Tuesday, November 24, 2020

Pacific Fruit Express 46701, Class R-40-20

 One more InterMountain Pacific Fruit Express Refrigerator (PFE) car (kit 45509-46) needing rework as out of the box a “foobie.”  I received the car from a friend who did not want to upgrade the car.  The car was lettered for PFE clas R-40-23 with the correct  ends, 3/3 “improved” dreadnaught style ends first used on this car class, and a Murphy panel roof correct for this class car.  The car number 46487 and paint scheme with only single herald on each side were wrong for a PFE class R-40-23; however, correct for a PFE class R-40-20.  In addition, the paint lettering scheme had the units of “LBS”, “FT,” and “IN” that were removed in 1947.  The  units lettering was correct for a PFE steel class R-40-20 car built in 1945.

I found the above information after reviewing information regarding the numbers and classes of steel cars, service history, photos of sides, ends and roof in Pacific Fruit Express, Second Edition (Signature Press, May, 2003).  Paint and lettering schemes over the years for PFE are summarized in the Appendix.  In addition, I reviewed Pacific Fruit Express painting & lettering drawings and photos for the various PFE refrigerator classes in the book Southern Pacific Freight Car Painting and Lettering Guide including  PFE by Dick Harley and Anthony W. Thompson (Southern Pacific Historical & Technical Society, 2016).

My first thought was to make this a PFE class R-40-23 reefer so I changed the “4” in the number to a “7”.  Now I had a PFE class R-40-23 reefer with incorrect paint scheme.  I could strip the paint and repaint the car and letter it correctly; however, I had just added two PFE class R-40-23 steel reefers to others already on the roster so I decided my best option was to rework this reefer into a steel PFE class R-40-20 built in 1945.

Number with "4" removed.
(Click or tap on this or any image to enlarge)

Number with "4" removed.

Scratch brush, swabs and Solvaset used to remove numbers.

After removing the “4” in the car number, I upgraded the underbody.  I cut off the plastic piping and brake rods leaving the brake components in place.  And, I did save the brake levers reinstalling them in the brakes released position.  New brake piping and brake rods added as follows:

  • missing air reservoir replaced with one from Tichy Train Group (Tichy) set #3013.
  • Brake levers, kit levers with rods cut off installed
  • Brake lever hangers, plastic grab irons cut off other cars
  • Piping from air reservoir to AB valve, Tichy #1101, .010” phosphor bronze wire (PBW).
  • Pipe for brake cylinder to AB valve, Tichy #1106, .0125” diameter PBW.
  • Brake rods, brass wire, .012 “ diameter installed.
  • Chain on brake rod attached to brake cylinder lever, A-Line #29219, black 40 links per inch

Underbody with changes.

Underbody prior (bottom) to and after (top)
brake levers changed to brakes released position.

With the underbody done I went back and with decals applied the “7” in the number.   I now had a PFE class R-40-23 Reefer car body with both missing and incorrect lettering.

Number "7" applied to number.

Now I made the car body changes to  PFE 46787 to become PFE 46701, one of two cars, series 46701 and 46702, built by Consolidated Steel in 1945.   First the running board was changed to a Kadee #2001 Apex running board.  I did not glue the end support brackets to the ends as the ends were going to change.

Kadee Apex running boards installed.

Next the kit ends were removed and 4/4 resin ends cast in the M&N Car Shops were installed.  Work I started on the removed “B” end was lost due my indecision of which PFE class this car should be.

Original kit end with some work
done removed.

Cast resin 4/4 end installed.

On the new cast resin ends kit ladders, placard boards, sill grab irons bent from Tichy #1101, .010” diameter PBW and Kadee end bracket grab irons were installed.  On the “B” end the following changes were made:

  • Plano Model Products #11322 metal brake step (platform) with support brackets cut from Evergreen #8102, 1” x 2” strip styrene installed.
  • Kit brake housing with chain installed.
  • Brake rod, Tichy #1102, .015” diameter PBW installed between chain and bell crank.
  • Kadee Adjax brake wheel installed.
  • Resin retainer valve from parts box installed.
  • Retainer line and brackets Tichy #1100, .008” diameter PBW installed.
  • Uncoupling levers, Tichy #1106, .0125” diameter PBW installed in styrene made brackets.

Cast resin ends with details except
uncoupling levers installed.
Note ends have a test mix of paint.

Back to to the sides to make changes needed there.  Placard boards were removed and relocated later.  The area under the removed placard boards was  marred by the glue used to attach them.  Grab irons were removed and replaced with Kadee #2251, bracket grab irons located per prototype photos.  Sill step under door and fans were removed since fans were not added until 1950.  Again, area where fans removed was marred.  The sill steps under the doors were cut off and A-Line #29000, style A, were installed.  The final step was to remove the lettering such as last two numbers in the car number and build dates that needed to be replaced.

Side with changes except for sill step
and fans done later.

With most changes on the sides finished except for decals, the car ends were sprayed Vallejo Model Color Black Red #70.859.  Once the car ends were dry the car body was sprayed Model Master Gloss Clear Acryl #4638 for decal base.  Prior to spraying the car body with Gloss the placards boards were installed and door sill steps were replaced

After clear coat was dry, Microscale PFE decal set 87-414 was used to apply number and other data as stage icing, bunkers (upper left corner), ownership stencil  (above “A” end truck), “L” and “R” on doors, repack data (above right truck) and Union Pacific herald on the right side to match prototype photos.  The Union Pacific herald needs to be replaced because the Overland Banner was removed from the UP herald in July 1942.  On the sides the “new date” came from a used Rail Graphics set.  On the ends only the car number had to be applied because no car feature lettering was applied to the ribs on the prototype in PFE class R-40-20.  To set the decals Microscale Micro Set (blue bottle) and Micro Sol (red bottle) were used.

