CPAA 205021 – 60′ Greenville Auto Parts Boxcar

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Trade agreement with another country? Ship those cross-border auto parts with ease, in one of these!


The cars in question were Canadian Pacific’s first group of 60′ auto parts boxcars, built in March 1966 by the Greenville Steel Company, to help facilitate the Canada-US Auto Pact automotive trade agreement. They were originally lettered as CP cars, but later changed to CPAA for “International service”. The first block 205000-205025 were outfitted for auto engine service, and the second block of 205026-205034 for transmission service, both equipped with cushion underframes and large twin plug doors. CP would purchase subsequent 60′ boxcars for auto parts service, but from other American builders such as Thrall, Pullman Standard and ACF. Other additions to the auto parts fleet included both purpose-built 50′ boxcars and repurposed 50′ boxcars as well as larger 86′ hi-cube boxes. The last of the Greenville cars from this group were retired in 2007/2008. It’s hard to pin down which plants they served, but photos showing them at St. Therese would suggest at least some went to/from the GM plant there, that CP switched.

There’s a good selection of prototype photos of this car series on the Canadian Freight Car Gallery, as well as a photo one in its mid-late 70’s appearance in Canadian Rail Car Pictorial Vol. 3 Pt.1 (CP 50’+ boxcars).

Starting Point:

The starting point for the model is the “Greenville 60 Foot Box Car (Double Plug Door)” made by Robin’s Rails Inc, although it is the same tooling as the Con-Cor car. They made both double and single door models, but CP only had double door prototypes. This model old and out of production (released sometime in the 1980’s, a parts package in mine was stamped for July 1985) but not too hard to come by via the usual channels. The detail level isn’t up to par with modern models – the door detail is a bit flat, the rivets are a bit on the heavy side as are the ladder parts, and there was apparently a measurement error that resulted in them being tooled a bit shorter than they should be (half a foot-ish). The also underframe reflects prototype cars built with the 42″ truck bolster spacing, rather than the 46″ spacing CP’s cars were built with.

But despite those flaws, it’s really the only starting point for this particular prototype. Purchased by about a dozen railroads, these were the earlier Greenville 60′ cars built starting in the mid-60’s that cubed out around 6000 cuft, not to be confused with other offerings from them such as their later 7100 cuft cars of the 70’s, and the very large 86′ hi-cubes. There are a couple of pros with the car that make upgrading it easier. Not too much can be done about the minor height issue or all the rivets, but the underframe rails are separate from the underframe floor, making it a matter of a few cuts to rearrange the frame part to modify the bolster spacing. And, all the ladder and brake detail on the body are separately applied parts, making it easy to chuck them for finer or more detailed replacements.

It Begins: Body Modifications

As always, start off by stripping the existing paint off the body (I got a case of the lazy at the time, and elected to just sand most of the lettering off with 800 grit sandpaper and merely paint over it – it was a brown GTW car and was going to be brown anyway – but for most decorated cars stripping is the way to go).

The sills of the car were extended about 3.25 scale inches to reflect the longer truck bolster spacing. 0.020″ sheet styrene was cut to the proper parallelogram shape, re-enforced flush with some extra 0.020″ styrene from the rear, patched and sanded smooth to match the rest of the body.

The old ladders were too much on the chunky side, and chucked back in the box. Working from photos, Tichy ladders (from part #3033) were cut up into new 4-rug ladders for 6 of the corners. The two full-height B-end corner ladders near the brakewheel were made by splicing ladder bits into longer 8-rug ladders (the Tichy ladders are only 7-rungs), by drilling two small holes in them and using thin wire to fasten sections together. Note that if you’re doing a car with roofwalk intact, you’ll want two full height ladders on the opposite A-end corner as well. Holes were then marked and drilled on the body sides corresponding with the mounting pins on the backs of the ladders, and they were glued on the body (or one can just cut off the ladder pins and glue them right on).

New Tichy ladders, end platforms, tack boards, and sill extensions to match the new longer wheelbase.

The stirrup steps that come with the kit are rather fine Detail Associates parts so they were used. Holes were drilled into the sill from the bottom and they were glued on with CA. At the same time, holes were drilled next to them and a U-ring (for any cable pulling, bent from 0.015″ wire) was installed near each stirrup.

I’m modeling a car without the roofwalk, so it was left off the kit (it too was on the chunky side). Instead, holes were drilled and two small Detail Associates NBW (nut-bolt-washer) parts were installed at the tops of the ends where the bracing was torched off, and a rooftop B-end grab by the tall ladders was scratchbuilt from bits of styrene and 0.015″ wire. I also nipped the corners of the top skinny rib at each end, as this one didn’t go to the edges of the car on the prototype.

CP left the brake rigging on the B-end mounted high (but at some point at least on one car had it relocated to the low position. It was scratchbuilt using a Kadee modern brakewheel, brake housing from a Proto 2000 gondola kit, small length of chain and 0.015″ wire. Styrene bits were used at the top of the housing to fill the mounting gap. The small brakewheel walkway was made from etched grating leftover from a Kadee kit, with flat staples bent into shape for the supports.

Extra end bits: ladders, stirrups, end platforms, end grab, NBW castings for roofwalk supports, new brake wheel, platform, top B-end grab, and some styrene bits on the lower ends.

A small short grab was bent from wire and added between the 4th and 5th ribs on each end (slightly offset on the B-end), and Intermountain tack boards were added to the ends as well as the doors, going by prototype photos. To finish off the body detailing, end platforms were added to the body just above the couplers by using some leftover roofwalk grating from the parts box, and small bits of styrene were added to the ends below to simulate the area around the cushioned underframe.

At “Shop Desk Yard” with some other specimens in for work.

Underframe Mods:

The underframe needs to be modified to get the longer truck bolster spacing CP’s cars had. Unfortunately I didn’t take any photos of this process, but with the frame part of the underframe separate from the floor:

On each, make a cut on the inside of the bolster mount right where it and the long section of the frame join. You should have two T-shaped bits with the bolster mount and coupler mount attached, as well as the long piece of the frame that goes between them (put this piece aside).

On both the T-shaped bits, measure along the frame 2.5 scale feet from the edge of the bolster, and make a cut. This should give you two sets of smaller T-shaped pieces (with the bolster mounts), and two pieces of frame with the end coupler pockets.

Now, (don’t glue anything down until the following modification to the floor!) reassemble the frame onto the floor, but just flip the T-pieces 180 degrees so the bolster mounts are closer to the ends of the car (remember to file and trim all splices to all the pieces join flush and straight with each other) and you’ll have the longer 46’3″ bolster spacing. Drill and tap for long 2-56 screws.

(Note: the Atlas ACF 60′ auto parts boxcar has about the same spacing, so one could aquire and modify an underframe from one of those to fit as an alternative. You’ll need to chop the ends down a touch as the Atlas underframe is longer on the ends).

TL:DR? Here’s the completed, modified underframe. Basically you just need to cut and flip 180 degrees the section between the two compass tips, into the orientation shown here. Also shown is the coupler box screw mod, and the messy underframe Dremel job (see below)

You may want to modify the end pieces of the frame that have the coupler mounts on them, as normally the couplers will need to be added before you glue those outer frame pieces to the floor. What I did was glue blocks of styrene between the frame rails right after the coupler mounts, drilled and tapped them and the floor for 2-56 screws, thereby making the frame ends removable for adding/changing couplers. You could also just upgrade this part with better detailed cushioned draft gear from Moloco. Kadee #58’s were mounted in the stock coupler boxes, which aren’t the most detailed but functional.

The stock Athearn trucks were chucked for a set of Proto 2000 36″ trucks, with a Kadee grey washer on the bolster to level them up a bit. Relevant prototype note time: CP’s Greenville cars were rated as 263,000 lb (263k) cars and had 100-ton trucks (With 36″ wheels), other roads may have had identical cars with the same specs and trucks, or rated 220k with 70-ton trucks (and 33″ wheels) instead. Handy cheat: to work this out, simply add the Load Limit and Light Weight data values on the car below the roadnumber.

One important underframe mod that was required due to upgrading to prototypical 36″ wheels: equipping the model with said 36″ wheels brought the car to a proper looking ride height, but caused the wheel flanges to rub against beams cast into the underframe floor. One could just add a few more washers, but that would bring the ride height too high. The solution was to get a Dremel with a cutting wheel and grind off those frame members, and make small indentations in the floor to avoid any flange rubbing  (see that underframe photo posted above). Be careful not to go too deep as you may grind through the floor (a la that white bit of styrene).

Mounting the P2K 36″ wheels and trucks, and the piping added near the ends. One small modification I like to do to cars that might rock or wobble too much is add a small bit of spring from a pen on the inside of one screw, so that when it’s screwed in (not all the way) the spring dampens any body wobbling, while still allowing the truck to turn and rock freely. A spring on one truck is all that’s needed; the other truck can be left to rock unsprung.

Other underframe mods include adding trainline piping along opposite sides at the A- and B-ends by the trucks. This was fabricated from more 0.015″ wire. The stock underframe details aren’t the best and could benefit from better detailed parts if one so chooses to upgrade them with added brake rigging. And of course, don’t forget to add weight. The stock weight is a bit light, so one may want to add a few peel and stick weights to bring the car up to NMRA specs.

Paint Shoppe:

This order of cars from Greenville (GS) and CP’s first order of 205500-series 60′ Pullman Standard (PS) auto parts boxcars were the only two groups with large “Canadian Pacific” script lettering, underneath it “International of Maine division”. Apparently (at least on the PS cars) the scheme weathered poorly so cars often had ratty lettering painted over. I’d assume the same for the GS cars, but looking at a photo of a patched one in the mid-late 1970’s the base paint was still in relatively good shape. Perhaps it was just a general order by CP for all PS and GS cars with the large lettering to have it patched because of this, even if the GS paint job was more durable (many photos of the GS cars in the 90’s and early 2000’s show them still in their original albeit ratty and tagged paint, while photos of many of the PS cars show them having been repainted into different CP variations). It’s notable that two GS cars, CPAA 205002 and 205003, did get repainted in the late 90’s into the newly introduced CPR livery with the new beaver logos.

At any rate, I decided to do a mid-70’s patched car, so the paint would have been in decent shape and the patch job relatively fresh. One can apply the large CP script if one wants to model a relatively new car (I’m sure a few unpatched cars managed to evade patching, as some PS cars did) or if one wants to fade it in from under a patch (for ratty cars later in life).

