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Pacific Fruit Express (reporting mark PFE) was an American railroad refrigerator car leasing company that at one point was the largest refrigerator car operator in the world.

The company was founded on December 7, 1906 as a joint venture between the Union Pacific and Southern Pacific railroads. It began operation on October 1, 1907, with a fleet of 6,600 refrigerator cars built by the American Car and Foundry Company (ACF). The company was founded on December 7, 1906 as a joint venture between the Union Pacific and Southern Pacific railroads. It began operation on October 1, 1907, with a fleet of 6,600 refrigerator cars built by the American Car and Foundry Company (ACF).

In 1923, the Western Pacific Railroad joined the venture by leasing its own new fleet of 2775 reefers to PFE. They were painted in standard PFE colors with only WP heralds on the cars instead of the paired UP-SP markings. The WP cars were all retired by the late 1950s, among the last wooden reefers in PFE's fleet. WP ended its partnership with PFE in late 1967 and joined Fruit Growers Express instead.

PFE's assets were divided between the UP and SP when the company was split on April 1, 1978. It is now a UP subsidiary.

For a deep dive on the PFE, please reference the book "Pacific Fruit Express" by Anthony W. Thompson, Robert J. Church, and Bruce H. Jones, The publisher is Signature Press.

Car Classes

The PFE established a system for classifying cars in 1905. The first character indicated the car type, followed by the capacity in tons, followed by the design iteration. For instance, an R-30-1 would be a Refrigerator, 30 ton, 1st design.

There were many more classes than are listed below. The list below is largely limited to available models.

Series 36563-37562, built by Pullman.​

Series 450001-451000, built by PC&F.​

Class Design Year Notes HO Models
R-30- 1 1906-07

Series 1-1700, built by AC&F.

Series 4601-5704, built by AC&F.

 
2 1907

Series 1701-4600, built by AC&F.

Series 4705-6600, built by AC&F.

Series 70001-71585 rebuilt from R-30-1, -2.

 
3 unbuilt    
4 1909

Series 6601-7100, built by Pullman.

Series 13220-22519 rebuilt from R-30-11, -12.

Series 71273-71953 rebuilt from R-30-2 thru -6.

 
5 1909-11 Series 7101-10121, built by Pullman.  
6 1912-13 Series 10122-13219, built by AC&F.  
7 unbuilt    
8 unbuilt

Series 19920-28749 rebuilt from R-30-12. [?]

Series 18920-36473 rebuilt from R-30-13. [?]

Series 90001-91021 rebuilt from R-30-11. [?] [Number series shared with R-40-8 rebuilds.]

 
9 unbuilt Series 91022-98718 rebuilt from R-30-11 thru -14. [?] [Number series shared with R-40-9 rebuilds.]

Red Caboose

Sunshine

Tichy

10 unbuilt    
11-1/2 1917-18 Series 13220-13279, built by PFE.  
11 1917-18

Series 13280-14119, built by PFE.

Series 14120-15919, built by AC&F.

 
12 1920-24

Series 15920-16919, built by SP.

Series 16920-17219, built by Mt. Vernon.

Series 17220-17419, built by PC&F.

Series 17420-18019, built by AC&F.

Series 18020-18919, built by Pullman.

Series 19920-22519, built by Standard Steel Car.

Series 22520-23219, built by General American.

Series 23220-24719, built by Standard Steel Car.

Series 24720-25719, built by General American.

Series 25720-26219, built by Mt. Vernon.

Series 26220-26719, built by Pullman.

Series 28250-28749, built by General American.

Series 29650-30449, built by Pullman.

Series 30450-31249, built by Standard Steel Car.

Red Caboose

Westerfield

Sunshine

13 1920-26

Series 18920-19619, built by Haskell & Barker.

Series 19620-19919, built by AC&F.

Series 26720-27219, built by Pullman.

Series 27220-28249, built by PC&F.

Series 28750-29649, built by PC&F.

Series 31250-31434, built by PC&F.

Series 31435-32434, built by AC&F.

Series 33435-34434, built by PC&F.

Series 34435-35473, built by Pullman.

Series 35474-36473, built by Standard Steel Car.

 
14 1926 Series 32435-33434, built by General American.  

15

16

1939-55

Series 73001-76554 rebuilt from R-30-12 thru -14, R-40-2.

Series 99001-99050 rebuilt from R-30-12. [?] [Number series shared with R-40-15 rebuilds.]

 
17 1940 Rebuilds.  

18

19

1942-45

Series 60001-62500 rebuilt from R-30-12 to -14. [Number series shared with R-40-18 rebuilds.]

Series 62501-63500 rebuilt from R-30. [Number series shared with R-40-19 rebuilds.]

