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

Sunday, May 10, 2020

Pondering Hoffman’s reefer kits and parts

One of the more obscure pre-war makers of American OO kits was Hoffman’s of Philadelphia. I have an overview of three of their kits in my collection here. 

I hardly build vintage kits anymore. I used sometimes, but so many things come to me in parts or in need of rebuilding that has become my focus. In the case of Hoffman’s, I’ve hoped to have one of their cars for years, but have never seen one for sale and honestly, I doubt many have held up at all as there are no wooden sides to support the printed card sides. And it would not surprise me if the overall actual run of these was just a few hundred kits, I was very lucky to find the ones I have.

There are some unique parts that would set them apart from other models if you have one of these. This first photo is a closer look at some of the small parts. The brake cylinder is very similar to a Nason one in size and shape, but a casting rather than a turning. I suspect the ice hatches supplied with the kits might actually be HO parts, but is a nice sharp casting. Finally, the coupler and end sill is a very unique set up, with the spring loaded coupler set up this way from the factory. How it worked in actual layout use I’m not sure, I would worry that the coupler might get droopy.

Besides parts found in kits I have, I have also spotted just a few loose in some various purchases. This second photo gives an overview of my two nearly complete reefer kits and what parts I had hoped someday to build up into a complete car. I have a roof, floor, ends, and frame (a very distinctive design) from a car that was built up (apparently rebuilt as a boxcar!), and also 5 usable trucks. (It is a unique design, see it closer here).

At least I thought I had an extra Hoffman’s roof and floor, but when I was getting ready to glue them together very recently I realized the body is certainly too long for the frame if you use the original ends. Comparing it with the kits, clearly this floor and roof are not Hoffman’s. Then I see a quirk of my kits: they both have two floor stock pieces and no roof! The instructions are a little vague but apparently the actual roof is two pieces of wood, one for each side. Oh, and the used ends I have must be from a different car, the gluing points don’t match the roof and floor piece at all, but are certainly original Hoffmann’s parts.

For the moment I think I’ll dig around and look for more original Hoffman’s parts or at least very close matches. If I go forward with this project I would cut down the floor and roof to match the virgin kit parts. As I have no spare Hoffman’s sides for this rebuilt model, my plan was to use the very similar Champion MDT reefer sides instead. But discovering that the floor and roof are not Hoffmann’s has put a bit of a damper on things, I might instead just strip the frame I had found and put it in the kit that lacks a frame and be done with it. Or maybe I should break down and build one of the kits, neither is absolutely complete, that might be the best project. Will see how I feel as the summer goes forward.   

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