I am in the early stages of building a couple of wood meat reefers using styrene as the primary construction material. This is a project that has been staring me in the face for at least 20 years. I built a Swift reefer over thirty years ago using Clover House dry transfers. I had followed an article in the 1953 Model Railroader magazine. Subsequently, I discovered that the article was flawed due to an error in the length specified. The author stated that the body was 36’2″ long. Well the simple fact is that the ORER doesn’t list a Swift car of that length. They likely had intended it to be 37’2″ in length. Recently my interest in the project rose to point of action with the new decal sets from Protocraft.
The two cars under construction are a Wilson 36′ and a Swift 37’2″ wood reefers. Construction is very similar for both cars.
The Wilson cars were built over a period of 10 years starting in 1939. Wilson used two different herald sizes, two truck types and different hand brakes. I chose to build a model of 9258 which had a small “W”, ASF A-3 Ride Control trucks and Universal hand brake.
The Swift Company leased a large number of wood cars from General American of various sizes. I am focusing on a car in the 3300 – 5799 series. There were over 1100 cars active in 1956.
The following table shows the basic dimensions taken from the Official Railway Equipment Registry for the Wilson car. My copy is a reprint but Westerfield Models is selling a wide range of dates on CDs. The ORER is very helpful for in modeling. Along with the cars basic dimensions, it lists car number series and the number of cars in service as of the date of publication.
|Wilson 8101-9600||Swift 5300-5799|
|Height to eaves||12’4”||12’4”|
|Width at eaves||9’11.5”||9’11”|
|Height to RB||13’2”||13’1”|
|Door||4’ by 6’ height||4’ by 6’ height|
I will start with the construction of the Wilson car. My approach to building house cars (boxcars and reefers) is to build a core box, add weight and add sheathing to the outside of the core. In this case, I will use Evergreen 3.25″ siding for sides and ends. The roof will be sheathed with styrene strips to simulate the tongue and groove material of the prototype. When designing the core dimensions, you need to consider the thickness of the siding and roofing materials. The core will be shorter, narrower and lower than the prototype.
The two drawings above show how the core is built up and the sheathing is added.
Here is what the core looks like before the top is applied. I added about 8 oz. of large washers. I like these for weight since they are inexpensive and readily available in a real hardware store. I used a thick CA to hold the weights. For belt and suspenders, I added some styrene strips just in case.
The floor was cut from .060″ styrene and scribed to represent 5″ boards. I added 2″ by 3″ styrene stringers and 2″ by 9″ boards to support the center sill.
Next time, we will do a little more on the project.