Re: Reefer Yellow/Orange

Richard Hendrickson

On Apr 21, 2009, at 6:01 AM, asychis@... wrote:

Just a curiosity question. Does anyone have an idea why yellow and
predominated as colors for reefers? Was it to make them stand out from

the sea of "boxcar red" cars, or was there some other reason.
Jerry, the practice of painting the sides of refrigerator cars a
light color so that they would be more visible in a yard full of
black and mineral red box cars dates all the way back to the mid-
nineteenth century, as is evident from the illustrations in John H.
White, Jr.'s "The American Railroad Freight Car." Reefers going
astray and then having their perishable contents spoil apparently was
all too common even when the bodies, or at least the sides, were
painted a distinctive color. Early reefers were often painted white,
though yellow was also a common color. MDT reefers had white sides
from the 1890s until World War II, when yellow-orange replaced white
on most (but not all) MDT-owned cars. So far as I have been able to
determine, the Santa Fe refrigerator department pioneered the of use
yellow-orange, a color which reflected the fact that most SFRD
traffic was citrus fruit from Southern California and Arizona. PFE
cars, as Tony Thompson has pointed out, had yellow sides until the
1930s, when a color similar to that used by SFRD was adopted. The
cars owned by Fruit Growers Express and its WFEX, BREX, and NX
subsidiaries had yellow sides, as did those of American Refrigerator
Transit Lines and most leasing companies - Union Refrigerator
Transit, North American, General American, Mather, etc. Most
privately owned meat reefers also had yellow or yellow-orange sides.
However, C&NW's Northwestern Refrigerator Line and its GB&W affiliate
Western Refrigerator Lines painted the sides of their reefers light
gray until the mid-1950s, and there was a brief period after WW II
when some WRX cars had light green sides. The Canadian railroads'
reefers were painted entirely in mineral red until after WW II, when
CN painted some of its steel reefers light gray, but the reefers of
CN subsidiary Grand Trunk Western had yellow-orange sides. Though
beyond the scope of this list, it's worth pointing out that in the
1960s ART and some private owners changed from yellow to true orange,
a darker color than PFE and SFRD yellow-orange. And most dry-ice
refrigerator cars were painted aluminum.

Richard Hendrickson

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