Wednesday, January 2, 2013

Small modeling project: another SP box car

I recently built up an SP box car from a kit, and it was mentioned in my column in the Southern Pacific Historical & Technical Society magazine Trainline, so some readers of this blog may have seen it. Others may not have seen it. But even for those who did, I will give more details here.
     This is an IMWX box car kit, a custom decorated car for the La Mesa Model Railroad Club (whose fabulous Tehachapi layout in San Diego Model Railroad Museum was described in overview fashion in two earlier posts last fall, around the end of November—they are available at these links: first, ; and second, a follow-up or continuation post at: ). This kit was produced some years ago, and unless the club still has a few stashed away in their storage facility, would have to be acquired on eBay or a comparable source. The real point of this post is to show what can be done with a kit like this, and how you find out what to do.
     The kit car is correctly numbered and lettered as a Class B-50-20 car, built in 1940–1941 as part of 1500 cars numbered 83240–84739. The model has a spelled-out road name, indicating a post-1946 repaint. These facts, and details of the various specialties such as hand brakes and running boards, are all available in Volume 4 on box cars, of the series Southern Pacific Freight Cars (by Anthony W. Thompson, Signature Press, 2008), Chapter 11 on pre-war all-steel box cars.
     About a year ago, I described work on another IMWX car from the La Mesa custom run, SP 83546. It was described in a previous post, at: . That car had a Superior door (the La Mesa special run included both Superior and Youngstown doors) and some other detail differences, and was only photographed prior to weathering. I thought it might be interesting to add this second car description along with weathering, but I will not repeat the additional technique pointers in the previous post. The prior post also contains prototype photos.
     The model was decorated with a black “return to” stencil alongside the door, reading “when empty return to SP agent Bakersfield Calif,”a quite relevant stencil on the La Mesa Club layout, which features a very large Bakersfield yard. I have been told by former employees that these kinds of stencils were obeyed “when convenient,” so they were far from mandatory, but do add a nice detail to a freight car.
     The entire class of prototype B-50-20 cars received Equipco hand brakes and Apex steel grid running boards, neither of which was supplied with this kit. Kadee makes an extremely nice Equipco brake wheel, part 2041, and I used an old Overland etched-metal representation of a steel grid running board, their part 2156. I simply substituted both for the kit parts. The rest of the kit was assembled per instructions. The kit’s AAR trucks with spring planks are a reasonable stand-in for the correct pre-war Barber trucks.
     Once the modelbuilding work was done, I painted the stainless running board part with Floquil Boxcar Red, which was a pretty good match to the car color. After an overspray of Dullcote to make the car finish matte and thus suitable for my water-based weathering process, I used acrylic washes to weather the car. (My method is briefly summarized in the clinic handout by Richard Hendrickson and me, available on Google Drive via this link: .) The weathering is moderate on account of the post-1946 paint job.
     Once the weathering was complete, I painted patches of fresh paint with Boxcar Red on which to apply the reweigh and repack data. Since I model 1953, all my reweigh dates must fall within 1949–1953 (the 48-month permitted interval in weigh dates). I like to use the Sunshine Models decal sets for these data, such as the “Western Reweigh and Repacking Data” set, which includes SP.
     At this point, I added a few chalk marks with a sharp artist’s pencil in white (I have found the Prismacolor brand gives the best results). I also added a small square of paper to represent a route card on the route card board. (I’ve discussed the meaning and use of these details previously, in the post at: .) A final Dullcote spray protected these final additions and the weathering, and ensured that the reweigh, etc. decal areas were flat.
     Here is a perspective view of the completed car.

     As I stated at the outset, this post presents only an example of correcting details of a commercial kit, to match more closely a particular prototype. It’s an approach I take as often as I can.
Tony Thompson


  1. Thanks, Arved. As I continue to upgrade my freight car fleet by substituting newer and more accurate cars for older ones (often stand-ins), I hope to produce more cars like this one.
    Tony Thompson

  2. I know we've discussed this car before (in your earlier blog post), specifically the use of a Red Caboose RC-8002 undec kit instead of the discontinued IMWX car. Insert big sigh. Now Red Caboose is under the Intermountain brand, and since Intermountain has it's own 1937 AAR box car, it seems Red Caboose is withering. They show "limited stock" on their (Red Caboose) web site, but they've eliminated web based ordering.

    So, how does the Intermountain #40799 undecorated 1937 AAR Box Car sound to you? From discussions on the Steam Era Freight Car List, Jerry Glow mentions (message 92433) that it has W corner posts, and it has the 5/4 Dreadnaught ends.

    I think our choices for a 1937 AAR box car are now between this Intermountain car, and the Atlas Trainman 1937 AAR box car. The Trainman model is also available as an undec kit, and for less than $10, I think I'm going to spring for it just for educational purposes.

  3. I don't have one of the IM undecorated 1937 box cars, so can't say for sure, but if it has the W-corner-post ends and the 4/5 (notation meaning "4 over 5," which is the vertical arrangement), then it should work fine for the SP's B-50-20, -21 and -23 classes. Of course one needs to apply correct brake wheels, running boards and trucks (and in some cases doors), but those are fairly easy fixes. Whether the Trainman will do as well for what you want, I don't know. Let me know what you decide.
    Tony Thompson