The online magazine on the history and operation of vintage scale model trains in American OO gauge

Tuesday, July 10, 2012

A Quartet of ATSF Reefers in OO

When I have blocks of time I try to get to some of the bigger projects that are underway. Early this summer the final project was finishing this group of ATSF reefers.

First up is this overall view of the set on the layout. The depot is just a bit out of place, but the string of reefers has a great look.

Those that follow OO on eBay will have noticed that there is a seller who makes new OO printed car sides for quite a variety of models. I have a brief review and photos of a set of his PFE sides here. They are printed on what I would think of as cover stock and come in quite a variety of schemes. In their own right they are a collectable, but I wanted to make use of them to rebuild some vintage cars.

One of the cars as I tore it down is visible here. The one specific thing to mention is that most standard OO car bodies are actually 42 foot, but these new sides only work on 40 foot cars. So I had to sort through the junker cars a bit to find four 40 foot bodies that matched, all of them being Picard. Then I stripped them down to make a set matched, solid, square bodies. Three of them had weights inside from the original builder, so I weighed the other to match. The finished cars are a bit heavy but run well together.

The second photo is the full group from the train name side. It is a nice set. I should mention right off that the color is a bit too red/orange to my eye. As they run together it is not really a problem in a way, the eye accepts them as correct, but the color to my eye is a bit off.

Moving to the third photo, this compares the new printed sides to similar vintage OO sides. They match very well for size. The vintage reefer has Champion sides and the vintage boxcar is Eastern, with Famoco selling cars with exactly the same sides as well.

Speaking of Eastern/Famoco, they also sold reefers and actually they, if I am honest, don’t look so good. The problem is the car sides are too tall. Compare these new cars to the Eastern/Famoco reefer seen here or here. That particular PFE car, I spent ages building it up well and it just does not work visually. I have others of these that are not in great shape, and would be inclined to rebuild them as box cars (I have plenty of box car sides) and salvage off the hatches to build more cars like the ones in the present article. Another alternate is to use the Eastern/Famoco sides on shorter Picard bodies and work out cars like these.

The fourth photo  shows the map side of the cars for comparison as well, and they match nicely. This speaks well of the folks at Champion and Eastern for scaling the sides accurately, and it also shows how the new car sides match the vintage look convincingly.

The final photo gets into construction details of the bodies. One thing that appealed to me on the ATSF models was that the body would be painted black. Why this is good is the somewhat heavy vintage detail would be hidden to a degree.

Starting up top, the hatches are vintage Eastern/Famoco parts that, along with the ladders, were purchased off eBay, there is a seller that lists these periodically as well.The ends are Eastern; these are pressed cardstock. I trimmed them carefully with a new X-Acto blade and glued on with carpenter’s glue using clamps and boards to hold them square as the glue set.The underframes are Nason parts. I had enough to do the set and love how they match. I used Eastern brake cylinders and worked up fresh sets of Scale-Craft trucks.

There was one final part, not that visible in the photos, which I cast up myself in molds I made years ago, the end piece at the bottom of the ends. This is a modified Eastern part, one that allows me to drop Kadee couplers right in place.

I trimmed the sides in a paper cutter to make perfect, straight cuts. As to how to glue the sides on, I did that with carpenters glue, two square pieces of floor stock covered with plastic wrap, and clamps. Most of the sides went on without a hitch but you can’t rush this process at all.

How well these cars will hold up over time is yet to see, but the sides and a bit of effort did turn four junkers into a sharp set of reefers.

With that, this may close out the month for me for American OO Today, as I will be tied up with other things until August. I look forward to the fall and more OO projects, and until then stay cool.

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