Author Topic: Best Of Polar Express build  (Read 13156 times)

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Lemosteam

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Polar Express build
« on: November 27, 2014, 02:08:58 PM »
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Happy Thanksgiving Day! Installment number one...

Recently I scored an undecorated Wathers Berkshire for a project I've been wanting to attempt for many years.  The Polar Express train. Certain that no one will tool up the unique observation car in n scale, I decided to make a set before my youngest son outgrows his interest in this train (I never will).

Very thankful that Jeff AKA Storm shared his insights on decals and colors, I was off.  The local train show provided some great deals on the passenger cars I needed to fill out the consist.

I know the PE does not contain a baggage car, but I think the train looks naked without one, so I'll start there.

I started with a Rivarossi 85' heavyweight baggage car and removed about 20' from the middle of the car and glued it back up. I did this and squared the cuts be eye, so it may not look perfect. I figure since the consist is not based on real cars, a fictitious baggage car would not be offensive.

 

Paint will be applied when I get up the courage to use an airbrush for the first time! The roof(s) of this and the other cars are painted with Tamiya TS-6 Matte Black.

I am undecided on putting snow on the roof...

Next, I started the signature observation car.  I decided to begin using an inexpensive Lima observation car because the rear wall is set back a few feet leaving a longer platform to lay out the radial trim.   This proved to be a good choice as the plastic used is quite pliable and easy to cut.

 

I was able to slice the top and bottom edges of the back wall, cut a groove in the corners and one on either side of the rear door. This allowed me to "bow" the back wall to simulate the actual curved rear wall as shown above. 

The three grooves on the top are for the three overhead lights on the platform.  I am simulating these with fiber optic leads, heat bulged and bent 90 degrees that then converge to one LED (in the roof casting) for light.

 





Here, the fiber optic is lit:


Next up, the observation roof.
« Last Edit: October 09, 2015, 05:12:44 PM by tom mann »

eric220

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Re: Polar Express build
« Reply #1 on: November 27, 2014, 04:26:36 PM »
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This is a very cool idea, and I will be following the build intently. I may even do a similar project one day! My preference would be to recreate the train in the book, as opposed to the movie. The cover of the book clearly shows either a pacific or a mountain for the power, and the obs is much simpler. Also, it's only four or five cars long!

That actually brings up an idea. I should plan a spot in on my layout to recreate the image of the train racing through the woods past the wolves.
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mmagliaro

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Re: Polar Express build
« Reply #2 on: November 27, 2014, 06:09:38 PM »
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What a beautiful and original kitbashing idea!  I too will be watching this thread!

Lemosteam

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Re: Polar Express build
« Reply #3 on: November 27, 2014, 09:03:27 PM »
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Glad you like it fellas! I'm partial to the Berk (I always wanted one but the PRR never had them as you know, so this is my excuse!) Eric, but I get your point!

Installment number two...

The next part is making the curved roof.  I started by trimming the glass casting in the back as shown below. I added a wire loop for the Squadron Green putty to grab on to.  Before reinstalling the roof, I put a pice of tape over the back platform ceiling so the putty would not stick to the car shell.

 

I added a blob of putty to the roof, pushed it toward the cut and roughly shaped it.



 

It took three days for that sucker to harden!  I sanded, filled, sanded and filled until I was happy with the shape. Then I drilled a 1.5mm hole from the end of the fill thru to the interior of the roof.  A 2mm drill opens the hole slightly for a tube with bulged fiber optics again. I inserted the tube and lens assembly, filleted the tube smooth to the roof, sanded and painted the roof.  I used a trick that I learned from LV LOU to use a drop of white glue to protect the lens.  I painted the roof and removed the white glue.

 

After trimming the fiber optic line inside, I warmed and bent it down to the roof where I added a red LED with a shallow 1.5mm hole to accept the fiber optic.  I used clear tacky glue, Aileens, to hold the light to the fiber optic.  After that dried, I used liquid electrical tape to cover the LED and prevent its extra light from escaping, and the tested it.



