Although I have a number of scale sized hopper cars on my O-gauge layout, just for fun, I decided to make ore cars with thin Luan underlayment, cardboard, and computer/printer generated images. I made five of these ore cars which are extremely light. You can view them in Pictures 1 and 3. As you can see, they appear like the tintype cars of yesteryear.
I started by cutting 2 small rectangular pieces of ¼ inch thick underlayment down to size: 5 ½ inch by 2 ½ inch. One of these pieces would serve as the bottom; the other I would eventually glue inside the cardboard frame about ¼ inch from the car’s top surface (Picture 2).
From a discarded cardboard gift box-a thin shirt box, actually-I carefully cut with scissors, two end pieces: 2 ½ inch by 2 ½ inch. Next, I cut out two side pieces: 2 ½ inches by 5 ½ inches. Using Elmer’s white glue, I assembled these pieces according to Picture 2. It is critical that the corners are glued and meet neatly. The bottom and top pieces (gray color) help anchor the vertical cardboard seams, making them a lot stronger than they first appear.
The top of Picture 3 shows the actual hopper car I photographed and downloaded to my desktop. With Microsoft Paint, I drew an empty rectangle (the car side) and an empty square (the car end). I kept printing and cutting these blank facsimiles until they exactly fit the size of the intended ore car sides and ends. Now I could use these blanks to crop and resize my photos to fit neatly inside them. I had to play around a bit for an exact fit. As you can see, much of the car’s midsection I deleted to shorten it.
Then I highlighted ladders, rivets, hand rails, and other notable reinforcing on the car’s side. These bright colors draw attention away from the fact that the finished product is nothing more than wood, cardboard, and stones glued in place. As you can see, the empty wedged shaped spaces at each end of the car, I colored a dark green. They would probably look better painted black. Viewers have never asked me what the ore cars are made of; only, “Where did you get them?”
After printing out two ends and two sides, I used white glue to mount them securely to the cardboard. As you can see, my finished product in Picture 5 looks a lot different than the original photos I used as guides. I changed the overall color to a rusty dark brown.
With a two brass screws, I mounted the trucks to the underside of the ore car as Picture 4 shows. I had measured exactly where each truck would go and then drilled a pilot hole. The trucks were not expensive. I bought them at the local Iron Horse Hobby Store which is not far from my home. These trucks feature operating couplers that are yanked open via Lionel’s magnetic remote control track.
As a final touch, I heaped up stones so they looked like a real load. I diluted white glue with water until the liquid was easy to pour. Using a tablespoon, I dribbled lots of the white glue mixture over the mounded stones to hold them firmly in place. The glue dries clear leaving no residue of any kind.
All in all, the finished product with its load of stones makes a very interesting train car, especially if you make a long line of them (Picture 1). I must admit that I enjoyed this simple project. Now, any time I want to add a few more ore cars, I can open my saved computer file, print out any number of end and side copies, and then glue them in place to as many rectangular ore car boxes I’ve made.
These cars are extremely light. A small locomotive can pull a large number of them with ease. I have other cars which I’ve made in the same fashion as these. They turned out just as nice. I will show them in upcoming articles. Happy Railroading with this easy, worthwhile project.