Vallejo Polyurethane Varnish

Now that I’m getting good results with acrylic paints and gloss coats the last product I need to find a replacement for to get off of lacquer-based products is Dullcote. I never was able to get good results with the spray cans but airbrushing it has been great. While I use a respirator no matter what I’m spraying, the downside is that even with a spray booth vented to the outside, the fumes build up in the workshop. I don’t like to go through the hassle of using Dullcote for just one car, while at the same time too many causes a build-up of vapors, so I try to spray in batches of 4-5 cars at a time. Needless to say, that slows down my finishing process.

So for that reason, along with the desire to get rid of hazardous chemicals for me, my family, and cats I need to find a less hazardous substitute. I had read good reviews of the Vallejo Polyurethane Matte Varnish and since the shop down the street stocks it, I picked up a bottle.

Vallejo 26.651 Polyurethane Matte Varnish

The Test C&NW 84102

For a test project, I selected an Athearn Blue Box 40’er that I have had kicking around waiting for decals forever [Note: more on this car in a bit, and in my defense, I already drafted a post on this before Tony Thompson started blogging about the same thing this week!]. It is a car that I couldn’t care less if I ruined, so I finished up the decals, weathered it up, and headed for the spray booth. Vallejo recommends a 3:1 ratio of varnish to thinner, but online forums suggested 1:1, so I followed that. I sprayed on thin coats at about 18 psi. It dried fairly quickly, but I still sped it up with a hairdryer since I was anxious to see what the result would be. The resulting finish was a uniform matte as advertised.

An upgraded Blue Box Athearn 40’er was my test subject…more on this trip down memory lane later.

The next question was would it have enough tooth to hold Pan Pastels? I don’t use pastels as my main medium, usually just a light coat of dust on top, so I didn’t need it to be super “sticky”. It seemed to work well for what I needed and the pastels helped knock the matte finish down to flat. While the texture was good enough for the powders, it wasn’t quite gritty enough for my colored pencil chalk marks. I got them on, but they didn’t come out nearly as good as they usually do. The next time I spray it, I will go for a 2:1 or 3:1 to see if that results in a flatter, grittier finish. If that doesn’t work I’ll try a different colored pencil.

SOO 137196

A factory painted Soo Line (Wisconsin Central) boxcar was next.

Since the C&NW car went so fast and easy, I grabbed my just completed Soo Line boxcar. This was the car I had butchered the door gussets on, after much trial and error I did a good enough job of matching the body paint. This worked so well you can hardly tell the gussets are there at all. The results were identical to the C&NW car, no surprises.

Proof that the gussets are there, I swear I added rivets too!


I thought this was easy to spray and gave effective results. I see no reason why I won’t use the whole bottle. At the same time, it wasn’t dead flat so I’m not tossing my Dullcote just yet and plan on trying the Winsor & Newton Galeria Matt Varnish, as suggested to me by Bruce Griffin, when I run out (see Bruce’s review). The bottom line is that I don’t have a reason to avoid spraying this stuff and it will help me pick up the pace as I work through a backlog of projects to paint and weather.


Workbench Wednesday

Rolling stock continues to be released from my shop. This B&O wagontop covered hopper had been done for months, except for the stirrups which I managed to break all four of during assembly. I finally remembered to order these and wrapped up that project.

This was an impulse buy from Funaro & Camerlengo to complete of one of their two-for-one train show offers. In reality this car has almost no business being in New England and there were six other cars of theirs I should have gone for instead. Anyway, I suppose it could be hauling industrial sand from West Virginia or road salt off the original Genesee & Wyoming in New York and it came out pretty good. I weathered it based on a photo published in the B&O Modeler magazine. I wanted it to look like it was in something other than cement service as plants on the B&O did not ship to Massachusetts.

Other than that I fixed the mess I made out of the Soo Line boxcar, it and one other just need a final shot of Dullcoat, my lot 858-B car is progressing on the workbench. The big project I had hoped to have done was the lot 955-B P&LE box, but I managed to screw up decals on one side of the car. A repaint of that area with leftover paint I used didn’t quite match for some reason, so I need to repaint a wider area without it spiraling out of control. Ugh. At least the other side and the ends came out right.



On Color

A Walthers coil car I kitbashed long ago but never painted. I removed most of the walkway and replaced many cast on details with free-standing replacements. The decals are a mix from a variety of Microscale, Rail Yard Models and Mark Vaughn sets. Since these cars were unlikely to show up on the B&A until years in the future, I thought it would make a good test bed for color matching.

A hallmark of the 1960s New York Central is their jade green color scheme, known as Century Green. Painting equipment in this color can be a bit of a challenge for a number of reasons. First, blends of colors can be hard to get correct, a little too much one way or the other doesn’t look right. Maine Central Harvest Gold is a good example of this, as both model manufacturers and those restoring full size equipment have repeatedly missed the mark, looking either too yellow or orange. Second, the color has a tendency to fade fast in the weather, so the color is a moving target in the real world.

