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Recipes for powered boxcar and Forney truck

From Bob Hayden
Thu, 26 Jun 1997

To the Mail Car members:

Fellow HOn30 modeler Peter Bartlett of England faxed me a question about building a powered boxcar for the Carrabasset & Dead River. Here’s my reply to him, plus a note about building an all-wheel pickup Forney trailing truck.

My powered boxcar (No. 137) is nothing special; in fact, now that it’s done and operating, I wish I’d chosen a higher-quality N gauge diesel for the mechanism. I think the key is to find a mechanism that will run at roughly the same speed as the engines that it will “help.” I started with a cheap Life-Like N gauge F unit. I chose it because (1) it was around, and (2) it had a plastic frame that I could cut apart and splice back together to get roughly the right wheelbase.

The next step was probably the most important for good running characteristics. I threw away the motor and universals, and made up my own drive train using a Sagami motor, NWSL Flywheel, and NWSL universal-joint components. I also added thrust washers to the Life-Like gearboxes (on each truck) to get most of the fore-and-aft slop out of the worm gear.

I used the Life-Like weights, adding extra lead sheet to the cab end weight of the F unit to balance the unit (same weight on each truck). It weighs 6 ounces, similar to my Bemo diesels. The superstructure is made from a Grant Line C&S boxcar kit, narrowed, which gives me a hollow plastic shell that can drop right over the mechanism. The rest is details. I’m pretty sure I made a couple of holes in the roof, under the roofwalk, to let heat out.

As you suggested, I added as much lead shot in the boiler of the Chivers Forney (C&DR No. 4) as I could. The biggest change I made was building a trailing truck that picks up from both sides of the rail. It consists of brass sideframes, gapped PC-board bolsters, and wheelsets insulated with a length of plastic tubing joining the stub axles. A thin wire runs from each side of the bolster up into the tank, and to the motor. The extra pickup helps immeasurably; No. 4 will keep running merrily away even with both drivers off the rails!

All the best! Bob Hayden

Powered boxcar update
Wed 29 Sep 2004

The diesel chassis I used was just something from the scrap box, a 20-year-old Life-Like N scale Geep, if I recall correctly.

The trick is to hack up the diesel chassis, length-wise, until the wheelbase is the same as a 28-foot boxcar. Toss out the motor, clean out the space it occupied, and drop in a 12 x 25 or bigger Sagami motor with two flywheels. I had to make two double-ended universals to get power from the motor to the gear towers on the trucks, but NWSL makes the parts for that.

Then sand the sides of the diesel sideframes flat, glue on freight truck sideframes, and paint the trucks flat black so you can’t see much. I used a plastic superstructure made from a Grandt Line HON3 30′ C&S boxcar, but as long as you build it so it slips on and off, anything will do. I doubt heat buildup is a problem.

The completed boxcar weighs 6 ounces, so it will pull the paper off the wall. My next iteration will be a P&R/F&M-style baggage car (the short, early ones) with drive, sound, and decoder inside for one of the little Forneys.

Bob Hayden

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