Thursday, September 18, 2014

A Tale of Two Boxcars- Part 2

In Part 2, we'll look at some modifications to the Atlas RBL boxcars that will make them more reliable in operation and a few missing details. 

The first step was to replace the truck screws by drilling #50 holes and tapping them to accept #2-56 screws. I wanted to make sure that there wasn’t a solid weight above the bolsters, so I removed the roof by gently inserting a knife blade under the edge as shown in the photo below.

Neither roof was glued in place and both came off easily. I was surprised to find what is used for weights in these cars- two large nuts that are glued in place over the truck bolsters as shown in the photo below.

With the roof removed, it was evident that nothing would interfere with drilling and tapping the truck bolster as described above.

The Atlas car comes with Accumate couplers which are secured in the coupler box by a cover with a small pin cast into it. The pin fits into a round casting on the coupler box. I use Kadee #5’s or 58’s exclusively, so I needed to change the couplers. One of my freight car standards is to make sure that all couplers are secured in place with screws which insures that no couplers will break loose during an operating session. It also makes replacing them a cinch. To remove the couplers, I gently inserted a #11 Exacto knife blade under the coupler cover to pry it loose. The cut levers are glued to the cover but a gentle prod with a #11 knife blade will break them free. After removing the coupler,  I marked the location of the pin on the other side of the coupler box cover. I put the coupler box cover back on the coupler box and used a #50 drill bit to drill a hole through the coupler box cover and the coupler box. After tapping the hole to accept a 2-56 screw, I placed the Kadee spring and coupler inside the coupler box and secured it with a small 2-56 screw.The photo below shows one of the coupler box covers removed and the new Kadee coupler installed.

Once the couplers were installed, it was time to address the bright yellow color on the bottom of the car. While it may have been painted this way when the car was new, it wouldn’t take much time in regular service to acquire a solid coat of grime and dirt. To simulate this, I masked the sides and ends and sprayed the bottom with Rust-Oleaum camouflage brown. This paint comes in a spray can and is available at most home improvement stores. It dries perfectly flat, works well on plastic, and is a great dirty brown color that is perfect for the bottom of freight cars. The paint comes out of the can very heavy, so a few light passes are needed to get adequate coverage without building up too much paint. The photo below shows the bottom of the car after the paint has been applied. Note that some of the yellow still shows in a few areas. My goal was to make sure that everything visible from any normal viewing angle would be covered. In the event you wanted to cover every nook and cranny, you could decant a small amount of paint into a bottle from the spray can and use a small brush to hit those areas.

For the base coat of weathering on the trucks, I sprayed them with the same Rust-Oleum camouflage paint that was used on the bottom. I like to spray the wheels and axles while they are mounted in the trucks as it prevents any paint from accumulating inside the journal boxes and keeps paint away from the end of the axles. You can see the super custom, extremely expensive, ultra high-tech painting jig that I made in the photo below.

There were two fairly obvious detail omissions that needed to be corrected before weathering the car. This car comes with an early version of the consolidated stencil and a shop date of 12/75. Any car with these markings would have had an ACI (Automatic Car Identification) label which was mandated by the F.R.A in 1968 and was to be installed on all equipment by 1970. I used old Herald King ACI labels, which are no longer available, but you can get them from Highball Graphics. The second missing detail item is the tack boards on the side of the car. I had some in one of my parts boxes, so I mixed some yellow and orange paint to match the color of the car, painted the tack boards and then mounted them on the side to the right of the reporting marks. The photo below shows both of these details added to the side of the car.

In Part 3, I'll describe the weathering techniques used to get this car ready for service.


  1. Great post Tom, what method do you use to clean the wheels after painting?

    1. Strictly old school, Greg- a wire brush in a Dremel.


  2. That's what I figured... I agree old school but the results speak for themselves.