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Pacific Fruit Express R-40-26 Part I

On a lark, I bought an Accurail #8504 Plug Door refrigerator car (reefer). It was an impulse buy – on sale for $12 at M. B. Klein. I don’t remember reading about this car, especially in discussions of PFE Reefer models. When the model came, I found a kit that was very darkly painted, but had nice crisp lettering. And in that lettering, it was noted that the car was an R-40-26. To the uninitiated, this follows the Harriman classification system for rolling stock. That is, R for refrigerator car, 40 for a nominal capacity of 40 tons, and 26 being the 26th design in this type of car on the Pacific Fruit Express (a company owned jointly by Southern Pacific and Union Pacific). Introduced in 1951, this is a landmark car on the PFE, in that it was the first design to use the sliding plug door instead of the flush hinged leaf design that was common up to this point. It is a very modern reefer for the steam-diesel transition era modeler.

After a bit of research, I found a post by Dennis Storzek, owner of Accurail, on the Steam Era Freight Car List:

The plug door car is specifically a WFEX car (don’t have the numbers handy) but FGEX and BREX both had similar cars. spotting features include diagonal panel roof, improved Dreadnaught ends with the one ‘squished’ rib, and plain lapped side sheets with single rivet rows.

The June 2012 issue of Model Railroader (page 72) has a favorable review by Steven Otte of this car in the Burlington Refrigerator Express (BREX) scheme. If you’re modeling the Fruit Grower’s Express, this model is very good. I think Dennis did a great job bringing this car to market.

But how does this car compare to the real R-40-26? Well, not that bad, really! The biggest differences are on the sides. Lets take a look at a nice broadside photo from Tony Thompson’s blog. and compare it to the model:

The thing that struck me the most was the straight side sill of the model, versus the notched side sill of the R-40-26, and I couldn’t help but get started on one side before I had sense enough to photograph the unmolested side. What’s more, the back of the side has guides for cutting the side sill. It’s not perfect, but between the guides and the photo on Tony Thompson’s web site, I was able to quickly correct the most glaring discrepancy. There are a few other things:

  1. The model lacks the bearing blocks for the PRECO circulating fans (the round detail on the bottom left hand side of the car). This can be corrected with the addition of a Details Associate’s #215 Refrigerator Car Details w/PRECO fan.
  2. Placement of the tack board. (The Details West kit mentioned above includes tack boards, defect card holder, and other side details.
  3. The model is equiped with polling pockets, while PFE had abondoned this feature by the time the R-40-26 was built.
  4. The model has a single row of rivets for the side panel seams, where the R-40-26 has two rows, with the second row alternating. I have ordered (but not yet received) Archer Alternative Center Rivets for Freight Cars (P/N AR88030). I hope these will provide the correct rivet pattern. Otherwise, I’ve got a lot of individual rivets to apply.
  5. The lower door track is much too heavy. Since I’m not fond of replacing the door hardware (with what?), I’m going to live with this discrepancy.
  6. The model is missing the door stops to prevent the door from sliding (open) beyond the end of the track. I have yet to decide if and how I’m going to model this.

Then there’s the usual detail and modification work: replacement of the plastic stirrup steps with A-Line formed metal parts, elimination of the S-scale coupler pocket (no thanks to NMRA recommended practice RP-22), Plano Models etched brass roofwalks, and other underframe details.


2 Trackbacks/Pingbacks

  1. Arved Grass › Pacific Fruit Express R-40-26 Part III on Thursday, June 21, 2012 at 20:16

    […] I showed in Part I, the logos are properly reversed. If you can live with the much darker Reefer Orange paint, […]

  2. […] things that will be thrown away and replaced should something go horribly wrong. As I left off on Part I, I had already cut the side […]

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