Wednesday, September 27, 2023

Modeling SP passenger cars, Part 17

In the present post I continue progress on the two Lark sleeping cars I’ve been working on, described in four previous posts. (The immediate prior one is here: .) At this point, the cars had been given their two-tone gray paint scheme, though without the needed separation stripes, and still needed to be lettered. The background on lettering and numbering for these car is presented in the post just cited.

The stripes above and below the window band on these cars were 2 inches wide after the black edging was discontinued, and the color was the Southern Pacific “Lettering Gray,” a light gray. I have tried applying striping like this using decal stripes, and found it quite a wrestle to get them straight and in position. The alternative is to mask and spray. I found this easier than it sounds; one can pull the tape straight with a little tension, and either measure or eyeball the stripe width.

I used to prefer drafting tape for this kind of masking, because it doesn’t have too strong an adhesive, but the Tamiya masking tape works every bit as well or better, and is easy to apply. That a good result can be achieved this way is, I hope, shown by the photo below, of an AHM 10 roomette-6 double bedroom, or 10-6, car. These aren’t perfect — but they are straight. 

In the photo above, you can see that there are no stabilizer bars added yet, alongside the diaphragms (for background on these bars, see this post: ). I use a length of brass wire, 0.028-inch or 0.035-inch size, to represent these. Here is the car shown above, with the bars added. It’s a full-width diaphragm.

I might also note that there are a variety of diaphragm face plates on SP cars like these. Many were delivered with the plain face plate you see above,  running to the top of the car body, as part of a full-width diaphragm. This is what is shown on the 10-6 car above. 

But in later years, when the full-width diaphragms were removed, in some cases a shorter face plate was either cut down from an original plate, such as the one shown above, or a new face plate of reduced height was a replacement. Here’s an illustration of that, also on a 10-6. The“rust” on the face plate was made with Pan Pastel “Red Iron Oxide” material.

For the present project, the 13 DB and 4-4-2 cars,  I began with the striping as my next step prior to lettering. Shown below is the bedroom side of the 13 DB car.

Of course, the emblems that Southern Pacific used on its various passenger trains are a topic of great interest and pleasure to SP fans, not least the distinctive Lark emblem. It was obviously derived from the first of these emblems, the familiar ball and wing of the Daylight emblem, but nicely has the ball in silver, suggesting the moon, for this overnight train.

Below is shown the emblem, with dimensions, taken directly from John Signor’s artwork in the fine reference book,  Southern Pacific Painting and Lettering Guide: Locomotives and Passenger Cars, 2nd edition, Jeff Cauthen and John Signor (SPH&TS, Upland, CA, 2019). You can click on the image to enlarge it if you wish.

My next challenge here is decals. Some decal makers are out of stock on decals for these cars. (Microscale catalogs a superb set, 87-761, with insignias for most of SP’s streamlined trains, including the Lark emblem shown above, but it’s been out of stock for some time.) Champ offered an excellent set back in the day (Champ decals, set PH-110, “Southern Pacific Lark Passenger Car”) with white lettering and very nice Lark emblems. Thin Film Decals has a superb set, HO 158, intended for Two-Tone Gray cars and having outlined silver lettering, but no Lark emblems. Luckily I found an old Champ set in my stash, and will proceed with lettering. More in a future post.

Tony Thompson

Monday, September 25, 2023

Route cards, Part 25: still more grading

In a series of posts, I have been writing about both route cards, cards that direct movement of freight cars, and grading cards, those that give results of an inspection of a car interior for loading. This one continues my topic of grading cards and systems. The previous post like this can be found here: . As before, all cards are from the collection of Michael Litant. 

For my first example, an interesting instance from the Great Northern in which specific commodities are called out for the inspector’s use. Notice that there is also a provision to identify an empty car or to reweigh it. The card, 4 inches square, is dated March 7, 1967 at Grand Forks, but lists no car.

A second example is a joint card from the C&O and B&O, colorful and attention getting. It’s 4 x 8 inches overall, but is intended to be folded with the relevant grade outermost (here, grade D), and when so folded is about 2.5 x 4 inches. In addition to the usual grades A through D, there is a grade K for either wash-out or clean-out needs, and a grade H to direct a car to its home shop for repairs. Unfortunately, no car is identified, nor a full date.

