Saturday, February 13, 2021

Northern Pacific Refrigerator 91253

 My new build is a Northern Pacific (NP) Refrigerator 91253, an InterMountain PFE R-40-25 kit painted for the NP.  After a little research I found the kit to be an accurate model including paint scheme of the prototype.  Well there were a few minor exceptions including running boards, brake step and trucks.  A special instruction sheet in the kit stated a new end without poling pockets and with the extra top rib was specially tooled for this car.  The kit box label stated the kit was exclusively produced for the Armarillo Railroad Museum (ARM).  I had not purchased the kit from ARM, rather the kit was obtained from Bill Pardie when he was reducing his to build kits.  Therefore, I decided to see if I could find the year this kit was produced and sold.

On the Armarillo Railroad Museum website I found contact information for Jerry Michaels.  I contacted Jerry and placed a post on Real STMFC to find out when the car had been produced and sold by ARM.  Jerry Michaels provided 1998 as the year the kit, one of four numbers, was produced and sold.  A second run was done in 1999, again four numbers, were produced and sold.  Other replies from RealSTMFC individuals showed purchases of the kit in year 2000 when ARM was selling custom cars on their website.

The prototype was built by Pacific Car & Foundry in 1949 for the Northern Pacific (NP) who assigned the cars to series 91250 - 91499.  The steel car features included: R+3/3 improved dreadnaught ends with poling pockets, Murphy diagonal panel roof, Apex running board and brake step, Preco fans, ice capacity of 10,000 lbs., and equipped with half-stage icing grates.  The ice capacity when grates in position was 6,500 lbs. and with crushed ice 6,200 lbs.  The cars rode on ASF A-3 ride control trucks.  Some of these details on this car series were found on the Northern Pacific Historical Society website under the Freight Equipment Freight Car Roster.

The original paint scheme was yellow sides with black hardware, red (a boxcar red shade) ends and silver roof.  Lettering had a 36 inch herald, and the Main Street of the Northwest slogan in black script under it.  A photo of NP 91326 appears in Steam Era Freight Cars Reference Manual Volume Three Refrigerator Cars (Speedwitch Media, 2017).   

The cars were repainted in the early 1960's with the 60” herald, a new slogan and with hardware the same color as the sides.  A photo of repainted car 91417 appears in NP Color Guide to Freight and Passenger Equipment (Morning Sun Books, 1995).

Upon contacting Jim Dick regarding the NP refrigerator car I was building he provided me photos of car 91458 and 91497 in the as built paint scheme to assist in my build of NP refrigerator 91253.

Jim Dick Collection
(Click or tap on this or any photo to enlarge.)

Left side.              Jim Dick Collection

Right side.          Jim Dick Collection

I began the build by installing the ends onto the car body.  Next, I  got the underbody ready for install.  I installed the kit train line.  Coupler pads and bolster center plates were drilled and tapped for 2-56 screws.  Kadee #262 narrow draft gear boxes with Kadee #148 whisker couplers were installed with Fastenal 2-56 x 3/16” screws.  Accurail trucks with InterMountain 33” metal wheels were installed with Fastenal 2-56 x 1/4” screws.  Later the Accurail trucks were removed and replaced with correct ASF A-3 Kato trucks #31-601.  Car was weighted to 3.8 ounces with electrical metal box punch outs attached with Permatex clear silicone adhesive sealant.  After silicone was set the floor was installed and glued into car body.  Tichy Train Group (Tichy) brake components, drilled for piping, were installed on modified brackets. The molded bracket for the control valve was shortened and an angle was cut on the brake cylinder mount (from top of side toward side sill to bottom near center sill) to make the bracket look prototypical.

Basic underbody work done.

The kit ladders on the sides and ends were installed next followed by kit ice hatches.

Kit ladders that matched prototype well installed.

Kit ice hatches installed.

The roof work was next.  The kit Morton running board is not correct for this car.  Therefore, a Kadee #2001 Apex running board with corner walks and end mounting bracket pins removed was installed with Formula 560 Canopy glue on the roof.  Prior to the install I hand painted the running board Vallejo/Micro-Mark Model Air Flat Aluminum #29025.  Grab irons bent from Tichy Train Group (Tichy) #1101, .010” diameter phosphor bronze wire (PBW) were installed with Yarmouth Model Works photo etched eye bolts without shoulder for a corner leg.

With the roof details added , I moved to the side details.  On the sides wire grab irons I bent, Tichy # 1101, .010” diameter PBW were installed.  A-Line #29000, sill steps replaced the plastic kit corner sill steps. The kit provided center sill steps under the doors were used.  Fan control boxes provided in the kit were installed.  Placard boards from a McKean Models kit, a better match to the prototype than the kit ones, and brass trust plates from Yarmouth Models were installed in the upper right corner.  All detail parts added were hand painted Vallejo Model Color #70.859, Black except for trust plates painted Vallejo Model Air #71.078, Gold Yellow.  The molded on Preco fans were painted Vallejo Black and a dot of yellow put in middle like prototype photo.

