Monday, October 17, 2016

MDC/Athearn 60ft Baggage (Part1) - Mechanical

I've hinted at the process for upgrading the Athearn/MDC (35 year old tooling) Harriman Baggage cars before, but let's have a more in-depth look at these cars that still can be made to look and work very well.  For more information on what models are available and other classes of cars check out my blog page Modeling SP Heavyweight cars here.

SP 6047, one of my 60-B-9/10 class cars made from a MDC/Athearn Harriman Baggage

Like many of the models that I'm discussing in this blog, the models that I'm looking at are upgrades of models I've had for a long time and occasionally a new model as well.  The SP 6233, T&NO 611, and SP 6190 were all built in the late-1990s with very sketch information about numbering.

Here's an MDC kit still in the box
Let's look at the old Roundhouse or Model Die Casting (MDC) kit for a minute.

These parts assemble into a car that looks something like this below...

Note the truck are short and WAY too far from the ends of the car compared with the corrected car below.

Here's my 2016 rebuilt SP 6233, with correct trucks and bolster centers.  (I've not installed the diaphragms in this view).

Let's look at the prototype cars briefly -

Prototype History

Southern Pacific and Union Pacific during the early 1909 began upgrading their head end express baggage cars with all-steel cars.  These arch-roofed cars became generically known as "Associated Harriman Lines" cars in general even though cars built after 1913 would technically not be "Harriman" cars because of the breakup of the Associated Lines.

Here's a typical SP Mail Train with a mix of Harriman 60-Bs, ex-EPSW 70-B, and an RPO, followed by two 60-C coaches.

The orders for new all-steel baggage cars included about 487 cars by the end of "heavyweight" car construction in the mid 1930s.  The orders for 60ft cars amounted to 300 new steel baggage cars with several more being converted back and forth between different combinations of Baggage, RPO, and RPO-Baggage.

60-B-1 thru -8 (60ft Baggage, 1st thru 8th Class) - about 233 cars built

My original kitbashed MDC 60-B-1/8 class Baggage car before repainting in 2016.

In 1909 the SP's first of eight classes of 60ft baggage were built to almost the same standard.  Externally these looked almost identical, except for the roof fittings, conduits, etc.   SP controlled the orders for the Central Pacific and the Oregon & California in addition to itself during this time.  That is the reason the SP's baggage cars are scattered over 3 number series for the same class of car.  In the late 1920s the SP consolidated the reporting marks (O&C and CP) under SP marks.  Thankfully the number series were originally planned so there were no conflicts in doing this.

Of the SP's 300 60ft baggage cars built, over 85% of cars had this arrangement of two 4'-10" doors on each side.  Only 37 cars were built to the MDC/Athearn standard of one large and one small door, and 5 of those were rebuilt as RPO cars.

While my model of the SP 6190 is a kitbash and works out pretty well, the main problem is that only using MDC parts you can only make one of these from two kits.  The second can be turned into parts for other things.  So to replicate the 85+% of the 60ft baggages on the SP and get a good represeation of the headend fleet a fair number of Southern Car & Foundry #1003 resin models will be needed.

60-BD-1, -4, -6 (60ft Baggage-Dynamo) - 15 cars built

The SP also ordered several classes of 60ft Baggage-Dynamos with generators for the early use of electric lights in the passenger trains.  These were later phased out when all the cars in the trains had their own battery boxes and axle generators on-board each car.  The 60-BD-4 and 60-BD-6 were built off the 60-B-4 and -6 standards respectfully but with partitions and the generator installed at one end.

The 60-BD-6 cars had a single window at one end on each side for light next to the generator.  Most had differing ventilation designs in the roof that changed the look from the standard 60-B-1 class cars.

60-B-9 & 60-B-10 (60ft Baggage, 9th and 10th Class) - 37 cars built

SP 6233, a 60-B-10, built almost out-of-the-box MDC kit from about 1995.  Repainted and detailed 2016.

The last two classes of SP 60ft Baggage cars built with arched roofs were the 60-B-9 and -10.  Again these two classes were spread between the OC, CP, SP and two for the T&NO.  These cars only account for about 12% of the SP's 60ft baggage car fleet.  Actually less because of rebuilds of other types of car to follow the earlier door design and the rebuild of 5 cars to 60ft RPOs of 60-P class.

Unfortunately while these models are easy to come by, only about 1 car in 10 should be of this class on the SP.

Other Road Cars - UP, C&A, IC

UP 3008, MDC/Athearn RTR, modifed - not correct because it should have 4 of the single doors & none of the double ones.

