We see thousands of photographs of trains in just about every conceivable location and time. But we don’t often get a glimpse into what’s in those trains. When Jack Delano’s AT&SF freight train reached California, he ventured out to see some of the industry there that was using the railroad to ship their commodity.
He came across the California Fruit Growers Exchange, a co-op orange packing plant in Redlands, California. Here he documented this worker loading oranges into a reefer (a refrigerated rail car). These reefers were usually assembled into a large block of cars, and were shipped on an expedited schedule to the markets in all points East.
This is March of 1943, and while some early experiments were being conducted with mechanical refrigeration, most cars were still cooled by ice loaded into bunkers in the ends of the car. One can make out the ventilation grilles above the stacks of orange crates, the bunkers already filled with ice chunks. These iced reefers would still see service well into the late 1950s.