Thursday, July 13, 2023

Murphy Radial Roof on SP B-50-15


crop of yard image, Portland, Oregon, 1940s, no photographer noted, Alamy (click on any image to enlarge)

This post is a follow-on to my original posts about the SP and T&NO B-50-15 and -16 single sheathed box cars as well as my thoughts about the Rapido models of said cars. Within the past 24 hours, I found and acquired an image of the Murphy radial roof as applied to an SP B-50-15. It prompted me to revisit my data and I can conclude that the roof on the B-50-15 box cars equipped with the Murphy radial roof had the tiny raised crimp in the center of each roof panel. Unfortunately, none of the models produced for the B-50-15 to date incorporate this feature. 

Crop of builder's photo of SP 15229, Standard Steel Car Co. photo, collection of D.K. Retterer

Crop of SP 14573, Michael Urac Collection

The Murphy radial roof was produced in versions that both incorporated and did not include the tiny crimp. Further confusing things, arrangement drawings did not always illustrate this feature. Both the Standard Steel Car Company and Pullman Company drawings for the B-50-15 do not show this feature, even though it is present on the cars. There are ways to add this feature to models and that is a subject for a future post....

Monday, July 10, 2023

Rapido Southern Pacific B-50-15 HO Scale Models


As noted in the text, the width of the sheathing boards is not correct for the B-50-15

I recently posted about the Southern Pacific (SP) and Texas & New Orleans (T&NO) classes B-50-15 and B-50-16 single sheathed box cars. I have since received the two Rapido HO scale models that I ordered and wanted to share my thoughts. Both of my models are -15 cars (I did not order -16 models as my understanding is that Rapido did not tool a separate side and underframe for the -16 cars, making the -16 models dimensionally inaccurate; your tolerance for such a difference may be greater than mine and I am sharing the information for reference.) The following paragraphs provide additional detail and context, but overall, I believe that these are generally a qualified miss for the single sheathed cars and a qualified hit for the steel sheathed cars, based upon my two models. For the composite cars, I recommend finding a Sunshine car on the secondary market or buying directly from Westerfield. 

The radial roof is quite well rendered...

I will start by highlighting what I consider to be the good features of these models, in no particular order. The radial roof on the model of SP 14780 is excellent. The diminutive size of the fasteners at the ends of the roof seam caps is extremely delicate, in keeping with how they should be presented in HO scale. The Viking roof on SP 15235 is no less impressive. [additional information uncovered about the Murphy radial roof - crimp missing on models]

... as is the Viking roof

The Murphy ends are also well rendered with good representation of the seven and nine corrugations in each end panel. I also appreciate the fine carriage bolt head detail in corrugations 1, 6, 11, and 16 (counting from the bottom of the end). These carriage bolts were used to secure lumber nested into the depressions of the corrugations to which the interior wood lining was attached.

The details are overall quite good. Specifically, Rapido has done well with the sill steps, grab irons, Carmer cut levers, hand brakes, and ladders [note: the ladder rung/tread widths match the 18" dimension of the ladders on the -15 class cars; the -16s used ladders that were slightly wider with 20" wide rungs/treads. I assume that Rapido did not tool different ladders for just the -16; if I am in error and Rapido did, in fact tool ladders with 20" wide rungs for the ladders on the -16 cars, I would welcome that info in the comments section below.] 

Detail of prototype truck on B-50-15 SP 32451, Bob Charles Collection, NMRA/Kalmbach Memorial Library

Truck on model; note paint blob on sill step

While I find the Rapido proprietary truck bolster/screw arrangement to be bit tedious, I do find the T-section trucks to be well-rendered and good representation of the prototype truck. I will swap out the "fat" 0.110" tread width wheelsets with 0.088" tread width wheelsets. The paint blob in the photo was present on three of the eight sill steps on my two models.

