The Nickel Plate Road Historical & Technical Society




NKP Tri-level Auto Rack Kit

The NKPHTS has launched a Model of the Year program for modelers. The first offering in this new series of model railroad products is an HO scale kit based on the NKP's ten tri-level auto racks, which comprised Trailer Train flats built by Pullman-Standard equipped with racks built by Paragon, both in early 1962.
Since an HO plastic kit based on the Paragon rack is not available, we chose to use the Accurail tri-level kit, which represents a car built in the late 1960s, as a reasonable stand-in. It is priced at $29.95 plus $8.00 shipping for one kit or $12 shipping for two or all three kits. Three car numbers are offered: ETTX 500706, 500720, and 500813. To order extra decals for a total of 7 cars, which are numbered ETTX 500729, 500735, 500736, 500741, 500768, 500798, and 500805, please send a self-addressed No. 10 envelope.
At first glance, this looks like a difficult kit to assemble. But by taking it in steps, it goes together surprisingly quickly.
Step 1 is to paint the metal weights flat black. Careful inspection of the diagram provided with the kit shows which side of the weight faces the floor. I attached the weight to the underframe using CA (Canopy Cement would also be a good choice); do not use Walthers Goo, as this can warp a plastic floor over time.
I spent some time studying the drawing until I was comfortable I understood where every part goes. Well, almost every part: The large X-braces are for the bi-level version of this kit and are not used. There are also two plates with three ribs on the back that are not used in this kit. The NKP prototype did have smaller X braces, four per side, which could be fabricated for greater accuracy per the prototype photo of car 500720.
I found the kit easy to assemble as follows:



Flat Car

- I attached the air brake components after the weight has been glued to the underframe. I then added the center sill, ensuring that the cross members fit below the flat car's side sills. Next come the coupler assemblies and trucks, as I didn't want to deal with them after the rack had been glued to the flat.

Tri-level Rack

- I glued the gussets to the posts, making sure that they fit flush with the sides of the posts. Note that two posts are marked with a tiny R and two with an L (for the right and left ends of the car). I attached them to both sides of either end of the car, as the instruction sheet shows, after I had joined the top and middle decks.
- I glued the gussets to the posts using a fast-setting solvent such as Tenex-7R. Then I glued the posts to the top deck on one side only (first photo). They were secure in seconds.
- Holding the top deck with the posts only attached to one side in one hand, I moved the second deck into position on one end and applied solvent to the joint between the first post and the second deck (second photo). Note that there are two slots in each post for the second deck's tabs; I used the lower slots. Then I aligned and applied solvent to the joint for the second post and deck, etc.
"snap" into place.
- I then added the R and L posts and ladders and the bridge plates. Note that the top deck plates are stowed down when the car is empty.
- The brace for a stowed bridge plate shown in the drawings on the right side of the instruction sheet is hiding in plain sight on the sprue. It contains a tiny slot into which I glued the bracket that secures the top-deck bridge plate in the upright position.
For a loaded car, don't glue the middle and bottom deck bridge plates in place until you have added vehicles.
", not 33", wheels, but this kit is based on a car that had 33" wheels.
I acquired six of these kits, half to be loaded and half empty. Finding early to mid-1960s vehicles for these cars is problematic. Plastruct sells inexpensive, pre-painted plastic 1:100 (slightly smaller than HO's 1:87) Mustangs, which may be suitable for the bottom and middle deck. A check of the Walthers 2016 HO catalog found several other suppliers who sell higher quality (and more expensive) Mustangs with the convertible top up. I also found an early '60s Thunderbird. The choices appear to be slim, but I'll keep looking. Metal vehicles could create a top-heavy car if used on the upper decks.  Tony Koester, NKPHTS Modeling Services Director




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