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  • Modeling a Western Pacific 60' Berwick Boxcar

    by Ken Edmier

    Model photos by the author

    Model Railroading - May 2003 - Page 30

    When Athearn released their Genesis 60' boxcars, I hurried to the hobby shop. I was very impressed, not only with the body detail, but also at the quality of the paint and lettering. I purchased a Western Pacific 60' Berwick car and could not wait to get home and compare it to Dave Casdorph's prototype picture of the Western Pacific car in the December 1999/January 2000 issue (reproduced here).

    Except for one error in the build date, the paint and lettering is awesome and dead-on. (The build date should be 1-79, not 1-73.) While the underframe and end detail is better than average, it did not meet my personal modeling standards. Instead of taking my usual approach of detailing, painting and decaling an undecorated model, I decided to upgrade the factory painted model.

    Athearn uses the same underframe for all of their 60' boxcars, but it is not correct for the Berwick cars. Please note that trackside prototype photos were used to do the underframe upgrade. Details were located as close as possible per the photos and may not be in the exact prototype location. I also used Cyanopoxy for securing all parts. Cyanopoxy works great for all types of bonds, especially when mating unlike materials such as brass and plastic, but be aware that the spray activator may slightly discolor the factory paint. This did not matter on the underframe, which was repainted, but be careful on the car sides and ends.

    Getting Started

    My first step was to convert the coupler pockets to use screw-on coupler covers. Remove the uncoupler levers and the trucks so the underframe can be removed. The coupler covers can then be pried loose and the couplers removed. The coupler covers are on the top of the underframe and I wanted them on the bottom. A sharp razor blade was used to remove the bottom of the coupler box, leaving the sides of the box attached to the frame. Then, the top coupler cover was put back into place. A #50 hole was drilled through the new bottom coupler cover, using the coupler post center as a guide.

    The air tank, control valve and vertical brake levers need to be relocated. Using nippers, trim away all the plastic brake piping from the levers to the trucks and from the brake cylinder to the truck. The air tank and control valve can then be pried loose. Remove the tall brake lever by pulling it from its mounting hole and then remove both small levers with their mounting pads using a sharp #18 chisel blade and sand the underframe smooth. Fill the holes for the tank, control valve and tall brake lever hole with Squadron Green putty and sand smooth when dry. Secure the frame to the car floor. Place the coupler covers on the frame and drill a #50 hole through the bottom coupler pad and frame. Then, tap the frame through each hole with a #56 tap. Remove the new bottom coupler cover and re-drill with a #43 clearance drill before placing back on the frame; insert the plastic screws and trim as necessary for a secure fit.

    The prototype car looks like it has only two vertical brake levers; both are mounted in line with the door post ribs, with the small lever mounted toward the brake end and the tall lever mounted toward the non-brake end. Before remounting one small brake lever with mounting pad, drill a #78 hole at the base and at the top of the brake lever. Then, install the small brake lever and mounting pad on the center sill. Run a piece of .015 brass wire between the base and the brake lever.

    WP 3771 was built in January 1979 by Berwick. Series: WP 2768-3775. Photographed December 1985.
    Model Railroading - May 2003 - Page 31

    Moving to the tall brake lever, trim away the small brake lever from its base and secure the tall brake lever to the base. Drill a #78 hole at the base and at the top of the brake lever before attaching it to the mounting pad. Trim the plastic brake lever back to the slack adjuster and add a new piece of .015 brass wire between the slack adjuster and the base of the tall brake lever.

    The air tank is mounted parallel with the underframe cross members on the righthand side. Trim off the plastic air lines and drill two #78 holes where the old plastic air lines were attached to the tank. After removing the mounting pins, styrene shims are needed to raise the tank to the proper height. On the center sill side, a .020 shim is needed while on the body side, a .140 shim is required. Place next to the second cross member, from the non-brake-end bolster, and secure in place (see Photo 1). The retaining valve, made from a 14" long piece of .100 channel, is mounted inside a channel bracket. Secure the bracket on the same side as the air tank, one rib over from the doorpost rib, right below the retaining valve lettering. The retaining valve, from DAs modern brake set, was cut down to fit and secured in place.

    Next, trim off the plastic air lines from the control valve and drill two #78 holes where the lines were attached and then two more holes right above them for a total of four holes. Drill a single #78 hole opposite the mounting pin before trimming it off. Make a mounting pad from 12" long .100 channel and mount to the frame cross member in line with the door-post rib near the air tank. Install the control valve on this mounting pad, with the four holes facing the air tank.

