Monday, July 1, 2013

Kitbashing a PFE Class R-40-26 refrigerator car

Some time ago I discussed a number of changes or improvements a person might pursue to make the recently introduced Accurail HO scale plug-door reefer into a more accurate representation of PFE Class R-40-26 (see: ). In that post I mentioned that I already had a Challenger brass version of this class, and an in-progress kitbash project, using resin parts. For the first of these, in a recent post I discussed correcting, repainting and re-lettering my Challenger brass model of the -26 class (you can see it at this link: ), and that post also contains prototype photos which are relevant to the project described in the present post.
     My planning for my model fleet of PFE cars was to represent the entire prototype fleet of 40,000 cars, by having one model car for each 1000 prototype cars, thus having car classes represented in proportion to their presence in the prototype PFE fleet. I discussed this approach in one of my first posts in this blog, and showed the size of various PFE car classes (see: ). Since there were 2000 cars of Class R-40-26, numbered 8001–10000, I needed two models of this class. The brass car previously described is one of them.
     What about my second R-40-26? Way back when, probably at least 20 years ago, Frank Hodina cast some parts for converting an Athearn reefer to an R-40-26. Frank was then just at the outset of his long and excellent service as a builder of masters for Sunshine Models, and he and I had exchanged information on PFE cars. Frank made up the correct 1R+3/3 ends for the car (except that they should not have poling pockets—these are easily removed), along with a correct six-foot plug door and a diagonal-panel roof, and was kind enough to send me a set.

     The parts are pretty nice, and back when I received them, I started on a project to do the conversion. I got a lot of it done; here is an Athearn body with the door cut into the car side. The starting point was a car which I had renumbered as a stand-in for a Class R-40-14 reefer. Note that on the inside of the far wall, you can see I had to taper the top of the door casting to clear the roof. Some new styrene pieces are evident too, both to represent the top door track, and backing for a new segment of side sill (this is not the complete side sill replacement, as it will be longer when done).

As is evident here, I had not yet removed the over-thick Athearn sill steps, partly because at that time I did not know how I was going to represent the two-rung step beneath the door. Sides were drilled for Northeastern “drop grabs,” but I no longer use these on models, as they are not actually the shape of drop grab irons. In any case, from Class R-40-23 onward, PFE installed straight grab irons instead of the bracket style used earlier. I represent these with Westerfield brass wire grabs.
     The corner sill steps are the A-Line “Style C,” and the InterMountain refrigerator car detail set (part no. P40500-10) contains the wide, two-rung step under the door. That set also contains a fan control box, which goes on the left side only of Class R-40-26 cars. With all these side details added, I sprayed the car body with Model Master Primer Gray. This is the left side, and you can see the fan box at the far end. The added side sill length at center is still not final.

As always with gray primer, this can act as a “witness coat,” and is a great chance to check all modeling details and correct any flaws, before adding the final color. I added the route card boards on the left bolster “tab” on each car side, using scale 1 x 4-inch styrene. I did correct a couple of small “dings,” and then airbrushed the body with Daylight Orange.
     Meanwhile, I detailed up the Hodina ends, after removing the poling pockets. This class had Ajax hand brakes, so I used that item, plus the brake platform supports, from an InterMountain boxcar detail set. End ladders are InterMountain reefer ladders. Completed ends were then airbrushed boxcar red, along with the roof (including its Plano Morton running board, attached with canopy cement). Here are the ends: 

     Next came assembly. I carefully centered the roof lengthwise on the body, and since the roof exactly rests on the little ledge inside the Athearn sides, I could simply glue it on with canopy glue. I know this adhesive attaches dissimilar materials very well, and is quite strong once it has set for 24 hours. (If you would like to know more about this glue, I’ve described it a prior post; you can view it at this link: ). I went ahead and glued on the roof. Lastly, I completed the center segment of the side sills, using scale 1 x 6-inch styrene. The prototype photos, presented in the prior blog post cited at the very top of this post, show the side sill geometry well.

     The last assembly step was to add the ends, using canopy glue. You can see in the photo above that I had already attached the Athearn underframe, and had reversed the mirror-image Athearn arrangement of brake parts. (The Kadee No. 5 couplers shown will be replaced with No. 58s.) The last modeling task was the end supports for the running board. I usually fabricate these from Evergreen scale 1 x 2-inch or 1 x 3-inch styrene strip, and use the same for the running board crosspiece. This photo shows the first of the two diagonal strips at this end.

Here the end lettering can be seen; it was done prior to assembly of the ends onto the body, to permit decal application with the ends flat on the workbench.
     Next, the completed body was given a good coat of gloss finish to prepare it for decaling. The lettering scheme chosen postdates PFE’s discontinuation of the one-inch stripes above the initials and below the car number, which occurred in February 1952. The R-40-26 class was built over a span of time from summer 1951 into the spring of 1952, so the last cars built were painted this way. I only have a couple of cars in my entire PFE model fleet with this paint scheme, because I model 1953, but I do want to have a couple of them. Here is a prototype photo of the right side of an R-40-26, not a great image but it does show the lettering clearly.

The photo is from my collection, though I don’t know the date, location, or photographer.
     The kitbashed model was lettered much as the brass car described earlier, using a mixture of Microscale and old Champ decals. Once weathered, PFE 9071 looked like this, shown in a scene of switching in front of the Shumala depot on my layout, just at the Chamisal Road crossing. Alco S-2 switcher 1389 is the power. (You can click on the image to enlarge it.)

     And now I have the desired two models representing PFE Class R-40-26. As I mentioned at the top of this post, that’s the “right” number for this 2000-car class, for my scheme of rostering one model for each 1000 prototype PFE cars. The class is distinctive in my 1953 modeling era as the newest of the PFE cars on the railroad.
Tony Thompson

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