Layout Construction · Model Building · Narrow Gauge

The Crowsnest Tramway Co.

Off topic, I suppose, but I thought I’d share a few photos of one of my favorite layout themes: Roy C. Link’s Crowsnest Tramway Co., the 1:32 version. It was on display at the 2015 Narrow Gauge Convention in Augusta, ME. I had seen the odd B&W photo in publications but never dreamed I’d get to see it in person. What a surprise when I walked into the convention display room!
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If you are familiar with the Narrow Gauge & Industrial Railway Modeling Review magazine then Roy Link needs no introduction. He’s as famous in the UK as Bob Brown and the Gazette are over here. Roy is a master model builder. The Crowsnest Tramway is an ongoing theme. A new diorama pops up from time to time in whatever scale Roy chooses. There have been versions in O14.5 (On2 over here) and 16mm (a popular large modeling scale in the UK) in addition to the one pictured here in 1:32. [A collection of photos gathered from the web.] See the Crowsnest in action at this link: Crowsnest Tramway I love everything about it. The scenery connotes an airy, sparse landscape up in the hills. The backdrop is beautifully done. Trackwork is typical industrial narrow gauge. As far as I know most everything is scratch built. The detail is enchanting. Notice the chickens next to the scale house. Roy sold the diorama to another notable UK modeler, the late Mike South, who brought it with him to Calgary, Canada. After Mike’s passing, it passed into obscurity until located by Canadian Craig Parry. Craig restored the diorama and built the wonderful display cabinet you see above. He has been bringing it to various conventions in North America. As I recall, this Crowsnest Tramway diorama represents the end of the line where lead ore is weighed and then tipped into road vehicles. The D&NE is a modest achievable layout intended to be built to a high standard. And then you see workmanship like this and just ponder…
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Model Building · Structures

The Freight House at St. George (part 1)

In 1953, much railroad freight is LCL (Less-than-Carload-Lot) and most towns had provision for handling these smaller shipments. In the case of a large market town like St. George a free-standing freight house was often the answer. There are a number of freight customers in town that ship smaller consignments such as the busy Green Mountain Basket Co. Piano stools, crutches and furniture made locally often go out as LCL. The lumber and feed store receives bagged feed and lumber by the car load but products such as paint, fencing and appliances might come to the freight house as LCL. Railway express shipments, on the other hand, are handled at the express annex in the passenger station.

The St. George freight house is based on one described in an article in Dec71 RMC by former MR editor Paul Larson for his O scale CMR&P. Modeled after a freight house built in the late 1890s on the St. Louis, Keokuk & Northwestern (CB&Q) at Louisiana, MO, it’s the perfect size for St. George. The design is archetypal railroady. I built the model pretty much as drawn.

Thinking it would be more common for New England, I thought of substituting clapboards for the board and batten siding in the plan. But the other day, while over in B&M Mogul country in Goffstown, NH, what did I see but the old freight house sheathed in board and batten!

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A board and batten vignette courtesy of the ex-B&M Freight House in Goffstown, NH.

Paul built his O scale model from Northeastern basswood and Grandt Line windows. But Northeastern doesn’t carry the board and batten siding in a suitable spacing anymore. I’m favoring styrene these days anyway but as it ends up Evergreen doesn’t carry appropriate sized board and batten siding either (they used to — my Monson Jct. freight house is built from it). One night, at the stroke of midnight, the ghost of Al Armitage appeared and encouraged me to suck it up and build my own board and batten siding. The next day, I was at the workbench laying down the battens by hand.

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Al Armitage’s booklet on styrene fabrication has been the bible for decades. It focuses on extreme scratchbuilding before styrene strips and shapes were available.

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Evergreen’s Styrene Modeling, edited by Bob Hayden, has more up to date tips and techniques.

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Adding battens to the trackside wall. With the spacer strip and square this goes pretty quickly. I use Testors Liquid Cement for Plastic and an 000 brush for styrene construction.

