Saturday, September 14, 2019

SP Cabooses (Part 4) - Boxcar Conversions

Well, this week I'm going to take this 2019 blog back 15 years, to August 2004!  What was I doing 15 years ago?  Well, I was building my first resin model kit!  Unfortunately cameras at the time and my skills with such weren't where they are today, so unfortunately I don't have that many 'good' photos of the build, but I'll show a couple of them.

SP 23486, my first resin kit, started from a one-piece body Westerfield kit.

My Personal History with Modeling SP 23486.

One of my first reference books was a copy of Southern Pacific in the Bay Area - San Francisco-Sacramento-Stockton Triangle by George Drury, which has a pair of cool photos on the San Bruno branch (page 24) of a C-class (SP 2669) pulling a short string of GS-gondolas and one of these ex-B-50-6 boxcar - turned caboose, bring up the markers in March 1948.

Early on, probably circa 1998-2000, I kitbashed a model of this car using an MDC 36ft "Olde Time" box car kit.  This model certainly wasn't my first kitbash, but it was one of my earliest with a specific prototype car in mind.  That model was done by cutting out doors and windows, adding Grandt Line parts, etc.  The problem was, as I learned more about the prototype, the 36ft car was 48" too short!  The prototype was actually a 40ft B-50-6 class boxcar.

Prototype History

This is a resin (I believe Westerfield) B-50-6, built by the late Terry Wegmann.  Terry gave it to me when he realized there weren't enough B-50-6's left in revenue service for him to model.

Anthony Thompson's Southern Pacific Freight Cars Volume:2 covers in great detail the reassignment and conversions of B-50-6 into service as cabooses before and after WWII.  I'm not going to go into extended retyping of that data here.  Suffice to say, there is plenty of interesting information and history on these cars!  I simply chose one that stuck out me 15 years ago.

Some of these continued in SPMW service after they're retired from caboose service, so you could always have one after circa 1948-1950 in that roll.

Westerfield B-50-6 Boxcar-Cabooses

My modeling options changed when Westerfield released their 'new' one-piece body boxcar-caboose in resin, with two versions of the car-body.  One had the windows that the San Bruno Branch did!  I was hooked, so I bought my first resin kit!

The LMRC club carshop standards required some serious modifications before I really got into building the model.  The roof was too thick (required to cast the carbody in one-piece), this raised the car's center-of-gravity or 'tipping point' above the allowed level.  This combined with the single beam centersill, which couldn't have any lead weight placed in it, resulted in my needing to thin the roof with my Dremal tool.  I was mostly using a 1/16" 4-flute carbide endmill in my hand-held Dremal.  Basically whittling out the extra resin, running around 8-10k RPM.

Here's a current photo of a Westerfield B-50-6 one-piece body shell to get the idea how thick the roof is.

At one point I felt that the roof was getting thin enough, I could easily see light through the roof when held to the light.  I decided to carefully drill the 1/16" endmill through the roof, at a spot which would be well covered with the running boards in the future.  It turned out that the roof was only about 0.003" at that point!  I did a little other finish work on a few other thick areas and called it a day.

Here's a 2004 photo of my progress with the body.  Grabs and running boards are done.

The body of these kits were cast in one piece.  Running boards and grabs were then added per the instructions.  I was and still am amazed at how fine the details are on the four collision post 'rails' on the car ends are.


Here's the underframe rigging of the completed B-50-6 boxcar caboose.  (2004 photo)

This was probably the second model where I went 'all out' and detailed the brake rigging on the underframe.

A 2017 view of the underbody of the SP 23486.

The stirrups and center 'foot board' were scratch-built with staples and stripwood.


Here's a 2017 photo of the completed car after 13 years of service at LMRC.

I painted this model with acrylic Polly-Scale paint (out-of-production) and applied the black circle and then the white over-lay herald decals. 


I purposely weathered the windows with some 'dirt' and then wiped the center of it off to look like someone had cleaned them.  The mud weathering was also used around the steps of the grab-ladders, as mud would be knocked from the boots of the trainmen.

The general weathering was also done with acrylics.  I used some of my earliest 'wet-dry brush' technique on this car, which I've continued to use and refine over the years.

Future Plans

By the post-war timeframe the use of Boxcar-Cabooses was dropping off rapidly with new steel caboose construction continuing in 1947 and 1948.  Also the Union agreements on what constituted a 'caboose' for road use as opposed to a 'rider car' used in switching (different Unions!) meant that the Boxcar-Cabooses couldn't really be used on 'road jobs' once the 'For the Duration' clause of wartime push was released.  This means that such a car will have limited use during LMRC's operations.

SP 23486 is coupled to the far end of the three ballast cars in the PI Yard at Bakersfield in 2017.

My SP 23486 will probably never see a model of the San Bruno Branch in 1948 as the me of 15 years ago had day-dreamed.  Instead she will most likely be assigned to working the Edison Switcher at the La Mesa Club's Tehachapi Pass Joint Line exhibit layout during steam-diesel era TT/TO operating sessions.

Progress at Edison in Dec 2018.

Until the Edison area is operational, SP 23486 and my SP 973 will work on the Oil City Switcher or if the Yardmaster wants his crews to use a 'shoving platform', instead of 'riding rawhide' on the front of a long shove through the yards!

Jason Hill

Related Articles:

Busy Times in Bakersfield (Part 2) SP Yard Overview

Freight Symbols Over Tehachapi - (Part 4) - SP Locals

SP Cabooses (Part 1) - Ex-Coaches

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