The new question is, how many variations of a Trinity 5161 are there? The answer it seems is more than a few. There are cars for grain service and ones for sugar, potash and other dry bulk materials. I’ve found variations where the train line runs under the side sill or down the middle and the same goes for the brake rod. There are two different center sill designs as well as different loading hatch configurations. In short, modeling one isn’t as straightforward as I thought.
My preferred research method is to thoroughly photograph a full size car. This isn’t always practical, so like many of you, I turn to the Internet and look for the best resources I can find. In gaining experience with scratch building, I’ve become aware of how easy it is to mix the details from different production runs or classes of car. You think you are looking at examples of the same car but often you aren’t.
The model is lettered for Borax Corp. The full size car was part of a group of 75 cars built in September and October of 1998, numbered from 500116 to 500190. This information along with a photo for one of these cars appeared in the June 2003 issue of the now defunct Model Railroading magazine. It’s part of a six part series on these cars by author David A. Casdorph running from the March to August 2003 issues that is archived on the TrainLife.com website. This series provided a few answers but the image of the car wasn’t especially helpful, which yielded more questions.
I did confirm my choice of center sill is correct, so I won’t have to redo it though I was fully prepared to do so if needed. I still have questions about the routing of the train line. With this design I’ve seen photos where the train line enters the center sill behind the truck bolster and I believe it runs inside the sill to the opposite end, though I can’t confirm that with certainty.
Also based on photos, I strongly suspect the brake rod runs down the center of the car above the sill, as I’ve modeled it. Atlas placed the rod under the side sill, which isn’t correct for this series, so it will have to come off. The other details are more straightforward and I feel I’m on solid ground with my choices.
I’ve temporarily set the car on the bolsters and trucks to check the progress and a few key dimensions. The appearance of components with a scale thickness is very satisfying.
This extra research is worth the time and effort because there is truth in these details that helps me understand how the car is built. I enjoy the challenge of consistently and accurately reproducing a subject in miniature and that understanding helps me express the values I want the modeling to have.
So yes, I’ll take as much time as I need to find information that helps me understand a subject. I’ll model details that few will see or appreciate because doing so makes me happy. It’s not an approach for every taste, just one among the many available to all of us.