Thursday, April 16, 2020

Building a PFE Class R-40-24 car

The very last class of refrigerator cars rebuilt by Pacific Fruit Express was Class R-30/40-24. It was all built during 1947–48. The 2610 cars in the class were rebuilt mostly from older R-30-13 and R-40-4 cars. (That's why the term “R-30/40:” cars kept their old underframes, repaired as needed.) Their car numbers ranged from 65921 to 68532. Rebuilding ended with this class primarily because all the rebuildable cars of the old R-30-12, -13 and -14, and R-40-2 and -4, had been already been rebuilt.
     There was also an adverse ruling by the Internal Revenue Service, which reduced the financial attractions of rebuilding, which doubtless mattered, but with practically no more cars to rebuild, the process stopped, as related in the PFE book (Pacific Fruit Express, 2nd edition, A.W. Thompson, R.J. Church and B.H. Jones, Signature Press, Berkeley and Wilton, CA, 2000).
     The 60000-series rebuilds, more than 8000 cars, had received steel superstructure frames but all were wood sheathed, a less expensive sheathing than steel sheet. Extensive details of the history and photos of this rebuilding can be found in the PFE book. One of the interesting features of the -24 class is that the cars were rebuilt with plywood sides, as is well depicted in the photo below (photographer, location and date unknown; Jay Williams collection). If you click to enlarge, you can see the plywood seams.


The car has a reweigh date of September 1952 at Tucson, likely when it was repainted into the 1952 paint scheme shown.
     PFE recognized that plywood sheathing would be far less labor-intensive to apply, and they hoped the same would be true for maintenance. Unfortunately, that did not turn out to be true, and by the mid-1950s, failure at the seams and edges of plywood sheets led to replacement, using long-standard and dependable sheathing of tongue-and-groove boards.
     But I model 1953, so I should have the -24 cars mostly in plywood. In previous years these were straightforward to model. There was once a Sunshine Models kit for plywood cars of this class, as well as a kit from Stan Rydarowicz.
     I failed to acquire either of these kits, primarily because I already had a set of parts to build such a car (more on that below). The parts had been sent to me by Frank Hodina, who made the PFE reefer patterns for Sunshine; I believe the gift was in recognition of the help I had provided with PFE prototype information. That was back in the early 1990s.
     Before continuing, I should observe that one can approximate the plywood appearance with an Athearn steel reefer, by shaving off the rivet rows at the edge of side sheets, and carefully preserving the raised line that Athearn used to indicate sheet edges. If one does this, the door hinges have to be replaced with a “long strap” type as PFE used on wood sides (see prototype photo above). I showed my model made this way in an earlier post (see it here: https://modelingthesp.blogspot.com/2016/05/that-bad-decal-project-part-2.html ).


There are several shortcomings to this model, one of which is that the prototype -24 side sheets were not five equal-width sheets, as on the steel car, but four full-width sheets and a narrower sheet at each end, about two feet wide.That is visible in the photo of PFE 67046 at the top of the present post.
     For the Hodina parts, I mentioned in a previous post that I had thought through how I might best assemble these parts (you can see that post at: https://modelingthesp.blogspot.com/2013/07/keeping-those-projects-on-track.html ). I thought further about this after examining these parts, and decided that I would do the as-rebuilt paint scheme on my model.
     One reason, though you can’t see it in the parts bag in the photo below, is that the model fan shaft and door hinges are molded in black plastic, so adding them after painting the side orange will obviate the need to do that fussy painting. I will, however, still have to hand-paint the door latching bar. The roof that you see here is styrene, but all the other major car parts are resin.


Note that I have already attached the bolsters and center sill to the floor, and had to make shims (white styrene, right at the center sill) for the bolster ends to locate properly.
     I mentioned that I want to eventually decorate this car for the paint scheme in use when it was rebuilt. That is shown below, in a Charles Wales photo of PFE 65966, taken at Washington D.C. on April 3, 1948, shortly after it had been rebuilt in February of 1948. (This photo is from the Richard Hendrickson collection.)


The plan here is to pre-paint the undetailed sides (as you see them above) with PFE orange, and the ends boxcar red, before joining them together at the corners, so that no masking will be needed. Once joined, details can be added to the basic “box” of the car body..
     The model I am building isn’t really a kit, more of set of parts, with some additions, such as grab irons, ladders and brake gear to be supplied by the builder, but I will refer to it as a kit nevertheless. Work on this kit is continuing, and I will report on progress as it happens. I haven’t built a resin kit for a house car for a few years, so it will be fun to get back into the process.
Tony Thompson

15 comments:

  1. This comment has been removed by the author.

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  2. If I remember right, Dick Harley mentioned using the MTH "steel" reefer for the R-40-24 on his site. Any thoughts on that? Better or worse starting point than the Athearn steel reefer?

    Thanks
    - Arved

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    1. You are right, Arved, and I would agree it's a better starting point than an Athearn car. Resin kits would be better still, of course. I will confess I tend not to buy MTH products on account of the proprietor's reputation in business, but that's not a technical issue.
      Tony Thompson

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    2. Yes, I understand. But at least buying them used on eBay, I'm not directly supporting the company and it's bullying business practices.

      Take care,
      - Arved

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    3. Fair point about eBay.
      Tony Thompson

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  3. Gents, is there a list of modeling & prototype articles regarding the PFE cars? 1987 RMC etc,.

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  4. Gents, I also I noticed among pictures I've found in the Pacific Fruit Express Book and a few other places, the postwar SP & UP heralds could be in either order on the car side, SP/UP or UP/SP. Was that an order change between wood sided cars & steel cars or just certain classes? I model the Santa Fe & SP Coastline operations from about 1948-1952.

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  5. Tim, the 1946 paint scheme had the SAME emblem arrangement on both sides (a boon to model manufacturers), with the SP emblem always next to the door. It was not until 1951 that PFE returned to pre-1946 practice, in effect, by placing the SP emblem toward the B end on both sides. These changes were for all cars.
    Tony Thompson

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    1. Thank you Tony. And of course like everything else on the railroads, these paint changes didn't happen overnight, rather over a few years, so to know how a particular car looked for 1952, you'd pretty much need a dated photo to get the car right.
      My other dilemma has been to find out which Santa Fe "Buy War Bonds" Bx-36 Boxcars were still around in the early 50's. That paint change was issued after the war, but most of the records were tossed out so with all my connections as a Santa Fe Modeler and with Stan Kistler, there's no pictures or re-paint records yet to help with that one.
      Tim Logan

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    2. Again Tony thank you for the timeline information. I wasn't clear on the date and arrangement change.
      Tim Logan

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    3. Actually, with PFE, we do know something about rates of painting in different periods -- it's in the PFE book -- so you're not ENTIRELY dependent on the "right" photo.
      Can't help with the Santa Fe, though. I assume you have the Society's freight car books.
      Tony Thompson

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    4. Thank you Tony, I will refer back to your book.
      And yes your assumption is correct, I have most of the Santa Fe reference books the society and several others have put out so far.
      Tim

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  6. Tony, How would I go about building an R-50-(1-5)for 1952? The Sunshine kits are impossible to find. I have two Sunshine R-70's and most of the other classes covered in resin, plastic & wood.
    Tim

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  7. Tim, contact me outside of the Blogger app and we can discuss.
    Tony Thompson

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    1. Absolutely, my email is:
      fastmailexpress7@att.net

      Thank you and sorry for getting off the main discussion in your blog

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