Saturday, August 21, 2021

St. Louis Refrigerator Car 10084

At a recent flea market I attended I found a refrigerator car lettered for the St. Louis Refrigerator Car Company (SLRX) with a number of 4894.  The car was produced by Accurail for the Mid-Continent Region of the National Model Railroad Association (NMRA) for the NMRA 2015 National Convention.  Upon checking the January 1953 Official Railway Equipment Register (ORER)  I found SLRX 4894 was a not an accurate model as the number was for a class RB car without ice bunkers and capacity and weight data was for 36 foot cars not having ice hatches, along with other inaccuracies; however, SLRX could be reworked into a 41-foot SRLX refrigerator car in the 10000-10399 series, class RS.

Car as purchased at flea market.
(Click or tap on this or any image to enlarge)

The prototype 41-foot SLRX Refrigerator cars in number series 10000-10399, class RS, leased by Merchants Despatch Transportation (MDT) to St. Louis Refrigerator Car Company (SLRX), were built in 1922-1925 using a MDT design.  A design using a wood framed with iron rod reinforcement car body with wood sheathing and steel strap corner braces: one long on the lower portion of the wood car body and a short one at about the middle.  Ends were upgraded with reinforcing vertical angle iron members to help prevent end damage.  A Murphy roof with ice hatches and a wood running board.  A company steel underframe design with fishbelly shaped center sill, redesigned bolster end caps due to cracking of original and upgraded to AB brakes when introduced.  Upgrades were done at the East Rochester Shops (ER).

Information and photo sources used for my project were Steam Era Freight Cars Reference Manual Volume Three: Refrigerator Cars (Speedwitch Media 2017), Reproduction of The Official Railway Equipment Register, January 1953 (National Model Railroad Association, 1996), Merchants Despatch It’s History And Equipment (Signature Press 2011) and information provided by Ed Hawkins.

Arnold Menke Collection courtesy of Lester Breuer

I began the rebuilding of SLRX 4894 into SLRX 10084 with the removal of the running board.  Sill steps were cut off.  Next the molded on grab iron and ladder rungs were carved off.  Incorrect numbers, capacity, weight and dimensional data were removed with scratch brush and isopropyl alcohol.  I did leave the last digit, the four, of the car number as I had decided to number the car 10084.

Molded on details removed.  Some
lettering not yet removed.

I milled the running board to .025” or 2 1/8” and installed it.   The lower long corner strap braces, I calculated to be 5 scale feet, and upper corner braces were made with Evergreen #8104, 1 x 4 and installed.  I used a simple paper jig to install the brackets.  Fasteners for the corner braces were made MEK Goop (styrene melted in MEK).

Milled running board and braces installed.

Simple paper jig to get lower braces located.

Simple paper jig used for upper braces.

After finishing the corner braces I added the running board end brackets made with Evergreen #8102, 1 x 2.  The fasteners for running board brackets as the corner braces were made with MEK Goop.

Running board end brackets installed.
Fasteners on long bracket yet to be made.

Next the roof, side and end grab irons were bent from Tichy #1101, .010” diameter phosphor bronze wire (PBW) and installed in holes drilled with a #79 drill.  Drop grab irons on ends bent from Tichy #1106, .0125” PBW for added strength.  Corner legs for roof grab irons are Yarmouth Model Works eye bolts without shoulder.  The bending and install of ladder rungs, Tichy #1101, .010” PBW followed.  And, the sill steps, A-Line #29000, installed in holes drilled with a #76 drill.

Grab irons installed. And,
fasteners on lower end braces added.

Sill steps installed.

Once I had the grab irons and ladder rungs installed I hand painted them with Vallejo Model Color White 70.859 and PollyScale Reefer White F414113 (out of production).  Both white colors were too white to match the manufacture paint.  Finally I used PollyScale Aged White F414131 (out of production), finding it matched the Accurail applied white.  Grab irons on the ends were hand painted with Vallejo Model Color Black Red 70.859.  A fine match for the Accurail applied red color.

“B” end work was next.  Brake step brackets were made with Evergreen #8102, 1 x 2 strip styrene.  Bracket fasteners were added with MEK Goop.   A resin retainer valve from the parts box and retainer line and brackets, Tichy #1100, .008” PBW, were installed.  The brake shaft and bracket, Detail Associates #2505 .015” diameter brass wire, were installed next.  The brake shaft rests on a reworked brake shaft step bracket.  A Tichy brake wheel from AB set #3013 was installed  12 scale inches above the running board.  Added details were hand painted with Vallejo Model Color Black Red 70.859.

