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Discussion Starter #1
Silver Streak Four-Wheel Caboose WM

Before we start with the first review I need to answer the question: Why bother evaluating a kit that has been out of production for decades? The answer to that is a story unto itself…
When I was a kid in the ‘60’s my father had a model railroad. He also had five children and found himself without the time to build one, and as mother was a realtor we moved every couple years and he’d have to start again. He had pretty much given up on model railroading when my oldest brother took up the torch and started building railroads. Unfortunately his dreams were larger than his hands and we would end up with massive double-folded waterwings having a mainline that barely worked and a yard that didn’t work before tearing it down to move to another house. I remember one railroad had a major grade (laid out mainly on an 8’ long piece of 2*8) that passed over the back of a toilet.

At another house the railroad took up half a two-car garage with a car in the other half and needless to say, in Chicago the seasons were very hard on the railroad as the tracks expanded and contracted. Also, any time someone bumped the table that stuck out into the middle of the garage it would ruin the 18” inside curve and the 2-8-8-2 mallet would derail.

I took up model railroading with him, but enjoyed making things more than running trains. I built a General from Tyco, a Pacific from Mantua that jinked and a wharf from Campbell. Then my brother grew up and moved out of the house after getting a job for the Illinois Central. Since he took the railroad with him and I moved on to wargaming he took my railroad stuff with him.

Now it is 40 years later and I’m facing retirement. I've started model railroading again and plan on building as much of the stuff on the table besides the track as I can (I’m using Kato Unitrack). The layout is a simple loop with a roundhouse and yard in the middle to store the trains I build. Since I started I’ve built another Tyco General and a Mantua camelback Mikado I cadged off Ebay and refurbished the Pacific my brother had saved for 40 years (it runs better now than it ever did).

When I looked for a caboose to go with the Mikado I wanted something equally challenging. I remembered the old wood and metal kits from before plastic took over the market completely and started looking for them. Lo and behold, here is the Silver Streak Four-Wheel Caboose- Western Maryland 929-179, still unopened in the box (I must confess, I intended to purchase a blank one that I could paint it up for the Lehigh Valley to match the Mikado, but oops. It is missing the cupola and it seemed wrong somehow to paint away the roadline after the car sat in a box for 50 years, waiting for someone to build it.)

On to the review: This kit consists of a wood floor and roof, metal ends, platforms and truck and prepainted and decaled wood sides. All the detail is either metal or wood, except the clear plastic window glass and the plastic wheels with metal axles. The most complicated parts to assemble as designed are the ladders, and frankly all the pictures of WM bobbers I found showed simpler ladders but I planned on building it out of the box and that’s how it came, with the rails extending over the top of the roof. The ladder was stamped out of thin metal and I doubt it’s possible to get it perfectly straight, so mine are both bowed a little, one in and the other out. The hand rails are all pre-bent which is good because otherwise it would be impossible to get them right. There is no interior provided.

Now, the biggest fault with this kit is the end pieces. They both came out of the box warped, badly enough that if you attempted to use them as is there would be a huge gap on the sides and the platforms wouldn’t fit right. The metal looks like lead, the type used to cast toy soldiers but it’s actually pot metal. What that means is the metal doesn’t bend at all. In fact it has tiny cracks in it before you even start working on it and any attempt to change its shape results in pieces breaking off. And you can’t build the kit without the end pieces fitting.

So, at this point you have three choices: You could sweep the whole thing into the trash, cursing yourself for wasting money on a crappy old railroad car kit; you could scratchbuild the end caps out of plastic or wood and cardstock, cursing yourself for wasting money on a crappy old railroad car kit; or you could do what I did, which was curse myself for wasting money on a crappy old railroad car kit then ‘fix’ the end pieces. There are shoulders on the top and bottom of the sides to hold the floor and ceiling, I used a Dremel to make a relief cut in the center, then I laid the piece face down on the table and pushed down gently in the center until it broke in half. Then I glued it back together approximately flat. The cracks don’t generally follow the wood pattern, so when painting I globbed some extra in the cracks to hide them. For the most part it worked.

After that the contest is to finish assembly before the metal breaks up so badly you can’t glue it back together anymore. By the way, except the truck, which is decent metal of some sort or other all the rest of the castings are the same pot metal, and I had to break one of the platforms in half to unwarp it too.

Speaking of the truck, I replaced the provided wheels with steel, and the caboose seemed to run pretty well, except there’s enough slop sometimes the wheels touched the frame and shorted out the layout. I took it apart and installed plastic wheels provided, it still runs fine. Also, the truck is glued to the bottom of the caboose, meaning you can’t take it apart. It would have been nice if it were screwed in instead.
Other than the pot metal (and by the way, when you have to drill out the holes for the hand rails let your drill do all the work. If you push at all the metal will break on you) assembly of this kit is straightforward for someone with experience, and the instructions extremely well written and illustrated; this is quite a treat after some of the tank kits I assembled for wargaming, where the instructions were written by someone whose English looked like they used Google Translate. The back of the instruction sheet contains individual instructions for six different bobber cabooses all using the same base parts but for different painted sides and a cupola if needed.

The kit also provided decent painting instructions with Floquil paint colors, though without a picture. Fortunately there are conversion charts for now-defunct Floquil colors on the internet, as well as pictures of actual Western Maryland cabooses. (It’s kind of funny to take advantage of a modern convenience like a computer to help build a piece of model railroading history.) The paint actually filled in many of the cracks in the end walls, but there are still noticeable gaps where the sides meet the ends.

All in all a fun and challenging kit to build. I can’t wait to get another one. I’m afraid though, that if this caboose ever drops to the floor there won’t be enough of the pot metal pieces left to rescue.
 

