Sunday, August 19, 2018

Overview & Weathering of SP F-50-Series Flatcars by OwlMtModels

In this post, I'll be highlighting several of the OwlMtModels F-50-5/8/9/10/12 class flatcars I've built over the last year (or two) for OMM (pre-production and advertising models), and a some production models for friends at LMRC in San Diego.

Background & History


F-50-9 class, SP 43745, frolics in the dry grass on the UP's Wyoming Division layout in Cornville, AZ.

In September 2017, OwlMtModels released for sale their HO-scale F-50-5/8/9 class flatcars as kit #2002.

There were a lot of these... and lots of railroads owned them! (linked from the OMM website)

These cars were originally built by Ralston Car Co. between 1916 and 1924 for the SP and its subsidiaries after the original F-50-4 design built by Bettendorf was changed to a two-beam centersill design.  The F-50-10 and -12 class cars (Kit 2003) were built by Southern Pacific Equipment Co. at Sacramento in 1927-1929.

Various Painting and Lettering Schemes


Basically, I'm not going to go over how I did the painting and lettering portions of the cars.  The basic paint coat is StarBrand lacquers, usually SP Freight Car Red, sometimes lightened with Light Freight Car Red.  The weathering is various combinations of Polly-Scale (out-of-production) Black, Roof Brown, Mud/Dust, etc. or Apple Barrel (from Walmart) equivalent colors.  Apple Barrel actually has a large line of colors with many earth and dusty shades to choose from.  Choose what you think look good.

SP 41186


Retrucked F-50-5, SP 41186 as it appeared around 1948.

According to Anthony Thompson's book, Southern Pacific Freight Cars, Vol.3 - Automobile Cars & Flat Cars, Signature Press 2004, SP 41186 broke her back in June,1949 at Oakland as shown in a photo on page 213.  The car by then had received cast Vulcan trucks, which can be modeled with Kadee's Vulcan 50-ton truck set.

SP 41186 at Bakersfield with a concept model for the upcoming OwlMtModels' sideboard add-on kit. 

SP 38892


SP 38892, photographed at the Sacramento Model Railroad Club

The SP 38892 was originally a Pacific Electric F-50-8.  This was the first pre-production model I built for OwlMt.

SP 38909


SP 38909, an F-50-8

This 1958 era model of the SP 38909 is modeling the car after it was upgraded with AAR U-section trucks and AB-Schedule Brakes.  The U-section trucks are available in the OMM 2003 kit, all the kits include both AB and K-brake systems.

By the 1958 photo in Thompson's book, SP 38909 was fitted with sideboards.  UP Wyoming Div. Layout Cornville, AZ.

The 38909 was selected to model because of the prototype's fitting of 36" sideboards in 1954, based on a photo in Anthony Thompson's book.  This model received a pre-production concept model of OwlMtModels' new sideboard Add-On Kit, which is under development.  A few minor changes are needed before production.

SP 39740


Completed SP 39740, an F-50-10 class

The 39740 is a model I randomly chose from a excel-type list and a random number generator for an F-50-10 class car.  I threw out one number initially selected because when I cross checked it against the SPMW 1956 Roster, I found that it was converted to MW service before 1952, so was not viable for a 1952 revenue service car.

SP 43216



Completed SP 43216, an F-50-12 class

Like the SP 39740, the 43216 was selected randomly using the method mentioned above.  It's been odd that most of the cars that I've modeled besides these two cars are based on photos and there aren't at least a few photos of the last two classes made showing the plain flatcars during the post-WWII to 1955 era.  As a result these two cars came out as 'typical' models, with no photographic proof they looked "exactly" like this.

T&NO 22419


T&NO 22419, Ex-LW F-50-5

Rounding out the fleet, this ex-Louisiana & Western flat as it would have appeared after the 1928 consolidation of the Texas Lines reporting marks.  At that time the GH&SA and LW cars were merged into the T&NO reporting marks.  Interestingly enough, these Texas Lines cars show up regularly in photos of Pacific Lines sugar beet service and other assignments in California.

NWP 4474


NWP 4474 wearing a 1925 scheme, mostly decalled in this photo.

On the NWP 4474 I'm trying out two lettering schemes.  The earlier scheme from the 1920s has periods, but the reporting marks have moved to the left compared to the "early scheme" on the NWP 4499.

NWP 4474 in the later scheme, decalling not complete.

In the later arrangement, shows the scheme without the periods and the reporting marks consolidated over at the left end of the sidesill.

The completed NWP 4474 with OwlMtModels early concept #3004 'narrow' lumber loads at Bena.

Oddly, as I do my final pass of editing of this blog, I don't have a finished photo of the NWP 4474 without a load on it!  So this will be a 'teaser' shot with the concept version of the upcoming OwlMtModels 3004 'Narrow' Lumber Load.