Several of the other Associated Lines ordered baggage cars of the Harriman 60-B-1-type design, or modified the designs to suit their needs after the breakup in 1913.  I will not be covering these in this post.  The mechanical and detailing aspects of course will transfer to cars of other paint schemes.

What Cars to Model?

I quickly didn't like the colors that MDC offered the cars in during the 1990s.  While it actually wasn't a bad color, it didn't match at all with the other colors I could paint other cars.  This first batch of cars were repainted several times over the years.

SP 6233 in MicroScale decals & Floquil before repainting in 2016.

My early cars (SP 6233, T&NO 611, 6190) addressed this based on the SPH&TS's reprint of the 1933 SP Passenger Car Roster & drawings book.  These were VERY rough reprints of the rough dimensions of the various SP passenger cars in service as of 1933.  They did not cover the upgrades in the mid-late 1930s with A/C being installed, many cars still had gas lighting, and only a few had electric lights at that time.

T&NO 611 after "weathering" attempts to correct Floquil Pullman Green to SP Dark Olive.

It turns out that T&NO 611 is a bad number for me modeling 1940-1955.   My research now shows the T&NO 600-604 would be better numbers for a 60-B-9/10 T&NO car.  As of October 2016, I'm not sure exactly where I got the T&NO 611 number even.  The MLT (T&NO) had Nos 113 and 114 both as 60-B-10s, and no other cars until the 600-604 group were reassigned Pacific Lines cars in 1931.

Another example of modeling with what data you have was SP 6190.  Everything was fine with that car in 1933 according to the SP Roster...  It turns out that it was wrecked and written off by the mid-1930s.  So for my 1946-1955 modeling date, this number doesn't exist anymore.  As far as I can tell no other baggage car rebuild or renumbering placed another car in the SP 6190 slot before 1955.

As of this writing, I've not yet decided a new number for the 6190.  T&NO 611 is to be repainted as the SP 6236 and one of the future MDC cars, sister to the SP 6047 will become the T&NO 601 to keep my Texas Lines modeling up!

Basic Mechanical

Again I feel I should mention that the majority of these models I'm discussing were started about 20 years ago.

All of these cars have Kadee Couplers mounted to the body.  I would highly recommend following my descriptions on how to install Diaphragms first before installing the couplers.  Because these models were either built a long time ago (20 years) or acquired from other people, they don't reflect my current standards on order of assembly regarding passenger car couplers, diaphragms, etc. but is meant to show options of how to rebuild the truck mountings.

Mechanical Changes - Option I - 1990s Modeling Choices

The cars as offered by MDC had a wheelbase between truck centers that was too short (based on a design for a coach with end step wells).  So that is the most offensive thing I've seen in the "stock" models.

I redrilled a new bolster hole outboard about 8ft from the ends (at the corners) of the car.  This helped but the shorter MDC "Harriman" trucks - really more of an Express Truck - with a 7th wheelbase looked really WRONG.  The longer 8ft wheelbase was really needed.

I then retrucked the cars with ECW 8ft Pullman trucks.  These trucks lasted less than 5 years before they were worn out and dropping wheelsets.  The trucks were made of plain styrene and not engineering plastics.  While they kept the cars running I was looking for replacements by the early 2000s.

Mechanical Changes - Option II - Walthers I

Walthers 920-2124 Pullman 8ft Truck

The next option that came up was Walthers' new 8ft Pullman 4-wheel trucks (now 920-2124).  These look great, and roll well... but have a funky bolster design to match the Walthers plastic HW passenger car line.

Here's the rebuild bolster on SP 6190 with a Kadee No.5 Box Lid and Evergreen tube bushing. (Note the old bolster)

The early mechanical rebuild for these cars worked converting to the Walthers trucks.  I added a strip of styrene about 0.100"x0.188" to the center of the underframe and redrilled the bolsters.  New slices of Evergreen styrene tubing where used to form a bushing for the much larger Walthers bolsters screw hole and a telescoped tube inside to keep the 2-56 screw.

Wheel clearance patches ground down with burr tool in my Dremal - This car doesn't use the Kadee Lid bolster.

On one of the cars, I guess the plastic was thinner or something, but I needed to grind away some of the floor as I could see rubbing marks from the flanges of the wheels and the car wouldn't roll.

Assembled Walthers Truck under T&NO 611 after repaint into SP 6236 during 2016 rebuild.

I didn't like the fact that I had to use a Kadee fiber washer to keep the larger holed truck on.  This was not a design I've repeated after I found the newer methods to do this better.

Here's an overview - or underview of SP 6236 (ex-T&NO 611) showing 15 year old underframe strip styrene

While the simple strip styrene underframe beams are rudimentary, they do work mechanically and can be upgraded later with additional brake and underbody detailing.  Also as you can see, these Walthers Trucks have been in service now over 10+ years and have nicely polished wheel treads.

