Custom Painted P-2000 units

Friday, October 17, 2014

P&LE 40' Boxcar 5290 Joins The Fleet

Greetings Blog Followers,

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!

P&LE 5290 at North Side Yard. I sprayed the car floor a rattle can tan. 
That's 1/87th scale me giving the wave. 

 The car is in service. I will dry brush the truck burnt umber to enhance their flat black. The metal wheels were brush painted with a burnt umber acrylic  

No rust, new screws, red washers to raise the car height to get the couplers spot on to the Kadee Height Gauge, new free rolling P-2000 metal wheel sets equals no worries. Note even with the under set shank coupler the car body still needed to be raised slightly to meet the Kadee Height Gauge. 



  1. John, Thanks for the "to do" list. I have a number of cars sitting in a drawer that await modification and your list will be helpful. Thanks also for the comment regarding #5 couplers sometimes being too low. I've run across that once or twice. Keep your eyes open for any approaching switchers while sitting in that boxcar doorway!

  2. Hi Ralph, Glad some of the info will be useful to you. I think the biggest improvements with these BB cars is to eliminate the rust, (Rust Never Sleeps) on the metal parts and get the right couplers installed. I have been spray painting the metal parts for 15 years and it keeps the cars rust free. Gotta jump off switcher coming! Take care!

  3. I developed a standard mod for Athearn bluebox cars in the 1970s and have kept using it. I think it was first thought up by the late Richard Hendrickson as part of a line of upgraded bluebox cars he had for a while.

    Flip the floor 180 degrees so the wood plank pattern faces down. Trim the brake details off the sill section so it's plain. Clip the coupler pockets off the end of the sill. Glue the modified sill to the bottom (plank pattern side) of the floor. Fit the new floor into the body, trimming off any mounting tabs. Then glue the bottoms of Kadee coupler pockets to the floor, adjusting for the ends. Drill out the coupler pocket holes #50 and if needed tap 2-56. Add Kadee pocket lid and screw together. Add new brake detail to floor and paint the whole floor assembly. A photo is at Fix old Athearn weight to inside of floor with silicone adhesive.

    I normally don't need to mess with coupler height this way. It also lets me have more consistent underbody details, matching more recent Accurail cars.

  4. Here's a slightly different approach I take with Athearn bluebox and RTR reefers: I replace the weight on the outside of the floor with .030 styrene cut to fit the gap exactly, then trim the sill as before and add Kadee pockets and new brake gear, glue the old Athearn weight to the inside of the body with silicone adhesive.

    Again, I like the idea of more consistent construction and detail on my equipment.

    1. Hi John,
      Sounds like a very interesting method of modifications for your BB fleet. Unfortunately the photo link would not authorize me to view the work. I may try this procedure for the next car on the work bench. Thanks for sharing the info. John