Friday, June 23, 2017

Small project: upgrading running boards

Years ago, when the first etched-metal running boards became available in HO scale, I thought they looked quite nice, far better than the usual model boards of that day, which were typically plastic around 2 scale feet thick and with utterly minimal indentations to look like a metal grid. I wanted to try an etched metal version on a freight car in my fleet, and when I did so, I was happy with the result. I immediately planned to continue replacing one or two more at a time, as modeling priorities and budget would permit, and gradually upgrade the whole fleet.
     But that first car ruined the plan. It looked so good, and made the clunky plastic versions look so bad, that I simply had to buckle down and replace all the terrible old running boards. I did just that, and have kept to that standard ever since. (I said more about my freight car standards in an article for Model Railroad Hobbyist in the issue for February 2017; you can read online, or download, any issue of MRH at any time, for free, at their website, .) But that isn’t the end of the topic. This post is about a related problem I have with some of my freight cars, namely some SP box cars, and also about a different solution than what I’ve done in the past.
     First, the background of the problem. When SP first began to purchase the new 1937 AAR standard 40-foot box cars, they were built with wood running boards. This was classes B-50-18 and -19, built in 1936 and 1937. But when they resumed purchases of cars like this in 1940, the car end design had been changed to a rounded-corner design ( or W-corner-post), and also, running boards were chosen to be steel grid, usually Apex. These were classes B-50-20, -21 and -23. All this history and much more is in Chapter 11 of my book on SP box cars, Volume 4 of the series Southern Pacific Freight Cars (Signature Press, Berkeley and Wilton, 2006, revised edition 2014).
     The problem comes in the various SP models that have been produced, with car numbers lying in the W-corner-post car group, but with wood running boards represented. I have a couple of such cars, from Red Caboose or Innovative Model Works, and would like to upgrade them. Etched metal is of course an option, but Kadee now sells their superb plastic version of a steel running board, and I wanted to give this running board a try. That’s the “different solution” I mentioned. Here are two available colors.

As you see, the “red oxide,” Part 2000, and the “boxcar red,” Part 2001, come two to a tube and it turns out they are easy to fit to a car roof.You can learn more at their website, , and can purchase parts on-line if you don’t have a local hobby shop.
     Shown below is an as-built model of a T&NO car with a number falling into Class B-50-21, which I know from my book chapter to have had an Apex running board, which is what the Kadee board represents. My first step, then, was to remove the kit’s wooden running board.

I easily removed the kit board by slipping a razor blade underneath it to cut the plugs inserted into the roof. Here is the car roof after this removal. You can see the stubs of the roof plugs.

The Kadee “boxcar red” color was closest to my model, so I applied one of those. The new running board was attached with canopy glue.
     Of course the rest of the model is already weathered, so after removal of the old running board, the new one has to be given some weathering to match. I simply sprayed the new walk with Tamiya Clear Flat (which I really like, it is truly flat). to provide a working surface for my usual acrylic-wash methods (for more on that, see the reference pages at the upper right of this page). Here is the new roof appearance, before weathering.

The color of the new running board is in fact quite a good match to the original color of this model, as I was able to determine with the underbody paint on the car (this particular model had not had any weathering done on the underbody).
     This running board replacement was quick and easy, and I am happy with the Kadee running board on the car. It’s true that it has much heavier grid parts than the prototype, more so than the etched metal running boards, but it is fairly thin vertically, and you can see through it, as you should, so I feel it is acceptable, and it is very simple to apply. I am sure I will do more of these replacements.
Tony Thompson

1 comment:

  1. The Kadee running boards are great. Ive been upgrading IM and other cars with them recently and they make a big difference in the look!