Lackawanna boxcars, part 1

DL&W 3855 looks like it was refreshed in the 1915 image taken by company photographer Watson B. Bunnell from the Lackawanna Collection at Steamtown NPS.

I’ve been planning to add a pair of Lackawanna boxcars to the freight car fleet. They had 15,295 boxcars listed in the October 1926 ORER. This isn’t a top ten overall quantity but they had the sixth most boxcars of railroads serving the Northeastern states. DL&W cars could have arrived on the Allegheny Yard branch in Pittsburgh via the Buffalo, Rochester & Pittsburgh connection. Plus, I like how their fleet looks.

The core of these projects is the Accurail 36-foot boxcars with straight steel center sills. This project has been at the back of my mind for a while. With many freight car projects, there is often one step that has delayed progress. With these cars, replacing a roof was that step. I wanted one car to represent a DL&W 30-ton boxcar with a wood roof. The other car would be a 40-ton version with steel ends, quite easy to model with the Accurail kits.

I bit the bullet, developed a plan, and started modifying a car body.

I started by shaving off the Murphy roof details with a single-edge razor blade.
I left the running board supports in place and sanded the roof smooth.
I cut Evergreen car siding to size then cut notches along one side to mesh with the running board supports. This was tedious work, but not difficult. Lots of checking, fitting, filing, and fitting.
After installing the new roof, I added 0.015-inch thick strips to the top of the running board supports to raise the running board to a correct level above the roof. After the running board was glued into place, the excess lengths of the extra supports were trimmed away.

Corner grabs were also installed and fascia strip of Evergreen 1×4 styrene was added to reflect the prototype details.

End details were next.

I installed a Tichy retainer valve and 0.008-inch diameter brass wire retainer line. A small notch was carved from the back left of the brake platform to clear the retainer line. A small J-hook was added halfway down the car end to anchor the wire.

I added the supports for the brake platform and running boards using Evergreen 1×4 styrene that was cut to length then split lengthwise to make thinner supports.
I use 0.020-inch diameter phosphor-bronze wire for the vertical brake staffs. The wire is a bit larger than the prototype size but is more robust.

I made the uncoupling hardware from 0.0125-inch diameter brass wire. The prototype had a funky shape at the pin pull area above the coupler. I did my best to reflect this detail. Eyebolts hold this in place. The last bend at the left was done after the details were installed.

I thought the modifications were complete until I compared the model with the prototype image that leads this post. I forgot to remove the door brace. Careful chiseling, scraping, sanding, and scribing removed the detail.
Here’s a closer look after removing the door brace.

I inserted the underframe to support the car body while removing the detail. I also added an alignment tab below the door latching hardware. This white detail came from an unknown resin kit. I recommend you keep those leftover resin kit parts in a box as they can come in handy.

Now this model was ready for a wash before heading to the paint booth.

American Car & Foundry photo

I moved my attention to the 40-ton car with metal ends. This 1922 build photo is the inspiration.

Upgrading the end details is the main focus.

The model end sill isn’t quite the same as the prototype. I noticed the end sill grab irons needed to be relocated in order to install the Carmer uncoupling levers. Based on reviewing many Lackawanna boxcar images, it seems they standardized on the Carmer hardware in the mid-Teens for new and rebuilt boxcars. This is another detail difference to model.

In addition to the grab iron adjustment, the model received the retainer valve, retainer line, vertical brake staff, and supports for the running board and brake platform. Wire grab irons were also installed in the corners of the short longitudinal running boards.

These cars also had a door alignment tab on the left door stop but located higher. The extra resin parts came in handy, again!

After inspection, I realized again that the prototype did not have a brace on the doors. I went through another round of detail removal. I’ll post my steps to remove these door braces in the next blog post. Adding the photos here will make this post too long.

That sums up the prep work on these Accurail shortys to reflect Lackawanna prototypes. I’ll cover more progress soon.

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6 thoughts on “Lackawanna boxcars, part 1”

  1. I often have a hard time picking out these little details, that you use to model a specific prototype. watching you and the other top guys pick them out and model them is teaching me a lot about the “anatomy” of these little differences. I’m not sure what specific reference books to get to learn these little things as well, or if there even are reference books that point out these specific little bits to look for.

    1. Thanks for your comment, Matt. Identifying these details is something I’ve learned from other modelers who point out the different hardware and locations on freight cars. Discussions with others modeling a similar era is also insightful. The Railway Prototype Cyclopedia volumes have lots of info on specific prototypes for inspiration. It comes down to keeping your eyes open on prototype photos and noting what needs to be added, removed, or adjusted on a model. – Eric H.

  2. Nicely done enhancements Eric. I picked out that uncoupling lever at first glance. Takes a bit longer for these details but is well worth the effort and it shows nicely on your model.

    1. Thanks for posting, George! Those uncoupling levers are a specific detail to Lackawanna boxcars built before the late Teens. I don’t recall seeing a similar design on other railroads. – Eric H.

  3. Very nice work Eric. I particularly like the wood roof and trim for 38555. Do you plan to replace the cast drop grabs?

    1. Thanks, Andrew! I do not plan to replace the grab irons. I want to keep these moving forward for a quick finish. – Eric H.

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