Tasha Oates updated January 10, 2012


Tasha Oates's Tags


Browse Articles » How-To Text View Magazine View

  • Pennsy X29 in O Gauge

    by Jeff Freeman

    The subject of this article as modeled by the author. Note the single grab iron to the left of the car side. Photo by John Longo.
    Prototype Modeler - October 1978 - Page 24 Prototype Modeler - October 1978 - Page 25

    During the late 1930's and early 1940's "O" scale ARA proposed 1925 design cars, including X29's, were the mainstay of model manufacturers. Most of those companies, however, had the bad grace to go out of business or switch their production to more modem and better detailed rolling stock; all of these are now collector's items.

    Some of the better versions by manufacturers are:

    Lionel- a scale Dreadnaught end X29 made to go with their scale Hudson.

    Mi Loco & Mini Scale- a 17/64" scale flat - end version.

    The above cars are Zamac, rare, and ex pensive: the Lionel car sells for over $100.

    Westbrook- an excellent flat end kit made in many road names. Finding one of these is an "iffy" proposition, since it was made from printed and pressed paper.

    Pennsylvania Railroad's car number 51580 was built in October of 1929. This builder's photo shows the car with the then-new low door stop and original Westinghouse KD brake system. Note the single grab iron at the left of the side. Photo is from the collection of Andy Hart.
    Prototype Modeler - October 1978 - Page 26 Prototype Modeler - October 1978 - Page 27

    Locomotive Workshop-are not readily obtainable, recommend an etched brass Walthers. flat end kit. It was a limited run, made a few years back and required a good soldering ability to assemble. This car may possibly be rerun.

    Enough ancient history and speculation as to future production runs; current "O" scale availability is non-existent.

    Walthers still markets the cast parts from their 1940 kit which was basically a wood box with cast doors and ends, not considered above because of its lack of detail. They manufacture both types of doors, but only the ARA flat end and no source is known for the correct Dreadnaught end used by the Pennsy in its later construction of the prototype.

    There are many sources other than those listed in Figure 1, however, those mentioned are the best currently available for this project considering cost and quality of detail. In fact, I used Westbrook doors and brake wheel, but, since they are not readily obtainable, recommend Walthers.

    This car was built to PRR X29 practice as pictured in the 1931 Car Builders Cyclopedia. Both the car, number 569091, pictured in the 1925, 1928 Cyclopedias and number 100800 in the 1937, 1940 Cyclopedias are different.

    The model under construction (parts grouped in the photographs) will become number 569091 with mistakes made on the first attempt corrected; both errors and major differences between the various prototypes have been mentioned. If you plan to build any other variation, obtain a good photograph and follow it; railroad hardware and appliance practices change from year to year as well as from road to road.

    The car could be entirely scratch built, with a little more work, but I chose to parts build it. The major components came from an Athearn (now Reynolds R. R. Products) "O" scale 40' steel refrigerator kit and the aforementioned Walthers' parts. Be way of using the stamped steel ends in the kit as they are "improved Dreadnaught" styling and modern, late 1940's to date.

    First, examine the sides making sure they are straight and fully stamped. Using tin snips or scissors, remove the skits projecting from the bottom edge as indicated in Figure 2. File smooth using an 8" or longer fine-toothed square and a sharp tool, scribe the sheathing panel lines and the door opening. Watch which side of the rivets are marked as the last panel on each side is different.

    If a working door is desired, remove the material from inside the scribed lines; the use of a "nibbling" tool is recommended so the side will not be deformed.

    The sides and end should now match in height; check and adjust using the file. The quality of rivet details, however, does not match. Both patterns are right, but the ends are done to the 1940 standards (very heavy). The sides are embossed very lightly, either by design or die wear. Your eye will make any corrections so long as the errors are not obvious. I have made models of riveted equipment such as tenders, totally ignoring this detail, and no one notices unless their lack is pointed out.

    I chose to re-punch all the rivets on the side using an .020" die (to match the ends) and steel-wooled the ends. Don't sand - them as the depth of the heads will be reduced and the thick cast base will become more apparent. This is the most tedious part of the project. Reynolds claims to be reworking his dies so perhaps on newer kits this step might not be necessary.

