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Discussion Starter #41
A-C Refrigerator Car

This is the A-C Model Company of Chicago Ill kit “RB-1 S.L.R.X. 38 FT. REFRIGERATOR CAR 27 TON”. It has to be the oldest kit I’ve ever seen. A quick google of the name didn’t bring up anything but air conditioning companies so I assume they are no longer in business. The small parts were in a manila envelope, along with a separate air hose kit that consisted of a length of wire and plastic stub. You were supposed to pull the rubber off the copper wire and stick it on the plastic stub then glue it to the car. Interesting, but the Kadee couplers had that bit of wire that looks alot like air hoses so I didn’t use it. There was rust on the steel parts.
Anyway, if I had one word to describe this kit it would be “crude”. The sides and end facades are made of cardboard, with all the side detail printed on and the wood slats embossed. Some of the detail is cut out of cardboard as well. The brake cylinder is a turned piece of steel and the couplers provided were one-piece cast from lead. The instructions included using ‘bank pins’ to hold some pieces together, we’d call them brads now. The grab irons were all staples, even the ones on the corners of the roof (I drilled the holes wrong for them so they look oddly bent). Nicely though, they provided three different sizes. The catwalk was missing, but if you didn’t have a spare like I did you could easily make one out of the cardboard provided.
This kit follows typical wood boxcar kit construction, with the frame made of the top and bottom glued to two wood blocks at the ends, the aforementioned cardboard end facades covering them up. The end blocks were a smidge too wide. The end bolsters were actually nice castings, but I had to modify them for Kadee couplers as this is a working car. The fishplates underneath were nice castings as well, too bad the rest of the underside was pretty barren. The wire provided was just a bit too short. The brake wheel is a piece of pressed tin rather than cast metal, so it looks right one way but inverted the other.
Oddly enough this type of car didn’t have ice hatches on it. It is mentioned both in the instructions and on the cardboard sheet, so I suspect the model company was worried about complaints. Maybe beer cars didn’t need ice? I painted the top and ends boxcar red and the bottom black as recommended. The sides are an antique white color with the text nicely printed and legible. Anyway, a presentable car made of interesting materials and plenty of opportunity for super detailing if that is your bent. (There is a picture of the unassembled kit in a previous post).
 

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Discussion Starter #42
Gloorcraft Caboose

Either through sheer masochism or because I didn’t want to waste the money spent on trucks I started working on the second Ambroid center flow hopper car. I was mostly finished when I realized I didn’t have the ladders needed to finish it, so had to put it aside while I waited for them from mail order. In the meantime I pulled out “Gloorcraft Models AT&SF Wood Sheathed Caboose Kit 328” and set to work. There is a date 2/85 on the instructions so that gives an age to the kit. A quick look around the internet didn’t show any current activity for the company, but a quick check on ebay revealed wood car kits for HO and O and buildings for HO, O and N scale.
First, the instructions: these are wonderful. The kit comes with two 11*17” sheets, one with bulleted instructions and another with full size diagrams in various stages of construction. I didn’t have any problems figuring out what the parts were because the diagrams were carefully labelled. The bullets even included check boxes so you can mark your progress if you have that bent.
This kit is about the same level of difficulty as Ambroid kits. The woodwork isn’t so hard and there are castings for the complicated pieces but the rails must all be handmade out of wire. Fortunately I had a bending jig for most of them but don’t look at the end rails too closely, they aren’t really even. The windows and door openings have to be cut out of the siding, and I found the door castings didn’t match the size in the instructions, so one of them has an extra sill. There’s no way to hide imprecise cuts for these features.
There were no window panes. Fortunately the trucks came in a clear plastic package that was easy enough to chop up with a pair of scissors, but I ended up painting the shell and cupola before assembly because it is impractical to leave the car open until after painting, it isn’t designed for that so you need to put the window panes in before completing basic assembly of the shell and that means painting early or getting paint on the windows. One hint I got from a plastic modeler is to put wax on the clear plastic when using CA as it prevents fogging up. Also any additional weight needed must go in before basic assembly. I ended up adding 1.7 ounces to weight the car to match the NMRA recommendation.
There was a lot of fitting for this kit. You see time and again in the instructions “Then sand to fit”. Not a criticism, and handy at times as the roof is curved but not something I’ve seen that often in other kits. The underside detail is sufficient but between the tool box and brake reservoir there isn’t much visible under there, good thing because I put the air line in backwards and a bunch of other stuff didn’t fit right as a result. If I didn’t admit it here no one would ever know…
Anyway, the instructions say to paint the caboose “Scalecoat #12 Tuscan Red”, and I was querulous that there weren’t any highlights like a black roof or yellow grab irons but it looks like Santa Fe liked their cabooses simple way back when so solid brown it is. The decals were the modern type and because the sides are not smooth I used glosscote, Microsol and flatcoat. There are only six decals on this car, though the sheet had additional numbers in case you wanted to change it. I still haven’t mastered decals and these didn’t end up filling in the crevasses as I’d hoped, still need to figure that one out.
So, there you have it, another interesting kit, this one only thirty years old. If the chance comes up to get another cheap Gloorcraft kit I’ll certainly snap it up.
 

