Saturday, August 12, 2023

Tangent's SP "Pullman-Standard" Box Cars


Tangent Scale Models photo to display a decorated model

I posted last week with some prototype information about the Southern Pacific Lines B-50-28 and -29 postwar AAR box cars. I mentioned that I would follow up with my thoughts about the new Tangent Scale Models HO scale offerings for these cars (note: I am not presenting info about the B-50-30/-31/-32 as they are past my personal modeling cutoff date, but the thoughts presented herein apply equally to those models.) Quite simply, these are some of the finest HO scale box cars ever offered, with the overall package rivaling the exceptional Kadee PS-1 models. Considering the price points of $48.95 for undecorated kits and $52.95 for ready-to-run cars, these are a steal compared to other freight car models being released in HO scale for reasons that will become apparent if you continue to read.

I purchased undecorated kits and my thoughts specific to the kits are included at the end of this writeup. However, I will cover the model details first. The car body faithfully replicates the prototype. Of note, these cars featured a version of the Improved Dreadnaught end that has not been replicated to date in HO scale (manufacturers in both styrene and resin have added a narrow thin rib at the top of the end and called it a job well done; however, the other major characteristic, the "flat" horizontal bottom portion of the main top rib on the ends has been ignored.) Tangent has captured both the narrow thin rib (suitably diminutive) as well as the different top main rib. The ends are beautiful. The sides are nicely captured as well, with miniature rivets that are in the same class as those on the Branchline AAR box cars. The characteristic narrow side panels on either side of the door are replicated, as well as the "notched" side sill supports at the body bolsters. The Diagonal Panel Murphy roof is also nicely captured, with fine rivets on the caps at the panel joints. The underframe is beautiful, as well, with fine renderings of the center sills and stringers. Tangent has replicated all the major traits of these cars in extremely fine detail. My only complaint here is that I wish these had been tooled as separate parts to allow me to more easily use them for kitbashing fodder.

As the saying goes, "the devil's in the details" and that is another area where these models shine. 

  • Instructions for the kits may be found via this link
  • On the underframe, the mountings for the brake parts use prototypical brackets and similar fixtures, as opposed to just sticking things into holes in the floor, as many manufacturers do. This really sets these models apart.
  • The AB brake set is nicely detailed, with fine representations of the reservoirs and AB valve, plus nicely rendered dirt collector and tee between the trainline (which is also present) and dirt collector. There are wire parts for connections of some of the various brake equipment.
  • The draft gear (coupler pockets) are narrower than most manufacturers offerings. They are functionally wide at the opening and taper to match the width of the center sills where they meet the body bolsters. They have a mounting apparatus on the side for the angle cock/air hoses, which are nicely detailed and are cast in a rubberized material, making them extremely durable! This is quite welcome. Another small nit is that the built up models include Kadee couplers, but the kits do not. Why?
  • The model includes 50-ton ASF A-3 Ride Control trucks. They may not be as nice as the legendary Kato A-3s, but they are still some of the nicest trucks included with a model that I have seen. One of my few nits with these kits is that they do not come equipped with 0.088" tread width wheelsets. It's about time that we adopt 0.088" the de facto standard and make those who want 0.110" buy them separately. Or perhaps offer the 0.088" wheelsets in the kits as it's highly likely that those buying kits would care more about such things.
  • Closing the underframe topic, it is overall the best detailed underframe I have seen on an HO scale mass market model. The fidelity is there and the accuracy is there