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Nice job getting that antique out of the box. Haven't built a Silver Streak kit in decades. I may still have one stored in a box somewhere, having converted to O/On3 30 or more years ago. Sold a lot of HO back in the day; still have some odds and ends. The various types of "pot metal" used by manufacturers back then were all over the map. Some did have a bit of flex to them. Others, especially Zamac, were susceptible to "Zamac cancer" - any impurities in the metal mix would cause the metal to crumble over time, the time being measured in years. That sounds like what may be the case with your kit.
 

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Discussion Starter #3
American Model Builders Caboose

So I mentioned needing a Lehigh Valley caboose to go with the Camelback Mikado and after finishing the bobber I started looking for a proper caboose. All the premade cabooses for Lehigh Valley I could find have the metal cupolas and have a fifties flair to them. I was looking for an early caboose (no automobiles on my layout) and the only example I found online were a couple pictures someone had built in O gauge.

I decided to scratchbuild one, and went so far as to carve a roof for it. When I was doing some more google searching I found there actually were HO kits for early Lehigh Valley cabooses. So I ordered one and here it is, American Model Builders Inc. Lehigh Valley Wood Cupola Caboose No 878. This is actually the caboose as it was updated later in its life, but I’m not that much a stickler that I wouldn’t use it.

Incidentally, I took the roof I’d made and built a Civil War boxcar to go with the General train out of the scraps bin. It’s a little wider than it should be and the doors are too thick but otherwise I’m satisfied with it (BTW, nothing says Civil War better than woodbeam trucks)

There are many amazing things about this kit. First, the box is small. I’m used to old railroad car kits where the box was big enough to fit the completed car, and this development is new to me (OK, not really amazing but interesting). This model has a LOT of parts. Every window is four separate pieces, eight if you include the backing paper (more on that in a minute). Plan on spending some time finishing it. Also, the only metal part is the chimney. The rails are copper wire but not preformed, which is another cool thing: the model comes with a plastic jig to make all the handrails including the curved siderails. This is an amazing tool and one I know I’ll use again.

I was also amazed at the laser cutting. It makes a very clean cut, so clean the wood looks almost like plastic. It helps that the wood is perfectly flat and even-grained. Also the laser burns the edges of the wood, giving both depth to and hiding the edges of the wood. If that doesn’t please you it can be painted over but I liked the effect so much I left it after one coat. Speaking of, I found it easier to spray paint all the parts while still on the sheets.

The kit is made out of both thick and thin wood, some thin fiberboard pieces, plastic windows and a sheet that looked as thin as paper but felt like it would be hard to tear. Another cool thing is that the thin pieces of wood and paper had adhesive already on the back, under paper. Not having to mess with glue and having an even spread while working on such small parts was really great, though alignment is absolutely critical to the whole model as various pieces have holes that need to line up.

The instructions are also amazing, consisting of 12 pages including an introduction and inventory. Even the engine kits I’ve been building had only four pages. The only question I had was about “Eye bolts” near the end. There was no description of them, none were included in the kit and no explanation of how to make them. I ended up making loops out of wire with a pair of pliers and pinched them tight around another wire. They worked but didn’t look great.

I recommend adding the rails as early in the process as possible. I ended up scratching the windows in the cupola drilling out the holes and the ends would have been easier to work with if the floor weren’t there.

The only other criticism I have is the ladders; they are interesting to assemble but the fiber is too thin and I’m a little concerned about whether they’ll last normal wear and tear on a layout. Of course, if I hadn’t forgot to add the bead of glue suggested in the instructions they may have been a little stiffer. The end rails are the same material.

Overall I think this is an awesome kit, and look forward to building more cars from this company sooner or later. I expect this caboose to be chasing a coal train for many years to come.
 

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Just be careful. Looks like the front coupler pin is hanging below the railhead height which will cause grief at turnouts. Might need a washer between the front truck and the body bolster.
 

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Discussion Starter #5
Uhlrich Hopper Car

I’ve been watching on Ebay for early 20th century Lehigh Valley coal hoppers to extend the coal train and what should come up but The Uhlrich Model Kits STD HOPPER CAR KIT No. SH2 335 LV? Most of the rest of the train is Athearn wood-sided 34’ hoppers so I thought this one would fit in well (it does). So what can I say about this kit? First, it’s old. If you look at the instruction sheets for most model kits there’s a date of some sort somewhere on it and this one has “1-1-55” in the corner. That’s right, this kit is 63 years old. I don’t know about you but I think that is awesome.
So, the box is a standard-sized box such as you’d get RR cars in even to this day, inside are a few little manila paper bags and the dozen parts to the kit are inside them. This kit is all metal. Most parts are made of some sort of casting pewter, not as flexible as lead but more flexible than pot metal. Good news, you won’t need weights. There is plenty of flash to clean off but overall the engineering is pretty good, all the pieces fit except the coupler pocket lids, which needed just a little bit of filing to fit. The three bottom pieces are made out of stamped sheet steel.
The sides are prepainted which is both good and bad. Good because the lettering is all pre-done, and the inside has been painted a grimy black shade that would be perfect if you wanted to leave it unloaded, bad because the brown didn’t match the brown I used for the rest of the kit and I didn’t check but I suspect “410M R-2 BOX CAR RED” is not offered anymore. The shade is just a bit duskier than Scalecoat I Boxcar red. The other bad news is that there was some flash on the sides and of course, if you file it off you need the original color to touch it up.
Assembly is fairly easy, there are two screws but most of the car is pretty much snap-together, believe it or not. There are three ‘rivets’, where the head of a pin is concave and you put it down on a solid surface and hit it with a straight punch to spread out the pin. The coupler pockets use them, I put a drop of crazy glue on top of it. The screws are for the trucks and cut their own threads. Everything fit except one hole that had to be reamed out just a tad. The unloading gates were one of those things that go together hard and fall apart easily, I bent over some tabs that I hope were there to secure them, that did the trick.
The most time spent on this car was waiting for the spray paint to dry before assembly. I would try another Uhlrich kit if the opportunity came up, just for the experience making an all-metal RR car. One other cool note, this car was meant to be used; Uhlrich advertised a coal tipple and emptier in the instructions. Not sure how the doors underneath would work, but it’s a neat idea.
 

