CN 557417 is a 52′ inside length combination plug + sliding door boxcar built in the mid 1970s for lumber and forest products service. It’s part of a large group of such cars (740 cars built in three orders between 1973-1974), but its paint job is one of a kind.
This car was one of 4 boxcars painted by CN in 1984 as a promotion for the upcoming 1986 World’s Fair in Vancouver, BC, branded as “Expo86” by the event organizers. Each car was painted in a similar black and white scheme with 4 diagonal coloured stripes, although each of the 4 cars was in a different colour.
The four cars to be painted this way were:
CN 557417 – blue stripes (52′ combo-door boxcar)
CN 557420 – purple stripes (52′ combo-door boxcar)
CNIS 417093 – green stripes (52′ single-door boxcar)
CNIS 417225 – orange stripes (52′ single-door boxcar)
Also painted in the Expo86 scheme was SD40-2 5334 with multi-coloured stripes (yellow, green, blue and purple).
The model was built using a Kaslo Shops resin kit for a CN 52′ combo door boxcar which matches the prototype and painted and lettered using a decal set from Highball Graphics (this set appears to be now discontinued). This was a challenging paint job, requiring a lot of masking (including diagonal masking to paint the stripes) over the raised details of the car doors.
Since I’m modeling 1985, the car’s paint job is still pretty fresh so the car just received a clear coat and will remain un-weathered. Eventually the car will see service on my future layout hauling lumber, plywood and other forest products from mills on the CN beyond Hearst westbound via Oba or south to the United States via Sault Ste. Marie. It’ll be an eye-catching change from the regular CN brown boxcars hauling paper and lumber out of the north.
This car started out as an Athearn RTR boxcar factory decorated for the Providence & Worcester Railroad which I picked up “used”/new in box at a train show about a year ago specifically with this patch job in mind. It was weathered, patched and re-stencilled following a 1989 photo on rr-fallenflags.org. I have a certain fondness for shortline boxcars and patched out reporting marks of cars in second-hand ownership and I’ve been working on collecting a few appropriate cars from nearby US connections that can fit in to my area and era. These ex-PW cars, as well as other cars from the New Orleans Public Belt (NOPB), East Camden & Highland (EACH) and Wabash Valley (WVRC) Railroads, were acquired by the Green Bay & Western in the early 1980s.
Weathering was done in a few layers/stages. The body was given a general airbrush grime coat (with particular concentration along the lower edges and some vertical “wheel spray” patterns on the car ends) and the rust effects on the door were hand painted with acrylics and a fine-tipped brush. The original reporting marks were painted out with some SOO red I had on hand and new reporting marks and numbers added with Microscale stencil alphabet decals. A bit of work with pan pastels blended the rusty areas, added some streaking off the ends of the door tracks, and added light surface rust to the galvanized steel roof. A final coat of Flat Haze sealed the decals and pastel effects and slightly dulled and faded the body colour.
A number of years back, Athearn came out with a model of a 50′ SIECO boxcar in their “Genesis” line of ready-to-run rolling stock models. Amongst some of the flashier US Class I and shortline schemes, one of the paint scheme offerings on this model was a spartan brown scheme with Canadian Pacific’s CPAA reporting marks.
Naturally I snapped up a half dozen of these, as plain boxcars with CPAA markings are absolutely just the thing for any 1970s-1990s Canadian model railway, especially one with significant interchange of woodpulp via the CPR. (And I got them for a relatively decent price, since many model railroaders like the flashy cars and don’t really pay attention to what actually runs out there…)
Unfortunately, after I actually started comparing the cars to prototype photos, it became clear that Athearn actually made a huge miss with these cars. The colour is rather dark, compared to photos and compared to an Atlas ACF “Precision Design” car offered in a similar scheme (but done right!), although with weathering, this variation in the cars could be worked out. However the truly nagging failure is in the lettering – and just about everything about the lettering. It’s almost as if Athearn took the description “brown car with spartan lettering” and just ran with it, without consulting photos (or the one photo they used was a really unusual, non-standard repaint…). The font isn’t remotely close, the car number is squished into two panels instead of three, and any sort of dimensional data on the right hand side of the car is completely absent.
So…. into the alcohol bath went a pair of these cars to get stripped and repainted. The lettering was pieced together from bits and pieces of various MicroScale and Highball Graphics sets. The main reporting marks and numbers specifically came from Highball’s “Transport Gothic” alphabet set, which is fairly close match to the font on the real car. ACI labels, U-1 wheel inspection dots and COTS stencils from MicroScale accesory sets round out the car lettering. The photo below is the pre-weathering result, while the photo at the top of this post shows the original out-of-the box appearance of one of this car’s sisters.
Weathering still needs to be applied, and so far I’ve completed two of these cars, sold off another two at a train show, and still have two more cars of my original six in original factory paint that I haven’t entirely decided what to do with yet – repaint as two more CPAA cars; repaint as some other spartan IPD/pool car, or sell on the train show circuit.
CN 558419 is a good example of a relatively modern 50′ high-cube boxcar. With the double sliding doors, this is a design pretty commonly used in forest products service, and is likely an empty for loading at the GP Flakeboard mill in Sault Ste. Marie (located west of the Algoma Steel Mill and served by the steel mill’s railway). This car is one of 425 cars built new for CN in 1996 by Trenton Works of Trenton, NS.
CN 558199 below is from the same series, but has clearly been re-shopped fairly recently with a fresh coat of paint and converted from sliding to plug doors. Both photos at Sault Ste. Marie, July 12, 2015.