Tuesday, February 12, 2019

Tangent Gondolas - quick fix

So I recently picked up the last Bethlehem Steel gondola that I didn't yet own (LV) from Tangent. It's a great looking and great running model, and it reminded me of how a couple of their gondolas don't run well because the wheels scrape the bottom of the car. They have suggested just using a Kadee washer, but I really didn't want to raise the car because I like how low they sit. I haven't taken any measurements to see if they run too low, so maybe that's the correct fix.

In any event, after removing the trucks, I attacked the weight with my Dremel and (what I think is) a routing bit to take off just enough material to make them run freely. It was easy to figure out where to do it, because the wheels had left marks on the bottom of the car.

I believe the cars that had the issue were the ACF 70-ton welded cars, and it may have been a single run that had an issue. The Wabash car was the first Tangent model I got and Bill and I were impressed by its rolling characteristics. When a second run was released I picked up the PRR and DL&W car (pictured) and those were the ones that had this problem for me.

Extremely well done models otherwise.

Wednesday, January 16, 2019

Help with a sign

Happy New Year!

Here's a crop of a photo of New Britain Yard in the late '50s if I recall. It's a good shot to get details around this end of the yard, including the 'ring' post. The employee timetable note that the normal whistle signals for grade crossings were not used in New Britain, so there aren't whistle posts.

But the main reason I made this crop is to get a better look at the Armour and Swift distributorships that both took reefers in my era. Of particular note is the "Swift's" sign, and you can barely make out the word "Swift's" next to three lines of text.

Now at some point, I saw a photo of a Swift distributor with the same sign. My assumption is that it was in an article on meat reefers, or something like that. The three lines of text were yellow and legible, and I thought, "interesting, too bad I won't need that in New Britain."

Aaaannnd then I found this picture. Apparently I did need that sign, and I haven't been able to find the photo since. So if anybody knows what the three lines of text are, or even better, have a photo so I can replicate it, that would be great!

Friday, December 21, 2018

More Flat Cars - RI Rebuilt Flat Car

One of the few Sunshine kits I have is an ATSF Rebuilt Ft L & N flat car kit (#66.2). It's an interesting prototype, because it was originally built as a 50' flat car, and extended to 53'6" by adding a new section in the middle of the car when rebuilt. Another aspect I really like is that the early ATSF flat cars had fishbelly center and side sills.

The Rock Island performed a similar modification with their USRA clone 43' flat cars, that they later lengthened by adding a 10'6" section to the middle of the car. Since the Red Caboose kit is a USRA clone flat car, I wondered how hard it would be to do the same?

Well, it's a bit more work than might be expected. Pete gave me two extras he had, and I started experimenting. One issue is that on the extended cars, the wood decking extends beyond the car sides. On the Red Caboose kit, the deck is part of the (nearly) one-piece body. For some reason that I've never figured out, there is a section in the middle of the deck that is a separate piece.

Because of the design of the model, though, it meant I'd need to remove the deck and essentially turn two of the cars into flat kits to reassemble and build a new deck. Here's a quick test run:

The top is an unmodified car, and the IC parts are both from the same model that I cut up. It's hard to see that the IC car is 10'6" longer than the PM car, but it is. There's a vertical rivet line where the crossbearer is on the original car, and I cut just outside that line (after measuring with a caliper) to get the right length. The rivet lines will be shaved off and two splice plates will need to be added.

To get this far, I started by cutting off the ends. Then I scored along the seam between the steel side and the wood deck, and then a deeper score on the inside so I could snap off the deck. It will probably be easier to use a couple of kits, since the stake pockets won't be installed already, but I think it's definitely a viable project. I don't have any info on the underframe design, etc., yet so I'll need to do some research before progressing, but I like the idea and the two splice plates where the extra section was added will make for a unique car. Additional cars were rebuilt from 46' flat cars and 7'6" additional sections. I don't have a photo yet, but it's possible that they could be similar other than the location of the splice plates.

If you can find one, Sunshine produced the car as kit #45.9, but this looks like it will be a relatively easy and worthwhile kitbash. Perhaps that's how the masters for the kit were made?

By the way - the ATSF kit I have (#66.2) has bulkheads. I don't need the bulkhead version, so I'm happy to trade for one of the kits without the bulkhead, or if somebody can use the bulkheads on their own, let me know.

