Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Improving Tichy Train Group 22' Ore Cars

Tichy Train Group is a well known company specialized in styrene train car kits. Often, they sell their own stuff on Ebay for a really good price. It’s there that I bought a set of twelve 22’ ore cars last year. The car are very well molded and nicely designed. Building process is straightforward but still quite time consuming (about 45 minutes per car, excluding painting and decalling). Nothing to compare with your usual old Roundhouse and Athearn car kits. I would compare it to Intermountain Railway kits in term of building experience, maybe easier.

Completed cars with original styrene trucks.

On the layout extension is located a rail-served iron mine. We need cars for it and new or second hand ore cars are on the expensive side. I have to concede that wood ore cars would have been long gone in 1957. However, our prototype, the QRL&PCo was recognized for using cars from the late 19th century and early 20th century well into the late 50’s. From what I can tell, iron ore from St-Urbain didn’t go on interchange and was only moved on rail to Quebec City Harbour.

Building was done following Tichy recommandations: painting the part prior to the assembly. I would discourage anybody trying to paint them afterward, it won’t work at all. Parts were sprayed with Krylon Brown primer to represented a generic color like Canadian National Red 11 and construction started.

Cars pulled by an Atlas S-2 switcher.

Trucks were the most consuming step. They are made of multiple parts and nylon “bearings”. Give a special care to make sure everything is well aligned because the rolling performance will suffer from any warping induced when cementing the part.

Once everything was assembled, I sprayed a second coat of Krylon primer to get a nice finish. Lettering was straightforward since i only numbered them to represent cars from a 01-99 serie. Tichy recommands to only number them and I agree. It’s prototypical and you can use them in different era/road without problem. When decals were set,  I sprayed a coat of Testor Dullcoat prior to weathering.  At this point, I drybrushed Krylon primer over the numbers to get a nice washed out effect (you can thin Krylon primer with isopropyl alcohol to some extent).

A string of twelve 22' ore cars prior to weathering.

Weathering was done with washes of PollyScale Steam Power Black diluted with 70% isopropyl alcohol. The alcohol react with Dullcoat and create an interesting whitening that looks right. On some cars, the whitening was too much harsh and full of blotches, I’ll probably overcoat them again with Dullcoat to erase this unwanted effect. Trucks were weathered with a black oil paint and mineral spirit wash to get a greasy look. Black pastel chalk was also brushed over the truck and lower car body to simulate dirt.

First operation session and modifications

Straight of the box, Tichy ore cars are underweighted which is made worst with the light styrene truck and plastic wheel. They run fine, but expect derailment issues is your track isn’t perfect! I decided to install all-metal Kadee archbar trucks on a car, it was optimal. However, my cars are in service in the 1950’s, so Bettendorf trucks would suit them better. At this point, I installed a pair of Accurail Bettendorf trucks with metal wheels. Not good as Kadee all-metal truck, but still an excellent improvement. I’ll probably build loads for these cars, so it is the most realistic and economic way to improve the cars.

Weathered cars: upper car is equipped with Accurail trucks.


  1. Looks Good. Where did you get the number decals?
    I have several cars that I am assembling and would also like to add just the car number?

  2. This is an excellent reference article. I have assembled about 30 cars. In my case, I painted them afterwards. I had never used an airbrush before. After the first couple of cars, I was very satisfied with the results. You simply have to ensure that you paint from every angle. The best thing was that the coverage was near perfect - it showed every rivet and there were no sags. I, too, want to put numbers (decals) on. I found this website. You can laser print your decals and do the whole thing entirely yourself. I would suggest printing on plain paper for testing sizes etc.
    Overall, your Hedley Junction website is fantastic. Thank you for the details in your notes.
    As yet, I haven't got the budget to tackle the truck issue...

    1. Thank you for your kind comment. Indeed the Tichy hoppers are very nice models once painted. The only real issue is their diminutive weight (but any plastic ore hopper is plagued with that). In retrospect, I think I should have replaced the stock trucks with arch bar to be historically consistent. Unfortunately, I have no more use for them at this moment (who knows, maybe in the future). Thanks for the link. I printed a few custom decals in the past, but all black so far. Good luck with your progress!

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