Monday, January 22, 2024

New York Central Depressed Center Flat Car 499063

My Minneapolis & Northland Railroad Company (M&N) freight car fleet did not contain a depressed center car fleet until recently.  I had searched for one that would appropriate for my railroad set in late spring 1955.  I had not found one that excited me until I saw Steve Steele’s in the model display room at 2023 Chicagoland RPM.  A depressed center flat car lettered for the Milwaukee Road with a number of 601027.  When asking Steve about the car he told me it was a scratch built car.  I asked him if he would like to build another.  He first said no and as our conversation continued he said he had a short depressed center flat car he had in storage that might be of interest.  He thought it was an Eastern Car Works (ECW) kit that he remembered could be used for a New York Central (NYC) prototype.  It was mine if I wanted it.   I accepted Steve’s generous offer.

I placed photos of the assembled depressed center flat car which Steve had built on RealSTMFC website to confirm the kit car manufacturer and  possible prototypes.

Side view of depressed center flat.
(Click or tap on this or any image to enlarge)

Top view of depressed center flat.

I received a fine response to my inquiry.  The depressed center flat car was manufactured by Eastern Car Works (ECW), kit number 4800.  I was also able to obtain a scan of the kit instructions for the car.   The instructions state the model used 33 inch wheels instead of the 28 inch wheels used on the prototype.   In addition, the instructions provide of list of railroads that had the same or similar depressed center flat car to the Easter Car Works product.  And, I received a car diagram and  links to the New York Central Historical Society (NYCSHS) for photos.

Depressed Center Flat Car Diagram
Courtesy of Seth Lakin

I chose to model a New York Central depressed center flat car using the ECW model as NYC diagram dimensions are very close except for wheel size on the ECW model and NYC prototype photos available on the New York Central Historical Society website.

The prototype I chose to model was numbered 499063, the last car in NYC series depressed center flat car series 499050-499063, class FD.   The car was a commonwealth cast steel car with car lettering showing a built date of July 1941  and car length of 37 feet 6”.  Conventional brakes could not be used due to the depressed center.  Therefore, each end of the car had a complete independent bake system.  The kit instruction history states “the cast car body was sent to the railroads car shops where final assembly was completed.  This accounts for the many variations as to trucks, brake equipment, and deck materials used by different railroads.”

NYC Depressed Center Flat 499063
NYCSHS Collection

My upgrade of the ECW depressed center flat began with the underbody where I installed couplers and trucks which were not installed when I received the car.   I drilled and tapped coupler pocket covers,coupler pads and truck kingpins for 2-56 screws.   Kadee #148 couplers were installed in the coupler pockets to which coupler pocket covers were attached with Fastenal 2-56 x 3/16” screws.  Trucks into which I installed InterMountain 33 inch metal wheels were installed with Fastenal 2-56 x 1/4” screws.  Since no conventional brake work was needed on the underbody, all underbody work was done.

Underbody of Eastern Car Works
Depressed Center Flat

On the car body molded on grab irons were carved off.  Grab irons bent from Tichy Train Group (Tichy) #1101 .010” diameter phosphor bronze wire (PBW) were installed.  I cut small wood sections for the floor tabs on which the vertical brake shafts would be installed.   Next, after a study of the prototype end photo for the uncoupling lever, I cut and bent the “Z” portion of the mounting bracket from .005” sheet brass.   A Yarmouth Model Works uncoupling lever bracket, YMW #507, with the top of the back cut off and hole enlarged with a #79 drill before bending, was glued to the mounted “Z” to complete the uncoupling lever mounting bracket.  

End of NYC Depressed Center Flat Car 499063
NYCSHS Collection

End view with deck tab, grab irons and
uncoupling lever bracket.

3/4 view with deck tab, grab irons and
uncoupling lever bracket.