Third, I will show an interesting card, because vertical in format, from Norfolk & Western. It only allows for two grades, A and A-1. Date is October 16, 1966, and the car was NKP 18451, a 40-foot, 50-ton box car. Card size is 4 x 7.5 inches.

Fourth is a 4-inch square card from the Peoria & Pekin (Illinois) Joint Car Inspection Bureau, doubtless serving multiple railroads (at least including Rock Island, Burlington, TP&W, New York Central, M&StL, C&IM, C&NW, Pennsylvania, Illinois Central, GM&O, and of course the Peoria & Pekin Union). It is 4 inches square. One side shows grade A for high-quality cargoes including bulk starch, while the other side show other relatively high-grade commodities. No car or location is shown.

Fifth, an interesting though single-sided Union Pacific grading card, with considerable information printed on it, though no car is identified. The card shows the section for grain highlighted by crossing out the other commodities there. It is stamped for Council Bluffs, Iowa, and has hand-written on the back, “Cargill, So. Omaha,” presumably where the car was destined for loading. It is 5 x 7.25 inches in size.

For a sixth example, a Burlington card, 3.5 inches square, with the usual categories of grading by commodity, interestingly including the notation “O.K.” to indicate suitability. The car is shown as CB&Q 18207, a 40-foot steel box car, but no location.

Finally I will show is one of those interesting ones used in a switching district or terminal area, this one from Atlanta Joint Terminals. It’s 3.5 inches square, and being single-sided, can only identify “grade A” cars, and the car identified appears to be B&O 478159, a 50-foot steel box car with double doors.

All these cards differ from most of the ones shown earlier in this series of posts, and continue to demonstrate the wide variety in how individual railroads chose to categorize grading and its designation on empty cars. I think all of them are nice examples.

Tony Thompson

Friday, September 22, 2023

Re-purposing an MTH reefer

As most readers likely know, “MTH” are the initials of Mike’s Train House, full name MTH Electric Trains, founded by Mike Wolf. Just as background: I greatly admired Mr. Wolf’s guts when he took on the mighty Union Pacific and its misguided effort to charge model manufacturers use fees for the names of all its predecessor railroads, went to court, and won (2006). But the many legal entanglements and business practice controversies surrounding MTH were a different matter, and I’ve avoided purchasing MTH products. (For background, you may consult Wikipedia: https://en.wikipedia.or/wiki/MTH_Electric_Trains ). 

Today, Scale Trains has acquired all the HO and S scale tooling formerly used by MTH. For HO scale at least, a model originally made by MTH now has that designation only historically. Why might I be interested?

A few years ago, as was widely recognized at the time, MTH produced an HO scale ice refrigerator car model, that they called a “steel” car. Why that term was used is quite unclear, because the model is obviously not a steel-sided car at all, but a rather accurate representation of one of Pacific Fruit Express’s plywood-side rebuilt cars, from Class R-40-24. 

[This interesting PFE class happened to be the concluding class of PFE rebuilds of older cars, largely because essentially all the older cars had been used up. The plywood-side experiment, initially successful, began to fail in a few years, and tongue-and-groove siding, not fresh plywood, was used for replacement. For much more on these cars, see Chapter 7 in the PFE book: Pacific Fruit Express, 2nd edition, Signature Press, 2000.]

These models are readily available on-line these days for prices around $10, well below their new price. (For the current model version from Scale Trains, you can visit their site: .) I decided to buy one on-line and see about upgrading to a model of PFE Class R-40-24. Since I knew I would want to apply all new and correct PFE lettering anyway, the road name purchased wasn’t important.

The first step was to remove the MDT lettering and its 1964 reweigh date. My first try at removing the lettering worked nicely: puddle Walthers “Solvaset” over the lettering for five minutes, scrub each area with a Q-tip, repeat until lettering is gone. It didn’t take long, and the paint was unaffected. The two colors on the body, by the way, are quite decent versions of the PFE colors, so no repainting is needed.

Next I chose the PFE paint scheme I wanted to apply. The plywood sides began to be applied in 1947, and PFE liked to repaint wood-sided cars in four to eight years. So by the time I model, 1953, odds are not bad that a car like this would have been repainted. Those odds are increased by two factors: first, the original paint scheme at rebuilding, with full-color UP emblems, had been superseded by black-white ones, and PFE liked in those days to keep paint schemes current; and second, shops were very busy in the late 1940s and early 1950s, handling above-average numbers of cars.

