Attention “rivet counters,” I have the perfect project for you! I usually don’t get too carried away with little details, as long as my project looks “good enough.” But, with this wonderful new HO-scale USRA steel auto boxcar resin kit from Westerfield Models Company, there are so many options that you can finish your kit exactly as you might want. Or even in a way you didn’t start out wanting!
This boxcar kit reproduces an early steel construction example. The provided history included with Westerfield’s kit notes New York Central (NYC) began operating all-steel boxcars with an American Car & Foundry example in 1912. Regular production all-steel boxcars arrived for NYC and its subsidiary Michigan Central in 1916 with a collection of 6,500 examples. This review’s automobile carrying all-steel boxcar dates to 1923. This popular 40-foot boxcar saw use into the early 1950s.
As usual, I’m getting a bit ahead of myself (imagine that). I build tons of kits, but not many high-quality resin ones. So, with some trepidation, I decided why not give it a try? The worst that could happen is I do a poor job of things, and the best result may be that I can have a great finished project. Here we go!
The contents of Westerfield Models’ base kit include the parts you see in this picture. Water-slide decals provide accurate lettering; the modeler selects trucks and couplers. Recent Westerfield Models offerings include a one-piece cast-resin body shell that provides a high level of detail.
As always, the first thing I do is to examine the kit for any broken or missing bits. And as hoped, this kit was perfect. On close inspection, I found what seems to be a bunch of additional parts. I found things like multiple doors and all kinds of what seemed to be “extra” detail parts. Finally, I succumbed to my little inner voice telling me to actually read the directions! Sure enough, I found the answer to my question of all those extra parts in the box. Come to find out, you can build this car into a number of different versions, and all the different parts that you might need are included in the kit. All I can say is…cool! I like a kit that gives you a bunch of latitude with your project. Westerfield actually gives the modeler all kinds of parts to finish all the brake rigging for the underframe. Talk about details! However, I must caution you on what I did not find in the box. As with many of the other (mostly laser-cut wood) rail car kits I have built, there are no trucks included. I guess that’s so you can pick the exact type you might want. This is the first of many decisions you will make with this kit.
I would say this kit falls into the high-quality “craftsman” category, so be ready to make many modeling decisions. I was totally surprised with how much detail, and I mean really small detail, you can cast into these resin kits! The one-piece body has the roof already attached, and if you actually are a “rivet counter,” then I would bet they have exactly the correct number of rivets on this shell. We’re talking the most detail I have ever seen in a cast-resin model shell.
The instructions provide a guide for the builder and also include prototype history information on this and other early all-steel boxcars in service to New York Central and its subsidiaries, such as Michigan Central.
And all those optional add-on parts were quite impressive. Cast in some type of high-density plastic, they are the thinnest kit parts I have ever seen! They were so thin that I was afraid my fat and clumsy old-man fingers would break the delicate details. But they are much stronger than I had anticipated. Talk about being “scale,” that’s what makes the difference between a “good” kit and a “great” kit.
This kit comes with a whole group of pre-bent metal handrails and grab irons. The body has depressions for the wire attachment, but I decided I wanted the holes to go all the way through the sidewalls. I thought it would make these grab irons stronger if I glued the wire from the inside of the body, which would also keep the “glue globs” out of sight.
The nearly completed kit shows the look of these early all-steel boxcar prototypes. The sliding door arrangement allowed for easier loading and unloading of automobiles.
In fact, the hardest part of this entire kit was drilling all those little holes! There are… ummm… let’s leave it as “a bunch” of grab irons you need to attach. Once in place, they look great. With craftsman-style kits, it’s all about the fine details, and this kit certainly doesn’t disappoint.
Once the glue was dry on the grab irons, it was time to check out color. I always spray high-quality acrylic paint on plastic and metal kits. Most of the time I start with a neutral color undercoat (a light brown in this case) and then the “color coat” on top.
It’s always better to apply two very thin coats of paint rather than one heavy coat. That way, you won’t lose any of these great details built into the kit. Of course, you need to make sure the paint from the first coat is completely dry before applying the second coat.
Once the paint had dried, it was time to work on the underframe. As I said, Westerfield provides a complete set of brake rigging for your project. These parts can be attached in a couple of different ways, so read the directions, look at the photos, and decide how you want it. Unless you derail your train and the car falls off the track, no one will ever see all that work you put into the underframe…but that’s not the point. You know it’s there, which is all that counts.
Westerfield Models offers its kits without trucks or couplers. On many of the company’s kits, you can purchase versions that come with Tahoe Model Works trucks (Code 100 or Code 83 wheels) for a few dollars more.
All things considered, for a kit that I really wasn’t too sure about starting in the first place, this Westerfield Models offering turned out to be a great project! I found that I had a ton of fun, not only building a kit that normally I might not choose, but also I now have a wonderful addition to my HO rolling stock collection.
Isn’t our hobby great? This project, including paint and glue drying time, took me about five fun-filled hours to complete. If you discount the tedium of drilling all those little holes with my pin vise drill, I would rate this project at the high end of beginner. It was downright easy, and the finished project is something that any modeler can display with pride.
If you want to step out of the ready-to-run world of model railroading and try something new and different, I would highly recommend trying one (or more) of these Westerfield Models resin HO-scale kits. I certainly enjoyed myself building this kit.
USRA Steel Auto Boxcar
#3001, MSRP: $41.00
P.O. Box 455
Gardnerville, NV 89410