Loading Oranges

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.

Loading Oranges in a Reefer

3 thoughts on “Loading Oranges

  1. “When Jack Delano’s AT&SF freight train reached California…” Jack, was he traveling as an unauthorized passenger on the train, or just following this one?

    • Matt, Jack Delano was employed by the Farm Services Administration as part of their photography program prior to, and during WWII. As such he spent time traveling the country, taking photographs of quite a few subjects which, in addition to the railroads, included things like agriculture, manufacturing and the military. Indeed, the thousands of photographs he made of the railroads were just a drop in the bucket compared to his entire portfolio!

      Considering the amount of time he spent with various railroads (and the number of photos he took), in addition to his access to areas that “civilians” would not generally have, I would assume his train travels were authorized trips. It would surprise me if he were able to cross the country as a “stowaway” on the freights he rode.

      But, this is simply my presumption.


  2. A friend in Mustang OK, bought a portable inside Reefer unit heater at a Train Show in Texas a few yrs. ago. Pretty cool item that had to be strapped into the car.
    later Gator,
    Boudreaux, B.C.E. R.R.

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