Rail car construction

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Glenn Brooks
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Rail car construction

Post by Glenn Brooks » Sun Feb 09, 2020 6:52 pm

Not sure where to post this question, or even what forum is best to ask. Anyway, Iam interested in researching the details about the level of wood frame joinery and fastening methods used to construct original 1880’s- 1900 era wood 1:1 passenger rail cars.

Most of the car builders pubs I’ve seen don’t seem to specify the actual tolerance or level of quality of joints, inlaid cross braces, etc. also, haven’t found any specific reference to through bolting joists to sills, uprights, etc. so would like to clarify this level of woodworking technique.

Specifically, looking for info about how wood frame passenger cars were assembled - such as with tight, interlocking joinery and through bolted similar to ship joinery? Or was framing assembled with simple, rough carpentry methods such as we find in frame houses today, e.g. assembled with with loose 1/8” +/-tolerances with cross bracing nailed/ screwed together?

If anyone has an on line reference I could do further research, would be much appreciated.

Thanks
Glenn
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Motive power : 1902 A.S.Campbell 4-4-0 American - 12 5/8" gauge, 1955 Ottaway 4-4-0 American 12" gauge

Ahaha, Retirement: the good life - drifting endlessly on a Sea of projects....

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Greg_Lewis
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Re: Rail car construction

Post by Greg_Lewis » Sun Feb 09, 2020 8:26 pm

Check Railway Car Construction by William Voss, 1892. It's been reprinted by the Orange Empire Railway Museum. I don't see it on their website so you'd have to call them. I also see it's on Google Books: https://books.google.com/books/about/Ra ... M1AQAAMAAJ
Greg Lewis, Prop.
Eyeball Engineering — Home of the dull toolbit.
Our motto: "That looks about right."
Celebrating 30 years of turning perfectly good metal into bits of useless scrap.

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makinsmoke
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Re: Rail car construction

Post by makinsmoke » Thu Feb 13, 2020 9:19 am

Hello Glenn,
I don't have any specifications for you.

I will say that those wood cars (and later steel cars) frames were essentially truss bridges and the members were kept in tension and compression by their construction as well as steel rods which ran vertically and diagonally down the sides of the cars, as well as the more visible truss rods under the car frames. There are numerous photographs out on the net showing how these cars were built, mainly of cars being repaired or rebuilt. Any loose construction would seem to allow flexing of the joints, and therefore early failure of those points. My assumption is they would have been built with as close a tolerance as possible.

Of particular interest is a series of photos of a project restoring a Denver and Rio Grande narrow gauge caboose by the Ridgway Railroad Museum. There are a couple of photographs showing how they spliced the sills to repair a rotted section on the end under the steps, as well as a couple of terrific photos showing the side framing of the car with the sheathing removed. A lot of the joinery employed mortise and tenon connections.

https://www.ridgwayrailroadmuseum.org/0 ... ation.html

https://www.ridgwayrailroadmuseum.org/businesscar.html

I understand that repairing/restoring a car for a cosmetic restoration is not the same as for an FRA in use car, but some of the joinery, etc. may provide some insights. Incidentally, I have seen very similar methods in repairing and restoring some of the rolling stock at the Cumbres and Toltec Railroad by the Friends group.

https://www.cumbrestoltec.org/galleries ... earch.html

Take care,
Brian

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makinsmoke
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Re: Rail car construction

Post by makinsmoke » Thu Feb 13, 2020 9:38 am

One more.

Here is a photo of ex-D&RG RPO car being restored by the Friends of the Cumbres and Toltec Railroad. Note the vertical pieces with notches for the horizontal braces. There are literally hundreds of photos like these on their website, showing the remarkable work this group has done to keep the narrow gauge running in Colorado. The fact that folks are documenting this work is an extra benefit to us! And they do accept donations and volunteers.
D&RG RPO side view.jpg
https://www.cumbrestoltec.org/galleries ... ig&id=1977

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Erskine Tramway
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Re: Rail car construction

Post by Erskine Tramway » Thu Feb 13, 2020 11:45 am

Hi Glenn...

