Santa Fe and the Citrus Industry

This page presents information gathered from many sources about Santa Fe and the citrus industry, primarily in California.  Society member Bob Chaparro hosts the Railroad Citrus Industry Modeling Group and much of the information presented here has been developed by Society and RCIMG members.  Many thanks to them for sharing.

We have organized the information into categories:  PROTOTYPE INFORMATION:  Historical Photos and Video; Company Documents; Historical Documents; Discussion; MODELING INFORMATION:  Model Photos; and Modeling Tips.  Because this information is developed from other sources, the Society is providing links rather than republishing them here.  If a link is broken or bad, please let us know so we can fix or remove it.

Individuals interested in joining the Railroad Citrus Industry Modeling Group can click here.  You will need to join to join the group.

Prototype Information

Historical Photos and Video

Los Angeles Central Manufacturing District citrus operations – Bob Chaparro.  This link takes you to Bob’s discussion of the Central Manufacturing District operations and includes links to photos of both sides of the building, including some Santa Fe refrigerator cars.  Caption: A train of the L.A. Junction Railway Co. is stopped in front of the warehouse of the Great Atlantic and Pacific Tea Co., importers of tea. Photo dated: January 7, 1932.  This is a Los Angeles Public Library Photo found by Bob Chaparro.

Rr-34 photo.  From Bob Chaparro.  Notice inside stenciling.

Rr-39 photo.  From Bob Chaparro. Good, clear reefer photo. Foreground reefer is SFRD 8002, a Class Rr-39 reefer. This is one of 170 cars rebuilt circa 1945-46 from Class Rr-2, -3 and -4 reefers showing its later form with plug doors and reversed ice hatches.

Santa Fe citrus in Chicago.  Bob Chaparro sent this note:  Another photo link from the Lake States Railway Historical Association shows a number of Santa Fe reefers and boxcars at South Water Street Yard in Chicago in 1922:  The two reefers in the lower right-hand corner appear to have different ventilator hoods. The car on the left has Bohn ventilator hoods (Seen on Class Rr-Q and -R reefers) and the car on the right has Santa Fe type (No. 2?) ventilator hoods, seen on Classes Rr-S, -T and -U.

Santa Fe Refrigerator Video.  From Bob Chaparro: This is a thirty-three minute film covering the various Santa Fe freight service departments. The full title states that it is a 1950s film but based on some of the images the film has some scenes shot no earlier than 1959.  The film quality is only fair but the coverage is quite good.  There also is good coverage of the Refrigerator Department between 7:35 and 13:20, including the Mahoney Transfer Facility for merchandise service using ice bunker refrigerator cars.

Company Documents

Bob Chaparro shared the following list that the late Richard Hendrickson had developed of ATSF stations that reweighed cars:

The Members Area has the following documents of interest:

Circular 2-J, SFRD, Handling of Perishable Freight, December 1941, which was provided by member Steve Sandifer.  This link takes you to the Members Area.

Drawings of San Bernadino icing platform.  Link from Bob Chaparro to Kansas State Historical Society;

Historical Documents

California Fruit Grower magazine (Dec. 7, 1907).  Thanks to Bob Chaparro.

Relations of the Refrigerator Car Lines to the Marketing and Care While in Transit of California Fruit Crops

Services Performed by the Santa Fe Refrigerator Despatch Company

How It Was Accomplished

In our annual article in the California Fruit Grower a year ago we set forth to some extent the organization of The Santa Fe Refrigerator Despatch Company, the growth of the California fruit industry and in turn the increase in our facilities to meet the growing demand. We are just closing a season’s business of somewhat larger proportions than that of last year, in the handling of which contingencies were encountered more difficult to handle. It is doubtful if very many shippers and growers have given very much consideration as to how the service is accomplished so long as it conforms approximately to some generally fixed or accepted basis. There is probably no other block of business of like proportions and similar character to be moved over so long a journey and given so wide a distribution in this or any other country. This business is moved with marvelous regularity, and the distribution is made to every market in the United States and Canada which will use a carload of fruit with practically no failure and no delays which are chargeable to the refrigerator car line in the performance of its part of the work.

