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Garden Railway - truck construction article (C) 3-99
The Toenail Ridge Truck Assembly Plant
Written Monday, March 01, 1999
  Updated September 15th, 2001

It's been so hot in Adelaide this summer that most of my garden railway hobby has been confined to the workshop, ceiling fan on and curtains drawn against the weather. So a lot has been accomplished in the way of structures and accessories for the Toenail Ridge, in particular, two new buildings and a model of a 1927 Model T stake truck.

The truck was built following plans in the October '98 issue of the US magazine, Garden Railways. The finished product is excellent to the eye in proportion and finish but is a bit of a trap to build, the plans containing a few challenges that may catch the unwary or inexperienced.
Initial construction is straight-forward, although I chose to reverse the order of things by building the main body before starting on the chassis and undercarraige.
I made the sides and back of the truck cab from 1mm. balsa after first tracing the correct outline straight onto the balsa from the plans. They suggest photo-copying the relevant parts of the plan and cutting them out to use as templates but balsa is so soft that tracing works fine. If I was going to make another one I would use some other type of timber as the finished cab looks a bit too grainy. Either that or sand it down a few times between coats of paint.
The plans suggest using cardstock to make the fender/running-board assembly and in hindsight this is a good idea.

I used thin translucent plastic sheet cut from notebook folder covers and while it makes a stronger assembly than card it has a strong tendency to flatten out and the whole point of the fenders is to be curved. I edged the fenders with solder to give that nice rounded edge effect.
Solder is available in a number of thicknesses, this stuff I had on hand is about 1.5mm in diameter. It takes superglue well too so keeping it in place isn't a problem. The solder helps the fenders to hold their curved shape but I finished up laminating another layer underneath while holding the correct shape to get the assembly to stop flattening out.
Take my tip on this one...use cardstock!
These plans in Garden Railways often call for the use of flat-wire.
Unfortunately no-one on this side of the Pacific seems to know what that is.(Remember, I'm in Australia!) None of the hardware stores I've enquired at anyhow. I've tried making my own by hammering solder flat....that works up to a point but it's hard to get the edges neat and parallel, also the stuff has very little strength.
On this model the foot-boards are supposed to be located away from the main chassis using this flatwire and by their inherent nature a fair amount of stiffness is required to stop them from distorting. After racking the brains a bit I took some 20 X 20mm aluminium angle and hacksawed 3mm strips from it, then bent one leg of the angle to a curve for mounting under the cab. Certainly lots of strength even if a bit thick in side profile, works and who's gonna look underneath when the truck is in the garden anyway?
This same flatwire is called for in making the suspension, the plans calling for laminating various lengths to make up leaf springs. This time I used strips of 20 thou. Evergreen styrene, laminating four strips together and then curving around a jamjar (jellyjar!) to get the right contour and holding in place with a rubber-band. Then I flooded the assembly from both sides with liquid styrene adhesive and left to set. Because one piece of laminate holds the curve of the one below and above the curve of the spring is held after the glue has set off. Then I bent the ends of the bottom piece upwards as per the plans and voila, one perfect leaf spring!
The front axle is 1/8in. square balsa sandwiched between pieces of 20thou. styrene, with large dress-snaps (18mm in diameter) glue to the ends to form brake backing plates.
Used the same method for the rear transverse leaf spring, although this time I bent the laminate around a smaller jar as the curve and height of the rear spring is much more pronounced. The rear axle/diff. assembly was fun, it's surprising what common objects can simulate when given a decent coat of paint! The diff. housing is a piece of wood dowel, 12mm in diameter and about the same length. I sanded the edges to round them off and then drilled a 2mm. hole through the center to receive a metal axle rod. Also sanded a flat spot on one curved side to attach the drive shaft mount. To the flat sides I glued eyelets, the kind that the laces run through in your shoes. You can buy these in packs of 50 or so. Before they are squashed into holes they are shaped a bit like a bottomless bucket with a wide brim. Just perfect for using as rear axle mounts.
Into the hole in the eyelets went 3mm Evergreen styrene tube, cut to length, and then more eyelets glued to the ends of these tubes. Flat washers epoxied to the ends of the outer eyelets and assembled truck diff and rear-axle with wheel backing-plates.
I attached another eyelet to the flattened spot on the front of the diff housing to receive a length of the 3mm tube as a drive-shaft. The rear spring was superglued onto the axle ends and given a twist of fuse wire at the ends to strengthen the mounting. Incidentally, fuse wire is very strong and is thin enough to be quite credible in all scales from 1:32 up. I've used it for bell-rope too.
The headlights were a bit of a challenge, since my parts box didn't offer anything remotely usable. Once again I grabbed for the wood dowel, this time some 3/8th inch stuff, and cut two pieces 10mm long. Sanded the edges off one side to form the back of the light, then rimmed the lens end with solder again. Captures that olde worlde look pretty  successfully.
The grille is a balsa laminate, the inner layer was textured with the blade of the razorsaw to give the appearance of the cooling fins, then I glued an outer layer of thin 10 thou. styrene around the edge. The radiator cap is a small dress snap with a round pin through it. I cut the length of the pin back to about 2mm and super-glued it into a hole drilled into the top of the radiator. Times like this you bless your Arlec motor-tool!
What's next....Ok, the chassis. Simply a piece of three-ply with the sump and gear box carved out of balsa pieces glued on one side and the complete cab, bonnet assembly on the other. The front and rear axles are located and stabilized with lengths of rod bent to the appropriate angle. I use black wire from the hardware store. I think it's used for brazing.

It is very soft, so soft that it is a bit too easy to bend, but is ideal for this type of application. The attachment to the chassis is via splitpins inserted into pre-drilled holes in the gearbox. The muffler is a piece of 12mm dowel with brass rod inserted to correct lengths at each end. The drive shaft is inserted into the back of the gearbox via another eyelet.
I used another eyelet for the tail-light. This time I just filled the hole in it with clear glue and when that dried I painted the back of the glue red. Gives a nice lens effect.
The crank handle is a piece of brass rod bent to shape with a small piece of brass tube forming the handle glued over the shaft. Hand brake is two pieces of brass rod, one bent at a slight angle to simulate the release lever. I tried soldering them together but met with less than total success so finished up just supergluing them together.
The steering wheel is a brakewheel and staff from a G-scale Bachmann gondola.

The bed is built slightly differently from the supplied GR plans, mostly because at the time I didn't feel like making a jig to hold everything square! I made my side with two upright stakes instead of three. It's still prototypical, just different. The stake pockets are plain old 1/4 inch staples from a little staple gun, pushed into the side of the bed . I also glued the corners of the sides together to add a little rigidity to a fairly brittle structure.
The truck cab, bonnet and grille were undercoated using automotive gray primer then given three coats of Brunswick Green enamel from a good old cheapie spray can. The chassis and all running gear received a coat of Satin Black enamel with the exception of the exhaust pipe, muffler and tail which were painted Flat Black.
As I mentioned earlier, if I was going to build another I'd either use a wood with a finer grain or use some type of sealer on the balsa as I feel that the finish is a little agricultural. Then again, maybe that's the right finish for a farm truck!
As I'm sure you will agree from the photos this GR plan builds into a fine looking vehicle, but I would recommend that only a fairly experienced modeller tackles the plans the way they are.

 Inspect other of my modelling projects

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