Monday, September 28, 2015

Another signature car, Part 2

Recently I posted a description of my choice of a Pennsylvania Class G22 gondola for an additional “signature” freight car from the Pennsy fleet (it’s at: ). As I mentioned in that post, the car should have 70-ton Crown trucks, and I used the Bowser version, their part number 74091. I also mentioned that the kit (Westerfield no. 1201), as built, is rather light, and that weight needs to be added if the car is to be run empty. Here is a view of the underside of the assembled model. The brake system is a divided K or KD arrangement.

     My plan was to fill a lot of the spaces between ribs on the underbody with small squares of lead sheet. A few years ago, Richard Hendrickson and I each bought a sheet of lead from Small Parts Inc., their part no. SPB-062-B, which is a 6 x 12-inch sheet, 0.062 inches thick. (I also have a sheet of roofer’s lead, but it is thinner, so not as convenient for this application.) The material is quite soft and easily bent or straightened, and easily cut with side cutters. I simply started cutting rough rectangles of the size of the spaces between the ribs on the G22 model, as you see in this photo. (You can click on the photo to enlarge it if you wish.) As will be obvious in a moment, exact size and shape were not goals in cutting these.

If you're interested in this material, you can visit .
     With all the non-brake-gear slots filled, it looked like the photo below, and weighed 2.7 ounces. That means I have added well over 2 ounces to the car. This is still light by NMRA standards, but in my experience will be all right at this weight. I rarely weight my cars to the full NMRA value; for example, a 40-foot car should weigh 4 ounces according to the NMRA, but I usually am nearer to 3 ounces on such a car. As many others have noted, consistent weight is more important than any particular amount of standard weight. I have discussed this point myself in prior posts (such as this one: ).

The weights (you can see I did not particularly try to cut exact sizes and shapes) were cemented in place with canopy glue, and will all be painted flat black before the car goes into service, though the height of each lead piece is less than the depth of the side sill, so that from a level side view, they are all invisible.
     A word about the lead material. You can find some hysterical commentary on the Internet about lead, but in fact, it is not a dangerous material at all, if handled with recognition of what danger it does pose. You don’t want to ingest lead oxide, which is what is on the surface of the lead sheet, so keep your hands away from your mouth or any food or drink while working, and do wash your hands as soon as you're done working with the lead. And that’s it. No other problems to worry about.
     With the car sides weathered, and the reweigh and repack decals added, the car looked like this. The interior is not weathered yet, but that is a fairly straightforward process and doesn’t have to be part of this post.

     I’m happy to have this additional PRR freight car added to my fleet, as it is certainly among the many Pennsy cars which can qualify as a signature car.
Tony Thompson


  1. #7 or 8 lead birdshot is also fantastic for this purpose.

  2. Good point, though I have not used shot in this location under a car, just inside house cars. I would use canopy glue there too.
    Tony Thompson

  3. Is it possible to place a lead weight underneath (or in place of) the floor on a car like this one?

  4. On some gondolas, yes, but in this case, the riveted steel floor would be lost if you made a complete substitution. Trying to put the underframe on TOP of a weight (viewing it from below) would get bolsters and coupler pads out of line with the body. For my method, it only takes a couple of minutes to chop all the pieces I used, then dab canopy glue under them. Pretty easy.
    Tony Thompson