Scratch building a Gondola 101
Estimated time to build 10 to 20 hrs depending on skill level.
I used O scale plans out of Mainline Modeler Nov. 3, by James Kinkaid. If anyone wants these plans I will scan them and email. I don't know if I can post them.
Xacto standard and chisel blades
Plate Glass working surface
Metal straight edge (I.E. 2nd ruler)
Metal fine tip tweezers
Jewelers file set.
Plastruc Bondene or equivalent styrene glue
CA glue I prefer loctite gel.
BLMA hand grab drill template
Pin vise with 80 bit
Small neo-magnets (used for clamps) I used 8
Either dremel or fine saw for cutting brass stock
Smooth jaw needle nose pliers and flush cut nippers (if building own grabs)
A dial caliper is also useful, however I didn't use one (check cut pieces)
Building material needed:
.010 sheet styrene
.020 sheet styrene
.015 car siding stock styrene
.020 x .020 styrene
.010 x .020 styrene
.010 x .040 styrene
.010 x .080 styrene
.040 x .060 styrene
.060 angle styrene (you can substitute .060 channel styrene)
Either .008 brass wire or BLMA 15" and 18" grabs
.080 x .080 brass or steel rod (car weight)
Bolster from scrapped car (Optional)
Ladders and brake wheel and brake stand (mine came from an intermountain kit)
Lets get started.
First off start by measuring your major pieces; the floor and sides. The floors measured 41'6" x 9'6", the sides measured 41'6" x 5'6"(I make the ends flush), the ends are 10' x 6'(intentionally oversized). I cut two floor pieces out of .015 car siding styrene stock. I then cut the long sides out of .010 sheet and the ends out of .020 sheet styrene.
Photo 1. Layout of the major pieces cut out.
First we will construct the under frame. We start by sandwiching the two together and place it on a metal surface and the magnets on top, using Bondene glue the two together.(anywhere I am putting styrene to styrene, I am using Bondene). I love Bondene, it wicks it self between the sandwich. Be careful if you are using Bondene for the first time, it does release toxic fumes but doesn't smell really strong. The first few seconds as it cures it does melt the styrene so don't squeeze too much, it will ooze out. Now locate the center line of under frame(I score a hairline down the middle. After that, we find the centers for the trucks(marked by a . Using a square block(I use my metal miter box) butt the long edge of the under frame to it, now with a piece of .060 angle stock, glue it the full length. Flip and do the same for the other side(see photo 2). Now we add truck bolsters, I used the bolster off a cheap life-like hopper. I sheared it off with a fine tooth saw. I added a .010 shim to get the trucks at the right height. The top of the truck should be at 1'1.5" off the frame floor. Next add the center frame weight .080 metal bar using CA to secure it, rough up the mounting side with a file. Following it up with Bondene along the edge of the weight. The Styrene will glue itself to the scratched up metal. Again using the magnets to hold it in place. At this point I mount my trucks, and give it a spin through some tight S-curves. We are checking to see if there any binding or catching. If yes check your clearances or No continue to next steps.
Next is adding the under frame details, I use the .010 x .040 styrene to make cross bearers, 1 on center and one 6'6" off center on either side. I have a little overhang when doing this and then use the Xacto chisel blade flush it up. I just eyeball these over the center marks we made earlier. How tall the bolster is dependent on your truck choice. Use the plans to layout the brake gear. I use .040 x .060 styrene to mount them up. This part is depending on which bolsters you use. Again using the same .040 x .060 styrene mounted .060 side up, cut them to fit from the bolster mount to the .060 angle on the side, you will have to use the file to fit the L portion. I then place .010 x .080 on top. See photo 3 for close up. On one side I add small shims to prevent the car from swaying. So now the under frame is done and we can set it aside. If you want to go one step further, you can add the crossties(the horizontal supports on the under frame). *As a note choose your trucks prior to making bolsters*
The second part is making the sides. I start by finding the center of each side by marking it with a little knife cut. You want the center to be as accurate as possible, the center is 20'9" from the side. I then cut ribs (26) made of .020 x .020 styrene using my simple jig(photo 4), I make them a little taller than the sides and cut off the excess with a chisel blade. This provides a straighter cut. First rib to get laid is the center rib and you work your way out from there(see photo 5). The rib centers are as follow: C | 3'4.5" | 6"˜1.5"œ | 9"˜6"œ | 12"˜6 | 15"˜6"œ | 18"˜4.5"œ |. I tape one ruler down and I use the other as a sliding right angle with a weight to keep it anchored. Now as you slide the loose ruler I get a perfect edge to line up the ribs. Gluing the ribs is the tricking part, I use a scarp piece of .020 x .020 wood with a notch cut out. I use this notch to hold down rib up against the sliding ruler. To keep the Bondene from running under the ruler, use a fine brush to apply the glue. I recommend a cheap testors brush with some of the bristols cut off. After securing one side, I move the ruler and make a quick swipe with the brush. Now flip the side and tape down. Be sure to line up the center rib with 0 again and do the other 6 ribs. Repeat for the other side panel. I then take a stiff bristled brush to check to see if any of the ribs are not fully glued down. Shouldn't be any with Bondene, but sometimes there are. Now remember to cut the ribs flush, to make sure for a straight edge I use a sanding stick.