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Discussion Starter #43
Silver Streak Tank Car

One of the things I am doing assembling these kits is trying to find the oldest kits that I can. It’s more of an idle fancy than anything else, but interesting in its own way and for those of a historical bent it is hard to avoid seeing how far back in time you can go.
I thought I’d really struck a hit with this latest car “Silver Streak 8000 Gallon Single Dome Tank Car SS 601”. There is a date on the (actually very nice) instructions of 9/9/49, making this possibly the oldest kit I’ve assembled so far (excepting the AC reefer which didn’t have a date on it). The tank wrapper has a build date of 4/30 so that dates the prototype too.
Unfortunately, this car suffered horribly from Zamac cancer. As previously mentioned, impurities in Zamac alloy cause long-term warping, cracking and breaking and this has left the car frame broken into 20 pieces, all warped beyond any rescue.
So I do not recommend the Silver Streak tank car kit because the years have not been good to vital structural elements. See the picture if you want the full horror. Thus ends the review.
But what to do with the kit? As I examined it I realized the tank parts were basically intact. The end caps and dome are Zamac and have some minor cracking but because they are round and thick they didn’t break apart or warp like the frame, a little fill and filing and they won’t be perfect but will do.
The body of the tank is a cylinder of wood and it may have shrank a bit (I wrapped a sheet of cardstock around it to fatten it up) but nothing wrong there and the side cardboard was bent in half, leaving a crease on the top but otherwise intact. The rest of the tank is made of other types of metal. The trucks are actually good enough for a modern car.
So I started looking at the diagrams and broken pieces of the base frame and decided I could reproduce it with reasonable accuracy from wood and plastic. Starting with a beam going the length of the car, then saddles for the tank, then other pieces as needed. What I finished with isn’t beautiful but will serve well enough.
My biggest problem is that I couldn’t reproduce the tread pattern on the walkways or the hundreds of individual rivets. I ended up creating the tread pattern on powerpoint with a black rectangle and grey lines, then printed it out, cut it out and glued it to the plastic frame. The rivets were drawn on from a tiny silver marker. The rivets look cartoony but the treads came out pretty good.
During final assembly I found the tank has a bit of a list sitting on the frame. I may try to manhandle it to straighten it up a bit but I may just live with it. In addition the straps don’t fit well around the rail posts. I’m not super happy with the final result but it was good practice.
So, in the end not a complete waste of money. I have also picked up old wood and metal kits from both Athearn and Walthers, neither with instructions, stay tuned for reviews of those. Hopefully these instructions will give me enough to help with the Athearn kit which is another Texaco tanker.
 

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One suggestion on rivets. An outfit called Archer makes decal rivets. They apply like a decal but the rivets are formed from the ink to have scale texture. They come in several sizes/scales and patterns. If you want real HO antiquity, look for an H. Owen kit. They began being produced before WWII. Early post-war Mantua kits came with either brass or wood bodies and embossed cardstock sides pre-painted and embossed as necessary.
 

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Discussion Starter #45
One suggestion on rivets. An outfit called Archer makes decal rivets. They apply like a decal but the rivets are formed from the ink to have scale texture. They come in several sizes/scales and patterns. If you want real HO antiquity, look for an H. Owen kit. They began being produced before WWII. Early post-war Mantua kits came with either brass or wood bodies and embossed cardstock sides pre-painted and embossed as necessary.
Thanks for the hint, rivet decals on order. I'll keep an eye out for H. Owen kits on ebay...
 

