Making a car ready to enter 1982 (Or ACI Plates, Consolidated Stencils and Yellow Dots!)


The magic of 1982 now that I have the ACI and yellow dot in place. I think I hear “Don’t Stop Believin'” coming from that Ford Custom. Cool!

By C. Hunt (with much research from B. Smith)

The late 1970s and early 1980s is a great era to model for a lot of reasons.  (I’ll write a post on that in the future maybe. )

However, modelling this era means you have to put some work into your cars to get them ready to enter this golden era on your layout.

You need to screen your cars for ACI tags, lube plates and the famous yellow dot.

Here’s a little history from B. Smith–

Yellow Dots — In 1978, a bad batch of 33″ wheels from the Southern Wheel Company was suspected in causing several derailments. To quickly identify and eliminate the problem, all cars with 70 ton or less capacity and 33″ wheels had to be inspected. If the cars had the recalled wheels they were given a marking like this with a white dot. Cleared cars were given the yellow dot. The mandate came in March of 1978 and all bad wheels were to be identified and replaced by December of that year. (And through December cars with a “white dot” could not be included in any train carrying hazardous materials.) New cars built during the period were also given the yellow dot at construction. There was no pressing reason to remove the yellow dots, so many stayed on freight cars for decades until they were repainted or retired.  (As it turns out, some 100 ton cars got the dot too.)  Cars built or repainted after 1979 won’t have this dot.

Consolidated stencils — Consolidated stencils began appearing in 1972.  Early ones were single panels.  ALL cars have them now.

ACI Plates  — Automatic Car Identification plates were introduced in 1967 and were required on all cars in interchange service by 1970.  Due to difficulty in reading the plates from dirt and grime, the ACI plate requirement was eliminated in 1977, so cars built after 1977 won’t have one, but cars that had one often had it left in place.
Fortunately, Microscale can help–
  • Microscale MC-5003, Data COTS double panels 1980+ (but circa 1970 – 1980 on the decal sheet itself) will give you a whole sheet of the lube stencils.
  • Microscale 87-2 Data for freight cars gothic black and white will give you ACI plates and much more.
  • Microscale 87-1163 Freight car data with wheel inspection dots 100 ton cars (1970’s +)

On my Rails West layout, I have to do a little research before any weathering can begin.  Often decals are needed to get the car ready for 1982.

Let’s work through a couple of cars I recently prepared for 1982.


Here are the cars before weathering. I had to add the consolidated stencil and yellow dot on the CB&Q car. On the CPLT car, I had to add the ACI plates and yellow dot.


Here’s a before on the CB&Q car.


I have both road numbers of the CPLT car. Here’s a side-by-side on the CPLT car with and without.  To me, it makes a big difference when you start being sensitized to these features.

Let’s get a little prototype information.

From a great story on the McCloud River railway from  Image courtesy of

From a great story on the McCloud River railway from  Image courtesy of

Here is a link to #7844.  It does not have the ACI plates because it was built after 1977.  If any readers  have an image of this car, I’ll be happy to post it.  Most images on the web of this attractive car are copyrighted.

Here are a couple of images of cars similar to the CB&Q car courtesy of Chuck Zeiler from RRpicturearchives.


No yellow dot.


With yellow dot.

Little more on preparing the cars.


I have the yellow dot and consolidated stencil in place and decided to make it look like the ACI place had been cleaned like #9805 above. So I taped the ACI plate before weathering the car.


Yellow dot and ACI plate in place.

It is now time to weather.  Here are the results.


ACI plate has been cleaned, though by 1982, no one would have really bothered.


Ready to bring some auto parts into the warehouse.


CPLT #7737 is ready to bring a load of lumber to the team track on the Rails West layout.


Close up of recently applied decals to GN #160015.  This car was featured in a recent post, “Visitors from the North.”


When you get the details right, evoking the late 1970s and early 1980s is quite doable and rewarding. It is a great era.–Rails West


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