$40 VIA RAIL consist

This was a project to build a VIA RAIL consist for the BUDGET MODEL RAILROADING Facebook group. The goal was to build an entire consist as economically as possible. It turned out to cost $40.52. Here's how it was done! The parts list is at the end of the page.

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1. Here's what we have to work with. A Bachmann F7A loco, used from eBay, obtained at $3.99, no other bidders! Four Life-Life passenger cars, used from eBay, in a lot which worked out to $4.95 each.


2. The paper window silhouettes have been removed from inside the cars, the loco's headlight and number boards masked with Microscale liquid mask, and all given a coat of grey primer (Rustoleum spray paint).


3. No airbush here, so all painting is done with spray cans which have been warmed up in a hot-water bath first. These two colors were chosen: Deep Blue Gloss and Golden Sunset Gloss.


4. The base color coat has been applied.


5. The loco came in excellent condition. It is a pancake motor model, with plenty of power to pull our 4-car consist. It has electrical pickup on all four axles, and two axles are driven. Wheels were clean, traction tires intact, and running well. The stock headlight bulb is replaced with a LED, now it will only light in the forward direction of travel. This will be running on a DC layout so nothing else is needed.


6. The original mount for the headlight is removed, to allow space for a short piece of 1/4" PEX water tubing. This is glued in place to hold the headlight LED. Light will now come through the headlight itself, and not illuminate the entire cab. The LED will slide fit into place, allowing the shell to be completely separated if needed.


7. Rather than decal the logo, we will mask it off since it is an easy geometrical shape and all straight lines. The logo artwork is located on Wikipedia. To scale it down, an HO scale ruler is placed directly on the computer monitor and is found to be 31x10 scale feet. The ruler is then flipped to the N scale side, and 31x10 is marked off on blue painter's tape. It just so happened the HO:N reduction perfectly fits the loco, so no math is needed here. The blue tape is cut and applied to the yellow base coat.


8. The nose is masked off, and blue is sprayed on. The tape is removed to reveal the yellow logo.


9. The colors are masked off, and flat black sprayed along the top and bottom. The loco is done. We turn to the passenger cars.


10. The observation car lacked a marker, but it has electrical pickups already. A hole is drilled above the door and a red LED is tested.


11. The cars are painted blue, masked, and black sprayed on the roof and sills. There is no spray booth here, painting is done outdoors on a sunny day.


12. The red LED is hot glued in place for the observation's marker. Since it is an LED, it will only light when the train is moving in a forward direction.


13. The seats and floor in the dome are brush painted with grey acrylic. The seat backs remain blue. The dome itself was clear all over, so the center band is "metalized" with a piece of duct tape. The raised window frames are colored with a silver Sharpie marker.


14. Window glazing is cut from clear copier transparency sheets and set in place. The cars already have positioning pins (see arrow) in place which makes locating them easy. The glazing is secured with drops of CA.


15. A viewblock is installed. This is a piece of cardboard cut to fit diagonally in the car, with flat black gaffer's tape applied to either side. This prevents you from seeing right through the car, and having a black surface inside (but not touching) the glazing causes the windows to reflect the outside world in a realistic manner. This technique is also used on structures.


16. We will not use the original light bulbs, so they are removed. NMRA Recommended Practice specs the weight of these cars at 5.5 ounces. These are all too light, so cast weights from the scrap box are glued in place with silicone sealant.


17. Cars are assembled and decals applied.


19. The final cost sheet: $40.52 US. Shipping cost was not included.

See the consist in action in this YouTube runby!


Home • Revised Nov 24 2016