Trains.com

Subscriber & Member Login

Login, or register today to interact in our online community, comment on articles, receive our newsletter, manage your account online and more!

Why do (North American) Refrigerator cars have steps under the doors?

12442 views
38 replies
1 rating 2 rating 3 rating 4 rating 5 rating
  • Member since
    July 2006
  • From: 4610 Metre's North of the Fortyninth on the left coast of Canada
  • 8,861 posts
Posted by BATMAN on Friday, September 27, 2013 4:45 PM

A couple of years back someone posted a link to a very old video of the rail yards in Chicago I believe. It followed inspectors and buyers going around the yard going in and out of these cars. It was quite interesting to watch. Maybe if that person is out there they could re-post the link.Movie

Brent

It's not the age honey, it's the mileage.

https://www.youtube.com/user/BATTRAIN1/videos 

You can never ever out-train poor nutrition.

  • Member since
    January 2010
  • From: Chi-Town
  • 7,670 posts
Posted by zstripe on Friday, September 27, 2013 2:21 PM

Chutton01,

You may find this interesting,to say the least:

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Refrigerator_car

Cheers,

Frank

  • Member since
    December 2001
  • 3,119 posts
Posted by chutton01 on Friday, September 27, 2013 10:19 AM

mlehman
Kyle and Frank are both right. Reefers tend to be regularly inspected en route for several reasons.


OK, I see a consensus forming that people need to access the reefer for inspection during it's journey, not just at the loading/unloading docks. I agree that door steps do facilitate such access.

Gov't inspectors are one reason

I can certainly image this in the glorious days of long strings of orange wood PFE ice-reefers crossing the nation, but have problems believing there would be a need for a lot of such inspection in the era of Mechanical Reefers (say 1960 and later), let alone the modern era Mech Reefers like the TrinCools which probably transmit their status wireless for remote monitoring.

Some loads are top-iced


Even nowadays in the 21st century? What's the need, Mech Reefers should  be able to pre-cool the entire load nicely? Is that a hold-over from the 1980s, when Mech Reefers seemed on their way to becoming a sad after thought, like livestock cars?

Temperature checks are an even more common task.


For whatever reason, I always thought Mech Reefers had external thermometers (I certainly recall them on the Athern R70-20 models), and you know the the Mech Reefers built (or rebuilt) since the 1990s must have temperature sensors and the like.  In other words, no reason for anyone to open the door.

Brokers and potential buyers both may need to inspect the load.


OK, this one hadn't occured to me, and makes the most sense of all reasons.

the steps became a AAR or some other requirement at a certain point in the past, which is why the steps are ubiquitous on reefers.


This one I can readily believe too.

Hmm, inspection for buyers and government agents,  yes.
Existing regulation from back in the day, yes.
Top icing? Hmm
Temperature checks, I'm skeptical...why waste time having a guy open the door when they could just look at the thermometer on the exterior, or better yet check sensor logs.

I more or less understood why ice-reefers (wooden and steel, no matter) would have such door steps.
I didn't really think about why the 1st gen Mech Reefers (say built before 1980) would have such door steps, except maybe that the ice-reefers had them and old work practices die hard.
I really didn't get why modern era Mech Reefers (post 1990, including rebuilds) would have such steps at all, but when you bring in customers...yes, that makes sense.

Thanks for the response, everyone..

Note I was really tempted to send an e-mail to TrinityRail to ask why their TrinCool Refrigerated Box Car (I gather the "Mechanical" part is implied nowadays, since ice is long gone and cyrogenics didn't quite pan out as well as hoped) has such door steps, but their contact form insist on valid phone numbers, which I wasn't really wanting to give out...

  • Member since
    September 2003
  • 10,580 posts
Posted by mlehman on Friday, September 27, 2013 9:31 AM

Kyle and Frank are both right. Reefers tend to be regularly inspected en route for several reasons. Gov't inspectors are one reason, but probably less so than others. Some loads are top-iced and the load needs to be seen to evaluate whether that needs renewed. Temperature checks are an even more common task. And many reefers are loaded at the packing plant and sent toward urban destinations with the contents unsold. Brokers and potential buyers both may need to inspect the load.