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Work in progress. One end has had battens applied. Tichy windows and doors are modified for a New England look. Freight doors are scratchbuilt as a drop in unit.

It’s a large building about 28″ in length including the loading dock. The 4′ foundation raises the structure to an imposing height. Along with the passenger station it’s going to dominate the scene.

The base material for the structure is #40 styrene sheet. You can get it in large sheets if you ask around which alleviates the need to splice up the long sides. I cut out all of the openings for doors and windows first and then laid up the battens cut from #20 by #40 styrene strips. The 1″ by 12″ weather boards around the foundation are represented by #20 by #250 styrene strips cemented directly to the base layer. They enclose what would be an open foundation of brick pillars. The chimney comes from Bar Mills. I also used part of one as a foundation pillar where the weather boards have gone missing.

To speed things up, Tichy doors and windows were used but modified to look more like those we see here in New England. The freight doors, stairways and the loading dock are all scratchbuilt in styrene.

The structure is braced with #125 by #125 styrene strips. The walls are raised around a solid floor of #40 styrene that, with the help of a couple of internal partitions, squares everything up nicely.

I added a couple of #40 styrene pads under each end of the building to keep the weather boards from picking at the scenery and to support the stairways and loading dock. They’ll be hidden by ground cover when the building is in place.

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Shingling the roof took forever.

The roof is a story in itself. Built on a base of #40 styrene, it’s heavily braced and removable. In northern New England, buildings of this type might have a shingle roof of Vermont slates. The cost of enough commercial hobby slate roof material to do this structure would be more than everything else combined. While I laid awake one night fretting over this, around the stroke of midnight the ghost of Al Armitage reappeared. He admonished me to not be a snowflake and just scratchbuild the slate shingle roof. Next day, I’m slicing off 8-14″ wide strips of #10 styrene at 24″ lengths. The work actually goes pretty fast, I guess. Boy, that’s a lot of roof. Actually, it took a long time. I topped the roof with #5 styrene copper cap. As a final touch, 162 Tichy “snowbirds” were added for protection from falling snow and ice.

Styrene representing wood was roughed up in the traditional way with a file card, wire brush, Zona saw and sandpaper to knock down the plastic sheen and to give the weathering something to hang on to. The wood grain effect is not overdone. I’m not a big fan of nail heads. They just aren’t visible at normal viewing distance even in O scale.

D&NE structures are painted an amber color with medium green wainscoting and doors. Windows and trim are white. The scheme is reminiscent of Vienna station as I remember it on my hometown Washington & Old Dominion Railroad.

And this is where I leave off for now. The structure is complete and being prepped for painting. I’ve already started on the roof.

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I popped in some windows and doors for this photo. Getting ready to paint.

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It’s a beast! The roof, platforms, doors and windows will all be painted separately. The styrene pads under the platforms will protect them, I hope. They’ll be hidden by ground cover once it’s all in place. The roof is already primed.

Idlenot Light Railway · Model Building · Narrow Gauge

Idlenot Light Railway Tool Van No. 2

Before I started on the D&NE I was building 7/8″ scale models of Welsh two foot narrow gauge equipment. Here’s the story of one of those cars…

“The Idlenot Light Railway Preservation Society proudly announces the presentation of tool van #2 to the railway’s operating department. The tool van was rebuilt from the remains of Glyn Valley Tramway box van #2 discovered some years ago in a farmers yard deep in the Welsh countryside. After decades of service as a chicken coop, most of the remains were quite unusable. But the lads in the car shop were able to construct what must be considered a replica from that heap of rotted timbers and rusted ironwork using only a few old picture postcards as a guide. They claim there are some original parts in the rebuilt van. You would be hard pressed to know which as the workmanship is done in the traditional manner and, I might add, in a superb fashion. Congratulations to these intrepid volunteers!”

