Building And Upgrading Freight Cars

Building And Upgrading Freight Cars

In the past model railroaders who wanted a finely detailed rail or freight car had one option….they had to assemble a kit.  Fortunately, this situation has changed and today the model train enthusiast can find many high quality ready-to run freight cars on the market which are being made available by a number of different model train manufacturers.

Having said this, however, there are also many freight car kits which are available today as well.  They come in kits which can be considered to be easy-to-assemble, and for the more advanced hobbyist, there are craftsman level kits that come in both plastic and resin.  Well known and established companies such as Athearn, Walthers, Branchline, Intermountain, and others offer high quality plastic kits.

Where To Start

If your relatively new to the hobby, and have never built a kit before, you may want to start with an easy-to-assemble kit.  In so doing, you’ll discover that kits of this type offer realistic details, and the main difference with this type of kit versus those which are at the craftsman level is that they are much easier to assemble.

The following is an outline for putting together an easy-to-assemble kit:

1.  After you open the kit box, spend a little time in studying the instructions provided for assembly which are included with your freight car.

2.  Parts are attached to what are called sprues, and they need to be cut away from these with a hobby knife.  Also, remove any extraneous materials from the parts which should not be present.

3.  Typically, weights for almost all freight cars are placed on the inside of the car and not exposed.  However, some manufacturers place them on the outside of the car.  You should paint them to match the color of the car.

4.  As an added note, the brake components for your freight car which are attached to the sprues that were previously mentioned in step two, have plastic pins which are molded in place, and are made to match holes which are on the body or located on the underbody.

When you cut these away from the sprue, make sure that you do not cut these pins off.  All of your brake components should be glued in place with some type of liquid plastic cement.

5.  At this juncture, you should test fit the frame to the body to make sure that it will fit properly.  Also, using a hobby knife, scrape or remove existing paint from the place or location on the body where the frame will be glued.

6.  In order for your train to operate reliably and consistently, it is important to weight each of your cars.  The NMRA or National Model Railroading Association provides a recommended practice for weighting cars which has been established for all of the various types of scales.

It is therefore important to check your cars to be sure that they have been weighted, and weighted correctly.  More than likely they have, but it wiser to check for any issues as it is difficult to add weights after the car or cars have been assembled.

7.  Finally, add whatever type of details such as couplers, brake levers, door latches, and other details at this point.

Craftsman Level Kits

For many model railroaders who are fairly new to the hobby, the experience of opening a craftsman level kit can be a little intimidating and daunting.  However, if you’ve already assembled a few basic kits, putting a more advanced kit together is simply a matter of following the same type of steps as would apply to a less complex kit.

With that said, however, it would be a good idea if you slowed things down a bit as you move through each of the steps required to assemble a kit of this type.
Upgrading Your Freight Car

Improving the operation of your freight cars can be done by fine tuning or upgrading the couplers and wheel sets.
If your goal is to make your freight cars look more realistic, weathering is the perfect solution.

Finding a real life freight car that doesn’t present the effects of time and use is pretty difficult, and this is the appearance you want your cars to have as well, which will add an important touch of realism to your layout.  Often chalks are used for weathering.

However, before you begin a weathering project for your cars, you may want to make a trip to a local freight yard to observe and photograph prototype cars to use a guide.

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