Re: Tropicana in the 1950s

Bill Welch

I think the need is obvious Don. Since the concentrate was FROZEN, it would thaw w/o refrigeration.

To clarify about the Thermo-King units, their primary application was to truck trailers. FGE built 11 40-foot Thermo-King cars to evaluate. While they were effective at maintaining low temperatures, the power plants were fueled by gasoline meaning that they could only run on the FGE/WFE/BRE System including their contracted lines, as the RR's outside the system would not accept them for interchange because of the fuel  they used. They also built 40-foot cars with Frigidaire systems that ran on diesel fuel and these cars could go anywhere. The Frigidaire systems became the FGE/WFE/BRE System's standard cooling units although they did experiment with other systems. Thermo-King did eventually find or develop a diesel power unit.

Stepping back in history a few years, FGE built 10 50-ft steel overhead bunker cars with ten roof hatches in 1940 cooled by a brine solution as their initial response to transporting frozen commodities. Then beginning in 1944 they began to build eventually 200 50-foot plywood sheathed OHB cars giving them a total of 210 OHB cars by 1946. These cars had a massive fish belly center sill and their door hardware and safety appliances on the sides was recessed into the car's side to meet clearance specs. These cars are unlikely to be confused with anything else on the rails. The last 75 plywood cars had a different more rectangular hatch cover that was hinged near the running board. While effective, they took much longer to ice and re-ice and required more care so as not to damage the bottom of the bunkers—no sharp tools. By 1949 FGE had two 40-foot Mechs in service trials and within months of these successful trials began build more 40-footers, the aforementioned Thermo-King and Frigidaire cars followed in 1950 with trials of 50-foot Mechs. However, in 1950 the FGE Indiana Harbor shops turned out 100 new steel sheathed OHB cars for FGE and 50 copies for WFE, their first and only of the type. These cars used the same roof configuration as the last 75 plywood cars. Although I have not found any correspondence about the rationale for building these cars, my guess is that they were hedging their bets as the Mechanical Systems were still in their early development. I have photos of both the plywood and steel versions in revenue service well into the late 1960's. When re-sheathed the plywood was replace with T&G.

Bill Welch

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