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Discussion Starter #6
Ambroid Coal Hopper

Do you remember going to the hobby shop when you were a kid and seeing the balsa airplane kits? They always looked so appealing because they were half the price of the plastic kits and they actually flew. I bought one and found out why they were so inexpensive, the kit was a few sheets of balsa wood and a tissue-paper diagram. You were supposed to affix the paper to the balsa somehow and cut out the pieces, then glue the whole thing together and who knew how to cover the wings and fuselage? It was beyond the means of a ten-year old without the handyman gene and a waste of paper-delivery money. Not sure where it ended up, probably trashed in a move. This kit reminded me of that model airplane: The box consists of a bunch of sheets of bass wood and a thin sheet of 11*17 paper that has several diagrams and few instructions. The first thing you have to do is cut out four side pieces in a very specific and fiddly shape.
But I get ahead of myself: This is half of “Ambroid No. 8, 50th Anniversary Special, 1 Milw Composite Gondola, 1 N & W Hopper Car”, a Norfolk & Western coal hopper made of wood. According to the instructions N&W made 1368 of them during WW1 with the express purpose of using as little metal as possible. I think they succeeded pretty well because the kit doesn’t have much metal either. Other than the brake cylinder, some wire and grab irons the kit is all wood.
The instructions aren’t the kind of all-inclusive 12-page-step-by-step-cavemen instructions we get in modern kits. They are basically a set of scale diagrams with a few paragraphs giving guidance on what order to perform what and hints for how to finish the most complicated parts. You are expected to make the kit look like the diagrams. Other than a few parts I wish they explained (like the brackets for the brake wheel) I think not including diagrams of both sides and ends was a mistake. I ended up looking at the other hoppers on the layout to get an idea what to include on the blind sides.
Being made before lasers, this car is one of those where all pieces are basic shapes that you have to cut out in precise and interesting ways then glue together without smearing too much glue on them. Fortunately you can lie the wood down on the diagrams and cut it, in fact there are relief lines designed to facilitate just that, I added a few here and there with a pencil. The straight and square pieces were fairly straightforward, the diagonal cuts and odd shapes took some care (and a tolerance for gaps). Gluing the car together square is critical. I didn’t do that but hopefully no one will notice while it tears by at coal train speeds.
After a few days of working during free time here and there I decided I wasn’t going to add a coal load to this car, there was simply too much going on inside to hide it. That raised the problem how to weight the car? I have a few sheets of lead and cut out the diagonal floor pieces out of it and scored it to look like wood. I also cut the end pieces out with the wood going vertical instead of horizontal but oh well, not gonna worry about that now.
I don’t know about anyone else, but the adage “You are your own worst critic” certainly applies to me. There are many things I did wrong on this model, little things no one else will notice but will draw my eye every time I look at it. Overall though it came out pretty good. Anyway, if you are patient and careful you can make unique car out of this kit. I don’t know if there are any plastic kits for this car and it certainly looks odd lined up against the more common metal cars. I’ll post some pics of it painted when I finish.
 

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I think the Ulrich hopper cars (at least my triple hoppers) have a spring that holds the bottom doors closed and one of those doors has a small tab on it that engages the trip mechanism that is fixed to the middle of the track. Ones I have were bought in the early 60's! I have the trip gizmo somewhere, but it has not yet surfaced.
 

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Discussion Starter #9
Nice job on that hopper! I have a wooden boxcar kit I need to build....... one a' these days.
I went on Ebay and bought 9 kits containing a total of 11 cars from an estate. They are all wood except one resin and one reefer actually has cardboard sides. There were two Ambroid twofers, otherwise all different manufacturers. One day I'm gonna buy some more buildings to build, until then my railroad looks like a football field. Having too much fun this way...
 

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Discussion Starter #10
The decals didn't come out great, either they are old or I'm stupid but I'll get better. They held together with my abuse better than some modern decals did.
 

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That's not too bad a job! I've done a lot worse! :eek:
I would recommend getting some Micro Sol decal solvent. At this point, don't use Micro Set, that's a different formula and goes on the plastic before the decal. The Micro Sol will soften the decal completely and allow it to 'flow' into the cracks and crevices. Brush it on and then do NOT touch the decal until it is completely dry. If you touch it while the Micro Sol is wet you will ruin the decal, guaranteed!
Once the Micro Sol is completely dry (I'd give it a couple days myself) you can spray the model with a clear coat and that will really help to hide the shiny decal film. Then you can weather the car however you wish, and the decals will be protected.
 

