Re: SC&F Tank Car Review

Gatwood, Elden J SAD


As of Jan '64, series 1600 to 1799 had 92 cars of 8000 gal, plus at least 2
of 10,000 gal, and a smattering of other cars, in total not filling the
entire block, and apparently of mixed size, at a minimum. This may have been
a later (mid-50's) "catch-all" group for oddball tanks similar to how SHPX
grouped theirs (low numbers). Higher numbered groups do seem

Thanks for the detailed build-up. It will come in handy!

Elden Gatwood

-----Original Message-----
From: STMFC@... [mailto:STMFC@...] On Behalf Of Mike
Sent: Monday, April 27, 2009 9:33 AM
To: STMFC@...
Subject: [STMFC] SC&F Tank Car Review

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 resevoir.

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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