Tasha Oates updated January 10, 2012


Tasha Oates's Tags


Browse Articles » Feature Text View Magazine View

  • Great Northern and Northern Pacific Head End Cars

    by Richard Miller

    This photo of Car 235 was taken in St. Paul, Minnesota, in March of 1970. Photo by E. H. Archer.

    This photo of the GN 52-71 class shows both sides of the car. Note that one is lettered for the Oriental Limited while the other is in stand Photo by Richard Miller and Great Northern livery. Photo by Richard Miller.
    Prototype Modeler - October 1978 - Page 34 Prototype Modeler - October 1978 - Page 35

    In the days of steam, an incredible array of passenger equipment could be found in the consists of Great Northern and Northern Pacific trains. Despite this variety, however, very few commercially available HO models are correct for either road. This article will describe a few cars which may be easily constructed by altering readily available AHM plastic passenger cars. We'll pre-suppose a basic knowledge of working with polystyrene plastic and will not deal with the technique here. There are several excellent sources of information available for modeling in plastic including articles from our own pages in past issue. As is the case when adapting plastic models, the end result will probably not be 100 percent accurate, but will be a pretty fair representation of the prototype. With a word of caution to the purist, let's proceed:

    For those readers who have already decided to letter their Overton coach "Empire Builder," don't give up so easily. The AHM Baggage/RPO is very nearly correct for Great Northern prototype without alteration! (See photos.) The prototype cars were built by American Car and Foundry Company in 1918 and were numbered 52-71. From published photos it was determined that number 58 was lettered "Oriental Limited."

    Page 36: Great Northern 400-418 class Baggage Car. This car was photographed in Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada, in August of 1957. Photo by Stan F. Styles.

    Great Northern Baggage X-7836 was the ex-410 from the 400-418 class. This car was shot in Minneapolis, Minnesota, in March of 1970. Note the roof weathering. Photo by E. H. Archer.

    Model of GN 405 lettered for Empire Builder service. Photo by Richard Miller.

    Page 37: Northern Pacific 1655 from the 1615-1640/1650-1655 class was photographed in St. Paul, Minnesota, in July of 1969. Note the somewhat modern era markings. Photo by Richard Miller.

    The Northern Pacific 1619 after being condemned; note the line drawn through the road number. This car of the 16151640 class was photographed in St. Paul, Minnesota, in July of 1969. Photo by Richard Miller.

    Model of 1619. Photo by RIchard Miller.
    Prototype Modeler - October 1978 - Page 36 Prototype Modeler - October 1978 - Page 37

    Page 38: Northern Pacific 1931 of the 1931/1492 class rests at St. Paul, Minnesota, in July of 1969. Photo by Richard Miller.

    Model is of NP 1492. Photo by Richard Miller.

    Page 39: The opposite end of Northern Pacific 1931 is shown setting in the yards at St. Paul, Minnesota, in July, 1969. Photo by Richard Miller.

    The opposite side of NP 1492 (see opposite page). Photo by Richard Miller.

    Page 40: Great Northern 478 (similar to Northern Pacific's 1615-1640 class) sets in St. Paul, Minnesota, in March of 1970. The paint job makes this car one of the more colorful of the heavyweights. Photo by E. H. Archer.
    Prototype Modeler - October 1978 - Page 38 Prototype Modeler - October 1978 - Page 39 Prototype Modeler - October 1978 - Page 40

    Several of the cars in this series remained in service until recent years as storage mail cars, with their windows plated over and painted in Empire Builder colors (green and orange). Note the renumbering of these cars as they are shown in the photos.

    Our confidence renewed, we're ready to tackle something a bit more difficult. Great Northern baggage cars 400-416 were built b y Barney and Smith in 1907 as sleeping cars. They were rebuilt as baggage cars in 1926-1927; a steel under frame was added at that time. To model this car, two AHM Santa Fe combines were spliced to fit the roof section of a 75' coach. Unfortunately, I don't have any suggestions as to what to do with the remaining parts from the three cars used for this conversion.

    In removing the distinctive Santa Fe side sill, it. was necessary to separate the floor and the sides. A new floor was made from sheet styrene, using the center sill and the bolsters from the original cars. See photos of prototypes 417 and X7836 and model 405.

    Construction of the two Northern Pacific cars will require at least one 12 section Pullman car for each car t o be modeled. You may require a third car for windows to "plug into" the 1492, although it is possible to remove windows from the ARM car by carefully cutting from the front and back of the car side with a razor blade or a fine modeler's knife. The resulting gap is small enough to be filled with putty when the windows are relocated.

    Baggage cars 1615-1640 and 1650-1655 were (obviously) converted from various types of Pullman equipment. Some cars possessed facilities for messengers as indicated by the star above the car number. Similar cars were used by the Great Northern with the addition of a compartment adjacent to one vestibule. See the prototype photo of No. 478. Either car can be modeled by simply removing the window panel as required and filling the space with .030" styrene sheet. The door openings are cut as shown on the side elevations of the 1615 -1640 drawings. The doors themselves are cut from.010" sheet. Using the photos as a guide to underbody equipment, remove the battery box and the steps from the AHM car and "plate over" the vestibule doors with .010" styrene sheet.

    Car number 1931, nee 1492, does not appear in the passenger car registers and no history is available. It was used as a gas electric trailer car on branch line" runs in North Dakota and seems to be an excellent choice for the modeler's mixed train. There may have been other cars of this type; perhaps a reader can furnish us with additional information.

    The construction technique is identical to that for the baggage car except that windows are inserted as shown in the side elevation drawing. The window locations appear to be completely random, adding, I suppose, to the car's appeal.

    The models shown in the photos are weighted to eight ounces with linotype slugs. Couplers used are MKD6 or truck mounted MKD5 for the baggage and RPO cars. Diaphragms are Walthers, with the striker plate cut and filed to the correct contour. Such matters, however, are usually subject to the individual modeler's choice.

    The models described may also be built from Walthers components, particularly their molded plastic passenger car roof. If these components are used, I would recommend construction of the car sides with AHM materials for their excellent rivet detail.



    The Great Northern cars were painted with Scalecoat's Pullman Green. Northern Pacific's Ui47-1952 two-tone green colors were duplicated with Floquil paints. The correct colors were recently made avail able in the Scalecoat line.

    All lettering on these cars was done with Champion decals.

    Article Details

    • Original Author Richard Miller
    • Source Prototype Modeler
    • Publication Date October 1978

    Article Album (7 photos)

    Share - Report