I have a small train layout and cannot run the full size 21" passenger cars from Lionel or K-line but always liked the look of the Union Pacific's dome observation lounge car. So to get a flat or blunt end cap for my 18" Union Pacific dome car I realized I was going to have to create one myself. The observation dome car in the center of the photo below is how my new end cap looks snapped onto one of my existing K-Line dome cars. Also, here is a walk through for anybody that wants to create their own end cap for a 18" K-Line K4960-38003 Union Pacific dome car to make it look like a 9000 series dome observation lounge car.
Finding a suitable donor for the end cap. From what I have read on this forum K-Line made five different "flat end" or "blunt end" passenger cars with end caps that would fit my existing 18” Union Pacific dome car.
1. Union Pacific, 9002, K4690-49002
2. DL&W, Phoebe Snow, Tavern Lounge, K-4638-10790
3. PRR, The Congressional, George Washington, K4680-?
4. PRR, The Spirit of St. Louis, Alexander Johnston Cassatt, K4680-38424
5. Rock Island, Golden State, Golden Divian, K4632-0479
After studying the photos, I found three of these K-Line cars used the same exact plastic mold for the window locations, tail lights and handrails as the 21” long Union Pacific K4690-49002 I was trying to duplicate. So, the easiest route would be to purchase one of these other three cars for its parts and simply paint the end cap Yellow and Gray. Well, after hunting for several months none of these other three flat end cars came up for purchase. At this point my only choice was to buy one of the many 18" Golden State passenger cars part# K4632-0479 for sale on eBay and try to cut rear windows into the end cap. I looked around and found an 18” Golden Divan car selling for $40.00 and clicked “Buy Now”.
My 18" Golden State donor car arrived and I quickly started disassembling it. I hoped the end cap was going to be a direct fit onto my existing Union Pacific dome car but it did not. I found the inside plastic mounting tab on the new end cap needed to be extended because it was not long enough to bolt onto the passenger cars black metal frame. Also, to make this new end cap fit correctly I had to trim back some of the lower silver skirt edges (as seen in the photo below).
"Point of no Return"
a. Trim the silver bottom edges. b. Cut in two new rear windows. c. Remove the Golden State sign. Cutting in the new windows was a challenge. I wanted the new window dimensions to be the same as the existing rear center window. But to look like the real Union Pacific car the new windows also had to be lower so they were inline with the passenger windows along the side of the car. As it turned out the bottom of the existing red paint line was the perfect height for the base of two new rear windows. All I had to do was cut very, very slow and keep the windows square.
The disassembly was going well, but I still had to choose which year of Union Pacific dome observation car was I going to model.
Version A. In April 1955 Union Pacific received their first order of 9000 series dome observation lounge cars from the American Car Foundry. These 9000 series dome observation cars had two rear windows, red marker lights mounted on the left and right sides, flush mounted rear door with a window, center mounted red mars light and white back up light, safety bar mounted below the rear window and a City of Los Angeles, City of Portland or City of St. Louis neon tail sign.
Version B. By mid 1956 the Union Pacific figured out they could get more cash revenue from the bar sales if the bar inside the observation lounge car was in the middle of the train and not the rear. Also, these observation cars added extra time at the stations because they had to remove the end observation car every time they added more Pullman sleepers as the train crossed the country. So, all the 9000 series observation lounge cars were modified for mid train use by October of 1956. American Car Foundry did this by moving the rear door inward, removing the side marker lights, removing the rear facing lights, blanking off the two rear windows and adding diaphragms.
Version C. and D. Currently only the 9009 (aka City of San Francisco) can run at the end of a train when the Union Pacific takes it out for excursion runs. The Union Pacific has modified the 9009 to current safety standards with three rear red lights, a modern diaphragm and reinstalled the two rear windows. Sometimes they even hang a City of Los Angeles neon tail sign on the rear of the 9009 for fun.
I liked the classic look, so I chose the original April 1955 configuration. This meant sanding off the existing roof mount that held the five Golden State tail lights and adding a new roof mount for the red Mars light and white backup light. I used micro filler putty to fill the holes left in the roof after sanding. This was also a good time to relocate the safety bar to its correct location below the center rear window (instead of across the middle of the window).
Day-6, 7, 8, 9, 10, 11 through 20
"Yellow paint is really difficult..."