Tuesday, December 18, 2018

FGEX/BREX/WFEX Reefers continued

So now that I can do the truss rod cars, what about the rest of the fleet? Our Companies expert Bill Welch wrote another article that was released in 2008 by the B&O Modeler, The Keystone Modeler, and the Seaboard-Coast Line Modeler, all online modeling magazines (and all worth reading). This issue is no longer available for free download, but it's available on CD from each of those historical societies. In this article, Bill grouped the cars by the type of underframe they used, and representative models (most of which were Sunshine).

I've already covered the truss rod cars, but the basic process is the same for most of these cars. The decision of which model to use starts first with whether the upper corners of the doors are square (Accurail) or rounded (Intermountain). Overall I prefer the detail of the Intermountain car better, and there's a lot less molded-on detail to scrape off.

Bettendorf Underframe

FGEX 22000-22549
FGEX 11350-13057

Bill used a Sunshine truss rod kit combined with a Bettendorf underframe from a Red Caboose, Sunshine, or Westerfield PFE kit. I don't think I have any pictures of these cars (Bill is not aware of any existing for the first series). There are little more than 200 of these cars in 1948. Car #11655 is pictured in The Postwar Freight Car Fleet (NMRA but out of print) in an unusual paint scheme. It doesn't look like there's an end sill, but the details are hard to make out in the photo. I probably won't worry about this kitbash at this point since it's such a small class.

Fishbelly Underframe

The Accurail kit is modeled after the BREX cars with the fishbelly underframe and is the starting point for the BREX 75000-75999, CX 50050-50249, and FWDX 20001-20100 series of cars. These cars are easy to do, and Bill has an excellent article in Prototype Railroad Modeling Volume 1 (Speedwitch Media) on modeling these cars. There are about 1,000 of these cars in 1948, and I'll do one of each by following the article.

It may be a good starting point for some FGEX series, but I don't have photos of any.

FGEX 10400-10639, a much earlier design, is said to be a near copy, if not identical, to cars built for ART and URTX. Westerfield has a kit of this prototype, although fewer than 40 exist in my era. I'll probably eventually pick up a kit.

PRR R7-style Underframe

To start with, the PRR provided their R7 reefers to the fleet. Westerfield produces a number of kits with different roofs for FGEX and NX.

In addition, there were cars rebuilt on the R7 underframe using the '1926' FGEX body. It looks like a kitbash using the Intermountain body should work for these. Bill suggests a Sunshine 1927 body kit and a Westerfield X25 underframe and end (to harvest the end sill). Some of these cars (FDEX 9001-9049) were double-deck and had eight hinges on the doors instead of the normal six. Another photo in Focus on Freight Cars Volume 8: Refrigerator Cars 3 (Speedwitch Media) shows NX 7095 was one of these rebuilds as well.

There are more than 600 of each of these in 1948, so I'll probably do both.

The "Company Underframe"

These cars were built for the consortium (rather than for the contributing roads), and share an underframe. Where they differ is in the side sill. This is a kitbash using the Accurail body with a scratchbuilt or Tichy underframe. The Keystone Modeler #84 covers this project. The Accurail model can be used to model cars with no side sill, or a 4" or 6" side sill. Alternatively, shortening the Intermountain model and squaring the corners at the top of the doors can be used.

The cars with an 8" side sill are 6" taller. The Intermountain kit can be used for these, but must be backdated (the model itself is the 1926 prototype after they were rebuilt).

Rebuilt cars with any of these side sill variations can be modeled with the Intermountain car. For those with a side sill of less than 8" the sill needs to be replaced, and the car shortened by 6". The corners of the door may need to be squared if using the Intermountain model, based on the photos you use.

There are a number of pictures in Steam Era Freight Cars Reference Manual Volume Three: Refrigerator Cars (Speedwitch Media) of these cars. They include a cars with no side sill, 6" sills, and the taller 1926 design with 8" side sills.

There were also war emergency versions built, with either plywood or tongue in groove sides. These cars have steel ends, and later cars of this design were all steel. Sunshine produced models of all of these cars, and for now I'll need to keep my eye out for those until I can figure out how to kitbash them.

