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  • Techniques: Upgrading C&BT Shops HO Scale Santa Fe 40-Foot Reefer Kits

    By Richard Hendrickson

    Right top: Underside of Rr-19 model with details in place (modified kit end and side sills were used on this model, as the Jordan parts were not yet available). Brake cylinder and AB valve are mounted on strip styrene supports; brake levers extend through slots drilled and filed into the center sills. Note the styrene rod side ladder supports; ladders should not be installed until after the carbody is painted.

    Right middle: This roof view shows the hatch platform supports in place at the left and the Jordan hatch covers and platforms added at the right. Only later rebuilds had the slots in the platforms for the hatch cover latch bars, so these were later filled with styrene and filed smooth.

    Right bottom:Close-up of end shows how acrylic auto body putty is used to make fillets between the ribs at the outer edges, giving the kit ends the proper contours. The incorrectly located grabiron holes at the bottoms of the ends have also been filled with.030-inch styrene rod; the grabs mount in pre-marked holes on the end sill castings.
    Railmodel Journal - November 1994 - Page 21 Railmodel Journal - November 1994 - Page 22

    The C&BT Shops kits are the only injection-molded models of 40-foot Santa Fe reefers. The kit can be upgraded to match the quality of a brass locomotive with these techniques.

    Bottom view of model under construction. Coupler pockets and all molded-on details except the crossbearer ends have been removed from the kit under frame and Kadee coupler pockets fitted. Strip styrene flanges have been added to the center sills, along with end sill, side sill and bolster end castings from the Jordan parts set.

    The HO scale Santa Fe refrigerator car kits currently available from C&BT Shops represent the Rr-19 through Rr-32 class cars as rebuilt with inverse Dreadnaught ends between 1936 and 1940. (C&BT Shops also plans to issue kits for these cars as modernized in the 1950s, as well as for the later rebuilt reefers with 4/4 Dreadnaught ends and, after 1946, 3/3 Improved Dreadnaught ends, but release dates for these versions have not yet been announced). The kits come with one piece bodies molded in yellow orange plastic; separate roofs, under-frames and running boards/hatch platforms molded in black; and a variety of separate detail parts. Also included are Andrews U-section trucks of USRA forty ton design with wheel sets that combine plastic centers and axles with machined metal treads and flanges. Detailed assembly instructions are provided, along with prototype data prepared by the Santa Fe Modelers Organization.

    When first introduced in1992, C&BT's Santa Fe reefer kits had several shortcomings. One was a major problem with coupler height: the draft gear boxes molded onto the underframes put the couplers much too close to the rails. Other deficiencies included a roof that was too wide and sat too high on the carbody, ends that didn't correctly reproduce the contours of the prototype ends, hatch platforms that overhung the ends of the roof, and detail parts that were, in many cases, oversize.

    Some of these deficiencies -- notably the coupler height and roof height problems -- were rectified on later production kits, but the detail parts remained as a stumbling block. Some of these parts can be replaced with readily available alternatives: Grandt Line door hinges, Westerfield grabirons, A-Line steps, Detail Associates ladders and Detail Associates or Tichy brake gear. For the others, Santa Fe reefer guru Keith Jordan has made patterns for urethane resin castings and arranged to have them cast by Martin Lofton of Sunshine Models.

    Keith's parts set includes running board, hatch platforms, hatch covers, placard boards, defect card holder, end and side sills, and bolster ends. He is currently taking orders for a one-time only limited run of these parts, and you can get information about them by sending an SSAE to Keith Jordan at P.O. B ox 16126, Shawnee, KS 66203-0126. Do it now - if you procrastinate, you will miss out!

    C&BT kits can also be used to model the Santa Fe's early rebuilt reefers after they were modernized in the 1950s, though I haven't described the process in detail here. Electric fan drive boxes are included in the kit, the stock under frames and hatch covers can be modified, and the side sill reinforcements are easily modeled with strip styrene. Other needed parts would include a Plano or Overland etched metal running board, A-Line Type C corner steps, and Detail Associates 6215 uncoupling levers.

