Category Archives: Upgrades

Milwaukee Rib Side box car upgrade

George Toman made a few upgrades to an HO scale Milwaukee ribbed-side box car kit. Click on any image here to review a larger size. Here’s George with his work.

Like many readers, I’ve been inspired by Bill Welch’s work here on the RCW blog and have rolled up my shirt sleeves to upgrade a plastic model. I worked to correct the side channel height and to increase the height for the sides of a Milwaukee ribbed-side box car. The model also features Stan Rydarowicz resin replacement roof, hatches and decals.

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Detail Tips


We have another guest post this week. Eric Hansmann illustrates a couple of techniques to ease installing details onto freight car models.

As prototype model railroaders, we often push our efforts to include many prototype detail elements on our freight cars. In reviewing the image above, there are several common elements that are typical of many kits. Let’s take a look at one of the smaller components and how to ease the installation process. Click on any image here to review a larger size.

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Model Upgrades – 1

A tank car model with components from Tichy and Athearn reflects a popular prototype.

Here are a couple more modified models that are in service on the railroad. The Warren tank car is a shortened Athearn chemical tank on a lengthened Tichy frame. The cuts in the Athearn tank are covered with 0.005-inch sheet styrene to represent the jacket over the insulation. The model has the rough overall dimensions of an AC&F Type 27 Class 105 propane 10.5K gallon tank car. The bonnet is a resin casting that I did maybe two decades ago and has been noted several times on Tony Thompson’s blog. The decals are from Sunshine Models but others are available.


This flat car is actually two Red Caboose flat car models spliced together just as the Rock Island had done. Take a flat car, cut it in half, add new steel in-between and “presto!,” a longer flat car. The splice plates were done with styrene with rivets harvested from an Athearn gondola. Today we would use Archer rivet decals.

The decal lettering were extra bits from other used sets. The deck was widened with styrene matching the existing deck thickness and then distressed. The stake pockets came with the Red Caboose kits.

The load is six Farmall 300 series tractors which were produced from 1954 to 1956, which falls right into my late August 1955 time period. These tractors are resin castings from a pattern done for Martin Lofton at Sunshine Models, but were never issued.

A recent discussion on the Steam Era Freight Car YahooGroup centered on an interesting Waterloo, Cedar Falls & Northern (WCF&N) flat car. Here’s one way to model a similar prototype.


New York Central offset side hoppers


A recent discussion on the Steam Era Freight Car (STMFC) YahooGroup reminded me of some hopper conversations from the past. There were a few posts on New York Central (NYC) offset side hopper cars and the lack of models available. Here are some quick tips to modify some readily available models to better reflect NYC prototypes. Click on any image here to view a larger size.

A likeness of an NYC offset twin can be created by removing 1-foot, 6-inches from the center of an Athearn, Accurail, or Atlas car (the triple A of model train manufactures). It is easy to hide the cut as there’s a riveted seam which runs down the center of the car.

The car also needs to be raised a bit which is can be accomplished by using washer on the kingpin. This gives the model more of the NYC look of being taller than a standard twin hopper. Compare the length and height differences between a NYC twin and standard twin in the lead photo of Peoria & Eastern 2831 and Rock Island 89727.


P&E 2831 is an Athearn car. Once the car is raised the couplers need to be lower. This is done by attaching a new coupler box to the old one. Some styrene is added to the bottom of the hopper to again give the car a taller appearance.


NYC 868422 is an Accurail car essentially modified in the same manner as the Athearn car.


Decals are available for this and other NYC hoppers from Resin Car Works! Check out the selection on our website.