Thursday, September 22, 2022

Custom Athearn NSC Boxcar Conversion Kit

 As I grow older as a modeller, I sense I'm no longer interested in purchasing higher end cars except for a few notable models. Not only because costs are rising at an alarming rate, but also because I derive very little enjoyment out of unboxing stuff that goes right on track. Working on a model and painting them is enjoyable, particularly when it is in pursuit of acquiring skills and being able to replicate the reality around us.

It's no secret I've been on a quest of improving old plastic kits of the past for more than a decade and half. I have in me that fascination of seeing what can be done with these crude models. What are their redeeming factors, what are the tooling mistakes that make them harder to improve. In that regard, I've learned over the time that Athearn 40ft boxcars are a decent starting point while old Roundhouse ones are more challenging for less favorable results.

Be it Bachmann Quad Hoppers, Model Power Insulated Boxcars or any other byzantine project of mine, I've tried it all and enjoyed it immensely. This long experience have made me genuinely aware of how these very humble things can become much more than good enough models. At first, I thought about replacing everything with wire and delicate parts, then tried to find a balanced recipe where the returns on investment were maximum while keeping realism as a reachable goal.

NSC-1 ends (work in progress)

I'm proud to announce that this work as culminate this week into the production of a very convincing National Steel Car built 40 ft, 10'-0" high boxcar out of our good old Athearn friend. You won't win a prize with this kitbashed and improved model, but it will be as good as if Irv Athearn did tool a specific Canadian steel boxcar from the late 1930s and early 1940s.

Parts I've made are done following Athearn's own tooling parameters, albeit a little bit more finer, with the goal of providing easy to assemble yet very sturdy models. I have no fear a car modified using my part should providing excellent reliability during operation, which may be of interest to some people with that mind set.

NSC-2 ends

All parts are design to fit Athearn and, by extension, Roundhouse boxcars. Thus, they share the discrepancies these old toolings had. These compromises are relatively minimal and impossible to discern without a calliper and some good eyeballs. However, it means you don't have to fiddle, fill with putty and try to match the surrounding details.

Suitable CNR prototypes built with NSC between 1937-1938:

-472000-472999 (11/1937-2/1938)

-475300-475999 (6-7/1938)

Please check to identify the renumbered cars over the years. It's a fascinating subject!

The kit provides the following parts:

-1x NSC-1 style B End with 8-rung ladder

-1x NSC-2 style A End with 8-rung ladder

-2x 8-rung Canadian style ladders

-2x 6 feet Youngstown doors


-2x 10'3" Youngstown doubles doors for Automobile boxcars

I don't provide new brake wheels, but do recommend using Kadee ones which are excellent and well worth the investment.

It is also recommenced to use Accurail 40ft wooden roofwalks and their underframe brake rigging which can add another layer of realism. Don't forget Tichy roof corner grabirons and Yarmouth eyebolts. In my eyes, they really enhance the appearance of a car.

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