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Manufacturer: USA Trains, P.O. Box 100, Malden, MA 02148. Price: R-1688 Phenix Cheese and R-1689 Tiffany Summer & Winter refrigerator cars, $69.95 each suggested list.

HOW COULD ANYONE dislike USA Trains reefers? No matter what scale you prefer, whether you collect toy trains or slavishly adhere to finescale prototype modeling, you will admire the striking appearance and excellent quality of USA Trains products.

As we wrote in the August/September 1992 issue, "You will have to look a long time before you find sharper, more legible lettering, greater accuracy, or a better overall finish. The cars even have appropriate end markings. But the quality extends beyond the finish."

The cars have heavy plastic walls, rugged bright steel truss rods, durable trucks and underframes, press-in plastic grab irons, brake hardware, and stirrup steps, working ice hatches, and both LGB-type hook/loop and USA Trains knuckle couplers. The plastic wheels have steel axles and are completely compatible with all mass produced commercial track products.

The models are freelance design but resemble D&RGW reefers. In 1:22.5 scale, they measure 27 feet 1 inch long, 7 feet 6 inches wide, and 8 feet 10 inches from the bottom of the end sill to the top of the roofwalk. For those of you looking for an easier way to build up a roster of 1:20.3 scale cars, the dimensions become 24 feet 6 inches long, 6 feet 9 inches wide, and 6 feet 9 inches high from the bottom of the side sill to the underside of the roof. Some early Carter Brothers cars had almost identical length and height dimensions but were a few inches wider.

The models require some assembly and contain no instructions. Again, let me quote from last year's review:

"The holes for the stirrup steps are slightly undersize. If you open them up with a drill bit, the plastic pegs on the steps will slip right in. I prefer a trace of Walthers' Goo to hold them in place.

"The inside hole for the lowest grab iron on each end is too shallow. Either drill out the hole or slice about a third of the end off one tip of the grab iron before inserting it. I find it almost impossible to push in the grabs with my fingers; a small pliers with smooth jaws works well.

"You must remove the roof in order to install the brake staff. Otherwise the end will never fit into the retainer on the end fascia; if you try to flex it, it will break. I also find it helpful to open the mounting holes for the brake hardware with a drill bit and to open the slot in the brake staff platform with a modeler's file. A couple of years ago, my first attempts at installing the parts without preparing the car ended in minor disaster.

"Plan on spending about half an hour assembling each car.

"My only criticism of the models involves their plastic brake staffs. They often come bowed. USA Trains could replace the delicate plastic staff with a brass rod and solve the problem."

The Phenix Cheese reefer is boxcar red and yellow with contrasting graphics in black, white, and blue. USA Trains now paints the truck sideframes an appropriate color; those on our sample are boxcar red. That is a wonderful idea. Maybe more manufacturers will follow USA Trains' lead. The grab irons and door, hatch, and underbody hardware are black.

The Tiffany car has a very attractive white (sides) and gray (roof and ends) paint scheme with black trucks. The end lettering is black and the graphics on the car sides are black, red, and blue.

USA Trains' reefers really are from the USA and are excellent products.-RR


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