Friday, April 18, 2014

Building a 14' Excursion Car

Inspired by the trains on Disneyland's Big Thunder Mountain Railroad, I created this plan for a 14' excursion car back in October of 2012. An online friend saw it and suggested he might have the perfect kit to use as a starting point.


The Wildest Ride in the Wilderness

The trains on Disneyland's Big Thunder Mountain Railroad attraction feature distinctive gold and brown cars that are meant to evoke ore gondolas of a bygone era. In reality though, they only remotely resemble any kind of equipment used on a real railroad. Since, in the world of Thunder Mesa, my railroad existed first and helped to inspire the attraction, it makes sense that the TMMC would have a short string of excursion cars converted from old ore gons. The challenge was creating something that could act as a believable "prototype" for the Big Thunder trains.

Big Thunder Mountain Railroad postcard showing the distinctive "ore" cars that folks ride in. © Disney


Starting with a Flatcar Kit

Canadian modeler Heath Trollope graciously asked me to review a kit for a 14' On30 flatcar that he plans on producing, suggesting at the time that it might be just the thing for the Thunder Mesa excursion cars I had talked about building. Since my original plan had been to cut down Bachmann flatcars for the job, I readily accepted the offer. Mostly because, A) I love getting free stuff, and B) I knew Heath would produce a quality kit that might be perfect for my needs. Below is a distilled version of how it went together. My full review and build thread can be viewed on the Railroad Line Forums.

My sample kit consisted of a two-sided sheet of instructions, white resin castings for the under frame, some scale 2x8 decking, and a short length of music wire for the truss rods. Trucks and couplers are not included so I picked up some Kadee HO #501 trucks and #5 couplers as the instructions indicated.

After a couple evenings of enjoyable assembly here is the completed kit just before trucks and couplers were added. The resin castings are very well done and nicely detailed. I stained the decking boards with a rubbing alcohol and shoe dye mixture.

The completed car ready to go to work on the railroad. All in all this is a great little kit that could be the starting point for a wide variety of funky little cars; gondolas, tank cars, pulpwood buggies, even a boxcar or caboose. I don't have sales information on the cars yet, but when I do I'll post a link here on the blog for anyone who might be interested in building a few for themselves.


From Flatcar to Excursion Car

Heath was right of course, and his great little kit was the perfect starting point for my long delayed excursion train project. I've built one car thus far as a prototype and plan to add four more in the not too distant future now that the bugs have been worked out. My plan above shows two different styles of car, a basic and a deluxe model with a shade canopy and seats facing both forward and back. Though the basic car  more closely resembles the Big Thunder trains, I decided to build a car with the deluxe seating pattern, sans canopy, since it makes more sense for the point to point operation I have planned. Still, I tried to capture the flavor of the Big Thunder cars and I hope there is enough of a family resemblance there that folks will understand what I'm getting at.

Once again I turned to printed photo-textures for the car sides and benches. I took some careful measurements of the completed flatcar and then laid out all of the interior and exterior pieces I would need in Adobe Photoshop. These were printed out on HP Premium Presentation Paper and then laminated to smooth 100 lb bristol board with 3M 45 All Purpose Spray Adhesive.

Each bench/bunker was created as a separate sub-assembly. Here are the pieces for the center benches with the exterior and interior walls glued back to back and the edges painted a matching color.

The assembled center benches before trim was added. The benches are reinforced underneath with 1/16" square strip wood.

The completed center bench assembly ready to be installed on the flatcar. The trim pieces are scale 4x6" stock painted with acrylics. Music wire grab irons and Grandt Line nut/bolt/washer castings round out the details.

Two of the bench/bunker sub-assemblies cemented to the flatcar deck. The color scheme and diagonal bracing are direct references to the Big Thunder cars.

The completed car ready to go to work on the layout. Final details include safety chains and steps made from leftover 2x8 stock from the flatcar. A little dry-brushing with acrylics helps bring out the cast-in detail on the car frame and a light dusting with colored chalks adds a needed dose of weathering. During construction, the flatcar developed a slight bow in the middle. It bothered me at first but now I kind of like it.

Each excursion car can hold up to 12 O scale people. These folks look a little pale and could use a paint job. 

All Thunder Mesa passenger equipment is numbered in the 100 series,  starting with Combine 101. These excursion cars will be 107 - 111. Now it's back to the car shop to build four more!


Okay! That about wraps it up for this week's project. Thanks for following along. And very special thanks to Heath Trollope for getting me rolling with his excellent flatcar kit! As always, questions and comments are welcome. Thanks for checking in, folks. Adios for now!
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