After cleaning the body, it was sprayed with a primer coat and ready for painting. The era I model would have had any patches still fresh with no lettering visible underneath, so forgoing the script decals is easiest here (if one was to do a fade-through on a ratty car, apply the lettering after the body colour but before the patches, and lightly sand the patched area with 800-1200 grit sandpaper to expose the lettering under it). Since there were no decals to apply to patch over, I did the reverse since it was easier: I painted the whole car the “patch colour”, and then covered over the patch areas with painter’s tape, like so:


Then I tweaked the boxcar brown paint mix I was using to be a slightly lighter more yellow colour (to simulate faded roughly 10-year old paint), and then sprayed the body colour over the entire car.


Now, when you remove the masks over the patched lettering, you’ll have two freshly painted areas visible on a slightly faded car.

Look carefully, it’s there.

The roof was then masked off and sprayed silver.

After all the patching was sorted out*** (see addendum below), I reapplied the masking over the patched areas again and applied a few layers of a black wash by airbrush, focusing on the roof, rivet lines on the sides, and the lower area of the car to give it a slightly used but not abused or filthy look. Now when you remove the masks over the patched lettering, you’ll have two freshly painted areas on a slightly faded and car (I sprayed the patched areas with a light coat of black wash as well).

Picking the right colour can be a headache, as often a colour from the jar is good for a new car, but not one that’s either faded or seen some service. For the body colour used, I used a custom mix of brown made starting from Model Master rust, MM black, with some MM International orange and some TLT CP/SOO red. For the patched areas I used a similar mix, but a bit more red & black added to slightly shift the colour. The roof was sprayed with a mix of Tamiya aluminum silver, with some grey and flat white added to the mix. The black wash was a drop of Model Master semi-gloss black in about half an airbrush cup of water (one can vary this for greater or letter effect, or apply more layers). Once all the painting was done, the car was clear coated in preparation for decalling.

***Painting addendum time:

There were a few minor issues with the primer coat I applied sticking to the smooth body properly (it wasn’t a primer per se, but Model Master Rust, as it covered the base paint fine and the final coats were going to be brown anyway), so when I was applying some of the CDS decals the painting tape I used to help keep the decal paper on ended up pulling up some of the paint, and as this was an older CDS set the decal paper stuck to and pulled up a few bits of paint as well! Also, while masking the patchout at varous stages the same thing happened with the painter’s tape. Patchy model = conundrum time. Rather than strip the whole thing to re-detail and re-paint, I painstakingly repaired the small areas of paint that were pulled out by the tape, and took more caution. Normally this isn’t a problem with a good purpose-made primer like Tamiya Fine Surface Primer (bulletproof as a primer coat on plastic and resin), or even most acrylic paints I’ve used as primer in the past such as TLT and Pollyscale greys, but for some reason the MM coat wasn’t up to snuff.

The repair process I used was basically removing any loose flaking and sanding the edges of the “paint hole” with 800 grit sandpaper, then cleaned the area of any sanded residue, and sprayed a good coat of the brown body colour in the general area of the paint hole. After it dried, I sanded more to blend the edges in, cleaned the surface and sprayed again. Once happy, I gave the area a light black wash to match the rest of the car and shot on clear in preparation for decalling. Time consuming, but it saved stripping the car and starting back at square one. Ironically enough, when applying CDS decals again over these patched areas they were fine and never pulled up with the decal paper or tape – perhaps sanding the smooth body helped paint adhesion.


With the painting sorted out, it was time to break out CDS set 498 (CP 60′ Auto parts boxcar) which provided the reporting marks, numbers, capacity data, and some door lettering. The dimensional data and some other door lettering came from Microscale 87-2 (Data, gothic) set. The dimensional data block on both my CDS sets weren’t usable – some of the smaller lettering was missing or had flaked off the dry transfer sheet, a common problem with some of the smaller lettering bits on CDS sets.

CP typically had rather spartan lettering on most of their leased and American-built cars. This car a good example and there’s nothing really fancy here, although lettering fonts tended to vary depending on the builder.

Additional bits were AEI tags from an old Rapido sheet, and the “206” block lettering which came from a custom set (but could probably be put together numbers from with a generic decal set). The seemingly random codes such as that were door or spotting location codes, indicating to crews where a particular car should be spotted at a plant or warehouse. On more recent shots of these cars you’re likely to see a number of them that have been patched over and resprayed in different spots on the car, as assignments or locations changed. Also, one would often find a white square with assignment or return to/home shop details (e.g. Return to GM Oshawa).

Once all the decals are applied, Microsol’ed, dry, and/or rubbed down, spray the car the clear coat of choice to seal, and apply more weathering if desired. Now’s a good time to add any extra fragile bits such as air lines and cut levers to the ends (I still need to get some for this one).

Foto Time:


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Ready to ship some new engines to auto plants for installation in that 60’s boat, 70’s rustbucket, 80’s jalopy or 90’s winter beater.

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CP Rail F7B 4459 – Highliners B-unit build



CP 4459 was one of a 4-unit group of F7B’s built by GMD London (Ontario) for Canadian Pacific in early 1953, one of many locomotive purchases from GMD during CP’s dieselization of mainline operations in the 1950’s, an one of many F-units that would populate their roster. This group was numbered 4459-4462, mixed in with other B-units from various builders in the CP 4400-series. They were later phase F7B’s without end roof overhangs, equipped with later 48″ dynamic brake fans, and vertical slit grills that differed from the rest of CP’s previous F-unit orders (this style was only found on the later CP and Ontario Northland F-unit purchases, including CP’s subsequent orders of FP7’s 4099-4103 and its 1400/1900-series FP9/F9B’s the following year). Some digging of early CP records show this group of F7B’s was likely not delivered with steam generators and never equipped with them.

4459-4462 were based out of Alyth AB and spent most of their lives in service out west, operating with CLC’s and other GMD units in BC and AB, and some later going on to operate in hump service after CP purged the last 3 “Train Masters” from the Alyth hump in the mid-70’s and replaced them with GP9-F7B-GP9 (or GP7) sets.

After CP retired its F-unit fleet in the early 80’s, 4459 escaped the torch and went on display at a railway museum in High River. At present time, 4459 is currently stored at the WCRA in Squamish BC (hopefully one day it can be restored and join FP7’s 4069 and 1404 in a nice A-B-A set). 4459 also did assist duties for former CPR Royal Hudson when it toured Canada in the late 70’s, painted maroon and black and offering diesel assist power along with F7B 4438 (it’s the second unit here:

One sister unit, 4462, survived retirement in hump service, was renumbered 6800, was eventually converted into a slug, and later renumbered again to 1019 (along with F7B 4445, that became 6800/1018) . Both were retired in 1999 and sold to NRE. Eventually, “SOU” 1019 was picked up by Norfolk Southern along with two F7A’s for conversion into a second set of business train power (that didn’t pan out), before being sold to Cresson Steel for salvage/scrap, where it faces an uncertain future.

Some 4459 reference shots can be found here and here. And if you really like CP 4400-series B-units, you’ll love this link.

Project Origins:

This project began as a what-to-do-with-it when I acquired an old Highliners shell, bought back in May 2009 from Hornet Hobbies in East York. The plan was to eventually convert it into a CP unit, but due to parts and painting constraints it moved slowly. This is actually the second paint-up of it, Most of the body was eventually built up but it encountered a setback in August 2012 when, after masking the ends to spray them black, the tape used ripped off the red paint on the ends of the sides (combination of improper tape that was too sticky and possibly not enough of a primer coat), necessitating the unit to be stripped and redone. It was stripped, but sat back in its box for a few more years waiting further attention. Since I had no grills for it, there wasn’t really a rush (until one day deciding to just build it again).

The final chassis came from an old Athearn “blue box” F7A purchased back in July 2000 from the local LHS at the time: Actron Toy in the Bramalea City Centre (half-price going-out-of-business sale, before they opened under new management as Action Hobbies. Back then the CAD was still weak, so even a lowly Athearn blue-box F7A was selling for MSRP $50-55 CAD per. Most new P2K Geep releases at the time were around $100-130 CAD).

This is the old-school method one often read about in the 90’s model mags, before the abundance of highly detailed RTR models, when if you wanted a really accurate F-unit you bought a Highliners shell (still the gold standard for accurate F’s), built and detailed it up, painted it, and adapted it to a drive. The original instructions recommend either an Athearn BB F-unit chassis or Stewart (Kato-built) chassis. These days one could probably adapt an Athearn Genesis (which is based on Highliner’s shell tooling), Intermountain or Rapido chassis to fit with little effort. One could probably even start with a complete Rapido F9B and modify it into a late F7B, but that would still pose the problem of a spare Highliners shell to do something with. You’re gonna have to build that sucker into something anyway, so…


In order to get the ride height of the old Athearn blue box chassis to sit a bit more lower to match the prototype, the old frame bolsters were cut off with a Dremel and new adjustable bolsters were fabricated from brass strip, styrene spacers and screws, to allow the frame to ride lower on the trucks.

Modifications showing removal and fabrication of the the new truck bolsters. A brass strip was mounted where the old bolster was via screws, and styrene used as spacers to obtain the right ride height (with another brass strip to be added later).

New bolsters mounted on the frame, with a few pieces of styrene added so far. Some of the material from the ends of the frame was ground off to reduce truck sideframe interference, and the coupler mounts were filed down and had new holes drilled and tapped inward of the old ones.

At this time, depending on the motor and mount to be used, the motor cavity area inside the frame can be milled slightly with a Dremel to open up the inside area if the motor or mount won’t fit as intended.

One further modification needed depending on the size of the driveshafts and couplings is cutting the screw heads off the centre bolster screws or using flat-head screws, as they may interfere with the driveshaft couplings.

The coupler mounts were filed down, and shorter holes drilled and tapped at the extreme inside of the mount closest to the trucks, to reduce coupling distance between units. Kadee #153 short shank whisker semi-scale couplers were mounted in trimmed coupler boxes.

22971es-BolsterPlate.jpgThe final brass bolster plates added that will rub against the top of the truck bolster, along with trimmed coupler boxes mounted further in to reduce coupling distance between units. Kadee #153’s were later substituted for the old #5’s in the photo.

The stock Athearn motor and flywheels were chucked in favour of a spare Rapido GMD-1 motor that was lying around, with a custom styrene motor cradle scratchbuilt out of 0.040″ styrene sheet to fit the motor. A base was also scratchbuilt to fit and line up with the Athearn motor mount holes in the frame, and 2-56 screws with washers used to secure it from below.

New motor and its scratchbuilt motor mount/cradle. A thick piece of wire ensures it stays snugly in and allows for easy removal for servicing or oiling.