    Run two pieces of .015 wire from the air tank to the two bottom holes on the control valve - one piece from the back of the brake cylinder to the top hole on the control valve, splicing around the frame cross members as necessary, and the other from the retaining valve bracket to the control valve (see Photo 2).

    After looking at prototype photos, I realized that the car has extended couplers for use with end of car cushioning (EOC) devices. This is why the coupler boxes do not extend much beyond the car ends. The trainline air hoses under the coupler and coupler pocket hang down from loops placed around a rod to allow for air hoses to move when the coupler moves in and out of the cushioning pocket. I started by forming the train airline from .015 wire and placed it about 9" inside the car sidesills, crossing over the sill by the control valve. Trim about 12 " past the last cross member and bend each 90 toward the coupler pocket. Make two 9 " brackets from .015 x .080 strip styrene with a #66 hole drilled toward the top of each bracket. Insert the end of the trainline through the hole and secure the bracket in place to the last cross member.

    Model Railroading - May 2003 - Page 32

    Next, drill a #78 hole next to the right side of each coupler pocket, approximately even with coupler cover screw. Using .015 wire, make two L-shaped brackets so that one leg extends about 22" past the coupler pocket and is rotated slightly over the coupler cover. Working on one end at a time, take an eyebolt and make a small loop with the straight section and then place on the L-shaped bracket at the end of the coupler cover and secure with the eyebolt hanging down. I used the wire and insulation from a DA speed recorder package. (Note: Do not remove the wire and use the insulation only as the wire is needed to hold to a bendable shape.) Trim the wire about 8 ' long and bend the wire to the approximate final shape and start by securing the wire to the loop. Bend the wire so there is a loop after the loop attachment and bend toward the floor and over to the end of the train airline. Trim the end of the wire as necessary before securing (see Photo 3). Bend a short piece of .015 wire at a 45 angle and run from the control valve to the train airline.

    I wanted the brake chain on the brake housing to actually go somewhere, so start by trimming away the molded-on brake chain. The DA brake set includes a bell crank, but doesnt have the side mounting plates. Two mounting plates were made from .015 x .080 styrene strip, 9" long and trimmed at an angle almost in half. Secure these side mounting brackets to the bell crank, add the rod and clevis part of the DA brake chain part, and mount on the end of the car, below the coupler platform opening, offset toward the car side. Run a small piece of chain between the hand brake housing to the top of the rod (see Photo 4).

    On the prototype cars, the linkage from the bell crank runs to just short of the brake cylinder lever, with a small piece of chain used to connect the linkage to the brake cylinder lever. Not wanting this .015 wire linkage to interfere with the truck swing, I mounted the linkage low to the floor and inbetween the frame cross members until clear of the trucks. Leave the linkage about 9" short of the brake cylinder lever before adding a short piece of chain (see Photo 5).

    The air release rod runs the width of the car, passing over the control valve (with car viewed upside down). The air release rod is supported from an eyebolt from the bottom of the control valve and a bracket on the far car side. Start by making a 27" long bracket from .015 x .080 styrene strip, and drill two #66 holes toward the top of one end to create an elongated oval. The release rod is made from .008 wire. Form a small loop at one end by wrapping around .035 styrene rod and insert the bracket and eyebolt through the non-looped end. Form a second loop, again by wrapping around .035 styrene rod, about one car width from the first loop, with the eyebolt and bracket between, and trim away any excess wire. Place the eyebolt in the hole on the bottom of the control valve, trimming the eyebolt if the release rod is hanging too low, and then secure the eyebolt in place. The bracket is placed one floor rib away from the car side. Bend the wire to final shape and secure to the eyebolt and bracket (see Photo 6).

    Model Railroading - May 2003 - Page 33

    The next step was running the linkage between the vertical brake levers and the trucks. Start by placing the trucks on the car and drill a #78 hole in the car floor about 6" away from each inside truck axle, toward the vertical brake levers. Using .015 wire, run the linkage from the hole in the top of each vertical brake levers to 6" away from the inside truck axle and bend 90 toward the floor. This leg to the floor is approximately 39" long. Trim as necessary so the linkage is about 6" higher (when the car is upside down) than the truck axle at the 90 bend point.

    These cars also have brake levers and linkage from the ends toward the trucks. I used the mounting brackets for the air tank included in the DA modern brake set. Drill a #78 hole at the narrow end of each bracket before mounting on the underframe. The underframe has two mounting slots just behind the coupler box that are perfect for mounting these levers. Before mounting them in these slots, trim the wide base at a slight angle to allow the levers to point toward the trucks. The linkage from these end brake levers is .015 wire, 12" long, bent at one end 90 for mounting to the brake levers.

