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For those of you modelling 3RS steam - what line of Single / Double sheathed boxcars do you prefer (40' & 50')?  Weaver (Crown), Atlas Trainman, MTH Premier, Lionel, Atlas Master?   Do you all inter-mix all the lines - or avoid using some with others? 

I'm looking at modelling early 40s ATSF in Kansas - with some pass through equipment from MKT, Frisco, Rock Island, Wabash, MoPac, KCS -  roads I remember south of the river in Topeka as a kid - with a couple from where I live now (StL).

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I have pretty much all that are mentioned. My favorite is probably the Atlas 40 footers. Can be found reasonably priced and with the diecast chassis they are nicely weighted.

My home road is the Rutland. They only rostered one OB Single sheathed car. Was a CN car they fished out of a river. I could have added decals to a production car and no one probably would have questioned. The car had wooden ends. Working just from photos. I decided to use a Mainline Models wood kit mated to an Atlas chassis. Sort of a Hybrid build. It won’t win any contests but it is different and a little more prototypical.



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CMP offered a single sheath 40' box car in several liveries including Santa Fe.  John Smith offered double door double sheathed 50' box cars in two series with at least four Santa Fe numbers in each series.  He also offered at least one with opening end doors.  Lionel currently offers double door double sheathed 50' box cars in at least five Santa Fe numbers. John


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  • Pecos River Santa Fe tool car
Last edited by rattler21

I’ve got CMP, Weaver, Atlas, and MTH single sheath cars and a few of the Lionel double sheath cars. The Atlas and MTH cars are my favorite. They both have nice detail and a good weight. The CMP/Weaver cars are a little light and have a lot of molded in detail, still nice cars though. The Lionel models have great detail but are on the light side.

If you are buying SS or DS cars all with the same road name, I’d stay with one manufacturer.  This way they all look the same.

I’ve done this with my PRR X-29 boxcars.  The different manufacturers make the shell a little different, or the markings are place differently, and some of these differences are noticeable.  To have a consistent PRR fleet I’ve settled on Atlas O X-29s.

The Weaver/CMP car is a model of a different prototype than the Atlas OSB car.    I think it is a newer prototype built for a number of Western roads.     There was an extensive article on prototype in Railroad Model Craftsman magazine in the 90s.     I compared the car models I had with drawings and they worked out pretty well.  

Atlas cars are models of the USRA prototype, designed and mostly built around 1920 when the Government took control for the RRs late in WWI and proposed all new equipment to a group of Standard Designs specified by the United States Railroad Administration (USRA).    The USRA developed designs for many steam engines and many freight cars including boxcars, hoppers, and gondolas.    I don't know if they got into passenger cars or not.

So the Weaver/CMP car can be a nice variant that is supposed to be different than the USRA cars. 

I think the MTH OSB car is also a USRA model.    I don't know much about the Lionel and MTH products.   I have seen a few MTH and they appear to be the same as Atlas

I didn't know Pecos River (John Smith) ever did any woodside cars in plastic.    I have seen lots and lots of the 50 ft boxcars in plastic.

As for all looking the same, that idea does apply to the bodies, but I think in terms of paint and even lettering, it might be more prototypical to mix as long as  you stay within the era you model.   Older paint schemes can always be seen in later times, but newer ones should not be.    Also, paint fades and peels and what not and older paints in the steam era were not as good as newer ones, so they faded and wore faster.    So different shades of the same color are probably more prototypical in a train.    The various cars would have been built and/or painted at different times and hence faded differently.     Also where they traveled might cause more or less paint damage.

Single sheathed boxcars just look neater than the "normal" steel 40' cars. I just finished detailing/painting two of them, to give you an idea of how to make them a little more varied. First is a Central Vermont car, from a Weaver model.

Model 4Model 3

Second is a Pacific Electric car,  Southern Pacific class B-50-13 rebuilt with steel ends. I started with an MTH USRA car as the base. The lift rungs were removed and replaced with brass ladder castings on this car, and then used Central Vermont car above.

Model 5Model 6

Also added a load in the Pacific Electric car - California oranges.

Model 8Model 9



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  • Model 3
  • Model 5
  • Model 6
  • Model 8
  • Model 9
  • Model 4

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