Observation/sleeper car

Standard 2-3 Pullman lounge-observation




A. Description: Pullman

B. Name: Crystal View.  Who could pass up using a name like this for an observation car?
“When The Chief was streamlined in February, 1939, its Crystal-prefixed sleeper-observation cars were handed down to the the California Limited…”  P. 125, Sleeping Cars of the Santa Fe, SFRH&MS.

C. HO model: Walthers 932-10251
Here’s what we started with (Walthers photo).

D. Details to be added to the model: diaphragm (Am. Ltd. #9200), window shades (LaserKit #382, buff), external details (grab irons, etc. included with the Walthers R-T-R car), lighted tail sign (Tomar #H-100); lighted marker lamps (Utah Pacific CM-64), decals (car name decals included with the Walthers R-T-R car), Champ HD-26 “Watch Your Step”). Figures, mostly Preiser. AA lithium battery, holder and a slide switch for the tailsign and marker lights. Interior lighting: Voltscooter Electronics flicker-free constant brightness LEDs;  Steam ejector air conditioning components on roof from Walthers 932-10352 ATSF chair car. Couplers: rear is a Kadee #5 with the “glad-hand” removed; the front is a Kadee #118 “SF” shelf head metal whisker coupler.

E. Major references: P. 81, Kratville’s Passenger Car Catalog, Pullman Operated Equipment 1912-1949. The Catalog shows a photo and floor plan for the Crystal Bluff, plan 3959B, Lot 6316 for ATSF service on P. 81. The Walthers car is plan #3959D which is nearly identical.  Kratville says that roads other than the Milwaukee and the Rock Island didn’t use Pullman observations on long distance trains. However, the Santa Fe also used them, but not always.
SEdetailsWalthers_smFollow the chair car instructions to add detail parts to the roof hatches (Walthers instruction sheet scan).

IMG_1969_smAdd the roof-mounted steam ejector air conditioning parts from the chair car to the observation roof.

Prepare the car for the Tomar California Limited tail sign and install it.

Prepare the Utah Pacific marker lamps and the car roof for installation later.

IMG_1983_smInterior parts were removed to make room for an AA battery holder and slide switch. A steel rod through the slide switch extends through a hole in the car floor so it can be operated from below. This battery is only for the tail sign and the marker lamps.

June 16, 2017 update: The modified Walthers unit (shown below) that I originally installed provided excellent lighting. However, the lights flickered too much despite the really nice built-in electrical pickups from multiple wheels on the trucks. Scroll down to see the new lighting unit that replaced it.

IMG_1973_smThe interior lighting unit was modifed to move one of the bulbs from above the new AA battery to the rear observation lounge area. The unit wasn’t intended for use in an observation so it needed to be shortened a little at rear. Also, the interior compartment walls had to be ground down about 1/16″ so the unit would fit. The interior light unit pick up track power through the wheels using contacts built into the Walthers car — no wiring needs to be added.


June 16, 2017:

The passenger car lighting that was installed earlier flickered more than I liked. It was replaced with a Voltscooter Electronics unit that has 16 tiny surface-mount LEDs and an adjustable constant-voltage circuit that automatically corrects for input polarity. The best part of it is the three super-capacitors that release electricity, as needed, to keep the LEDs lit when the power from the track is interrupted. There is absolutely no flickering. Even better, when using this car on a DC or DCC layout, the lights stay on for a couple of minutes even when the track power is turned off (on DC layouts) for a red signal or a depot stop. The circuit board also has a couple of points where additional LEDs can be added. To make it even more versatile the board/circuit can be cut in two places then connected with wiring. This would be useful for special applications such as dome cars or where one part of a car could have additional lighting while leaving another part dark. Learn more about it at the manufacturer’s website: http://voltscooter.com/?page_id=2 . The AA battery powered marker lamps and tail sign were left unchanged.

Here’s how it was installed:

The roof was removed by twisting the body. See https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=cr2A-QrqiPc — this works much better than following the Walthers instructions.

The earlier lighting — modified Walthers 933-1088 — was removed. It will be set aside to be used later to light a structure.

The track power input points (marked T- and T+) on the board are a little difficult to find. Polarity is not important.

The board was connected with wires soldered from the Walthers car built-in contacts through a plug/socket. Having the plug/socket is essential because the LED board will be removed and replaced many times as the car is modified to make it fit. A 15-watt soldering iron was used — quickly — to prevent heat damage to the circuit. Walls and a doorway were ground away to make space for the board’s three super-capacitors. Other interference points on the interior were also removed.

Notches cut into the partition will let light from some of the LEDs provide indirect hallway illumination when the board is put in place. I adjusted the board-mounted brightness control for this car at about 1/3 of the maximum. Not shown here: some of the LEDs were painted with Tamiya transparent gray (smoke color mixed with clear) to reduce brightness or with transparent blue to simulate night lights in sleeping compartments.


Future project:

Cafe Observation

A. Description: Santa Fe

B. Number: 1515 or 1516

C. HO model: Suydam RR-1 brass shell and frame/floor

D. Details to be added: TBD

E. Major references: Pp. 301,  302 and 388, Steam Steel & Limiteds by Wm. W. Kratville.


4 responses to “Observation/sleeper car

  1. Pingback: Still pluggin’ along | steamblog

  2. Pingback: Pullman lounge-observation finished | steamblog

  3. Pingback: Installation in HO Observation by Charley Hepperle – Voltscooter Engineering

  4. Pingback: Pullman sleeping cars | steamblog

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