Step 3: The Freight

This is my favourite part. By using dowel points and the holes we drilled on the top of the chassis we can make a variety of different freight loads that can be switched onto any of the trains.

I will describe 3 different pieces of freight I have made, but try any ideas you have, and please let me know what you come up with. The photos are taken on 1/4" grid paper so you can get an idea of scale, and I included some of my concept sketches.

A) The Boxcar:
This one is very simple, using the base block we made in the Chassis step, just sand it square and smooth. At this point I usually varnish, then polish with brown paper, paint and put on a final coat of varnish (or two).

Now use dowel points in the top holes on the chassis to show where to drill 2 matching 5/16" holes. These need to be slightly larger than the dowels as they will not be glued and need to go on and off easily, If need be you can just drill the 1/4" holes and then use a round file or sandpaper to make them a bit larger. I do this step after the painting because the unfinished wood of the dowels moves very freely on the unfinished wood of the holes... if there was paint or varnish they could become stuck over time.

I also used a 1/2" forstner bit to drill a shallow hole on the top and attach one of the metal plates from the magnet kit to the top of the boxcar.. this will allow the various magnetic cranes to lift off the boxcar from the chassis. Not essential, but I wasn't using them for anything else. A small 1/2" washer, Asphalt nail or thumbtack (glued in place for safety)  would work as well.

B) The Logs:
In the latest 'Thomas' movie much of the story revolves around transporting "Jobi Logs" to the rescue centre. I cut 3 sections of 3/8" Dowel at to slightly different lengths, around 3" long painted them with a reddish brown base coat. Now, using a toothpick, I ran a bead of gel medium around the edges of the dowel and drew thick lines of the gel down the length and allowed it to dry.  I wasn't happy with the thickness of the first coat so I simply laid another directly on top of the first to give it some real dimension. Once all the gel had dried I started to apply several coats of paint using a very dry brush, starting with the base colour and adding progressively darker colours on top, and then doing a wash of watered down black and dabbing most of the paint off , leaving only the crevasses. Finally I added a few light highlights and let the whole thing dry completely before finishing with a coat of varnish and gluing the three into a stack. After, I mounted it directly to the base chassis.

This one is my favourite. Thomas sets never come with villians, so I decided to make a nuclear powered badguy with a tender full of nuclear waste. For the waste I would need some clean gravel, so i just went into my yard, got a small hand full of small rocks and gave them a good washing and allowed them to dry.

I started with a small block of stock 2" x 1/2" x 1/2" and applied a really thick layer of woodglue to it. Next, i dipped the glue into the clean gravel making sure none of the rocks overlapped the side by just pushing them in until all the sides were flush. Next I painted on a coat of woodglue over the top of the stones and allowed the whole thing to dry overnight.

The 'waste' was then painted with white acrylic paint, then quickly with a green and yellow. After that was dry put a thick layer of glow in the dark acrylic over the whole thing and dabbed the excess off the high points of the rocks leaving the paint mainly in the crevasses, giving the whole thing a neat mottled glow once the lights go off. Along the bottom edge I painted some hazard stripes and made the ends and bottom black.

Lastly I cut two small, thin strips of hardwood the width of the bock, and two longer thin strips the length of the block plus the width of the two shorter strips, allowing a small box to be built up around the "waste". All four of those pieces were painted black then glued so that the lower edge was not flush, but raised from the bottom of the block by 1/8", just for a little detail. Then a couple coats of good varnish and a polish with some brown paper.

I must say I am having almost as much fun making these little cars as my son has playing with them, so I am constantly coming up with new ideas. A luggage car, A box car with spot to for him to stash little things inside, Dinosaur Car (why not?), a reactor car for the nuclear engine... And I have a request for a Pie Car, although I am not sure where he came up with that idea or how I am going to pull that one off.