Introduction50' Fruit Growers Express Box Car, CSX 'Solid Gold' 197428
is an N scale insulated box car, item No. 50 002 529
. These freight cars were seen all over the country.
In 1982 Fruit Growers Express, or FGE (owned by CSX) needed to repair and upgrade their 20 year old existing fleet of RBL boxcars (insulated plug door cars with moveable load dividers). About 2,500 of these RBL cars were supposed to be retrofitted with a modified load divider system as well as installing Chemply fiberglass resistant lining to the sidewalls and upgrading the cushioned underframe and the plug door system.
The new refurbished RBL cars were a fraction of the price of new cars ($12,000 vs. $60,000). These rebuilt cars were said to be as good as “gold” and as “solid” as a new car. To market these new cars to shippers, FGE had the new cars repainted with a 3D looking scheme that read “Solid Gold.”
The first prototype out of shop (in Alexandria, Va.) was to be stenciled “Solid Gold” on the right side. During stenciling however, part of the ‘G’ had slipped and the horizontal leg of the ‘G’ was missing therefore making it look like a ‘C’. The stencil blunder gave FGE the idea to market their mechanical reefer cars in a companion-like fashion to the Solid Golds and at that moment the name “SOLID COLD” was born.*
There's more history at the end of this review. Further data follows;
AAR Class: RBL: Bunkerless refrigerator car with or without ventilating devices and with or without device for attaching portable heaters. Constructed with insulation in side ends, floor and roof to meet maximum UA factor requirement of 250 BTU/F/Hour for 50 foot cars and 300 BTU/F/Hour for 60 foot cars. Equipped with adjustable loading or stowing device.
AAR Type: R410
Detail Info: Refrigerator Cars, Inside Length: 49ft to 59ft, with cushion draft gear/underframe
Dry Capacity: 4970**
Atlas packs the model in a jewel case for protection, stacking, storing, and displaying. They protect the model from jarring damage and scratching with a form-fitted cradle and a soft plastic sheet.
Molding is high quality. There is no visible flash, sink marks, or ejection circles. My model was factory-assembled to a high standard. With 14 side panels, it features fine surface detail with panel lines and rivets, and both recessed and raised components. A diagonal panel roof of Standard Railway Equipment Co. design tops it and 3/4 improved Dreadnaught ends. Atlas equips the model with AccuMate® operating knuckle couplers and brown plastic wheels.
Atlas reproduced the unique double rivet rows found on these cars. Door hangers and latching is also molded on, as are all ladders, grabs, and stirrups. The stirrups are grossly over-scale. Most of the other detail is reasonably close in size.
Separately attached parts include the hand brake wheel and brakeman end walks.
Underneath the car is a nicely detailed 1-piece underframe. It has molded structural components and molded on brake equipment.
The 100-ton roller bearing trucks are decent and the plastic wheels are molded in brown.
Atlas' 50' FGE box car is a good looking model.
Nine paint schemes are available in this release:
Burlington Northern (Green/White)
Chicago & North Western (Yellow/Black/Red)
Conrail "Continuous Quality Improvement" (Brown/White)
Seaboard Coast Line "Solid Gold" (Yellow/Black)
Baltimore & Ohio* "Solid Gold" (Yellow/Black)
CSX "Solid Gold" (Yellow/Black)
Mountain Pine Lumber (Blue/White)
Two road numbers are available for each railroad except for the "Continuous Quality Improvement" model. Atlas also offers an undecorated version.
The finish is outstanding. No detail is obscured. Look at the lettering! You can read specific instructions for prepping the car prior to moving. I can also read that it is equipped with 2" HF Comp brake shoes. (2-inch thick, high-friction, composition (as opposed to cast-iron) brake shoes.). Reporting marks, loading and weight dimensions, physical dimensions, consolidated stencil rectangle, maximum axle load stencil near the door ("25K"), are legible, to name a few. Exceptional painting and lettering.
I pushed the car across Atlas code 80 track and switches. It rolled with no problem and the couple pin did not hit anything.
ConclusionAtlas' N 50' Fruit Growers Express Box Car
is a fine model. The model features good molded detail and a few attached pieces. Incredible lettering, too, not to mention first rate surface molding and detail. It has knuckle couplers which, while novel decades ago, is expected today.
My only complaint are the oversized stirrups amd plastic wheels.
These cars rolled across America for decades and modelers of the 1960s-2000s should want at least one. Recommended.
Please remember to tell Atlas and retailers that you saw this model here - on
Fruit Growers Express built hundreds of these cars in the 1960s and 70s. They leased them to railroads and even allowed them to apply their own reporting marks.
They hauled products such as fruits, vegetables, canned or bottled foods and drinks, paint, floor wax, liquid detergents, and many other water-based or chemical products needing protection from temperature extremes.
During late 1974, Fruit Growers Express built a total of 319 RBL insulated boxcars for the Penn Central and 75 cars for the Erie Lackawanna, all of which eventually became Conrail X73's in 1976. Unlike some similar cars that the PC/CR owned, the X73 was a Plate C boxcar with two-part r4/4 late Improved Dreadnaught ends with a beveled, rectangular top rib. The class also had doors that were 10' high by 10'6" wide at the opening, with a slightly wider door. They had cushioned underframes, low ladders, and an overhanging, diagonal panel roof with no roofwalks. Their construction included what Jim Eager calls a "double rivet pattern at the side sheet seams," a key spotting feature of these cars. Some cars also have additional, small reinforcement plates along the roofline. These plates extend down to about the second rivet from the top and are located within the rivet lines.
But not all Conrail X73's are not alike. Those originally owned by the Penn Central contained Dual Air Paks, though some also had pallets for assigned service. Cars originally owned by the Erie Lackawanna contained two air-activated Duo Pak Load Dividers plus pallets. The El cars were also equipped with a Hennessey power door opener on each side; this is the wheel on a track to the right of the door.***
* Railfan AC. Today's Railroading In America | TRAINS 21. The History Of The Solid Gold Reefers
. [http://trains21.org/the-history-of-the-solid-gold-reefers/] October 9, 2015.
*** Robert S. Waller. The Conrail Cyclopedia. X73 50' FGE Reefer Prototype Information.
[http://crcyc.railfan.net/crrs/box/x73/boxx73proto.html]. Sep 24, 2014.
Robert S. McGonigal. Trains.com. Freight car markings
. [Web.] May 1, 2006.