Reefers in plaster service

Randy Hees

I made an unexpected research find today.   I have been researching Arden Plaster Company, located in the south end of the Las Vegas Valley.  They operated from 1907 to about 1930.  I was drawn to them because they operated a 3’ gauge haul railroad (using at least 5 locomotives over the life of the company)  to bring the gypsum from the mines to the plant.

Today at the Nevada State Museum, Las Vegas, I was looking at what was thought to be Arden Plaster records, but turned out to be LA&SL (Union Pacific) Arden Station records including daily cash reports, records of shipments with car numbers.  The largest customer by far was the plaster factory.  The surprise was that most of the plaster which was mostly shipped to Southern California was shipped in PFE refrigerator cars.  The shipments headed east were in box cars, either LA&SL or eastern owned.  A photograph of the plant shows only refrigerator cars on the loading track.  I can only assume that plaster is considered a clean cargo, and that using them such service between LA and Las Vegas was keeping them close to the shipping points in Southern California, but keeping them in active revenue service.  We noted that in Oct the reefers disappeared and boxcars were used instead.  On at least one occasion a Santa Fe refrigerator showed up in this service.

Other shipments noted were regular shipments in of fuel oil, both for the narrow gauge locomotives, but also for the plaster factory, as well as food and other supplies for the company store. 

The next largest shipper was the Potosi Zinc and Lead Company, owned by the Mahoney Brothers… They shipped a car or two at a time… but received some interesting loads including a steam tractor.  The Mahoney Brothers are believed to be road contractors from San Francisco, who built street railroads and as a result are credited with construction of at least two orders of cable cars and possible one order of electric street cars, which were supplied under construction contracts, but were likely sub-contracted to others.

Randy Hees

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