were ACL stock cars used to transport vegetables?

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I think I heard somewhere that the ACL used Stock cars sometimes to transport salads and vegetables to keep them cool.

Is this true and was it a common thing?

Apart from the old watermelon cars, what else did the ACL use to transport vegetables and fruit in etc?



-- matt strickland (matthewjstrickland@yahoo.co.uk), February 08, 2005


Prior to refrigeration cars the "Atlantic Coast Despatch" was equipped with special fruit and vegetable cars built by the shops of the Wilmington and Weldon Road (1887). These may be the cars. Reference: "A HISTORY OF THE ATLANTIC COAST LINE RAILROAD" by Howard Douglas Dozier 1920. page 124 These were replaced by refrigeration cars secured from the California Fruit Growers Express (1903). Popularly known to the Strawberry raisers as the C.F.X.

-- Randall Bass (ribatgap2@aol.com), February 16, 2005.

I grew up on a farm/ranch in west central Florida, and we shipped some produce (citrus, watermelons, cantaloupes, tomatoes, beans squash, corn, and broccoli) by rail over the years, based on volume, and the location of the buyers.

We found that sometimes during the "rush" periods, we were assigned cattle cars to ship the watermelons and cantaloupes. With a lot of fresh straw, the cattle cars were OK for those uses.

For the other produce, we always had the reefer cars. The use of watermelon or cattle cars for the shipping of vegetables wasn't done by the ACL or SAL to my knowledge. Cattle cars were designed for wind drafts. Any type of serious or sustained wind drafts would seriously dry out the exterior areas of the produce so that it would be in serious trouble by the time that it arrived at its destination! Another problem with the usage of cattle or melon cars for the long distance shipment of tender produce was that the interior areas of the packed produce virtually received no cooling effect. In fact, the heat given off by the produce resulted in rapid "aging", so the produce had an extremely short shelf-life after it reached its destination.

So, with the combination of the exterior "drying out" effect, and the interior "slow cooking" effect, I would not have wanted to send any tender produce in cattle cars. Some form of sustained "slow draft" cooling effect was necessary, and the reefer cars did the job!

Our produce that was shipped via rail traveled on the ACL from sidings at Blanton or Trilby, Florida to the northern buyers' destinations. ACL always did a fantastic job, and provided very responsive service!

I guess what really impressed me about the ACL was that after we had finished loading a reefer car with our citrus or produce, we would call our ACL sales rep. and tell him about our loaded reefer cars, and that evening's northbound local passenger train would stop, back into the siding and couple up with our car(s), and haul them up the line to Jacksonville for icing and expedited shipment northward to our customers!

Customer service just wasn't some fancy Madison Avenue catch-phrase with the ACL or SAL, it was genuine, real-time, and responsive service!

Didn't mean to get so long-winded about this topic, but the question brought back some really nice memories!

Best wishes!

Aaron Dowling

-- Aaron Dowling (adowling@merandb.com), February 08, 2005.

I never heard of that, but it could have happened - if they used something to keep the cattle car "residue" off the produce. ACL and other southeastern RRs used the ventilated boxcars to transport produce that required only ventilation, like watermelons. Other types, like peaches and strawberries, went in refrigerator cars, which were tightly sealed and had ice bunkers.

-- Larry Goolsby (lgoolsby@aphsa.org), February 08, 2005.

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