Sunday, January 24, 2010

Modeling the Fox River 300's in O scale

Modeling the Fox River Line is a daunting challenge. The only car that can be readily modeled from a commerically available product in any scale would be Birney car #48, a single door Birney purchased second hand from the Aurora Plainfield & Joliet (Their #101). Other than the 48, all AE&FRE Birney cars had double sets of doors, a design never offered in any modeling scale.

In O scale, back in the early 1960's (I beleive 1962) Ken Kidder imported the Fox River 300 cars in brass, but in the configuration/detailing they appeared as on the Shaker Hts Rapid Transit. With some effort, these cars can be back-dated/detailed to their Fox River prototypes.

While it's nearly 50 years since these cars were first offered, they can still be found. I've personally managed to locate and acquire 6 of the 7 cars in the past 18 months, and have a line on the last one to complete my fleet. All the established and known traction dealers are your first/best bet, then avail yourself of online resources (including eBay).

What can you expect to pay ?
Prices vary based on who's selling and why, the condition of the car, etc.

Of the 6 I've purchased so far, 5 were painted, 4 as Shaker Hts cars, one in a private road livery based on the Lehigh Valley. The other was a mint Kidder car, never painted.
Of the 6 cars, 5 were powered with either Wagner/Q Car/Current Line trucks. Only the original mint Kidder car did not have power trucks.
All the cars had trolley poles either from Wagner/Q Car/Current Line, expect the mint Kidder car which came with it's original Kidder poles. The Kidder poles are incorrect, but I have kept them on the car as something of a nod to this early importer's efforts and contributions to the hobby.
4 of the 6 cars had detailed interiors (controls, seats, passengers)

In the end I averaged paying about $375 per car, including shipping. A brass O scale trolley with power, fully painted (albeit not for the paint scheme you want), this is pretty typical, actually a bit on the low side.

So, once you have one or more, you're ready to begin. Assuming you haven't found a mint Kidder car, you'll likely need to strip the paint from the car you have. Being a brass car with a sturdy wood roof, I've found that heavy duty paint stripper in a spray can is the best bet. Spray it on, let it soak for a few minutes, rinse it off, repeat if necessary. Caution as always, paint stripper especially the heavy duty varieties will burn your skin !

Once you have the paint stripped, it's time to change out the details. The most obvious are the trolley retriever, the whistles, and the roof vents.

The retrievers are soldered in place, but the amount of solder used was minimal, they should pop off with a bit of pressure. You may need to do some clean-up work with a file for any excess solder. The whistles will also pull out of the upper dash with a minimum of effort, the holes will need to be filled with a modeling putty. The roof vents are simply pushed in and are easily pulled out. Sand the roof, particularly around where the vents were previous as there may be some paint build-up residue.

Once the roof is clean, you can apply the new roof vents. Each side gets a total of six vents. There are no commerically available vents which are correct for this car, but the Q Car Perley Thomas vents are a good starting point. Working on one side of the car at a time, place a vent in the previous spots occupied by the four Kidder vents, then using the plans in CERA 105 or photos, place the other two vents as appropriate. I run a strip of masking tape to align the vents so they're all inline. Repeat for the other side. Once the vents are in place, using your modeling putty, fill in the back side of all the vents. The Perley Thomas design is open on both ends, the Fox River vents are only open on the front. Sand/file smooth as appropriate.

At this time you can also mount the whistles. One whistle per end, roof mounted, just above the side door, on the right hand side as you look at the car from the front. Review photos to get the correct position.

Now you're ready for paint. Opinions vary on what paint and techniques to use. I personally had always been a fan of old-school Floquil paints and an old Paasche airbrush. In the last year I've experimented with, and have made a permanent switch to the water-based Polly Scale paints and the Aztek airbrush, both produced by Testors. The paint is high quality, as is the airbrush and ease of use and clean-up can't be beat. Especially if you're in an apartment or as I am a townhouse situation where "workshop" facilities are at best, something less than permanent.

Based on observations, paint chips, recollections, etc., best guess for these cars is that they were painted with a light yellowish creme window sash, standard traction orange for the rest of the car. Roof and doors were a tuscan/maroon color, and the trucks/underbody basic black.

I've opted for the following colors as my "standards". Polly Scale ATSF CatWhisker Yellow for the creme window area, Polly Scale SP Daylight Orange for the main body areas, and Polly Scale Boxcar Red for the roofs and doors. The yellow and orange may appear to bright in the store as you're looking at the paint in the jar, but the applied look, and the lighting conditions of where you're looking will affect the final colors. I'm happy with it, feel free to change as you may desire.

Once you have the car painted, touch up the whistles with a dull brass color. Retrievers can be applied (painted black), and at a minimum you'll want headlight brackets at the ends of each car. I have my cars each with a headlight on one end and a bracket on the other.

The next options are probably the most difficult. First up is the window guards. In the photo below, this car has window guards made up of styrene strips. They're good enough, but could/should be better. I'm experimenting on one car with using piano wire, we'll see how that goes. The tricky part is getting the horizontals are straight, any sag/dip/in the guards ruins the whole look. Second is the decals. No one makes decals for these cars, so you have to make your own. You can email me and I can make a set for you since I've done the hard work already, but I'm neither set up, nor interested in doing it commercially.

Short version of how I made these is I scanned a copy of the AE&FRE logo, not sure where from, probably CERA 105. Using standard Windows Paintbox, opened the scanned file as a bitmap (basically enlarging the scan so you can see every point as a box) With a lot of time and patience, I cleaned up the scan, colored it to solid black, and resaved the file. Picked an appropriate font to approximate the numbering, and viewing various photos the lettering on the ends. Cut and paste and resize as needed to a Word document and printed it on decal paper using my color laser printer. Couple shots of clearcoat, once it dried, it was just like having purchased commercial decals.

At this point, some people may decide on interior detailing. An interesting note in all of the Fox River / Shaker Hts 300 models I've ever seen,, not one has ever had the most simplest of interior details, the smoker partition wall ! In any event, I'm not a big fan of interiors, to me it's a lot of work that typically can't be appreciated and I personally would rather build another car than use that same amount of time on something that most people would miss anyways. Just a personal choice, neither right or wrong. Full details are available from the usual suspects, QCar, Current Line, etc. Detail as you feel appropriate.

And there you go,, the Fox River Line rides again.,,,

now the hard part,, scratchbuilding the other cars !

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