A couple summers ago I decided to modify a 40ft boxcar for a freelanced project I did for my layout. It was for a CN version of Canadian Pacific’s robot cars. Canadian Pacific used them mostly for transcontinental grain service. This car would support 1-3 mid train locomotives remotely. They where made from a range of old 50ft boxcars, locomotive B units and old baggage cars. The CP units or cars where gutted to house Locotrol equipment that was used to control the trailing (sd40-2’s) mid train without the use of MU cables. With technology becoming more versatile the Locotrol devices became smaller and smaller. By the late 80’s locomotive designers where able to fit the devices directly into the nose of the locomotive which lead to the demise of these unique railcars.

At the time CP and CN where both still very competitive against each other. So a CN version of the Robot car would’ve been possible at the time. I don’t personally know if CN experimented with Locotrol or distributed power back in the 70’s 80’s and 90’s. However I do know that CN runs most if not all of it’s modern trains with mid train units today.

With that said and the #1 rule of model railroading being “its my railway” I decided to build a plausible CN Robot car.

Now the model itself has already been completed but it had a ton of inaccuracies that I thought would not make this model look authentic. The first and only problem wasn’t a major one. I used a boxcar that was painted for revenue service. So it needed a new paint job. It also needed to be renumbered into company service. Other than that the model needed some MU cables to connect to the trailing locomotives and some other small details here n there.

Here is an article I wrote last summer explaining the main idea behind its construction:

Here is the model now. Its been repainted to represent a company service car. There are still some odds and ends to clean up and… It also needs a dull coat to seal in the decals.

image4-2The railcar is an Atlas 40ft boxcar model with various details added. I used pictures of a CN M of W fuel car as a reference. The decals are from Highball Graphics. They come from various sets. The road numbers and noodle are from a locomotive set and the other small decals are from various boxcar sets I had laying around my work bench. image1-2(Above) You can see the antenna racks used for receiving the signals for the Locotrol device. The antenna racks are from BLMA Models (Now Atlas) and the antennas are from details west. I left the roof walks in for maintenance crews to easily service the antennas.image3-1(Above) This car has rebuilt roller bearing trucks from Rapido trains for added realism. I also decided to add re-railing frogs to both sides of the car. It traveled right next to the units so it would make sense to put them in. Both re-railing frogs are from Details West. The only modification I did to them was add the chain and repositioned their mounting hangers.

(Below) Here is a close up of the end detail. The MU cables are from Details West. There are two types of MU cables here. 4 for locomotive control and 1 large cable to power the Locotrol equipment inside the car. There is a MU receptacle on both ends of the car to receive a signal from the locomotives. Both receptacles are magnetized and are compatible with NAR Corp. magnetic MU cables. That means I can physically connect the car to any locomotive in my roster that has the NAR Corp magnets installed.image2-3image1-3(Above) I bent the MU cables to match the height of the MU cables on this GP38-2W. They touch the units cables giving it the effect of both units being connected.

(Below) Here is another shot of the car hooked up to a GP38-2W. I still have some end detail such as a small road number decal to add to both ends. The paint I used for the car was BC Rail Red from True Line Trains it matched the orange from the CN fuel car I copied.image2-4

I finished this project while writing this article. The rest of the decals are now on and the Railcar will be getting some dull coat paint this week. I will post some of the finished photos of this car in the photo gallery when I get the chance.

I find its good to model a couple of freelanced pieces every once and a while so I’m not constrained to following prototype practices all the time. It really opens my mind to any ideas I want to get out there. It was a satisfying project to say the least.








  1. Rick De Candido

    Hi Marco,
    Another fine model…if I can say, I think it is very good to be open-minded with regard to going proto-freelance. Why be constrained by exactly what the prototype has? As you have shown, a modeller can create a very plausible and realistic piece of rolling stock (or scenery, or structure). It entirely fits in with your theme and era. Well done!


    1. Hi Rick,
      Thank you!. I find doing these projects really brings out my creative side. The idea doesn’t stray too far from the prototype making it very believable for anyone looking at it.


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s