Completing Long Term Projects


Many model railroaders have projects that have been set aside long ago for one reason or another. I’m no different. You saw in the last post how six USRA box cars were finally completed, five years after the initial start of construction. I took some ribbing about those, especially since they were plastic kits. I expected those comments but long term projects are part of the hobby. I just finished up two more HO scale freight cars that go back a few more years.


Yes, that’s right, I started these two models nearly a decade ago and I’m pretty happy they are now done. You could say I’ve “gon crazy” over these. Here’s the story. Click on any image here to see a larger size.


The United States Railway Administration (USRA) assigned 4,500 of these 70-ton, steel gondolas with drop ends in 1919. These were split up among four railroads. The Baltimore & Ohio received 500 of these cars, which became the O-27 class. After the USRA relinquished control of the nation’s railroads, the B&O ordered 6,000 additional mill gondolas based upon the USRA design. These became the O-27a class and were built in five batches between 1922 and 1925.

This is Westerfield kit 8161 and it was built when I lived in West Virginia. I found a photo that was taken after the model was built and the file is time stamped March 2007. This is the first resin kit I built and it’s been in a box ever since.

The model build was straight forward but I do recall installing the cross members on the under frame was tedious. Read through the Westerfield directions a couple of times before starting as there are detail parts specific to reflect certain prototypes. This was a good kit to build as an introduction to resin freight car kits. I felt at the time it was no more difficult to build than a Red Caboose or Intermountin plastic box car kit.


This model was painted in late July. I airbrushed Vallejo Panzer Aces Dark Rubber for the car color. I try to avoid straight black or white paint on models. The decals were applied at the end of July and the car was weathered in mid-August. I added highlights and chalk marks with a light grey Prismacolor pencil just the other day. A route tag was added to the small tack board on the right side and I threw in a few short lengths of 4×4 strip wood to represent dunnage that secured a previous load. It’s great to have this model in service on the layout.



20,000 of these 50-ton, drop bottom, composite gondolas were assigned to 25 railroads by the USRA in 1919. The Hocking Valley received 500 of these cars to use between the coal mines of southeastern Ohio and the port of Toledo. The Hocking Valley merged into the Chesapeake & Ohio in 1930.

This Hocking Valley gondola is an Intermountain kit purchased long ago. I found an image in my archive that was taken just after the model was built. The date stamp is July 2008.

When I built this car, I wanted to weather the wood sides before installing them in the plastic car body. I felt the paint would fail more between the metal truss parts and not underneath the metal. The wood car sides were held in place and the truss components were outlined with a sharp pencil. I placed clear tape over the car side and carefully cut away the tape to expose the wood areas between the truss components. Basically, this is a mask to protect the paint under and close to the metal components. Emery boards were used to distress the wood to represent paint failure. The prototype cars took a beating hauling lots of coal, so I suspect the paint failed on the wood portions in the years between the 1919 build date and my 1926 modeling date. The same procedure was done to the other car side.

The kit comes with plastic grabirons that I found less than desirable so I installed wire grabs. The car was in service on a few layouts with bright metal grabirons and no interior weathering for seven years. As I finished off the B&O gondola described above, I thought I should push this other USRA gondola to completion.

When I first built the car I did not weather the inside portions of the car. Sienna and umber Prismacolor pencils were used to create color variations on the interior boards. Burnt umber acrylic paint was drybrushed into corners where coal dust and grime would accumulate. It was also worked into the interior car sides. Pan Pastel raw umber was dusted and daubed on the interior and exterior surfaces then Pan Pastel neutral grey extra dark was applied to the interior surfaces. Highlights and chalk marks were added with my trusty light grey color pencil. Route tags and remains of old tags were added to a few spots along the car side.


These two gondolas add a different element to the Wheeling Freight Terminal. It was also nice to take a break from box car work. But the break is short as I’ve just painted eight more freight cars and will start decaling them soon. These will be featured here on the blog in the next few months.

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6 thoughts on “Completing Long Term Projects”

    1. Thanks Dave. I learned many techniques from someone else and enjoy sharing them here on the blog, at RPM events, or in person. Please pass along whatever you learn here. – Eric

  1. The inverse law of model construction: “the simpler the kit, the longer it takes to build”.

    Well worth the time invested, though.


  2. Looks like the end result was worth the wait. Long term projects are especially satisfying to complete.

    1. These gondolas and the six box cars are satisfying on a couple of levels. It’s great to finally call something finished, but the completed models add so much to the overall layout. You don’t realize this last part until they are mixed in with the other freight cars. – Eric

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