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Discussion Starter #12
Labelle 1900/1905 passenger cars

The oldest engine I have is a Mantua Pacific I built as a teen back in the ‘70’s. When I left home for the Navy my brother ended up taking it with him and his railroad. 20 years later I asked him if he had any junker engines I could decorate a wargaming table and he mentioned he still had it. So it spent the next 20 years as an immobile wreck. Now I’m model railroading again and the second thing I did was rescued the engine. The motor has given out and I’m installing a can motor but I wanted an appropriate train to go with it. I found the Labelle Woodworking Company had turn of the 20th century passenger cars and thought those would work well with a high-stepper like the Pacific. Interestingly, it seems most model railroad passenger cars are either wood sides with open vestibules or closed vestibules with metal sides. I’m not an expert on much of anything but these kits looked like just the thing. I bought one first, a 1905 sleeper, built it and was so pleased with the result I bought four more to make a 5-car train. I didn’t notice the sleeper was 75 feet and the other cars 65 feet, so it will be in the middle of the train.
Anyway, about the kits: These are mostly wood kits with a few metal castings to take care of the most complicated pieces. The wood is apparently milled because all the cuts in it are parallel. Not really important but compared to laser cut kits you’ll find much effort was made to compensate for the linear cuts. Also, there is an amount of wood-shaping that needs to be done, there are tanks under the car with rounded ends (I chucked the dowels in a drill and filed the ends round, not perfect but it will do) and especially the ends of the roofs have to be rounded. I used a drill press with a sanding drum on it. I’m sure both could be done by hand but I’m not that patient. Oh yes, one beam on the ends has to be rounded, I used a Dremel after assembly.
The long pieces come out of the box everso slightly warped, but not enough to affect construction and they straighten out when you assemble the kit. All have support from other parts that force them straight after assembly. Not a problem, just might concern you when you open the box. The kit comes with two pages of instructions and diagrams both line drawings of the finished car and a blow-up drawing showing how the pieces fit together. The only parts I had trouble understanding where they went were the doors on the end, after the first car I waited until the sides, ends, bottom and top were assembled before installing the doors.
There were other parts I did out of order as well to ensure fit, mainly I fitted and assembled the vestibule ends in place after the car was together rather than before. I installed the truss rods while I was building the bottom, but didn’t put the truss rods on the queen posts until I’d tied the rods down tight in order to make the rods straight (found that out after three cars)
The other big thing I did was roughed in an interior. I did this mainly so the people visible from outside could have a place to be glued to, problem is you need weight and there’s no place to put it in a wood car with an interior, so I made the back of the benches out of lead sheet. I couldn’t glue the roof on in case someone got loose, so I glued four wood blocks in the corners of the roof, put it on the rest of the car, drilled pinholes through the side and block then used a cut-off sewing pin with the head painted like the side of the car. The first car came with diaphragms, and I thought they were so cool I ended up buying more from Walthers to fit to the rest of the cars. I had to cut them down to clear the couplers.
I must admit I spent considerable angst figuring out what color to paint the cars. Not being a gory detail kind of guy I used the simple expedient of googling pictures of B&O passenger cars. I found that the older open-ended cars were solid blue, then I found steel-sided cars with yellow stripes, then yellow stripes and grey windows. Apparently the wooden cars with closed vestibules didn’t last more than about ten years before the wood sides were plated over, so I SWAGed it and painted them solid blue. No doubt the nitpickers will have a field day with them.
The windows were clear plastic for the main windows, with dark green for the little windows in the side and roof for all the cars but the combination car which had cloudy plastic sheet. I bought trucks from Walthers and had to cut some of the frame off the underside to get the cars to sit low enough to look right.
So in summary, these are complicated kits but make good passenger cars not available otherwise.
 

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That's a beautiful job of building and painting on the cars, and the revived engine looks good, too.

Jes' wonderin', could you give us some of your impressions overall regarding the Kato track?
Which switches you liked the best, etc.?
 

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Discussion Starter #14
That's a beautiful job of building and painting on the cars, and the revived engine looks good, too.

Jes' wonderin', could you give us some of your impressions overall regarding the Kato track?
Which switches you liked the best, etc.?
Works really well, my biggest problems have been with small engines stalling on the frogs. If there is only one contact on the engine or the contacts are close together the engines will stall on all the switches except the remote switches. Probably not a problem with diesels but all mine are steam. I've been able to do anything I want with it except I had to make a couple 3/8" jumpers where the track was just a touch too short and I made a connecting set with Bachmann track for the turntable.
The plastic is softer than Bachmann track and as a result it runs more quietly and flexes a bit.
 

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Discussion Starter #15
Here is the Ambroid coal car with the other car in the kit, a Milwaukee Road gondola with the decals still wet. Other than minor issues with the decals (they didn't match the pictures) and one set of brackets poorly designed it is more of the same. I've soaked the decals with microsol a couple times and they won't lay down. Next I'm going to try a mixture of water and Elmer's clear glue, maybe it will fill in between the decal and surface. Part of the problem might be that I didn't seal the wood before painting it.
 

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Discussion Starter #16
Main Line Models Reefer

I hadn’t heard of Main Line Models before this, so I googled it and found out there is a talent agency in Pennsylvania by that name. I looked a bit further down and found a company that makes display models for railroads, their website says they’ve been in business for 50 years so I suspect this is the more likely company, though it seems they’ve moved on from hobby kits.
This kit is “40’ Reefer S.F. Grand Canyon HR-17”. It is reminiscent of Silver Streak kits in that the kit contains silk screened sides and strips of wood to make the rest. Apparently they designed this kit so they could use the same sides for 34’, 40’ and 50’ cars simply by putting in extra lengths of center sections.
The first thing that struck me when I opened the box was that the wood wasn’t bass wood. The age ring pattern was quite clear and it smelled faintly of pine. Whatever this wood was it had two negatives: first the grain is loose enough that if you push your blade through it the wrong way it will split rather than cut, so use a sharp knife and let the tip do the cutting. Second the dark wood is shinier after painting then the light wood, making the grain obvious especially on the roof. The pieces weren’t cut with the same accuracy and precision as more modern kits and some pieces were either thicker or wider than others. Also the blade marks still showed on some of the wood.
Now on to the instructions. I found five different undercarriages and two different roofs in the instructions, so first you have to figure out which undercarriage the kit provided pieces for. It also gave instructions for both ladders and separate rungs, all making life interesting, mine had ladders. They apparently changed some of the pieces after they drew up the instruction sheet and included a second page with additional guidance.
Fit was a real issue with this model. This is a typical wood freight car where there are blocks of wood that go inside the ends that all other pieces are attached to, but these blocks did not line up perfectly with the roof and base and if you look closely at the ends you can see the result, gaps and seams only hidden by the black paint they are covered with. Other pieces have similar problems, I had to take 1/8 inch off the ends of the center sill to make the car sit low enough to fit the couplers properly and look right, and the center pieces on the sides had to be shimmed to match the ends. Kind of pointless to complain now about the problems with a 50+ year old kit (not sure how old it really is), but if you decide to start building these try fitting all the pieces together, perhaps with rubber bands before gluing.
The car had silk screened sides which I’m fond of because that means no decals for me to screw up, but the text isn’t as crisp as a modern decal would be. Still, for someone with eyes like mine it isn’t that big an impact. This car had the Santa Fe route map on one side and that looks pretty cool. I looked on the internet at pictures of other cars and found only a few that had brown on the ends and top so I painted this one black, looks pretty sharp and just in time for Halloween.
So in summary this kit is workmanlike but not spectacular, and well worth the 3.95 price hand written on the box. I don’t think I’d pay modern kit prices for it.
 