  • End detailing is also exemplary, including the aforementioned faithful representation of the corrugations
  • In the kit there are seven (!) different power hand brake options, including two Miner, two Champion, and one each of Ajax, Universal, and Equipco. Each includes its own mounting bracket and they are "full" parts with chain and rod integral to the parts. These alone are a trove of parts to use on other projects!
  • There are three etched metal brake steps, all pre-bent for addition to the model.
  • The placard boards for the ends and doors accurately follow the prototype as opposed to being simple, generic three board parts.
  • The uncoupling rods are pre-bent and are fine representations of those on the prototype. The mounting brackets are also finely detailed.
  • The pressure retaining valve ('retainer valve') includes a nice bracket and piping that runs down the end of the car. The valve appears too small and that is accentuated by the large size of the corresponding pipe (the pipe is styrene and is slightly larger than the prototype, but not grossly so)
  • Ladders, grabs, and sill steps are all finely detailed. The ladders are beautiful, faithfully matching the prototype. They are so well-rendered that I worry about their durability, since they are molded in styrene, which is prone to breakage. The bracket grabs are equally finely replicated in styrene. However, any potential damage due to the fidelity is not Tangent's issue. The end sill and latitudinal running board grabs are formed wire, again fine, but obviously more durable. I did have damage to two ladders in the one kit that I inspected. Given the fineness and the material, I suspect this is not unique to me.
  • The kits are supposed to include two running boards: Morton and Apex Tri-Lok. My kit included the Morton, but was missing the Apex. Apparently, this is the case with all kits. Tangent may be contacted for the missing Apex part. The parts are styrene and are "see-through". They are beautiful, but again are fragile because they are styrene. Being styrene, they are easier to attach to the roof, though.
  • The kits include four pairs of doors: two pairs of Youngstown plus 7-panel and 5-panel Superior doors, as well as corresponding bottom door tracks for each type (note: prototype lower Superior door tracks do have different hardware than the tracks for Youngstown doors and have been mostly ignored by manufacturers, particularly in HO scale. To their credit, Tangent has offered both styles)

Returning to my original thought, I believe these to be one of the finest mass market HO scale Steam/Transition Era freight cars ever offered. Actually, I wouldn't restrict it to an era... they're great overall

As always... comments are welcome!

Monday, August 7, 2023

What is Focus on Freight Cars?

There appears to be some confusion about the Focus on Freight Cars series such that I thought it a good idea to pen a brief synopsis of the books so that people have a better understanding of the scope and extent. The series is the brainchild of Al Hoffman, who found the negatives through his friendship with the late Michael Urac, who owned the collection of negatives. Al conceived the idea of the books and approached Richard Hendrickson about writing the accompanying text and captions for volumes one and two, that I subsequently published.

The passings of Richard Hendrickson and Michael Urac left the torch to be carried by me, albeit in my lesser capacity than Richard, given his encyclopedic knowledge of freight equipment.

An extremely common misconception about the books is that they are the result of careful sorting and culling of subject matter. In reality, the books include only photos in the collection and none that are not part of the collection. This is one of the appealing qualities of these works; the images have not been published in any other format, with a few exceptions where they were shared for use in prototype data sheets for freight car kits and similar uses. To reiterate and reinforce, only what is in the collection is included in these books. The books are not intended to be interpreted as an all-encompassing study of freight equipment. They are merely what was captured by the photographer. One of the great values is that since the photos were to be used to create model kits, they include many exceptional detail images that are of great value to modelers and researchers alike, in addition to the general freight car "portraits" (my emphasis as I believe these detail photos are the great value of these books).

Segueing from the previous paragraph, it bears reiterating that the work collectively is not intended to be the definitive look at freight equipment of the era. A common query is why such and such a car from a specific railroad is not included. The reason is simple: if there is not a photograph of a car in the collection, it is not included. The reasoning is that basic. There are no slights or omissions intended.

Saturday, August 5, 2023

Southern Pacific Lines B-50-28/-29 Postwar AAR Box Cars (including St. Louis Southwestern)


This is a particularly interesting photo with no less than three of the B-50-28/-29 box cars visible: T&NO 61062 (left center), SP 102260 (behind and left) and unknown SP/T&NO behind the PRR X43B at center. The SP Lines car to the left of SP 102260 is a sibling B-50-27 class box car. Columbus, GA, ca. 1958, image CG-2590, Central of Georgia Railway Historical Society, courtesy of Allen Tuten

Like many of you, I am eagerly awaiting my order from Tangent for these exciting new box cars. I ordered a couple of undecorated kits. As soon as I receive them, I will provide a follow on post with my thoughts about what's in the box, as well as how it compares to the old Sunshine kits, which were not without their errors. In future, I will post a third part after building a couple of the cars, but that will be a few months away. As a prelude, I present some data about the B-50-28 and -29 classes.

