/shaft and the under-the-body details more or less lined up. I had ordered the Carmer releases that Standard Railway Castings Company produces, but I just could not get them to correctly attach to the car's end. Also, I am concerned that they will interfere with the operations on my layout (which has very tight curves in some places; in retrospect, I am glad I didn't install them, because the poling pockets almost touch when the cars go through the tight curves). I have installed the Carmer releases on my H21a hopper and they are a problem on that car. I had also bought the Archer resin rivets. I started installing them on one car (they are not easy to install, because the decal "paper" disintegrates quickly and so makes it hard to get them lined up correctly), but they appeared way too small to my eyes as compared to the prototype photos (I was trying to use part #AR88071). I'll have to come up with an alternative solution for representing rivets for future cars I build, or consider using the O-scale versions that Archer sells.