Even as newer cars with bigger capacities, larger doors and newer features were coming on the scene, the ol’ venerable 40′ boxcar still proved quite useful to CN and CP in the 60’s and 70’s. Among the rebuilds and repurposing efforts were CN’s rebuilds with 9′ doors.
In the mid-60’s or so, CN began rebuilding some of its old fleet of 40′ boxcars with 6′ doors (mainly the 10’6″ height “1944 AAR” cars) with larger 9′ door openings for service hauling commodities such as newsprint rolls and other high class commodity loading. Most were rebuilt and numbered in various groups in the 56xxxx series, with plug door cars typically becoming 57xxxx cars. The larger door was necessary to allow forklifts room to enter the car, and to both support the forklift and larger door, the sills under the doorway were re-enforced with added steel material. Additional gussets were also welded to certain areas around the door sill for added strength. The usual “modernization” features were also added to cars rebuilt: removed roofwalks, cut down A-end ladders (but full height brake wheel and B-end ladders kept), tack boards relocated to lower positions, and grab/handrails on the ends. The cars otherwise kept most of their as-built features such as ends and roofs, that varied from builder to builder and order to order.
Pick a Car, Any Car.
Unlike cars built-new that share the same features, CN often picked and rebuilt cars taken from numerous different groups from different years and builders, resulting in detail variations from car to car in the same rebuilt series (things such as roofs, sills, steps and ends), so it’s best to consult prototype photos, pick a particular car, and do a little research. Sites like Ian Cranstone’s Canadian Freight Cars and Chris van der Heide’s Canadian Freight Car Gallery are a good source of roster data and photos, as well as various freight equipment books such as the Canadian Rail Car Pictorial series.
According to intel gathered for the project, our particular car chosen to model, CN 568764, was rebuilt in October 1972 from a CN 524000-524499 series 40′ boxcar (again, a 10’6″ height AAR 1944 design) built by National Steel Car in 1948 as 524254. It was built with raised panel roofs and “NSC-2” ends (9 horizontal ribs, with 4 vertical ribs going between them, as opposed to earlier NSC-1 ends where the vertical ribs also went over the horizontal ones). It was painted in CN’s standard brown (the darker 1968+ shade) with large “noodle” logo livery, and very likely rebuilt with yellow doors in ’72. But, at some point in time (probably the 80’s) was repainted with standard brown doors, as many newer larger cars were displacing the old 40’ers from newsprint and other high class goods service.
568764 soldered on until retirement sometime in the 90’s, but found reprieve as a storage shed with two other rebuilt 40’ers at the Consumers Glass (originally Dominion Glass, currently Owens Illinois) plant in Brampton Ont. It was marked as D-453 for disposal or scrapping by CN, and hastily restenciled “CGXX” for temporary movement to its new owner.
“CGXX” ex-CN 563026, 567417, and 568764 at Owens Illinois (formerly Consumers Glass) off Hwy 410 & Clark Blvd, shot from the nearby plaza circa 2007. Our car is half-blocked by all that foliage (if only people just trimmed their bush more often…).
I remember as a kid always passing by on Highway 410 the old Toys R’ Us north of Consumers Glass and always seeing those same 3 cars there facing the highway in the same spot. Digging around various aerial imagery sites, the cars appeared there sometime after 1994, but probably well before 2000, the next closest imagery year I could find. The three continued their padded retirement gig until they were cut up for scrap in July 2014 (possibly in order to salvage the rail underneath them from the siding to extend the pullback track nearby, which was extended not too long after).
Despite being a monolithic overlording big-brother-eqsue data collection and search engine giant, Google is sometimes your friend, and Streetview provided some additional fuzzy yet bush-less reference photos.
Sorting Itself Out.
At some point the idea to model one or all of the three must have popped into my mind, as it would only be fitting, and some brown noodles would be nice to mix with my red, green and brown CP 40’ers.
