Critical Cars

New York Central Lot 858-B Boxcars

One car that I’ve had on my most-wanted list for a long time was one of NYC’s 40′ boxcars with Despatch ends and roof from lot 858-B. This is a fairly simple kitbash from Branchline parts, resulting in a unique car.


NYC’s Despatch Shops Inc. (DSI) built thousands of cars with their own ends and roofs between 1956 into Penn Central, but lot 858-B (numbered NYC 42000-43499) was the only lot of 40′ cars (N.B. – the last 100 cars had Improved Dreadnaught ends). Except for 25 experimental PS-1s, they were also the only 40’ers on the roster with 8′ doors. This feature made them the preferred car for assignment for appliance service. By 1966 about 2/3 of the fleet had been reassigned with new numbers. I discussed these car assignments and NYC’s appliance traffic flows in an earlier post.

NYC 87283 at Marshalltown, IA in 1966. This was assigned to Michigan Westinghouse. Oddly, it displays both Evans Spartan Loader and Evans Damage Free logos – these were competing load restraining systems. Unlike the prototype, I followed it also has correct load restraint symbols on the door. Sands photo, collection of George Elwood, used with permission.


After stripping a Branchline kit using 91% Isopropyl alcohol, I followed Seth Lakin’s excellent article in the NYCentral Modeler e-zine. Rather than double the hill and describe the work needed, I’ll just direct you here. I followed his directions pretty much exactly, although I replaced the .010″ x .020″ + .060″ x .020″ sill beam with one made of .030″ x .020″ + .040″ x .020″ to cut down on the bill of materials. Other changes were the use of Hi-Tech air hoses and Tangent uncoupling levers.

Paint & Decals

For paint, I wanted to model a car reassigned to appliance service. Some of these cars continued to wear their original red, most were painted different versions of Century Green. I wanted to model a green car, but the problem I had was the lack of a Transco SL decal. I did find a picture of a car assigned to Westinghouse in the NYC System Historical Society’s archive that only featured an NYC style SL decal similar to the one in the Microscale set so I followed that.

NYC 87175 was assigned to Whirlpool. Since it lacked Transco’s version of the SL mark, I was able to duplicate this scheme with Microscale’s decal set. Photo courtesy of New York Central System Historical Society’s archives, used with permission.

I painted the roof, ends, and body prior as subassemblies. The body was my formula of Vallejo Emerald and Blue-Green. This time I replaced some of the White with USAAF Aircraft Gray. Decals were from Microscale set 87-58. I supplemented this with CDS Set HO-165 for the “858-B”, “return to…Appliance Park, KY” and “BLT 8-56” lettering and Microscale 87-xx for the “Lift handle to open or slide door” and “adjust brakes here” lettering. This gave me a car with a Westinghouse number and a GE return to location, but I’m fine with just getting close, at least it says “appliance”! Smokebox Graphics provided the paint patch and repack/brake test stencils.


I followed the picture, which appeared to be taken in the late 1960s for the weathering. I used raw umber oil paint for a wash and added some dark rust spots. Then I darkened the rivets with a dark umber colored pencil. After a coat of Vallejo Matte Varnish, I dusted on Pan Pastels – Burnt Sienna Extra Dark (couplers), Raw Umber (ends, trucks), Raw Umber tint (sides), and Medium Gray Extra Dark (roof and ends). The running board I used was a silver one stolen from an unweathered PS-1, I painted it black and then used a scratch brush to scrape off some paint to represent one with chipping paint. Lastly, I drew on chalk marks with a colored pencil.

With that, I had a car ready to haul appliances from the Midwest to Boston. This is another project with a good rendition of Century Green, I’m starting to feel comfortable that I’ve got this mix down enough to be brave enough to paint my Tangent cabooses. Not now though, I just have a couple more cars to clear the bench and I will start sawing wood again.


Seth Lakin, “Modeling a New York Central Lot 858-B Boxcar”, NYCentral Modeler, 4th Quarter, 2014 – Link

References: Ed Hawkins, “Freight Cars of the Fifties: NYC Despatch Shops Built 50 Foot Boxcars”, Railmodel Journal, February 1999

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