As noted in the text, the square should not be present on either model

Also, generally well done is the lettering in terms of adherence to Southern Pacific style and size, as well as the SP freight car color. However, it is at this point that I will start with my reservations about these models. While the style of the lettering is good, the substance is more mixed. My rebuilt steel sheathed model of SP 15235 carries a reweigh date of March, 1936, but uses "SOUTHERN PACIFIC" in the reporting marks (as opposed to "SP" or "S.P."), not introduced until 1946, resulting in a lettering anachronism. Also, all of the models I have seen carry a 1.5" white square as part of the repack stencil. This square indicated that a car had waste retainers in the journal boxes. SP paint and lettering (P&L) diagrams don't indicate the date revisions were added to diagrams, but among my numerous photos of SP freight equipment, the earliest evidence I have for one of these rectangles is 1951, creating more anachronisms in P&L on my models.

The rivets on the flanges of the center sills are not correct and should be removed

The underframe is generally a solid effort, but I do have a couple nits to pick. Again, if you purchased a -16 model, know that the truck spacing is correct for a -15 and not a -16 (32'3" on a -15 vs. 31'3" on a -16.) The truck spacing on the model is a perfect match for a -15 at 4.448" according to my calipers, within 0.005", a negligible amount and well within the margin of error for my manual caliper skills! The first nit is that Rapido added rivets to the bottom flanges of the center sills (those closest to the rails; see photo above.) There are no rivets on the bottom of the center sills (the top did have rivets as the cover plate was riveted to the flanges of the center sills.)  This is likely due to misreading of the orientation of the drawing/blueprint. The other nit is that while I have yet to determine the exact number, based upon my research, the majority (if not all) of the -15s were built with a "three-lever" brake arrangement, with a main lever at the cylinder, a significantly smaller lever attached by chain to the main lever and just in front of it (closer to the 'B' end of the car) plus the 'dead' lever, nearer the 'A' end of the car. Rapido opted for a more conventional "two-lever" arrangement. It also appears that all of the -16s had the "three-lever" arrangement, as well. Photos do show that some cars were modified to two-lever arrangements, although I have no info about which cars specifically nor do I know the criteria that dictated the change.

Before you tune out or skip this paragraph, please read my comments here entirely as the most substantive issue is the board width, not how they are rendered by Rapido! My biggest gripe, and what makes the model of the composite-sided car a loser for me, is the sheathing. And, yes, I am aware of the debate about how single sheathed board joints are rendered and while I think the lines/gaps between the boards look unprototypical, that is a different issue than the one I raise here. My issue is that Rapido has somehow completely missed that these cars had 3-1/4" width boards. By my measurement, the boards on the model of SP 14780 are five scale inches wide. The model has 21 sheathing boards spanning approximately 1.201" or about five scale inches per board. Across that same span (approximately 104.6 inches on the model when converted to 1:1 scale) the prototype would have had 32 boards. The Rapido model has too few boards by a sizable margin. 

While the reweigh date and location as well as the repack and brake test stencils should be updated to result in a correct model, the overall impression of the steel sheathed car is favorable

I do want to touch upon the model of SP 15235. By swapping out the model's KC brake system for an AB schedule system (included as spare parts in the box) and by updating the reweigh date/location and the brake test and repack stencils, the model will be a solid representation of the prototype. The side sheathing issue is moot since the car represents a steel sheathed car and the other issues can be fixed. While I did not purchase any, the steel sheathed cars that represent head end and Overnight service cars should also be good models of the prototypes.

To summarize, I believe that with the wood sheathed cars in this project, Rapido has generally missed the mark in several ways and my steel sheathed car is not without its nits to be picked. Some of the errors are unforced and appear to be the result of research or quality control, such as the paint blobs on the sill steps. However, the most glaring for me is the sheathing board issue and that one is a show stopper. I see no fix for that and will continue to use other options for wood sheathed cars. [I would like to have a correct B-50-16 and have everything I need to pursue that project.] I am disappointed that for cars that cost me in excess of $65 each when shipping is included, there are so many compromises and errors to be fixed, in light of the fact that there is good information about these cars available.