    One more thing, before explaining how to modify and upgrade the C&BT kits using Keith's parts. C&BT shops got a lot of complaints about how difficult it is to attach all the separate detail parts supplied in its kits; apparently a lot of modelers are either lazy or, in politically correct terms, "constructionally challenged." Consequently, all C&BT car kits are in the process of being redesigned with most of the detail parts -- ladders, grabirons, door hinges, hand brake -- molded on. This is bad news for serious scale modelers; for years, we've been trying to persuade kit manufacturers not to mold such details integrally with the carbody. Many C&BT Shops dealers still have kits with separate detail parts on their shelves, however, so if you don't want molded-on ladders and grabs, now is the time to acquire the older kits before they're gone and you have to beat the bushes at swap meets.

    With the introduction of the revised kits, factory lettering will also be discontinued; instead, the kits will include individual decal lettering sets made especially for C&BT Shops by Microscale. These decals are crisply printed and prototypically accurate. However, supplying decals instead of pre-printed carbodies seems to be at odds with the shift to molded-on details, since the same toy train types who don't want to build kits with a lot of separate pieces in them are also likely to turn pale at the prospect of lettering a car with decals. Go figure.

    Pre-Assembly Modifications

    Before beginning to assemble a C&BT Shops reefer, several changes to the major kit components are in order.


    If you have an early production underframe with thick-floored coupler pockets, cut the coupler pockets off the underframe before assembling it to the carbody (fitting the new coupler pockets will be covered later). The side sills and end sills should also be entirely removed at this time, along with the bolster ends.

    How far to go in re-detailing the underframes depends in part on how your models will be viewed. Since mine are intended to be seen at or near eye level, I modify the underframe rather extensively. This requires the removal of all the molded-on air brake system parts, since they are rather crudely rendered and the rods and pipes are way oversize. There are also some shallow dimples in the center sills resulting from shrinking in the molding process, and these can be filled with acrylic putty. I also cement 1x6-inch strip styrene flanges onto the center sills and cut slots in the center sills for the brake levers by drilling closely spaced series of small holes with a.025-inch drill bit and then enlarging them and cleaning lip their edges with a hobby knife and a miniature file.

    Left: Hatch cover supports for Rr-19/-23/25/-27 class models are made of.030x. 030-inch styrene with HO 1x3-inch styrene strips cemented on top, wrapped around the edges of the roof and cemented to the eaves.

    Right top: This model represents an Rr-19 as it appeared in 1947 after being repainted with slogan and map, ca. 1943. The prototype car's Andrews L-section trucks were modeled by reworking the journal box retaining bars on a pair of Kadee Andrews trucks. Clean spots by the door latch and grabiron and behind the ladder rungs, where dirt was rubbed off by the hands and feet of trainmen and cargo loaders, were simulated by using a pencil-type ink eraser sharpened to a point to rub off the weathering.

    Right middle: The later (and most common) style of straight-line map, used on SFRD cars after mid-1940, was applied to this Rr-19 model. All lettering is from Champ's excellent BR H-221 decal set. Two horizontal rows of rivets above the bolsters were removed fro m the carbody, as these were absent from Rr-19 or Rr-23 class reefers.

    Right bottom: Rr-28 SFRD 35243 is modeled as a seven-year-old car with original paint and lettering. Note the abbreviated hatch platforms that were applied to this and later classes of Santa Fe rebuilt reefers. Note the simulation of re-stencilled weight, brake servicing and repacking data, as well as trainmen's chalk markings and destination cards, common details on steam and early diesel era freight cars that modelers often overlook.
    Railmodel Journal - November 1994 - Page 23 Railmodel Journal - November 1994 - Page 24


    If you are modeling an Rr-19 or Rr23 class car, remove the two horizontal rows of rivets that are located toward the bottom of the four side sheathing panels that are directly above the truck bolsters, as these were only on the prototype cars of the Rr-25 class and later. ( C&BT Shops deserves a round of applause for including this rivet detail, as it's a lot easier to take rivets off when they're not called for than to add them when they are.)

