PENNSYRR.COM by Jerry Britton

Jerry Britton's PRR Middle Division in HO Scale


General Information

Gregg Mahlkov writes "Fresh fruits and vegetables went to two types of consignees. The largest portion, by 1954, would have gone to grocery store chain warehouses, like Acme Markets of Philadelphia. The remainder would have gone to the "Pennsylvania Produce Terminals" in the larger cities, where it was sold by brokers who maintained offices and leased trackage in the terminal and sold to restaurants and independent grocery stores."


"The only PRR port involved by then (1954) was Wilmington, DE, for bananas, and to my knowledge they went principally by truck no further than Pittsburgh."

"As to meat, it also moved to two types of consignees. Again, most of what moved were whole carcasses on meat rails at that time, which went either to local butchering plants of the meatpackers, where it was packaged for delivery to restaurants and independent grocers, who may have received whole sides. Again some went to the grocery chain warehouses, most of whom did their own butchering and packaging."

"This whole meat business has fundamentally changed in the past 50 years, much more than the fresh fruit and vegetable business, as the meat industry discovered that with the ability to ship frozen meat, it was much cheaper to ship the finished product than live animals across the country!"

"Loaded reefers would travel in solid blocks wherever possible, as they did require inspection at every major yard or enroute if it was over 24 hours between yards, and of course required ice at regular intervals. The Eastern railroads had a group, the Railroad Perishable Inspection Agency, or RPIA, that handled these inspections, as well as freight claim inspections. The RPIA records were often a big factor in freight claims."

.Bruce Smith notes "When modeling ice reefers in the 1950's... in ice or ventilator service. In the former, hatches were down to keep the load cool, in the later hatches were open to keep the produce ventilated. Hatches were closed on empties.

A modeling/spotting feature on ice reefers is a "sill-mounted Preco fan". According to Bob Zoeller, "The first patent was issued to Willliam E. Van Dorn in September, 1940, a second in May, 1944. Pacific Railway Equipment Company (PRECO) began marketing them and PFE began their use in 1941. FGEX followed three years later. By 1945, 7000 reefers had them and by 1950 one-third of the reefer fleet had them. Mechanical drive was superceded by electrical drive in the early 1950's, alllowing the fans to be mounted near the ceiling. Purpose was to stimulate internal air circulation. Worked sufficiently well to put off the conversion to mechanical refrigeration a few years."

Roadnames on the Pennsy System

The PRR and its associated companies were not the majority owners of reefers on America's railroads. However, due to the way reefers were routed, a higher percentage of "home" reefers would appear on the Pennsy's rails.

Freight Reefer Ownership in 1954
"The Official Railway Equipment Register," January 1954
OwnerReporting MarksQuantity
Pacific Fruit Express Company P.F.E. 39,005
Santa Fe S.F.R.D. 14,824
Fruit Growers Express F.G.E.X., F.D.E.X., F.H.I.X., F.O.B.X., R.B.N.X. 12,542
Merchants Despatch Transportation Corporation A.P.P.X., D.S.D.X., I.B.P.X., M.D.T., M.E.R.X., M.I.D.X., N.R.C., Q.M.R.X., S.U.C.X. 9,690
American Refrigerator Transit Company A.R.D.X., A.R.T., A.M.R.X. 9,126
Western Fruit Express W.F.E.X., W.H.I.X., W.O.B.X. 5,655
General American Transportation Corp. D.M.R.X., G.A.R.X., K.G.N.X., L.M.L.X., M.A.H.X., N.P.K.X., R.A.O.X., S.R.L.X., W.R.L.X. 5,298
Canadian Pacific Railway C P 4,957
Canadian National Railways C N 4,358
Union Refrigerator Transit Lines M.R.U.X, T.M.X., U.R.T.X. 4,071
Northern Refrigerator Line, Inc. N.R.C., N.C.G.X., N.H.I.X., H.G.F.X. 3,479
North Western Refrigerator Line N.W.X., M.C.L.X., R.A.G.X. 2,743
North American Car Corp. N.A.T.X., N.A.D.X., N.A.H.X., A.E.S.X., H.E.R.X., H.Y.G.X. 1,988
St. Louis Refrigerator Car Co. S.L.R.X. 1,475
Burlington Refrigerator Express Company B.H.I.X., B.R.E.X., C.X., F.W.D.X. 1,965
Wilson Car Lines W.C.L.X. 1,471
Dairy Shippers Despatch Company D.S.D.X. 1,185
Bangor & Aroostook BAR 1,154
National Car Company C.P.D.X., E.K.S.X., E.M.P.X., F.S.X., J.S.S.X., L.P.V.X., M.N.X., N.X., O.M.X., P.P.H.X., P.P.I.X., R.P.H.X., S.N.X. 1,172
Northern Pacific Railway Co. NP 1,072
Cudahy Car Lines C.R.L.X. 1,069
Illinois Central IC 618
Western Refrigerator Line Company W R X 400
Armour Car Lines A.R.L.X. 257
Grand Trunk Western Railroad Company N Y D X, G T W 189
Mather Stock Car Company A.G.R.X., H.F.P.X., H.P.A.X., M.O.R.X., M.R.R.X., M.U.N.X., P..PC.X., R.P.R.X. total unknown