Mechanical Changes - Option III - Walthers II

SP 6047, a 60-B-10, finished except for Diaphragms & Stirrup Steps.

The SP 6047 is an example of a newer model.  I acquired this model from a friend who build a new underframe from scratch in styrene.  I usually don't go to this effort as it's not visible during operations and sometimes if not planned correctly can later hurt car performance.

If I were assembling a kit today or rebuilding one of the R-T-R Athearn models I would probably heavily gut the underframe mechanically and build a simple one like the SP 2701 Chair car has on my blog from a last month.

Underframe rebuild & weighting on SP 2701

Walthers Truck modified with block of styrene for SP 1005 Coach on the MDC Baggages I use 0.02-0.03" Styrene Sheet

The above photo shows a truck modified for use on SP 1005 and on SP 2701, where I needed a thicker block of styrene on the truck.

Mechanical Changes - Option IIIa - Walthers IIa

Some underframes need deeper centersills than others.  One of the options that I'm using concurrent with the above option is keeping the sheet that I glue to the Walthers 4-wheel truck thinner, only 0.025-0.030" thick and building up the underframe more.  I don't have a handy photo for this technique on a 4-wheel truck, but imagine the same as above mixed with the look of the SP 5199 Bolsters, but with a thin sheet on the truck bolster instead of a 0.080"-0.100" thick block of styrene.  I will add a few picture the next time I build this thinner version.

SP 5199 Bolster

New "Thick" bolster being installed on "old" Walthers Metal passenger car underframe for customer.

On the SP 6047 car, a new bolster was built that was designed to use the current version of how I build the bolsters.  Instead of using the large hole and trying to get a bushing for it.  Instead I glue a plate of styrene over the opening.  Then mark a center point with my Carbide Scribe and then drill for clearance over the screw and Kadee No.5 lid.  These lids make great bolster hat bushings ready made if you can afford the extra 0.02-0.025" hight in the bolster.

Athearn's R-T-R Models - a Brief Overview

Athearn R-T-R Model, slightly modified, still with original Express Trucks. As far as I know, no 60-B-9 or -10s were ever painted in Daylight.  The only 60ft baggages were Daylight were the earlier 60-B-1 thru -8s with two smaller 4'-10" doors.
The prior owner of the newest Athearn cars I acquired modifed the underframes enough that I can't really show what the new Athearn underframes look like stock.  They're basically a dressed up version of the original MDC floor, but with substantially new tooling on the details and bolster bosses for truck placement... however they still didn't fix the truck center issues!

On my stand-in UP 3008 (I know, I don't have a photo of it handy) I was able to fix this by reversing the 6-wheel trucks that car was rebuilt with and made it look pretty much correct mechanically.  Athearn actually did their homework on that and put 6-wheel MDC trucks under the car!  The other car, UP 908 that they offer in the TTG scheme, I think I basically used one of the coupler pivot holes and made a new frame/bolster block to accept the Walthers Truck as on the SP 6047 and SP 2701.

Correct Walthers 8ft Pullman Truck 920-2124 (Left) and Athearn 8ft Express Reefer Truck (Right)

Here is a quick look at the differences in the trucks.  On the left is the replacement Walthers Truck, on the right is the R-T-R Truck that comes with the Athearn model now.  The Athearn truck is really belongs more under a 50ft wooden arch-roof express reefer.... which is another build altogether.

Roof opened to show the neat magnets to snap the roof on!

I like the magnetic attachment of the roof.  However on models I'm going to do complete rebuilds on, they're too hard to make line up again after splicing the bodies and roof sections.  Also I am usually using cheap E-bay MDC kit parts not new $40+ Athearn R-T-Rs for kitbashing fodder.


The Mail Train heads off to deliver the mail and express to points far and near, rider cars are SP 1005 and SP 2701.

 I will leave the MDC/Athearn 60ft Baggage Cars (Part 1) - Mechanical upgrades here.  When we rejoin this project we will look at installing the diaphragms, remounting the couplers, and other upgrades to underbody detailing and the roof vents in Part 2.

Jason Hill

1 comment:

  1. Hello Jason,
    Thanks to you, I'm modifying a series of old Roundhouse Harriman car kits for my NEVADA WESTERN RAILROAD based on what you are modeling. The only difference is, I'm using Athearn six wheel trucks for my baggage car, and Athearn 8'four wheel trucks for three coaches. The modifications are easy and it sure makes the cars look a lot better.Thanks for the great article.
    John Tyson, Virginia City, Nevada


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