Thursday, January 16, 2020

Cocoa Beach...and we're off!

Don't forget to go here to join Project #1

Cocoa Beach

I had a great time in Cocoa Beach. Each Prototype Meet has its own feel and character, and this one is a lot of fun. I've been trying to get there for years, and next year we'll make sure John can make it too.

"What about the launch," you ask?

I think it went really well. The response was quite positive, and as I expected there were some great question and ideas for the project. Many of these are things that we should be able to include.

But Sales are Slow

We have had enough visitors to the site in the first week to fully fund the project already, even if the only option selected was $47, but very few are choosing to participate. But why?

Here's some thoughts as to why:

1. Unknown quality of models

That's fair, as we have no way of displaying our models yet. But stupid me didn't think of putting up examples of the work that this factory has produced in the past. Until I was trying to sell an extra model I had a Cocoa Beach.

This project was injection molded, with lots of etched parts as well.

The factory we are using cut the tooling, and produced these as RTR models and undec kits as well. The box and auto cars won't be this complex, but the quality of the tooling will be the same.

2. A new approach with potential risk

We've addressed this already, but I think it bears repeating. This is a new approach, but one that has been used successfully in many industries and hobbies. The biggest risks fort the Backers in a manufacturing project like this are:

Lack of expertise in the Project owner
Raising insufficient funds

As you can see, we've been involved in creating complex injection-molded models in the past. In addition, we are using a factory that we have worked with before, to ensure that the process is as predictable and routine as possible.

Lack of cash flow is among the biggest reasons why projects like this fail, crowd funded or not. We know what it will cost to produce this, and will not move forward unless we raise the full funding required to produce the project. Not just to cover the cost of tooling, but to cover the actual production, packaging, shipping from China, credit card processing fees, etc.

Remember, we aren't drawing a paycheck during this process, and won't realize any profit until after the models are delivered to you.

3. Can you make only one of the variations if you don't reach your funding?

Not really.

The car that we felt will be the best seller is the 12" raised roof version of the Bx-12. The difference between that and the as-built version of the cars is a new roof and ends. Because we can tool 4-5 pair of ends on a single sprue, doing that one car or the delivery of the Bx-11, -12, and -13 cars, plus the RI car is roughly the same amount of tooling, and the same cost. It goes up incrementally since it now requires 3 different trucks, rather than one, but that accounts for a very small amount of the total cost of tooling. There are additional costs such as packaging, painting and lettering, shipping from China, samples, credit card processing, and other fees, etc. As the cost of the project increases, the number of units required does too. 

To do the only the ATSF cars it ends up as a $200,000 project and a minimum of 4,000 to 5,000 units depending on the actual average sale price after discounts.

So we have a prototype that probably won't sell 4,000 units, what are our options? By putting a little more into additional tooling, we can add two distinctly different options - the steel-side rebuilds and auto cars. This increases the funding required by only 25%, but we think it greatly increases the possibility of success. Modelers from 1929 to the '60s can reasonably be expected to want at least two cars from this project. With the major variations/road names we need less than 500 units on average per prototype to make this work. That looks much, much better.

Another consideration is that not all of those pledging want the same models.

We considered a common approach with what are called "Stretch Goals," where we start with one model at a lower funding goal, then add additional prototypes if we reach additional funding goals. We felt this was a poor choice for model railroading, because many modelers might be pledging because they want one of the Stretch Goals, and it's possible that that model wouldn't be produced in the end.

No, we felt it was more honest and a better approach to simply require that we fund for all of the prototypes we're offering up front, so you know that as long as we fund the project we will be making the car you want.

4. Somebody else will do it, and I won't have to help fund it

Of course that's possible too. But the numbers I provided above are in the ballpark of every project I've been involved in over the last decade or so. Somebody with in-house expertise for cutting their own tooling, etc.,  rather than at the factory may be able to reduce the cost. But those companies also have their staff to pay for and other expenses we don't. In particular the need for each project to help fund the next project. We are selecting "niche" products precisely because we think these models are very unlikely to be produced using the traditional approach. Because the risk is too high for the manufacturer. So we think it is unlikely that anybody else will produce these models in plastic.

5. You don't know us

For many of you, that's true. Although I've been blogging about my modeling for over a decade (, and if you ask on the Steam Era Freight Car lists, and others, there are certainly a lot of well-known modelers that know at least one of us, and in many cases have been friends for years. 

But that's also one of the reasons we are requiring a fully funded project. With some crowd funding approaches, only some of the funding is raised, and the Creators expect to fund the rest. That seems very risky to us, and we want to make sure that we all know whether this project is a go or not. Either we choose, as a community, to make this models happen, or we don't.

