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

Monday, March 16, 2009

The original Scale-Craft OO refrigerator car, and Blow-Smoke, part 3

In the opening editorial of the September, 1938 issue of Blow-Smoke (Vol. 1, No. 4), Elliott Donnelley related,
SUMMER is ending, and its closing days bring many personal regrets. Regardless of this, however, I’m mighty glad to see it over; summer is the dormant period of the model building year, and this summer was exceptionally slow. But it’s over now, and we’re all set for a grand start on the 1938-39 season.

You probably know by this time, that we have issued a new catalog. We feel that it will establish a new standard of excellence for all similar publications. Revolutionary changes and additions have been made; cars are shown in their full, natural colors—you can visualize them as they really appear on the right-of-way. Black and white illustrations never conveyed such realism to the purchaser! Choosing a car will now be a simple matter. Helpful, illustrated instructions for building layouts have been freely included in this great catalog, and while its cost has been heavy, the service it will render will more than justify the expense.

Many new cars are listed in the new catalog…. In our “OO” line, we are introducing for the first time the Scale-Craft refrigerator cars, of which there are ten different styles.
The featured new OO item in this issue is the new refrigerator car. Five of the new cars are illustrated, including one of the same style as this nicely built up example. They note that,
These colorful “OO” gauge refrigerator cars are remarkable reproductions of their prototypes….

The construction method in preparing these kits is not the usual die-casting process. Reefers differ in construction to meet the demands of ownership and service. To portray these differences we use wooden sides, ends, roofs and floors, and supply all necessary castings and stamped metal parts. Your work consists of actually building the model, not just merely painting a die-casting. Skillful model craftsmanship is developed by working on these kits, and when the cars are finished, you’ll be proud of them, because you actually made them.
In the three photos with this post are seen four different examples of these early Scale-Craft refrigerator kits. Scale-Craft sold two distinct versions of this car, one with sand cast doors and roof hatches and a later version with stamped brass doors and smaller, die-cast hatches.

One detail that was new is the new ladders which are stamped brass. These were also introduced as a new, separate sale item in this issue of Blow-Smoke as follows:
Small details on a model freight car can make or break the general appearance of the job. The model railroader has often wrestled with the task of making neat and durable side ladders for his house cars…. Scale-Craft presents a new offering to its patrons in the form of a new Side and End Ladder…. It is true to prototype, very durable, and low in price. A set of these precision made ladders will save many hours of tedious work, and insure that professional touch on car corners.
Three of the four built up cars in my photos have these new ladders, which were popular and show up on many other cars of different manufacture. Click on the photos for a larger view. They also have on the ends matching stamped brass brake platforms and supports for the end of the roof walks.

One other unique detail of these cars is the frames. The later version of the refrigerator car had a full frame the same as used on the boxcar. But the initial version had a “skeleton” frame that was placed on the wood floor, as seen in the photos. As used on the car the trucks are set in too far from the ends of the car, as with other early Scale-Craft production.

Built up this car is fairly common but kits that have not been built up are rare. The cars in the photos all have their original Scale-Craft decals. I like these cars a lot; they have a great, classic look.

UPDATE: See this article for information on the post-war Scale-Craft reefer.

Continue in Blow-Smoke series

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