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  • Southern Pacific 50-Foot Hicube boxcars

    Here is the prototype of the car modeled by author Ehnbom. Seen at Oakland, Calif., in 1976, No. 695574 is a 50-foot hicube, class XM, and is one of one hundred such cars owned by Southern Pacific.
    Prototype Modeler - December 1985 - Page 12 width=

    An interesting kitbash produces an eye-catching model

    by STEFFAN EHNBOM - Photography by the author

       Many freight cars have individual spotting features which, like locomotives, aid in visual identification of their railroad owners. This can sometimes be done even if the car's lettering is obliterated. In addition, almost every individual series of freight car on a particular road has defined combinations of spotting features. The details and differences may be small, but they are usually distinct. It can be rewarding to enhance the appearance of some of your freight cars by equipping them with the specific spotting features of their series.

       I don't know what makes a certain freight car tempting to model, but Southern Pacific No. 659574 (a 50-foot Hicube boxcar, series 659500-659599) that rolled by in a freight train at Oakland, Calif., in 1976 had whatever it takes. I examined my photographs of this car to determine its individual spotting features, which in turn suggest modeling possibilities. The major details setting one car series apart from another are: roof style, car end style, doors, car sides, side sills, trucks and the like.

       Studying my pictures revealed the roof is an over-hanging, diagonal-panel type. This style of roof is available on the Details West boxcars and also with the recently released Walthers insulated boxcar. The end is an improved Dreadnaught type. It consists of three plates with three Dreadnaught bulges in each. The top plate has a rectangular bulge at the top. Fortunately, this end variety is available on the Athearn 40-foot smooth-side Hicube boxcar. The corrugated doors are available in the Athearn 40-foot outside-braced Hicube boxcar kit. Since the sides are welded, they are easily made from sheet styrene. With these major spotting features established, a prototypically correct model can be assembled.

       To begin, use the tip of a Zona saw and scrape back and forth along the bottom of the groove between the roof and the side on a Details West 50-foot boxcar body. When you scrape through the body wall, extend the cut along the sides and horizontally across the ends to remove the roof and thus also a little of the top of the ends. If the DW body you use is a double-plug door type or a combination door type, there is a small rib at the top of the end which needs to be scraped and sanded away.

    The author's model of SP No. 659514. The ends of the car came from an Athearn kit, and the roof, ladders and trucks are from a Details West kit. The car sides were scratch-modeled from .04" styrene sheet which were scribed appropriately by the author.
    Prototype Modeler - December 1985 - Page 13 width=

       Then cut the ends from an Athearn 40-foot smooth-side Hicube boxcar. The cut is made at about the line of rivets running down the side flange of the ends, cut across the ends just above the highest rectangular bulge. If you want to install wire grabirons, cut and scrape away all signs of the cast plastic grabiron running across the ends and down the sides of the ends. Also remove the upper rectangular bulge of the ends.

       Fabricate the four side halves from .04"-thick styrene sheet. Each side half is a scale 20' x 12'-6". The weld seam pattern can be scored into the styrene side with a knife. Use the prototype photos as a guide.

       Now fit one car end to the roof, adjusting until straight. When assembled, the height from the bottom of the end to the gable of the roof should be 13'-6". Cement the ends in place. Now lay the end/roof assembly on its side and slide a car side half into the corner between roof and end, and cement in place, using the table surface as a support in this manner gives a perfect alignment between side, end and roof. Repeat this procedure for the car side half on the other side of the end. Then add the remaining two side halves. A scale 8'-5" strip of scale 2"x6" styrene is cemented across the car ends between the top Dreadnaught bulge and the roof to represent the rectangular bulge.

       Cement a 4"x4" strip of styrene across the top of the door opening in line with the top of the car side halves. Use a 4"x8" piece across the bottom of the door opening. For the side sills, cut two pieces of .01" styrene into long strips, scale 49'-8" by 1'-3". Notch the bottom ends of these sills roughly 4 scale inches up and one scale foot in. Cement these to the inside of the car sides so that ten scale inches shows below the bottom of the sides.

       For the top door guide cement a 21'3" length of 2"x2" styrene strip along the top of the car side. Add a 1"x3" strip to the outer face of the 2"x2". At least one inch of this strip should extend below the bottom of the 2"x2" to provide a retaining lip for the door. On a pair of Athearn 40-foot outside-braced (exterior post) Hicube doors, the cast-on door guide hooks at the bottom are removed. A length of scale 1"x2" styrene strip is cemented on its edge to the rear bottom edge of the door. This is easier than it sounds, especially if you let the door lie flat on the work table. Put cement on one edge of the styrene strip and push it along the table to pin to the bottom of the door. Move the door/strip assembly every few seconds so it doesn't become a permanent component of your model building environment!