If you have any questions at all, please contact us. Even if it's just to tell us why you won't participate.

While it looks like we're a long way away today, the reality is that we don't need that many more people to join us. We've had enough visitors to the site to fund this project several times over. We know that it's a small segment of the market that is going to help fund this. But we're also confident there are enough of you to do so.

Join Us!

We've selected a group of prototypes that nearly ever modeler for the 1929-1960s could use at least two, and probably more.

We will be at Springfield at the Better Living Center, 25-G. Come see us in person and we'll answer all your questions.

Pledge Early

One of the things we can't tell is whether people are holding off to see if others pledge. This sort of thing is a bit of a self-fulfilling prophecy. If a lot of people pledge, and pledge early, then others join too. If they don't, then others don't.

IndieGoGo holds the money and we don't have access unless we fully fund. So there is really no reason to wait to pledge. If you want the cars, then pledge early, and spread the word. We know people are interested in the cars, but they need to see that others are too.

Join our community of Backers today and let's make some models - together.

Thursday, January 9, 2020

We're live and officially open for business!

Randy's at Cocoa Beach for Prototype Rails, and this is the day!

When and how do I get the models?

You can order them starting today, and delivery is expected early 2021. But the process is a bit different than the normal approach.

We're crowd funding this project at IndieGoGo, because we believe there is a strong community of modelers that are excited about finding new ways to produce models that otherwise probably wouldn't be made.

All of the details on what's available and how to participate are on the site. But I wanted to highlight a few things that aren't noted there.


One of the main reasons we are crowd funding this is that we can be more responsive and make exactly what you want us to make.

We have a lot of ideas of what we think you want. Obviously we know that ready-to-run plastic models of less numerous prototypes is a good start. It's clear from everything we've heard so far that you are interested in these cars. And there are a lot of other cars like these we want to do.

We also know that there are a lot of people out there that still prefer kits. Some of them want decorated, some undecorated. We can do that. The same thing applies with parts. It doesn't really matter how many orders we receive for a specific car, because we'll be building them entirely to order.

Wait. There's more?


The initial funding makes the project viable. But if the funding exceeds that, we can add more.

Some numbers of Bx-11 and -12 cars received cylindrical hatches for cement and possibly borax service. If we surpass the funding goal by a decent amount, then we can add that variation.

What about the Transco sided cars?

Stock cars anybody?

The initial funding goal just makes the project as a whole viable. But additional funding opens up more possibilities.

It's about building a community

The point is simple. This isn't just about making models. At least not the normal way. It's about creating a community of backers excited about models. Who want more models.

You as a backer have the opportunity to help shape the project. Whether it's information that only you have, ideas about what might make a good project. What options would appeal the most to the backers? Perhaps lettered but unnumbered cars with decals. We should probably do that anyway. What should we be considering for our next project? If we can add additional variations, which ones should we do first? Or if we can't do all of them, which ones should we do?

Of course, it's up to you as to how much you want to participate.

We also want to give you credit for help making this happen. When you pledge, you'll have an option to have your name listed to our page of backers. We hope you'll want to be included.

Getting Started

This is part of our vision. But have to get over the first hurdle, which is funding this first project.

Check out Project #1, choose a Perk, and let's make some models!

Wednesday, January 8, 2020

It's almost time...

Randy's on the way to Florida in the morning for Prototype Rails and getting ready for the launch!

January, 9th

6:00 pm Eastern

There will be a limited number of special deals available until the show ends on Saturday evening.

Thursday, January 2, 2020

Project #1 - CGW, L&N, and PM/C&O Auto Cars

When the ATSF and others were building increased capacity single sheathed box cars based on the ARA XM-1 Standard boxcar design, some roads were doing the same with 40' double-door auto cars. Although noted as automobile cars, they were also used for many commodities that were easier to load with their 12' door openings, such as furniture.

CGW 80000-80978

CGW 80556. Courtesy Ray Breyer

Built in 1929, they feature 3/3/3 Dreadnaught ends, with bottom-supported Youngstown corrugated steel doors and a radial roof.

L&N 46000-46399

L&N 46250 Blackstone, NY 11/4/51. Courtesy Bob's Photos

Built in 1929, the L&N cars featured 4/5 Dreadnaught ends, bottom-supported Youngstown corrugated steel double-doors over a 12' door opening, and a Murphy Outside Metal roof

PM 89350-90349

 PM 89399 Builder's Photo

The Pere Marquette had built Auto cars based on the ARA Standard XM-1 box car in 1926. Those cars had a 9'2" interior height and 10' door openings with 1 1/2 Camel (wood) doors and 4 rib Hutchins ends.

