Masking Tape as a Weathering Tool

Masking tape has been applied to portions of the lettering on these freight cars before the weathering processes begin.

Several freight cars recently went through the weathering factory and each of them had some masking tape applied to protect part of the original paint coat or lettering. Model railroaders typically use masking tape in the process of applying large stripes or fancy paint schemes to locomotives or rolling stock. For these recent freight cars, the tape was applied to hint at changes made to the car. The tape became another tool in the weathering arsenal.

Continue reading “Masking Tape as a Weathering Tool”

Accurail DL&W USRA hopper upgrade


Dave Parker returns with an upgrade on an Accurail HO scale USRA hopper.

Over the past few years, I have accumulated several Accurail USRA twin hopper kits in both the 24xx (as built) and 25xx (modernized) series. At least two of them will require complete re-lettering in order to follow the prototype but one is, atypically, exactly correct for my 1934-35 layout. It is a Delaware, Lackawanna and & Western car (#2503.2) with correct lettering, and a reweigh date of April, 1933 – perfect! Absent any need to repaint, I initially decided to more-or-less “shake the box” with this kit, and not upgrade the cast-on grab irons (as has been documented elsewhere).

Continue reading “Accurail DL&W USRA hopper upgrade”

Upgrading Plastic – MTH USRA hoppers

A transformed HO scale MTH USRA hopper.
A transformed HO scale MTH USRA hopper.

Dave Parker returns with his techniques to upgrade the MTH HO scale USRA hoppers.

About three years ago, I purchased an MTH ready-to-run USRA twin hopper with the intention of kit-bashing it into a Boston & Maine car. The B&M bought 100 used twins from the C&O in late 1934 but, after squinting at several photos, I decided it was a no-go. The C&O cars were USRA-like, but had noticeable differences in overall structure and in the details. The MTH car came lettered for the Erie, and can be seen in the 1920s plastic freight car summary, but it is a foobie – the Erie never owned any USRA twins.

Continue reading “Upgrading Plastic – MTH USRA hoppers”

USRA freight car data


In 1917, the US government formed the United States Railway Administration to control the nations railroads during World War One. In that process, several freight car designs were approved and 100,000 cars were built and assigned to many US railroads. These five USRA freight car designs ushered in standardized freight car design for many railroads and made up about four to five percent of the overall national freight car fleet in the 1920s and 1930s.

Models of these prototypes have been available in several scales for model railroaders. The USRA freight cars have been frequently noted in the hobby press and several articles have been published over the years. Many of these articles reference a 1973 historical summary published by James E. Lane. This has been out of print for years and many of the magazine articles that referenced Lane’s work are also out of print.

As a resource for all model railroaders, I have transcribed the data from Lane’s work into tables for easy reference. This is available as the USRA Freight Car Assignments page of this blog for easy access. The information presented on that page reflects the USRA assignments which differed from the original USRA allotments. Read through the opening paragraphs to gain an understanding of these terms.

I hope readers will enjoy these details and use the USRA Freight Car Assignments page to further their prototype modeling efforts.

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.

Continue reading “Completing Long Term Projects”