Branchline Trains’ boxcar kits (not RTR) of the early 2000s remain one of the best values for models of rolling stock. I purchased this kit for maybe $10 at a train show. It was really intended to be a fleet filler, but I wound up doing a decent amount of work on it, resulting a nice car.
The prototype for this kit is an 8′ RBL with a Youngstown flush door based on a car built by General American in 1957. This basic design was purchased by many buyers, but by the early 1960s the 10′ door along with a cushioned underframe had become the preferred equipment, thus the 8′ plug door car may represent about a quarter of 50′ RBL equipment of the mid-1960s.
In the back of my head I knew that C&O RBL and did show up fairly regularly in New England and that they had a decent sized roster of these cars but I wasn’t too sure it was a great addition. Research shows that the C&O did roster about 1100 RB, RBL and XMLI cars in 1966. Of these 248 were 50′ cars with 8′ doors, with 149 in the series 5500-5649. The most common car on the roster was a 50′ car with 10′ 6″ doors, there were close to 600. So the 5500s aren’t unusual cars, but certainly not the most common.
Insulated boxcars, like auto parts boxcars, were often part of pools of cars with other railroads for specific shippers. As a result a car from the C&O might be assigned to Miller Beer in Milwaukee and be shipped to Boston over a route of MILW-Chicago-NYC never touching the rails of its owner. Still, the origin road would have a disproportionate share of the cars in one of those pools and a large road like C&O would have most of its cars assigned to its own shippers, so let’s look at tonnage of commodities requiring insulation, but not refrigeration on the C&O to find a typical use.
RBL Commodities on the C&O
Using the Freight Commodity Statistics we can get an idea of the top commodities originated, terminated, bridged or handled locally on many Class I railroads. Since the last year this data is available is 1963, I have to use that, but that should be close enough.
|Commodity||Total Cars||Total Tons||Tons FWD||Est Fwd Cars|
|Food Products NOS in cans and packages||33435||1041107||346023||11112|
|Soap and Cleaning Compounds||3210||23986||13589||1819|
|Malt Liquor (Beer)||7162||243811||60457||1776|
This analysis clearly shows that canned and packaged food products are far and away the typical RBL type commodity originated on the C&O. Furthermore beer was not shipped to New England in volume from C&O’s territory. C&O would have had many cars in the Proctor & Gamble pool for soap shipments out of Ivorydale (Cincinnati), Ohio. According to the ICC Carload Waybill Statistics TC-3 report from 1965 though, the bulk of the soap shipments within the Official Territory were intermodal moves. This means that NYC’s Flexi-Van service from Cincinnati to Worcester and Boston would get the lion’s share of those moves. Still, I’ve found photos of P&G RBL loads at Framingham.
So if this car is going to represent a food shipment to the Boston area, what would be some typical shippers? We can make some educated guesses by first figuring out where a shipment most likely would come from. Looking at the 1965 reporting for STCCs 203 (Food) and 2099 (Food products NOS), the states served by C&O rank as follows in terms of carloads in the waybill sample:
- Illinois (95/270 = 365)
- Ohio (64/111 = 175)
- Indiana (34/78 = 112)
- Michigan (60/26 = 86)
- Virginia (35/18 = 53)
- West Virginia (-/7 = 7)
While Ill., Ohio and Ind. rank high, C&O’s market share in those states is small compared to other carriers. In Michigan though, the ex-Pere Marquette routes dominated the agricultural region of the state giving them a strong share. While Michigan did not show up in the 1965 State-To-State moves of 203 or 2099 products to Massachusetts, it did pop at 11 cars in the 1963 data of Food Products NOS. Some searching turned up a few large Michigan shippers on the C&O:
- Gerber, Fremont, Mich.
- Michigan Fruit Canners, St. Joseph, Mich
- Dailey Pickle, Saginaw, Mich.
- Heinz (pickles), Saginaw, Mich.
- WR Roach, Croswell, Mich.
Additional smaller canneries operated in Western Michigan (especially the fruit growing region around Traverse City). Long story short, I can realistically operate this car on my layout.
Branchline C&O RBL Model
With the rationale behind the model established let’s look the build. I already had three Branchline RBL’s on my roster when I acquired this one. In order to differentiate this one and make it a more correct model, I modified the sill with a fishbelly profile using plans that appear to be from this car in the 1966 Car & Locomotive Cyclopedia. I spliced the new sill on and cut away part of the old sill. To blend the joint line away, I applied putty over the seam and sanded it flush. I added a few rivets where the underframe met the sill and airbrushed on a coat of Vallejo Model Golden Yellow.
Weathering was a bit more of a challenge on this car than my typical boxcar. Brightly painted cars are just harder for me to do a good job on, so I sought to alter my techniques on this one. To try and get something that resembled the prototype photo I tried fading the paint with a wash of pastel yellow oil paint first. I wasn’t convinced this was going to work, so I only did it on one side. This was followed by a wash of raw umber oil paint and an application of Dullcote.
I had to mask several areas before applying the Pan Pastels since the road grime tended to settle in some spots and avoid others. Rivets seemed to suck up the dust and keep it from settling on the car. Plug door cars typically accumulate road grime on the door surrounding the door posts, but not directly under them. To properly mask this area I left the door posts off the car until I was done with the Pan Pastels.
When I removed the masking, I colored the rivets with a colored pencil and sealed all with another application of Dullcote. Final detailing and painting included patched repack, reweigh and brake test stencils, Tangent uncoupling levers, Hi-Tech air hoses and a Kadee running board. All the extra work with the weathering was worth it. As for the faded yellow effect, it worked great and I wished I had used it on both sides of the car, I will just be careful not to build the paint up on the rivets next time.
This is, by far, the nicest job I’ve done weathering a yellow or orange car to date, so I wound up building a nicely detailed and needed car, while learning some new techniques in the progress…all from a $10 purchase, you can’t ask for more out of a project than that.