P48 – The Cost of Conversion

I was pleasantly surprised to find the Twin Star Cars website up for business this morning. Reviewing the offerings prompted me to sit down with a fresh Atlas O PS2 4427 hopper and develop a plan to convert it to P48. The wheels of course, but also the couplers, probably the trucks and the truck bolsters. It took about an hour to remove the couplers, disassemble the trucks and figure out what I would need to convert the car. Shopping for parts made me pause to consider the cost of conversion. These projects get expensive pretty quickly and can require significant work.

This post is about the costs and considerations I have as I dig deeper into the P48 sub-culture.

There are 2 methods I am considering to convert this car to P48. Use new Protocraft trucks or keep the existing Atlas side frames.

New Protocraft Trucks

The best detail method uses new Protocraft Trucks mounted on conversion body bolsters from Twin Star Cars and Protocraft couplers. This option requires the existing bolster pin to be milled from the bottom of the car, but I think will yield the best looking results.

Protocraft Trucks ConversionPrice
Twin Star Cars Conversion Bolsters $26
Protocraft Trucks & Bushings$67
Protocraft Couplers$11

This method is most expensive, requires the most work and is not easily reversed. Once I mill the underframe, I’m invested and re-selling the car as a standard O is probably not going to happen. On the plus side I already have the trucks and couplers (although I can probably sell them and recoup my investment). I think this method will also yield the best looking result.

Keep Existing Atlas Trucks Side Frames

This method keeps the existing Atlas truck side frames and utilizes a conversion truck bolster sold on Jim Lincoln ‘s Shipways store to narrow the side frames to the exact prototypical width. This method will require P48 Protocraft wheel sets and new Protocraft couplers.

Keep Atlas Side Frame Conversion Price
Jim Lincoln Conversion Bolster$14
Protocraft Wheel Sets$18
Protocraft couplers$11

This method is cheaper, less work and is easily reversed. Since the trucks are highly visible on these models, the biggest drawback is that the the Atlas truck side frames are too thick and are less detailed than the Protocraft version.

Other Considerations

Not having a P48 layout hampers my ability to test if P48 works for me. So options that do not require modifying the car are appealing. I’m also not sure if I will like operating with Protocraft couplers or if Kadee is the way to go. Up to this point my P48 adventures have been conversion experiments. I think I’m willing sacrifice a couple more cars to that experiment, but I’d really like to move beyond conversions and start experimenting with operating to see what actually works.


Author: Greg Amer

3 thoughts on “P48 – The Cost of Conversion

  1. I’ve been anxiously waiting for Protocraft to restock the P48 Barber S-2 100 Ton Roller Bearing Truck. I check frequently to see if they’ve been restocked. I checked last night and finally they are in stock!

    I about fell out of my chair when I saw the new price is $125! They were previously $65. I knew the price was going to be more, I just didn’t expect it to nearly double.


    These are probably the most important trucks for my modeling desires, & now the P:48 cost factor just changed dramatically for me.

    Time for some soul searching. Is P:48 just going to be too expensive for me? What other options are there? Can I 3D print my own trucks maybe? Should I just pursue 2 rail?

  2. Thanks George,

    Time is definitely a factor and I think I prefer to just replace the whole truck as well. I find Kadee couplers to be very versatile and operate well, but would still like to real life test the Protocraft.

    As I re-read this post I have a couple thoughts about my pursuit in P48.

    First, at the rate I’m converting cars (2 per year) I shouldn’t worry too much about costs. Also, If I am able to build a P48 layout it will be small and not many cars.

    Second. I stated not having to modify cars would be appealing but I don’t think that as much anymore. My current approach to the hobby is to modify cars and locomotives, it’s turned out to be a very enjoyable pursuit.


  3. Greg,
    The one factor not in the tables above is TIME.

    It is much easier to replace trucks than to convert trucks. It may cost a little more but it simplifies the process and makes it much easier to convert the car. Often times it will look much better also. It does add to the cost per model, but that only matters if you are about to convert 50 cars in one setting or one at a time.

    The Protocraft couplers are great. They look great and operate as close to the real thing as we have in a model. Including needing to be aligned before coupling. That is great in a layout where everything is visible and in front of you. As soon as you have hidden track or siding in staging yards that becomes more of an issue. I chose to stay with the Kadees, because the thought of having to align couplers six tracks over in a staging yard did sound like a fun time.

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