Saturday, September 26, 2020

Handout: PFE models

Today I have presented a talk in the virtual meeting, “Hindsight 20/20 RPM,” which has been a monthly all-day event of presentations via Zoom. My talk was entitled “Improving the Accuracy of Pacific Fruit Express Models.” I thank Ted Culotta and friends for making this happen.
     Virtual handouts like this one have the advantage that they can include live internet links and are thus much more convenient to use. There were a number of on-line resources mentioned in the talk, and a few tabular materials, so this handout is intended to provide them in convenient reference form.
     I summarized the history of PFE paint schemes up to 1960 somewhat quickly in the talk, and mentioned then that the summary list of schemes would be in the handout. Here is that slide:

This of course is very much “once over lightly,” and should not be a substitute by a modeler for information from the PFE book or the SPH&TS lettering book (both those citations are below).
     One thing I talked about was correcting commercial lettering on PFE models, not only the lettering that is delivered on ready-to-run cars, but decals as well. In recent years, Microscale had hugely increased the quality and accuracy of their PFE decal sets (with Dick Harley’s digital lettering), but at one time it was fairly lame.
     Below I show, at left, a 1990s model lettering job, at center the prototype, which has numerals visibly far more condensed that the stuff at left, and at right, correcting the numerals with the current Microscale 87-414 or 87-501 set. (You can click on the image to enlarge it if you wish.)

     I have been giving various kinds of talks about PFE for probably 30 years, but have always concentrated on the prototype. And in this talk too, I certainly included some prototype information, while at the same time explaining that there is far more in published books than could possibly be in any oral presentation. To that end, I recommended two books and two articles in the on-line magazine Model Railroad Hobbyist (articles obtainable for free at ), as follows:

Anthony W. Thompson and Dick Harley, Southern Pacific Freight Car Painting and Lettering Guide (SP Historical & Technical Society, Upland, CA, 2016).

Anthony W. Thompson, Robert J. Church, and Bruce H. Jones, Pacific Fruit Express (2nd edition, Signature Press, Berkeley and Wilton, CA, 2000).

Tony Thompson, “Pacific Fruit Express, Part One: Delivering perishables across the nation,” Model Railroad Hobbyist, “Getting Real” column, September 2013.

Tony Thompson, “Pacific Fruit Express, Part Two: Modeling PFE cars,” Model Railroad Hobbyist, “Getting Real” column, October 2013.

Note that the fourth of these, the MRH article from October 2013, is about modeling, and is fairly detailed.
     I will add links to a number of my prior blog posts about PFE models in a moment, but first, here is the table of car classes included in the talk.

This table contains the principal car classes in the PFE roster, as shown in the Official Railway Equipment Register, for January 1953, and shows the number of cars in each class at that time.
     The table includes a column at far right that shows how many models of each class you would need if you chose to model one car for every 1000 prototype PFE cars. That I have captured pretty much all of the PFE fleet is shown by comparing the total number of cars listed (37,684) with the actual fleet size, 38,565.
     One message I always emphasize about the table above is the very large size of Class R-30-9, some 7700 cars originally so classified and over 7100 even in 1953. I showed in the talk an example of a model of this class, in the 1946 paint scheme and presumably recently washed, by its clean appearance.

     As mentioned, I have posted frequently in my blog about all kinds of issues with PFE car models, and below is a fair (though not exhaustive) selection of them, in chronological order. You can find more of them by using “PFE” as a search term in the search box at the upper right corner of this post.

“Correcting a brass model of a PFE car,” May 25, 2013,

“Replacing bad decals,” May 13, 2016,

“The ‘bad decal project,’ Part 2,” May 16, 2016,

“PFE lettering after World War II,” June 26, 2016,

“PFE lettering post-WW II, Part 2,” June 29, 2016,

“Correcting a ready-to-run car, March 20, 2018,

“Small rant: manufacturer lettering, April 13, 2019,

“PFE paint schemes — again,” September 6, 2019,

     As always, I hope this handout material will enlarge whatever impression viewers have taken away from my talk, and will provide background and depth for the material I presented.
Tony Thompson

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