I was going to install the vertical brake shafts and brake wheels on the deck next; however, they needed a pawl and ratchet mounted on the deck for install.   I felt I should get the deck treated prior to the pawl and ratchet install.  Therefore, I hand brushed the wood portions of the deck with Polly Scale Depot Buff,  #F414278 (no longer manufactured).  Once dry, I used my dirty Dio-Sol, a mix of 50% xylene and 50% toluene for solvent base paints, paint thinner to brush these wood painted areas to attempt to get a weathered deck look.   When dry I installed the pawl and ratchet, cut off extra brake platforms in extra parts box, on the added wood deck sections.  Now the two vertical brake shafts, cut 2 feet 6 inches in length, from Tichy #1102, .015” diameter PBW were installed in the hole drilled in the ratchet wheel center and stainless steel brake wheels from the parts box were installed.

Wood sections of car treated with color and
vertical brake shafts & wheels installed. 

After the deck work, I hand painted all the added detail parts Vallejo Model Color Burnt Red 70.814, in my opinion an exact match for car color, before installing uncoupling levers.  While the painted parts were drying I bent the uncoupling levers from Detail Associates #2504, .012 inch brass wire and installed them.

Uncoupling levers installed.

Uncoupling levers installed.

The depressed center flat was ready for lettering.   I air-brushed the sides and ends of the car with Model Master Acryl Semi-Gloss Clear, # 4637.  For lettering the depressed center flat I chose National Scale Car decals for New York Central 70 Ton AAR Flat Cars, set D191.   This decal set was the best I found to letter the car.  The ordered decal set had not yet arrived in the mail so I decided to do some additional weathering on the wood decks.  The additional deck weathering was done with the following Prismacolor Premier pencils: Cool Grey PC1061, Tuscan Red PC937 and Black PC935.

Wood decks with Prismacolor pencil weathering.

And, since I still had time prior to the decals arriving in the mail I scratch built a removable load for the car using Life-Like Trains Scene Master Freight Car Load Large Gears, item 433-1513 and some scale wood lumber.   And, the uncoupling levers were hand painted with the Vallejo Model Color Burnt Red 70.814.

Depressed Center Flat with gear load.

Depressed Center Flat with gear load.

When the decals arrived it was time to letter the car.  Decals were cut out and 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 Flat Clear, #4636, flat to protect decals and provide a flat finish for weathering if applied.

As the National Scale Car decals were not made of this car, the car number 499063 had to be applied one number at a time.  The weight data was in rows one above the other on the decal sheet.  Therefore, the rows were cut apart and applied.   I was able to splice the capacity number of 161,000 to get it closer.  The other weight data does not have correct numbers; however, the weight numbers had to do until better can be found.  After the photos below were taken a repack date was applied.   

NYC 449063 lettered.

NYC 449063 lettered.

New York Central 499063 depressed center flat car  was ready for service on the Minneapolis & Northland Railroad Company, The Lakeland Route, “Serving today, Shaping tomorrow.”  A car card was made for NYC 499063, the final step to put the a car in service on the Minneapolis & Northland Railroad Company Railroad.

NYC Depressed Center Flat 499063 with load at
Little Chicago, Minn. M&N Team Track

NYC Depressed Center Flat 499063 with load at
Little Chicago, Minn. M&N Team Track

NYC Depressed Center Flat 499063 with load at
Little Chicago, Minn. M&N Team Track

I want to say, “Thank You” to Steve Steele for gifting the car to me.  Seth Larkin for car diagram and data regarding these NYC depressed center flat cars and the New York Central Historical Society links.  John Holmes for providing kit number 4800 and a scan of the kit instructions.  A “Thank You” to Joe Binish, Tim O’Connor, Fran Giacoma and Bruce F. Smith for their help.  Without the help of these individuals the build of NYC depressed center flat 499063 would not have happened or data provided for upgrade as complete.

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.  All comments are reviewed and approved before they appear.  Please share the blog link with other model railroaders.

