Wednesday, October 31, 2018

Wordy Wednesday - Northern Pacific Double Sheathed Box Car NP 12315

West Jackson, Mississippi, March, 1947, Harold Vollrath Collection
Between 1923 and 1932 the Northern Pacific Railway added 4,500 double sheathed box cars to its roster. The cars came from a variety of builders, including five hundred from the NP’s own Brainerd, Minnesota shops. They were the largest single block of cars on the road from the late 1920s through the early 1940s, when the NP’s ambitious program to acquire and build AAR steel box cars gained momentum.

The NP’s 10000-series box cars were reminiscent of the USRA double sheathed box car design. They had double sheathed tongue-and-groove wood sides and the fishbelly center sill underframes that were characteristic of many car designs of the period. That the NP chose this design is interesting since they received no copies of the USRA forty-ton design.  However, the NP did have a history of ordering forty foot double sheathed cars, albeit of truss rod underframe design. The 10000-series cars were slightly different dimensionally from the USRA design. The inside length was a non-standard 40’9”, versus 40’6” for the USRA design and the inside height, at 8’8”, was several inches shorter than the USRA cars.  All cars were delivered with the NP’s trademark radial roof and the road’s preferred hand brake, the Miner Ideal lever-style brake. The first 4,000 cars received the Murphy corrugated end, with seven corrugations in the top panel and eight in the lower panel. The last 500 cars received Dreadnaught ends, with three main corrugations in the top end panel over five in the bottom. The last 500 cars also came with several other less noticeable modifications. They were equipped with different doors, one additional grab iron on both the sides and ends, an altered brake lever arrangement, diagonal straps on the lower car sides and secondhand Andrews trucks of a design common (and perhaps unique) to the NP. Many of these trucks were replaced in the postwar era.  All cars had lumber doors in the A-end.

The cars were not modified significantly over their service lives. The major modification consisted of replacement of the ‘KC’ brakes with ‘AB’ brakes during the 1940s. The other modification was the replacement of the trapezoidal brackets that connected the sides to the ends with longer straps. This change occurred in the 1950s. The cars were initially delivered with the arched ‘Northern Pacific’ lettering and white stenciling. During repaintings in the late 1930s and into the early 1940s, this was augmented with the small Northern Pacific black, red and white Monad herald. In the late 1940s, the slogan ‘Main Street of the Northwest’ was added below the Monad. Finally, in the early 1950s the Monad size was increased to 48”. For more information about the prototype, refer to John Barry’s article, “Post WWI Forty-Ton Box Cars” in the Summer 1994 issue of The Mainstreeter, the publication of the Northern Pacific Railway Historical Society.

The reason for highlighting this photo and these cars at this moment? The release of the Rapido HO scale versions of these cars. My thoughts on these cars coming within the next day or two…

Tuesday, October 30, 2018

Kadee U.S. Gypsum Expanded Metal Running Board

A few weeks back, I started writing about modeling a Santa Fe Bx-57 PS-1 box car. One of the necessary changes was to replace the Apex Tri-Lok running board with one of the new Kadee U.S. Gypsum Expanded Metal running boards. The photo above shows this new running board. It is spectacular. It captures the lacy look of this style of open grid running board. It suffices to say that Kadee has done it again.

Note the board as shown here looks greyish because it was blasted with aluminum oxide, but not yet cleaned.

I will post the details on the finished model very soon.

Thursday, October 25, 2018


Ok, this photo has little to do with the subject of this post. However, I thought it a fitting freight car to commemorate a milestone of sorts. I don’t really dwell on the statistics for this blog as I tend to not post regularly (although I have made it a priority to do that over the last couple months). That said, the blog hit a nice round number yesterday as the view total rolled past 100,000. It’s nothing earth shattering, but I thought I’d acknowledge the milestone.