While the handling of perishable freight is attended with more detail work than any other class of carload traffic, this large volume of business is handled and placed on the market almost without friction with shippers as far as the physical part of the work is concerned. Since the organization of the Santa Fe Refrigerator Despatch Company, the improvement in equipment and in methods of handling the business has steadily gone on for which the California fruit industry is indebted to it in no small degree. Notwithstanding the fact that all transportation and refrigerator car line facilities have during the past season been taxed to the utmost limit to meet the demands of the trade in all classes of traffic, The Santa Fe Refrigerator Despatch Company has successfully met the demands made upon it as to car supply, so that the crops have been disposed of with a minimum of loss. The markets have been amply supplied at all times and with such regularity that best prices have been obtained.

This has required the most careful and constant attention involving an endless amount of detail work which has been accomplished under greater difficulty than has characterized the movement of any previous large crop since the California business has attained any considerable magnitude. In order to handle this large block of traffic a very large equipment of refrigerator cars, specially constructed for fruit carrying service as well as to fill requirements of the long journey and hard service, has been provided. This equipment is very much more expensive in proportion to its carrying capacity than any other class of freight car. It is provided in more liberal quantity than is at present supplied for any other class of business, and the demand for cars is met with a regularity that does not characterize any other traffic in any part of the United States.

The growers and shippers certainly have good reason to congratulate themselves that their work has been so well done and successfully accomplished.

Movement of the Citrus Fruit Crop

On account of the large volume of the citrus fruit crop which must be moved in a comparatively short period of time it is most difficult to provide for. The following are some of the details of the handling of that portion of the crop moving up to and including September 30th on the rails of the A. T. & S. F. Railway System; with comparison of the movement of the crop of 1905 and 1906 with the crop of

1906 and 1907 (season just closing) by which it will be seen that there is a wide margin of difference in the way the business moves from one year to another.

There were moved from November 1st, 1905, to January 31st, 1906, twenty-three and one-half per cent of the season’s movement to September 30th; while for the same period of 1906 and 1907 the movement was only seventeen and nine-tenths per cent of the movement to September 30th, 1907.

From January 31st to May 31st, 1906, the movement was an average of 61 cars per day; while in 1907, same period, an average of 73 cars per day for 120 consecutive days (Sundays included) an increase in 1907 over 1906 of 12 cars per day, while we continued to handle 54 cars per day for June, 1907, making an average of 69 cars per day for 150 consecutive days.


This involved the supplying of 73 cars per day for 120 consecutive days or 69 cars per day for 150 consecutive days and the placing of a like number of cars of fruit on the widely scattered markets of the whole country east of the Rocky Mountains, involving the widest possible distribution over any and all of the railroads of standard gauge. It included the handling of necessary diversions as required by shippers. In order to keep up the daily supply of cars in California these cars must necessarily be released promptly, assembled and returned westbound with loads if possible, where they must be released, reassembled, repaired, cleaned and distributed for reloading.

When it is considered that the average journey of each car of fruit is at least twenty-two hundred and fifty miles to widely divergent destinations and that seventy-three cars per day were supplied, covering 120 consecutive days, some idea may be obtained of the magnitude of the task, the amount of equipment required, as well as the organization necessary to insure the handling of the business with reasonable regularity. While 120 days, February to May inclusive, covers the period when the largest number of cars per day must be supplied, it by no means comprises the crop.

Delay to Equipment.

It is a fact that the movement of the crop from year to year depends largely on the season, the weather and the market. A very heavy movement may be crowded into a comparatively short period of time or a low market may hold back shipments or may cause delays in the disposition of the loads from cars at destination. By the payment of car service penalty of one dollar per car per day consignees may and do use refrigerator cars for storage purposes. It is the cheapest storage they can obtain, besides, by holding contents in the car it is in shape so that it may be and frequently is diverted to some other market beyond; all of which is of advantage to the shipper but occupies the time of the equipment and renders it more difficult to keep up a supply of cars at the point of shipment.

