Introduction & History
By Matt Snell
As a part of their ongoing safety awareness campaigns Conrail utilized several distinctive pieces of equipment geared toward educating the public to the dangers that the railroad presented them at grade crossings, or if they chose to trespass. This equipment also presented them with some of the programs that Conrail used in conjunction with various public safety agencies, such as coordination with local fire departments for Haz-Mat training and the "Trooper on a Train" program, thus reinforcing the concept that Conrail was a responsible community partner.
The first of these distinct pieces of equipment was the "Safety on Rails Theater" car, a boxcar converted to a mobile safety display, complete with a small movie theater for showing safety films. While the SORT car served an excellent function it was limited to only going where there was rail access and required special logistics to get to its setup location.
A second, more mobile piece of equipment was also utilized in the effort to educate the public. This was a specially built & modified tractor trailer which had the capability of going virtually anywhere that there was level ground to set up on. This unit required no special logistics to get to its display location, only a driver and the trailer staff.
Together these two pieces of equipment educated countless numbers of citizens to Conrail's safety programs, especially where the rails meet the road, under the Operation Lifesaver program. Upon the demise of Conrail the unit was transferred to the Norfolk Southern Railroad who sold the unit at auction to Dixie Precast of Austell, Georgia. Although the Conrail markings and graphics have all been removed & changed to suit it's new owners, the unit still serves educating the public as part of the Georgia Operation Lifesaver program.
Modeling the Mobile Exhibit Trailer
Modeling the mobile exhibit tractor-trailer set is both a challenging & interesting deviation to railroad modeling as most of us are familiar with. This project will allow you to sharpen your modeling skills while allowing you to use new techniques and materials. When finished you will have an excellent looking piece of equipment which will certainly stir up interest on your own railroad.
Although this is an advanced level project, if you follow the instructions one step at a time and exercise patience, this model can also be constructed by a beginning level modeler. This however, is not a project which will be completed in an evening, nor realistically even a week. My personal recommendation is to set aside an hour a day to work on it, thus insuring you don't try to rush through it.
Constructing the Trailer
No exact model of this trailer exists straight out of the box as this trailer was constructed to custom specs for Conrail by Great Dane and then further modifications were made by Conrail once the trailer was delivered. A good starting point is the Herpa moving/electronics van, which is also relatively inexpensive.
Prior to starting on the actual construction of the trailer you will need to make a template of the trailer to aid in the placement of the doors and new wheel well. Lay the trailer on graph paper and trace the outline. After the template is drawn take a copy of the graphics for the trailer side and mount it onto the template. This will insure that when you cut in the doors there will be no interference with the graphics on the side of the trailer. I suggest making several copies of this template as you will be cutting it up later.Â
To begin construction of the trailer, start by disassembling the trailer by removing the roof, landing gear, both
axles, and the spring assembly that holds the axles on. All of these are basically "snap fit" into place on the trailer and gentle pressure with a flat bladed hobby knife or jewelers screwdriver should be all that is required for disassembly. At this point you will also want to gather all the necessary additional parts for the trailer. These are the side entrance doors, the nose mounted air conditioning (reefer) unit, and the accessory fuel tanks.
Once the trailer has been disassembled, cut the door locations out of the template and tape it to the trailer side. Mark the door cut lines in the trailer side in pencil. Remove the template and using a circle template mark the new wheel location at the rear of the trailer using a 15/32" circle. Note that this is a single axle trailer, rather than the double axle that the Herpa model is. To insure that the axle cutout is in the same location on both sides of the trailer, simply mark the template with a piece of tape aligned with the rear bumper of the trailer. When marking the new wheel location the top of the circle should be even with the top edge of the of the structural side rail, so this may also be used as a locating guide. Finish marking the cut lines by squaring up the door cut lines using a ruler or small square.
Prior to actually cutting up the trailer, it's prudent to work on the axle assembly to insure a good fit. Begin by cutting the axle assembly down to a single axle by cutting off the rear spring and mud flaps, in addition to trimming the front down a little. Next file the assembly down so the wheels will sit flush with the trailer floor.
The first real step in modifying the trailer is to place the nose mount A/C unit. Center this on the trailer nose and mark the location with a pencil. Mark the mounting pin locations and then drill through the trailer body and test fit the reefer unit. Once satisfied with the fit remove the unit as it will be installed after the trailer is painted.
