Here is some typical model railroading fun, triggered by my research on this cool Athearn boxcar I bought for a few bucks. The danger here is that if you tend toward being OCD and wanting to learn everything and get everthing exactly right, its is a huge morass.
boxcar Athearn 5014 40ft Grand Canyon 145385 sIde map (resized).jpg
My idea is to build a layout based on the Southern California Santa Fe from somewhere in the 60s. Not too original, but too cool to pass up. Well, does this boxcar fit that? Well first of all, you have to figure out exactly what it is. Because a boxcar is not just a boxcar you know! You dig around and find out this is a BX-37 boxcar. This is obvious when you know where to look, its labeled as such on the lower right by the ladder. This is 1940s era when new. This one is labeled "BLT 2-42" if you look to the left of the BX37 tag so it was built new in Feb 1942 . Hey, too old!? No, because luckily the railroads were cheap and they did their best to keep old stuff going as long as they could to save money. So it would be totally realistic to have a 1960s train hauling some 1940s boxcars (so I read).
However, these types of cars were often reconditioned as time went by to keep them going. In fact, this one is labeled that it was reconditioned in 1966. If you look at the left side you will see where it says "LA 12-66" which I believe means it was reconditioned in Los Angeles in 1966. You see, when you get into it, you will find yourself studying all these markings to find out what they mean and to see if what you have is accurate. So now you know, if you were modeling EARLY 60s era, from 1960-1965, you could NOT put this car on your train!! Because it was reconditioned in 1966 which hadn't happened yet! You would be subject to ridicule and labeled as an amateur, how dare you.
But that's nothing. That's just the start of a long litany of issues. This boxcar has a roof walk on it. These were banned around 1966 (too dangerous). So if you were modeling the late 60s this would not be right, you need to take the roof walk off. But you could argue, not every car had the roof walk removed right away, it took some time to get them all done. Some may have even persisted until the 1970s, eventually completely banned in 1982. OK then. We are good to go.
Well, no. There are problems. You see the cool Santa Fe map on this one? This is the "curved line" map version. For a 1942 car it is supposed to be the "straight line" version Darn it. And the big ATSF letters on the left aren't right, there should be periods in between the letters for that era. Although you could argue they painted over the periods in 1966 when the reconditioned it I suppose.
There are many more issues to deal with after some research:
The BX-37 ladders on the sides are incorrect. The left ladder side rail should reach to the roof, which it does not. Ladders on the side of the 43 are also incorrect, as both side rails should reach to the roof. The ladder rounds are also too close together on both models.
The end ladders on the BX-37 had 6 rounds (rungs) starting higher and using the lower grab as a first step. The BX-43 ladders had 7. The models have 7, so incorrect for the BX-37. Because of the way the end ladders are cast, you can't simply cut off the lower round without also removing one (two?) of the brackets that holds the ladder to the car body.
The grabs on the ends and left end of the sides are terribly oversize. They should be 5/8" rod but look enormous. You gotta cut them off and replace them with thinner metal ones.
Of course, the underside of the car is completely wrong, everything is backwards.
There are issues with the doors that required removing them and getting them right.
All this stuff can be fixed with an intense modding session and all the right parts. It goes without saying that the wheels need to be changed out and the couplers changed to Kaydees.
All of that for ONE boxcar!!! I still haven't finished reading all the historical information on just the Santa Fe boxcars.
Of course, you could just take this damn thing and stick it on your train and say the hell with it, I'm running it. But where's the fun in that???