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ZM-18 Building Overhead Ice Bunker 8-Hatch Reefer Cars

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PostPosted: Fri Apr 16, 2010 4:58 pm    Post subject: ZM-18 Building Overhead Ice Bunker 8-Hatch Reefer Cars Reply with quote

Canadian National Railways (CNR) 209500-209999
Steel overhead ice bunker 8-hatch refrigerator car kits

by Michael Livingston

Production models decorated with ZenMaster decals

I was very excited to be a part of the research and release of GHQ’s three-car kit of CNR steel overhead ice bunker 8-hatch reefers in N-scale. This model best represents the first 500 cars built in four orders between 1939 and 1945 with dreadnaught ends, wood roof walks, and hinged doors; numbered 209500-209999, although these kits may be used to build some later versions and other railroad variations with some modifications.

Between 1939 and 1958, almost 3200 8-hatch steel reefers cars were built in 17 different builder series (Bldr series) for CNR freight (2900+) and passenger (180) service with variations in car ends, door types, brake wheels, and other details.

Note: With some exceptions, these cars retained wood roof walks throughout their service lives.

By 1954, these cars amounted to about 50% of the total CNR refrigerator car fleet. As an advanced car design, these controlled temperature cars could be seen in widely varied service throughout North America protecting loads as diverse as live bees, ball bearings, frozen bacon, roses, fresh fish, and bananas, hopefully after a thorough cleaning between shipments!

CNR 8-hatch reefer paint schemes

Constant service and the salty brine mixture were very unkind to paint and steel meaning that these cars ended up being repainted every 2-5 years into the then current paint scheme. Given this rapid repaint schedule and new car deliveries occurring almost every year during the 1940s, the mixture of old and new paint schemes did not directly correlate to how new or old the car was. This meant that you could often see one of the oldest cars freshly painted in the latest scheme beside a 2 or 3 year-old car looking beat up and in a very obsolete paint scheme, beside another car of the same series in either looking brand new or very old!

More detailed information for the CNR paint schemes will follow in a future installment, but six basic paint scheme variations are summarized here with an Approximate Time Period (ATP):

Scheme A: ATP 1939-1949 All Mineral red; black or mineral red under frame. White lettering.
Scheme B: ATP 1943-1952 Gray; red #11 under frame. All red lettering and maple leaf.
Scheme C: ATP 1946-1963 Gray; red #11 under frame. All red lettering and green maple leaf.
Scheme D: ATP 1954-1969 Gray; red #11 under frame. All red lettering and larger maple leaf.
Scheme E: ATP 1957-1973 Same as scheme D, but no lines above or below reporting marks.
Scheme F: ATP 1962-1989 Aluminum; under frame, all lettering, and Noodle logo black.
Note: I find it easier to refer to these schemes by letter rather than the “red maple leaf” or “horizontal green leaf” schemes.

The GHQ kit includes decals for two paint schemes (scheme B and C) commonly seen between the summer of 1943 and the early 1960s. Decals for four different cars are included in the kit. There are also “weathered green” maple leaf logos for additional car variations.

Building the CNR reefer kits

The GHQ kit contains the following parts for three refrigerator cars:
-three (3) undecorated body shells
-a photo etch with roof walks, stirrups, two types of brake wheels, charcoal heater -supports, and tack boards (in case you want to change the cast-on tack board locations)
-three (3) pewter under frames (with a cast on charcoal heater and brake details)
one custom decal set for four complete cars (In steam-era schemes B and C)

Note: I built my 3-car set in an “assembly line” whenever possible, and recommend it for the under frame assembly, painting, etc.

You will need to supply the following items to complete the cars:

-three (3) pair of Bettendorf trucks (Micro-Trains [MT] #1000s, now #003 02 026 or Atlas 50-ton #22051)
-six (6) king pins (Atlas or MT)
-Tools (hand drill, #60 (0.040 in) drill bit, #11 X-acto blade and holder, small pin, Q-tips, a small dish for decal water, Micro-Sol™, Dull Cote™, and a small paint brush)
-CNR #11 Gray and #11 Red paint (see Selecting “appropriate” colors for painting for color and paint recommendations)

Assembling the underframe

Begin by working on the underframe:
1 ) Test fit the underframe in the body shell. Some frames may need minor filing or fit better in another shell.
2 ) The ends of the frame are notched for the stirrups. Run a flat file over these to prep the surface for gluing and provide a little more clearance.

