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Centerbeam flat car loads and detailing

If you look at prototype train photos one of the cars that really stand out in a consist are the centerbeam flat cars. There are many different designs for the center partition and the variety of loads that they carry make them unique cars. I decided to upgrade a couple of Walthers 72’ centerbeam flat cars with tie down cables, air hoses and scratch build an individually wrapped lumber load for one of the cars.

For the empty car I used Fine (.010) EZ Line from Berkshire Junction to represent the wire tie down cables used to secure the lumber load to the car. In prototype photos I noticed that the tie down cables were attached to the center vertical support posts when not being used. Connecting them this way secures the cables from falling off the car and dragging on the ground. Railroads inspect and require the tie down cables be secured before they will pick up an empty centerbeam flat car. On the Walthers centerbeam flat car they have molded slots to represent the location of where the cables would be connected to the center vertical partition. I selected an intermediate height of one of the molded in slots and I used a #70 drill bit in a pin vise to drill a hole entirely through the vertical supports. Once I had all the holes drilled, I threaded a 5” piece of EZ Line through the hole and then used CA to attach one end of the line to the ratchet mechanism on the side sill of the car. Once the CA was dry, I turned the car over and then pulled the line over the other side ratchet mechanism. I used clothes pins clipped to the line to provide a little tension and help position it over the ratchet. Once I had everything where I needed it, I applied a dot of CA with a pin where the line touched the ratchet. After the CA dried, I cut off the extra line below the ratchet. This little detail adds a great amount of realism to an empty centerbeam flat car.

For the second car, I wanted to install an individually wrapped lumber load to represent one I saw in a prototype photo. The loaded car had a gap in between the lumber stacked at each end and the lumber loads were of different lengths. I really liked how you could see the centerbeam partition between the lumber loads on that car and decided to model a similar load. I think individually wrapped loads look better than the one piece plastic ones and an additional benefit is they add needed weight to the car.

I created lumber wraps in various sizes using a computer photo editing software program and printed them on Hammermill acid free 32 pound laser paper. The paper prevents images from fading and is a high quality paper used in the printing industry. I used two pieces of 3/16”X1/2” X 24” of bass wood glued together on the 3/16” dimension to create a structure 3/8" X 1/2" for the wraps. I had to shave the 3/8” thickness down approximately 1/16” to be able to stack the loads and still have a little room at the top to access the centerbeam partition for the tie down cable. Using a small miter box saw I cut the wood into standard lumber lengths (8,10, 12, and 16 scale feet), wrapped them with the custom printed paper and used clear tape to hold them in place. I glued the completed lumber wraps to 4 pieces of .020 styrene cut to the proper dimensions based on the wraps attached to each piece to help hold them in position when I placed them on the car.

Next, I drilled holes in the center vertical supports and used the EZ line for the tie down cables, but this time I drilled the holes at the top of the partition. Again, I threaded the EZ Line through the holes and then placed the lumber wraps on the car. I glued the EZ Line into position on one side of the car and allowed it to dry thoroughly. I carefully flipped the car over to work on the other side so that the lumber loads did not shift out of position. Again, I used clothes pins to hold the line in position and provide a little tension as I glued the line onto the ratchet.

The final steps for these cars was to add air hoses and weather the cars. The problem is that the centerbeam flat cars have a swing type coupler and it does not allow the air hose to be mounted in the normal manner. I added the Kadee air hose bracket and air hose with angle cock shut off to the bottom of the swing coupler pocket. Then I used a piece of floral wire to represent the air line connecting the train air line to the angle cock shut off. The cars were weathered using Pan Pastels and weathering powders. The wheels were hand painted in a rust brown acrylic paint then weathered with Pan Pastels.

You can see the completed centerbeam flat cars in action on my layout in my Switching Capitol Materials video found under the Videos tab at the top of the home page. Adding a few simple details really make these cars look realistic and are a nice addition to my fleet.

Thank you to all those that have subscribed to my website in the past year. I wish everyone and their families a Safe and Happy New Year.

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