Sunday, October 24, 2021

Spokane, Portland & Seattle Box Car 12900

After reading James Kinkaid “Spokane, Portland & Seattle (SP&S) 40-ft. Boxcar” article with history, photos and drawings in the August 2021 Railroad Model Craftsman (RMC) I decided to add two of the SP&S cars to the Minneapolis & Northland Railroad Company (M&N) roster.  I found as James stated in the article, “ no one makes an exact model of this car”; however, the car could be modeled using InterMountain carbody and underbody and CB&T Shops ends.  After speaking with George Toman I learned he was also thinking of building  a model of this car and found that Branchline Trains ends could be used.

Before starting the model I reviewed information I had for the prototype cars.  In addition to the Kinkaid article I have the Spokane, Portland & Seattle Color Guide to Freight and Passenger Equipment (Morning Sun Books, Inc., 1998) in my railroad book collection.  As the RMC article, the Morning Sun Color Guide had a short history and color photo of car 12972 with a later “billboard” lettering scheme.

From the above data sources and study of prototype photos I learned the SP&S ordered this 40-foot steel boxcar from the Northern Pacific (NP) Shops in Brainerd, Minnesota.  The SP&S built cars, delivered in October 1953 and February 1954, were assigned to series 12500-12999.  The cars had ten-panel sides, a 5/6/6 corrugated 6 foot wide door, inside height of 10 ft. 6 in., Murphy diagonal panel roofs with Kerrigan running boards and improved Stanray r+3/4 improved dreadnaught ends with Ajax (the first 250 cars) and Universal hand brakes.  One special feature of these cars was the straight sill unique to this SP&S car series.

Based on the prototype data and photos I decided to use InterMountain kit 41805-04, modified AAR boxcar with CB&Q lettering ( only kit I had ).  The InterMountain kit provided the car body and most correct underframe.  The kit did not have the required diagonal panel roof so I used one from InterMountain undecorated kit 41098 for a master to make a resin casting in my M&N Shops.  The InterMountain kit also does not have the correct r+3/4 ends so I cast resin ends using ends cut off a CB&T Shops 1944 AAR 40’ box car car body kit for a master.   Of course, you do not have to cast resin car body parts if you use the plastic InterMountain car body, diagonal panel roof and Branchline Trains or cut off CB&T Shops r+3/4 plastic ends.

Cast roof and ends installed.
(Tap or click on this or any image to enlarge)

One additional problem with the InterMountain or CB&T Shops kits, they do not contain the correct doors for the SP&S car.  George Toman found correct 5/6/6 doors can be obtained from Tangent Scale Models.  You can also use prior produced Branchline Trains doors which I used for a master to produce resin cast doors in my M&N Shops.  The Tangent doors have the correct door latch which is not on the Branchline Trains doors.  And, I have hand painted the areas with lettering removed with Vallejo Model Color Cavalry Brown 70.982.

Cast resin 5/6/6 door using
 Branchline Trains door for master.

Once I had the diagonal panel roof, r+3/4 ends, and door castings made I was ready to assemble the car body.   Before starting to install parts I removed the lettering from the InterMountain car body with 91%  isopropyl alcohol and cotton swab. With CB&Q lettering removed I fitted the resin cast roof and installed the ends with CA.

Cast resin roof and r+3/4 cast resin ends installed.

After the roof ( fitted; however, not glued until car weighted ) and ends were installed I continued  with the work needed on the side to create a straight sill.  I cut the sill tabs off and filled the remaining areas with Evergreen #8206, 2 x 6 strip styrene.   Another way to make the straight sill  needed for this car would be to cut off the entire sill and make a complete new sill from styrene.  Later in the build, I also used Testors white contour putty, No. 3511, to add a skim coat over the added sill parts to fill any gaps.  I also used the Testors contour putty to fill any gaps on the end corners.   When the putty was cured I sanded the sill and rounded the end corners to match prototype photos.

Car body sill with styrene added to
 create straight side sill.

Next I installed the underbody into the car body.   On the underbody I removed the train line and replaced it with a wire one using flora wire with .018” diameter.  Coupler boxes were cut off and replaced with Sunshine Models draft gear from my parts box with Kadee #148 whisker couplers installed.  Incorrect Accurail cast steel with spring plank trucks with InterMountain 33” metal wheels were installed to get car weighted correctly with tire weights to 3.8 ounces.  Later, correct trucks Kato A.S.F. Ride control, #31-601, were installed.  Draft gear and trucks were installed with Fastenal 3/16” and 1/4” screws.   At this time, cross bearer cover plates cut from .005 sheet styrene with rivets made with RP Productions RB-T009 riveting tool were also installed.  And, the roof was now installed with CA.