Now to figure out an interior lighting system, and a way to power it... Stay tuned!

nkalanaga

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Re: Polar Express build
« Reply #4 on: November 28, 2014, 12:49:13 AM »
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If your train won't be run much, or will run mostly during the day, with the lights off, you could use one of the button batteries.  That should run a few LEDs for a long time.

For interior lighting, how about a few of the surface mount LEDS and magnet wire?  They're not much bigger than a prototype light fixture, and will fit very nicely up in the clerestory, out of direct view.
N Kalanaga
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Jeff AKA St0rm

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Re: Polar Express build
« Reply #5 on: November 28, 2014, 12:57:18 AM »
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Looking good. Much better than mine.

strummer

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Re: Polar Express build
« Reply #6 on: November 28, 2014, 10:14:46 AM »
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Whatta great idea for a build. Looks like you really nailed that roof.

The O and S scale forums are constantly discussing this train, so it's really cool you've decided to just build it yourself.

If it were me, I'd opt to not permanently put snow on the roofs....just my opinion.

Am looking forward to seeing more.

Mark in Oregon

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Re: Polar Express build
« Reply #7 on: November 28, 2014, 07:15:32 PM »
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Certain that no one will tool up the unique observation car in n scale, I decided to make a set before my youngest son outgrows his interest in this train (I never will).

I would have been content to complain about it for years instead.  :trollface:
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peteski

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Re: Polar Express build
« Reply #8 on: November 29, 2014, 12:20:13 AM »
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John,
I love your project!

That explains all the LED and battery questions in the Electronics forum.  :D

Is that Squadron green putty you used?  If yes, then it is not fully dry yet.  At the thickness you used, it might take weeks to fully dry (and it will probably shrink).  That is because this putty dries by evaporation of its solvent. Since the solvent is liquid and it is part of the total volume of the putty, when it evaporates the volume of the putty will be reduced (it shrinks).  Normally this type of putty is used to fill very small gaps between parts (not to build up large areas or thickness).  I hate to see your project completed just to have the roof distorted/caved-in few months (or maybe even a year) later.

For large areas such as you have it is best to use 2-part putties. Those harden by chemical reaction not by solvent evaporation.  Those do not shrink (or have negligible shrinkage).  Putties such as 2-part epoxy putty or even a Bondo car body fillers would be perfectly suitable.

As far as lighting goes, since you don't want to use track power, the next best thing would be to use small button cells (like the ones used in the Easy-Peasy LED lights).  Usually it is 3 small 1.5V cells for the total of 4.5V (which is more than enough to light up white LEDs (with a current limiting resistor added in series  between the LED and batteries).
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Lemosteam

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Re: Polar Express build
« Reply #9 on: November 30, 2014, 08:43:45 PM »
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Installment three... Powering the LEDs

Jeff, yours is just fine.  It is in my nature to go to the extreme.  I really do appreciate you earlier assistance!

Thanks Strummer, great to hear from you!

Not you Joshua!

Peteski, thanks, glad you realized what that was all about!

nkalanaga, I really wanted to avoid pulling the delicate roof off the car continually, sooo after all this:

.....I found this cool cylindrical battery at an auto parts store. It is a LR435, 3v and it is for a penlight.

 

I came up with a nifty battery holder/switch gizmo that actually worked really well!  As Peteski mentions, on the DCC Electronics page, I asked for some advice and ideas.



My goal with that apparatus was to mount it to the roof with the lever passing thru a slot in the floor to switch the interior lights and tail light on and off without pulling off the roof. I thought that was clever, until Peteski shared a link to the specs for that battery, and pointed out that the battery would lose voltage quickly and the lights would lose power too quickly. I was also concerned tha the interior of the car would be negatively affected by the lever when lit.

In the end I gave up on that battery and switch solution to make a more conventional track powered solution.