FGEX Consortium Cars I'm Modeling (non-truss rod underframes)

BREX 75535 - Accurail.
BREX 75055 - Accurail with outside metal wood roof and wood hatch platforms.
CX 50127 - Intermountain with outside metal wood roof and wood hatch platforms.
FGEX 32490 - Accurail with no side sill.
FGEX 43509 - Westerfield R7.
FGEX 51207 - Intermountain with squared corners on the doors and placard board removed.
FGEX 59425 - Intermountain.
FWDX 20083 - Accurail.
NX 7095 - Intermountain with Westerfield X25 underframe and end sill.
WFEX 72169 - Intermountain with 6" side sill.



The prototype photos I'm using are from:
  • Focus on Freight Cars Volume Eight: Refrigerator Cars 3
  • The Postwar Freight Car Fleet (NMRA)
  • Prototype Railroad Modeling Volume 1
  • Prototype Railroad Modeling Volume 2
  • Refrigerator Car Color Guide (Morning Sun Books)
  • Steam Era Freight Car Reference Manual Volume 3: Refrigerator Cars
All published by Speedwitch Media except where noted.

Thursday, December 13, 2018

FGEX/BREX/WFEX Truss Rod Reefers

Because the New Haven is part of the FGEX Consortium, also known as "Our Companies." I've been compiling a list of the most important prototypes and how I might go about modeling them. Sunshine released models but they are hard to find and not cheap when you do, so I was excited when it was announced that there would be Resin Car Works minikits for the FGEX truss-rod reefers as a free gift for the Chicagoland RPM, but then it turned out that I wasn't able to make it to the show.

When the minikit was made available at Resin Car Works, I picked up two immediately. The RCW kit along with an article by Bill Welch in Prototype Railroad Modeling Volume 2 (Speedwitch Media), provides enough information on how to go about modeling more variations of the truss rod cars using Accurail or Intermountain models as a base.

Available Models

As noted, Sunshine released resin kits for pretty much all of these prototypes. These are hard to find, but fortunately there are two injection-molded models available that can be used to model many of the classes. In this post I'll cover the truss-rod models I'll be building, and cover additional variations in a future post. For the moment I haven't determined how I'll go about modeling the cars with steel ends, or all-steel cars built during and after WWII. These posts will focus on the cars with wood ends.

Accurail 4800/4900

While the Accurail models have molded on parts, the styrene used is fairly soft and it's pretty easy to scrape them off. It helps that the sides are separate pieces. Although the 4900-series says it's the earlier version, the pictures look identical and I'm not sure of the differences between the two models. I have the 4800-series for these cars.
  • The roof is a flexible steel roof that was applied later, along with molded-on hatch rests. I remove the hatch rests and the corner grabs.
  • The BREX prototype for these cars doesn't have an end sill, just corner poling pockets. These are removed for the truss-rod cars, but may be left for other prototypes.
  • There are corner braces at the top and bottom of the model. The bottom braces were unique to the BREX cars and are removed for most of the variations (including all of the truss-rod cars). Many cars have additional corner braces added using thin styrene and a couple of rivets.
  • The model has a removable brake step, a slot must be filled for cars that don't have one.
  • The roof hatches also removable, some cars may use different hatches.
  • The sides have a molded-on steel plate under the door. Not all cars had this, requiring it to be removed and new boards scribed.
  • The floor is separate.
The RCW mini-kit uses a modified Accurail body, but replaces the floor and underframe with one from a Tichy reefer underframe.

