Saturday, September 12, 2020

Restoring an old brass automobile car

Recently a friend came to me with a derelict brass model, saying something like, “What is this? Can I use it on a 1956 layout?” I recognized the model at once as a Pennsylvania Railroad round-roof box car with double doors (thus, in AAR parlance until the mid-1950s, an “automobile” car, regardless of whether it carried auto parts or automobiles).
     Being a 40-foot car with double doors and a flush roof, I guessed it was probably an X31c, and so stated. These cars certainly were still around in 1956, though no longer in huge numbers. Later research confirmed that the car’s “flush roof,” i.e. roof curve blending smoothly with the side contour, does indeed make this a Pennsy X31c.
     “Well,” he said, “I don't have the original box or even the trucks.” I replied that I could supply trucks, and would be willing to clean up, repair, and paint the car for him. I guess this is my instinctive response to such challenges, since I recognize that I’m a sort of a “freight car guy” (see my earlier post on this subject: ).
     The car body was pretty tarnished, so my first step was to haul out my wife’s copper and brass polish and clean up the surface. Most of the tarnish came off easily, leaving the car body like this.

The floor/underframe part is a removable piece on this model. A “builder plate” underneath showed the model was built by KMT in Japan for Nickel Plate Products. Since the doors operate, the floor inside is visible with them open, so I could see I would need to paint the floor and the insides of doors.

I now wanted to prime the car. I used Tamiya “Fine Surface Primer”and applied only a light coat. I used a small piece of tape to keep the doors closed, applied inside at the top of the door pair, and primed most of the interior walls and doors also.

I followed the external primer that you see above with a coat of medium gray inside the car, so that with open doors that would be the interior color.
     Next came applying exterior car color. Though I am well aware of the orangish boxcar red used by PRR prior to World War II, the color became much more of a conventional boxcar color by the 1950s. In any case, I plan to weather the car substantially, so exact color not essential for this project. I was doing some other painting with old Floquil “D&H Caboose Red,” so used that. It is a richer, more chestnut-toned boxcar red. The painted body looked like this:

     This left only the floor/underframe part to be dealt with. This part only includes the floor from bolster to bolster. I painted the underside of it dark gray, and the upper side medium brown, so that with doors open it would look like wood flooring. Here is its appearance, mounted on Interim Truck Support Blocks.

     With these steps completed, it was time to add trucks and couplers, and begin lettering. But I will postpone those descriptions to a future post.
Tony Thompson

No comments:

Post a Comment