When McKean Models released its 40-foot double door boxcar kit, I thought, "I've seen one of those in SP paint... somewhere!" Eventually I found the photo I was thinking of, among a group of prints I had purchased from Will Whittaker. It turns out to be a class A 50-16 (Automobile, 50 ton) car. The car is a very close match to the McKean car, as the photo shows, including the number of side sheets, side-sill profile and other details. The two most noticeable differences are the doors (the SP car door i s a foot wider ) and a small square notch in the side sill, adjoining the step at the ends. The doors are not so easily changed, but the side-sill notch was readily added with a small file. I chose to limit my modifications to that, although new grab irons, steps and doors could bring the car much closer to the prototype.
The paint scheme calls for comment. As is evident in the original photo, the right side of the car exhibits a faint (overpainted) herald. Evidently the SP originally used a "conventional" arrangement of lettering, with the herald and dimensions at the right end and the reporting marks at the left. But the photo shows this car to have been repainted (conceivably at Sacramento, Ca., in May 1955 when the car was reweighed) to reverse the arrangement, perhaps for the usual reason on double-door cars. (The right end is longer, therefore open doors don't obscure that end as much; the most important information is the reporting marks, so that goes on the right in such cases. )
I chose to use the "original" scheme, partly because that choice permitted use of a McKean "data only" car. In the 1950's, SP applied either "SP" or "Southern Pacific" reporting marks, and many examples of both existed. Since I have many of the latter already, I selected "SP" for this car.
I added reporting marks, number and herald from Microscale set RH-3 and also included the class number A50-16, which is visible on the prototype photo, from small numbers in the same set. My car is numbered 66334, from month the 498 cars listed in the April 1950 Freight Equipment Register in the group 66175-66674. The dimensions given for these cars are very close to the McKean "data only" car lettering. The SP cars were mixed XM and XAP (auto parts racks) classes. Evidently the cars were delivered as a mix of both types, since the April 1950 Register lists only 46 XAP's (with racks for loading automobiles engines). By 1958, a later Register lists 37 XAP's out of only 120 cars remaining in the this number group; surprisingly, they are then described as auto parts racks and most of the 37 do not match up with the 46 listed in 1950!
These apparent conversions of cars between XM and XAP classes probably reflect changing conditions in the automobile assembly business in terms of rail transport of parts. The car number I chose was from among the A50-16's which were XAP's at both times. This was a deliberate choice because I wanted to include this car in a block of auto industry cars in hot shot service, and parts racks made the prototypes unsuitable for general service. The table shows 18 cars which were shown as XAP class both in 1950 and in 1958. Thus my choice also ensured that the number would be a correct one for an earlier-era XAP; the paint scheme I used is also probably appropriate for the time shortly after the car was built. (December 1947 for 66532, though the McKean data show June 1949 … a discrepancy with which I can live).
Completion of the car involved adding some dry-brushing streaking of slightly darkened boxcar red, some graffiti from Microscale's set 87-228, and a pair of "auto parts" door placards from jaeger. (Freight Car Placard No. 2100), followed by a light overspray of diluted Floquil Grime. The car was then ready to join my auto-parts block in through freight service.