February 21, 2018

A Passenger Car for the Aquia Line

This USMRR wreck train of the O&A has an interesting assortment of cars including a 10-window passenger car. Note there are two wrecked locomotives suggesting that the train was double headed.

 The USMRR freight car rosters that I found in the National Archive show that the Aquia Line had one passenger car in the time period I model. I suspect this was the car that they used to transport officers in accordance with General Hooker's order documented here. That order establishes  three cars for passenger service, but the roster only lists one. They probably used regular freight cars to transport soldiers.

So, I need at least one passenger car on the railroad. The problem is that a full sized passenger car will be trouble on the tight curves of my railroad. When I was laying out the track, I made a simple passenger car from a block of wood. I made sure that the car would clear obstacles like rock outcroppings, fences, etc. I recently used a standard gauge 40-ft box car to verify these clearances. All was OK. But the coupler overhang on these long cars could be a problem. What I really needed was a short passenger car. Fortunately, the USMRR had one. See the lead image for an example of a 10-window passenger car on the the USMRR O&A Line.

I have copies of a drawing  for a 10 window passenger car that was built for the Pacific Road in the 1860s. I used those plans to get the overall dimensions and layout of my car. But I modified some of the details to match the car in the photo above.

I cut the core of the car from 0.13 inch thick acrylic plastic, which was nominally 1/8th inch, but you have to verify the actual thickness if you use tabs and slots in your design. After filling the gaps and rounding the corners with sandpaper , I gave it a couple coats of Krylon gap filling primer, my favorite primer.

Then I painted it a base color of Vallejo Light Brown, which was a slight yellow tint. the interior is Vallejo Burnt Umber.

I made the trim from wood veneer that had been prepainted and sealed to hide the grain. I painted the trim Vallejo Burnt Umber. This was a color scheme that Dave Schneider referenced when doing the SMR Trains USMRR passenger colors, as "two-tone brown."  I wanted the car to stand out from the other freight cars  on the layout. Furthermore, passenger cars in this era were often brightly painted.

However, in studying the prototype photo, it looks to be like the car is a single color, with perhaps a contrasting stipe down the center where the number is. I may repaint car in all burnt umber except for that central stripe.  What do you think?

 I began detailing the interior with trim, rest rooms, seats, and a stove based on other photos of cars in that era. The seats are based on a design for a B&O passenger car form the 1850s.  I made the seat frames with laser cut 1/32 birch plywood. The bottom cushion is a carved piece of 1/8th inch basswood.

The car will ride on a pair of SMR brass passenger trucks. The set comes with brakes on both trucks, but the drawing I have shows brakes on only one. So I will remove one set of brakes.

I plan to install the coupler on a pivoting arm to help with the tight curves. I will use a technique that is similar to how some HO scale 89-ft cars are done. The Accurail  set on the left is an example of a pivoting coupler are.


  1. After watching the life of 2-tone paint jobs, Motorcycles of the 30s, auto's in the 50s, Cream/Brown in any combo is a winner as well as Blue/Brown. My Road's Varnish Colors are Prussian Blue and Mahogany (Blue/Brown). Your's has the "Distinguished" look that exudes confidence. Just what the "payin" passengers and investors need to see.
    This War will be over soon and we all need to concentrate on passenger service where the money will be in Railway Transportation.

  2. Quite impressed with the progress of the car. I think the paint scheme as it current is right now is a bit odd, if prototypical. I think the dark brown trim really confuses the eye.

    Why not keep one side as it and repaint the other side for the other scheme. You will essentially get two cars out of it.