21856bs-Driveshafts.jpgThe motor was mated to the stock Athearn trucks with Atlas/Kato C424 couplings and shortened driveshafts. Some tight-fitting clear tube was used to join the trimmed driveshafts, that were glued in, and thin wire to ensure they don’t break free. The coupling holes also needed to be carefully enlarged to fit the Athearn worm gear shafts.

Before and after motor retrofit with motor and driveshafts in place (pre-bolster rebuilding). The Athearn trucks had extra pickup wires (grey) soldered to the metal pickup plates to bypass the old “hot frame” pickup system and improve electrical pickup.

Some final chassis mods: don’t forget to add some weight. The Athearn “super weight” found in some units can be milled to clear the top of the Highliners shell, or a more makeshift weight solution with stick-on weights can be improvised.

Wiring is fairly straightforward: either hardwire it to your decoder of choice, or run the wires to an 8-, 9- or 21-pin plug. If you build it without working end lights, even more so (no wires running from the body to chassis). As well, there’s plenty of room at either end of the shell to mount a decent-sized speaker.

Body Modifications:

The body was built up according to the basic instructions (adding 48″ DB fan hatch, later F-unit radiator fans, shaving the end roof overhangs off, rounded door opening corners, etc). The square end window glazing was installed (later masked for painting) and round porthole ends were made from 0.010″ wire bent in a circle and CA’ed over (the stock Highliners round end door window etchings were a bit lacking, and didn’t cover the small square window well). Probably the only thing not very well thought out on the otherwise excellent Highliners shell kits.

The built up body primered grey. Red fan components were from the first time the shell was painted, and had been removed prior to stripping and repainting, as they were essentially fine.

The top door lift rings at the ends were modified Details Associates parts, and the bottom coupler buffer was scratchbuilt from styrene according to photos. An MU plug was added in the recess above the door, and the kit’s stock cut lever rings glued in the ends (cut levers added later). Lift rings were bent from wire and installed (the flat etched lift rings in the kit were too thin looking).

The winterization hatch (not added until the end) was a Bowser F-unit part heightened with styrene as per the prototype (CP extended the hatches higher early in their lives), and mounted to the roof via wire pins glued in the corners that fit into small holes in the shell’s roof. I went back and removed the fan grill off the 4th radiator fan, as from photos I’ve seen of CP F-unit and Geeps the fan under the winterization hatch typically didn’t have its grill installed.

All the grabs and handrails were bent from 0.015″ steel piano wire with a small pair of needle-nose pliers, test fitted, and removed to be installed later (to be installed and painted after the body painting and decal work was done). I redrilled the holes for the 4 pairs of medium-height handrails at the corner ends of the body a bit wider than the kit’s “drill dimples” were, as they seemed a bit narrow on the kit compared to the prototype. One must also drill a pair of holes above those corner handrails for the extra horizontal grab iron CP had there on most of its cowl units. Detail Associates early style F-unit sand hatches (3003) were used, as the ones from the kit had been previously borrowed for a P2K E8 project.

Painting and Final Decalling:

The model was primed grey and then painted TLT Action Red. The ends, sills and ladders were masked off and painted black. The multimarks on the sides were masked and sprayed on (according to the method posted here), before spraying a coat of clear over the whole model in preparation for decalling.

The body painted red, with black ends and underframe detail, and multimarks masked and sprayed on on the B-end (it was ALWAYS at or near the B-end on CP’s locomotives on both sides, unlike some freight car repaints). On the prototype unit they went slightly under the grills.

As the target era was the mid-1970’s, this unit was painted in the the CP Rail 5″ stripe scheme, rather than the later 8″ stripe scheme that preceded it starting in the mid-late 70’s. The lettering, numbers, white stripes on the ends and other decal bits came from Microscale sets, trimmed tight to reduce the decal film and given the bubble-pop and pat-down treatment with lots of Microsol (especially around the ribbed ends of the unit) to get a snug, filmless look. Always remember the F’s at A-end front sides, and white end MU cable instructions at the ends. CP didn’t start using the fire extinguisher logos on hood doors and such until the 8″ scheme took hold, so they were left off. Any gaps or breaks around the end rib striping were touched up with matching white paint. The ACI labels on the sides were from a small Rapido ACI freight car sheet.

Once decalling was done and the smell of Microsol non-existent on the model, everything was given a final coat of clear.

Most of the decalling finished.

The grills were installed after painting. They are Kaslo part HD-33 F7/9B Vertical Slit FARR Air Grills suitable for later CP B-units, and were tacked on intermittently with CA glue (the tab system Kaslo has mounted on the edges is fragile, and may leave the somewhat unsightly holes visible along the edges of the grills.

I initially experienced problems with them warping/buckling due to temperature changes (the stainless steel and plastic both contract at different rates with temperature changes, causing warping. My bet is the plastic contracts/expands more due to heat changes, causing the grills to buckle outward when taken into a colder environment), so I first put the shell and grills by an open window to get them both cold, then applied them to the shell whole both were still cold, tacking the grills on the body with CA intermittently applied along the grills. When they warmed up to room temperature, the grills were stretched taunt. One could use more flexible glue if they expect more frequent temperature swings (like leaving the model in an unheated layout room, or cold automobile trunk), but severe temperature changes will likely still result in some buckling issues. And gluing the whole length of them down may result in paint on the body being pulled up if they start to warp and pop.

Moving on, the handrails that had been bent from 0.015″ steel wire were installed and glued in from the inside, and painted white (note, some units had certain ones painted black, others white – always refer to prototype photos). MU hoses were added to both ends, along with cut levers bent from 0.015″ wire (leaving out the section below the coupler for ease of shell removal) and more wire bits for the door latches. The already-painted winterization hatch was added, as was a backup horn to the A-end near the top right (made from a small horn removed from a Proto 2000 switcher).

The portholes were painted silver (check photos, some units had them left red) and the kit’s round window glazing was installed. A few other bits such as painting the fuel fill detail red, adding air piping to the Athearn Blomberg B sideframe, and hand-painting the ladder step rugs white round off some of the final details.

The single “backup light” at each end was scratchbuilt from a spare parts sprue, with short bits of melted fibre-optic tubing as the lenses and some styrene for the mount. A small SMD LED was mounted inside, wired into the shell with thin magnet wire. Two brass wires glued into holes in the styrene provided the mounts, and the magnet wire was run into another small hole and wired to the chassis with removable plugs inside.


The finished unit was then taken outside for photos in the sun and to work on its tan lines (Canadians can be Vitamin D deficient in the winter due to shorter days and lack of sunlight exposure):

Ready for humping cuts of cars at Alyth with some Geeps, or hailing mainline freight with some SD40-2’s or C-Liners.

The fine Kaslo stainless steel etched grills leave little to the imagination as to what’s behind them. Units freshly painted had the area behind the grills all red (one or two had it painted sliver), but over time filth and grime built up behind it and blended the panels with the open areas of the carbody.


As it was a cold day, there was some minor grill warping when the unit got cold (there was a good 20 degree temperature difference between inside and outside), but the grills settled back down when the model was brought back inside and warmed up to normal room temperature, with no repairs required. Because the grills were tacked down intermittently with glue, they could expand outwards slightly if needed, rather than being glued on the entire length and risking popping off and possibly damaging the paint if/when any warping due to temperature changes occurs.

Final Foto: CP ran B-units with everything, new and old. Here’s a pair of GP9’s sammiching the 4459 (CP early-phase GP9’s 8492, and 8485, both custom painted in 70’s era Action Red schemes).

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CN 219000-series Plug-Door Refrigerator Car build

A spare shell or two, some photos, some spare doors, and the the end result: building a sliding plug-door CN reefer.

Prototype Background Information

Back in the steam era, refrigerated boxcars with top ice hatches and charcoal heaters were de rigueur for hauling perishable food items on railways. Post-wooden reefer car production, early steel CN 40′ ice reefers were built with hinged doors, as time went on later ones were built with 5′ plug doors. Both CN (at Transcona shops) and National Steel Car built the cars to a very similar design, differing later when NSC decided to use their NSC-3 style ends instead of the Improved Dreadnaught Ends. The TLT reefer has hinged doors and IDE ends, based on the earlier built cars. Due to the introduction of mechanical refrigerated cars and the phasing out of ice reefers and icing facilities on many railroads, many of CN’s relatively new steel reefers were renumbered and reassigned to “heater service”, hauling produce or meats (some rebuilt with larger 8′ sliding plug doors), or rebuilt into mechanical refrigeration cars (again, rebuilt with larger 8′ plug doors, with a mechanical reefer unit mounted on one of the doors). A number of renumberings into specific groups for specific services took place over the years.

Monarch Fine Foods (T.J. Lipton, Unilever) Rexdale ON aerial 1968.jpgI see you CN reefers, sitting there spotted on  “Reefer Siding” track X228 at Monarch Fine Foods Ltd in 1968 (aerial shot from the City of Toronto’s online imagery page).

One such renumbering was an early 1970’s renumbering of various 211000- & 214000-series steel and 220000-series aluminum cars (some of a small group that were built by NSC) into the 219000-series for an assigned service customer out of the Rexdale area (exact customer unknown, possibly Monarch Fine Foods, later T.J.Lipton, and presently operated as Unilever at 195 Belfield Rd). According to Ian Cranstone’s Canadian Freight Cars roster resource site, they lasted in this group from 1970 until 1989. (Roster info here under 219000-groups, and prototype photo here. There’s also more info on CN’s reefer fleet in Canadian Rail Car Pictorial Volume 6 (CN reefers and stock cars) – an excellent series of freight car reference books.

Modeling Time: Bodywork

The model started out as a standard TLT CN 40′ reefer with hinged doors, a spare shell due to a run of CN noodle-logo cars being done with incorrect grey paint instead of sliver (an easy mistake, since many of the things looked so filthy you’d never figure they were silver). Silver replacement shells were run and sold with the models, giving one a correct silver shell to plop onto the underframe (rendering the grey shell surplus and underframeless). The TLT cars were only done with hinged doors, and since our goal was a later sliding plug door car, some work was required. But other than the doors most of the model’s basic features matched, so the project was a go.

Starting off, the model was stripped in 99% isopropyl rubbing alcohol. The glue the factory used is very strong, so it won’t be affected by the alcohol dip whatsoever. In fact, you’ll have trouble removing parts from them because of the glue used (I had to remove the ladders on another shell for a project, and the only way those suckers were coming off was via a #11 X-acto knife blade).

