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November 2004 - Page 36

Adding a Fire Train To Your On30 Consist
by Larry Puckett
Photos by the author


ogging camps, lumber mills and mining camps were often endangered by the ever present threat of forest fires. Logging operations in particular created large amounts or flammable debris the sparks from camp fires, lightning, steam-powered donkey engines and locomotives could easily ignite this material. Many rural towns in the forested areas of the country were often threatened by the specter of these forest fires. These small towns, typically of frame construction, had little chance of surviving a major blaze, and it was not unusual for the local railroad to provide evacuation trains to remove residents and their possessions. Even the railroads that operated in forested terrain were not immune from fire damage, and consequently counted fire equipment among their rolling stock. Probably the most important pieces of this equipment were the fire cars. These cars usually consisted of tank cars fitted with pumps that were run off the train steam or air lines. Fire cars could be quickly moved to the scene of a fire, and with their long hoses, they were very effective at dowsing fires near the right of way. When the water in the fire car was used up, the pumps could be operated in reverse and used to refill the tank from a nearby stream or pond. Some railroads even paired tank cars with their fire cars to increase the water supply. Shop crews built many fire cars from an old tank car or a tank mounted on a flatcar, a pump, hoses and some lumber. Consequently they had very individual appearances. In September 2004, Foothill Model Works (FMW, released a generic fire car in both On3 and On30. This car follows the typical pattern for home-built fire cars a flatcar with a tank mounted on it, an air-powered pump, elevated working platform, hose reel and toolbox. The car and tank are cast-resin components, and the details consist of a large selection of cast metal and plastic parts. In spite of the apparent complexity of this kit, I found it reasonably easy to put together. FMW also has a 24' tank car among their inventory, which was designed primarily as a water car, so it fits nicely with the fire car. Should you decide to build both these cars, I suggest you begin with the tank car. Although the tank car has a much more complex air-operated brake system compared to the fire car with its simple mechanical brake system, it is an easier project overall. By starting with the simpler project youll be ready to take on the complexity of building the various air and water lines and associated plumbing for the fire car. Since most of these details arent visible, you could leave

the more complex underbody plumbing off the tank car and just install the visible components such as the truss rods. However my feeling is that you paid for it so you might as well enjoy the challenge of giving it the Full Monty. Also, youll get a lot of enjoyment from flipping the car over on its back and showing off all those neat details to the admiring eyes of your friends.

Tank Car
Lets begin with the tank car. First, let me say that theres no need for me to take you step-by-step through the construction process. Instead, just follow the logical sequence of steps provided in the instructions that come with the kit, which is exactly what I did. I began by removing all the flash (which is minimal), then sanded the components flat, and finally gave them all a good going over with soap, water and a good abrasive cleanser. While these components dried, I put the trucks together using Ambroid liquid styrene cement. Once the trucks had hardened I added the brake beams be careful handling them as there are some fragile sections that can easily be broken. The biggest chore in preparing the frame and deck is drilling all the holes. Just be patient and follow the steps the drill bits will cut through the resin very quickly. Once these were all completed I proceeded to glue the deck to the frame using thick CA cement this sets slow enough to allow time for positioning the deck. Next I added the train line and the needle beams, again using the slow-setting CA cement. With these preliminaries out of the way it was time to attack the brake gear. The brake gear on this model looks overwhelming, however if you take it step by step, it really becomes easy. Getting the brake cylinder installed in just the right position is critical since the alignment of other components depends on it. I glued the three mounting brackets to the bottom of the brake cylinder first, then glued this assembly to the frame beams, making sure that the pushrod end lined up with the cutout in the needle beam. I made quick work of the T connection between the air line and the brake cylinder, and then

The trucks for the tank car are a little bit more complex than those for the fire car due to the addition of the brake beams on each end. Note how the metal strap between the sideframes drops down on one end this is to provide adequate clearance for the coupler draft gear.

This overview of the bottom of the car gives you an idea of the complexity of the brake, train line and truss-rod rigging.



Added December 2, 2010 - Share