Third has been the drift of our collective consciousness. Model train and model paint manufactures have missed the mark on this color for years making it too green. Along with that, Penn Central reformulated the color into Deepwater Green, which had less blue and was darker. In my opinion, these two together have led model railroaders to misrepresent NYC’s green.

A range of renditions of Century Green surround my latest paint project NYC 752097: NYC 168521 to the left is from Branchline – the hue is right, but too dark. To the right is Atlas – a good shade/tint, but too green, the right rear is Proto 2000 too green and too light. The Walthers 60′ high-cube is actually fairly close.

With a backlog of equipment to be painted Century Green, I sought to dig a little deeper to figure out a good way to match the color. My first stop was the New York Central Historical Society’s web article on color standards. Included are formulas to match both a paint sample (Pullman-Standard Butler, PA 1965) and an actual drift card from DuPont. With this information you can have create your own drift card by having paint matched to the color formulas.

The next piece I found was someone else who went down this road trying to match paint to restore NYC caboose 21692 for the Southern Michigan Railroad. This gentleman had claimed to have seen both the paint sample and drift card in person and was convinced that they were based on the old Munsell color system color 2.5BG 5/8. After making a direct comparison, he matched that color standard. The finished restoration matched the color better than any I have ever seen (although the graphics could use some help).

Southern Michigan Railroad’s restored NYC 21692. Courtesy of SMR’s Facebook page.

Since the results of that looked promising. I found an online color chart for 2.5 BG – but 5/8 was missing. Why? As it turns out they felt the 5/8 hue doesn’t reproduce well on a monitor. This basically confirms how hard it is to match this color. Next I found Encolorpedia, which has analysis and paint matches for all the Munsell colors. They determined that 07937B in the hex code and a hue of 170 degrees, 91% saturation and 30% lightness . It recommended Vallejo Model Color Light Turquoise and Model Air Jade Green were close matches (and exact matches to each other). Perhaps the Jade Green is a match, but the Turquoise is very blue and not anywhere close to matching the Jade Green, so take those match recommendations with a grain of salt.

Since the color looked different on each of my phone, desktop and laptop, I printed a sample on my photo printer to get a color standard (the background color on the new theme for this site is 07937B for reference). The color seemed to be a good match for new NYC cars in comparisons to photos. I played with a mix of Vallejo Model Color Emerald, Blue Green and White, creating my own color chart and decided a 1:1:1 ratio would be a good place to start. I painted a coil car and X-post boxcar. The color looked a little on the blue side, but comparisons to photos of new boxcars in the Morning Sun Color Guide to NYC Freight and Passenger Equipment Volumes 1 and 2 looked very close.

I opted to proceed with weathering of the coil car. After a wash of raw umber, the color shifted more to a green than a blue. It was still more blue than my other cars and that is what I was aiming for. Again comparing to photos in the books showed the hue to be too green or blue and the shade too light or too dark depending on the photo. In other words it was in the range.

These two cars were painted in the same batch. The side by side comparison shows the effect of Dullcoat, artist oils and Pan Pastels on the final color. That grab iron will be repaired after decals are done.

The final test was to apply a flat finish and some Pan Pastel powders. I used Raw Umber Tint as the main weathering agent to fade it a bit more. The final result came out well enough that I’m going to go forward with decaling the P&LE boxcar over the existing paint. I thought the initial color was too blue, but if anything the final result was too green. I will probably add a bit of gray and maybe more blue to the formula on the next batch. The question now is what do I do with all of the too-green cars I have on my roster?!?!

Depending on the prototype photo the hood is either too green, blue, light or dark – so that should be within the range of acceptable color. It is in fact, very close to the color of a fairly new car.
Critical Cars

Critical Cars: 40′ Boxcars with 9′ Doors – part 2 Wabash 91000 series

In the prior post on this topic I provided a roster of cars built with 9′ doors and a preview of the other car I was building – a Wabash box in the 91000-91514 series. I have now completed that car, here is the full write up of that project.

The prototype cars were built by AC&F in November 1961, putting them among the last orders of 40′ boxcars. In fact, these look like the last 40′ AAR boxcars built, as all the remaining orders for 40’ers I know of were PS-1s, mini-hi cubes or exterior post designs [update: Jim Eager advises that MKT 5100-5199, ACF 5-68, were the last non-exterior post 40′ boxcars built – MBC]. Their 9′ doors, drop sill and roller bearing trucks certainly give them a modern look that sets them apart from cars built in the ’40s and ’50s. Many of these cars were initially dedicated to flour loading. The modern look, service assignment and photos on the B&A all made me want to include this car on my roster.

A rain-streaked WAB 91054 on the NYC at Silver Creek, NY near Buffalo in June 1967. The stencil reads “For Flour Loading Only When Empty Return to Wabash Railroad Company Decatur, Illinois”. Photo collection of George Elwood, used with permission.


