Re: FGEX ex-PRR R7s

Bruce Smith

Richard makes a couple of excellent points and one completely off the wall assertion.... I mean, seriously, comparing the PRR's mechanical department to "vesties"? Rather than calling people names, I favor a thoughtful analysis of the actions of railroad management in the context of the times. My feeling regarding the PRR is the first part (self absorbed) might well be true, but they were regarded as anything but clowns or buffoons. The PRR's mechanical department presents interesting contrasts. They were outrageously conservative, yet at times extremely innovative. They were among the 1st to use all steel construction in passenger and freight cars. The X23/R7, the X25, the X28/29, the X31/32/33 were all trend setters. No debate that the PRR, like many large american companies (Eastman Kodak perhaps being the most recent victim), suffered from the innovation impairing "our way is the right way" mentality and among many SPF's the phrase "standard railway of the world" is used with bemusement as well. However, think about the subject car. What PRR did was to create a "standard" car in the X23 that was adapted to many uses, including increased height automobile cars (X24), refers (R7), and stock cars (K7/K7a)... and it was neither the first not last time they did it. Ultimately, perhaps the duplexes best define the PRR's mechanical department. Outrageously innovative locomotives, with performance to match (for the most part) yet built when steam loco technology was just being eclipsed by the diesel. (I know some argue that the duplexes were failures, but much has been published that indicates that had they not been competing against diesels, they would have been considered very successful)

BTW, weren't the AT&SF mechanical department the, ahem, "bozos" who came up with the idea of a boiler that hinged in the middle? Really??



Bruce F. Smith

Auburn, AL

"Some days you are the bug, some days you are the windshield."


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On Aug 9, 2012, at 12:09 AM, Richard Hendrickson wrote:
Scott, FGEX really didn't have much choice; they had to accept
whatever refrigerator cars the participating railroads had in service
at the time FGEX took over protective service for most of the eastern
and southeastern railroads. And some of the cars they got really
were junk - obsolete, poorly maintained wood framed truss rod cars.
But the R7s weren't junk - certainly not at the time that FGEX took
them over from the Pennsy - and the fact that they lasted so long in
revenue service suggests that they were actually a pretty good
investment. The design (which originated, remember, with the X23 box
cars) was eccentric and over-built; both the X23s and R7s were heavy
for their size, even by the standards that prevailed when they were
built, and difficult to repair. But through the first half of the
twentieth century the PRR's mechanical department marched resolutely
to the beat of its own drummer, so almost everything that came off
its drawing boards was eccentric and much of it was either overbuilt
or had inherent flaws (or both). It's no accident that the X23/R7
design was unique. Though the Pennsy proclaimed itself "the standard
railroad of the world," the mechanical officers of many other North
American railroads regarded their engineers as self-absorbed bozos
and, in general, Pennsy rolling designs weren't imitated except on a
small number of eastern RRs within the PRR's geographic and economic
sphere of influence. But the X23/R7 hat section steel body framing
and fishbelly steel center sills were advanced for their day and
extremely strong. Granted, the roofs leaked - the Pennsy never
figured out how to make a roof that didn't leak until they finally
and belatedly adopted the non-PRR Murphy rectangular panel design in
the '40s. However, the Hutchins roofs Fruit Growers applied to the
ex-R7s took care of that problem, and the fact that many of the ex-
R7s were still earning revenue thirty to forty years after they were
built speaks well for their design.

Richard Hendrickson


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