I can't tell you a lot about Standard Gauge cars of the period, but I can tell you about Sir Arthur Heywood's cars. His cars weren't large enough to warrant the through rods that the big cars used, but his joints were as tight as I expect the big ones' were. As far as tolerances go, he wrote that the parts were cut to templates, so I expect the tolerances would be very close, and so would the fits. One thing he did do was use 'draw joints' to put tension on the mortise and tenon joints. A draw joint is made by boring the hole for a dowel just a little bit offset in the tenon, so that when the dowel is inserted, it pulls the joint tightly together. At Sandley's, when we built wooden cars, the fits were the same as you would expect for furniture. As Brian noted, a loose fitted joint would start 'working' as soon as it went in service.

Mike
Former Locomotive Engineer and Designer, Sandley Light Railway Equipment Works, Inc. and Riverside & Great Northern Railway 1962-77
BN RR Locomotive Engineer 1977-2014, Retired

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NP317
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Re: Rail car construction

Post by NP317 » Thu Feb 13, 2020 9:06 pm

Glenn:
Check your own local Northwest Railway Museum in Snoqualmie.
In their large 3-track storage building is an unrestored late 1800s NP passenger car, with exposed construction where the damage is bad.
You can at least walk around it and take measurements and photos. Maybe more depending on who you get interested in helping you.
Hopefully they will get it on their restoration list, as it is an historic coach.

There are also other full-sizes wooden coaches in that same building that have been extensively restored, including Chapel Car 5 "Messenger of Peace."
http://www.messengerofpeace.org/A.php
Some really world-class restorations are on-going in the adjacent Conservation and Restoration building at the NRM. Tours are available last time I checked.
RussN

Cary Stewart
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Re: Rail car construction

Post by Cary Stewart » Fri Feb 14, 2020 8:36 pm

Find a copy of a pre 1900 Master Car Builders Dictionary. They were reprinted several decades ago and are surely out of print. A guess would be 1879 or late 1880s editions would give you some idea of wood constructed passenger cars and also freight cars.
Cary

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BAdams
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Re: Rail car construction

Post by BAdams » Fri Feb 14, 2020 9:58 pm


Glenn Brooks
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Re: Rail car construction

Post by Glenn Brooks » Sat Feb 15, 2020 12:20 am

Thanks to all who posted links. Iam reading and rereading the car builders cyclopedia. Russ, unfortunately Iam in Hawaii and the car rebuild is here, so unable to go visit Snoqualimie just yet. Unfortunately, the crew working on the car rebuild, isn’t making tight joinery, so Iam little concerned about how well the car will hold up. It’s not my project, but I had a hand in finishing the truss plates on the frame last year... Still, Not to late to reinforce certain key joints in the framing, so hope to raise some concern this week, before the external sheating gets to far along.

Certainly, as a lesson learned,it seems all the old construction publications i reviewed imply tightly fit joinery, even if not specifically stated. I would think building to scale would also imply cabinetry level joinery as well.

Thanks again,
Glenn
Moderator - Grand Scale Forum

Motive power : 1902 A.S.Campbell 4-4-0 American - 12 5/8" gauge, 1955 Ottaway 4-4-0 American 12" gauge

Ahaha, Retirement: the good life - drifting endlessly on a Sea of projects....

K. Brouwers
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Re: Rail car construction

Post by K. Brouwers » Sat Feb 15, 2020 7:18 am

Hello Friends,
I know it is not prototypical as all the wooden cars were held together with tensioned rods running along the wooden members that were put under compression to hold the mortise and tenons together but for models if the joints are not quite perfect fits a mixture of epoxy and fine sawdust mixed to the consistency of wood putty will fill any gaps in the joinery and stop the parts from working. Of course the joint if a tensioned member like the frame should still have truss rods properly tensioned.

Glenn if the joints on the full size car are too loose there might be a suitable product available to antique home restorers that is used to build up wood that has suffered dry rot. I think it might be also epoxy base. Another place to look would be one of the West Systems epoxy formulations.
Happy building
Karel

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NP317
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Re: Rail car construction

Post by NP317 » Sat Feb 15, 2020 11:53 am

Glenn stated:
"Russ, unfortunately I am in Hawaii..."

Sheesh!! :lol:
RussN

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Erskine Tramway
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Re: Rail car construction

Post by Erskine Tramway » Sat Feb 15, 2020 4:40 pm

If your joints are not as tight as they should be, I've used 'Gorilla Glue'. As it sets, it swells up, and will fill a certain amount of gap.

Mike
Former Locomotive Engineer and Designer, Sandley Light Railway Equipment Works, Inc. and Riverside & Great Northern Railway 1962-77
BN RR Locomotive Engineer 1977-2014, Retired

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