By Geno Sharp

Boxcar Doors
in O Scale

All Photographs by Geno Sharp.

Hey gang, welcome back!  In this edition of the Corner, we are going to talk about boxcar doors.  Now, there are numerous versions of boxcar doors out there on many varieties of boxcars.  For this project, the boxcar we are going to tackle is a 50-foot, outside-braced, RailBox boxcar (see Figure 1).  I have several of these cars that I want to get ready for service on the layout, so I want to work on such things as weathering and changing out details to more closely model the prototype cars. 

After researching RailBox cars online, it appears to me that most of these common car types were delivered with the Youngstown-style door on the prototype, as seen in Figure 2, as well as on the “as-delivered” scale model shown in Figure 3. 

At some point in the lives of these outside-braced cars (and not just the RailBox cars), many were changed out – or “upgraded” – to the Superior-style doors, as seen in Figures 4 and 5.  I am unsure as to the reason for the change; possibly it came about due to a change in the car’s service, damage, or just to provide a better-working door.  At any rate, I wanted to model this change on a few of my cars.

I looked around online but was unable to locate an O-scale, Superior door that suited my needs, so I decided to build my own.  The process I will describe is not limited to O scale:  you easily could use this process to model Superior doors in other scales, as well; simply adjust the material sizes and measurements to the scale which you model.  Follow along as I show you how I modeled these doors.

To begin, here is the list of materials used in this project (see Figure 6) as well as tools needed.


  1. One large, plastic “for sale” sign.  (This is equivalent to .040 styrene sheet material but much cheaper than purchasing it as sheet goods.)

  2. One pack of Evergreen scale 6"x6" styrene strips (#8606, for O scale).

  3. CA glue (a.k.a. superglue).

  4. A hobby knife.

  5. A metal straight edge.

  6. A fingernail emery board or sanding block.

Step 1.  I removed the stock Youngstown door from the car and used it to trace an outline of the new door onto the styrene sheet (see Figure 7), and cut out this base layer of the door.  I then used a straight edge to mark the lines on it for the brace strips (see Figure 8).  I did not have the actual prototype measurements for positioning the brace strips, so I marked them off by sight to look as close to the prototype photo as possible.

Step 2.  I cut the outside frames for the new door from scale 6"x6" styrene strips to fit the door and glued the strips to the outer edges of the door, as shown in Figure 9.

Step 3.  Again using the 6"x6" styrene strips, I measured and cut each cross brace and used the guidelines I drew on the door in step 1 to glue them in place (see Figure 10).

Step 4.  This step is optional, depending on whether or not the door you are modeling has a tack board for posting notes on the boxcar.  The particular door I am modeling has one; you will want to refer to prototype photos of your boxcar to determine the size and location of the tack board, as I have found they are not always the same size or located in the same place.  I measured a small, flat piece of styrene against the door (see Figure 11), cut out the tack board, and glued it in place (see Figure 12).

At this point, I repeated steps 1 through 4 to complete the second door (see Figure 13) so that I would be ready for painting and installation, as described in the following steps.

Step 5.  Using an emery board, I filed any rough edges smooth and squared up the door sides (See Figures 14 and 15).

Step 6.  Once all the sanding was complete, I painted both doors with flat black spray paint.  While I was at this step, I also mixed up a blend of acrylic cream and brown paints and used the mixture to drybrush a little light road dust weathering onto both doors, as shown in Figure 16.

Once the doors were dry, I sprayed on a mist of dull-coat to seal the weathering.  Then, I finished weathering the car and put the doors in place, as shown in Figure 17.

I did not glue the doors into position.  Instead, I tried to keep the measurements close so that they would fit snuggly in place and stay put; I wanted to be able to change the doors to the open or closed position depending on the scene I am modeling.  You could take it one step further and make slide hinges so the doors actually would operate, but I chose not to do that for this project.

As you can see on the finished model (see Figure 18), the doors – though simple in design – turned out very nice with just a little amount of work.  And in the end, they make a big difference in detail for this model.

Well gang, that pretty much is gonna do it for this edition of Geno’s Corner.  I hope that you enjoyed following along on this project and have found the tips useful.  Give it a try on one of your models; I think that you will be happy with the results.  


About the Author


Geno Sharp, a retired deputy sheriff, has been a model railroader for over 30 years.  He has built several layouts in various scales during that time and currently is building a new two-rail, O-scale switching layout, the South Dixie Beltline, an urban-based layout set in the mid-to-late 1970’s.  You can follow the layout build on his YouTube channel,

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