Very interesting and long story, JP. My research has led me to believe that the Hunter Packing plant was located in East St. Louis, just as Richard told me. I have a copy of that B/W photo from Bob's Photos dated 1942; perhaps it should be dated later. However, I remain skeptical about the aluminum-painted ends. They would be extremely unusual for a steam-era reefer, so I'd like to see an end photo. I don't want to take a kit maker's word for it that the ends and roof were aluminum.
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I also want to know what any of the guys out there are going to use for their 42' wood reefers.
Quoting JP Barger <bargerjp@...>:
Hello again so soon on the same subject, HPAX (Hunter Packing). While the
email I wrote yesterday may have been a bit long for those people with
limited time (or patience) to absorb, there's more.
To begin, Megow, proprietor F. W. Megow, didn't get involved in the HO model
train car kit business until 1939.
Its first 20 kits, numbers Q1-Q20 of 1939, all refrigerator cars, were all
nominally around 40' in length, all cars of the late 1930's. The kits
featured a 2 piece solid internal block, but with 2 different woods! The
bottom half was pine; the top half balsa. The idea was apparently to lower
the center of gravity of the cars. But the design didn't work well in
practice. First, the wood wasn't cut with enough precision to allow the two
pieces to be glued together to produce smooth and square surfaces. Moreover
not many modellers had enough experience to deal with this problem, nor
perhaps high enough standards to want completely plane sides. Also, there
were few modellers who could glue the two pieces perfectly square with each
other. All we had for glue was powdered casein: it wasn't up to the job. It
was literally impossible to get a desirable result, anyhow, because almost
all of the top and bottom blocks were sawed to slightly different widths.
But suppose that some smart modeller of 1939 knew enough to sand the sides
of the glued pair of blocks carefully to create 2 plane sides parallel to
each other. By the way, there weren't any sandpapers in 1939 of optimum grit
to do this task. I'm leading you down the garden path, because even if you
made a perfect rectangular solid on day one, it wouldn't stay that way over
time. Mother Nature always gets in the act. In this case, with different
coefficients of expansion especially in the direction 90 degrees to the wood
grain, one piece of wood would get narrower in the winter and wider in the
summer, relative to the other. Two separate coefficients are involved: both
temperature and moisture (humidity)are in play. Thus, without exception, all
of the Megow refrigerator kits put together according to the Megow
instructions, even to this day, have a noticeable ridge or groove running
horizontally in the middle of the card sides, about where you would see the
upset steel ridge, which appears on the sides of steel cars of the 40's &
50's.Think the Walthers 40' refrigerator car model.A horizontal ridge in the
middle of a wood-sided car?
When I first met the Megow refrigerator car models, I was just 12 years old.
The kit boxes were black, end opening, flimsy; the kits cost just 25 cents
apiece. The black ink on the boxes was reverse printed to allow the
unprinted card surface to represent the box lettering. It's tough today to
find these kits in decent original boxes. Once in a great while, you see one
going by. If your principal interest is accurate modelling, these kits are
way too crude for you. But if you have any interest in collecting early HO
cars, these are part of the Adam and Eve beginnings of HO freight car model
To answer more questions asked on this site, Jeff Sankus wanted to know
about the color of the lettering on the Hunter cars. If Megow's models are
right, the prototype sides had black letters and numbers exclusively on
orange sides. That's the color of all the side lettering on all 20 different
Megow refrigerator cars, except for the UP shield on the PFE model. The ends
of the Megow models were crude, not prepainted, and therefore had no car
numbers. Not much help there. I don't have any photographs showing end views
of the Hunter cars. I would assume that since the ends were painted
aluminum, at least in the thirties, they had 3 inch black reporting marks
with periods after the upper case letters. These cars lasted into the
fifties, so there's good reason to suspect that in a later repainted version
they changed to a freight car red roof and ends, with the end lettering
switching to white. Perhaps the prototype cars went all the way to where
Mather took out the periods, as PFE and others did. The 1942? photos don't
contradict the idea of orange sides with black side lettering.
I suspect I may not be correct about the Mather/PPCX cars later becoming the
42' HPAX cars , because today I looked in my Jul '41 ORER to find the same
cars still leased to PPCX. Who can sort out the HPAX 42' cars? I find them
very early and also in the fifties. Different cars, probably. Were they all
Mather leased, and did the steel framing show on the bottom of the sides on
these cars also?
Another question Jeff Sankus asked: I, like Richard H. don't know of any
decals for Hunter cars. One of our more enterprising decal makers might be
interested in filling this void. I'd like at least half a dozen sets.
One more comment: I usually reread my memos to check them for typos and to
try to determine if the readers have a decent chance to understand some of
the arcane things I write. In this case, the checking came one morning later
because I had to give up last night in favor of eating dinner. When I got
out the Bob's Photo Hunter 1056 & 1065 prints again this morning, I was
startled to see that the two cars have different ends. But the real surprise
was to see that on 1065, the ends had been modernized with improved
dreadnought steel ends, two piece 3/3 jobs. Thus the 1942 picture date I
have been mentioning is a fiction. Clearly, the picture has to be later than
1945. The amount of weathering on the 1065 suggests 1946, or later. Further,
the ends seem to be a light color, suggesting that the original aluminum
color was again used after the rebuilding of the ends. I can't accurately
determine the rework date, but I might be seeing a 5 in it.
The 1056 car seems to have retained its wood ends. Shadows notwithstanding,
the ends seem also to have been repainted to freight car red, or perhaps
black. It seems to have a 1942 rework date.
I have a question: Where was Hunter Packing, and also Peyton Packing?
Please keep us up to date if you know of, or can supply, decals for Hunter,
or have end photos of these attractive cars.