For the base car I used an Intermountain PS-1 body with ends and a roof from Branchline (BL). I did this because I had these parts on hand. If anyone is going to consider this kitbash, do yourself a favor and start with a Branchline 50′ welded boxcar with a 9′ door. As you will see, attaching a BL parts to an Intermountain body created all kinds of little problems. The only saving grace was the PS-1 welded panel lines matched up perfectly to the prototype WAB body while the BL ones don’t. While this is a minor detail, it came in extremely useful as a guide while applying decals.

The first step was to cut 5′ off of each end of the body. This was followed by adding a couple of styrene strips on the ends to serve as a surface to join to the body. As it turns out the Intermountain body is just a hair too narrow for the roof ends, so I had to sand those down, losing the rivet detail in the process. This also meant that the roof wouldn’t fit in so I had to remove the two strips along each end of the underside of the roof and have it sit flat on the top of the car. To make that work I had to install a styrene sheet reinforcement to keep the sides from bowing in.


The doors that came with the Branchline car didn’t quite match the prototype. I tried to source some Kadee doors but they were proving hard to get when Tangent introduced their new 9′ YSD doors. These fit the existing door tracks great, but their geometry on the back side is designed for the Tangent body, so it left some voids. This required some sanding and styrene strips all the way around the inside perimeter to secure properly.


The next step was to install the underframe. In looking at the drawings on the N&W Historical Society (see here). I decided to use a Branchline underframe from a 50′ car. Again, I had spares from cars I had put cushion underframes on. The Branchline underframe and bolsters sit on a couple of strips which aren’t on the Intermountain car, so I had to shim these up by 0.054 (an Evergreen scale 4″ x something and .010″ together). I cut up the underframe into three pieces and spliced it back together as shown. New bosses for the trucks were needed so I drilled out holes for 1/16″ Evergreen styrene tube. I cut these flush with the bolsters, but as it turns out I should have left them a little taller to properly fit the Tangent 50-ton roller bearing trucks. I made spacers out of thin sections of 1/16″ tube to take care of that issue. With that done I added Kadee couplers in their scale sized boxes, shimming them down a bit.

I detailed the underframe using stock Branchline brake parts with the rods removed and replaced with phosphor bronze wire and Tichy turnbuckles for clevises. A-Line stirrups and Hi-Tech air hoses came next. With the holes on the underside of the body done, I added lead shot in puddles of white glue over each truck to bring the car up to weight.

The underframe showing the rearranged parts from the 50′ underframe and the mix of stock Branchline hardware with .012″ wire for rods and pipes. The styrene bits on the body filled in holes where I cut off a bit much. Note that was giant cat hair sticking out from the door not a scratch.

Gussets and Other Body Details

For the gussets, I aimed not to repeat the mess I created with my Soo Line car covered in a recent post, so I took a squared up side shot from Gary Roe of the Wabash Historical Society and processed it in Inkscape to scale it full size then extract measurements from it. I came up with the following plan and used it to make the parts I needed from .005″ styrene sheet. Measurements are actual inches so I could use my digital calipers to layout out the dimensions. This isn’t a perfect method but the parts came out close enough.

My left side gusset plan, to do the right one you have to subtract the area of the door track.

The remaining work involved hanging various detail parts. I used the following:

  • Grab Irons – side: Kadee bracket grabs
  • Ladders – side: Branchline 7 rung
  • Tack Boards: Branchline
  • Running Board: Kadee Apex
  • Brake Wheel: Kadee Miner
  • Brake Step: Plano
  • End details: Branchline
  • Grab Irons – bottom end: Tichy drop grabs hanging from underside of car
  • Cut lever brackets: Yarmouth Model Works
  • Cut lever: Tangent
  • Sill Steps: A-Line
The finished car on my Thompson Wire module.

Paint & Weathering

I painted the body of the car with a mix of 2 parts Vallejo Model Color Calvary Brown and one part Dark Red, the roof with a mix of Vallejo Model Air USAAF Light Gray and Silver and trucks Poly Scale Rail Brown. I then installed the roof and running board. Decals are an old Mark Vaughn/Wabash Custom Decals set. I wound up with some silvering, which I attribute to the decals being stiff (I did have 3-4 coats of Future on). I got rid of most of it with pin holes and Solvaset, but some stayed around the decal edges. I might need to start cutting decals on glass to keep the edges from curling up. I covered over most remaining silvering with weathering. To represent a four year old car I gave it a light wash of dark umber oil paint along with a light dusting of Pan Pastels along with colored pencil chalk marks.


Although I made this project a little harder than it could have been, it wasn’t all that bad. I still need to swap out the trucks to Tangent 50-ton roller bearings – they weren’t available when I ordered the doors. I’m now one car closer to being able to replicate the entire train in the photo below. I just need to do one more car after I weather the X31s I got for Christmas.

