The latest freight car model

With the recent addition of air hoses and wheel spray marks on the car ends, I have finished this Westerfield Models HO scale resin freight car kit. I started building this kit in early June and planned to post regular progress reports. But things went awry and life got in the way. Let’s review the work.

This is Westerfield Models kit 7901; a New York Central 1916-design, steel automobile box car.

Why NYC box cars?

Some may wonder about my kit choice. It comes down to the data, and what is in my stash. I compiled freight car data from a 1926 Official Railway Equipment Register (ORER) into a spreadsheet segmented by railroads and car types. I’ve been using this resource to influence my freight car fleet additions.

AC&F photo from the Westerfield Models collection

The New York Central Lines had seven subsidiaries in 1926. Collectively, the Lines had the largest box car quantity with 123,417 cars, which was 32,000 more box cars than the Pennsylvania Railroad. As a subset, the NYCL listed 37,966 automobile box cars; a total far greater than the next largest fleet. There were 6,500 of these 1916-design steel cars in that subset.

Open the box

My first step is a review of the instructions and parts. Prototype variations and updates are noted, so I mark the sections to skip. I’ll also circle details to follow specific prototypes. I’ve found this review can ease the model construction.

I tend to complete a couple steps each day on a resin freight car kit. Don’t try to build too much in a single day. Some details can be tedious to install. Take breaks to clear your brain. Your model will look better in the long run.

Parts prep

After cleaning flash from the major parts, I wash them using Dawn detergent and a soft toothbrush to remove mold release compound and sanding dust.

This is a flat kit, so I drill the holes in the car sides and ends, then install grab irons. I prefer to install details before assembling the sides and ends. It’s easier to install the brake platform and related details on the flat end.

I install square styrene to reinforce the back of the car sides and as corner posts. I marked the lowest point of the roof supports and the top of the car floor with pencil lines. These guide placement for the styrene.

I use Barge contact cement to attach the styrene to resin parts. A little cement is spread on each attachment surface and set aside to dry for 20 minutes. When the cement is tacky, the styrene parts are set into place. The cement offers a little time to adjust the position. Clothes pins make great clamps for this step.

The instructions recommend building the car sides and ends around the underframe. I added the brake system details before moving forward. I also drilled and tapped the bolster holes at this time.

I glue an end and a side together to make an El. The styrene corner post adds more connecting surface area for the Barge cement. When two sets are done, it’s easy to connect the remaining corners to make the box. When working at this point, fit the top edge of the car sides even with the top corner of the end piece. I missed this and it came back to bite me later, as you’ll see.

I test fit the underframe. It was narrow and slightly long. I sanded the ends to length before gluing styrene 1 x 8 strips to the sides. Once the underframe fit, it was glued into place.

This is the moment to install a pair of trucks and check the coupler height. I did not install the couplers but used the back of a Kadee coupler height gauge to check the mounting pad level. The car sat high. I removed about 1/16th of an inch from the bolsters using an UMM saw to correct the car height.

At this point I realized I should have installed the car weight before attaching the underframe. I found an old tire weight that brought the car weight into line and glued it into place with Barge cement.


These kits have roof trusses and a ridge pole to support the roof casting. Take the time to cut and fit these parts so the roof will finish flat along the top of the car sides and ends.

While attaching the roof castings, I found some of the roof truss parts were not installed carefully. I also should have paid more attention to keeping the top of the car sides level with the top corner of the end castings. See those gaps where the roof and sides meet? (Click on the image to review a larger size.) I wasn’t happy, but I’ve come to far to quit.

I inserted thin strip styrene to fill some of the gaps. I applied Tamiya modeling putty to fill more of the gaps. When the putty was dry, I smoothed the spots with a small file. Those are the white areas on the photo above.

I also noticed the running board supports were not flat. I glued 1 x 3 styrene onto the tops of several supports to level the running board. A couple pieces can be seen in the photo above.

After attaching the running board parts, it was time to install the ladders and final end details. The ladders are cast resin. Be patient when cleaning the flash from the parts. It will take more time than you realize. I took a break after cleaning up two ladders. Well, I ruined one. Technically I worked on three before taking a break. There’s an extra ladder casting in case you ruin one of them.

The uncoupling levers were installed next, then the running board supports. The vertical hand brake staff and step were added to complete the car ends.

These NYC box cars had a double-step sill step, which were provided as resin parts. I wanted something more robust. I found these sill steps on parts sprues from Accurail 36-foot box car kits. I drilled #76 holes in proper locations just behind the side sills and installed these on each corner.


