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Atlas Boxcar Kitbash

Shortening a Double Sheathed Boxcar

by Jack Hess
picture of Atlas O car
Photo from Atlas O website
info on Atlas box
I wanted to make this car look more turn-of-the-century. So I decided
to shorten the body by 4 scale inches and move the trucks inward 3-6 scale inches.

I. Analysis

end of car is marked for cutting I examined the body to see where it could be cut. My inital thought was to cut 4' out of the door opening. This meant rebuilding the door, the tracks, and the cast in details. I decided this was too much work.

That left cutting a small section (2' or less) out of each end between the end and the floor mounting studs. The final location was chosen in order to preserve the spacing of the roof ribs. But this means the end section of the roof will be larger than the others.
the mounting lugs on body and chassis The metal floor attaches to the body at four spots. Mounting lugs are cast into the body and the floor has raised portions to fit onto these lugs. I did not want to remove and rebuild these, so any length chopping could not interfere with these.
mounting holes on the bottom of the chassis From left to right: the floor mounting holes, the bolster mounting holes, and lugs for the coupler mounting.

The model is 3-rail so I tested the truck/coupler height. The coupler needs a pad of approximately .125" to achieve proper coupler height. This is bypassing the coupler lugs molded into the floor.
Atlas trucks The left truck is stock and the right one has the coupler removed. The mounting tang will need to be shortened or removed when the body mount couplers are attached.

II. Construction

Now that the model has been analyzed and I know
what I want to do and how to accomplish it, construction can begin.
Construction sequence:
  • chop the body
  • cut the floor down to fit the body
  • rebuild underframe and attach
  • mount couplers and trucks
  • paint/letter

A. Preparations

body is stripped of paint The paint and lettering were removed with 99% IPA (isopropyl alchohol). It took several hours and a lot scrubbing.
body bolster filled with putty The body bolster is filled with Milliput putty. The bolster will need strengthening when it gets new mounting holes in its new location.

B. Body and Floor Chop

end of car removed

The body sections were cut with a 32 tpi hacksaw.
marking the cut ends

The ends and the body were marked to show where they were attached. In this case it is not important as the body is the same on both ends, but could be important in other cases and I marked them out of habit.
body stripped of paint

Left is the stock body at 40'. Right the chopped body at 37' 3".
body after regluing ends
chassis is cut and installed The floor was cut at the same time the ends were attached.

C. Underframe

shortened underframe installed on chassis

The chopped frame is installed. Right: a close-up of one end. Note that the body bolster covers the body/floor mounting screws. New holes were drilled through the bolsters and into the floor and then tapped for 2-56 screws.
detail of body bolster mount

D. Couplers/Trucks

shortened chassis with trucks and couplers

The floor was drilled and the Kadee metal coupler boxes installed. This required a .160 (not .125 as I had originally thought) spacer between the floor and the coupler box to get the correct height. The end of the coupler mounting tang on the truck had to be cut off in order to clear the coupler box.
checking coupler height with a Kadee gauge

F. Completion

car is complete, just lacking paint/lettering Here is the rolling chassis awaiting its transformation into a boxcar.
body primed, chassis painted gloss black

Body is primered with spray Almond and touched up with Testors gray. Underframe is spray painted gloss black.
body painted purple

The body gets purple paint.
lettering complete Painting is complete and decals are applied.
completed car side view
The roof walk was cut, painted and installed, along with the trucks and cut levers.

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copyright   ©  2015 Jack Hess