By Craig Bisgeier
(This article is currently under development, check back for updates soon.)
After several successful casting projects over the last few years, I decided recently it was time to attempt a boxcar model. I wanted to build a car that would be somewhat generic in appearance but would actually be close to a specific prototype, and in the 28-30’ length range since cars like this are almost impossible to find. Out of several good candidates, I chose an 1880’s New York Central & Hudson River RR design. It fit the basic criteria above, but was also a northeastern prototype appropriate for use with several railroads (NYC, Boston & Albany, any of the New York Central lines of the time), and I had good scale drawings of it as well.
I chose to make it a flat kit (5 part body) rather than a one-piece model. As a caster I’m still somewhat unsure about building complicated molds like this, but I am pretty comfortable with flat casting. I took the plans I had and reduced them down to HO scale, them got out my scratch-building supplies. The model masters went together pretty quickly using scribed styrene for the walls, doors and roof. I made only one side and one end, with the intention of using two sets of castings to build one car
I made a fascia board that ran across the top edge of the wall from strip styrene, and applied rivets to it per the plans, drilling out the holes first and inserting Tichy Train Group .025 rivets. I assembled everything with MEK solvent, which works great on styrene.
The door frame was also fabricated easily from more strips, and the top door track as well. The latch, door hardware and lower guides came from Tichy’s boxcar door hardware set, with some parts cobbled together to get a closer appearance to the actual hardware. I had to fill the insides of the bottom door guides to ensure the cavities would fill with resin and not get locked into the mold, just a minor concession to the casting process.
Corner braces were made from .010 strips and NBWs were attached next. The straps on the sides were aligned so they would match up with those applied to the ends when the car was assembled. Then I moved to the ends, and applied the NBWs that represent the truss rod ends and connections to the frame. I also added dead blocks, and finally I marked and drilled .074 dimples where grab irons would be installed later.
I built up a roof section using scribed styrene similar to that of an older Funaro & Camerlengo kit I’d built, all one flat piece but with a slightly raised roof walk. I planned to fold the roof into the proper shape later by scoring grooves next to the roof walk and bending the sides down. It worked well on the F&C kit, I ended up having mixed results later on. It was simpler to mold and cast it flat but it might have been better to find another way, in hindsight.
The car floor was cobbled together quicky using strip styrene and Tichy bolster castings. I did not follow the exact floor plan here, I find that the floors are seldom visible and exact arrangement would be unappreciated detail. So I used thicker styrene parts than normal and only made five stringers instead of six. I finished up by gluing on half a Kadee coupler box to make locating the couplers easier later on. Again, this met with mixed results.
When all the parts were ready, they were glued to a .040” thick styrene panel. The panels were them used to make the bottom of a mold box. I had thought ahead and set up the panels so the side and end were on one panel and the roof and floor were each on separate panels. When we made the molds, I grouped the wall and end with the roof panel first, and then re-poured a second mold with the floor in place of the roof. This way I was able to cast three parts at a time in each mold, and could turn out all six needed parts at once from two molds.
The initial set of molds didn’t last long, they were destroyed by a bad batch of resin that bonded to the rubber somehow and ruined them. The molds were poured again using Smooth-on OOMOO 25, and this second set has lasted far longer.
The models go together quite nicely. The parts require a bit of sanding and squaring up as all resin models do, but the parts fit together well and go together quickly. The roof is sometimes a problem – it needs to be supported by several styrene strips that run the length and width of the car on the inside to keep it from sagging. And the method of scoring and bending the roof to shape doesn’t always work as I’d hoped – sometimes the parts become separated and it is difficult to keep them aligned. Still these are minor problems and I’m generally pretty happy with the models.
After assembly, I drill out the holes in the floor for the truck and coupler mountings and tap them for 2-56 screws. I start working on adding additional details like grab irons and brake wheels and platforms. Once those are done I apply a pair of .060” x .060” needle beams under the floor, and apply Tichy 6” queenposts to them. Then I string .015” brass wire across the queenposts and up over the bolsters to simulate the truss rods. Tichy turnbuckles were added to the wires before placing them on the model. This pretty well completes assembly of the model.
A quick scrub with water and dish detergent cleans oils off the model, and then it gets a quick spray of red primer to seal the body. With the primer dry, I airbrush on an acrylic color coat (craft paint) in several light passes. I use a brown color for cars of the Boston & Albany, and a brighter red for New York Central & Hudson River RR cars. When the color coat is dry, the car gets a coating of gloss acrylic anywhere decals are to be applied.
I prepare my own decals on my ALPS printer, based on pictures and drawings I’ve found in my research. I don’t always find the exact font match, but it is usually very close. The decals go on with just water, and then get a couple of coats of Solvaset which really helps them get do into the grooves and details. They also bond well with the glossy surface leaving no telltale silvering behind the decal.
With the decals set and dry, the model gets a final coat of Dullcoat before getting its trucks and couplers attached. When everything is finally dry it gets a quick checkout procedure where things like coupler height, weight, wheel gauge and rolling characteristics are checked and approved. From there the car goes into revenue service on the layout, and eventually will receive some weathering treatment once I have time to do stop worrying about populating the layout and can concentrate on making the cars look even better.