Nov 10 2011

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Flat Car Prototype

One day, my son told me he didn’t have enough flat cars on his wooden railway. I figured that we could just buy him some more online, but I discovered that you can’t just buy flat cars, they only come in track sets (although I’ve been told by several people that the Twin Cities Model Railway Museum has them). Oh shucks! I would have to make them myself.

I used a flat car from my son’s railroad as a model. I had some 1/2″ and 3/4″ thick red oak in my shop that I used to make the bed and the chassis — I think many of the railroad cars are actually painted oak. It’s a good choice anyway because it is cheap and relatively hard. I used the car itself to setup most of my cuts. Still, my prototype didn’t turn out exactly like the original because I was using dimensional wood.

I ran into my first problem when I was routing the groove in the bed that would make up the bottom and the sides. I needed to make two passes to make the groove the correct width. The first pass ran okay, but when I turned the piece around to widen the groove, I didn’t realize that I would be climb cutting. I progressed a few inches into the cut when the router ripped the piece out of my hands and shot it across the room. I have learned some caution since my emergency room visit, so my hands were well away from the bit. To finish the cut I reversed the featherboard and ran the sock left to right.

Try as I might I could not find small plastic wheels that matched the original flat car, so I was forced to make my own. First I cut off a 1/8″ slice of a 3/4″ poplar dowel, then drilled a hole in the center. For the axles I simply used #4 1/2″ long pan head screws and #6 washers.

I did find magnetic connector hardware at Cherry Tree Toys online. They sell a round ceramic magnet and a nickel plated round head nail that act as the magnetic connectors.

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