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Thursday, January 14, 2021

Modeling a Celanese tank car, Part 2

In Part 1, I showed prototype photos of tank cars operated by the Celanese Corporation. One intriguing feature is that although most of them were painted a medium green color, color photos of these cars show a range in tone from pea-soup green to almost lime green. Many had paint bands around the tank at the dome, in various colors, but some did not. To view that post, use this link: . 

The previous post did show several prototype Celanese cars, but only supplied a sampling of the wide range of appearances of these cars. Here is an additional example, from the Richard Hendrickson collection of tank car photos (now at CSRM). It is GATX 77414, a 10,181-gallon insulated car, as we know from the Tank Car Capacities Tariff , and the ORER (Official Railway Equipment Register) supplies the AAR car type, TLI, meaning a lined and insulated tank car, not a high-pressure car. 

In the previous post, at the link shown in the top paragraph of the present post, an overhead color view shows GATX 77460 (as well as I can make out the car number), and it too is the same sort of car, a nominally 10,000-gallon size and a TLI type. 

I decided to start with the prepainted model shown below. The green is a little odd, but hardly any prototype Celanese tank cars in photos look the same as any other Celanese car, so I will live with this. It does have the Celanese name in script at the left, and the word “chemicals” in sans-serif letters at the right. This looks like a good starting point, so my plan is to save the lettering.

Comparing the two photos above, the Athearn tank is clearly longer, and indeed, being more than 11,000 gallons in capacity (as we know from its dimensions), that’s no surprise. These tanks can be shortened, though the process is neither quick nor really easy (you can see my earlier post at: ), referring to my article in Railroad Model Craftsman, July 2011, pp. 65–71. And the idea for that project really goes back to Mark Fedderson’s fine article about something similar, in Mainline Modeler: “ICC-104 Insulated Tank Car,” October 1985, pp. 63–69.

But I didn’t intend my model to be a meticulous match to a prototype, but merely to represent a typical Celanese car. For that, I can use the stock car body. Accordingly, I began with the first task with an Athearn “chemical” car (as they call it; the term is meaningless), which is to remove the immense valve bonnet, too large even for S scale and misshapen for O scale, and to replace it. The Athearn platform is also removed and discarded.

If one is modeling an ICC Type 105A pressure car, then of course replacing the Athearn valve bonnet should be done with a scale-size bonnet.  But if that’s not the case, if one is modeling an insulated Type 104 or 103, as I am doing with the present model, the appropriate replacement is instead a conventional expansion dome. You can see what I mean in the photo at the top of the present post.

I began by disassembling the model shown in the photo above. Then the Athearn bonnet was sawed off and the area filed flat, as were the “ribs” Athearn molds onto the top of the tank to align the platform. Then the model is ready for a dome to be added, as I have shown in earlier posts (for example, summarized here: ). The model at this point is shown below.

Next comes adding an expansion dome. In previous projects like this, I have used the excellent Tichy dome, but decided here to use an ancient molding from Detail Associates of a complete dome. Its disadvantage is that it has a flat bottom, which doesn’t exactly sit down onto the curved tank top. I had to carve and file a lowered area on the tank to accommodate it, then use modeling putty to fill gaps. This isn’t elegant, but will be covered by the dome platform. 

For this kind of job, I really prefer the Tamiya “Basic Type” gray modeling putty. For years, I relied on Squadron Green, a good product, but Tamiya putty is smoother to apply, has less shrinkage, and once fully set, is relatively hard and can be filed and sanded. Simply a better product. For this model, I knew there would be a gap under the dome sides, and also had to fill the two dimples on the top of the tank (you can see them at the center of the former ribs across the tank top in the photo above).

I applied the Tamiya putty to fill most of the desired areas, but knowing that there would be some shrinkage, did not really try to accomplish final contours in the first application. After allowing several hours for the first application to fully set, I cleaned up around the areas where putty was present, and made a second application. The model then looked as you see below.

It is still not quite in final contour, but it is close at this point, and likely will just need a light additional coat of the modeling putty in a few spots.

At this point, I need to turn to the dome platform. Nearly all the Celanese insulated cars of which I have seen photos had these platforms, and I want to add one here. I will take up that part of the project in a future post.

Tony Thompson


  1. Is it impractical for some reason to sand the bottom of the DA dome to the curved contour of the tank body?

  2. YES!! Unlike the Tichy dome, which is hollow, the DA dome is solid and rather hard. I did start sanding and filing, did not make much of a dent, so went another way. Believe me, if I could reasonably have filed it to fit the tank, I would have.
    Tony Thompson

  3. Just purchased a MicroTrains N scale Celanese tank car -- typical (!?) off-green color. Having worked for Celanese for 25 years, I was as much interested in the name as the color. However, with your "encouragement", I did a Google Map search of the Bishop, TX plant. Hard to get a close enough view to see details of the tank cars within the plant, but you can guess at some of them being "off" green! You can also imagine some turquois blue here and there. Better yet, check out and other Celanese tank cars on that site. Most may not be your "era", but it's obvious that a number of different shades of blue, green, white/cream, etc., have been used!