With the paint off, the cast-on hinged doors were cut out (via the drill a ton of holes and cut out with an X-acto knife method) and openings cleaned up with a file (openings should be about 5′ wide and 6 1/2′ tall, scale feet of course) The upper gusset bracings above the doors were sanded off with 400 & 800 grit sandpaper (the areas around the gussets were taped over to protect rivet detail during sanding). Looking at photos, the gussets appear to be an add-on at some point by CN to strengthen the door area of the hinged-door cars, as some earlier photos of hinged-door cars are missing them. Plug door cars never had them, just rivets above the door track in that area.

Cutting the door out with the drill many holes method. Note, the above photo is for doing another car with a larger door opening and only used to illustrate the technique, you’ll want to cut out just the smaller hinged area shown in the below photo.

With the old hinged doors cut out and the opening filled to size for a new 5′ plug door , the top gussets were removed above the doorways. Tape was used on surrounding areas to prevent details from being sanded off.

Due to the lack of separately-available 5′ plug doors on the market, Accurail 8′ doors used were cut down into 5′ wide doors and fit into the body’s door openings, although one could scratchbuilt suitable 5′ plug doors with add-on hardware too. First, some of the middle door components were shaved off, then a section was cut out of the middle of the doors to bring the door rods closer (covered by a thin strip of 0.010″ styrene that later had rivets added on it). The top section was cut off to make the door shorter (again, the doors should be about 5′ x 6 1/2′), sides cut off to narrow the door more, and a 0.020″ piece of sheet styrene glued to the back to give the doors more strength. Some of the removed door hardware bits were then modified and added back on (or scratchbuilt). New door tracks were scratchbuilt from 0.010″ sheet styrene on the top (two layers, bottom slightly wider), and 0.020″ styrene on the bottom on both sides. The door track rollers that were cut off the bottom were modified with bits of wire for the proper position on the door track, and re-mounted to the doors. Four door stops per side were (painfully) scratchbuild from 0.010″ styrene and added to the body (and another made later to replace one broken off and lost).

“Square peg and round hole dilemma”:  the stock Accurail 8′ doors need to be sized down to fit the 5′ openings in the body.

20957es-CN219000doorcut2.jpgThere we go. Still some details and door hardware to add, but the modified smaller plug doors now fit. A bit of styrene was added to the bottom so the door sat at the right height.

21596bes-CN219000dooradd.jpgAdding the door tracks and some basic door hardware.

The cast-on tack boards on the sides of the car (proper position for earlier maple leaf scheme cars, but not for most noodle logo cars) were shaved off, the area filled and sanded smooth, and replacement rivets added. New tack boards were added to the left of the doors as per prototype photos, and the end tack boards were moved to lower positioning on the ends. Smaller tack boards from a Branchline kit were added to the sills as per prototype photos.

The door and door opening areas were redone with strips of Archer rivet decals according to prototype photos, with some rivets carefully “flicked” off around the door openings with an X-acto knife to create the outer rivet strip’s alternating pattern. A few on the body that were accidentally shaved off received rivet decals too.

37538s - CN 21900 Archer rivets door.jpgRivet details added for the doors and doorways. You may want to wait until after the car is primed as the Archer rivet decals stick better to a painted surface than smooth unpainted plastic. Here we applied them between coats of silver (but you should really apply them after priming instead).

CN relocated the stirrups on a lot of its boxcars and reefers from being bolted onto the bottoms of the ladders to being bolted onto new sill pieces on the body, and this modification is required on the TLT car to match 219000. The stirrups on the two side ladders were cut off first. Bits of 0.020″ styrene were then cut and glued to the underside of the body on all 4 corners (roughen the surfaces and use a strong glue, as the TLT body’s plastic can be a bit slippery), holes drilled in them, and spare Branchline 40′ boxcar stirrups were glued on (be careful, they’re a bit on the fragile side). You’ll also want to move the main door stirrups in the middle of the car from the bottom right of the door to the bottom left.

24372es-CN22xxxxStirrupSteps.jpgStirrup retrofit 101, drill some holes in the new styrene sill bits and glue on the Branchline stirrups.

The spacing of the ladder rugs on CN’s reefers was a bit closer than other cars, and some rebuilt as mechanical reefers had their ladders replaced with ladders with wider spaced rugs (as well as cut-down A-end ladders and removed roofwalks on some), but that doesn’t concern this car.

One last bit: the fragile brake rigging rod from the brake wheel to the underframe had broken off on this car at some point, so was replaced with a short length of A-line chain and wire.

That’s about it for the main body mods. Some photos of the car with most of the bodywork done (note, door area rivets applied later, as mentioned they stick better to a painted or primered surface than unpainted plastic):

Above: Showing left side with B-end.

22467bes-CN219000bodywork.jpgAbove: Showing right side with A-end.

22468bes-CN219000bodywork.jpgAbove: Showing left side view.

22470bes-CN219000bodywork.jpgAbove: Showing B-end.

Painting and Decalling.

The car was primered grey, then sprayed with Tamiya XF-16 flat aluminum (thinned for airbrushing), which is an almost bang-on match for the TLT factory paint on the silver noodle cars.

24268bes - CN 219000 painted and ready for decals.jpgIt CAN has paint(!)

After receiving a coat of clear, decalling begin. I used a set of custom CN reefer decals I had done up by a contact as part of a few other custom decals I needed, and had them printed by Highball. But, Black Cat’s “CN 214152 Post 1961 Reefer” set should have all the bits you need (except a bit of specialty lettering: the stencil-printed zeros and the “When Empty, Return to Rexdale Ontario” lettering). In fact, I used some of the door lettering bits from the Black Cat set for this car, as well as some ACI labels from a Rapido sheet I had lying around.

Important bits added: the main “Canadian National” lettering (make sure you pay attention to which side the french “Canadien” lettering is on), the car’s data blocks below that, the noodles, special return instruction lettering, door lettering, ACI labels, and the roadnumbers and end lettering on both ends of the car. For a renumbered or patched car, don’t add the roadnumbers yet, as you’ll need to paint on the patch over that specific area first. After the usual amount of bubble-popping, Microsoling, and decal patting down, the car was ready for adding the patches and roadnumbers.

Some research indicates CN 219000 was patched and renumbered from 214917 in October 1970, not too long after repainting in the late 60’s since CN’s Transcona Shops (PU) shopped the car in June 1969. Both photos I can find of the car in the 80’s show the paint in pretty good shape despite a bit of road dirt build up on the lower sides. But the patch did look different enough from the notably silver paint, so I mixed a bit of Tamiya flat aluminum, grey, white and a touch of blue, and hand-brushed the paint patches in the number areas between the decals (as well as both top right corners of the ends). The film of Highball’s (and Black Cat’s) decals is relatively thin, so they can be applied over flat paint and “Microsol’ed” down to eliminate most of the film, without applying a gloss coat over the patches first.

Decals just applied over the patch, but some tweaking was still needed…

Some small tweaks to the lettering I made were getting a pin and carefully scraping at the stencil-separations on the 0’s in the roadnumbers to make them larger. 219000 also had some odd-looking 2 stencils used, so I shortening the curved top parts 2’s to better match this. Standard 2 and 0 decals should be fine for most cars, although odd and non-standard things could pop up during renumbering and patch jobs. Once done, pop any film bubbles, apply Microsol and carefully pat ’em down.

Once the decals are dry and they’ve been bubble-checked thoroughly, a coat of clear was applied to seal them, and one can now weather as desired. Since I model the 70’s and the car was shopped in 1969 (likely repainted at that time), the car would still be in relatively decent shape. Silver cars however tended to weather quite noticeably over time, and it wasn’t uncommon in the 60’s and 70’s to see freshly repainted silver CN reefers coupled next to filthy grey looking ones, both in the same CN noodle livery. This is what also made the fresh patch-jobs and renumberings stand out on filthy cars.

Now, slap it on the frame for some finished photos:

(Yup, the spacing of the stencil numbers is different on each side).

Underframe Options

Normally we’d stop here, as the finished shell would just be plopped back onto the factory underframe and set free to the wilds of the layout (or carpet route). But since this shell is just that, it needs an underframe.

Options include the usual candidates who manufacture 40′ boxcars with separate underframes: Accurail, Athearn, or you could get another TLT car and swap the underframe under this shell (thereby furthering the perpetual madness of “oh look, now I have another spare shell, let’s do something with it”).

The selection is Athearn this time.

In this case, an old Athearn “blue-box” 40′ boxcar kit was the underframe donor. A few strips of styrene were required to close up gaps in the ends, but the bolster spacing is the same as the stock TLT underframes. The floor bolster pins were trimmed to allow the underframe to sit lower on the floor giving a more prototypical ride height. The stock cast-on underframe details were modified with underframe piping and brake rigging scratchbuilt from wire, and a scratchbuilt charcoal heater box with bracings were added. I’ll probably add some end brake line hoses later and clip the Kadee trip pins at the same time.

The cast-on underframe coupler boxes were cut off and standard Kadee boxes were mounted to the underframe floor with 2-56 screws, to accept #58’s (in the photos a #5 metal clone is pitch-hitting for one of the #58’s that went AWOL). One can place the weight on the inside of the car, or (since it was rusted to heck on this old kit) use new weights of your preference, weighted to around NMRA standards. The trucks are spare Bettendorf 50-ton friction bearing (or solid bearing if you prefer) from a Branchline 40′ boxcar, with Walthers Proto 2000 33″ flat-backed wheelsets (they both roll and look nice!). The wheel faces are painted black to represent oil and filth built up seeping from the journal boxes.

A few bits of styrene glued to the insides of the shell’s sill created new retaining tabs to hold the shell to the underframe.


Perhaps another plug-door CN reefer conversion is in the future. After all, I do have that extra shell with the larger door opening cut into it…

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CP 298008 Double Door 40′ Boxcar

21675bes - CP 298008 boxcar complete.JPG

As part of the booming housing industry of the 1960’s and 1970’s, railways needed to move more building materials, and prior to bulkhead flatcar and centre beam flats becoming popular starting in the 1970’s, the double door boxcar was a cheap and easy way to transport lumber and other wood products. The wider door widths (typically 12′ and greater openings for double door cars, and 8’+ for single door cars) allowed loading pallets or bundles by forklift, easier than the old fashioned method of loading wood piece by piece through a narrower single 6′ door. And as the auto industry was switching to shipping automobiles on long 89′ “autoracks”, old double door “auto boxcars” (some with Evans autoloaders) were being re-purposed for other tasks like general freight service – and lumber hauling!

