36' Wood Reefer
Roadname & No.: Cudahy's "Sunlight" #8742
Series: Master Line
Category: Steam Era Classics
Mfg. ID: 20 001 683
Refrigerator cars started out built, like all freight cars, of wood. Eventually construction progressed into composite wood-steel construction, and ultimately to metal cars. Hauling meat and milk and fruit and vegetables was a challenge. Originally cooling was achieved by filling the car with lading and then shoveling huge amounts of ice into surrounding voids. Insulation was achieved with compressed horse hair! Later, mechanical and chemical refrigeration replaced frozen water; this lead to the end of icing platforms, a fascinating track side structure. Horse hair was replaced by modern forms of insulation.
Refrigerator cars are favorite models because of elaborate "Billboard" advertisement artwork of the era.
The 36' reefer is a highly detailed model of the car that was a mainstay in the meatpacking industry during the steam era. Based upon cars built by the General American Car Company for the Cudahy Packing Co. in 1925, the 36' wood reefer is representative of the thousands of cars that transported meat, dairy, beer and food products well into the 1960's.*
Atlas Master® Steam Era Classics 36' Wood Reefer
This model is packed in Atlas' Master® red, black and gold trimmed box with a cellophane window. The model is held in a two-piece fitted cradle, wrapped with a protective film. It is ready to run.
You may notice the model looks warped. This is distortion of the small model under close-up photography.
This 36-foot reefer is released with three body styles: two have different roof hatches and a steel underframe while the other has truss rods. Notable features include:
- Accurate painting and lettering
- Separately-applied grab irons and stirrups
- Two different hatch styles - road name specific
- Truss rods appropriate per road name
- Separately-applied door hardware
- Opening hatches and doors
- Die-cast chassis
- Detailed braking system
- 40-ton Bettendorf-style trucks
- AccuMate® couplers**
Atlas molds this model with simulated wood grain texture. Except on the roof slats I did not notice this detail until the photographs were examined, i.e., it is not overscale. What else does the model offer? Sharply molded hardware detail for the doors and sides; separate grab irons and stirrups; opening hatches and doors, and a separately applied hand brake wheel. The entire model is cleanly molded: no flash, no sink holes, no ejector marks, no seam lines. Metal wheel sets, while blackened, are shiny. Knuckle couplers by AccuMate® are a plus.
Plenty! First, handle with care - many delicate parts! As noted above this model has many separate parts, plastic and metal. These include:
* wire brake detail
* Wire grab irons
* Opening doors
* Hinge detail
* Swiveling radial door hangers and latches
* Opening ice hatches and positionable props bars
* Retainer valve and pipe
* Cut bar
* Fine bolt and rivet detail
* Wood grain
To open the loading doors you must swivel the radial door hangers and latches. I could open the latch door completely but the left door would not open more than a third. I quit trying to open it more for concern of the hinges. They are somewhat overscale in thickness but still plastic.
: Opening the ice hatches is fraught with peril! These are attached to the roof with fine plastic hinges that snap across hinge pins molded into the hatch. The hinges are pushed into holes in the roof, held by friction. It seems the car body was assembled and then painted; paint has glued the hatches closed. It took quite a bit of delicate handling to slide a fingernail under the hatch and pry loose the paint bond. My first attempt did not 'open' the hatch rather it popped the hinges out of the roof! I include photos of the pieces to show you just what finesse you will need to re-seat them if you do the same. The hatch latch is also paint-glued tight and requires the same care. After photographing this feature my attempt to re-seat the hatch led to a hinge and latch disappearing into the carpet abyss!
If you pop the hatches for display there are no prop bars to hold them up. There are, curiously, four tiny screws in a baggie which for the life of me I can't find a place for. Perhaps these were accidentally included in place of the hatch prop bars?
Look the the photos of the underframe. KC air brake system detail includes actuator arms, gear hangers and levers, with wire brake rods. Atlas did not use high-dollar trucks with brake rigging so the wire rigging sensibly does not go all the way into the trucks. Looking at the model from track level it is convincing. Absent are air hoses and angle cocks with straps.
Those Bettendorf trucks I am sorry to report are only average. They present the look of a Bettendorf but are softly molded in shiny plastic, and less detailed than the Atlas N scale USRA Double Sheathed Box or some other Atlas models reviewed on this site. The nice metal wheels are shiny even though they are blackened.
Weights & measures
The model measures 36 1/2 feet from end sill to sill. It weighs 3.6 ounces, almost dead-on according to NMRA RP-20.1 Car Weight. Per S-2 Coupler Standards it is also exact, as shown coupled to a Kadee coupler tool.
Paint is smooth and opaque. In the close-ups I noticed a few chips of paint off of the wire brake wheel shaft and off the cut lever. Printing is, well, why read this when you can see in the photos the incredible crisp sharp printing? And there is plenty to read!
Atlas offers this model in two road numbers or variants for eight roadnames, plus three styles of undecorated models:
1. Beatrice Creamery (Yellow/Brown/Silver)
2. Cudahy's "Sunlight" (Yellow/Red/Silver)
3. Cudahy's "Puritan" (Yellow/Red/Silver)
4. Decker (Yellow/Brown/Black)
5. Hanford's (Yellow/Brown/Black)
6. Wilson & Company "Butter" (Yellow/Brown/Black/Red)
7. Wilson & Company "Canned Meats"(Yellow/Brown/Black/Red)
8. White Provision Co. (White/Red/Brown)
i. Undecorated Body Style 1
ii. Undecorated Body Style 2
iii. Undecorated w/ Truss Rods
Atlas Master Line 36' Wood Reefer is a beautiful model. The high points are wire brake detail, wire grab irons and other details, knuckle couplers, incredible crisp sharp printing, opening doors and ice hatches. Paint and markings are amazing and weights & measures are nearly perfect.
Detracting from this model is the balky repositioning of the hatches, shiny wheels and Bettendorf trucks that betray the otherwise excellent detail of this model.
Except for the bogies this is a first class model. It looks great on my layout and I am happy to have it on my layout - recommended!
Please tell vendors and retailers that you saw this reefer on RailRoadModeling!
Cudahy Packing Company
Cudahy Packing Company was a U.S. meat packing company established in 1887 as the Armour-Cudahy Packing Company and incorporated in Maine in 1915. It was founded by Patrick Cudahy and his brother John Cudahy, Irish immigrants from County Kilkenny whose family came to Milwaukee, Wisconsin to avoid the Great Irish Famine. The original business is no longer in existence, but legacies are evident in Cudahy, Wisconsin (established by Patrick Cudahy as a base for his meatpacking business that still exists as the Patrick Cudahy division of Smithfield Foods).
By 1922 Cudahy Packing Co. was one of the largest packing houses in the U.S. with operations in South Omaha, Kansas City, Sioux City, Wichita, Memphis, East Chicago, Salt Lake City, and Los Angeles, as well as distribution operations in 97 cities.
The company's main business was supplying European markets with cured pork, but in the 1920s it was forced to adapt to tariffs imposed by Britain...changed production to focus on domestic sales of "semi-perishable canned hams (one of the first U.S. packers to produce this product), sliced dried beef, Italian-style sausage and sliced bacon." The company was dismantled in the 1970s, after it was purchased by General Host in 1968.***
* Atlas Model Railroad Co., Inc.
**AccuMate® couplers are made under license from AccuRail, Inc.
*** Wikipedia. Cudahy Packing Company.
28 December 2012.