Model Building · Proto48

CN Howe Truss Box Car 513081

My first attempt at a proto48, finescale model is an upgraded Sylvan kit for a Canadian National single sheathed box car. Built in 1929, there were still a lot of these cars around in my era, 1953. Short in stature, this car will contrast nicely with the taller 1937 AAR and PS-1 box cars. Most likely, it will be hauling western grain to the feed mill in St. George.

These cars are sometimes referred to as “Howe truss” box cars as the side bracing follows the Howe truss pattern (which interestingly was intended for wood trusses, not steel). Referring to them as “Fowler” cars, as some do, is incorrect as there is nothing related to the Fowler patents in this car.

As far as researching this class of box car, the more I searched, the more I found. Ted Culotta had a great article on these cars in Nov 2003 RMC and a few pages in his Steam Era Freight Car Reference Manual. June 1994 Railmodel Journal has an article by Stafford Swain. And online, I found a few good photos at the Canadian Freight Car site:

The Sylvan kit is a little rough and some work is needed to bring this car up to a finescale standard. The one piece body is pretty good but I put aside most of the resin details. There were a few casting defects that needed attention. Here it is partly completed.


I choose the Youngstown doors over the wooden ones as there were more cars equipped with them. The door tracks needed to be replaced and other door details improved with Chooch parts. The resin cast brake details were discarded in favor of a San Juan AB set. (K brakes were original equipment on this class but cars with upgraded AB brakes would be used for interchange to the states.) Still need to detail the ‘B’ end.


The ladders, distinctly Canadian with the integral step, are fragile resin castings that I didn’t think would hold up, so, new ones are being built from brass. The running board is scratch built from styrene with more detail and a sharper look. Jacking pads made from styrene were added to the side sills along with new styrene tack boards on the ends.

I choose Protocraft E couplers with operating cut levers as a trial. I’ll equip a few cars with these beauties and see if they operate well enough to commit to them for the entire roster. St. George operations will involve a lot of switching! I’ll fall back to the new Kadee 740-745 ‘E’ couplers if this doesn’t pan out. The Protocraft air hose, bracket and glad hand assemblies look great.

For trucks, I selected Scale City (Keil Line) Dalman 2 levels. Granted the castings are a bit muddy but they are a correct truck for this car. After weathering, I think they’ll be fine.(Are these a Canadian thing? They’re correct for the CP Minibox too.) These trucks were pretty easy to convert to proto48. I used a disk sander to take a small, measured amount off  each end of the bolsters. Protocraft car bolster conversion plugs make truck installation a breeze.

CN 513081 still has a way to go. Stay tuned…




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