I went to my local hobby store with my K-Line car to buy Union Pacific Armour Yellow and Harbor Mist Gray. They said sorry, they would not be able to exactly match my K-Line paint. Apparently K-Line paint is a slightly different shade Armour Yellow than Lionel paint, MTH paint, Williams paint, etc... Plus, the hobby store said the age of my passenger car might make it several shades off. And if I did not match the original undercoat from the K-Line factory the new yellow paint will also come out looking different. The hobby shop recommended painting the whole passenger car to make it match the new end cap correctly. And if I did that, this single passenger dome car would not match the rest of my consist!
I only wanted to paint the new end cap. So, I decided to go to Home Depot and asked them do a paint match on my K-Line passenger car. Home Depot was able to get an exact color match on my K-Line passenger cars yellow and gray. Below is a photo with the paint codes on the Home Depot cans if anyone wants to have your local Home Depot store make you 8oz. samples. But, the guys at Home Depot could not match the UP red stripe because they said it was too small for their computer to pick up.
With the correct yellow and gray colors I started painting. The grey was a perfect match and never gave me a problem. But the yellow. The hobby store was right. The yellow paint needed a special under coat (maybe white or silver). My first coat of yellow looked very dark because it was sucked up by the grey primer. The second coat of yellow also looked dark but not as bad. The third coat of yellow looked the best but I smudged the paint and had to sand down the end cap and start over again. I painted the end cap six times before starting to lose some of small plastic lines and fine details. I called it at done after six times and figured that is close as I'm ever going to get to the K-Line factory color with my limited painting skills. Yellow paint is very difficult.
I tried 7 different gloss red paints but never found the exact match to the existing Union Pacific red stripe. I chose the red paint that the was closest and then installed the clear windows, the blinking red mars light and white back up light inside the new roof mount. After painting the grab bars gray to match the existing bars on the passenger car and reinstalled them in the correct places. Here’s a test fit of the freshly painted end cap at this point. It snaps right on to the back of my existing 8003 dome diner car and I did not have to modify anything on the Union Pacific passenger car.
The illuminated City of Los Angeles neon tail sign could have been a project write up on its own. I first tried to make the neon tail sign out of plastic with three LED disk lights. But after reviewing with Hancock52 he recommended using multiple smaller LED lights to lessen the chance of bright hot spots showing through the tail sign.
I wanted the neon tail sign box to look shiny but was not getting this effect using silver paint. The box above still looked plastic. So, I gave up on the plastic design and made second tail sign by bending a thin sheet of glossy .008 flat metal from K&S Precision Metals. Then installed six, 3-volt micro LED’s and wired them in series (to handle the 18-volts from the track).
To get the neon effect I used four layers on the sign. The bottom layer was clear plastic, the 2nd layer was 20 weight white paper (as recommended in a GRJ posting), the 3rd layer was a black and white City of Los Angeles sign and finally on top was the full color City of Los Angeles sign. That way, whether the LED lights were shining or not it would still look like a neon sign. The double layers of black helped stop the LED's from bleaching out the sign. Also, you may need to seal the black edges of the new sign with black paint to stop the LED's from creating a halo effect around the CoLA signs edges. I will attach my .pdf file with the CoLA Sign already sized correctly for O-Gauge. Just print it on a sheet of clear 8 1/2" x 11" and trim the CoLA sign to fit your application.
Here is another photo of the end cap temporarily snapped on the back of my existing dome car. This photo shows without power and not screwed on to the car yet. The rear coupler fits under the new end cap very nice and goes around 42" curves without any problems.
And the end cap with neon City of Los Angeles tail sign and flashing Mars light temporarily connected to track power. Notice how far out the coupling sticks out in the photo below? To get this last photo I had to connect the end cap back onto the original Golden State donor car to power up the Mars light and CoLA sign. In conclusion, I’m pleased with the end cap results so I purchased another K-Line 8003 dome car with the intentions of making it into a 9000 series UP dome observation lounge car. My next project will be to create this 9000 series car with fully painted interior per the 1955 Union Pacific plans so this new end cap will have a permanent home on my layout.
I hope this walk through will help others that want to create their own "end cap" for a 18" K-Line K4960-38003 Union Pacific dome car.