Ontario Northland boxcar upgrades


I found a pair of True Line Trains 10’0″ 40 foot boxcars in the Ontario Northland ‘development road’ scheme at my local hobby shop a couple of months back. These models are the version with the incorrect wooden roof walk that TLT released some time ago, and the store was blowing them out for super cheap (TLT’s latest version of this car has the correct steel roofwalks). They’re nice models, but they need a bit of work in order to hang confidently with my Exactrail and Tangent cars.

At first glance, I decided that the model basically needed three changes:

  • Remove the roofwalk and plug the holes in the roof.
  • Address the changes to the end and side ladders that came about when the roofwalks were taken off.
  • Replace the tack boards with thinner detail parts.
  • Add cut levers and brake hoses.
  • Replace the couplers with Kadee ‘scale’ couplers.

All of this work was pretty straightforward. I found that the holes left behind by the removal of the roofwalk and tackboards were best addressed by drilling them out to .031″ and using plastic weld to glue in a piece of .030″ plastic rod. I sanded the tackboards to a more appropriate thickness and glued them back in place. In the case of one car, I moved the tackboards on the door to a lower position. Photographs reveal that end tackboards and even the door tackboards were often left in the factory-installed location.

It seems that Ontario Northland often left the brake wheel in its as-delivered location, and as such, the A-end ladders were left in place. Sometimes the b-end ladders were cut down, and sometimes they were left in place, so modified my models so that I now have one of each.

I shaped my own cut levers from .012″ steel wire and fastened them to the car in lift rings that I installed in the appropriate locations. I added Moloco rubber brake hoses and Kadee #158 couplers. After shooting some primer onto the trucks and wheelsets, I put it all back together and called it a day.

One detail that I think is worth noting is the grab iron on the corner of the roof nearest the brakewheel on one of my cars. I added strip styrene to represent the steel frame of the roofwalk that was left behind in order to hold up the grab iron. That’s a neat detail that I only noticed in one of my prototype photos by accident.


I used Polly Scale NYC Jade Green to touch up the places where I’d sanded away some of the paint and to give the new parts a base coat of colour. It’s close enough and the difference will disappear under weathering. I’m not sure, but I think the car that doesn’t have the remnants of the roofwalk frame needs a grab iron applied directly to the roof. I’m also not sure if there should be a grab on the roof at the A-end. Maybe someone can give me some advice on this.

Weathering is next. A photo of these cars in the early 70s would be helpful. Send it over to me if you have one!



9 thoughts on “Ontario Northland boxcar upgrades

    • Thanks Dave. I guess I should write an update on those ore cars. Basically, the ore cars are part of a larger project involving a mine scene on the WRMRC layout. We can’t put the cars to use until the mine is operational, so I’ve shifted my attention to the scene on the layout. I expect that I’ll get back to the cars very soon.

      • Thanks for the update. Your railroad blog was one of the first I bookmarked and enjoyed following the progress on the cars. I was just curious. Thanks for the update.


  1. Great job updating these cars!
    I’m the chairperson of the ONR Historical & Technical Society, and would love to be able to share these with the membership in our quarterly newsletter. Shoot me an email if you’re interested!

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