ann arbor 5100 series 50' box cars
The Michigan Interstate era, 1977-1982, saw improved marketing and service efforts by the lease operator of the Ann Arbor Railroad System. They introduced the new Ferry-in-Fog paint scheme and the stylized "AA" lettering, and generally tried their best to boost business and make the railroad profitable. As part of those initiatives, they bought over 100 new 50' box cars that were all delivered with the Ferry-in-Fog markings.
Roundhouse Products started making an N Scale kit version of this model sometime in the mid-late 1980s or early 1990s, and I have roughly 40 of them in my fleet. For a long time these models sat in their boxes, un-built, as I worked on other projects. However, when I finally turned my attention to these kits, I noticed that the only number available was 5016. In checking the bible (Craig Wilson's treatise on Annie rolling stock), I saw that there were two series of these cars: 5000-5099, and 5100-5199. The 5100 series was the only one that used the "CUSHION SERVICE" marking, so I realized that the Roundhouse models had the wrong series numbering scheme.
This was an easy problem to solve. I made a simple Excel spreadsheet, found the right font, and created four sets of every number between 5100 and 5199, along with a set of reduced size "AA ####" for the car body ends. Once the print scaled out correctly, I ran a sheet of blank decal paper through my printer and I had a complete set of accurate markings to modify my kits (plus extra #s for my inevitable miscues and re-do's!).
Because all of the other markings were accurate, I used the sharp edge of a hobby knife to very carefully scrape off 30+ sets of "5016" from my AA box car roster. Placing the new numbers was a breeze, just sliding them into place and blending in any overly aggressive scrape marks with some light paint touch-up and weathering.
Modifications such as these really transcend any particular road name, as the techniques and process can be applied to any model in any scale, and it's a great way to build your fleet of any particular favorite car - especially when it is a limited model run. I am pleased to report that when Roundhouse sold its tooling and dies to Fox Valley, the new Fox Valley models are RTR and feature the correct series numbering.
The image to the left is an original low-res shot taken back in 1998 or 1999 when I was first dabbling in rolling stock modifications and rudimentary digital photography. It shows my Excel print-outs, two box cars and my trusty X-acto knife used to scrape off the inaccurate "5016" markings. We've come a long way with technology!