No. 87: ACL O-17 Ventilated Box Car Modeling


The Sunshine Models ACL O-17 ventilated box car project is complete.  This post wraps up construction and finishing of the model. 

The Sunshine model, released in the early 1990s, represents the ACL O-17, 36-foot, 40-ton ventilated box car from ACL series 17000-18999 and 19000-19175.  2,175 cars built in 1922-23 by ACL at seven different company shops.  The O-17s were all wood with a steel underframe, wood ends with two Wine Co. Ventilators on each end, and two doors on each side (one solid and one screen).  The cars had wood running boards, KC-schedule brakes and a staff brake wheel.  Trucks were ACL T-7-H (40 ton).  

Below.  ACL 18376, Soph Marty photo, circa 1960.  


I built the model in early 2016 and finally got the model sandblasted and painted early this year.  I built my model pretty much per the kit instructions but substituted sill steps from A Line, AB Brakes from Cal Scale, and I also added Kadee #78 couplers and Tahoe Model Works 40-ton trucks with semi-scale wheelsets.  I installed the AB brake set but retained the staff brake wheel.  I painted the doors separately and did not fix them to the model until painting was complete.  



Ventilated box cars are often called “Watermelon” cars but there is no ACL company documentation using this term, and no trade/industry use of this term.  In fact, a ventilated box car is a box car.  And it’s a very versatile box car too.  It can be used as a box car and also as a car that can provide ventilated all-season perishable service for such commodities as flowers, fresh fruit and vegetables, and yes even watermelons.  The fleet had a very long life because the all-wood body was cheaply and easily repaired.  Three O-17s survived on the SCL revenue roster into 1977.

After construction was complete and after sandblasting, I painted the car with a 50-50 mix of Scalecoat II Box Car Red No. 1 and Scalecoat II Oxide Red.  


I had a good deal of trouble with decals for this model.  I felt that the decals that came with the kit were unsuitable.  The typeface used did not match anything used by ACL.  Instead I used a combination of Sunshine, Westerfield and Microscale decals and used the ACD monogram from the kit-supplied set because I could not find a suitable ACL monogram with the late-steam era “small lettering” (five and seven-inch letters–not the large “Coast Line” lettering). 

Below, a photo from February 2018, after decal application was complete.  


Below.  I saw a prototype photo of an ACL vent that included boards across the lower part of the door opening so I included that too.  I used HO scale 2 x 6 boards I had on hand from another project.



After decaling was completed I weathered the model with a variety of materials.  First I applied an overspray of grime with an airbrush over the underframe and the lower portion of the model.  Second, I weathered the roof with AIM black weathering powder and sealed that with Testors Dullcote.  Finally, I used a variety of artist pencils to vary colors on the wood sheathing to create some contrast, and also sealed that work with with another very light dusting of Dullcote . 


Below.  Here’s the superstructure after Dullcote and some weathering applied.  


Below.  Atlantic Coast Despatch was formed in 1887 by ACL and PRR.  Atlantic Coast Despatch was a trade name for Fast Freight Service running primarily on the US East Coast.  Many ACL ventilated box cars and some PRR cars received the ACD monogram but the cars retained company reporting marks.  ACD disappeared in the late 1940s.  ACL cars repainted after that date received the standard ACL monogram, although many cars were seen with the ACD monogram into the late 50s or possibly later.  The decal really got torn up on my model; it looks a lot better from three feet.


To finish the model I polished the wheels with a motor tool with a stainless steel brush attached, installed and lubricated the couplers, and track-tested the model.  I’m happy to report it is now earning HO-scale revenue dollars on my M&StL layout. 


This is an essential freight car for a 1950s modeler, and I’m thrilled to have it on the layout.  My thanks to Brian Carlson for making it available.

Many blessings to you and your families!  – John G



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