       Put the door up into the top door guide. For the lower door guide, cement a 22'-3", 2"x2" strip to the car side just below the bottom of the door. Avoid getting ement on the door assembly so the door will remain operable - unless, of course, you wish to glue the doors closed. Add a 1"x3" to the outer face of the 2"x2" with a 1" lip upwards for a door retainer.

    Left: A close view of one end of the SP No. 656514 model. The author used Details West ladders, and fabricated the end steps from brass. He made the long grabiron from .3mm brass wire, bent to fit. It is held in place by brass eye pins, carefully twisted around the wire.

    Below: A new floor was added to the car. It was made from .01 " styrene sheet, scribed in the center. Under this new floor is an Athearn car weight and under that is an Athearn 50-foot boxcar floor turned upside down.
    Prototype Modeler - December 1985 - Page 14 width=

       Drill holes in the ends for the grabirons. The holes are drilled at the sides just above the lowest Dreadnaught bulge and just above the fourth bulge from the bottom. The fifth hole for the grabiron assembly is drilled into the fourth bulge at its top center. A .3mm wire is bent to come out of the hole at the bottom of the end, turn it upward and run along the side of the end, turn across the end along the top of the fourth bulge and down the other side. Eye pins in the three holes along the top of the fourth bulge hold the grab in place. See the photos.

       Cement the ladders from the Details West kit to the ends of the car sides. For the corner steps, I made assemblies of 1'-3"x1'-3" blocks of .04" styrene glued inside the U-shape formed by a length of brass strip bent into a step configuration. The styrene part of this assembly was cemented to the back of the side sills with only 8" of the brass step showing under the sill. This completes the body.

       As is often the case, information on the underbody of the car is lacking. I used an Athearn 50-foot boxcar underframe turned upside down so the scribing would be visible from below. A Cal Scale cushion underframe set was added, along with some brass wire brakeline rodding. A "top" floor of .01" sheet styrene was added, scribed at the center, with extensions into the door openings. Also, the four corners of this floor were notched to clear the corner step assemblies. The Athearn metal weight was cemented between the floors. Add the Details West trucks and couplers of your choice.

    Above: Another view of the 50-foot hicube model. Note how the use of the Hydra-cushion under-frame provides the exact appearance of the prototype with its extended couplers. Another outstanding feature of these cars - and well duplicated on this model - are the side sills. These were made from .01" styrene.

    Center: Western Pacific No. 3104 is also a 50-foot hicube boxcar, virtually identical to the SP car featured in this article. It was built in January of 1967 by Pacific Car & Foundry.

    Below: SP subsidiary Cotton Belt ran this version of the 50-foot hicube boxcar.
    Prototype Modeler - December 1985 - Page 15 width=

       The car is now ready for painting. I started with Floquil Grimy Black on the underbody and trucks. Before I finished with the black, I put the underbody into the body and sprayed the inner face of the sides which extend below the floor. Then I did the sides, doors and ends in Floquil Boxcar Red. When the red dried, I masked off the ends, leaving the top area open and sprayed Reefer White there. When this dried, I put a strip of masking tape along the entire top edge of the car sides and ends. I attached a wide strip of paper to the bottom edge of the tape, fully protecting the sides and ends from overspray. I then applied a 50/50 mix of Floquil Silver and Reefer Grey onto the roof to simulate a galvanized finish.

       The lettering for this Southern Pacific scheme is pieced together from Microscale decal sets Nos. RH-3, HO-258 and RH-2.




      Details West:
         No. 500, 600 or 700 boxcar kit; for roof, trucks
         and ladders

         No. 19600 smooth-side boxcar body (or
         car kit No. 1960) ; for ends
         No. 12028 car doors (from car kit No. 1950
         outside-braced boxcar)
         No. 1624, 1631, 1329 or 1336 50-foot boxcar
         kit; for underframe, floor and weight

         Styrene sheet of .01 " and .04" thickness 

         Styrene strip of 1"x3", 2"x2", 4"x4" and 4"x8"


         No. 301 hydra-cushion underframe set
         Brass wire, .3 mm diameter
         Sheet brass eye pins


    Boxcar Red
         Ree fer White
         Reefer Gray
         Grimy Black


         Nos. RH-2 , RH-3 and HO-258


      Car number series: 659500-659599
      AAR mechanical designation: XM
      Inside length: 50'-5"
      Inside width: 9'-6"
      Inside height: 12'-7"
      Outside length: 57'-11"
      Outside width at top of sides: 10'-1"
      Outside extreme width: 10'-8"
      Outside height from rail to extreme width: 16'-0"
      Outside height from rail to eaves: 16'-6"
      Width of side door opening: 10'-6"
      Height of side door opening: 11'-11"
      Capacity, cubic feet: 6033
      Capacity, pounds: 145,000

    Article Details

    • Original Author STAFFAN EHNBOM
    • Source Prototype Modeler
    • Publication Date December 1985

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