About the photo… SP 100000 was a B-50-27, part of a string of thousands of 10’0” inside height postwar AAR box cars purchased by the SP in the late 40s and early 50s, assigned to classes B-50-25, -26, -27, and -28. SP 100000 was built in late 1948 as part of a group of cars from series SP 100000-102099, 2,100 cars, and 1,250 cars in T&NO 58500-59749, all built by Pullman-Standard. Near Baraboo, Wisconsin, May 26, 1960, Col. Chet McCoid photo, Bob's Photo

Wednesday, October 24, 2018

Wordy Wednesday - Milwaukee Welded AAR Hopper MILW 94090

The Milwaukee Road rostered 2,000 unusual hoppers built between 1937 and 1944 in the company shops, nos. 94000-95999. They closely followed the AAR design, but featured welded construction. In addition, the spacing of the "stakes" at the top of the side differed from the AAR standard. The cars were equipped with Equipco (shown here) or Universal power hand brakes, Enterprise door locks, and Barber S-1 (shown here) or S-2 trucks with spring planks. Photo Collection of J. Michael Gruber

Sunday, October 21, 2018

Photos from 2018 Chicagoland RPM

This stunning scratchbuilt N scale model of the CNW Sheboygan, Wisconsin depot is the work of Vince Kotnik 
The 25th annual iteration of "Naperville," or the Chicagoland RPM as it is known today, was held this past weekend, October 18-20, 2018, at the Sheraton in Lisle, Illinois. Attendance was again up as Mike Skibbe and his crew (including his wife Katie, who deserves special mention, as she puts in a large amount of time, as well) continue to host an excellent event, with good facilities, top notch presenters, numerous vendors, and great people. This year's event included a tribute to the late Martin Lofton and his wife, Patricia, who began the event and hosted it for almost two decades. Tricia was in attendance to accept our collective gratitude and to be honored for creating what became the de facto "RPM National."

I have included a few photos of things that caught my eye. No sleights are intended by omissions as there were many exceptional models on display. Here is a sample...

Frank Hicks modeled this MDT 'M4' reefer using a Yuma Car & Foundry shell and decals
Frank also modeled this UTLX Type X tank car using an MDC tank with a frame available on Shapeways

Jeremy Dummlaer modeled this DL&W box car using an Accurail car as the starting point
Jeremy displayed a couple more in-progress Accurail cars

Jeremy also showed off this NYC USRA gon

Eric Hansmann displayed this Buffalo Creek & Gauley hopper

Darrall Swift had many scratchbashing projects on display including the future GA 55337

Several modelers displayed their completed gift cars from last year's meet, including this HO scale model by Matt Smith

and this O scale version from Dick Scott
This end photo of Dick's model highlights the Carbuilder's end

Ed Rethwisch and Jerry Hamsmith displayed these castings for a future CB&Q FM-11 flat car kit

Craig Wilson displayed this DT&I flat car with (what I believe are) Ford tractors from Wiking

Craig also had this CN flat with Massey-Ferguson combines by Artitec

Eric Mumper displayed this Precision Scale brass early Greenville covered hoppered with Resin Car Works decals

Steven Cerka showed his Erie flat with scratchbuilt cable reels

John Riddel lettered an Intermountain AAR hopper for the NP

As I am kitbashing one of these, I had a keen interest in Tom Bacarella's NP PS-1 combination door box car

Aaron Fogg displayed a stable of EJ&E horsepower

Robert Massey scratchbuilt a roof for an Athearn hopper to kitbash a RI covered hopper following Martin Lofton's article in Mainline Modeler many years ago focusing on wartime covered hopper conversions on the RI

Ken Soroos displayed many models, including this in-progress DSS&A flat car

As usual, Clark Propst had several cars to show, including both the 2016 and 2017 project cars, as well as a current M&StL kitbashing project at far right

Bill Dewar modified an Ulrich gon to model this CN prototype

This N scale (yes, it's N scale!) flat and load is the work of noted N scale modeler Keith Kohlmann

Bob Hanmer converted a Red Caboose model to make this attractive DM&IR gon 

Bob Chapman displayed this fine Sunshine Models G29B built from a Sunshine kit

Prolific Q modeler Ed Rethwisch had a large number of models in the display room including this stock car, a Sunshine kit

One them of this year's event was to chronicle, in models, the progression of the prototype modeling movement. 

