I have always wanted to detail and weather a BAR 57’ reefer. The faded orange colors and grime on some of the prototype photos I have seen were just begging to be modeled. I also wanted a car with the maintenance access door missing to show the refrigeration unit inside as a nice extra detail feature. This was perfect timing as THE RUSTBUCKET forum was having a weathering challenge to detail and weather an old shake-the-box kit, so I jumped in and went to work.

I started with an old HO scale Athearn blue box model. As you might expect, it needed work. It’s a typical model of its era: broken steps, couplers not at the correct height or falling off and 30 year old detailing with only one separately applied part, the brake wheel [1].

1.The original Athearn blue-box model, complete with some broken stirrup steps.
Preparing the blue-box shell

I started by washing the shell thoroughly first with soapy water. Then I cut off all the stirrup steps.
I removed the solid molded-on screens [2] by drilling rows of holes and cutting them out with a small piece of hacksaw blade. I trimmed the edges and corners of the openings with a sharp knife, and sanded them smooth with a sanding stick. Finally, I shaved off the molded-on ladders with a chisel blade.
I lightly sanded the cut-down spots to smooth them out.

Applying the paint fade

I matched the factory orange with a mix of acrylic paint (orange, white, and yellow), then brush-painted the cut and trimmed areas I also painted some ExactRail four-rung ladders with the same orange. I painted more ladders than needed because they are finely detailed parts. I have broken them during the modeling process before, and learned that trying to color-match later is a tedious task.

I hit the roof next with a light sanding using 1200-grit sandpaper. I painted it with a medium-gray acrylic using a wide flat soft brush. Getting rid of the metallic silver look is necessary for the later steps [3].

Next, I did a primary fade of the orange using Winton oil paints. I mixed up a pale orange color and applied the oil paint (unthinned) liberally to the model [4, 5]. I then used a large
clean “dry” soft brush to move the paint around and remove any excess, wiping the brush clean on a lint-free dry cloth often. Note: I do not thin the oil paint during any of my weathering process.

Remember to add a coat of the fade color to the side steps too. Note: Different brands of oil paint can go on and work differently, so I recommend practicing on a cheap model first.

Once the sides were complete and I was happy with the oil paint fade appearance, I cleaned off the oil paint from the large BAR letters with a worn out brush. I also cleaned off the other small lettering and heralds with a tooth pick, as these were always black in the prototype photos - so the pale orange over these has to go. The beauty of using oil paint is it gives you a lot of working time. [6].

2. I cut off the molded-on screens from the car body shell.
3. I painted the roof a medium-gray color, and also matched the orange on the new ladders to be added
4. Applying a fade coat of  oil paint to  the model. Note that I apply the paint straight, and do not thin it.
5. Progressing along with applying the faded orange oil paint to the car sides.
6. I cleaned the fade paint off the lettering with an old worn-out brush and/or a toothpick
Adding the screen mesh

After the primary fade was dry (about four days), it was time to add the screen on the other side of the car. I cut the screen from very fine brass mesh with scissors. I did the final sizing on the mesh screen using a diamond hone to sand it down precisely for a snug fit [7]. (I find this diamond hone works well to size etched metal parts too.) After gluing the screen in place with CA, I colored the mesh black with a Sharpie permanent marker pen. I prefer this over paint, as I do not want to add any thickness to the fine wire or possibly clog the holes with paint.
7. I used a diamond hone to get the screen mesh to final size for a precise fit into the hole in the car body.
Doing the secondary fade

Now for the secondary fade, to simulate where the sun did more damage to the paint.

I mixed up an even lighter pale orange and applied it where I needed it with a small brush. I took a larger dry brush and worked the paint around, removing any excess, wiping the brush clean often on a clean dry cloth. I used downward strokes toward the end of the process to simulate the random faint streaks from rain.

By using paint and a brush, there is less uniformity, whereas using an airbrush for fades looks too uniform for this effect, I feel. [8, 9]

Next, I applied a highlight fade on the ribs with the very pale orange [10].
8. Using an even lighter shade of orange, I added sun fade to the center of the panels.
9. Using a second dry brush, I smoothed-out the fade effect to soften it.
10. I also used the very light orange to highlight the ribs.
With all the fade complete, it still looked a little crude and rough around the edges [11], but adding a grime layer later blended the whole thing together so it turns out just right.

Once I had faded both sides, I left it to dry for a few more days (you definitely learn patience when working with oil paints).

Now, on to the roof. I applied some patches of light gray acrylic to represent oxidizing of the galvanized steel roof.
Next, I added some oil paint rust onto these lighter patches. I used the end of the brush to stipple the rust on as hundreds of little dots [12]. I did the first layer of rust with a mix of two parts Winton Burnt Sienna and one part Winton Burnt Umber.

When that was dry, I added a second layer of rust more to the centre of the patches using a reverse color ratio: two parts Winton Burnt Umber and one part Winton Burnt Sienna.
Double click to edit
11. The second lighter fade layer is done. It still looks a bit rough, but we will fix that with the grime weathering coming up.
12. I applied a very light gray acrylic paint in small patches to represent oxidization of the roof, and then I added the oil paint rust on top of the very light gray.
After the primary and secondary fade were nice and dry, I gave the shell a good coat of flat clear lacquer. I like to do this to seal in what I have already done, and to give the next step an even, smooth finish to work on. This flat clear coat also protects any previously painted edges from wearing off during the next step of grime with oil paints.
I found if I don’t coat the first oil paint layers with clear lacquer, the next layers of oil paint actually soften the layers underneath. Then any brushing or wiping with a rag can cause the primary and secondary fade to come off, especially on protruding edges.