In 1950-1951, the Southern Pacific and Texas & New Orleans received a total of 3,000 and 1,500 class B-50-28 box cars, respectively, from Pullman-Standard. At the same time, SP-affiliated line St. Louis Southwestern (the Cotton Belt) received 100 identical box cars. In 1951, the SP also built 500 identical box cars in the Sacramento shops that were assigned to class B-50-29 (SP only.) The accompanying tables provide the details about all cars.

SSW 33938 was one of the 100 clones of the B-50-28 received by the Cotton Belt from Pullman-Standard in 1951. Note the "short" panel at the top and the wider panel (third from top) on the Superior door. Fayetteville, NC, October 12, 1952, Col. Chet McCoid photo, Bob's Photo

The cars continued the large scale program by the SP Lines to bolster its box car fleet in the postwar period. There is a direct line from the B-50-24, -25, -26 and -27 classes to the -28 and -29. Given the period of the cars' construction, there were evolutionary changes along the way.

At delivery, Texas & New Orleans B-50-28 no. 60049 included the '&' in the reporting marks and "SOUTHERN PACIFIC" spelled out above the reporting marks. Illinois Digital Archives, Pullman History site

This group of cars followed the AAR design standards of the era, including recently introduced underframe where the crossbearers were shaped to pass below the four floor stringers (previous versions of the underframe had straight crossbearers and the stringers terminated on both sides of the crossbearers.) In SP fashion, the box cars maintained the inside height of 10'0", six inches less than the 10'6" that most other roads had standardized on by that time. Instead of having ten evenly sized panels on the sides, these SP cars had eight evenly spaced panels with two narrower ones on either side of the door openings. The Improved Dreadnaught ends were as noted in the photo caption below. Murphy diagonal panel roofs were standard on all of the cars in these classes. Hand brakes and running boards varied as noted in the accompanying tables. Interestingly (for the SP,) all 5,000 of the B-50-28 and -29 were equipped with ASF A-3 Ride Control trucks.

Build data is tabulated below. All Lot numbers are Pullman-Standard, except where noted as SPE, which indicates built by Southern Pacific. For the Cotton Belt cars (nos. 33850-33949), all 100 used Superior doors, Universal hand brakes and Morton running boards and brake steps.

Reporting MarksSeriesQty.LotClass

The B-50-28 employed an Improved Dreadnaught end with a couple distinctive traits: the narrow rectangular stiffening rib at the top of the end and the "flat" horizontal bottom of the main top rib on the end. Illinois Digital Archives, Pullman History site

The specialties applied to the B-50-28 and -29 are as follows:

Reporting MarksSeriesHand BrakeR/B & B/SDoors
SP102100MinerApex Tri-LokSuperior
SP102101-102599MinerApex Tri-LokYoungstown
SP102600-103099ChampionApex Tri-LokYoungstown
SP103600-104099AjaxApex Tri-LokYoungstown
SP104100-104224MinerUS GypsumYoungstown
SP104225-104599MinerApex Tri-LokYoungstown
SP104600-104849ChampionApex Tri-LokYoungstown
SP104850-105099EquipcoApex Tri-LokSuperior
T&NO59750MinerApex Tri-LokYoungstown
T&NO60375-60449UniversalUS GypsumYoungstown
T&NO60450-60749EquipcoUS GypsumYoungstown

SP 105054 employed an Equipco power hand brake and Apex Tri-Lok running boards and brake step. Illinois Digital Archives, Pullman History site

T&NO 60299 was equipped with a Universal power hand brake and Morton running boards and brake step. Illinois Digital Archives, Pullman History site

T&NO 59951 was repainted eight years after delivery in an entirely different scheme, with large "SOUTHERN PACIFIC" name and no SP medallion. Note that the placard board was moved to a lower location on the door. Fayetteville, NC, Nov. 27, 1959, Col. Chet McCoid photo, Bob's Photo

When repainted, Cotton Belt cars received a stencil at the upper left of the end that identified paint, location, and date, as shown here


  • Ed Hawkins, "10'0" IH Postwar 40'6" A.A.R. Box Cars," Railway Prototype Cyclopedia 8
  • Anthony Thompson, Southern Pacific Freight Cars Volume 4: Box Cars (revised edition)