Side with new number and other lettering applied.
Note relocated placard boards and
sill step has been changed.

Original herald with Overland Banner the same as
 on this incorrectly numbered car by InterMountain.

UP herald without the Overland Banner
removed removed in 1942 applied.

"B" end painted with number applied.
Note black placard board and no
car features lettering on ribs.

Another view of finished PFE 46701.

When all decals were dry, I normally let them dry overnight, I sprayed the car body Vallejo Matt Varnish, 70.520 to protect the decals during future handling.  And, after Matt Varnish was dry, a very light weathering ( PFE washed their Reefers) with Pan Pastels Burnt Sienna #740.5, refrigerator car 46701 was ready for service on the Minneapolis & Northland Railroad Company, The Lakeland Route,  “Serving today, Shaping tomorrow.”  A car card was made for each,  the final step to put the cars in service on the Minneapolis & Northland Railroad Company Railroad.

PFE 46701 sitting at Food Producers.

PFE 46701 in service.

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 sign your comment with your name if you choose to leave one.  Please share the blog link with other model railroaders.

Lester Breuer


Sunday, November 8, 2020


When I began building models one of the first tools I acquired and used for many years was a Xacto number one handle with a number 11 blade.  I tried various handles to see if any were better than the one I had or maybe I purchased them because I am a “tool junkie”.  I still use one now and then.   In fact, I purchased the most recent handle available from Micro-Mark that has a movable end blade holder to allow the blade to be set at an angle.

Various handles with #11 blades.
(click or tap on this or any image to enlarge)

Handle with movable blade holder.

New handle showing blade in angle position.

Various handles with number 11 blades built many models.  My only complaint and irritating feature using the the handles with the number 11 blade was not with the handles but with the blade.  The tip of the #11 blade broke off many times.  I  wondered if there was a solution to this tip breaking problem.  When I read about a modeler using  a scalpel with a  number 11 scalpel blade I decided to give it a try as I guessed a  medical instrument should not have the tip of the blade break.  

Xacto No. 1 handle with a #11 scalpel blade.

Handles with #11 scalpel blades.

I purchased my first #11 scalpel blades at booth at the Minnesota State fair.  You can purchase surgical/sterilized or non sterilized  blades.  The non sterilized blade is fine for model building.  Another plus the non sterilized blade is it can be lower in price.  In addition, I found scalpel blades come in a variety types as Xacto blades do.

Various #11 scalpel blades.

 I found I could fit the #11 scalpel blade in a number two Xacto handle.  Some of the scalpel blades I purchased had to be ground on the top back edge to fit the No. 1 Xacto handle.  Easily done with a grinding bit in a Dremel tool.   I used the Xacto handle with the #11 scalpel blades for a number of years.  No more broken tips on a scalpel blade and the blade stayed sharp for a longer period than the Xacto type #11 blade. One day I decided I should try a metal scalpel handle and purchased one from a source I can not remember.

Xacto No. 1 handles with #11 scalpel blade.

Xacto handle above.  Normal surgical scalpel below.

I did not like the metal scalpel handle and continued to use the Xacto handle with number 11 scalpel blade.  One day at the doctor’s office I had a procedure which required the doctor use a scalpel.  He used a plastic scalpel with a retractable number 11 scalpel blade.  When the doctor was going to throw the scalpel into a trash receptacle I asked if I could have it. He said I paid for it, so yes  I could have it.

Scalpel with retractable blade obtained
from my doctor.

I took it home and used it to build several models.   I liked it.  Again, no more broken tips on a scalpel blade and the blade stayed sharp for a longer period than the Xacto type #11 blade.  So, I began my search on the internet to purchase this throw away scalpel with retractable blade.  I found some medical supply houses would not sell to an individual not employed in a medical office.  I found one supplier that did not have the exact scalpel; however, the supplier had one that looked good to me so I purchased a box of twenty-five (25).  I had to purchase 25 or none.

Scalpel I found with retractable blade (red handle).

Box of retractable scalpels with #11 blade.

Once the box of scalpels I ordered arrived and I used one to build a few models I found I had found a scalpel I liked and continue using it today.  I even found I could replace the blade in the throw away scalpel.  Just insert a screwdriver blade in the front and give it a slight turn allowing the blade to be removed and a new one inserted.  If the plastic handle cracked when inserting a new blade into the trash it goes and a new one comes out of the box.  One neat feature of the plastic handle is I could write the date I began using it on the handle with a Sharpie.  I also found the scalpel with #11 blade was excellent for cutting out decals.

Recently I noticed Micro-Mark had a new bigger metal scalpel handle without retractable blade sold with extra blades.  Being a “tool Junkie” I purchased one and used it.   I like it as well as the plastic one I have been using so I now have two handle types to use.

Scalpel handle available from Micro-Mark.

Scalpels with retractable and non retractable blades.

If you are irritated with the Xacto handle with #11 blade tip breaking or just looking to try another knife type cutting tool that can stay sharp for a long period, you may want to give a scalpel a try.  The scalpel and blades are not expensive and can easily be purchased via the internet from many sources.

Thank You for taking time to read my blog.  You can share a comment in the section below if you choose to do so.  If you choose to leave a comment please sign your name.  Please share the blog link with other model railroaders.

Lester Breuer