3 ) Use a #11 blade to cut the end stirrups away from the etch. Each car requires two square stirrups (#1) and two angle notched stirrups (#2). The stirrups are very fine.
4 ) The stirrup tabs should fit exactly into the notch. I use a dab of thick CA glue and ensure that placement is not too high or low.

5 ) Carefully test fit the floor again and make sure the stirrups are in the correct location. Make adjustments as required and let the tabs dry.
6 ) Cut the charcoal heater pan and support assembly (#3) from the etch.
7 ) I use the edge of my large file to bend the supports while holding the pan flat. Different angles will allow attachment either to the car frame or the under floor of the car.

8 ) Check the placement of the pan and supports before gluing. Use a dab of thick CA on the heater to secure the pan. The supports shouldn't need to be glued.
9 ) Test fit the king pins and trucks. If satisfied, the under frame, trucks and couplers are ready for painting.

Prep for painting

The car body, roof walk, and brake wheel can be assembled and prepped for paint:

1 ) Prep the body shell by removing any flash from the bottom sill. In most cases, you can just snap the flash off with your fingers. I then use a new #11 blade and just follow the angled surfaces to clean it up.
2 ) Wash the shell with soapy water to remove any remaining mold release, then set it aside to dry. Minimize handling to ensure a good surface for painting.
3 ) Remove a brake wheel and a roof walk (#4) from the etch. Two brake wheel types are included; use an Ajax brake wheel (#5) if your car number is 209500-209699 and a Universal brake wheel (#6) if your car number is 209700-209999.

4 ) Make the brake wheel dish-shaped by pressing it onto a hard surface with a ball point pen or the end of a paint brush.
5 ) Use hand drill and a #60 (0.040 in) drill bit to open the holes for the roof walk in the car body.
6 ) Fold the four posts on the roof walk under the etch then down to create a center pin.
7 ) Test fit the roof walk and make adjustments are required.
Note: You can also use Micro-Trains reefer wood roof walks (Part 499 55 921) by cutting all but one inner pin to hold the part in place. Use a #51 (or about 0.067 in) drill bit to open one inner hole for the M-T roof walk in the car body.

Note: I didn’t glue the roof walk in place until it was painted, but most people do.
8 ) Add the roof walk and glue in place (some of mine fit so well they didn't need glue).
9 ) Add the brake wheel to the “nub” with a dab of CA.
Note: Some castings have a bubble right where the nub for the brake wheel is attached. If you cannot attach the brake wheel properly, just glue the brake wheel to the end of a short length of wire and glue that to the car. The nub may need to be drilled to fit the wire.
10 ) The under frame should not need any prep for painting.
Note: I brushed regular vinegar on the larger brass parts like the roof walk and left it for a couple of minutes to give the surface a “tooth” for painting. Make sure you clean it off thoroughly.

Selecting “appropriate” colors for painting

Before we get into painting, a word about what colors to use. If you are a CNR modeler, then you know what CNR Gray #11 and Red #11 look like. But to be accurate for N-scale, they really should be lighter (20% or more) than the CNR special interest group (SIG) paints. So what gray paint is correct and is there a substitute in your existing paint box?

From the photos I have seen the color really darkened as the car aged. As an example, look at the difference in how the grays look on two Canadian 8-hatch reefer photos of Jim Parker’s at the excellent Canada Southern Web site by Terry Link:

The prototype Gray #11 was warm and even had a green tinge to it. I would recommend EL Gray as a pretty accurate substitute for a weathered CNR Gray #11, but have used Tamiya® USAF Light Gray (AS16) in a spray can, and Tamiya Royal Light Gray (XF80), Floquil CN Gray #17, or Model Master Lt Sea Gray (FS36307) in jars for good n-scale “as new” gray colors.

For the under frame, trucks, and stirrups, black or mineral red was used before 1943 and CNR Red #11 after that, which is a light oxide color. As only the stirrups and trucks are really visible, and the trucks got heavily weathered, roof brown, oxide red, rust, or even grimy black are good substitutes for this color.

