Late in 2015 I realized I had several HO scale resin freight car kits that were proper for my 1926 modeling era, but the kits lacked decals that reflected the lettering in use then. This realization downgraded quite a few freight cars on the kit build list. Sometime in the summer of 2016, I stumbled onto a company that produced decals for the Southern Pacific A-50-5 automobile box car that included the as-built lettering. The discovery prompted moving a Funaro & Camerlengo kit into the top of my to-build list.
The decals are produced by Protocraft. The company focuses on O scale products but has a number of HO and S scale decal sets. Rick Leach created the artwork that includes a few SP subsidiary reporting marks as well as data lettering for the as-built cars and lettering that follows post-1930 practices. This was just what I needed to get an interesting freight car into the Wheeling Freight Terminal fleet.
The Protocraft decal set covers SP car classes A-50-5 through A-50-8, but I am uncertain if the F&C kit reflects proper details for the A-50-7 and A-50-8 cars.
The Southern Pacific installed 2000 of these 50-foot cars in 1923.
- Class A-50-6 SP 66800-67999 built January-May 1923
- Class A-50-5 SP 68000-68499 built June-December 1923
- Class A-50-6 GH&SA 39660-39959 built April-June 1923
The model was assembled quickly in late January. I decided to build it as an A-50-5 class with an end loading door. After some service time, the model was prepped for the paint booth by cleaning it with Shout stain remover and a soft-bristled toothbrush as per the kit instructions.
Once the model was dry, it went to the paint booth for a mineral brown finish. The base color is Vallejo burnt umber with six to eight drops of Vallejo Model Air aged white added to lighten the color. After the paint was dry, the model was sprayed with Pledge Floor Care Multi Surface Finish for the gloss coat. This product is the rebranded Future acrylic floor finish. The gloss coat was not thinned.
While the gloss coat dries the car number, build date, reweigh date, and reweigh location data were determined. This data was jotted down on a piece of scrap paper and kept for reference at the workbench. Once the gloss coat dries the specific decals are carefully cut from the sheet. Decals are applied to the ends first then the work focuses on one car side.
After the decals are applied to both sides of the car and dry the model goes back to the paint booth for a second gloss coat to seal the work. I think a second gloss coat makes the decal film disappear onto the model.
After the second gloss coat dries, a flat coat is applied. I used to apply the flat coat from a spray can but have recently changed my method. Model Master 4636 flat clear acryl is now used with an airbrush. I add a little Model Master Universal Acrylic Thinner for an easy application.
A few models ago, I started to add a few drops of the car color and a drop or two of light grey or aged white to the clear flat. This needs to be mixed well before spraying it onto the model. This tinted flat coat now gives the original finish a faded or chalky appearance. It also cuts the brightness of the lettering. In the past, I would rely on the first weathering wash to fade the finish but now the tinted flat coat eliminates the need for a wash for some models. These prototypes were built in 1923, so they wouldn’t be too grimy by my November 1926 modeling focus.
This SP automobile box car is ready for a few weathering layers but it will see some layout service first. It is surprising to compare this model with others in the fleet. As you see above, the SP car is huge when compared to a 36-foot Canadian Pacific box car. The size difference reflects the progress of car design through the Teens. The CP prototype was originally built in 1905, nearly two decades before the SP prototypes came into service.
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