Sunday, January 9, 2022

Variations on British-American Oil Tank Cars - Part 3

Over the last two weeks, I've been working on a future series of virtual clinics about a pragmatic approach to modelling British-American Oil tank car fleet. While my previous attempts were semi-serious, in the sense that a few cars were stand-ins or good enough, I'm now exploring more prototypical options and I've come to understand from a few Facebook posts on modelling forums that the B-A cars have a special place in the heart of most Canadian railway modellers.

I've often seen people in the past - and that includes myself - finding a close enough car, slapping decals on it and calling it a day. While I see absolutely no issue doing that, I was curious how one could be more prototypical in its approach using on the shelf and easily available plastic models. I'm generally not a big tank car guy, so it was great to really take some time to look up at what's now available on the market, both new and used. Surprisingly, there is a lot of choice and fortunately, quite enough to be able to replicate most B-A cars.

Preparing theses two clinics took a lot of time, probably well over 100 hours. Using Ian Cranstone's ORER compilations and several historical photographs, I attempted to crunch the data and better understand the fleet. Then, I compared every pictures and group of cars with models, trying to figure out which one were the best for each series of tank cars. Once done, kitbashing or detailing notes were written and an accuracy score was attributed to the finish model, from accurate to stand-in or close enough. When data was sparse or unreliable, it was noted. I also refined Ian's car grouping to better reflect variations within certain groups. Indeed, I found out some series had insulated and non-insulated cars of different design.

Excerpt from the clinic

A tentative visual analysis of British-American Oil paint scheme design was also made. I say tentative because I didn't have access to any data about specific dates when some designs were implemented. However, builder pictures and freshly repainted cars helped to create a timeline which I hope more knowledgeable people will built upon.

Finally, the second clinic deals with real models I built, observations on my mistakes, hints to make them better and a few suggestions for future kitbashes. I've also acquired a few more tank cars and decals to try my own ideas before presenting them. I hope to build a few of them in January and February.

Excerpt from the clinic

After the clinics, research material will be made available, including an Excel spreadsheet with each prototype and its closest model and alterations required to make it more prototypical.

Meanwhile, most of Hedley Junction and Monk Subdivision projects are on hold due to the current lockdown. However, I'm working on another structure project that will complement VIA Drummondville station I modelled last summer, experimenting with brick painting and canadianizing American-style downtown structures.


  1. Thanks so much for these articles on the B/A tank cars, I've learned a lot from your research!

    I'm really curious what general steps you take to "Canadianize" US structures, or what features are US-specific. I'd love to learn what US features you see and will replace!

    1. Thanks for your kind words! Glad my research can helps other.

      As for the "Canadianized" US structures, I'm actually taking a lot of pictures right now with the goal to write an article about it. Both countries share a lot of architectural details, but generally speaking, key features (at least in Quebec) will double windows (meaning you have a second glazing on the outside side to improve protection during winter (goes back to the 17th century), you will also have a lot of small annexes and outside vestibules, enclosed verandas and stuff like that to protect entrances. Another key element are chimneys. In Canada, it was common to have several fireplaces/stoves connecting to a single large chimney with one of several conduits instead of many smaller chimneys. Also, these chimneys are commonly found on the north facing wall. Finally, I'd say the use of protective cladding on north walls or on any other very exposed wall (winter winds). Another details is in Quebec, we use mainly casement windows and not that much hung windows on our buildings. Hung windows got popular between 1900s and WW2, but then disappeared almost completely due to their poor performance in cold climate.

    2. In all honesty, these "Canadian" features are also shared by many neighboring states who shares a similar climate. Also, on brick apartment buildings, there is often a lot of verandas on the rear, reminiscent of old cottage architecture.