First Freight car

Discussion in 'HO Scale Model Trains' started by coachC, Feb 4, 2008.

  1. coachC

    coachC Member

    I bought my first HO scale freight car this past weekend. It is a branchline blueprint kit, 50' Clinchfield Boxcar. I want to detail it but was told since this is my first attempt I should just use the parts that come with the kit. I was also told that i could use super glue to put it together. I hate super glue. What would be the best adhesive to use for this kit ?? When I finish and weather it, I will post some pictures of it.
  2. puddlejumper

    puddlejumper Member

    Hi Coach
    Congratulations on your first freight car purchase! You will find quite a bit of enjoyment from building your own freight cars from kits. The Branchline Blueprint kits are fantastic and have great details. You could use this kit as a learning experience and build it with what comes in the box. However, if you are a patient person who truely enjoys being the most accurate and highly detailed there is no reason why you can't superdetail this kit with your own parts. The Walthers catalog or, even better, Detail Associates, Precision Scale, Cal-Scale, catalogs will give you plenty of options for superdetailing. For adhesives most people do use Cyanoacrylate (spelling) adhesive or CA which is your basic super glue. You can also use liquid plastic cement applied with a brush but only for plastic models.

    Good luck and if you can post photos of before, during and after your done.

  3. pgandw

    pgandw Active Member

    The liquid plastic cement is preferred for plastic models. It "welds" the plastic together into one piece. For that reason, you don't want to any cement of visible surfaces, and use the stuff very sparingly. Don't use the common gel type plastic cement in a tube! It's impossible to avoid making a mess with it.

    CA joints don't seem to hold up as well as other glues over the long term in my experience. They have little shear strength. They get brittle when cold, and other things happen to them. So like you, I avoid CA whenever possible. If practical, I use the liquid plastic cement for plastics; white/yellow glues for wood, paper, and other porous products; and epoxy for other types of joints. But sometimes you just have to use CA, particularly as a temporary joint.

    It's your model, and if you want to add details or other parts, or leave parts off - that's part of the fun of model railroading! A lot of folks like to work from photos and other information about particular prototypes, using the research to make as close to an exact duplicate of a real car or locomotive as they can. There are others (like me) who study the prototypes of the era they are modeling to figure why things were done the way they were done. I then use that information to make the rules and practices for my imaginary railroads.

    Just my thoughts, your choices
  4. doctorwayne

    doctorwayne Active Member

    Most plastic kits can be assembled using liquid cement made for plastics, like Testors. I find that ordinary lacquer thinner works just as well, and is much cheaper. Apply any such cement with a fine brush, preferably from the inside of the model. This type of cement actually dissolves the plastic, so that when it dries, the two parts are "welded" together. However, this same property means that it can mar plastic and painted surfaces, hence the application from the inside, where possible. Some kits use Delrin or similar "engineering" plastics for details like grabirons, and plastic cement will not bond these parts, nor will ca. The only reason that ca holds these items in place is because it helps to form an interference fit between the part and the hole into which it's been inserted. For metal to plastic joints, ca is the preferred adhesive.

  5. nkp174

    nkp174 Active Member

    doctorwayne makes the case for CA does have its place. In my experience, you can sometimes get away with using plastic cement using delrin or brass grab irons, but it is only because you melt the plastic...and then the solvent evaporates and it re-solidifies with a tight fit around the grab iron.

    As an alternative to CA, you could use 5min epoxy (available at Lowes/Home Depot/and various other places). I keep my epoxy use to a minimum due to the nasty smell.

    As for styrene's the basics. Styrene cement is merely a solvent, sometimes with plastic dissolved in it. Plastic dissolves in organic solvents just like salt in water, but the solvent evaporates so quickly that you have a nice bond in 10secs. If you use plain solvent (any solvent...not just the stuff testor's sells in a clear glass bottle with a brush), you will get neater results, but it requires a slight bit more care. If you use the solvent with plastic dissolved in it (such as model masterpiece's triangular bottle glue), you'll find it easier to start can make your own by just dropping pieces of plastic into a bottle of solvent.

    I use CA for certain things (especially with resin), both types of styrene cement for styrene, and wood glue for wood.
  6. ed acosta

    ed acosta Member


    Welcome to the best part of the hobby! Congratulations on attempting your first kit. Just a word about adhesives, because every situation is different. I prefer Testors plastic cement for most plastic parts because its easy to apply - I use a toothpick to put a spot in the right place. I also use CA when I have to apply metal to plastic, and you will depending on whether the details you buy later are made in plastic or brass. I use 2-part five minute epoxy when I need the strength. Please note that CA comes in a choice of visocity. There is the really thin stuff and there is the one that actually forms fillets around the joint. I use both - depending on the situation - but they don't have a long shelf life.

