Saturday, December 18, 2010

Modeling PFE reefers in 1953

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.

Tony Thompson


  1. I model 1945 when SP still retains the "Lines" letterboards and sleeping cars still say "Pullman". (Sort of like "when men were men and women were women"). :-) So my most recent PFE paint scheme would be the 2C and I will refer to your PFE book for the rest. (I still have to obtain the Second Edition).

    For the PFE fleet of '46 can you suggest some resource for appropriate reweighing marks, chalk marks, etc. for all of the PFE cars in this period? Thanks!

  2. I just noticed that Tim O'Connor has joined this prestigious assemblage.

    "There goes the block!!!!".

    Just kidding! :-)

  3. Paul, on your PFE question, if you model 1945 you are BEFORE the introduction of 2C. The Sunshine set of reweigh marks are very good for PFE and I use them a lot. For chalk marks, Sunshine makes several sets and Clover House has dry transfer versions also. But remember, the 2C scheme was introduced in June of 1946.

  4. Thanks Tony for the info, I should of said that I model 1945 somewhat loosely (unlike Richard H. that models an exact day, my hats off to him!). I consider the 2C PFE scheme very attractive and would like to have several cars of appropriate classes in that scheme. By the way, is your layout/rolling stock dated as accurately as Richard's timeframe?

    I can appreciate the "one day" approach as a person can provide appropriate reweighs, etc., to the cars on their layout/collection. I really don't have the patience to model with that level of detail (maybe at least for passenger cars, not freight cars) except for the reweigh info I had asked about. I am not going to proportion my cars/trains prorata like those on the STMFC or Prototype Layouts lists.

    Information like your previous comment proportioning the PFE fleet in '53 gives me an excellent idea of what my trains should look like. Photos and film/video also gives me an idea of "proportion".

    But if I am operating for display for people "in the know" (or photographs for publication) I would not be running a Shasta Daylight through the scenery that clearly depicts '45/'46. Thanks. And as to my comment about Tim O', I meant to say "There goes the REEFER block!!!". :-)

  5. Paul, you're right about clean cars--please note my comment in the post about car washing (presented in more detail in the PFE book). As for dating, I'm modeling the "middle months" of 1953, so that it's always spring-summer-early fall and harvesting means lots of PFE cars.

    In my view, if you model 1945 "loosely" and include 1946 or 1947 things, then you're modeling 1947. At some point you really do have to draw some kind of line in the sand, even if you don't choose a single day as Jack Burgess does (I think Richard is modeling October 1947).

    Tony Thompson

  6. I'm late to the party here but having purchased an IMR Cab Forward late last year, I've been on a mission to slowly accumulate a reefer block. Your resource here is a big help for in that regard for the last years of the Cab Forward.

    I see half to 2/3rd 2BW with the most of the rest 2C version. IMR offers wood R-30-18,19,21 as well as steel R-40-10, 23 & 25 ice reefers. I spoke with an ex Intermountain employee recently who believes by the early 1950's, about half the reefers were wood types still. Does that square with you Tony?

    Anyway, what would be the approximate mix in percentage of the above reefer types offered by Intermountain? Wood, and various models of Steel? They just shipped (mid-Nov 2016) a new run of R-40-10.

    Cheers, Jim Fitch
    northern Virginia (formerly of Davis/Sacramento moons ago)

  7. Thanks for the comments, Jim. If you own, or have access to, the PFE book, there is a table on page 158, showing percentage of PFE cars that were wood-sheathed in various years. In 1950, it was 62 percent; as late as 1958, it was 42 percent.

    The book includes many further data about the car fleet by car class over the years. For example, in 1950 the three rebuilt classes you mention, R-30-18, -19 and -21, were about 30 percent of the wood-sheathed cars in service. (Many of the rest were Class R-30-9, modeled by Red Caboose.) Repainting of all cars into the BW scheme was rapid in the early 1950s.
    Tony Thompson

    1. I don't own or have access to the PFE book, but it's on my to-do list as I've had an interest in the PFE fleet for some years now.

      It looks like based on your two data points the percentage of wood reefers is in the ball park of 50%. While I am not really familiar with the 1950's, that surprised me - I thought the percentage of wood reefers was much lower by then. Interesting!

      Any comments on the rough percentages of the R-40-10, R-40-23 an R-40-25 reefers that IMR produces? I am not sure what else is available in detailed HO; I'm just into this for fun but trying to make an effort to get the mix about right.

      Many thanks, Jim Fitch