AMB Wind Turbine Blade, Cone & Nacelle Flatcar Loads

Have wings, now to call for the crane.

With many places embracing wind power as an environmentally friendly way of generating electricity, the large and bulky wind turbine blade wings, parts and sections need to be shipped from the manufacturers to erection sites. Since they’re often made up of many loads and sections that need to be transported and assembled, trucking wouldn’t be the most efficient method for transporting them long distances. No, most of the time you’ll see them being transported by rail on long flatcars, using special cradles, bracket and supports to hold them upright. To model this, there’s a few options. AMB (American Model Builders) makes resin-cast kits for wind turbine blades, centre cones, and nacelles (the large square mount the cone is fixed to). There are also a few 3D-printed offerings out there.

This build will be on doing up a few of AMB’s HO-scale kits for flatcar loads. Specifically, #218 Turbine Blade and Blocking 3-Pack, and #217 Nacelle and Cone with Blocking.

Parts Cleanup and Prep Work

Before starting, clean off all parts with a resin cleaner to remove any casting release residue on the part (some parts did seem a bit slippery when unpackaged). I used Sylvan resin prep, which is basically repackaged orange Zep cleaner, but some people use dish detergent, etc.

The wing castings are generally well done. There are a few areas that need cleanup work however: along the rounded edge of the blade (opposite the wing edge) both edges of some of the castings don’t meet together flush, and need to be sanded down and filled with putty for a smooth round surface. A few of the wings have small bubbled areas from the casting process, one came with some casting “gashes” along the side, and the bottom flat round end (casting end?) can have bubbles that needed to be filled with putty and sanded smooth. You’ll probably find yourself doing this a few times during the painting process, as it’s often difficult to see all the imperfections in the unpainted resin surface.

Two of the three wing tips were slightly warped, in both 3-pack sets. I’m thinking this is because of how the 3-packs of wings are packed: they come staggered in a plastic sleeved bag that’s folded into the box, effectively stacking the wing tips and ends over each other. The heavier wing ends sitting on the thinner wing tips for a long period of time warps the tips and gives them “memory” – even after running them under very hot water and sitting them under a weight bent in the opposite direction, they eventually returned to their original bent orientations. But then again, some of the blades in real life do look curved, so…

It’s painting time.

Painting Notes

Casting cleanup aside, once all that was done, they were given another soapy wash to get rid of any skin oils from handling, and the painting process began. For resin I like to shy away from the usual acrylics and use Tamiya’s white Fine Surface Primer – it’s both durable and dries smooth. A warning though – ideally spray outside or can get “buzzed” from the very strong vapors. And, building up thin coats is best: applying too much too quickly or too thick can cause the paint to run, and then you’ll have to wait for it to cure before sanding the area smooth to continue painting. I gave my wings and nacelle/cone sets a few coats of FSP in each painting “session”, and between extra patching and sanding had about 3 “sessions” to build up a nice thick white finish on each part (it’s easy to spy yellow-ish areas that need more paint to cover the resin better). Let the painted parts fully dry out for about 2-3 days before giving a quick coat of clear (I used Model Master semi-gloss). Take your time, don’t rush, and the result will be well worth it.

Some outdoor spraying on a warm morning.

One tip for painting the wings: use the hole drilled for mounting them on the base support, and drill and run a screw through a round bottle cap to firmly attach it to the end. This gives you a nice “handle” to use when spraying and lets you rotate the wing to get even coverage. It also lets you sit the wing upright (on the bottle cap) between spraying to avoid setting it down sideways and marring any paint that’s not dry. This method is also good for painting the cones.

Mounting the blades to a bottle cap lets you easily rotate the blade as you spray on the paint, without having to touch the blade. Then the cab can be removed later, and the end painted white.

Building the Wing Blade Supports

The wing tip support frames are made of laser-cut wood and appear to match photos of one version of supports found online (there are many different wing support and base support versions out there). Once cut out, they were assembled with CA glue and airbrushed with blue (I used Pollyscale GTW blue) before a light coat of clear. The support slings however are made of a very thin clear plastic and the flexible part in the middle where the wing sits is very fragile – on two of mine it split in this area. I re-enforced it here with a strip of thin 0.020″ styrene bent to fit into the bottom. The bottom of the sling was painted Rapido CP Diesel Yellow, and the chain bits were painted Tamiya XF-16 Flat Aluminum (the whole sling was then coated with Microscale clear flat). The small brass nails for connecting the saddle ends to the frame tops were cut shorter, CA’ed in place, and touched up with matching paint.

