The online magazine on the history and operation of vintage scale model trains in American OO gauge

Sunday, July 1, 2012

Winther Refrigerator Week: Part I, Printed Sides

More than a year ago I received a treasure trove of great photos of early American OO models by OO Pioneer Howard Winther, sent by his family. Most of those 80 photos have now been posted in the site (with boxcar week almost exactly a year ago, starting here), but there is one group not yet addressed, his refrigerator cars. Only one photo has been posted yet (see this article for that 1935 car and more background), so up today first is a group of four cars with printed sides.

First, just to look at the general side of this, a lot of refrigerator car kits were produced in OO gauge, especially in the pre-war years. People loved the color of them I think, and they were ideal models for producing with printed sides. The sides of most cars was a different color than the roof and ends, so it was quite possible to build a sharp car, matching colors was no problem.

Which leads us to this first car. Actually this whole group, one reason I waited so long to post these is they are really hard to ID as to manufacturer, especially so from photos. Clearly the sides are pre-war commercial products. But produced by whom?

My best guess is the first car may be Hoffman. Compare to the sides of this unbuilt Hoffman kit. They look quite close but the car number is different … and Nason made a similar car. Whatever the manufacturer, it is built very well and equipped with his scratchbuilt trucks and couplers. (Trucks described here; couplers described here).

I updated my Nason  Railways 101 article again to include the list of car sides as presented in their 1939 and 40 catalogs, augmented with car numbers when possible. This second car is similar to the possible Hoffman car but may actually be Nason or their lower cost side brand, Page, under which they marketed the same cars. Or possibly Champion, they list this side as well. Again this model has those great scratchbuilt trucks and couplers seen on so many of these Winther cars.

This third car looks like it is by a different manufacturer. Nason sold an SFRD reefer that I have never seen. My best guess though is this might actually be an elusive Yardmaster kit. Yardmaster was only available in 1940. I don't own any but kits are out there! This particular car is very worth a closer look. The printed lettering "WO 2-40" is clear near the center of the photo when I zoom in, which is consistent with a line that was introduced that year. Champion also made similar sides, but these are definitely not those, seen on a car in this article. Note also the printed ends and the typical great build seen in these Winther photos.

Finally, we have this car. Maybe I am missing something but I am stumped as to the maker of these sides. Looks very commercial and very much like Hoffman or Nason but I don't see this model listed in their lines. I don't have a full list for Champion, which is another possibility. Zooming in on the original photo I can't glean a lot more, but unlike the other cars in this article this reefer is riding on Nason trucks and has metal ends that look to be pressed out of brass, similar to those seen on a couple of the boxcar photos. And of course loop couplers.

Note also that all of the cars in this group have added door details, grab irons, etc. This last car having the most extensive detailing, as it has hinges added. Great early models in great condition! Don't forget to click on the photos for a closer view. This short series will continue with two more easily identified cars.

UPDATE: Also several bad links were fixed, no idea why they became corrupt.

Continue to Part II of Winther Refrigerator Cars

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