Friday, April 8, 2022

Getting the car you want, Part 2

 I began this series of posts with a description of a particular goal I had, to add a car representing a portion of a number series of PFE Class R-40-10 steel reefers to my fleet. There are both research and modeling dimensions to this task, and I outlined both in my first post (you can read that post at: ). 

As I always do with house cars, I chose to add weight to the car with 5/8-inch steel nuts, attached inside the body with canopy glue. But before doing that, I drilled and tapped both the bolster holes (for truck screws), and the coupler box holes, for 2-56 screws. The reason to do that first is so I can avoid covering either hole with the steel nut. In the photo below, you can see at the right of the photo, that both holes are visible, thus not covered.

I am sure modelers will immediately also notice something else in the photo above: the body is warped, with sides bulged outward.  I corrected this when the roof was applied. I made sure the roof fitted correctly, then applied heavy rubber bands to hold it in place, and allowed styrene cement to “wick” into the roof-body joint all around the car. This is not the order of application of parts called out in the instructions, but in this case, I wanted to get the body corrected.

Next, I want to show the information available for this class of PFE cars, from pages 434-35 in the PFE book (Pacific Fruit Express, 2nd edition, Thompson, Church and Jones, Signature Press, 2000). The table below is just the Class R-40-10 portion. The heading is a hand-lettered heading from the original PFE document that was the source of the information (now at the California State Railroad Museum, or CSRM), added here to the table. You can click to enlarge the image to help in reading it.

The group of cars I want to model are in the last three lines of this table. Two additional notes: “SRE Co.” refers to the Standard Railway Equipment Co., and the numbers with the truck listings are the PFE drawing numbers. The handbrakes listed for all the 44,000-series car numbers are either Equipco or Miner, and Kadee makes excellent versions of both, so I will choose the one that goes with my car number.

As I stated in the previous post (link in the first paragraph of the present post), these cars were all built with wood running boards, but in 1939, PFE conducted an experiment with the then-new steel running boards from Apex, and quickly concluded that these were superior to wooden ones. (This was long before the AAR would order in 1944 that henceforth, new cars would have running boards “other than wood.”)

Below is a 1939 photo of one of the Class R-40-10 car in this experiment, shown at the Roseville shops of PFE (PFE photo, author’s collection). One of the five cars chosen for this experiment was PFE 44214, a car number I could choose for my project.

Note also in this photo, the clear view of the separate hatch plugs, hinged at a lower point than the hatch covers, and thus at a different angle. Note also that these hatches are latched as far open as possible (the top of the latch bar), yet they are not at a very big angle.

Repairs and upgrades to PFE cars were all recorded on individual “car cards,” 5 x 7-inch pre-printed cards filled out and stored by the shop. Many of these cards survive at CSRM. I showed examples of these in the PFE book, pages 435 and 436. For Class R-40-10, such replacements of the original wood running boards with steel boards are recorded as early as 1944, and continued for modest numbers of cars until 1950, at which time most of the class was reconditioned.

Since my InterMountain kit for the R-40-10 car I am building has the two-herald paint scheme, in use from 1946 to 1948, I would be modeling a car that might or might not have received a steel running board. It also might or might not have received retrofitted fans. More on that, and other kit completion details, in a future post.

Tony Thompson

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