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Peter's Model Railroading | Articles | Rolling Stock | B&O M53
Construction: Painting


I decided to tape off the bottom edges of the inside of the car body before painting so that there will be two unpainted sides touching each other when the underframe is installed in the body later on. That way the glue will be bonding the resin parts rather than bonding the two paint layers.

I followed the instructions exactly and bought a bottle of Polyscale's "Special Oxide Red". I mixed it 30% paint and 70% isopropyl alcohol. I had no problems airbrushing the body and the two doors (done separately). I had never used Polyscale paint in an airbrush, and this was my first time ever airbrushing a car body. I am quite happy with how it turned out. The paint dried quickly, so it was easy to keep adding thin layers of paint. Also, the paint dried flat not glossy. I airbrushed the inside of the car the same color. I have not yet decided whether I will have the doors opened or closed on the model, so I painted the inside in case I decided to have one or both doors open.

I let the body dry for several days before I moved on to the next step. Wearing disposable gloves I worked the underframe into the body. First, I had to grind down some of the grab iron wires that stuck through the body and interfered with where the underframe was to go. I had forgotten to grind some of them down before painting. Installing the underframe was no trivial task. You have to be very careful about all the delicate details on the body, and be mindful not to put too much pressure on the wrong places. Also, the underframe has to go in one particular direction to correctly match the "B" end of the car. Looking at photos in the instructions helped me figure this out. The body has molded on plates that wrap around the center sill where the coupler draft box is. These plates are way too close together for the center sill to fit through. At first I started filing away at their vertical, inside edge to make the gap between them larger. However, I had virtually filed away all their material and the center sill still didn't fit. My final solution was just to cut off the part of the plates that stuck out below the car's body. That was the final issue, which, when resolved, allowed the underframe to go into the body. The photo shows the underframe installed in the body.

I just added a few drops of superglue here and there between the body and the underframe, but it is in there very tight.

Now that the body is attached to the underframe, several interconnecting pieces need to be installed. I fabricated a U-shaped bracket from styrene to which the slack adjuster is to be connected. This could have been done before and it would have been airbrushed the same color as the underframe. A victim of the kit's instructions kind of being all over the place. However, I can hand paint this little bit. This photo also shows the slack adjuster glued into place. Careful studying of the photos helped me to figure out where it was to go. Not shown in the photo is a piece of brass wire that was glued between the two parts. I also decided to ignore the chain links under the U-shaped bracket made out of styrene, because they aren't going to be visible, really.

Next, I added the tack board on the side. The kit's instructions make mention of being era-appropriate, but they fail to mention which parts are to be included for which period. I therefore decided to add this tack board. Hey, at least it adds more detail to the model!

After I had added the above-mentioned details and hand-painted them, I spray-painted Testors "Gloss cote" to protect the paint finish and to prepare for applying the decals. I wanted to finish applying all the remaining details so that I don't have to handle the model as much after the decals have been applied. First, I needed to install the air hoses. Installing the air hoses was a bit of a challenge, because their installation is not covered in the instructions. However, the prototype photos that come with the kit are of tremendous help here. I bought several different brands of air hoses and the kit comes with a sprue of air hoses as well. I decided on the P-B-L ones (part no. PBL-555) because they are made out of actual rubber, just like in the real world. In the future I might experiment with tiny powerful magnets to actually make the air hoses hook up, so I need flexible ones. Also, since these air hoses are quite exposed, it is easy for them to break off. The rubber ones provide some give. With that decided, I now needed a way to mount those to the body. Looking at the prototype photos I realized they just used a metal bar bent three ways and somehow mounted under the car body. I cut a piece of 0.005" thick brass (would have preferred something a bit thicker, but that's all I had on hand) and bent it in the way it is shown in the prototype photos. I drilled a hole in the vertical surface of the brass strip that matched the diameter of the air hose and superglued them together. After that dried, I bent the air line out of the way (temporarily), and superglued the brass strip to the underside of the frame. Studying the prototype photos, I decided the vertical surface needs to be about even with the front edge of the coupler pocket.
(external link: PBL-555)

I bent the airline back to line it up to the air hose. I trimmed it just short of where the air hose is. Next, I used gel superglue to form a connection between the airline and the air hose. This is shown in the close-up photo. Next, I worked on the stirrups. The brass material for them is provided in the kit. There is no detailed information provided in the kit as to where to place them, so studying of prototype photos was once again necessary. The prototype photos that come with the instructions show no clear picture of the stirrups. The prototype car I am following shows a side view (see the home page of this project), so from that I was able to deduce the shape, location, and size of the stirrups. I settled on making their height approximately the same distance from the bottom of the car body as the distance between the grab irons on the body. They were attached using superglue.

I postponed dealing with the coupler because I wasn't comfortable making a decision early on as to how to mount it. The photos in the kit's instructions show a mounting post cast into the center sill of the car's underframe, but the final production kit doesn't have that (as seen in my photo above). I presume that this was done to maximize the flexibility as to which coupler to use, but it does significantly complicate the matter. My current standard is the Proto Max HO-scale coupler, but I will switch to the Sergent S-scale coupler when it comes out. The inner diameter of the Proto Max coupler's mounting hole is 1/8". The Proto Max draft gear box doesn't fit in the provided space. I decided to just mount the coupler itself and forego the centering spring. This is how the Sergent coupler will behave, and it simplifies the installation. However, I needed to mount a post in the end of the center sill that is to hold the coupler in place. I spent a couple of days thinking about it and the final solution is shown in the photos below. I started off by making a 0.030" styrene pad that fits the inside of the center sill, one for each end of the car, shown in the photo. The corners had to be chamfered off to make it fit in the car. I then found a piece of brass tubing whose outer diameter fit in the mounting hole of the coupler, and whose inner diameter provided enough space of the mounting screw. I then drilled a matching hole in the styrene pad where the tube needs to go so that the coupler sticks out the right distance. This hole in the pad holds the brass tube in place and prevents the coupler from being pulled out of the coupler "pocket".