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Discussion Starter #46
I've had a short delay of progress waiting for mail order to catch up to production. I finished the other Ambroid hopper yesterday and overall I'd say I learned a bit from the first one. The cracks where the flanges attach to the body were filled in with green stuff and sanding sealer used on the body. Because this car is grey and not white the decal discoloration is not as noticeable and I added the end steps on this car. I don't think the catwalks came out as well but otherwise a better effort overall.
The next kit is assembled but I'm waiting for the paint to arrive. The one I really want to work on has warped sides and my first try soaking and clamping resulted in them warping even worse instead of better, so I'm going to leave them in the vice for a week this time, then I can really get started.
 

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Discussion Starter #47
JV Models Flatcar

This is “JV Models 9205 40 ft. Flatcar (Truss Rod) with Trucks, Undecorated”, one of several car kits I’ve purchased recently that didn’t have any instructions in the box. Fortunately flat cars aren’t too complicated and using my usual lazy MO I looked up flatcar construction on the internet and found a nice article describing how to scratch build a 19th century flatcar. A check of the parts included in this kit showed that I could easily use the article as a guideline to build this one.
This model includes a flat sheet of bass wood the size of the car. Support beams, brake system, truss rods, trucks and couplers are all attached below it and the deck is attached above. There were thin pieces for the sides to hide the seam between the sheet and the beam but none for the ends so I cadged some out of the scrap box. The wood for this kit is all cut to length, though most pieces had beards that needed to be trimmed off the ends. It also included some really nice plastic hardware for the brake system and stake pockets.
For the truss rods some of that green bendy rod is included. I find it great for oddly shaped pieces like the brakeline but for truss rods that tend to get pushed on by my fat fingers piano wire would be better, or thread which is what I ended up using. No turnbuckles provided. The deck is made up of a bazillion individual boards. I glued them in about an inch at a time then feathered the center 15 or so to prevent a noticeable gap.
There were Tichy trucks in there, with plastic wheels that will soon be replaced with metal. Overall weight of the completed kit was 0.6 oz including trucks and Kadee couplers, so the load will have to include cannon balls or somesuch. I painted the bottom with Scalecoat roof brown, then glued on the deck and stained it with black and brown water-based paint greatly thinned. The car came as undecorated so no decals included, I’ll have to think about that.
I’ve been having issues with kits lately, most involving some kind of mail order to resolve, it was nice that this one went together in a couple days without any. This kit is still in production.
 

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A lot of modelers building truss rod cars use monofiliment fishing line for the rods. Since it is essentially clear, when you thread the pre-painted turnbuckles on you mask them for final painting and it looks clear between the ends. With some pre-planning about holes drilled through the beams you can use one length of fish line to do all four rods.
 

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Discussion Starter #50
A lot of modelers building truss rod cars use monofiliment fishing line for the rods. Since it is essentially clear, when you thread the pre-painted turnbuckles on you mask them for final painting and it looks clear between the ends. With some pre-planning about holes drilled through the beams you can use one length of fish line to do all four rods.
You are right, I even had some fishing line left over from another project, but I knew where the thread was and didn't think of it.
 

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Discussion Starter #51
Bev-Bel Boxcar

