SC&F Tank Car Review

Mike Brock <brockm@...>

As I noted on Sunday, I have uploaded several photos into the photo section of the SC&F 2 dome tank car GATX 1638 as I built it.

I promised a review of the car and my efforts to build it and that follows.
Keep in mind that we all have different ideas regarding construction and I
don't mean to propose that what I did is the best technique:

This car is a model of a Standard Tank Car company car [ STC ]. One thing
that stands out is that STC cars weren't...well...standard. IOW, if you look
through photos you'll find that various items on the STC cars were done
differently. This may have been due to construction concepts at different
time periods or different production locations. For example, photos appear
to show that hand rail stanchions were almost always placed on the straps.
Almost...but not always. Two dome CRTX 8 has the stanchions applied to the
tank side and, interestingly, the rivets are below the hand rail instead of
the much more common above rail position. BTW, this car is a favorite. The
side showing in the photo has a platform only below the left dome...nothing
on the right. The left dome has a grab on its side...the right does not.
Dare we assume that the right dome's platform is on the other side? This
car, BTW, apparently had a third dome in the middle at one time...a
circular rivet ring is very visible in that location. Looking at a variety
of STC cars one finds several different methods of providing mounts for the
brake lever on the car's end. One method, which SC&F provides, consists of 2
small plates attached to the top of the running board on the car's end. Each
has a tubular piece which extends out from the running board through which
the brake lever fits. Ted Culotta's Steam Era Freight Cars Reference Manual,
Vol Two: Tank Cars, shows on STC GATX 24126 a mount in which a tubular
"holder" [ which appears very similar to an eye bolt ] appears to simply be
attached to the running board end. Two of them, of course, one near the
car's side, one above the coupler. Several other STC cars including AGCX
1078 appear to use this method. Believing eye bolts to be stronger and not
knowing which method GATX 1638 uses, I chose the eye
bolt [ it was also easier to implement and I have eye bolts ]. The ladder is
another example of non standardization. Most appear to be placed on the side
with the AB Brake gear. MOBX 3855, however, has no ladder on that side.
Neither does Atlas Powder Co 1050.


1.I followed the assembly steps as laid out in the instructions fairly
closely with a few exceptions. I wanted my car to show its condition as it
was in 1953 so I needed to have an AB brake system in place. The
instructions show that for a "K" system. Unfortunately, the only photo I am
aware of of GATX 1638 is of the side opposite that holding the brake
equipment. Hence, I studied AB Brake configurations on tank cars and Richard
Hendrickson sent me a photo of GATX 25994 [ not an STC built car ] which
showed the AB Brake configuration as implemented by GATX on STC cars.
Unfortunately, I had previously misinterpreted a photo of another car and
had to redo it. The AB system's mounts required a bit of experimentation but
was not a problem. Note that the distributor valve sits above the air

2.The corner steps on STC cars with their bracing to the middle of the car
might be considered a signature aspect of STC cars [ although other builders
including GATC seem to have used similar steps ] and SC&F renders them out
of brass beautifully. Note Tom Madden's comment:

"One thing not clear from the instructions - the "brass origami" sill steps
are to be folded _toward_ the etched lines, not away from them. The etched
lines are a folding aide, but once folded, you want the thin section on the
_inside_ of the crease, not on the outside."

3. The area of concern to me was the hand rail. How to position the
stanchions and how to join the hand rail pieces. Finally, I chose a method
in which I formed a "U" shape for the hand rail that included all but one
end. I put 4 stanchions [ removing the stanchion's insert for use in a
drilled hole ] on another brass rod and located the right most
stanchion....gluing it in place. I then located the left most stanchion
using the rod, finally locating all 4, then removing the rod. I did the same
thing for the other side, removing the rod after locating the stanchions and
inserted my "U" shape...with the end stanchion included. I then measured and
cut a piece of rod for the missing end rail, added its stanchion and
soldered the rail to the "U" shape. Amazingly, it worked. Do I recommend
this method? Not necessarily. I would like to hear of other methods.

4. I made a slight error by locating the hand rail slightly too high. This
caused the platform to be slightly too high because its supports are
attached to the straps which also are home to the stanchions. The too high
platform resulted in the ladder being too short by about 3 HO inches. I
extended the ladder's length by adding a small piece of styrene to the
ladder's bottom rungs, then cutting off all but the extended legs.

5. The kit I had was an early version which did not include the braces which
go under [ as you look down on the top of the car ] the coupler pocket.
Again, demonstrating that STC cars were not...uh...standard, I note that the
bracing on SCCX 552 has a rather thin bracing while GATX 24126 has much
heavier bracing...which I chose to model by simulating it with styrene. The
brake wheel support attached to one of these braces I formed out of a part
of the brass sheet which includes the step assembly.

6. I made another error by locating the ladder and platform on the wrong
side of the car. The only photo shows it on the side with the brake gear.
However, my 1638 was in a wreck and when rebuilt, the ladder was placed on
the side as I modeled it. And, of course, I'm being truthful since when 90%
completed, I knocked it on the floor. After uttering various religious
comments I noted that the car is surprisingly rugged. The fall broke one
step free and half of another. It broke the lateral underbody braces,
dislodged one strap, broke another and..."OHMYGOSHDON'TTELLME"...broke one
of my solder joints on the hand rail. Repair went well until the resolder
melted the end stanchion to the brass the wrong position. I had to
cut it out and then put another in place by cutting out a small section of
the rod loop and fitting it on with the rod in place. While I don't
recommend knocking the car to the floor, it does give me an excuse as to why
some part might not be perfectly in alignment. Also, the damned
thing...well, the prototype anyway...was built prior to 1928.

7. I noted that at least on 1638 the grab on the dome is on the dome's side.
I chose to model it that way rather than on top of the dome...which is shown
on an STC drawing.

Construction of an SC&F tank car is not difficult...particularly if one
reads the instructions...which I dislike doing. As in most modeling cases,
determining "how" is...IMO...the key. I now know to make certain the
platform and hand rail are located low enough to make a good ladder fit.
Assembly of the straps, center sill, couplers, tank saddles, and running
board frame was straightforward and not a problem.

The completed car is a jewel...IMO...and a hero on my layout. When a train
of tank cars rolls through Laramie, it is not unusual to see various people
wander over to trackside to see if GATX 1638 is in the train. Amazingly,
some folk from the west side of the tracks have even been spotted looking
out of windows of some of the...uh...more interesting establishments common
to places like Laramie.

I am, of course, curious about the lineage of this car. I don't find GATX
1638 in the '53 ORER and the photo appears to indicate a 1958 date. I would
also be quite interested in other STC multi dome cars that the SC&F kit
could be used for.

The bottom that no tank car train should leave town without
one of these beauties. I will, of course, have it and other SC&F tank cars
at Prototype Rails next Jan. Don't even think of beathing on my car.

Mike Brock

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