Re: Heated Box Car?

Cyril Durrenberger

The Moore patent refrigerator cars had a heater installed under the car.  An example is the model of the vegetable car offered by LaBelle.  The ice bunkers were in the center of the car.  This type of car was used by many upper mid west railroads for a number of years.  The D&IR converted a number of refrigerator cars to this design in the teens, but then converted them into another design in the 1937's and 1940's.  Of course, all of this happened before the main period of interest for most of the members on this list.

Cyril Durrenberger

--- On Wed, 3/30/11, gn3397 <> wrote:

From: gn3397 <>
Subject: [STMFC] Re: Heated Box Car?
Date: Wednesday, March 30, 2011, 8:55 AM


--- In, "Andy Harman" <gsgondola@...> wrote:

Ok, this question does have to do with late 1950s freight cars and a little bit to do
with beer, so hopefully it's a legit question.
My uncle was in the USAF in the 1950s, stationed in Canada someplace. Not sure where
but it was cold. He said the only American beer they could get was Carling Black Label,
which had to be shipped in a "heated box car" to keep it from freezing, and apparently
this only happened every so often - hence his hangover story from drinking 19 bottles of
Molson's ale. The implication being he would have been just fine after 19 Carlings.
Anyway, I have never heard any reference to a "heated box car" before or since, and I'm
wondering what exactly he was referring to? It makes sense that in some places you'd
want to keep the manifest from freezing. But I don't think simply having an insulated
box car would have prevented beer from freezing at the sub-zero (F) temperatures of
winter north of the 48th. I've been there, and no American beer would have stood a
So - is/was there ever any such thing as a heated box car? This thought just popped
into my head between the beer thread, and thinking about reefers both ice and
mechanical, I don't think the mechanicals were heat pumps nor would they have done much
good at 17 below.


It was common for ice bunker refrigerator cars to have charcoal, and perhaps alcohol, heaters lowered into the bunkers to prevent loads from freezing. The example I am most familiar with is GN (Western Fruit Express) using them to keep loads of potatoes from freezing during winter transport. Many of the Canadian built reefers had permanently installed heaters on the underframes, but most US reefer operators couldn't justify the cost/weight penalty. I suppose that some insulated box cars could have temporary heaters placed on the floor as well, but an advantage to having them in the bunker is it helped avoid tipping of the heater, reducing (but not eliminating, of course) the risk of fire. Perhaps this is the heated box car your uncle was referring to?

Having grown up in North Dakota, and being no stranger to subzero temperatures myself, I agree that a heater placed in a standard uninsulated boxcar would have little chance of raising the inside temperature above freezing.


Robert D. Heninger

Iowa City, IA

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