This is the last car of 11 wood and metal kits I got in a single lot on Ebay. I saved this one for last because I intend to keep my railroad during the steam era and a Railbox-style car simply won’t fit so I thought I might just leave it in the ‘To Do’ box for a few years until the guilt wore off then sell it, but I also enjoy building the rest of these cars and I already bought trucks so I went ahead.
This is the “McCloud River R.R. 50’ Railbox-Style Box Car”. Bev-Bel has apparently been around since the ‘50’s, but the instructions mention Quality Craft Models. I looked them up and apparently they stopped making HO kits in 1980 and since the decals have a build date of ’77 I expect that brackets the date the kit was designed.
I remember building a Railbox car in my youth, it may have been this same kit. I also remember not priming the car and when I painted it yellow it looked terrible. Then I joined the Navy and I’m sure the car ended up in the trash, in fact I don’t think I ever added trucks. Anyway this kit is finished.
The instructions are very nice. Good scale drawings with brief but comprehensive numbered paragraphs giving step by step guidance. Of course, box cars aren’t that complicated anyway. Most of the diagrams are so you can put the decals in the right places, there are side views for eight different railroads I never heard of. Mine is the McCloud River Railroad Company, a logging railroad in California that apparently went into business leasing cars. The instructions include a list of the Scalecoat colors needed to paint the car for each railroad.
The kit itself goes together well if you have a bit of experience. I thought it odd that the pipes underneath all hang under the frame, on older cars they are above the frame, and the thinner pipes are prone to bending across the ribs (replacing the weak green wire with piano wire would fix that). Otherwise the most complicated part of the kit are the corner steps, they all have to be bent out of a piece of flat wire and will take a bit of practice to make them even (mine aren’t, but hopefully no one will look too close).
I added 1.7 oz to bring the car up to the 5 oz recommended by NMRA. I left the center open to do so but didn’t realize there were center wall pieces under the door and had to fill in a bit where there was a slight gap.
The car is an interesting combination of colors, and looking at the instructions you can have one any color of the rainbow if you pick the right railroad. Only decals for the one railroad though. I was struck by the fact that there are no flat planes on the whole car, so all the bigger decals have to go across supporting ribs.
Unfortunately, when I tried to add the decals provided they shredded completely when I put them in water. Not sure what was going on there but now I’m out of luck unless I can find an alternative. I think the decals are missing an additional coat of something that holds the print together, but have no idea what that coat would be (varnish?).
A month later and I made do with a combination of Microscale Decals and the name and bear printed on decal paper. BTW, I have four extra sets so if anyone wants one let me know. Overall the car looks OK finished, but I know I could do better. I don’t plan on building anymore though, I’m still shooting for a steam layout, sort of.
 

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Discussion Starter #52
Megow’s Boxcar

About 15 years ago while I was a wargamer and not model railroader I built a B&O wagontop boxcar out of resin as a favor to my brother. I always thought they were pretty neat and mentioned it to my son so for Christmas he surprised me with a double whammy, “Megow’s Models Baltimore & Ohio Steel Box Car Kit No. 024”. Not only is it a wagontop, it’s a wood kit from 1939! The whole thing just reeks of age, the wood is that deep tan that only comes from time, the instructions are aged paper printed in red and it makes extensive use of cardboard and paper. My usual search on the internet indicated that Megow’s built plane, ship and train models starting in the early 1930’s, and apparently they were the first to make HO train cars kits (but don’t quote me on that). I think my search for the oldest HO kit is nearing its end.
I’ve mentioned in previous articles that the normal way to build a wood boxcar model is with endblocks glued to roof and floor forming the structure, then the sides tacked on. This kit uses the sides, roof and floor as the structure and the ends are simply thin cardboard. The floor in the (excellent) diagram is about 1/2” thick, but in the kit it’s only 3/16” or so, so I glued blocks to the base to support the whole frame. That didn’t stop me from making the whole thing slightly slaunch-wise. Also, the four structure pieces weren’t all the same length requiring sanding to make them fit right. Once those were glued together I gave thought to weight and added 1.75 oz to bring it up to NMRA standards. Usually I just put all the pieces on a kitchen scale and see what it comes out to (don’t tell the wife).
Next I spent some time making the curve around the roof edge even. The sides were wider than the groove on the top so they stuck out a bit and I ended up using green putty to fill in the gap and sanded it smooth and even. Also, the ends were sanded after gluing in place to ensure they were flat with the sides, important since the paper covering the sides also hid the edges of the ends. The printed ends and doors had rivet lines printed on them out of a darker shiny color, the pictures show that detail. The paper has rivets embossed in it, a nice touch.
I received this kit already opened so can’t report if all pieces were included but there weren’t any grab irons or brake system, though the reservoir part underneath was there as a turned piece of wood. The underside is otherwise completely barren except than one hunk of wood for the center sill so I roughed in a bit with scraps. It mentions making other parts out of included cardboard, so I expect there might have been an extra sheet or maybe they just expected us to cut up the one cardboard sheet provided.
The instructions make great use of the piece of cardboard. The ribs are supposed to be cut out of it and glued along both sides, all 11 of them. Unfortunately the cardboard isn’t solid, it’s like two pieces of paper with some mulch in between. That’s OK for big bulky pieces like the ends and doors but the ribs are only 1/32” wide and started exfoliating even as I was gluing them on. Not sure what is the right word for “Pressing on with dogged determination in the face of sheer stupidity” but rather than starting the ribs over with a piece of nice cardstock sitting within 2’ of me on the work table I just kept gluing the cardboard ribs together as they fell apart. Many ended up twisted and uneven. Overall I’d say the ribs are the most disappointing part of this car. After some paint I’m hoping they hold together.
Speaking of paint, there are no recommendations in the instructions for paint which wouldn’t help anyway since the cardboard pieces are darker than the paper sides. I ended up using Vallejo Mahogany brown, which is too dark for the sides but just about spot on for the other pieces. After painting the sides I decided the brown was too extreme compared to the paper sides so I took the Mrs. to the local hobby superstore with the kit and we looked through their paint selection until we found a closer color (Chocolate Brown if you must know). The paper ended up being too short so there is a brown strip across the bottom of the car as well. I decided not to repaint the cardboard pieces because that’s the way the kit came, better or worse.
After all that disappointment I decided to put the wheels and trucks on. I find that doing so gives me a sense of accomplishment because I can get a sense of what the finished product will look like, and seeing it run around the track shows you are getting close. After drilling the screw holes for the trucks and repairing the catwalk and ribs damaged when trying to rubber band the car to a miter box for support I put it on the track. It seemed tall but an ordinary freight car was the same height. Maybe the fact that there isn’t a sharp corner at the roofline makes it appear taller? Anyway, after that it was a simple matter of making a dozen grabirons including four angled ones, cadging a brake system from the junk box and making some door hardware out of wire.
Halfway through construction I was convinced this kit was even more disappointing than the tank car. After all, I had no expectations for the other after I opened the box and saw Zamac cancer, but this one looked like it would come out nice until I got halfway through working on it. Now that it is finished I can only quote the old adage “A good coat of paint hides many sins.” That said, If I get another chance at a Megow’s kit I’ll take it, just to find out if this one is an anomaly.
 