But the problem was and still is, nobody makes a model of a CN 40′ boxcar rebuilt with 9′ doors. The “closest” (read not very close) you’d get is the Trains Canada/H&D NSC 40′ boxcar with 8′ doors (tooling now owned by Herpa), but it’s not suitable for an earlier car (aside from the tooling being a bit on the crude side, the ends are the different (later) “NSC-3” design, the door is too narrow, no sill re-enforcement, and it has the later NSC bow-tie roof). So, might as well roll one yourself from a better tooled 6′ door car from Intermountain (for Canadian cars, start with their 41899 undecorated kit), or an out-of-production-but-easy-to-find Branchline Blueprint series 40’er (for this version find one with a raised panel roof – for others, a diagonal panel roof. But both of those and the NSC bow-tie roof are available on request from Intermountain, and will fit both the BL or IM cars). Sylvan Scale Models made resin castings of all the NSC boxcar ends (NSC-1, NSC-2, NSC-3), and their end are still available through Yarmouth Model Works , who acquired the Sylvan freight car parts line.
The 9′ Youngstown doors are a bit more tricky. If you want a quick and easy build, use Kadee part #2245 (9 ft Youngstown Door with narrow border), which has cast-on tack boards close to the right place for CN cars (but not exact, and you’d still need to shave them off if they were relocated to the body on your prototype like on our build). Another source of a suitable door (this time without tack boards) can be found among the old red-box Walthers Waffle-Side 50′ boxcar kits, which had a few 9′ door types included. Since we had some spare Accurail 10′ doors kicking around, it was elected to shorten them to 9′ for a few of these CN rebuilds (note that we need the earlier style ‘ Youngstown door with the narrow side strips/borders, and not the later style with the thicker ones like Kadee #2246 has).
After acquiring a few unbuilt Branchline kits and building some with regular IDE ends (that come with the kit), some Sylvan ends were sourced and work on 568764 began.
Let’s Dig In:
Ironically enough, the car sacrificed was…an old CN kit. Talk about prototypical (don’t worry, I kept and built up two of the five CN kits acquired – the other three were sacrificial lambs).
The ends and doors were put into the parts bin, and the Branchline body and roof were given a strip-bath in 99% isopropyl alcohol in a sealed container (sealed – important!), followed by some scrubbing with an old toothbrush an hour or two later, and repeated re-dunking as needed. Happily, Branchline paint is typically very thin, so stripping them isn’t a problem – any trace amounts of paint can usually be wiped clean with a paper towel dipped in 99%, or persuaded out of corners with a small wooden toothpick. The parts however are much more fragile, so it’s best not to try to strip them as scrubbing to remove the paint may cause damage (there’s so little paint on them it doesn’t really matter).
The important modifications begin at the door. Begin by carefully cutting off the door locking latches on both sides of the doorway, and the door stops at the ends of the door tracks, leaving them intact and setting them aside to reapply later. Next, carefully chisel away the door stop sill on both sides (the vertical strip on the left side of the doorway).
Now grab your Accurail 10′ door (if you’re using a Kadee or Walthers door you can skip the cutting up part). Ideally you want a door without any tack boards on it, but they can be chiseled off later if need be, or left on (they are close to where the tack boards were on rebuilds, but some had them relocated off the door later to facilitate a door push plate). Start by chiseling, sanding or carving off the raised indents on the backs of the Accurail doors to ensure a flush fit with the body later. Then, carefully cut the vertical riveted sides off both sides of each door, and set them aside. Next, cut half a scale foot of door out of each side (shortening the door by a foot but keeping the door handle hardware in the middle) and sand the sides smooth and level. Now would be a good time to chisel off any tack boards or door hardware you don’t want. Clean up and glue the removed riveted sides back to both sides of the door, and add a very thin strip of 0.020″ styrene to the right side of the door, and presto, you have a new 9′ door.
The door on the right just had its riveted side strips trimmed off. The door on the left shows the roughly half scale foot trimmed off next. The cast-on tack boards could be left in place for rebuilt cars, or carved off and replaced with Branchline parts from the kit.
Before applying the door, snap the roof onto the body and make sure it’s centered – you can use the roof rib locations and side panels of the body to help judge the how centered the doors are when you glue them on. Check again to make sure the back of the door is smooth for a flush fit with the body, apply some plastic cement glue to the back of the door by the sides, carefully stick door on, make sure it’s centered, and let the glue dry (a small clamp or elastic bands may be required to hold the doors until the glue dries. Next, run a bead of glue along the inside of the doorway, making sure to get the top and bottom edges (a toothpick helps to apply in tight spots).
Now, use thin strips of 0.020″ sheet styrene to add a new door stop on the left side of the door. Then, extend the door tracks with 0.020″ styrene cut to match the existing ones (about 4 scale feet on the right side of the body, with small bits added on the top & bottom of the door where it meets the new door stop). I applied some Squadron putty to the door track joints and sanded them to blend in the extensions.
