Refrigerated Rail Cars

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Refrigerated rail cars, also known as reefers, are insulated boxcars that keep their cargo at a regulated temperature, usually around 2 or 3 degrees Celsius. The first reefers relied on ice to cool their load, but now diesel-powered refrigeration units have replaced the ice as a more effective way to cool the load. The refrigerated rail car was patented by J.B. Sutherland in Detroit, Michigan in 1867. He designed an insulated car with ice at either end. This allowed air to come in from the top, pass through the compartment, and circulate the car. This was all controlled by the use of hanging flaps that created the differences in air temperature. Now, we are able to preserve and cool food, which makes people a lot less wasteful and a lot healthier.

The meat-packing industry was another which benefited immensely from these cars. Reefers are essential for the distribution of meat over a long distance, without spoiling the meat.

These cars also helped to establish mid-western cities, such as Chicago and Kansas, as the slaughter centers of the country. They also created regional produce specialization. This increasingly widespread distribution of fresh foods expanded markets and created healthier and more balanced diets.

Refrigerated rail cars enabled breweries to make a uniform product throughout the year. Breweries are now able to produce beer on a large scale system, and then have it shipped around the world, only because of the invention of reefers.

However, despite all these benefits, refrigerated rail cars did have their problems. Refrigerants like sulphur dioxide and methyl chloride were causing people to die. And ammonia had the same effect if it leaked. Luckily, a new class of synthetic refrigerants was discovered in 1928, so these chemicals are no longer present in any refrigerators.

Basically, refrigerated rail cars revolutionized America. Perishable goods could be sent over 3,000 miles in just a few days, and unspoiled! Without...
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