Freight Car Additions

After making some progress on benchwork, I took a bit of a break. To get back into the swing of things I finished a bunch of freight cars that had been on my workbench. Here are the first three to be completed:

The finished P&LE Lot 801-G car, ready for a load of steel products.

P&LE Greenville Gondola

The NYC and P&LE combined to own 12,600 52′ 6″ long gondolas built to the so-called “Greenville Design” (counting the last 1000 P&LE cars which are all-welded and excluded from other rosters). I believe this is the second-largest group of mill gons operating in the US during the 1950s and 60s (the largest being the PRR G31/G35 cars). Proto 2000 and now Walthers has had a well-detailed model of this car available for quite some time now. The early kits can still be found a train shows for bargain prices.

NYC switched from reddish brown-red to black for the body color of gondolas during June of 1956. For whatever reason, the black paint scheme has never been run by Life-Like or Walthers. While NYC and P&LE had a huge fleet of these cars, only about 2000 of them are an exact match for the Proto 2000 model (wood floors and interior folding stake pocket/lading band anchors). As such only these numbers have been run in factory paint. Since I needed to custom paint a car to get this scheme, I opted to also make some additional changes to differentiate this car from others on the roster.

I found plans for a steel floor car on George Elwood’s Fallen Flags website (link). I used Micro-Mark rivets laid out on .020″ styrene sheet cut to match the original floor dimensions. Additional relief for the splice plates and bolster covers were cut from 005″ styrene. Additional plate and rivet detail was added to the car sides. NYC’s Greenville gons all had ladders on the sides instead of grab irons. I used spare parts already on hand for those. I also added continuous lading band anchors from Tangent. Not many NYCS cars had these, but they are much easier to do than the exterior tie-down loops that most cars had. Since I was modeling a car with lading band anchors I carved off the cast on interior tie-downs/folding stake pockets.

The rest of the car was built per kit instructions except A-Line sill steps, Hi-Tech Air hoses, and Tangent uncoupling levers. I painted the car Model Master black and lettered it using at least five different decal sets. Mask Island sells a P&LE gondola set now that would work for this car, but I had enough marks on hand to do this without a dedicated set. Weathering was done with a wash of raw umber oil paint, followed by Dullcote and a dusting of pan pastels. I used Raw Umber for the exterior and trucks, Burnt Sienna for the interior, and Burnt Sienna Shade for the couplers.

The car prior to weathering. Decals from Highball, Rail Yard Models (logo, paint triangles), Mark Vaughn (data), Microscale (data, “McKR”, end lettering) and Champ (repack, reweigh) were used to decal the car.

NYC 40′ PS-1

The finished car – a wreck rebuilt into a solid model of one of railroading’s most typical cars.

NYC owned the fifth largest fleet of 40′ PS-1 boxcars at 5000 standard copies (plus 25 Pacemaker cars with an experimental cushion underframe), so this is another must-have car for really anyone modeling the ’50s or ’60s regardless of their prototype. This car has been on my roster for a long time and was beat up from traveling to train shows. To fix it, I pretty much had to strip all the details off and replace them. I didn’t go to great lengths on this car, NYC’s PS-1s had poling pockets (resulting in tabs where the sill steps attach) and towing staples, since this car had been assembled already I opted to ignore those details and stick to the basics. I replaced the following:

  • Running board – Kadee
  • Broken Stirrups – Kadee
  • Broken Ladders – from another Intermountain kit on hand
  • Trucks – Kato ASF A-3
  • Uncoupling Levers – Tangent
  • Air Hoses – Hi Tech
  • Brake Wheel – Kadee Miner
NYC PS-1 from Lot 798-B (built, Michigan City, IN 1950). Jim Sands photo, George Elwood collection, used with permission.

I weathered the car with a wash of oil paints. I then added the repack/reweigh paint patches and decals based on the Jim Sands photo above. After airbrushing on Dullcote I gave it a light dusting of Pan Pastels. Chalk marks were drawn on with a white colored pencil using period prototype photos as a guide.

The roof got major attention, my current “weathered galvanized roof” technique is a multi-layer one. I brush on a coat of Polly Scale BAR Gray to start. When that dries after a few minutes I dab on SP Lettering Gray with a stiff bristle brush followed by a dusting of Neutral Gray Pan Pastels to blend it all together. Lastly, I go back and hand paint the ribs between the panels the appropriate color.

Another car halfway through the roof treatment. Make sure to mask the car, I didn’t on the next car and wound up with gray spots all over it that I had to remove or cover up!

NYC AAR Postwar Boxcar

Completed Lot 773-B boxcar, still advertising NYCs discontinued LCL service. This was an inexpensive train show purchase.

Another common boxcar on the NYCS roster was the postwar AAR boxcar with a typical 1949-54 combination of early R-3-4 improved dreadnaught ends and diagonal panel roof (I just use “1949 AAR” in my notes, even if that isn’t the most accurate description). The 1949 AAR design numbered 3000 on the NYC and 4000 on the P&LE. Branchline had produced kits with several correct schemes. This one came lettered with the Pacemaker slogan, correct for lot 773-B (these cars weren’t intended for Pacemaker service, they just advertised it). The 1960s boxcar fleet was relatively young, so there aren’t many chances to model a rustbucket but a photo in the NYC Color Guide to Freight and Passenger Equipment Volume 2 gave me the inspiration to do just that with this car.

Closeup of photo from NYC Color Guide to Freight and Passenger Equipment Volume 2 by Morning Sun Books. This car was not the subject of the photo, only the left side of the car is in the frame. I had to use this to imagine the other half of the car.

For this car, I did the heavily rusted sections after the initial oil wash dried. I masked off along the straight lines along the panel seams and dabbed on burnt umber oil paint with a deerfoot brush. I then added the paint patches and used Microscale roman stencil alphabets to try and match the prototype lettering (not great but close enough). The roof and details were more or less the same as the Intermountain PS-1 above.


With detailed freight cars selling in the $50 range it is nice to bang out a handful of projects in the $20 range (including details). Weathering cars is also a great way to get back in the groove of things after taking a break from modeling for a bit. It also feels good to get these done as they’ve been on my workbench for some time now. I’ve got a pair more cars that should be finished shortly. I’ll post photos when they are done.

3 thoughts on “Freight Car Additions”

  1. I actually have one of the P&LE tuscan cars and another in PC with P&LE reporting marks. Seeing this makes me think I should get another one of these gondolas to do with a steel floor like you’ve done here (I’m a closet P&LE fan so having a third gondola around for them would appease me greatly)


  2. I never knew anyone did the N&W G-5 gondola in resin. I have an idea to try kitbashing one using a pair of Accurail 41′ gondolas by splicing in the extra necessary 5′ into the body and covering the splice joints with ribs (haven’t attempted to check what other differences there are between the Accurail car and the prototype, but it’s a necessary evil I’ll have to tackle given how many N&W had).


    1. Ted Cullotta (Speedwitch) still has the molds AFAIK – you might want to talk to him if you are looking to acquire a bunch.


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