Tuesday, April 3, 2018

Swift Refrigerator Line 14970

During the build of Sunshine Models Swift refrigerator 14950 (described on this blog) I learned about the brine tank release rod, a feature on this car as well as some other Swift refrigerator cars. I decided to add the brine tank release rod to two Walthers plastic reefers of similar design in my freight car fleet since 1996 that should; however, do not have this feature. The prototype refrigerator cars, built in 1954 by General American Transportation Corporation, on the sides have four steel sheets laid horizontally with a pronounced horizontal seam, or overlap, midway up the car side.  A vertical rivet pattern of alternate center rivets tied the side sheet to the internal vertical posts.  The outside length of these refrigerator cars was 43 ft. per the 1953 Official Railway Equipment Register (ORER).  A special feature of the cars was the brine tank release rod located on the right side on both ends of the car running from the valve on the bottom of the car to the handle at the roof level.  The cars received the red with white lettering paint scheme and placed in the 14970 to 14979 series.  These cars were built with the same design and features of the previous 149xx series cars.  A photo of  Swift refrigerator 14950 from Doug Harding's Collection can be found on this blog under Swift Refrigerator Line14950. 

I started the upgrade with steel Swift reefer 15538, Walthers kit 932-2551, first. In a prior upgrade, molded on grab irons had been cut off and replaced with grab irons bent from Detail Associates, #2503, .010" diameter or #2504, .012 diameter brass wire. Roof grab irons used Detail Associates, #2206, eyebolts for corner brackets.  I modified the sill tabs to match prototype photo. Uncoupling levers were fabricated from Details Associates, #2503, .010" brass wire and again Detail Associates, #2206, eyebolts were used for mounting brackets. The kit trucks had Proto 2000, #920-21259, 33" ribbed back metal wheel sets installed.

Swift reefer prior to upgrade and new number

Before adding the brine tank release rods, I decided to start with the roof.  I removed the original kit running board and replaced it with a Kadee, #2000, Apex running board.

Click on this photo and other to enlarge

Now I turned to the "B" end to install the brine tank release rod. The release rod is made with Detail Associates .020" dia. brass wire with a bottom valve made from scrap styrene and the handle above the roof from a mounting pin cut off the Kadde running board to which a piece of Detail Associates brass wire was added. I mounted the release lever with Detail Associates, #2206, eyebolts for brackets. Once the release rod was in place I decided the "B" end needed additional details. I cut a new brake step from one of the Kadee, #2000, Apex running board laterals and installed it with brackets made from Evergreen, #8102, 1x2" strip styrene.  I installed a Sunshine Models resin retainer valve from the parts box and added a retainer line made with Tichy Train Group , #1100,.008" diameter phosphor bronze wire (PBW). A new chain from the brake housing to the brake rod was added using A-Line, #29219, black 40 links per inch black chain.  A Kadee, #2030, Ajax brake wheel was installed.

The end lettering was incorrect as it was black applied on the white fascia stripe.  I removed the lettering with a nylon scratch brush. I touched up the paint with Vallejo Model Color White, #70.951 and Flat Red, #70.975.  The Vallejo Flat Red needed a brushed coat of Model Master 4637 Semi-Gloss Clear Acryl to match the factory red paint.  New white lettering was made with Clover House, #9600-11, Railroad Roman Condensed Bold-White dry transfer lettering applied to decal paper coated with Microscale Liquid Decal Film. The shop made decals were applied using Microscale Micro Sol. As I added the previous details, the ladder rungs began to look very large and I decided they needed replacing.  I cut the rungs off with a sprue cutter and replaced them on the end ladders with rungs cut from Plastruct, #90850, .010" styrene round rod.


Next, I made changes on the sides.  I cut off ladder rungs on side ladders and new rungs cut from Plastruct, #90850, .010" styrene round rod were installed. Molded on sill steps were cut off and replaced with A-Line, #29002, type C, on the ends and Yarmouth Model Works, #200, sill steps were installed under the doors to replace the previously installed A-Line ones.  I did not remove the straight grab irons on the left side of the door; however, they could be replaced with Kadee bracket style type. The route card holder was carved off and moved to current location.  The number 15538 was removed with a nylon scratch brush and the number 14970 was applied using Clover House, set #9600-11, dry transfer lettering described above.  I changed the number from the 155xx series, 37 ft. in length, to the 149xx series, 43 ft. in length, based on length.  The Walthers car is a better match to the 43 ft. series.  In addition, the tall door hinges and latch are the same as the short door needed on this car.  Now the final major change was to rework the tall door into a short door.

To create the short door I carefully carved off the upper two hinges on the door on each side and put them aside to be reinstalled.  I scribed a new upper door line.  Now I carved off the upper section of the door latch and again put it aside to be reinstalled.  Having established the new door height,  I installed the carved off hinges and door latch per prototype photo.  A new drip edge at the top of the scribed door line was made using Plastruct, #90851, .020" styrene round rod. 

Tall door before rework into short door and new number
New short door and new number

I thought the upgrade was finished until I looked at the underbody. The air reservoir and control valve were in the wrong location so they were moved to the correct location.  New air reservoir mounts were made with sill steps cut off other upgraded cars.  I scratch built a royal slack adjuster, correct for this car, from styrene using the data in an article written by George Toman that can be found on the Resin Car Works blog.  The slack adjuster was mounted and Tichy brake levers, set #3013, were installed. Brake piping from air reservoir to the control valve was made with Tichy, #1100,.010" PBW. The brake pipe from the brake cylinder to control valve was made using Tichy, #1106, .0125" diameter PBW.  All brake rods are also made with Tichy, #1106, .0125" PBW.  The chain is A-Line, #29219, black 40 links per inch.  A train line and dirt collector could be installed.

Upon completing underbody upgrade, I weathered the car again with eye-shadow makeup.  Finally, I decided this upgrade was finished.  I have Swift refrigerator 14970 back into service on the Minneapolis & Northland Railroad Company. I will now do the upgrade of my other Walthers Swift Refrigerator Line car as well.  On the remaining Swift Refrigerator Line I may make additional lettering changes using Clover House, Swift set 9300-09, to match the original lettering.


I wish to thank Bob Heninger for his suggestion I change my focus from the number on the car  to the length of the car.  Once I did that the upgrade became much easier as the car length was close to prototype with a new number and short door was much easier to build than the door on the 155xx series.  And, I wish to thank Doug Harding for providing the photo of Swift 14950 from his collection used for this upgrade.

Thank You for taking time to read my blog.  You can share a comment in the section below if you choose to do so.  Please share the blog link with other model railroaders.
Lester Breuer


  1. Very nice work. Thank you for sharing.

    Bob Chaparro
    Hemet, CA

  2. Lester great job.

    Thanks for the detailed write up I think will build one for myself.


  3. Bob and Ryan, Thank You for the kind words.