NYC local freight at North Grafton, MA January 1967: RS2 5512, ATSF modified 1937 box, NS 1937 box, D&H Pullman G31 clone gon, PRR X31A, PRR 50’er, WAB 91000 and lot 919 caboose. I’ve only got the 50’ PRR car to go, it is probably an X41c but with no model available I might use an F&C X38. Don Haskel photo, used with permission.
Traffic Research

Freight Flows: Appliances

For this Thanksgiving edition of Central Artery, here is an overview of the logistics of the the machines that helped deliver and clean up today’s meal – ovens, refrigerators and dish washers along with their cousins – washers and dryers. This post will provide some background on the build of the NYC 858-B boxcar I’m working on.

1940s Westinghouse Ad

In the 1960s there were many finished products still moving in carload freight service. Most of these used plain boxcars but for some a little more attention is required. Household appliances is one of these commodities.

1965 Massachusetts Data

There were 57 shipments of STCC # 363 – Household Appliances in the sample. This was comprised of 9 cars of household cooking equipment, 28 cars of refrigerators and 20 of washers/dryers. That equates to about 6000 shipments per year to Massachusetts, about 16 per day, which was about 1.5% of inbound shipments. That doesn’t make appliances a top 20 commodity, but it clearly is significant.

Most of the inbound cars came from the Great Lakes region, with about half from Ohio (28), followed by Kentucky (12), Michigan (6) and Illinois (5). Indiana likely just missed the cut, as they had shown up in the 1963 survey and shipped plenty of cars to N.Y. and N.J. in 1965.

Carloads of Appliances to Massachusetts by origin state in 1965 1% Waybill Sample

Shippers and Origins

Westinghouse’s plant with truck and rail shipping docks in Mansfield, Ohio on the PRR Fort Wayne Route. Courtesy of automaticwasher.com

In investigating potential shippers, I could have tried to do a deep dive and find some statistics on the top selling brands of appliances in 1965….instead I looked at where NYC assigned its lot 858-B boxcars. There were 1500 cars in lot 858-B #42000-43499 when new, but since this was the railroad’s only large class of 40’ers with 8′ doors, they equipped 915 with interior load restraint systems and assigned most to specific shippers. All but one of these special assignments was in the appliance industry. Below is a summary of their appliance assignments, along with potential loading points (not inclusive) and serving rail carriers:

  • 560 cars for Whirlpool – Marion, O. (EL north side, NYC south side); Clyde, O. (NYC-N&W); Evansville, Ind. – 3 plants (Refrigerator plant #2 NYC and 2 plants C&EI – open to NYC); St. Joseph, Mich. (NYC/C&O); St. Paul, Minn. (NP); Fort Smith, Ark. (SLSF); Rock Island, Ill.
  • 89 – Westinghouse – Columbus, O. (PRR-NYC); Mansfield, O. (PRR); Newark, O. (B&O-PRR); Edison, N.J. (PRR); Athens, Tenn.
  • 68 – General Electric – Appliance Park, Louisville, Ky. (L&N, open to NYC)
  • 62 – Philco – Philadelphia, Penn. (PRR); Connersville, Ind. (NYC)
  • 40 – Carrier – Syracuse, N.Y. (NYC)
  • 10 – Frigidaire – Dayton, O. (B&O, open to NYC)
  • 10 – Kelvinator – Detroit, Mich. (GTW and WAB/C&O both open to NYC)
  • 5 – Admiral – Chicago, Ill. (MILW, open to NYC); Galesburg, Ill. (AT&SF); Harvard, Ill. (C&NW)
  • 5 – Maytag – Newton, Iowa (RI)
  • 3 – Hotpoint – W. Milwaukee, Wis. (MILW)
  • 3 – Amana – Amana, Iowa (MILW)
  • 0 – Norge – Herrin, Ill. (IC)
A Whirlpool plant in Evansville, IN on the C&EI. Note the string of boxcars behind the fence staged for loading. Photo courtesy of Willard Library, Evansville Historic Photo Collection, used under creative commons license.

As one can see, locations where NYC was the serving carrier naturally had more of their equipment assigned, locations where NYC had only reciprocal switch access appear to be in the middle, followed by strictly off line points. Whirlpool was the top appliance manufacturer in the US and NYC served multiple plants directly, with over 500 cars assigned it is obvious that Whirlpool was the railroad’s most important appliance customer.

Receivers and Destinations on the B&A

The art deco Sears warehouse on Brookline Avenue, near Fenway Park was a major receiver of appliance carloads. The Sears private Kenmore label line of appliances was manufactured under contract by the major producers. This location was off the Highland Branch and continued to receive service after the line was converted to light rail service. Today it is known as The Landmark Center. Photo courtesy of Digital Commonwealth, used under a creative commons license.

I scanned through the Massachusetts listings in the NYC Freight Delivery Circular and uncovered several receivers of appliances. Receivers could be broken down into three groups: manufacturer operated distribution centers, retailer warehouses with sidings and small retailers via public delivery.

