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First Look Review
HO scale
40' Wood Reefer
40' Wood Reefer Stokely's Vegetables 12932
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by: Frederick Boucher [ JPTRR ]

Originally published on:
RailRoad Modeling

Atlas Model RR released this HO 40' Wood Reefer for modelers of the "Billboard" era. This highly detailed model is Stokely's Vegetables No.12932, model 20 003 307 .

Reefer Cars
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.

Master Line HO 40' Wood Reefer
Atlas securely packs this model in a formed cradle with a fitted top. Plastic film protects the model from scuffing. The cradle is held inside a carton with a plastic window that both protects and displays the model. The main features are listed as:
    Separate door bars, grab irons, ladders and cut bars
    Two different styles of roof hatch (where appropriate)
    Fully detailed underbody
    Accurate painting and lettering

This 40' wood reefer is molded to a high standard. I don't see any flash, visible ejector circles, sprue burrs or other flaws. No obvious fine wood grain texture is molded in the sides. While HO scale would make all but the biggest clefts invisible at normal viewing distances, the detail is appreciated. Curiously, the N scale 40' reefer has wood grain texture.

That's not all it is equipped with: finely molded hardware detail for the doors and sides; ladders and stirrups; hatches and latches and a small separately applied hand brake wheel.

The 40-ton friction bearing ASF A-3 trucks have acceptable detail for the scale and the metal RP-25 wheel sets are blackened. They are compatible with code 80 track and should also run on code 55 without bumping along the spikes. However, those fine air hoses may strike the rail on anything smaller than code 80. Knuckle couplers are expected nowadays and AccuMate® couplers are factory applied.

Car Tonking
Amazing detail! Every now and then I find a model that makes me exclaim "No way!" First, surface detail. See the fine wood slats, brackets, straps, and other fittings? Then the factory applied items. On each door is attached a radial door hanger and latches. Each car end has a cut bar, air hose and angle cocks. On the B end (brake wheel) are the retainer valve, brake platform, and "stem winder" vertical handbrake wheel.

Look the the photos of the underframe. Virtually a complete Westinghouse "KC" brake system including the combined cylinder/triple valve/reservoir, actuator arm and levers, wire brake rods, mounts and brake levers.

Under that gear is the structure: fishbelly sill, end sills, cross bearers and cross ties, longitudinal stringers. Little rivets in the U-channels. An amazing amount of detail.

However, if there is anything that detracts from this model, I would flag the trucks. As thorough as the overall detail is, the trucks just do not measure up to the rest of the model. A small amount of lettering is cast onto the upper left part of the sideframes but that is about the extent of the 'more than common' detail.

Roll it!
The model rolls nicely on Atlas code 80 track and across a Peco turnout. Atlas' 40-foot reefer measures 40 1/2 scale feet from end to end, 46 feet coupler to coupler. It weighs 4.1 ounces, a little above the recommended NMRA RP-2O.1 Car Weight of 3.8 oz.

Paint and Livery
Today's standard of finish is very high and Atlas keeps the bar raised high. Once again I find incredible just how legible the fine, crisp printing is! Dimensional data, road names and numbers, service markings - you can read it all: built 3-26; new roof 3-32; [bearing] boxes were repacked 3-10-32. There is even the test stenciling on the KC contraption.

This reefer is marked for Stokely's Vegetables with their attractive billboard decoration. Seven companies and an undercoated version are issued.
    Joan of Arc
    Monarch Brewing Company
    Peoria Creamery Company
    Puget Sound Butter & Egg Co.
    Schlosser Brothers
    Stokely's Vegetables
    White House Milk

Each has two road numbers (listed on the Atlas site).

"release anchors"
Atlas Master Line HO 40' Wood Reefer is a plastic-metal model of incredible detail. I am not used to seeing detail like this except in brass. The scale of the pieces is amazing, as is the attention to easily overlooked detail.

The paint is spectacular. The fidelity of the stenciling is enjoyable to read under magnification.

If there is anything that detracts from this model, I would flag the trucks.

I am a fan of the steam era and billboard reefers. When I started inspecting this model it surprised me with the degree of detail. That level is uncommon short of a brass model, or super-detailing it oneself. This is an Atlas Master Line car and it upholds the pride of place for that series.

