Detailing an Accurail Fowler boxcar

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.

Basic updates

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.

End details

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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7 thoughts on “Detailing an Accurail Fowler boxcar”

  1. CPR #209175 came from a group of cars for which 9600 were still on the roster in January 1938 as reported in the ORER for that month. what is the door width on the model, however? It appears to be a 6 ft. door. If so why use this model for a CPR car when this series, like all CPR Dominion cars I have ever found, had the CPR standard 5 ft. door as well as only a two vertical support end? Nice effort and result but why on such a model? While on these cars there is another point that needs to be raised once again about the prototypes. The name “Fowler” is really misapplied to cars of this type, at least the vast majority of them, as has been noted many times before. There are some 75,000 cars of this type built by the original builder of them, Dominion Car, and others but not more than 10,000 of them utilized the Fowler pattern as it was quickly found to be an unnecessary expense in constructing them. Again, the Fowler patent covered the use of elongated bolt holes in the side framing so that the bolts holing the wood board side sheathing could be loosened and any shrinkage that developed between the boards then tightened to keep the sheathing tight before retightening the bolts. Through the use or good, kiln dried sheathing protected with a good coat of paint it was soon found that the sheathing remained tight enough so that there was no need to adjust it from shrinkage. Thus there was no need to go to the extra expense of providing elongated0 bolt holes. This use of the pattern was dropped within five years of the first such cars being constructed. Thus the use of “Fowler” when naming these cars is inappropriate for 90% of them, the name “Dominion Car”being much more correct given that Dominion designed and built the first of these cars and many more besides.

    1. Don, please read Manny’s piece carefully. In the third bullet point he states, “The Accurail model is a compromise for die-hard CP modelers who need fast and easy kit builds.” He is not implying the model follows the prototype specifically and he notes the shortcomings of using the model to reflect a CP prototype.

      So yes, all CP cars had 5-foot doors. With the exception of resin kits, there are no other models for these cars. Not everyone has the time, energy, skills, or resources to build large fleets of these as resin kits. The Accurail models are completely acceptable, “sincere stand-ins” for any Canadian prototype car that should have a 5-foot wide door opening. The overall appearance of the model is appropriate, which is especially important in a fleet context. The first part of your comment seems like you did not comprehend Manny’s work.

      As for the Fowler or Dominion name argument, W.E. Fowler was one who worked to develop the original design and who holds several patents on the design. Dominion Car & Foundry built the first 1,500 or so cars before the company was bought and restructured as Canadian Car & Foundry. We don’t call USRA design cars by the car builder name. Isn’t it appropriate that 80K-plus cars of this design should be named after the main designer and patent holder? – Eric
      1916 Fowler Car Company ad

      1. And, to expand a bit on Eric’s final point; Dominion only built 1,502 of these cars. The company couldn’t handle the huge numbers of orders for the cars they were receiving, so merged with several other companies to form Canadian Car & Foundry. That company built the vast majority of these cars, but I’ve never heard anyone call them “CC&F cars”.

  2. I’m well aware of the merger Dominion went through to form CC&F but seriously question just how “involved” Fowler was in the design of the entire car. Wish Stafford Swain was still with us to jump in here too as we both had reservations about the application of the incorrect name to this type of car.
    Hate to blame Al Westerfield, whom I’ve known for over 40 years, but the “Fowler” term seems to
    originated with his resin car research. Sorry but I refuse to accept a name that is clearly a foul, especially when it is based on a useless patent. As far as the doors are concerned the 5 ft. doors used by the CPR serve to illustrate how ultra conservatism can hold one back. The CNR realized the need for wider doors, and went to 6 ft doors, far earlier than the CPR which stuck with the less desirable
    5 ft. doors even into steel car production. The CPR had a wonderful, and well standardized fleet of steam motive power, while the CNR soldiered on with a fleet inherited from many of its predecessor roads until the 1940’s when retirements brought more standardization to the CNR fleet as well but the CNR seems to have always let the CPR in the design and usefulness of its freight car fleet. But doors on a model that are off by a foot are as bad as having non-operable doors or doors with the claws on the bottom that we lived with for so many years. They are a bridge too far for me just as brass models of steam locomotives with incorrect or no detailing of cab roofs were until NERS changed the approach most importers took to that issue.

    1. Al must have found enough detail in the historical record to link the car design with Fowler. Ray Breyer has found similar connections. As far as using the Accurail model to represent a CP car, we set our own hobby goals. Your goals are not the same as many other modelers. Same with me, or Ray, or Al. Manny presented details here so a CP fan can easily add the Accurail Fowler boxcar kit to their fleet. The shortcomings are noted. Manny is fine with those, and I suspect many other modelers are also fine with the model. It obviously does not meet your hobby goals. And so it goes. – Eric

  3. Thanks to Don, Eric and Ray for adding technical comments and support of my guest post. As a rivet counter myself, I appreciate the desire to get things right and all the great prototype information posted here is certainly very interesting. As some know, I have written at length about my many plastic, resin and wood model builds as well as prototype research through the years, I do not profess to have achieved perfection at any stage — including with this latest build. As acknowledged in my post and in Ray’s PDFs, there are indeed many shortcomings with this Accurail model when compared to most prototypes. And as Eric re-iterated, I chose to accept them here in the interests of enjoying some simpler, non-surgical kit building which did not involve resin, painting and greater expense. Given Accurail’s overall success and the sold-out status of most 1150-series kit schemes, I suspect I was not alone in this desire. Once again, thanks for all the great info and discussion!

  4. Do you know where I might be able to find plans to build one of these from scratch? I am thinking of building one in 1/72 scale to include in a diorama of a small shipyard that had a CN spur line on the wharf.

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