Thursday, April 5, 2012

Improving kit accuracy

In my post on upgrading an SP box car model from Red Caboose (see: ), I alluded to use of prototype photos to determine correct details for the car. I have had a couple of e-mails about this topic, asking about further projects, so this post addresses a couple of recent kits I’ve assembled and applied correct (or better) details.
     One is a Gulf, Mobile & Ohio box car, from a Red Caboose kit. I should mention that this prototype has a long history with me; one of the very first freight cars I built as a teenager was a GM&O box car, using a set of Red Ball paper sides and a scratchbuilt wood body. That model is long gone, but I wanted to include a box car from this road in my fleet.
     The Red Caboose kit is numbered 8808. As it happens, this is no accident but reflects a Wilbur Whittaker photo of this exact car, which I include below. The photo was taken in 1947.

The photo helpfully does show that these cars had Youngstown corrugated doors, which is one of the choices one has to make in the RC kit.
     I communicated with Ed Hawkins, who has access to a certain number of AC&F builder photos and records, to ask about the handbrakes. He was able to find this image of the car end, clearly showing an Equipco brake wheel (detail of AC&F photo, Hawkins-Wider-Long collection). The entire car series, GM&O 8000–8999, was equipped the same way, and, as seen here, had black ends and roofs.

The trucks have been whitewashed for this builder photo.
     As I did on the SP car, I used the outstanding Equipco brake wheel from Kadee to replace the kit brake wheel. When it was all done and weathered, here’s what it looked like:

     Another car I’ve recently worked on is an Erie box car, from the group which had Viking roofs, number series 78500–78999 (Des Plaines Hobbies offered a kit for this car, with a new roof added to a Red Caboose kit). Here again, a builder view (below) shows that the cars had Youngstown corrugated doors. When built, the cars had unpainted galvanized roofs, but repaints in subsequent years painted the roofs black, matching the black ends. The Des Plaines kit does reproduce a later paint scheme, with the large Erie diamond emblem, so it should have and does have a black roof. The cars also had Ajax hand brakes (which are in the kit), National B-1 trucks (I used a pair from Proto2000), and rectangular-grid steel running boards.
     Here is a builder photo, showing the doors, hand brake, and trucks clearly (AC&F photo, Hawkins-Wider-Long collection), though this is the original paint scheme with the small diamond. Info on the cars was helpfully supplied by Richard Hendrickson.

I have modeled the car to follow the information from the photo. Running board is an etched metal part from Overland. The completed car is shown here being unloaded at the winery in Ballard.

     Some readers may be thinking, “Swell, but what would I do in the absence of good prototype photos like these?” There are resources in lots of places, probably most conveniently on line, which can help. Among these are the Ed Hawkins lists from the Railmodel Journal issues of the 1990s (now available  from “Trainlife” on the web, at: ). There are also large tabular collections of car data at the Steam Era Freight Car site (see: ).
     I have shown these two cars just to illustrate the need to determine correct details, not because of any great intrinsic importance of the particular models, and both happened to cross my workbench recently.
Tony Thompson

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