Lester Breuer


Tuesday, January 2, 2024

Milwaukee Road Depressed Center Flatcars 601027 and 601028

My friend Steve Steele had a model of Milwaukee Road (MILW) depressed center flat car 601027 displayed in the model room at the Chicagoland  RPM 2023 held in Naperville, Illinois.  When I asked Steve about the car he told me it was scratch-built.  I asked him if he would share the build of his model on this blog.  He agreed and since has built a second depressed center flat car he numbered 601028.  He sent me his photos and write up of the builds that are presented here.  Number 601027, the first of these two styrene scratch builds, was built in January of 2020 and number 601028 was built in December of 2023, almost four years later.

MILW Depressed Center Flat Cars 601027 and 601028
(Click or tap on this or any image to enlarge)


The Milwaukee Road (MILW) constructed four all welded construction depressed center flatcars at the Milwaukee Shops in 1941.  As constructed these cars were numbered 67028 to 67031, class FD.  The cars were renumbered into series 601027 to 601030 in 1949.  The cars were 46’ 11” over the end sills and only cleared the rail head by  only 8” (See car diagram below).  A color photo Steve used for his build of MILW 601027 can be viewed in The Milwaukee Road Color Guide To Freight And Passenger Equipment Volume 2 (Morning Sun Books, Inc.,  2000) and a black and white photo used by Steve can be found in the 1946 Car Builders’ Cyclopedia, Seventeenth edition (Simmons-Boardman Publishing Corporation,1946). The car diagram from the MILW Freight Car Diagram book was issued by the CMStP&P as Freight Equipment Diagrams of Cars, no copyright, last entry 1948 was used for this build, (Photo and diagram information from Steve added by Lester)

1946 Car Builders's Cyclopedia
Steve Steele photo.

Milwaukee Road Freight Car Diagram book,
 page 358 from the late 1940’s with the
 Corel Draw HO scale dimension diagram below.
Steve Steele photo and drawing.

Build Materials for the MILW 601027 and 601028

Materials used for the build were Evergreen styrene sheets and shapes, Tichy Train Group (Tichy) wire grabs, straight wire, and in the case of 601028 the end ladders. The end ladders used for 601027 were from the “junk box” and most likely were InterMountain boxcar leftovers. Commercial Kadee parts used were Kadee, #148 whisker couplers, #262 narrow whisker coupler boxes, #566 70 Ton Barber solid baring trucks, and their Superior brake wheels. To my knowledge no suppliers make a 100 Ton solid bearing truck, but the Kadee 70 Ton, with three front springs, is a good representation of a 100 Ton truck.  Styrene parts were solvent bonded using Testor’s Liquid Cement, with CA or Epoxy adhesives used for dissimilar materials. 

Model Build

Most construction photos that follow are of the December 2023 build of 601028.  (All photos by Steve Steele).

The first sub-assembly consists of the end platforms, depressed center platform, and the curved slope sheets that connect the platforms. The platforms are 0.030” thick styrene sheet cut to size. The slope sheet consists of 3 pieces. First a 0.375” diameter styrene tube was sliced to provide the upper and lower curved pieces that are connected with a 0.25” wide by 0.030” strip. Referring to the Freight Car Diagram, with the Corel Draw inset you’ll see how the segments combine to fit the overall length and height dimensions stated in the car diagram.

Sub-assembly of end platforms.

Next the platform sub-assembly is strengthened by the addition of the underlying frame elements consisting of 0.100” and 0.125” square styrene strips.

Platform sub-assembly strengthened.

Looking at the flip side the frame assembly shows a “center sill” of 0.100” x 0.25” styrene, which forms the base for the coupler box, and the location of the truck bolster. The a gap under the depressed platform forms a weight pocket.

Platform sub-assembly flip side.

Notice that the platform and frame assembly takes place on a stone surface plate (above photo)  to keep everything flat and square.