"B" end details added.

"B" end added details and end
areas in need of paint painted.

Time for the underbody work.   I mounted the underbody brake components, Tichy AB brake set #3013, using the following brackets: cut off sill steps for the air reservoir, a Sunshine Models resin bracket for the brake cylinder and kit mount for the AB valve.   The next modeling session  I returned to the underbody adding detail parts as follows:

  • Train line, .018” flora wire that passes through holes drilled with a 4 inch piano wire drill made from .032” diameter piano wire
  • Piping from air reservoir to AB valve, Tichy #1101, .010” diameter PBW
  • Pipe from brake cylinder to AB valve, Tichy #1106, .0125” diameter PBW
  • Dirt collector, Tichy set #3013
  • Brake levers, cut form Evergreen strip styrene: brake cylinder lever #8108, 1 x 8 and floating lever #8106, 1 x 6
  • Brake rods, Tichy #1106, .0125” diameter PBW
  • Brake rod clevises, Tichy #8021, turnbuckles
  • Chain, #29219, A-Line black 40 links per inch

Underbody details installed.

Underbody detail parts added and trucks were hand painted Vallejo Model Color Black Grey 70.862.

Underbody painted.

Upon finishing the underbody detail I sprayed the car body Vallejo Gloss Medium 70.470, for a decal base.  I used Microscale Set and Sol and Walthers Solvaset to apply the following decals:

  • A red stripe, 5 inches wide, cut from and SP Hood Units Bloody Nose scheme, Microscale set 87-177
  • Side numbers from Northern Pacific 40’ Refrigerator Cars 1930-19700, Microscale set 87-488
  • Capacity, weight, dimensional and other data from Merchants Despatch Trans. (MDT) Ice Refrigerator Cars 1930-1970, Microscale set 87-890
  • End numbers were made with Railroad Roman Condensed Bold White Dry Transfer Lettering, Clover House set 9600-11, applied to decal paper coated with Microscale Liquid Decal Film after decals applied.
  • In addition to decals, I used a marker to add the door striker plate ( small black squares next to door) and MEK Goop to add door hooks (small black circles next to door striker plates).

After decals had set overnight to dry, the car body was sprayed with Vallejo Gloss Varnish 70.510 to protect decals and better hide decal edges.  Again after drying, the car body was sprayed with Model Master Flat Clear Acryl 4636 to obtain a flat finish and to protect decals applied during handling.

Decals applied and side door details added. 

Decals applied and side door details added. 

I still had more work to do.  A drip cap, Plastruct #90501, 3/64”/1.2mm styrene angle with the angle side touching the car side thinned, installed.  Uncoupling levers and eye bolts brackets bent from Tichy #1106 .0125” diameter PBW were installed.  End reinforcing braces, Plastruct #90501, 3/64”/1.2mm styrene angle were installed using photo above and MDT prototype photos.  Details added were hand painted using paints stated above.

Drip cap above door installed.

Uncoupling levers installed.

Uncoupling levers painted and
 end reinforcing braces installed.

End reinforcing braces painted.

St. Louis Refrigerator  Car 10084 was now ready for service on the Minneapolis & Northland Railroad Company, The Lakeland Route, “Serving today, Shaping tomorrow.”  A car card was made for St. Louis Refrigerator 10084,  the final step to put the cars in service on the Minneapolis & Northland Railroad Company Railroad.

SLRX 10084 on Minneapolis Freight House track
waiting to be unloaded with beer from Anheuser-Busch.

SLRX 10084 on Minneapolis Freight House track
waiting to be unloaded with beer from Anheuser-Busch.

SLRX 10084 on Minneapolis Freight House track
waiting to be unloaded with beer from Anheuser-Busch .

SLRX 10084 on Minneapolis Freight House track
waiting to be unloaded with beer from Anheuser-Busch.

A  “Thank You” to Arnold Menke for the photo purchased from him to help with build of this car and for permission to use photo from his collection in this blog post.  And a “Thank You” to Ed Hawkins for his help providing prototype information.  

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. Lester...another excellent model with clear explanation of your construction steps...thanks for sharing!

    Jim Brewer

  2. Jim Thank You for your king comment. Sharing is what makes our RR hobby great.