Thursday, June 9, 2011

Tank car modeling

Back in December 2010, I summarized the tank car projects I was finishing to take to the January 2011 Cocoa Beach meeting, called “Prototype Rails” (you can view it at: In that post, I just summarized the approach I was taking to the different tank cars.
     After that early January meeting had ended, I posted photos of the two cars involved in the “tank swap,” based on an Intermountain 8000-gallon tank car kit and an Athearn “chemical” tank car kit. These were shown at: As I said at the time, it was my plan to write up this tank swap between the two kits for magazine publication. I did so, and it’s now been published. It is included in the July 2011 issue of Railroad Model Craftsman.
     I wanted to post this because I have had a couple of off-blog emails asking for more details on the cars shown in that post from January. In deference to RMC, I told those folks to wait for the article to come out. I hope the article is clear enough about what I did, and would enable anyone else to duplicate the work, or better yet, get ideas from it which could lead in some other direction.
     I make that last point because my model of the Warren insulated car was inspired by an article by Mark Feddersen, even though I did several things a little differently than Mark did. (His article has the following citation: Mark Feddersen, “ICC-104 Insulated Tank Car,” Mainline Modeler, October 1985, pp. 63-69.) Here’s a repeat of my photo of that car (duplicating what I showed previously as well as what is in the magazine version).

Modeling details and specifics on the car configuration are, as I said, in the RMC article. More later.
Tony Thompson


  1. Tony,
    Detail Associates makes a tank car dome for Athearn tank cars ( FC-6219). I don't know much about it but for $3.50, it seems to me that it beats cannibalizing another car. Your thoughts?

    George Corral

  2. George, I have a couple of these DA parts. They are a cylinder longer than would be needed, with the idea being that you somehow create a hole in the tank shell of EXACTLY the same diameter as this dome cylinder, so the DA part is a slip fit, then adjust the height to suit your preference. I've done this ONCE and it's fairly fussy to get right. I will not do that much work again.

    You could, of course, cut the top off the DA part, analogous to what I've done with Athearn domes, and then just file the lower dome flat on top and glue the two together. But look at the cost. You can often buy assembled Athearn tank cars at "antique" stores or swap meets for a buck or two (maybe with trashed handrails or running boards), but the domes are nearly always fine. And you get three of them on a triple-dome car. Even if it cost $9, you're ahead of the three DA parts (and I'm omitting sales tax for those who live in sales-tax states), and my judgement is that you would have less work to do.

    And don't forget that you can still buy an Athearn triple-dome tank body through your hobby shop or directly from Athearn, part 14990, for $4.98. Still three dome tops for less than three DA parts.

    Another approach, which I've used, is to cannibalize only the two outer dome tops on a triple-dome model, and in fact use one of them on the center dome. Then where the holes are from removing the outer domes, just put a styrene overlay of say 0.005 inches to make circumferential tank sheets and add Archer rivets. Maybe I should do a post to show this method. It works pretty well, and it's useful--I doubt there is going to be a 12,500-gallon tank model made commercially with circumferential sheets anytime soon. This process then only yields one net dome top to fix a single-dome car, but you get a second single-dome model out of it, and with an interesting variation in tank sheets.
    Tony Thompson

  3. I decided to go ahead and post my method of using the post-harvest bodies of former triple-dome tank cars. See the post entitled "Modeling SP tank cars-3: tank sheets" if interested.
    Tony Thompson