I have the three cores assembled for the Pullman Standard covered hoppers. Thanks to the brass templates I made they only have minor variations between them that aren’t worth worrying about. At this point it’s tempting to forge ahead but I’ve decided to step back and look more closely at each one for any hidden issues that will impact the quality of the finished model.

Three cores assembled. The slight variations between them are too minor to worry about.

I numbered them one, two and three, just for the sake of keeping things organized in my head and for blog post reference. In all, each one came out nicely, however, being made of 0.040″ stock they were pretty flimsy until I added a 0.080” thick false floor. In doing so I should have checked each one for square before gluing the floor in place. Instead I waited until the next day and discovered two were slightly out of square by a sixteenth or less. I know that sounds trivial but given the complex nature of the end cages, I want them to be spot on. If I can do it once, I can do it for all three.

Fixing the issue involved breaking the glue joint along one side of the false floor, squaring up the assembly and re-gluing everything. For both cars this only took a half an hour or less and was worth the effort.

Another area I’m looking at is the hopper bays and gate openings. I have some variations between them on each car, due to my inaccurate layout with the template. Again, the discrepancies are minor and fixable, though it’s good to be aware of them at this early stage.

Before adding the side sheets for the bays, I’m installing internal bracing to strengthen them further. I plan to add a good amount of weight in each car and the extra bracing won’t hurt anything. This step should also take away some of the discrepancies between each bay on the cars.

Extra bracing keeps things aligned and sturdy.

Now is the time to consider the next steps, study my drawings more closely and determine the best way to go with the upcoming details. I can use one of the early cores as a test bed for different ideas and techniques without sacrificing one of the final cut models. This makes far more sense than doing something ad-hoc and risking many hours of work in the process.

A key objective for me is to have scale dimensions wherever possible on these models. The side and roof panels on these cars is 5/32” sheet steel and where you see the edge of a panel on the model I want to see a thin profile instead of grossly thick plastic. I will have to use several pieces of 0.005″ brass for each side and want the seams to land under an exterior post. Based on the plans, I’ll also look at the best way to detail the transition to the roof plane and the bottom of the side sheets. I have some careful planning to do when that stage arrives.

I’m pleased with how the build is going and feel a great satisfaction with the process so far. It’s relaxing in the sense that I feel no desire to rush through any phase, even though I have three models going at once. There are going to be snags and setbacks and I’ll deal with them as needed. If I hit a truly rough patch, I have other models I can pull out until I’m ready to move the cars forward again. For those following a project I realize it must be frustrating when I suddenly drop something and switch gears. However, this freedom of choice is the essence of the craft for me and I wouldn’t trade it for anything. In alternating between projects, I keep my enthusiasm for each one fresh, which helps me maintain a higher level of work than if I just plowed ahead with one until finished. This is how I keep things moving along. I’ve also discovered that things learned on one project translate easily to another and I’ve gotten several models unstuck this way. It works for me and maybe there’s something helpful for others too.