    Prototype Modeler - October 1978 - Page 28 Prototype Modeler - October 1978 - Page 29

    Now refer to Figure 3. Cut off the mounting lugs on the back of the end casting and the bottoms of the coupler pockets as indicated; be careful to leave the air hose brackets on both and the air brake step on one. Clean all edges with a file and smooth the back to insure a good surface for cementing. Drill all grab iron locations marked on the casting with a No. 72 drill bit and the air hose bracket to fit the Back Shop part (about a No. 57 drill bit). MOdify the ladders as shown in Figure 4: all ladders have six rungs. Lay on the ends, mark the location of the mounting holes, and set aside. Similarly, mark the brake platform centering it above the brake step so the shaft will be square. Now drill these and the remaining holes with a No. 72 drill bit. By completing this operation now and not after assembling the body shell, you will minimize drill bit breakage

    Test fit the wood sub-sides, ends, roof, and floor. Make certain that all parts are square and free from warpage.

    Decide now how detailed your underframe will be. If you want the floor planks to be represented, cut an overlay of 1/32" scribed siding with a scale 6" plank (1/8" spacing for the O) the size of the underside of the body shell. Don't cement anything together -- just cut and fit the pieces.

    Place the end casting on the end blocks and line up their bottom edges, draw a line with a sharp pencil at the top edge of the casting, extend this line around the sub-carbody, and disassemble. Cut off all material above this line. The notch on the end blocks will have to be recut to fit the roof (see Figure 5).

    If an operating door is to be installed, lay the side on the sub-side, line up the top edges, mark, and cut the opening. Thin the floor and add another overlay from the same scribed material used on the sub-floor. Now, cement the sub-floor and overlays together, press flat, and allow to dry. (Use several large books. ) Note, the underframe, is incorrect; it is one scale foot short of the X29's and the side bearers (cross bracing) are entirely different. The under frame can't be seen with the car on the track and the 1/8" error on both ends in truck spacing is not noticeable due to the oversize wheel flanges, etc; however, if it bothers you, there are two alternatives: adapt the existing underframe components or use Northeastern shapes to build a new one. One is as much work as the other (see Figure 6 for spacing).

    Model by the author, photo by John Longo.
    Prototype Modeler - October 1978 - Page 30 Prototype Modeler - October 1978 - Page 31

    To adapt the existing parts, the bolster mounting holes must be moved 1/8" out as FIGURE 5 End Block - Side View from their stamped positions_ Use a round file and cut an oblong slot. The bolster and members must be soldered or cemented to the underframe ends and a new mounting slot cut with a razor saw for the inner member.

    The main cross bearers are made from two stamped members placed back to back and capped with a piece as shown: use styrene, wood, or brass. The middle cross bearers are made from 1/8" channel.

    The underframe is now added and the sub-body reassembled using white glue. The nails supplied in the kit add some strength while the glue is drying but should not be used alone. With a good five minute epoxy add an end making sure that it overhangs the sides by the same amount, be sure that it is square. When dry, add the other (this procedure prevents problems).

    Place the "w" bar per the kit's instructions, then push the sides into place. They should just fit. If they are long, file their ends a little at a time until they lay flat; secure with cement and the pins provided. Be sure all prepunched ladder and grab iron mounting holes are filled with flat, headless pins and a layer of auto-body putty (Green Stuff), then sand smooth when dry.

    Place the door over the marked position and locate the door guides; these are the All-Nation "z" bracing listed else where. Check to insure they are the right length for the car being built as many styles were used. The top one is affixed by pushing it under the "w" bar and pinning it in place; the bottom is placed up against the door slides. Mark its position and remove the door. It must be soldered to the side - nothing else seemed to hold for any length of time.

    The roof is made as indicated in Figure 7. .020" styrene is used with .010" Cut the sub-roof, side, end battens. pieces, and assemble with liquid plastic cement (not tube cement).

    If rivets are desired, add them; but their absence is not noticeable.

    Mark the batten location with a pencil, then add. These represent lap panel seams not roof ribs, so roll them over the top edge and down to the " w" bar. The end seams are added the same way.

    To be prototypically correct, the roof should be made of individually overlapping .010" or .005" plates; but, the Train Miniature car in HO gave the clearest idea of roof appearance. If your model is to use another roof you might be able to use commercial parts; for example, the Read ing and Central of New Jersey cars re quire the Athearn roof ribs contained in the kit.

    At this stage, the car is painted with an initial color coat. This serves a dual purpose: first, it furnishes a good base coat for final finishing and, second, it allows paint to be under details such as doors, running boards, ladders, etc. The upper body in Box Car Red, "Freight Car Color" in Pennsylvania Railroad terminology, and the underbody and trucks are black.

    When dry, add trucks and couplers and adjust to meet proper operational standards.