I was excited to paint and decal the model at this point, but there was a problem. The decals were for a different kit! I needed a couple items from Westerfield, so I ordered the decal set.

After the decals arrived, the model was washed and set aside to dry before proceeding to the paint booth. A primer coat was sprayed onto the car followed by the car color the following day. I used Vallejo burnt umber lightened with a few drops of Vallejo aged white. I had built another model while waiting for the decals, which is why there are two box cars in the above photo. The NYC car is at the left.

Decal application went smoothly until the end. I had overlooked the lettering at the bottom center of the car ends. Corrugated steel ends are not my favorite surface to decal. Several applications of red bottle Micro Sol and Walthers Solvaset made the decals conform to the corrugations.

To work on the car ends, I loosely wrapped paper towel around one end of the model and placed it into a foam beverage koozie. The koozie is placed into an oversize coffee mug that is heavy enough to keep the car upright so I can work on it.

I used Pan Pastels for the weathering and applied them lighter than usual. I figure a car built in 1916 might be shopped and repainted a few years before my 1926 modeling focus. I applied strips of painter tape over the repack and reweigh stencils before weathering. I wanted those letters to look a little brighter than the rest. These are updated periodically and often look cleaner than the rest of the car.

These last photos were taken on November 7th, five months, and five days after starting in early June. I usually work faster, but several incidents slowed me down.

I don’t share many personal stories here, but this model will be remembered for the never-ending stream of personal incidents this past summer.

As mentioned, I started the model in early June. On June 11th, my father entered hospice care. June 12th was his 94th birthday. We departed for Pittsburgh on June 14th for a family celebration of his birthday and Father’s Day.

I tested positive for Covid on July 1st and spent the next few days resting in bed. My wife also caught the virus. We both had mild cases without need for hospitalization. But it did wear us out.

On July 9th, my aunt died. She was my father’s 98 year-old sister. I tested negative for Covid on July 13th so I could attend her memorial services in Pittsburgh. I had hardly returned to daily routines when Dad died on July 24th. It was a return to Pittsburgh for services and burial. Dad and his sister were always strong supporters of my hobby interests. Dad was always delighted when I had an article published. He took me to my first model railroad convention in Pittsburgh back in 1978.

After returning to middle Tennessee and catching up on tasks, I encountered another issue. I had a heart attack on August 17th. I had two stents installed on August 18th. Medicine is a marvel these days. My operation lasted 20 minutes. I was home in a couple of days.

My recovery has been smooth and I’m more active now than earlier in the year. Regular exercise, eating healthy, and consuming smart calories have been very important in changing my daily habits.

If you have read this far, I implore you to pay attention to your own health issues. I initially thought I had indigestion. When it happened again twelve hours later, I knew I should go to the hospital. Understand the warning signs and act quickly. I’m working to ensure I don’t repeat the experience.

This New York Central box car model will always remind me of this past summer. Some of our models have a deeper story than just the assembly and finishing steps.

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27 thoughts on “The latest freight car model”

  1. Eric: Thanks for sharing some of your modeling techniques. Thanks also for sharing your personal stories, and please stay healthy.

  2. Glad you’re still with us, and that your Covid was minor. I have never had a heart attack, but back in 2008 I had four blockages and had a quadruple bypass. Recently I had some symptoms but not heart related it turns out. However, they still haven’t found the cause and they are trying to figure out what the source of the pain is. I am 78 and hope to go along for a few more years. I’ve told folks that if I die before completing the model railroad I am going to be pissed. Physically I have trouble climbing up on things and under some things which hampers my model rr building. Sorry about your dad. I have a sister who just turned 93 who is doing pretty well and drives herself around.

    1. Thanks, Jared. I’m very glad to be above ground and active. All the best to you as you progress on your layout! – Eric

  3. Eric,

    Thank you for the timely reminder about health. I’m having issues related to being too sedentary. Getting up and moving every few minutes, stretching our hands and forearms, as well as focusing on a distant object will help prevent a host of issues from blood clots to carpal tunnel syndrome to eye strain. Funny how ‘relaxing’ can be hard on the body if we’re not careful.

    Finally, I hope you’ve made provision in a will or other document for not only the disposition of your hobby items but a record of each and what it means. As a collector of vintage model railroad equipment, too often I find an item divorced of any meaning beyond its beauty – no story of its creator and his legacy. Stories such as the one you’ve shared here are what make this hobby more than just grown-ups playing with trains.

