Ron Marsh

Upgrading Rolling Stock from Swap Meet to Layout

Ron Marsh
Sign in
Sign in or Get Access to view full video!
Duration:   13  mins

What can we do with older cars to make them great additions to our fleets on our model railroad layouts? Model Railroad Academy Editor Ron Marsh recently attended a model railroad swap meet and picked up a few older cars.

In this video, he shows ways to upgrade new old stock cars with mechanical upgrades as well as weathering. These can take some less expensive models that we might pick up at a swap meet, train show, or online and turn them into fleet-weathered cars that make great additions to our rolling stock fleet that we can enjoy both in the way they operate and how they look for years to come.

Buying some of these less expensive new old stock cars is also a great way to practice the techniques of these mechanical upgrades and techniques for weathering without a big financial investment.


The most immediate issue with these older Roundhouse boxcars is that they have old-style horn-hook couplers. These must be replaced with couplers compatible with current industry standards in order to run on almost any layout today.

Ron decided to keep the original trucks and wheels and just install Micro-Trains’ body-mounted couplers. Ron shows us in detail how he did this.


Ron’s goal was to just give the cars a good basic fleet weathering. In the era that he models, these rolling stock cars would be 30 to 35 years old, so a heavy coat of grime was needed. Ron takes us step by step through this process.

Here at MRA, we have several videos about weathering. You may also want to watch “Model Railroad Weathering Techniques for Rolling Stock” and “Weathering Washes with Lance Mindheim”.


Now it’s time to reassemble the car: reinstall the wheels into the trucks, the trucks to the bolsters, and the underbody onto the car. A quick test push shows that these cars are quite free rolling and should operate well on Ron’s layout.

With just a couple hours’ work, Ron has taken these two new old stock cars and turned them into nice-looking and operating boxcars for his layout for a fraction of what he might have paid for more recent releases.

Swap-meet finds are a fantastic way to add to your rolling stock fleet and practice some important modeling skills.

Upgrading Rolling Stock from Swap Meet to Layout Join Model Railroad Academy to continue watching for $10.00 per month / $112.00 per year