One of my ongoing projects has been to sort through all of my old model train stuff from two decades ago in order to continue to purge the things that I will never use. During a recent purge, I found a Lifelike Proto 2000 50′ automobile boxcar kit (remember kits?).
When I came to own this kit, back in the early to mid 1990s, it was probably an advanced product because it had separate brake and ladder details. Even by today’s standards, it’s a decent model, and without too much work its quality can match that of other contemporary kits.
A steam-era automobile boxcar would have no place on the WRMRC layout, but the geographical location and era of my planned home layout is slowly crystallizing, and what’s certain is that I’ll build something representing railroading on either side of the Niagara River during the first half of the 1970s – the era of my earliest memories of train watching with my dad. I just might be able to use this car in that context.
We live in an era when primary source historic information is abundant. Online resources alone eclipse what was available to a modeller two decades ago, not to mention the quality of the various hard-copy books on the market from niche presses. I acquired a copy of Craig T. Bossler’s CNJ/LV Color Guide to Freight and Passenger Equipment shortly after finding this kit in my collection of junk, so I was delighted to learn that the P2K model of the Valley’s automobile boxcar is actually a close representation of the prototype.
According to Bossler, the Lehigh Valley took delivery of 100 automobile boxcars from ACF in 1942. These cars were numbered 8500 to 8599. Being the ever frugal outfit they were, the Valley repurposed these cars long after they outlived their intended use. 63 of them were still in revenue service in 1971, with the majority of them in auto parts service. A small number of them were refitted with damage free loaders and placed in general revenue service.
Bossler’s Color Guide proves that the kit is very close to the prototype, though there are a few differences that can be corrected without too much effort. Most significantly, the side sills are incorrectly shaped, and need to be contoured with the appropriate notches. I used the photos in the Color Guide to inform my carving and filing. The kit designers had the foresight to put indents on the inside of the side sills, which serve to guide one through the re-shaping of the sill for different versions of the car. The left end of each sill needed a short augmentation to conform to the prototype, and I accomplished that with strips of styrene and a spot of putty.
The word “Automobile” appears to have been removed from the cars in the Color Guide, so my next step will be to remove that and paint the sill extensions. I’ll move ahead with the assembly of this car, but I’d like to have a bit more information than what’s in the Color Guide. A high angle shot would really help to move the project forward, but I’d appreciate any information that a reader can give me. Please help me out if you can!