The next part with making the sides is attaching the lip that runs along the top (see photo 6). Two pieces are needed to make this complete. First piece is a .010 x .020 strip in the inside top. Push one side(rib side down) up against a straight block (this side now becomes the top). To keep the side flush against the block I used the magnets, my magnets are neo-dynium and are only 1/16" thick put very strong. Using the same wood stick from before, start at one side with .010 x .020 strip (.020 side against the surface of the side) and start dabbing Bondene. Let hold light pressure for a few seconds and move down several scale feet. The idea here is to keep the strip from buckling or popping up. Once you get to the end flip it over and cut off excess. Now to add the .010 x .040 strip to the top, the same way the side was pushed up against the top, but now with strip in between. Run a line of Bondene down the lip, be careful not to touch the block(it will wick down between the top and metal). Flip it over and use the fine tip brush to add more Bondene to the joints between the ribs and top lip.
To attach the sides the under frame, I use magnets as a clamp. See photo 7. This way the side is free to move to be flushed with the bottom of the .060 styrene angle. Once flush run Bondene along the seem and flip to do inside seem.
The ends are all that are left to make. The most difficult part of this scratch build was replicating dreadnaught ends. So as a second option, use a scrapped boxcar with the appropriate ends. Cut the ends off with a jeweler saw and use a large piece of sand paper to thin the part to roughly .030 . I left the ends to last not cause they are the hardest(even though they are) but now you can sand them to fit better. I left them a little oversized so that they can now be sanded to the best fit. At this point I measured the distance from the outside edge of both side panels(not the ribs) and from the top of the panel(just below the lip) to the bottom of the floor. Once you get the measurements, start sanding the end pieces to match those dimensions. If you want to make them, here's how. Start with .020 x .020 styrene and similarly to the way the ribs were laid out, the first member goes 9" from top, and the following 3 are on 12" centers from that. Repeat. I then used a file and sanding stick to round the edges of these members. For the in between members I used .010 x .020 styrene laid on the .020 side. Before I inserted these pieces I shaved middle portion down, it will resemble a very stretched bowtie. I then eyeball locating the 3 smaller members in between the larger ones. For best results, consult prototype photos.
The top lip on the ends is what's left to constructing the ends. We accommodate the sides with a notch, measure .020 from each side of the inside of the end(I use a piece of .020 x .020 styrene), score a fine line with a new Xacto. Following the same instructions from above as for the sides, we start with .010 x .020 styrene and adhere the strip to the top edge of the inside. I then cut off the excess on the outside of our score lines. I then attach the .010 x .040 styrene to top as done before with sides(be sure to leave at least .040 on either end). Using a chisel blade, match the recent addition with a matching notch. See photo 8.
Photo 8 - Sorry for poor quality, had to turn contrast way up to see the notch between end and sides.
To finish off major construction, we attach the ends. Start by flipping the gon upside down on a flat surface, now we can dry fit the end. My sides did lean a little inward, but the notch spaces them back out. The bottom of the end should be flush with the bottom of the floor as in photo 9. If everything matches up, run Bondene along all seems. Now we are ready to make a test run, toss on your trucks of choice, add a little weight(made this way it is under weighted), and let it go for a roll.
Photo 9 - Ends detail
Once you're satisfied with way it rides, add the details. Some may choose to paint first, but don't use Bondene to attach any details. The Bondene will destroy the paint as it "œmelts" styrene. I find a good hand with an airbrush can paint after the details are applied. I use a modified BLMA drilling template for grab irons. I modified it by taking the end of it to a dremel and removed most of empty space at the bottom(basically cut the BLMA logo off). Use the drawings to locate grab locations. All my grabs were fashioned out of .008 wire. I will do an article on making these grabs. The ladders and brake gear I used came out of a Intermountain reefer kit. On the bottom corners I added a some scrap .020 styrene cut roughly .060 x .060 with a 45* notch. The building part is now finished.
Photo 10 - Finished Product
If you have any questions, please comment. This is my first write-up on a how-to, so if you have suggestions to improve it. By all means, let me know.
As aids, this folder has additional images.