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Time frame for reefers that used ice

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  • Member since
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  • From: Columbia, IL
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Time frame for reefers that used ice
Posted by wdcrvr on Tuesday, August 01, 2017 9:20 AM

I was hoping that someone could give me a general idea of when the iced reefers were no longer being used?  At what point in time did they disappear from the rails?  I am just looking for a general time frame, not specifics for particular railroads and locations.

Thanks

wdcrvr

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Posted by VOLKER LANDWEHR on Tuesday, August 01, 2017 9:39 AM

Wikipedia has nice timeline at the end of its article about refigerator cars:
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Refrigerator_car

According to this timeline the last ice bunker cars were built in 1956, the first mechenical reefers with diesel-aggregates entered revenue service in 1957, and the last ice cooled reefers were retired in 1971.

I don't know how accurate Wikipedia is so you might check other sources.
Regards, Volker

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Posted by 7j43k on Tuesday, August 01, 2017 10:42 AM

I photographed a Western Fruit all-wood reefer (like the Intermountain one) in about 1964 at Havre, WA.

I recall seeing wood-sided reefers in Stockton, CA in about 1975

Being "wood" reefers, these were obviously also "ice" reefers.

I think the Wikipedia statement that all ice reefers were retired by 1971 is in error.

It should be noted that wood was used in refrigerator car construction much later than for any other cars.  I suspect that was because the salt that was added to the ice did not treat steel well.  Plus wood is more insulating than steel.

 

Tony Thompson's "Pacific Fruit Express" says that ice service stopped in 1973, but that some of the cars continued being used in ventilator service.

 

Ed

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  • From: Northern Virginia
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Posted by riogrande5761 on Tuesday, August 01, 2017 1:58 PM

 

In the broadest terms, ice reefers began being replaced in earnest starting in the late 1950's and early 1960's and you could say they were mostly gone from the rails by the end of the 1970's.

From memory, early mechancial reefers were being built in the 1950's, but they really took off in the 1960's as a better, more economical, lower maintenence way of shipping produce and products requiring refrigeration.  For example, the PFE fleet grew with the 57' R-15-xx and R-20-xx reefers being built in the mid-1960's and into the early 1970's.  There were shorter mechanical reefers built before that of course.

Many railroads began dismantling their icing plat forms in around 1970/71/72 time frame.  By then mechanical reefers had largely replaced most of the ice reefers in service.  Some ice reefers remained in service through out the 1970's were in limited non-produce service from what I read, perhaps some meat packing service.  IIRC, for produce (lettuce etc.) by the early 1970's, that was taken over by mechanical reefers and ice reefer service done and over with by early 1970's.

Rio Grande.  The Action Road

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  • From: Collinwood, Ohio, USA
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Posted by gmpullman on Tuesday, August 01, 2017 5:26 PM

I spent many hours watching NYC/Penn-Central trains through Ohio, particularly at Collinwood yard east of Cleveland.

On some evenings in 1971-'72 I remember seeing on several occasions, one of the former NYC "Hot-Shots" stop for fuel and a crew change.

I saw a City ICE truck that would pull up alongside the train and add ice to the few remaining non-mechanical reefers on the train. This truck had a beefy scissors-lift that would raise the entire ice box compartment up to car roof level. There was a pretty good sized platform on the door end and the workers would dump the ice into the hatches from there.

I do not recall or couldn't see if the ice was in chunks or blocks. I sure wish I would have taken more photos back then!

You could probably kit-bash a Classic Metal Works ice truck and do your icing in this way.

Regards, Ed

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Posted by NHTX on Tuesday, August 01, 2017 9:09 PM

      wdcrvr, most operators ended ice service around 1973.  That did not mean the immediate vanishing of the icers though.  I photgraphed Western Fruit Express steel as well as wood 40 foot ice-bunker cars in both Great Northern and Burlington Northern paint hauling potatoes in ventilator service.  I also caught a couple of PFE R-40-27s in 1978!  Suggest you locate a copy of the book "The Great Yellow Fleet" by John H. White (Golden West Books, ISBN 0-87095-091-6).  Although not an equipment book, it is an excellent overview of refrigerator car development and operation as well as major car lines such as ART, FGEX, MDT, PFE, SFRD, WFEX etc.

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Posted by PRR8259 on Monday, August 14, 2017 12:19 PM

The "Ice Age" on the Santa Fe effectively ended in the early 1970's.  For more accurate dates, refer to the hysterical society's website, and the books cited above.

It is important to note that former ice reefers continued in service hauling loads that needed to be kept cool but not iced.  Loads such as melons and pumpkins, etc. routinely moved in old ice reefers--but again, were not iced.

As long as cars were serviceable and suitable loads were available, they continued in service--but this was actually years beyond the end of ice operations.

John Mock

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Posted by azrail on Monday, August 14, 2017 2:40 PM

Some crops, such as carrots, required a top cover of crushed ice, even in mechanical reefers. They used hoses to spray the crushed ice over the top of the carrots.

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Posted by arbe1948 on Monday, August 14, 2017 7:59 PM

[quote user="VOLKER LANDWEHR"]

Wikipedia has nice timeline at the end of its article about refigerator cars:
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Refrigerator_car

According to this timeline the last ice bunker cars were built in 1956, the first mechenical reefers with diesel-aggregates entered revenue service in 1957, and the last ice cooled reefers were retired in 1971.

I don't know how accurate Wikipedia is so you might check other sources.
Regards, Volker

 This Wikipedia article has 15 footnoted references and 8 other reference notations.  
Bob Bochenek

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