To begin the major modifications to the body start by cutting the two side doors into the body. This may be done using either a Dremel style tool or by drilling holes at the four corner locations & then joining the holes by cutting with a hobby knife. Since the door frames are designed to recess into the holes, you should test fit the doors and enlarge the holes as you go using a file. Using a round file, cut in the new wheel location by filing across the Â
Once you are satisfied with the modifications on the curb side of the trailer then the modifications to the road side can be started. You'll note that the road side is substantially different, having only a vent & equipment door recessed into the trailer side. The same template procedure that was used earlier should be used to mark the location of the equipment door and vent. After these are drawn in and squared up the equipment door may be scribed into the trailer wall using a sharp hobby knife. The vent can be fabricated from either a casting (vent or shutter casting that has been cut down) or scribed directly into the trailer body in the same fashion.
Once scribing is complete sand the body side with fine sandpaper to remove any raised plastic. The same should be done with the door and axle cutouts.
Now that the trailer body has been modified, mount the axle/spring assembly using CAA type glue. Insure that the axle is centered and fits into the new cutouts. Apply CAA to the floor of the trailer then place and hold the assembly in place until the glue sets up. Once the assembly has been glued in the axle may be snapped out of the spring assembly and set aside for installation after the body has been painted.
Once the spring assembly is mounted, reinstall the landing gear by snapping it into the mounting holes. Assemble the two halves of the auxiliary fuel tanks and test fit them between the landing gear and the drop storage compartment on the trailer. You will need to file the bracket on the fuel tank closest to the drop compartment to insure a good fit. Once you are satisfied with the fit glue these into place.
Now that the major modifications are complete the old wheel wells will need to be filled. Lay the trailer on a sheet of styrene & using a sharp pencil trace the outline of the old wheel wells. Cut the filler pieces out of styrene and glue them into place in the old wheel wells. Use a piece of scrap styrene on the backside to add strength to the filler pieces you have inserted. Once the glue has dried apply putty to the joints and sand smooth to match the contour of the trailer side and bottom.
Since this was a trailer designed for exhibition purposes, small lighting/vent assemblies were added over the side doors. These may be fabricated by using styrene or parts from the scrap box. As these are rectangular and extend slightly outwards from the trailer side I chose to use EMD hood roof vents as they fit the approximate dimension and look I found acceptable. Whichever method you choose, test fit these over the doors, but do not glue these into place yet. As they are black, it's much easier to paint these off the trailer body and make the final installation after the trailer body has been painted.
All tractor trailers have a glad hand assembly similar to those used in railroad application. To add this to your trailer cut down two MU hose castings so that only the glad hand and a small section of hose are left. Locate the two slots on the road side of the trailer and drill one hole through each. Insert the hose end of the casting, leaving only the glad hand exposed on the trailer exterior.
If you wish to superdetail your trailer, the trailer air and electrical lines can be fabricated using .010 brass wire. To fabricate the air lines, tightly wrap the wire around a small round object such as a jewelers screwdriver. When removed the wire will be coiled and is a good simulation of the air brake hoses. The electrical line is not coiled, but rather should have a droop and the wire may be bent accordingly. To install the brass wire drill #80 holes, one
at each gladhand, and one in the round electrical plug (round protrusion) between the glad hands. The wire should be glued from the inside of the trailer and trimmed leaving enough on the exterior to extend to the tractor. For added strength, the wire extending into the trailer may be bent to one side inside the trailer body in order to give an additional point of adhesion other than glue.
Now you have a choice to make. Do you want a trailer with closed doors, or a trailer with open doors and display an interior? If you wish to have the doors closed then simply glue them into place now. If you wish to have the doors open then carefully cut them from the door frames by continuously scoring along the door frame/door joints and carefully remove the door from the frame. File the cut lines on the frames and doors so they are clean and glue the frames into place in the holes that were cut for the doors earlier. If you choose open doors and an interior, the interior must be constructed prior to painting the trailer. This will be covered in section 3.
To construct the A/C-reefer unit cut the insert into two halves, upper & lower. Install the lower portion into the casting and discard the upper portion. The large hole in the upper portion of the casting should be filled with sheet styrene cut to fit from the inside of the casting.
Final detailing on the trailer includes the small underbody storage box and the landing gear crank. To fabricate the storage box cut two Cannon EMD door castings down to 4 HO scale feet each. The box sides are made fromÂ
Plastruct rectangular tubing cut slightly smaller than the width of the trailer. Cut two identical sections of rectangular tubing & mount the doors with the door edge even with the outer edge of the tubing. (There will be a hole in the underside of the box which may be covered over with flat styrene if you wish.) Once the assembly is dry, mount and glue to the trailer underbody.