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The original Main Line Models was around in the late '50's into maybe the early '70's when the owner passed away. They were typical "craftsman" kits from that era, where there was often some assumption by the manufacturers that you had some familiarity with the prototype and how to go about building these types of kits. I have one I built that was a special commerative kit for the Mid Eastern Region back in the '60's. They also made some kits in On3. Don't recall if they did any standard gauge O scale models.
 

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Discussion Starter #19
Silver Streak Freight Car

This is another Silver Streak kit, #292 40’ double door boxcar D & RGW, but unlike the Western Maryland bobber caboose this was from Ye Olde Huff-N-Puff. Not sure what the relationship was between the two companies but the box is different. This car is a double door box car. I thought that was cool because my dad had a green one from the New York Central. This one has wooden sides and doors unlike his, and it says ‘Automobile’, I wonder if they used boxcars to ship autos back in the day. According to the side the prototype was manufactured in 1927 so they may have been small enough to fit.
This car came with painted and silkscreened sides and end block, top and bottom construction like the Santa Fe reefer but unlike the reefer this car was made out of basswood and the silk screen was legible. It also had enough cast pieces that you didn’t need to weight it. The castings were actual casting lead and not pot metal so you could bend them when you needed to. In a few pieces the lead didn’t completely fill the mold so the detail was incomplete in the corner of the piece. The instructions were nicely illustrated but there were a couple places where measurements weren’t included nor scale drawings and you were left guessing just where some detail went.
Construction is straight forward, with enough detail in the bottom to be interesting and the pieces went together easily enough. The wood was good except there were two pieces that the instructions said were 1/16” square but the pieces in the kit were 1/16” by 1/8”. I figured they knew what they were doing and used them only to find out the sill hung down below the sides of the car, oh well. BTW if you follow the instructions to the letter putting together the undercarriage you’ll find the airline goes through the center sills but under the bolsters and you’ll need to assemble them out of order if you want to make everything fit together.
The sides were Floquil Boxcar Red and after raiding the nearest hobby big box I compared several colors and found Vallejo 70.846 Mahogany was the closest so that is what color the ends and top are. I leave you to decide if it matches. After examining the doors I decided to glue them together shut, both for alignment and because the lead sills and tight tracks combined to make the doors slide poorly.
So, another neat boxcar out of wood and metal. My only problem is there is a bracket on the bottom of the car the truck is rubbing against, have to move that sooner or later.
 

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Hmmnn.. Interesting. I'm pretty new to the "hobby" trains, and I didn't know, until stumbling across your thread, that there are "car" kits.. I think I would love to try one or two(to begin with), as yours are inspiring..

What brands, in your opinion, make good beginner kits, that, run well in the end, look good(your detail I simply cannot replicate), and then, honestly, as I know the skill level increases with experience,are fairly easy to assemble?

Thanks, and great thread! Subscribed!

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Murv wrote:
"I wonder if they used boxcars to ship autos back in the day. According to the side the prototype was manufactured in 1927 so they may have been small enough to fit."

Yes, shipping autos in boxcars was "the standard practice" until someone thought up the idea of "auto racks".

The autos were usually "jacked up" at an angle (45 degrees or so?) so that more could be fit inside.

Looks like the double doors were necessary to create a wider opening to aid in getting the autos inside...
 

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Ye Olde HuffnPuff took over the Quality Craft kit line sometime in the '70's IIRC. The Quality Craft kits were better than the older Main Line kits. I have an HOn3 EBT caboose kit from this line that built up very well, better than the contemporary La Belle kit. But, you need to know what you are doing. As the instructions describe the assembly, you will too late discover that with the body assembled and the cupola installed, you can't install the window glass.

As MatroxD notes, craftsman hobbies like model airplanes and trains are moving quickly away from kits toward RTR (or RTF). For now there still seems to be a market for plastic car kits, which is good, and La Belle has been reincarnated with some nice wood kits.
 

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Discussion Starter #23
Hmmnn.. Interesting. I'm pretty new to the "hobby" trains, and I didn't know, until stumbling across your thread, that there are "car" kits.. I think I would love to try one or two(to begin with), as yours are inspiring..

What brands, in your opinion, make good beginner kits, that, run well in the end, look good(your detail I simply cannot replicate), and then, honestly, as I know the skill level increases with experience,are fairly easy to assemble?

Thanks, and great thread! Subscribed!

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These kits I've reviewed are for the most part made of wood and metal. There are also kits made of plastic (Tichy for example), Resin (Funaro & Camerlengo) and all metal (Uhlrich, or brass kits). These are different from for example Athearn where the car is pretty much snap together.