A New York Central Alco switcher works the Grand Jct. Branch at Mass. Ave. in Cambridge adjacent to the Metropolitan Storage Warehouse. Three major appliance manufacturers used this facility as their Boston area distribution center. In the foreground is MIT’s nuclear reactor – the adjacent building was once Whiting Milk – the destination for the B&A’s milk train from Barre Plains, Mass. on the Ware River Branch. Photo courtesy of Digital Commonwealth, used under a creative commons license.

With NYC having the best route from the Midwest to Boston and NYC directly serving several plants they logically had the lion’s share of the business to Boston. The locations I was able to pick out are as follows:

  • Metropolitan Storage Warehouse – used by Frigidaire, General Electric and Maytag – Cambridge (NYC)
  • Hotpoint – Brighton (NYC)
  • Westinghouse – Boston (NH, open to NYC)
  • Admiral – Boston (B&M, open to NYC)
  • Sears, Roebuck & Co. – Boston and Allston (both NYC)
  • Team Tracks
1950s Maytag Employee Magazine touting the virtues of a carload purchasing via team track delivery.


Great Northern 39739 was built by PC&F in September, 1961 with a 9′ door, cushioned underframe, roller bearings and a Car-Pac loader. It was specially equipped for the appliance trade….in this case an assignment to Maytag at Newton, IA. I missed these late model cars on my roster of 9′ door 40′ boxes. Jeff Lemke photo, used with permission.

By 1965 intermodal was an option for Midwest-Northeast shipments and had carved out about 8% of the shipments within the Official Territory. That means the other 92% was moving by boxcar, with some spot substitutions of refrigerator equipment, most likely RBLs made surplus by seasonality (refrigerators shipped in refrigerators!). By the mid 60s, the most common equipment for shipments in the East was a 40′ boxcar with 8′ or larger doors, equipped with a load restraint system. Common systems were Evans Damage Free (DF/DF-2), Transco Stage Loader (SL/SL-2) and Spartan Easy Loader (SEL) and Spartan Tri Belt (STB) [corrected 11/25/21]. 19 belt DFs appear to have been preferred in appliance service. It wasn’t until the very end of the decade that the mini hi-cube 40’ers were built for this industry, and even those were for service to the West.

To confirm these conclusions, I dug into a sample of appliance shipments from Louisville, KY to Baltimore, Md. and Washington, DC from a consist of PRR train WPB-4 on 9-16-66. The consist shows 12 identifiable cars (a 13th, the SOO car, wasn’t in the ORER), all rigid underframe 40′ boxcars with 8′-14′ door openings. Of these, 10 were equipped with DF or STB loaders and two were unequipped. Only two were home road L&N cars, none PRR. The balance were quite random cars assigned to the Appliance Park pool. Additionally it should be noted that, 12 of the cars were billed to GE’s own distribution centers and the 13th was consigned to Sears. I found it interesting that although Appliance Park was open to reciprocal switch according to the NYC Freight Delivery Circular, the PRR got these in linehaul service from the L&N at Cincinnati. Also interesting was that following day’s WPB-4 had no appliance cars. It begs the question, did GE send shipments out in large blocks in order to reduce switching and thereby service and damage issues?

ATSF and L&N equipped (XML) 40′ boxcars on Horse Shoe Curve at Altoona, Penn. in 1967. I can’t say for sure these were appliance cars, but it is certainly a possibility that this is another GE block on an eastbound PRR freight. Jim Parker photo, collection of George Elwood, used with permission.


After studying the information at hand I came up with the following five origin/destination pairs for my waybills:

  • Whirlpool, Marion, O. to Sears, Roebuck & Co. Boston, Mass. via NYC direct
  • Whirlpool, St. Joseph, Mich. to Sears, Roebuck & Co. Boston, Mass. via NYC direct
  • General Electric, Louisville, Ky. to GE c/o Metro. Storage Whse., Cambridge, Mass. via LN-Cincinnati-NYC.
  • Frigidaire, Dayton, O. to Frigidaire c/o Cambridge, Mass. via NYC direct [B&O origin switch]
  • Maytag, Newton, Iowa to Maytag c/o Metro. Storage Whse., Cambridge, Mass. via RI-Chicago-NYC

This gives a couple cars to Whirlpool, 2 shipments from Ohio, plus coverage of Mich., Ky. and Iowa. I already have a RI 19-belt DF boxcar so this car now has a home. The 858-B car will do double duty for a couple of the other origins, leaving one more…perhaps a MILW or L&N box. Appliance traffic was a case where the railroads worked hard with their customers to offer tailor-maid equipment to reduce damages and keep traffic from trucks. The result is some unique equipment that helps tell the story of what the railroads were doing in the 1960s.

RI 5809 had a 17-belt Evans DF-2 loader system installed. While it is a PS-1, it is similar to the Red Caboose model I have. Jim Sands photo, collection of George Elwood, used with permission.

Happy Thanksgiving!!