The late 70s was when the modern resin movement took hold

The 1980s saw the birth of Sunshine, WestRail, Westerfield, and Funaro & Camerlengo

In the 1990s, the resin market exploded with kits coming faster than they could be purchased (or built) by most
The market matured in the 2000s
Charlie Slater, the second most prolific of the Sunshine pattern makers, brought some examples of his handiwork

Wednesday, October 17, 2018

Wordy Wednesday - Erie 76012

San Diego, California, December 4, 1954, Col. Chet McCoid photo, Bob's Photo
The ARA design of 1923 for double sheathed box cars (double sheathed = steel outer sheathing + wood interior lining) was modified through the 1920s, culminating in the iterations built for the Van Sweringen roads Erie, Chesapeake & Ohio, and Pere Marquette (see Wordy Wednesday from September 26, 2018). The Erie purchased a “predecessor” group in 1928. In 1930, the roads collectively added 3,000 cars — 1,500 to PM, 1,000 to C&O, and 500 to Erie (nos. 75500-75999).

In mid-1930, the Erie added an additional 500 cars, nos. 76000-76499, that followed the Van Sweringen iteration of the design, but with an inside height of 9’3”, an increase of 7” over the earlier cars. Erie 76012 was one of these cars, built by American Car & Foundry’s Berwick, Pennsylvania plant. The cars were delivered with Buckeye ends, Climax radial roofs, Youngstown doors with Camel no. 50 rollers, and KC air schedule brakes

By the time of this photo, the car had received a few modifications. It had been upgraded with AB schedule brakes as well as an Ajax power hand brake. In addition the roof was replaced with a Murphy diagonal panel roof with steel grid running board that appears to be an Apex Tri-Lok. Finally, the side sheathing had been repaired with patches along the side sill.

Sunday, October 14, 2018

Southern Railway Low-side Gondola - completed finally

I find it hard to fathom that it has been about two-and-a-half years since I posted about building this car. I finally got around to dusting off the cobwebs and finishing the model. The main stumbling block beyond time was the hand brake. The prototype used a Universal Multi-power hand brake, with the gearing mechanism contained inside a housing mounted below the end sill. I spent many free moments noodling how I would replicate that feature (when I made the patterns for this model, I never even considered it… how time changes things!) I have included a prototype photo below for reference (click to enlarge).

I settled on the solution illustrated in the graphic. Since the overall shape of the prototype’s housing was roughly segments of two differently-sized circles, that’s the approach I decided to follow. I punched discs from 0.020" styrene. The larger disc was created using a Waldron punch and die set while the smaller used an RP Toolz set. Portions of the two discs were combined to create the housing.

I found it easiest to integrate the entire assembly after adding the brake step to the model. The step, with hole for the brake shaft, was “rigidly” attached to the end. I added the housing using a 50/50 mix of Goo and MEK. This allowed me to prod and move the housing into position, with 0.020" wire in place (note that the wire on the bottom of the housing is a separate piece of 0.015"; the two were of different diameters on the prototype, too.) Once I was satisfied, I added some ACC to the housing — end sill joint to firm things up.

The bottom part of the housing was fashioned from pieces of 0.004" brass, cut into strips of appropriate width. As on the prototype, the bottom portion of the shaft nested in this arrangement, so I drilled holes in the straps to accommodate the 0.015" wire. This is partially obscured by the uncoupler lever rod so it likely adds little to the overall appearance of the model, but it is a feature I wanted to replicate so that I can make it for future projects.

The trucks also include a slight modification. The Tahoe Model Works Buckeye 50-ton trucks (TMW-106/TMW-206are a fairly solid match for the prototype’s trucks, but the truck bolster includes a vertical web through the center of the outside portion of the bolster casting. I replicated this feature by adding 0.010" strips into the center of the Tahoe bolsters. See the photos of the stock truck via the link above versus one on the model shown here.

