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Built Review
HO scale
36' Billboard Meat Reefer
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by: Frederick Boucher [ JPTRR ]

Originally published on:
RailRoad Modeling

HO RTR 36' Meat Reefer, Swift/Silverleaf Billboard #15140
Item: RND85517
Scale HO (1/87)
Era: 1890 - 1940

Refrigeration Cars, “Reefers”
Reefers evolved as America grew. Their history includes many aspects of design, lading, size, rosters and fleets, and livery. Reefer history fills books and websites, too extensive for this review. Particularly popular (and misunderstood) are ornate “billboard schemes.”

RTR 36' Meat Reefer, Swift/Silverleaf Billboard #15140
The model is packed in a form-fitted cradle with a fitted clear lid. Roundhouse models are packaged in an olive box that displays the model through a cellophane window. Roundhouse currently lists 28 36-foot meat reefers in 6 roadnames. Most roadnames have more than one road numbers.

Key Features
    * Fully assembled and ready for your layout
    * Wire truss rods (NOTE: listed on the model's webpage but not mounted on the model.)
    * Molded plastic underframe with separately applied brake cylinder
    * Razor sharp painting and printing
    * Machined RP25 profile 33" metal wheels
    * McHenry scale knuckle spring couplers installed

This model is a basic RTR (Ready-To-Run) reefer of Roundhouse/MDC linage tooling. As such it is molded well with sharp detail, no flash or visible ejector marks, but with over-scale molded details. According to Rensselaer Railroad Heritage Website:
    With ice as the refrigerant, it seems that meat reefers were kept less than 40 feet, as they just couldn't keep a longer car/bigger volume cold enough. (Produce doesn't need to be as cold.) Thus meat reefers tended to be this short well after produce reefers had gone to 40 feet as a standard length. (Some argue it was the spacing on packing company loading docks that was set for this shorter length.)

    But the only difference between MDC's "old timer" reefers and their "meat" reefers is the choice of underframes. This kit has a steel center sill with visible bolsters, but to make it more confusing, some meat reefers like Swift and Armour had truss-rod underframes (with a nearly invisible steel center sill to get past the ban on the all-wood underframe during the Depression. So you could substitute the old-timer underframe on some of these schemes for variety.

It’s engineered with a floor/underframe upon which is secured a metal weight. Two floors are made, one for mounting truss rods, one without; this reefer is without. Underneath are mounted the couplers in pockets, and the trucks. Upon the frame is a four-piece body: a box with side detail, separate ends, and a wooden roof. The doors are molded as part of the sides as are tack boards, end corner hardware, and over-scale grab irons.

The stirrup steps are separate parts attached to the underframe. A separate wooden roof walk and ice hatches are mounted to the roof, as is a vertical hand brake wheel on the end. Interestingly, the ice hatches do not open.

Underneath is basic molded detail. Your reefer rides upon plastic trucks mounting metal wheels. Also factory installed are McHenry knuckle couplers.

My inspection finds the model to be 36 1/2 feet long from end sill to end sill. It is in conformance with NMRA Standards and Recommended Practices, with RP-25 wheels and couplers at acceptable height. It weighs 3.6 ounces, which is almost exactly the RP-20.1 Car Weight ideal.

Paint and Markings
Roundhouse lists 28 models with 6 roadnames, including different liveries for some companies:

1. Swift
2. Union Refrigerator Transit
3. Wilson
4. Oscar Meyer
5. Dubuque
6. Decker Meat

The model finish really shines. The paint and printing is impressive — see the photos. You can read the dimensional data. The only possible complaint is the color of the handholds and ladders. They were usually black; I do not have any reference photos of Swift "Silverleaf" cars to settle it.

I decided to weather this model and include photos of it both road-weary and factory-fresh.

OK, so this model is not the most accurate or authentic. What it is an affordable, beautifully decorated, RTR model nicely equipped with metal wheels and knuckle couplers. I am glad to have it.

Please remember, when contacting retailers or manufacturers, to mention that you saw their products highlighted here – on RailRoadModeling.

†. John Nehrich. NEB&W Guide to Model Die Casting Meat Reefer Models. Rensselaer Railroad Heritage Website. 17 February 2013. [http://railroad.union.rpi.edu/index.php/NEB&W_Guide_to_Model_Die_Casting_Meat_Reefer_Models.]

John Nehrich. “NEB&W Guide to Reefers - Table of Contents.” Rensselaer Railroad Heritage Website. 28 October 2011. < http://railroad.union.rpi.edu/index.php/NEB&W_Guide_to_Reefers_-_Table_of_Contents>.
Highs: Sharp printing, 33" metal wheels, McHenry scale knuckle spring couplers.
Lows: Molded detail. Accuracy issues.
Verdict: An affordable, beautifully decorated, RTR model nicely equipped with metal wheels and knuckle couplers.
Percentage Rating
  Scale: HO Scale
  Suggested Retail: $19.98
  Related Link: Roundhouse Reefer Series
  PUBLISHED: Feb 24, 2013
  NATIONALITY: United States

Our Thanks to Roundhouse Trains!
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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