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Volunteer work train trundling home in the dappled eventide with Tool van No. 2 in tow. Photo taken on Rich Chiodo’s beautiful Isle of Shoals Tramway.

This 7/8” modeling project was started as an interlude after constructing a GVT guards van for a neighboring restored railway line. The original idea was to march right into a second copy of the guards van for the Idlenot but I wanted to tackle something a little different first. Flipping through the pages of Bernard Rockett’s Glen Valley Goods plan book right after the guards van there are plans for the GVT box vans, similar in size and shape but different in detail. The box van is scratch built except for the running gear, couplings and a few detail bits.

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The brake lever details were cut from 16g steel. The chain is from an old piece of jewelry.

The frame is constructed from basswood timbers topped by a floor of 22 gauge steel. The sides and ends are built from individual basswood planks. All of the ironwork strapping is constructed from styrene. The innumerable square bolt heads are diced from 1/16” square styrene and dropped onto the side braces in a puddle of MEK. Much of the remaining detail, the door latches, the brake gear, etc… is constructed from brass and steel. Oodles of pot metal NBWs adorn the end braces. Sierra Valley Enterprises spoked wheel sets are running in SVE sprung axle guards. They sit a little proud but are a close representation of the GVT equipment. Accucraft 16mm scale chopper couplings – standard on the Idlenot – complete the car.

Complete, that is, except for the roof. After several failed attempts, a decent approach to the roof was uncovered with much help and consultation with the boys over at the car shops of the nearby Isle of Shoals Tramway and my good wife! First, with much planing and sanding, a block of balsa was shaped to the roof contour. Since this roof was to be permanent, the balsa block was simply glued into place. Next, a sheet of 1/16” aircraft ply, cut a little over sized, was bonded to the balsa with yellow carpenters glue. How was it bent to shape? I remembered a passage in D. A. Boreham’s classic, Narrow Gauge Railway Modeling, where he described mounting a roof on a passenger car. The car is propped over two bits of wood with the car sides aligned with the edges of the boards and then the car is heavily weighted. Next morning you have a perfectly formed roof. All it needs is careful trimming to the proper overhang.

For the finish surface, I was looking for a tarred canvas effect. I settled on some cotton material from an old bed sheet. The most important step is to iron it – it must be wrinkle free. How to bond it to the roof? Shellac! I covered the ply with a thick coat of shellac and then carefully draped the cotton cloth over the wet goop. It helps to cut a diagonal slit in the cloth at each corner so it drapes nicely. When that dried, I applied several more top coats of shellac. The final step was to trim the now stiff cloth with a single edge razor blade right to the edge of the ply. A few coats of variegated blacks and grays give the roof the look of tarred canvas.

The final step was, of course, paint and finish. The GVT cars were painted in what was described as a “holly green”. Actually, there are several descriptions of that color but the paint faded to blue and that gives a good clue as to the shade of green. I settled for Humbrol Acrylic #163 Dark Green with some Humbrol #3 Brunswick Green mixed in to punch it up. I was aiming for the shade of green on the rebuilt GVT coaches over at the Talyllyn Railway. Since this is a freshly shopped car, I brush painted it straight up with only a little weathering. The running gear was given a coat of rusty brown and then attacked with washes of blacks and darkened rust. A final dry brushing of dark rust was applied to the door latches and the many bolt heads.

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I tried cutting stencils for the lettering with limited success.

The lettering is reminiscent of the Talyllyn Railway volunteer built tool van which itself is lettered in a style reminiscent of the Cambrian Railways, pre-1922 of course. Mine is not quite that fancy. Its hand painted with white enamel. Okay, I lied. I cut stencils for the “IDL RWY” and sprayed the white but the edges just weren’t crisp enough. I came back with a thin outline in black ink to clean up the edges and fix the line weights. It also gives a little snap to the lettering. But it’s not intended to be shadowing, as such. You shouldn’t really see it. The “No 2” really was hand painted – I couldn’t cut stencils that small and curvy.

