Friday, 2 December 2011

American Freight Cars 1: Overview

About ten years ago I abandoned my American modeling project to make a model of the Petaluma & Santa Rosa 44 and 4th Street depot that I have written about here. Fortunately, I squirreled away all the freight cars that I had and have therefore recently been able to get them out of storage, and assess what needs to be done, to get them ready for my new American layout I have planned.

No, I'm not going back to the P&SR, because I don't want to have to scratch build all my locomotives, as the line epitomizes the title of this blog; No Two Alike. Instead I have have chosen an interurban that had multiples of the same type of locomotive, yet still had one-off odd balls that can act as signature pieces to define the layouts topic, but more on that later.

These are three of the four of the Kadee PS-1 box cars that I have, which have had their original Kadee wheelsets replaced with  NWSL Code-88 wheels, and the glad arm on the Kadees cut off. My original layout called for hand uncoupling, but the new one will require automatic uncoupling, so I am going to take the opportunity to upgrade the MK5 couplers to the new MK58 scale size ones that Kadee do.

I built this C&NW flat car from a Proto2000 kit and weathered the floor as can be seen here. I have replace the rigid trucks with Kadee sprung trucks and NWSL Code88 wheels have been fitted. As can be seen I have already replaced the MK5s with MK58 couplers, and now only need to paint the wheels, as and when I get around to it.

I bought these tank car models ready made, but I have a few kits of the Proto2000 kits  to make as well. The kits look quite fiddly, and given how delicate this RTR model is I'm not looking forward to the task. The engineering plastic used for the grab irons is very delicate and breaks quite easily. I shall perhaps at some future time replace all the grab irons and handrails with guitar string.

However, I have put Kadee 58 couplers on these cars. I've also replaced the rigid trucks that the tank cars came with Kadee sprung ones with Code-88 NWSL wheels. Painting of the wheels and weathering will happen in due course. Though I will replace the ride control trucks that I put on the SHPX tank car by accident with Bettendorf trucks before I go any further with it.

My original P&SR layout required a lot of PFE reefers and I bought these two as RTR to have something while I made up all the kits I bought for my project. So I have a few boxes of unmade Red Caboose and Intermountain kits to build, and a lovely Tichy kit to make and paint. All put on the back burner at this point as I don't think I can justify that many reefers on the new layout.

I have replaced the rigid trucks with Kadee sprung trucks that have had their wheels replaced with Code-88 NWSL wheelsets. Couplers are waiting replacement, as I ran out of Kadee 58s when I was taking these pictures. I'm also planing on replacing the running boards with etched replacements.

Another Proto2000 kit I made back in the day with the trucks replaced and the glad hands on the Kadees cut off. I shall replace the couplers as part of my planned upgrade of all my current stock.


Another kit I made and as you can see I have replace the running board with an etched replacement one from I think Plano, though it might be a Details West one, I have a small quantity of both in my spares box, and it is hard to tell who made what once you have removed it from the packet. They look very nice and I plan to leave the walk way unpainted, but I will paint the supports, as I understand that it was quite common for railroads to skip painting the  running boards in the 1950s.

Another Proto2000 box car kit that is looking a bit worse for wear as several of the grab irons have broken off it. I plan to replace them with some wire ones I have. Again my usual replacement of rigid trucks with sprung ones has been done. What I now need to do is actually re-fix the running board and this time put in some supports; rather than taking the slapdash approach of just gluing the etch to the top of the car.

Finally, the freight car that I abandoned in mid-build, an L&N gondola that comes with a wood interior. A lovely kit, but one has to fit 26 individual grab irons to complete it, and back in the day I couldn't be bothered to finish this off before moving on to what was then my new British Southern Railway project. C'est la vie as the say.

I will be posting updates on these care before Xmas, showing the progress I've made with converting to Kadee 58s and painting wheels etc.


  1. Hello Ashley, I can add CNJ 21237, a 1923 design steel boxcar to your list of cars that traveled on the CNS&M. I have a waybill from October 1947 that shows it with a load of unfinished lumber enroute to Rhode Island. It was delivered to the CNS&M by the CMStP&P at Milwaukee and interchanged to the EJ&E at Roudout.

    In case you were not aware, the North Shore (and the South Shore Line as well) handled a decent amount of overhead or bridge traffic through the Chicago gateway.


    Jim Wolf

    1. ust caught this post now, so sorry for the delay in replying to you.

      Wow, great info and thank you very much for that. I'm still getting my head back into the American scene, and understanding concepts like bridge traffic, switching runs and terminal destinations and how they affect operations on a railroad.

      So any information that comes my way is appreciated.