Building A B&O M-25 Box Car Using Traditional Old School Methods

By Brooks Stover, MMR

(all photos copyright © Brooks Stover, unless otherwise noted; click photos for larger version)

BC&G #14 (an S-Helper Service Consolidation) is pushing a B&O Class M-25 box car into position for loading at the Swandale sawmill in the mid-1960s on Brooks' layout. In this article Brooks describes how he added CRECO doors and other details to an A.C. Gilbert box car shell to create a reasonable representation of this small class of B&O (ex-C&O) box cars.

One of the things I really enjoy about modeling in S-scale is modifying inexpensive American Flyer body shells to create models acceptable for use on my Buffalo Creek & Gauley shortline railroad. While not as detailed as the excellent models available from American Models, Smoky Mountain Model Works, or S Scale America, among others, AF box car shells can be quite acceptable with a few added details when mixed into consists of more detailed models. And they're great fun to do! In this article I describe the evolution of one such "old school" conversion I recently completed.

Some years ago I built a generic B&O box car from a sliding-door A.C. Gilbert American Flyer body shell. Using a chisel blade, I removed the side ladders and installed ladders from Pacific Rail Shops. I also made new, 'open' corner steps. After painting the car Floquil Tuscan Red, I created a generic B&O lettering scheme from scrap-box decals. I mounted the shell on an ACE underbody fitted with ACE hi-rail trucks and my standard Kadee #802 couplers. While no contest winner, the car was in service on my layout for close to 10 years.

B&O Class M-25

The American Flyer box car shell closely approximates this B&O class M-25 car. Notice the smooth sides, peaked roof, and dreadnaught end panels. This example has a vertical brake wheel, but many were converted to horizontal wheels as these lasted into the early 1970s. Photo by Charles Mahan, Jr.; from the author's collection.

I recently learned that in the early 1960s, the B&O acquired 134 box cars from the C&O which became B&O class M-25. The standard AF box car is a very close match to the M-25, being straight across the bottom and with simple door rails, pitched roof, square corners, and dreadnaught ends. I liked the paint scheme in the photo as it is the less common scheme with the large B&O on the right side of the door and so I decided to modify my earlier generic model to represent a class M-25 car.

Rebuilding the Model

I did not strip the paint off of the model to make the modifications into an M-25, but made the changes carefully so I only needed to touch up the paint. I was able to remove the old decals as they, fortunately, had not bonded to the paint all that well.

The Des Plaines Hobbies CRECO door sets the M-25 model apart from box cars with the far more common Youngstown door. Brooks made new door tracks from styrene strip. The Des Plaines Hobbies door exactly matches the opening in the AF body shell.

The first major step of the upgrade was to replace the AF's 'clunky' door and rail. I was working on a S Scale America PRR X-29 (B&O M-26) box car kit at the time, and realized the doors on the SSA kit were exactly the same size as the AF doors. Fortunately, Des Plaines Hobbies sells both CRECO and panel doors, as well as Youngstown doors, from their X-29 kit, separately. I decided that, to make my M-25 stand out further from the crowd, I'd use CRECO doors and ordered a pair from Des Plaines Hobbies.

The AF door slides were easily removed by prying out the rivets. A small amount of filing was required to remove the bosses where the rivets had fit. Four new door tracks were made from strip styrene, using one each of 0.020" x 0.080" and 0.020" x 0.040". The Des Plaines Hobbies doors fit perfectly over these new tracks.

To complete the conversion, I used a chisel blade to remove the molded grabs on the left end of each side and replaced them with Pacific Rail Shop grabs. I also replaced my earlier crude corner steps with PRS parts. I shaved off the grabs on the lateral roof walks and fabricated replacements from 0.020" brass wire. Finally, I added 0.020" brass grabs along the bottom of both ends of the car and used slices of 1/8" styrene to represent poling pockets.

Brooks added grabs made from 0.020" brass rod to the roof walk and on either side of the coupler. The poling pockets are slivers of 1/8" styrene tubing. The side ladder, from PRS, had been installed during the first iteration of the build.

Two grabs from PRS replaced the cast-on grabs which were carefully shaved off the car sides using a chisel blade. The PRS corner steps are just visible in this view.


While it was built with mostly "old school S techniques", the B&O M-25 with CRECO doors makes a unique model. The PRS and scratchbuilt details make a nice near-scale representation of a period-correct car for Brooks' 1964-era layout. The car was weathered with dark grey pastel chalk. Behind the M-25 is one of S Scale America's beautiful X-29 kits built as a B&O M-26, a car very similar to the M-25 but without dreadnaught ends.

I'd say the rebuilt model, while perhaps still not a contest winner, is a nice improvement over my original effort. The rivets are (still) oversized and the band of missing rivets to the left of the door is distracting. The road number on the car is not correct for an M-25 but I didn't want to change any more decals than necessary and almost no one will know but me. There is only minimal underbody detail but no one knows that but me, either!

Overall, however, my rendition of an M-25 looks and performs competitively with much fancier and pricier models on my layout. It's very satisfying to have been able to breathe new life into an AF body shell that was manufactured as a toy over a half century ago and that uses ACE floor and ACE trucks that have such significance in the evolution of S modeling! The BC&G crew is proud to switch rolling stock with such a colorful history and it's nice to be able to say "I built it".


Product Gallery