A little more dusting and rusting, not much, and a final coat of matte spray completed the car. Hurray! It’s going to earn its living hauling tools and supplies out to the upcoming track work projects.

Model Building · Structures

That Corrugated Shed

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That corrugated shed next to the public delivery track in St. George.

Photos of Peterborough, NH, in the 1950s show a crude looking corrugated shed next to the station. In the book, The Boston & Maine, a Photographic Essay by Philip R. Hastings, the shed shows quite clearly on page 140-141. The same photo can be seen on page 59 of Model Railroad Planning 2000. Since little is known about it, it’s generally referred to as that corrugated shed. I’m guessing the shed belonged to the nearby building supply business. There could have been roofing, bricks, fencing, maybe bags of cement or bales of hay in there. Who knows?

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Peterborough 1950. Phillip R. Hastings photo.

Well, I just had to have an ugly shed like that in St. George. I love the angled loft.

With a couple of photos and an overhead shot of Peterborough, I sized the shed to be about 70′ long and 25′ wide. I thought a structure 40′ by 25′ would fit nicely in St. George.

I happened to have a passel of O scale corrugated strips from Builders in Scale. They must date back to the 1980s gotten in for some project long, long forgotten. They’re perfect for sheathing this building.

I started construction by making a mock-up in foam board. I don’t have a photo showing the front side of the shed. I’m assuming there was just a large sliding freight door on that side. From what I can tell, the other three sides of the shed are blank.

For this model, I used the mock-up as the actual guts of the structure so I took care to build it foursquare. An opening for the door was cut in the front wall section and the walls were assembled to basswood bracing with contact cement. The sliding freight door was scratch built from basswood. Trim boards are all basswood strips. This was a good point to paint the door and trim. I choose a dark green color.

Now for the corrugated siding. After a wash in 91% alcohol they were given a spotty coat of Model Masters gray primer from a rattle can to knock down most of the shiny galvanized finish. The sheets were cut into 4′ by 8′ panels and weathered individually with artists oil washes. I was going for some subtle variation in the base color of the panels along with a little rust and grime. The photos show a distinct difference between panels and I wanted to capture that effect. The panels were attached to the walls and roof with medium cyanoacrylate. Care was taken to overlap the panels properly. After a spray of Testors DullCoat, final weathering was done with artist’s oil washes and Pan Pastels.

I located the shed off of the public delivery track near the station with its back to the viewer. As work in the area goes on, I’ll surround the shed with lots of clutter like sewer pipes, pallets of bricks, scraps of lumber and whatever other junk I can come up with. There’ll be stacks of sawn lumber and spills of bagged material. An occasional box car or flat will be spotted nearby for unloading.

 

Model Building · Proto48

Smoky Mountain AAR Flat

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Exciting day at the mailbox! My Smoky Mountain Model Works AAR 70-ton flat car kit arrived and it’s a beaut! Gene Deimling reviewed it a few weeks back so I’ll just say thank-you Jim King for producing such a wonderful kit in O scale. Debating on whether to letter mine for Pere Marquette (they might have been relettered C&O by my era, 1953) or maybe B&O. Protocraft has trucks, couplers and decals for these cars. Weight being a concern with my heavy roster I’ll see if tungsten cylinders from Maximum Velocity will fit inside the center sill. Can’t wait to start on it. Got to get that 44-tonner finished first!

 

Model Building · Proto48

New Power for the D&NE!

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D&NE 57, a RY Models GE 70 Tonner, Phase 2

New power in the form of an RY Models GE 70 Tonner, Phase 2, has arrived in St.George. The boys in the shop have a little work to do. The locomotive is gauged for standard O scale (Ow5) and will need it’s axles machined and wheels replaced for P48. The couplers will be replaced with new “E” face couplers.