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Congrats on 1) finding an old Megow kit, and 2) getting it built. It certainly illustrates how far we've come in model design and production. I don't think I've laid eyes on a Megow kit in decades. Trying to model those arch ribs on any of the B&O wagontops (caboose, covered hopper, boxcar) was a real pain. Finally in recent years got decent resin and injection-molded models. One of the toughest of the Ambroid "One of 5000" kits was the vinegar tank car. Even as an experienced craftsman kit builder it was a rough go.
 

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Discussion Starter #54
Congrats on 1) finding an old Megow kit, and 2) getting it built. It certainly illustrates how far we've come in model design and production. I don't think I've laid eyes on a Megow kit in decades. Trying to model those arch ribs on any of the B&O wagontops (caboose, covered hopper, boxcar) was a real pain. Finally in recent years got decent resin and injection-molded models. One of the toughest of the Ambroid "One of 5000" kits was the vinegar tank car. Even as an experienced craftsman kit builder it was a rough go.
Thanks for that, I'm seriously Jonesing for one of the wagontop covered hoppers. I wish they made a caboose kit too, I'm finishing up converting the only B&O GP-18 and would like a bay window caboose to go with it.
 

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Discussion Starter #55
Kurtz Kraft Boxcar

The only reason I bought this car was because I’d never seen a model railroad car kit in a plastic bag before. It turns out it is a plastic kit “Kurtz Kraft PS-1 40’ Boxcar Kit”. My google-fu says the company made these cars starting in the 50’s. This one has a $1.00 price tag printed on the instructions.
While it isn’t quite as easy to assemble as the Athearn kits that can be finished with a screwdriver, this kit falls pretty low on the plastic model difficulty scale. Most of the detail is on only one side of the plastic. The grab irons are so delicate several broke before being removed from the tree. The hardest part of assembly is getting the sides and ends even to glue the roof on after everything else is finished. Oh yeah, the coupler pockets aren’t designed for modern couplers, I ended up cutting them off and installing Kadee housings.
This car is in a rather bright shade of red-brown, but repainting it isn’t an option if you want to keep the stenciled on railroad info. After a coat of flat finish I’ll live with the color. At first the car felt a bit big to me but next to a modern Bachmann car they are the same size. Anyway, a quick but fun project.
 

