Friday, June 16, 2023

Small project: adding a Viking boxcar roof

Many modelers in HO scale are aware that Des Plaines Hobbies in the Chicago area, years ago, produced a very nice styrene Viking roof, made to fit into a Red Caboose 40-foot box car body. (By the way, these roofs appear to be in stock at the moment: .) I bought one on a visit to the store awhile back, intending (some day) to choose a railroad’s car to model that wouldn’t duplicate a Viking car I already had. And there the idea rested, for some time.

Now some readers may well be asking, what’s a Viking roof? It was a proprietary roof design of the late 1930s, one of numerous efforts to design a steel roof that resisted the natural bending and working of the car body in motion and remained water-tight. It had galvanized steel panels that ran all the way across the roof with no seam at the peak, and panels were tightly clamped at their seams (not riveted). Each panel had five stiffening ribs pressed into it. Here’s a photo of one (C&O Historical Society).

Last year, I happened onto a Red Caboose 1937 AAR box car kit for sale at a swap meet, and luckily that small, faraway bell tinkled — I remembered the Viking roof sitting at home — and I bought the kit. The kit overall is a simple build, so I won’t go into the steps where I just followed directions. But how would I letter it?

Looking at some research materials, I knew that the Erie had bought a bunch of 1937 cars with this roof, about 1700 of them, but I already had one on my roster. Likewise, C&O had 1000 of them, but again, I had one. And the C&NW owned almost 2000 of them, but doggone it, I had one of those too. But aha! I noticed in my list that the CMO had over 1200 of them! and I don’t roster a single CMO car! Off we go.

A majority of the stock of the Chicago, St. Paul, Minneapolis and Omaha Railway Company (nicknamed “The Omaha Road”), with reporting marks CMO, had been owned by the Chicago & North Western since 1882, obviously of long standing by the time I model, 1953, and was listed on the C&NW pages in the Official Railway Equipment Register (ORER) as part of the “Chicago and North Western System.” Naturally the CMO’s 5000 or so freight cars, a small fraction of the C&NW’s 44,000 cars, looked very much like C&NW cars except for reporting marks.

Below is a photo of one of these cars (courtesy Steve Hoxie, see comment below), from the series CMO 20400–21398 (500 cars, even numbers only), built by AC&F in October and November 1941. It has a panel-design door. Like all the Viking-roof cars built for CMO, it was modified from the original 1937 AAR design with greater inside height, 10 feet, 5 inches, and W-corner post ends. If you enlarge the image (just by clicking on it), you can see the edges of the Viking roof.

[Just a short comment on the photo. Judging by the background, this is almost certainly one of the many freight car photos taken by Paul Dunn at Zanesville, Ohio, circa 1957. Unfortunately, a couple of photo sellers have made copies of Paul’s images and then sold them with no photographer credit. Steve Hoxie had no information about the photographer.]

I added weight inside the car body, using a pair of 5/8-inch steel nuts attached with canopy glue, as I normally do with cars like this. I then attached the perfect-fit Des Plaines Viking roof with styrene cement, and proceeded to attach most of the detail parts in the kit the same way. Below you see the kit at this point, with a coat of Tamiya “Red Brown” on the body but not on the detail parts. I did install a Plano etched brake step with canopy glue. This was a common replacement for wood brake steps.

The other exception was the running board. I chose to use the wood version in the kit, with which the car would have been built, and I attached it with canopy glue. I also installed Kadee #148 (whisker) couplers in Kadee boxes, and InterMountain wheelsets in the kit truck frames. With kit construction complete, I painted the whole model with Tamiya Fine Surface Primer (Red Oxide).

I inherited a couple of sets of CMO decals from Richard Hendrickson, which are unmarked as to maker. Richard owned a huge stash of Champ decals, but I don’t think these are Champ products, going by the typeface used. At any rate, they enabled me to letter the model. With lettering complete, including reweigh and repack stencils, the model looked like this (compare to prototype photo above):

Now came weathering. I wanted to do a coat of weathering that would darken the car, and I used my usual method based on acrylic tube paint washes (see the “Reference pages” linked at the top right corner of this post). Once that was completed, and a protective coat of flat finish in place, I added route cards and chalk marks.

This completes a simple project, to build a CMO box car with a Viking roof and panel door, starting with the Red Caboose kit. It’s going straight into service on my layout!

Tony Thompson

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