Head end cars


May 2015: Baggage-Express finished, except for diaphragms and weathering.

April 2016: scroll to the bottom to see refinements.



The Santa Fe Railway Historical & Modeling Society has decals for a variety of heavyweight head-end cars, including some with the elusive “Inc.” following “Railway Express.” Here is part of one for baggage-express cars in gold with its description. See and order them here. I’ve also received the ones for horse express and baggage-express-RPO cars. All look good.

August 2012: An updated edition of the Head End Cars book from the Santa Fe Railway Historical & Modeling Society is available. Long out of print, this new updated printing is the end-all be-all reference for Santa Fe head end cars from the 1800s through heavyweights to the lightweights. Order it directly from the Society.

Baggage-Express (per consist No. 1-Z L.A.-Chicago in lieu of Baggage-Express-Mail)

A. Description: Baggage-express

B. Name/number: 1839 (highest number in the series that the shell matches).

C. HO model: Suydam RR-5 unpainted brass shell

D. Details to be added to the model: frame (kitbash from Walthers chair car, Walthers 932-10351), trucks (Central Valley T-22 trucks, K-23 kingpins), diaphragms (Am. Ltd. #9200); rain gutters (styrene strip) and grab handles (bent from wire and from Walthers ATSF chair car) on the roof, brake wheel (Precision Scale 31117),  brake gear (NKP) and chain (from Floating Drydock).

Body and battery box cover color:
Santa Fe Coach Green
2 parts Polly Scale Pullman Green + 4 parts  Polly Scale GN Empire Green + 1 part Polly Scale Reefer Yellow, thinned with distilled water. Airbrushed with Badger 150 using a III needle and head at 15 psi. After painting the body color, sprayed Testors One Coat Lacquer clear gloss from spray can to provide a good surface for decals.
After decalling, several coats of Testors One Coat Lacquer clear gloss from spray can then one coat Testors Model Master 1959 Semi-Gloss clear from a spray can.

Rustoleum 2089 Dark Gray Primer

Frame/underfloor components:
Floquil Rail Brown from spray can.
Polly Scale Grimy Black brushed onto visible areas of underfloor equipment

ATSF Truck Brown
Polly Scale GN Empire Green airbrushed and then Testors One Coat Lacquer clear gloss from spray can.

Detail showing baggage-express lettering

This detail of a 1940 photo confirms that the lettering has “, INC.” that is included on certain SFRH&MS decals. The photo is on page 223 of Santa Fe Locomotive Development, Larry E. Brasher, Signature Press.

E. Major references: Model Railroader, P. 378, August 1942; Car & Loco Plans for Model Railroaders (for car #s 1820-1829); http://www.movie-trains.com/sleroster1.html; Head End Cars, Ellington & Shine

Drill #79 holes for the grab irons and use a piece of .030″ styrene to space them away from the body. Glue them with CA from inside then after checking that the position is OK apply a blob of 5-minute epoxy for added security.

For the top of roof grab irons, bend .015" steel wire to .35" wide.

Grab irons for the top of the roof are formed with a Mission Models Grabhandler using the .35″ width.

Drill holes in the body after applying masking tape cut to 4″ scale to space them away from the edge. Like the other grabs, use a piece of .030″ plastic to make them a uniform height from the roof then cement from the inside with CA. After checking to be sure they are in the right positions, apply a blob of 5-minute epoxy on the inside to further secure them.

When were clerestory windows plated over and replaced with four screened vents as shown on this model?

Work on the undersides begins with the coupler mounting.

Begin work on the floor by removing the water tank, batteries and generator from the Walthers Santa Fe Chair Car. Parting lines on the remaining details have been scraped off. Shorten the floor and add .040″ sheet styrene to the ends to fit the brass body. Unneeded holes are filled with styrene rod.

Back to working on the body, the brass handrails at each end were bent from .020″ brass rod to loop around the brake chain.


To make that loop I ground a semi-circle into the end of a pair of needle-nosed pliers.


After bending the brass wire loop for the brake chain, it’s placed in a jig. The “ears” are then bent down. Out of the jig,  the other 90 degree bends are made with the modified needle-nosed pliers mentioned above.

The chain is 50-links-per-inch metal, probably copper. The only place I’ve found to buy the chain, number SM-7003, is here. The brake mechanism was cast from one from an NKP kit.


After it’s painted, I’ll add a Precision Scale Co. 31117 brake wheel.


Here’s the body with a light coat of Tamiya Surface Primer (L) gray.


The coach green color looks good. Now it needs the four vertical grab handles above each stirrup step. The two brake wheels are painted separately to make it easier to paint the brake gear on each end of the car.


Below are some refinements made in April 2016.



Prototype photos

A more-or-less complete heavyweight baggage-express was seen in Santa Fe, New Mexico on Oct. 1, 2011 located adjacent to the RailRunner station there.

Ex-ATSF heavyweight baggage-express

Ex-ATSF heavyweight baggage-express

Click on the link to see some photos, including details. Try to ignore the graffiti.



2.1 Baggage-Express-Mail (per consist No. 1-Z Chicago-L.A. in lieu of Baggage-Express)

A. Description: (don’t know if it has a 15′ or 30′ mail room)

B. Name/number: (to be determined, 2105-2114 for 15′ mail room SFRH&MS kit)

C. HO model: SFRH&MS car sides and core (made by NKP Car Co., no #)

D. Details to be added to the model: floor (scratchbuild) & trucks (Central Valley T-22 trucks, K-23 kingpins), diaphragms (Am. Ltd. #9200); decals (Champ “bronze gold” color); Santa Fe Coach Green paint

E. Major references: Head End Cars, Ellington & Shine

One response to “Head end cars

  1. Pingback: Still pluggin’ along | steamblog

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