Slicing, dicing, and making julienne fries: working from prototype photos, the new re-enforced door sills were cut from thin sheet styrene. Of note, one end is shorter due to the door track, with a small extra bit extending over the top of the door track that needs to be cut and added on that side.
The door sills were scratchbuilt from 0.010″ sheet styrene according to photos. They’re roughly 18.5 scale feet long, and 1.25 scale feet high. Once glued on, they were re-enforced from the back with more styrene so as not to flex when the car is picked up from the middle. The horizontal notches were made with a sharp pin tool. Small gussets were often welded around the sill area for extra support, and two each side were fabricated from styrene and added to the sill to the bottom left of the door
The stripped car with basic sills and doors applied, with some of the door framing and track extensions added on the left. Yet to be done in this photo are extending the door tracks on the longer end (right side), and adding door hardware. Adding the new ends will be covered in the next section.
Once the glue is all dry on the doors, you can start adding the door hardware including tack boards, push plates, and the small wire lugs/door grabs (one at each corner of the door, and one horizontally in the middle, made from brass wire) can be drilled and installed now. There’s typically four door “slider tabs”, one at each corner of the door (made from thin styrene squares). Also reapply the door locking latches carved off in the beginning to the new door stop.
On 60’s-70’s rebuilt cars, the tack boards were typically located on the door in the low position. On some cars including 568764 that underwent an 80’s overhaul (and often lost their yellow doors), the tack boards were relocated to the body just to the left of the doors, and a forklift push plate was installed in the middle of the door (modeled with two 0.010″ pieces of styrene in a “V” configuration in the gap, with a small square added in the middle). Our car in question also appears to have had some door frame re-enforcing added too, with 4 thin tabs on each side of the door (thin 0.010″ styrene squares). Some overhauled cars also had their door levers removed, for reasons unknown.
The End(s), and Roof.
Once the Sylvan NSC-2 ends arrived in the mail from Yarmouth (thanks Pierre!), they were given a wash in Sylvan’s resin prep to clean any casting residue off (others use Dawn dish soap). The ends were initially designed for cars without roof overhangs, so the top needs to be shortened to fit under the overhanging roof.
Dan Talking About Boring Things Again: Boxcar Ends 101:
Take your seats class, welcome to BXC 101 – Introduction to Boxcar Ends. Going from top left to right, first is an older style Dreadnaught end liberated from a LL Proto 2000 50′ boxcar, a design often found on some of the older AAR 1937 design cars. Note the 10 thin ribs (rib count could vary sometimes). Next to is is a brown “Improved Dreadnaught End” (IDE) taken from the kit we’re using. Note the 8 “rolling pin” style ribs (typically 4 divided onto 2 panels). The top rib could vary from a rectangular bar, to a full rib as shown, to a narrower rib. On the top right is an Intermountain IDE, with the narrower top rib usually found on Canadian cars.
On the bottom are the Sylvan resin ends – the NSC-2 (part DP-0038), which has 9 ribs divided on 3 panels, with 4 vertical ribs running through them. And the NSC-3 end (part DP-0039), which typically had 9 ribs on 3 panels with no vertical ribs. A variation of the NSC-3 end found on some Eastern Car Co cars had 8 ribs split on two panels instead of 9 ribs on three. Also, Kaslo makes a later version of the NSC-3 end with boxier ribs for later built 50′ cars.
The most common ends were the IDE and the NSC-3. The earlier NSC-1 end (not pictured) is similar to the NSC-2, but with the vertical ribs bending around the horizontal ones instead, like on this old CN 475xxx series 40’er:
There’s a ribbed joke in all of this, but that’s low-hanging fruit.
With that aside, on to adding the resin ends.
Cement glue is no bueno with resin, so in comes the cyanoacrylate adhesive (CA) to secure the ends to the body. Both smooth surfaces were roughed up with some light sanding for better adhesion. After some trial and error, I found the best method was to enlarge the existing tooling holes on the ends of the body, drilling a few more, and “tacking” the resin end on with a bit of CA glue in the middle (this makes it easier to re-position, and remove if positioned incorrectly without damaging the ends). Once I was happy with the placement, I put a bit of CA on an x-acto knife blade and carefully slipped it along the edge to glue the corners down, and then applied CA from the inside through the enlarged tooling holes to finalize the marriage of resin and plastic.
