Re: Tri-Sorb snubbers on reefers

Douglas Harding

Paul, the cars in the article were Hormel Meat reefers. In the 30s, Hormel had one plant at Austin MN, served by the MILW and the CGW. That would account for the large number of miles on those two roads. Most of the other roads on the list are eastern roads, many with connections in Chicago. In the 30’s meat was slaughtered in the mid-west and consumed in the east. So Hormel cars were moved east via Chicago then passed on to eastern roads via Indiana Harbor Belt.  NKP, NYC, ERIE  were all known for moving meat, fast. I am surprised by the number of miles of the PPR as it was a road avoided by most meat packers until final destination. It appears the NP was Hormel’s choice for moving meat west. And the Southern and C&O were used for moving meat to the SE.


Meat reefers were in leased captive service, and returned quickly. Cars leased to Hormel would all be returned to Austin. It’s possible they went through North American’s repair facility on their return, but they did not sit idle. Figure one day for cleaning inspection. If done on site, then icing and loading could also occur that same day, or the next day as the cars had to cool down after cleaning. Cooling took about 4 hours. Once loaded meat reefers were switched and moved. Typical departure from Austin late afternoon or early evening with arrival at IHB Chicago at 1:30pm the next day, switched reiced and interchanged with eastern road by evening. Overnight to icing station in Ohio or further east, then on to New York City, Boston or Philadelphia markets. Unloading the 4th  or  5th morning after being loaded. Then begins the return trips, no need to stop for icing, but perhaps a stop at North American for inspection and repairs. A 10 or 12 day turn around is not out of the question. But a load every 20 days was typical for meat reefers.


Yes the cars could sit idle somewhere. But meat packers did not want those cars sitting idle, so they had agents across the country who keep those cars moving. It was best to see your leased reefer sitting at your own storage yard next to your plant.


Doug  Harding


From: [] On Behalf Of Paul Woods
Sent: Tuesday, November 12, 2019 4:28 AM
Subject: Re: [RealSTMFC] Tri-Sorb snubbers on reefers



Thanks for posting this, it is a great find.  It is interesting that the top three railroads conveyed the cars for half of their total mileage, but what I found most informative was the large number of roads that only accounted for a small mileage, meaning that the cars probably visited/passed through many of them only once in the 13 months that they were being monitored.  Anyone with more freight cars on their layout than they know what to do with should rejoice, because it would seem that some cars should only be seen once a year....they could be considered to be the model railroad equivalent of Haley's Comet!

The figures got me thinking....nine round trips in three months is a cycle time of ten days, give or take - I can't decide if the text is saying nine round trips per car or combined total for both cars so I'm assuming shortest turnaround time in this instance.  I'm guessing that the cars would be moved quite rapidly once loaded, only taking two or three days to reach destination and be unloaded, so how was the remaining time taken up?  They would have to be cleaned, sure, but what I am most curious about is how much time such cars would spend just parked in a spur waiting for the next call to action?  It could add some extra operational interest, sending a switcher out to store or retrieve empty cars all over a layout.  What happened to private-owner cars; were they always stenciled with a 'when empty return to....' or could they be left hanging around the destination road's tracks until next called upon?

I know foreign-road cars would be returned as soon as possible, but certainly home road cars might need to be stored for a while, and even foreign cars might have to be stored for a day or two until the next local could pick them up.  If it's the depths of winter and your sorting yard is jammed up with coal hoppers then might an empty reefer get shoved down a spur out of the way for a day?  Am I forgetting some important car handling rule or is this a situation that arose now and then?


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