CP had a number of those 40′ auto boxes (some with end doors) that they re-purposed for other uses including lumber, but the car in question here was one of a few lots of regular single 6′ door 40′ boxcars CP had rebuilt starting in the 1960’s with double doors for wider door openings to haul lumber. This particular series was rebuilt in 1968 and 1971, and renumbered 298000-298185, being repainted into the then-new CP Rail action red livery with multimark. Most were given the early livery version of this scheme, with the sill painted black (that was later dropped a few years later) and, early 298000’s feature the standard CP “B-end only” multimark, which resulted in the lettering and roadnumber on one side being squeezed into the space between the end of the car and new door (as seen in the header image above).

* Prototype car showing the other non-squeezed side: CP 298002 on Canadian Freight Railcar Gallery

Photos of later cars suggest CP reverted to its later “left side both sides” multimark application on both sides after, likely done on boxcars to avoid painting the multimark over the tall end ladders many 40′ and 50′ boxcars had for roofwalk access.

* Later prototype car showing the multimark on the A-end (“left side both sides”) rather than the B-end: CP 298074 on Canadian Freight Railcar Gallery

The 298000-series were relatively simple conversions, with another 6′ door added to the “left” of the existing 6′ door (sometimes the door styles didn’t exactly match, notably the door lever setup at the bottom), extra door tracks for the extra doors, modifying with a new side sill running the length of the bolsters and adding door gussets around the corners of the door openings for added strength. The cars were also “modernized” at this time, losing their roofwalks, having the A-end tall ladders cut down, getting the standard B-end roof grab for the existing tall ladders, and receiving handrails added to span the middle of the ends.


This is one build I’d suggest most with moderate-easy skill level attempt, as it’s really not that hard – you just need to scratchbuild a few parts from styrene – and gives you a unique version of a car not offered as RTR (accurately of course – many manufacturers paint generic cars up as stand-ins).

21497bes - CP 298008 beginning, undec kit.jpg

The starting point of this model is an Intermountain 40′ “modified” AAR boxcar (10’6″ height), with 4/4 IDE ends and 8-rug ladders (most Canadian 40’ers had 8-rug ladders). You could get an undecorated kit, or an RTR version and strip it down easily in 91% or 99% isopropyl alcohol  which removes most Intermountain paint after a 2-3 hour soaking and toothbrush scrubbing. You’ll also need another set of doors – the same Youngstown style as found in the kit, or the later Youngstown design with the bar at the bottom and door handle in the middle (as found in some Branchline kits).

Start with the basics: glue the ends on and the underframe to the bottom of the car. It’s best to make the body modifications first before building up the car further. The major one is trimming off all the lower sill area and lower door tracks to give you a clean smooth surface to glue a new sill on. I like to carefully shave off and save the door stops for reuse later. The new sill was fabricated from 0.010″ sheet styrene, it’s about 12mm long and 4mm thick. It was glued on the old sill slightly higher than the bottom of the car. After dry, I re-enforced the back with thick bits of styrene so the new thin styrene sill wouldn’t warp or bend when handled.

The lower door track was cut from 0.020″ sheet styrene, about 1mm thick and 8.5cm long (top door track is same length, and about the thickness of 0.010″ styrene). The door in its opening can be used to gauge how high or low the door track needs to be.

The top can be extended with styrene strip cut to the same or similar thickness to the stock door strip, and glued on. If you’re iffy about being able to match the stock door track, you can shave it off and replace the whole door track with a thin strip of styrene.

21508es - CP 298008 series double door boxcar paint shop.jpgSills, door tracks, and doors installed!

21565es - CP 298008 series double door boxcar underframe sill reinforcements.jpgA view of the built-up car showing the backs of the new sills re-enforced in between the old sills with bits of styrene.

That’s most of the hard work. Once your door tracks are set up, you can glue the main door in, and glue the added one to the left of it (leaving the vertical door sill stop in place between both. It’s best to sand or shave off the panel rivet strips the door will be covering first, to get a more flush fit.

Some cars have both the same style of doors, some have an older and newer style – it’s usually best to consult prototype photos, as cars may have been rebuilt from different series. Most I’ve seen photos of appear to have the “main” 6′ door a newer style Youngstown, and the added 6′ door an older style (although early ones appear to have both as early style doors). As well, the ends on most of these cars I’ve seen are IDE (Improved Dreadnaught End – the style included with the undecorated kit) and raised-panel roofs (although some may have the later diagonal-panel roofs – always consult prototype photos).

With the doors glued on, the corner door opening gussets (4 per door) can be made out of 0.010″ sheet styrene, cut to prototype appearance, and glued on. Note, the bottom ones extend below the door track, so additional bits need to be cut to fit down there. The notchings in those can be made with a sharp pointed tool or bit. Also, the top door slider hardware was fashioned from yet more bits of 0.010″ styrene strip. Good time to apply tack boards too:

21566es - CP 298008 series double door boxcar doors and gussets.jpg
We have doors! Note, the lower parts of the bottom gussets below the door track have yet to be installed in this photo.

Now you can start to detail and build up the car, if you haven’t already. Set up the coupler pockets by drilling and tapping them and the underframe for 2-56 screws (note, don’t glue the coupler boxes on yet – you may need to add a shim or two to adjust coupler height). At this point, I add the underframe details, and then the body/end details including grabs, ladders, brake rigging setup, etc (I typically relocate the side grabs lower as they seem a bit high on the sides of the IMRC cars, and replace the stock square stirrup steps below them with ones bent from metal). Note: you may want to leave off the tall ladders until decalling is done, paint them separately and apply them later.

Studying photos, the brake retainer valve that typically ran up alongside the brake rigging by the brake wheel appears have been relocated to the bottom side sills for easier crew access (another modification made over time), so that part can be left off and the holes filled/sanded smooth.

A few modifications need to be added during the detailing step: both the A-end (non brakewheel end) ladders need to be cut down to half-height, and have the upper body holes plugged. This was done when the roofwalk was removed and roof access was no longer needed.

The end horizontal handrails CP “modernized” many of its cars with need to be fabricated and installed. The end handrail mounts were made from thin strips of 0.010″ styrene, drilled for handrails bent of 0.010″ brass wire, and glued spanning ribs. Note that the A-end handrail setup spans 3 mounts from the ladder (and eyebolt can be bent from wire to fasten to the middle one), where the B-end handrail spands 2 mounts and stops at the brake rigging.

* Typical CP 40′ boxcar modernized A-end detail: CP 56561 A-end detail on Canadian Freight Railcar Gallery
* Typical CP 40′ boxcar modernized B-end detail: CP 261189 B-end detail on Canadian Freight Railcar Gallery

Also important, the B-end roof grab and brackets, added since high ladders were still kept on the B-end for the high-mounted brakewheel after the roofwalk was removed. The roof grab on the B-end was first setup with three 0.010″ strips glued on to the roof, representing the brackets or strapping that the grab was typically mounted to (I glued them directly to the roof for more durability, but on the prototype they were often bolted to the sides of the car and hovered above the roof). Two of those curved down over the top roof chord of the boxcar by the tall side ladder, the other just curved down to the side of the roof. After the glue dried, those were then drilled and a handrail made from 0.010″ or 0.015″ wire was bent and glued in (with another eyebolt bent out of wire to mount it to the corner strap).

IMG_9611s-CornerRoofGrabs.jpgShowing the roof grab setup, with roofs posed on a similar car.

A final last-minute addition often missed on cars missing roofwalks: Drill two holes at the top middle of the ends and use Detail Associates NBW castings to represent where the old end roofwalk supports (that were torched off) were bolted to the tops of the ends (the brown plastic NBW parts are visible below).

21562bes - CP 298008 series double door boxcar outside.jpgB-end in its “paint me” phase.

21564bs - CP 298008 series double door boxcar outside.jpgA-end in its “paint me” phase.

Painting Time.

Prime and paint with the paints of your choice. For this specimen, it received a coat of TLT grey as primer, and then TLT Action Red. The bottom was masked off with yellow Tamiya modeling tape (excellent for going around bumpy surfaces) and sprayed TLT Warm Black. The underframe received a mix of brown/black weathering, as a fresh red underframe just looks silly on any car.

At this point before decalling, I masked off and sprayed the multimarks on the side of the car. Some people prefer decalling, but by painting them on you can get around the roughest and bumpiest surfaces, and not worry about distorting the decal, air bubbles, multiple applications of decal settling solution, etc. For advice on that, have a look at the *multimark spraying tutorial*. If you’re doing an early version with both multimarks at the B-end, You can carefully mask around the ladders and spray around them (if you opted not to leave them off). If you’re doing the typical “left side both side” variant most CP cars later got, some minor masking around a grab or two may be needed. Once all that’s done, give it a gloss or semi-gloss coat of clear in preparation for decalling.

21570es - CP 298008 series double door boxcar multimark masking.jpgPart of the process of spraying on the multimarks – see link above for how-to.

21571bes - CP 298008 series double door boxcar sill masking.jpgMasking off the bottom with Tamiya tape to paint the sill black.

21644bes - CP 298008 boxcar after black and multi spray, paint shop.jpg

Red body painted, black sill painted, multimark masked and sprayed.

21646bs - CP 298008 boxcar after black and multi spray, paint shop.jpgSharp? Yes.

Decalling Time

This is gonna be fun.

Decal with the decals of your choice. For this particular car, after masking and spraying the multimarks, I used mostly CDS dry-transfer decals for a typical CP Rail 40′ boxcar.

21665ess - CP 298008 boxcar decalling.JPGRub rub rub your boat. Or something. First rub-ons applied with not-that-sticky clear tape.

It can be tricky applying separate digits on straight using CDS dry transfer decals, as you only really get one shot and must have them lined up straight or you’ll need to remove them (tape works good) and buy another set to reapply (CDS sets typically don’t have spares – one decal set is usually enough to do one car). What I do is stick down a piece of tape on a clean desk surface, apply and line up digits on that using a pin or x-acto knife tip. Once everything looks straight and spaced properly, apply it to the car double- and triple-checking the lettering is oriented straight and in the position, and then rubbing to transfer the lettering.

21668bes - CP 298008 boxcar side number decalling.jpgSide roadnumber lined up and spaced properly on tape, ready for application to body and transfer.

One easy d’oh mistake with this is applying the dry transfer decal-first on the tape instead of backing-first. The lettering is usually more hazy when viewed from the backing surface (that you want to stick to the tape) vs the decal surface (that must face the surface of the model), and orientation of letters and numbers can be a dead giveaway.