Working from photos collected of CN cars with NSC-2 ends, holes were drilled on the ends for all the bits that need to be applied, including the brake wheel and rigging, end ladders, grab irons, hand railings, and the two lugs at the top from the torched-off roofwalk supports (much of which came from the kit). As both the Intermountain and Branchline cars don’t have the two side body grabs tooled so that one grab bracket of each rests on the end’s corner side, all the grab holes were filled in and new ones drilled a touch closer to the ends, as well as two on the edges of the new resin ends.
The new detailed ends, with Tichy ladders and Branchline parts applied in newly drilled holes. Some wire was used to fabricate the various grab irons, railings and cut levers. As well, note how the two grabs on the sides of the car now rest on the edge of the ends. Lower tack boards are typical of rebuilt or overhauled cars.
If you have a Branchline car, turn your attention to where the stirrup steps mount on the sill tabs. Some cars were built with sill tabs, others had them retrofitted to that style when rebuilt, others didn’t have them and instead had ladder-mounted stirrups and a square one dropping from the “left” of the body below the two grabs. Consult prototype photos to determine which style your car had, but the sharp jagged point on each of them should be shaved off. I applied the Branchline stirrups now, as they are difficult to install after the ladders.
This area right here, the stirrup step sills at all 4 corners of the car. It varied on CN cars, but less so on CP ones. Shave that raised pointed area off, and if you’re using the stock Branchline ends, you’ll have to shave the junque off the bottom corners of the ends as well.
Ladders ladders ladders: If you use the Intermountain kit (41899 is your guy), it comes with 8-rug “Canadian style” ladders that you can use (may have to cut the bottom stirrup off depending on prototype). If you get a Branchline kit it’ll come with 7-rug ladders, but certain roads that had them will have 8-rug ladders included. The BL kit has two wide (for the sides) and two narrow (for the ends) ladders, but none of the Canadian cars had the narrow end ladders. You can use the wider ladders to do the B-end tall ladders and use aftermarket Tichy 3033 ladders to do the chopped-down A-end ladders, or just Tichys all around like what I did (some people prefer the finer Kaslo etched ladders) . The B-end ladders were spliced with one extra rug to get 8, while the A-end ladders were cut down down according to photos (typically 4 rugs). One can drill holes and glue them on by the lugs on the ladders, or shave the lugs off and glue the ladders on flat. Note, some earlier cars (like CN 568764) had one less rug at the bottom of both end ladders, and a grab where the bottom rug would be. All had the lower stirrups on the end ladders (that used to be attached to the bottom of the ladder) removed when rebuilt though.
Dan Talking About More Boring Things Again: Boxcar Roofs 102:
Welcome class, to BXC 102 – Introduction to Boxcar Roofs. 40’er roof styles varied over the years from order to order and manufacturer to manufacturer. Starting on the left is a flat-panel roof, often found on early AAR 1937 cars. Next on the red CP 298008 is the typical raised-panel roof, which our build had. Next to that is a CN mystery car (!!!???) with an also common diagonal panel roof. And on the end is our CP 58777 newsprint kitbash with the PS-1 or “bow tie” roof style that Pullman-Standard used their cars, and that NSC used on their later builds. Note that roofwalks (wood vs grated) varied over the years, as did the style of that corner B-end grab when the roofwalk was removed. A good source of the latter three roofs is Intermountain’s parts department.
The Branchline kit’s stock raised-panel roof was used. The one real modification needed on the roof, aside from carving off the end supports at the edge, is fabricating the new “L” shaped grab from wire and its two bar mounts from styrene strip. Normally the bars would be suspended from the roof, but I figured it would be too fragile a setup to replicate, so compromised and glued them to the top of the roof.
Now’s a good time to go ahead and add the underframe brake rigging details, glue on the coupler boxes, or swap them with some Kadee or Sergent boxes (drill and tap for 2-56 screws). Also, small eyebolts can be drilled and mounted on the ends for the cut levers, which were bent from wire and installed at each end according to photos. There were a few different cut lever mounting variations (again, pull out those prototype photos and eyeball ’em).
With all that boring stuff done, if you’re still following along and reading this, you should have a car that looks like this sitting in front of you.
