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Athearn 53' Bulkhead Flatcars and How to Make Easy Lumber Loads

Updated: Apr 19, 2021

In this post, we are going to take a look at the Athearn 53' bulkhead flatcars in N scale as well as an easy and basically free way to make some lumber loads for them. You can pick up the Athearn bulkhead flatcars here:

Click the banner to shop more Athearn products:

So, first off, let's look at these two new Athearn 53' bulkhead flatcars I received from Athearn recently.

These cars have some nice detail as you can see here, with crisp lettering, even on the smallest numbers, which I couldn't even see until editing this video. The bulkheads on the ends look nice as well as you can see here with the brake wheel and ladders. While the stirrups are a little oversized for N scale, as are some of the other details, that is a cost and durability trade-off.

These freight cars have metal wheel sets and body mounted couplers, both of which help out a lot during switching operations. The underside appears to be a metal casting for added weight, which helps with flat cars which are notoriously light weight in N scale.

Here is a closer look at the decking of the flat car.

These cars weigh in at 0.7 ounces, which isn't bad for a flat car, though still lighter than I'm usually comfortable with, since I like all my cars at least one ounce if possible.

Anyway, let's get them on the track and see how they do being pushed and pulled through some turnouts, which is where lighter-weight cars have the most trouble typically.

The metal wheelsets and that metal casting on the bottom really lowers the center of gravity on these cars which helps them to still track over the turnouts fine. Next, I tried pushing a 1.5-ounce boxcar with the lighter-weight flat cars through the turnouts and still had no issues. And I was able to uncouple the cars without knocking them off the track. So, they perform well out of the box, but I still think adding some weight will make them operate even more reliably.

An easy way to do that is to add a load to the cars. I wanted to make some lumber loads for these cars and remembered an article in. Model Railroad Hobbyist from back in 2011. Steve Pirosko had an article on printing making wrapped lumber loads for his flat cars. There are images you can print out for several different lumber manufactures, so I printed out those pages and tried them out. Here is the link to where you can download the PDF for that article which starts on page 53:

I cut some pieces off a 1x3 pine board to use as the base. 1" lumber is actually 3/4" in width, and that happens to be the perfect width for an N scale flat car. The pieces of wood are roughly 0.75" x 3.5" in size but obviously cut them to whatever size fits your particular car.

I cut out a couple of the wraps for n scale, folded the paper over the wood, and then cut them to size. I cut the piece in half so I could flip once side around so that the logos would be right side up on both sides of the lumber load.

Then I just took some spray adhesive, sprayed the wood down and pressed on the paper. Once I had both sides on I pressed the wrapped load against my workbench on all sides a few times to make sure I had everything securely adhered.

So, now with the lumber load these cars weigh in at 1.3 ounces. The extra heft should make them run more reliably, especially if you have any rough track areas or complex turnout configurations.

These loads won't win any awards for looks, but are a cheap and easy way to add some loads to your cars that you can swap around, and that will make your cars run even more reliably, so try it out.

If you are interested in finding out about the latest Athearn releases, check out their Train Tuesday videos on YouTube that come out every Tuesday afternoon:

You can watch my video on these flatcars and how to make the lumber loads below:

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John Chandra V.
John Chandra V.
Feb 22, 2023

Top-Tips right here,Steve.

Good Job 👍


I like these loads.How do I get the pdf files.I love them.

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