Saturday, December 10, 2016

The Revenge - Rebuilding an IHC 50ft Boxcar - Part 1

Time to start yet another rebuilding program of el cheapo trainset quality cars. Brand new cars cost a lot and there's no guarantee they will fit a particular prototype you need anyway. When in Canada, you have to deal with very subtle details like 8-rung ladder with attached stirrups and National Steel Car ends. But it's also a good occasion to deal with long term issues as you will soon discover...
Sometimes, you have a love-hate long relation with some models… and I’m not talking about “models” but rather scale models! When I was a kid, I walked down the local hobby shop and bought a few cars which I regretted the moment I took them out of the box. For some reason, all of them were badly tracking Model Power cars and one IHC goofy GTW boxcar. When a 8 years old kid can tell it’s crap you know it’s crap.

IHC 50 ft boxcar after a first unsuccesful rebuild.

But I never had the courage to trash them. They cost me $5 to $6 each and I felt betrayed enough to not throw away my money. Last year I tried to somewhat improve the IHC car but failed miserably. The proportions are so WRONG you can’t do anything with this car or such was my impression. But looking at it from another perspective, I discovered I had enough skill to address the dimension issue. Sure it would need a serious surgery, but the diagonal panel roof is quite nice and the car sides car be somewhat salvaged along with the underframe (even if incorrect).

A quick browsing of Richard Yaremko’s Canadian Pictorial guides quickly shown me I could model a CN double door boxcars. Most people will notice the IHC car lacks at least 1 feet in height and that includes the doors. But nothing is impossible and salvaging cheap trainset quality car is a nice way to waste time on my favorite hobby. Would I advise anybody to attempt that kitbash? Seriously no. Except if you want to, have available inexpensive parts on hand or about 25 years of frustration to come to term with. If you ever down my level of frustration, keep in mind it’s my second time rebuilding this horrendous car and this time I’m going to succeed over IHC terrible rolling stock.

I kept the diagonal panels roof for another project.

The first step was to break the model down, removing the roof and cars ends. That’s the easy part. Then, filing the top door track and rivet details along the roof line was done. This is where a 1 scale foot height will be added. Then I carefully cut down the Youngstown door and trimmed the ladders.

The door is cut to see if it can be moved up to be more prototypical.

Once this was done, the model was soaked in Castrol Super Clean to remove all the paint which fortunately didn’t take long. The car will now be assembled once again using Intermountain PS car ends and roof. Slightly modifying them should be enough to mimick NSC-3 car ends.

In general, to succeed in rebuilding credible cheap cars, you need to use substitution parts. Carving molded ladders out of a Dreadnaught car ends can be tedious and generally, the panelling is completely wrong, making it a pure waste of time. The same apply to plugging roofwalk holes on roof. While it can be done when the level of detail is worth it, it is often better to scrap the faulty parts and replace them with better ones. Given car ends, roof and even doors can be found at a very cheap price, it make sense to use them. Anyway, most cheap cars have decent looking sides worth salvaging. Also, you can also salvage the old roofs and car ends for other purpose or even swap them on other cars. Finally, you can cut out the brake wheel housings to reuse them on the new car ends if you want to. This is how you can save money.

A 1 foot scale stripe of styrene is added to get the correct car height.

As I always say, it won’t make perfectly prototypical models, but it’s still a decent way to assemble a customized fleet that has a lot of character. And it’s an extremely rewarding aspect of modelling and a good way to build up skills for much more complex and high quality models. Working with trainset quality car is about not fearing to scrap what’s wrong, build on what’s good and know which level of compromise you’re comfortable with. Most of the time, the key factors are correct proportions, right details (ladder, door, end and roof types), finer section details and a good paint and decaling job (including credible) weathering. If you cover all these bases, you should have a decent model that plays its part.

The rebuilt car almost ready for paint. New riveted steel plate were made of paper.

It sure may sound extremely ridiculous to think that way in an era of exquisite RTR models but I’ll never stress enough that there is many people who are into this hobby for the challenge of building something and not just collecting. Working with cheaper or older cars is a good way to tap into this passion. It is also probably why I almost no longer build structure model kit. The process is interesting, the result extremely rewarding and the fact you can tailor things to your needs is great. You don’t have such freedom otherwise… and nothing stops you doing the same exact thing with better quality models: the results will only be much more amazing.

The plug door details were extended.

In fact, there is much more being this attitude. I’ve talked about freedom and customization and that’s how you can shape your own vision on a layout project. There is no recipe to follow, only very general principles that can guide you to avoid the biggest pitfall and there’s more that a way to achieve a very similar result. Kitbashing car is one way among many. But doing so gives me the chance to materialize what I feel important when I’m telling the story of my own railway-themed fantasy. There is nothing more sad that looking at a decent layout and that the only thing that cross your mind is “yet another of the same thing”. I came to the realisation over the time those layouts that catch the attention have often a very high level of personal involvement from the builder. And the nice thing about it is that it applies to very prototypically accurate replicas to fantasy layouts.

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