S Scale America (Des Plaines Hobbies) released this kit during the 2013 NASG Convention in Scranton, PA. I ordered mine two months later. The box' label clearly indicates which version I bought.
This is what's inside the box. A two-page instruction set, a metal weight, and all the styrene pieces that make up the kit itself. It does not contain couplers, nor trucks (which is clearly stated on their web site).
I found quite a bit of flash hiding here and there, so be sure to check for that. These are the four main walls that make up the car body. On the car's sides, be sure to put the latch (on the left of the door opening) toward the bottom, so that the wall is oriented correctly.
This was my setup for lining up one end and one side piece. I used Testors liquid cement for the construction. When these pieces were lined up correctly, I used a small paint brush to put one drop of glue on the top of the corner. After that had a chance to dry, I came back and added more glue on the inside of the corner. I build two of these sub-assemblies. Make sure that the two walls are upside-down, and sit on a smooth, flat surface. I use a piece of glass for that.
And here they are, ready to go together. Again, I put them together upside-down, so that the top of the car winds up being perfectly even.
With the car body assembled and dry, I could work on installing the roof. I did a dry-run test fit and it fit perfectly.
With the roof attached, the walkway was next. Lots of flash to remove on this part.
This is a close-up photo of the walkway being glued to the roof. The key here is to make sure that the roof is flat and touches each of the roof support brackets. The way I did this was a two-step process. I put a small drop of glue in the roof's holes where the mounting pins of the walkway go. I then quickly installed the walkway, and then placed these weights on it. A side-profile glance helped me to verify that the walkway went on there straight. When that had dried, I followed it up with a careful application of a tiny amount of glue at each of the roof support brackets. I then put the weights on the walkway again and let it all dry. When dry, I glued the lateral (shorter) walkway sections to the roof.
Next, my attention turned to the underframe. The instructions indicate that the ends of the underframe piece need to be filed down such that they only stick out away from the bolster by 0.090". I did that, even though I don't use the Kadee couplers. I will adjust this later when I actually install the couplers. There was quite a bit of flash on this part too. Before gluing the underframe to the underside of the floor board, I put all the individual parts, including the metal plate on a digital scale to see how much it all weighed. I don't have any trucks for this car yet, but the whole thing came in at 6.0 ounces, which is about 0.25 ounces too heavy for an S-scale 40-foot car. The reason I wanted to do this now, is that if I needed to add some weight, I would have glued some lead shot in between the center sill frame members before gluing it to the floor board. The lead shot doesn't fit through the gap between the sill frame members. However, that was not needed, so I glued the underframe to the floor board. Be sure to follow the directions in the instructions on how to orient the underframe relative to the floor board.
The instructions mention to glue the "intermediate cross bearers" to the underframe. I had no idea what they were, so I dug through the box to look for four identical pieces. I decided that these rectangular blocks were it, and then glued them in place, with their open face out, as per the instructions.
With the underframe done for now, I decided to test fit it and the metal plate on to the body. There is a ridge line molding inside the body that stops the underframe from going too far into the body. However, when I tried to fit the metal plate, which fit inside the body just perfectly, by the way, I noticed that it was going to rub up against the corner mold line. So, I carved a bit of that away in each corner (see the orange line in the photo). Note: as you will see later when I install the metal plate, you may need remove more of this mold if your plate doesn't sit directly on top of the underframe.
Then, I tried fitting the underframe. So far I was pretty impressed with the kit because everything fit just right. However, much to my surprise, and dismay, I discovered that the underframe was much too wide, by about 0.060". I thought about how to remove that much material, i.e. 0.030" from each side evenly and still keep the underframe square. After sleeping on it for a night, the next day I remembered my wooden block-with-sandpaper-glued-to-it that I use for evening-out ties after they have been hand-laid. This is long and straight.
It took me a while, but I eventually whittled the underframe down until it fit. This photo shows me test-fitting the underframe. The metal plate is in the foreground. By the way, the instructions state that no weight is provided, yet my kit came with this plate, so I presume that Des Plaines decided to add it to the kit after the instructions had been written. A styrene freight car is quite light, so this plate is very helpful.
I put the underframe aside and started working on adding the various body details. I started with the door slides. Several rivets have to be removed to get this to fit snug against the body. Do remember to drill out the holes in the body.
The casting of the other piece was not 100%, so there was a gap in the parts. I cleaned up the ends and then installed the two parts. When dry, I fabricated a tiny piece of strip styrene and glued it in between. In the photo I still need to file it down to match the profile of the door slides.