All of these and many other contingencies, not generally taken into account when a slight stringency in car Supply is encountered, must be met and provided for to successfully handle a crop of California citrus fruit.


After our estimate of the size of a crop of fruit is made, it may vary by ten or fifteen per cent or even more, whether sizes are large or small or whether from other causes the crop may be diminished, but ice must be provided for in advance to take care of what is estimated as a maximum amount that will move under refrigeration. The proportion of a crop which will move under refrigeration is always an indefinite quantity until too late to provide additional ice or to reduce the amount originally estimated. Therefore, the maximum estimate must be the standard. There is no such thing as a uniform movement under refrigeration, the radius of variation from one year to another may cover as much as fifteen per cent of the total crop. A very material decrease below our estimate will leave the refrigerator car line with an over supply on hand for which there is no use.

Shippers, of course, use only so much refrigeration as they desire. If any abnormal increase for any reason takes place it must be and is provided for without regard to the expense of doing so. As an example of such a contingency a comparison of the movement of citrus fruit under refrigeration via Santa Fe System of crops of 1906 and 1907 up to September 30th of each crop will demonstrate. Of the crop of 1906 up to September 30th only 46 per cent moved under ice, while of the crop of 1907 for same period 58 per cent moved under ice, an increase of 45% per cent in the number of cars refrigerated, while the increase in the crop for the entire season was less than 14 per cent.

This increase had to be provided for in the face of a largely diminished crop of natural ice in the Rocky Mountain district. So acute has this situation been during the season just closing that the Santa Fe Refrigerator Despatch Company was obliged to purchase ice at summer prices, ship it in large quantities and pay for its transportation over distances ranging from two hundred to one thousand miles. Twenty thousand tons of ice Were moved one thousand miles involving a shrinkage of nearly fifty percent. This shows what difficulties and extraordinary expenses are at times encountered in keeping our service up to a standard to meet the demands of the business and to protect shippers and growers from loss, and that these things are done irrespective of profit and loss. While they are only incidents in the transaction of the business—and it is no doubt part of a sound business policy to do them—it is the object of this article to demonstrate that unusual expenses and ad. verse conditions are encountered which cannot be foreseen or provided for in advance or in any way corrected by increased price for service. Further that in the absence of complete organization, confusion and loss would be sure to result. Also to emphasize the truth that the producer may proceed with confidence that his business will be provided for and that our part of the transaction will be kept up to a standard that will insure to him the best possible results on the markets.

Improvement in Methods.

It has always been our aim to keep fully up to the latest devices and improved methods in handling perishable products both under ventilation and refrigeration. To this end we pursue a liberal policy toward trying out all devices which appear to have merit with a view to the adoption of any which prove to be good. Considerable progress has been made along the line of a precooling service and the further test of that method of handling will be carried on as rapidly as it can be accomplished. Some new methods of refrigeration have been partially tried out during the past season but without material result. We are at present making some tests with the Garland Ventilator but have not proceeded far enough to justify an opinion of its merit as a refrigerator car ventilator.

Record of Movement.

We continue to keep a close and complete record of the movement of each individual car of fruit up to Missouri River, Chicago and Chicago Junctions, so that advance information is always available to consignees and shippers’ agents at the east end of the line in such way that disposition may be made with regularity and reasonable certainty, and diversions when necessary may be accomplished with: out delay in the movement of the fruit.

Place Occupied by the Refrigerator Car Line in the Transaction of the Business.

It is manifest that the phase of the work performed by the refrigerator car line in the handling of perishable freight embracing as it does the care of the commodity over all roads from point of origin to final destination, is a distinct trade within itself apart from other branches of the service performed by the carriers.

Notwithstanding the agitation from time to time against the method and expense of the service as it is now performed, no other method has been devised or suggested which would accomplish the work so well. It is a fact that the movement of the perishable commodities from California to the eastern markets is the best and cheapest in the world. It is true that no other shippers of any class of traffic are in the enjoyment of a service performed over so long a journey and with the regularity which characterizes the movement of the fruit crops of California.

