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Peter's Model Railroading | The Layout | Equipment | PRR GLa
Construction: Final Details


The end is in sight on this long project. Of course, as always, the "devil is in the details", and so a substantial amount of time is spent on these final details. First up are the poling pockets. There are none available in S-scale as stand-alone parts, so we have to scratchbuild these. I developed my method when I scratchbuilt my three PRR FM flat cars, so I employed the same method for these hopper cars. Looking at the prototype photo, it is clear the poling pockets sit on a extra piece of metal. I simulated that with some very thin clear plastic (used for structure windows), that I cut to fit within the borders of the endsill. I then cut some thin slivers of a plastic rod. I only need 12 of them, but I cut a bunch more so that I could be picky about which ones I was actually going to use. I then found a drill bit that I put in an a pin vise to manually make a cupped-hole in one end of the plastic-rod slivers. This will simulate the interior of the poling pocket. Next, I rubbed the sliver on a fine file to put a bit of an angle to one side on the surface, because the poling pockets are aimed toward the side of the car (so that a pole could hit it square-on when pushed from the next track over). I then glued the sliver to the piece of clear plastic. I use Testor's plastic glue to make the initial contact. When that dries, I fill the bottom of the poling pocket with superglue. The Testor's glue doesn't really work, but it temporarily keeps the two pieces together. The superglue really does the job.

I could then fine-tune the clear plastic to properly fit in the endsill, with the poling pocket fitting snugly in the outer corners.

There are 5 angle brackets that the prototype had welded to the cup of the poling pocket. I decided to simulate that with only two on my model. I cut some tiny squares of scale 1-inch-thick styrene (I just eye-balled the overall dimensions), and then used a razor blade to slice it in half, making two triangles.

These I then carefully glued to the poling pockets, as shown in the next photo.

There are two grab irons on the endsills, so I used the Tichy 18-inch drop grab irons for those. They are mounted directly under to the top edge of the endsills, and right up against the backplate of the poling pockets.

To get both of those to stick out away from the endsill at close to the same distance, I placed the end of the car against two metal weights after loosely inserting the Tichy grab irons. I could then push them against the metal weight and apply superglue on the inside behind the endsill. Once the glue dried, I cut off the remaining brass wire from the grab irons on the back.

Next, the focus moves to making four D-shaped "roping" rings (used to lift the car up for maintenance). I used a mandrel to bend some brass wire around it to form the rounded shape. Then I lined four of them up next to each other, drew a line across them, and cut all of them up to that line. That way I had a shot at them being all the same in overall size.

I then drilled some holes in a strip of scale 1"x2" strip styrene matching the diameter of the brass wire. I drill them some distance from each other (all eye-balled), and then cut them off, and cut them all about the same length (using a razor blade).

I "clamped" them between two metal rulers with some metal weights holding them down and in place. This then allowed me to use a pair of pliers to push the brass roping rings into the holes of the styrene blocks. I then applied some superglue and let that dry.

After the glue was dry, I used Testor's plastic glue to glue that assembly to the under side of the side sill, up against the bolster, as shown in the photo. Rinse and repeat 11 more times...

This is just an updated photo showing all the details added to the ends of the car.

Stirrups are not a part that you can readily buy in S-scale. So, Smoky Mountain Model Works produced them in 2015, and I bought a package and put them aside for when I next needed them. So, I decided to try them for this project. It turns out that they are next to impossible to cleanly remove from their sprue, and once removed, they are next to impossible to clean/file/trim, because they are made out of some sort of flexible plastic. The one you see in the center of the photo is the one and only one that I was able to remove from a sprue without breaking. On the right is one removed from the main sprue stem. The problem is that the sprue is so much thicker than the part itself, so any kind of cutting or snapping action moves the force into the delicate stirrup part rather than the sprue, so generally the part splits. Because the part is so small, and the material is flexible, filing or trimming any remaining sprue material from the part is impossible. Since this part will be open and very visible, it has to be cleaned. So, after going through two trees of six-each stirrups and only getting the one that you see in the photo, the odds of me being able to get 12 good ones out of the package (I think there were 48 in the bag) were very slim, and that is ignoring my considerable frustration factor. For previous projects I had used flat brass bar (thin) that I hand-shaped. I only had about two inches of material left, but I tried it again, which you can see on the left in the photo. The issue there is, what the odds of me making 12 of those and have a good chance of them all being the same shape and size? Slim.

So, I put the project aside while I pondered this issue. Then, shortly after that, local and fellow S-scaler, Bob Werre, posted on the Yahoo S-scale discussion group that he uses staples for his stirrups. I had never thought about that. So, I dug around my cabinets and found these, somewhat heavy-duty staples. They have the correct shape (at least for the bottom part), but at 3/8" they are too wide (scales out to 1-1/2 feet wide). One foot to one foot and three inches is about the widest that I see these stirrups being, at least for this particular car.

However, it turns out that these staples are relatively easy to bend. So, I leave one of the bends in the staples alone, and straighten-out the other one, to form an "L" shape. I then put a new 90-degree bend at about a scale one-foot from the first bend. The big advantage of these staples is that they are "glued" together at the factory, so that you can insert the whole lot of them into your stapler. So, I break off about 5 or 6 of them, and use my pliers to make the bends. Some will break off, so I just ignore those. Ideally, I want a group of 4 of them to stay together, so that I can do the critical bending (the first two or three steps) on all of them at once, so that they will all look alike. That way, they are all about the same size and shape for one car. So, I now have a "U" shaped piece. I next put an "outside" bend of 90-degrees in one leg. This will form the lip to which the stirrup is mounted to the car. I put a metal ruler in my visegrip (you need three hands here), and line up the "lip" with one edge of the ruler, leaving the other leg leaning up against the perpendicular edge of the ruler. I then mark off the other leg of the staple to indicate where I need to cut and trim it. After cutting that portion off of the leg, I file the end smooth. I then cut the lip to match the length that you see in the photo, which shows three stirrups ready to be attached.

I then glued a stirrup to each corner of the car. The straight leg of the staple was glued to the inside corner, while the lip leg is just glued to the underside of the side sill. Once the glue has set, I went back and added a second drop to each connection (from the inside) to make these as secure as possible. However, in the future, should they break off, it will be a clean break that will be easy to repair.

These particular staples are a touch too large, depth-wise. Now that I've tried the staples, the next time I am at Lowes or some other place that sells staples, I am going to see if I can find ones that are closer to scale. All-in-all, they don't look too bad.