Friday, April 26, 2024

Modeling X29 (Part 3) - PRR 504385 Early X29s

Recently, I decided to pick up one of the IMRC's new X29s from late 2023 run.  I've mentioned in previous posts in this series, the PRR X29 models have always seemed to elude me.  So I finally bit the bullet and ordered one.  This Ready-to-Run (RTR) model comes with installed KD-5 couplers.  The model is of an early production X29s prototype, which had three-panel doors, plate ends, and vertical staff handbrake.

Differences of "Early" X29s

An example of the "Early" X29s which had the 3-panel doors and plate ends. IMRC 2023 RTR production.

The early X29s, like the early NYC steel boxcars of the mid-1920s used double rivet rows in the construction of the car sides (one tight spaced row, with the second row using double-spaced between its rivets).  This pattern looks similar to that used on the SP's B-50-24 class of boxcar 20 years later, which were called ACR (Alternating Center Rivet) and had to do with the shape and construction of the vertical framing of the carside and attachment of the side sheets.  This is modeled nicely on the early X29 body and I'll be highlighting it when I weather the car in the future.  I should note the Red Caboose/IMRC's later X29 (and BLI's later NYC) cars model the simplified sides, which used only a single rivet rows of the standard tighter spacing.  The AAR '37 boxcars also used single row riveted construction at their panel joints.

Some Prototype Photos from Web-search

PRR X29 horseshoe with freight cars - Matt Glumac collection - found on-line - Cropped

This is a nice weathered example of an early X29 with the details that match those of IMRC's 504385.  This photo's a little later than my modeling era, as there are GP7/9s helping a passenger train in the full photo.  There appears to be a bit of rust starting to blister through to the right of the herald.  Dirt/mud is coating the truck sideframes and lower carsides.  The car still has vertical staff hand brake.  Of note is that it has the extra door stop next to the data block stenciling.  It is hard to tell from this photo if this car has the replacement lower carsides.

PRR 572857 very early 1924-series X29 & NYC Steel Boxcar - antiquesnavigator,com collection

Also note that this model has a vertical staff handbrake and AB-brakes installed, while the PRR 100813 kit I was building in X29 Part 1 has the upgraded geared hand brake assembly.  I think I'll leave the vertical staff handbrake on this model.

PRR 570862 very early X29 (circa 1924) - Antiquesnavigator,com collection

As they did stay around, even after the car was upgrade to AB schedule air brakes.  Many of the SP's single-sheath boxcars from the 1920s also kept their vertical handbrakes after upgrading to AB schedule equipment was hung on the underframes.

Here's a comparison between the "late" X29 (left) and the "early" X29 (right)

The PRR 100813 kit that I assembled in Part 1 of this series is shown with the RTR 2023-produced 504385 from IMRC at right.  The visual differences of the Youngstown door (left) and 3-panel door (right) provide some variety between the otherwise nearly identical models from a few feet away.
It is interesting to note the subtle change in PRR Freight Car Red which was used on the newer model.  These sorts of color changes on a model don't really bother me, as the weathering on these two models will actually look better if not all my cars are exactly the same base color.

Another comparison between the X31F automobile boxcar with raised roof (left) and the "early" X29, which was much shorter in height.

Just to compare some more examples of various manufacture's choice of PRR's FCR color, I pulled out my X31F which I covered last year, which is a newer Bowser model with better lettering than the older 2000-vintage models.  The IMRC X29 has a slightly more red hue to it.  Again, only one or two shades, and any weathering will easily account for that.  Just the color change that paint normally goes through in the first few months could account for this.

Prototype Repairs & Upgrades

Side view of PRR 504385 with patched lower side panels.

Plus an extra feature molded into this model is the typical "patched sides" which was required on many X29s as the lower sides tended to "rust out" before the rest of the body or underframe.

"P441 10-53" Tare stencil on PRR early X29 patched sides - Pintrest webphoto

The Red Caboose tooling, which includes the patched panels is a good basic starting point to simulate this repair on the cars.  I'll cover more in the future kit-builds on the patch-panels on the sides.  However, the variations in size of these patches were installed is not 'standard' so I'll be looking to create custom-sized patches on my future kit-builds!

Model Upgrades

A 3/4 view of the A-end of the 504385.

I need to cross check my sources on PRR's painting standards if they really maintained the black underbody and trucks into the 1950s or if they, like the SP, switched to all over FCR scheme - including the underframe and trucks.

