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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.


Red Caboose, Sunshine, and Tichy have offered the R-30-9.


Red Caboose, Westerfield, and Sunshine have offered the R-30-12.


The R-30-18 Class Refrigerator Cars were rebuilt in 1942 from the pre-1930’s R-30-12 to -14 class of refrigerator cars. 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. The cars were assigned to the 60,000 number series.
InterMountain offers the R-30-18.


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 offers the R-30-12-18.

R-30-21 Rebuild

The R-30-21 class of 2420 cars were rebuilt from 1945-47 and were essentially the same as the R-30-18 and R-30-19 classes. The cars were numbered 63501-65920. 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 offers the R-30-21.


Sunshine had offered the R-40-1.


Tichy has offered the R-40-2.


Tichy has offered the R-40-4.

R-40-9 Rebuild

Sunshine had offered the R-40-9.


InterMountain offers the R-40-10.


Sunshine had offered the R-40-12.


InterMountain, Red Caboose, and Sunshine have offered the R-40-16.


InterMountain and Sunshine have offered the R-40-18.


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 and Sunshine have offered the R-30-18.


InterMountain offers the R-40-23.


InterMountain offers the R-40-25.

R-50-5 Rebuild

#200301 - 200375 and #200379 - 200587

Sunshine had offered the R-50-5.


InterMountain offers the R-70-15.


InterMountain offers the R-70-20.

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.