    Athearn Bettendorfs and Kadee couplers are used, both supplied in the current freezer kit by Reynolds; but if you want variation, some railroads used archbar and Andrews trucks. After testing, remove the trucks and set aside for final assembly.

    Model by the author, photo by John Longo.
    Prototype Modeler - October 1978 - Page 32 Prototype Modeler - October 1978 - Page 33

    The remaining detail is to be pinned on following the prototype you are modeling. Use small escutcheon and headless straight sewing pins. This is standard practice in "O" scale and provides a very strong, neat mounting. To insure that pressure and wear doesn't cause them to back out, though, coat each one lightly with a rubber base cement before pressing into place.

    Watch the years your railroad is to operate. Additional safety appliances were added in later years and AB brakes were required on all cars in interchange after January 1, 1945.

    Start with the sides. Slide the doors into place and pin in a stationary position or drill through the door track ends and push in headless pins to act as stops. Several methods of simulating the Pennsy door stops exist from items on the market; they are an odd shape, however, and must be scratch built to look right.

    The end steps, from All-Nation, are added to each corner; but note, on the ladder end a grab iron goes through the bottom mounting holes. This requires that the back of these parts be coated with cyanoacrylate cement so they will remain firmly attached.

    The ladders are modified as mentioned previously.

    Re-add all the parts pre-fitted to the ends. Overlay the brake platform with a small sheet of 1/4" x 3/8" x 1/32" wood and add the retainer valve piping. The valve itself can be a casting (not listed on the parts list), simulated with a piece of wire or tubing, or simply forgotten.

    The brake wheel shaft is made from .020" steel piano wire with the wheel soldered on top. Push a Grandt Line ratchet on the shaft and place the shaft through the platform and onto the brake step. Do not permanently attach as this will allow its removal for later handling and prevent damage to the finished car.

    Make the running board from scale 2" x 6" (1/32"x 1/8") strip wood cut to a scale 42 ft long (10 1/2"). Cross members are made from 1/16" x 1/32" material with one piece for each roof batten. Lay on the roof with an equal overhang at each end and pin in place with headless straight pins, one through each cross member on each plank. The end walks are made the same way and pinned in place. The running board end supports are now added, pin to the car end and cement to the running board with a rubber base cement.

    Grab irons are made from .015" piano wire; unfortunately, preformed ones won't fit the cast mounting locations on the ends. They were added as shown in the diagrams and photos. I stayed with the earlier practices and had only one hand-hold above the left hand corner step instead of the more modern two. Coupler release bars are also formed from this .015" stock as indicated in Figure 8.

    The last part of the car to be detailed is the underbody. Add the "K" brake cylinder and any other detail desired. The levers, rods, and brake piping may be omitted; the choice is yours.

    The car is painted Floquil's Box Car Red with 20% Refer Gray added to re present sun fade; the underbody and trucks are painted Grimy Black.

    The decaling turned out to be one of the most trying aspects of the whole project. Most manufacturers ignore the pre1940 world. Champion Decal purports to make an old style freight X29 set, Number OB-303, but it's really a 1952 express passenger service scheme. Only the road name, herald, and parts of the dimensional data were applicable to the 1930's version built here. The inside width, capacity, cubic feet, load limit, light weight, and weighing dates are all wrong for this car; furthermore, some of the smaller descriptive lettering is totally unavailable in the right type face and size.

    Walthers makes a decal set for this car, but their herald is egg-shaped and the road name and reporting marks leave a lot to be desired. Their dimensional data is right, but with the wrong type face (Gothic not Railroad Roman).

    Cross lettering, taking the best from both, was impossible since the color quality of the whites is radically different. I chose to use the Champion Decal set where applicable and built the rest, letter by letter, from other sets of theirs. Set Number OB-151, Northern Pacific box car, contained the right size, capacity, and weight data and was usable with some modifications to correct the data. Further, the lettering under the herald was simplified as photographs indicate thifs was done shortly after this style of marking was introduced.

    The same situation exists in HO, so, while I had intended to duplicate this car, I will not. If you wish to convert Champion's numbers to HO, Micro-Scale sheet No. 87-1 contains the right size, weight, capacity marks, and some of the descriptive data which will simplify the job. However, I intend to use Union Line (if they can be located) for all HO cars done for this series except the B&O car which will be covered in the December issue of PM.

    Reattach the trucks and couplers, weather to your heart's content, and put the car to work.

    Article Details

    • Original Author Jeff Freeman
    • Source Prototype Modeler
    • Publication Date October 1978

    Article Album (10 photos)

    Share - Report