Re: Aluminum body reefers

Mont Switzer



Correct me if I have this wrong --- like I know you will.


I'm thinking PFE paid the railroads by the mile to handle their cars, not by the ton, so the only benefit of lighter aluminum cars was to the shipper.  He could load tonnage on the aluminum car. 


This sort of mirrors the slow adoption of roller bearing trucks on freight cars.  Railroads liked to equip cars with roller bearings that stayed on home rails thus allowing any benefit from the additional investment to come back to the investor.  No sense investing in making your cars easier for other railroads to pull them.


Mont Switzer

From: [] on behalf of Tony Thompson [tony@...]
Sent: Wednesday, July 15, 2020 8:48 PM
Subject: Re: [RealSTMFC] Aluminum body reefers

Ron Merrick wrote:

. . . they are curiosities, and their history says a lot about the history of engineering innovations and the developments in materials science . . . Aluminum reefers seemed like an attractive target for experimentation given the relative heaviness of the steel reefer body compared to tare weight, but unfortunately they were probably one of the most troublesome since a reefer body is wet most of the time, and even worse with the salt involved, given the potential for galvanic corrosion between the steel frame and the body.  

     Can't speak for other owners, but the two PFE cars were perfectly fine in service, with minimal corrosion problems -- as the retired PFE CMO told me, certainly no more corrosion problems than with steel. This speaks to a design with careful insulation between aluminum and steel parts to minimize galvanic corrosion.
     Both PFE cars were damaged in wrecks, 20 years or so after being built, and were retired for that reason, not for any inadequate performance. So why weren't there more of them built? 
      Again, I can't speak for any other owner, but the PFE answer was, that the aluminum companies, Alcoa and Reynolds, had provided a very substantial discount on the cost of the aluminum. PFE felt there was absolutely no way they could justify paying for such a car themselves.

Tony Thompson

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