To paraphrase Vane Jones, "Knowledge is of little value until shared with others."

Saturday, February 18, 2012

Sunset NSL Silverliners #7B – The Roof

Note - Some of the photos used may appear to be out of order for the work being explained in the post. The best photo for the work being done is used regardless of the order in which the photo was taken.

There are the 2 items I expected to find but could not on the roofs of the Pullman Silverliners. They may be there but I was unable to see them in photos. Almost all of the cars operating on the "L" which had trolley poles had a roof mounted fuse. This included the "L" cars themselves as well as the CNS&M and CA&E cars! This is the roof fuse available from Current Lines Models.
Current Line Models Drawing

Another item sometimes found on the roofs of NSL cars is a lightening arrestor. None was found by me on the Pullman Silverliners from what I can tell.
Current Line Models Drawing

What is important regarding not finding the roof fuse or lightening arrestor is, I did not find them in photos of the cars I was modeling #738 and #739. Always build to the photo of the prototype car you are modeling!

Next is the mounting of the roof mats. Check with Eric Bronsky for these. The roof mat has to be bent to conform to the end of the roof. You'll find this is not an easy task! The roof curvature of the Pullman built NSL cars is not the same as the other cars in the NSL fleet of cars. Do the very best you can.

The reason the mat cannot be bent to conform exactly to the curvature is the outer wooden (on the prototype) mounting rails prevent the slats from being bent more round. The mounting rails are normally mounted in the roof 1st with the mat slats mounted on top of them. The rails can be cut, but you'll have to clean-up any rough edges after the mat is glued to the roof. I have a better solution to any gaps between the roof mat rails and the roof.

Here is what the original roof mats looked like when they were "pulled" off of the roofs of the cars. The outer mounting rails were cut off with a grinding wheel. Note the mounting rails (the part going up 90 degrees to the slats and forming a V-shape). These have to be added to the brass roof mats.

Here is a new roof mat with the missing mounting rails glued in. The missing mounting rails were made from 0.020" and 0.030" styrene strips. ACC was used for glue. Even though the mat is shown upside down, the missing slat for a toe hold can be seem. It was removed after the styrene rails were installed.

Now the roof mat is ready for gluing to the roof, but not until the roof vent located over the vestibule is taken into account. This is an unfortunate photo of a wreck on the NSL. The vent over the vestibule can be seen along with the cut out of the roof mat. Along the roof boards to the right can be seen the roof mounted fuse. It is mounted at an angle. The open part of the box holding the fuse is over the roof of the car.
Chicago Tribune Photo, John Giove Collection

Here is a roof mat already been glued in place. You'll be shown how to keep the mat in place while gluing later. A portion of the mat has to be cut for the vent to fit in place. Cut out the notch before gluing the mat in place.

Be sure to read this and the following paragraphs before attaching the roof mats to the roofs. In the photo above you may have noticed white showing at the outer most mounting rail. This is a 0.010" and 0.030" styrene strip wedged in place to take up some of the gap between this rail and the roof.

Holding the mat in place while you are trying to position the mat and at the same time applying gap filling ACC is a TASK! You don't have enough fingers and hands. After some thought this "Rube-Goldberg" apparatus was used.
The brass tabs are held in place used the 2-56 trolley base screw. A paper clip holds the United States Postal Service (USPS) supplied rubber band. This device is installed on both ends of the model at the same time. The USPS supplied rubber bands are held together under the model with another paperclip. Apply some gap filling, slow curing ACC and allow it to "dry" for 24 hours or more. After the ACC has cured the rubber bands can be removed.

Now the 0.010" x 0.030" styrene strips can be wedged between the roof and the mat. More gap-filling ACC should be used to hold the styrene strips in place and at the same time fill any gaps. If one of the prototype metal rub rails for the trolley rope break off. A piece of 0.010" x 0.030" brass can be attached with ACC. I broke off this piece and had to do a repair. Here's what the repair looks like.

Once the mat is firmly in place and any repairs completed the vent over the vestibule can be mounted using ACC. A metal strap to protect this roof vent needs to be made and installed. For the strap 0.010" x 0.030" brass was used. ACC was used to glue it in place.

In preparation to painting the roof(s), wipe the roof clean. If simple wiping won't work try using a clean soft rag moistened with isopropyl alcohol. The isopropylRustoleum Automotive Primer. It’s gray in color. Never apply finish paint on bare metal.

After 24 hours drying time, Floquil Weathered Black was sprayed on. You should have a nice smooth finished. When a car was fresh out of the NSL paint shop, the roof of the car would be a shiny black. Over time as the car was in service the roof would take on a dull lightened black color. My models will have been in service a while therefore the Weathered Black color was appropriate.

Now that you have the roof of your coaches finished, it's time to look at the trolley poles. In any photo of the Pullman made 737 to 751 coaches, you'll notice 4-spring horizontal trolley bases. The cars were supplied by Pullman with this style of pole base. NSL did not change the trolley bases. You need to change the poles supplied by Sunset to the correct trolley base. Select your favorite supplier of trolley poles.

Attach your selection of trolley poles to your models and hook the poles down. According to the car drawings in the CERA Bulletin and photos, the trolley shoe should not extend much beyond the roof line of the car. If they do, you'll need to shorten your trolley poles. I had checked my poles before painting the roof. Here's a photo of the final check of a trolley pole.

By happenstance there were 4 Q-Car 4-spring horizontal trolley poles in my supply of unused poles. The shoes of the poles were changed to the original Wagner style. These are now available from Jim Osborn in Ohio. Jim Osborn can be contacted by telephone or USPS mail. Information on Jim can be found at the bottom of this page – lower right. The Wagner shoes for some reason tend to hold the trolley wire better and make for "more" contact with the wire providing better running of the model. Don't forget to blacken the poles where needed. One hallmark of the NSL was the silver sock painted on the pole near the trolley base and the shoe. On the prototype this was done with rust retardant paint to make it easy to remove the pole from the base or the shoe assembly from the pole. Paint a 1/4" aluminum stripe at the base and shoe of each pole.

Remove the poles and place them in a safe place. Next are the sides and ends of the cars.



  1. I love the fact that you are paying attention to the details that are on the car rather than those that should be on the car, but weren't. Always good to model what the photographic evidence shows.

  2. Radically awesome! Is that a train? I know that you’ve provided a good tutorial, but I still can’t do it because I have idle hands. XD! With that metal strap installed, that roof vent will be well protected.
    - Carl Patten

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