First, here are several columns of the data, collected from forms 865. The columns are not in any particular order, but show not only the size of the complete fleet, but also the total rebuilds completed in the years when Form 865 reported those totals, along with the number of cars painted, right column. This number is independent of the number of cars washed, though one might think that a car about to be painted would be washed first. If so, that washing is not included in the “washed” column.
Another point to be made in passing is that the large numbers of cars painted during 1929–1934 represent work immediately after the standard color for car sides was changed from yellow to light orange, The total number of cars painted during those years exceeds the size of the fleet, thus the conclusion that all previously yellow cars would have been orange after 1934.
There are other interesting details in the table, but I recognize that only data geeks like me tend to enjoy masses of numbers like this, so I have plotted some parts of the data set to make them easier to appreciate.
The first graph shows the data on total number of cars washed, by year (the blue line), compared to the total size of the entire PFE fleet (red line) in each year. The lines connecting the data points simply follow the data, and do not represent any kind of fit or function.
Note here that in two years, 1930 and 1941, around 25,000 cars were washed, out of fleet of 36,000 to 40,000 cars. That raises the question, how big are the percentages washed by year? The percentage of cars washed, that is, the number washed divided by the size of the whole fleet, times 100, is thus interesting, and below is that information in graphical form. (You can click to enlarge the image if you like.) These are the same data as the blue line in the graph above, just replotted as percentage of the red data above.
These data are, I think, dramatic and certainly confirm the comment that PFE washed a lot of cars until 1949, and even after that, were washing 10 to 20 percent of the fleet. What happened then? As Earl Hopkins reported it to me, a request for funds to build mechanical car washers, instead of the hand washing then in practice, was refused. For more on that, see the PFE book, page 159 (Pacific Fruit Express, 2nd edition, Thompson, Church and Jones, Signature Press, 2000).
I do have some older paint schemes among the PFE car fleet on my layout, but the older ones are by no means dirtier than newer ones (I do try to make older, clean paint schemes look faded). That choice, of course, was made because the information existed. We happen to have a lot of relevant data in the case of PFE, so we can do a better job of historical accuracy than for many car owners.