For a wood and metal kit my initial recommendation would be a Silver Streak kit. The Caveat is to read the first review (for the bobber caboose) after reading the DRGW review above. The kits made with lead will be fairly simple to complete, but if you get one with warped pot metal good luck. As mentioned Silver Streak changed hands and quality could be better or worse.
The Mainline kits go together the same way as does a company called A-C Model company but both appear lesser quality. All these kits feature prepainted and lettered sides so you only have to paint the ends, top and bottom to finish them.
If you have any familiarity with wood working and can handle a pin vice and exacto blade without hurting yourself you can assemble these kits. a Dremel is a plus. I use spray paint a great deal from cans, though you can paint by hand too. I use Goo from Walthers as glue, it will hold just about anything together but it stinks.

If you have a mind to make a fairly simple metal kit then look for the Uhlrich kits. They have few pieces but are well detailed and feature prepainted and decaled sides. Brass kits require a different skill, one I haven't tried yet.
I've never made a Tichy kit but suspect they go together like the hundreds of plastic tanks I've built. Resin is different to handle and I wouldn't recommend it for a first kit, though there are some pretty interesting things out there in resin (like B&O wagon top cars, very cool).

If you get really excited about building your own rolling stock you can pick up engine kits. I've built a half dozen and it's even more fun than the railroad cars.

I've added a pic of what one of the simpler kits looks like out of the box. Basically you glue together the top and bottom to end blocks then detail everything.
 

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Hmmnn interesting.. Thank you.. I will try some that you have suggested. I'm pretty good with dremel, and other tools (rc heli, airplane and car guy for the majority of my life), so I am screen grabbing a few names you mentioned.

And you know, it's funny that you mentioned them, but I was wondering about locomotive kits. That will be the next step. I looked at my local online shops site and I believe that they have a few kits. I will start with a caboose (as that is what I am in need of atm),and slowly work my way to engines..

Thank you though for sharing this and giving advice.. I look forward to more of your kit builds.

I am also going to check out the sites of the companies that you suggested, to see what I could order. And the font thing is, the kits that I saw locally, are like half the price of the ready to run models. So as long as the quality is good, I could replace or amend my whole car yard..

This is long, but thanks much again! I apologize if I derailed your thread..


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Unassembled kits have always been cheaper than RTR models.....RTR models start as kits to begin with, so someone has to put those together, and they don't do it for free....
 

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Discussion Starter #26
Hmmnn interesting.. Thank you.. I will try some that you have suggested. I'm pretty good with dremel, and other tools (rc heli, airplane and car guy for the majority of my life), so I am screen grabbing a few names you mentioned.

And you know, it's funny that you mentioned them, but I was wondering about locomotive kits. That will be the next step. I looked at my local online shops site and I believe that they have a few kits. I will start with a caboose (as that is what I am in need of atm),and slowly work my way to engines..

Thank you though for sharing this and giving advice.. I look forward to more of your kit builds.

I am also going to check out the sites of the companies that you suggested, to see what I could order. And the font thing is, the kits that I saw locally, are like half the price of the ready to run models. So as long as the quality is good, I could replace or amend my whole car yard..

This is long, but thanks much again! I apologize if I derailed your thread..


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Happy I can help. While l’m mainly writing these reviews to amuse myself it’s a bonus if it inspires anyone. As far as engines go, I bought all my kits off eBay. Tyco, mantua and Roundhouse were the big steam producers and as far as I know they’re all out of business now, but you can always find them online. If you’re big on engine performance plan on remotoring them with can motors, the old motors are not too smooth even new. Best of luck.
 

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Unassembled kits have always been cheaper than RTR models.....RTR models start as kits to begin with, so someone has to put those together, and they don't do it for free....
Not gonna derail(lol, nice pun) this great thread, but that's funny you mention that, because in the rc industry, it's just the opposite. RTR models have made things much cheaper. And it honestly may not be just the RTR status, but a lot of rc has to do, and it's status today is with heavy microchip/computer advancements. Plus, they are larger in physical size (most of the time).

But, yes, even with the large RTR or ARF status that things are today, they are tremendously cheaper than they used to be.. Even when hand assembled(especially sub assemblies), and I'm speaking specifically about helicopters and airplanes, as I know the brands I fly, when parts are assembled by the factory, they are indeed hand assembled, thread locked, and inspected, things have gone just the opposite of what your mentioning..

It was quite a shock actually when I got back into trains, as far as the cost. Comparatively speaking that is..

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It's funny that you mention re motoring them. I have an N locomotive that I believe the motor is shorted. I'm debating on buying another motor, or just leaving the annoying thing to sit as static. It is the first locomotive I've ever fully taken apart, as I was afraid to do so.

But I do love the building process, and then end result of setting your hand work, going from pieces to a moving object. So I'm sure I will end up building cars and locomotives.. Lol, now that you have opened up my eyes and mind to them.. Thanks! :) And yes, you, and your thread have been a tremendous help and inspiration.. Wife may not like it though.. Lmao!
Happy I can help. While l’m mainly writing these reviews to amuse myself it’s a bonus if it inspires anyone. As far as engines go, I bought all my kits off eBay. Tyco, mantua and Roundhouse were the big steam producers and as far as I know they’re all out of business now, but you can always find them online. If you’re big on engine performance plan on remotoring them with can motors, the old motors are not too smooth even new. Best of luck.
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Not gonna derail(lol, nice pun) this great thread, but that's funny you mention that, because in the rc industry, it's just the opposite. RTR models have made things much cheaper. And it honestly may not be just the RTR status, but a lot of rc has to do, and it's status today is with heavy microchip/computer advancements. Plus, they are larger in physical size (most of the time).

