Re: ICRR banana trains

Andy Sperandeo <asperandeo@...>

Here's more on the IC banana trains, from Terry McMahon's "Banana Traffic on
the Illinois Central Railroad" in the "Green Diamond."

* The rush was to get the bananas to the consumer in the preferred state of
ripeness, not too green and not too brown. The ripening process could be
slowed by controlling the temperature, but it couldn't be stopped without
damaging the value of the fruit.

* The schedule was 36-40 hours from New Orleans to Chicago, starting as soon
as the ship was completely unloaded. Cars were checked and re-iced (or
heated, if necessary), at Fulton, Ky., and the trains were due there 24
hours after the ship was unloaded.

* Trains were 80-100 cars depending on the size of the ship. All cars left
New Orleans billed to Fulton, and fruit company sales reps attempted to sell
and reconsign each carload before the train reached Fulton, where cars could
be diverted to St. Louis or Louisville. However, cars could still be
reconsigned north of Fulton.

* "Protective service" was provided to maintain the fruit in the cars at a
temperature of 52 to 58 degrees, with varying amounts of ice in the bunkers
or charcoal heaters in winter months. (The temperature of the fruit was
checked at Fulton, not just the temperature inside the car.) Ideally the
fruit reached the distributors before it was ready to sell, and the
distributors stored it in temperature-controlled ripening rooms to bring it
to the desired degree of ripeness.

* The major banana shippers through the Port of New Orleans were Standard
Fruit & Steamship Co., now Dole, and United Fruit Co., now Chiquita. When
United moved its operation to Gulfport, Miss., in 1967, banana traffic
through New Orleans dropped off sharply and continued to decline as far as
rail shipment was concerned.

Happy holidays,


Andy Sperandeo
Executive Editor
262-796-8776, ext. 461
Fax 262-796-1142

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