• Stephen Strum

Athearn 50' PS-1 Plug Door Boxcars and a Quick 5-Minute Weathering Technique

A few months ago I had a post on some new Athearn 50' PS-1 boxcars: https://www.steves-trains.com/post/new-athearn-boxcars-and-3x5-n-scale-layout-update I recently received two more from Athearn to look at, this time the Plug Door variety.


As usual, these come in nice jewel cases and are well protected.




This line of cars from Athearn is a solid mid-range offering. You have lots of details, but they are mostly all molded on, and a paint job with very sharp and crisp lettering that is still readable even on a small N scale car.




The Pullman Standard boxcars were built from the late 1940s to the early 1960s, with a couple hundred thousand built for more than 70 railroads. So, they are pretty much at home on any railroad set between the 1950s and 1980s. The Athearn cars do a good job at replicating those cars, though I didn't go through and try to measure dimensions and locations of specific details to see how close they were to the prototype dimensions. But, they look really good overall.







Now, the Pennsylvania railroad car did have some paint flaws on the roof walk where the paint filled in some of the tiny holes. Most of the cars I've seen haven't had that issue, so it isn't common, but something to watch out for. You could try to clean that up with a hobby knife if you really wanted, but that isn't something that is really going to bother me that much, especially after some weathering.


Otherwise, the paint job is really nice, and you can see here a close-up of the lettering and some of the molded-on details.




While the molded-on details are a little oversized, and the stirrups are obviously very oversized, that does make them incredibly durable, and you aren't going to be breaking any of them off during handling. Most of the details look pretty good, and if you wanted to enhance the realism, cutting off the stirrups and replacing those with metal wire ones would be an easy upgrade that would improve the appearance a bit. But, since this is N scale, those kinds of things are really only noticeable on photographs, and not when you are standing a few feet away.


The undersides also have some molded-on details, reliable body-mounted McHenry couplers, and metal wheels.





The NMRA recommended weight for a 50' box car is 1.1 oz, and these weighed in at 1.2 oz. I like to overweight all my rolling stock since that provides for better operation, and I usually use these stick-on wheel weights. You can easily pop the bottom of these boxcars off, and I like to stick on either one 0.25 oz weight in the middle, or one weight over each truck if I want an even heavier car. You can then pop the shell back on and now you have a 1.4 oz car that will track even more reliably.






The bottom line is that these Athearn cars are a good compromise on price and detail and with the metal wheels and body-mounted couplers, you will have reliable operation, even when pushing strings of cars through turnouts. You can buy cars with higher levels of detail for more money, but with N scale that higher level of detail is hard to see and extremely easy to break.


You can buy these cars from Horizon Hobby here: https://www.horizonhobby.com/search?q=athearn+50%27+plug+door+N&search-button=&lang=default


Many are also available from Amazon here: https://amzn.to/3Ghtami


(As an Amazon affiliate, I earn a small commission from any purchases made through the above Amazon link).



Ok, as I mentioned earlier, I wanted to do some quick weathering on some of my rolling stock. While I love having my rolling stock have a nice weathered look, actually weathering them isn't one of my favorite things to do. So, I like using very quick and easy techniques that can give me a "good enough" look with little effort. Here, I'm just using a wood stain and alcohol mix, along with a couple of shades of brown weathering powders. This weathering mix is available already made, but you can easily make your own washes as well, just use a good quality paint or stain so you don't end up with lots of paint clumps in the wash.


Items used:


Testors Dullcote: https://amzn.to/343ktPB


Weathering wash: https://hunterline.com/product/cordovan-brown-weathering-mix/


Weathering powders: https://midwestmodelrr.com/brand/aim-weathering-powders/


(As an Amazon affiliate, I earn a small commission from any purchases made through the above Amazon link).


My camera cut out when applying the wash to these new box cars so I'll show you how I applied the wash to some of the other boxcars I received last year.

The process is very simple. I just paint on the weathering wash to each of the cars, trying to get good coverage. I also try to pull the brush vertically down the sides of the cars after I have that first coverage layer on.




Then, I simply set these aside to dry for a bit. Since I'm using an alcohol-based stain, it dries pretty fast.


Once the stain wash is dry, I take some brown weathering powders and brush those onto the roofs of the cars, trying to kind of grind them into the roof details the best I can. I also put a little on the sides and use the lighter brown powder to hit the sides of the trucks as well. I usually don't bother weathering the couplers since it is too easy to gum up n scale couplers, and reliable operation is more important to me than looks. But, weathering the couplers does add a lot of realism if you are careful.





After the weathering powder was applied I hit the cars with a dusting of testers dull coat to help seal the chalk in place. I then repeated the weathering powder and dull coat process on the roofs a second time since the weathering powders often stick better after the first layer of dull coat is applied.


Anyway, you can see the final result here. This technique isn't going to win any awards, but it only takes a few minutes, and you can easily weather a couple dozen cars in an hour or so. You can always go back later on and add rust spots and other weathering details if you want.









So, you might want to give this technique a try if you are looking for a quick and easy way to get some basic weathering done on your rolling stock.


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You can watch the video version of this article on my YouTube channel below:



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