Wayne Roderick, 3rd Division, PNR, NMRA (life)

09/02/05 rev 01/16/07

The TSL management knew that somewhere in the future the we would be investing in logging operations to diversify our interests so we jumped on a fleet of used skeleton log cars when they came up for sale at a very reasonable price. Sadly, when the time came to start logging, we learned from experts on the Yahoo Group 4L that we couldn't make money with these short cars. They were useful for pulpwood only. The TSL shops had already installed Kadee couplers on the frame and converted those silly talgo trucks so now we were invested a bit more. After the couplers are gone, the truck is quite OK, simply needing some good metal wheels installed.

The planned operation will haul empties into the woods with a Shay and bring loads back down, This will be simulated by having the crew drop pre-chained bundles of logs onto the skeleton cars, with the big five finger crane, and then returning the loaded train to the mill in the Valley below. There, the loads would be removed before the train goes back up the hill. If the logging operation gets enough real estate, there may be two trains and the crew can simple drop the empties and pick up the loads. A second train may be dropped at an interchange track for a road engine to move it to and from the staging yard. At either the mill or staging yard, unloading is done with the big five finger crane.

The target is a 32 foot log plus 6 inches tret on a 36 foot car.


To get us out of this dilema and salvage our investment Our shop engineer proposed cutting out the existing plastic double center beam and replacing it with an extended steel center beam and at the same time scrapping the two lengths of rail intended for a Barnhart loader, making it into a true skeleton car. A prototype was built and it worked well so we built up some simple jigs to convert the whole fleet.

CONSTRUCTION DETAILS: You don't get all the details from the TSL, just ideas. The new center beam is 3-5/16" (24 HOfeet) x 1/8" square steel rod from Home Depot (HD), rabbeted on the ends and soldered to #8 steel washers. Coupler, trucks, and bolster were salvaged from the ends of the car and attached to the new steel center beam. While you're at HD, go over to the plumbing section and buy a small container of C-FLUX intended for soldering copper pipe. It makes soldering mild steel a breeze. The flux in your electronic solder won't do it.

I made a jig from a scrap of 1/2" plywood. Drilled some guide holes 3-9/16" (25'-9"HO) apart and threaded a 10-24 bolt into them to position the washers. The way my couplers were mounted, the overall length measured from the face of the coupler pockets came out to 36 HO feet. Cut your rabbets into the ends of the 1/8" steel rod, so it'll fit flush over the washers. Dip the ends in the flux and solder. This will give you a very strong center-beam and add a bit of weight too.


I milled the plastic frames enough so that the washer will drop over the the protruding bolster hole and the 1/8" beam would fit between the old frame extensions. The washer must clear the two projections that stabilize the car and prevents rocking- don't even think about cutting these off if your are using the original AHM/IHC trucks! I could see no good reason to change them out although I will change the wheels to Intermountain metal ones. Depending on the diameter of your #8 washer, you may have to grind a bit off to clear the stabilizing pins.

The new beam is simply glued to the plastic with "Elmers Probond Polyurethane Ultimate Glue", also from HD, that seems to stick anything to anything. I flipped the jig over and carved a little more on it to hold everything in line while the glue sets. One simple spring clamp on each coupler pocket does the job. Not shown in the picture for clarity, I lay a 2" square of poly film (piece of zip lock bag) between the boltster and wood jig to keep from spoiling the jig with glue. The glue sticks to the poly but you can easily trim it away. The glue needs to cure overnight so one car/day is the production rate with only one jig.


The brake cylinder was salvaged and glued to the middle of the new beam. You can go on from there with details if you wish. For our purposes of operation, where real loads will be dropped on and lifted off, we'll paint it and call it done. Uh- where is the brake wheel?

The logs? They are real. We trimmed the blue spruce out back. Took a few hundred pounds of trimage to find straight pieces of acceptable width. Scraped the dead outer bark with a course rasp or back of a hacksaw blade to expose the inner bark (phloem) leaving us with something more suitable in scaled appearance. The logs were then bundled, glued together and wrapped with a chain for easy loading and unloading with the big five finger crane.

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