Sunday, February 25, 2024

A Rising Tide Lifts All Boats


Westerfield PRR X23 box car (coming in styrene from Rapido)

I used to be able to look at layout photos in a magazine or visit a layout and immediately know that a person was a builder of rolling stock (or not) just by perusing what was riding on their rails. It was easy to spot cars that you could only obtain by building a kit from Sunshine, Westerfield, F&C, WestRail, Yarmouth or Speedwitch. However, the market has made it so that cars specific to a single or a small number of railroads are available as high quality, ready-to-run offerings that rival and, in some cases, surpass the resin offerings. This means that a great number of model railroaders can populate their layouts with exceptional cars without the fuss of building them or to paraphrase, this rising tide of cars lifting all boats (and sometimes overpopulating... how often do you see a non-B&O or Milwaukee layout with three Wagontop or Ribside box cars, respectively, a figure all out of proportion to reality?) However, as my late friend Richard Hendrickson used to say frequently, "these are the good old days..."

Above and below are a sampling of cars that I built as resin models that have been released (or will be) as injection molded, ready-to-run offerings.

Westerfield New York Central USRA-design steel box car kitbashed with narrowed IMWX roof (released in styrene by Broadway Limited)

Sunshine Models UTLX X-3 tank car (released in styrene by Rapido)

Sunshine Models B&O M-53 Wagontop box car (released in styrene by Fox Valley and Exactrail)

Sunshine Models Milwaukee Road Ribside box car (released in styrene in various versions by Exactrail, Intermountain, and Ribside Cars)

and just to illustrate the reverse, here is a Rapido model that I built (of a car that I had also built from a Sunshine kit years ago.) While there are many ready-to-run versions of this NP prototype available from Rapido, I bought an undec and painted and lettered it, with a few detail enhancements (read more about that via this link.)

Friday, February 2, 2024

Modeling the Pennsylvania G22 Gondola in HO scale


I built this model so long ago that this tiny image is all I have. It's from the days of scanning images from actual photographic prints! The model is a Westerfield G22 kit with a pipe load from drinking straws

For HO scale modelers, there is no shortage of options to replicate the PRR's G22 classes of gondolas. The first (to my knowledge) were the Westerfield resin kits, some of the earliest offerings that he produced, with the first kits from Elk Grove Village, IL (before his move to Tennessee) using the graphite-colored, brittle resin. With the move to Tennessee, he shifted to the familiar, flexible grey resins used since, with the exception of the metal-floor castings. These were (and still are) extremely nice replicas of the three main classes of G22. The model pictured above is one of my efforts from 20+ years ago. Westerfield offers containers for these cars, too.

image courtesy of

Railworks imported some excellent brass models of the G22 and G22B, as well. The G22B, with containers, is shown in the image above. Note that the containers are separate, a nice feature. One nit that I will point out (unless someone out there tells me I am mistaken): all photos I have seen of the Railworks G22 class gons are equipped with 100-ton coil-leaf spring trucks, like the ones shown on (and correct for) the G22B model above, instead of the 70-ton trucks that they should use.

Rapido is offering the three main classes, G22, G22A, and G22B, as well as containers

Within the last week, Rapido has announced that they will produce injection molded models of the G22 family of gons in HO scale. Given the large number of these cars, it is not a surprise. The test shots shown at the ARHS show in West Springfield look quite nice and should please the vast majority of modelers. There will be models of all three main classes plus containers (a single block of containers.) Nice features are the well-detailed cast metal floor and both types of trucks. There are many schemes being offered, including undecs. Visit the Rapido site for details.

This brings me to the final entrant in the G22 sweepstakes: the Funaro & Camerlengo kit that I have been building on and off for the past few years. It is a one-piece, cast resin kit for the modernized version of the G22 and it includes interior stake pockets. It is a fairly simple build and recommended for those new to resin. However, I do have a caution... there were several air bubbles and even a void caused by air in the sides and top of the sides. I did some filling and patching, but if you are new to resin, that would be a huge drag to deal with. Beware!

