Saturday, April 13, 2013

Modeling meat reefers --- Part 4

A minor but highly visible part of the national fleet of refrigerator cars was the cars owned or leased (and lettered for) the meat packers. Most of these were 36 or 37 feet long instead of the familiar 41 feet of most produce reefers, and often carried their owner’s or operator’s names in eye-catching graphics. Rapido Trains has announced that they will be doing the late 1930s version of these cars built by General American (you can see the announcement at: ), but these have been long delayed. Rapido’s Bill Schneider was at the Cocoa Beach meeting in January 2013 and was still saying that they are coming, but “not immediately,” so things remain open-ended for those cars.
     I have accordingly been working toward modeling a small group of these cars. In the previous post, Part 3, about meat reefers (you can see that post at: ), painting had been completed as far as gray primer, yellow sides, and Grimy Black underframes. The last paint step was to carefully mask the sides, using my normal choice of drafting tape instead of the stickier masking tape, and then airbrush boxcar red onto the roofs and ends of all the cars. Here is how the three cars with yellow sides looked (a fourth car has orange sides):

The trucks on these car are my “spray booth” trucks, used only while airbrushing a model, and will not be the final trucks.
     The final step in completing the meat reefer decoration was lettering. I used entirely Clover House dry tranfers. The set numbers used were 8830-06 (Armour), 8916-01 (Cudahy), 9300-12 (Swift, 1948 scheme) and 9416-01 (Wilson, small logo – this is the car with light orange sides). I mentioned the reasons for choosing these prototypes in my first post about modeling these cars, at: .
     As always with dry transfers, care in setting up the lettering sheets is essential. I use a small square to make sure everything is correctly aligned, then use drafting tape to keep the transfer sheet in place (again, spray-booth trucks).

It may be worth mentioning that with dry transfers, you spend all the time aligning the lettering (and taping it down) before you rub and apply it to the car side, while with decals, you put the decal onto the car side and then spend time adjusting the decal location until it is aligned correctly.
     I have used a variety of tools to “rub down” the lettering, but most often I use a dull lead pencil, maybe #2 hardness, which seems to work well. With scribed “wood” sheathing like these cars have, it is important to take care that the pencil runs along the grooves in the siding, to set down lettering into those grooves.
     Here are two of the cars, as lettered. Neither has yet received a reweigh date.

     I have always admired this 1948 Swift scheme, so am pleased to be able to add it to my reefer fleet. There is, I suppose, some irony in my choice of Swift lettering for this car, as the former LifeLike/Varney cars were manufactured with lettering for Swift, though in an incorrect paint scheme. You can see a photo of it at: .
     My last step will be weathering, and photos from the late 1940s and early 1950s often show cars like these being pretty dirty, so I plan to weather them fairly extensively. I will show some details of that process, and the finished models, in a final post.
     These cars are a fun project, though not necessarily an efficient way to acquire a decent model of a meat reefer. Some day we will have the Rapido meat reefers, and although the Rapido model cannot do all the prototypes I’ve addressed in this series of posts, it will offer a very good car body which could be modified for at least some of the cars I’ve done in this series.
Tony Thompson


  1. Thanks, Arved. They have been an interesting and fun project, now ALMOST done.
    Tony Thompson