Paint Shoppe and Decalling
Once the body was given a light soap wash and rinse to get rid of any hand oils from handling, the car was given a coat of primer, and then a few coats of a custom mix of brown, based on the Proto 1000 CN newsprint cars. It was a mix of TLT CP (SOO) Bright Red and Model Master acrylic Gloss Black. Then followed some Model Master Semi-Gloss Clear in preparation for decalling.
First coat, the very bright Halogen shop lights make it appear a bit lighter.
The ends look nicer painted, n’est-ce pas? (Mais oui!)
The car was decalled with the “CN Smoothside Boxcars and Vans 1961-1990 – HO Scale” decal set drawn up by Sean Steele and printed by Canuck Models in 2017. The decal film is rather fragile, so it’s best to apply them with just water and (carefully) do the Microsol and pat-down routine. Applying the decals with Microset as one normally would can make them more fragile and susceptible to breaking.
People have their own decalling workflows, but the best lettering technique I’ve found with these is to work from top-down: after studying photos for proper placement, apply the top “Canadian National”, then the separator line, then just the “CN” to help placemark the datablock below. Then the sideways “H” datablock, making sure everything is lined up and parallel, and then filling in the roadnumber and any capacity/load data in the datablock.
It can haz decals. Le Francais side applied, with the number and datablock waiting to be filled in with more data. CN was a crown corp at the time, so the lettering was bilingual. Pay attention to which side of your car is the french (Quebecois?) side, and which side is en anglais.
To get the correct number, each digit was applied one at a time and carefully lined up according to photos. The datablock was also altered to try to match the capacity data I could find on that car and similar cars, as well as the build date and last shop date (the shop date on the prototype was blanked out, so I gave it an early 80’s date. CN and CP seemed to switch from listing the individual shop’s two letter code to just “CN” or “CP” for everything in the early 80’s, so the car was lettered appropriately).
Here’s CN mystery car (!!!???) 567417, currently in the shop, when it was getting its decal treatment. Each of those little digits on my digits were cut out to get the exact build date and shop date desired. Easily applied with the wet tip of a fine paintbush brush. The CUFT capacity was also waiting to get its “88” for 3880.
Once all the itty bitty data was sorted out, I cut out and applied the large CN noodle logos. Because of the thin decal film, you can apply the noodle decals as-is and they should be fine after the usual Microsol+bubble pop+pat-down technique. Since I’m a stickler for decal film, I employed the glutton-for-punishment method of cutting all the excess film in the logos out, and then applying them. This was not only difficult and time-consuming, but resulted in the noodles tearing easily and having to go on in 3-4 pieces each. But all the breaks were lined up and vanished once it was all Microsol’ed down – and no film in between to deal with!
G()_(@W#%$$(UT%Jrg$I)34T$TM456GdsFJE%GI)GB NOODLE DECAL APPLICATION on car 440601, also getting noodles at the time.
Any little decal bits such as the door lettering decals, reflective frame dots, and COTS block (optional – check photos. Yes, it was actually applied over the rivet strip on some cars including this one) was then sorted out. Once the decaling was dry, the car given two coats of Model Master Semi-Gloss Clear with a touch of water to thin it out, to simulate a somewhat clean and fresh finish, as this would have been a recently shopped car and will mingle freely with earlier yellow-doors.
The stock Branchline trucks were given a coat of the body colour (as was common CN practice when repainting) and applied. The wheels were first checked with the ol’ NMRA gauge, and the axle points were cleaned up with a sharp x-acto knife (often flash or casting imperfections can cause BL wheels to roll poorly). Couplers used were Kadee #58’s in the stock box, which was glued on the body and drilled and tapped for 2-56 screws. The kit’s air line/hoses had their mounts chopped off, and were glued to the side of the coupler box a la prototype (I glued the most inside part to the couple box, allowing the hose and outer part closer to the coupler to flex away if the coupler should come in contact with it, instead of damaging or snapping the fragile hoses off). Oh, and the push plate was painted yellow too – that’s important.
Showing off its raised panel roof, 9′ wide door, and NSC-2 ribbed ends.
A-end detail. Daylight was running short when taken, so the lighting in some photos might be a bit inconsistent.
NSC-2 B-end with brake end detail.
A “sister” car acquired at the same time was redone as CN 440601, a 40’er rebuilt with roof-hatches, and equipped with Kadee National B1 trucks. Perhaps it may show up in a future post, along with that CN mystery car (!!!???)…