Athearn 42' Tank Car

Athearn 42 foot 'Chemical' Tank Car

  • Tools needed:
    • Small blade screwdriver with a big handle.
    • Small needle nose pliers to handle parts or
    • Small tweezers also to handle parts.
    • Long pointed tips are a plus.
    • But normal tweezers can work also.

The Athearn kits make into nice looking Tank Cars. As purchased they are about 1.25 oz light in weight. The 42 Foot Tank is close to 5 inches long. Therefore using the NMRA RP-20.1 Car Weight Table (see Weight for details) the finished car should weigh 3.5 ozs. With the supplied weight it is right at 2.15 oz. So first order of business is to add about 1.25 oz to the existing piece of steel.

I used discarded auto tire weights. each weighed .80 oz when I started to flatten them enough to stay on the steel. I cut off the piece of metal used to hold them on the auto wheel rim, filled off some of the lead and wound up with .67 oz apiece. I Gooed them to the steel and added a bit of super glue to speed up the hardening time. Be sure they are centered on the plate. [See scanned photo]. While the added weights were curing I started to assemble the rest of the kit. Be sure to examine all the parts in the little envelope as Athearn has upgraded the ladders and changed the trucks.

Test assemble the underbody first. I discovered that the trucks could not be drawn up tight to the frame as the bolster studs were too long. I.e. the truck cross piece was now thinner than when the frame had been cast. But before making any changes to the underframe, install the Kadee couplers in the boxes on the frame. Fasten the trucks to the bolsters and see if the couplers are too low by using a coupler gauge or another car you know has the correct height couplers. Kadee sells a very good cast metal gauge that you slip on the rails and line up the car to be examined. (See Knuckle Couplers) I bought my gauge in 1960 at a flea market and so I'm not sure how old it is. In all that time the couplers have not varied in height. Mine has an antique coupler attached that was being phased out when I started but it still correct so why change it? In the case of this tank car the frame and trucks and couplers were at the correct height without needing to add washers between the trucks and bolster, so 2 or 3 swipes with the file to reduce the stud were in order.

Tighten the truck mounting screw and then back off just a bit until the truck swivels freely but doesn't wobble. Next install the brake wheel and its bracket on one end of the car frame. It slips right in and a small drop of ACC [super glue] keeps it from falling out. The two black placard holders are metal. I drilled out the two holes in the frame with a number 62 drill to allow the holders to slip right in. Probably they can be forced into the holes but I like clean fits. Again a drop of ACC holds them in place.

Now place the weight into the bottom of the tank. I put my weight in with the added weights up to be more sure as the years go by that they will stay in place. Put the top of the tank in place and put the longest screw up from the bottom into the middle hole in the frame. Next comes the handrails and the ladders. Note one end of the ladder has 2 small holes cast into the ends. This may be different from what the diagram shows. This is an improved way to fasten the ladders in place.

Place the feet of each ladder into the holes in the walkway and stick one of the 2 handrails through the hole in the ladder and into the side of the tank. Press the wire into the standoffs around the sides and ends and press the other end into the other side of the tank. Neat isn't it? Do the same with the other railing.

The black platform snaps onto the top of the tank. I tried a few times before I got it to slip over the top of the manhole but the bottom lines up with the cast supports on the tank. Be sure the cover is aligned with the hinges on the side of the manhole. [It looks strange if put on backward.] Lastly fit the two guardrails around the platform. I then put tiny drops of ACC at every contact point on the railings.

Note: Eric Bracker, MMR told how he handles crazy glue, super glue, or any kind of glue. He ground the end off the eye of a needle leaving the 2 sides bare. then he pressed the pointed end into a dowel for a handle. Dip the end into the glue and put it on the right spot. Very small amounts that are just right.

Rick Shoup, MMR (article and photos)

Rick Shoup is MMR #234 and has received certificates in the following AP categories: Motive Power, Scenery, Civil Engineer, Chief Dispatcher, Association Official, Association Volunteer and Author.

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Page last updated January 9, 2015