Category Archives: Projects

Building a Penn Central X58 50′ Box Car (Part I)

Back in January, I bought my first craftsman freight car kits from Rail Yard Models. During the Vancouver Olympics, I started working on the first project – a Penn Central X58 50′ box car. I will tell you more about why I chose a Penn Central freight car in a future post. For now, let’s start with unboxing the kit.

As you can see in the following picture, Rail Yard Model kits contains everything you need to build the model. Besides the obvious urethane body, roof, shear plates, bolsters, coupler pocket lids, the two piece bolster alignment jig and many smaller cast parts, the kit comes with trucks and near-scale wheels, brake hardware, etched metal parts, several strands of wire, styrene strips, brake hoses, decals and a CD-ROM containing a 60-page manual, line drawings and a 14-page history of the car.

The only things not included are couplers, which isn’t a big deal. The coupler pockets are designed for Kadee #78s but I am going to use Sergent couplers instead.

Unboxing the Rail Yard Models Penn Central X58.

Unboxing the Rail Yard Models Penn Central X58. (click to enlarge)

After consulting the history, I decided to model the Penn Central 361825. This car is from the first series built by the Pennsylvania Railroad in 1964 and was equipped with the Hydra-Cushion. The kit comes with parts to either model the Hydra-Cushion or the Keystone underframe details giving you the flexibility to model different versions of the car.

Penn Central X58 with Hydra cushion.

My X58 is outfitted with the Hydra-Cushion.

Installing the brake hardware is fairly easy. All you need to do is put together the plastic brake appliances and mount them using etched metal parts. Getting the brake piping just right was a little challenging because the instructions did not provide a bending diagram. In the end it worked out fine, though.

X58 with brake hardware and piping.

X58 with brake hardware and piping.

Adding the brake rigging wasn’t that hard either but I made one mistake when bending a brake lever support the wrong way. When I tried to fix it by bending it in the opposite direction, the part broke. Luckily, I was able to reorder the etched parts and Gene from Rail Yard Models quickly mailed them.

X58 with brake rigging installed.

X58 with brake rigging installed.

The doors are detailed with styrene rods and strips, which is easy enough. I didn’t measure the strips and inadvertently used one of the pre-cut door tracks as door handles. Once I discovered my mistake, I carefully removed the thicker strip from the door, removed remaining glue and replaced the handles with the correct strips. For the door tracks, I got replacement strips at the local hobby shop. Lesson learned – now I got my digital caliper handy at all times.

X58 door opener details.

X58 door opener details.

In the late 1960s and 70s, some cars including the PC 361825 had the hand brake lowered and the tall ladders cut down when the roof walks were removed. The manual provides clear instructions where the etched ladders need to be cut and how the hand brake needs to be modified.

Cut down end and side ladders.

Cut down end and side ladders.

The PC 361825 had its roof walks removed but the roof walk supports were left in place. The etched supports are bent into an l shape and inserted into holes I had previously drilled.

Roof walk supports without transverse walking panels.

Roof walk supports without transverse walking panels.

In part II, I will install the end platforms, hand brake, PROTO:87 wheels and Sergent couplers.

Adding Weathering Powder to the Salt Technique

Recovered from last week’s disappointment with my first salt technique results, I tried adding Bragdon weathering powders which I had bought a few years back.

I first applied spots of light rust, medium rust and dark rust with a small round paint brush which I trimmed down to about 1/16″ (1.6 mm) stubble. Then I used a soft bright brush to spread the rust.

Hopper weathered with Bragdon powders.

Hopper weathered with Bragdon powders.

Once I was happy with the results, I added the soot powder on top and spread it all over the side of the car. The picture above shows the side of the car with less soot. Below is the side with a thicker and more even layer of soot. Not sure which one I like better.

Hopper with a thicker layer of grime.

Hopper with a thicker layer of grime.

The trucks first a got a layer of soot and then a mix of medium and dark rust which I applied with the bright brush. I held both trucks in one hand so that a got a matching look for each side.

In summary, I think adding the weathering powders saved the day. It brings out various shades of colors and works very well with the pattern created with the salt technique. Even some of the remaining salt crystals no longer bother me. In fact, they give the weathering job a realistic three-dimensional feel.

Let me know what you think and which side of the car is your favorite.

My Salt Weathering Technique Needs a Little More Refining

My first airbrushing experiment continues. After successfully applying a first coat of rust color, I tried to use the salt technique to achieve a weathered chipped paint look.

Hopper in covered in salt.

Hopper in covered in salt.

I let the salt fully dry  – it’s best to do that over night – and then sprayed the car with the final color. I chose a dull gray in this case.

Hopper with gray coat.

Hopper with gray coat.

Allowing ample time for drying, I then carefully washed off the salt. The salt didn’t come off as easily as I thought and I used a soft brush under warm water to get the salt chips mostly removed. After another round of drying the car looked like this.

Hopper after removing the salt.

Hopper after removing the salt.

As you can imagine, I am not happy with the outcome and here are a few things I think went wrong:

  • The underlying rust layer was too even  (this could still be remedied with weathering powder)
  • I wet the entire car instead of using small amounts of water in fewer spots
  • Using the salt mill gave me not enough control on where the chips fell
  • The salt mill produced tiny chips of salt which I wasn’t able to fully remove after the final coat of paint was dry

Luckily, I only spend three bucks on the kit so I don’t feel too bad about this mishap. If you have any suggestions to help me improve my technique, leave a comment below.

A box car will be my next victim… Stay tuned.

My First Airbrushing Results

At the Amherst Railroad Hobby Show, I bought a few cheap kits to practice airbrushing. This week, I washed the first kit in warm soapy water, let it dry overnight and gave it a first coat of rust color paint.

First coat of rust paint on an Athearn 34 foot 55 ton hopper.

First coat of rust paint on an Athearn 34 foot 55 ton hopper.

Operating a double action airbrush took some getting used to but I think the preliminary results are pretty good. In this particular case, I will try the salt technique to achieve a chipped paint look.

Where exactly is Fessenheim?

A reader sent me an email a while ago asking about my Fessenheim project. It is modeled after Fessenheim, Germany, which is not to be confused with Fessenheim in the Alsace-Lorraine region of France.


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Fessenheim is a small town in the Nördlinger Ries on the former branch line of Nördlingen-Wemding (German railway route 884). The line was opened by the Bavarian State Railways in 1903 and ceased operations in 1995.  The station at Fessenheim was located at kilometer number 10.3 of the line and only consisted of a small depot – the standard Bavarian agency building with ramp – and one siding to an agricultural supplies co-op, which is still in operation today. The tracks and the Fessenheim depot were removed in the early 2000s.[1]

Fessenheim in April of 2009

Fessenheim in April of 2009

A FREMO colleague recommended this station because it only requires one turnout. The model will be exactly to scale based on railroad maps and architectural drawings. There are a few drawbacks though – the agricultural supply facility likely didn’t see a lot of freight traffic, and the station, at over 4 meters in H0, is a bit long considering that it offers limited operational functionality.

Nevertheless, I am still excited about pushing ahead and working towards the completion of my first FREMO:87 modular station.

[1] Bahnstrecke Nördlingen–Wemding. (2009, February 22) In Wikipedia, The Free Encyclopedia. Retrieved 20:12 September 23, 2009, from http://de.wikipedia.org/w/index.php?title=Bahnstrecke_N%C3%B6rdlingen%E2%80%93Wemding&oldid=57012146