I have done this the past, used a Rapido coupler spring to wrap an insulated single wheel to get power and ground from both rails. This time I soldered the wrap at the end of the spring after pulling off the insulated wheel and putting the axle through the last two loops of the spring. Then I re-installed the wheel and gaged it.

 

 

Next I stretched the spring to allow it to pass through the truck frame for each axle.



After each axle was reinstalled I used some old phosphor bronze strips to fashion a connector for the three springs and used the plastic pin on the truck frame to "weld" the strip in place.

 

Then I soldered the springs to the strip and trimmed the excess as shown below one the truck on the left.  I tested for continuity from the track to the connector strip, and it proved quite reliable even when rolling. The rolling resistance increases, but it should help the slinky effect on this short train.  You may have noticed that the truck on the right requires an offset bolster pin to allow for the shortened observation deck and using the original bolster location...



High flex wires will carry the power from each truck to the chassis (after paint) and will connect to phosphor bronze strips at the front of the shell in the corners with thin tabs that protrude through the floor for the wires:





I will have to do this on the diner and coach as well eventually as well.

Next- getting a connection to the roof, possible capacitor ( do they get hot?) and the proper resistors..

peteski

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Re: Polar Express build
« Reply #10 on: November 30, 2014, 09:15:57 PM »
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Looking good John!
Just make sure that the cars are heavy enough to keep the wheels in good contact with the track.

The anti-flicker caps do not get hot - current limiting resistors do.
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nkalanaga

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Re: Polar Express build
« Reply #11 on: December 01, 2014, 12:11:19 AM »
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Given the apparent size of that battery, you could almost have hidden it under the car as a water tank. 

As Peteski said, caps don't get hot in normal use.  If they do, something is badly wrong.  resistors can, and if you use the very small ones, they probably should be put where they can get good ventilation.  If you use one of the "traditional" quarter-watt resistors it won't even get warm, but will take up some space.  If you plan to detail the interior it would almost have to go under the car.

As for power to the roof, how about phosphor bronze contact strips?  Mount a pair on the roof, and another pair on the floor, bent to make good contact surfaces.  Push the roof down and you have power, but it can be removed without disturbing anything.  Run the up the vestibule end and you can disguise them as part of the bulkheads between the vestibule and the passenger area.

Quarter watt resistors can certainly be put under the car, and the wires to the contact strips disguised as air, steam, or water lines.  The final layout may not be exactly prototypical, but no one except a passenger car expert will know, and then only if they turn the car over.  Resistors take paint nicely, and most lounge cars had extra tanks underneath.
« Last Edit: December 01, 2014, 12:13:44 AM by nkalanaga »
N Kalanaga
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Lemosteam

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Re: Polar Express build
« Reply #12 on: December 08, 2014, 10:57:44 PM »
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Installment four... A friend is an effin GENIUS!

So offline a friend offered assistance in designing a circuit and board for me to light the cabin, and fiber optics.  Here is my hand scribed version of the board:

 

Also was provided a list of components necessary for an anti-flicker and capacitor setup good for a couple seconds, in case my axle pickup loses power. Here it is lit up first try after soldering it up:



Here is the final roof install:



Although the roof is not completely down, you can get an idea of the illumination here (looks like I have to center the middle LED a bit...)

 

And the taillight is near perfect, along with the deck down lights:

 



First a huge thank you to my friend!

Underbody wiring, ladders, grabs, back rail and paint...

mmagliaro

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Re: Polar Express build
« Reply #13 on: December 09, 2014, 12:11:38 AM »
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Wait.... no schematic or parts list for the lighting circuit?

I thought this was railwire... SPILL!    :D

(Seriously, it might be very handy to see how that lighting and anti-flicker circuit works... I know such things
have been around for years, but still, it's nice to see how it works..  well okay, at least I would like to see it,
even if nobody else does )

peteski

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Re: Polar Express build
« Reply #14 on: December 09, 2014, 03:29:46 AM »
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Ok, I'll fess up - the"friend" was me and I'm saving the anti-flicker design for a future magazine article. Sorry!  :oops:
--- Peteski de Snarkski

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