Rolling Stock Modeling Tips

Bachmann Flat Cars

Bachmann Ore Cars

Hartford's 14' 4-Wheeled D&RG Box Car

Detailing Bachmann Passenger Coach Platforms

Tuning and Detailing Bachmann Flat Cars

Bachmann makes a nice flat car with metal wheels. These wheels are smaller and better shaped than those on Bachmann's box cars, but they are out of gauge. Set too close together, they can catch on switch points and derail. Re-gauging the wheels is simple, but then the truck frame sides are too close together and the wheels rub against them. To widen the truck frames, remove the trucks from the car and place something between the side frames to stretch them apart. I used the side of the Kadee large scale wheel gauge as it was about the right size. With the truck frames slightly spread, heat the frames with a heat gun or hair dryer. It's best to do this before painting the frames. I did this repair after painting and had to touch up my paint a bit. Test the wheels before putting the trucks back on the car. When you spin the wheels by hand, they should continue for a few turns after you are no longer touching them. You can run longer trains with fewer problems if the wheels roll smoothly.


I needed a small fleet of logging cars and the Bachmann flat car looked like a reasonable candidate. It is similar to the flat cars used to haul logs by the Mower Lumber Company in Cass, West Virginia. I sprayed the cars with Krylon sandable primer, then lettered them with Woodland Scenics dry transfer lettering. I painted the beds with a light tan (Model Master wood) followed by thin washes of burnt sienna and black. A couple coats of Testor's Dull Coat protect the lettering and set the water-based washes. 

The stakes were whittled from 1/2" x 1/2" wood ripped into 1/4" x 1/4" sizes on a Dremel jig saw. This produced rough posts that resemble those often used by logging companies. The new wood contrasts with the weathered wood of the car beds. I put real logs on the cars and tied them down with blackened chain. Kadee body-mounted couplers replaced the Bachmann couplers.

Detailing Bachmann Ore Cars

You can buy Bachmann's ore cars in a three-pack or one at a time in a set with a silly little mine building and shaft entrance. Out of the box and just assembled, they look like the car on the right in the photo above - a toy. But some work and a few detail parts will produce cars that look like they have been in the mines for years.

The first thing I did was encase the wooden beam just above the trucks with 1/32" wood. Then I scribed the lines on the side of the ore compartment to make them more distinct. I added corresponding lines inside the car to mark the edges of the planks. I covered the bottom of the compartment with real wood. I used wood designed for wood flooring in doll houses. It's thin wood planks attached to craft paper. You can peel the planks off and attach them to styrene or plywood using CA. I distressed all the real wood and styrene-pretending-to-be-wood with a hobby saw. These areas were painted a light gray and dry-brushed with grimy black. Nut-and-bolt castings were added to the beam and "rusted".

The metal parts of the car were painted roof top brown and dry-brushed with rust. The Bachmann chains, hooks, and eyes are too heavy. I used #4 fishhooks to make new eyelets and hooks, and I replaced the chains with a lighter chain from Ozark Miniatures. These parts got a dose of Blacken-It before they were added to the model. I added link and pin couplers from Hartford and 22" wheels from San-Val. Even with the metal wheels the cars are a little light and top-heavy. I used a vice to squeeze a couple of large fishing weights into shape and glued them inside the wooden beam (the bottom is open.) Now the cars track nicely over switches, tight curves, and track that has been treated unkindly by winter storms. Dry transfer lettering and a coat of Testor's Dull-Coat finished the job. Since these are supposed to be rough mining cars, I deliberately made the lettering a bit uneven and changed the arrangement a bit from car to car.

A string of these looks great behind our Bachmann Climax.


Hartford's 14' 4-Wheeled D&RG Box Car Review and Tips

This Hartford Products kit is based on 14 foot four-wheel box cars used by the Denver and Rio Grand. I built four of these for the Lake Town & Shire exactly according to plan except that I changed the road name using dry transfers, I applied "The Hobbit Line" custom herald from Shawmut Car Shops, and I replaced the link and pin couplers with Kadee couplers.

This is the only Hartford kit I have built. The parts are of excellent quality and the plans and instructions are clear and easy to follow except for a couple of places. It is very important to assemble the pedestals carefully. Use CA sparingly and make sure the journals move freely in the pedestals. If you don't, the journals may stick when pressed up into the pedestals causing the car to derail.

The first problem I encountered was with the floor. I put it on upside-down not realizing that there was a right way and a wrong way. As a result, on the first car I built the doors are on the left on both sides of the car instead of on the right as in the car pictured above. By the time I discovered the error, the internal bracing was assembled and it would have been very difficult to disassemble the car and correct the problem. It would help if there was a warning in the instructions. The second problem is more serious. The instructions for assembling the car sides are incorrect. They say to attach the side fascia before attaching the scribed surfaces. This won't work. The first few sentences of the last paragraph on page 3 of the instructions should be corrected to read:

Attach the end fascias and then the wood door stops. Stain the inside surfaces of the car sides and attach. Glue the skirt pieces and the door fillers in place. Attach the side fascias.

From this point, follow the instructions as they are given.

There are surely many ways to add Kadee couplers to these cars, but this is how I did it. I built a platform to attach the couplers with some 1/4" X 1/2" stock I had available. I cut two pieces long enough to fit flush with the bottom of the intermediate sills. I cut a third piece about 3/4" long. This piece was attached on its side so it extended below the intermediate sills. It projects exactly the amount needed to fit into the tang of the Kadee 831 coupler. I had to sand the two side pieces until all three pieces fit snugly. Then I CAed them in. Drill out the hole in the coupler pocket to accept a 1/2" bolt, drill holes in the wood, and that's all that's needed on one end. The coupler required some cutting and filing to fit against the brake chain pulley on the other end. Finally, I painted the coupler pocket rust to blend with the Krylon primer used for the rest of the boxcar.

Once finished, I hooked these cars up behind an LGB forney and ran them around my layout. They pulled through regular Aristocraft switches without any problems. They even pulled through spring-loaded switches at the entrances to my return loops. Although the cars are light, the metal wheels are heavy enough to push the switch points over as the train comes back out of the loop. The cars backed into the extra-wide Aristocraft switches at low speeds, but they want to ride over the frog on the regular Aristocraft switches. But this is a problem I have with most rolling stock. These are excellent models that perform well on the layout.

Detailing Bachmann Passenger Coach Platforms

The plastic details on the Bachmann passenger coach platforms leave much to be desired. Ozark Miniatures has white metal rails and brake wheels that replace the plastic parts, but to complete the modification you need to replace the hand rails beside the coach door as well. And a chain between the rails also improves the appearance of the end of the coach.

I bent the hand rails from thin brass rod, then cut small pieces from styrene tubing to make fittings to fill the indentation in the Bachmann car. I cut another small piece of brass rod and provided it with a stryrene fitting to make the third hand rail support. I tried gluing chain directly to the painted rails with AC, but it was difficult to get a good bond. So I took some small eyelets from WalMart and made ends for the chains. One of the eyelets is included in the pciture. These fittings go over the ends of the rails, making it very easy to glue them in place.

Here's what the platform looks like after all the parts in place. The chains haven't been glued in place yet; the fittings on the chain need to be blackened or painted and the paint needs to be touched up in a few other places. It would be nice if the railings were brass since the white metal is easily bent, but they still look a lot better than the original plastic parts.

Copyright 2004 Donald Nute

This page last modified: 2/9/2004.

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