The R-30-18 class were given several modernizations such as retrofit electric fans, convertible ice bunkers, and stage icing. Most visibly were the Dreadnaught steel ends and solid steel roofs. The ends had “W” corner posts giving them rounded exterior corners. All of the R-30-18’s received the standardized AB brakes. 

InterMountain
12-18   The R-30-12-18 wore an experimental scheme of 1941 with 3” horizontal stripes near the top and bottom of the car body in boxcar red. Five R-30-16 class cars received this scheme and received Dreadnaught ends and steel roofs. They were quickly re-classified as R-30-18, and the scheme remained on the cars for several months before being repainted orange with the -18 conversions began in 1942. InterMountain

21

24

1945-48

Series 63501-65920 rebuilt from R-30. [Number series shared with R-40-21 rebuilds.]

Series 65921-68532 rebuilt from R-30. [Number series shared with R-40-24 rebuilds.]

The R-30-21 were essentially the same as the R-30-18 and R-30-19 classes. The major difference was in the performance of the car fans. Mechanical fans were installed in the R-30-21 class using Preco and Equipco models which marked the beginning of PFE’s large scale fan installation. In the early 1950’s the R-30-21’s had their mechanical fans replaced with Preco Model AA-19 electric fans.

InterMountain
25 unbuilt    
R-40-   1 1927 

Series 36474-36562, built by PC&F.

59 remained on roster as of 1950.

Sunshine
2 1928 

Series 36563-37562, built by Pullman.

Series 37563-38562, built by PC&F.

Series 60001-62500 rebuilt from R-40-2. [Number series shared with R-30-8 rebuilds.]

0 remained on roster as of 1950.

Tichy
3 unbuilt    
4 1930 

Series 38563-39062, built by PFE.

477 remained on roster as of 1950.

Tichy
6 1931

Series 80101-80150 rebuilt from R-30-11 thru -13.

Series 90001-91021 rebuilt from R-30-1 thru -6. [?]  [Number series shared with R-30-8 rebuilds.]

 
7 unbuilt    
8 1932

960 remained on roster as of 1950.

 
9 1937-40 

Series 85001-85100 rebuilt from R-30-11 thru -14.

Series 85101-85725 rebuilt from R-30-11 thru -14.

Series 91022-98718 rebuilt from R-40-2. [Number series shared with R-30-9 rebuilds.]

Series 99001-99050 rebuilt from R-40-2. [Number series shared with R-30-15 rebuilds.]

Sunshine
10 1936-37

Series 40001-40700, built by SPE Co.

Series 40701-41200, built by PC&F.

Series 41201-41700, built by Gen. American.

Series 41701-42200, built by Pullman.

Series 42201-42700, built by AC&F.

Series 42701-43200, built by PC&F.

Series 43201-43700, built by Std. Steel Car.

Series 43701-44200, built by AC&F.

Series 44201-44700, built by Gen. American.

InterMountain
12 unbuilt    Sunshine
14 1941 Series 44701-45700, built by PC&F.  
14 1946 #45698  
14 1947 #44739  
15 unbuilt    

15

16

1939-55   Rebuilds.

InterMountain

Red Caboose

Sunshine

18

19

1942-45 

Series 62501-63500 rebuilt from R-40. [Number series shared with R-30 rebuilds.]

The R-40-19 class of 1000 cars were the first rebuilds to have steel grid running boards (roofwalks). Otherwise the cars were similar to the R-30-18 class.

InterMountain

Sunshine

20 1945

Series 45701-46200, built by Gen. American.

Series 46201-46700, built by Mt. Vernon.

Series 46701-46702, built by Cons. Steel.

 
21 1945 Series 63501-65920 rebuilt from R-40. [Number series shared with R-30-21 rebuilds.]  
22 unbuilt    
23 1947 

Series 46703-47202, built by AC&F.

Series 47203-47702, built by Gen. American.

Series 47703-48202, built by Pullman.

Series 48203-48702, built by PC&F.

Series 5001-6000, built by Mt. Vernon.

Series 6001-6500, built by AC&F.

Series 6501-7000, built by Gen. American.

Series 7001-7500, built by Pullman.

Series 7501-8000, built by PC&F.

InterMountain
24 1947-49 Series 65921-68532 rebuilt from R-40. [Number series shared with R-30-24 rebuilds.]  
25 1949-1950  Series 2001-5000, built by SPE Co. InterMountain
26X unbuilt    
26 1950-51 Series 8001-10000, built by SPE Co.  
27 1956-57

Series 10001-11700, built by SPE Co.

Series 101001-101005, built by PFE.

 
28 1957 Series 11701-11800, built by SPE Co.  
29 1957 Series 100001-100002, built by PFE.  
30 1958 Series 100003-100502, built by SPE.   
R-50- 1 1930 

Series 100001-100400, built by PC&F.

