REEFER MADNESS: Scratch-building CN’s 40′ Wood End Bunker Reefers [PT:1]

CN 208571T.A. Watson photo, Ian Cranstone collection

CN Wood End Bunker Reefer #208571 (Series 3). Photo: nakina.net

Some time ago Steve Hunter showed me photos of his beautifully finished Norwest Models CN Wood End Bunker Reefer kits. This planted the seed for a small obsession with these wooden reefers built between 1926 and 1932.

Knowing that I would eventually need a few of these cars to compliment my fleet of F&C and True Line 8 Hatch Reefers (which will be regulars at the Vernon River Co-op warehouse!) I searched high and low for years for even just one Norwest Kit, to no success.

Armed with general arrangement drawings sourced from the C. Robert Craig Memorial Library and a copy of Railroad Model Craftsman (June 2001) featuring Stafford Swain’s wonderful article on this prototype I set out to begin scratch building a pair.

I began the preliminary work on the project by sourcing decals from Black Cat Publishing, trucks from Tahoe Model Works, 3D printed underslung charcoal heaters and liquidometers from Shapeways and many of the other detail parts and styrene stock I would require to complete the build.

By studying the drawings I determined that it might prove easiest to build the car body in three layers. A inner core, a main core and finally an outer layer of Evergreen freight car siding.  (All layers .040″)

  • The inner core would provide a solid foundation for the car’s floor to sit on which would be made from Evergreen V-Groove siding. This would be the main core to which the entire car would be built off of.
  • The main core’s purpose would be to simulate the 6 scale inches of steel under frame and would be cut 6 scale inches taller than the inner core to achieve this.
  • Finally, the outer layer of Evergreen freight car siding would be cut 6 scale inches shorter than the main core. The freight car siding would then be placed around the main core using a jig made from styrene to ensure a uniform 6 inches of the main core remained visible all the way around the model.

After constructing the inner and main cores, the next step was to cut the car siding to fit around the car body. Once I made the cuts I marked where the doors would be cut out. Using the previously mentioned jig I taped the siding to the car to test the look and to ensure everything lined up properly.

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4 car sides made of Evergreen freight car siding cut and marked for their door openings.

reeferbottomsides

This view shows what the siding will look like when finally glued to the car. This also shows the 6″ of the main core that represents the visible steel under frame of the prototype. Eventually Archer and Micromark rivet decals will be used to detail it.

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The spacing jig I made to ensure a uniform 6″ of the main core remains visible all the way around the car body.

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Sitting on trucks just for fun, this car is starting to look a little less like a time consuming rectangle and more like a wooden reefer!

After a few failed attempts at cleanly cutting out the doors out of the car and subsequently having to cut out new sides I decided I needed a different approach.

Browsing around on a few different model railroading forums I came to the conclusion that a nibbler seems to be the way to go in regards to cutting square, clean doors (and windows) from sheet styrene when the standard #11 blade won’t do the job cleanly. With that knowledge I ordered one from Amazon and I should see it next week.

Sometimes I need to remind myself that it’s often best to tape a step back, take some time to plot the next move and then come back with a new approach and fresh mindset.

I hope to return to this build soon- when I finally have the door openings cut out and installed I will be able to turn my attention to the steel under frame.

I already have some ideas brewing.

CM

Learning the lay of the land:

I decided to begin my research on Vernon River by first digging into the type of freight traffic the village would normally see.

By far my favourite types of rolling stock to model are reefers, stock cars and tank cars: so I knew that whatever prototype I did choose would need to tick off most, if not all of those boxes.

As detailed in the PEI government’s 1958 air photos, by the late 1950’s Vernon River had two potato warehouses along the public siding and a CO-OP Warehouse with it’s own dedicated three car siding. Obviously, these buildings by their nature would generate a significant amount of reefer and boxcar traffic. Especially so leading up to the potato harvest in which case the railroad would have reefer cars staged pretty well wherever they could fit them Island wide.

What was less obvious to me about Vernon River was the amount, if any, livestock traffic the village received- let alone enough to have a stock pen on site.

A dig into UPEI’s newspaper archives located the following advertisements:

“Loading hogs for Canada Packers at Vernon River every Tuesday afternoon. Trucking where possible. Ralph Lea.” [March 25, 1948]

Swift Canadian Co. LTD loading hogs at Vernon River [Feb 1953]

BUYING HOGS— I will buy hogs at Vernon River Station on Thursday the 24th inst. Alex McMillan [March 22, 1921]

Indeed, referring back to the 1935 PEI air survey of Vernon River shows what appears to be a stock pen east of the station. Comparing to the 1958 photo shows that sometime between 1935 and 1958 the stock pen was demolished. If you take into account the 1953 newspaper advertisement for Swift Canada loading hogs- which is the last livestock loading advertisement I could find for Vernon River- to me it is more likely the stock pen was torn down sometime between 1953 and 1958.

For me, this isn’t a big deal. Since I loosely base my era on the late 50s I can justify to myself including this stock pen on the layout. Since no plans for the stock pen exist, I will use drawings my friend Chris Mears made of the stock pen at Millview for the basis of a stand in model.

In my next post I plan to address other types of rail traffic Vernon River would receive.

Until then,

CM

Modelling Vernon River c.1958

Hello and welcome to my brand new blog. This blog will document the research, planning and the eventual construction of this model railway.

After researching manny different Island prototypes (Cardigan, Charlottetown waterfront and Murray Harbor to name a few), I have settled on modelling Vernon River for my modular switching layout.

Here are a few points that helped me settle on Vernon River:

  • Vernon River scales out perfectly for a module. Switch to switch the village scales out to just under 6ft long. Measured across it comes in at about 2.25ft. This means I can model the railway buildings, track and landscaping with absolutely no compression while still having a 8 car public siding and a 3 car CO-OP warehouse siding. A prototype so small also affords me the option to have staging on both sides of the module. This should be more than enough to keep me entertained.
  • Only three switches and six or seven buildings means I can really take the time super detail the entire scene without getting totally hung up on the research (which is classic me.) I could hand lay every piece of track and scratch build every building if I wanted without having bit off way to much. It’s manageable.
  • Vernon River while small offers a lot of different types of traffic. Some examples of equipment that would be appropriate for this c.1958 prototype would include: reefer cars, stock cars, flat cars, coal cars, boxcars, boxcars with grain doors and potentially even the odd tank car.
  • Vernon River still had mixed train service in this era- hauled either by a GE 44 Tonner still in it’s black steam era paint scheme or by one or two GE 70 Tonners in the classic CNR green and gold scheme.

Stay tuned as I post my research and start to dig further into this awesome prototype.

-CM