Modelers of the billboard era and fans of reefers should be very pleased with this model from Atlas. It is an excellent model.


Please remember to tell Atlas and retailers that you saw this model here - on RailRoad Modeling.

Model Heritage
In March 2011 Atlas acquired Branchline Trains and B.T.'s Blueprint Series freight car kits.
    Blueprint Series freight car kits include individual ladders and grabs, correct ends, roofs and other body components, full underframe detail and carefully researched and applied decoration.

Branchline was - is still - known for high-quality models.
    (Some of this information is taken directly from Branchline.)

    In steam days, most freight cars were rather drab, with simple lettering overlaid with layers of dirt and soot. Refrigerator cars, however, were in stark contrast - ornate lettering in bright colors and generally they were washed frequently.

    Perhaps as a result they have attracted much attention from historians and modelers alike. Some of the most unique cars were those built for Union Refrigerator Transit (URTX) and the Chicago & North Western controlled North Western Refrigerator Lines (NWX). URTX was closely associated with the Milwaukee Road, and it seems likely that these two refrigerator lines, centered in the Chicago/Milwaukee area, were at the heart of the meat, cheese, and beer industry. Also, Milwaukee was the location of Walthers and Model Railroader, so it may just be that more of these billboard schemes here were documented than those in other parts of the country.

    The URTX cars were built in large numbers in the 1920's. Painted bright yellow with red ends and roof. these cars carried a wide variety of "billboard" paint schemes. These schemes were applied to cars that were leased to private owners and served as rolling advertisements for their products. The billboard era lasted until July 1934. On this date the Interstate Commerce Commission (ICC) regulation no. 201 came into effect. This ruling stated that after that date, no more cars could be painted with the lessee's name any larger than 12 inches. As of January 1937 cars painted in billboard schemes could not be accepted for interchange between railroads. Some companies tried to circumvent these regulations by applying their own reporting marks, but by the beginning of World War II all remaining cars had been painted back into the original owner's standard colors. These cars also saw service on the Milwaukee, Green Bay & Western, Nickel Plate, Grand Trunk Western and others.

    In the 1920's ACF built approximately 3000 wood reefers for the North Western Refrigerator Lines (NWX). Painted gray and red these cars also served as the canvas on which many of the famous billboard reefers were. After the heyday of the billboard era they formed the backbone of North Western Refrigerator Express's fleet. Many lasted into the 1960's making for a long service life through the most popular modeling eras!

    Branchline's kit include two optional types of roof hatches, separate door latch bars, grab irons, ladders, and coupler cut bars along with a fully detailed underbody. In addition to the common schemes they will have available many of the billboard schemes in special edition releases. All the cars appear to have a wood roof and deep fishbelly underframe.


* NEB&W Railroad Heritage Website. NEB&W Guide to Branchline Reefer Models. [Web.] 10 June 2013, at 09:16.

[1]. Wikipedia. American Refrigerator Transit Company. [Web.] 20 July 2012.
Highs: Exceptional detail including the air brake system, surface detail, many factory-applied parts, and excellent paint. Also, metal wheels and knuckle couplers.
Lows: If there is anything that detracts from this model, I would flag the trucks.
Verdict: Modelers of the billboard era and fans of reefers should be very pleased with this model from Atlas. It is an excellent model.
  Scale: HO Scale
  Mfg. ID: 20 003 307
  Suggested Retail: $36.95
  Related Link: Branchline Blueprint Series Box Cars
  PUBLISHED: Jan 30, 2016
  NATIONALITY: United States

Our Thanks to Atlas Model Railroad!
This item was provided by them for the purpose of having it reviewed on this KitMaker Network site. If you would like your kit, book, or product reviewed, please contact us.

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About Frederick Boucher (JPTRR)

I'm a professional pilot with a degree in art. My first model was an AMT semi dump truck. Then Monogram's Lunar Lander right after the lunar landing. Next, Revell's 1/32 Bf-109G...cried havoc and released the dogs of modeling! My interests--if built before 1900, or after 1955, then I proba...

Copyright ©2021 text by Frederick Boucher [ JPTRR ]. Images also by copyright holder unless otherwise noted. Opinions expressed are those of the author(s) and not necessarily those of ModelGeek. All rights reserved.


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