Re: Ice Bunker Reefers: Preventing Mold & Mildew (Clearing Ice From Cars)


I'm probably never going to get a definitive answer to my original question about preventing mold and mildew, but I did have the information below about cleaning ice from refrigerator cars. I came across an article from the May 1954 issue of The Milwaukee Road Magazine (

which featured an article on refrigerator car cleaning. The text is reprinted below.


There were several photos accompanying the original article.


Bob Chaparro

Hemet, CA


Refrigerator Car Cleaning at Milwaukee


A NEW development in the thorough and speedy cleaning of refrigerator cars, the most modern facility of its kind to be found on any railroad, has been installed at the Milwaukee Road's Bluemound yard in Milwaukee. In service for more than two months, this car deicing and cleaning system has already shown a marked improvement in the availability and clean condition of refrigerator cars.


Few aspects of railroading are more dramatic, or more complex, than the providing of "reefer" service for the many perishable products requiring refrigeration, heat or ventilation in transit. In such cars the railroads transport during the month of May alone an average of almost two pounds of fresh fruits and vegetables for every American. This is in addition to the many other products which for various reasons must also be carried in refrigerator cars. Being a very important factor in this special traffic, it was only natural that The Milwaukee Road should playa pioneer role in seeking methods for further improving its refrigerator car service.


Basically, the need was for a fast method of clearing ice from the bunkers of the cars in the late fall and winter, when many shipments require the placement of heaters in the space at the ends of the cars which is normally filled with ice during warm weather. Working in crews on a kind of assembly-line basis, men operating the new facility clear away the ice with water heated to a temperature of 190 degrees F. The water is forced through long hoses under pressure and ejected through flattened nozzles. Meanwhile, the interior of the car is swept and also hosed out if ice has been used in the body, or if decayed vegetable matter has been left from the previous load. With hose connections at convenient intervals along the cleaning track, the crews move at a steady pace from car to car, virtually "scrubbing" them as they go.


The cleaning track, the most easterly of those in Bluemound yard, has a capacity of 67 cars. The expectation is that during the peak season, beginning about December, those 67 cars can be de-iced, completely swept and washed, if necessary, and pulled onto a storage track during the morning hours. Another group of 67 cars can probably be similarly worked during the afternoon for a total of more than 130 refrigerator cars daily.


Ralph D. Claborn, special assistant to operating vice president, laid the basic plans for the new system. Its operation comes under the jurisdiction of Roadmaster F. V. McLarnon, and under the immediate supervision of Foreman

A. S. Crivello. At the end of March a force of seven hosemen and three laborers were employed at the cleaning track.


A study made in 1952 revealed that a total of 32,863 cars were cleaned at various locations in Milwaukee, of which 15,391 were cleaned during the deicing months of January, February, March, April, November and December. Of these, 8,570 were "wet" cars, containing either bunker or body ice, or both. During the same period, 2,080 refrigerator cars were cleaned at outlying points on the Madison Division, and several hundred were cleaned on the LaCrosse & River Division and the Milwaukee Division. It is expected that virtually all of these cars can now be cleaned at the special facility in Milwaukee and made available throughout the area more quickly. It is also expected that the new system will practically eliminate damage to cars, especially to the floor racks.


Bluemound yard is strategically located for this operation, as it is near the several famous Milwaukee breweries served by The Milwaukee Road, principal users of refrigerator cars on a year-round basis. It is interesting to note, however, that beer is not ordinarily shipped under refrigeration, although extremely cold weather or the threat of it sometimes necessitates the use of heaters in the bunkers.


As a matter of fact, about one-half of the perishable traffic moving in refrigerator cars does not use refrigeration of any kind. Approximately one-third of such traffic moves under ventilation only, and another tenth requires heater service.


By mid-April the new facility had already set a record of 163 cars cleaned in one day. As the weather became warmer, of course, there was less need for removal of ice and the operation became one principally of cleaning the interiors of the cars. Whatever the type of cleaning involved, however, the crews operating the new facility have proved their ability to better serve shippers in the Milwaukee area by providing them with the clean refrigerator cars they need, when they need them.


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