Historical Discussion

Los Angeles Division freight traffic – Don Richardson

NA Turn – Clifford Prather (from Orange County RHS newsletter).  An excellent discussion that Bob Chaparro obtained permission to reprint on this Santa Fe turn in the Santa Ana area on the third district.

Exchange Lemon.  Notes from Cliff Prather:  yes the Santa Fe served the Exchange Lemon plant, it was the only railroad that did. In my post I was indicating that I did not know if the lemons ship by rail from Yuma Arizona were delivered to the Sunkist facility. I don,t know if they still had facilities to handle cull shipments by rail.

GFX.  Notes from Bob Chaparro and Keith Jordan:  Here are some notes on Santa Fe’s Green Fruit Express (GFX)from Keith Jordan. His comment on livestock cars makes note of the fact that in a reefer train where additional tonnage was added to make economical used of the assigned power, loaded livestock cars would precede the refrigerator cars to make in-transit servicing moves easier. This is the same reason loaded ice bunker refrigerator cars would be placed behind the power on a train with mixed freight but no livestock cars.  This is less applicable to local trains.

The GFX trains were re-symbolled in the early 1950s as “SB” or “BK” trains, reflecting their origin, San Bernardino or Bakersfield, respectively. I don’t have a specific year. They were still considered “hot” perishable trains, handling mainly citrus out of San Bernardino and citrus or potatoes out of Bakersfield, depending on the season. The SB/BK symbols are listed as late as 1960 and perhaps later. To suggest an “end” to GFX trains is incorrect, only the symbol.

GFX symbols aren’t found in Don Richardson’s time books because the symbols had been changed.

The GFX trains were authorized to handle other types of freight aside from reefer traffic, including stock on the head end. As the years went on and perishable shipping by rail declined, you would, of course, see fewer and fewer blocks of reefers.  Keith Jordan

Minute Maid, Anaheim, CA.  Notes from Cliff Prather.  The lemons that went to Anaheim were delivered by the Santa Fe. The Minute Maid plant was served by both the Union Pacific and the ATSF. The UP had spots for corn syrup, reefers of imported juice from Florida and reefer loading. When the warehouse area was enlarged, the UP lost access to all but the corn syrup unloading. By that time little if any reefer loading was being done. The Santa Fe had a spur on the west side of the facility for the juice from Florida was delivered and out bound loads when they still had that business. Eventually the juice business was lost to tanker trucks. The Santa Fe had another track that was parallel to the UP main track and this is where the SP beet gons dumped the lemons. I don’t know how long the SP and ATSF had the lemon traffic, but it seems that it was gone by the mid 60 to early


Model Photos

Packing house model.  This model is found a the Corona Model RR Society.  Bob Chaparro photo.  Click here to see post about it.

Bill Messecar’s Santa Fe Los Angeles Division – Third District.   This 35 minute virtual layout tour by Bill Messecar MMR describes the purpose, construction and operations of his Santa Fe layout. The emphasis is on prototype operations.  After that is a sequence of video shots of a passenger train moving the length of the layout from San Bernardino to Los Angeles. The citrus industry is the main focus of this layout. There are a number of citrus industry features, including the San Bernardino pre-cooler and ice production plant, the Exchange Lemon Products plant in Corona, and eight citrus packing houses.

