The History Of The Solid Gold Reefers

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Back in the 90s on the Southern Pacific in San Antonio, Texas (my old stomping ground!), endless parades of Fruit Grower’s Express reefers and insulated boxcars moved back and forth over the Sunset Route. These cars are difficult (if not impossible) to spot today, but have a very interesting story behind them….

In 1982 Fruit Growers Express, or FGE (owned by CSX) needed to repair and upgrade their 20 year old existing fleet of RBL boxcars (insulated plug door cars with moveable load dividers). About 2,500 of these RBL cars were supposed to be retrofitted with a modified load divider system as well as installing Chemply fiberglass resistant lining to the sidewalls and upgrading the cushioned underframe and the plug door system.

The new refurbished RBL cars were a fraction of the price of new cars ($12,000 vs. $60,000). These rebuilt cars were said to be as good as “gold” and as “solid” as a new car. To market these new cars to shippers, FGE had the new cars repainted with a 3D looking scheme that read “Solid Gold.”

The first prototype out of shop (in Alexandria, Va.) was to be stenciled “Solid Gold” on the right side. During stenciling however, part of the ‘G’ had slipped and the horizontal leg of the ‘G’ was missing therefore making it look like a ‘C’. The stencil blunder gave FGE the idea to market their mechanical reefer cars in a companion-like fashion to the Solid Golds and at that moment the name “SOLID COLD” was born.

In 1987, CSX replaced their marketing director with someone new and in an effort to establish his “identity”, he changed the “Solid Cold” to “Real Cold.” About 50 cars were repainted in this new scheme and the concept and the individual behind it were laughed off the property. As another interesting note, in 1983, FGE retrofitted 50 RPL cars for Stroh’s beer in which they installed a 20,000 gallon stainless steel tank for moving product at a protected temperature. These 50 cars had “The Chiller” logo in the same script as the Solid Cold cars.

During later years and subsequent changes in ownership, Solid Colds began to bare reporting marks such as SFLC, BNFE, ARMH and UPFE. These days, catching a Solid Cold is like finding a piece of hay in a needle stack. The majority of Solid Colds have been retired or upgraded/rebuilt under OT-37 or greater to make interchange rules. Rumor has it that many of the Solid Colds have been refurbished into the new Union Pacific Chilled Express cars. But that is another story….

Special thanks to “Benched in Los Angeles County” for this information.
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The History Of The Solid Gold Reefers

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Author:Railfan AC

AC is a U.S. Air Force Veteran, a long haul trucker, a transportation enthusiast and a lifelong lover of trains. AC's mission is to travel America documenting American railroading in the 21st century while educating those who want to know about the importance the railroads play in our daily lives including, but not limited to, the movement of goods, services and more.

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