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PFE R-40-23 Part 0: Choosing a Representative Fleet

Pacific Fruit Express class R-40-23 steel refrigerator cars were ordered in 1946; deliveries began in January, 1947, and until that October. See Anthony W. ThompsonRobert J. Church, and Bruce H. Jones, Pacific Fruit Express, 2nd edition, page 173. The cars were numbered 46703 to 48702 (2,000 cars) and 5001 to 8000 (3,000 cars). Production was as follows:

  • 46703 – 47202 (500 cars) were built by American Car and Foundry Company (ACF) between July and November 1947
  • 47203 – 47702 (500 cars) were built by General American Transportation Company (GATC) between July and November 1947
  • 47703 – 48202 (500 cars) were built by Pullman-Standard Car Manufacturing Company (P-S) between April and June 1947
  • 48203 – 48702 (500 cars) were built by Pacific Car and Foundry Company (PC&F) between June and October 1947
  • 5001 – 6000 (1000 cars) were built by The Mount Vernon Car Manufacturing Company
  • 6001 – 6500 (500 cars) were built by American Car and Foundry Company (ACF)
  • 6501 – 7000 (500 cars) were built by General American Transportation Company (GATC)
  • 7001 – 7500 (500 cars) were built by Pullman-Standard Car Manufacturing Company (P-S)
  • 7501 – 8000 (500 cars) were built by Pacific Car and Foundry Company (PC&F)

Perhaps a kind reader who has production information on the 3,000 cars in the 5001 to 8000 series will leave a comment.

Despite 5 different builders, the cars are built from the same PFE drawings. Production details varied only with the equipment installed. Dick Harley summarized PFE drawing 283-C-8962, “Allocation of Specialties” on the Yahoo! Steam Era Freight Car discussion group (message 26019, dated 25. November 2003)  as follows:

Running Boards & Brake Steps:

  • 4000 – Morton, car numbers: 6001-8000, 46703-48702
  • 1000 – U.S.Gypsum, car numbers: 5001-6000

Hand Brakes –

  • 1250 – Ajax, car numbers: 5001-5250, 7501-8000, 48203-48702
  • 1250 – Equipco, car numbers: 6001-6500, 6751-7000, 46703-47202
  • 1250 – Universal, car numbers: 5751-6000, 7001-7500, 47703-48202
  • 750 – Miner, car numbers: 5251-5750, 47203-47452
  • 500 – Superior, car numbers: 6501-6750, 47453-47702

Air Brakes –

  • 3500 – New York, car numbers: 5500-5999, 6001-7500, 46703-48202
  • 1500 – Westinghouse, car numbers: 5001-5499, 6000, 7501-8000, 48203-48702

Door Fasteners –

  • 2500 – Miner, car numbers: 5001-7000, 46703-47202
  • 2500 – Universal, car numbers: 7001-8000, 47203-48702

As a model railroader, I’m interested in how these cars varied cosmetically. The variation in details required to model the fleet seem staggering, although, on the other hand, it may be possible to find a car number suitable for any assembly of parts. But if you want to model what’s common, rather than what’s unusual, where do we begin?

First off, we can look at what these differences really mean. Morton running boards had a circular pattern, while U.S. Gypsum running boards had a diamond pattern. These are very obvious differences. The hand brakes are also a distinctive feature of the cars, with the brake wheel being much more prominent than the gearbox it attaches to. It’s also quite obvious. These details help to define specific cars in the class.

On the other hand, there is no cosmetic difference between Westinghouse and New York (AB) Brake equipment, per message 108125, dated 23. March 2012 by Dennis Storzek (of Accurail) on the Yahoo! Steam Era Freight Car discussion group.  So we can ignore that difference.