For this group of cars built in 1929, they increased the interior height to 10'0", requiring an additional panel with a narrower rib on their preferred Hutchins ends. They also featured a full 12' door opening, and double bottom-supported Youngstown corrugated steel doors.

C&O 254921 rebuilt as box car (ex PM auto car). Fort Bragg, NC 10/10/51.
Courtesy Bob's Photos.

Starting in 1941, the PM started rebuilding many of the cars as single-door box cars. To do so, they removed the left door, and installed an additional diagonal in its place, closely resembling a tall ARA Standard XM-1 singles sheathed box car. Both the double-door auto cars and the single-door box cars lasted into the C&O era after that road acquired the PM in 1947, and many were relettered and renumbered for the C&O.

Project #1 includes all of these cars:
  1. ATSF 124000-125999 Bx-11 class
  2. ATSF 126000-129499 Bx-12 class
  3. ATSF 135000-135999 Bx-13 class
  4. RI 141000-142999 series tall Pratt truss box cars
  5. ATSF Bx-11/12 classes with 8" extended roof
  6. ATSF Bx-11/12 classes with 12" extended roof
  7. ATSF Bx-11/12/13 classes rebuilt with steel sides
  8. CGW 80000-80978 series Pratt truss auto cars
  9. L&N 46000-46399 series Pratt truss auto cars
  10. PM 89350-90349 series tall Pratt truss auto cars
  11. C&O 289450-290349 series tall Pratt truss auto cars
  12. PM 89350-90349 series Pratt truss box cars (converted from auto cars)
  13. C&O 289350-290349 series Pratt truss box cars (converted from auto cars)
Don't forget, these will be injection-molded plastic models, available RTR or as kits with era specific details and lettering. Parts too.

What's next? Prototype Rails! We'll see you there! All of the details for the project will be posted next Thursday for our launch there at the show.

Thursday, December 26, 2019

Project #1 - ATSF Bx-11, 12, and 13 rebuilds

Merry Day After Christmas!

We continue our look at our first project. More cars!

The Santa Fe Bx-11, 12 and 13 classes continued in service as built until the early '40s, when some alterations were made to many, but not all, of the cars.

Bx-11 and -12 Rebuilding Begins - 8" Height Increase

ATSF Bx-11 124528 with 8" extended roof in New Britain, CT.
Kent Cochrane photo c1946/7

In 1941, the Santa Fe started a program to increase the interior capacity of the Bx-11 class and some Bx-12 box cars. This involved spacers on the sides of the cars, and extending the end (with a flat steel panel) by 8" resulting in an increasing the interior height to 10'0". The roof was replaced with a Murphy Rectangular Panel roof. Cars also received AB brakes if they hadn't already.

About half the class was modified in this way, along with 39 of the Bx-12 cars.

The difference in height is subtle, particularly in photos from a low angle. It's clearly recognizable from the end, however, due to the extended end panel.

Bx-11 and -12 Rebuilding - 12" Height Increase

ATSF Bx-12 212708 with 12" extension. Courtesy Bob's photos.

In 1943, they altered the modifications to raise the roof a full 12" to a 10'6" interior height. In addition to the larger spacers, the extra panel at the top of the side now included an extra corrugation. Usually this was another indented Dreadnaught corrugation, but in some cases it was a standard Dreadnaught panel, where the corrugation juts out from the steel panel.

Due to the height of the new extensions at the eave, five hat-section stiffeners were applied. All of the remaining Bx-11 cars, and most of the Bx-12 cars received these modifications. In 1944 the project was phased out as it became clear that the war restrictions were being lifted, so not all Bx-12s received the modifications, and none of the Bx-13 class cars did.

Starting in 1945, the Santa Fe started renumbering the cars with the 12" extended roofs into the 210000-211049 series (Bx-11) and 211051-214549 series (Bx-12). The original series for these classes retained both the cars with the 8" extended roofs, and those cars that had not been modified.

211050 was a Bx-12 with the 12" roof extension but with plywood sides applied.

There is no mistaking a Bx-11 or -12 with the 12" height extension. It makes for an interesting car in a consist, visible even when looking down the length of a train, much like picking out B&O wagontop cars or Milwaukee rib side cars.

Steel Rebuilds

ATSF Bx-11 19938 rebuilt with steel sides.
Courtesy of Santa Fe Railroad Historical and Modeling Society.

