MODELING: Muncie & Western Boxcar Build

MWR 1291 (ca. 1954, Paul Dunn, Rich Burg coll)

The late steam era freight cars tended to be a mixture of boring  freight car red colors with only reefers adding a splash of excitement.  There were exceptions of course.  One of my all-time favorite is the Muncie & Western yellow boxcar with the big mason jar on the door.  The exterior post construction and yellow color will attract attention to the train as it goes by.   The car has a lot of very unique details as a result of the Mather Company design.   The Mather Stock Car Company built a large number of single sheathed boxcars that were leased to a number of railroads.   The M&W cars came in two flavors.  They had 75 that were 8’5″ interior height and the other group of 25 were 9’11” interior height.  This last group of cars is the subject of the build.   Check out the excerpt from the Official Railroad Equipment Register (ORER).  It shows this group and the interior and exterior dimensions.  This information along with photos allowed me to “engineer” the model.  I was able to get some field notes from a friend who found a Chicago & Illinois Midland inside a barn in Indiana.  It provided answers to basic design features of the Mather design.

mather orer

I created a working drawing to allow me to design the car side and end.   The side design was developed by counting boards and make an estimate of the board width.  Door opening and truck/bolster location helped define location of the vertical posts.  Scaling a photo allowed me to locate the diagonal channels.  One interesting detail of Mather car construction was that the vertical posts were made from riveting two angles together to form a “Z” shape used by most exterior post design.  Mather liked to use standard structural shapes rather than custom drawn shapes like the major car builders preferred.

mather side

The model is nearly complete in this view.  I still have to finish roof details and stirrups for the sides.   The picture shown below highlights the riveted side stakes.
The one thing about this project is the fact that you will drill a lot of holes tmather detailo add Grandt #9 1″ nuts and bolts to the side stakes and corner posts.  In addition, there are a large number of Tichy .025″ styrene rivets used on “steel to steel” connections.   I did use a compact drill press to sink all the holes on the sides and ends prior to assembly.

Another interesting detail is the roof design on these Mather cars.   They are a patented design of interlocking stamped steel parts.  The patent is not very clear on the design.  The late Richard Hendrickson helped Life Like Trains when they offered their HO models.  I suspect he had an excellent understanding of the original design.  As a result I based my roof on the Life Like model.   I am sure that someone will produce a photo of a car roof just when I finished the project.

mather roof

MWR 1287 (1940, Geo. Sisk photo, Chas. Winters coll)

Here is the broadside that I used to develop the design.   I am building this car with a K brake system like in the photo.  The model is destined to go to a friend.

Single sheathed cars are not good subjects for brass models.  Typical brass models represent the siding with “V” groove.  The appearance is less than realistic.  It reminds me of a HO scale model.  This aspect alone has driven me to develop a board by board construction to represent the prototype accurately.   I had Evergreen Scale Models cut me custom strips to accurately represent the siding.  This way the board count is correct is correct on my models.

Copy of matherside1

MWR 1120 color (date & source uk)

I will share more of the build as I complete the car.

Happy Trails,


13 thoughts on “MODELING: Muncie & Western Boxcar Build

  1. Gene,

    Great looking project. I especially like that you included a page from an ORER.

    What year was the ORER from?

    Does anyone know the original construction dates for the two series of cars?

    Does anyone know how long these two series of cars lasted in service? 1956? 1957?

    Protocraft currently offers the decals for this 1930’s paint scheme project.

    While I didn’t live to far from the Mather Car Shop in Chicago Ridge, as a youngster I never ventured that far on my bike. As a young adult with a driver’s license and a girlfriend who lived farther south along Ridgeland Ave., I did venture into that area because the Wabash RR had a suburban station in Chicago Ridge where the IHB and Wabash (Norfolk Western) crossed a bit east of Ridgeland Ave. While it was a good place to watch trains ( ), that area had a crossing that was a drivers’ nightmare and a train lovers dream come true, not to mention a great place to be stalled for 15-20 minutes by trains with one’s girlfriend in the front seat next to him. I seem to remember (if my memory serves me correct) that for years, perhaps well into the late 60’s, the old Mather Car shop building remained. Never did investigate who switched that shop. Later, Dave Sarther Tucson, AZ

    • David
      The ORER is 1953. I believe the build dates were in the 1925 time frame. The decals sheet has the correct dates.
      I am certain that some of the cars survived until 1955. One of the shots posted dated back to 1954.
      The decals sheet is correct for these cars until they were scrapped.

  2. Gene:

    Many thanks for sharing another build, this time of a less-than-common car. I especially enjoyed seeing the the in-progress photos. One of the other comments is right – WOW, all those rivets and NBWs. I’ve also done the measure-photos and use of ORER to develop “plans” but for much older equipment. Hope to see pix of the completed model.

    Would appreciate if you would indicate what camera/lens you used for your progress photos. My Nikon prime for this type of work has finally stopped working and I’m looking into a replacement as repair costs for such are almost the same as a new lens.

    Thanks for the info.

    Jim Haskell
    Bloomington, IL

    • Jim
      Glad you find this build interesting. It has been a long quest on my part to finally build a Mather. It took a while to collect information and to twist the arm of a certain decal makers to do the lettering.

      Old wet film cameras are expensive to repair. I dropped a D5000 DSLR and was expensive to have Nikon repair it.

      I am using a Samsung Galaxy S6 phone for most of my work. It does a good job.

      Yes, I will publish more pictures of the build including the final product.


  3. Gene,

    Thanks for your continuing info. It would be helpful on the M&W box car to see a good photo of how you did the roof.

    Hugo Meisser

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s