Traffic To Soft Drink Plants


In the steam ear, what kind of commodities in what kind of cars would have been delivered to soft drink production and bottling plants?


I’ve found some evidence that concentrates were delivered to smaller bottling plants by boxcar but both the larger production plants and the bottling plants must have had other traffic.




Bob Chaparro

Hemet, CA

Douglas Harding

Bob the #1 ingredient would be sugar, originally granular sugar in boxcars. In later years granular sugar in covered hoppers (though it would be late in the steam era) and/or corn syrup in tank cars. In far lesser amounts you would have fruit juice or sugar substitutes (in the case of diet drinks). Soft drinks may also contain caffeine, colorings, preservatives and other ingredients. Most likely shipped in boxcars in barrels or containers, but tank cars for some ingredients that come in a liquid form. The carbonation comes from adding carbon dioxide to the water, which I believe is shipped in tank cars, or in CO2 cylinders that may be shipped in boxcars. Water of course was almost always a local commodity.


Once you have ingredients you must put them in something: ie bottles, cans, or pressure tanks for fountain drinks. Then there are containers for the bottles or cans, early were wood, later cardboard, labels, bottle caps. All of these items would come in boxcars.


Doug Harding


Tim O'Connor


I don't know how bottling plants got carbon dioxide in the old days,
but the bottling plants around here get tank cars of liquid sugar (mostly
corn syrup) and liquified CO2. Coke was (is?) manufactured as a sweet syrup
and shipped to local bottlers and restaurants. My guess is that in the old
days the syrup was in barrels loaded into box cars. I'd sure like to know
how where they got the CO2. :-)

When I was a kid Coke always came in returnable bottles in wooden packs
that held 24 bottles. So my guess is that you'd only need enough new bottles
at the plant to replace broken and lost bottles.

Soft drinks were mostly a post-auto era phenom, so a lot of bottlers never
had rail connections.

Tim O'