Tuesday, February 12, 2019

Soo Line SS Box Cars 354 and 390

The Soo Line began an extensive rebuild program of various AC&F single-sheathed “sawtooth” box cars, series 100-444, even numbers,  at their North Fond du Lac Shops in 1950-1951 .  Ken Soroos in his book Soo Line Freight Equipment and Cabooses published by the Soo Line Historical and Technical Society (SLHTS) tells us 250 (173 Soo Line and 77 Wisconsin Central (WC), series 1500-1652, even only) cars build in 1913, 1914, and 1915 received diagonal panel roofs, AAR center sills, channel side sills, power handbrake mechanisms and had 6’-0” door openings.  Photos of Soo Line Box 374 and WC  1584 are in the book on page 19.  A freight car diagram of the car can be found in Soo Line Freight Car Diagrams ( Soo Line Historical and Technical Society, 2013).

In 2013 I purchased an Accurail car produced for the SLHTS,  Soo Line box car numbered 248, that I found was a foot too tall and roof was incorrect for a 1950 rebuild.  A Branchline Trains diagonal panel roof could be used to replace the incorrect roof; however, a rework of the car to get the proper height of 8’-7 3/16”, found on the car diagram, in my opinion, almost impossible as it would require removal of three boards below the fascia strip.  I decided it would be easier to scratch-build the car.

I put the project off until winter of 2015 when I built Soo Line Cars 354 and 390 in resin.    Rather than scratch-build the cars with wood or styrene as used in previous projects,  I chose resin for the experience.  First, the sides of the car were made.  I chose to rework a Train-Miniature (TM) single-sheathed ( SS) car side that provided a height of 8’-9”, close enough.  I cut up a TM plastic SS car body to create a flat kit from which I reworked the side.  The reworked side became the master for a rubber mold used to pour the resin sides.

Train-Miniature master and resin cast side.
(click or tap on any photo to enlarge)

Next, I cast the ends.  I still had an unbuilt Dennis Storzek Soo Line SS “sawtooth” box car kit in the unbuilt kit cabinet.  When I checked the wood 4 post ends I found they could be used with the TM sides.  The ends needed to be reworked above the existing posts to add a triangular piece and a rivet strip above the posts and two vertical braces in the center of the ends above the coupler box.  All the additional parts could be added to the cast ends using styrene after the resin car body was assembled.  Therefore, I used the ends for the master to make a mold and pour resin ends.

Ends from Dennis Storzek Soo Line "sawtooth" box car kit.

Note added posts in center of end above coupler ,
triangular shape and rivet strip above posts.

The final parts needed to begin the build were the underbody and the roof.  For masters I used an Accurail 4000 series underbody and a Branchline Trains diagonal panel roof to make the molds and cast the resin parts.

Branchline Trains roof and Accurail underbody.

Having all the parts made, I was ready to assemble the basic body.  Prior to assembly I cut a rabbet on the bottom of each side to allow the underbody to fit between the sides and rest on.  I assembled the basic box consisting of sides, ends, roof, and underbody as I have described on this blog ( see resin car body assembly under "labels").  Kadee #148 couplers and Accurail ARA 50 Ton cast steel with spring plank trucks with InterMountain 33” metal wheels were installed.  The trucks listed on the car diagram are Barber Stabilized Type S-2-B.

Car body assembled with couplers and trucks installed.

With the basic car body complete, I began the detail portion of the build with the underbody.  I fabricated the straight center sill with Evergreen #136, 30”x .0125” strip with flanges made with Evergreen #8104, 1 x 4 strip styrene.  Brake cylinder, control valve, air reservoir and brake levers  from Cal-Scale, set 190-283, were installed.  Brake levers hangers are made from  Tichy Train Group (Tichy) #1106, .0125” diameter phosphor bronze wire (PBW).   Piping from the air reservoir to control valve was installed using Plastruct, #90850, .010” styrene round rod.  Pipe from brake cylinder to control valve and brake rods were made using Tichy, #1106, .0125” diameter PBW.  For the chain connecting the brake cylinder lever to the brake rod, Campbell black 40 links per inch chain was used.  I installed a train line made with Evergreen, #218, .020” diameter styrene round rod. The dirt collector was made with MEK Goop (plastic melted in MEK).

