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First Look Review
N scale
40' Billboard Reefer
N 40' Wood Reefer
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by: Frederick Boucher [ JPTRR ]

Originally published on:
RailRoad Modeling

N 40' Wood Reefer
Series: Trainman®
Roadname: Mexene
Reporting mark & No.: A.R.T. 424
Mfg. ID: 50 001 264

This highly detailed model is based on the 40' wood refrigerator cars built by Pullman for the Northern Refrigerator Car Co. in 1930. With its rooftop ice hatches, USRA-style fish belly underframe and vertical brake shaft, it is representative of the thousands of similar cars that were built during the "Billboard" era of American railroads.

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.

Atlas N 40' Wood Reefer
Atlas packs this N scale (1/160 ) model with a lot of detail, featuring:
    - Accurate painting and printing including door hinges, ladders, grab irons and end straps
    - Opening roof hatches
    - Realistic handle and latch detail
    - Wood grain finish detail on carbody
    - 40-ton friction bearing trucks with AccuMate® couplers
    - AccuMate® couplers (AccuMate® couplers are made under license from AccuRail, Inc.)

You may notice the model looks warped. This is distortion of the small model under close-up photography.

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 hard clear plastic jewel case that both protects and displays the model.

Your 40' wood reefer is molded to a high standard. Impressive fine wood grain texture is molded on the sides. Sure, you couldn't really see wood grain on a car from an N-scale distance, yet the detail is appreciated.

What else does the model offer? Finely molded hardware detail for the doors and sides, ladders and stirrups, opening hatches and latches, and a small separately applied hand brake wheel. The entire model is cleanly molded: no flash, no sink holes, no ejector marks, and no seam lines. The 40-ton friction bearing trucks have good detail for the scale and the wheel sets, while plastic, are molded a dirty brown color. They are compatible with code 55 track. Knuckle couplers by AccuMate® are a big plus.

knocking about
Plenty of detail! First, the wood grain. Opening roof hatches -- be careful with these because the hatch latch does not seem to move and in the past I almost broke them when I tried opening a hatch.

Look the the photos of the underframe. Plenty of brake system detail including triple valve, reservoir, cylinder, actuator arm and levers, and wire brake rods.

Roll it!
The model rolls nicely on Atlas code 80 track and across a Peco turnout. Atlas' 40-foot reefer measures 40 scale feet from end to end, but 46 feet coupler to coupler. It weighs 1 ounce, a tittle above the recommended NMRA RP-2O.1 Car Weight of .95 oz.

Paint and Livery
Today's standard of finish is very high and Atlas N keeps the bar raised high. I find it incredible just how legible the fine, crisp printing is! Dimensional data, road names and numbers, service markings--you can read it all. Do not be alarmed at the printing marks seen in the close-ups of the chili jar and other artwork on the sides - it is not visible without magnification.

This reefer is marked for American Refrigerator Transit Company, reporting marks of ART.
    The American Refrigerator Transit Company (ART) was a St. Louis, Missouri-based private refrigerator car line established in 1881 by the Missouri Pacific and Wabash railroads. It is now a subsidiary of the Union Pacific Corporation.[1]

Its attractive billboard decoration is as leased by Mexene Chili Powder Co., a brand that is still available today.

Atlas released this model in six roadnames and an undecorated:
    1. Erie (Yellow/Brown/Black)
    2. Horvitz Brothers (Yellow/Brown/Black)
    3. Mexene (Yellow/Brown/Red/Gold/Black)
    4. Nucoa Products (Yellow/Brown/Black/Blue)
    5. Phenix Cheese (URTX) (Red/Yellow/Brown/White/Black)
    6. St. Louis Refrigerator Company (White/Red/Black/Gold)
    7. Undecorated

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

For N scalers of the billboard era, this is an excellent little model! I am impressed with the paint and markings. The knuckle couplers are great, as are the (frail) positionable hatches. Brake detail, too! Overall molded detail is very good. Although metal wheels would raise the cost of the model, the plastic wheels are a disappointment; at least they are molded in color.

Curiously, this model is released in Atlas' Trainman series. Yet it appears identical to an Atlas N Master Line 40' reefer reviewed last year (See it below at Related Link).

Overall, I think this is a fantastic model.

Our Thanks to Atlas Model Railroad! Please remember, when contacting retailers or manufacturers, to mention that you saw their products highlighted here - on RailRoadModeling.net.



* Atlas Model Railroad Co.

[1]. Wikipedia. American Refrigerator Transit Company. [Web.] 20 July 2012.

Ian Cranstone. CANADIAN FREIGHT CARS, A resource page for the Canadian Freight Car Enthusiast. 2011. http://www.nakina.net/index.html.
Highs: Excellent paint and printing. Sharp clean molding, knuckle couplers, brake detail, and positionable hatches.
Lows: Plastic wheels.
Verdict: An great addition to your billboard-era N scale layout.
Percentage Rating
  Scale: N Scale
  Mfg. ID: 50 001 264
  Suggested Retail: $24.95
  Related Link: Master Line 40' Wood Reefer
  PUBLISHED: Oct 12, 2013
  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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