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Peter's Model Railroading | Articles | Rolling Stock | PRR X37


For the actual construction, I decided that the roof was probably the easiest to start with. The inside of the roof has dimples matching the studs on the roofwalk. I measured the diameter of the studs, 3/32", and drilled matching holes in the roof.

However, when I inserted the roof walk, it was bowed in the middle, see photo. I decided to enlarge the holes ever so slightly using a 7/64" drill bit and that solved the problem.

I then used 5-minute epoxy to permanently attach the roofwalk to the roof. I put the assembly upside down and put some weights on it, to make sure the glue cured with a straight roofwalk (it did!).

The remaining parts on the roof were the two corner grab irons. This kit is extremely well-designed. However, its biggest weakness is that the sprues are massive compared to the tiny (even for S-scale) parts. I successfully removed one of the corner grab irons from the sprue, but the other one broke in half when I tried to cut it loose. I wound up having to make one myself from 0.019" phosphor bronze wire. These were attached using superglue. I tried using Testors plastic glue, but it didn't work for this kit's plastic. I used 5-minute epoxy where strength was needed and superglue for all other parts.

The next easiest step was to install the doors. These slide on and fit perfectly. I decided to glue mine closed because I didn't want to deal with detailing the interior of this car.

The car's underframe is where most of the kit's parts go. About halfway through this I got a copy of the instructions, but even with the instructions, you still can't figure out how to build it. However, the kit's parts have holes and other indents to give you a hint as to what goes where. I also consulted some online resources and magazine articles about typical AB brake system rigging. With all that information at my fingertips, I got most of it figured out. I removed the main underframe part from the sprue. Next, I carefully removed the train pipe line, which is the S-shaped wire. It is tedious to remove from the sprue and I nearly cut it in half in one area. This line fits in the cut-outs in the center sill and each of the underframe braces. There is only one way to get this to fit. After I had it lined up, I used superglue to mount it in place.

After studying all the other parts, I realized that the S-shaped wire was the only part that needed to go onto the underframe, and so I glued the underframe to the car body. I used 5-minute epoxy for that. I got an e-mail from Bill Winans indicating that these kits are rather light, so I took this opportunity to fill the center sill with lead shot and lots of superglue! This gives the car some low-center-of-gravity weight. It's not enough, but every bit helps.

The next photo shows where I am test-fitting the various main brake parts. The main rigging (see below the body in the photo) with the levers and brake cylinder was a real bear to remove from the sprue. Before I was done with all test fitting, the line between the two levers broke. Later on when all the parts were glued in place, I was able to line the lines up and put a dab of superglue on them to make them one again. However, my first task was to test-fit all the parts. I actually studied the S Helper Service X26 box car I have to see how they did it. The large reservoir with its two lines actually need to go in first. The reservoir has two prongs that slip into the two holes in the underside of the body. This then lines up the two lines with the AB control valve part (shown here above the car). The valve has one prong and there is a corresponding hole for it as well. The main brake rigging will lie on top of it all. Its brake cylinder also has one prong and there is also one hole for it.

So, I first glued the brake reservoir part to the body in with superglue. Then I glued the main brake rigging in. The bottom of the two levers have slight protrusions that line up with dimples in the center sill, so it is relatively easy to get them to go into the correct location. Next, I had to slightly trim off a small length from the two lines from the brake reservoir and the AB control valve fit in perfectly. There is actually a slight indent near the bottom of the AB control valve into which the two lines of the brake cylinder go. The one curved line from the brake cylinder lines up against the valve and a small drop of superglue held it in place. This close-up photo shows the parts in place. This completes the underframe work for now. More to come later.

To complete the brake system installation, the "B" (or brake) end of the body must be tackled next. The photo shows the first parts to be installed, which are the brake platform parts and the brake wheel with the brake wheel housing and chain. I had already cut out and installed the brake wheel to the brake wheel housing by the time I took this photo. The various parts had not yet been cleaned up.

The "B" end has a bunch of holes, and at first I was confused as to which one was for which part. In the photo, I identified them.

As I was trying to clean up the sprue cut-offs from the brake platform supports, they broke. I don't know if the plastic of the kit has become brittle, or if I am manhandling too hard. Either way, I wound up having to form my own using 0.019" phosphor bronze wire. The challenge is to get the two parts to match (which I wasn't after several tries). Several days after I had built these, I looked at the PRR prototype photo and noticed that they don't have the upward bend exposed above the platform, or at least I can't see it. So, if I were to do this again, I would just make a simple triangle for the support brackets.

If you look closely at the next photo, you'll see that I had to add a piece of styrene under the brake platform for it to be level. I am not good at forming several metal parts and have them be the exact same shape and size (a jig might help, but who wants to build a jig for two parts...). The brake wheel housing needs to be glued in place before the platform is installed. The brake wheel's chain hangs loose for now. Next, the bell crank can be installed under the body. I carefully inserted it into the brake wheel chain clip. It fits, but it is very tight, so be careful. When I got it to fit, I applied small drops of superglue to permanently attach the bell crank. This then actually completes the underbody brake work (but not the underbody work in general; more to come).

The hand brake retainer valve and line are next. They go to the left of the brake wheel housing and chain. Of course, as I was trying to free the part from the sprue, it broke right near the hand brake retainer valve. I decided to forego the plastic line. When I studied the prototype PRR "B" end, I noticed that that line is shaped differently than the one that comes with the kit, anyway. I formed a new one out of 0.019" phosphor bronze wire. The line goes under the body at an angle, and it winds up just to the right of the left hand grab iron. If you are following the kit, there are holes in the body into which the line fits. I filled the holes with a small dab of superglue, which will hide them when painted.