    The C&BT carbodies are molded in yellow-orange styrene which closely approximates the color of the sides on the prototype cars, and the factory lettering is applied directly to the unpainted plastic, an approach that has both advantages and drawbacks. While there's no paint buildup to blur or hide the fine details molded onto the car sides, and the lettering prints clearly and precisely on the smooth plastic surface, the plastic isn't entirely opaque so the sides have a slightly translucent appearance. Painting the inside of the carbody black helps to eliminate this effect. So does a coat of clear flat finish, which should be applied at the outset to protect the lettering from being rubbed off when you handle the model while working on it.

    The factory-applied lettering in these kits is generally very well done, but if you want to replace it or are building an unlettered kit, taking the lettering off with denatured alcohol or mineral spirits and then air-brushing the sides with a thin coat of yellow-orange paint is the ultimate cure for the translucence problem. (I lettered two of my models with decals because the only kits I could get when they first came out had later style lettering, which is wrong for the era I model.)


    The prototype inverse Dreadnaught ends are very nicely rendered on the model except at the outer edges, which take the form of sharp-cornered vertical ribs rather than having a gradual taper from the corners into the depressions between the corrugations. I found that it isn't difficult to correct the shape of the existing ends (see diagram).

    I first worked some acrylic filler into the depressions between the corrugations, being careful not to get filler on the rivet detail; I used an old leather working tool, but a stiff piece of 1/16-inch metal rod with its tip filed to a round-ended taper and bent into a gentle curve would work equally well. Then, after scraping off t he excess filler from the corrugations and outer edges, I used a soft brush to "paint" liquid styrene adhesive over the filler, smoothing it and blending it into the styrene surfaces of the ends. (A thick, slow-setting liquid like Testor's is unsuitable for this purpose; use a thin, highly volatile adhesive like Tenax 7R or IPS Weld-On no. 3). After the filler had set hard, a little light sanding with very fine abrasive paper took care of any remaining surface imperfections.

    Roof and Running Boards

    The stock roof sits too high above the eaves when assembled to the carbody; on the prototype reefers, there was only a very narrow gap between the top of the sides and the roof overhang. This can be fixed by cutting off part of the ledge around the roof that rests on the sides and ends, using a single-edge razor blade and a scale rule or other metal strip of appropriate thickness as a guide (see diagram).

    The roof overhangs also extend too far out over the sides, which isn't so easy to correct. However, a couple of modelers I know have solved this problem by making a couple of cuts along the center of the roof to remove about 1/32 inch of material and then cementing the roof sections back together again (the resulting seam is hidden under the running board). Thus narrowed, the roof should fit further down inside the car body without additional modification; adding 2x2-inch styrene strip spacers under the eaves will insure that the undercut between the body and roof is even all the way around.

    Assembly and Detailing

    Secure the steel weights to the inside of the floor with hobby type cyanoacry late adhesive (CA); if you stack them one on top of the other in the center of the car, they won't be in the way when you drill and tap the truck mounting screw holes. Then cement the roof and underframe in place on the carboy. Fill the ladder mounting holes by cementing short pieces of Grandt Line.030-inch styrene rod into them after drilling or reaming them out slightly so the rod will fit. Then cut off the pieces of rod so they extend about.025 inch beyond the surface of the sides and ends; they will now serve as ladder mounting studs. Also fill the grabiron holes at the bottoms of the ends with.030-inch styrene rod, as these holes are in the wrong place, and cut the pieces of rod off flush after the cement sets.