For lettering this car, I could once again enjoy using one of the great decal sets in the hobby, Microscale 87-501, with the superb Dick Harley lettering features and details, beautifully arranged for the convenience of the modeler and extremely complete and accurate. What a pleasure to use!

To guide the lettering, photographs are always good, but in the case of PFE cars, we have a superb authority, the Southern Pacific Historical & Technical Society book,  Southern Pacific Freight Car Painting and Lettering Guide (Harley and Thompson, SPH&TS, Upland, California, 2016), which contains an extensive section, nearly half the book, about PFE, with Dick Harley’s excellent lettering research. I chose the 1951 scheme on page 145 as a likely repaint scheme for this car.

With lettering applied and a protective coat of flat finish, here is the right side of the car at this point. I have even included the reservoir stencil, taken from a Sunshine repacking decal.

Next I wanted to add light weathering, mostly on the roof, which got dirty sooner than the sides. The photo below illustrates that even light roof weathering, seemingly changing the appearance little, nevertheless does create a definite contrast to the original color. Compare the color here of roof and end.

And lastly, I weather sides and ends and, after a protective coat of flat finish, add a few chalk marks with a Prismacolor pencil, and route cards. This car is ready for service.

I always enjoy projects for PFE models, particularly when it includes working with the superb Microscale decal set 87-501, as this one did. Operators on my layout will be seeing this car around the packing houses soon!

Tony Thompson

Tuesday, September 19, 2023

A Santa Rosalia fishing boat, Part 2

In the previous post on this topic, I showed some of the prototype photos and information I had found about California coastal fishing boats as well as the fishery itself in the area of the California coast that I’m modeling, and the beginning of the assembly of a Frenchman River Models fishing boat (you can read that post at: ). To see some background about the locale of my layout, you may consult a post on that subject from a number of years ago (see it at: ).

In the previous post about my fishing boat model, the basic boat was almost ready for painting. I added a few more details which ought to be the same color as the hull of the model, and spray-painted the assembly white. This will permit a lot of weathering to make the boat look well used, while preserving a very common color for boats of this kind. Here it is at this stage.  

The next assembly step was to install the mast. This was an area of concern to me in building the model, in the way the boom that attaches to the mast. I’m not an experienced ship modeler, but to me this attachment seemed to rely on a fairly small glued area. To counter any fragility there, I drilled through the mast and boom end so I could insert a brass wire of 0.028-inch diameter, which should considerably strengthen this joint. That said, I was impressed with the excellent way in which the mast inserts into the hull, very securely attached with CA.

Note that the anchor winch on the foredeck and the mast winch at the base of the mast have been set in place also, though not permanently installed. 

At this point, detailing begins to be added to the hull, so a decision needs to be made about trim colors. The Frenchman River kit illustrations show model boats with a trim color in addition to a basic gray or white body color, and most prototype California fishing boats show the same. I decided to use a medium gray, which could readily be brush painted, namely Tamiya  “Imperial Japanese Navy Gray (Kure Arsenal)”, no. XF-75, for trim.  

I began with the wheelhouse part (not yet attached to the hull), just to see how it looked. The result is below. I felt that this was about the right amount of trim color, and also felt that gray was a good background sort of color. Note that I have also started to dirty up the white color, to some extent. This will need to go further in the completed boat.

Next came the hull. Here I relied on the common appearance of boats like this, with essentially a single stripe along the hull sides. I simply masked either side of the chosen area and sprayed, using the same gray color. The result was what I had been aiming at, and the assembly now looked like this.

I haven’t decided how much rigging I want to do, for the boom and its winch. My present intent is to  minimize rigging, since the boat will be depicted moored at the dock in Santa Rosalia harbor. More on detailing in a future post.

Tony Thompson

Saturday, September 16, 2023

Route cards, Part 24: examples of route cards

 In my recent posts that are part of a series about route cards, I have been including grading cards also, as Michael Litant’s collection includes both (both can be found on route card boards and on placard boards). To see any of those previous posts, the easiest way is to use “Route cards” as the search term in the search box at right. In the present post, I continue with route cards only. 

