Custom Flat Cars

Athearn Heavy Duty flat cars

The old Athearn blue box eight axle heavy duty flat car is a good starting point to kitbash into other flatcars. All that is needed is just a little cutting, filling and sanding. This is an excellent car that can be used as a starting point for flats, well, and depressed center cars. These cars can still be found at train shows and on EBay.

There are multiple protoype cars:
- ATSF had two car - 250 ton capacity
- C&NW had two cars - 200 ton capacity
- D&H had four cars - 250 ton capacity
- NYC had four cars - three had 188 to 195 ton capacity, one had 250 ton capacity
- PRR had three cars - 188 ton capacity
- SP had five cars - 200 ton capacity
- Westinghouse had one car - 250 ton capacity

I have since found three articles in Model Railroader that are simular:
Kitbashing a well-hole flat car - October 1978
So you need a heavy duty depressed-center flat car - April 1975
Four Truck Flat Car (NYC & WECX) - November 1989

Starting point

Forty foot - 8 axle flat car

Make two cuts in the frame 32 scale feet from the ends. This is just before the frame angles away near the center. The center section is no longer needed. Cut three 8 scale feet long .040 thick styrene strips the same width as the frame. Make two of these side pieces. Take the deck and make two cuts, 20 scale feet from each end. A piece of styrene is used to reinforce the deck splice. Before gluing down the deck top make sure to include the weights that came with the kit. I filled all of the holes and the seam where the deck joins with Squadron Putty, and filled off all of the revits to give the deck a more modern look.


after cutting and patching

Side view

Ready for paint and decals

Sixty five foot - 8 axle well flat car

This is another easy project. THe first step is to cut the frame in half. Then make the cuts in the frame shown by the white marks in the plans. Then glue two .040 pieces of styrene 20 scale feet long by 3 scale feet wide. Center a 15 scale foot long piece of styrene on top of the previous two. Make two of these sections, then use these sections to connect the two frame pieces. Build a new deck out of sheet styrene.


center section added

Side view

Ready for paint

Forty six foot - 8 axle flat car

After the first two builds, I did not liked the height of the deck. I tried a couple of ways to cut the deck down, and trashing a few frames in the process.  The initial way that I used was to chuck a dremel cut off wheel in the drill press and cut the “top” off the car. The dremel wheel does not cut all the way through, so the cut was compelted with a Zona saw.

The current way that I make the cut, is to glue the deck to the frame, and then cut the "top" off the car with the table saw.

In the Keystone Modeler Spring 2018 issue showed a differnt way to reduce the frame height by sanding.

Finishing up the cut

Original and modified cars

Car finished, ready for decals

WECX 100 completed with load

Sixty Six foot - 8 axle flat car

Needing a bunch of the 66' flat cars for movement of wind turbine nacelles. The Walthers cars have gotten very expensive on EBay. My plans for these cars was to carry two of the wind turbine nacelle loads per car. Two nacelles would not fit on the basic 46' flat car. As an experiment I wanted to make one like either the KRL or QTTX 66' flat cars that are used to ship nacelles.

Believe that I could kit bash an Athearn Heavy Duty flat cars into one with end platforms. Took a frame, and cut out the connection for the bolster, and added a new styrene deck. The pivot point was moved closer to the end of the car. Then added the end platforms to the span bolster. But the car was not long enough to carry two nacelles.

Moved the pivot point

Platform added to the bolster

Ready for the turbine loads

Loads are too long

The end platforms did not look correct, and I remembered an article in the March 1999 Railroad Model Craftsman on scratchbuiling a 12 axle QTTX flat. The author cut up the Athearn span bolster and use the pieces as the basis of an new bolster with increased axle spacing.

Original & modified boslter

Modifed span bolster - close up

New platform

Correct fit

The end platforms did not look correct, and I remembered an article in the March 1999 Railroad Model Craftsman on scratch building a 12 axle QTTX flat. The author cut up the Athearn span bolster and use the pieces as the basis of a new bolster with increased axle spacing. Multiple jigs were made to make sure all cars were cut and assembled identical.

Pivot point jig

Platform grabs jig

Getting the production line going

More cars in progress

The original weights that came from Athearn will no longer work. The flat cars cavities are filled with #9 nickel plated lead shot from MidwayUSA. The weights were glued with Elmers white glue. If flowed down into the holes much better than CA.The process from the stock frame, cut down the frame, remove the pivot point, add a new deck, pivot point moved and completed car. I am making multiple cars. The cars will carry gas turbines (loaded and empty), heat recovery steam generator and steam turbines. Most of the cars will have CHLX reporting marks for Charleston Heavy Lift, and a few will have Southern Railway reporting marks.

Weighted Car

Process, start to finish

Process, start to finish

Allis Chalmers - ACMX 418 - 6 axle well flat

The ACMX 418 is another custom flatcar, that used the Athearn Heavy Weight flat car as a starting point. The ends are separated from the center section, and the supplied weights are installed. Styrene was cut for the deck, well sides and well ends. Ready for paint and decals. This car requires hard to find roller bearing buckeye trucks. This car is used to carry turbines, it will carry a 3D printed turbine load from Multiscale Digital.

Cutting the frame

Adding the weights

Getting the measurements

Looking Good

Ready for paint and decals

Two AC well cars

Car almost done

Turbine load

RTRX - 4 axle, 20' flat cars

Found the photo below on EBay. It appears to be four, 20' flat cars with a steam generator load on platforms. There are two ways to make these cars, either two 40' cars or four 20' cars, then add the platforms on top. Had some 60' Roundhouse flat cars in my stash, and decide to take two of them and cut a scale 15' section out of the center. Span bolsters from the Athearn heavy duty flat cars turned out to be almost the exact spacing as the photo. The platform will be built on the top.

RTRX 20' flatcars

60' Roundhouse flat

Cut down to size

SOU 50098 - 4 axle, well car

This car was built by Southern Railway to ship boilers from Combustion Engineering at Chattanooga. This car was my first scratch build. Just flat and styrene shapes. Finally go around to painting and adding decals

Read for paint

ready for decals

Waiting for the load