Wing blade tip support frames glued together.

Painted and ready for blade loads.

The wing base supports are made of a very sturdy resin, but the quality of the castings and resin is a bit rough (injected plastic pieces would probably be better). Nevertheless, after being cleaned up with a sharp X-Acto knife, the laser-cut wood block “feet” were glued on with CA and a hole drilled in the upper circular part for mounting a screw that would hold the wing on. One may need to add small bits of styrene to the inside of the cup to get the wing sitting in the support so that they’re perpendicular to each other. The end supports were also given a coat of Pollyscale GTW blue and clear coated. A 2-56 hole was drilled and tapped in each of the blades (important: the sharp edge of the blade on these ones must face up – check orientation before you drill your holes in the ends of the blades) and a 2-56 5/16″ screw was firmly screwed in each to join the blade to the base support. I then filled the screw hole with white glue and painted it blue to match the base. This hides the screw, and makes or easy removal if needed (just pick out the white glue, and unscrew).

Wing base supports and tip supports painted blue, ready for more work. Holes drilled for the 2-56 screw that will secure the blade in, and the fragile (unpainted) clear slings have been re-enforced at the bottom with styrene.
End support with blade installed. Screw head filled with with white glue and painted over to blend in to end bulkhead area.

Once everything was dry, the painted wing blades were brought out and they were all assembled:

Wing blades all painted up and installed on supports, ready for flat car loading.

Cones and Nacelles

The cone and nacelle castings were relatively well done, but a few exhibit mold lines from casting in the surfaces. The rectangular nacelle in particular needs cleanup on the rear end from the casting process: the edges need to be sanded down to match the rest of the casting, and a new seam line needs to be etched/filed across the top to connect both side seams. Two of the three I’ve dealt with also have lots of casting bubbles in this area that need to be filled with putty and sanded smooth. This rough casting area on the cone is on the bottom, so one doesn’t need to worry about the finish as much. As with the wings, they were painted with Tamiya FSP and given a coat of clear.

The cone and nacelle support blocking is made from laser cut wood, some of which is peel-and-stick, but takes a bit of time to put together. It was given a few coats of dark brown. A warning: avoid using overly wet paint, as the middle wood pieces can soak the water up and warp or expand longer than the bottom pieces. Both cone and nacelle loads would usually warrant a single 50-60′ flatcar.

Nacelle and cone loads, with painted blocking, placed on a 60′ Intermountain flatcar.

More Photos

I’ve built two sets of wings so far, and three nacelle & cone sets so far. Here’s the latest batch posed for display. You need a small fleet of flatcars to transport them properly.

There’s a few different ways of placing the wing loads on a flatcar. They’re typically heavy enough that gluing them down isn’t required (and may not be a good idea if the wing load is going to span two cars…). Usually you’d seen these being transported on 89′ flatcars, sometimes with the tip support frame on the same car (would would make the wing tip overhang or stick out going around tighter curves), sometimes mounted on a shorter 50-60′ “idler” flatcar (so the wing overhangs slightly inward on curves and the tip doesn’t stick out as much).

That’s a lot of train, and it’s only 3 blades worth!

26503s-Wind_Turbine_Blades_Flatcars_Batch2.jpgIdler or spacer flatcars are often required to make up for the extra space the wings need. These two wings are on old Walthers 75′ TOFC flatcars, but ideally something like the Atlas 89′ flats should be used. The middle car is a Wheels of Time 60′ CP flat.

Cone and nacelle loads on Intermountain and LL P2K flatcar kits. You really only need one set per 3 blades, for obvious reasons.

Single blade, with a Wheels of Time 60′ CP flatcar and a LL Proto 2000 53’6″ flatcar kit as the idler for the tip support.

And here’s the first batch of wing blade loads on its new owner’s layout, behind a pair of custom CN/Oakway SD60’s that were also painted up in the past:

Wind Turbine Train 4e.jpg
Patched CN SD60’s 5425 & 5479 with a train of wing blades.

Wind Turbine Train 2e.jpg
Mounted on an Atlas 89′ flat, with the tip support on the end of the flatcar instead of on the next flat or idler.


About mrdan8530

The power of a thousand monkeys on typewriters is all for naught without the knowledge to pen.
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