Christopher Brimley updated November 3, 2011


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  • Southern Hogshead

    by Andy Lester

    Model photos by the author; prototype photos as noted

    SOU 9773 is still in its original scheme in this 1985 view. Winston Salem, NC: May 12, 1985.
    Model Railroading - February 2003 - Page 26

    The SOUTHERN HOGSHEAD tobacco car is unique to the Southern Railway. Many rail cars have been built to haul a specific cargo, ranging from autos to zebras, and this boxcar is no different. Its great length, unique shape and exclusivity make it a favorite of mine.

    Back in 1961 the Southern Railway decided that they needed a better and more efficient way to transport 1,000-pound bales of tobacco. The 40' cars used in the past had lived out their usefulness and were ready to retire. With a new, much larger design, more bales could be hauled in one car and cut back on costs. With a capacity of 9,610 cubic feet, the hogshead had nearly three times the capacity of the 40' cars they replaced.

    All 100 cars were built by the Southerns own Coster shops in Knoxville, Tennessee. The first car was numbered 9799 and was a little different than the rest of the series. On the ends, this car had a different style of ladder and a low-mounted brakewheel. The ladders on the ends started out at the bottom like normal ladders, but increased in width toward the top. With this arrangement, a railroad employee could reach the center walkway easier and avoid the sloped part of the roof.

    The first car also had a Kinner-type sectional roll-up door. After testing the first car and finding it a success, the Southern built car numbers 9773-9798. It did not take long to find out that the Kinner roll-up door was unsuitable for use in tobacco service. The next batch of cars, numbers 9740-9769 were built with a single 10'-wide Camel plugdoor. Starting early in 1963 with car number 9781, the first batch of cars had their doors replaced with plugdoors as well.

    All 100 cars were built with Pullman Standard Hydroframe-30 cushioning underframes. All cars came equipped with 33" wheels, Barber S-2 70-ton trucks, Miner handbrakes and rooftop walkways. Later on, the walkways were removed and the brakewheels were moved to a lower position. Each car was delivered with the large SOUTHERN block lettering positioned to the left of the door with an equally big road number below, and the slogan "SUPER CUSHION SERVICE" on the right side of the door.

    SOU 9799 in the paint scheme modeled, but some of its porthole roof windows have been plated over. Greensboro, NC: October 5, 1985.
    Model Railroading - February 2003 - Page 27

    Later in their lives, the cars carried three other paint schemes: 1)the same as above with "GIVES A GREEN LIGHT TO INNOVATIONS" added to the left of the door; 2) with Southern in 16" N&W-style lettering to the right of the door with smaller road number; and 3) with the Norfolk Southern logo located on the left side of the door.

    These cars served the South for a long time and did quite well. They were used mainly in North Carolina and Virginia and could be seen at just about any tobacco manufacturers plant.

    Later in their lives, changes in tobacco usage, packaging, taxation and a general industry downturn left many of these giants as surplus. They found a temporary reprieve from retirement by being used to haul aluminum-can stock coils and truck tires for Goodyear. A lot of tires can be crammed into the cavernous innards of the hogshead. As good as they are at this, they are still approaching the 40-year underframe life limit and will likely soon be retired. Unless they are rebuilt, they will most likely be recycled into something else.

    Luckily I was able to locate one of these just a few miles away from my grandmas house in Bramwell, West Virginia. It was donated to the town by the Norfolk Southern several years ago. It sits beside a brand new N&W-style station and a Norfolk Southern maintenance-of-way bunk car. This section of track that goes through Bramwell is part of the old Bluestone Branch of the Pocahontas District several miles northwest of Bluefield, West Virginia.

    The Model

    Ambroid offered a craftsman-style kit back in the 1960s or 70s that reproduced the prototype pretty well. It was made of wood and some metal parts. These kits are getting hard to find and were only produced in limited numbers.

    Model Railroading - February 2003 - Page 28 Model Railroading - February 2003 - Page 29

    After losing a battle of bids over one of these kits on eBay, I looked for another kit so I could build one of my own. I found out that my local hobby shop owner had one, and after explaining what I wanted to do, he let me take a look at it. Thats when the ideas started coming. He did not want to sell it, but he let me borrow it. By using the kit instructions, measurements I had taken, photos and railroad diagrams, I was able to produce scale drawings in a CAD program.