But, yes, even with the large RTR or ARF status that things are today, they are tremendously cheaper than they used to be.. Even when hand assembled(especially sub assemblies), and I'm speaking specifically about helicopters and airplanes, as I know the brands I fly, when parts are assembled by the factory, they are indeed hand assembled, thread locked, and inspected, things have gone just the opposite of what your mentioning..
But the RC companies offset the assembly cost by selling more units....when they crash and explode.....:laugh:
 

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But the RC companies offset the assembly cost by selling more units....when they crash and explode.....
Ha! It takes a lot to "re kit" a model these days(I mean a tremendous impact)! I haven't actually seen a re kit, in person or either video (with the exception of course of a turbine jet) in what, a good early 2000's.. Simulators I won't say brought a complete end to, but certainly massively(good high 90's perctentile range) decreased the crash factor.. And then, those things are built like tanks now.. Very over engineered.. Funny comment nonetheless though.....

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Discussion Starter #32
Funaro and Camerlengo Boxcar

Resin is a fairly new building material for hobbies (at least, compared to plastic, wood and lead), and its advantage is not obvious to a simple observer: In order to manufacture a plastic model there is a great deal of upfront cost producing the molds, but the price per unit is low. Thus plastic is great if you are going to make hundreds of thousands of something but a poor choice if you are going to make only a few hundred. With resin the cost of making the molds is low (they are poured rubber of some sort) but the unit production cost is higher. In this way resin is similar to metal but resin is a cheaper material than modelling lead (which is actually a combination of tin and antimony). The end result is that resin is a good choice for making limited runs of rare types of cars.
This kit is one of those: Funaro and Camerlengo ‘3701/3702 Great Northern 40’ wood truss rod boxcar with steel center sill hopper doors and decals.’ According to the history blurb the Great Northern was beholden to lumber companies for their business and built all-wood cars long after other railroads switched to steel frames to support their customers. Later they reinforced the frame with steel center sills and this car is one of those. They bought 15,000 of them. Apparently there was at least one of these cars in service until 1959. The version with hopper doors is even weirder and I decided to build that one though I have no idea what it would be used for. There are eight truss rods, not four so these cars could carry some heavy stuff.
So back to resin: resin is in many ways similar to plastic. It takes detail just as well, though usually there is one side without detail. Resin’s flexibility can be varied based on the formula, the resin in this kit is a little softer than plastic. The downside to resin is that it flexes a bit, but doesn’t warn you when you reach the limit like plastic (which turns white) or metal (which goes brittle). Thus if you bend a piece even just a little it may be OK or it may suddenly snap on you. The thinner the piece the more fragile it is, so most structural resin pieces are thicker than any other material. Resin takes power tools well, unlike plastic it doesn’t melt easily and I had no trouble in that regard. I’ve read that resin dust is unhealthy for you, so if you do any significant sanding you should wear a mask.
On wargaming resin models I was able to bend them by soaking in warm water first but this one didn’t have any pieces warranting that. The only pieces that were otherwise compromised were the queen posts, there were three out of sixteen broken off. Fortunately there were queen posts for both versions and I salvaged the broken one from the other set. This kit is mostly resin, with a few plastic pieces for the brake system, some metal rod for pipes, fishing line for the truss rods and copper staples for the grab irons (all 36 of them). I ended up adding two ounces of lead weight to bring it up to the 4.25 recommended for a 40 foot car.
The instructions consist of much written guidance, some good pictures and few diagrams. You are expected to know what the various parts of a railroad car are called and look at the diagram and pictures carefully, at one point it said “Look at the diagram to see where the holes are drilled, but I never saw anywhere it showed the holes. It would have been really nice to see more diagrams and part descriptions because there were a whole bunch of spare parts in the box, although I’m not sure if they were in there when the kit was sold as it had already been opened. I never identified some of the parts, couldn’t recognize them based on the drawings and pictures of the finished kit.
Normal wood model box cars kits have a basic frame made of the top and bottom and two wooden blocks that go at the ends. Everything else is hung onto this frame, the sides and ends are merely decoration, not structural. This kit is different in that the end is the structural piece and the bottom sits inside the sides and ends. Even before starting construction I decided there needed to be some support for the corners so I cut four corner posts out of 3/8” bass wood and made them tall enough to hold the bottom up. I was also worried about weight so I drilled four holes in the corners of the bottom and screwed the bottom in instead of gluing. Turns out this won’t work for the hopper bottom kit as the door latches are connected to the sides of the car.
I hope you like to drill. Just about every piece has a hole drilled into it at one point or another and most of the holes are the teeny tiny bits. I bent my drill bit trying to use a pin vise and ended up shuttling back to the work table numerous times to drill holes with a Dremel. I put a straight pin in the pin vise and pushed a dimple into the piece where the hole went so the drill bit didn’t skip around and miss the right spot. Some of the pieces are so small I broke them with the pin much less the drill bit.
The doors are molded to the body so this isn’t an open door kind of kit. While the grab irons are numerous, most of your time will be spent working on the bottom. Between the truss rods, hopper doors and brake system it’s pretty busy under there. I was worried about the truss rods causing problems with the fragile queen posts and while one of the posts leaned over while tensioning the fishing line nothing broke. I recommend making a rough calculation how long you need the fishing line and cut off the excess, it looks like there’s twice as much as you need and it is so curly you spend as much time working out the snarl as threading the rods.
The decals on this kit are the best I’ve seen so far. It is one of those print it yourself sheets, so you have to cut the paper to fit the decal, but it goes on well and easily, isn’t so fragile you tear it and with some Micro Sol it hugs the complicated surface of the car when dry (horizontal alignment is difficult on wood-sided cars so make sure you’ve got it lined up right when you slide it off). The black dot behind the goat is a separate decal.
A couple other random notes: First, don’t use the spray paint can lid as a painting stand on a windy day. Second, the hopper door latches are the most complicated and ornery assembly on the whole kit. Third, the steps on the end are easily broken so if you don’t mind them not being there I recommend leaving them off.
So overall not a kit for the faint of heart, but if you are patient and careful you’ll end up with a railroad car few modelers will have on their layout. I’ve include a pic of the pieces coming out of the box in case you are interested, and one of the bottom before painting.
 

