Reference pages

Sunday, February 19, 2023

Building a BAR reefer

 Some time back, I wrote a blog post about the BAR (Bangor & Aroostook Railroad) refrigerator cars that showed up in PFE territory during the summer in the 1950s. Though purchased by BAR for potato service, most of them would have sat idle in the summer. Leasing them to PFE meant that BAR collected the mileage payments on these cars when used by PFE, often in very long journeys across the country and back. 

There are a few details about the BAR end of the story in that post, including the fact that the lease in most years ran from June 1 to October 1, with all the cars due on PFE rails on June 1, and all of them back to BAR on October 1. Here’s a link to that post: .

I’d like to show an example of one of the BAR reefers on the Southern Pacific. It’s an Al Phelps photo of an eastward fruit block from San Jose and the Coast Line, behind Class AC-8 cab-forward no. 4179. It was just leaving Broderick, California (now part of West Sacramento) on September 3, 1955, and is about to cross the Sacramento River. 

The BAR reefer, BAR 7107, at left in the photo above, is quite obvious. Ahead of it is PFE 3969, Class R-40-25. Here is a larger view of the BAR car.

This view does show several of the features of these cars that differ from the Accurail version, as I have already described previously (see the post linked in the second paragraph of the present post). It has double rivet rows on the sides, a tabbed side sill that is black, and a different placard board arrangement than the Accurail model (which follows a Fruit Growers prototype). And of course the Accurail car has molded-on ladders and grab irons.

Since this car is only seasonally present on my layout and in any event does not represent a railroad that I have chosen to model closely, I will accept most of the compromises just mentioned, in part to preserve the paint and lettering of the Accurail version. I will confess that if I were using this car body to model a PFE Class R-40-26 reefer, I would be taking matters to a higher level.

(This topic reminds me of a conversation at a model railroad meeting some time back, quite possibly in the bar at the end of the day. A particular modeler, who I won’t name, said “Does your model of an iron foundry really contain a furnace that can melt iron? No? So does that make your model unacceptable? No, of course not, because it looks like a foundry. We apply that to nearly everything we model: does it look enough like the real thing to be ‘okay.’ So that leaves just the problem to define “enough.”)

But one area where I hate to compromise, even on a stand-in, is car roofs, because we see them so clearly on a model railroad of typical height above the floor. I used the attachment posts of the Accurail running board to fill the holes in the roof, then I installed a Plano etched-metal Apex running board, part 197, to this car, attaching it with canopy glue.

Moreover, the Accurail body has no corner grab irons on the roof. In the spirit of the molded-on grabs on the rest of the car body, I installed some Tichy roof corner grabs, with the vertical legs cut off, with canopy glue. This accords with the Richard Hendrickson observation that sometimes there should just be something in that location, even if it’s not quite correct.

For the operating side of the model, I installed Kadee No. 158 whisker couplers in the Accurail coupler boxes, and InterMountain 33-inch semi-scale wheelsets in the Accurail truck frames.

With car assembly complete, I weathered the car with my usual method using washes, with pigment from acrylic tube paint. Background and illustration of this can be found in the “Reference pages,” linked at the upper right corner of the present post. Chalk marks and route cards are added.

One final comment. The prototype BAR cars like this had “tabbed” side sills (see photos at top) , and the Accurail model has these cutouts indicated on the back side of the side sill, so you can easily do this if desired. The tabs provided, though, don’t exactly match the BAR cars. More importantly, the tabs are painted black on the BAR cars and thus aren’t very evident. I decided, in light of the other compromises, to leave the side sill as it is.

Though this is a car that I can only operate seasonally (June to October), and has compromises in modeling, I am still pleased to add a steel BAR reefer to my freight car fleet. I am sure it will be carrying produce on my layout this summer.

Tony Thompson

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