NWP 4499


NWP 4499 in the "As-Delivered" Scheme from 1923.

On a couple of cars I did the really early "As Delieved" scheme, the NWP 4499 is one such model for OwlMtModels advertisements.  The 4499 was the last of 50 F-50-5s built for the NWP.

SPMW 560


SPMW 560, assigned to SUPPLY CAR service in 1950.

Some of the most interesting to research models are the SPMW cars.  The SPMW 560 is a newer example of a Supply Car.  These were used to move materials around the SP system from General Shops and Storehouses out to Division Points, where the supplies could be stored or out on the SP's system supply trains, which circulated around the system every 90 days.

This model will probably be seen shuttling back and forth as an "Overhead" movement car most of the time with various loads.  Basically as a non-revenue freight car carrying company loads.  Some of these cars later were restricted to "End-of-Train Only" operations as their underframe strength was called into question, but I believe during the 1950s these cars were still structurally strong enough to be used in normal train movements.

SPMW 1413


SPMW 1413 F-50-5 class

The SPMW 1413 is another Supply Car converted in 1953, see notes above, and will be used in the same ways.

Concept model for the sideboards, installed on SPMW 1413.

The SPMW 1413 was also chosen to test fit one of the OMM's pre-production 36" Side Board kits.  These sideboards were often used on Supply Cars, where the materials might fall off of normal flatcars.  Most of the SPMW gondolas were assigned to Shop Service, often for rail shipments, so these low-sides were fitted to flatcars hauling all sorts of other awkward sized materials.

SPMW 2186


SPMW 2186 "Ready Flat" F-50-9 class

The SPMW 2186 was converted to MW service in March 1941, and by 1956 was shown assigned as a "Ready Flat".  These cars formed a pool of general use cars, these cars could fill in for Supply Cars or special projects.

SPMW 2054 (Post-1958 Scheme)


SPMW 2054 - in the late paint scheme

I did one car as the late post 1958 gray MOW scheme for SPMW.  I used Light Lark Gray for the base coat and various weathering colors as described above.

Basics of Side (car) Weathering


PRR 317083 with completely repainted reporting marks, weight stenciling, tare date, and lube data.

In general I've found that often 'less is more', and with weathering that is certainly true.  For operating railroads and equipment, that is certainly the case with weathering.  It's too easy to 'blow out' the lettering, especially the reporting marks, which is a critical thing on cars back before the modern RFID car reader era.  If it got too bad, even foreign lines would have to do a cheap restencil just to be able to ID the car, though the clerks would do their best to 'wipe off' the offending grime and dirt.  The result is often a dirty car with a couple of clean places where the critical data was located on the car!

PRR F30A flatcar 475260 with restenciled car numbers.

While in general flatcar sides tend to get dirty as they're low to the track, getting mud, grime, oil, etc thrown up onto them along with blowing dust, etc.  Many of these cars in photos have remarkably clean reporting marks, numbers and capacity data.  Often this is from carmen and clerks wiping off the numbers and letters as they get hard to read.  The last three digits of the LD. LMT. and LT. WT. are repainted every 36-48 months (depending on the era) along with the 'Tare date" with the station abbreviation the car was last reweighed at.  The "Lube" data stencil at the far right of the carside is stenciled every 4 months, so it is almost always cleaner than the rest of the car.

SPMW 560 is still fairly fresh from being repainted in 1950 for MW service.

As a result of the wiping and restenciling certain parts of the lettering received, I don't weather those "fresh" patched and restenciled areas as much as the other parts of the car.  Sometimes, I'll even weather, then wipe away the effect, leaving smugs or slight swirls from the clerk's oily waste rag.  Often this will be the effect if I get weathering paint on the reporting marks or car number, more than I want.

SPMW 2186 still wearing periods on it's reporting marks from the 1930s, only a little dirty.

The SPMW 2186 is generally just a dirty old car.  Retired from revenue service in December 1938, this car has see about 15 years of hard maintenance work, including WWII, since it was last repainted and retired.  The car's been kept in ok, shape overall with a well maintained deck suitable for a variety of jobs in the 'Ready Flat' roll.

The other spaces on the carside can be weathered more with 'junk' kicked up from the right-of-way onto the carsides.  In addition the sub-deck blocks can be weathered with chipping paint, as the are also wood.  In most photos however, they're still in pretty good shape.  Also of interest, the deck board ends seem to be showing as a different darker color in most photos.  Probably as a result of the end-grain being exposed, where as the sub-deck boards are normal side-grain that is painted.

Heavier side weathering on the SPMW 3605, which is probably still only "moderate" to most modelers.