Intermountain 42700

The Intermountain model is based on a postwar rebuild of the company-built cars from 1927/8. The model features separately applied detail parts, with one unfortunate exception.
The model is based on cars with an 8" side sill. For the truss-rod cars (and many other variations) this is removed.
  • The car is 6" taller than the Accurail model.
  • The model features rounded corners at the top of the door, which is a key variation from the Accurail car.
  • The floor is part of the car body, with a removable roof instead. The floor is the same design as the Tichy one used in the RCW mini-kit, except it has small channels angled toward the corners. The way this is molded it's basically impossible to remove them without a lot of work. I believe these were added in the postwar rebuilds, so are inaccurate for most of the prototypes. The best I was able to do is remove the two flanges. Having said that, they a minor detail and are invisible when the car is on the layout.
  • I've seen other modelers complain about the roof. It doesn't overhang enough, and the carlines (ribs) should have a thin "base" like the Accurail one. The shortcomings on the ribs are less noticeable than the lack of overhang, but scratchbuilding a replacement is also a bit involved. I haven't decided if I will replace it on any of my models. Having said that, it's a separate part, replacing it is easy, either for a replacement, or to model earlier cars with a wood roof.
  • The only major complaint I have (for using this as a kitbash) is the large placard board that is molded on to the left of the car. This needs to be removed for any car that wasn't part of the postwar rebuild. For the cars that need it, it looks fine.
  • The castings of the door stops, door latches (a separate part) and the long steel bracing on the side of the car are very well cast and better than the Accurail car.
  • The separate detail parts include the FGEX consortium's unique hatch rests, but you also have the correct ladders and the mounting points are small holes that can more easily be filled than the slot left by the brake step in the Accurail car.
  • There are steel plates that were added in the rebuildings above and below the door. One or both of these need to be removed and new boards scribed for some of the prototypes.
Intermountain has not run these cars in a while, and the last I checked they didn't have enough orders to justify a new run. I've been able to dig up two undecorated kits, otherwise I'll be modifying RTR models. I think that if they offered the original postwar paint scheme applied when they were rebuilt might help. Regardless, I'd recommend letting Intermountain know you're interested in these models (especially undecorated kits) and maybe there will be enough interest for another run.

Now that I've been working on this project, I much prefer the Intermountain car, and it's easy to modify for any of the earlier cars as well. It would be even better if the placard boards were not molded onto the Intermountain car. It would be nice if the steel plates above and below the door were not present as well, but they would be too thin to be a detail part, so I understand why they are there (considering the prototype). Those minor quibbles aside, the only real shortcoming in the car for my purposes, is the roof, and it's not horrendous, just not as good as it could have been.

Truss Rod Reefers

In the PRMv2 article, Bill provides a chart that shows in 1948 truss rod cars comprised about 11% of the FGEX fleet, 10% of the BREX fleet, and a whopping 41% of the WFEX fleet, or about 21% of the combined fleet. By 1953 these numbers dwindled considerably, comprising less than 3% of the total fleet.


The Resin Car Works mini-kit is a kitbash project with a few resin parts provided. The key resin parts to me are the end sill and hatch rests, but it provides the underframe pieces and a few other parts. You provide the Accurail 4800-series reefer body.

This covers the two most numerous FGEX classes in my era: 14000-14998 and 20000-31999.

One other class in 1948 has only 10 fewer cars than the 14000-14998 series (and 2 more by 1953); the 181000-18899-series. This class has longer, angled queenposts, and is 5" taller, but otherwise looks quite similar.

I'd like to build FGEX 18176 using the RCW kit plus long queenposts because the picture in PRM has some interesting repairs on the car. If this had the rounded doors it would be easy to do with the Intermountain kit because the Accurail kit is too short. Instead I'll try to square the corners on the doors on the Intermountain model.

Bill Welch told me he used an O-scale Grandt Line queenpost connected to an HO scale queenpost to make the patterns for the Sunshine kits with long queenposts. That will be an important process for this and a couple of other prototypes. I've also got some of the Tichy queenposts to see what the difference is between those and the Grandt Line ones.

These three classes comprise 85% of the FGEX truss rod classes in 1948.


In PRMv2 are two pictures of BREX 78556, and on the next page, #78207. These are truss rod reefers with long queenposts, with a similar design to the FGEX cars. The second most numerous class, the 76800-77204 series) has a noticably different arrangement at the corner on the side, and presumably the end sill (which I don't have a picture of). So the 78200-78699 series is a better match to the RCW kit. I'll do #78207 since the photo is c1946/7 rather than the earlier c1941/2.

There are a few other noticeable differences between the BREX car and the FGEX cars. First, it has the original peaked wood roof, rather than later one modeled by the Accurail and Intermountain models. In an article in Prototype Railroad Modeling, Volume 1 (Speedwitch Media), Bill shows how he has built these roofs on an Accurail car after removing the original roof.

