Modeling pre-1919 Colorado & Southern Refrigerator Cars
Derrell Poole - Most of the Narrow Gauge cars were either scrapped or modified in the late teens to comply with the United States Safety Appliances act of 1911. We are very use to how the cars looked after about 1919 and Reefers in particular from the 1930s onward. Part of my theory that reefers are not “seen” much prior to about 1933 is that they may have been painted ordinary Freight Car Red – with black lettering - in the interim between 1919 and about that time. I’m not sold on this but it is a possibility and there seems to be some suggestion from a few photos. At any rate when one goes to build cars from kits the SUF reefers require a lot of “adjusting”. The Floor issue should apply across the board so that even if you build a stock kit you should plug up the frames. But if you are backdating your model everything else is a dated feature.
The photos show what I did. The changes included non-framed side ladders (no ladders on the ends) with only 4 irons per “ladder” – not 5. These are 21” irons btw – most untypical for post 1919 cars. In all there were just 14 grab irons per house car not counting the sill steps. In contrast there were something like 32 grab irons on post 1919 house cars.
Another important and perhaps miss represented detail were the brake staff and pertinent hardware. The Reefer staffs were 10’ 8” in length on the original cars but they were enhanced with some interesting details gone after 1919. But they show up in original drawings and they show up on similar cars (boxcars). I model these with the addition of brass tubing to the 0.020" brass wire I use (the staffs were 1 1/4" in diameter and the .020" wire is within a few .001" of that size in S scale). I also had to modify the bracket parts to fit the mounting of the staffs. You will notice both the grab iron and coupler lift bar are located between the staff and the car. The irons stood 2.75” off the siding so the lower bracket had to be “built up" to capture the end of the staff.
Under the frame I built one car using the Delrin brake lever assembly as it came out of the box. That was a pain in the ass so on the remaining cars I trimmed off the hangers and used brass wire instead. I also modified the chain rod so that it didn't splay out to the side of the car where the non-existent chain roller would have been located on a post 1919 car.
I also used the kit Brake Cylinder but decided I didn't like it either. One nice thing about the OMI kit is that the airline to the brake cylinder is cast in Delrin. I get pretty aggravated with the styrene versions of this part because they are so delicate. Well in neither case did the stock cylinder or Berlyn castings I used really fit the airline well and the union on the cylinder disappeared under the No. 76 drill needed for the pipe to fit into. Grrrr…
Another thing about this cylinder is that there isn't an actual feature for the valve that was used to open the tank in the air reservoir (at least not what seems to be present on the early versions - and it appears this valve may have been moved to the top of the tank on later versions. I’ll admit I’m kinda guessing at this “valve” but at least there is something there for those levers to "open". Someone with a Master Mechanics book might be able to research this. To me it’s a small thing and I've addressed it well enough for this scale.
A bigger issue is the modern style side doors, which I decided were not worth the trouble I went to on Car 500 (built several years ago from a PBL kit - see photos A & B of part 1 of this series). You can see I’m not worried about that either. (I know what is wrong with these cars and it is my choice to live with that as opposed to just being dumb!)
I really went back and forth on the ice hatches. The drawings show no tails on the hatches. But I could not find clear photos to convince me that was how they were built. Well, I finally did find one that strongly suggested they were built like the drawings showed and then looking at less definitive photos I came to the conclusion that, as built, the hatches had no tails. Also I reluctantly came to accept that one cannot use the nice 3 board roof walks included in the kit so I made up my own walks with (4) 5.25” boards (Evergreen part no. 114). Another kinda bugger in the mix is that roof grab iron. Not a lot of room to shoehorn it into place between the hatch and the edge of the roof – at an angle! Push the hatches toward the roof walk as much as the little placement nibs will allow!)
Item 1; no tails on the hatches. I doubt if the hinges are correct but I will accept these. Item 2; (4) 5.25” x 1” walk boards. Item 3; that confounded angled grab iron one must shoehorn between the roof edge and hatch!
These were fun cars to build and building them in mass seems to have an advantage. I still have 5 more to build – and I need to paint these cars. That will be covered in part three.
Keep the Faith – Model Sn3!