Also because these cars are so low and have the overhanging sub-deck blocking, the car number and railroad marks can be very hard to read already, so keeping those clean certainly helps be sure of which car you're switching.  As seen above on the SPMW 3605, the car is covered in more general dirt/grime up into the various crevices and nooks.  I did some light de-weathering on the road number and reporting marks, but left a little bit of the wash to highlight the rivets and angle iron joints where the lettering is painted.

Basics of Deck Weathering


Natural gray colored smooth plastic deck.  Not very realistic?  We'll see...

The following examples show the main reasons I prefer weathering cars with gray plastic decks.  It's very easy to change the hue and tones on a light gray deck.  Scratching it with sand paper or a carbine scribe gives the washes and dry brushing some 'tooth' and 'grain' to the wood for the various media to hold on to, much as the real wood would act after the layers of paint were wearing off or being damaged.

I've found all too often that laser cut wood decks are made with the wood grain going 90 degrees off from the way the boards are cut.  Often those wood decks are very hard to reweather to show a proper grain direction.  As a result I prefer to do my own wood effects and not have to deal with the extra steps of dealing with 'real wood' problems.

NWP 4499


NWP 4499 with a light colored weathering on its deck, replicating the early service tare date from the 1920s.

I decided to weather the deck on the NWP 4499 as a dusty, but not severely beaten deck, as on the other cars which are modeled as they would appear after WWII and into the 1950s.

SP 39740

SP 39740's deck is much darker in color, representing the darker (often) wet decks of a car working out of Eugene, OR

On the SP 39740's deck, I switched and went to a darker mix of colors.  Perhaps this car was seeing more leaked oil from equipment being moved on it.  Also I used a reweight stencil for "EUG" which is Eugene, Oregon, the heart of the SP's lumber operations in Oregon.  Much of the browns remain with streaks of gray and very dark gray, suggesting the wood's been staying wet and possibly getting more 'rotten' from the conditions.

SPMW 2186


SPMW 2186 with light-moderate deck damage and weathering effects.

The 2186's deck is modeled with more of the moderate weathering of only chipped board ends and a few gouges.  Much of the Freight Car Red 'overspray' can still be seen around the edges of the deck.  Some of the wood is turning darker gray-silver, with a few places rubbing into a lighter gray color.

On the SPMW 2186 the last reweigh "tare" date is November 1938 out of Brooklyn (Portland), Oregon.  This car went to MW service at that time, so for the LMRC's modeling era of 1950-1954 this car hasn't been reweighed for about 12-14 years.  Reweighing of non-revenue equipment is not required.  Obviously the car would still be getting lubrication and other very basic servicing done if by Carmen if it was still seeing regular movement in Company Service.

Therefore, I decided to weather it a bit lighter and more dusty as the car is going to be seen on the Tehachapi Pass modeled area.

SP 140234 - A 2-4 Year Old Car


Here's my model of SP 140224, built 1949 with a 'new-ish' deck.

The car above is my Red Caboose/Espee Models kitbash for an F-50-16, built in 1949, while the first few years of service have started to take their toll on the painted deck, and some parts are starting to gray, the deck's still in good shape.  Overspray from painting the sides of the car is still evident around the edges of the deck.

"It's a Weather Experiment..."


At least that's what I'll tell the policemen when they ask what the heck happened to this next car!

Prior Models with This Technique


PRR 435364, F22 class Gun-Flat

I'll be replacing several of the removed sections with ripped up individual wood strips.  I've done this type of modification to other flatcar models, including my PRR F22 flatcars (above & below).

PRR 925534, F22 class Gun-Flat

SP 140195 (Stand-In)


SP 140195, Athearn 40ft flat

In the early 2000's I modified an Athearn 40ft flat with an overhanging wood deck.  Starting with an Athearn model that had various holes in the deck for -boom tender equipment as I recall, I decided to break some of the deck boards and make the car look more interesting.

The three car's received a number of compliments over the years.  So, I'll try this with a new 'modern' model.

SPMW 3605


SPMW 3605 "Track & Maintenance" F-50-5 class

On the OwlMtModels' SPMW 3605 flatcar, I decided to experiment with heavily distressing the deck.  During construction of the model I cut and filed away several large chunks of the deck boards, keeping the floor stringers underneath.

On with the Experiment!


Deck for the SPMW 3605.  Yes, I changed my mind of which car would be numbered what!

The car was built normally with the exception of cutting away the molded upper deck boards near the two ends of the car.  I couldn't cut away more in the middle, because of the concealed weight located there.

Additional 'ripping up' of the deck at the A-end

So far in addition to the removed sections, I've experimented with a razor saw at various angles, scraping and gouging the deck as well as cutting with the normal sawing action.

I decided to remove a larger chunk of the B-end deck, resulting in this as SPMW 3605's heavily distressed deck.