Painting the cars

The assembled under frame and car stirrups can be painted (see color chart for options) either a black or mineral red (pre-1943) or CN Red 11 or oxide red (post-1943). The car body, roof walk, and brake wheel can be painted an “appropriate” gray (August 1943 to 1960s) either before or after assembly:
1 ) Use a #11 blade to cut the reefer door stirrups (#7) away from the etch. These should be attached to the body shell when everything else is done, but need to be the same color as the other stirrups.
2 ) Paint the under frame assembly, trucks, and reefer door stirrups oxide.
3 ) Paint the brake wheel, car body, and roof walk gray. On some cars I varied the roof walk color slightly, and matched the cast roof walk sections to that color. Make sure that the sill tabs also get painted.
4 ) Don’t forget to paint the liquidometers, which were often repainted black or white with contrasting dials.
5 ) Let it all dry.
Note: You can spray a gloss coat on the sides and ends of the car to improve decal adhesion and the disappearance of any decal film.

Applying decals

The decals are printed on Waterslide decal film and paper from either Walthers™, Microscale®, or MicroMark™ depending on paper availability. A slightly glossy surface is recommended for placement and use of Micro-Sol® before and after decal placement should allow the decal film to disappear completely. Again, the decals are set up so several elements can be grouped together and placed at one time.

The decals are printed using an ALPS® printer. As such, the very fine print may be delicate. Do not rub when placing the decals or you might have to weather the car heavily!

Once it is all dry, you can decal the cars.

Note: Reporting marks are useable for paint schemes B or C. Swap the red leaf, green leaf, or faded leaf and use the number scramble to create additional car numbers and variations.
1 ) Cut and trim the decals sections for one entire car. I usually decal my cars with the trucks and under frame off and apply decals to one side and end at a time. This allows one car side to dry while I work on another.
2 ) Working on a car side first, dip a Q-tip into a mixture of Micro-Sol® and water, then liberally dab the fluid on the end of the car side you will be applying.
3 ) Dip the decal section in water.
Tip: For really small decals like number replacements or end reporting marks, just place a drop of water on the decal while holding it on your fingertip.
4 ) After about 10-20 seconds, the decal will slide to the touch.
5 ) Apply the decal over the wetted car surface.
6 ) Blot the decal gently (not rubbing) with the dry Q-tip end to remove fluid and bubbles.
7 ) Verify decal position. Use a pin to gently reposition if necessary. Additional water should allow the decal to float if it won’t move.
8 ) Apply more Micro-Sol/water mix over the decal with the wet Q-tip end. If you are careful, you can apply other decals on the car side.
9 ) Let it dry for at least 10 minutes. You can apply the end decals while drying, but be careful not to nudge the drying decals. They might move.
10 ) Pop any remaining bubbles with a pin and apply more Micro-Sol.
11 ) Repeat steps 2-10 for the second side and car end.
12 ) Apply a flat, finish sealer (like DullCote), and let it all dry.

Final assembly and detailing

Once it is all dry, you can finish assembling the car.

1 ) Test fit the under frame in the body shell, then take the body shell off again.
2 ) Secure the trucks with king pins.
3 ) Test fit the stirrups in the notches in the car body, then glue them in place with CA.
4 ) Carefully fit the car body on the under frame.
5 ) Weather as desired and it is done. If you did this “assembly line” format, then you are ready to add these cars to your fleet.

Finally, I want to thank a few people whose tireless efforts made this article (and project) possible: Gregg Scott, for his incredible modeling skills that have brought even the tiniest details on the liquidometer to life. To Joe Valerio, for patiently dropping everything else to paint another project that I have to get out the door right away. To Jim Moffet, for his excellent photographic and computer skills and for his advice after reading and re-reading this article to ensure that it provided instructions that were aligned with the quality that GHQ customers expect, and of course to the rest of the team at GHQ for supporting this project through to the end.

A 3-car set of these great kits can be purchased here on the GHQ website:

And more to come. . .

In the next part of this series we’ll cover CNR reefer paint schemes in detail, showing what schemes were used and when they may have been seen on these cars in any given year in great detail. Later we will look at how to create a Canadian Pacific car design using the CNR model as a starting point. More decals will be available for earlier and later eras as well as for passenger service, based to some degree on interest and feedback. It is my intention to eventually create decals that will allow you to model these refrigerator cars in any period from the beginning of World War II to the late 1980s, but which ones come first will be based on what you are asking for the most!
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