    After marking the screw hole locations for attaching Kadee no. 5 draft gear boxes to the underside of the floor, drill the holes and thread them with a 256 tap. While you're at it, you may want to thread the truck screw holes as well; machine screws are preferable to self tapping screws for truck mounting because their finer threads provide for more precise adjustment, so the trucks pivot freely without rocking from side to side. Cement the upper halves of the Kadee boxes to the floor and, when the cement has dried, attach the lower halves of the boxes temporarily with the mounting screws. File the running board supports flat and level and attach the Jordan running board with CA, making sure it is exactly centered both cross wise and lengthwise.

    Underframe DetailingFit the Jordan end sills in place so they are snug against the sides of the Kadee draft gear boxes and carefully mark their locations; then remove the lower halves of the Kadee boxes before attaching the end sill parts with CA, so the draft gear boxes won't be glued on along with the end sills. Determine which type of side sills were applied to the prototype car you are modeling and fit the appropriate Jordan parts. Then drill the side sill castings.021-inch with a no. 75 drill bit for A-Line Style A (29000) steps. Note that, after installing the steps, they should be bent outward at an angle. Then fit your choice of AB air brake set and add brake levers, rods and piping as desired. You will need to fabricate mounting brackets for the brake cylinder and AB valve from strip styrene, as shown in the model photos.

    Left: Curved-line style maps, introduced in January 1940, were applied only to later production Rr-27s and to a few older cars repainted at Topeka or West Wichita in early 1940. Bolster ends, placard boards, and defect card holder are from the Jordan parts set; door hinges are from Grandt Line, ladders from Detail Associates.

    Right: The out-of-the-box C&T Shops HO scale kit.

    Modifying the excessive roof overhang of the model.

    Using body filler to improve the inverse Dreadnaught ends.
    Railmodel Journal - November 1994 - Page 25 Railmodel Journal - November 1994 - Page 26

    Detailing the Ends

    Drill.015-inch holes with a no. 78 drill bit for the end sill grab irons (Westerfield 1198) and install them. Fit 1x3-inch styrene mounting straps for the right corner grab irons; drill. 015-inch holes and install the grabs. Form two running board end supports from common wire staples. Drill.020-inch mounting holes with a no. 76 drill bit for these at the upper edges of the top end ribs and secure them in place with CA. On the Bend, fit the Ajax hand brake housing and the retainer valve. Fit the hand brake fulcrum in the slot in the end sill. Install the brake operating rod (.015-inch brass wire) and the retainer valve pipe (.010-inch brass wire).

    Determine the location of the brake step and drill four.021-inch holes for the brake step supports. Form these from A-Line steps (after annealing them in a flame until they glow red, so they will bend without breaking) and fit them in the holes (which may need to be widened slightly to clear the flat parts of the supports). Make a brake step from 1x10-inch styrene strip, notching it to clear the hand brake rod and retainer valve pipe, and secure it to the supports with CA.

    Now drill.018-inch holes with a no. 17 drill bit immediately adjacent to the mounting points for the righthand corner grabs, running board end supports and brake step supports, and cement Detail Associates 2203 nut/bolt/washer castings in the holes. Drill.015-inch holes in the end sills and fit Detail Associates eye bolts; then form uncoupling levers from.015-inch brass wire, insert them in the eye bolts, and CA them in place. Cut Detail Associates 6207 ladders to the correct length and cement them to the ladder supports. Finally, attach the placard boards with CA.

    Detailing the Roof

    Cement.030x.030-inch styrene hatch platform supports to the roof as shown in the model photos; note that these are arranged somewhat differently when modeling an Rr-27 or earlier car with full hatch platforms that an Rr-28 or Rr-32 with short hatch platforms. Then form 1x3-inch styrene to represent the ends of the supports where they curve down over the eaves and cement these in place. Next, install hatch covers and platforms from the Jordan parts set. If your model has full platforms, drill.015-inch holes and form the corner grabs from.015-inch wire. Install them with Detail Associates 2206 eye bolts at the corners and CA everything.