Workbench Roundup

I’ve been busy working on freight car projects. Lately this means I have been working hard on a project up to the point where I don’t have a part or information on hand, drop it and move on to something else. This past week I went out and acquired all the stuff I need to finish a bunch of these. Here is the rundown of what I have been doing for the past few months…

Vallejo Paint & Finishing Products

Probably the most important thing I am working on is transitioning completely away from lacquer based paints. There is a learning curve to the right way to airbrush any new product, but I’m getting there. I am really hoping that the Vallejo Matte Varnish will be a “good enough” replacement for Dullcote. I get great results airbrushing Dullcote, but even with a spray booth the fumes build up and force me to spray in batches of about five cars. The clean up is as big a hassle with lacquer thinner vs. water and I find myself putting off spraying it as a result.

I’m also close to getting a good match of a color that everybody gets wrong – Century Green – from Vallejo Blue-Green, Emerald and White. This has involved as much research and trial and error work as any other project. Stay tuned.

New York Central Lot 984-F Coil Car

This is a car I kitbashed in college and never painted it. The sanded seam down the middle of the car and the end platforms leave alot to be desired, but this will be a fleet filler car – coil steel cars were pretty rare on the B&A – so I thought it would be a good place to test my green paint formula. I think I missed a little on the blue side, but not by as much as one might think – it does match the color on several pages of new cars in the NYC Color Guide V1. I’m saving final judgement for after weathering. It just got a top Future coat and weathering is next.

Pittsburgh & Lake Erie Lot 955-B Boxcar

This is a Frankenstein kitbash, with sides from the Soo Line Historical & Technical Society, Branchline roof and ends, Details West Keystone underframe, Accurail door and detail parts from several other companies. I painted it with the same mix as the above car, but I’m going to tweek the formula after I weather the coil car and give it another coat. Looks like I need to fix a couple detail parts first.

Wabash 91000 Series Boxcar

This project continues, I now have reshaped the sill, fitted in the underframe, added weight, trucks, couplers and doors. All of this was annoyingly complicated, as the parts aren’t designed to work together. With that all done, this is now a simple detailing project, with yesterday’s delivery of parts from Tichy I have everything I need on hand to finish the car.

Jersey Central 20500-series Boxcar

This was a mostly a straight-up Branchline build with some detail parts switched out. The only surgery on this car was sanding off the rivets and adding Archer raised panel lines. With everything completed up to decals I now placed orders for the panel lines and large Ms. Liberty decals which are now both in transit.

Maine Central 50′ GATC Cushioned Boxcar

I’ve been kicking this project around for a while. I finally got the Downeast Model Works doors to fit the Branchline body, A Details West Hydra Cushion underframe, weight and Details West coupler pockets are already installed. I was about to start hanging details, when when I took another look at the side sill and decided I need to do a better job matching the prototype, so I hacked off the sloped portions and will fit new pieces in. I have a clean side shot that I can derive dimensions from, just need to sit down and do it.

Yes, I know the bolsters should have been changed out, but I took the short cut.

New York Central Lot 858-B Boxcar

These are the 40′ boxcars with Despatch Shops roofs and ends. I acquired the styrene strips I need to redo the sill for this car this week and shortend up a Branchline DSI roof to go with it. This will be another Century Green car with SL decals for a Spartan Loader equipped car in appliance service. I’m following Seth Lakin’s article in NYCSHS modeling magazine, the constrution should go quick.

Soo Line Fond du Lac Boxcar

I had been looking for 40′ Branchline Soo car for quite some time and finally grabbed on on Ebay this summer. What should have been a quick and easy build turned into a workbench decoration when I overthought the project. I looked at the prototype photos and decided to add the door gussets. For some reason I keep screwing these up. Hopefully the third time is a charm, this time I’m just going to copy Seth’s dimensions for the ones used on the 858-B car above for right or wrong. I should have just ignored the gussets, they will be virtually invisible on the finished car, provided I can even get the paint color to match.

Not sure what I was thinking here.

Athearn Phase II Airslide

I found some undecorated Athearn Genesis Airslide kits for sale on Ebay this summer as well. This car is a looong way from the Blue Box kits with what seemed like over 100 parts. Of course the instructions are still the same, that is to say there aren’t any. Fortunately all the parts fit together perfectly, but it still was as challenging as any craftsman kit. I still haven’t made up my mind how to paint this one (probably N&W with Dan Kohberg Decals, but might also do International Milling, Nabisco or Doughboy Industries). The second car I am thinking of backdating to a phase I, not sure what will happen there – it isn’t coming out of the box anytime soon.

Sunshine Mather Meat Reefer

I had this kit in my stash for a while and pulled it out and realized I needed plans. Thanks to Fenton Wells and Clark Propst on the Proto Layouts IO Group, I was able to get copies of the instructions as well as the rest of the decals I needed to do this car. Detailing of the major components is done and now I need to prime and paint before final assembly.


