Empire Belt RR ALcos

Empire Belt RR ALcos
Custom Painted FA / FB Units

Wednesday, February 8, 2017

Building a Box Car Kit

Greetings All,
After a recent train show with plenty of 'shake the box' kits from Athearn and Roundhouse available unbuilt and in the box I thought we could take a look at building a basic shake the box HO scale model train kit. Hopefully this will help some readers who are new to the hobby or reentering the hobby. 

We'll the use still very common Athearn Blue Box kit for today's sample. Hobby shops were once flooded with these HO scale shake the box kits. They were very reasonably priced and can be found on most layouts. Even though Athearn no longer produces these kits they can still be found at hobby shops and at train shows in large numbers.

Today's subject is this 40' TP&W boxcar. This car was purchased from my local L.H.S. in December for use in the virtual ops between the .N.Y.C.T.L. , K.P.D. and A.P.R.R. 

Yuck! The old Athearn metal parts have rusted over the years while sitting in the box. Not uncommon and not a big deal. A wire brush for the metal weight and an emery board for the coupler covers will remove most of the surface rust. 
The coupler covers have been cleaned. Both the covers and the freight car trucks have been painted flat black. The original Athearn wheels with their rusty axles have been left in place and used here to keep the paint out of the freight car journals. The old wheels will be replaced with metal wheels. You can keep the original wheels for the next car that needs to have it's trucks sprayed.
With the rust wire brushed away, the metal weight, car floor and under frame have been sprayed flat black. Try not to spray too much in the coupler boxes on the ends of the frame. 
A look at the kit parts and some of the materials used. Kadee #5 couplers are on the lower right. The car floor that will be visible with the car door open has been painted tan to simulate wood flooring. The 96 cent can of flat black is used when possible. I try to save the $4.99 can of Testors Dullcote for the shell when possible. 
Here is the meat and potatoes of the whole kit building process. Do the couplers line up with the Kadee Height Gauge? They do now! This car required one Kadee red washer (envelope in background) on each bolster to achieve the correct height. And does the car roll freely. These are the two most important things for any model train.
TP&W #627 being shoved into an industry siding. The car is now in revenue service and is being loaded.  
Newer kits on the hobby shop shelves include these Kit Classics from Scale Trains dot Com. Easy to build and fun to operate. These kits come with metal wheels which is a big plus and a semi scale knuckle coupler which looks very nice. Under the stresses of railroad operations the couplers however were prone to failure and replaced with Kadee couplers. If not having ops sessions I wouldn't worry about the couplers. They worked fine just running around the layout.  

So there it a basic primer on building a shake the box kit. Here are some past car builds that readers may find helpful;

Have an Accurail car, check this build from 2013;

ConCor Express cars: 

 Not sure what coupler to use, check the Kadee Web Site;

Coupler installation and adjustments

Thanks for Reading!


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  2. On Athearn bluebox, an easier way to attach Kadee coupler boxes with screw mounts is to flip the floor so that the scribed side is to the bottom. Cut the factory coupler boxes off the sill-and-bolster casting and then, using the truck screws as a guide, glue the sill-and-bolster to the scribed side of the floor. Then attach Kadee coupler boxes to the scribed side of the floor. Drill out the floor using the Kadee box screw holes as a guide with #50. Attach couplers and lids and install with 2-56 screw. Attach weight to inside of floor with silicone calk. This makes the installation more reliable, adjustable, and maintainable.

    Athearn bluebox cars look better and better as the years go by!

    1. Thanks for the interesting BB building options John! I'm sending you an email about this.

  3. Ahh, the old Athearn Blue Box. They were and still are classics, when you can find them. I do like the new ScaleTrains.com kits. As you stated, easy to build, a little addition with metal couplers, and they're layout ready. I like the Weyerhaeuser box car. Nice acquisition on the BB kit as well. Thanks for the detail report on preparation for the N.Y.C.T.L.

    1. Thanks 1:1 Sir Neal! We've certainly had some practice with the new ScaleTrains.com kits! And the BB kits are by far the most prevalent cars on the N.Y.C.T.L.