You might have heard the term "Get your ears lowered" whenever your hair got too long and those "pesky" parents commented on it.

Well on my railroad there have been some cars that needed their "ears lowered" for some time now.

I'm talking about the S scale (sort of) Auto carriers Lionel has produced for us.

You've seen them in the O27 auto carriers with S gauge trucks.

They are OK for what they are but I always thought they could look a bit more true to scale if they didn't have those "Ears" at the top of the car that held the top of the ladder.

What I wanted to get was the more streamlined look that real auto carriers have with the ladder recessed on the side of the car.

So it was time to "Lower some ears". All of my auto carriers are reconverted O27 cars that I modified myself by adding S gauge trucks. I don't have a lot of $$ invested in any of them so cutting and modifying them wasn't a big problem for me. (It would take nerves of steel to do this cutting on a brand new S scale auto carrier car that cost $70.00+).

It's fairly simple.

1. Remove ladders.

2. Carefully cut off the ears at the top of the car ends.

3. Touch up paint at ear locations or apply a sticker to this area such as 

4. Add stirrup to ladder holes at chassis or cover with another sticker

5. Glue doors shut if desired.

6. Shorten ladder and glue to side of car near car ends.

It would be best to have a junker O27 scale car to practice on. My initial car turned out "OK" but it could have been done more carefully. The initial problem is how to trim off the ears without doing any damage to other parts of the car. I chose to use a thin flush cut saw and a block plane. If I do it again I will use the thin saw and a very sharp chisel to carefully pare away the plastic until it is smooth with the length of the car roof line.

Instead of using touch up paint that most likely won't match I see nothing wrong with adding an "Excess Car Height" sticker printed on a computer. I usually use 8 1/2 X 11 label paper to print stickers like this.

Another sticker or conspicuity striping could also be used to cover the ladder holes in the chassis edge. The doors could be made to open but won't slide to the side anymore.

The ladder height trim is easy as is gluing it to the car side. Measure, cut, glue.

I don't think the car needs stirrups below the ladders.

The dimensions of the car remain about the same now but the ear removal helps out appearance-wise I think. ~68' long, 19' 6" high (my cars), 11' wide at roof, 11'6" wide at floor. Here's some pics of the modified cars:

Ears 1Ears 2Ears 3Ears 4Ears 5

I'm going to do other cars like this but really take care on the trimming first patient lived but has a few scars. Pictures 2, 3 and 4 give you a good view of the now recessed ladder. I still have to cover up the ladder holes on the car floor when I get my stickers printed. Pictures 2 and 5 show the slightly slimmer look of the roof line.







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A suggestion that I can not take credit for, take one of the cars to Home Depot and have them match the paint. I have a pair of SD-60s that had been badly abused, I went to get matching paint at my LHS but a couple of tries failed. Ed Goldin suggested the Depot for the paint, nearly perfect color match in satin finish, and about $3.00 for a  trial jar will do all your cars and enough left for the rest of your local club.


It's been a while since this post was active but I've made a few further mods to the Lionel O27 closed auto carriers.

One of the easiest fixes was how to camouflage the edges of the roof where the "ears" were removed. As it turns out nearly all of the roofs on these cars are either white or silver. I found some 1/8" wide pin striping in both white and silver at my local O-Reilly auto parts store:


That was a big help as the roof edges are exactly 1/8" thick and the colors of the pin stripe match the roof colors perfectly. After applying the pin stripe along the entire length of the roof edge I rolled over it with a paperhanger's seam roller to really secure the tape. That solved the roof issues.





I also bought a roll of PRISMA pinstripe to place on the bottom edge of some of the cars if desired. It is 1/4" wide (same as the car bottom edge) and has a neat reflective quality that can be a poor man's conspicuity striping like some rail cars have. Some cars have both ends of the bottom edge left blank without any script like that shown on the green Katy car. That's a good place to apply this reflective tape. Or you could just 45 degree angle cut the edges and add some short lengths just where desired.



Secondly I wasn't satisfied with the look of the recessed ladders so I had a second go at them. The fix was to highlight the rungs and sides of the ladders with a fine point black magic marker prior to gluing them to the recessed car sides:


Since the ladder pieces are molded in the same color as the car when glued in the recess you get a sort-of 3-D effect. Pretty convincing to the eye.

After this fix the car doors were essentially non-opening but that's OK by me. You can't see any autos loaded inside of these cars anyway.

Thirdly I decided to use the holes in the lower edge of the car ends to add some stirrups. I used some 1/4" wide staples that I cut down in length, bent to the desired size and glued them into the frame with hot glue:


You can see the stirrups stuck in the glue here:


Lastly I thought about adding weight to these cars like I did with the open Lionel O27 auto racks in another post. I didn't use the stick-on wheel weights with these closed cars as they were too thick and were visible from the car sides. So I stuck with the fender washers that I applied originally in two pairs of 2 each:


The cars ride steady and don't wobble with theses weight attached as they have a good weight to them with a low center of gravity:


None of these mods will ever be a replacement for a scale sized auto rack but at 68' in  S scale length these cars are about the longest you can easily run on R20 curves without taking out track side scenery or lantern housings on turnouts.

Best of all they are cheap (like me) if you search for them second hand at train shows.





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Brendan posted:

Nice work.  Biggest issue I have with my conversions is that the doors never seem to stay closed and on some, they fall off.  I had to glue strips on to keep them tight.  


I had that problem with a few also. The little "nubs" on the top and bottom of the doors were worn down so they wouldn't stay closed. When I glued the ladders onto the recessed area of the side I made sure that some of the glue connected the ladder to the door. They are now glued firmly shut.


I use 527 glue from's really good stuff and it dries clear.






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I don't have the issue of not being able to tighten loose trucks as all of mine are secured with a threaded screw into a solid block of Plexiglas glued to the underside of the floor.


It ain't pretty but it holds them securely without needing a nut inside the car to hold a machine screw.

Using magnets would be a good idea as well.


I don't have the issue of not being able to tighten loose trucks as all of mine are secured with a threaded screw into a solid block of Plexiglas glued to the underside of the floor.


I toyed around with magnets.  I tried one gluing a washer to the floor and glued a 2mm magnet to one door and added a strip to the edge of the other door.  After doing one, I decided it was just easier to just add the strip and add some friction to the one door.

All in all, it's been fun doing my own cars.  I bought the hot wheels ones and converted them although I didn't move the trucks outward, I extended the coupler mount like the flyer ones.  Too bad the center beams weren't good candidates.





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