Penn Central N5b Cabin Cars

I decided to take a break from track work this evening and get started on a project that I’ve been planning for some time.  I’m trying to build up the necessary rolling stock to populate my layout as I build it, and to that end, I have a running “to-do” list of models I eventually need to build.  My research indicates that the N5b cabin cars were deployed in abundance on the Canada Southern and Penn Central’s Niagara Branch, both in local service and on through freights. Indeed, North Tonawanda yard was where two local jobs tied up their Alco S2 and N5b cabin.

Bowser has a nice HO model of the N5b in their catalogue, and I’ve been meaning to get around to building one.  I’m not thrilled with molded-on grab irons, and Bowser’s model is so equipped.  My best approach to building a model of an N5b would be to start with an undecorated Bowser model, replace the molded-on grab irons with wire parts, and then paint and weather them.  That was the plan, as I envisioned it.  The problem was finding these kits in undecorated form.

Back in August, I was on a cycling trip on the Pine Creek Rail Trail, the south end of which is close to Montoursville.  For those less familiar with Bowser Trains, Montoursville PA is the home of Bowser Trains and the adjoined store English Model Railroad Supply.  It was a short and very scenic drive out of my way to pop in on the Bowser World Headquarters and pick up some new toys.

The sales guys were great, and when I asked for undecorated N5b kits, they said they would have to put them together for me.  I figured it was a good time to buy all of cabins I’d need on the layout, so I took three (and an Alco C430 in Penn Central, while I was there).  They put three kits in one box for me, and I was happily on my way.

To start the project, I made up an extremely sharp and very small knife from a dental scraping tool. I needed this to scrape the grab iron details off the shell without removing any rivets. The trick to doing these cabeese is to buy the grab iron sprue (one per caboose) for the Bowser N8 kit.  These are beautiful plastic grab irons parts that are a close enough match for the prototype, as far as I’m concerned.  Tonight I finished the scraping and drilling of all of the grabs on the car body.  Next up, I’ll do the grabs on each corner of the cupolas.  Here’s how things looked when I finished up tonight.

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