Adding the grime layer

After studying the grime on real BAR reefers cars in prototype photos, I mixed up a grime color oil paint. I chose a dark gray with some rust-orange color added. This will darken the orange sides of the car [13].
13. I started adding a  darker gray/orange grime color to the car to match what I saw in prototype photos. The left part of the car has the grime layer added and then mostly removed, the door area shows the grime layer before I removed most of it with a rag and/or dry brush.

I applied this first grime layer using a similar method used with the fades. I laid it on thick, then worked it off with a soft cloth and with a dry clean soft brush, cleaning the brush regularly [14, 15].

As before, I used downward strokes toward the end of the process to create some nice random streaks. You can see that the down- ward strokes of the dry-brush removal process can produce some nice effects in the oil paint, like grime running off the bottom of the rivets [16].

Now I applied the same grime treatment on the roof [17]. In hindsight, I probably should have gone a tad darker on the roof. A more gray/brown rather than gray/orange for the grime on the roof might have been better.
14. Here I have added the grime layer to most of the right side. Next, I will remove most of it with a rag and/or dry brush. Oil paints make this add-then-mostly-remove pro- cess very easy to do.
15. I am now removing most of the grime layer on the right side.
16. Notice the subtle downward streaking you can get with the oil paints.
17. I applied the same paint-then-mostly-remove process with the grime paint to the roof.
With the first layer of grime complete, I checked the result against the prototype photos for reference, [18] and I also checked how the roof was coming [19]. I decided the roof needed to be darker, so I used a darker shade on the roof. Once I had done that, I let the grime weathering layer dry for a few more days.
18. I compared my progress so far with some prototype photos - it’s starting to get there!
19. I also checked to see how the roof was coming along.
Other improvements

I made other improvements to this blue-box car as well.

I added a vertical support for the ladder rungs across the refrigera- tor unit screen opening [20].

For the floor of the model, I cut about 15mm off the end of the metal weight (painted green). I also cut out the entire corner of the floor off near the opening, as it was too high and stuck up into view [20].
20. I added a vertical ladder support to the screen opening, and I cut a corner off the floor because it stuck up into the opening.

I installed Moloco draft gear boxes with Kadee #158 metal scale- head couplers [21].

Finally, I cut and glued in a piece of 0.020” styrene sheet in place to be the new floor in the cut-off corner. I bent the outer edge of the styrene closest the opening down a bit to be flush with the edge of the opening [22].

Next was to make the internal wall from 0.040” styrene sheet and glue it into the main body of the reefer, keeping it flush with the edge of the opening.

Now for the main attraction detail: the refrigeration unit. I looked at hundreds of photos for these types of reefers from
many different railroads. I found lots of photos with the screen door open, and many with the door completely missing like I wanted to model.

There are many different types of refrigeration units visible in the photos, but not really with enough detail to make an accurate replica. So I just made up something that looks like what was visible in the majority of the photos.

To make the refrigerator unit, I started with a basic rectangle and added a few bits of detail and some pipes. It ended up being simple but effective, I think. I used the height of the rungs and the width of the ladder as reference to estimate the size of the unit.

I added a little grime color with acrylic paint and then applied a bit of weathering powder after it was dry to finish it off. [23, 24, 25]

21. I installed Moloco draft gear boxes and installed Kadee #158 scale-head couplers.
22. I added new floor with 0.020” styrene. I bent the front edge down slightly to line up with the bottom of  the screen opening.
23. I fabricated a refrigerator unit to show in the opening using some scraps of styrene.
24. Here is a view from the other side of my “freelanced” refrigerator unit under construction with bits of styrene.
25.Here is the finished and painted “freelanced” refrigeration unit.
I completed the draft gear boxes by adding the air hose supplied by Moloco [25]. I also added some self-adhesive sound-deadening on top of the metal weight and to the inside walls of the car. This adds a little extra weight to the car for better stability and also stops it from sounding like a hollow plastic box when rolling on the layout.

For the underside of the car, I removed the original Athearn details. I used a good reference photo of a reefer on its side as a guide. I installed a cylinder from an old tank car, and added the other brake components in the correct locations using a Moloco brake appliance kit. I added some rods and piping from 0.015” piano wire. To finish it off, I painted it all with flat-black from a rattle can then added some grime and rust with acrylic paints [26].

For the remaining car body details, I added a Kadee modern brake wheel. I glued Plano etched metal end platforms straight on top of the dismal original ones. I also attached Detail Associate 6418 stirrup steps. I found the bottom edge of the car was too thin to drill holes for the stirrup steps, so I cut grooves on the inside edge and laid the pin of the steps in the groves, then added the glue. These steps have a very fine and accurate profile, making them very fragile, which is why I added them last.

Finally, I used a grimy dark color oil paint to weather these recently applied details and to blend them into the end of the car.

Finishing Touches

After it all dried for a few days, I sealed it with another layer of Tamiya flat clear. Once the flat clear had dried, I took the car out into the sun to look it over and get a good color reference. I decided to add a bit of weathering powder for to increase the grime and blend in certain places.

With the car complete, I added a final coat of Tamiya flat clear. I always coat with a clear lacquer before using powders so it has a uniform surface with some “tooth.”

I also check and make sure there are no fingerprints on the model when using powders. I’m sure the guy who invented using powder to identify fingerprints at a crime scene discovered the concept when weathering his model trains!

The sides of the car needed more grime, and needed to be a bit darker.

I sparingly applied a little more dark grime oil paint. I worked it into place using a dry soft brush similar to what I had done with the roof to get it darker.

With the car done, I did a final comparison with the prototype photos [27].

27.The final comparison of the finished car with prototype reference photos.
This is Terence's article over his BAR 11128 reefer which appeared in Model Railroad Hobbyist Magazine in October of 2017. If you'd like to see it in it's original format, click here.