Rick Tipton writes "The PRR and about 20 other eastern and southeastern railroads established Fruit Growers' Express in answer to produce shippers' demands for a refrigerator car fleet. It had already been proved more efficient to form a pool of such specialized equipment than for each railroad to have its own. Fruit Growers Express established major shops for servicing and rebuilding refrigerator cars at Jacksonville FL (JAX), Alexandria VA (AX), and in the Chicago area."

The PRR did not have control over what road's reefers were used on inbound shipments, but they did control, of course, outbound shipments. The railroad paid per diem rates for the use of cars, so it was more economical to use their own cars. That said, foreign road reefers -- such as PFE and Santa Fe -- often went home empty.

The general consensus is that for the majority of shipments originating on the PRR system in and around Pennsylvania, FGE and WFE reefers would be used.

Bruce Smith writes "The subject of car mixes has come up extensively on the Steam Era Freight Car list, and its is clear that PFE and SFRD routed their reefers preferentially over ERIE rather than PRR. Thus while PFE had the most reefers, SFRD the second and FGE was third, the mix is different on the PRR. Probably closer to 50% or more FGE is appropriate (as noted a mix of wood and steel cars... the new InterMountain cars are POST WWII) with some PFE and a few SFRD cars with loads. More PFE and SFRD cars were routed home over the PRR, so the ratio of these in westbounds can be higher. Throw in some ART, URTX (General American) and you've got a fleet. As Greg Mahlkov noted here back in November '02, cargos were regional, and so were reefer lines, so some cargoes nearly always rode in one line's reefers. For the mid-1940's, the approximate ratio for FGEX to WFEX to BREX is 6:3:1.

Gregg Mahlkov writes "When I called on the Penna. Produce Terminal in Baltimore for the PRR in 1965-1966, the majority of the cars were still ice reefers - the mechanicals were reserved for frozen foods and were received at Terminal Warehouse. The PFE's and SFRD's were all steel, but the FGE's were still a mix of wood side and all steel. By that time FGE, WFE, and BREX were all under common management and the cars were used interchangeably, as the seasons differed between Florida and the Pacific Northwest. There were also some ART's that came in from the Rio Grande Valley off the MP."

Andrew Harmantas writes "By the late 1950's, ALL reefer trains I saw were all steel cars, mostly FGEX and BREX, in solid blocks. By that time, most were mechanical reefers."

Andrew Miller writes "In the early 50s most reefers were still ice and many wooden cars could still be seen. The dominant owners were PFE and SFRD."

Obviously there are differing recollections of what was running!

Other Notes

Greg Mahlkov writes "I distinctly recall ART reefers with full color MP and Wabash heralds in the Baltimore PPT with Rio Grande Valley grapefruit in 1966-67. Again. Clover indicates this scheme began in 1950, prior cars just had the ART shield, like the InterMountain cars. You gotta figure a way to get some of these, they're such good looking cars!"

Greg Mahlkov closes with "Then there's the meat trade with Swift, Oscar Mayer, Armour, Dubuque, Rath, etc. with their own cars."

N scale models, known incorrect for one reason or another, not to be discussed here: Red Caboose R-40-23 Steel Ice Refrigerators, Red Caboose Wood Side Reefers, Red Caboose Steel Side Plug Door Refrigerators, Atlas 40' Wood Refrigerator in FGE.


The wonderful cast of the "PRR-talk" list, with special thanks to Bruce Smith, Gregg Mahlkov, Bob Zoeller, and Andrew Miller.

Martin McGuirk, InterMountain Railway Company.

Anthony W. Thompson, Robert J. Church and Bruce H. Jones, Pacific Fruit Express, Second Edition, Signature Press.

Roseman, V.S., Railway Express Agency: An Overview, Highlands Station (out of print).

Welch, Bill, The Wood Sheathed Cars of the FGEX/WFEX/BREX Freight Refrigerator Fleet: 1940-1953, self published, 2002.