Tuesday, 2 January 2018

Reefer, Decals, Frustration and New Year

What an auspicious title for the new year! Don't panic, I'm not discouraged at all but trying to be fairly prototypical with a steam era fleet can quickly become a descent into madness... madness I tell you!

The good new is Erie did lease URTX reefers from at least the 1930s up to the E-L merger in 1960. I was able to find a picture of the real wood sheathed 40ft prototype Accurail based their concept on simply by looking at Wikipedia's Union Refrigerator Transit Line entry.

URTX cars on pier 19, East River, Manhattan. 1936 (credit: WikiCommons)
Not only it matches the paint scheme, but Accurail used a fairly prototypical model too. Unfortunately, I have absolutely no idea if these cars were still in service in the early 50s and leased to Erie.

According to information shared by Dave Husman, 16 cars were still on the roster at that time, corresponding to the series leased by Erie:

"The 1953 ORER lists 16 cars in the URTX 27000-27999 series.  IL 32'9", OL 40'11",   Other dimensions are pretty common with most of the cars on two pages of the ORER.  There are no other indications of ownership or assignment (on any of the other series either.)"

Thus, I feel it's better to not bother with theses oddballs. However, Accurail will soon release an Erie steel ice reefer. And that time, it both fits the era and the paint scheme is quite accurate too. But unfortunately, while the artwork is excellent, the model itself isn't Accurate. URTX used the well know steel reefers with the horizontal seam. Often associated with Milwaukee Road, this type of reefer was also leased by Erie. Walthers did produce in the past that specfic prototype and it could be used to create a decent version of an Erie reefer... however, here my rant starts.

Accurail's version of Erie steel reefers (credit: Accurail)

In the world of modelling, either you have the correct decals but not the model or the accurate model exist but not decent decals. I ran into this issue quite a few time over the last few weeks and it can really wear off your best intentions.

In the case of Erie reefers, the lettering was black, so I could make my own decals. In fact, I did start to recreate the artwork based on Accurail's own. But I ran in two issues. Very small lettering is impossible to decipher on pictures (that can be solved with the help of other modellers) and getting a decent Railroad Roman font is almost impossible. Every road had its own variation on that popular style. It thus means I will have, if I continue this project, to redraw individually each letter. I'm used to doing this, but it's a labour of love... Maybe I'm not that much in love with Erie!!! The layout option would be to buy an Accurail model, scan or take a high quality picture of the artwork, scale and clean it, print decals and voilà! That would be efficient thought costly. And the Accurail car would have to be repainted in a correct scheme later...

The other issue is much more bothering. I bought 2 Rapido GARX reefer kits 2 months ago. Built them and painted them. One in yellow to represent a generic GARX (not leased) car and another one to be a red-color Swift reefer. Fine by me, but imagine my disappointment when I discovered my Clover House dry transfer were for the SWIFT steel reefer and not the WOOD one... A little search shown me the Walthers steel reefer of URTX lineage would be perfect for the Clover House transfers... However, I have on hand wood reefer. Thus I thought to myself, let's find correct Swift decals. In all my juvenile naïveté, I felt it would be a walk in the park since Swift red wood reefers are iconic and popular with railroaders. So wrong. Only, Champ offered decals (readily available on Ebay) back in the days. While they seem fairly accurate, these decals are printed on very thick carrier paper, making them less than adequate. I've used them in the past, and wasn't that much impressed. So now, the only remaining option would be to get Champ decals, scan them, clean the artwork and ask some individual or business to print them... That will come with a fairly high price tag.

The most frustrating aspect of this adventure is not the lack of availability. You can't do nothing about that. But rather that I embarked these projects thinking they were simple and fast to complete. Who would believe modelling Swift reefers is so complicated? I did not... Now I know... "and knowing is half the battle won"...

Happy New Year to One and All!


Finally, I decided to rework the decal artwork and tweak each Railroad Roman letter to fit UTRX practice. Two hours later, I'm quite satisfied with the result. White lettering on the black ends could be done using any generic freight data decals and alphabets in Railroad Roman font. Now, if I could know if the Erie Diamond logo had a white background or if it was simply left yellow...

URTX-ERIE steel reefer decals (credit: Matthieu Lachance)

Meanwhile, I found another HO scale ERIE steel reefer artwork (supposedly from Accurail too). This one is dated 1956... The car is orange like the Milwaukee Road ones and URTX full name is dropped while the reporting marks and roadnumbers are painted in a much modern block lettering font. Another foobie? Another variation? Hard to tell, except if digging in an URTX dedicated book.

A mid-50s paint scheme? (credit: Accurail?)

Why not try to reproduce this one too!

URTX-ERIE steel reefer decals (credit: Matthieu Lachance)
As things are standing out right now, I'll simply acquire two Walthers Mainline Steel Reefer, strip the paint and letter them in both 1950s paint scheme. If better information ever come up, it won't be too hard to repaint them more prototypically.

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