Freight car modeling has come a long way. Back during the 1960s when I first got serious about modeling in HO scale we had Athearn, Roundhouse and Varney freight cars to work with in plastic. Other craftsman-type kits were made of wood, pressboard of various types, or metal. It didnt take long for this boy to realize that plastic would be the medium that I would work with. Plastic freight car kits were essentially alike. They had a body, roofwalk, floor, one-piece frame, brakewheel, three pieces of brake appliances, trucks and couplers to add. Ladders, grabs and other details were molded onto the body. At the time factory paint left a lot to the imagination as it lacked accuracy and, in most cases, the models were painted for railroads that never had the prototype for the model. Most of us felt that if we bought the black plastic undecorated kits and painted and decaled them ourselves, then we were expert modelers!
Well, times have changed. Today, those of us wanting authenticity and realism have a near plethora of very high quality plastic freight car kits from which to choose. To us older folks in the hobby, the 1990s were a time of revolution for freight car kit evolution. The old norm of molded-on ladders and grabs was abandoned for separate versions that are finely scaled (within practical reason) and are added to the model by the hobbyist. Roofwalks are now much closer to scale thickness as are brakewheels and other details - and all are separate parts.
Plastic freight car kits have come a long way. While detail improvements have dominated talk among modelers, equally improved is factory applied paint. Most manufacturers that cater to prototype-oriented modelers paint their kits only for the roads that actually had that specific prototype, or at least a close cousin. The Red Caboose Seaboard Air Line B6 boxcar kit featured here is a close cousin to the Pennsy X29 boxcar. The Seaboard B6, though very similar, was not the same. Its most notable difference was a slightly greater body height and notched sidesills. Adding sections of strip styrene to the lower edge of the sidesills can represent this.
I started out by adding weight to the floor of the body. This is an inexpensive and simple proposition. Sixteen pennies stacked two deep were cemented to the car floor using Liquid Nails, which is available from most home builder supply stores such as Home Depot or Lowes. The roof was then test fit and cemented in place using liquid styrene cement.
The next issue is the notched sidesill and carbody height. This is addressed by cutting to shape several sections of strip styrene and cementing them in place along bottom edge of each sidesill. I did not measure these tabs but instead eye-balled them using the prototype photo as my guide. Be sure to scrape the paint from the bottom of the sidesills before attempting to cement the tabs in place.
Another detail modification to help fool the viewer into thinking that they are looking at a taller car is to replace the X29 door with a taller door, then lower the bottom door track (see photos). Doors from a Red Caboose 1937 AAR boxcar were used to replace those included with the X29 kit. They are taller and appear to be a match for the Seaboard B6 prototype.
With the model completely assembled and the sidesill and door modifications in place, remaining details are installed. I replaced the included plastic grabirons and simulated the prototype by drilling for and installing straight-type formed metal grabs. I then drilled for and installed Detail Associates nut-bolt-washer castings above and below each end of the metal grabs. In order to not only build a realistic model but also to make it rugged enough to stand up to handling and layout use I drilled for and installed A-line formed metal stirrup steps at the corners. Custom-formed .010 L-grabs were drilled for and installed at the ends of the roofwalk. A support is located at the elbows of the two L-grabs. Instead of using metal eyebolts I installed the L-grabs without the corner posts. After they were secured in place, a hole was drilled through the roofwalk as close as possible to the elbow. A short section of .010 brass rod was then cemented into the hole, and a dab of CA cement was used to secure this rod to the L-grab.
Other details added include freight car air hose and coupler cut lever at each end of the car. A hole was drilled for a metal eyebolt at the lower left-hand corner of each end, and the eyebolts were cemented in place. A Detail Associates freight car coupler lift bar (cut lever) was passed through the eyebolt and locked in place with Cyanopoxy. CA cement works, but Cyanopoxy is much stronger. The freight car air hoses are secured with Athearn handrail stanchions cut short and turned upside down. A mounting hole is drilled up into the endsill alongside the draftgear box. Cyanopoxy secures the stanchion in place. The pipe end of the air hose is placed into the head of the upside down stanchion and Cyanopoxy used to secure it in place.
With the model completely assembled, modified and detailed, it is time for touchup paint and weathering. All added details were brush painted with Polly Scale Boxcar Red. Simple as that. Weathering takes more time to do it right. I sometimes take more than an hour to weather a boxcar, this one included. The weathering applied here is a combination of various techniques. I started with the indispensable airbrush and spray painted the trucks, wheels and entire underside of the model with Polly Scale Railroad Tie Brown. This is my most used weathering color for freight cars.
Next came what I refer to as "Q-tip weathering." Starting with the sides, half of one side is done at a time, then one end at a time, and last, half of the roof at a time. Qtip weathering consists of spray painting a section of body surface with a 50:50 mix of Polly Scale Railroad Tie Brown and isopropyl alcohol (70% bottle label). Next, a Q-tip is dipped in Badger airbrush cleaning fluid and the weathering paint that was just sprayed on is wiped off in downward stroking swipes with the Q-tip. This removes most of the weathering paint that was just sprayed on, but leaves just enough to achieve the desired weathering effects. One resulting effect that I really like is the dirt tails below the rivets and other molded-on detail.
Once the car sides are complete I weather the doors one at a time using the same Q-tip weathering method. One really nice aspect of this method of weathering is that dirt and other crud is left in troughs and valleys between various details such as the door ribs. You can take off what you do not want and leave weathering paint in the places you want it. The end result is a pretty nice representation of what Mother Nature does to freight cars.
In the end, a truly realistic model is the sum total of all that has been done to it. In this case we took a Red Caboose X29-type boxcar that is a credible stand-in for the Seaboard class B-6 boxcar, modified the sidesills and added taller doors, then added some common details and ended with application of weathering. The entire package is pretty believable.
It has been driven into our minds that model railroading is fun. Id like to add that model railroading is also very satisfying. I have spent far more time staring at this model and the pictures of it than I did building it. I have enjoyed every moment of it. Following this articles as a guide, with a little practice you too can reap such rewards.