Sunday 5 November 2017

Resistance Soldering Saves The Don Janes

This brass  Van Hobbies CNR caboose was resurrected from a tangled mess after a fall to the concrete floor.

The Tale of Two Brass Cabooses

           An old saying goes something like "spend a dollar to save a dime". Well in my case it was "spend $700 to save a $150 caboose".  Let me explain.  Several years ago I purchased a Van Hobbies CNR brass caboose on eBay.  Normally I would have passed on it since I already had several others but this one was special.  All the other brass offerings had the closely spaced side windows but this one was a rare one featuring the wide window spacing and full underbody detail.  I had to have it for my collection.  It came factory painted in the original Mineral Brown and stacked road name which was a little too old for my modelling era.  I won the bid and once in my possession I proceeded to strip it and paint it in the more modern CN Morency Orange and Mineral Brown scheme with a white Maple Leaf.  Holding my masterpeic in one hand, admiring my paint and decalling job, having just finished spraying on the final coat of flat finish, it proceeded to slip from my fingers onto the cold concrete basement floor. My heart stopped as I frantically looked towards the ground thinking it might have survived the impact. No such luck. It was a tangled mess of sheet brass and fine wire detail parts, roof separated from the sides, broken steps and dislodged cupola.  S*#T.
    Well, that caboose sat in its box for several months as I picked up the pieces of my life and focused on other modelling projects. One day while discussing my misfortune with a friend he suggested I buy a Resistance Soldering outfit.  It would be perfect to repair the caboose since you concentrate the heat to the area being soldered thus preventing the rest of the model from falling apart in your hands. I didn't know anything about such a tool but thought what the heck, and ordered a Hotip unit produced by PBL.  I found a Canadian Dealer in Alberta who sold them and almost $700 later it arrived at my door. 
Here is what I got for my hard earned money.  Looking back I am really glad I made this investment
             You might ask, wouldn't it have been a lot cheaper to just buy another caboose and the answer would be yes, if you can find another one like the one in question.  I can honestly say I have never seen another one offered for sale.  Anyway, I watched the VHS instructional tape that came with the unit, stripped the paint again and set about to repair the caboose.  I worked slowly and methodically repairing one section at a time.  After several evenings the job was complete and I had my caboose back again.. A couple of the see through steps were completely demolished but fortunately I had a set of Sylvan etched brass steps on hand and used them to replace the ruined ones.
     Another trip to the paint shop and the caboose was back in service. Whewww!!!
A view of the other side of the repaired CN caboose
      Fast forward to Springfield, MA 2017.  I was having dinner with some model RR friends on the Friday night before the Big E show.  Sitting next to me was Glenn Annis, a fellow CV modeller.  We got to discussing all  things CV and I mentioned I needed more CV cabooses on my layout but was having trouble finding them. He offered me one that he had.  It seems I am not the only one who has had the misfortune of dropping a prized brass model.  The steps had been broken off and the end was bent but it was mine if I wanted it.  Hell yes, I wanted it.  Well, a few weeks ago while at Jim Dufour's beautiful B&M layout I ran into Bill Badger, a friend of Glenn's.  Bill presented me with the caboose.  I was thrilled. Although the two steps and railings on the cupola end were broken I figured it could be repaired.  The caboose, a PFM offering, came factory painted in the attractive Morency Orange with the green maple leaf.  Unfortunately, to do the repairs the areas had to be free of paint and very clean so I had to strip the model in order to do the soldering. That's OK though as I could repaint it once I was done.  Again, the resistance soldering unit did its job and the caboose is back to it's original state.  I had some CNSig Scalecoat Morency Orange and Mineral Brown paint on hand so was able to paint it the correct colours.  Microscale decals were applied and the caboose is now back in revenue service.
    I wish now I had taken photos of the cabooses before the repairs were made.
CV 4025 after repairs were made and a trip through the paint shop.  The steps on the cupola end were off and end railings badly bent.
Another view of the repaired steps and railings
     As a final note, although the resistance soldering unit was very expensive it really has been worth the money spent.  I have made repairs to several brass steam engines and other rolling stock the couldn't have been done with conventional soldering methods.  At the time I bought it I didn't really do enough research as I have found a couple of other brands on the market at lower prices.  I'm glad to know I have it in case any more brass repairs come along.


  1. Well done! hey look right out of the box with excellent paint. i have thought about resistance soldering for years and planed on building a unit one day to do some repairs. I dropped a hon3 Balboa DRGW T-12 loco fresh out the paint shop a few years ago! That is a way to make a grown man cry.

  2. Great job on these cabooses. I've had to repair brass disasters over the years including disasters of my own making. I've use a resistance soldering unit to repair and detail brass models for some time now. I wouldn't worry too much about the price you paid. Resistance soldering equipment is expensive and it is worth purchasing the best. Bill Peters of PBL is a no nonsense guy and if he puts his label on something it is top notch. I think you'll find your unit reliable and over time, indispensable. Have fun.

  3. Thanks guys. I have never regretted buying the resistance soldering outfit as it really has saved several expensive models.