Sunday, October 9, 2022

Ice hatch latch bars for reefers

 Ice refrigerator cars had roof hatches for access to the ice bunkers, and on most such cars, a latch bar was part of the hatch mechanism, to permit latching the hatch cover open for ventilation service. When the hatch was closed, the latch bar lay atop the hatch. A photo of a PFE Class R-40-23 car is below to illustrate this (PFE photo, author’s collection). The car has a Morton running board, and the white dot over the reporting mark indicates the presence of fans in the car.

Models in HO scale can’t always reproduce all of the detail shown above, but latch bars are a pretty obvious component. I realize that some of my PFE car models don’t have latch bars, such as the model shown below, built with a resin-cast roof given to me. Comparing the photo below to the one above is a little embarrassing.

This detail is minor, but pretty obvious because it’s on the roofs of cars. I knew some of my cars didn’t have latch bars, a point that has nagged me for some time without result. Then recently I was at a model railroad meeting and in the vendor’s room, spotted this Plano product that I had not known about. It’s a set of latch bars!

I decided to compare these latch bars to the stand-ins I have used before, namely a length of HO scale 1 x 3-inch styrene strip, attached on edge. The strips are best for hatch covers that are positioned close to the roof level. My primary need for the Plano latch bars is for my upgraded Athearn cars, where the kit latch bars are horribly thick (thus naturally omitted) and the hatch covers do lie above the roof level.

Below is an illustration of Plano levers installed on a kitbashed Athearn car, a Class R-40-14 conversion (for a report of how that work was done you may consult this link: , and also the following post to that one, which can be found here: ).

This is of course a rather small project, but corrects things I was aware “weren’t right” in my PFE reefer fleet, and are now better suited to the next operating session. And if you either have any bare ice hatch covers, or some of the grotty Athearn latch bars, the Plano parts are a fine solution.

Tony Thompson

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