This list is a stupid amount of under construction work going on at once and doesn’t get into the Tangent caboose kits I have waiting for me or the PRR X29b that I got all the parts for this week too (a Branchline kitbash instead of an F&C resin kit). The good thing is the heavy lifting for most of these is done and I can bring a big chunk of this stuff over the finish line in short order. I have draft posts of all these serving as project diaries, so I’ll share detailed info on these cars they finish up.



Home of the Braves

NYC FM H12-44 9117 leads a string of tank cars on the “Oil Job” to Everett, Mass. at Beacon Park Yard in September, 1954. Jack Leonard photo, Barb Hudson collection, used with permission.

Well a couple more weeks have gone by, I’ve been busy but still no finished work. To play off my prior post I’m sharing another baseball themed photo, in honor of the Atlanta Braves winning the 2021 World Series.

Here is the Oil Job to Everett, Mass. leaving Beacon Park Yard in September 1954. In the background, peaking over the Commonwealth Armory, is Braves Field, the one-time home to the Boston Braves of the National League. The closest we ever got to a “B&A Series” was in 1948 when the Braves won the NL and the Red Sox tied the Indians for the AL. Alas, Cleveland won the one game playoff 8-3 and went on to win the World Series.

By 1954 the facility has largely been vacant since the Braves left for Milwaukee just before the start of the 1953 season. Shortly after Boston University, my alma mater, would reuse portions of the stadium as Nickerson Field. The upper bleachers let you see into the yard and I remember watching the occasional Saturday Conrail intermodal arriving during football games.

This weekend I’ll post a “What’s on the Workbench” overview of all the rolling stock projects I’m in the middle of.


Fenway Finale

In honor of the American League Championship Series moving to Boston for Games 3-5…and more importantly me being in the middle of a half dozen projects with nothing ready to share, here is a Jack Leonard shot from Brookline Junction in Boston. This is April 1958, the outbound suburban train has come off of mainline track 3 and is heading west on the Highland Branch for Riverside. Service on the Highland Branch would cease at the end of the following month. It would reopen in 1959 as a light rail branch of the MTA.

Jack Leonard photo, Barb Hudson collection (used with permission).

Looming in the background is Fenway Park. The Red Sox were opening a season where although Jackie Jenson would be named MVP and Ted Williams hit a league best .328 at age 40, they would finish in 3rd place, 13 games behind the Yankees. It would be the last time the team would finish with a winning record until 1967.

Today this scene is much changed, but still recognizable. The MassPike was built over tracks 1 and 2 in the 1960s. The connection to the Highland Branch was ripped out in the 1970s after the last freight customers along Brookline Avenue stopped getting cars. A short portion of the old right-of-way makes up David Ortiz Drive right here. The Lansdown commuter rail station occupies much of area in the center of the photo. Fenway, of course, survives as do most of the industrial buildings along the railroad – although they are now occupied mostly by bars and nightclubs.

Go Sox!!

Critical Cars

Critical Cars: 40′ Boxcars with 9′ Doors

Rounding out a freight car fleet requires modeling some slightly out of the ordinary cars. Forty foot long boxcars with nine foot wide doors are one of these prototypes. After WWII, boxcar doors gradually grew from 6′. By 1960 9′ doors had become commonplace, but by that time, railroads had stopped buying 40′ cars, so the combination of a 40′ car with a 9′ door is somewhat unusual.

According to the Ed Hawkins’ data at Steam Era Freight Cars, only 12 railroads bought standard models with 9′ doors and of these, only 4 owned 500 or more. You can download a spreadsheet of this roster info below. The first 9’ers were built in 1947 for KCS and featured 4-4 dreadnaught ends. In the 1950s and ’60s Pullman built 3403 PS-1 cars while AC&F, General American and Magor combined to build 1915 to AAR specs. Door styles among all cars were split fairly evenly between Youngstown (2915) and Superior (2439) with a sprinkling of Pullman (64).

An eastbound freight pulls into Framingham in March, 1965 with a Lancaster & Chester 40′ PS-1 on the headpin. L&C had 20 of these cars identical to SOU’s. Leroy Dozier photo, George Elwood collection, used with permission.

The total of these builds was 5418 cars, or about 1% of the US boxcar fleet. I opted for two for my roster. Including a Southern car was a no-brainer. They had, by far, the largest fleet at 2015 cars. By the numbers, Milwaukee Road should have been the second, as they rostered 1250 cars including both AAR and PS-1 designs. Since I had photos of the Wabash car on the B&A and many were assigned to flour service – a move I wanted to capture – they got the nod (plus I have the decals on hand).

Milwaukee Road 30087 at Framingham, MA during 1966. Leroy Dozier photo, George Elwood collection, used with permission.

Up until this summer, modeling one of these cars has been a bit of a challenge. The best option was to cut down a 50′ boxcar with a 9′ door. Tangent’s recent release of three versions of the PS-1 has completely changed that. I added one of the Southern cars, which had long been on my planned roster to go with an already-in-progress kitbash of a Wabash car for my fleet.

Southern PS-1

SOU 30453 at Marshalltown, IA in 1969. Jim Sands photo, George Elwood collection, used with permission.

