Step 1. Start with 2 Athearn No. 1624 undecorated 50' mechanical reefer kits and remove both roof walks. Lay the car you are going to keep so that the mechanical unit is on the left side. Working from the mechanical end, make a vertical cut at the first panel to the left of the door being careful to make the cut right through the panel line nest to the row of rivets. Turn the car over and make another vertical cut at the fifth panel to the right of the door also making this cut right through the panel line. (Fig. 1)
STEP 2. Cut up through the edge of the corner with a diagonal cut between the side rivets and the end ribs. (Fig. 2)
Step 3. Cut along the roof edge, also on a diagonal, between the edge of the roof and the flat top of the car side. (Fig. 3) Now the mechanical ends of both sides should come off.
Step 4. Take the other car and lay it down so that the mechanical unit is on the right side. Repeat Step 1, this time working from the end without the mechanical unit, and make the vertical cut just to the right of the panel line. Turn the car over and make the second vertical cut just to the left of the panel line. Repeat steps 2 and 3. Remove these two pieces and, with a minimum of sanding, glue them in place on the first car. If you have any gaps, fill them in with body putty. I used a small piece of styrene as a backing behind the panel-rivet lines to help make a smooth and stronger joint between the two side pieces. Make sure it will clear the floor.
Next, fill in the holes left from removing the roof walks with body putty. Take a set of Athearn ice hatches No. 16002 and remove the entire hinge assembly plus one scale foot from the hinge end and round the edges to match the front. Now the hatch should be 2 feet from front to back. By doing this you won't have to move the end roof rib and the final appearance looks good. Cut the bottom off of the hatches, which is the part that fits into the hole in the reefer roof, and sand flat. Make new hatch cover hinges, but do not attach yet. Also make the bumpers and hand opening handles, as per Nelson McCormick's article on the R-40-20 reefer which appeared in the March-April 1976 Western Prototype Modeler. Make four roof corner grab irons, mark and drill the roof, but do not add any of these parts to the body yet.
In place of using the Athearn roof walk, I chose to use a Capitol Specialties 50' roof walk; however, you must remove the end walks so they won't cover the hatches. Remove the two grab irons on the left end of both sides and drill for a pre-formed grab iron of your choice. Do not attach these grabs or the roof walk. Remove the two tack boards and make up two new ones using scale lumber. These may be attached now and you will have to remove some rivets from under the upper one so that it will fit flush with the side. Remove both the defect card, (the small rectangular flat box) which is in the second panel from the left end on each side and the fuel tank filler, which is the little round nub in the fourth panel to the right of the door. Now the car is ready for painting. I undercoated the car with Pactra gloss white, as it will not attack the plastic and also shows up any defects you may wish to correct. Paint the sides with Floquil No. 134 Daylight Orange, plus the four grabirons for the left end of each side. Paint the roof, roof walk, hatches, and corner grab irons with Floquil No. 100 Old Silver. Paint the underframe, minus the fuel tanks, trucks, and coupler covers with Floquil No. 10 Engine Black. I painted the ends and the brake wheel black; however, there seems to be some question as to whether they might not have been painted Box Car Red. If anyone knows for sure, please write and let Prototype Modeler know, as that's what model railroading is all about, the sharing of ideas and information. Now attach the roof walk, hatches and hatch hinges, corner grabs and side grabs and the brake wheel. Next, spray the car with a gloss coat that won't attack the paint.
Unfortunately many different sets of decals are used for this car. Start with Champ No. HR19, using 'Pacific Fruit Express', PFE without the periods, the car number and end lettering. Also use 'refrigerator' from ventilated refrigerator. The 'Union Pacific Railroad' herald can only be gotten from Walthers and you must ask for the 'pre-1970' black on white Union Pacific Railroad H0 Shield set. The Southern Pacific herald is from Micro Scale set No. RH3. After applying the heralds, making sure the Southern Pacific one is always closest to the break wheel end of the car, center the word 'refrigerator' between them. The dimensional data was gotten from Champ set No. HR61 and the capacity data was gotten from Champ set No. HDll, which isn't perfect, but it's close and it gets the job done, saving a lot of cutting and splicing. The round black Preco precooling cover plate is a large period from a sheet of artists lettering obtainable from most good artists supply stores. The word 'fans' came from Champ set No. HR71, which is a Burlington Northern set. The defect card holder is made from a piece of .025 wire and it's length is about as long as the word fans and it's only on the right side of the car as you stand facing the break wheel end, (as in the photo). Now over spray the entire car with Dull Clear to hide the decal sheen, add trucks and couplers, and weather if desired. The finished model will look good in a string of reefers, and the most time consuming part was trying to find the correct decals.