My first example is from the Akron, Canton & Youngstown. It identifies the car as SSW 46322, a 40-foot double-door automobile car, as apparently containing plywood, and is destined to Erie, PA. The card is 4 inches square.

A second one is a card identifying a car as either just cleaned, or needing to be cleaned, at Sanford, Florida. The card isn’t identified as to issuer, and though it may be an Atlantic Coast Line card, it could also be a Fruit Growers card for servicing refrigerator cars. The card is 3 x 7.5 inches, it’s dated May 13, 1967, and the car is FGEX 38970, a 40-foot ice refrigerator car.

Third, an interesting card is this Santa Fe example, labeled as a Switch Order Card, something I haven’t seen so identified before, though many route cards are exactly that. The car is ATSF 151490 , a 50-foot single-sheathed, single-door box car (abbreviated “AT” as was common on the Santa Fe), carried sugar, and it is stamped with what appears to be a destination — it looks like “933-R,” though I don’t know what that refers to. The card is 4 inches square.

I have shown some Burlington cards before. This one evidently is an urgent card, as I would interpret the word “TIME,” and it was made out at St. Joe (presumably Missouri) for RBBX 79106. That was a 50-foot insulated box car owned by Burlington Refrigerator Express. The card’s designation  may involve a switching group (“Group Number 115”) and is headed for a junction at Sioux City. It’s 3 x 4 inches.

This larger card (3.5 x 8.5 inches) would just barely fit on a route card board, and is a transfer slip for the Central of Georgia. The car was IC 118743, a 40-foot, 50-ton box car. Much of the writing is rather faded and hard to read, but it’s intriguing that it contains considerable waybill-like information about the destination and contents of the car.

Last, I will show a small Cotton Belt card, with the railroad emblem included. It’s 3.5 inches square, and isn’t filled out, except for the number 27107 at upper right, which could be a car number. It might be logical to assume that with no reporting mark listed, it was a Cotton Belt car, but as late as 1970, there was no such car number in Official Railway Equipment Register (ORER) listings for the Cotton Belt.

Like all the prior examples of prototype route cards, I find the variety of these to be interesting and instructive about the different ways individual railroads went about routing and directing car movements. I hope to include more route cards in a future post.

Tony Thompson

Wednesday, September 13, 2023

A detail you can add to the Rapido box cars

I’ve written several pieces about the recent Southern Pacific box cars from Rapido Trains in HO scale. And while pointing out a few relatively minor issues with the cars, I have praised them in several contexts. There ended up being a series of four such posts, the fourth of which contains links to the previous three (see that post at: ).

But what I wanted to keep separate while dealing with much of the entire run from Rapido is a single detail that was omitted from some of the cars, and it’s one I always make use of. It’s the route card board. Now let me hasten to observe that when the SP Class B-50-15 and -16 cars were built, they had wood sheathing, thus route cards could be tacked anywhere on sides or doors.

But in the mid-1930s, SP began to steel-sheath some of the cars, by simply welding steel sheet inside the superstructure framing, and adding steel-sheathed doors. That naturally raised the issue of route card boards, and of course the prompt result was that route card boards were added to the steel doors. Here’s a photo to show that (photo by Robert McFarland, from Arnold Menke’s collection, taken at Bayshore in 1940).

In the photo above, there is a route card on the door’s board, but it may be hard to see. Here’s a detail of the photo above. in order to show just the door. The board is located at the end of a reinforcement strap on the surface of the door, with the card very typically tacked at an angle. And an incidental observation, for those who think it isn’t visible on models, the chain slack on the K brake cylinder linkage beneath the car.

Rapido chose to put route card boards on none of these models. They did have to produce both a wood door and a steel door, so I’m not sure why it was omitted from the steel door, but it was.

Incidentally, neither the size nor the shape of this route card board look like the “recommended standard” 5.5 x 9-inch design that was introduced in 1937. But as late as 1952, this was still not mandatory, and many prototype photos in the intervening years show that plenty of railroads used their own design of route card board. For more on this history, see my earlier post: .

As is visible in the photos above, the SP board on these cars is a little more square than the recommended dimensions. Of course it is extremely easy to represent any size or shape of board with a small piece of styrene strip. That is what I chose to do with my Rapido box cars that had steel doors. I simply attached the strips with canopy glue, as you see below.