    Another note about CA. It is strong as heck, but enourmously weak in some situations. I tried bonding the etched steel side grilles on my plastic diesel and each morning I would note that the thin (.005 inch) metal would separate from the plastic. I finally concluded that overnight the thin metal grille would contract and expand at a different rate than the plastic shell and actually break the bond. Which brings me to another adhesive. I friend told me to buy this white glue that they sell at model airplane shops and is used to glue plastic canopys. It was the perfect adhesive for the thin metal grilles as it allows a little stretching without breaking the bond. I also use it to cement clear plastic windows on my cars and structures.

    Good luck and don't forget to show us the photos, and remember to buy a box of toothpicks.
  7. tetters

    tetters Rail Spiking Fool!

    I'll second doc wayne's vote for the laquer thinner. I used it at his behest when I started assembling P2K kits before last winter and thought it did a fantastic job. IMHO compared to plastic cement it works quickly leaves very little residue, and cost no where near as much as the Testor's Cement. I picked up a large 1 litre container of the stuff and have barely made a dent in the contents after assembling 15 cars.
  8. jbaakko

    jbaakko Active Member

    If its all plastic, use a LIQUID plastic cement.
  9. coachC

    coachC Member

    Thanks for all the advice. I bought some sprue cutters and some testors liquid plastic cement last night. I need a#75 and #61 pin vice I think before I can put it together. Let me make a correction. It is not a Clinchfield box car it is a Gulf Mobile and Ohio.
  10. coachC

    coachC Member

    Well I finished putting the model together. It was tougher than I thought it was going to be. Those parts are so fragile and so small. I guess I made the usual rookie mistakes. I broke a brake lever trying to cut aways some flashing. I broke the rung on one of the ladders, I lost some grab irons and broke one. I glued one in the wrong place. (I think I would rather make my own grab irons out of brass wire anyway, any suggestions on what size wire would be appreciated) I got cement in places i didn't want. Some of those places won't matter after it is weathered. All in all I think I did okay. From now on I think I would rather buy ready to run and add metal detail parts to them. I left off the roof walk for a more modern look and I think I need to get some consolidation panel decals. I will post pictures of it after I weather it a little.
  11. jbaakko

    jbaakko Active Member

    All part of a learning process. I've been doing this upwards of 10 years now, and I still screw stuff up.

    Anyways, A-line makes pre-formed brass grabs.
  12. doctorwayne

    doctorwayne Active Member

    I tried to reply to this thread last night, but lost over an hour's worth of work when I hit the wrong key. :rolleyes: :p ;):-D:-D I'll try again, with the "condensed" version.
    One of the shortcomings, in my opinion, of these "semi-craftsman-type" kits from Intermountain, Branchline, and Proto2000 is the plastic grabirons, which are frustrating to install, and are still oversize. They're also less durable than either metal ones or the cast-on variety. While some older models have heavy cast-on details, many newer cars, such as are available from Accurail or Bowser, have very finely scaled details cast in place, that, when properly weathered, look great.
    You can upgrade many cheaper models to present day standards if you're willing to do the work. Actually, not just willing, but perhaps you should enjoy doing this kind of work, especially if you have any great amount of such cars to do. :-D
    Other than hoppers and covered hoppers, I like to add wire grabirons to my models (I'd like to do the hoppers and covered hoppers, too, but with over 60 of them, I've been deferring this task). ;)
    Of course, you can also replace the doors and doortracks, add metal sill steps, thin-down oversize roofwalks, and add more detailed brake gear, too.
    Here are some cheap (and some not-so-cheap) cars that I've modified to look, hopefully, a bit better. Many are from the "used" table at the LHS.

    Athearn boxcar - $4.00, plus about $4.00 for Tichy ends, A-Line drop steps, and some Tichy grabs. The doors, and brakegear are from the scrap box, and another $2.00 for lettering from C-D-S

    Train Miniature boxcar - $4.00, plus four A-Line drop steps, some wire for grabirons, and decals from MicroScale - these will do several cars, so the cost-per-car is only about a buck.

    Another Train Miniature car - $4.00, plus another $10.00 or so for new doors and ends from Tichy, and grabirons, drop steps, and lettering. This is a good representation of the prototype car, for less than half what you'd pay for the resin kit from Westerfield.

