What happened to the billboard reefers? In 1934, the Interstate Commerce Commission created a rule that in essence outlawed the advertising of products on a car unless the car was shipping that product. You could return an empty, but you could only load it with the products advertised. So the billboard reefers quickly disappeared from car rosters. The ICC gave the car owners 3 years to reach compliance, so by 1937, essentially all billboard reefers were gone.
There were a few exceptions to the rule, like the Bangor and Aroostik “State of Maine Potatoes” – these slipped by the rule because it was not a specific product/manufacturer, hence they could be used for other services. (Or so that was how it was told to me!) These were a bright red, white, & blue.
A little research shows that there were two Decker meat packing companies: Jacob E. Decker Packing in Mason City, Iowa; and Val Decker Meat Packing in Piqua, Ohio. Both companies ended up as major independent meat packing companies. As far as I can tell, the reefer fleet was for the Iowa plant. BTW – for our Germantown meat packing plant, the Val Decker meat packing plant in Piqua, OH is about 30 to 40 miles north of Germantown. We could easily justify our fictitious meat packing plant to be a Decker facility (??). And it sounds like we don’t have to deviate to Decker reefers since they were for the Iowa based company. …A bit off topic, below is a colorized photo of downtown Piqua, OH, around 1901. The carriage on the left belonged to Val Decker Meat Packing.
Two things that I found while researching the billboard reefers:
- It’s often hard to determine color since most of them were gone by 1937 (black & white…faded and poor quality…pics).
- There’s lotsa model pics, but digging up the prototype pics takes a bit more patience.
Do you know what the reasoning was for the ICC ban? Monty
Monty, all, I've picked up most of my "knowledge" through reading the blogs while looking for pics - so this is all hearsay. My understanding is that the ICC looked at the product billboards as an illegal rebate to shippers. Think along the lines of a reefer or boxcar advertising a particular product while the contents being shipped were from a competitor. That's why private owners could still put their company name on the cars, but it was probably against the ruling to put products on the ad unless that was the only product shipped in that car. I tried to do a quick search on the actual ICC ruling, regulation #201, 1934; but didn't get a direct link to the ruling or a historical document that describes the ruling. So all is hearsay, and the blogs provide different twists and reasoning that I question as valid background. Since I've always tended towards the transition era modeling, I've stayed away from billboard reefers. But, I do have a collection of old car kits that represent the billboard reefers from turn of the century to mid '30s - they're kinda fun. Kevin
Still on this topic: The beer billboard reefers have a really fun history. Anheuser Busch started pasteurizing beer so it could be transported around 1870 - This started a mad rush/demand for reefers. In turn, beer billboards started appearing on the reefers. Prohibition starting in 1920 put a nix on the beer billboards. Some of the larger breweries survived by producing other products - Anheuser Busch was producing baby milk/formula. But obviously the beer reefers disappeared because you could not brew beer. So you might see the name of a brewery, but not for beer. When prohibition was repealed in 1933, the breweries immediately jumped back into their specialty - beer. Beer billboards popped up quickly on reefers again. But 1934 brought about the ICC ruling on billboard reefers. So, all the beer reefers disappeared again within a few years. When you check out the model billboard reefers - beer reefers are very popular. But it's a rollercoaster ride trying to decide whether you can roll them on your era based layout! Kevin
This was the first time I have seen writing on the wheels of any boxcar, reefer,etc…anyone know why they did that ? Mark
I was thinking that a lot of wheel manufacturers embossed they’re company name and wheel info on the steel inside the rim of the wheel. But when I started looking, modern roller bearing wheelsets do not have lettering. In fact, most of the pics I have of Bettendorf trucks sport wheels without lettering. The only wheel sets I found with lettering were the ribbed wheels – check out the spiral ribs on the back side of the wheel. (Ribbed wheels were banned from new cars in 1957, and banned from interchange service in 1970.) Generally, the lettering is rusted and blends in with the rest of the wheel – so not as visible as in the Swift reefer photo.