    If you're modeling a reefer with short platforms, you'll need to fabricate the corner grab brackets and hatch cover supports from styrene strip stock: see the prototype and model photos for guidance. Holes are spotted in the Jordan hatch coves for grabirons; drill these with a.015-inch bit, bend the grabs from a.015-wire, and secure in place with CA. Then make four hatch cover rests from pieces of A-line steps, drill.021-inch holes to insert them in the hatch covers, attach them with CA, and add small bits of 1x3-inch styrene to represent their inboard mounting tabs.

    Detailing the Sides

    Fit Grandt Line reefer door hinges with their pins to in the existing mounting holes and cement in place. Paint the large and small placard boards and the defect card holder from the Jordan parts set black or yellow-orange, as appropriate. CA them to the car side in the locations shown in the photos (the defect card holder goes on the left side only). Drill.015-inch holes at the pre-spotted locations for the two grabs at the left of each side and the grabiron and the door. Fit Westerfield 1198 grabs and secure them with CA. Then drill.018-inch holes directly adjacent to them for Detail Associates 2203 nutlbolt/washer castings. (Note: to model an Rr-32 with bracket grabs, use Detail Associates 6209 Delrin grabirons; this will require some filling and relocating of the holes in the sides.) Finish the sides by cutting Detail Associates 6207 ladders to the correct length, painting them black, and cementing them to the ladder supports.


    The trucks supplied in the C&BT Shops reefer kits are Tichy's Andrews frames with C&BT's metal-tired plastic wheel sets. Though realistic and smooth rolling, they're the wrong type for the early SFRD rebuilds, all of which had ASFself-aligning spring-plankless trucks except for the Rr-19 class (some later classes did have U-section Andrews, however). Tichy's "Bettendorf' trucks closely resemble the prototypes' ASF trucks and will accept either the kit wheelsets or Kadee wheel sets. The Rr-19s' Andrews L-section trucks can be modeled by modifying the journal box retaining straps on Kadee's ASF Andrews trucks, as shown in the model photos.

    Painting and Lettering

    When new, the 1936-37 rebuilds had yellow-orange ends as well as sides, with blacks, underframes and hardware. After 1938, only the sides were yellow-orange, and everything else was black. Beginning in 1953, the hardware on the sides - ladders, grabirons, door hinges and latches, etc. -- was no longer painted black but remained the same color as the sides. From the 1930s through the 1950s, SFRD yellow-orange was about the same color that was used on PFE cars, which was about the same as Southern Pacific's "Daylight Orange." In the 1960s, it was a some what more orange hue.

    As for lettering, slogans and maps were applied from 1940 to 1947. Beginning in 1947, later style slogans with "Ship and Travel Santa Fe All the Way" instead of maps began to replace them. For details on both lettering schemes, see Tables II and III and the photo captions. In 1959, giant cross-and-circle heralds with modernized "Ship and Travel... " slogans were adopted, but by this time all the surviving cars had been modernized and a lot of them had sliding plug doors.

    Many of these paint and lettering schemes were well represented in factory-lettered C&BT kits, and the decals now being supplied in the kits are also very good. In addition, Champ has first rate and exhaustively complete decal sets for all versions of Santa Fe reefer lettering, and Clover House has an equally comprehensive line of dry transfer sets. Even if your kit is factory-lettered, you'll need decals for the report ing marks and numbers on the ends and ice hatch covers and for the air brake servicing and journal repacking data.


    Though accurate, well-detailed mod els of Santa Fe rebuilt reefers don't just fall out of the C&BT kit boxes and assemble themselves, Keith Jordan's detail parts now make it possible, with a bit of extra work, to build highly realistic HO scale replicas of these historically important prototype cars. When C&BT expands its line, as promised, to include the later cars in the long series of Santa Fe reefer rebuilds, you'll find information about both the prototypes and the models in "The Journal."


    Article Details

    • Original Author Richard Hendrickson
    • Source Railmodel Journal
    • Publication Date November 1994

    Article Album (6 photos)

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