Series 200376-200378 rebuilt from R-50-1. [?]

2 remained on roster as of 1950.

 
3   Series 100476-100500 rebuilt from R-50-1.  
4   Series 100401-100475 rebuilt from R-50-1.  
5  

Series 200301-200375 rebuilt from R-50-1.

Series 200379-200587 rebuilt from R-50-1.

279 remained on roster as of 1950.

Sunshine
6 1957    
R-70- 1  unbuilt    
2 1932

Series 200001-200100, built by PFE.

99 remained on roster as of 1950.

 
3 1939

Series 200101-200120.

19 remained on roster as of 1950.

 
4 1930    
5 1952-54

Series 200126-200200, built by SPE Co.

Series 200601-200700, built by SPE Co.

Series 300338-300512, built by SPE.

 
6 1946-54

Series 300126-300137, built by ART/PFE.

Series 300713-301212, built by SPE.

 
7 1953 Series 300001-300025, built by SPE.  
8 1954 Series 30026-300125, built by PFE.  
9 1956 Series 300138-300337, built by SPE.  
10 1956 Series 300513-300712, built by SPE.  
11 1959 Series 400001-400025, built by SPE.  
12 1960 Series 301213-302212, built by SPE.  
13 1962 Series 450001-451000, built by PC&F.  
14 1964 Series 451001-452000, built by PC&F.  
15 1965 Series 452001-453500, built by PC&F. InterMountain
16 1966 Series 453501-455500, built by PC&F.  
17 1967 Series 455501-456000, built by PC&F.  
18 1967 Series 456001-456500, built by PC&F.  

19

Keystone

1968 Series 456501-456900, built by PC&F.  

19

Hydra-C

1968  

20

1969-70

Series 456901-458100, built by PC&F.

Series 458701-459300, built by PC&F.

InterMountain
21 1969 Series 458101-458700, built by PC&F.  
22 1970 Series 459301-459400, built by PC&F.  
23 1970 Series 459401-459500, built by PC&F.  
24 1971 Series 459501-460100, built by PC&F.  
25 1971 Series 460101-460700, built by PC&F.  

 

Paint and Lettering

According to Angel Garrido's "Southern Pacific Lines" web site, "PFE had a strict timeline for repainting: 4 to 7 years on wood cars, 10 years on steel cars. Data show clearly that PFE worked hard to convert the entire car fleet from yellow to orange sides after the adoption of orange in 1929; all or very nearly all cars were orange by the end of 1934."

"PFE did have a policy of repainting wood- sided cars every 4 to 6 years, but of course that varied with era; during World War II painting was cut back, whereas during 1947-50 the shops were VERY busy and repainted a very great number of cars (data are in the PFE book). And prior to the mid-1950s, PFE tended to repaint anything that was repaired, rather than touch up the paint. Among other things, this means that the early 1950s do show a proportion of the black-white scheme (introduced June 1950) which seems high, presumably due to shop activity remaining high."

"Before 1929, PFE reefers were a much more yellow color than the SP Daylight Orange."

"The all white paint scheme started in 1981. An early photo shows a white car with large orange PFE is from 1982."

1906-1922 -- Yellow car sides, freight car red roofs and ends; trucks, underframe and iron hardware black; plain letering (two emblems).

1922-1946 -- Single railroad medallion, each side.

1925 -- ARA lettering changes, including introduction of 1-in. stripes above reporting marks and below car number, standardized lettering sizes, and data groupings.

1928 -- Porcelain enamel medallions introduced.

1929 -- Car side color changed from yellow to orange.

1932 -- Solid steel roofs painted freight car red.

1936 -- UP shield changed to remove word "system" from upper field.

46701 UP side wlInterMountain R-40-10 painted and lettered for 1936.

1936-41 -- Experimental paint schemes.

1938 -- Repack rectangle introduced.

1942 -- UP shield changed to remove diagonal "Overland" slogan.

46709P side 2wlInterMountain R-40-10 painted and lettered for 1943.

1946-1960 -- Both railroad medallions on each side of car.

45501wlInterMountain R-40-23 painted and lettered for 1947.

1949 -- Most side hardware changed from black to orange.

1950 -- UP medallion changed from red-white-blue to black and white.

1951-53 -- All side hardware changed from black to orange; stripes removed from reporting mark area; periods in "PFE" removed.

45532wlInterMountain R-40-23 painted and lettered for 1952.

1953 -- Frozen food car roofs changed from gray to aluminum.

47421wlInterMountain R-40-25 painted and lettered for 1953.

1960-1978 -- All lettering Gothic, large PFE name at right side of car.

45537wlInterMountain R-40-23 painted and lettered for 1962.