Ventilated Box Cars (Processing Produce)


If you are talking about the very early years of national produce shipments, things were somewhat different. In Southern California (mainly pre-1910), the citrus crop was sorted and packed in the field or brought to the open platforms of the depots to be sorted and packed. This changed with the large scale introduction of dedicated packing houses, of course.


No outside authority inspected the fruit in those early days. However, the retailers and wholesalers in the east, especially New York, were angry with the California growers for their successful lobbying for increased tariffs on imported lemons and (later) oranges. So, the local health departments inspected fruit arriving from California and, not surprisingly, tended to condemn more California fruit than fruit from southern Europe.


Bob Chaparro

Hemet, CA


The Citrus Industry Modeling Group

George Eichelberger

The packing and loading methods changed over the years, by region and by crop. Watermelons did not need much more than a “watermelon” (ventilated) box car and layers of straw. Putting them in rail cars as close to the fields as possible made sense as no other processing was required. The following link is a photo of Southern “vent” 27941 (SRHA Archives, Ben Roberts collection) being loaded in 1912 directly from a mule powered farm wagon.

The idea of loading watermelons (a huge crop in Florida and the South) in the field did not go away. Semi trucks were and still are parked and loaded in the fields.