With the frame assembly built, the next step is to build the side sheets. This is where construction gets a bit messy for me.  I’m old school and build with a Starrett steel scale for a straight edge, and single edge razor blades. Making curved shapes gets involved. First the side sheet is cut from 0.020” styrene sheet to the shape shown at the bottom of the photo and then using ordinary double sided tape is attached to the frame assembly flush at the top edge. Once attached the square portion is nibbled to rough shape, then filed and finally sanded to match the profile of the attached frame assembly. A old term would be, “File to Fit.”

The side sheet is detached from the frame assembly resulting in the curved shapes shown for the two sides.

Side sheets before (bottom) and after (top) fitting.

Photos show that the top and bottom of the side sheets have a “flange,” which is modeled with 0.010” styrene strip. The top flange is 0.060” wide and the bottom 0.040” wide. Both are bonded to the edge of the side sheet as below. It’s a tedious process insuring the styrene strips are tight to the side sheet edges especially around the curves.

Adding flanges to side sheets.

The photo below shows both side sheets ready to be trimmed to length and bonded to the frame assembly. The rounded wood popsicle stick was useful for pushing the styrene stripe into the inside curves.

The side sheets, with attached flanges, are trimmed and bonded to the frame assembly with the addition of 0.020” x .140” end caps.  From this point the remaining build is to add hand brakes, grab irons, piping, and corner ladders.

Side sheets bonded to frame assembly.

The air brake piping on one side of the car is built as a sub-assembly.  After the holes are drilled the Tichy wire is bent to shape and fit to the side. Three small pipe holders are fabricated and attached while the pipes are in place.  Then, the pipe sub-assembly is removed to be painted separately.  This extra step is needed to access the side assembly after painting for placement of the lettering decals without the pipes obstructing that area.  The pipe assembly is only installed after all lettering is complete and dull coated.

Air brake sub-assembly installed after
car is painted and lettered.

On the underbody, this is also the point where the weight pocket is filled.  In the case of no. 601028, a piece of 1/8 inch thick lead sheet was cut to fill the area. No. 601027 was built using a cut piece of flat steel bar stock.

Weight pocket is filled with sheet lead.

These depressed center flat cars had independent truck mounted brakes as indicated by the two separate handbrakes, one on each end of the car. Therefore, there are no underbody brake details. Not having any brake information other than what was in the car diagram, the only air brake details depicted are the two pipes that run along the car side as shown in the Milwaukee Road Color Guide photo.  And, the two air reservoirs, one on each side of the car as viewed in photos.

Since there are no underside brake details, only a bottom cover cut from styrene to cover the weight pocket was added on the underbody.   The trucks were attached with brass round head 2-56 x 1/4” machine screws.  The coupler boxes were attached with epoxy and the lid just snapped on.

The model, in this case no. 601028, is built and ready for paint, decal lettering and clear coating.

Flat car is built and ready for paint and lettering.

Paint and Lettering

The models were painted with Model Master Oxide Red Flat #4882 over Model Masters Gray Primer #4680 (both no longer produced).  Lettering decals for depressed center flat car 601027 were mixed from the used decal supply, and for depressed center flat car 601028 decals from K4 Decals, with a couple others added.  After lettering was applied and dry it was dull coated.

 Milwaukee Road Depressed Center Flatcar no. 601027, built January 2020

Milwaukee Road Depressed Center Flat Car 601027
One side.

Milwaukee Road Depressed Center Flat Car 601027
Other side.

 Milwaukee Road Depressed Center Flatcar no. 601028, built December 2023

Milwaukee Road Depressed Center Flat Car 601028
One side.

Milwaukee Road Depressed Center Flat Car 601028
Other side.

I want to say, “Thank You” to Steve Steele for his permission to use his photos and write-up of scratch building MILW 601027 and MILW 601028 to share here on my blog.  And, to use the diagram from the MILW Freight Car Diagram book with his HO dimension diagram created in Corel Draw.  

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 a comment.  Comments not signed will not be published.  All comments are reviewed and approved before they appear.  Please share the blog link with other model railroaders.

Lester Breuer