Freight Car Friday – Billboard Reefers

Lionel Trains

Billboard reefers are well-known and loved by model railroaders both for their colorful designs and for the products they advertise. The practice of painting the sides of railroad cars, particularly reefers, dates back as early as the 1870s. The cars were most common however through the 1920s and 1930s. Like so many aspects of railroading, the colorful exterior was just a small part of the total story of these cars, most of which was really about just one color – green.

Railroad Car Leasing


Before we look at how the billboards came to come and go, it is important to understand the relationship between railroads and their customers. As common carriers, railroads are required to provide a service for their clients. As part of facilitating this service, they must provide a vehicle for transportation. They do not need to own that vehicle themselves however.

Railroads made a case early on…

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