Proto 2000 (tm) 50 ft Box Cars

Beyond standard assembly

The purpose of this page is to record my exploration of ways in which the Life Like (tm) Proto 2000 50 ft Automobile freight cars might be improved. Let me say right at the outset that I like these products. I consider that they have been a breakthrough in bringing well finished cars to the mass market at an affordable price. My liking for them is reflected in the fact that I have a bit of a stack of them to make up along with the companion single door cars.

But I am a fussy sort of a guy who thinks that it is important for me to try and achieve scale appearance in such fittings as grabs and stirrups which go a long way to creating a feeling of finesse in a model. Having said that let me admit that I am still living with the grossness of RP25 wheels but I am watching the growth of P87 with interest. That's another story.

If I were to voice a criticism of the Proto 2000 kits it would be the choice of type of plastic for small detail parts which means that they are more fragile than they would have been had they been produced in engineering plastic which I will call 'acetal' as a generic name. It is my experience with breakages during assembly along with a desire to achieve a more scale appearance that has given rise to my experimentation which I am sharing here.

The world is changing at an unheard of pace. Model railroading is no exception and we have witnessed escallating improvements in standards of excellence over a span of just a few short years. Life Like have been at the cutting edge of those developments with constant improvements in their Proto 2000 products. I am writing this in April 1999 hot on the heels of the release of their GP30 which has broken new ground in finesse of details on a locomotive shell. It would be my hope that Life Like will be able to build on that experience and apply the same standards to the details in future freight car releases.

My self imposed benchmark

The advent of the Kadee (tm) 40 ft PS1 Boxcar redefined 'state of the art' H0 standards for me. I have adopted their standards as my own for upgrading of other products. Whether I will be able to match it is another matter, but that is the goal I have fixed my gaze on. In case you are not familiar with the Kadee product I illustrate some parts of their PS1 car below:

These acetal grabs are .008" which scales out to between 5/8" and 3/4" diameter. I couldn't ask for better!

What I've been doing with some Proto 2000 kits

These stock Proto 2000 grabs are .020" which scales to 1 3/4" diameter. Whilst over scale size they are crisply moulded and I am debating with myself as to whether that fact is more important than the 'butchered' look that my modification has.

These wire grabs are .010" (or a scale 7/8") which is still a tad coarse. What happened was I did this modification before I received my Kadee cars so I guess it is a case of the goal posts shifting in the middle of the game!

So long as I can manage a thin coat of paint they may be OK but I will use .008" wire in future. They look finer in reality than they do in this scan because the shiny nature of the wire has resulted in some 'bloom' of the image. The wire size is more apparent on the more dull wire on the corner grab on the roofwalk. The bracket grabs were fitted by using the original Proto 2000 brackets and drilling them to accept the wire bent in the usual U shape. That is less than satisfactory when compared to the Kadee grabs. On the corner grabs the original three mounting brackets were retained and the wire, preformed and soldered, fitted in holes drilled hard up to those mountings. I'll reserve my opinion on whether these grabs are going to work until I see them painted.

These replacement steps have been formed from flat brass wire about .010" x .020" and there are some problems.

  • The jig I have made does not form them quite consistently enough - a few 'thou' out and they look plain 'wrong'
  • No matter how I try they still look like bent wire stuck in the side of the car!
So, I'm on the look out for a commercial product that will replace the original Proto 2000 stirrups because they are just not durable enough for my ham-fisted handling of my cars.

Issues I have still to address:

Thank you for spending this time with me.    I'd appreciate any constructive criticism by email.

Nelson Kennedy

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Last updated 10 April 1999