More progress and added details.The boxcar project is getting closer to completion. I added the grab irons using the Intermountain parts. They are a bit heavy, yes, but given the style of grabs, they will do until I learn how to fabricate finer ones to match the delicacy of the scratchbuilt ladders. (I welcome any suggestions for doing these.) I only have a few remaining details like stirrup steps, the brake wheel housing and uncoupling levers to add, along with removing those ugly claws on the bottom of the car door before touch up painting and weathering.

I’ve previously mentioned my dislike for the wide openings of standard coupler boxes. I built some center sill extensions from 0.250″ wide channels for the sides and 0.080″ x 0.250″ strip stock for the top. Several months ago, I made a jig for my drill press to mill off one of the flanges on the channel.  I made another jig to mill the coupler key slots accurately. Both jigs were made from scrap styrene and took longer to design than to build and use. Now that I have them, these tasks are simple to do. Protocraft Type E couplers were installed and the height came out fine after the trucks were reinstalled. I plan to add a bit more detailing around this area to bring it up to speed. The couplers are simply held by a 2-56 screw and are easy to remove if needed. Oh yes, there is plenty of side-to-side swing with these scale extensions.

Scratchbuilt center sil extensions

Coupler height checks out

Having worked on this car for a couple of weeks, I learned a few things. (Get ready, Simon.)

One: Much of what holds us back in this hobby is our own fault. We willingly give in to fear or self-doubt or whatever you want to call it. As I’ve written before, it’s easy to look at the work of accomplished modelers and compare our own stuff to what they’ve practiced for over twenty years or more and just give up. This is stupid. (I’m sorry if that seemed harsh, but it is.) I’ve learned to have a little compassion. This car represents my skills at one moment in time, not for all time. Unless I get complacent and just stay at this level.

For this project, I applied skills that I already had and pushed at the edges of those I’ve yet to master. Clearly, there is room for improvement and some new knowledge to apply on the next car. And that’s the entire point of the exercise: to grow as a modeler and to learn something.

Two: We’ve lost the ability to be uncomfortable. We hate the feeling of being a beginner. We hate feeling incompetent at something, indeed anything. So much so that we simply refuse to try in many cases. This car and many others have sat around the layout, hiding from the camera for years because I had unrealistically high standards for their appearance. That, coupled with less than refined modeling skills where rolling stock is concerned, created this vicious cycle as Simon so aptly put it in one of his comments.

The Cure
The cure is to start tackling such projects, knowing that my desired reach will exceed my grasp for a time, perhaps for a long time. It has nothing to do with an inability to learn and master such skills and everything to do with simply trying. Then doing it again and again, until  the results are more satisfying. More than once I wanted to shelve this car again because of frustration. However, each new detail added provided some much needed feedback and fuel to keep going. Is it perfect? Hardly, but it’s close to being one car on the layout I won’t be afraid to have wander in front of the camera lens. Next week I hope to wrap this soap opera up.



  1. John Pautz


    You may want to check out the boxcar detail parts offered by Choch. The grab irons are exactly what you are looking for. I have used them on some Intermountian cars and they look very good. See the latest update of Proto48Modeler at Scrol all the way to the bottom of the what’s new page.

    John F. Pautz
    American Switch & Signal
    P:48 track components

  2. Dunks

    What I like most about your progress is that soon you will be photographing freight cars on your layout, rather than shying away from it as you have done in the past.

    Jean-Paul Sartre’s famous exposition into an existential vision of hell was called, “Huis Clos”. Or in English, “Vicious Circle”.

    The play essentially consists of three characters who simply highlight and exacerbate each others’ weaknesses (or sin, if you prefer). The key philosophical point is, they do it all to themselves, not even to each other. No one else need be present – they need no external agencies.

    Breaking the vicious circle is the way to happiness… …and this has been found to be true in psychology. People who perceive themselves to be in appropriate control of their lives are happier – they accept that they cannot control all things, but can control how they react to such events, and do have control over other parts of their life. (Example: Hate your job, but need an income? Look for another job.) Taking control, overcoming fear, realising that you can’t climb a mountain in a single step, are all parts of this process.

    As is the most important thing: stopping now and again to praise yourself – ask yourself what you did today that you couldn’t do yesterday, or what you have learned that you didn’t know yesterday, and feel good about your progress. Having done that, don’t rest on your laurels but take the next step. And share your success and lessons learned with your friends so that they are encouraged to have a go, which you are generously doing here on this blog, Mike.

    Thank you for that. Thank you very much indeed.

  3. mike

    Hi John,
    Those parts look fine. I’ll have to order some.


  4. mike

    Thank you for the kind words Simon. I appreciate your thoughtful comments on the posts.


  5. Ed Kozlowsky

    It’s not learning new things that gets me down, it’s relearning things I haven’t done for a long time and have lost. It can be somewhat discouraging. Especially when the tools don’t work quite as well.

  6. The Industrial Lead

    Nice progress Mike.

    Don’t forget the air hoses. And if you make a jig and mention it, you gotta show us a picture 🙂 The draft gear definitely looks better than the standard bulky coupler pocket.

    I get discouraged all the time. But I keep going at it. I’m always a big proponent of not being scared to fail. I try all sorts of stuff and most of it doesn’t work out, but I keep learning and progressing and occasionally I have a breakthrough moment!

    Of course my worst problem is that you can’t teach me anything, I have to learn it myself 🙂

    Thanks for the update.
    Greg Amer
    The Industrial Lead

  7. mike

    Hi Ed,

    Boy, can I ever relate to that. Whenever I’m away from modeling for a long time, it’s like starting from zero all over again. That’s why a notebook is my new best friend. I take tons of notes during a project on material sizes, procedures and ideas. I also make lots of sketches to work construction ideas out. It helps refresh my memory if I have to leave a project sit for awhile.


  8. mike

    Hi Greg,

    Air hoses are on the punch list.

    “And if you make a jig and mention it, you gotta show us a picture”

    Awww, do I have too?

    Sure, I can do that. I didn’t get much of a chance to work on the car last week, so I may do a post on that instead.

    Appreciate the encouragement. Keep plugging away with those P87 switchpoints, you’ll get there in time.