    Two brake-rod safety brackets are used on this car. Form one bracket 57" long from .015 x .042 brass strip, then bend 90 21" in on each end and place toward the brake end and place on the underframe just short of the second rib after the door. Form a second bracket 45", then bend 15" in on each end and place toward the non brake-end, again, just short of the second rib after the door.

    The plastic coupler lift bars are nice additions to the kit, but need to be extended out toward the coupler and not toward the end of the coupler box. The brackets for the coupler lift bars are too wide and need to be trimmed in half with a sharp razor blade. After slicing in half, the inside part can be loosened by gently prying from the car floor (see Photo 7). Trim away the handle portions of the coupler lift bar and form a new lever with .015 wire, 27" long, bent 90 to form a 9" and an 18" leg. Attach the 9" leg to the plastic coupler lift bar (see Photo 8).

    I wanted to use Kadee's small-head #58 couplers, but they do not have the proper shaft length for use with the EOC devices and an extended-shaft version has not been released yet. After measuring, it was determined that Kadee #26 couplers have the perfect shaft length to match the prototypes overall coupler-to-coupler dimension of 67' 9".

    Model Railroading - May 2003 - Page 34

    I removed the coupler trip pins before installing them in the coupler pockets. Place the coupler lift bar in place by placing the lever through the hole in the bracket and secure in place with the end of the coupler lift bar right under where the trip pin used to be, trimming the free end as necessary for free coupler movement. Then add a glad hand to the end of the air hoses by trimming the glad hand from Kadee air hoses and attaching in place (see Photo 9).

    New horizontal long grabirons need to be added to each end between the end ladders. This long grabiron is secured to the end ladders with a bent eyebolt for center support. Athearn has provided the predrilled hole for the eyebolt. Bend an eyebolt so that when it is in place, it is between the raised end ribs. Secure the eyebolt in place and run a .015 x 6' 3" long wire through the eyebolt and secured to the end ladders (see Photo 10).

    Paint and Weathering

    Start by brush painting all new parts and modified areas with AccuFlex Primer Gray. I was able to closely match the Athearn WP paint by using an approximate 50/50 mix of Light Tuscan Oxide Red and Maroon Tuscan Oxide Red. Paint the end loops of the air release rod white and paint the glad hands on the air hoses silver.

    As mentioned before, the build date is wrong. The car was built in 1-79, not 1-73 as the car is lettered. Very carefully paint over the 3, using the above mix, on each side and re-letter using a 9 taken from the end numbers from Oddball decal set #118. When finished, spray the car with Testors Dullcote to prepare the car for weathering.

    I started the weathering by applying a light grime wash, one part Railroad Tie Brown and one part Weathered Black to the side and ends of the car using a variation of Jim Sixs now-famous Q-tip weathering technique. I added water to the grime wash and applied it with a small brush to one panel at a time. I then used a dry Q-tip to remove the wash, waiting only about ten seconds. Decal setting solution can be used to remove more of the wash, but be careful, as the decal solution can remove the factory lettering. I weathered the roof slightly using the same method, but using one part Rust and one part Railroad Tie Brown. Then, airbrush the underframe and the bottom sill with a grime wash, thinned about 40% with 70% isopropyl alcohol. When finished, let the car dry and seal with a minimum of two coats of Dullcote.

    Model Railroading - May 2003 - Page 35

    Just before starting this car, I attended a clinic by Mike Rose on fading and wanted to try lightening the factory paint and oxidizing the roof. Mikes secret is to use 70% isopropyl alcohol as the fading agent. The alcohol reacts with the Dullcote to produce the fading effect. I airbrushed two very light coats of alcohol on the sides and ends, allowing about ten minutes between coats and one heavy coat on the roof. The great thing about this technique is that if you do not like it, just re-spray the car with Dullcote (I had to re-spray twice) and this will eliminate all the fading by the alcohol and you can try again.

    Now its time to finish by installing the trucks and couplers. The Athearn metal wheelsets were removed and painted Rust, except for the treads. The wheelsets were drybrushed with a little Railroad Tie Brown to give each wheelset a different rust/weathering pattern. The trucks were then weathered by drybrushing the springs with Rust and the rest of the truck with a Rust/grime wash before installing the wheelsets. After airbrushing the couplers with one part Rust and one part Railroad Tie Brown, install the coupler boxes and adjust the coupler height as necessary.


    Since many of the prototype cars were built around the same time as the Western Pacific cars, this same upgrade can be done to additional roadnames. Athearns excellent work has allowed me to keep my personal modeling standards without having to spend valuable time and money on complete painting and decaling. Thank you Athearn. I would like to thank Dave Casdorph, D. Scott Chatfield, Tom Chenoweth and David Hussey for their help.

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