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Blackstone Models D&RGW Economy Door Box Review

D&RGW "Economy Door" Boxcars

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DRGW 3083

The "economy door" version of the D&RGW's narrow gauge boxcars is faithfully reproduced by Blackstone Models.

©2010 Ryan C Kunkle, licensed to About.com, Inc.
After a rebuilding in 1924-1926, many of the Rio Grande's distinctive narrow-gauge boxcars emerged with a very spartan or "economy" style door. Blackstone Models has faithfully captured the look of this variation for the first time on a ready-to-run model in HOn3.

Product Overview

Manufacturer: Blackstone Models


Scale: HOn3 (HO scale, 3 foot narrow gauge)
Roadnames: Denver and Rio Grande Western (6 schemes,9 numbers, weathered and non-weathered versions of each), painted / unlettered
MSRP: $54.95 unweathered, $59.95 weathered

These models are all based on cars as they appeared after rebuilding in 1924-1926 with cars featuring "economy" door hardware (see Prototype History below.) A similar car, with camel door hardware is also offered. The models are available in two Rio Grande paint schemes. The famous "Flying Grande" logo is available in four numbers. The "Moffat Tunnel Route" and "Royal Gorge Route" schemes are available in one number each. Two special cars were also produced: the "gold" car used on the Silverton excursion trains, and supply car No. 03131. Models are available in fresh paint and in weathered versions, various shades of sun-faded paint are also offered. Features common to all models include:

  • Die-cast metal and plastic construction
  • Seperately applied wire detail parts
  • Opening doors
  • Detailed brake rigging
  • Kadee couplers
  • Historic profile of the cars
  • Completely Ready to Run

Prototype History

3083 B end

B end details include the handbrake

©2010 Ryan C Kunkle, licensed to About.com, Inc.

The Denver and Rio Grande purchased 750 boxcars from American Car and Foundry in 1904 and numbered 3000 to 3749. The cars hauled a great variety of products from manufactured goods to lumber to foodstuffs.

Twenty years later, the cars were in need of repair or replacement. The D&RGW opted for the latter and initiated an extensive rebuild program in 1924. Rebuilds retained the old hardware and trucks and replaced wooden components. Among the major changes were the addition of sheet metal roofs and changes in door hardware. Most of the cars were equipped with Camel door hardware. But many also received a much more simple door arrangement. These "econnomy" or "plain" door cars were otherwise similar to the other cars.

The cars remained relatively unchanged from this rebuilding until the end of operations in the 1960s. Economy door cars made up about 20% of the boxcar fleet by the 1960s. A few cars remain in service on the scenic railroads of Colorado today.

- Historic data from Jeff Johnson's excelent data sheet included with the models.

Model Details

Blackstone Models is clearly at the top of the game when it comes to HO rolling stock. These models are, simply stated, amazing. As soon as you strip away the custom packaging that protects all the fine details in transit, you immediately appriciate the care that went into these models.

The individual details on this car are too numerous to list. The wood grain and nut / bolt details are all crisp. The seperately applied wire grab irons are only the beginning. The underframe features a full brake system with all of the associated piping. Car ends feature wire coupler cut levers, air hoses and working Kadee HOn3 couplers. Doors can be opened to reveal an interior that is ready for loading if desired.

Paint and lettering is outstanding. All of the lettering is crisp and legible, even the smallest of data. Even with the car's factory-applied weathering, all of the lettering can be read.

Speaking of weathering, this is one of the nicest features of the models. The rough-around-the-edges look of narrow gauge equipment is definately part of the charm. The factory-weathered model nicely represents an in-service car, well maintained but also well used. For modelers who want a car fresh from the shops, those too are available. Some may want to add additional weathering to either version as well, but you don't have to.

The second thing you notice after the amazing detail is the hefty weight of these little cars. A metal floor (and wheels) keep the weight low and make these cars very free-wheeling. They run as good as they look.

Improving the Model

3083 open door

With the economy door open, there is plenty of room to add a load or other interior details.

©2010 Ryan C Kunkle, licensed to About.com, Inc.

Honestly, there is very very little that needs to be done by the modeler to these cars other than putting them on the track. Any of the steps described here are completely optional, but could help make your model just a little more unique.

Additional Weathering Some modelers may want a little more grit on their models. The "sun fading" option applied at the factory is a very nice touch. Especially if you are modeling the last years of narrow gauge operations, a more severe weathering treatment may be in order. You could easily add additional weathering by any of the conventional means including chalks or airbrushing. With its cast underframe, adding a "swayback" to one of these truss-rod equipped cars would be a challenge, but I'm sure someone out there will try it.

Additional Painting Some of the cars details could be brought out a bit by a little extra painting. Some silver paint on the air hose glad hands and angle cocks, a little rust on the couplers and some grimy black on the wheels and you're about done. If you aren't using magnetic uncouplers, removing the "wands" from the Kadee couplers will greatly improve their appearance.

Interior Details Although certainly not necessary, you could open one of the doors to reveal a load of crated goods, flour, or other products. Blackstone includes a number of small "Dedicated for __ Service" placards that can be added to the cars. Interiors could be detailed to match.

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