It needs a few minor details. The end platforms will get MU connectors as I plan to get another unit one day. I could just do the cab end as they’ll always MU cab to cab. Actually, I’ll MU it with the 44 tonner too. (Did you know some 44 tonners were MU equipped? W&OD 58, Aroostook Valley 11 and 12 come to mind.) Maybe that’s all I’ll do.

After a thorough cleaning, it will get a coat of etch primer then black Scalecoat, lightened somewhat and with a dash of blue. White stripes on the end of the hood and white handrails. Lettering, once I get off my duff and do the artwork for the decals, will be yellow (imitation gold?) and much in the style of W&OD 57. I plan to hijack my herald design from the inverted triangle used by the W&OD.

My other GE unit, RY Models 44 tonner number 48, has been languishing on the workbench. After converting it to P48, I had started to repower it with Faulhaber 59:1 micromotors and 2:1 climax gearboxes which I had on hand. It works but I’m not sure the delrin gears and crossbox will hold up. And thinking ahead, I’ll want to MU it with the 70 tonner so the speeds should match. So I’m going to go back to the original drive on the truck I converted which means machining a replacement axle since I machined the original for the crossbox. Oh well. That’s the way the story goes. First your money and then your clothes.

The slower running I was after can be had by wiring the motors in series and I’ll do that on both units. They’ll both get DCC sound decoders and LED headlights.

Number 48 will need an MU connector on one end. It will be painted in the style of W&OD 48, black with a gray hood top and a thin red stripe separating the colors. I always wondered if it was dark blue and gray (you know, civil war, blue and gray) but the color photos I’ve seen show black and gray. I’ve also toyed with the idea of painting the hood top cream. We’ll see.

I have thought about more colorful paint but in this period I don’t think it wasn’t all that common on shortline switchers. I just need to back off the black a bit with a little blue so they don’t appear as dark blobs.


 

As a side story, I bought this unit from a fellow modeler over ebay. When he shipped it from Colorado, the P.O. clerk mistyped my Zip code (08109 instead of 03109) and then picked a house in Merchantville, New Jersey that was number 170 on a street that started with “P”. I watched the in transit details for over a week as it bounced between the sorting center in Nashua NH (20 miles from here) and Merchantville NJ. I stopped at our local P.O. and got them to bring up the package label scan and saw what had happened. After some encouragement from the seller, the P.O. quickly redirected the package and I got it the next day. Talk about Charlie on the MTA. I would have never seen that package. And thank goodness the resident at 170 Prospect St. in Merchantville NJ 08109 wasn’t an O scale modeler (I hear they’re in N scale).

 

Layout Construction · Model Building · Research

Ideas for the French River Bridges

As track laying progresses, I’ve run into the French River. The railway crosses the French River over a pair of low bridge spans smack in the middle of St.George yard. Oddly, this was also the case in Peterborough on the B&M where the yard tracks crossed the Nubanusit River. Unfortunately, I have no low angle photo of the actual spans. If you have a copy of Model Railroad Planning 2000, pages 58-59 show these spans from above in a beautiful Phillip R. Hastings photo. Note that one of the bridges carries a turnout and so will mine – the switch to the public delivery track.

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The railway crosses the French River on a pair of low, 3 span bridges.

Here’s are some shots of those old granite piers today.

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Center piers at Peterborough, NH

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Note the sharpened block pointing upstream.

I was out in Lyndeboro, NH on the B&M’s Hillsboro branch recently and found the bridge spanning the entrance to Pike quarry. The bridge is one lane wide, a span of maybe 12′-15′ and consists of six timbers, maybe 12″ by 12″. This would make the perfect bridge design for St.George as the spans are in the same range (14′). The granite abutments are also good inspiration for how this type of structure was constructed. Piers and abutments made from individual granite blocks cast in Durhams Water Putty will do the job.

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Bridge at entrance to Pike Quarry, Lyndeborough, NH.

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Simple, rugged construction.

Looks good to me! Let’s get started!