Rather than chronicle the entire build, I will list what I did differently from the basic kit. Apologies for the images of the white F&C resin... it's hard to see, whether building or photographing the model! In no particular order:

  • I replaced the cast resin sill steps with more fine and durable ones from Yarmouth, augmented with 0.005" styrene "mounts" (rivets to be added)
  • I used a Precision Scale retainer valve and 0.008" wire
  • I opted for Yarmouth Carmer uncoupling devices, again in the interest of fidelity and durability
  • The brake staff bracket was fashioned from 0.003" brass cut to a strip and shaped as shown with no. 80 holes added, then secured with Scale Hardware 0.4mm rivets on posts
  • The brake staff and hand wheel are spare Overland Models parts picked up years ago
  • The lower brake staff bracket was fashioned from 0.15mm phosphor bronze, cut to shape and bent as shown, augmented with chain and wire for the linkage to the main brake rod [I don't have great photos of this bracket; what you see is my best guess from the images I do have.] Note that the brake staff has to pass through the end sill, then the chain, then the bottom of the bracket... fun to assemble!
  • 1x4 styrene strip, 10 scale inches long, to simulate the route car boards. Rivets to be added
  • Yarmouth angle cock parts with Moloco rubberized angle cock/air hoses
  • Bowser Crown 70-ton trucks with Reboxx wheelsets
  • Speedwitch pressure head cylinder and integral lever bracket (in stock as I type this)
  • Scratchbuilt styrene top corner gussets
  • 0.010" wire grabs
  • 0.005" 4-inch wide crossbearer cover plates (more like splice plates really)
Click on any image to enlarge

Note the sill steps and retainer valve

these images highlight the Carmer uncoupling devices, the brake hardware, the top corner gussets, and the angle cock/air hose

The styrene route card board is visible just above the side sill, along with one of the casting "voids" that necessitated filling and repair (the grey area just below the bulb angle at the top of the side

The photos herein show the model after I blasted the metal and engineering plastic surfaces with 600-grit aluminum oxide, to create a better condition for paint adhesion. I need to add a few rivets in various places and then it will join the NH '37 AAR box car at the paint shop.

Thursday, February 1, 2024

Pennsylvania Railroad G22 Gondola


Note the abuse to the grab irons on this G22... it's ok if your grabs are bent and dinged! Zanesville, Ohio, 1954, John C LaRue, Jr. Collection

With over 6,100 constructed from 1915 to 1917, the PRR G22 was the backbone of the Pennsy mill gondola fleet from World War One through to the start of World War Two and, numerically, was still a large fraction of the PRR fleet into the 1950s. In addition to their general service as mill gons, G22s were also used to haul containers, as shown. The container gons were assigned to class G22B.

G22 PRR 750902 had an interesting load when photographed. Merrilees Collection, National Archives of Canada, neg. no. PA204761

The G22 arrived at a time when the length of mill gondolas was increasing. Contemporaneous to the G22, the Wheeling & Lake Erie received 46' gondolas from Pressed Steel that were generally similar to the G22, and became the foundation for the USRA 70-ton mill gondola. The New York Central System rostered an impressive fleet of composite 46' gondolas built in the beginning and middle of the 1910s. 

PRR G22B was in container service when photographed in Mansfield, Ohio, on October 18, 1952 by Col. Chet McCoid. Bob's Photo. Note the large placard board in the centered on the car side and the 100-ton trucks.

The G22s were built in two styles: the G22 had fixed ends and four small hoppers in the steel floor while the G22A had drop ends and a tight steel floor. The quantities were roughly 2:1 with 4,000 G22s ordered and 2,150 G22As ordered. Beginning in 1930, cars from the G22 class were modified with tight floors for use in container service, creating the G22B class. Most of the hoppers were removed from the cars in the G22 class beginning in the late 20s and continuing forward. Cars with drop ends had them replaced with tight plate steel ends, with three stiffening ribs applied. For more info on this large and complex group of cars, I highly recommend Pennsylvania Railroad Gondolas by Al Buchan and Elden Gatwood, which contains a trove of information and photos about the massive Pennsy gondola fleet

I will have a follow-on post in a couple days about modeling these important cars in HO scale (there are a lot of options!)