We spent about 10 days visiting family so there hasn't been much to update here. Most of what I've been working on is developing a wish list of foreign roster cars (preparing for birthday/Christmas...). All too often I find myself at a hobby shop looking at kits and I have no idea which would be appropriate for my layout, nor which are the better kits in regards to accuracy so I don't have to make too many changes.
In fact, I found myself in that scenario recently. I picked up a Branchline Blueprint-series reefer. I'm finding that I'll have enough local traffic to warrant a few reefers, not to mention a block of them on the front of the Maybrook-Hartford (OA) freights.
In addition, I'm using the kit as another step in my experimentation with standards for the layout. The Branchline kits have a lot of detail, including pretty complete underframe detailing. Unlike the Intermountain or Red Caboose kits though, they consist of separate parts, and aren't on the narrow vertical plane of the other kits. So out of the box they look pretty good.
The downside of the Branchline kits is that the brake levers are two pieces that glue into either side of the center sill, instead of a single piece that passes all the way through. Aside from not being prototypically correct, I think that this makes the parts weaker and more susceptible to damage.
In the end I replaced some of the piping with wire, and used some of the plastic piping that is already attached to the parts. I'll have to paint it, which is another disadvantage to replacing the parts. The plastic parts can also be more detailed (pipe fittings, etc). Once painted I don't think the difference will be noticeable.
Another potential reason for replacing the plastic piping is durability. But I'm using brass wire and half of a turnbuckle for a clevis along with the brake lever form the kit (which requires cutting off the plastic wire and scraping off the cast on clevis). In the end I'm using three parts with joints which very well could be weaker than the original part.
So like the bracket grabs, I may start using the kit parts first, and repairing them with wire if necessary. This will help get cars on the track quicker (when there is a track). I may still use standard parts for the more visible items (air hoses, power brakes, etc.) but while the underframe will be visible, it will rarely be in a position for close inspection. This does depend on the kit, though. I prefer that there is a little more separation between the brake piping, it looks more prototypical when viewing a car on the track.
Comment posted 9/17/2008
Glad you got around to actually BUILDING one of the reefer kits. ;>) (So many collect dust!)
Found your comment about the durability of the brake rods interesting though... First, unless you model the O&W (God forbid!) and most of your rolling stock ends up upside down, the gap in the brake rods is not visbisle. FWIW, based on my experience with.... ummm... a few of these kits (!) the weak spot is not in the brake gear but rather the stirrup steps (in particular the CENTER setep) which, when handled by earnest operators uncoupling or re-railing these cars often fall victem to a cry of "oops..."! In fairness, this is a common problem, not only with ours but also I-M and Red Caboose reefers. The best solution is probably to replace the steps with modified A-Line U-shaped steps, insterted into holes drilled in the original mounting points and then bent outwards slightly to match the prototype. In fact, although I have yet to replace a brake pipe, I suspect that next time you are over you will be hard pressed to find ANY reefer on my layout that still has its full compliment of steps! (Must see about buying those A-Line parts in bulk......)
Comment posted 9/18/2008
Thanks for the comment, Bill. Yes, it's true that you'll never notice the gap in the brake levers except when you are photographing the underframe and such.
The stirrups and the air hoses will definitely be the most susceptible to damage once I have the layout built. Until then, though, they are subject to the fat fingers of the modeler, and the brake gear was in place before I started messing around with wheels and stuff. Also, I had decided to assemble the bulk of the underframe before fitting it to the rest of the car, and it was a bit tighter fit than I remembered from the test fit.
Initially, I intended to use A-Line steps for all of my models, as well as replacing the brake gear with wire and "standard" brake gear. This model however has made me rethink that approach, especially in regards to time and money. So I now plan on building the kits much more frequently with the provided parts, unless
1) I really don't like the look of the parts, or;
2) I have some information about them being prototypically inaccurate.
In a sense it's kind of funny, because I always thought that the write-ups of F&C kits were odd because everybody seems to throw out the green wire they supply with...more wire.
In regards to durability altogether, I'm hoping that since the Sergent couplers don't require as much handling to uncouple that there will be less wear-and-tear on the cars themselves.
In any event, reading my initial commentary, "downside" was a bit stronger than my intention. I just found them a little fiddly in the assembly. Of course, this is from a modeler who still hasn't completed 10 models yet...