Other model photos of note:

Modeling Tips

California Packing Company.  From Bob Chaparro:  Alain Kap from Luxembourg lives in Germany and is modeling the Santa Fe’s Los Angeles Division/Fourth District in HO scale. The Fourth District, also was known as the Surf Line, ran from Los Angeles to San Diego. His era is the mid 1940s.  Alain elected to model Walther’s Valley Citrus Packers as the prototype California Packing Corporation in shallow relief form. Here are posts from his blog on the project:

Rr-19.  From Bob Chaparro. In 1936 Santa Fe rebuilt two Class Rr-W reefers into Class Rr-19 reefers at the West Wichita Shops. These two cars, Nos. 31254 and 31255, had flat steel sheathing riveted to the ends as well as the sides, similar to the ends used on the Pennsylvania Railroad’s X28 and X29 class box cars in the 1920s. Roofs were of the same solid steel design with raised panels that was used on most of the Rr-18 reefers. The original USRA underframes and Andrews trucks were reconditioned and reused. These two cars were followed in 1936-37 by nearly 400 more Rr-19 reefers, which used inverse Dreadnaught ends but otherwise were identical. All Rr-19 reefers initially had full icing platforms and hatch covers the opened to the ends of the cars.  The Rr-19 cars were numbered in the series 31254 to 31655. As initially built these cars pre-dated Santa Fe’s map and slogan stenciling program, which was initiated in 1940. Cars repainted after then received the map and slogan stenciling, although during World War II some repainted cars in the overall reefer fleet were not given the map and slogan stencils as a labor and cost saving measure.  Although I have no photographic evidence, Rr-19 cars repainted after mid-1947 did not receive the map and original name train slogan stenciling. Instead, they would have been stenciled with a simpler style name train slogans with “Ship and Travel…” replacing the maps on the other side of the cars.  In 1953 a modernization program for the Santa Fe reefer fleet began and the Rr-19 reefers were the first to receive a number of upgrades. The two most visible upgrades were plug doors to replace the swing doors and the relocation of the ice hatch cover hinges to the more conventional inboard location. It’s probable that the hatch platforms were removed at the same time the hatch cover hinges were relocated.  Not all Rr-19 cars received the newer plug doors, however. The Rr-19 cars were re-numbered in the series 21000 to 21392.  In 1959 the name train slogans started to disappear as car were repainted with the large circle heralds.

Sunshine Models made an HO scale resin mini-kit for the first two Rr-19 reefers, that is, those with the experimental plate ends. The kit requires an InterMountain #41299 undecorated Santa Fe reefer as a starting point:

In HO scale CB&T Car Shops offered two types kits for Rr-19 reefers. Their “Version A” kits made Rr-19 through Rr-32 reefers. Version A is for the reefers as originally rebuilt in 1937-38 from earlier classes and “Version A1” is for the cars as modernized in the 1950s. Note that the CB&T Shop kits are challenging to build and many of the CB&T parts are considered a bit crude by today’s standards. However, many of these parts can be replaced by items from other manufacturers.  Also in HO scale Accurail produced custom-run Santa Fe Rr-19 plug door reefers that were made for the Daylight Express 2017 Pacific Coast Region/NMRA Convention. These came in four numbers and reflected the Rr-19 cars as modernized in 1953.

Rr-20.  From Bob Chaparro.  In 1953 Santa Fe’s Wichita Shops rebuilt 800 wood-sheathed, late 1920s era reefers from Classes Rr-7, -8, -9, -11 plus Rr-20 dry ice reefers. These were made into steel-sheathed refrigerator cars and designated Class Rr-53. This was part of a rebuilding program that also produced the Rr-49, -50, -51 and -55 reefers. The number series for the Rr-53 cars was 13432 to 14231.  After the rebuilding, over 500 cars retained their solid steel riveted rectangular panel roofs as this was an improvement made less than ten years earlier. The remaining cars received diagonal panel roofs. All cars received Preco electric fans. The last twenty-eight Rr-53 cars were removed from the Live List by 1977.

In 1998 Sunshine Models introduced an HO scale resin kit (No. 43.3) that can be made into and Rr-50, Rr-51 or Rr-53 reefer.  Unfortunately, Sunshine has been out of production since the death of owner Martin Lofton in January 2013 so the pre-owned market probably is the best source for these kits

Modeling condemned Santa Fe refrigerator cars.  This link takes you to one part of the conversation; follow the conversation to learn more.

Discussion of Walthers 52 foot mechanical refrigerator.  This link takes you to a discussion of the car’s accuracy.