86′ Hi-Cube Project – Part 2 Removing and Reshaping

In my previous post, I outlined the various possibilities for modelling 86′ hi-cubes in HO from the old Athearn blue-box model.  In this post, I’ll describe how I plan to move forward with improvements to the model.

I decided that I would try to improve the Athearn four door car into a representation of the Greenville prototype.  The Athearn car more closely represent an early Thrall car in that the model has single welds between the side panels and the indent behind the ladders  have a beam at the floor and roof.  But I wanted to try to bring the car closer to a Greenville car, despite the fact that all of the Greenville cars were riveted.  I decided I could live with the concession of the welded panels for this one.

My decision to live with the welded sides was partly influenced by the fact that the factory paint on my NYC car isn’t too bad.  I felt that a model of a Greenville car would result in the least amount of repainting required.  Also, I’m confident that I can weather the factory finish more easily than a custom paint.  I’ll expand on that in a later post.

To begin the the upgrade, I removed all of the cast-on hand rails and grab irons, the stirrups, walkway across the B-end of the car, brake equipment, and tack board.  I shaved these off with a chisel blade hobby knife, then shaped and shined the ends with three consecutively finer grades of sanding sticks.

Once the cast-on details were gone, I removed part of the beam at the top and bottom of the indent behind the grab irons. Here’s a nice illustration of the indent on a Greenville car.   In this photo of a Thrall car notice that there’s a beam at the top and bottom of where the sides are indented (near the ends).  That’s the part that has to come off of the model.  Here is a sequence of photos taken during the removal of the cast-on bits.


I used Morning Sun’s NYC “Color Guide to Passenger and Freight Cars” as one of the many sources of information for this build.

In this shot, I'm trying to illustrate the thickness of the beam that runs along the top of the indent in the side of the car.

In this shot, I’m trying to illustrate the thickness of the beam that runs along the top of the indent in the side of the car. There is a corresponding thick beam at the bottom of the indent, above the side sill.


This photo was taken while I was in the process of removing the unwanted bits. The grab irons have just been carved off, and I’ve tried to minimize the effect of teh beam at the top and bottom of the indent. At this point, I considered trimming back the wrap-around of the ends to correspond with the prototype, but I felt that would remove too much of the factory paint in a place where the repaint won’t be partially obscured by new wire details. Aside from cleaning things up a bit, this is the extent of the removals.

I’ll need to do some drilling for grab irons and the handrail & walkway across the B-end.  I haven’t checked my parts box, but I’ll proceed when I find or buy the grab irons that I need.

In the meantime, here are some links to old articles about HO hi-cubes built from the Athearn model.

Railmodel Journal January 1994 – Part I   D. Scott Chatfield

Railmodel Journal March 1996 – Part II  Mike Budde

Railmodel Journal June 1996 p42 – 48 – Part III   Mike Budde

2 thoughts on “86′ Hi-Cube Project – Part 2 Removing and Reshaping

  1. Just browsing this post again, and I was a little confused by something you mentioned in the caption of the last image about cutting back the wraparound portion of the end. Did you mean cutting this down to make it flush with the indented surface?

    Because if you take a close look at how the grab irons are mounted on that DTI car and the corner at the far end of the car, you can see that the corner of the end is not flush with the indented panel.

    Maybe you meant something else and I’m misunderstanding, but in this case not doing anything to the corners was the right thing.

    • I didn’t notice the shadow at the far end of that car. Thanks for pointing that out. I still think the part where the end wraps around to the side protrudes too far out from the indent, but I’m leaving it because there are other problems that are worse. For instance, the top and bottom of the indent are still not quite right, but it can’t be corrected without some major reworking of the seam between the sides and the roof down the whole length of the car.

      I just had another look at the car, after having taken a week away from it, and feel that the work I outlined is the best compromise without investing massive amounts of time. I have another Athearn car with underwhelming factory paint. I’m giving some consideration to flattening out the weld details on the sides and applying rivet decals in their place.

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