Friday, July 7, 2023

Those SP reefers

 I posted previously about the quite rare Southern Pacific reefers: rare because, of course, all SP’s needs for commercial refrigerated traffic was filled by Pacific Fruit Express and its immense fleet of PFE cars. I wrote a post about the SP refrigerator cars a few years ago; you can read it at:

To summarize, these were cars originally purchased by the El Paso & Southwestern, and inherited by SP in the 1924 takeover. SP renumbered them to 37320–37339. By the time I model, 1953, the Official Railway Equipment Register (ORER) shows that there were still seven in service. I decided to model one.

Without a desire to make a meticulous model of this rare car, I decided I could use the Accurail wood-sheathed reefer as a basis. It is certainly the right length and the right proportions. It appears that SP painted these cars with yellow sides and boxcar red (BCR) roofs and ends, despite (or perhaps because of) the familiarity of the Daylight Orange sides on PFE reefers. Accurail offers an undecorated wood-side reefer in the yellow-BCR colors.

Construction of an Accurail kit, of course, is quite simple and won’t be described. I did include the fishbelly center sill, since we know the prototype cars had them. Below is a Paul Darrell 1941 photo (from the Sheldon King collection) showing a full side view of one of these cars. This is a repeat from the post linked in the first paragraph of the present post; you can click on the image to enlarge it if you wish.

Before continuing with the modeling, let me mention that the above photo shows only the initials “SP” as reporting marks, correct in 1941, but after 1946, the road name was spelled out as the reporting mark, so for my 1953 modeling, I needed to do that also. And in later years (compare the 1949 photo in the preceding post, linked in the first paragraph of the present post), the word “refrigerator” was smaller. Other evidence indicates that in later years, the painting of safety appliances and door hardware black was abandoned.

Next came lettering. I used a couple of different decal sets, mostly the Tichy set with my own artwork for SP tank cars. I took the word “refrigerator” from a URTX set. Arrangement of lettering doesn’t exactly match any of the photos I have, but all three photos differ from each other.

In the photo above, you can see one other things I did in assembling the kit: I added a brass brake staff and brake wheel (see my post on preparing those parts: ). In the photo, it’s not painted yet.

I assembled the Accurail underframe as intended, except for cutting the steel weight in half and gluing the two halves atop each other with canopy glue, as I’ve shown before (in a post at: ). I also tapped the truck and coupler-box holes for 2-56. I have not had good experience with the Accurail friction attachments. I added InterMountain wheel sets to the kit truck frames.

With that work completed, the body and underframe were joined and given a coat of Tamiya flat finish preparatory for weathering. I followed my usual regimen with washes of acrylic tube paint (see the posts linked under “Reference pages” at the top right of this post). Once the weathering was protected with another coat of flat finish, I added reweigh and repack stencils on paint patches, chalk marks with a Prismacolor white pencil, and route cards. 

This car will only appear occasionally at the ice house on my layout, probably picking up ice in my town of Shumala to deliver for passenger needs (ice-activated air conditioning) at nearby San Luis Obispo, or to section houses in the area. But it captures, even if approximately, a real rarity in the SP car fleet.

Tony Thompson

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