Finishing the Southern car was pretty much a weathering project. I started by painting the wheels and trucks with Grimy Black. I finished the roof by brush painting on BAR Gray and then stippling on undercoat light gray over that. The sides were given washes of dark umber and burnt sienna oil paint applied with Q-Tips. When that cured I patched out the repack and reweigh data to match a photo from the Fallen Flags website. This was followed with dabs of Future, decals and Dullcote. A dust up with Pan Pastels, colored pencil chalk marks and a dot of silver for the air hoses finished the process.

The completed model on my NMRA module.

Wabash AC&F 1961

Flour Loading Boxcar on the NYC at Silver Creek, NY west of Buffalo June, 1967. Jim Parker photo, collection of George Elwood.

The Wabash car is still an under-construction project. This is based on the kitbash described by Craig Wilson at Green Bay Route (link). I have performed the basic surgery and cut down an Intermountain PS-1 to 40′ and added Branchline late 1-3-4 dreadnaught ends. Now, I need to figure out the dimensions of the drop sill. So far I have used three different methods and come up with a different answer each time. If anybody has this info I would be very grateful if you could share. Tangent’s introduction of 50-ton roller bearing trucks and a new 9′ door will provide some of the parts needed to finish this build. I’ll provide a write up when I complete this project.

The basic body – an Intermountain 50′ PS-1 with Branchline 1-3-4 ID ends and a Tangent 9′ Youngstown door – ready for detailing.

These two cars will help cement my boxcar fleet in the 1960s with their distinctive looks. One car was worth the wait, the other will be worth the effort.


Critical Cars

Lehigh Valley #33599

The latest car to come out of my paint shop is a Lehigh Valley Bethlehem gondola. About 11,000 copies of the Bethlehem design were built in the 1940s and 50s. The bulk of these went to the B&O and its affiliates (CNJ, RDG, WM), but the Lehigh Valley also got 1,450 in three orders. By October of 1966, the remaining 1,332 cars made up over 60% of LV’s 2,188 car gondola roster. Thus, it was the signature car on a regionally important gondola fleet.

LV 33599 at Marshalltown, Iowa in 1968 was from the LV’s last order of BSC gons built in 1952 (LV 33350-33699). Photo by Jim Sands, collection of George Elwood, used with permission.

Tangent Scale Models offers this as a beautifully detailed ready-to-run car today, but I built this one from a Sunshine Models resin kit, which I probably bought in 2006. As has been my habit, I built the kit right away but never got around to painting it. Construction was straight up, I built the car with the kit parts, adding Tangent continuous lading band anchors, Hi-Tech air hoses and Branchline Barber S2 trucks. I loaded up the underframe with lead shot to bring it up to weight.

Painting and Lettering

It took two tries to paint the model correctly. I started with Model Master Oxide Red, which came out too brown. For take two, I mixed Vallejo Model Color Calvary Brown and Dark Red (maybe 60/40 red to brown). This is the first time I’ve airbrushed Model Color and was a little hesitant to use it, as it is really made to brush on. I read some advice online and opted to thin it with their Flow Improver only, instead of their Airbrush Thinner. I also made sure the paint I had was post-2014 ensuring it is cadmium free. Do not spray with older bottles of Vallejo Red and Yellows!! Using 100% flow improver might have been overkill, but it worked great. I painted the wood floor with Polly Scale Concrete. Now I just need to get comfortable with the Vallejo Flat Finish to replace Dullcote.

Finished Sunshine LV Bethlehem Gondola

I lettered and weathered the car based on the below Jim Sands photo. I opted for a repaint scheme since the newest cars would have been 13 years old in 1965. I’ve seen some say this scheme didn’t start until the 1970s, but clearly this car shows otherwise. It looks like it was reweighed at Sayre, PA in July 1965 (“S 7-65” stencil) and last painted well before that, given the amount of rust showing. Decals are a combination of the kit decals and Herald King set G-850 for the large “LEHIGH VALLEY” lettering. I can’t tell if the white mark on the third panel from the right that looks like a flag was done by the railroad or not, but I made them from Microscale Trim Film for the model because I thought it looked neat.

I did weathering as follows. I started with a wash of dark umber oil paint, dark umber rust spots, burnt sienna rust streaks. This was followed by patched repack, reweigh and brake test stencils. Finally, I airbushed on Dullcote and finished with a dusting of Raw Umber Pan Pastels on the body and trucks and Burnt Sienna Shade on the couplers and interior.

This is only #4 of the cars I set out to do last year, but since I completed a bunch of other cars not on the list, I’m OK with that progress. A P&LE exterior post boxcar is next for the paint shop. Thanks also go out to The Hobby Bunker, who moved into Wakefield, MA this Spring and is within walking distance to my house. While they are mostly a military model shop, having a spot for Vallejo products (including all I needed for this car), Evergreen styrene and other tools and supplies nearby is fantastic. Welcome to the neighborhood!