Brian Leppert wrote : I've spent too much time trying to research NP wood reefers and really wish someone else would do the job. The roster changed over time.
I live here in St. Paul, MN. Fifteen minute drive from the Minnesota Historical Society and tried over years to put a semblance of a form to the car roster. After a while, many decades, not all research time spent on researching reefer, but plenty, I came to the conclusion that:
1) Leasing affected the roster. I've dug into some accounting records, not exactly my idea of fruitful research as things just got murkier. (Leighton Hudson, fellow archivist here will say - It seems like they will roll in a car, then take a crane and lift the body off the trucks, lower a different car body on the trucks and stencil the body with the car number those trucks rolled in on. After spending some time in the accounting books I must admit, no other theory worked as well as that.)
2) Loading commodities affected the roster (From an NP Officer, Once having carried fish, reefers are then unfit for any other commodity. Fish service is where reefers go to die!) Was there a certain class selected to haul fish from the west? Not that I found, it seemed rather to be cars the west coast yardmasters chose on the spot. A west coast yardmaster at Centralia or Chehalis, WA ( I forget ) sent a relatively newer reefer to a fishery and got the above telegram from the NP officer at the St. Paul offices.
3) Changing suitability demands, in the time frame of these reefers, they could from time to time be placed in passenger trains, and often were - east of St. Paul.
A listing of car numbers of groups of reefers that were run from Northtown (Minneapolis) to St. Paul 4th Street yard (in the direct vicinity of St. Paul Union Depot) where as soon as they were re-iced they were taken to the next passenger train east headed east at SPUD. CB&Q, Milwaukee, C&NW, didn't matter (although CNW seemed to be favored) and headed east.
The tie-in is in the 30's after I cannot call what event wreck, roads east of Chicago required reefers have buffers of a certain quality when placed in a passenger train. (Not just steam lines which were already there, or signaling air lines, rather the whole buffer and in some cases, trucks be of a certain wheelbase.) Many NP reefers at the time lacked these heavy buffers and so the NP rebuilt some reefers, but not others. And this created sub-classes out of what was one class prior.
4) Bunk houses, really. In my studies on stations and depots on the NP, from time to time when sent to a remote area, an operator or agent with a family would/could demand housing. The local B&B forces would be asked to just grab "a reefer, in decent shape and suitable to be used as housing" and put in a few windows, a wall or two, and a stove. Then take it to the site requested. A later letter in the same study topic has a President (in the early 1940's I believe) ask his officers if "something can't be done about all these reefer car bodies used as housing along the ROW."
I was reminded of the above at the impromptu SWIFT reefer gathering at Chicagoland where some of the same concerns were listed. Jim Dick - St. Paul