Resin Freight Car kit builds, part 3

The temporary work bench.
The temporary work bench.

After building several resin freight car kits in about a month, I feel resin kit building requires the confidence to improvise. Not everything will fit perfectly. Some parts may be missing or damaged, and some steps take longer than others. I no longer expect a build to go smoothly and I try to break away every 30-45 minutes to clear my head.

I also try to have another project nearby that is not at the same stage as the main build. I may work on lateral running board detail for the previous build, prep and wash large parts for an upcoming build, or assemble sides and the ends of the next build. I may even take an email or a pudding break.

Did you get that? Not the pudding break part but that other stuff.

  • Work on small detail part
  • Work on large assembly
  • Take a break.

Any resin kit requires more attention and work than an Accurail, Athearn, or MDC kit. Staggering fine work with basic work and taking regular breaks can help move your builds along and reduce frustration levels. Do not expect to plow through a build in one sitting. Maybe I’ll get to that point, but right now I find it best for me to vary the tempo and take an intermission between songs.

Week of May 13

Funaro & Camerlengo kits
1923 ARA XM-1 single sheathed box car
Pennsylvania Railroad GS steel gondola

Here we are at the third week of building resin freight car kits and I’m pretty excited with the progress. These next two are pretty interesting. The 1923 ARA XM-1 box car has a one piece kit body, which means the sides, ends and roof are already cast as one piece. That does save some time in fitting and gluing those parts together. There are still holes to drill and a brake system to install. The gondola is another flat kit and another solid model for your beginning stages of resin kit building.

1923 ARA XM-1 single sheathed box car

1923 ARA XM-1 single sheathed box car
1923 ARA XM-1 single sheathed box car

The underframe and running board details assembled quickly on this one piece body model. After building a few of resin freight car kits, I can visualize the installation steps much easier. The ladders, grab irons, sill steps, and vertical staff brake hardware were added to the model the next day. The one piece kit body eliminated several steps and may have cut the build time in half.

The Louisville & Nashville was an early purchaser of this prototype box car design in the following batches:

  • 12000-13499 (1500 cars) built by Tennessee Coal, Iron, and Railroad Company and Mt. Vernon in 1924
  • 13500-13999 (500 cars) built by Standard Tank Car Company in 1926
  • 14000-14299 (300 cars) built by Mt. Vernon in 1928
  • 14300-14599 (300 cars) built by Pullman in 1929
  • 7500-7999 (500 cars) built by Mt. Vernon in 1930

The first two groups had 7/8 Murphy corrugated steel ends while the last three had 3/5 Dreadnaught steel ends. All cars were equipped with Murphy outside metal roofs. My model follows the cars from the earlier batches with the Murphy ends.

Pennsylvania Railroad GS steel gondola

Brake system installation on the PRR GS gondola
Brake system installation on the PRR GS gondola

This gondola kit assembled quickly. Sides and ends were glued together to form a bod, then the underframe was checked for fit. I added some thin strip styrene to each end to fill a gap and ensure a good fit. Holes were drilled for trucks and couplers before a weight was added. I didn’t add weight to the previous two gondola models as the inside depth was shorter and the thickness of a weight would shrink that depth a bit too much for my eye. These Pennsy gondolas are a little deeper so the loss of depth isn’t as noticeable.

The fiddly part on this kit is with the disconnected K brake system, also known as KD. I reviewed the directions and the scale drawing several times and something didn’t seem right. After checking a few photos I realized the drawings show the brake system on the wrong side of the undersill. I should emphasize this is the wrong side based upon prototype photos I reviewed that were taken in the 1920s and 1930s. I do not know if the drawing represents the original, as-built brake system arrangement. I also substituted a spare set of the KD brake castings from a Red Caboose X29 box car kit I built long ago. I just liked the look better. Once I realized where the components needed to be installed, all progressed smoothly. The image above shows the completed work.

The completed PRR GS gondola model
The completed PRR GS gondola model

The GS class steel gondola was built in four variations for the Pennsylvania Railroad and related lines between 1902 and 1909.

