Freight car question

Discussion in 'Getting Started' started by hoppercarmaker, Apr 20, 2008.

  1. Detailed freight cars are pretty expensive :eek: what are you doing to get good looking cars at resonable prices? Tyco and Bachmann are on Ebay dirt cheap but look like crap. I know everyone can't be popping out 20 bucks or more per car, that gets into thousands of dollars real quick.
  2. eightyeightfan1

    eightyeightfan1 Now I'm AMP'd

    Popping the twenty dollars for a good looking and finely detailed car.
  3. brakie

    brakie Active Member

    You judge.




    I refuse to pay more then $18.00(at discount) for freight cars since I notice some of of Atlas $30.00 cars has no more detail then my Athearn,Trainman or Walthers cars..
  4. riverotter

    riverotter Midwest Alliance Rail Sys

    ... and more, e.g., for InterMountain, Red Caboose, Kadee, et al, if it's to fill a specific need on the roster.

    When I came back to the hobby a couple of years ago I bought indiscriminately, and learned the distinctions. Now, I'd rather have fewer really nice cars than a bushel basket full of mediocre ones.
  5. doctorwayne

    doctorwayne Active Member

    Many "cheapie" freight cars can be upgraded, using either commercially available detail parts or scratchbuilt alternatives. In my opinion, even many of those expensive models, either kits or r-t-r, can benefit from some similar upgrades, too. While lots of my freight cars were bought many years ago, many of these same cars are still available, especially as "used" items, where they're even cheaper.
    I'm modelling the late-'30s, but there are suitably cheap cars available for most eras, although many models of current-day prototypes do tend to be a bit more expensive.
    A good resource for doing this type of work is photographs of the cars you wish to replicate. For me, the excellent "Essential Freight Cars" series in RMC magazine is a good source of inspiration, even though author Ted Culotta's chosen era is 1947. I seldom bother to make cars that are exact duplicates, as "close enough" is sufficient for my purposes, but more accurate models generally require only more work (pleasure) to accomplish, with little increase in dollar outlay.
    I was lucky to pick up a dozen or so of these Walthers 50' boxcars at my LHS for about $6.00 each - 3 or 4 were lettered for various roads, while the rest were undecorated. I added wire steps and grabirons to all, along with some basic brake gear, then lettered the undecs for my own free-lance road, and weathered all. Not counting the custom lettering, about an additional $1.50 for Kadees and wire, per car:

    I got a bunch of these Train Miniature cars for about $2.00 each (used), then spent about double that per car to upgrade them with new ends, reworked doors, steps, grabirons, brake gear, and Kadees.

    I have dozens of these Train Miniature (now Walthers) ARA boxcars. Their low roofline adds prototypical interest to any train from the 1920s into the early '70s, and they can be had for next-to-nothing: I recently bought 3 or 4 kits, unmade, from the LHS, for about $4.00 each. I thin (using an autobody file) or replace the roofwalks, rework the doors and doortracks, and add metal steps and grabirons. Some get new brake gear and all get new paint and lettering. Dollar-wise, the most costly upgrade is a pair of Kadees, and the lettering:

    Same car, with doubledoors:

    And again, as a door-and-a-half car:

    And with a revised side sill:

    As a U.P. version:

    This one is a TM plugdoor boxcar, with a new door cemented right over the carved-down details of the original:

    Same plugdoor car, this time re-done as a doubledoor car:

    Here's a Tyco 36' doublesheathed reefer ($.98 off the "used" table at the LHS). I added body-mounted Kadees, and some trucks from my parts supply, along with metal grabs and steps:

    Here's a Red Caboose Pennsy X-29 boxcar - the kit is normally around $25.00 to $30.00 dollars, but I picked up several at under $10.00 each. I replaced all of the kit's plastic grabirons and steps with metal parts, and made several other "improvements". Paint and lettering added a few dollars, but the finished cars were still well below the regular cost:

    Train Miniature also offered the X-29, at about $4.00 per kit, originally. With a little work, they can look just as good as the Red Caboose version:

    They can also be kitbashed into the X-28 automobile car version, too:

    This is a shake-the-box Accurail kit, about $10.00 around here. I replaced the steps and grabs with metal parts, then added paint and lettering, plus some rudimentary brake gear:

    Train Miniature also offered the same USRA double sheathed car, although their version had sides that were too low (same height as the steel cars shown earlier) and incorrect ends. I scribed the moulded-on side sills to represent sheathing, then added new sills made from strip styrene, correcting the car's height. The new ends and doors are from Tichy, along with a scratchbuilt underframe and metal steps and grabs. While the upgrades doubled the original $4.00 cost of the car, the details stand up well in comparison to the Accurail cars, which were released several years later.

    Here's an Athearn steel reefer - I picked up two from the "used" table at the LHS for about $2.00 each. Both had missing sill steps and were battered and dirty, although both did have Kadees. :-D I stripped the paint and used photos and drawings from RMC to assist in building them into original versions of CNR's 8 hatch overhead ice bunker cars. To be honest, they look better than brass versions that are available at the LHS for in excess of $100.00, although admittedly, my versions are of more recent construction.

    In short, you can build a reasonable roster of cars for your chosen era at a reasonable cost. You do need to know what's available and to also know what you want to replicate - making a doubledoor car from a singledoor version is an example. The level of detail is up to the individual, and while there are many detail parts available, each modeller's skill will determine if you need to buy or fabricate that particular detail, or perhaps eliminate it from your requirements altogether. Prototype photos are a definite help (and for me, a good source of inspiration). While several of my cars are very good representations of their prototypes, most are merely stand-ins - "good enough" to suit my standards, budget, skills, and time constraints. I generally prefer to invest more time and skill than money, so it helps to know where to look for bargains, too. I have many "gems" that my wife found at garage sales, usually for less than $.25. :thumb:

  6. nachoman

    nachoman Guest

    The athearn "blue box" kits can be found readily at swap meets often for 5 bucks or less They arent as detailed as many of the new RTR models, but if you change the stirrup steps to something a little more close to scale, and swap the wheels for metal wheels, and add a little weathering, they run great and look pretty good.

    Myself, i like to build my own cars out of such things as frozen pizza boxes :mrgreen:

    Attached Files:

  7. doctorwayne

    doctorwayne Active Member car, Kevin. ;):-D

  8. chooch.42

    chooch.42 Member

    Wayne, thanks for the inspiration and how-to. It's especially welcome as you always seem to be saying, NOT "Look what I do.", but more "Look what can be done." - a talent and quality to add to the modelling you do so well. Bob C.
  9. Dick Elmore

    Dick Elmore Member

    :thumb: Accurail makes a pretty good looking car for a pretty cheap price in a kit form. But you had better get them while you can, I just heard today from a dealer that they are going to stop making kits and go to all RTR at about half again the price. wall1

    Texas Chief
  10. a quick meal and project in one. can it be called brain food????

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