The online magazine on the history and operation of vintage scale model trains in American OO gauge

Tuesday, February 10, 2015

Two Athearn Tank Car Conversions

Among vintage American OO items the tank cars of Scale-Craft and Lionel are very common items. And both are very nicely made models for the time of 10,000 gallon single dome tank cars.

Then in a group of OO models I received there was an Athearn HO three dome tank car converted to American OO. I thought it looked really small and set it aside. Never operated it. And I had another Athearn HO conversion tank car that I used to run often but lately not so much.

But I do like tank cars, and I like articles on tank cars. So an article in the February, 2015 issue of Model Railroad Hobbyist caught my attention, as it is on multiple dome tank cars and points actually to a really easy American OO conversion.

The author, Richard Hendrickson, explains there how a recently introduced HO model of a 6,000 gallon three dome tank car was criticized initially by some as it looked much too small to be realistic, as it was so much smaller than the familiar Athearn HO model. But actually in the article we learn that most prototype three dome cars produced were in the 6,000 gallon size range and also that smaller sizes of tank cars in general were more common than we might think. And then there is photo 9 in the article where we see an accurate HO model next to the “hugely oversize” Athearn model.

Where this leaves us though in American OO is that actually the Athearn three dome HO model is roughly an 8,000 gallon tank car in OO. It looks small at first, but that size range is completely prototypical for the model in question. Some details are probably a bit off but this is an extremely easy conversion and one to certainly try. My model is on Schorr trucks. Also the Deep Rock scheme is a plus, as that was a regional brand in the area my layout depicts.

I did one other multiple dome tank car conversion a few years ago, a two dome car, described here and seen in the photo as well. It never has really looked quite right to me and now I see why; from the article I learn that it really should be a car of 6,000 or 8,000 gallons. But the tank is as big as the 10,000 gallon tank of a Scale-Craft tank car. Probably a few two dome cars were that big, and it still makes a nice companion car as it is also lettered for Deep Rock, but it is not typical and I don’t plan to duplicate the conversion.

The other Athearn conversion seen in this second photo is one I did literally in high school. It is mentioned also in a brief post from early in the years of this website. I basically cut the dome and added a section to make it taller and extended/expanded the frame a bit. It again is roughly an 8,000 gallon car and these were not uncommon at all out there in the real world of tank cars well into the transition era. And I have enjoyed getting this old friend out to run on the layout again.

To close, now I have another model to keep my eyes peeled for at shows! I would like to pick up a couple more of the three dome cars.

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