Ontarion Northland Boxcars – part 2

In my previous post, I described the upgrades to a pair of True Line Trains 10’0″ Ontario Northland boxcars. Subsequent to that post, a lengthy discussion ensued on the Canadian Railway Modellers Facebook group, in which Jurgen Kleylein and Ken Chrysler contributed photos and ideas so we could sort out a few details.

Here’s a digest of what we figured out. When Ontario Northland car shops crews removed the running boards from their 40′ boxcars, they often left the ladders on full length, all the way up to the roof. On the B-end of the car, workers would need access to the brakewheel, which was also left in its original position, high on the end of the car. In order to facilitate the movement from the side ladder to the end ladder on the B-end of the car, some pieces of flat metal were fitted onto the roof and the corner grab iron was re-installed in its former position, sans running board. On the opposite corner of the car, there was no grab iron, presumably because workers would have no reason to be on the upper part of that ladder.

I decided that one of my ONT boxcars would have short ladders on the A-end and the other would have tall ladders. Both would have tall ladders at the B-end, and therefore, both would have the metal straps and grab iron in that corner of the roof. Here’s what they look like so far, with a quick coat of paint to get the cars ready for weathering.


This photo shows the running boards removed and the metal straps represented by styrene strips. The car closer to the bottom of the photo was the first one I modified. I bent a grab iron to fit and used a lift ring in the corner. The other car was my second run at this. I used the grab iron that was on the model’s stock running board. I shaved it off the discarded part and used CA to reattach it to the styrene strips.

On the actual cars, the side ladders don’t curve up and over the edge of the car like the model. The strips of metal to which the grab iron is attached actually wraps over the edge of the car and is bolted to the side. For the sake of not having too many modifications to the ladders, I simply attached my strips of styrene to the tops of the ladders. It works, and it looks fine. I decided to go this route because there are more compromises with the kit’s ladders that I’m choosing to ignore. I felt that if I started to make changes to the top of the ladder, I should probably fix up the inaccuracies at the bottom as well. I figure this would be better addressed by a complete ladder replacement some day. If I ever choose to make that modification to these cars, I can move the styrene strips on the roof. For now, I’m calling this good enough.

Once I had done the roof modification to both cars, I proceeded to do the patch-outs for the weight data and other outdated information on the side of both cars. Here’s how they look so far:


You can see I’ve also added lube plates and ACI labels. So far, I’ve only patched one side of both ONT cars. Once I get the patches finished and new data onto the car, I’ll weather them to reflect 25 years of service.

Having finished the modifications on my ONT cars, I decided that I should do two 10’0″ cars that have in Canadian National. For the CN cars, I’m going to leave the running boards on the cars, but I’ll add air hoses, cut levers, swap out the couplers for Kadee #158, patch them for weight data, add lube plates and ACI labels.


The last thing I’d like to do is provide some links to sources of information I used so far on this project. Ted Kocyla wrote on the MRH forum about weathering some similar cars for the WRMRC layout. Click here for that article. Chris Vanderheide has written about similar projects on his blog. Click through to see some posts from August 2015, June 2015, and November 2014 that are relevant to this project.

The work being done to the CN cars is the same as what I’ve already done to the ONT cars, so I won’t repeat any of that. I’ll post an update when I have some weathering finished.

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!



NYO&W 822

This is a blast from my past. I custom painted this stock Stewart F3A right around the time that these first came onto the market in the 90s. This was long before they were offered in this scheme from the factory. I probably used Floquil paint and Microscale decals.


I vaguely recall toying with the notion of modelling a 1950s location featuring a DL&W and NYO&W interchange point. Maybe Utica NY? The model brings colour to my layout, no doubt, especially in comparison to my Penn Central locomotives. But as pretty as it is, I’d like to sell it rather than have it sit in a box on my shelf, so I’ve added it to the ‘For Sale’ page of my blog.


It has wire grabs, Kadee #5s, and has been lightly weathered. This is a DC model with no connector for a decoder, though I’d be surprised if there isn’t a DCC decoder that is a direct replacement for the factory circuit board.

I’ll consider selling the shell and keeping the drive. I’ll be even more motivated if you have a Highliner shell to trade. Email me at hhughson@me.com if you’re interested.

Recent Project: Penn Central N5G 18403

According to information that I’ve gleaned from a number of sources, including the Penn Central Caboose Archive, Penn Central was experiencing such a desperate shortage of cabooses that they purchased a number of them from the Lehigh Valley, of all roads. They classed these cabooses N5G, and put them in yard and transfer service.

My model of 18403 represents ex Lehigh Valley car #95119, which Penn Central purchased in 1968. I have no evidence of this caboose ever operating in the Niagara area. Regardless, it makes a nice addition to the caboose fleet.


My model of 18403 started as a factory painted Proto 2000 Northeast Caboose. Here’s what it looked like out of the box.  IMG_9542

I had a hard time imagining how to tone down the glowing plastic appearance, and I’m just not a fan of the way it was lettered. The lettering is correct, by the way, but the whole thing just wasn’t sitting right with me.

After I did some research, I discovered that there are some discrepancies between the model and the prototype. The end windows at the platforms are wrong, and the steps should have three rungs instead of two. There are other issues as well, but to my eye, the colour, lettering, and those particular issues with the carbody are the most glaring. I decided that a simple repaint of the model might produce a satisfactory representation of the prototype, and perhaps I could live with the other issues.

After the car was disassembled and stripped, I repainted it with a colour that I mixed from Polyscale Penn Central Green and NYC Century Green. Incidentally, Penn Central used NYC green on the earliest caboose repaints. The photos don’t capture the difference in colour between this car and the ones painted with Polyscale Penn Central Green, but it’s apparent in person.

After painting, the car was lettered with decals from Microscale and the Penn Central Railroad Historical Society. I replaced the knock-off coupler with a Kadee “scale” coupler and weathered it with a combination of airbrushed colours and powders.

This model was finished a few weeks ago, but I didn’t have time to post about it until now. Here’s a photo of the other side.


New Project: Penn Central N5B 22923

Another project has moved from the workbench to the layout. This time, it’s the first of three ex-Pennsy N5B cabooses I’ve been working on.


To build Penn Central 22923, I started with an undecorated Bowser N5B kit. I removed all of the molded-on grab irons and replaced them with Bowser detail parts from their N8 kit after drilling all of the necessary mounting holes. I plugged the holes in the roof where the roofwalk would have been and used small pieces of strip styrene to represent supports left behind when the roofwalk was removed at the car shops. I installed brake rigging and air lines underneath using Cal-Scale parts and brass wire., then and modified the coupler pocket to more closely resemble the prototype. The model is painted and lettered with Pollyscale paints and decals from Microscale and the Penn Central Railroad Historical Society. Weathering powders provided some grime and dust.

Two more to go. I’ll post pictures of them as they come off the workbench.