    The kit builds up an inner structure of wood with a milled roof that matches the prototype look. Rather than build one out of multiple pieces, I made a core of solid, kiln-dried poplar. With the help of a friend, I was able to cut the core rather quickly. A table saw is a must in this operation. The measurements are included in the template below. I chose poplar because it is less prone to warpage and is used in the manufacture of furniture innards, like couches, dressers, etc. I got my wood at Home Depot and the piece was only about $6.00. I was able to get two blanks out of this piece. By using a solid wood core, construction went much faster, ended up much more square, and it had plenty of weight. Being encased in a cocoon of styrene and thick cyanoacrylate (CA), the wood should not get any moisture into it that might cause warpage.

    Before starting construction, I made a bunch of sanding sticks from some oak trim pieces that were 1/4" thick, 1" wide and 36" long. Just about any type or size of wood can be used, but this was what I had. I cut them into 3", 5" and 8" long pieces and ended up with about 30 different-sized pieces. I sprayed 3M Super 77® adhesive on the back of sheets of automotive-quality 150-, 220-, 400- and 600-grit sandpaper and then laid the blocks on them. After the glue was dry, I trimmed off the excess, and the blocks were ready to use. I am glad I made them, because I used plenty of them.

    Model Railroading - February 2003 - Page 30

    The core was sanded to remove any big defects and to square it up a bit. Accurail doors were then carefully centered on each side so I could use them for reference during construction. After examining my prototype photos, I believe the Details West door would have been more accurate. Next I started laminating .030 styrene sides to the core with an even layer of thick CA. I used the scale drawings to get the shape right. The sidesill is the most important part of the sides. The pieces were cut a little bit longer than needed so they could be sanded to the proper shape, flush with the ends. I also put a layer on the roof sides, rooftop and the ends. Thick CA was used on all of these pieces and was also used to fill the gaps at the joints. A smooth finish is needed so the remaining construction will go smoothly. Sand until a smooth finish is achieved.

    Detailing of the sides began with addition of HO scale 1x8 styrene along the bottom edge. I also glued on a continuous piece of 1x6 along the top edge over the door. Refer to the drawings to see where these strips are placed. The ribs, made from Plastruct 3/32" T-strips, were then glued onto the sides. Most, but not all, of these received a bevel at the top and bottom. The rib directly to the left of the door is longer and is only beveled at the bottom. The rib directly to the right of the door is shorter than the last and is not beveled at all. I used the drawings to place each one, being sure to keep each one square by using a small metal square. There are some 4x4 posts by the door that have a 45 bevel at the bottom end. For the upper door track I used a piece of brass 1/16" x 1/16" U-channel.

    I did not add roller hardware at the tops of the doors, but after the model was built I found a source for this nice detail. The new Athearn Genesis boxcars have this as a separate item. With a little kitbashing, I am sure that this could be used with success.

    The ends received extra layers of styrene (see Figure 1). This layer of .060 styrene extends down to the bottom of the wood block piece and has a 45° bevel at the top. On the corners I put HO 4x6 styrene that are a scale 9' 6" long. At the very top of the gable ends is a piece of .005 styrene. If you look at the prototype photos, you can see that a piece of steel is welded on there. The end looks like several plates of steel that have been welded together.

    Model Railroading - February 2003 - Page 31

    To simulate the weld lines on the ends I used a method borrowed from my 1/35scale armor days. Heat a piece of leftover sprue over a flame, then stretch it when it begins to melt; you will be able to stretch it into a very thin hair-like piece. Scribe a .001- or .002-deep line in the end piece, then lay in the stretched sprue and glue in place with liquid cement. When this is dry you can add the end and side ladders, brakewheel and hardware, tackboards and grabirons.

    I modeled a car that has had the roofwalk removed. When the Southern removed the roofwalks they also cut down the end and side ladders. I installed Grandt Line NBW castings in the areas where the ladders used to be. As for the walkway above the couplers, I used leftover Plano round-hole walkway material. I bent brackets out of .030 x .010 brass bar stock. The bracket is in the shape of a T. I then used the same brass to make the stirrup steps using the drawings as a guide when bending. Install these by gluing the outboard end into a #72 hole drilled in the bottom of the 4x6 corner piece and the inside end onto the ladders.

