Tuesday, April 7, 2020

More “freight car guy” stuff

Awhile back I offered a broad-brush commentary on freight car modeling, in particular the rewards (and burdens) of being a specialist in that modeling area. I referred to this as being a “freight car guy” (you can read that prior post here: https://modelingthesp.blogspot.com/2019/10/whats-freight-car-guy.html ). This post continues some of those thoughts.
     In that previous post, I mentioned “correcting” some of the freight cars on my friend Bill Kaufman’s layout, so that their car bodies and paint schemes (at least) would be consistent with his 1944 modeling era. Bill has firmly said that he is not interested in individual freight cars necessarily having any intense prototype accuracy, so reasonable stand-ins, reflecting 1944, are fine with him.
     A good example of a freight car needing to be “corrected” is the Model Die Casting “Old Time” refrigerator car shown below. I have no information as to whether or not the Houston & Texas Central had any green reefers (I strongly suspect they did not). But in any case, they certainly had no reefers much past 1906, when Pacific Fruit Express was formed and took over all reefer needs of SP and its subsidiaries. Moreover, the H&TC reporting mark became obsolete in 1927, when all Texas & New Orleans constituents, including H&TC, began to replace their former reporting marks with T&NO. Thus by 1944 this car is totally anachronistic, even if the model is nicely weathered.

     Here’s another example, a car purporting to be a member of Santa Fe Class RR-N. The lettering scheme and car number are in fact taken from an AC&F 1905 builder photo (included on page 57 of the Santa Fe Railway Rolling Stock Volume 2, Refrigerator Cars, by C. Keith Jordan, Richard H. Hendrickson, John B. Moore and A. Dean Hale, SFMO, 1994). But in fact Class RR-N comprised 40-foot cars, so the 36-foot model is not correct; and for any period after World War I, the paint scheme shown was obsolete (reefers were repainted fairly frequently). And in any case, the Santa Fe’s truss-rod reefers were nearly all gone by 1940. Again, for a 1944 layout, this model car really can’t be used as is.

     My first step was to spray these models with light gray primer. This greatly decreases the contrast between existing lettering and body color. When that was well dried, I sprayed the sides with yellow (I used Testor’s Gloss Yellow, color no. 1214). I didn’t mask for this step. The goal is simply getting the sides yellow, and so overspray onto ends, roof and underbody should not matter. Once the yellow dried thoroughly, I masked the sides carefully, mostly using the very reliable Tamiya Masking Tape (an excellent product I reviewed it awhile back: https://modelingthesp.blogspot.com/2018/08/a-shout-out-for-tamiya-products.html ), and then sprayed roof and ends with Tamiya “Red Brown,” color TS-1.

This model here is supported on “shop trucks,” used only during painting exercises. These will not be included in the final version of the model.
     So what can this model become? It would be obsolete as an ordinary produce reefer, with its 36-foot length, or very close to obsolete, in 1944. But meat reefers continued in that length well into the 1950s. What about the truss-rod underframe? If of wood construction (other than the truss rods themselves), this would have been banned in 1928, well before 1944. But many owners (including Santa Fe, incidentally) simply upgraded with steel center sills to keep such cars in service.
     This model as built had no such sills, but they are easy to add with lengths of styrene strip. I used Evergreen no. 155, 0.080 x 0.125-inch strip. It need not be exactly on the center line, as its purpose is to visually suggest a center sill in a side view. Here is how it looked (trucks removed), including new KC brake gear:

Next I painted the new additions, and any underbody overspray from previous painting, dark gray.
     I mentioned meat reefers above as one possible use for this model, and decided for one of these cars to use a decal set for one of North American Car Corporation’s wood-sheathed meat cars, Tichy set 10289. This contains  decals for a couple of different lettering schemes. Either one could be a car leased to Hormel. Here’s the one that I chose, NADX 13522 (you can click on the image to enlarge it if you wish).

Above you see the car as lettered. It still needs to be well weathered, but this post is not about weathering. Information is available about my acrylic-wash method (for detailed description, see the archived pages located at: https://modelingthesp.blogspot.com/p/a-few-years-ago-richard-hendrickson-and.html ).
     It has been fun to focus my prototype knowledge on 1944 instead of my own modeling year of 1953, and try and find reasonable options to make better cars for Bill Kaufman’s layout. I’m sure there are more “problematic” cars lurking in his staging areas — the freight car guy says with a cackle — I just have to find them — heh, heh . . . more later.
Tony Thompson


  1. What is your opinion of the Tichy decals?

  2. I assume you are referring, perhaps indirectly, to the recent runs of their decals. Tichy was making decals for their kits years ago, and they were conventional decals. They are still fine.

    More recently, they bought the artwork that had been used by Jerry Glow for his line of decals, and have had them produced in some unusual way, reportedly by something analogous to 3-D printing to lay down the ink. However they are made, they add a three-dimensionality to the lettering that looks odd up close. But from typical model viewing distance, I would say, no problem.

    Some say they have trouble getting them to snuggle down on wood sheathing or over rivets. I can't agree. I use Walthers Solvaset and my experience with the new Tichy production is fine. But as always, of course, YMMV.
    Tony Thompson