Shawmut Boxcars

Fellow 1920s modeler Perry Squier recently sent details on his expanding HO scale Shawmut boxcar fleet. Here are his notes and photos.

Ray Breyer’s recent summary of freight cars with truss rod ends caught my interest. The Pittsburg Shawmut & Northern had several boxcars with these unique details in the 8700, 8800, and 8900 series that lasted well beyond the year I model, 1923. A 1904 AC&F builder image of #8700 leads this feature. I wanted to build several of them and needed a source for the underframe. I’ll scratch build the car body to get as close as possible to the prototype.

I decided to use Accurail 36-foot underframes for this project. They are available separately on the Parts page of the Accurail website. These are 36-foot long and 8-feet 7-inches wide. The PS&N cars had an outside length of 38-foot 5-inches and 9-foot 7-inches wide at the eaves.

Using the Accurail underframe and adding 0.040-inch thick ends would result in shorter 36-foot 7-inch cars. I decided to lengthen the underframe with an 0.125-inch spacer in the middle. I also installed 0.080 X 0.188-inch styrene needle beams. These are the three white pieces in the above photo. These extra parts increased the underframe length to 38-feet. Adding 0.040-inch thick ends will give me a 38-foot 7-inch car. This would be 2-inches too long, but I can live with that.

Adding 0.040-inch thick sides overhanging the Accurail underframe will give an overall width of 9-feet 2-inches. Including the eaves, the width becomes about 9-feet 5-inches, again off by 2-inches. I won’t need to shim out the sides for a proper width.

The underframes arrived warped, so I added 0.080 X 0.250-inch styrene side and end beams to straighten them, and the styrene offers a better surface to attach the sides and ends. A couple ounces of stick on weights fit between these styrene beams.

I worked on the underframe details next, installing queen posts, truss rods and some brake details. As an alternative, you could substitute straight cross beams for the Accurail angled parts then add Tichy queen posts. 

I like to build several cars at a time so any mistakes are multiplied! Here’s the progress on the B end details for a few cars in the 8700 through 8900 series.

The prototype Shawmut cars had a truss rod across the end to hold the car together. This was a detail I wanted to capture on my models.

The truss rod ends are neat details! I’m glad the rods disappear into the siding before the corners. It makes them easier to install. I used short Tichy queenposts mounted on the end crash beams for the styrene truss rod.

The car sides are next. While the car ends have ladders, the car sides have individual grab irons. I drill the grab iron holes with the car side flat on the workbench. I have a number of resin detail parts that represent metal corner braces and plates. These are easy to install and add another level of detail to the models. The various sized pieces are on my cutting mat.

I need to add side fascia boards, angled end fascia, NBW’s, grabs, etc. I’ve run into a slight problem with the brake staff running into the car end truss rod. It has to be behind the rod so the upper staff support and the hole in the brake platform must be adjusted slightly. This will make the roof just about flush with the double fascia at the peak.

Work on these ten cars progresses quickly. The underframe modifications and end details took some time, but once you work out the process the rest falls together. These are boxes, basically. Keep them square and cut the material carefully so they assemble easily.

I did have one question. I don’t have any photos of PS&N car roofs to determine the width of the roof boards. I used standard car siding on one as a sample but most boxcars in my fleet have wider roof boards than the siding. Some are 5-inches, some are 6-inches, and some are 7-1/2-inches. Some PRR Westerfield models have 3-1/4-inches standard siding on the roof. What was most used by AC&F and other car builders? I sent Ray Breyer a plea for help.

Ray Breyer responded: The Master Car Builders Association recommended practices call for either 3-1/4-inch or 5-1/4-inch wide board roofing. Voss in 1892 called out 5-1/2-inch boards, which is close enough. The only photo I have of a PS&N boxcar roof is a wreck shot, and it looks like they used the wider boards.

I have over 5,000 photos of the little known PS&N but never saw that one! I need to stop looking at HO scale on the packages of styrene and check the actual dimensions, I would have found the O scale styrene car siding (Evergreen 32067) makes the perfect roof material for these Shawmut boxcars.

I’m awaiting a parts order to finish these cars, then I need to order custom decals. It might be a little while before they are ready for revenue service on my Shawmut.


Thank you, Perry Squier, for sharing your ambitious project. The Accurail underframes make a great starting point to create unique rolling stock. I look forward to seeing the final models on your PS&N layout. If the Shawmut piques your interest, why not join the Pittsburg Shawmut & Northern Historical Society? Members share lots of information on the railroad and the region it served.

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