I’ve been planning a serious look at both my existing fleet of PFE cars, and at what needs I have to improve and complete that fleet. In my previous post, entitled “Choosing a model car fleet,” I used PFE as an example of proportioning one’s model fleet size to the prototype. In this post I describe the paint scheme issues with PFE cars, which are somewhat complex in 1953.
I described the history of these paint schemes in my section of the PFE book (Pacific Fruit Express, by Thompson, Church and Jones, Signature Press, 2nd edition, 2000). To summarize, after World War II the PFE shops were very active, catching up on deferred maintenance and also replacing obsolete cars which had remained in service due to wartime traffic. Since a new paint scheme had been adopted in 1946 (the two heralds-per-side, with UP in color), called 2C for short, many of the newly maintained cars, and of course all rebuilds and new cars, got that scheme. The previous scheme, with single heralds on each side and with the UP herald lacking the diagonal “Overland Route” slogan, had only come in during 1942, so aside from wartime repaints, was not applied to a great number of cars.
In the 1930 to 1955 time period, PFE had a time guideline for repainting, with wood-sheathed cars expected to be painted after 4 to 6 years, and steel cars after 10 years (at shorter time intervals, of course, if the car had undergone repairs) and all evidence is that in the postwar years, repainting was being aggressively done. By 1952, it was six years since 1946 and ten years since 1942, so both wood and steel cars would be losing older paint schemes. My first conclusion is that in 1952 and thereafter, the “Overland Route” UP heralds were pretty rare and would be most likely on prewar steel cars. The plain UP herald in the 1942 single-herald scheme should also be fairly rare.
The 1946 2C scheme was changed in subsequent years in several ways, which are summarized in the PFE book on page 418 (2nd edition). In 1949, most side hardware became orange instead of black (p. 179). In 1950 the UP herald became black-white, a scheme called 2BW for short. In 1951 all remaining side hardware that had stayed black in 1949 became orange, and the UP and SP heralds were restored to their positions from the 2C scheme (p. 185). Stripes around initials and number went away in 1952, periods in “PFE” in 1953. By this time, shops had caught up with the older cars and repaints, and rebuilding had been stopped, so these latter changes arrived more gradually in the fleet.
Because so many cars were repainted with 2C in 1946–1949, that scheme would certainly still be around in some numbers in 1953. The variations of side hardware color and the 2BW scheme are each going to be less numerous because they are spread out in a span of time. My own 1953 modeling is aiming at about half to two-thirds 2BW cars, almost all the rest 2C. And remember that although most railcars would show more and more dirt, the older their paint scheme, PFE did wash cars in this era, so truly dirty old cars can be paired with relatively clean old cars.