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Flat cars are rarely modeled without some sort of load
because otherwise it would be to light to stay on the tracks
this car is weighted to NMRA standards and tracks very nicely.

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Flat cars may seem to be easily modeled but are rarely seen on any model railroad, especially one that is not carrying a load.  Why?  Because it is hard to find and build one that is heavy enough to stay on the tracks.


Personally, I like a car without a load.  The problem is that there is no place to add any kind of weight.  Even die-cast white-metal cars are under weight unless carrying a load.  Using a low-melting point lead-based metal helps but it is still difficult to bring a car up to weight and it is expensive too.  I have tried several ways over the years and nothing that worked that well until now



The solution is simple.  Make the car body from brass instead of wood.  This, of course makes it harder to detail the underside of a car (some detail could be added) but who cares about what cannot be seen?  To say the underside of this car lacks detail is an understatement but then again the only time it would show is if  the car derails and flips over.


To say the underside of this car lacks detail is an understatement but then again the only time it would show is if the car derails and flips over

Bass stock is a relatively inexpensive and efficient way to add weight to a car.



The core of this 42-foot car is made from one pieces of 1-1/4 x 1/8 of cold rolled brass cut to 3-1/4 inches long, and another cut to 1-1/2 inches.  The total weight of the pieces when glued together is less than three ounces.  The trucks, couplers and other parts will bring the weight to just over the recommended weight of 3-1/2 ounces with plenty of room to spare.


See BETTER OPERATION for more information on weighting cars for operation.




Build car body but do not glue brass weights yet.  The sides are 10” x 22” scale stripwood. The subfloor is regular HO car floorboard cut down to 1-1/4 to match the width of the weights.  Note that grab irons and other hardware hold better with the extra thickness.  The belly is formed, then the end sills (see below) and bolsters can be built up and added next. 


See BETTER OPERATION on how to build up truck Bolsters




This view shows the holes for stirrups and the notch for the draft gear.  Also note the 12 degree angle bevel on the poling pockets




Here are a few approximate dimensions:


Width over sides

  9’  0”

Length over sills

42’  0”

Side height at end


Side height at belly


Transition from end

  7’   6”


17’   0 “



Here is one way to drill the stake pocket positions accurately.  In this case, the pocket selected requires two #71 holes side by side.  First, make a jig to drill just a single pair of holes side by side.  This may take a few tries to get it right but in the end, the time this takes will yield great dividends on the overall results.  This jig is the vertical piece in the bottom center of picture.


A second piece is glued at right angles to form a good surface that can be held against and slide across the fixture

The actual template is composed of a base, a “ruler” strip marked for each stake pocket location, a slide at the bottom to keep the drilling jig level, and a lip or overhang against which the jig is pressed to keep it square.


The drilling template (center of picture) has its own overhang to keep it properly aligned as the holes are drilled.  I start by drilling hole a one end and insert a pin to keep it in place.  Then I add a hole at the other end.

The rest of the holes are drilled without any worry about the template moving around.


The decking is applied next and a notch can be filed at each pocket location.  I use paint as a glue when installing the pockets.




These are a few more of the aids used to drill holes for stake pockets, grab irons and stirrups.  Making jigs like these does not take much time but can dramatically improve the results of fine work.  The drill size should be marked to insure the holes are not enlarged by using the wrong one.






End sills begin with a length of 6 x 18 stripwood.  This jig insures the holes are properly spaced both from each other and from the edge of sill. The holes are placed such that Multiple sills can be formed from a single piece of stripwood.



Poling pockets will be formed by a square piece of cardstock and a 1/8” length of 3/16” telescopic tubing.  Handling pieces this small is simplified by using a mandrel to hold them in place while filing to length and removing any burrs and sharp edges.  Note that the smallest diameter that fits inside the part also protrudes 1/8” to make it easier to recognize when the pieces are the right length.



A leather punch (Available from Tandy Leather Company) is used to form the pocket base.  Use a white index card or some similar card stock. Excess material is cut later as car is formed.


The pocket is assembled from its component parts.  Trim and glue the plate first, then press the pocket in place.  You can also drill for the grab irons and rough the outline for the draft gear.


Pockets, especially on old-time cars, come in a wide range of sizes.



Later, the pocket is filed to an angle of about twelve degrees to complete the formation of the pocket.  Do not worry about the hollow appearance of the pocket at this time as it can be filled with paint later.  Let capillary action fill the bottom to the correct level and roundness.



Decal Overland Oil


The rest of the construction is fairly standard.  The bottom can be painted black and the rest of the car a Tuscan red or brown.  Jigs

Are again used to drill the stirrups and other underbody details.  Add the break wheels and wait a week or two before applying decals


See BETTER OPERATION for mounting bolsters, trucks and couplers

and DECALS for how you can create and apply your own decals.








Under Construction



(Pictures for following will be added later)


Disconnect trucks for logging

       Some time ago I bought Kadee trucks

            By themselves they look terrific at logging camp

            But the do not stay on tracks with or without load

            Tried using pennies but still not heavy enough

            Brass seemed to work better

            As in flat cars

                 Bottom view not pretty

                 As long as car stays on track it should look pretty good

                         And run well



       Brass stock can also be used for disconnected trucks used in logging


       Build a holding fixture to emulate top of trucks

             Use handy scrap

             Beam on which logs will lie

             Pins used to hold lumber


       Build platform

            Selecting brass

                 Decide how long the logs should be

                 Rest a sample log on trucks and measure from coupler to coupler

                 Use this to determine the total weight of the car

                 The weight of brass should be this amount minus the weight of the trucks

                 The length of brass should be about an inch shorter than logs

                        This will allow room for false ends                   

                 The width and height will vary so a little bit of experimentation may be in order

                       Build log  “box” around sides and top of logs

                 Select brass to fit inside box


                 Finish trunks and mount on trucks

























Model Railroading is fun in Connecticut.
Bob Van Cleef, MMR


Last update    8/2/12