Friday, February 9, 2018

Illinois Central Box Car Upgrade

The Illinois Central Box Car, IC 16203, an Accurail-5th Avenue Car Shops kit, has been in service on the Minneapolis & Northland Railroad Company since 2003. My box car is a stand-in for an IC box car renumbered into series 16000 to 16975 in 1941. A photo of a car in this series is in Steam Era Freight Cars Reference Manual, Volume 1, p. 74. I used this photo as a guide to upgrade this car beyond the wire grab irons I installed in 2003.

 In 2003 I carved-off molded on grab irons and replaced them with Detail Associates, #2504, .012” diameter brass wire. Now I continued the current upgrade on the car sides. I carved off the ladder rungs leaving only the ladder stiles. New ladder rungs were fabricated from Tichy Train Group (Tichy), #1106, .0125” diameter phosphor bronze wire (PBW) and installed. Molded on plastic sill steps were cut-off and replaced with A-Line, #29000, style A, metal sill steps. A lower door guide was made using Evergreen, #8102, 1x2” strip styrene and scrap styrene for the door guide supports. On the doors, the door handles were carved off and replaced with ones bent from Detail Associates, #2503, .010” dia. brass wire. Door stops on the model were carved off as they did not exist on the prototype. The final details added were the tow loops on the sill bent from Detail Associates, #2503, .010” dia. brass wire, with Xuron wire bending pliers.

Click or tap on this and other photos to enlarge

With the sides upgraded, I continued with the roof. I removed the running boards; however, I did not replace them. Instead, I milled them to .020”, to bring them to prototype thickness, using the method Dennis Storzek described in the April 1982 issue of Railroad Model Craftsman and reinstalled them.

Next I upgraded the underbody, which had only the brake components installed in 2003. Brake levers made from Evergreen, #8108 and #8106 strip styrene, were installed. I added the piping from the control valve to the air reservoir using Detail Associates, #2503, .010” dia. brass wire. The pipe from the back of the brake cylinder and all brake rodding was made using Tichy, #1106, .0125” dia. PBW. Clevises on the brake rods are Tichy, #8201, turnbuckles or ones I made using MEK goop (plastic melted in MEK). Chain between the brake cylinder lever and the brake rod is A-Line, #29219, 40 links per inch. Maybe a train line and dirt collector in a future upgrade? Trucks on the car are Accurail ARA cast steel with spring plank with InterMountain 33” metals wheel added.

Since the car had nice lettering and factory paint, the upgraded parts need to be painted to match the existing paint. On the car body, I was able to do that with Vallejo Model Color using a mix of two parts Black Red, 70.859, and one part Flat Yellow, 70.953. On the underbody I used Vallejo Black Grey, 70.862. The trucks were brush painted in 2003 with a Floquil mix: four parts Grimy Black, one part Reefer White, and one part Rust. I did all the painting using a brush. The car was weathered with Pan Pastels and a few chalk marks were added with a white Prismacolor pencil, PC938.

Car is waiting pickup on Milwaukee Interchange

After the car upgrade, the car is back in service on the Minneapolis & Northland Railroad Company. Currently, it is an acceptable stand-in because the ends are 4 and 4 rather than the three and five corrugations as the prototype had. If I find ends with the correct corrugations I will finally complete this upgrade.

Thank You for taking time to read my blog. You can share a comment in the section below if you choose to do so. Please share the blog link with other model railroaders.
Lester Breuer


  1. A wonderful stand in. Amazing how a dew upgrades turns a plastic kit into a standout model.
    George Toman