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lettering set for Railway Express Refrigerator 53’ wood reefers - gold leaf

Part Number: REA Express-1

Price: $8.50

The Railway Express Agency was formed as part of the Governments nationalization of the railroads in 1918, as a national package delivery service by arranging transport and delivery via existing railroad infrastructure. It was created through a forced consolidation of four existing services - Wells Fargo & Co, Southern Express Company, Adams Express Co. and American Express Company - into a national near-monopoly to ensure the rapid and safe movement of parcels, money and goods during WWI. A fifth competitor entered the package delivery business: the US Post Office’s Parcel Post mail, riding in the baggage car in the US Post Office section. The consolidation of the REA took on a new corporate name: the American Railway Express Agency. This new entity took custody of all the pooled equipment and property of existing express companies. In March of 1929, the assets and operations of the American Railway Express, Inc., were transferred to Railway Express Agency. Reporting marks of REX with the corporate initials of REA. The REA was owned by 86 railroads in proportion to the express traffic on their lines; no one railroad or group of railroads controlled the agency. As a result of customer needs, the REA added a Chicago based refrigerator line, and in 1927, and air express division. Business during WWII was heavy, but rapidly declined at war’s end. In 1975, failing to take over the United Parcel Service; failing to enter the railcar piggyback and container service, and with the Civil Aeronautics Board cancelling their air express contracts with the airlines, the REA declared bankruptcy and ceased operations, and the once familiar green trucks with the red diamond shaped signs disappeared forever.

There were literally thousands of these ubiquitous 53’ wood sheathed, steel underframed express refrigerator cars running in pretty much all of the Class I railroad high speed passenger trains throughout the US and Canada. Most were leased from builders such as General American Car Company and AC&F. The REA had 1,483 wood sheathed 53’-2” and 53’-6” refrigerator cars in service alone, plus hundreds of all-steel riveted cars.

A significant number of express refrigerator cars did not receive the REX reporting marks even though they operated as part of REA’s express car pool and had their own railroad name on the letterboard. Various lines in this category were ACL, ARE, AT&SF, CGW, CRDX, GN, NC&StL, PFE, PRR, SAL, SL-SF, and GARE. 

Paint & Lettering: Cars were painted in several different schemes during their lifetime of service. Prior to and immediately following WWII, the cars were painted Pullman green with gold leaf lettering. Later throughout most of the 1950’s cars were painted a darker REA Dark Green with DULUX Gold side and end lettering, including trucks and underbody. Roofs were normally black because they were covered with canvas and asphalt. In 1953, the REA revised it’s lettering scheme to include the new 60” red and white diamond monogram. - (see Protocraft Decals REA Express-2) Most of the lettering remained DULUX gold, however some car’s lettering were lettered with white stencil paste to match the white in the diamond monogram.

A very comprehensive and excellent study of these cars can be found in Pat Wider and Ed Hawkins “ Railway Prototype Cyclopedia, (RP CYC) Vol 7, pages 1-77. See also Vol u m e Eleven o f ”Focus on Freight Cars, pages 4 through 27, by Ted Culotta, Express and Head-End Cars.

Decal set designed and created at Protocraft Decals
Printed by Microscale Industries

Background color shown above is not included in decal sheet

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