I then measured and cut another 0.030" styrene pad for the "top" side of the coupler pocket. I drilled a matching hole for the brass tube.

Next, I used the Dremel tool with a cut-off wheel to cut a small piece of the brass tubing, filed it down, and placed it into the hole of the pad in the bottom of the center sill. Nothing is glued down.

The coupler goes in next. I have to hold it, because the weight of the coupler will make the brass tube fall out.

I drilled and tapped a hole in the center of where the tube will be into the bottom of the car. This is for a 2-56 machine screw. I tried to make the hole as deep as possible, but eventually you hit the edge of the car body. The next photo shows the top pad installed and the screw and washer used to mount the whole coupler assembly to the car. If you want automatic centering of the coupler, you can add a small piece of thin brass behind the coupler; its flat back will rub against the brass sheet and will "force" it back into the centered position. The whole assembly is loose other than for the screw, so it will be easy to swap out couplers or try another solution down the road if this experiment fails to deliver.

The final detail I wanted to add to the car are the uncoupling levers. After forming the levers out of some brass wire, I determined where the eyebolts were to go and drilled holes for them. I used Tichy Train Group eyebolts (part #3037). I threaded the eyebolts onto the lever, pushed the eyebolts into their holes, and superglued them to the car.
(external link: part #3037)

The next step was to paint all the details added above. The ones that are part of the underframe were brush-painted to match the underframe, and the ones visible when the car is in its normal, upright position were painted to match the body. I couldn't wait to try the car out on the layout. The photo is of its maiden voyage on my layout. It ran flawlessly, although the couplers needed to be broken free of the paint that got them stuck. Even though the couplers don't have a centering feature, they seemed to work well.

This over-exposed, close-up photo shows the coupler in action. The air hose didn't interfere with the coupler even in my tightest curve. I made no adjustment to the truck or coupler height, and, as you can see, the coupler sits at the perfect height.

Now that all the parts are installed and the body has been sprayed to have a glossy surface, the decals are next. The kit's instructions show the overall schemes used by the Baltimore & Ohio railroad. I decided on the "Post War 13 Great States" scheme which was in effect from 1946 through 1955. I chose the lowest road number available in the decal sheet and the oldest construction date. Ultimately the type and placement of the decals was determined by the prototype photo shown on the "Prototype Information" page. I tried to follow that as best I could. I did several extensive searches on the Web to find prototype photos, and also used the photos that come with the kit to help narrow-down what was applicable and what wasn't for my time period. For example, the circle-T logo indicates that the car was part of the "Timesaver" program, but that program wasn't started until March, 1950. I decided to leave it off because the "Timesaver" program was run on dedicated trains, and so they would probably not be found as part of a PRR train. Placing decals on the long sides worked very well. I followed the steps in the kit's instructions about how to apply the decals. I found that I had to apply more isopropyl alcohol. I eventually settled on dipping the brush directly in the alcohol, hit the brush on the inside of the bottle, and then dipped it into the mixture described in the instructions. This made it easy to move the decals around and get them to stay in the right place. The harder part was applying the decals on the ends of the car. I finally build a set-up shown in the next photo (all foam pads) to protect the details on one end while having a flat, horizontal surface on the other end onto which to place the decals. I had no decals tear or break on me, but I took my time and was extremely careful with them. After all the decals dried overnight (it took me about three days of evening hours to apply all the decals), I sprayed a second coat of Testors' Glosscote over the model to protect the decals. The next day I sprayed a thin coat of Testor's Dullcote.

The next step is to weather the whole model. I started with the wheels and the truck. The next photo shows the tread on the wheels polished off. I am using the S-Helper Service AAR 70 ton friction bearing trucks (part #00001) for this model. It looks remarkably close to the trucks shown in prototype photos. The blackened wheel treads don't look realistic. I used my Dremel tool to polish off the material. I started with the softest disc and worked my way up until I got one that worked. This photo shows the wheels' faces painted with Floquil "Rail Brown". I got the tip from the April, 2010 Model Railroader magazine article titled "How To Weather a Diesel Locomotive" (pg 35). I used a micro brush to paint the face and it worked well.

The next two photos show the car just before the dreaded weathering session. Weathering a car makes me nervous (as it does a lot of modelers), because once the weathering is applied, there's no way back. I took these photos to remind me what the car looked like before I did the deed. :-)

I followed John Pryke's article in the February 2003 Model Railroader magazine which shows how he does his freight car weathering using an airbrush (including which paints, and car type-specific information). I decided to go easy on the weathering for this car. Hey, I spent a lot of time building it and I didn't want to "ruin" it with the last step! As can be seen on the next photo, what I did was airbrush a light coat of Polly Scale "Dust" in between the ribs of the car's sides. Then I airbrushed Floquil "Grimy Black" on the ribs. Next, a thin layer of dust was added to the underframe and the bottom edges of the car using Polly Scale "Earth". The car's ends received two "stripes" of "Earth" about where the wheels are to indicate dust deposited by leading and trailing cars. The last step was to airbrush Floquil "Engine Black" on the length of the car's roof to represent the soot deposited by steam locomotives. Compare against the photo above to see the subtle differences.