My Favorite Named Train: #97 "The Florida Perishable

Bill Welch

Anytime Challengers are involved it is a good thing, so maybe that is why the Clinch field’s Train #97 “The Florida Perishable” is my favorite named train. As the schedule shows #97 was assembled on the Charleston & Western Carolina in Augusta, Ga. consisting of refrigerator cars—and depending on the season possibly Ventilated boxcars—originating on the ACL, FEC and SAL, Fruit Growers Express territory of course. Even before and after wartime operating rules, Fruit Growers was notorious for appropriating reefers from other companies so while #97 would have consisted of largely of FGE, WFE, and BRE cars, there likely would have been one or two PFE, SFRD, MDT and ART and other reporting marks mixed in at any time.

From Augusta the C&WC took #97 to Spartanburg, S.C. where the Clinchfield would couple one its Challengers to the train (in later years EMD F-5’s would handle the train). By this time, depending on the growing season, perishable commodities harvested in South Carolina and Georgia would be in the consist and no doubt in the next 12 hours as it proceeded north through North Carolina, Tennessee and into Elkhorn City, Ky. it would be loading seasonal produce from those states.

The C.C.&O. owned three classes of 4-6-6-4 types. E-1 and E-3 were based on Delaware & Hudson designs while the E-2 were secondhand D&RGW locomotives built under the War Production Board to a Union Pacific design. The Rio Grande did not like them and as soon as they could put them up for sale. The Clinchfield snapped them up and promptly shopped them to redraft them with a single stack. More slippery than the E-1 and E-3 classes, the E-2’s nevertheless worked their share of #97 assignments.

As the schedule shows the C&WC and Clinchfield were but a modest part of #97’s transit that would take it over several other lines as the consist began to break up enroute to numerous cities including Toronto.

Bill Welch

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