The new boards can then be painted and, if need be, weathered to match the rest of the car. That was my procedure, mixing paint to get close to the weathered color of cars that had already been weathered. Then I added the usual small rectangles of paper, white or a color. Here’s an example on an Overnight-assigned car from Class B-50-16:

Many modelers will overlook or not even notice the omission of the route card boards on these models of cars with steel doors, but since I put route cards on most of my freight cars, it did jump out to me as something I needed to remedy. As shown above, it’s a very easy fix.

Tony Thompson

Sunday, September 10, 2023

Small project: completing a layout structure

From time to time I like to mention modeling projects that, though quite small in scope, may be interesting to some readers for what is involved. This is another of them, this time on the layout.

I have had a packing house in my town of Ballard for some years, named Guadalupe Fruit. But I never got around to adding a roof or canopy above the door onto the loading platform. You can see that below. It just seemed to me that such protection would be wanted, both in summer sun and winter rain.

I had in mind a simple kind of canopy, and I had in the stash some very nice ribbed-seam roofing material (Builders In Scale, no. 501, looks like aluminum) which I could use for this. I chose an angle for the canopy roof to assume (by eyeball) and cut side pieces from 0.020-inch styrene sheet to shape. These were glued to the underside of the roofing material with canopy glue, with 1/8-inch square styrene blocks in the inside corners. I also added a front edge with scale 4 x 6-inch styrene strip, and a trim strip along the upper edge with scale 1 x 6-inch styrene.

[I will avoid any jokes about the fact that “canopy glue,” named for model aircraft canopies, is here being used to assemble a canopy over a building doorway. The names are the names. I hope there is no confusion.]

Although this kind of metal roofing is often galvanized and can be left unpainted, I decided it would likely have been painted the same color as the building. I used the original color of the building, Testor’s “Flat Aircraft Light Gray” (no. 1233). 

I decided that the canopy roof should show dirt and weather, so used Pan Pastel weathering materials, which is a quick and convenient process. I included a little rust staining. (For some reason, the weathering looks exaggerated in the photo below.)

With that done, it was easy to attach the new canopy to the building. Like nearly all the buildings on my layout, the structure for Guadalupe Fruit is not attached permanently, but is only set in place. So I could turn the building up on end and allow gravity to hold the canopy in position while the canopy glue was setting, as you see below, right on the layout.

Finally, of course, with the glue fully set, the building could be returned to its normal position on the layout, and the small project was complete. 

The need for some sort of canopy on this building has been a kind of low-level annoyance for me in the layout room for years. I finally got focused on actually scratching that itch.

Tony Thompson

Thursday, September 7, 2023

The new Tangent SP box cars: using undecs

A short while ago, I posted a review of the new Southern Pacific postwar 40-foot box cars produced by Tangent Scale Models, SP classes B-50-28 through B-50-33, except for the 50-foot cars of Class B-50-30. Several interesting combinations of car specialties (doors, running boards, hand brakes) are offered in ready-to-run form, fully lettered. (Here’s a link to my post: .) But there are also undecorated cars offered, one in each of the three door styles, but otherwise complete. I chose to buy two of them. 

One motivation for deciding to do some lettering of  my choice is an excellent set of decals for these cars, specially produced exactly for these car classes. They are produced by Daniel Kohlberg, whose line can be seen at: ; and Dan can be reached, if need be, via . This enables you to either add to the choices of road numbers for a particular class, or choose to letter for a class not offered by Tangent.

Here is one of the undecorated models, the Youngstown door version. It has an Apex running board and Miner brake gear. As such, it matches some of the SP Class B-50-29 and -31 cars. My plan was to choose combinations of door and running board that are suitable for particular classes, and replace brake gear if necessary.

The car has a fairly glossy finish, perfect for me to just go ahead and add the nice decals. And they really are nice, obviously laid out by a modeler who knows what’s involved in decal lettering placement. Essentially everything needed is correctly arranged.

For my first car, I chose the car number SP 103984, which is on the decal sheet. This matches with SP Class B-50-29, and as is readily discovered in my book about SP box cars, Volume 4 in the series, Southern Pacific Freight Cars (Signature Press, revised edition, 2014), specifically Table 12-3 on page 312, we know all the specialties. 

