Saturday, May 4, 2024

NYC "Standard" Steel Boxcars by BLI (Part 2) - Basic Mechanical & Detail Upgrades

In the previous post in this series (NYC "Standard" Steel Boxcars by BLI (Part 1) - Another Signature Freight Car), I was mostly pointing out prototype information and roster data.  Recently, I was able to get a couple more NYC boxcars from the BLI's production.  However, these models now seem to be in very short supply if you want to find one on Ebay or other web-site suppliers.

NYC 123242 stock out-of-box look at one of the BLI cars.

This time I'm going to show some of the upgrades and changes I make to the BLI models when I get them.  Here's a photo of one of the boxcars right out of the box.  Oh boy, looks like this one will need some help...

Issues with the Model

Box Label for 4-pack of NYC steel boxcars

Here's the info on the cars that were included in this 4-car set.  As I already have a finished and weathered an NYC 121134, I may renumber the car from the new set in the future.

4-pack of cars in very awkwardly sized box.

I think I should have stayed with the single-packaged cars, honestly.  The functionality of using the 4-pack box is pretty bad.  The inner tray gets stuck regularly, making it very hard to get the models out of the box.  Also this new group of cars have some more physical issues than my original models had ~10 years ago... or maybe my memory is just being selective on the issues that long ago. - Severely traumatic modeling tends to do that!

Running Boards, or Not?

All of the etched running boards on the newly purchased batch have come loose in the box.  I'm guessing this is a heating-cooling cycle problem from these being in stored in their box for 10+ years before being purchased.

And the roof walk is off when all four came stock in the box.  Excess heat on the box over the last 10+ years is my guess.

While annoying, this really shouldn't be a problem.  Several of my old models also have partial glue failure on the running boards.  So I've worked over the years to apply canopy cement (Testors) to the running board supports.  

The new cars have completely lost any bonds to the running boards, so I'll probably do some additional work on weathering the metal panel roof, probably adding some galvanizing paint failures, before remounting the running boards.

Having to re-apply the whole running board is just another step higher in the fact that now I have to align it correctly.  Although sometimes the half-applied but loose running boards are more challenging to get the canopy cement just on the tops of the running boards support blocks, and not all over the roof panels or filling the fine holes in the etching.

Oddities of BLI's Choice of Truck Bolster Design

Compared to standard bolster designs in HO, this one might take the cake for the over-the-top goofy engineering award.

It seems that BLI was trying to contain the lateral rocking of the truck and to some extent the longitudinal rocking as well with this extra height collar.  There's also an alignment key molded into it which aligns the truck towards the draftgear... so the truck can't rotate excessively?! - Very weird.  Functional, but weird.  The flanged truck bolster screw threads into the internal bolster hole, which is within the collar of the truck.

I may have to put a slight drop of canopy cement on the threads, as several of the car's screwes still seem loose when they are backed off just enough to allow the trucks to rotate correctly. - So must be an issue with how long each of these very deep cavities are when the frame and truck was cast.

One of the cars had a truck that came completely loose in the box, probably from the screws slowly backing out due to heat-expansions of the metal body frame.  This really isn't a problem, but it certainly puts these cars into a unique truck-body design category, so that the trucks can't easily be replaced by any other maker's trucks.  This seems to be a trend with manufactures since ~2000, when it seems several manufacture's in China decided to get "brilliant" with their engineering staffs.  I'm still more in the camp of if it's not broke, don't fix it.


Previous cars actually had pad-printed 'cooling rib' shadows on the backs of the wheelsets.  This batch looks like they have a coating of black paint or blackening on the wheels, including the treads.  I don't like having chemical blackening or paint on the wheel treads because it will wear off directly onto the railheads and cause dirt problems for operations.  Therefore, I'll have to clean the wheel treads off before the cars go into operation.

Wheels tight according to LMRC standards for wheel gauging of sub-RP25 contour flanged wheels.

I'm pretty sure these wheelsets can not be changed to IMRC 33", if the truck tooling is the same as it was 10 years ago.  These wheelsets were some of the tightest press-fitted insulation I've ever seen. - which is not a good thing, if you need to re-gauge the wheelsets.

As the coatings on the wheels (blackening or paint - I think paint) is going to be a pain to remove, I'll probably replace all the wheels with IMRC's after I use the "truck tuner" from NWSL to ream out the journal bearing cones to the standard IMRC wheelset length.  Looking closely at one of my older cars that I've run for a couple of years, the underlying wheels aren't even nickle plated, and wore quickly through into the brass, which is not ideal for my use on the Jawbone Branch.

Door Latches & Opening Doors

Door shown here about 1/2 open.

The stock models can have their doors moved to various positions.  For some reason BLI tooled the body's door latches as part of the doors, not the body. (sigh)... So, if the doors are to be modeled as open, then the body door latches will need to be cut off and remounted on the body to the left of the door.