There are three corner braces instead of the one on the FGEX car (the Accurail Model has two, but the lower one is removed for the truss rod cars as it is in the wrong place and the wrong shape). It also has rounded corners on the doors, which I believe indicate that it has been rebuilt.

Modifying the Intermountain Model
It is the rounded corners that make the Intermountain model a good starting point, but using the Intermountain model requires that you remove the side sills and shorten the car by 6".

In a post online, somebody had described that they shortened a boxcar by 6" using a table saw. I thought Chris would jump at the idea of cutting up one of my freight cars with a table saw, but he balked. Dick suggested it would only take a few minutes with 60-grit sandpaper and took one home. He was right.

Also, on the first car I modified, I used a razor saw to remove the side sill. On the rest of them I found it much easier to use a scalpel with a #12 blade. Note that this is a different shape than a #12 X-acto blade.

If you've never used a scalpel before, the blades are quite thin and flexible, but very sharp. The flexibility reminds you to not push too hard, and let the blade do the work. I also have a disposable blade remover that not only removes the blade from a scalpel handle, but is a sharps container to safely dispose of the blades once it's full.

Anyway, this is the Accurail side against the Intermountain car. There's actually a bit more of a difference, it's tough to get a good angle, but there's a 6" difference between the two. The oxide red at the bottom of the Intermountain car is the side sill, which will be removed for many of these cars.

As I noted, I shorten the Intermountain car by sanding it with 60-grit sandpaper, a sanding tool, and a mill file. It's easy to measure this using a caliper, but you have to remove the side sill from the Intermountain car first. I start by setting my caliper height for the Accurail side. I then drag it along the side of the car with one jaw under the car, and the other jaw lightly marks the top of the car. It's not really digging into the plastic, just enough so I can see the line.

Another method I used which is probably a bit less precise but works well enough, especially if you're not removing the side sill, is to set a mechanical pencil to the depth of the cut (6") then slide the end of the pencil along the top of the car side so that it marks it with the side of the lead.

Here it is after it's sanded down. The roof sits on a ledge inside the car, so I put it back on so you can more easily see how much the car has been shortened.

Here it is next to an Accurail car. I haven't removed the side sill from the Accurail car yet. For the cars with the wood roof, I'll need to move the ladder attachment points down because these will be under the fascia.

For #78207 I needed to shorten the sides, but create a peaked end. So I sanded it at an angle to leave as much of the end as possible. It's just tall enough that when you add the fascia for the peaked roof, it covers any gap.

The end sill on the Intermountain cars is a close match for the truss-rod cars, but not exact. It will need the four bolts where the truss rods attach, and a small angle that rests on top of the end sill. It also looks slightly short. I ordered a few extra sets of the resin parts from RCW and shaved off the end sill too.


There are several excellent detail pictures of WFEX 63189 in RMPv2. Other than the short straight queenposts, it's a very close match to the BREX car with the wood roof.

For WFEX 60688, pictured in the same publication, it has the new roof and long angled queenposts, along with AB brakes. WFEX 61583 also has the same configuration, although the brake system isn't visible in the picture.

WFEX 62057 has the new roof, long angled queenposts, but the square corners on the door. This would be a good candidate for the RCW kit.

In The Postwar Freight Car Fleet (NMRA, but out of print) WFEX 62663 is a good match for a shortened Intermountain car with the short queenposts, while WFEX 61583 has the long queenposts, new roof, and rounded corners on the doors.

Note that the WFEX cars are all listed in a single series in the ORER, some with the long queenposts, some short, and depending on the era, replacement roofs, rounded corners on the doors, and AB brakes. So you can really only go by the available photos to know what features a car in this series has.


So for the truss rod cars I'm modeling:
BREX 78207- Intermountain, shortened with a wood roof and long queenposts.
FGEX 14409 - Accurail/RCW mini-kit(short queenposts).
FGEX 18176 - Intermountain with squared door corners and long queenposts (including the repairs in the photo in PRMv1).
WFEX 60688 - Intermountain, shortened with long queenposts and AB Brakes.
WFEX 62570 - Accurail/RCW mini-kit with replacement long queenposts.
WFEX 63189 - Intermountain, shortened with a wood roof and short queenposts.


So the molded on details have been removed and the car bodies modified. I need to drill and install grab irons, and wait for additional parts to arrive. More to come!