HO Modified Tank Car – UTLX 78520

Modified Tank Car

This is a model that I’ve had for quite a few years.  It was a Walthers kit that I bought and assembled in the early 1990s.  At that time I built the kit straight from the box.  The only modifications were substituting metal wheels and Kadee couplers for the plastic ones that came with the kit.

The car always suffered from having fragile handrails.  The handrails on the top of the car were especially vulnerable.  Even though I drilled into the walkways and inserted the handrails as per the kit instructions, it seemed like they were always getting knocked off.  The handrails on the ends had the same problem.  Only their location helped them to avoid damage.

The kit had other shortcomings, too.  The walkways on the ends and on the top were thick plastic.  The uprights that supported the upper handrails were plastic that was both too thick and too fragile.  The markings were inaccurate.

As I acquired better cars this one went into storage.  Eventually I found it again.  I had some other Walthers tank cars that I sold on eBay.  I almost did that with this one.

Instead of that I decided to create a modified tank car.  I used Plano kit 301 for Walthers funnel-flow tank cars.  The kit contains photo etched stainless steel upper and end platforms.  It also includes photo etched brass ladders and supports and stanchions for the upper handrails.

To install the kit first I had to do some surgery on the car.  I removed the old upper walkways and filled the indentations in the tank car body where the supports attached.  The ends were even more work.  I had to sand off the walkways until only the tank car end frames remained.  I also removed the original markings from the car.

While I was at it I added some brake piping to the reservoir and triple valve with brass wire.  I also added some rods under the car to simulate brake equipment.  I followed photos of real cars to try to produce something that looked accurate.  My detail is simplified but it looks good when the car is on the track.

I also replaced the brake wheel with a Kadee part and added some 40 link per inch chain.  Down below I added uncoupling levers and train line air hoses.

The walkway that goes on the brake end has a hole for the brake chain.  Unfortunately on this car it didn’t line up with the brake mechanism.  I left it that way.  The hole isn’t too noticeable.  The end walkways attach to the end frames with CA glue.  I bent some new end handrails from brass wire.  The wire is inserted to holes drilled into the end frames for strength.

The upper walkways were a little more complicated.  The supports have to be folded very precisely.  Each corner post is formed from two pieces of brass that fold together to make an “L” shape.  You could glue that but I opted to solder mine for strength.  I made new railings from brass wire.  Once the walkway supports are mounted I used CA glue to attach the stainless steel walkways.

Once all that was done I repainted the entire modified tank car black.  I decorated it with decals from various Microscale sheets.  My prototype is a wrecked car that is now being used as some kind of stationary storage tank.  I don’t normally like to model wrecked equipment, but I found more photos of this one on the internet than any other similar car.  The small print on the decals is not really accurate, but it’s hardly legible anyway.

I finished the car off with Kadee scale couplers and Kato roller bearing trucks.

Overall I think my modified tank car turned out pretty good.  With so many better detailed tank cars on the market today, I doubt that I’ll repeat the exercise with another funnel flow.




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