Underbody before paint.

Underbody after paint.

Once I finished the the underbody I added the side details.  Under the roof, I installed the rivet strip cut from Evergreen #9009, .005” sheet styrene with rivets added using a R.B. Productions rivet tool.  Tichy, #3021, 18” straight grab irons were installed on the sides and were also used for the ladder rungs.  Sill steps, A-Line, #29000, style C, were installed to complete the added side details.

Car body with side details added.

Next the “B” and “A” end  details were installed.  First, the two end vertical wood braces needed in the center of each end above the coupler were  cut from Evergreen #8203, 2 x 3” strip styrene and installed.  Triangular shapes on ends under roof peak cut from styrene parts box, sanded and installed.  Rivet strips, made the same as those used on the sides, were installed. And, as on the sides, Tichy, #3021, 18” straight grab irons were installed and used for ladder rungs on both ends.  Uncoupling levers bent from, Tichy #1106, .0125” diameter PBW with eye bolt brackets formed from Detail Associates #2503, .010” diameter brass wire from the parts or bits box were installed.

Note triangular shapes added above posts
and rivet strips on sides and ends meet at corner.

 I installed the  remaining “B” end details next.  A brake step cut from a Kadee Apex, #2001, running board with brackets made from Evergreen, #8102, 1 x 2” strip styrene was installed. The brake housing, bell crank and retainer valve from Cal-Scale AB brake set, 190-283, were installed next. A brake rod fabricated from Detail Associates, #2505, .015” diameter brass wire and a retainer line from Detail Associates, #2502, .008” diameter brass wire were installed.  Finally, a Kadee Equipco brake wheel, #2041, was  installed.

Details installed on "B" end.

Now I turned to the roof details. The car diagram showed U.S. Gypsum or Blaw-Knox running boards were used when the cars were built.  I did not have a U.S. Gypsum in the parts drawer so I installed a Kadee Apex, #2001, running board to represent a Blaw- Knox install since Richard Bale in his Freight Car Roofs of the Twentieth Century article states the Blaw-Knox were similar in appearance to the Apex Tri-Lok except that the cross pieces were made of quarter-inch spiraled rod rather than flat stock.

Apex running board installed.

With the roof work finished, the cars were moved to the paint shop.  In the paint shop the under body of 354 was sprayed with Polly Scale, F414140, tarnished black.  The car body was sprayed with Vallejo Model Air ( Micro-Mark) #29015 Box Car Red.  The underbody of 390  sprayed with Vallejo Model Air ( Micro-Mark) #29022 tarnished black.  The car body was sprayed with a mix:  70% Vallejo Model Air (Micro-Mark) #29015 Box Car Red, 10% Vallejo Model Color, 70.953, Flat Yellow and 20% distilled water.  Once dry, both car bodies were sprayed Polly Scale, F404100, Clear Gloss Finish to provide a decal ready finish.  Decals obtained from the Soo Line Historical & Technical Society were applied to both cars using Microscale Micro set and Micro sol.  After decals had set overnight both cars were sprayed with Model Master, 4636, Flat Clear Acryl to protect decals during handling.

Soo Line 390 sitting on leg of Soonor wye.

Soo Line 390 sitting on Minneapolis Freight House track.

My two finished cars had some flaws; however, I was pleased with the results and my resin scratch build experience.  Both Soo Line box cars 354 and 390 went into service on my Minneapolis & Northland Railroad Company after they came out of the paint shop in 1915.  The cars remain in service today showing little signs of aging.

Note the difference in car body color.

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. Exemplary work on these models, Lester! Thank you for sharing these steps to produce distinctive models. Keep whatever flaws you see to yourself. - Eric H.

  2. Done. Thank You for the kind words.