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Great thread. I've never seen kits of this level. But truthfully, I've never looked. My experience is with the aforementioned Athearn style kits. I picked up 2 Athearn and 2 E&C kits at a thrift store over a year ago, and finally got around to building(?) them a couple weeks ago. Not a whole lot of detail, but I'm happy. There were 2 of these. I did have to add the Kadees.
 

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Discussion Starter #58
Thanks guys, I'm really enjoying putting these together. I plan on focusing on buildings next, a board-flat layout doesn't really compliment the cars.
 

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Discussion Starter #59
Walthers Boxcar

Ever since I started working on these kits I’ve been trying to get older and older models. When I saw a Walthers kit on Ebay that wasn’t made of plastic I knew it was old and so I picked it up. The box was original, one of those mass-produced boxes with only a stamp “BOX 6805” unique to the kit. Unfortunately there were no instructions and an email reply from Walthers told me, based on the address on the box the kit was packaged between 1937 and 1958. (BTW, I am very pleased with Walthers communication, they respond quickly and have gone out of their way a couple times with my cockamamie requests.) This puts it newer than the Megow’s boxcar but older than everything else.
The kit itself is a combination of crude and well-engineered. It contains a dozen tiny wood screws, cast ends instead of wood blocks and paper braces for the roof. I think it wasn’t designed with modern glues available and anything that wouldn’t hold with Elmers was screwed or nailed together. The sides were some kind of thin plywood that unfortunately were left in the paper envelope over the top of the roof and after 70-odd years ended up warped. I tried soaking and flattening them only to find them warped worse, so I had to take advantage of modern glues to keep them flat. After painting they warped a bit but not much I can do about it at this point.
As I mentioned there were no instructions so the first order of business was to figure out what car the kit was intended to represent. Right out of the box I noticed the sides were made of horizontal boards rather than vertical, that had to be a clue. I thought perhaps it was a milk car but the pictures I’d seen of them made them look more like passenger cars than freight cars. Then I found pictures of outside-braced boxcars. The decals had NYC and Michigan Central on them so a quick google of NYC outside braced boxcars brought up some pictures that convinced me that was it.
If it was an outside-braced boxcar the braces were missing, but there were scads of of paper braces, basically 1/8” strip with a lip pressed into the center. Initially I thought these were only for the roof, but after using 13 I still had a bunch left and so suspect they were intended for the sides too. These pieces look pretty crude and I don’t see how they would look right on the sides so I went to the hobby shop and purchased some proper angle iron. I read on the Walther’s website that during WW2 they ran out of supplies, perhaps the paper was a compromise keeping them in business while resources were spent building military hardware. I did use the paper for the roof and while it isn’t my preferred material I think it looks OK there. I think the angle iron I bought was too big, hopefully no one will look too close.
The prototype car has wooden ends, which I’d expect to see on a turn of the 20th century car, but the doors look like midcentury and the brake wheel is on the end, not the top. Also the bottom has a solid beam instead of truss rods or a fish plate. And ladders instead of grab irons. I’m nothing like an expert on RR cars but maybe this was an older car that was updated? Or maybe limited hobby supplies in WW2 created some compromises.
All the lead parts on this car serve to weight it pretty well, I only added a quarter ounce to bring it up to NMRA standards. I glued the lead sheet that serves as weight to the ends to brace the floor. The ends have two forks at the top to screw the roof to, then one tab with a screw hole on the bottom and as a result the floor wobbles just a bit (really it’s pretty ingenious; the screws for the roof go in from the bottom and are offset from the bottom tab so you can get a screwdriver in there. Then the bottom screws in from the bottom too). The original car had brads that I suspect were intended to nail the sides to the roof and floor, that would brace the bottom but the heads of the brads would show so I glued it with Walthers Goo instead.
Bottom details were a bit sparse with just four lead bolsters, a brake tank and a central beam. I ended up googling “Boxcar underside” and that gave me enough to rough it out with a few beams and pipes made of scraps. Based on the pictures I should have swapped the center beam for two separate beams with a gap between and scored the floor for individual boards. I ended up using underset shank couplers and filing a bit on the tab to make the couplers the right height.
For grab irons there were plenty of staples, plus four long narrow staples for the end steps. The ladders provided were stamped copper and in addition to being warped around the flats they were warped laterally also, in a way you really couldn’t fix (I tried and bent them worse). The curve was less noticeable when the ladders were cut and I tried to hide the bend along the edge of the car. I think the brake wheel is actually part of a clothing snap, odd but easily replaced if it offends you.
Decals seem to be a problem on older kits. This kit came with four sheets in an envelope. Two were company logos for NYC, Michigan Central and four others I didn’t recognize, plus two with all the generic mumbo jumbo found on railroad cars. I’m not sure if they were crappy to start with or if they didn’t age well but the logos were unusable and the others hardly usable. I ended up buying a set from another decal company (K4?) and these worked really well, too well actually because I had to cut them small to change the alignment (they were for a flatsided boxcar) and they curled under really easily. Wonderful decals though.
Anyway, an interesting experience and a well-made kit whose main problem is that it is 70 years old. I’ll build another if I can find one.
 