IIRC, the steps became a AAR or some other requirement at a certain point in the past, which is why the steps are ubiquitous on reefers.

Mike Lehman

Urbana, IL

  • Member since
    September 2013
  • 918 posts
Posted by Kyle on Wednesday, September 25, 2013 3:06 PM
My guess would be it was to allow people to inspect the contents, and make sure the reefer unit was working properly.
  • Member since
    January 2010
  • From: Chi-Town
  • 7,670 posts
Posted by zstripe on Wednesday, September 25, 2013 6:13 AM

My 2 Cents  USDA,,,Inspectors??

Cheers,

Frank

  • Member since
    November 2012
  • 613 posts
Posted by UPinCT on Tuesday, September 24, 2013 9:49 PM

chutton01
Why the disparity?

I'm with you C,  I have the newest Trinity Refers and they all have steps. Why is that?  Especially since my ARMN cars travel in units from the West coast to Rotterdam NY and are off loaded as a unit in a big warehouse by forklifts.  It seems like the cars are always at dock height and there would be no need for a step at the door.

  • Member since
    December 2001
  • 3,119 posts
Posted by chutton01 on Tuesday, September 24, 2013 8:28 AM

wjstix
Regular boxcar doors can be opened and closed from ground level. In order to be sure they're shut really tight, reefers had/have a latching mechanism partway up the car. Unless someone was unusually tall, I don't think they could reach it easily from the ground.


OK, thanks for the response.

I agree, that would certainly seem to be the case for the older wooden reefer styles, but as I mentioned post 1950s Mechanical Reefers seem to have been fitted with plug-doors from nearly the start , and they have door steps. However regular plug door boxcars, which seem to have similar types of latching mechanism, do not have such steps - and this is over a period of 50+ years I'm talking about.

Why the disparity?

  • Member since
    February 2002
  • From: Mpls/St.Paul
  • 13,192 posts
Posted by wjstix on Tuesday, September 24, 2013 7:36 AM

Regular boxcar doors can be opened and closed from ground level. In order to be sure they're shut really tight, reefers had/have a latching mechanism partway up the car. Unless someone was unusually tall, I don't think they could reach it easily from the ground.

 

Stix
  • Member since
    December 2001
  • 3,119 posts
Why do (North American) Refrigerator cars have steps under the doors?
Posted by chutton01 on Monday, September 23, 2013 8:59 PM

Or maybe the better question is "why don't regular boxcars have such steps?"

Going from the 36ft wooden reefer of post WWI (and maybe earlier), up to the latest 21st century reefers from Trinity, it looks like some sort of stirrup step is located below the door on either side - some are/were simple "U" shapes, some were more involved like the inverted trapezoids with additional horizontal rung ala the old-school PFE R70-20 reefer; in any case, there is a step.

But as "house cars" (does anyone even use that term anymore?) go, why did/do reefers have them, and boxcars normally didn't? If you're going to say "in case the reefers are unloaded at a site with no high-level loading dock", aren't boxcars just as likely, if not more so, to be spotted at ground level team tracks/transfer yards for unloading?

I was thinking maybe the "complexity" of the plug doors (vs sliding door) needed a step for the crew to open the doors when unloading at ground level, but images of prototype plugdoor boxcars do not show any such steps - except for several 40ft boxcars with grain loading doors from the 1950s/1960s. Other than that, nothing really...

Subscriber & Member Login

Login, or register today to interact in our online community, comment on articles, receive our newsletter, manage your account online and more!

Users Online

There are no community member online

Search the Community

ADVERTISEMENT
ADVERTISEMENT
ADVERTISEMENT
Model Railroader Newsletter See all
Sign up for our FREE e-newsletter and get model railroad news in your inbox!