This car, SP 103984, was one of 500 cars assembled from commercial parts by the SP Equipment Company at Sacramento General Shops, had Ajax handbrakes, Apex steel running boards, ASF A-3 trucks, and Youngstown corrugated doors. The model matches, except for having a Miner brake wheel. I replaced it with one of the fine Kadee Ajax brake wheels. Here it is, lettered with the fine Kohlberg decals.

The second car reflects my desire to include one of the cars with a panel door. SP did build some cars in this 9500-car group with Superior panel doors, both 7-panel doors for Pacific Lines and 5-panel doors for T&NO. Tangent has modeled both of these panel doors. My choice, of course, was a 7-panel door to letter as a Pacific Lines car.

Here the choices were to do a different car class from the B-50-28 and -29 cars I already had, including a resin B-50-29 from Sunshine Models, or to make sure I had a different number series from what was already in my fleet. I chose the latter approach, and decided to letter one of the B-50-29 cars built by Pullman-Standard with a 105000-series number. 

Here’s the result. Note that I included the Pullman-Standard builder emblem, as this car was built there. The car also carries the wide-spaced car number applied by Pullman-Standard, not SP practice but not replaced until cars were repainted. The Kohlberg decals provide this. Lastly, I’ll mention the repacking stencil, taken from the Sunshine “Western Reweigh and Repack Data” decal sheet.

Next came weathering. Since these are cars that were built in the few years prior to my modeling year of 1953, I really only wanted a “haze” of dirt, and only added a few chalk marks (and dirtied up the rather red truck frames). Route cards, of course, would have been applied throughout the life of the car, so would certainly be present.

I am glad to have these fine Tangent models, reproducing the most recent boxcars on the SP at the time I model, and am delighted with the ease of lettering the Tangent undecorated cars with the decals from Dan Kohlberg. The cars are on the layout already.

Tony Thompson

Monday, September 4, 2023

Route cards, Part 23: varieties of grading cards

 In the present post, I return to the subject of small cards tacked or stapled to freight car notice boards, whether placard boards or route card boards, but in this case clearly intended to reflect a car’s interior inspection and grading. You can see my previous post about grading cards at this link:

I’ll begin with a straightforward two-sided card, from the Seaboard. It’s 4 x 5.5 inches, and interestingly only provides for grades A or B. The car mentioned is SAL 16094, a 50-foot, single-door box car.

But many grading cards, as visible in previous posts of mine on this topic, can be quite a bit more complex. Here is an interesting card from the Maine Central, one-sided but with a full range of possible grading levels expressed. It is octagonal, just under 5 inches square over parallel sides. I show it upright, but note that the chosen grade, for roll paper, in car MEC 9248 (a 50-foot, single-door box car), is at an angle (that side could be attached as the upright side). Date is June 3, 1965.

A much more complex example of the same sort of card is this one from the Santa Fe. It appears to have been intended to be octagonal, like the card above, but was trimmed a little wrong. One side, at left below, shows color coding for what were presumable common cargoes. On the reverse are actual grading letters, but these seem not to exactly correspond with the colored side. This one too is about 5 inches over parallel sides, just fitting on a route card board.

But the octagon is not the limit of card designs with other than four sides. Here is a really distinctive one, not only triangular but pink in color. This design of course accommodates six grades, evidently sub-grades of A on one side, and of G on the other side. Neither railroad nor location is printed on the form, but the rubber stamp, below left, reads “A.G.S.,” possibly Alabama Great Southern, a long-time component of the Southern Railway. Date is Dec. 20, 1972. It is 5 inches high.


And an interesting variation on the multiple grades in use is this card from the  Missouri Pacific, with one side showing seven grades (and a blank space if none of those grades would apply, as was done here). More striking is the other side, with a huge letter “U” to designate “unfit for loading.” It is 5.5 inches square. It is filled out for car T&P 257991, “OK for lead loading at Glover.”

Finally,  another of the cards showing definitions in some detail of what each grade comprised, an Atlantic Coast Line card, 5 inches square. The car noted, given grade D, was NYC 75789, a 50-foot, double-door box car, on September 27, 1965, at South Rocky Mount, N.C. Note that it had been folded so that the side with grade D was outermost.

The variety of card designs and amounts of information on each are certainly interesting, and a fascinating window into 1960s management of freight car grading and movement.