    After the ends have all of the major parts in place, laminate a layer of .005 styrene on the roof, leaving a .060 overhang on each end. Glue some vents on the upper edge of the ends made from 6" long pieces of 2x2; use the photos for reference.

    The gable tops received some ribs made from 3/32" angle stock. For each rib on the top, three pieces were needed. The angled pieces are beveled at the ends to align with each other, and to where they meet the sides. Note that the roof ribs are not aligned with the side ribs and that they go in different directions on each half of the car. I sanded these to eliminate the joint and also rounded the top corners on each.

    Each of the 20 round windows on the roof consist of two parts. I sharpened the inside diameter of a piece of 5/16" brass tubing to make a punch, then I punched 20 disks out of .005 styrene. These serve as the frames for the windows. A common 1/4" hole punch was used to punch out clear styrene disks for the actual windows. These were set aside until after painting. These were later attached using white glue. A translucent material found at craft stores could also be used. The windows on the top changed colors and shades over the years so almost anything will go.

    Once the sides, ends and roof were done, I started on the underframe. I used bolsters from an Athearn 86 ' boxcar kit, but any could be used. Just be sure to check if they will work with your trucks. I positioned the bolsters first, then put in Evergreen I-beams to simulate the main underframe beam. It is probably not the most accurate, but will also not be seen very often. Next comes the four floor braces. Styrene 1/16" T-strip was use for this. I believe that the prototype has Z-section channel, but T-strip was good enough for me. The cross braces are I-beam with 8" wide caps .020 styrene. The other cross frame pieces were also made out of various styrene shapes. Consulting the drawings and the photos will be your best guide in placement of these. The brake rigging can be added now. I used leftover parts out of the parts box, but Details West and Cal-Scale make nice brake sets that can be used.

    Model Railroading - February 2003 - Page 32

    Next comes the coupler pockets. I started to use the pockets from the 86' Athearn kit but ended up scratchbuilding mine. I would suggest using the Athearn ones, but they do need to be modified. The prototype has a cushioned pocket that has a wider opening at the end. It appears to be flared out when looking at it from the top. The openings that I made for this model scaled out to about 3' 3" wide. This wide coupler pocket also is 3' 6" long, measuring from the end of the car. Refer to the photos and drawings as I just guessed on my model. I think the width that I came up with portrays the look of the prototype. Laminate some styrene on the sides and sand to shape. I finished up the pockets with some Plastruct angle stock, styrene lip on the edge, an air hose bracket made from an Athearn stanchion, and an air hose. I also mounted Kadee® #58 couplers with the trip pin removed.

    Kato 70-ton trucks with working roller bearing caps were used. They look real nice under any model. Install them at this point and check for coupler height and other clearance problems. I am not sure what kind of radius this thing can take, but I bet it wont be less than 22". Remove them until after painting.

    The last major detail is the coupler cut lever and bracket. The reason this is last is because it is fragile. I made mine out of flat brass bar stock, sheet brass and a DA eyelet. The cut lever is actually made of two pieces and is joined together like the prototype. The bracket is bent to shape from .005 brass sheet cut about 6" wide (see Figure 2). This has a triangular shaped gusset that has to be soldered to the middle of the bracket. It was a little tedious, but is not too hard to do. I had to do a little filing afterwards to clean things up. Next drill a #79 hole in the end that gets the eyelet and solder the eyelet in place. When finished this gets glued to the end of the car, to the left of the coupler. Refer to the photos for proper placement.

    The cut lever had about an 80 bend in the end nearest the bracket. At the bend and extending up about a scale 4", I filed the width down until it was about as wide as it was thick. By doing this I made the transition from rectangular to round. Just be sure that this end fits through the eyelet. Once through the eyelet, bend it over and into the shape of the cut lever on the prototype. On the second piece, bend it to match the diagrams and then solder it to the first as shown in the photos. Make sure to get the ends in the proper location before attaching it to the model with CA. I attached the end to a hole drilled in the bottom of the coupler pocket.

