The reality of S scale is that the selection is not what it is in HO, or even O. And while I hope to scratch-build some rolling stock at some point, I have too many other projects on the go (for the hobby and that non-hobby time called “life”) to tackle a freight car right now.
That said, I’m thinking about ways to boost the Canadian content on my layout. And as the lead photo shows, I’ve found a suitable stand-in model for a CNR car that will be little more than a paint-and-decal project.
Volume two of the Canadian Rail Car Pictorial series includes a photo of CNR 461244. This is a 40 foot, single sheathed, steel frame boxcar – part of a series of 3,000 built in1921 by Canadian Car and Foundry for the Grand Trunk Railway. These cars were originally for auto service, but outgrew their usefulness by the early 1930s and were rebuilt with a six-foot wide door. The cars lasted into the 1970s.
The model in the lead photo is a ready to run single sheathed car from S Helper Service. I have three of these in my collection, all painted for U.S. railroads.
Comparing the prototype and model, there are a few obvious discrepancies:
First, the prototype has a fishbelly frame – while the model does not. However, that should be relatively easy to correct: I can cut and shape a pair of styrene strips, notch them for the brake rigging, paint them black and glue them in place on the model’s centre sills. Not perfect, but they should look just fine when placed on the layout.
Second, the roof is almost correct: It’s a Hutchins roof, with the correct number of flat panels between the ribs. According to the book, the prototype has a narrow rib down the centre of each flat panel. (Here’s an example on a Proto:48 boxcar built by Jim Zwerneman.) This would be relatively easy to fix on the model with some styrene strip.
Third, the prototype features a 7/8 Murphy end, while the model has a 5/5/5 arrangement of ribs. There’s not much I can do about that without resorting to major surgery, at which point I may as well scratch-build (and if I’m doing that, I’d look at the CNR’s 1929 standard design, like this O Scale offering from Sylvan Scale Models. However, the ends are not a glaring issue – they’re not, say, 4/5 Dreadnought Ends – so I can live with the discrepancy if it lets me put some more Canadian National equipment on the rails.
The horizontal brace on the door is higher on the model than on the prototype. Again, not a deal-breaker. I may even be able to carve off the brace and add a new one, lower down.
That’s the bad news. Here’s some of the good news:
The sides are correct, with the right number and configuration of bracing. Even the corner braces are present.
The ladders are correctly made from grab irons on sides and ends.
The model car needs a stirrup step added to each end, under the ladder. That’s easy to do and I would want to replace the plastic stirrups on the sides anyway.
The finished cars will boost my CNR fleet even as they add variety – a nice intermediate design between the Fowler cars and the all-steel cars. They’ll help me get rid of some American equipment (which, while nice, would have been rare on my branch). And they won’t take that much time or effort to finish so I can fit them into my task list.
I think they’ll also force crews to pay more attention to reporting marks, since operating sessions will require more than “putting the Maine Central boxcar over there”.
I’ve written to Al Ferguson at Black Cat Decals to determine whether appropriate lettering is available in S.
Beyond this project, I have a number of other CNR boxcars to build:
… which is currently on hiatus because, frankly, I’m not in the mood to scratch-build the doors and I have other projects I’d rather tackle at this time.
I’ve decided that it’s really nice when S Scale gives me a bit of a break…