Christopher Brimley updated September 21, 2011

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  • Improving Walthers' Arcticars - The Ice Boxes of Today

    by Ed Sanicky and W. Terry Stuart

    Photos by W. Terry Stuart unless otherwise indicated

    Look closely underneath the car and you'll see a suggestion of the brake piping added by Ed Sanicky. These details, along with the cut levers and replacement brake wheel, turn what is essentially a shake-the-box kit into a far more prototypical representation. The car has been very lightly weathered with powdered chalks.
    Model Railroading - July 2001 - Page 36 Model Railroading - July 2001 - Page 37

    They are eye-catching at the very least, so much so that they have become a kind of contemporary billboard reefer for the food producers who use them. On a layout, they tend to tower above everything else on the rails. They're taller and only a tad shorter than auto parts hi-cubes. Their unique technology (a carbon dioxide refrigeration system using no moving parts) will no doubt result in them eventually replacing the more interesting mechanical refrigerator cars now in use. ( Another reason to be thankful we are modelers who aren't forced to "change with the times.") In any case, for the model railroader whose layout focus is today's calendar date, having a few of these huge cars on the roster is almost a necessity for prototype accuracy.

    Fortunately, Wm. K. Walthers, Inc., has done the bulk of the work necessary for us to acquire a beautifully decorated series (their 5450 product code) of these cars. But as with most plastic kits, a few simple upgrades will produce an even more satisfying model.

    Builder Ed Sanicky first used a 2 '6" length of Evergreen Scale Models #8406 4" by 6" styrene strip to fabricate two brake levers (see Figure 1 ). These strips are secured inside the channel of the underframe between the second and third cross members on each end inboard of the truck bolsters.

    This stylized piping arrangement was used to create underbody interest. Please note that this arrangement is not prototypically accurate.
    Model Railroading - July 2001 - Page 38

    Next Ed drilled .078 holes in all of t he brake system parts to correspond to the piping arrangement shown in Figure 2. Note that this is a stylized arrangement intended to provide interest underneath the car when viewed from the side; those who are more concerned with brake system accuracy may wish to alter the layout of this piping. The piping itself is made from .015 brass wire secured with cyanoacrylate (CA).

    Moving to the couplers, the same .015 brass wire is used to fabricate a lift bar, which is secured to the carbody with Detail Associates #2206 eyebolts. Then the DA 6206 air hose was secured in a .030 hole.

    The brake wheel, walkways and tack boards come from the manufacturer molded in black plastic and must be painted to match the carbody. We found that airbrushing is the best method. Since we found the kits brake wheel unsatisfactory, a far better one was located in the DA 6216 Hennesy Sidewell Door Control package. Some may view this as too much of a sacrifice; you will have to make this decision for yourself.

    CRYX 1251 is eastbound on Conrail at Allentown, PA, in August of 1992. Tank cars usually have their reporting marks repeated on the roof (or top of the tank). The concept is far less common for other types of rolling stock.
    Model Railroading - July 2001 - Page 39

    One could replace the steps with detail items of finer dimension. We chose to leave the molded-on steps on our cars. Although they are a bit objectionable when viewed close-up, when seen in moving trains from a distance on a layout, these kinds of details quickly blend into the scenery and are not readily apparent except to the most determined nitpicker.

    Weathering on these cars should be kept to a minimum, as the prototypes are rarely if ever seen in anything but a clean condition. Whether this is because they are actually washed or if the paint is self-cleaning is not known at this writing, but they usually present a picture of neatness in a passing train.

    Kadee # 26 long-shank couplers are used on this car in place of the traditional #5s. They, too, fit precisely into the Walthers draft-gear box. The prototype cars also use long-shank couplers, which (just like on our models) work better on the shortradius curves of industrial sidings. And while were talking about running gear, serious modelers will want to replace the kits anachronistic rib-backed wheels with contemporary wheels available from any number of sources: Kadee, NWSL, Jay-Bee, and Accurail come to mind.

    In observing dozens of prototype freight trains, we cant recall ever seeing more than a three-car cut of these huge cars. There just aren't enough of them on the rails, or perhaps not enough product being shipped, to produce longer strings. So even if your budget is tight, a single kit will add a contemporary flair to your layout if you "model modern."

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