These neat bracket grabs are extremely delicate. You need 8 of them (four per corner), and luckily the kit comes with extras. By the time I was done, I had one to spare. You have to be very careful in removing them from the sprue, but a lot of them broke when I was trying to file the ends down from where the sprue cutting remaining. Carefully hold the entire piece in between your finger and thumb, and lightly file the ends. I don't know if it would have been better to first glue them to the body and then try to file off the sprue remains.
Next up were the ladders, two at each corner. Upon further reflection later on, I realized that I should have glued the ladders up against the body. That is what it looks like on prototype photos. It would cause too much damage to the body for me to try to fix that now, but I wanted to post this note just in case you are looking at this as a guide. Also shown in the photo are the simple grab irons that sit at the very bottom. These are connected to the sprue in their centers, and removing that sprue left-over was also tedious. I wound up using a benchvise, put them in at an angle, put just enough pressure on them to hold them in place without crushing them, and then carefully using a small file to remove the excess material. I was able to keep all four of them intact while doing all that. Note that you do not get any spare ones of these.
The instructions tell you to work on the brake parts next. However, the kit comes with KD brakes. Starting in the 1940s, the Pennsylvania Railroad started replacing them with AB brakes on these cars. I am going to use the Grandt Line AB brakes. While I am waiting for my order to arrive, I decided that I don't need access to the interior of the car, so I started working on permanently installing the underframe. The bolsters on this kit are solid plastic, so it should be no problem getting the truck mounting screw to get a good "bite" into the plastic. However, just to be on the safe side, I decided to add an additional piece of scale 12"x12" styrene block right above where the screw would sit. Note the black dot on the underframe. This was because after sanding the long sides of the underframe, it fit into the body in one direction better than the other direction. There is a similar dot inside the body, so that when I mount the underframe in the body, it is in the correct orientation.
Because I am now going to glue the underframe to the body, the metal plate has to go in first. In this photo, with the body upside-down, the plate is loose on the roof. I slipped the underframe in place, and then used the Testors glue to glue it to the body.
Next, I mixed up some five-minute epoxy and applied it to the top of the scale 12"x12" styrene blocks with a long stick. When I flipped the body over, the metal plate could then be pressed on to the blocks with the glue. After 5 minutes, the weight was in there permanently. Note that if you are going to model the doors open, this approach isn't going to work, because the metal plate now "floats" 12" above the floor. If the doors are going to be open, the metal plate is going to be visible anyway.
The brake platform has been installed.
Installing the door was trivial. I noticed on prototype photos that the door hanging rail at the top goes out as far to the right as the bottom rail does. The model doesn't have that, so I fabricated an extension piece from some strip styrene.
I also discovered that I had forgotten to bend down and glue the two strips that attach the roof walk to the top of the car body. I warmed them up with my breath and then gently bent them down. Only one of the four broke, however the glue "re-attached" the piece again.
Here's a photo of my interpretation of the under-body brake system using the Grandt Line AB components. I am not a brake expert, so do not necessarily use my part-layout as a go-by. I found some screws that matched the hole for mounting the trucks. I had to drill out the top of the hole a little bit, but then used the screw as the "die" to make the screw thread inside the hole. A last pair of trucks I found were installed next.
And here's an overall view of the car as it stands now. Shortly after I took this photo I discovered that my brake wheel was missing. I later on found it, but that made me aware that having an exposed brake wheel like that isn't going to last long when I take this car to shows. I am going to remove that and replace it with the standard AB brake wheel housing on the end of the car.
I drilled and enlarged a hole in the brake platform. The brake platform is not the correct one for these types of brake systems, but I didn't feel like scratch-building a whole new one. I then installed the Grandt Line AB brake housing with wheel. I attached the part on the bottom of the car (fulcrum? I don't know what that is called), and then carefully attached the brown rod. With those in place and thoroughly dry, I was able to use a piece of the chain material that comes with the Grandt Line kit and carefully glue it with superglue to the two brake parts.
I found a prototype photo of the B side of the car, so I followed it as best I could. I added three long grab irons, made out of 0.019" brass wire, and a scratch-built tack board, which was built matching the size and location of the one on the prototype. I don't have a good photo of the A end of the car, so I left that one as per the kit. The only thing remaining is installing some bracket arms under the overhang of the walkway (which didn't come with the kit, by the way!), and then the car is ready for the paint shop. I will deal with the couplers after the painting.
This kit does not come with brackets for under the ends of the walkway, so I made some from brass flat stock. Not perfect, but good enough.
A few days after I posted the photo about the "B" end of the car, I did find a prototype photo in my "stash" of the "A" end of the car. It turned out to be very similar to the "B" end, so I brought all the tools back out and finished up the "A" end on the model, as shown below.