MODELING: Tank Car Frames

I have built a few tank cars in recent years.  One thing that bothered me on first few cars was the running boards.  I used styrene in my first projects.  Prototype running boards were only 2″ thick which is approximately .040″ thick.  I have worried about flexing while handling the car or experiencing sags over time.  That concern started my looking for an alternate approach.

I decided to try making the running boards from brass strips.  Many of the steam era tank cars had 12″ wide boards around the car.  Well, it didn’t take me very long to find that .040″ brass strips are very hard to find.  Yes, you can buy sheet stock and rip the strips yourself.  I don’t have a saw that likes cutting .040″ strips out of a sheet of brass.


The alternative is to purchace K&S brass strips.  I chose to laminate strips to make the a thickness close to the prototype.  The simple fixture shown above provides a jig to allow the lamination of strip brass.  The laminated “boards”  are inserted in the jig below and soldered together.   I clean the brass and pre-tin the inside surfaces.  I used an 80 watt iron to sweat the parts together.  The corners of the running boards are lapped to create a strong joint.



The brass strips are grained with a wire brush to look like wood.  The GATC tank car I am building has a steel angle on the on the end plank.  Grab irons and air hose brackets are attached here.

I am using a styrene centersill with printed GATC bolsters available on Shapeways.  The centersill is composed of two 1/4″ Evergreen channels.  The centersill is wide enough to fit a the Protocraft Type-E coupler and the San Juan automatic coupler.

Here is a link to the bolster I used. 

This posting is not intended to be a step-by-step description but an approach to  building  scale tank cars.


7 thoughts on “MODELING: Tank Car Frames

  1. Hi Gene, inspirational work as always. Could I trouble you for a link to, or the name of the shop supplying, the bolster, please? Thanks in advance, Paul W.

  2. Nice article Gene! I love the plans and the wonderful color photos. I especially like the end shot.

    Ken Thompson

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