When is a box car more than a box car? The answer; when it is a gift from a train buddy who you share the hobby with. Last week I had the good fortune to receive such a gift from 1 to 1 scale Sir Neal Himself.
The Athearn Blue Box is labelled "Produced by Athearn especially for Walthers" Item# 933-6853 P & LE 40' Box Car Kit. I have never seen this run of cars before. I am familiar with other Blue Box cars being painted by custom painters such a Bev-Bel, English, etc.
As with most vintage Athearn kits some TLC was needed to get the car layout ready. The model had been built by the prior owner and was pretty good shape with no broken parts. Since I have a large collection of Athearn BB freight cars I have developed a pretty quick series of improvements to upgrade these cars so they run and look good for many more years. Here is my easy to do list;
1. If car has already been put together separate body and frame. Remove trucks, coupler retaining clips and metal weight. Wash all plastic parts with a mild soap and water. Rinse well. Allow to air dry. A shot of dullcote can be applied when dry.
2. Look at metal coupler retaining clips, metal axles and metal weight. If rust is noted on weight and coupler clips I wire brush and /or sand it off. The next step is to spray paint both with rattle can black. This will prevent the rust from returning. If the metal axles are rusty I usually discard them since I will be adding metal wheel sets.
3. Spray paint car under body / frame and trucks rattle can flat black. You can keep the old axles in the trucks so you do not get paint into the axle journals.
4. Install Kadee under set shank couplers like the 27 or 37. Do not use the ol reliable #5 on these cars. The couplers will be way to low. There is a new trend to secure the coupler clips with a screw by drilling out the coupler post. I have been securing my coupler clips with needle nose pliers for twenty years and have had absolutely no problems running trains of 40 plus cars.
5. Next step is metal wheel sets. I prefer the P-2000 or Intermountain metal wheels for these cars.
6. Attach trucks to frame. I usually add new 2-56 screws but if the orginal screws ae in good shape they can be reused. Check coupler height against Kadee Coupler height gauge. Adjust as necessary.
7. Test run the car. I have found on many of the BB cars that the bolsters are a bit tight and do not allow the truck to have the right amount of "play" required to keep the car running smooth over track variations like switch frogs. Some of the bolsters appear to have a mushroom effect. This is easily corrected by filing down the bolster's diameter. Do not remove the bolster, just make it slightly thinner. The truck should slide onto the bolster and fall off the bolster easily.
8. Add car to your revenue fleet and enjoy!