MODELING A ROCK ISLAND B-2 Class Boxcar
Many steam era railroads acquired freight cars that became the signature design that was most associated with the road. There are many examples that come to mind.
The PRR had the X29 steel boxcar:
The Northern Pacific had the 10,000 series double sheathed boxcar:
The Soo had saw-tooth single sheathed boxcars:
The Rock Island took a liking to design that was a clone of the Fowler Patent design. They acquired over 8,000 starting in 1913 through 1927. The initial designs were very close to the Rio Grande Fowler clones. There were differences in the door details, roof design sill steps, uncoupling levers and trucks. The differences become the guideline for the build. I am building this car for a friend but closely behind this I am doing my own car which will be a later design featuring a 7/7 Murphy end and a Hutchins Dry Lading roof. All of the variations were in the B-2 class. Amazingly some of these original cars lasted to early 1961. The Rock Island converted 1150 boxcars into stock cars. Rails Unlimited offers a urethane kit for these car.
Steve Hile supplied this railroad car diagram for the original series. There is a lot of data contained in this one document.
Modeling the Rock Island B-2 is fairly straightforward using the San Juan Car Company Rio Grande Fowler clone boxcar kit. This model has been produced for a number of years but has been off the market for a few years. I understand that the kit is going to be reissued under the new ownership of the old San Juan product line. For those who are not familiar with the kit, it is styrene and requires the basic body assembly and details applied. It is a very easy kit to build but the instructions are in need of help.
The car shown above is the Rio Grande Fowler built from the San Juan kit when it first came out a number of years ago. Charlie Morrell described this basic conversion of the San Juan kit in the O Scale Trains magazine issue #6 January/February 2003. I don’t intend to repeat his fine work instead show a couple different ideals in my approach to the build. You can download a PDF of the magazine from their website.
To start with, I assembled the underframe first assembling the center sill and bolsters. I drilled out the kit bolsters to accept the Protocraft bushing which had been rethreaded to 2.0mm.
Following the instructions, I continued with the underframe adding the trainline which was formed from .032″ wire provided in the kit.
The model would get a pair of Protocraft Type-E top operate couplers. Rather than cut off the end of the frame I elected to modify the Protocradt draft gear to slide in between the center sill channels. This is easy to do with a sharp file and vice to hold the part. The resulting width reduction is shown below. I removed the striker since I plan to use the kit part.
I assembled the sides and ends fitting them to the underframe. I added the exterior “Z” posts to the sides. The end “Z” posts in the kit are wrong. They need to be redone to create a 7″ tall post. Use styrene to create the “L” shaped angle which will go in place of the injection molded part.
Once you finish assembly of the body and attach it to the frame, you will have what is shown below.
The kit doors were modified to add a second lateral angle. I used .010″x..040″ strip to do this. The bolts are from McLeod Western and have a 7/8″ head.
A new roof and running board is needed since the prototype used an 18 mullion Murphy XLA design and the San Juan kit had 15 mullions. Follow the magazine description to build up the roof.
I used Grandt Line Murphy running board supports on top of the mullions. A new running board was built up from strip along with new laterals. I made a simple jig to assemble the lateral running boards. Multiple assemblies were made at one time.
Add the corner grab irons and install it on the roof.
Oh yes, the car will be painted with Tru-Color lacquer using their Rock Island freight car red.
I need to mention that the model I am building used K type airbrake. Most of the remaining B-2 cars received the AB style brake system after WWII. I used a San Juan part for the brake cylinder. The dirt collector and cutoff valve came from Grandt Line.
The Rock Island used a different sill step (stirrup). I bent these steps up using .015″x.042″ brass wire. I opted to attach them as shown since the side sill isn’t wide enough to drill into the attach the step. You can see the scale striker is much better looking than the one supplied on the drraft gear. I changed that brake wheel to a brass casting sold by Grandt years ago. I prefer to solder the wheel to the staff. The angle cock is an old PFM casting that I bought years ago. It was never cataloged but there are other suppliers like Protocraft, Wiseman Model Service and others.
The Rio Grande had lever type uncoupling device called Carmer. The Rock used a more convention style.
The car is ready for paint. I will apply the Tru-Color paint and the specific Protocraft decals. You will see the finished car in the next installment.
In the coming months, The B-2 car will appear again in the form of more modern version that was built with a 7/7 Murphy end.
Not to be left out, Robert Leners is building another version going a couple steps further by scratchbuilding the kit parts.
Hope you enjoyed this story.