Tuesday, April 5, 2022

Adding a UP automobile car

 In the previous post, I described an update to my freight car fleet planning for automobile cars on my layout. As I mentioned in that post, this updates a descriptive analysis I posted back in 2011. In particular, I noted that my present car fleet lacks a 50-foot Union Pacific auto car. To read that post, see: https://modelingthesp.blogspot.com/2022/04/evaluating-car-fleet-part-2-automobile.html .

As it happens, I have a kit for such a car in my stash, a Proto2000 kit with end doors, modeling UP Class A-50-17. The class was built by UP at Omaha in 1941-42, and had end doors.  Other prototype specialties included W-corner-post Dreadnaught ends, Equipco hand brakes, and wood running boards. Clearly it was time to build this kit. 

(For UP prototype information like this, see Terry Metcalfe’s excellent book, Union Pacific Freight Cars, 1936–1951, Metcalfe Publications, Englewood, CO, 1989.) The dates in the book title refer to built dates.

Below is a photo which, though not a great image, is enough to illustrate the main feature of Class A-50-17. It’s taken from from the Protocraft Decals website ( https://www.protocraft.com/category.cfm?ItemID=10295&Categoryid=39 ). In particular, note the “tabbed” side sills. These 250 cars were numbered UP 161200–161449.

For many modelers, the first issue to be addressed with UP freight cars is lettering, and this is well covered in Terry’s book. Until 1936, UP cars had white Roman lettering, without slogans. In that year, they introduced the familiar slogans, “Road of the Streamliners,” and “Serves All the West,” slogans possibly initially in white, but very soon changed to yellow. In June 1939, the Roman lettering was replaced with sans-serif or “Gothic,” still white or yellow. That is the scheme you see in the photo above. In mid-1947, all lettering was changed to yellow.

The Proto2000 kit is in the 1939 paint scheme, correct for a 1941-built car, which means that I will weather it a fair amount for my 1953 modeling year. The car body, as it comes in the kit, happens to have straight side sills, but is cleverly designed with recessed areas on the inside of the body, indicating where to cut to remove material, if a tabbed sill is needed, as with this car (see prototype photo). I did this with a hobby knife to score the cuts, then small files to clean up.

Next, let me address an additional issue with this or any freight car kit. I mentioned above that the prototype cars had Equipco hand brakes. To my surprise, if not astonishment, the kit brake wheel is in fact a late 1930s model Equipco brake wheel. I show the kit part below, in the sprue.

How do I know what this brake wheel is? I consulted Patrick Wider’s superb article in Railway Prototype Cyclopedia (“Freight Car Hand Brakes – 1920s to 1950s”), in issue no. 10 (2004). In it, he showed the photo below, which I concede does not match the Proto2000 wheel exactly, but it’s certainly similar, and the kit part does have six spokes and six holes in the interior dish. (The photo is from Equipco, division of Union Asbestos & Rubber Co.)

Many transition-era modelers understandably think of nothing beyond Ajax brake wheels when building a model, and understandably so, as it was the most widely sold handbrake product in the immediate years after World War II. However, I show that wheel below (also from Wider’s article), just to illustrate that the two prototypes are considerably different. Note also that the gearboxes of the two makes (behind the wheels) are different in shape.

I will of course use the kit wheel on my model, with some pleasure in being able to use the correct part.

There are additional issues to be solved in this kit (beyond of course the mere following of kit directions), and I will come back to those in a future post.

Tony Thompson

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