The online magazine on the history and operation of vintage scale model trains in American OO gauge

Friday, November 27, 2009

Two Graceline Express Reefers.

Some years ago I lucked into the purchase of a number of classic Graceline OO cars in a lot purchase, including these two express reefers. These are classic Graceline with the factory hand lettered sides, great vintage pieces.

While I have posted a couple times on express reefer models previously (for example here and here), this post will be the first on a short series on express reefers, and with it I think a good place to start is background on this type of car. Back in the day clearly the biggest group of OO gauge modelers were located in the northeast United States. One type of car that saw much service still in that era and that area were express reefers, most frequently used in milk service. The Wikipedia article on refrigerator cars has a good concise overview of express reefers.
Standard refrigerated transport is often utilized for good with less than 14 days of refrigerated "shelf life": avocados, cut flowers, green leafy vegetables, lettuce, mangos, meat products, mushrooms, peaches and nectarines, pineapples and papayas, sweet cherries, and tomatoes. "Express" reefers are typically employed in the transport of special perishables: commodities with a refrigerated shelf life of less than 7 days such as human blood, fish, green onions, milk, strawberries, and certain pharmaceuticals.

The earliest express-service refrigerator cars entered service around 1890, shortly after the first express train routes were established in North America. The cars did not come into general use until the early 20th century. Most units designed for express service are larger than their standard counterparts, and are typically constructed more along the lines of baggage cars than freight equipment. Cars must be equipped with speed-rated trucks and brakes, and — if they are to be run ahead of the passenger car consist — must also incorporate an air line for pneumatic braking, a communication signal air line, and a steam line for train heating. Express units were typically painted in passenger car colors, such as Pullman green.

The first purpose-built express reefer emerged from the Erie Railroad's Susquehanna Shops on August 1, 1886. By 1927 some 2,218 express cars traveled America's rails, and three years later that number was 3,264. In 1940 private rail lines began to build and operate their own reefers, the Railway Express Agency (REA) being by far the largest. In 1948 the REA roster (which would continue to expand into the 1950s) numbered approximately 1,800 cars, many of which were World War II "troop sleepers" modified for express refrigerated transport. By 1965, due to a decline in refrigerated traffic, many express reefers were leased to railroads for use as bulk mail carriers.
These two cars have modified Scale-Craft passenger trucks (castings modified and 33” wheelsets), as described in this previous post.

No comments: