I have an addiction to the Color Guides published by Morning Sun Books. Yes they can be pricey at ~$60 each retail, but the alternative used to involve searching piles of 8×10’s at a train show and then paying upwards of $5 per photo. In that light, you get more than your money’s worth out of the Morning Sun books. The inspiration provided for modeling purposes is priceless.
Morning Sun has published a Refrigerator Car Color Guide covering nothing but reefers. The volume covers a wealth of different railroad and lease reefers, but one particular photo caught my eye. There is a slightly overhead shot of a North Western Refrigerator Lines (NWX) refer, post rebuilding at the Renton shops of AC&F. It shows how the roofs of these cars were painted, with the C&NW dark green only covering the end panels of the roof and the tips of the roofwalk. The rest was left in silver.
My pile of freight cars included several NWX reefers I’ve acquired over the years, so I decided to modify a Micro-Trains wood side reefer and a pair of Intermountain steel reefers into better representations of these “Renton Rebuilds”. After all, ready-to-run doesn’t always mean layout-ready. And we want some variety in our freight fleet.
Micro-Trains has released a few NWX reefers in green and yellow on their wood reefer. The model represents early 1950’s rebuilds when AB brakes were added, but the wood roof and ends remained. I turned one into a later rebuild when steel roof and ends were added, and did so without having to break out an airbrush.
Take a deep breath and cut apart the Micro-Trains body. You want to save just the sides of the body, and we’ll rebuild it on the origincal underframe.
The steel roof and ends came from an extra Intermountain PFE reefer kit. Go ahead and glue the MTL sides to the IM roof and ends, trimming the MTL side to fit as necessary to fit tightly between the ends when attached to the IM roof. All the roof hatch and brake detail for the sides and end can be added per the IM assembly instructions. Finally, two wire grab irons should be added to the left end of each car side, replacing the single molded on grab iron.
Paint the ends and end panels of the roof with Pollyscale C&NW green. Pollyscale has excellent leveling properties when brushed on “wet”, so you don’t need to break out the air brush for this quick kitbash if you don’t want to. Pollyscale Aluminum went on the center section of the roof and the roofwalk, matching the photo from the Color Guide. Finally, scrap the paint from the door hardware and side ladder on the MTL sides to expose the green plastic underneath. Certainly you could paint these items as well, but I have more control when scraping with a #11 X-acto blade and the green plastic used on the MTL car sides is convenient.
After a little bit of weathering, as seen in the opening photo, we have a unique car.
Next up came two Intermountain steel reefers. On the prototype, these cars were rebuilt from the same wood reefers. But besides the steel roof and ends, they also received steel sides. To better match the prototype construction, we need to include the belt rail rivits on the steel sides, and add some detail of the original bracing peeking out below the steel sides.
A few pieces of strip styrene creates the exposed sill detail. A few more add bracing above the door and decrease it’s height a bit to better match the photos. Finally, a straight edge and straight pin were used to add a belt line of rivets. Use the pin to prick the car sides, and then scribe a light line above the “rivets” to form the belt rail seam. The pin prick rivets look good because at that small size, it’s difficult to tell if the rivets are innies or outties. If you are painting your model from scratch, you could also use Archer Rivet Decals. But, I couldn’t think of a way to cleanly paint the rivets without affecting the factory car sides.