 

 

Model Building · Proto48 · Train Shows

SONC 2017

Just returned from the 2017 Scale O National Convention in Enfield, CT. Had a great time! Met up with my good friend Jack Keene, an O scaler from Severna Park, MD, who’s building the entire D&H in O scale. An achievable layout? Well, maybe for Jack! He’ll be on the tour at next years SONC 2018 in Rockville, MD.

I went there on a mission to find a Wabash mogul or a CP D-10. As luck would have it, both were in attendance.

In addition to a NIB Sunset D-10 there were 4 Wabash mogul kits and 2 built-up. I ended up buying one of the built moguls from Stan Richmond. For the most part, it’s in pretty good fettle. Don’t know when it was built but Kemtron released the kit in 1959. I plan to convert it to proto48 by machining the wheels and narrowing the gauge. Then re-motor it, add lights, DCC, and sound. I’ll strip it, do a little detail work and repaint it as D&NE 10. This baby will be the star of the show. Someday I’d like to have another.

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Here it is at head shunt in St. George.

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David P. Morgan and Phillip R. Hastings chased the surviving pair on the Wabash in 1954. Here they are in a Hastings photo in the book, “The Mohawk That Refused to Abdicate”. Light rail and bridges kept these moguls alight when all other steam was gone on the Wabash.

Model Building · Proto48

CN Howe Truss Box Car 513081

My first attempt at a proto48, finescale model is an upgraded Sylvan kit for a Canadian National single sheathed box car. Built in 1929, there were still a lot of these cars around in my era, 1953. Short in stature, this car will contrast nicely with the taller 1937 AAR and PS-1 box cars. Most likely, it will be hauling western grain to the feed mill in St. George.

These cars are sometimes referred to as “Howe truss” box cars as the side bracing follows the Howe truss pattern (which interestingly was intended for wood trusses, not steel). Referring to them as “Fowler” cars, as some do, is incorrect as there is nothing related to the Fowler patents in this car.

As far as researching this class of box car, the more I searched, the more I found. Ted Culotta had a great article on these cars in Nov 2003 RMC and a few pages in his Steam Era Freight Car Reference Manual. June 1994 Railmodel Journal has an article by Stafford Swain. And online, I found a few good photos at the Canadian Freight Car site: http://www.nakina.net.

The Sylvan kit is a little rough and some work is needed to bring this car up to a finescale standard. The one piece body is pretty good but I put aside most of the resin details. There were a few casting defects that needed attention. Here it is partly completed.

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I choose the Youngstown doors over the wooden ones as there were more cars equipped with them. The door tracks needed to be replaced and other door details improved with Chooch parts. The resin cast brake details were discarded in favor of a San Juan AB set. (K brakes were original equipment on this class but cars with upgraded AB brakes would be used for interchange to the states.) Still need to detail the ‘B’ end.

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The ladders, distinctly Canadian with the integral step, are fragile resin castings that I didn’t think would hold up, so, new ones are being built from brass. The running board is scratch built from styrene with more detail and a sharper look. Jacking pads made from styrene were added to the side sills along with new styrene tack boards on the ends.

I choose Protocraft E couplers with operating cut levers as a trial. I’ll equip a few cars with these beauties and see if they operate well enough to commit to them for the entire roster. St. George operations will involve a lot of switching! I’ll fall back to the new Kadee 740-745 ‘E’ couplers if this doesn’t pan out. The Protocraft air hose, bracket and glad hand assemblies look great.

For trucks, I selected Scale City (Keil Line) Dalman 2 levels. Granted the castings are a bit muddy but they are a correct truck for this car. After weathering, I think they’ll be fine.(Are these a Canadian thing? They’re correct for the CP Minibox too.) These trucks were pretty easy to convert to proto48. I used a disk sander to take a small, measured amount off  each end of the bolsters. Protocraft car bolster conversion plugs make truck installation a breeze.

CN 513081 still has a way to go. Stay tuned…