  • GS – 25,752 built with tight ends and floors.
  • GSA – 8,751 built with hopper bottom doors. Conversion to GS began in 1923.
  • GSC – 101 built with wood drop ends
  • GSD – 22,516 built with sloped drop doors. Conversion to GS began in 1929.

The numbers total a staggering 57,120 cars built to the same basic gondola design. Many of these GS gondolas lasted to the end of the steam era in revenue service. Interestingly, these weren’t the only PRR gondolas seen in large numbers. The railroad built thousands of gondolas with fish belly steel side sills, steel side stakes, and wood sides.

  • GR – 16,151 built 1902-1907
  • GRa – 14,126 built 1907-1916

With these kind of quantities, anyone modeling the era between 1910 and 1950 will need a few GS and GR/GRa gondolas for their freight car fleet. I am planning to build a couple of the GR or GRa cars very soon.

These roster details came from a very fine book on PRR gondolas, Pennsylvania Railroad Gondolas
Revenue & Work Equipment, 1869 – 1968. Published by the Pennsylvania Railroad Historical & Technical Society. This volume is loaded with fabulous PRR gondola photos and is a wonderful modeling aid.

We are past the halfway point of the May 2013 resin freight car kit builds. Two very interesting models are coming up next. Please post any question or comments below. All comments are reviewed and approved before they appear.

7 thoughts on “Resin Freight Car kit builds, part 3”

  1. Eric,

    You’re gonna make me get out the 1953 ORER and check on the PRR gons, aren’t you? I can share the results and you can post them or not….up to you.

  2. Eric,

    Went through the 1953 ORER and found there were a little more than 1000 Gs/Gr class gons on the railroad. Almost all of the Gs/Gr classes were 40 ft (outside) length. The Gra gons totalled over 2000 cars. The older cars were typically 43 ft (outside) length and newer cars had several lengths less than 43 ft.

    Thank you again for showing me something I need for my layout!


  3. HA! Thanks for the 1953 updates, Tim! The GR and GRa composite gondolas did dwindle after WW2, but I believe the GS numbers stayed strong into the 1960s. Many of these were rebuilt into GSD class cars on the PRR.

    Of course, I focus on 1926 and there were soooo many of the GS, GR, and GRa gondolas in service that they cannot be ignored. More builds coming soon! – Eric

  4. Eric,

    Remember very often the plans in the various Cycs, which F&C usually includes in their kits, are based on looking down through the floor of the prototype car, not looking up from below. One of the reasons the first run of Bowser PRR GS gons had the brake components on the “wrong side” relative to the brake wheels!
    Looks like you’re making great progress.

  5. That is a very good point Marty. Thanks for bringing that up. I believe there was a hobby publication that published a couple of prototype drawings with a similar error and there are a couple of mass-produced models out there that that suffer from the same error.

    This is a good reminder to understand the prototype with photos and drawings as a build is considered. – Eric

  6. In the early 1950’s I lived on Sunday Street in Pittsburgh which overlooks PRR’s Island Avenue Yard. I recall that the Gs/Gr and GRA gondolas were common inhabitants there. There were many industries along the Ohio/Allegheny river shore that utilized these cars. They were also a common sight in Pennsy freights passing through the yard.

    I found the F&C XM-1 mention to be very timely, too as I have three of Sunshine’s offerings under construction now. I like to batch-build kits of similar construction and these are all, essentially the same kit – but different. It’s amazing how many privations one could on a “standard” design car. I’m building an ACL B-3, ACL B-5 and the BAR’s version of the XM-1. I’ll send photos when done.


  7. Thanks for the info, Jim. I hope to tackle a couple of those PRR GR gondolas very soon. I forgot to mention the XM-1 cars are well documented in Railway Prototype Cyclopedia Volume 18, which is still listed as available at the publisher.

    I look forward to more images of your builds. I plan to feature some of your work next week here. – Eric

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