Tuesday, June 7, 2011


thanks for that

Hi All I will try to post on a weekly basis a meaty article, such as this. Please let me know your thoughts.
Half Packs
Contrary to poplar opinion, half pack containers are very prevalent in railway transportation. As such I would like to describe a simple process in which to model your own “half pack” containers. There are many different version of these. Most of which are tarp or vinyl sided. Some more popular examples are:
SPD, see photo halfpack1993sml05. This also shows a triple stack with a flat rack on top, complete with neatly folded tarps, a loaded SPD halfpack in the middle and an empty half pack at the bottom.
NTFS, see photo halfpack1193smal03. Stacked double on a AFSY, ex OB type open wagon.
TNT, see photo halfpack1993sml01 & 06. While looking slightly top heavy two empty halfpacks support some 40ft boxes. A colourful TNT half pack supports a early Railex container.
K&S Freighters, see halfpack1993sml04. Looking like a no name brand, a heavy weathered tarp supports a Railex 40f container.
Railex, see photo halfpack1993sml02.
There are also generic “no name” versions, which are just tarped frames. Even if modelling ultra modern, half packs are still prevalent, most of which include the above. Such examples are:
SCT, also incorporating Coca Cola.
SCT with tautliner sides, refer halfpackultramod01, in typical one and a half fashion on VQCY 63ft flats.
TNT car carrying 51ft, note that this container is a little bit higher than most halfpacks.
TOLL, refer halfpackultramo05 to 07. These photos display the many loading variations that can be achieved.
On DA2 we have a halfpack loaded with empty gas bottles, which just seem to be peak over the height of the blue half pack. Refer halfpackultramo02.
On the CT train is a GEseaco lat rack with a steel load, on one half of an 80ft flat. Refer halfpackultramod03.
The main advantage of the half pack is that it can be heavy loaded, and still have a standard height shipping container placed on top and remain within the loading gauge of a normal height flat wagon. Thus if you are paying per slot you get two for the price of one, Half packs are more prevalent North and West of Adelaide, due to the loading gauge. Half packs are also used in the Eastern states, and can be double stacked and remain in within the smaller loading gauge. For example, stacked into a well wagon or stacked with a flat rack on a standard height flat wagon.
Model construction.
Currently no model manufacture makes a half pack, so we will discuss the easiest way to “scratch build” a satisfactory representation. The concept is basically a milled piece of wood painted black with a photo stuck to the side. Although this may sound crude, when placed in a consist it really makes an impression.
Select a quantity of 19mm by 42mm timber from your favourite source. Try to chose timber that is not twisted or bent, you will get better results. Using a workbench with a circular saw, mill XX mm from the height of your timber. You will find it easier to do this in batches, timber is not that expensive so feel free to cut up more than you need. Next place you workbench into “docking” mode, and cut your timber into 141mm lengths for 40ft half packs. You can knock these out fairly quickly once you have it all set up. See photo halfpack01.
Now you have the basis for your half pack, we need to paint the ends and tops of your pieces of wood. If does not have to be anything special, so a coat of “spray can” matt black will do the trick. The wood will soak up some of the paint initially, so feel free to give it two coats.
Application of the photos.
In these times of great digital cameras and scanners, photos can easily be manipulated using Adobe photoshop to the correct scale. Lance Mindheim did a good article in Model Railroader XXX which outlined the process quite well. If you don’t have access to the containers images you need, drop me a line on this blog. I have a fairly extensive library.
A set of half pack sides will fit quite conveniently on a 6 by 4 print, note that if you are using an external printer, ie from Kmart, Harvey Norman etc, they may use software that slightly resizes your image just prior to printing. When I first tried this method I had to slightly modify the size and contrast to counter act their auto resize and auto contrast settings. See photo halfpack02.
Once you have your selected photo produced, firstly spray paint the photo with a clear matt. You may wish to use in a spray can, just be careful not to let it pool as it may attack the image.
Cut the image to size using either a sharp hobby knife or scissors, make sure you keep the top twist lock housings, these should slightly stick up over the “tarped” part of the image.
Use “kwik grip” glue the images to the side of the block. Ensure that you follow the instructions, and apply a thin layer of adhesive to both the back of the image and the side of the block. Let both applications become “touch dry”. Then from the bottom edge of the block apply the image, to the block. Once applied apply even pressure to the side of the block with the image, this will ensure even adhesion. Be very careful to line the image up correctly the first time as once applied it will not be able to be adjusted. See photo halfpack03.
Run a black permanent ink pen around the edge of the image, to hide the exposed white edges of the photo paper.
Super glue Evergreen strip styrene to each top corner and middle twist locks if fitted. These blocks will hold the top container in place and free of the top of the block. This will give you the “see through” effect between upper and lower container stacks.
Drill locating holes in the tops of the styrene blocks so that the bottom lugs of most manufactures containers can be located on top of the half pack.
For slightly varying weathering patterns, you might like to weather half packs of the same design, using chalks, the slight pattern on the photo paper will hold the chalk quite well.
You may like to secure the top container to the half pack. A very small amount of clear silicone around the twist locks will do the trick, this will hold the top container in place while enabling you to remove the container at a later date without destroying your model. See photo halfpack04.
All that is left to do is start operating...........enjoy!


  1. 1/2 height is slightly wrong, they are more like 3/4 height. This is quite evident with the Toll / SCT ones.

  2. hi am Steven fromm US,

    i always was impresssed by Australian inermodal trains to and from Perth, those in mid north like Port Augusta and around that town of South Australia.

    yes i like your prevoius article of Half Packs,

    here we have more double stack trains some of 150.cars but that is mainly in California heading for L.A.

    would like to suggest you to put more double stacked cars from the past mid -end90s with AN, and later ASR train oprations to and from Perth as there were ias i remember AP4,AP5, AP6 is that correct as intermodal trains, those magnificient Boxcar and TNT Automotive containers or latter Mayne Logistics new 53ft....and mayny other oh yes REFRIGERATION RAIL WAYS white units .....

    hope that you will make an article about double stacks and please dear friend put more images but larger that in previous article if that is possible,

    best regards from Steven.

  3. Hey nice job.Im going to try this tomorrow and hopefully they turn out as good as yours.