Train line, bloster cover plates, draft gear,
and trucks installed.

I moved back to the sides to install the side ladders followed by the end ladders.  Since this car had eight rung ladders and flared end ladders, the kit ladders could not be used.  I used the Thales Theorem (dividing a line into equal parts ) to determine the 18” wide side ladders had 16” rung spacing.   I used Yarmouth Model Works #303, photo etched stiles bent with UMM USA bender with Tichy Train Group (Tichy) #1101, .010 diameter phosphor bronze wire (PBW) bent rungs to build the ladders.  The 16” wide end ladders had to be bent to except two 18” rungs at the ladder bottom.  The bends in the ends ladders were made after the stiles were cut with a Xuron #9180 photo etch cutter.  The same cutter was used to cut away a portion of the stile on the top ends of the ladders to enable the top ladder curve to be bent.  After ladders were made, bits of scrap styrene from bits box was used to make mounts for the ladders.

Thales Theorm spacing to determine ladder stiles.

Ladder assembly using UMM-USA bender to
bend stiles and jig I made to add rungs.

Ladders assembled and installed.

On to the roof work to install Kerrigan running boards.   One problem, I am not aware of any model manufacturer producing a Kerrigan running board; however, Richard Bale in his article on “Freight Car Roofs of the Twentieth Century” (Model Railroad Hobbyist, December 2016) states,” The Kerrigan design was visually like the Blaw-Knox except they used a spiral rod to hold the serrated strips in position.”  He tells us it is difficult to distinguish among the Kerrigan, Blaw-Knox and Apex Tri-Lok running boards.  Therefore, I installed a Kadee Apex running board, #2000, on the roof with Formula 560 canopy glue.

Kadee Apex running boards installed.

After the running board glue was setup, I installed Kadee bracket grab irons,#2250, on the sides.  No holes needed to be drilled for the Kadee grab irons on the sides as the holes in the sides drilled by InterMountain for grab irons work fine.  All you have to do to Kadee bracket grab irons is to cut off two mounting pins which I did with a PBL nipper to install.

Kadee Bracket grab irons installed.

Since I used a resin r+3/4 casting for the ends I used a #75 drill to drill holes to mount the end Kadee bracket grab iron.  I also needed to make the left side mounting bracket for the sill grab iron.  To make the bracket I cut a small triangle from styrene from the bits box that was glued to the sill.  Two mounting rivets made with MEK Goop were added to finish the bracket.  With the left side bracket in place a grab iron was bent and cut from Tichy #1106, .0125” PBW and installed.

I continued working on the “B” end.  A Plano photo etched Apex metal brake step, set #1132, with kit brackets was mounted per photos.   Before continuing with the “B” end work I mounted the kit bell crank with chain and rod on the underbody on end sill making sure it lined up with the notch in the brake step.  I cut the brake rod clevis off the kit plastic brake rod and glued it to the bell crank.  The kit brake wheel housing was cut narrower and triangle mounts added to sides and reworked kit retainer valve, to better resemble prototype photos, were installed.  A retainer line and brackets, Tichy #1100, .008 diameter PBW were installed next.  A chain, Tichy #3013, was added to brake housing followed by a brake rod, Tichy #1102, .015 diameter PBW was cut to fit between chain and bell crank clevis.  A Kadee #2030, Ajax brake wheel was installed.  My car number 129000 choice, a later build car, probably should have a Universal brake wheel.

"B" details applied.

More work on ends needed to be done.  At the roof corners the roof corner flanges were made from resin flash with rivets added with MEK Goop.  Archer rivets, AR88026, 5/8” head diameter were added to roof flange after Future Floor Finish was applied.  Kit placard boards were installed.  All detail parts with fasteners had them added with MEK Goop.

Archer rivets applied to roof overlap on end.
Fasteners made with MEK Goop.

Finally the last detail, uncoupling levers, were added to the ends.  Uncoupling lever brackets, Yarmouth Model Works, #507, were installed as were the levers bent form Tichy, #1106, .0125” diameter PBW.

Uncoupling levers  installed.

Back to complete the work on the sides.  A-Line sill steps, #29001, style B, were installed in holes drilled with a #76 drill.  Resin cast 5/6/6 corrugated doors were installed and bottom and upper door guides ( added later )were added with MEK Goop.  Wire door handles bent from Tichy #1101, .010 diameter PBW installed.  Archer rivets, AR88026, 5/8” head diameter were applied to sill at bolsters, cross bearers and cross-ties locations per prototype photos.

Door installed and sill rivets applied.

