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First Look Review
HO scale
50' GARX Reefer
50' GARX Reefer Car Quanah Acme & Pacific # 50552
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by: Frederick Boucher [ JPTRR ]

Originally published on:
RailRoad Modeling

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Atlas' Master Line 50' GARX Reefer has been re-released with new road names. This model is of Quanah Acme & Pacific # 50552, model number 20 003 540.
    A joint effort from General American and Evans Products, these AAR class bunkerless refrigerator cars were produced beginning in the early 1950s. Featuring two large horizontal panels flanking a 7’7” door, these cars had a very unique appearance due to the horizontal rivet strip that joined the panels. With fewer seams than a standard box car, these cars were supposed to be less prone to rust and leakage. By 1959, over 1,000 of these boxcars were produced. - Atlas

This model is a former Branchline Blueprint model. Branchline wrote of the model;
    In 1954 General American Transportation introduced its own design for a 50’ plug door insulated boxcar. These cars used a unique side design adapted from General American’s earlier 40’ steel reefers. This design employed two large horizontal sheets on either side of the door riveted together giving these cars a unique appearance. 925 [sic] cars were built in 1954 and an additional 100 cars were built in 1959.
    General American’s cars were leased to various railroads but they retained their own GARX reporting marks. The leasing railroads often applied their own heralds to the right of the door. Our GARX boxcar kit gives modelers the first accurate model of
    these unique cars.

Please enjoy a history of the Quanah at the bottom of this review.

Master Line GARX 50' Reefer
GARX 50' reefers were classified as AAR classes "RB" or "RBL" meaning "bunkerless refrigerator car" (no ice compartments). This model was originally created by Branchline model company for their Blueprint series. The model features:
    Late improved Dreadnaught ends
    Overhanging diagonal panel roof with or without roofwalk as per the prototype
    Straight-side sill body design
    8/8 panel, riveted sides
    Highly detailed underframe
    Separately-applied ladders, grab irons and latch bars
    Blackened metal wheels
    AccuMate® couplers

Atlas' 50' GARX reefer is expertly molded and assembled with no visible flash, ejector marks, de-sprue burrs, or glue smears.

Most of the detail is molded on. The body features 16 panels like the prototype. Thousands of minute rivet heads festoon the surface along vertical panel edges, as well as the unique horizontal rivet strip. Surface detail includes both raised and recessed lines, as appropriate. The door tracks and stops are fine in size, too.

Accumate knuckle couplers and RP-25 metal wheels allow the model to scoot along in a train. Optional detail parts afford the modeler the choice whether to add even more detail to the model.

Let's look at what makes this model a Master Line member.

Atlas includes individual air hoses and cut levers for the modelers to attach, if desired. These are very fine in diameter and made with a springy slick plastic. The hose brackets attach into mounting holes in the car with minuscule pins, but I simply can not find how to mount the cut levers. Optivisor, rescue me!

Separate ladders, grabs and latch bars have already been mentioned, but not remarked upon are how small the parts are. The ladders have seven rungs. While the grabs and ladders may not be proto-87 thin, they are lightly molded. So are the end tack boards, although the side tacks are molded on.

Two plug doors are molded integral with the body, not surprising since plug doors would require extremely clever engineering to make functional yet authentic for an HO plastic model. Plug doors were designed to securely seal the car to prevent weather from damaging loads like paper, plywood, and other moisture sensitive commodities.

End platforms and a Universal hand brake wheel are individually attached. So is the retainer valve.

Beneath the body is a detailed underframe: sill; crossbearers; stringers; fine floor boarding; fine rivets.

Hanging from that underside is a good looking air brake system. It includes train lines, brake rods, and brake levers.

The blackened wheels are actually black - too many are just a dark and shiny silver.

Topping it all off is the diagonal roof, topped with a metal running board and laterals. The laterals also have metal grabs.

Those are the specific items that make this model a Master Line.

Dustin' the iron
I rolled the model on code 83 track and across a code 80 slip-switch. It rolled smoothly and easily. Using my Kadee coupler height gauge I found the couplers are perfectly set. That will make the car track better.

Weights and measures and performance
This model weighs 4.8oz, a bit heavy per NMRA RP-20. My Kadee coupler height gauge shows the couplers to be at proper height. I measured the model at 51 feet from striker plate to striker plate. It is 54.5 feet from coupler to coupler.

Paint and livery
Atlas' paint is very thin yet opaque. No detail is obscured. Road names, reporting marks and emblems are razor-sharp. Each railroad is painted with four road numbers.

Instead of trying to describe how sharp and legible all of the stenciling is, I'll let the photos speak for me. In short, the lettering is truly amazing.

Atlas offers an undecorated version along with six different railroads:
    Cotton Belt (Yellow/Black)
    GARX (Yellow/Black)
    Nickel Plate (Yellow/Black)
    Quanah Acme & Pacific (Yellow/Black)
    Texas & Pacific (Yellow/Black)
    Union Pacific (Yellow/Black)

I have no information about the proper color used by QA&P rolling stock, although the paint color looks correct for GARX reefers.

Modelers of the Transition Era need General American Transportation GARX cars. This 50' GARX reefer is a fine representation of the unique horizontal panel reefer. Atlas equips it with excellent detail, many separate parts, metal wheels that roll smoothly, knuckle couplers, and excellent paint.

I really do not have anything to complain about and recommend it.

Please remember to tell Atlas and retailers that you saw this model here - on RailRoad Modeler.