I blasted all wire, metal, engineering plastic, and rubberized (Hi-Tech angle cock—air hoses) surfaces with 220-grit aluminum oxide. This created a surface conducive to good paint adhesion. I applied a coat of Tamiya Light Grey followed by Tamiya black, lightened slightly with grey. The black dried to a glossy sheen, perfect for applying decals. 

I lettered the model using the kit decals. At the same time, I added several chalkmarks to each side. These would be over-weathered, making them appear like older chalkmarks, to contrast with “newer” ones to be added post-weathering. I did not apply the reweigh, repack, and brake test stencils, as these would be added after the first application of weathering. These decals were sealed with a coat of Tamiya clear flat.

The weathering was applied in several steps. The interior of the car received a heavy application of Bragdon’s powders dark rust. Over this, I added a layer of PanPastels dark Payne’s Grey followed by an application of PanPastels dark umber over the entire model. On the trucks, I highlighted the truck springs with a rust shaded colored pencil. I then added the PanPastels Payne’s Grey and dark umber followed by some Bragdon’s soot grey. All of these powders were sealed with a coat of Tamiya clear flat.

I forgot to mask the areas where I would apply the reweigh, repack, and brake test stencils. This meant that I had to do the reverse and add fresh black paint to those areas. The reweigh and brake test stencils on the model would be applied to represent approximately three year old stencils while the journal repack would be less than a year old. Consequently, I created fresh paint rectangles for all three. However, for the journal repack rectangle I cut the rectangle from a solid piece of masking tape. I painted the area inside the opening of the masking tape with fresh black paint (I did the same for the reweigh and brake test rectangles, too.) For the journal repack rectangle, I then covered it with the “center” of the masking tape (the part that had been removed).

To the appropriate freshly paint areas, I added stencils corresponding to the reweigh location and date and brake test location and date. After application of decal setting solution, I airbrushed a coat of clear flat. I removed the tape over the repack stencil “rectangle” and added another round of PanPastels raw umber to the exterior car body followed by a coat of Future floor polish, creating a gloss surface. I added another round of chalkmarks plus the journal repack stencils. I applied a final coat of clear flat to the exterior of the car body.

Finally, I added the last details. I added wood and scattered bits of coal to the interior of the car to represent dunnage and debris from previous loads. I polished the treads of the wheelsets and screwed the trucks to the car body. Small pieces of paper were affixed to the route card boards with canopy cement to represent routing instructions (photo of finished model taken before these bits of paper were added). Southern Railway 55542 was ready for service.

Wednesday, October 10, 2018

Wordy Wednesday - Loading Stacked Steel Plate

I chose this photo for today’s Wordy Wednesday post because I feel it illustrates something worth replicating in model form. Note the small steels plates in the two gondolas closest to the left edge of the photo. The plates are stacked at both ends of the cars. They are also laid on top of boards and separated by boards, as well. The center portion of the gons are “empty”. This is highly realistic and would be easy to replicate using sheet styrene cut into appropriate sizes and stacked and bundled, as shown. I will do a follow-up post in the near future illustrating how I replicate this.

The near gon is a Nickel Plate Greenville-design 52’6” car offered in HO in styrene by Life-Like Proto 2000 and previously in resin by Sunshine. The next car is a P&LE 70-ton USRA-design car. These are available in resin from Westerfield and in styrene from Walthers in a far simpler (less detailed) form. Protocraft has imported O scale brass models of Greenville-design 52’6” gondolas.

The image was recorded looking east at the Nickel Plate’s E 75th Street Yard in Cleveland, Ohio, circa 1949. The photographer is noted as “Burger” and the photo is from the Jay Williams/Big Four Graphics collection

Monday, October 8, 2018

Kadee Santa Fe Class Bx-57 40' PS-1 Box Car

When Kadee released this model of the Santa Fe Bx-57, I eagerly ordered one, thinking I could easily add a ready-to-run (RTR) car to the fleet. It’s rare that I find a model that meets my standards and is RTR, so I was thrilled to have it. I was recently in the process of finishing a few models and decided it was a good time to add a little weathering to this model so that it would be “complete”. Easy, or so I thought...

