COMMENTARY- Meat Reefers

In the late steam/early diesel, meat reefers of this era recall the billboard reefer era.    The bright colors and bold graphics stood out in a train.   Meat companies such as Swift, Rath, Hormel, Wilson and others provide us a relief from long lines of “boxcar red” equipment.

image from Pierre Oliver

image from Pierre Oliver

I am planning to build a few meat reefers as soon as the tank car project is done.   As a result, I have been doing research prior to cutting up some styrene.   Most of all of the wood cars were either 36′ or 37′ in some inches.   There are exceptions to this.   Mather built a series of 42′ cars in the early 1950s.  Nearly all of the meat reefers had wood roofs made from tongue and groove wood.   Some had metal sheathing over the top to protect the wood.   The important fact that I have observed is that while these roofs were T&G wood they didn’t have “V” grooves like car siding.  The joints were flush.  This opens up Pandora’s Box when it comes to models built or produced in our hobby.  I have built several cars with “V” groove styrene when they should have been flush joints like the sheathing found on a single sheathed boxcar.

Swift- Hickey - Copy

If you examine the prototype Swift photo and this model you will see what I was writing about in regards the roofing.  The model shown above is the work of James Hickey of Georgetown, Texas.   Jim built this car from styrene and did a beautiful job of capturing the color and texture of the prototype car.   This picture got me wondering about the accepted norm for roof construction on these type cars.   Oh yes, the roof color is a freight car red not black or bright red as some have stated on a certain steam era freight car forum.

So at least one of got it right.

My sudden interest in meat reefers is more of a function of what Protocraft has in the works for new decals.   Actually, I have had an interest in these cars for years but lacked the time or interest to do them.

Happy Trails,




5 thoughts on “COMMENTARY- Meat Reefers

  1. Gene:

    T & G porch lumber is without the center grove. Being clear lumber it is expensive. I share your interest in meat reefers and hope to construct at least one.

  2. Hi Gene,

    Flatcar decks and the undersides of cars present the exact same problem.

    That sure is a beautiful model, and I have never done any better at representing T&G. However, I wouldn’t expect to see any gaps at all, and certainly all the boards should be aligned perfectly by the interlocking tongues. Board by board construction always leaves waves and raised edges.

    Perhaps the thing to do is to go board by board, clamped down tight and then sanded (and possibly filled). Alternatively, maybe a lightly-scribed sheet material would do the trick; I’ve sometimes wondered if you could make a stamp to represent the ends of the boards along the edge of a sheet.

    Or maybe in the senior scale you can get away with the waviness of individual boards…

    I’m looking forward to seeing your model,

    • Rene
      Your observation is correct about flat car decking. Larger scales can represent T&G with individual styrene strips. There is enough variation in thickness to show individual boards.


  3. Pingback: Site seeing – June 1 | Andrew's Trains – Formerly

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