The Santa Fe rebuilt thousands of older box cars with steel sides, and it meant they remained in service much longer than similar cars on other roads.

From the side the steel rebuilds resemble any other Modified 1937 AAR Standard or Postwar AAR Standard box car with a quick glance. With a closer look, the notched end and the narrow underframe gives it away as a rebuilt car. But it's the end that really gives away their heritage, with the indented Dreadnaught ends of the original cars, plus the top panel with the extra corrugation making it clear that this was once a rebuilt Bx-11 or -12 box car.

These cars carried the more modern Santa Fe schemes, with many serving in revenue until the mid-'70s, nearly 60 years after their introduction.


Project #1 includes all of these cars too.
  1. ATSF 124000-125999 Bx-11 class
  2. ATSF 126000-129499 Bx-12 class
  3. ATSF 135000-135999 Bx-13 class
  4. RI 141000-142999 series tall Pratt truss box cars
  5. ATSF Bx-11/12 classes with 8" extended roof
  6. ATSF Bx-11/12 classes with 12" extended roof
  7. ATSF Bx-11/12/13 classes rebuilt with steel sides
Don't forget, these will be injection-molded plastic models, available RTR or as kits. Parts too.


More info on the web:
Ted Culotta featured some slides given to him by Jack Burgess of a Bx-12 on his blog.

If you are modeling in O-scale, decals (along with some information and nice photos) are available at the Protocraft site. As they note, Southern Car & Foundry makes O-scale resin kits, but they have been out of stock for a while. Here's Gene Deimling's description of building one, also with some more great prototype photos.

Thursday, December 19, 2019

Project #1 - ATSF Bx-11, 12, and 13 classes...and RI

It should be obvious by now where we are starting with this project. As we noted in some earlier posts, in 1950 box cars using single sheathed construction were still an important part of the national fleet.

In 1924, a standard design for single sheathed box cars was approved by the ARA, and in 1925 the two designs were designated 4C-XM-1 (40-ton) and 4D-XM-1 (50-ton).

The design incorporated the ARA center sill (approved 1922) with a external bracing using pressed hat- (or U-) section steel in a Pratt truss configured with two diagonals on either side of the door. They are often referred to as "7-panel" cars. Cars of this standard design were built for a number of eastern and midwestern roads. These cars had an interior height and width of 8'6".

ATSF Bx-11

As the decade progressed, many roads were building cars with larger dimensions than the ARA standard, particularly western roads. In 1929, ATSF adopted the basic ARA standard design, but increased the interior width to 9'2" and the height to 9'6" for 2,000 box cars in their Bx-11 class.

The cars had "indented" Dreadnaught ends with 3 corrugations above and 4 below a center corrugation where the two halfs of the ends were riveted together. They had radial roofs with wood running boards, Youngstown steel doors, and Ajax powered handbrakes. They were equipped with KC-brake systems, and rode on ASF Dalman Two-Level trucks.

A unique spotting feature is the use of tension rods at the corners of the sides, instead of flat steel strapping that was usually used on single sheathed cars. Over the years many of these tension rods were removed, and photos often document cars with only one rod on a side, instead of two. In some cases a horizontal brace is added to the final panel about halfway up the car, in others the rod is simply removed, and no additional bracing was added.

ATSF Bx-12

In 1930, the ATSF added 3,500 Bx-12 class cars to the roster. These were virtually identical to the Bx-11 class, except for the use of Dalman One-Level trucks, which have never been offered in HO scale.

In later years, the Bx-11 and Bx-12 classes are grouped together in the ORER.

ATSF Bx-12 class builder's photo
Note the radial roof and tension rods.

ATSF Bx-13

In 1931, and additional 1,000 cars were added as the Bx-13 class, but used Murphy Solidsteel roofs, a precursor to their familiar rectangular panel roof, but without the raised rectangular panels.

ATSF Bx-13 class in 1/1/52 at Fayatteville, NC. Courtesy of Bob's Photos
Note the peaked Murphy Solidsteel roofs instead of radial roofs of earlier classes.
Note that the B-end tension rod on the is no longer present on this side.
This car has also received AB Brakes.

All three classes, accounting for 6,500 cars, were very long lived, although not without alterations. The less common Pratt truss along with the tension rods unique to these cars and the 500 Fe-U 50' automobile cars making them easy to spot in photos and on your layout.