Truck washer and scale-head coupler installed.

As I'm continuing to work on cars for the Jawbone Branch fleet, I've decided when possible to replace the larger KD-5 couplers with the 158 'scale head, whisker spring' couplers.  This car thankfully was easily converted by popping out the out-board wheelsets, unscrewing the coupler box lid, and then installing the 158 couplers.

One truck's brake beam assembly was loose in the box and the second truck's brake beam came loose when I removed the wheelset.  After changing couplers, I reinstalled the brake beam detail part (which is sprung in place with a few small tabs between the truck sideframes.  This time I added a few drops of thick ACC superglue to the holes in the truck side frames.  This should help keep the part from randomly popping out in the future.

I also noticed that the stock model has some larger metal washers in the truck bolsters, to raise the car's coupler height.  I'm not sure why this was needed from the factory, other than they have changed to a AAR U-section IMRC truck from the original PRR prototype trucks that were supplied with the Red Caboose era model.  I've checked the coupler height and the height is correct, but the older kits didn't need this modification, as they were also correct height.

Early Phase of Weathering

Roof weathering started with Apple Barrel "Pavement" wash.

I started my weathering process on this new model with some dirt and dust on the trucks and underbody.  

First pass on the flat panels of the roof and running boards.

Then I moved onto the roof with a wash of Apple Barrel "Pavement" wash with brush manipulation.  I put a few dark gauge wheel-streaks up the end plates.  I kept the weathering off of the car sides for now, so that I can deal with an oddity in IMRC's lettering of the car.

Oddity of Stock Tare Date

I've seen for years the PRR used a "P-code" for their weighing station shop code.  Thankfully Richard Hendrickson, Bob Johnson, Art O'Toole, Frank Peacock and Jerry Stewart put together a spreadsheet that documents tens-of-thousands of photographs with tare codes and decoded them for dozens of common carriers across North America. 

Close-up view of IMRC's 2023 X29 details of the lettering.

The IMRC 2023 sample X29 I have shows the tare stencil as "P7-1-21-51" - which is complete jibrish according to the standard code format that has been used on multiple manufactures and Ted Culotta's Speedwitch decals.

Tare codes do not use "day-week-year" format, instead they used "station month-year format."  The more likely stencil for the IMRC model should be "P-712 1-51", which would be P712 PRR at New Shop at Terre Haute, IN researched by Schoenberg.

"P441 10-53" Tare stencil on PRR early X29 patched sides - Pintrest webphoto

I'll be patching over the tare stencil with an appropriate FCR paint color and pull out one of my Speedwitch decal sets to put together a new tare stencil.  One of the favorite tare stations to use by module manufactures is P57, East Altoona, PA.  However some of the research photos on-line that I found show "P441" in 10-53.  Another tare station I might use on one of these cars is "P456" PRR 55th St. Yard WB IL, Chicago, or some of the other larger yards around the east coast.

I wonder if PRR cars would have been grabbed out of LA or the San Joaquin Valley for loading at Bartlett at the Southern Columbia Chemical Co., which was owned by Pittsburg Plate Glass Co., to ship bagged soda ash east to PPG manufacturing plants.

The small tack-boards for routing cards is just to the left of the door along the bottom sill.  The IMRC detail part is glued on a little bit oddly, so I'll probably cut it off, sand/file the back of the tack-board, and maybe cut into the detail on the carside just slightly to ensure that it has a level place to be glued in place.  I really don't want to have it catch and get pulled off the model with the way it is attached now.  After weathering and finishing, I'm sure I'll be putting a couple OwlMtModels 1220 Routing Card decals on my X29s!

In Closing

Basic weathered model, ready for service.

This will do it for now on this car, I'll be doing more on all three models finishing up the details and getting into the weathering in Modeling X29 (Part 4).

Jason Hill

Related Articles:

Modeling X29 (Part 2) - PRR 100305 - Ex-Battery Car

NYC "Standard" Steel Boxcars by BLI (Part 1) - Another Signature Freight Car - Competing design from the NYC for the "Standard" boxcar.


  1. I am confused concerning the retainer pipe. In some cases it goes straight up, in others it makes a diagonal to get to the roof. Any idea as to which is which? Thanks

    1. I believe the answer is "both". The evidence that I've seen shows they were built with the crossing over retainer, but then the standard changed and the retainer plumbing became going up the end straight, outside of the brake staff.


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