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Sunday, August 3, 2008

Champion Model Co. OO car sides and body kits

The topic of Champion Model Co. came up recently on the OO list. It is not a topic I planned to write on so soon [2008] but it is a good one. According to the Champion Decal Co. website [as of 2008, now offline].
Champion Decal Company originally started out as Champion Model Company, under the ownership of Max Gray in 1940. Rich Meyer bought the decal business from him in 1963 and we continue with it.
While best known today for their line of decals, the Champion Model Company of Cleveland, OH, started out with O gauge models, which included according to the Trade Topics column in the May 1941 issue of Model Railroader, “over 50 different O gauge reefer car sides …. nearly all … available in two or more changes of car numbers.” A few pages earlier in the same issue we find their advertisement:
Announcing—A New Line of “OO” Body Kits

Consisting of accurately Milled Wood Body, printed and scribed Sides, Ends, and Assembly Instructions.

24 different reefers now ready, Gerber’s, Ralston Purina, Oscar Mayer’s, Kahn’s, Libby’s, White Rock Water, Santa Fe “Grand Canyon” and Scout,” Soo Line, etc.
These were all affordability priced at 50 cents and were described more fully in a free illustrated folder. It was a bit hard to track down, but thanks to William McCay I now have a copy (2016 update). The line included a 40’ wood boxcar, 36’ and 40’ (and 42') wood reefers, and wood 45’ milk reefers.

A built up milk reefer may be seen in this article. Also, the visual comparison of Champion, Famoco/Eastern, Nason, and Scale-Rail sides may be seen in this article.

Initially in collection I only owned one car with these sides mounted, this incomplete 40’ wood boxcar lettered for the Great Northern. Initially I thought that this model is built on their own body, as it is different in details than Picard as seen in the bottom view below. Click on the photo for a larger view.

Finally, in 2012, I was able to track down a complete kit of the Santa Fe reefer. A built up example of the same model may be seen in this article. What the kit told me most clearly was that the body they shipped out with the kits is identical to those made by Picard, and was likely actually made by Picard, as they offered to make wood body parts for other makers. For the reference on this, read toward the end of this article on Picard. This body is by some other early maker or homemade, with Champion sides applied to the car.

The kit instructions below give a few more clues on the line; click on the scan for a better view. The kits had no metal parts, only a wood body with printed cardboard sides and cardboard material for the ends and roof ribs. They could be built up into a very nice car with a bit of skill.

I have the sense that this line of cars or car sides did not sell well and it was not advertised after WWII, but for sure a fair number of the sides were manufactured and got out to OO gaugers. In my own collection I have a number of examples.

A final note being if you have these vintage cars or printed sides, keep them out of light and store them carefully. The ink is not as colorfast as paint and I have examples that have faded badly over the years.

My current list of car numbers for these printed sides is as follows. Note that at least some sides were made with multiple car numbers.

Reefers, wood side, 40’ or 42’ unless noted
301 GARX/Nickel Plate Road 60147
302 PGRX/Crisco 4063
303 SFRD/Santa Fe “Grand Canyon” 37402 and 39909
304 SFRD/Santa Fe “Scout” 34207
305 GSVX/Gerbers 1003
306 RPRX/Rath’s 36’ 210
307 URTX/Milwaukee 44925 and 44926
308 DICX/Dry Ice 128 and 129
309 MRS/Purina 36’ 5588
310 WFEX/GN 62547
311 Armour “Star Ham & Bacon” 16842 and 16843
312* Armour “Cloverbloom” 13324 and 13325
313 Armour “Veribest” 13279
314 Armour “Star Pure Lard” 16724 and 16725
315 NADX/Frigicar 3408
316 OMRX/Oscar Mayers 6877
317 FGEX 37294 and 37295
318 MDT 20335 (orange)
319 MDT 24547 and 29378 (white)
320 LRX/Lackawanna 7174 and 7175
321 URTC/White Rock Water 55048
322 URTC/Bordens 10218
323 GBW/Green Bay 9137
324 NX/Brine Tank 3503 and 3504
325 EKSX/Kahn’s 1076, 1077
326 UTRX/Soo Line 24045 and 24046
327 SLRX/Budwieiser 36’ 1802
328 AMSX/Asco Milk 12001
Box Car, wood side, 40’ (According to catalog, “the first in our line of box car sides. More to be announced later.”
351 GN 4235
Milk Reefers, wood side, 45’
400 GPEX/Milky Way 755
401 GARE/New Haven 707
[There is no 402 in the catalog!]
403 GARE/Western Dairy 710
404 GARE/Wieland Dairy 783
405 SFCX/Sheffield Milk 1000

 See this article for photos of a nice pair of Champion milk express reefers and also this one for a complete New Haven Dairy reefer. A car decorated GARE/Dairymen’s League 764 is in this article, which would fit in with the numbers of the other cars above but could be decals, the photo is not completely clear on this point.

On the back of the New Haven milk reefer "panels" sheet (second in the final photo above) are found printed instructions. There we learn that "These Car Sides have been Machine Scribed for Realism and Detail ... And Varnished for Lasting Durability." The sides are for an AAR class BMT milk reefer with no ice bunkers. You are to paint the "roof, underbody, and all hardware Black, including ladders on sides and ends."

These are good sides, and I am making it a project to neatly build up a few cars with Champion sides.

Article updated 2016.


C. R. Chinoy said...

These kits were also produced in HO scale, one roadname for the 45' express reefer that I've just found car sides for was the Wieland Dairy Co--Chicago, Illinois. This is likely one of the roadnames offered in OO as well.

tom ervin said...

I recently obtained several of these cars and am having a hard time vauing them. I am putting them on ebay this week....

Galen Gallimore said...


I have a pair of reefer sides lettered for the "Medford Refrigerator Despatch". I believe them to be HO and am wondering if they might be Champion sides. Can you point me to a list of Champion sides somewhere?