Friday, 29 December 2017

Modelling Early Erie Steel Boxcars

An interesting part of Erie's boxcar fleet was their early steel designs which roamed the rails for many decades. They could be tricky to model, requiring extensive kitbashing, but fortunately, within acceptable means we can build them without loosing insanity. The funny thing is decal companies have made many Erie boxcar decals or dry transfer, but focussing solely on the unavailable oddballs.

Fortunately, a few years ago, Dan Hanley ran a 4-part article in Model Railroad Hobbyist (April 2013) to describe how one could recreate a few of the iconic prototypes. I'm certainly not interesting in going to such lenght as casting my own resin cars, but his articles provide enough data to understand the fleet, its history and particularities.

Among Erie's particular choices were Chicago-Cleveland radial roofs, Buckeye ends and Viking roods. I'm certainly not an Erie fan by choice, but it is essential to capture this diversity to better represent the typical Erie freight consist. The most interesting boxcars are all fall into the 75000-76999 series. All steel, 40ft long, with various heights ranging from 8'-8" to 9'-4", they had character.

While I'm completely open to the idea of scratchbuilding Buckeye ends and alter significantly available models, a few readily available models are already on the market and can serve our goal efficiently.

Atlas ARA 1932 Boxcar (credit: Atlas Model Railroad)

The first model is Atlas ARA 1932 boxcar design. This model sports all the correct details for an Erie prototype and capture the flavour of this railroad. Modification aren't required, except if you buy the version with the yellow Erie Diamond logo, which should have been white on these cars. The paint scheme could also be altered to represent the modern Large Diamong logo instead. However, don't buy any Atlas ARA 1932 since they all vary in details according to specific roads. Stick with the ones clearly identified as Erie.

TLT CPR Minibox (credit: True Line Trains)

The second model is quite interesting since it brings us back to 1929, in the all steel boxcar infancy. Back then, very few railroads embraced the new concept put forward by the proposed ARA 1923 40ft boxcar design. Among the pioneers, Canadian Pacific built its famous home variation called the "Minibox". These cars had radial roof and early Dreadnaught ends. However, the sill had tabs and side steel plates were assembled in such a way it eliminated the ARA 1923 flaw of trapping water and rusting.

Fortunately, Erie had almost similar cars equipped with the same roof and ends. However, Erie built them with the infamous straight sill. It thus could be possible to use True Line Trains own's Minibox  plastic car as a starting point and bashing the straight sill. Also, some minor alterations could improve the likeless of Erie's Dreadnaught ends which were marginally different. While not 100%, this model would be both almost pinpoint on overall dimensions and details.

Red Caboose PRR X29 with Dreadnaught ends (credit: Intermountain Railway)

The third option would be to use the old Trains Miniature (Walthers) 40ft steel boxcar with Dreadnaught ends. This is the famoust PRR X29 design. Starting with a Red Caboose kit could also be a better investment in term of quality and prototypicalness. Only the car with Dreadnaught ends would be suitable. Bashing the radial roof would be the biggest challenge, but the straight sill would be "correct". Think of this option as another way to replicate what could be done with the CPR Minibox. It's a matter of choosing your fight! A radial roof could be made in styrene, then cast in resin for ease of replication. I believe it is somewhat easier to alter a Minibox tabbed sill than tackle a fully kitbashed radial roof. However, it ain't that much hard to do with sheet styrene.

To be noted, another easy bash is using Intermountain AAR 1937 (IH 10') boxcar and replacing the roof with a Viking one. Minimal alterations would make it an excellent car to model without efforts.

As you can see, it is quite feasible to build a decent Erie early steel boxcars without reinventing the wheel. Depending your interested in Erie, feel free to you to follow Dan Hanley and go full kitbashing. However, it is nice to see a large array of interesting cars can be modelled with relative ease.

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