MODELING: Next Step on Reefer

The next step in the Wilson reefer build is to complete the basic body.  We left off with a rectangular shaped box with the weights installed.  A top is added to complete the box.  I cut the .040″ sheet to fit the opening and added little tabs to act as stops for installing the top flush with the sides and ends.  Once the glue is set you can knock off the tabs.

shell top

peaked roof

I added a .040″ x .125″ strip to top to support the peaked roof.  The roof is made from .040″.  I usually cut the sheet a little oversized and sand flush with the sides.

Next, the sides and ends are sheathed with Evergreen 3 1/4″ siding.   I like to cut out the reefer door including the striker area below the door.  The sides are centered on the car so that the overhang on either end.  The ends are fitted between the extended siding.


I have been looking at meat reefer pictures over the last few days.  I went back and looked at Jim Hickey’s model and realized that many of these cars used 5 1/8″ tongue and groove boards rather than the 3 1/4″ “V” boards of the siding.  These are pretty much the standard sizes for wood cars.   Take a look at the prototype photos below and you will see the wider boards on the roof.

boards two

roof boards

Swift- Hickey - Copy

The last picture is of Jim Hickey’s beautiful Swift reefer.  He has captured the color and texture of the prototype better than other models I have seen.

The next installment will move the project forward to the detail stages.

Happy Trails.



7 thoughts on “MODELING: Next Step on Reefer

  1. Hi Gene~
    I wanted to write and say how much I enjoy reading your blog, and learning your techniques for building freight cars. I have had the good fortune within the past year of getting to know both Jim Zwernemann and Jim Hickey. Jim Z. lives about an hour away from me, while Jim H. lives about two miles away. My own modeling (HO and Sn3) has benefitted from spending time with both men, and they have graciously allowed me to do so! Thanks.

  2. Gene, I am looking forward to following your blog on this reefer construction also. A few weeks ago I was stopped in my tracks when I first saw Jim’s Swift Reefer. His roof sold me on it. I was just trying to figure out how I might build one myself. Now with your step by step explanations, maybe soon I may just give it a try.

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

  4. Gene,
    a friend has sent me the picture of finished SWIFT reefer and so I found your blog. I’m overwhelmed! What for a detailing, what for a weathering, never before I have seen a model with this approach on prototype! My highest congratulation to the model builder!
    I think that I build also well detailed models (in HO scale) however this presented model is a work of many steps over that what I can realize. If you would be interested please click for a few pictures on my website, how I modified and rebuilt an Atlas reefer into a more prototypical and backdated model – – or see my project of five reefers (yet under construction) – – where I built my models after very similar principles how the builder of the SWIFT reefer. I love such details from top to bottom however this model here is the best what I have seen.
    Thanks for your very detailed description and the pictures with this large resolution. And I have found that the ATLAS 36′ reefer models based on a real prototype what I disbelieved before.
    I’m would be lucky to see more of these wonderful projects. Thank you very much!

    • Bernhard
      You do have very nice models. It is always interesting to see and read about European modelers working with US prototypes.
      When I was spending time in Bavaria, I did not see much model building being done. I remember visiting a shop near the Hauptbanhoff in Munich. I later visited the brewery on the other side of the Hauptbahnhof. I believe it was Spaten.

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