    Thanks, as ever, for the inspiration.


    1. Galen, good to hear you already identified your issues. My activity level dropped over the last couple of years. Now I need to focus on smarter hobby breaks to keep moving. Thanks for your suggestions about documenting the model stories, too. Some of those are here on the blog. – Eric

  4. Smooth modeling and rough life, it does go that way at times. That is neat about your dad having supported your hobby and writing. Glad you are still here to do and to share that hobby and writing with us.

    1. Thank you, Scott. We are all riding different roller coasters as we tackle daily challenges. That’s just how it rolls. Dad helped me build my first HO scale layout in the early 1970s. It was a John Armstrong plan from an Atlas track plan book. I think he was surprised that it ran as well as it did. – Eric

  5. Wow, thanks for sharing. So glad you are ok. And sorry for your losses. It sounds like both your aunt and father lived long, full lives.

    1. Yes, I’m doing much better now and focused on improving each day. I’ve also been remembering many great times with my aunt and Dad from decades past. Thanks, Jim. – Eric

  6. Hello Eric
    Sorry to read about your personal losses this year and your health trials. Tough year. I hope you are feeling much better.
    Best Wishes

    1. Thank you, Rick. I feel stronger now after the summer experiences. I need to push myself each day to do a little more. I’ve got a few grand kids I want to watch grow into fine adults. – Eric

      1. Last night I was taken by what you wrote about your personal life that I did not say that I like your NYC auto car build…looks very fine and crisp with realistic weathering. I have a question please: I may have missed this, but have you ever posted on how you apply chain to brake rigging? What you chain you use? How to fix it in place? How to get that sag so that it stays there? Is it strong for the rod attached to it? Thanks

        1. Thanks, Rick. I guess I’ve never described how I attach the chain connecting the hand brake wheel rod to the brake cylinder clevis. I bend one end of a 0,0125-inch diameter 90 degrees with a short tail at the bend. Maybe an eighth of an inch long. I use pre-blackened 40 link-per-inch chain and slip one of the links over the wire. O then bend the wire back to touch the main part of the wire and snip off the excess a couple millimeters from the chain. The remaining wire is crimped tightly. I count off several chain links (6 to 9 links) then cut the chain. I then use wire to hook into that open last link again. When secure, this wire is cut short and the other end bent to secure into a hole at the brake cylinder clevis. The other end of the rod is trimmed to fit into a hole at the bolster. I only apply CA at the points where the wire is fixed to the model or the brake cylinder clevis. The chain hangs freely. Does that make sense? – Eric H.

          1. That makes perfect sense! And thank you for taking the time to answer my question in detail Eric. It is appreciated.

            I hope you have an easy and happy weekend!

  7. Nice build Eric, and thanks for sharing your thoughts on the family issues you have experienced. Life is short and each day is a gift given to us by our maker. I’m finishing up an F&C B&O Wagon top covered hopper, you’re right about resin kits: take your time and do a little each day, these kits can be cantankerous to build, patience is the key. Take care and looking forward to your next posting.

    1. Thanks, Bob. I’m more aware to embrace each day and enjoy the ordinary moments. Good luck with the B&O covered hopper! You will apply several techniques from that experience into your future kit builds. – Eric

  8. Sorry to hear about your life event setbacks and glad you are healthy and back to modeling again. The NYC Auto Box car looks great and thank you for a great building tutorial. I have a question regarding the decal numbering of the car. Does the S designation in front of the road number indicate that this car is a NYC system wide use car considering the herald indicates New York Central Lines? Thanks and stay healthy Eric.

    1. Thank you, Thomas! I think you are correct about the S designation before the road number. That info is noted close to the bottom of the NYC Painting and Lettering page of the Canada Southern site. As built- these automobile box cars did not have the S designation. That began to be applied in 1921. I’ve decorated my car to reflect an upgrade from that moment. – Eric H.

  9. Eric, thanks for surviving your health issues… and the kit build! Glad both show what crisis and recovery look like.

  10. Eric,

    Thanks for sharing your personal as well as your hobby. Sorry for your losses and your setbacks. Glad you had a chance to share the hobby with you Dad. Thanks for all you do and keeping positive attitude and outlook through thick and thin!


  11. Hey Eric,

    Saw you at Indianapolis, this Spring. Glad the COVID and heart didn’t get you, and sorry to hear about your Dad.

    Now if I could get you to paint boxcars, for ME.


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