Â To fabricate the landing gear crank bend a length of .010 wire to an "S" shape & bend one end at a right angle. Drill a #80 hole in the landing gear assembly and install the crank.
The final step prior to painting involves the side doors for the trailer. If you chose open doors take two small pieces of 4 x 8 scrap styrene and glue these in the center of the doors on the side which will face the trailer wall. This will add additional support to the doors once mounted to the trailer. If you chose closed doors simply ignore this step.
Painting the Trailer
The trailer body is painted white with a chrome nose, silver roof, & silver structural rails and trim. In order to paint the trailer it will need to be stripped down to the following component parts: body, landing gear, rear axle, A/C-reefer unit, and doors (open style only.) The rear axle does not require any painting & should be set aside for reinstallation later. (NOTE: If you chose open door style with an interior, insure that the interior has been constructed PRIOR to painting!)
Prior to painting, remove all pencil lines that remain on the trailer & touch up any scratches with fine sandpaper. The roof should be painted silver, and all other components painted white. Once the trailer body paint is dry coat the trailer body with Testor Glosscote. Once the Glosscote is dry, mask the trailer leaving the nose area exposed. The nose area should be painted Chrome. Once this is dry the trailer may be reassembled, adding the side lights and the A/C - reefer unit at this time.
One important note when painting trailers equipped with interiors: When masking you should insure that both door openings are masked from the interior, as well as the roof opening. When painting the trailer roof insure that the roof interior and valances have been masked as well. This insures that no paint will enter the interior of the trailer or get onto the roof areas which should remain white.Â
Once the trailer has been reassembled, adding the silver structural side rails is accomplished by using two sizes of silver decal striping in 3" & 4 3/4" widths. Using the 3" striping apply a stripe around the roof edge in the recess in the trailer body. Microsol decal solvent will get the decal to conform to the contour of the recess.
The same procedure is used for the outline of the underbody storage box, with smaller strips cut for the hinges.
Using the wider 4 3/4" striping, apply a stripe the length of the trailer along the lower support rail. This rail is actually a two piece rail, so if you choose you may overlap with a 3" stripe along the lower section once the wider decal is dry. Where the trailer deck drops a short section of 4 3/4" stripe should be added vertically along the drop edge.
For the rear of the trailer, outline the ICC bar & structural rail with 3" stripe. Taillights can be added by either painting or using small red decals, such as those found in the Microscale Conrail Locomotive Data set. As I do not know the exact license plate of the trailer I chose a generic Pennsylvania license for the rear of the trailer.
Once the striping is fully dry add the marker lights along the structural rail using orange paint for all but the side markers at the rear of the trailer. These should be red.To finish the detail painting on the trailer paint the glad hands and hoses, red for the road side and blue for the curb side, paint the electrical cable grey, outline the door frames in silver, and paint the landing gear crank silver. If you are afraid of getting paint onto the fuel tanks simply insert a piece of index card between the fuel tanks and landing gear crank.
Decals should be placed as the photos indicate. The basic graphics are essentially the same on both sides with only a few minor differences. These are the WARNING decal, the Great Dane logo, and the red stripe length. The WARNING decal is only applied to the road side of the nose, where the nose wraps into the side. The Great Dane logos are directional, with the "tail" facing the rear of the trailer. Additionally the length of the red stripe is different and working from photos will give you the best positioning. The rear door area receives the OPERATION LIFESAVER graphics, scaled to fit the rear doors. The final piece to the trailer is the addition of white mud flaps glued to the underside of the bumper, and now your trailer is ready to serve your scale population! Join Matt for the next installment where we'll construct and paint the trailer. If you're interested in modeling this trailer please contact the CRHS for information on how to get the decals.
Herpa 326-5283 Electronics/Moving Van
A-Line 116-50005 Mud Flaps - White
Cannon & Co. 191-1003 Radiator Compartment Doors
Details West 229-2503 .010 Brass Wire
Plastruct 570-90631 Rectangular Tubing 1/4x3/16
Pikestuff 541-1102 Personnel Doors - Solid
A-Line 116-50136 Thermo King Reefer Unit (2)
Microscale 460-91104 Silver Stripes 3 & 4 ¾"