Over the past year, InterMountain Railway Company (IMRC) returned several older models to the market in their Value-Line series. These models were based on mold dies that have passed through a convoluted history involving LBF and E&C Shops. The mold dies are basic and feature molded-on detail like grabs and ladders and often missed a distinctive feature of the prototype such as the prominent Hydracushion can located on the center of the center sill underneath the car. In spite of die work that was old-school when it was first made, InterMountain updated important car features for their current Value-Line—trucks, wheelsets and couplers.
Several of the models in the IMRC Value-Line represent Southern Pacific/Cotton Belt prototypes of significance to my Oregon-based model railroad. The wood chip gondolas have yet to make a reappearance, but already delivered are double plug-door boxcars representing cars from the SSW (Cotton Belt) B-70-42 and SP B-70-43 classes of paper-loading cars. These are important fleet-fillers for my railroad in spite of the molded-on detail.
I needed to apply a couple of improvements to my cars before placing them in service. First up was to represent the Hydracushion can on the underframe. This was a prominent feature of Southern Pacific cars throughout the 1960s and into the 1980s. Hydracushion was developed at Stanford Research Institute using funding largely supplied by the SP.
Simple representation of the Hydracushion can on the boxcar underframe.
I found I could simply represent the Hydracushion can with a bit of Evergreeen styrene. A ¼-inch square by 0.060 inch thick base had a center hole drilled in it for a 3/32-inch styrene tube, plugged with a 0.100-inch rod. Although the Hydracushion can should be mounted in the center of the center sill, I accepted a slight offset to account for the brake lever molded there. My simple mounting conveys the desired appearance without adding more work.
Evident in the photo of the car underside is that the car comes from IMRC with plain black plastic trucks. I removed the trucks and then the wheelsets from those trucks. Both the trucks and simplified Hydracushion can were painted using a rattle can of flat red primer—close to the car color.
While I had the trucks and wheelsets off the car, I chose to do a quick weathering job using my airbrush. I might have gone a bit heavy for these cars which were rebuilt and repainted in 1984, but they will fit well within the overall railroad scene. With simple sprays of black, brown and gray weathering mixes (acrylic paint diluted with rubbing alcohol), the cars—especially the trucks and underbody—looked appropriately “grungy” for service.
Weathered cars in front of non-weathered cars ready for service.
Ground-level view of the new cars barely showing the Hydracushion can underneath the center-sills.
The final step was to make up new car cards. These cars are ready to go to work!
This was a simple project, but one I have delayed doing on much of my car fleet as I built my railroad. As always planned, I am now returning to the car fleet to improve appearances.