A Couple of Unusual NKP Auto Cars

B6a00d834ca83d669e201a3fb0984e1970back at Milepost 774, I told you about seeing a photo of a short, 40-foot double door Nickel Plate boxcar in a yard in St. Louis and how I “needed” one for my railroad.  I got in touch with my friend Ray, the guru of all things in terms of older freight cars and he sent me a photo or two to work off of so that I could make a “reasonable” model of one.

But at the same time, he sent me a few other photos with the encouragement of, “If you really want an unusual car, try one of these…”  The end result was the car pictured above… a double door boxcar with auto doors on one end.  These were indeed unusual as the NKP only had a couple of hundred of them if memory serves me correctly.

As it is with all of my projects, the car wasn’t really all that difficult to build.  I first started with a standard Athearn 40′ single door boxcar.  It was fairly simple to remove the doors and the top door tracks.  The bottom ones require a little work since they are cast on and are thicker to allow for the original doors to move.  To do this, Athearn resorted to oversized “claws” on the doors that look kind of toy-like so they had to go.  next, I popped off the roofwalk as it would get in the way when I sanded off the details on one end of the car.  More on that later.  There is also a cast on rib on the left side of the door opening that serves as a door stop for the single door car.  This needs to go too since there will be a second door installed there.

The doors were replaced with a set of doors from an Athearn 50′ DD boxcar.  You can find them pretty cheap at swap meets & train shows.  For $3-$5 each, you usually get them and they are a gold mine of parts.  You often get good couplers, the doors, a set of trucks, a brake wheel and, if you are lucky, a better set of wheels IF the previous owner installed them.  A deal indeed.  The doors are just a shade too tall so I cut off the thin tabs that serve as door guides; they won’t be used anyway.  I then cut off those over-sized claws and the doors were ready for re-use.

The end doors were problematic since I only know of one manufacturer who has them as a feature of their cars.  Years ago, Model Die Casting/Roundhouse offered a single sheathed, DD 50′ boxcar in a few different versions.  One of the versions had steel doors and a set of auto end doors.  Again, I was able to find one of these at a swap meet and for $5, I got the doors plus the parts mentioned previously by cannibalizing the car.  It takes a little work with your razor saw to cut away the auto end doors then lots of elbow grease with the sand paper to file the back side of the doors smooth.  You want to sand/file away as much of the casting as you can; I actually almost sanded through the piece as I was working on it, it was so thin.

Now you have your end doors, your double side doors and the 40′ boxcar body; you are almost ready to go.  First, you need to locate the “A” end of the car and sand away all of the details.  The railroad nomanclature was kind on this one… the “A” end is simply the end without the brake rigging which is the “B” end… you know… B as in brake.  If everything else were that simple.  Anyway, sand away all of the details on that end and get it as smooth as you can.  Clean away all of the sanding dust then carefully cement the auto end doors onto the end of the 40′ boxcar.  Take care here to center the door casting both side to side and top to bottom.  Clamp it into place and let it dry overnight.

The hard part is done so once that has dried, add some thin strip stock to the top of the car on each side to serve as a guide for the doors.  On the Nickel Plate’s auto boxcars, the right doors were opposite of each other on the car then the left doors were added.  In other words, the right door covers the original door opening on the 40′ car then the left door is added next to it.  Cut an appropriate length of strip styrene for the bottom door guide, glue it in place and you should be getting close.  Add the roofwalk and the brake wheel and your model is ready for the paint shop.

I get chastised for this but I have several different shades of reddish brown that I use for Nickel Plate cars.  This adds variety and besides, paint colors vary based on the mix and the circumstances under which they are viewed.  Throw in some exposure to the sun and good old dirt & grime… and the colors aren’t the original at all.  Once the paint had dried, I lettered it with some of my own home brew decals and finished assembly by adding the floor, the weight, the underframe, couplers and trucks.  When you are done, you will have a cool looking car and one that only a few others will have.  Best of all, it is a pretty simple project if you are willing to spend a little time digging up the parts and putting them together.

A couple of cars?  Yes, I did mention that so we’ll catch the second one next time.




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