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Discussion Starter #60
Red Ball Rotary Snowplow

This is the review of ‘Red Ball Kit No. 162; Rotary Snowplow and Tender’. Actually it’s only the snowplow, I don’t know where the tender went. This was another Christmas gift from my son, who was taken with pictures of the snowplow in Skagway Alaska.
I did a little research online and it appears that about 140 Leslie steam rotary snowplows were built of a similar pattern to this one, half by Leslie, half by Alco and a few in other shops. Electricity eventually replaced steam and there are a few rotary snowplows still in reserve, most at the Donner Pass. There are maybe a half-dozen steam rotaries still in museums but only the White Pass and Yukon plow still works (but not the one we photographed.) None of this should be considered authoritative, maybe some of our more train-smart members can set me straight. This plow may be based on the Long Island plow, the only one lacking windows in the front. Red Ball was founded in 1939 and made car kits with cardboard sides for the most part. Not sure when they stopped.
Anyway, unlike most of the kits I’ve worked on this one has more metal than wood in it. The roof and floor are wood, sides, front and back are lead. The front is taken up by a massive casting of the blade and housing. The blade is held with a length of brass tube that passes through a block of wood. There’s no boiler in the kit, and considering the number of windows you can see into it might be worthwhile to put something in there. The inside is visible through the rear too, though the tender blocks the view partially.
I must add here that I think rotary snowplows are not particularly attractive pieces of equipment. Other than being impressed by the massive fan blades and seeing how cool they look in action, the truck arrangement is ungainly and the underside pretty barren (yes I know, they weren’t built for looks).
Assembly is not as straightforward as most kits. You glue the front block to the top and bottom and use an unglued spacer on the back, because the rear casting is glued to the back of everything else and it remains open. Then glue in the sides, take the spacer out and glue on the back and fan. The hardest part of the kit is the supports for the cutter wings. These stick out on either side of the fan and there are tiny tabs for the braces that you have to drill a hole through, tabs that I ruined in several cases and ended up drilling a hole through the main piece to hold the brace.
The instructions are fairly well written, but the only illustration is a ¾ view picture of the finished kit. Diagrams would have been nice. There are many grab irons and steps, staples were provided that (naturally) didn’t fit the holes in the sides (it was nice to have the holes present, I drilled them out with a pin vice much more easily than if I had to start from scratch). There were several other handholds that had to be bent from wire and I had more or less success with those.
What color to paint the plow was the subject of some concern on my part. The internet didn’t provide much enlightenment as most photos were of the few still existing or of current plows that had been converted to electric long ago. Finally I decided to paint mine black with a red fan and housing, a decision partly made because the plastic tender shell I bought to replace the missing tender was black and decaled for the Union Pacific. Actually it’s a nice piece, with wire grabirons and decouplers. I spent more on shipping than on the shell itself. Anyway, I decided to put a random number on the plow. If anyone has more information on what UP plows looked like at the turn of the 20th century I’d be interested in finding out.
The picture in the kit shows Fox trucks and as soon as they arrive from the mail they’ll replace the temporary trucks on the plow right now.
I can’t imagine running a snow plow on a model railroad very often, so I bought a spare switch and put a spur across from the train station to store the plow on. It will probably be there for a long time. Maybe I’ll lengthen the spur a bit and add an 0-8-0 switcher to the consist, once I get it running. This kit gets my thumbs up, but I’ll keep an eye out for a more conventional Red Ball kit, apparently they were fond of cardboard as well.
 

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