    The very last thing to do is put on some of the more fragile details. On the sides I made some roping eyelets out of .010 styrene rod. These were bent in a U-shape and then the ends were flattened to serve as a flat point to attach to the side of the car. These are centered above the centerline of the trucks on all four corners. Each one is flanked on either side with a NBW casting. Where each of the cross members meet the sides, I drilled four #76 holes in a small pattern about 4 " apart. This serves as the attachment point on the prototype between the sides and underframe. In these holes I put NBW castings and glued them in place. On the sides and doors I made four small brackets out of the angle stock used on the roof. Each one of these is about 3/32" long and has a #69 hole in one side. I am not sure what these are, but they are located by the doors and on the sides only. Again I stress using the photos for placement. The door track was made of an 18' long piece of 2x6. This is held off of the car side by 15 pieces of 9" long 4x4. The sides also get two tackboards each. Where the ladders meet the sides, I made some little brackets out of .002 brass embossed with rivets. These are to simulate the brackets that hold the ladders to the ends, and the side ladders to the end ladders. Be sure to apply the windows and frames at this time as well. This should complete the assembly.

    Paint and Decals

    Make sure the body is clean and free of grease and dust. Believe it or not, I used Dupli-Color red oxide primer right out of the aerosol can. Some folks think you cant get a good finish with a spray can, but I think you can. I soaked the can in hot water for about five minutes to warm up the paint a little. This helps it flow better. Being a lacquer-based primer, it flowed out real nice and went on smooth. I applied about three light coats to be sure to protect everything, especially the bottom. After this was dry I applied a 50/50 mix of Testors Glosscote and lacquer thinner. This provided a nice finish for the decals.

    Getting decals for this model turned out to be a little easier than I thought. To my knowledge, no decal set exists to letter one of these beasts in the 16" N&W-style lettering. Microscale has a set or two that could be used for three of the schemes listed above, but not one for this style. After an exhaustive search I decided to make my own.

    Using Corel Draw 8 software, and working from photos I was able to produce a full set of decals. When I say full set, I mean all the way down to the stenciling on the trucks. The only problem I had was printing them. Fortunately I am a member of the Railroad Decal List group on the Internet at The members of this site are dedicated to producing custom-run and private-road decals, and to discussing the production of decals. In a few short hours I was able to locate Bill Priepke of Scale Rail Graphics. He mainly specializes in doing decals for the various railroads of Wisconsin, but decided to do this set of Southern decals for me. If you decide to do this paint scheme, sets are available for $3.00 plus shipping and applicable sales tax from Scale Rail Graphics, PO Box 2173, Wausau, WI 54402-2173, Each set contains enough to do two cars.

    I used the photos to position all of the decals. After applying a couple coats of Solvaset, and letting the decals dry, I applied two coats of Testors Dullcote. When this was dry I weathered the model using thinned washes of acrylic colors, some airbrushing, and a little drybrushing. After the weathering was where I wanted it, I sealed it with more Dullcote. I wanted the model to look as though it never left service.


    Hopefully this model will encourage some of you to make one of these monsters. It was a lot of fun, and it was my first totally scratchbuilt freight car. The first one always takes a long time, but I am sure future ones will go much faster. I would like to thank the following people who helped in this project: Bob Graham for all of the prototype photos and information, Norman Day for letting me borrow his Ambroid model, Dave Neilsen for the use of his table saw, and Bill Priepke for doing the decals for me. Thanks again.

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  • SD45LONGHOODFOWARD TERRY /Tsunami decoder
    SD45LONGHOODFOWARD TERRY /Tsunami decoder I have an ambroid kit of the the hogshead tobacco car kit#6 of like a couple hundred i plan on buildint the kit and then while building make about half a dozen in styrene! when i do ill get one to you dave!
    November 3, 2011 - 3 like this
  • Dwayne de Lung
    Dwayne de Lung Well if we don't all three seem to end up with the same projects in the bushes... I just picked up some of these Ambroid kits on ebay.
    October 10, 2013 - 1 likes this
  • Alan Outlaw
    Alan Outlaw How do I get the photos to open up? Or is this to old to open photos?
    June 19, 2015