Quanah, Acme & Pacific Railway: "The Quanah Route"
The Quanah, Acme & Pacific Railway (reporting marks, QAP), also sometimes referred to as The Quanah Route for its bridge status began as a system by another name in the very early 20th century to serve northern Texas. A few years later it was renamed as the QA&P and had much more grand aspirations to begin pushing west. It was around this time that it was acquired by the St. Louis-San Francisco Railway and operated as an independent subsidiary line for the rest of its days. While the railroad's "Pacific" hopes were never realized it was able to maintain a level of profitability for many years as a bridge line mentioned above, moving freight along its entire route that stretched roughly 100 miles. After the Frisco was acquired by Burlington Northern in 1980 so was the QA&P. Unfortunately, its lines were seen as a superfluous to the much larger BN and most of the railroad is abandoned today.

The history of the Quanah, Acme and Pacific Railway begins on May 3, 1902 when the Acme, Red River & Northern Railway was chartered by Sam Lazarus as more of less a local system to serve the area's Acme Plaster Company just west of the Red River (its full charter, however, stipulated that it was to connect to Floydada). Lazarus, who owned the plaster plant, changed his plans for his small railroad a few years later when he renamed it as the Quanah, Acme & Pacific on January 28, 1909 with plans for westward expansion. He saw the QA&P not so much as a true transcontinental railroad stretching to the Pacific Ocean but as a very long bridge line that would connect to the Southern Pacific's transcon "Sunset Route" at El Paso (along the way connecting with other major western carries like the Atchison, Topeka & Santa Fe) and funneling east-west traffic between the Midwest (to the St. Louis Gateway via the Frisco) and Southwest.

He also hoped to capture other freight such as cattle and general livestock considering the region's prolific ranching industry. By 1910 the QA&P had reached Paducah, 35 miles west of Acme although just a year later the Frisco purchased a 100% ownership stake in the company. Despite this its independence remained separate from its parent, which included Lazarus as president of the property, and it continued to look westward. Reaching Floydada took much longer than expected, however. After a lengthy court battle with the AT&SF to open a western gateway there the QA&P had a through route of 117.0 miles between Red River, and a connection with the Frisco, to Floydada by 1928. At Quanah and Acme it also had interchanges with the Fort Worth & Denver Railway owned by the Chicago, Burlington & Quincy.

Two years prior in 1926 the QA&P had taken over the Motley County Railroad, a short line running from a connection at Matador Junction to Matador. This road had struggled as an independent and did no better under Quanah's control forcing its abandonment by 1936. Interestingly, while the QA&P would never reach El Paso it continued to label its system maps with the unfinished grade west of Floydada as late as 1944! Had it done so the railroad would have stretched roughly 500 miles in length and likely been an even more competitive line for transcontinental freight. In any event, with the bridge traffic it was able to gain from its major Class I connections the Quanah saw a significant increase in revenues. Essentially, this traffic became so lucrative that the railroad operated time freights to move it as quickly as possible from one interchange to the other.

For instance, these trains were named, and known, by their moniker as either Flash or "Advance 435" and the railroad set them on a strict schedule of just 2 hours and 40 minutes to travel the entire railroad of 117 miles! These time freights, however, did not make up all of the QA&P's traffic. It also moved a good bit of agricultural traffic including cotton, wheat, and grain. However, since this was seasonal the railroad did not depend on it as a sustained revenue source. Additionally, for a time in the 1930s when the streamliner craze was hitting the nation it operated an expedited passenger train known as the Plainsman.

Listed as trains #409 and #410 the QA&P marketed it as a through connection to eastern and western points including St. Louis and Los Angeles with sleeper service offered. During the steam era the Quanah, Acme And Pacific Railway predominantly relied upon larger 4-4-0 Americans, 4-6-0 Ten Wheelers and even 2-10-0 Decapods to handle freight and passenger chores. However, a much greater improvement in operations was gained when it acquired a handful of Electro-Motive GP7s beginning in 1951. The railroad stated that the diesels enabled it to move more freight in one week than it could under steam power in six days. By the 1950s it was running four hotshot freights daily and during 1958 posted an incredible operating ratio of just 45.01%.

The end for the QA&P, however, came swiftly and abruptly when the Frisco and Santa Fe decided to switch their interchanging routing in the fall of 1973 that bypassed the railroad. With the loss of lucrative bridge traffic the railroad struggled to survive. It became part of BN in 1980 after its parent sold out to the large western giant that year. Soon after, with little need for The Quanah Route BN abandoned much of the line west of Quanah that constituted roughly 100 miles. Today, only 5 miles remains between Acme to Quanah, still owned by successor BNSF Railway.

(Thanks to Donald Sims' "Quanah Means Quick" from the February, 1962 issue of Trains as a primary reference for this article.)


* American-Rails.com. Quanah, Acme & Pacific Railway: "The Quanah Route". [Web.]

Click here for additional images for this review.

Highs: Excellent detail, many separate parts, metal wheels that roll smoothly, knuckle couplers, and excellent paint.
Lows: I really do not have anything to complain about.
Verdict: This 50' GARX reefer is a fine representation of the unique horizontal panel reefer.
  Scale: HO Scale
  Mfg. ID: 20 003 540
  Suggested Retail: $32.95
  Related Link: Branchline PDF
  PUBLISHED: Apr 24, 2016
  NATIONALITY: United States

Our Thanks to Atlas Model Railroad!
This item was provided by them for the purpose of having it reviewed on this KitMaker Network site. If you would like your kit, book, or product reviewed, please contact us.

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About Frederick Boucher (JPTRR)

I'm a professional pilot with a degree in art. My first model was an AMT semi dump truck. Then Monogram's Lunar Lander right after the lunar landing. Next, Revell's 1/32 Bf-109G...cried havoc and released the dogs of modeling! My interests--if built before 1900, or after 1955, then I proba...

Copyright ©2021 text by Frederick Boucher [ JPTRR ]. All rights reserved.


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