Tony Thompson

Friday, September 1, 2023

The Rapido SP box cars: finishing

As most readers know, Rapido Trains recently released a number of paint schemes on a new HO scale model of Southern Pacific Class B-50-15 box cars, and a quite good stand-in for Class B-50-16. I have posted the historical background of these two classes to help understand the model choices (see that post at: ), and have also shown most of the paint schemes offered (that post is here: ). 

[By the way, I also wrote a response to some of the criticism of these models, in a previous post. It is at this link: .]

The present post takes its title, “Finishing,” from a remark of Richard Hendrickson’s from some years ago, speaking about “ready-to-run” models: he felt these should really be called “ready to finish.” They may need details replaced or upgraded, trucks may need to be changed, and of course the models almost always need weathering and other finishing, such as reweigh and repack stencils, chalk marks, and route cards.

One example of a “finishing” step is to correct the brake gear, if your particular modeling period is such that the K brakes on some of the Rapido models should have been replaced with AB brakes by the time you model. I wrote about this fairly simple process, using the AB brake parts helpfully provided by Rapido in many of the model boxes (a post that is located at: ).

Now let’s turn to weathering and its accompanying steps. These are procedures I have already described in some detail in my “Reference pages,” linked at the upper right corner of every post, and I won’t directly repeat that material; but I thought I would take space to at least outline my process with the Rapido models under discussion.

My first step (after any detail replacement or truck changes) is to weather the roof with washes made from acrylic tube paints. You see this below on a maintenance-scheme Rapido car. I do it this way because it is easy to work on the roof with the sides available for holding the model. You can see that the roof is duller in color, with gray tones.

The next step is to hold the car by roof and center sill (or trucks) and weather sides and ends. After a few hours (if it’s warm) to get fully dry, I give the car an overspray of Dullcote or equivalent. Actually I nowadays usually prefer Tamiya’s “Flat Clear,” number TS-80.

When that’s dry, protecting the acrylic pigment on the car, I add small patches of Glosscote from a bottle, only as big as the paint patches would be, for new repack and reweigh stencils. Then patches of black or boxcar red decal are placed. These are visible below in the usual locations (you can click on the image to enlarge it, if you like). I chose black for the repacking stencil location because some rather minor yards did repack journals if needed, and often had only one color of paint to patch with: black.

[Note also in the above view that the plain metal wheel faces have been painted, in this case Tamiya “German Gray,” XF-63. Wheels in this era were liberally coated with journal oil soon after entering service, and this color, or a darker gray, gives a realistic look.]

Once the paint patches are placed, the stencils can be added. For repacking, I use the Sunshine Models “Western Reweigh and Repack Data” decal sheet. For SP reweigh dates and symbols, I use the Tichy decal set, HO 10053, which is for SP tank cars (using artwork I prepared), but it also includes many SP reweigh locations and dates from 1950 to 1953. Those locations range from the most familiar (SAC, LA, OAK, ELP) to the less familiar (FRN, Fresno; BS, Bayshore; EGN, Eugene) and even to the rare and unfamiliar (KF, Klamath Falls; AVD, Avondale; CKT, Crockett). For this car, it’s BAK (Bakersfield).

You may note that I added a couple of route cards to this side of the car, something fairly often observed in prototype photos. One of them is light green, inspired by an SP route card shown in one of my recent posts about route cards (you can peruse it at: ). 

On a wood-sheathed car like this, a route card could be attached wherever the clerk wanted to put it, but two common locations were above the truck  bolster (as you see above), or just to the left of the door. I have applied route cards in both locations on my various wood-sheathed cars. 

For an additional example, here is a Class B-50-15 Rapido car, weathered and prepared exactly like the foregoing model, and carrying a reweigh location of Bayshore, to supersede the unlikely factory reweigh date of 1936 on a post-1946 paint scheme.

The chalk marks seen on both cars above were made with Prismacolor artist’s pencils, both white and French gray 30%. I used to make mostly readable numbers (implying train numbers, etc.) but so many prototype photos show smaller writing, that now I just make a small scribble for most of the marks. I’ve learned that the pencils need frequent sharpening to write truly small scribbles.

This brief summary is, as stated at the top of this post, just a small part of all the detail about weathering presented in my “Reference pages,” linked at the top right corner of every post. If you are interested in more info, please look there. For now, I am pleased with how these new Rapido box cars are turning out.

Tony Thompson