Re: Swift Reefers

Douglas Harding

There is an error in Martin’s chart from his RMJ article, and maybe more than one. According to my 1943 and 1953 ORER the 8200-9699 series of Swift Meat Reefrs were RAM cars, ie equipped with brine tanks. These cars are 37’ 5”, a  standard length for a wood meat reefer, not 41’ 4” as Martin’s chart shows.


Martin must have read the wrong line in an ORER as he prepared his chart. There were very few RS cars in the Swift fleet.

8000-8099  a 41’6” car, number of cars 25 in 1943, no number shown in 1953

8100-8199  a 40’3” car, number of cars 75 in 1943, 6 cars in 1953

6000-6004  40’3” car, total of 3 cars in 1943, not shown in 1953

24000-24049, a 41’6” car, number of cars 11 in 1953

24050-24074, a 41’6” car, no cars shown in 1953

24075-24099, a 41’6” car, shows 1 car in 1953


And RA cars 24100-24149 shows 1 car in 1953


Note the RS and RA cars are 41’ cars, most everything else is 37’, until you get into later built cars except for one block of 39’ cars. Both the 41’ cars and 39’ cars did not exist in 1948, indicating they were newer cars, and may even have been of steel sided construction.


A RS car did not have meat rails, as would be found in a RSM or RAM car. Note the door is taller on an RS car. The RSM has a shorter door, to allow for the overhead meat rails.


The General American cars, esp the earlier cars, appear to be a mishmash of many different cars, some of unknown heritage. Martin’s Chart, for what it’s worth, only shows series that had a 100 cars or more. Many of the series in the ORER had far less than 100 cars, some only had a handful, or even a single car. General American was in the lease business and lease could vary in both length and number of cars. Union Refrigeration Transit also acquired many used cars from a variety of sources. As leases expired cars were repainted, often renumbered as they went the shops. As leases could be as short as month and for very few cars, it is very difficult to track reefers in lease service.


Martin Loften published a 3 part series on Meat Reefers in the Feb Mar Apr 1992 Mainline Modeler. These articles formed the nucleus of his article on Meat Reefers in the Vol 2 Symposium on Railroad History, ed by Tony Thompson. In which Martin states: “The Swift fleet was a hodgepodge of different cars in the late 1940s.”


Attempting to create an accurate listing of Swift Reefers will be a daunting task. I don’t know what Martin’s source of information was. Obviously he used ORER’s, but he must have had other sources as well, as he lists numbers of cars in some series where the ORER’s I have do not show car totals.


Doug  Harding

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