This modeling project is one of the “Shake ’n’ Take” models from the Cocoa Beach meeting that’s called “Prototype Rails,” held every January in Cocoa Beach, Florida under the direction of Mike Brock. The idea came from Greg Martin, with assists from Jim Singer of 5th Avenue Car Shops, Richard Hendrickson, and Bob Walker and Dennis Storzek of Accurail. The Accurail refrigerator car kits which were the basis for this particular project, presented at the 2007 meeting, were decorated and donated by 5th Avenue Car Shops.
The prototype of the model refrigerator car is a former Fruit Growers Express (FGE) reefer, leased by E. Kahn’s Sons Co. of Cincinnati, Ohio, a meat packer, from National Car Company, a Fruit Growers subsidiary. To approximate one of these cars, the Accurail reefer kit was the starting point. That kit has a USRA fishbelly underframe, whereas the FGE car had a straight center sill (and several other differences in underframe construction). Correcting the stock kit underframe was one part of the project.
A second part was upgrading details, primarily removing cast-on grab irons and replacing with wire. This is normal detailing work and went easily. Lastly, end and roof details are modified. The entire directions for the project were provided in PDF form by Greg Martin, and with his permission are posted on Google Docs. Here is a link:
I might mention that this handout states the paint scheme on this specific 5th Ave. Car Shops kit was introduced by Kahn’s in 1953. But there is a fine photo of a Kahn’s car with almost the exact same paint scheme, a car painted in November 1951, on page 197 of the book Billboard Refrigerator Cars (Richard H. Hendrickson and Edward S. Kaminski, Signature Press, 2008). So the scheme is earlier than stated by Greg, and poses no problem for my modeling year, 1953.
I decided to minimize the underframe modifications, since they are not very visible on a finished model. I did cut down the kit center sill to a straight configuration, and added a cover strip of 0.015 x 0.125-inch styrene. Changing the number of cross-bearers from five to four did not seem essential to me. Greg points out that the Accurail-provided locations of the brake gear are not exactly right for FGE cars, but they are in fact pretty close, so I chose to ignore that discrepancy also. Prior to adding brake rigging, here is my underframe appearance:
Let me emphasize that I am not suggesting my approach is “better” than the more complete and more accurate modeling outlined by Greg. I just applied my personal standards to this particular car and its intended use.
Carrying on to the body modifications, I used a chisel blade in my Exacto knife to remove molded-on side and end grab irons, and roof corner grabs. Using a scriber, I then made sure the grooves simulating wood siding boards were continuous through the places the molded grab irons had been. I then drilled holes to add wire grabs to all these locations. I cut away the poling pockets at car corners and filed the bottom of the car ends smooth, then added styrene channel (Evergreen 2 mm) at the bottom of the end to represent the end sill on these cars. With some grab irons added, at this point the body looked like this:
The end-sill grab irons were approximated with styrene rod. After these additions, the side grab irons were touched up with Floquil Reefer Yellow.
Upon completion of the underframe detailing and painting Grimy Black, I installed Kadee #58 couplers and the Accurail trucks with Reboxx wheelsets, which are my current standard couplers and wheels. Then turning over the underframe, I glued on two large steel nuts (5/8-inch size) using airplane canopy cement (I use an older Wilhold product, R/C-56, but its equivalents are readily available at any hobby shop selling plastic airplane models). Here’s the underframe at that point:
You can just see a bit of the brake rodding underneath the car.
On the car body, I added the “Modeler’s Choice” part 602 wood running board which was supplied in the “Shake ’n’ Take” kit, again using canopy cement. I added supports for the brake platform with styrene strip, scale 1 x 2-inch size, and 0.019-inch brass wire as the brake staff, and applied the kit brake wheel. Finally, short pieces of styrene strip, 0.020 x 0.060 inches, were added at the side sill corners (where poling pockets were removed), to represent the side sill extensions under the end sill channels. All these added parts were touched up with Floquil Boxcar Red, except the side sill, which I painted black.
Here is a photo of the A end of the car at this point, prior to weathering.
The extended side sill is just visible under the end-sill channel. There is a prototype photo of this same area, included in the directions linked above to Google Docs, which clearly shows the prototype end sill arrangement.
I added a reweigh date and a repacking stencil to my car prior to weathering, since I want to present the car as recently painted, rather than with the usual paint patches on older paint. I used both reweigh dates and repack data from the Speedwitch Fruit Growers decal set D119.1, which contains a variety of FGE (or National Car) reweigh locations like Plattesmouth (PLT), Hillyard (HILL), Alexandria (AX), Indiana Harbor (IH), and Jacksonville (JAX). If you’re not familiar with reweigh dates and all that they imply, you might like to read my article on the topic, in a corrected version from what appeared in Railroad Model Craftsman, available at: http://modelingthesp.blogspot.com/2011/03/reweigh-article-from-rmc.html .
My weathering method employs acrylic washes, as summarized in the joint clinic handout by Richard Hendrickson and me (if interested, it can be downloaded at: http://modelingthesp.blogspot.com/2011/10/weathering-clinic-handout.html ). Here is a photo of the lightly-weathered car, on the house track in my layout’s town of Ballard, being picked up as an empty after delivering a load of packing house products to my wholesale grocer, Peerless Foods.
That completes a pleasant and interesting model project. Thanks again to Greg Martin and his “Shake ’n’ Take” series at the Cocoa Beach meetings. As you can see, I have already put the car to work on the layout!