Thursday, August 22, 2019

BAR reefers in PFE service, Part 2

In a previous post, I discussed the presence in Pacific Fruit Express territory of “foreign” refrigerator cars, that is, reefers not owned by PFE. I emphasized ordinary (AAR Class RS) ice-bunker cars used for produce loading, as opposed to, say, meat cars. You can read that post at: .
     I spent some time in that post talking specifically about Bangor & Aroostook cars, because of a very interesting article in the BAR employee magazine, Maine Lines, about the lease of the entire BAR fleet to PFE between June 1 and October 1 of each year. Effectively every single BAR reefer went west for PFE use during those months, June through September, busy harvest season in PFE territory.
     What do we know about those BAR cars? First, we know that from at least as early as 1924, there had been a contract between BAR and New York Central’s Merchants Despatch (MDT) to provide empty reefers for use. That is documented in Roger Hinman’s book, Merchants Despatch (Signature Press, 2011). Such a contract obligated MDT to supply cars as requested by BAR, but had the drawback that when car supply was tight for MDT, they might not be able to meet all of the BAR requests.
     The first significant change in that situation was in 1950, when MDT was in the process of scrapping a number of older wood-sheathed reefers. These were cars built in the decade 1920–1930 and were being superseded in MDT service by steel reefers. As author Hinman put it, BAR bought cars “right off the scrap line” at MDT shops (page 159), and rebuilt them at their own Derby Shops.
     These cars went to BAR in the summer of 1950. The ORER (Official Railway Equipment Register) issue for July 1950 shows zero RS cars in the BAR listing, but in the following issue, October, there were 288 cars listed, and by the issue after that, January 1951, the full 325-car purchase was listed. Over the following years, BAR acquired a few more of these cars. For example, in the ORER issue for January 1953 (my benchmark for my own layout), there were 338 cars in this group.
     Some of these cars were painted in a striking scheme with a broad blue stripe across the lower part of the car and an upper white part, with a brown potato. This undated photo from the Bob’s Photo collection, shows the first car, numbered 6000 (all the BAR cars from MDT were numbered in the range 6000-6999).

This is one of the 1926-built MDT cars with corrugated steel ends.
     But we know that many of these newly acquired reefers were simply painted yellow (and a few years later, orange, instead of the dramatic blue-white scheme). Why the difference, and how many cars of each paint scheme were in the fleet, is unknown to me. I hope someone with BAR knowledge may volunteer information on that point.
     I chose to use a Red Caboose paint scheme of a BAR wood-sheathed reefer, which has the black railroad emblem as compared to the outline emblem you see in the photo above. I don’t know for sure which is correct for 1953 (or maybe both). I also suspect that the absence of lines above and below the reporting marks, and the absence of periods in the initials, may correspond to a time later than 1953.

     These rebuilt wood-sheathed cars were perhaps a stopgap for BAR, and during 1951, BAR went to Pacific Car & Foundry (the 1953 Car Builders’ Cyclopedia incorrectly says it was Pressed Steel Car Company) with an order for 500 new cars, very similar if not identical to the then-new PFE Class R-40-26, with sliding doors. These 500 cars were first listed in the ORER issue for April 1952. I have seen a wide range of dates assigned these cars in model publications, but clearly they were built at the beginning of 1952. Here is the builder photo included in the 1953 Cyclopedia (19th edition):

Before long, BAR went to Pacific Car & Foundry for 350 more cars, these placed in the 8000–8350 series, and those cars were dimensionally identical to the 7000-series cars.
     There is a fairly near car body to this sliding-door car, the Accurail 8500-series steel reefer (you can see their whole line at this link: ). It is in fact a Fruit Growers Express prototype, and has a straight side sill instead of the tabbed sill you see above on the BAR car. The placard and route card boards seen above could easily be added to the Accurail model, as could some representation of the fan plate. I have in fact discussed these changes to make the very similar PFE Class R-40-26 car, in a previous post (and that post can be found here: ). Below is the Accurail model (Accurail photo).

Incidentally, this kit, Accurail 8511, appears to be currently in stock.
     I may eventually work on modifying one of the Accurail 8500-series models to represent a BAR steel car, but for now, the model shown above of a wood-sheathed ca, BAR 6166, r represents the BAR presence in the PFE fleet in harvest season on my layout.
Tony Thompson


  1. On the backs of the Accurail reefer sides are guides for cutting the sills to create the tabs.

    Also, did't the BAR have R-40-23 clones, too? I seem to recall seeing such somewhere.

    1. I hadn't mentioned the cutting guides, but had planned to do so when I get around to modifying one of these models. I am not aware that BAR had any R-40-23 clones, but I am very far from a BAR expert.
      Tony Thompson

  2. Shameless plug Tony, but my Speedwitch set D205 letters the BAR R-40-26 clones. Interestingly, these cars used PFE type stenciling for all the stenciling (save the BAR emblem, of course)


  3. Good reminder, Ted. I was going to address decals when I get around to modeling one of these cars, but now your fine set is publicly noted. Thanks.
    Tony Thompson