Re: Mechanical reefers' origin

Tony Thompson

Rupert Gamlen wrote:
There was a discussion earlier this year (and in previous years) about the origins of mechanical reefers. I found a piece in the 1885 National Car Builder referring to the Palmer refrigerator car that had a mechanical refrigerating plant, similar to ammonia ice making machines, instead of ice. The compressors were belt driven from the axle. There was a similar piece in a 1888 Railway World, which stated the plant used chloride of ethyl instead of ammonia.
Rupert, there seems to have been a preoccupation among American inventors to devise a mechanical system of refrigeration. The patents and other forms of invention are endless. Most were never built, some had subsize equipment built as a demonstration, and a very few progressed to complete cars. They all shared two important characteristics: they were complicated (thus expensive to build and a challenge to maintain), and they were simply not durable. Workable mechanical reefers had to wait for the development of the cheap and dependable small diesel engine, during World War II. Anything before that was really a pipe dream.

Tony Thompson Editor, Signature Press, Berkeley, CA
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