Saturday, August 16, 2014

Modeling SP head-end cars — Part 7B, postal storage

In my first post about building a postal storage car for my Southern Pacific 1953-era “Coast Mail,” I showed the kitbash from an Athearn RPO (at: ). In the present post, I complete the car, which I decided to number SP 4263. For model comparison, I should mention that there is a prototype photo of 4263 in that first post.
     My first step was to mask the car body (which was in gray primer)  and paint the roof. I like the Tamiya “Gunship Grey” color, their number TS-48, for roofs which were originally black but have weathered to a dark gray. In the post-World War II period, SP did wash lightweight passenger cars regularly, and some heavyweight cars, but roofs were not washed. This means that almost any passenger roof can be modeled with some weathering, even if sides are left clean and unweathered. Very utilitarian cars like this postal storage car were probably washed rarely if at all, so I will weather the entire car.

The shot above shows the roof, as painted. Next comes the body color.
     But first, I will address the underframe challenge. The car is considerably shorter than in its original Athearn form, and the six-wheel trucks have a long wheelbase. To keep these at the distance from the car ends that they originally had, permitting trucks to swing freely, a couple of pieces need to be cut out of the kit underframe. Shown below is my cut-up underbody. I kept the two end pieces (which mount the trucks) and the center piece, which includes the representation of a battery box (which will no longer be in the right place), and discarded both intermediate pieces. The B end is toward the right.

I won’t give dimensions, because exactly how you do this will depend on exactly how you proportioned your car body. But note that both my cuts at the right, and the outer one on the left, are alongside one of the transverse “cross members” of the Athearn underbody (you can click on the image to enlarge it), and the fourth cut is at the edge of the large battery box. At this point, I cut off the battery box cover from each side of the body, and glued the covers onto the underbody where it is molded to accept them.
     I reassembled the underbody parts by gluing the butt joints with Plastruct Plastic Weld, then reinforcing the floor by gluing the Athearn weight, cut down in length, to the left and center pieces in the photo above. I used canopy glue, which is excellent for metal to plastic bonding. From beneath, the assembled underbody looks like this, with the B end at the right, as in the photo above. Note battery box covers are relocated.

     One more addition. In the prototype photo of SP 4263 in my Part 7A (link at the top of this post), you can see that there is a small underframe tank to the right of the battery box. I added these to each side, using 1/8-inch styrene tube with ends closed.
     Having painted the roof, as shown in the uppermost photo in this post, I waited for that paint to be thoroughly dry, then masked the roof and airbrushed the Dark Olive Green or DOG, using the No. 135 color from Tru-Color Paint. Since this paint dries with a nice gloss, perfect for decaling, I applied decals directly to it. I used the excellent Thin Film set of SP heavyweight passenger lettering (Dulux Gold), their set no. HO-160-SP. Once that was done, and an overspray of Dullcote protected the decals, I weathered the car with acrylic washes. For a summary of this method, there is a joint clinic handout by Richard Hendrickson and myself, which is available at this link: .
     Here is a view of the completed car. Those are the Athearn kit trucks.

     It was an interesting challenge to devise this kitbash and carry out the various cutting and fitting tasks, and the result is a car that will certainly be an addition to my model version of SP’s Coast Mail. Now it’s true, as I mentioned in my first post about this car, it is not an exact copy of SP 4263 for several reasons, not least in that I proportioned the car body too short. But it will serve the purpose of standing in for a mail storage car.
Tony Thompson

1 comment:

  1. Outstanding effort! I like what you are doing and will take some of your techniques to heart in my modeling efforts. Thanks for doing the hard work. John