Re: West India Fruit US bound lading

gary laakso

Great build of a very distinctive car.


Gary Laakso


From: <> On Behalf Of Paul Doggett via
Sent: Tuesday, February 21, 2023 9:08 AM
Subject: Re: [RealSTMFC] West India Fruit US bound lading


Here’s my Speedwitch models WIF car ex Erie RR 


Paul Doggett.       England 🏴󠁧󠁢󠁥󠁮󠁧󠁿 

On 21 Feb 2023, at 16:35, Bob Chaparro via <chiefbobbb@...> wrote:

First, a little about the company. Its forerunner, Seatrain Lines (the operating name for the Over-Seas Shipping Company) began intermodal container shipping by using entire loaded rail cars between ports in the United States and Havana, Cuba, with the first shipment in December 1928 aboard a specially designed ship, Seatrain. This original ship, later renamed Seatrain New Orleans, was capable of carrying 95 fully loaded rail cars.

The company built two larger specialized ships in 1932, Seatrain New York and Seatrain Havana with greater rail car capacity. In 1939 two more ships were under construction at Sun Shipbuilding and Dry Dock Company, Chester, Pennsylvania, Seatrain Texas and Seatrain New Jersey.

The original 1928 shipment aboard Seatrain caused a labor issue that foretold similar issues later with container ships when Cuban stevedores demanded that they not only unload the rail cars from the ship but unload and repack the rail car contents before turning the cars over to Cuban railways.

In 1951 Seatrain Lines returned to Sun Shipbuilding for two additional railcar carriers, the Seatrain Georgia and Seatrain Louisiana. That year Seatrain also ceased operations to and from Cuba, and renamed its ship Seatrain Havana to Seatrain Savannah to reflect the suspension of service. In 1953 Seatrain sold its operating authority to trade between the US and Cuba to the West India Fruit and Steamship Company, along with its first ship, the Seatrain New Orleans, which was renamed Sea Level.

The West India Fruit & Steamship Company operated a railcar ferry service between the Port of Palm Beach, Florida, and Havana, Cuba, from 1946 until worsening relations with the Castro government resulted in a trade embargo by the United States in 1960. I model 1956 so no problem. The company had boxcars and refrigerator cars in its fleet.

Upon further research I discovered that the company also ferried freight cars to New Orleans. By the middle 1950s, up to eighty railroad cars each way per day were being transferred between the United States and Cuba. Inbound freight to the U.S. included tobacco, refined sugar, pineapples, rum, tomatoes, slaughterhouse byproducts, and scrap metal. Cuban bound freight included less-than-carload merchandise, manufactured goods, chemicals, lard, railway equipment, temperate zone fruit such as apples, pears, and grapes, meat, dairy, steel products, and machinery.

These cars traveled all over. Here are photos of boxcars WIF 321 and WIF 106 in Vancouver, British Columbia:

And more research determined their freight cars did indeed travel to Oakland and Southern California. I even found a photograph of one of their cars in Los Angeles at a Southern Pacific yard:

The boxcar (WIF 233) is just behind the two tank cars. Also notice the Canadian Pacific eight-hatch meat reefer (CP 283285) to the right.

Yet another car, this time in Philadelphia:

Another car was seen in Sudbury, ON, according to Pierre Oliver. His Elgin Car Shops model:

Bob Chaparro

Hemet, CA

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