Around the middle of the car I made several very deep cuts with the razor saw and also cut at low angles to shave off a layer of the 'wood' from a board or two.  In other areas I cut long chips out of single boards in a few places.  Followed by many small 'nicks' in the ends of the boards, where some rough handling of the loads or various tools would have exploited cracks in the wood, and a piece would have fallen off.

SPMW 3605 with a basic coat of gray weathering on the deck after painting the rest of the car and allowing some overspray.

In the photo above, I've not started the layering of the weathering effects on the deck.  I expect when I do, the board detail and damage that I put into it will be highlighted and more visible.

SPMW 3605 with basic weathering of the plastic deck boards.

Generally I would say, don't weather the plastic/resin parts before the real wood parts (as on the PRR car above), but I couldn't help myself!  I wanted to see what the ripped up parts of the deck looked like with washes and dry-brushing using my 3-4 colors of acrylics.

SPMW 3605 with the new distressed dimensional wood strips (boards) applied. I love the broken splinter on the upper right deck.

I went a bit "over-board" with how fragmented I cut up the real wooden pieces.  Something must have really torn up the deck in those areas.  I wanted to experiment with about four-five different techniques on one car... so if I  were to do it again, I'd choose only two or three styles of damaging the boards.

I repeated weathering steps about 3-4 times with darker washes, trying to bring out the details of the damage, but also put down highlights of the 'dust' and 'dirt' on a car in the Southern San Joaquin Valley.

One option that I think would probably be more realistic to do more damage to the plastic boards as I did on the rest of the deck.  The fully open (failed) sections would certainly be time to send it back for a few new boards... Or maybe another option is that the MW Foreman would just get a few boards and throw them loose on the deck to keep from falling through!

Here's the finished deck on the SPMW 3605.

While I used several techniques on the different sections of the 3605's deck, it's certainly become one of my favorite weathering jobs.  It's really an example of about as far as I would go in having rotted out boards on a car that was still 'in use' occasionally.

Unloved and uncared for, SPMW 3605 sits out at the lonely spur at Bena between assignments.

I ended up painting the wood pieces the same basic weathering gray-brown that I did for most of the rest of the deck, so at least most people don't think that it's a different material.

SPMW 3605 being switched at Bakersfield at LMRC.

I repeated the darker 'washes' of black to try to bring out the detail and make more shadows in the cracks and broken boards.  However also I was tempering this with the applications of 'mud' and 'dust' dry-brushing to simulate the accumulations on the tops of the boards of a car sitting for over eight years in the southern San Joaquin Valley sun.

In Closing


Fellow LMRC club member, Ted Haas has built several F-50-series kits.

Several people have done excellent reviews and even a video of building the model!  Tony Thompson's two posts on the F-50-series (New Flatcar kit from OwlMt and Building the OwlMt's flat car), RMC magazine review, and TSG Multimedia (Model Building Start to Finish)  have done excellent reviews and build videos.

Paul Doggett's finished F-50-10 in the UK.

There are some kits that after you've beat your way through assembling one or two, you really don't want to touch those kits again.  The OMM car's certainly not one of those kits.  I've probably built around 10 now over the last year or two.  I've been busy enough with other projects I've not had much time in the last 2-3 months for any of my kitbashing or modeling projects.  I look forward to having time to build more of these in the future and get into some kitbashing to make some sub-versions!

Batch assembling F-50-series kits!

When I do another of these kits I might try to make a video showing it, but the TSG Video on painting and decalling the kit (Building OMM F-50-Series Flatcar - Part 5) covers it very well.

Jason Hill

Related Articles:


SP F-50-Series Flatcars by OwlMtModels (Part 1 & 2) Basic Body & Underframe and Brake Detailing - Video Instructions & Comments.

SP F-50-Series Flatcars by OwlMtModels (Part 3 & 4) Trucks & Couplers and Additional Comments & Stakepocket Techniques - Video Instructions & Comments.

Articles by Other Authors:


New Flatcar kit from OwlMt - by Anthony Thompson

Building the OwlMt's flat car - by Anthony Thompson

RMC magazine review of OwlMtModels F-50-Series Flatcar - by RMC review staff

Model Building HO Scale Owl Mountain Flatcar Kit 1 of 5 - TSG Multimedia build video

Model Building HO Scale Owl Mountain Flatcar Kit 2 of 5 - TSG Multimedia build video

Model Building HO Scale Owl Mountain Flatcar Kit 3 of 5 - TSG Multimedia build video

Model Building HO Scale Owl Mountain Flatcar Kit 4 of 5 - TSG Multimedia build video

Model Building HO Scale Owl Mountain Flatcar Kit 5 of 5 - TSG Multimedia build video

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