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Tractors & trailers from On-Trak Models kits
From highways to back roads, in the cities and the suburbs, Trucks can be found everywhere. When assembling a model railroad more is needed than just rails, locomotives and rolling stock. Businesses and facilities that ship and receive by rail almost always also receive and ship by trucks. And if and roads are included on the layout they will have to be populated by trucks and cars.
On-Trak models makes several different semi tractors and trailers of various sizes. These are based on prototypes commonly seen in the late 1940’s to the late 1960’s. With altering the paint schemes and changing the details these trucks can be modeled many different ways. That’s where this story begins.
I began the tractors by first cleaning off any flash from the molding of the pieces. I first assembled the cab, starting with the sides and rear wall. A thin bead of C/A is all that is needed to hold the joint. Next I carefully align the roof, making sure the sides following the same line as the roof. I then tacked the front in place. After making sure all the seams are straight I add a few more drops of C/A to the joints and set it aside to dry.
The underframe was next to be assembled. I opened the hole in the transmission with a #76 drill to better accept the drive shaft. The springs were glued in place first and then the driveshaft. I shaved off the front of the headlight and drilled a #78 hole in the center of each. The hole will act as a pilot hole for installing MV lenses later. I prefer to use the lenses instead of just painting the lenses silver, it gives the model a better effect. I also drilled a #78 hole through the rear of the chassis to accept brass wire that the mud flaps will be mounted to. The last thing to do to the chassis at this point is to glue the seat in place. With the glue now dry on the body I began to sand the model with 24,000 grit paper. Some light filing was also need around the seams. Any unwanted gaps were filled with Lab Metal, and was filed and sanded when dry. I prefer using the lab metal instead of white or green putty on these because it sticks better to the white metal castings and it helps to strengthen the seams.
I like to polish any models that are made from metal castings to remove and high or rough spots. After sanding the body and fenders with the 24,000 grit paper I moved up to 32,000, then to 40,000 and finally 80,000 grit. The sections were washed in warm soapy water, rinsed and allowed to dry. It was the next step that made each one stand apart from the others.
Each truck was sprayed with its “base” or primary color. In the case of the Bekins and miller trucks this color was white. 2 coats of white were put on each of these (with ample drying time in between). After the white had cured on the Bekins trucks the upper half of the body was masked and the body and fenders were sprayed green. In the case of the yellow truck I like to use a special primer first. I have made a mix of yellow, white & primer I use as a base coat whenever I have to paint a model yellow, which is especially handy when working with a model that is not all white. I have found this works better than regular primer (which can darken the yellow you spray over top of it), or white (which can lead to an uneven coat of yellow). Reefer yellow was sprayed over the “primer”. The produce truck was the simplest to paint, only receiving two coats of boxcar red. The chassis of all the trucks were sprayed black and then everything was gloss coated. A few more days passed to allow the paint to cure and then it was off to decal the trucks. Most of the decaling was done one letter at a time. I did make the Miller logos on the computer and printed them off on clear decal paper (which was later sealed). Another layer of gloss coat was sprayed overtop to seal the decals to the trucks. The grills and running lights were painted after the gloss coat had cured.
The seats of the trucks were painted various colors, from brown to gray and from tan to black, and drivers were added. In some cases the drivers had to lose a little weight on their backsides to fit into the cabs! With the drivers in place the cabs were attached to the chassis. The front windshields were cut from .005 clear styrene sheet. I held the sheet over the opening and lightly scribed the outline into the plastic. These were cut out and attached to the openings using a bead of Microscale’s Micro Krystal Klear to hold in place. This is better than regular glue because it dries clear. I also used this material for the side and rear windows. A small drop was placed on the end of a pin, then I ran a bead around the edges of the windows and grabbed the edges to make a bubble. When the bubble dries it looks like a clear window, and since they are small windows it will not distort. The wheels of the trucks were painted in complementary colors to the bodies, and attached to the trucks. The pilot holes were drilled out to accept the lenses. Rear view mirrors were made from brass wire with small scraps of styrene attached to one end. These were painted silver after they were installed on the cabs.
The bodies for the trailers are resin, with the exception of the 1926 short trailer, which is an all- metal body. I lightly sanded these with the 24,000 and 32,000 grit papers to knock off the tooth of the casting. That was all the prep work that was required before washing and painting. The under-frames are also resin, but the axels, axle frames and supports are cast in white metal. These parts were attached using C/A. When the glue had cure these assemblies were rinsed and then sprayed black and set aside until the bodies were ready to be installed.
Each of the bodies was painted a different color, white, yellow, blue or brown. The roofs of these were painted aluminum, with the exception of the Swift truck, which I wanted to be all red. The paint, and following gloss coats were allowed to dry for a few days and then it was onto decals.
The Wonder and Blue Boy art was also created on the computer and printed on an inkjet printer onto clear decal paper. The paper was sealed using a clear spray sealant. The custom decals were then applied using the same methods as standard water-soluble decals. The Western Transfer trucks were decaled using Microscale Alphabet sets, again by applying one letter at a time. One trick when applying individual letters like this on the side, if you want them to be centered, is to first determine where the center point of each line is. If the center point is a letter than first apply that character and work out to both sides. If the center point is the space between two letters start by placing the next letter, offsetting it to account for the blank space. By working out from the center, and adjust the letter spacing as necessary, you will be sure to have your copy centered in the space.
With the decals applied and another gloss coat to seal them it was time to attach the bodies to the chassis. A thin bead of C/A was applied to the ridge inside the bodies and the underframes were set in place. The wheels were painted various colors, and the tires painted black, and then these were installed. All that remained was some detail painting. The brake lights were painted with Model Master Brake Light Red Metallic. The amber running & tail lights were paint with Model Master Turn Signal Orange. I wanted to accent the door hardware on some of the rear doors so it was painted bright silver, as were the builder plate on the sides. I installed the tailgates and cut mud flaps from a sheet of black craft paper. The mud flaps were set in place with a drop of Micro Krystal Clear. I choose this because it will remain flexible enough to allow the mud flaps to bend if needed, and less likely to get knocked off.
With these last details attended to the trailers were introduced to the tractors and several new vehicles were ready to populate the highways. These are very nice kits to build, and with a few changes in paint and details they can add flavor to any rail empire.