Re: [Non-DoD Source] Re: [RealSTMFC] Meat reefers

Gatwood, Elden J SAD



I have been exploring the Whitehall (or White Hall) Branch, since I was a boy when my Mom was playing Symphony gigs and took me along with her to the South Side.  I still host tours every so often when I go to Pgh.


There was an unbelievable amount of freight car variety on the branch, and industry variety being served by same.  Due to the tight radii of the trackage, it was generally  served by a small group of SW-1’s, but they managed to get 65’ gons down there to serve a steel fabricator.  Box cars, reefers, hoppers, flats, and lotsa gons.


In your timeframe, there was a great beer maker on 21st Street: Moerlein’s, who later moved on to Ohio.  They had this fabulous building, later a plumbing supply company.  Their spur went right into the building.


The only freight car type I never saw down there were tank cars, but I’ll bet I just missed them.  There were several iron and steel works down there that would’ve received them.


I know several people that have attempted to model this area, but no one has pulled it off.  Here are a small sample of photos…


Check out the variety of cars in the last photo of 30th Street Yard next to the Jones & Laughlin open hearth complex in 1953.  At 21st Street Yard, note the URR gon lurking, and the Southern Automobile/Furniture car.  I think it is carrying furniture to the Gimbel’s warehouse in back.


Elden Gatwood


From: <> On Behalf Of Eric Hansmann
Sent: Wednesday, April 8, 2020 3:31 PM
Subject: Re: [Non-DoD Source] Re: [RealSTMFC] Meat reefers


Those are great shots, Eldon.


Here’s a link to a 1923 GM Hopkins plat map that shows the buildings Eldon mentions. There seems to be a Morris & Co. operation across 21st Street from the Armour building.



I was unaware the PRR Whitehall branch went down 21st Street. That has lots of layout potential, especially for a pre-1930s era.


BTW, if you zoom out to view more of that map, I cannot guarantee you will accomplish anything else today. Stay hydrated while you explore an earlier Pittsburgh.


Or, maybe “Have a Duke!” since the brewery was on the Whitehall branch.



Eric Hansmann

Murfreesboro, TN





From: <> On Behalf Of Gatwood, Elden J SAD
Sent: Wednesday, April 8, 2020 12:06 PM
Subject: Re: [Non-DoD Source] Re: [RealSTMFC] Meat reefers


Eric and all;


The attached are from my historical research files I have worked a long time on, on the Mon Valley in and upstream of Pittsburgh.  These are from the South Side across the Mon from downtown Pittsburgh.  The first 3 are the track side of the combined retail store and wholesale Armour Meats operation.  You can still see:  the Supervisor’s cupola, office and residence, the unloading dock (although the unloading rail is missing), and retail store side.  This was served by a facing switch in the middle of 21st Street on which I was standing.


The last shot is the similar Swift Meats operation, right across East Carson Street.  By this time, the small triangular unloading dock had been demolished, although you can see the doorway.  This was served by a facing switch in the middle of 21st Street. 


Cars for both originated out of 30th Street Yard in the upper South Side, dropped off by transfers from other local Pgh yards.  As Eric said, they were priority switching jobs.


Old timers told me about the switching of both plants, which tied up traffic to the annoyance of locals.  Many recalled the colorful reefers hosted at each, and how often it occurred.


There were similar but smaller ops upstream at Brownsville, also, and at Fairmont,  IIRC on the Monongahela Railway.


When shown photos of Armour and Swift reefers, folks’ faces would light up, and they’d go, “Yeah, just like that!”.


I don’t think many realize how prevalent this was in many locales.


Elden Gatwood


From: <> On Behalf Of Eric Hansmann
Sent: Wednesday, April 8, 2020 12:15 PM
Subject: Re: [Non-DoD Source] Re: [RealSTMFC] Meat reefers


Attached is part of a Sanborn Fire Insurance map of Fairmont, W. Va. There’s an Armour branch house in the building complex on the left side. This was located on the 1.25 mile Fairmont Belt Line branch of the B&O. The B&O main can be seen in the lower right corner and the connection was just to the right off the map. Fairmont had a population around 20,000 people when this 1927 Sanborn map was created.


Based upon tales of former B&O yard workers, service for the Armour customer was a high priority. When a meat reefer arrived in Fairmont for this branch house, it was immediately switched to the spur.



Eric Hansmann

Murfreesboro, TN




From: <> On Behalf Of Gatwood, Elden J SAD
Sent: Wednesday, April 8, 2020 10:27 AM
Subject: Re: [Non-DoD Source] Re: [RealSTMFC] Meat reefers




It was amazing to me when doing research on my area how many community meat wholesale operations there were, literally all over the place.  In my area, mostly Armour and Swift, but also others.  They were where the reefers arrived with sides of beef, etc., and where they processed the large pieces into smaller cuts for trucking to local butchers.  Look into this, and you may be astonished at what you find.  I was!


Elden Gatwood


From: <> On Behalf Of Richard Townsend via
Sent: Tuesday, April 7, 2020 9:30 PM
Subject: [Non-DoD Source] Re: [RealSTMFC] Meat reefers


Not necessarily lost or misdirected. Swift, for example, had hundreds of routes that it sent individual meat reefers up, as often as daily. They would go to a central distribution warehouse for larger towns, and might make stops at individual depots or team tracks for smaller towns, where grocers or butchers would pick up their orders. One car might serve an entire branch that way. 


So, see? You now have dispensation to run meat reefers regularly on your Kansas branch line, prototypically.

Richard Townsend

Lincoln City, OR


-----Original Message-----
From: Bill Keene via <
To: <>
Sent: Tue, Apr 7, 2020 2:56 pm
Subject: Re: [RealSTMFC] Meat reefers

The gift shop of the Kansas City Railroad Museum was housed in a Wilson meat reefer. It was my weekend “home” for several years. This part of my life has given me a fondness for meat reefers. 


Unfortunately, I model a little known Santa Fe branch line that once operated in east central Kansas. Meat reefers on this 50 miles of track would have been a rare event. Most likely if one were to arrive on the line it most surely was a very lost or somehow mis-directed car. 



Bill Keene

Irvine, CA




On Apr 7, 2020, at 2:40 PM, Brian Carlson via <prrk41361@...> wrote:


That’s the beauty of modeling part of the Erie Main through Pennsylvania. I can get most of them <grin>. 

Brian J. Carlson 


On Apr 7, 2020, at 5:13 PM, Ted Schnepf <railsunl@...> wrote:


Always nice to see fine reefer models.

In the early 1950's before the meat packers expanded, by consolidating facilities. the only place to see some of these reefers together on one train was east of Chicago. NKP did have the line east out of Chicago. Dubuqe, Oscar Meyer, and Hormel. were one plant companies. Hygrade in the early 1950's had only one or two plants. Swift, Armour, and Wilson had multiple locations.

My point is that not all meat reefers would be regularly seen, on the same train, except east of Chicago. When picking reefers to model, be aware of the plant locations and likely routing over your railroad.

Ted Schnepf

On Tuesday, April 7, 2020, 06:54:16 AM CDT, Eric Hansmann <eric@...> wrote:



Frank Hodina shares photos and details on a few meat reefers in the latest Resin Car Works blog post. 



Eric Hansmann
RCW web guy

Be safe. Stay healthy. Build models!


Join to automatically receive all group messages.