Next, I installed the "B" end ladder. The kit comes with a 7-rung ladder, which is correct for the 1937 AAR design of this box car, but the PRR used a 6-rung ladder. There was an additional grab iron bar where the 7th run would be. Also, the bottoms of the kit's side styles of the ladder are flat, however, the PRR's ladder is rounded, much like the kit's top. A quick filing did the trick there, after I cut off the 7th rung. I formed the bottom grab iron for 0.019" wire and installed it in the holes left for the kit's ladder (not yet done when I took the photo). Next, I installed the kit's grab iron on the lower, right-hand side of the end (also not shown yet). The two holes line up with the two prongs on the part. Again, one of mine broke during removal from the sprue, but it turns out you get more than you need anyway. What is shown in the photo are the two grab irons that come with the kit that were installed in the holes at the very bottom of the end's walls. These slide in and superglue was applied from the back. Note, however, after I received a high-resolution photo of the PRR prototype car, I discovered that the PRR's car didn't have those two grab irons at the very bottom of the ends. I need to go back and simply cut and file those off to better match the PRR car. The "A" end of the body is similar to the "B" end without all the brake equipment; just the ladder (cut down to 6 rungs), the extra 7th rung grab iron, the two bottom grab irons (which you should remove if you are modeling the PRR car), and the one on the lower right-hand side.

The sides are much simpler than the ends. The ladder on the sides is similar to the one on the ends. The PRR's version used only 6-rung ladders, with the "7th rung" replaced by a grab iron. That's what I did as shown in the photo. The grab iron was formed using 0.019" phosphor bronze wire.

The other side requires two grab irons, which are easy to install.

Next up are the stirrup steps at each corner. These are well-designed to guarantee correct line-up. They look like they can handle a beating too. However, because I used wire for the grab irons are the bottom, I had to file out a slight groove in the invisible area of the parts to clear the wires' protrusions. No big deal. A dab of superglue and a quick squeeze with the tweezers locked the part in position.

The air hose and a short section of line were installed next. A hole in the underbody matches the prong of the air hose valve part. The line disappears into an opening in the underframe's bracket. You can line it up with the train pipe line that was installed earlier, if so desired.

Now that all the underbody work is done, I superglued the loose ends of the various lines and held them in place with a couple of erasers while the glue set.

My kit didn't come with the trucks, so I can't comment on whether the ones that originally came with it were accurate for the model. The odd thing about the prototype trucks is that they used one leaf spring and one conventional coil spring. I may kitbash these down the road from a set of American Models caboose trucks. For now I am using a spare pair of trucks I have, so please ignore their styling in these photos. It seems that the 2-56 screw is the right size for the tube that is molded into the body. It is a hollow tube, so you need to tap it for the screw threads first. This is a tedious step and very important to get it straight and perpendicular to the car's body.

After I tapped the holes, I installed the trucks. I also used a washer, because I thought that the wheels would hit the underbody detail.

However, when I put the car on my coupler height check jig, I discovered that it was too tall by just the washer's thickness. The washers will not be used later on when the model is finished. If I discover problems with the wheels hitting the underbody detail, I will trim the details. My philosophy is that I want as much detail on my cars as is possible, but if it interferes with its running ability, the detail will have to give. The photo is of the car as it stands now.

The kit comes with four large boards and two small ones. One large board goes on each door. There are no mounting holes for these, so they are attached with some superglue on the back and then quickly and carefully placed before the glue sets. Using 5-minute epoxy might have been a better alternative since that gives you some working time to get them lined up correctly.

The other two large boards are used on the car's ends. However, I noticed that the ones on the PRR's box car are offset from the end with some brackets. I formed the brackets from some brass flat stock that I had on hand (0.015" x 0.042"). If I had had thinner stock on hand, I would have preferred it. Of course, I was back at my issue of forming, in this case four, identical metal parts and my inability to accomplish that. So, I tried and tried, and eventually got it. I threw several away, and re-bent some several times to get it right. Here is a close-up photo of one set. The ends will be trimmed to very near the last bent before installation. One has been superglued to the back of the large board already. If any one knows if these parts are available commercially, I'd be interested.

Here is a photo of one of them installed. The bottom end of the mounting bracket goes on the top rib of the bottom five dreadnaughts, and the top bracket goes onto the second one from the bottom of the top half. I never did find photographic evidence of the small boards, included with the kit, on the prototype PRR photos, so I omitted them from my model.

With the lead shot I installed in the center sill and the trucks, the model weighs 4.8oz, which is about 1 ounce short of the recommended 5.75oz for a 40-foot model. I installed two 1/4oz weights over each truck. I believe these are made by A-Line and I had bought them at a local model railroad store many years ago. They have strong double-sided tape on them, so they go on quickly and permanently. (Later on when the car was finished, I wished I had put more weight in the car.)

The roof snaps into the body and will firmly stay in place that way. However, since I use my models for local train shows, I glued mine down. I used 5-minute epoxy. I carefully applied a thin bead of glue to the inside edges of the body and some to the inside top of the end walls. The roof doesn't fully overlap the body's sides, so be careful about using too much glue. After installing the roof, I put some metal weights on the roof to hold it down while the glue set. The next photo shows the car ready for the paint shop.