Grab irons and sill steps installed.
 Note Preco fans not yet painted to match prototype.

Placard boards and trust plate installed.
Note Preco fans repainted to match prototype.

I moved to the “B” end to complete work needed there.  The ends were molded without the poling pockets so I installed the poling pockets provided in the kit using the special instructions sheet in the kit to do so.   I installed the kit brake step brackets and a Plano Model Products Apex brake step, set #11322, to replace the incorrect Morton one provided correct for a PFE reefer.  Kit brake housing and chain were mounted next.

Brake step and brake housing installed.
Note: No poling pockets.

Now the bell crank, in kit, was installed on the sill making sure it lined up with the chain from the brake gear housing followed by the brake rod cut from Tichy Train Group (Tichy) #1102 .015” diameter phosphor bronze wire (PBW).  A resin retainer valve from parts box followed by a retainer line, Tichy #1100, .008” diameter PBW, and brackets were installed.  Brake housing received a Kadee Equipco #2041 brake wheel (not in kit).  Placard board and grab irons bent from Tichy #1101 .010” diameter PBW were installed  here and on the “A” end.  All fasteners were made with MEK Goop.  

"B" end details installed.
Note: poling pockets installed.

After adding these details I hand painted added details Vallejo Model Color Black Red #70.859.  Since I already hand painted the running board because it needed to be painted prior to install and side details during this build of NP reefer 91253, I decided would continue to paint other added details as I went along.  

"B" details hand painted.

When the paint was dry, uncoupling levers, Tichy #1106, .0125” diameter PBW and eye bolt brackets I bent were installed.

Uncoupling lever installed.

Back to the underbody to complete the details needed there.  Underbody details installed that were not in the kit unless otherwise noted are as follows:

  • Brake Levers, Evergreen #8108, 1” x 8” and #8106, 1” x 6” strip styrene
  • Brake lever hangers Tichy #3021, 18” wire straight grab irons
  • Pipping from air reservoir to control valve, Tichy #1101 .010” PBW
  • Piping from brake cylinder to control valve, Tichy #1106, .0125” diameter PBW
  • Brake rods, Tichy #1106 .0125” PBW
  • Brake rod clevises, Tichy turnbuckles #8021
  • Chain, A-Line #29219, 40 links per inch
  • Dirt collector, (scratch built) floral wire with scrap plastic parts added
  • Ice bunker water drains are provided in the kit

Under body details installed.

NP refrigerator 91253 underbody was ready for paint.  The trucks and wheels were hand painted with Vallejo Model Color Black Grey, #70.862. The car underbody was hand painted Model Air Vallejo Dark Grey Blue #71.054.  

Underbody painted.

Once the paint was dry, the sill on the car body was hand brushed Vallejo Gloss Medium 70.470 to have a Gloss base for decal application.  After drying, repack decals from Yarmouth Models Works 1937 AAR box car decal set were applied.  I used side view photo obtained from Jim Dick as a guide to apply decals.  Decals were soaked off in distilled water and applied to the car body where MicroScale Micro Set had been applied with a brush.   After the decal was applied in the Micro Set and positioned the edges had MicroScale Micro Sol applied.  Any excess solution was sucked away with the torn edge of a paper towel.  When dry, car body sprayed with Vallejo Matt finish 70.520 to protect the car during handling.

Repack decals applied.

And, after Matt Varnish was dry, a light weathering with Pan Pastels Burnt Sienna Shade #740.3, on sides and ends and Paynes Grey Extra Dark #840.1 on the roof using color photo of NP steel reefer  91471 as a weathering guide.

NP 91253 weathered with Pan Pastels.

NP 91253 weathered with Pan Pastels.

NP refrigerator car 91253 was ready for service on the Minneapolis & Northland Railroad Company, The Lakeland Route, “Serving today, Shaping tomorrow.”  A car card was made for NP refrigerator 91253,  the final step to put car in service on the Minneapolis & Northland Railroad Company Railroad.

NP  91253 sitting at Food Producers.

NP 91253 sitting at Food Producers.

A  big “Thank You” to Jim Dick for the photo to help with build of this car and for permission to use photos in this blog post.  A “Thank You” to Jerry Michales for his help and information regarding this kit.  And, “Thank You” to Gary Wildung for pointing out to me the  Freight Car Detail Roster information on the Northern Pacific Historical Society website.

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




  1. Very nice build Lester, this will help with my upgrades of the same kit.
    Dean ONeill

  2. Very nice! Thanks for posting this. I picked up one of these on eBay a couple months ago and am looking forward to using this information as a guide. Fantastic.

    1. Thank You! Pleased you can use my information as a guide.