    Accurail USRA doublesheathed boxcar - notwithstanding my earlier comments about their finely-done grabirons, I usually replace the side grabs with metal parts, but often leave the ends, as they're less noticeable. $12.00 for the car, a buck or so for the steps and grabs, and another $3.00 for the Champ decals.

    Red Caboose PRR X-29 boxcar - I was lucky to pick up a half-dozen of these undecorated kits at the LHS for about $8.00 each, normally around $25.00 or $30.00 each in these parts. I spent about another $4.00 per car for metal steps and grabs, and the C-D-S lettering, but had to plug the holes cast into the body for these parts, as they were oversize in order to accomodate the plastic detail parts included with the kits.

    Here's the Train Miniature version of the same car - available used for 3 or 4 bucks, plus another $4.00 for steps, grabs, and lettering. The doors are from the scrapbox.

    Here's another TM, modified with double doors: (about the same cost)

    Athearn reefer - $2.00 used (it was damaged), plus another $6.00 or $8.00 for steps, grabs, Grandt Line door hardware, 6 extra hatches, and some C-D-S lettering:

    Next are a couple of LifeLike (Proto-no-thousand :rolleyes: ) 36' reefers. $.98 each from the "used" table, plus a buck or so for steps and grabs. The ladders on the first car, plus the brake gear and trucks on both are from the scrap box.


    Even premium-priced kits (or r-t-r) can be improved with the addition of some detail parts. I added metal steps and grabs to this $30.00 Red Caboose reefer, and redid the brake gear for under a buck, although the hole for the grabs had to be first plugged with styrene rod, then re-drilled for the finer wire parts. New decals, from Champ, were another $8.00.

    This Tichy reefer came with everything except the paint and lettering, for about $25.00. I substituted the trucks shown, and got the lettering from the same set as used to letter the previous car - which also did an additional two cars - only $2.00 per car.

    This car is a r-t-r Proto1000 car from LifeLike Canada, which normally sold for $39.95. However, the initial batch was mis-lettered at the factory, so free replacement bodies were offered, with the correct lettering, in exchange for the return of the originals. The mis-lettered originals, bodies only, were offered at the LHS for $2.49 each, so I snapped up all six which were available the day that I was at the store. I would've bought up to two dozen at this price, had they been available, as this was one of the most common cars in the era that I model. I removed all of the lettering, and all of the grabirons (36 per car) and corner steps (6), then plugged all of the holes, and re-drilled for wire parts. I also built new roofwalks (those on the model were 6" too short at both ends), and fabricated new corner grabs from wire. I built floors from .060" sheet styrene, and underframes from styrene strips, then added new Proto trucks and Kadee couplers. For a lot of work and about $12.00 per car (including the cost of the body), I got 6 accurate cars that would've otherwise cost about $240.00, far beyond what I'd be willing to pay.

    The Pennsy reefer shown below is a Walthers r-t-r car that was commonly seen all over North America, so I bit the bullet and purchased one for over $30.00. Even it benefited from some detailing work on the ends and roof, along with a more accurate version of the brake gear. I changed the car number, too, just to make it different from the others out there. ;) Total additional cost was only about $2.00.

    You can also find cheap passenger cars among the "used" stuff. I got a half-dozen or so Athearn Pullmans for about $4.00 each, and for a couple more dollars per car, created a bunch of wooden head-end cars. The Central valley trucks on the first car are from my parts supply, but all of the others are the stock Athearn metal trucks:



    There are many bargains to be had, no matter what era you model, if you take the time to look and are willing to do the extra "work" required. I've even found many suitable cars at garage sales, available, literally, for "pocket change". How they look when you're finished is entirely up to you.

  13. coachC

    coachC Member


    Those are great. A lot of inspiration in those photographs. My compliments on the weathering also, especially on the trucks. Do you airbrush those? I have a lot to learn and I'm not in any hurry. I've been armchairing it for about two years and probably will be for another couple of years before I start a layout. I'm not sure that I don't enjoy reading about and seeing other people's work on model railroading than I do actually modeling it. Thanks for all the information everyone !!
  14. doctorwayne

    doctorwayne Active Member

    Thanks, coachC. :-D Most of the freight cars were weathered with "washes", and then with an airbrush. Everything else got airbrush weathering only. The trucks are usually brush-painted, especially the wheels and axles, then airbrushed with various shades of "dirt".


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