Some other bits and pieces came from Microscale (ACI/Kar Track plates, “Keep off Roof” yellow box by the B-end side ladder only). Also applied were rectangular reflective triangles from a Black Cat set (4 per side, one of which is on the multimark and invisible), as well as round dots on both sides of the sill to show the location of the retaining valve.

And That’s a Wrap

Seal with clear, apply any other missing parts like trucks, couplers (check height and shim coupler box if needed), do any remaining paint touch-ups, weight to NMRA standards, weather as desired or leave backshop-fresh, and put it to work hauling lumber, or posed at your local lumber dealer’s siding or team track.

21675bes - CP 298008 boxcar complete.JPGCP 298008 B-end view, fin! Note, multimarks both at B-end, and lettering that just fits between the door and A-end on this side.

21676bes - CP 298008 boxcar complete.jpgCP 298008 A-end view, fin. Some metal 33″ IMRC wheelsets would later be swapped in for the stock plastic ones. Interestingly, the undecorated kit came with Accurail truck frames, slightly different from the ones IMRC provides on their RTR cars.

21678es - CP 298008 weighting.jpgChecking the weight before hitting the road for its first load.

More boxcar madness to follow.

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Kaslo Shops CP Rail SD40-2F Build

Quick overview:

CP Rail (Canadian Pacific Railway) ordered 25 SD40-2F model locomotives from General Motors Diesel Division in the late 80’s, they featured the upgraded “draper taper” carbody design and Canadian Safety Cab, both features that CN had embraced on their mainline locomotives at the time (but they never caught on on CP aside from this one-off order). At the time GMDD and parent EMD were producing the SD60 model, but since CP had reservations about the new SD60 and previous SD50, they decided to opt for SD40-2 features in an upgraded full-width (“F”) carbody. They were numbered as 9000-9024, and their red paint scheme quickly earned them the nickname “red barns”.

Quick build summary:

This model started out as an unassembled, undecorated resin kit from Kaslo Shops (via dealer Southern Alberta Rail). It was sourced for a client-buildup of CP SD40-2F 9020, circa late 80’s – early/mid 90’s appearance.

IMG_6167es - CP 9020 resin prep wash.jpgThe undecorated, unassembled, “raw” resin shell getting a washing with resin prep to remove any leftover casting residue. Some people also use Dawn dish soap for this.

The model was cleaned in resin prep, and the basic parts and etchings were assembled with cyanoacrylate adhesive (CA/ACC/super glue, as regular cement glue doesn’t work well bonding resin). Some alterations/modifications along the way for a more prototypical appearance were required, but overall the shell was straightforward to built, but there were tedious bits such as the etched rear radiator fans.

IMG_7001bes-CP9020chassis.jpgThe chassis with a few modifications to the fuel tank, frame ends, and new sideframes, but no decoder or speaker installed yet.

The drive chassis under it was sourced from a lightly used Athearn Genesis SD45-2 due to identical wheelbases as the SD40-2 and SD40-2F. The chassis’s frame required milling and cutting in certain areas to get an optimal body fit, to run ditch light wiring channels, and to modify the weights for accepting a DCC sound decoder. Also, the fuel tank had the kit’s resin step cut into it for the hood door in that area.

IMG_6697bs-CP9020taper.jpgTrimming part of the inside of the shell’s “draper taper” to fit better over the Athearn SD45-2 chassis.

The body shell also required removal of material from certain areas inside the shell to allow a proper fit. The steps on the body shell were modified to allow the coupler pockets to mount to the frame for better strength under load (rather than the resin body), and at the same time act like a body shell retainer. The truck sideframes were upgraded with Smokey Valley HTC Timkins roller bearing sideframes for a more prototypical appearance.

IMG_6701bs-CP9020Pilot.jpgThe old body-mounted coupler pocket area milled down to allow frame mounted couplers, as well as channels to the anticlimber to run SMD LED ditch lighting wires.

IMG_6773bes-CP9020.jpgMost of the assembly work done. There is no nose door (added to most units later in life), and the horn has been mounted back in its “later” configuration as per buyer’s request. 

IMG_7289bes-CP9020.jpgOn goes the red.

IMG_7349bes-CP9020masked.jpgAfter the red was sprayed on and dry, the whole unit was masked over with clear plastic and painter’s tape to spray on the black on the underframe, steps and sill.

IMG_7453bes-CP9020-outside.jpgPainted and sealed with clear, but not decalled – yet.

Handrails and grab irons for the shell were all bent by hand out of brass of steel piano wire of 0.010″ or 0.015″ thickness, going by prototype photos, and the end handrails soldered onto their bronze stanchions with A-line fine link chain detail added.

IMG_7973bes-BrakeChainRigging.jpg Another notable detail added was the rear brake chain rigging on the right rear truck sideframe.

IMG_7963bes-Decalling9020.jpgDecalling progresses, including all those tiny frame dots.

The built-up model was primered grey and painted up in True Line Trains “CP Action Red” and “Warm Black”, and Microscale decals were used to add the lettering, logos and stripes. Handrails and grabs were touched up white, and any silver bits were painted Tamiya Flat Aluminum. The model was sealed with clear paint, clear window glazings and any body touch-ups added. Final details such as the MU hoses, bell, and other bits were added and painted to match.

IMG_8270bs-CP9020completed6top.jpgThe finished model posed outside.

IMG_8258bs-CP9020-3.jpgThe stripy rear view. In the late 80’s CP Rail “non-multimark” livery, the rear end was given matching white and red stripe like the front, rather than the previous white and black striping with white and black multimark.

IMG_8253bes1-CP9020-4.jpgWiper detail, wind deflector mirrors, MU hoses and air lines, ditch lights, stanchions, and grabs ae all some of the itty bitty bits added to more realism.IMG_8255bs2.jpgSide view straight-on.

21258 - CP 9020 chassis, back for minor wiring issue.JPGSound/DCC install setup

Finally, a Loksound ESU DCC sound decoder and speaker were installed inside the model, and Sergent Engineering scale couplers added. SMD LED wiring was installed in the shell for the headlights, rear lights and ditch lights, and hooked to the chassis via a plug to allow easy separation when doing maintenance.

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How-To: CP Rail Multimark painting

Often times when modeling Canadian Pacific (as one does), modelers get frustrated applying multimark decals from the CP Rail (1968-1988) scheme to their custom-painted locomotives and freight cars. Certain applications can be hair-pulling or near impossible, like trying to get one to settle into the side grills of a C424, or working them around grab irons or ladders on a boxcar model.

Here’s a quick and easy way to airbrush on your own multimarks using paint masks cut and applied to match the prototype. Once you get a hang of it, you’ll never have to struggle trying to get multimark decals to fit over rough or uneven surfaces again, and you can tailor-size the multimark to the model, rather than going over all your decal sheets to find one just the right size.

That ain’t no decal, that multimark was sprayed on! And while the ladder was installed too…


The Multimark or “Pacman logo” (introduced before Pacman was ever a thing) came into being in the 1968 “CP Rail” rebranding (that has ruffled purists’ feathers for decades) of the Canadian Pacific Railway and its other corporate operations by Lippincott & Margulies of New York. Apparently the triangle and circle represented motion across the globe. It adorned CP’s trains, trucks, ships, planes, and corporate materials until its use was discontinued around 1988.

There are many versions of why it was dropped floating around, but a well-connected source with CP has informed me it was for financial reasons: due to the extra cost of painting the multimark logo on equipment (the same reason the golden beaver crest was dropped in more modern times).

CP applied multimarks to most of its equipment using giant stencils, very similar to what’s going to be described in this very post…


The key to this DIY method is something known as a compass cutter – an adjustable compass tool like one you used in school, but with a cutting blade in one end to cut curves and circles out of paper. This is used in our application to cut half-circles out of painter’s masking tape, creating a painting mask you apply to the model in order to paint on the first part of the multimark (the half-circle part, typically white in most applications). This particular one is made by Olfa and can be found at most craft stores.

The benefits of this method are you can basically custom paint any size of multimark to fit on different pieces of equipment without compromising on close-enough sizes, and painting it on allows you to cover complex or irregular surfaces like vents, grills air intakes, and under things like grabs and ladders with ease.


As you can see in the picture above, there are two main ways of doing this (specifically referring to spraying on the white background):

A) The usual: cutting an outer half-circle mask, applying that to an already painted model, and spraying on the white half-circle. This is the method we’ll be using here.
B) The “reverse mask” method involving spraying the white on the primered body first before the main body colour, then cutting out the inner half circle mask, applying that over the white part where the multimark will go, and spraying over the entire model with the main body colour.

A) usually works fine on most equipment. B) is useful for dark body colours that white may not cover very well (like black), but A) usually works fine provided the white paint being sprayed isn’t too thin and has good coverage.

The second phase of painting the multimark on is masking and spraying the (usually black) triangle inside. This can easily be masked with painter’s tape, but must be measured out to get it dimensionally correct. More on that further below.

It should be noted that there are multiple versions of the multimark, including:

-The “slim” version (thinner circular section) often found on corporate documents, letterheads, publicity brochures, timetables, etc (often part of a large square as the logo)
-the version with the thicker white round area found on much of CP’s actual equipment
-the thin, slated version found on the rear tailwing of CP Air planes
-various others custom tailored to their applications
-Certain caboose/vans, notably the later Angus-built ones, have a “squished” multimark due to fitting between the end of the body and the closest window. The inside of the triangle is 90 degrees, versus the normal 80 degrees on most multimarks (more on measurements later).


1) Study photos of the prototype to get correct sizing and placement. Most of the time, you can use the locations of doors, body panels, grills, etc to help judge sizing and correct placement. This could differ here and there even on similar units, for example, some GP9’s had the multimark going all the way down to the walkway, others the bottom stopped at the bottom of the hood doors.

IMG_2301bes-MultiMarkStudyLook at that specimen! Always study prototype photos because variations did occur. Take note of multimark placement, where and how the edges line up, etc.

1) Measure and cut circle maskings. Measure the diameter of the multimark (top to bottom distance), and set your compass cutter to half that (the radius). Cut a few pieces of tape and place them on your cutting surface, and then use the compass cutter to cut the masks. It’s important to use non-fuzzy tape so you get clean edges when you cut it. Also check that the blade on the compass cutter is sharp, as a dull blade could leave jagged cuts in the masks.


2) Apply masks to model, using prototype photos to judge correct placement. The curved mask only covers part of the area, you’ll need to extend the top and bottom edges of the mask with straight masking tape, as the curved sections began about 1/2 of the way in.


