Manny Jacob sent along his techniques to upgrade the Accurail Fowler boxcar kit. Here’s Manny with the details.
I was excited when Accurail added a Fowler boxcar to their product lineup as this famous Canadian boxcar design can be quickly added to a freight car fleet at an affordable price. I purchased a couple kits to add to my fleet. One car was factory painted and lettered and the other was undecorated.
Pre-Depression Era modeler Ray Breyer wrote a series of downloadable PDF documents with loads of prototype details for the Accurail 36-foot boxcars. Ray’s notes on the Canadian Pacific prototype differences inspired me to upgrade an Accurail Fowler boxcar. Here are the key points.
- CP purchased and built over 30,000 of these cars between 1909 and 1914. Combined with 30,000 CN cars, these two national railways owned approximately 60,000 Fowler-design boxcars.
- Ray’s data includes most of the numbers used for these cars, but era-sensitive modelers should consult an Official Railway Equipment Register (ORER) and CPR MP14 rosters to determine the best road numbers for their operations. Most Fowlers were retired by the 1950s with a small number of stragglers in company service until 1981.
- The model has 6-foot wide, wood doors while all CP cars had 5-foot doors of various styles over time. This is a key difference, but alternatives involve more work and expense. The Accurail model is a compromise for die-hard CP modelers who need fast and easy kit builds.
- Canadian cars had a single sill step below both end ladders.
- The model includes trucks the CP never used on these cars. Pre-1940 modelers can install Tahoe Model Works #203 arch bar trucks. For post-1940 models, Bettendorf U-section or AAR cast steel trucks reflect prototype practices.
This model includes nice parts for KC brakes. These brakes were banned in the United States in 1954, but many cars were never upgraded and stayed on the Canadian side of the border with their original equipment.
The underframe detail on these models is exceptional. Note the very nice plastic brake rods, K-brake system, fine sill steps, and separate cross-members. I added aftermarket end sill steps and Tahoe Model Works replacement trucks.
This side view shows the Accurail kit brake gear, tiny Black Cat lettering, and Tahoe Model Works trucks. You can also see the new end sill step, scale size Kadee coupler with removed trip pin, and an air hose.
I used Black Cat Publishing decal set BC009 on my undecorated car. Based on various CPR MP14 equipment summary rosters, the ORER, and a notation in Ray’s document, the 170000-193199 series was assigned to modernized or rebuilt Dominion /Fowler cars starting in the 1930s and progressing through the 1950s. CP 191220 is not listed on the 1952 CPR roster, but does appear in the 1954 ORER and later listings.
I fabricated a lower, even road number (the first 100000-139998 series cars used even numbers only) in order to simulate an original series car. The decal set has other individual numbers that can be substituted. These are very nice, finely rendered decals. Some modelers will need a magnifying visor to see and cut the fine, crisp data from the sheet. I applied Testors Glosscote before lettering the model, then used a decal setting solution and Dullcote in the usual manner to finish.
The Accurail model has a wood roof representing an early type that has a metal sheet between two wood layers. This was common on early CP cars and a feature that would be updated. The wood roof on the model will need to be replaced to follow modernized cars. CP began upgrading their Fowler cars in the 1920s. Ray’s PDF suggests how to build a new metal roof with 0.020-inch thick sheet styrene, Tichy #3081 running board supports and scale 2 x 4 styrene seam caps.
I detailed the car ends with retainer valve and line, running board and brake platform supports, uncoupling levers, air hose, and a Canadian sill step under the ladder. Brake staff, wheel and platform are included in the kit.
The model has four vertical end braces, which was not a detail on CP wood roof cars. These need to be removed. Or keep the end braces and replace the roof. I decided on a pre-1930 version of this car to avoid replacing the roof and painting the car. I’ll accept the incorrect number of end braces as a compromise.
I enjoyed building these models. The instructions are well written, and the kit builds up into a finished product that holds its own beside many RTR cars. I like the finely detailed features such as the beautiful one-piece KC brake rod, and the separately applied plastic side sill steps. Grab irons and vertical end braces are cast in place and would be challenging to remove without damaging the surrounding plastic. Accurate models of CP Fowler boxcars have been produced by Kaslo Shops and Westerfield Models as HO scale resin kits covering several variations of these cars. Speedwitch Media has produced a Canadian national version.
If you can live with the compromises, these Accurail Fowler boxcar kits make great fleet builders for CP fans. This kit and the aftermarket parts offer an excellent value offering simple, old-school modeling fun. Accurail has offered the model painted and lettered as Canadian Pacific 209175.
A prototype visit
I photographed a prototype car in Manitoba. CP Rail donated 119462 (retired as work car CP 403617, according to the Canadian Trackside Guide) to the Manitoba Agricultural Museum in 1977. This was one of only 18 Fowler cars remaining in the fleet at that time. This car was built in 1914 by Canadian Car & Foundry and is now on display beside a classic wooden grain elevator. More information about the history of these cars can be found at the Museum webpage.
Many thanks to Manny Jacob for sharing his techniques to upgrade the Accurail Fowler boxcar model.
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