One of the greatest freight car innovations of the 20th century was the creation of the refrigerator car, commonly referred to as a “reefer.” The ability to haul perishables such as fruits, vegetables and meat products across the country was a major factor in the development of modern America. No longer did food have to be produced close enough to urban areas, so that it could be consumed before spoiling. At the same time, areas with additional capacity for agricultural production could produce more food, since it did not have to be sold locally.
For many years, reefers relied on ice bunkers to keep loads cool. After World War II, technological advances made mechanical refrigeration practical for a freight car. In addition, a mechanical reefer could be larger than an ice reefer because of the greater cooling capabilities.
Fruit Growers Express owned the largest fleet of reefers in the East. FGE was owned by a group of ten railroads, with Atlantic Coast Line and Southern being two of the largest original owners. Many of FGE cars were built at its Jacksonville Shops, including these 57’ smooth-side mechanical reefers.