Also, mask off the vertical straight end of the multimark with a piece of tape. If you’re doing a locomotive and need to paint the back white (to apply black stripe decals) you could extend the masking around the rear. You can do the same if you’re painting the back black (for white stripe decals) when the black triangles are sprayed on later.

Also important, cover the rest of the model around the multimark areas with tape to protect the rest of the body from any overspray (I like to use a combination of painter’s tape and paper for this).

3) Before painting, double check that the masking tape is worked into all the edges, door gaps, crevices, etc, and that it hasn’t “come up” or become unstuck (you’ll notice overspray in those areas when you remove the tape)

Check that tape to make sure it’s down snug before painting, and apply more overspray tape to the body! Oh, decals should be applied AFTER painting the multimarks. Somebody wasn’t listening here…

4) Spray on the white. A few coats might be required depending on the thickness of the white paint and the colour you’re spraying on (black might require an extra coat or two for proper coverage, compared to red or yellow. This is why some people prefer to “reverse mask” the entire model for the multimarks (paint the model white in that area first, mask off the rounded area where the multimark will go to protect it, and then spray the whole model the main body colour it will – black, red, yellow, etc)

5) Let dry and repeat if further coats are needed. Remember, always make sure the masking tape hasn’t come up before starting to paint again. Now’s a good time to check grills, gaps, protrusions, etc (e.g. under C424 radiators and around the grills) to make sure all sides and surfaces have been covered, and touch up with your airbrush as needed.

6) Let dry, remove the masking for the round part of the multimark. Admire, touch-up, or otherwise. A light paintbrush dab of body colour can cover up any overspray areas, and the masks can be reapplied if some touch-up around the edges is needed (note, you’ll probably get a light visible paint ridge if you need to move the mask and respray to make the multimark bigger after initially spraying on the white. This is why initial placement is key).



Now it’s time to mask and spray the black triangular part inside the multimark (not always black, sometimes it differed based on the car’s body colour: black cars got a red triangle). It’s done basically the same way, but with straight masking tape and a protractor to measure (no compass cutter required). For the half circle, good quality painter’s tape was used since a wider surface was needed, but for normal straight-line painting like this I like to use Tamiya’s yellow model masking tape.

The trick is to get all the angles lined up. I modified this basic handy-dandy diagram that was posted on another group to show how to apply the masking tape for the triangular section properly by checking with the angles. It’s a basic isosceles triangle with two inside angles the same (top and bottom both 50 degrees) and the outer side point 80 degrees ( on the Angus-built cabeese the top and bottom are 45 degrees, and the side point 90 degrees, since the multimark had to be squished to clear the end window).

 Checking the inside angle, spot-on at 50 degrees. Check them all to be sure.

7) Start by applying one piece of tape starting at a corner of the multimark and over the white portion, and check and adjust with your compass until you have the right correct angle. Then do the same for the other, and check to make sure the inside angle is correct. Sometimes it might need some additional adjustment or a redo if it’s off. When done, verify all angles to be sure.

8) Once everything measures up to your liking, work the tape down around any bumps, crevices, or around things like grab irons (some extra masking may be required to go around or over them). Then mask off the vertical side of the triangle at the end of the body (making sure this tape is also sticking down good, as it can come loose and cause overspray onto the end(s) of the car), and apply the overspray masking to protect the rest of the car.

A note, if you’re doing a locomotive with a black rear to apply white decal stripes to, you can mask around the end of the long hood to spray that at the same time.

IMG_9579s-MMIf your old tape is still sufficiently sticky, it can be reused to prevent overspray. In this case, one of the circular masks was reused. A piece of white paper (on the right) was taped on to prevent overspray on the rest of the body.

9) Spray the black on. Usually black covers quite well, so you probably won’t need too many coats. Again, check around any bumps or gaps to make sure all areas have good coverage (like the ends or insides of the grab irons on a boxcar).


10) Remove masking, touch up any minor areas of overspray. If you’re adding this multimark on a factory-painted car, you may want to apply your favourite clear coat of choice to seal it; if the model is still in progress you can wait until decaling is done.


And now you have a piece of equipment with a properly-sized multimark that you may not have been able to get from anyone’s decal sheet, or one that fits around, over, and in grills very well with no Microsol fussing and touching up.

Some examples of finished models that have had their multimarks sprayed on:

Factory painted equipment in need of multimarks? No problemo, use the same method:
17720s - CP 80967 81214 multimark masking

And finally, a redo of a factory-painted car that had a hack-job paint touch-up after a multimark decal applied didn’t adhere very well. The old multimark decal and touch-up paint were removed with some strong clear tape, the areas masked, and new multimarks sprayed on using the above method:

Happy painting.

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Eye-Spy: CN Weston Sub – Rexdale Industrial Zone, Part 1

The intention of the Eye-Spy segment is to pick an area of interest and give a general overview of points of interest, both for modeling potential and historically minded purposes. I’m not going to delve too deep into some historical or modeling aspects, but might go into more detail for others. User input and information, photos, personal experiences, etc is always welcome, as it contributes to the overall “story”.

Quickie Historical Overview

Rexdale, the northern part of Etobicoke, was built up starting in the early 1950’s as post-war suburban growth pushed the boundaries of Toronto out into farmland in surrounding towns and villages. Islington Ave north at Rexdale Blvd 06-05-1955 J.V.Salmon TPL B-EDIT

Above: Before the Boom: Islington Avenue looking north at Rexdale Blvd, June 5th 1955. J.V.Salmon photo via Toronto Public Library (S 2-3056, source)

With growth came new neighbourhoods, places of commerce and retail (strip plazas, open malls, and a new concept for the time – enclosed malls!), parks, and of course, industry and the jobs they brought. Land was cheaper and more plentiful in the suburbs, and factories  could move out of cramped downtown to build larger, more modern facilities out here with nearby rail and highway access to ship their goods across the country (in the pre-free trade era, Canadian “branch plants” were often necessary to manufacture goods in Canada to avoid import tariffs and fees). The new Highway 401 was build through the area at this time as well, offering smooth, quick and efficient highway access (fast forward to today…hah!) to the ever-expanding northern reaches of Toronto suburbia that catered to the personal automobile.

Above: A lot of change can happen even in a few years: The Kipling/Islington/Rexdale Ave area in 1950, 1955, 1969, versus a present-day view. Aerial imagery via City of Toronto Archives (source), with final image from Google Maps.

Fonds 213, Series 1464 - Etobicoke Clerk's Dept. slides of comme

Above: Parking lots, malls, supermarkets – suburban grown arrives! Dominion supermarket at Rexdale Plaza, Islington & Rexdale Blvd, 1950’s (City of Toronto Archives photo, s1454_fl0001_id0025)

Rexdale Blvd and Islington 3

Above: During the early development period, new suburban factories and warehouses co-existed with farmer’s fields of old, witnessed in this photo of the new Simpsons-Sears factory poking over farmland at Islington Ave and Rexdale Blvd (looking SE) in the 1950’s (City of Toronto Archives photo, s1454_fl0029_id0019)

Ship it by Rail

Canadian National (as Grand Trunk) had built their busy Brampton Subdivision (later renamed the Weston Subdivision, or sub) rail line through here in the 1850’s when it was all still countryside. A web of new rail spurs and sidings seemed to spring up as fast as factories were built, crawling out from the mainline to the new industries and businesses large and small that were locating in the area. In those pre-intermodal days, sidings were necessary to receive or send out shipments by rail on a regular basis. Today, depending on the business, operating mantra (e.g. JIT, lean manufacturing), distances and products involved, trucking can be more competitive, or a combination of multimodal transportation involving handling a shipping container from the factory to a central rail yard for any rail shipping. This eliminates any sidings to maintain, no waiting for the daily or weekly switching job to bring you shipment in, and allowing you greater flexibility to ship out or receive product (the boxed container replaced the boxed car, as it were). But many industries still use rail to ship in cargo more efficiently transported by rail than road.


Above: Mileages, station name signs, and planned passenger trains on CN Weston Subdivision, extract from CN’s 1974 Employee Timetable. By 1974 most of the mainline freight traffic was bypassing the downtown Toronto area (and Weston Sub) to get to Toronto/MacMillan Yard in Vaughan. Local, lower-class freights and switching jobs didn’t usually show up in ETT’s, it was usually regular priority mainline runs with set departure times from their end terminals that appeared here.

The only railway in the area was Canadian National (ex-Grand Trunk Western), so industries with private sidings in the area would have been served off their Brampton Subdivision (later becoming the Weston Sub in the Toronto bypass reorganization of 1965). By 1965 most mainline freights would have been taking the bypass route around Toronto to the new MacMillan Yard, but locals and roadswitcher jobs would have plied the corridor often to service the on-line industry. The Brampton/Weston Sub was also an important part of CN’s passenger network radiating from Toronto Union Station (as can be seen in the timetable above) which VIA inherited in 1978. GO Transit commuter service began on April 29th 1974 to Georgetown (Rexdale is served by GO’s Etobicoke North station), and today forms the mainstay of traffic, so much so that GO Transit parent Metrolinx bought the line outright from CN in 2009. The corridor has since underwent a huge transformation for the new Union-Pearson Express train to the airport (launched in June 2015), future expanded GO service, and potential electrification.

Over time, in the 80’s and 90’s as free trade, intermodal shipping and the global economy took hold, many of the local industries closed down, moved, disappeared, found new ways of shipping, or consolidated manufacturing. Today, probably only 5% of the industries in Rexdale that used to use private rail sidings to ship/receive from their plants still do so. Rexdale itself has gained the image over the years of that unwanted crime-ridden, low income, lower class suburban stepchild, in comparison to the trendy downtown Toronto, upscale Leaside, and hip Liberty Village (and West Queen West…).

CN’s Rexdale Industrial Zone – Part 1 (Kipling to Humber River)

Here’s a general historical overview of some of the larger businesses in the area that utilized rail service, starting from Rexdale’s initial development in the 1950’s and progressing to the present-day. It should be noted that many companies and properties have changed, expanded buildings, moved out or redeveloped over time, so covering all the changes is difficult and would make this post far longer and pedantic than most still reading would probably tolerate. Part 1 (below) will be starting in the east end between the Humber River (CN “McGill”, Mile 9.4) and covering to Kipling Ave (CN “Rexdale”, Mile 11.1) on the Weston Sub, with future segments moving west or east.


Above: CN’s Rexdale Industrial Zone “X” some of its industries (expanded on below) along the Weston Sub in 1969. This and further aerial closeups below from the City of Toronto Archives 1969 imagery (source).

