Re: Aluminum body reefers

Mont Switzer

Thanks Tony.  I knew you would straighten me out on things PFE.  Interesting methodology.




Montford L. Switzer


Switzer Tank Lines, Inc.

Fall Creek Leasing, LLC.


(765) 836-2914


From: <> On Behalf Of Tony Thompson
Sent: Thursday, July 16, 2020 2:19 PM
Subject: Re: [RealSTMFC] Aluminum body reefers


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. 


       Actually, the railroads paid PFE by the mile for use of the cars (and also paid them for icing). The shipper paid according the tariff to the delivering railroad, which then distributed shares to the railroads that handled the car en route (yep, armies of clerks in that day), and the railroads in turn paid PFE. 

        But you are right that PFE itself did not really care about car weight. In fact, most produce in its shipping containers is really not very dense. PFE continued to operate considerable number of 30-ton reefers through the 1960s, and even their modern steel ice cars were 40-ton cars. The impression I got from Earl Hopkins, the retired PFE CMO I interviewed, is that PFE did want to keep up with modern freight car design. Aluminum just didn't turn out to be part of that in the era of the PFE aluminum cars.


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.


      I would agree with this.


Tony Thompson




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