Let's see what I can do to 'fix' these cars and get them ready for service on the Jawbone Branch.  The only real industries on the Jawbone Branch where I'll be able to see an open boxcar door will be at the Bartlett plant.  Usually, if I plan to detail a boxcar interior and have a door open or mostly open, I need to have access inside the car to detail the interior.  I don't have easy access into the interior of the BLI cars, so I may just elect to go with the closed doors again on the new cars.  

Oddly misunderstood tooling for the door hardware by the tool maker. - sigh

The original cars that I built, I glued the doors closed, with one slight exception on NYC 121134 shown below.  In some of the photos here, I'll be using the new batch of models and in others I'll be showing the models I've already done the weathering and various chalk marks, routing cards, etc on for 10 years.

NYC 121134 which I built with slightly open door, and transferred the door lock details to the carbody.

My old NYC 121134 was built with a partly open door, but I kept the opening small so that the view into the unfinished interior would be kept to a minimum.

Tare Dates

All four cars have pad printed tare dates for 1955, which is fine for cars running on layouts modeling between 1955-1959.  One of the regular things I also need to do on most cars for use on my Jawbone Branch layout is to patch out the tare date and reapply it for something more in my ~1948-1954 era.  The tare dates for boxcars during this era was 48 months.  So, ideally tare dates before 1952-53 as with most of my other cars in the fleet, as I cut off in 1954, so 1946-1953 tare dates are ideal for me.

OwlMtModels 1222 Reweigh Patch decal in place, but slightly crooked to the right of the panel seam.

 I used "Repack Patch" decals (OMM 1222) for the brown blanks to cover the BLI reweigh dates and respliced station and date from an OMM Era-D (1946-1966) set.  The patch decal didn't go on perfectly horizontal, it looks like the right side shifted when the Micro-Sol was applied.  It's not really a problem, as I'll probably add some light earthy weathering over the top of the repack area, hiding any oddities.  Prototype patching for restencils weren't always perfect by any means either.  So my story is this was either a Monday morning job, just after New Years where the paint man was hung over or a late Friday afternoon, when it was cold and he wanted to go for the quit!

Reweigh station code and date decals in place on NYC 121134, one of my original cars.

I decided to go with reweigh station "JY" on the NYC, which is Junction Yard in Detroit, Mich, and date the reweight for January, 1950 (1-50). 

NYC 121134 Side View with replacement tare data and the slightly open door.

Chalk marks on this side include a fairly new "X-ld", which was common for empty-to-load, which would fit with this side where the door's not been secured.  The car's also been graded with a "C" card on the door, indicating what products it is suitable to be loaded with.


The silver lining, if there is one, for all the roof walks being unattached is that I have complete access to the roof panels for weathering techniques.  I have pretty much free reign to play with multiple styles of weathering and painting.

NYC 123242 Roof Weathering Effects

Roof weathering with roofwalk removed.

I decided on this car to try some basic weathering for the galvanizing and some white gel-pen outlines for the freshly failed paint areas.

Drops of Testors Canopy Cement applied to the supports.

I added an acrylic wash of Pavement" color thinned with water, however even the water-paint mix attacked the gel-pen effects... so I'll have to touch that up afterwords.

With regular FCR roofwalk installed.

I decided to leave the roof walk painted for this car.  On one of the others, I painted the roof walk with galvanized gray color, to show one where the paint had failed from the top surfaces.

Roof weathering touched up with the white gel-pen again on some edges.

I went back and reapplied some of the white gel-pen to the lower edges of the paint failure areas, where the most recent paint failings have happened.  Some of the areas I also gently wiped with my finger to blend away some of the stark brightness of the white, leaving a partial remaining color behind, rather like chalk weathering.  

Under layout lighting, NYC 123242's fairly completed roof weathering... for now.

I also used a light gray 'moonlight' gel-pen to make some failed paint on the running board tread areas.  I'll put on a dullcoat pass to seal this step in place before I do any more with acrylics.

In Closing

At some level, with all the oddities of these BLI cars and the difficulties in finding any more out there, I might be tempted to do the resin examples over all the work needed on the BLI models.  Perhaps this is why BLI didn't make anymore runs of these in the more recent past?

I've not weathered the sides of NYC 123242 yet, but have applied a few gel-pen chalk marks.

I put a few gel-pen chalk marks on the new NYC 123242 and a little of the roof's pavement toning down wash over the trucks as more of a dry-brushing.  I still need to put the re-tare dates on the model and do some side weathering.  I'll probably aim to do each of the 'new' cars slightly differently in terms of weathering and finishing, so each tells a unique story.  Obviously, NYC 123242's roof has had better paint at one time.  I'll probably do one as a recently full repaint, with bare minimum weathering. - But I'll cover those in future posts in this series.

Jason Hill

Related Articles:

Modeling X29 (Part 1) - PRR 100813 Basic Construction - Link to the PRR's competing design, the X29.

Modeling X29 (Part 2) - PRR 100305 - Ex-Battery Car - Redecalling PRR MW car back to general service circle keystone scheme.

Modeling X29 (Part 3) - PRR 504385 Early X29s - Checking out the IMRC's "early" X29 with vertical staff hand brake and plate-steel ends.

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