If someone was intending to do a small model railroad switching layout or set of modules, Rexdale offers many different industries and the option to either build small with a few of the main ones, or build big including long snaking spurs and many small customers to suppliment them. Operations-wise, in the steam era small switchers like 0-6-0’s would be ideal to switch tight industrial trackage. In the diesel era, little CN Alco/MLW S-series and EMD/GMD SW units would be the normal fare, likely with a switching job based out of Rexdale just to service all the industries in the immediate area.

Modern-day operations changed around every few years. Due to the lack of customers, there are few small yards along the subdivision and no switching jobs stationed along the line. Instead, a switching job or “local” train is dispatched from CN’s nearby MacMillan Yard to spot and lift cars at customers along the line. At one point (circa 2005/6) the work usually handled by a nightly local from Mac Yard (#579) that typically ran at night to stay clear of GO trains during the day. There was also an interchange run that ran down the Weston Sub (#577 daily from Mac via Malport) to interchange with CP at West Toronto Yard, but did no switching enroute. The train numbers and operational practices changed over the years, with trains merging, changing numbers, taking on other duties, making it hard to give a consistent overview of operations from one year to the next. At present #559 (that does the Brampton customers on the Halton) switches the remaining Weston Sub customers a few days per week, and #549 handles the interchange run.  GP9RM, GP38-2 and GP38-2W units, with other 4-motors like GMD-1’s and GP40-2W’s showing up occasionally too. The line was sold to Metrolinx (GO Transit) a number of years back (and underwent heavy upgrading), but CN retained switching rights for customers, and the line is still dispatched by the CN RTC.

Customer Overview

 I’ll include a summary of current customers that still get rail service in a future segment for those wondering, as well as covering other areas on the line. For location/proximity reference, see labeled map above.

Simpsons-Sears Ltd warehouse – 2200 Islington Ave. The large warehouse facilities here were built in the early-mid 1950’s in what would become suburban Rexdale, as an alternative to their downtown “catalogue” warehouse near Mutual St. & Dundas. Reportedly the land was purchased from Canadian General Electric (who owned a building to the south, described later). Close proximity to Highway 401 was a plus for their trucks making deliveries to their stores in the Greater Toronto Area. Rail service was likely used as part of their distribution network, with lots of boxcars noted on the multiple sidings on site in the 60’s (a 1969 view is presented below, note the spur curving south near the highway and joining the mainline):

Simpsons-Sears Rexdale Warehouse 1969 aerial

According to a set of CN car control diagrams dated 1969, the main Simpsons-Sears warehouse sidings were along the western buildings, there were also sidings for other entities on site as well: a siding for Photo Engravers Ltd for the on-site printing of Sears Catalogues, and one for Krever Paper, likely involved in the catalogue printing too (newsprint in boxcars would have been inbound traffic). Another siding is listed “Post Office – (Catalogue Mail)”, possibly used for shipping out mail-order items to their other warehouses by rail. All of those were located in the buildings along the eastern side of the property (Quebecor Media was still printing out of the site in recent years, address 2250 Islington Ave – likely at the old paper/catalogue printing facilities mentioned above).

The Simpsons-Sears partnership broke up in 1978 when The Bay gained control of longtime rival Simpsons and the warehouse became a Sears property (it should be noted there were still competition restrictions in place restricting Sears from opening stores in certain areas a Simpsons existed, until Simpsons was folded into parent The Bay in 1991). Sidings appear to have been removed sometime between 2003-2005, although rail service likely ended years before. The site is largely underused by Sears – a retail/outlet store with repairs and servicing operate on the site. Their warehousing functions were moved elsewhere and some of the property sold off. A recent proposal was submitted to the City of Toronto in 2014 to redevelop much of the site into commercial/office space.

Steinberg’s Limited (Miracle Food Mart Division) – 75 Rexdale Ave. The warehouse and offices here were initially built between 1957-1959, possibly predating Steinberg’s entry into the Ontario food marked (Steinberg’s bought out US chain Grand Union’s Ontario stores in 1959, to gain entry into the Ontario markets as Loblaws had recently made inroads into the Quebec market. Grand Union could have possibly been building the warehouse for their own store distribution).

Steinburg Miracle Mart Warehouse 1969 aerial

Above: Steinburg Ltd warehouse overview in 1969 (way before the Home Depot off Kipling and Etobicoke North GO Station to the south were built). White roofed car likely a silver refrigerated or insulated CN reefer.

Old CN track diagrams and aerial photos show two sidings into the building and a number of cars sitting for spotting outside their warehouse over the years. On the CN car control diagram, one siding was labeled for Produce and the other Grocery (produce would typically be handled in insulated or refrigerated boxcars). Additional building expansions were built on over the years. Steinberg rebranded their Ontario division supermarkets Miracle Food Mart starting around 1969, with an emphasis on value pricing. An employee who worked there at the time stated that by the late 1980’s the rail sidings were out of use, and most goods were trucked to the warehouse by suppliers, and trucked out by Steinberg/MFM trucks for local delivery to stores. At the time, the MFM Ontario division was operating 4 distribution warehouses to supply their stores, with the main one being this Rexdale location.

Embed from Getty Images

Above: Chairman and founder Sam Steinberg and daughter Mitzi Dobrin (VP of Miracle Mart div.) at the opening of Steinberg Ltd’s new Miracle Mart new administration building on Rexdale Blvd. on the site of their distribution warehouse in May 1977. Frank Lennon (Toronto Star) photo via GettyImages.

This warehouse became the subject of a messy labour situation in the late 1980’s. Steinberg Ltd was experiencing turmoil with labour and at the same time was in talks with buyers interested in taking over their Ontario stores, all the while dealing with takeover actions by a few interested outside parties. Steinberg, via CEO Irving Ludmer, had come to some agreement with the union to take concessions and keep labour peace, in exchange for the company keeping the warehouse a going concern. But, when Steinberg sold their Ontario stores to A&P in 1990, A&P wanted the warehouse closed down as they had more than enough warehousing space in their existing facilities off Hwy 427 in Etobicoke (served by rail off CP’s Galt Sub). As usual, legal action between the parties involved eventually resulted from the decision. Currently, the warehouse here is occupied by XTL Transport, with an active siding receiving rail service (boxcars) but word from a source is the other siding is going back in.

CN 4710 4110 working XTL at Etobicoke North - Rexdale ON 04-04-2015 Cameron A copy
Above: CN 4710 and a GP9RM switch the XTL warehouse in Rexdale, originally the Steinberg Ltd. warehouse. April 2015. Cameron Applegath photo.

Labatts Brewery – 50 Resources Road, built c.1969-1970 on a 14-hectare property south of Highway 401 and east of Islington Avenue. Shown under construction in 1969 below with rail spurs in place:

Labatts Aerial 1969

The Rexdale service track lead east under Islington before curving into the plant’s grounds with sidings to the west and east building portions. Raw materials were likely shipped in by tank car using those sidings, and cases of beer were likely shipped out of the plant in insulated or refrigerated boxcars from the warehouse portion (the LCBO warehouse in downtown Toronto off Cooper Street also had a spur for shipping/receiving alcoholic beverages). The Labatts plant was closed November 2005 due to a plant rationalization strategy (the Toronto/Rexdale plant was producing under capacity, production shifted to their London and Montreal plants). The sidings were removed and buildings demolished circa 2006-2007. Since then, a Lowes store was built on site, and there are plans for a Metrolinx maintenance facility for Union-Pearson Express trainsets on the south part of the property north of the Weston Sub (that has since been expanded with additional mainline tracks).

Embed from Getty Images
Above: Labatts plant pre-demolition, Hwy 401 & Islington circa 2005. Lucas Oleniuk via Gettyimages.

Labatts Brewery demolition, Islington & Hwy 401 MrDan Feb-2007.jpg

Above: The last of the Labatts plant under demolition, Hwy 401 & Islington February 2008. MrDan photo from a passing GO train. Government building in background at right (Regional Public Health Laboratory, 81 Resources Rd.).

Canadian General Electric, Radio Valve Division – built off Islington south of Highway 401 in the mid-1950’s, with a single siding into the north end of the building (that, like Steinberg’s warehouse, was expanded over the years). I haven’t been able to find too much information about this facility or what it would be receiving/shipping out, but judging by the name, they probably manufactured vacuum tubes used in TV’s, radios, etc. and used rail as part of their distribution network. As tubes fell out of use, the plant was probably converted by CGE to other purposes, closed up, and/or sold. No rail service to the building today.

Ironically enough, in recent years Kodak Canada had occupied this building (6 Monogram Place), another manufacturer faced with a product that became largely obsolete (film production). Their main offices and manufacturing facilities at 3500 Eglinton Ave W. in nearby Mount Dennis were sold for redevelopment and largely demolished in the mid-2000’s, and they had moved their offices to this location, residing here until at least 2012 (checking Google’s Streetview, by 2014 the Kodak signage had been removed). I suspect their offices here may have been a casualty of the 2012 Kodak bankrupcy protection filing. Current tenant appears to be Toronto Hydro.

CGE Radio Valve Division 1969 aerial

Above: CGE Radio Valve Division in 1969, tucked in south of Highway 401 off Islington and Radio Valve Road. Single siding lead inside north end of building.

A side note, the CGE plant here was located off a small sideroad branching off from Islington once named “Radio Valve Road”, since renamed to Monogram Place. The Toronto-based new wave band Martha and the Muffins’ song “What Ever Happened to Radio Valve Road?” is in reference to this (and now you know).

Parting Shot: Islington Avenue looking south to the CN Brampton Sub (later Weston Sub) grade crossing (with wig-wags!) in May 1955. J.V.Salmon photo via the Toronto Public Library (source):

Islington Ave., looking s. to CNR Brampton Sub crossing s. of Hwy 401 05-31-1955 J.V.Salmon TPL EDIT

…which later became an underpass in 1962. Below (left to right) is a 1956 aerial showing what everything looked like around when Mr. Salmon took his photo, one from 1961 when a “shoefly” road was built to divert traffic, and the completed overpass in 1962:

Islington Ave grade crossing overpass 1955-1961-1962

Next (when I get a chance) we’ll move a little bit west, and look at some of the industries west of Kipling, including the CN’s Rexdale Industrial Lead.

Be sure to leave a comment below if you have any corrections, comments, personal stories, or polite heckling. I don’t do this Blog thing much, so impolite hecklers will be mauled by an angry grizzly bear sent to their front door via air mail.

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