ExactRail is a relatively young model company, but you wouldn't know it from their product line. New models seem to be rolling out monthly. The new FMC 5277 boxcars maintain their growing reputation for building quality models at affordable prices.
ExactRail's is not the first model of this prototype, but it does raise the bar.
Roadnames: Railbox (as delivered)-12 numbers, Railbox (1996 repaint)-6 numbers, Canadian National-6 numbers, Minnesota Dakota & Western-3 numbers, Undecorated
In the 1970s, American railroads were experiencing a boxcar shortage. Intermodal leasing giant Trailer Train applyed the same car pooling logic to boxcars with "Railbox." These cars are owned by Trailer Train (now TTX Corp.) and can be used on any railroad. This avoids operating restrictions that come with railroad-owned cars that must be returned to the "home road" for their next load. Railbox's "Next Load Any Road" slogan meant better car utilization and lower costs for railroads and shippers.
The Railbox fleet has a common look - bright yellow sides, black doors and bold graphics - but actually spans many builders and car designs. Two distinctive types of cars were initially built with single and combination-doors. The latter are the subject of this model.
These 5277 cu. ft. combo-door "ABOX" cars were built by FMC in 1978. They feature a 10' wide sliding door and a 6' plug door. Nearly 1000 were purchased from Railbox by Canadian National in 1984 and 1985. A very similar car was later purchased by Minnesota Dakota and Western.
In 1995, TTX began repainting cars in a simplified scheme with a smaller logo. Many are still in service today in both old and new paint.
ExactRail offers models in several different lines. These boxcars fall into their "Evolution" Series. Evolution cars offer a lot of detail, but less road-specific options and a lower price tag than their "Platinum" models. That being said, this car is by no-means short on detail.
For the asking price, it's hard to ask for anything more. The model features many seperate detail parts including ladders and grab irons, door guides, brake lines, etched metal end platforms, metal wheels and Kadee No. 5 couplers. Two different roofs are offered to match changes made during the production run. Aside from adding a few more details to the ends like coupler cut levers and air hoses, this car has just about everything you could want.
The paint and graphics on all of the models I've purchased are very well done. The small data is easy to read and color reproduction outstanding.
The reasonable asking price has another advantage with common prototypes like this - you can build a fleet without breaking the bank. It is hard to find a freight train without a yellow Railbox or two in it...from the 1970s to today. Even if this isn't among the most common of Railbox cars, by sheer numbers it is still a common prototype. Many modelers will want more than one.
Many modelers will also no doubt use these cars to practice their weathering skills. In service for more than three decades, these cars are starting to show their age. Cars still remaining in original Railbox paint are often among the most interesting weathering displays on the rails. Others have been patched and reletterd for new owners.
A Modeling Canvas
OK, so the ExactRail car is a good model and a great bargain right out of the box. So now what can we do with it?
If you happen to be modeling the late 1970s or early 1980s, you don't need to do much to make this car look at home on your layout. If you model a later era, you will probably want to give this model some aging. Their high-availability certainly took a toll on the cars' appearance. Heavy weathering, and in recent years fading logos and graffiti, have become trademarks of these cars.
Some of these techniques are fairly straight forward, but the more extreme examples will require some practice and thought. I'm sure there are already weathering artists out there with these cars on their workbenches. I'll be working on a few of my own and will share the results and techniques here soon.
In addition to weathering, you could also repatch these cars for new owners. Many of these cars rolled on for years in original paint with only a small fresh paint patch in the corner. Railbox cars are also sometimes repatched with their original marks and number if the original is too faded or covered in graffiti.