Looking back at our previous posts, 22% of the ATSF box car fleet in 1949 were single sheathed box cars. In 1950, there were 6359 of the Bx-11, 12, and 13 classes in service, accounting for more than 21% of their entire 40' box car fleet, and nearly 97% of their single sheathed cars. This is an important class for modelers of this era, of 5 out of every 20 Santa Fe 40' box cars. Although as we'll see in the next post, that they weren't all in the original configuration.


RI 141000-142999 series tall Pratt truss single sheathed box cars

The Rock Island owned 1,000 ARA standard XM-1 box cars. In 1930 they continued using this design, but with the larger dimensions used by the Santa Fe. These 2,000 cars had 4/4 Dreadnaught ends, Hutchins Dry Lading roofs, Youngstown steel doors, power assist horizontal brake wheels and Morton brake steps, KC brakes, and ASF Dalman Two-Level trucks with Barber Lateral Motion devices.

RI 142798 builder's photo
Note the flat strap steel stiffeners in the lower corners
as opposed to the tension rods on the ATSF Bx-class cars

The RI rostered a lot of single sheathed cars, and in 1949 nearly half of their box cars were of that type of construction. Of their 40' box cars, these accounted for almost 12% of them, and they accounted for 23% of their 40' single sheathed box car fleet. Like the Santa Fe cars, they were long-lived, with only 19 fewer cars in 1956, and 316 still in revenue service in 1965.


These are the first four cars of this project:
  1. ATSF 124000-125999 Bx-11 class
  2. ATSF 126000-129499 Bx-12 class
  3. ATSF 135000-135999 Bx-13 class
  4. RI 141000-142999 series tall Pratt truss box cars
Each car will be available with either KC or AB brakes, accurate painting and lettering as appropriate for the era, and correct details for each class including roofs, strapping or tension rods applied as per prototype photos, but for those with fewer than 4 applied the remainders will be provided in the box for the modeler to apply, if desired.

As noted previously, these will be HO scale injection-molded plastic models, available ready-to-run or as kits, and parts available separately.

An old MDC model superficially resembles the Bx-13, with lots of inaccuracies, and only the Bx-11, 12, 13 class cars have been produced as excellent resin kits by Westerfield. The RI cars were produced as resin kits by Sunshine. Otherwise, no plastic, or even brass models to our knowledge, have been produced in HO scale of these important prototypes.

We should also mention that we are working with the Santa Fe Railway and Historical Society to ensure that the models are as accurate as possible. But we also know that there are lots of experts out there that love to talk about their passion. We love freight cars, but we certainly don't know everything. If you think you have information or photos that will help make these models better, then contact us. We love talking trains and freight cars. And come see us in person at Cocoa Beach and Springfield.

Thursday, December 12, 2019

Project #1

OK, it's time to get to some announcements.

We're fans of the Sunshine Models approach, where Martin would select a given prototype and produce many variations of the cars. Westerfield also takes this approach, and just announced a bunch of cars I like - Santa Fe Fe-Q/R/V Channel Side Automobile Cars (although I think they were off the road before my era...have to do some checking).

Most companies producing RTR plastic cars will do one specific car, or maybe a couple of variations. They'll add another variation or two for a second run, and continue to do that as long as sales are good.

However, there's a downside to this approach. Sometimes the sales aren't strong enough to warrant a second run, so those variations don't get produced. Because of the cost of tooling, it's also not uncommon for more obscure variations to not be offered.

We are approaching this with the intention of doing all of the variations we can in a single run. There is no intention to do a second run, as we'd prefer to work on new projects going forward. This will be a now-or-never (or find it on eBay) release.

Furthermore, we're producing these with modelers in mind. So you will be able to purchase these as RTR, undecorated kits, and also parts. We are even investigating the feasibility of decorated kits. Undecorated kits will come with all of the parts for a particular body core.

To give you an idea of the scope of the project, we'll start with a list of some of the major parts we think you'll be excited about. All of these will be available for purchase separately:


  • Dreadnaught: 3/4 (indented) plus extended height variations with a blank panel, or an extra corrugation; and 4/5 
  • Hutchins: 4+1 rib; and probably a 4-rib variation too

40' Roofs

  • Hutchins Dry Lading
  • Murphy Outside Metal
  • Murphy Rectangular Panel
  • Murphy Solidsteel

Although some of these parts (such as the brake appliances sprue) will most likely be used for future models, there is no guarantee of a re-run of any of these parts either. In general, the factories don't like to pull one piece of tooling from a project to run some extra parts. The preference is to do an entire run of models, plus some parts.

And for the first of several prototypes that will be part of this project, I'd suggest that you take a closer look at my last post. If you haven't already figured it out...