Railroads and Agriculture


For the first fifty years of its history, the railroad primarily transported bulk commodities such as coal and stone, and manufactured articles which did not require great care in handling. If a car could be refrigerated, however, perishables such as fruit, vegetables and dressed meat could be shipped to distant markets by rail. Experiments with refrigerator cars began in the 1860s, and by 1887 the shipping of meat was a practical reality. Refrigerator cars had an enormous impact on California, allowing the state to become the nation's number one agricultural producer. In 1924, when the Museum's Fruit Growers Express Company car No. 35832 was built, over 150,000 similar ice-cooled refrigerator cars were in service.