Similarly, on the matter of the difference between Miner and Universal door fasteners, in message 26030 (on the Yahoo! Steam Era Freight Car discussion group), dated 25. November 2003, Richard H. Hendrickson writes:

I think I can (tell the difference between Miner and Universal door fasteners) … though the difference is certainly very subtle. After studying photos of cars with both types, the only detail that appears different to me is that on the Miner latches there was a small catch at the left end of the lower fitting that the latch bar locked into which could be turned up to a vertical position to hold the left door in place when the right hand door was opened.

So, for this analysis, we’re going to concentrate on those most obvious differences:

  • First (46703 – 48702) or second (5001 – 8000) number series
  • Morton or U.S. Gypsum running boards and brake steps
  • Handbrakes

Well, for lack of a better starting point, let’s start with Tony Thompson’s goal of modeling 1 in 1000. Out of 5000 R-40-23s, that would mean modeling 5 cars. One could pick 5 numbers at random, and then model those cars, we could choose one from each of the 5 builders, or we could do some more digging to find representative cars within the class based on the most common features or specialties.

With 2,000 cars in the 46703 to 48702 series, and 3,000 cars in the 5001-8000 series, it would be a safe assumption that 2 of our representative reefers would be in the first series (46703 – 48702) and 3 of our cars would be in the second number series (5001 – 8000).

Now we have to look at the representative details for each series. I constructed a spreadsheet to look at the details statistically, and figure out what was more or less common. For example, the 5001 – 8000 series has 1000 cars with U.S. Gypsum running boards (5001-6000), and 2000 cars with Morton running boards (6001 – 8000). Well, the math stays easy. One of our cars will be in the 5001 – 6000 series with U.S. Gypsum running boards, and two will be in the 6001 – 8000 series with Morton running boards.

Of the 6001 – 8000 series of cars equipped with Morton running boards, 500 (25%) had Ajax hand brakes, 750 (38%) had Equipco hand brakes, no cars had Miner hand brakes, 250 (12%)  had Superior hand brakes, and  500 (25%)  had Universal brake wheels. Here we have to look more towards statistics.  That is, a random first series car with Morton running boards is more likely to have an Equipco brake wheel, and slightly less likely to have either an Ajax or a Universal brake wheel. So, I’d build one R-40-23 with Morton running boards and an Equipco brake wheel, and another with Morton running boards and an Ajax or Universal brake wheel (flip a coin).

Rather than bore you with the details of all the statistics, here’s what I came up with for a representative fleet:

1st and 2nd car: Morton running boards (both).  Pick 2 out of the following three options:

  • Ajax brake wheel: numbers 48203-48702
  • Equipco brake wheel: numbers 46703-47202
  • Universal brake wheel: numbers 47703-48202

3rd car: Morton running board, Equipco hand brake, numbers 6001-6500 or 6751-7000 .

4th car: Morton running board, Ajax brake wheel, numbers 7501-8000, or Universal brake wheel, numbers 7001-7500.

5th car: U.S. Gypsum running board, Miner hand brake, numbers 5251-5750.

There are other ways, of course. As I mentioned, you could pick the number at random. Another possibility is to find a trainsheet from a train that ran in the district you’re modeling in the era you’re modeling, and pick one of the cars in that train. In short, I’m not saying (nor am I even pretending) to say this is the way to choose what to model, but it’s an approach I’m using to model my PFE R-40-23 fleet.

The car in our lead photo is repainted. Originally, R-40-23s were painted with a color UP herald:

Don’t confuse this logo with the 1969 logo, which uses a more modern lettering style (I’ve made this mistake):

The R-40-23 cars were also originally painted with black hardware and tack boards. Cars (re)painted after 1950 had the black and white logo, shown in the lead photograph. PFE adopted a black and transparent version of UP’s revised 1950 logo when it was made official:

Besides the color UP herald, the 2C (short for two heralds-per-side, with UP in color), has the SP logo towards the center of the car, so both sides look the same (p.176 in the PFE book, 2nd edition). The 1950 and later paint schemes have the SP logo toward the B (brake wheel) end of the car, as the car in my lead photo has.

Thanks for reading.

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