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Murv wrote:
"The version with hopper doors is even weirder and I decided to build that one though I have no idea what it would be used for."

Probably for "grain service", as boxcars were used for much grain-hauling before covered hoppers purposely-designed for the job came into use in the 60's...
 

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Discussion Starter #35
Is it really a hopper door on top, or just the walkway to the ladder?
The hopper doors are on the bottom. The pictures in the instructions show a normal roof, so it can't be loaded from the top. I've been thinking about it, and I think they would block the side doors about halfway up with some kind of gate, use a chute directed inside the doorway to fill the car partway, then close the full doors to keep out the rain. They would open the doors on the bottom to empty it and use shovels or brooms to push the rest over once the grain stops falling. Maybe someone else knows better than that.
 

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Discussion Starter #36
Ambroid Center Flow Hopper

This box was part of a lot of 11 cars I bought off Ebay, and I had two reservations about completing it: First, my railroad is steam only, not even any automobiles on it and while this car isn’t new anymore it definitely looks like it was produced in the post-steam era. Second I have a basic philosophical problem with making the model of an all-steel car designed to haul plastic out of wood. I know it sounds stupid, but it just doesn’t seem right. In the end the desire not to waste the 7-ish dollars I paid for the car overruled my reservations and I went ahead and built one. We’ll see if the other ever gets built.
This is ‘Ambroid No. 3 Second Series Special “1 of 5,000” two-in-one ACF Center Flow Hopper Car’. It is a two-car kit of an early version of the common modern hoppers made with rounded sides, model CF-3500. According to the blurb provided this kit was produced only three years after the prototypes went into production and on the internet it says center flow hoppers were introduced in the 1960’s, so who knows how many were actually produced before they started sloping the ends as is typical for modern cars? I was also able to find a few pictures of this particular model in a search.
Everything I said about the previous Ambroid kit applies here: This is an extremely complicated model made out of a bunch of strips of basswood. Much of the expectation is you just follow along with the diagrams. That said there were a few unique features in this kit. Most obvious is that there are curves. The tank made out of two big chunks of basswood cut round. There’s a hole in the middle and if you don’t want to look through the entire car I recommend plugging it with something. On the prototypes I assume there is an angled plate inside the holes but the holes are open in the diagrams. The curves make alignment critical and measuring from the centerline is vital to keep everything symmetric. The end supports are soft lead and probably bent wrong so keep that in mind too.
On the other hand the big chunk of wood in the middle of the kit makes a nice solid foundation to hang everything else on. This kit doesn’t need any extra weight. Unfortunately most of the rest of the prototype is made of angle iron, which translates in the kit to 3/64” angled basswood. It strikes me as being particularly fragile and I hope it never takes a dive to the floor because the ends will probably be crushed. If I had more gumption I would have replaced some of the most exposed pieces with brass but like I said, I was hesitant to build the kit at all, much less spend more money on it. By the way, I got the catwalks to appear level by gluing them in place then turning the whole car over and lying it upside down then pushing all the pieces flat against the table top. After the glue set the catwalks were flat.
So that’s pretty much it, the kit is challenging to build but if 60’s covered hoppers fit on your layout this is an uncommon version that will attract some attention anyway. Now to ‘cleanse my pallette’ with something more appropriate for the steam era. I’ll post photos of the finished model when the painting and decals are done.
 

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Don't know how uncommon that car is/was, Atlas produced it in plastic with the following description:

Introduced in 1961 by ACF® to haul sand, clay, salt, grain and bulk plastics, this Cylindrical Hopper was the first commercially successful tank-type covered hopper car design. A few of the more than 4,000 cars of this type built through 1966 can still be seen in service today across the United States.
https://www.modeltrainforum.com/attachment.php?attachmentid=470266&stc=1&d=1540956574
 

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One thing to keep in mind when building older wood craftsman kits - consider using some sanding sealer (obtainable where model airplane kits are sold) to apply to the wood. Make take 2 or 3 applications, with sanding in between, to smooth out the surface and make it more like metal.
 

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Discussion Starter #39 (Edited)
Here are the pictures of the final product. The decals yellowed a bit with age, and I added a few details I didn't notice before on the diagram. I had to file the coupler pockets narrower so the trucks had enough play for the layout, and I decided not to include the corner rungs for the same reason.
BTW, thanks for the hint on sanding sealer. I'd been looking at the local hardware store and all I could find was paint sealer in gallon buckets. This car looks like it was made of wood and the paint didn't cover so great because of it. OTOH, the yellowed decals aren't quite as noticeable as they'd be on a consistent shade of white.
After running it around the layout a few times I found it is really top heavy. Number 4 turns at the front of the train pull it right over, though more gracefully than a flat sided box car. Gotta be the lead catwalks.
Overall I must confess I'm a bit disappointed by this kit. The fact that you can buy it RTR takes some of the fun out of it (thanks for raining on my parade), and the car is just plain ugly. Oh well, as Bad Santa says "They can't all be winners."

(P.S. I know I said no diesels on my layout, but a family friend picked up a box of random stuff at a yard sale and there were three of the buggers in there. Two still run and the BL-2 is kinda cute in a puppy dog way. Anyway, jury is still out on their fate.)
 

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