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Monday, June 23, 2014

A pair of Champion Milk Express Reefers

Up today I have two examples of a model rarely seen, the Champion milk express reefer. The model introduced in 1942; for more on that (including the original advertising) and a photo of the sides used on my cars see this article.

One thing I will note first is that the white lettering is really faded at this point but not for the reasons you might suspect. Actually the white areas are not printed at all, that is the natural color of the cardstock that the sides were printed on. And Champion coated the sides with a clear finish that has yellowed over time. It sort of passes for weathering in a way, and I like the look--but I believe originally the white was much bolder.

These sides were made to be applied to a specific type of Picard body, 44 ½ foot long with a round roof. The Milky Way car I built on a fresh, new body, taking time to smooth and seal the roof for a better final finish. As always, click on any photo for a better view.

The Western Dairy car was built on the only other of these bodies I had around, one that was in the OO Inventory. It was built up originally by David Sacks and had some issues. Paint wise he had decorated it over the years in three different color schemes. The final one, as seen in the “before” photo at the end of this article, was Pullman green; previously it was black and silver and lettered for the Jersey Central, and the original color was orange! I discovered all that while stripping the old details and smoothing the body for the new sides. Also he had built it with a steel weight inside and evidently thought it not heavy enough, so he drilled two holes in the body and added sand and glue! One hole is in the bottom of the car and the other under an ice hatch. I did my best to get all the sand out and re-seal the body; it is still quite heavy.

The hatches are of unknown manufacture, but the other visible cast details are Eastern parts I had in the parts supply. I also dove into the parts supply to approximate the correct brake details under the cars. One detail I left off intentionally, the grab irons on the left side of each car. These I don’t plan to add, the holes would mar the finish of the cardboard sides too much.

The trucks are by Scale-Craft. The Milky Way car has their rarely seen plain bearing, late passenger truck (more here) and the other pair are standard SC passenger trucks modified by a prior owner to resemble express reefer trucks (both being now with freight wheelsets). I touched up the edges of the printed sides and ends with Floquil Pullman Green before gluing them on (one side at a time!).

They both came out really well, exceeding expectations. Working with vintage parts I never know quite what to expect, and it is enjoyable to see the parts come together well and make two rare and interesting cars such as these.

UPDATE: See this article for another vintage Champion milk express reefer. And note this car in the photo to the right. It is Canadian Pacific and was built by Pierre Bourassa. I had forgotten it was around in my collection. It came to me with no trucks or couplers but was a pretty solid model. I think Pierre painted over a set of Champion Sides and added decals. In any case, it seemed worthy of an upgrade. I put my last (for now, at least) set of the uncommon S-C trucks and added Kadee couplers to this nice vintage piece.

UPDATE 2: Also, in the "other" photos (such as the Canadian Pacific model) there is a letter board at the top of the sides. Those parts were missing from the sides and ends I used for the two reefers featured at the beginning of the article; see the main article on Champion sides for a scan of that part with the New Haven milk reefer sides. 

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