I did have a question about the trucks. I was curious if the trucks were black or mineral red. I consulted with Ed Hawkins and while he did not have specific information about this group of cars, he opined that if they followed Santa Fe practices of the period ordered from AC&F, then the trucks should be mineral red. So, I sandblasted the sideframes and wheelsets and while I was doing that, I also blasted the ladders, grabs, running boards, brake steps, hand brake and housing, underframe components, and other engineering plastic parts to aid in the adhesion of a flat coat to be applied prior to weathering the model. On the sides and ends, I masked the areas adjacent to the ones to be blasted to prevent lettering from being removed erroneously. The photo above shows the side after the ladders and bracket grabs were blasted. The transition from the unblasted area to the blasted area is clearly discernible near the ladder, due to more advantageous lighting at that part of the car.
Kadee and Southwest Scale Productions Improved Youngstown doors shown side-by-side for comparison
I referred to my copy of John Dobyne’s Santa Fe Boxcars 1869-1953 (currently out of print) to make sure the locations of the placard and route card boards on the model’s doors matched the prototype. Not only did they not match, but the doors on the model did not match the prototype -- see photo above. The Bx-57 used the “upside-down” version of the Improved Youngstown door, not the version on the model. Fortunately, there is a version of the door available in HO that is every bit as finely rendered as the details on the Kadee PS-1, making it a perfect complement. The door I am referring to is available from Southwest Scale as part number FC-622. The door is slightly shorter than the Kadee part, but the prototype’s door roller track is actually taller than the version on the model, so all is not lost.
New door and roller track plus placard and route card boards installed, masked, and ready to be painted to match the car body.
I removed the doors from the Kadee model. I also carefully removed the lower door tracks. I applied a coat of Mr. Surfacer 1200 and once that had dried, I carefully wet sanded the area with 400 followed by 600-grit sandpapers to clean up any telltale traces of the door guides or my poor removal of the guides. I glued the Southwest Scale doors to the Kadee model, using sparing amounts of MEK.

The door roller tracks were fashioned in a few steps. First, I added mounting “brackets” for the tracks. These were created by adding bits of 2x2 to a 0.005" styrene strip that was 2 scale inches wide. For simplicity, I created a long strip of 2 scale scale inch wide 0.005" strip and added the 2x2 bits to the strip. I removed the brackets one at a time as needed, adding 7 for each door. I added the four under the door opening first, followed by adding the 1x3 guide. I added the 3 outer brackets last, sliding them under the 1x3 guide, all the while making sure that the guide remained straight.

The placement of these brackets along the side sills corresponds to the location of rivets on the faces of the door roller tracks as shown in the photos of these cars in Dobyne’s book. The door roller track is a strip of HO scale 1x3 styrene glued to the brackets. I completed these tracks by adding rivets in the appropriate locations.

One last detail for the doors was the placard and route card styrene boards. These were scratchbuilt. The basic placard board was constructed from 1x3, 1x6, 1x6, and 1x3, glued edge-to-edge to create a 18" height, all glued to a 0.005" backing. I trimmed these to a length of 27". I then added the frame/mounting brackets using 2" wide strips of 0.005". The route card boards were created from single pieces of 1x6 12 scale inches in length, glued to a 0.005" backing. The frame/mounting brackets were again created from 2" wide strips of 0.005" styrene.

I had also wanted to add a piece of small chain between the brake cylinder and lever to capture that nice look of a dangling chain when viewed from the side. I was not aware of how easy it is to remove the center sills, crossbearers, and crossties in one part, with little effect on the overall underframe detail. So, I decided to upgrade all the AB brake details, as I was going to paint the underbody and details (as well as the doors and tracks) mineral red. I removed the Kadee brake details and added the aftermarket parts and wire, as shown.

An additional "construction" detail that will be covered in the next and final installment on this car is the replacement of the running boards. The model came with an Apex Tri-Lok running board. Kadee has since released a U.S. Gypsum Expanded Metal running board that is accurate for the Bx-57. I will also provide details about my paint matching efforts, as I feel that the color I used is extremely close to the factory model, and will be virtually indistinguishable with a small amount of weathering.