Reinforcing plates, with MEK Goop rivets, at lower sides of door and on sill were cut from styrene and installed.  A door latch was made from plastic brake rigging cut off underframe.  Kit provided door placard boards were installed.

Reinforcing plates at lower door after painting.

With the car body finished the underbody work was completed.  To the already installed kit underframe to which cross bearer cover plates were installed, the following underbody details were installed as follows:

  • Brake cylinder and piston, Tichy set #3013 on Sunshine Models resin bracket 
  • Control valve (kit) on bracket form Tichy #3013 set
  • Air reservoir (kit) on scratchbuilt brackets
  • Above brake components were predrilled for piping
  • Slack adjuster, universal type from parts box
  • Brake cylinder lever, Evergreen #8108, 1” x 8” strip styrene
  • Brake floating lever, Evergreen #8106, 1” x 6” strip styrene
  • Brake levers hangers bent from Tichy #1106, .0125” diameter PBW
  • Brake piping from air reservoir to control valve, Tichy #1101, .010” dia. PBW
  • Brake pipe from brake cylinder to control valve, Tichy #1106, .0125” dia. PBW
  • Brake rods, Tichy #1106, .0125” diameter PBW with clevises, MEK Goop
  • Brake rod clevises, cut from Tichy #8021 turnbuckles
  • Chain, A-Line #29219, black 40 links per inch
  • Train line, .018’ diameter flora wire
  • Dirt collector (kit)

Underbody details parts installed.

Off to the paint shop for paint and lettering.  After review of the numbers in the Microscale decal set I chose number 12900 for the car number.  I found it interesting the decal set had a reweigh date with the symbol “V” which represents Great Falls, Montana on the Great Northern.

First the underbody was sprayed Model Color Vallejo Black Grey 70.862.  Trucks were also hand painted Model Color Black Grey 70.862.

Underbody spray painted.

Next the car body, after color photo review, was sprayed Model Color Cavalry Brown 70.982.  After drying, car body was sprayed with Vallejo Gloss Medium 70.470 for decal base.  After drying overnight, decals from Microscale decal set 87-1026, for Spokane, Portland & Seattle boxcars purchased via the internet and repack date from a Northern Pacific set were applied.  I used photos of SP&S box car 12640 and 12649 in the RMC Kinkaid article as a guide to apply decals.  Decals were soaked off in distilled water and applied to the car body where MicroScale Micro Set had been applied with a brush.   After the decal was applied in the Micro Set and positioned the edges had MicroScale Micro Sol applied.  Any excess solution was sucked away with the torn edge of a paper towel.  Again when dry, car body sprayed with Vallejo Gloss Varnish 70.510 to better hide edges of decals and protect decals during handling.  Again when dry, the car body was sprayed with Model Master Acryl, #4636, flat to protect decals and provide a flat finish for weathering when applied.

SP&S 12900 painted and decals applied.

One more step before putting SP&S 12900 in service was to weather the car with Artmatic eye shadow and Pan Pastels.  An Artmatic eye shadow color like a Dark Box Car Red was applied over entire car body.  Pan Pastels Paynes Grey Extra Dark 840.1  was used on the roof and lightly over safety appliances on car body.

SP&S 12900 weathered and ready for service.

Spokane, Portland & Seattle boxcar 12900 was ready for service on the Minneapolis & Northland Railroad Company, The Lakeland Route, “Serving today, Shaping tomorrow.”  A car card was made for SP&S 12900, the final step to put the a car in service on the Minneapolis & Northland Railroad Company Railroad.

SP&S Boxcar 12900 at Eureka Center Team Track.

SP&S Boxcar 12900 at Eureka Center Team Track.

SP&S Boxcar 12900 at Eureka Center Team Track.

I want to say, “Thank You” to George Toman for letting me purchase the InterMountain kit from his freight car inventory, for finding Branchline Trains produced r+3/4 ends and Tangent Scale Model produced doors available for the build of this car.  I will use these parts to build a second SP&S car in this series at some future date.

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 sign your comment with your name if you choose to leave one.  Please share the blog link with other model railroaders.

Lester Breuer



  1. Lester, thanks so much for this blog entry; I had read the same Kinkaid article in RMC and saved it in my file of future projects; your efforts here will make my task much easier. Thanks for sharing! Jjim

  2. Jim Thank You for your time to read and comment. Appreciated. I am pleased that my post will be of help.

  3. Lester, this is a wonderful build. I need a few of this on my Northwest themed layout. Your craftsmanship is fabulous. Wish I could build with such precision and delicacy. Love the article and it will definitely help me to construct a few myself.
    Thanks for sharing, Dave SilverStreak Bayless