Sunday, October 27, 2019

Icing Platforms

Ice was harvested and used to store perishables in homes and refer cars before refrigeration was invented. [In fact, an egg and butter salesman got into the icebox and refrigerator manufacturing business to help preserve his product, McCray] Large railroad yards had icing platforms to refill the ice bunkers in refers. From what I have observed in photos, even after refrigeration was invented, refrigeration was used to make ice blocks and refers were still used to transport perishables. Putting a refrigeration unit on each car came later and allowed transporting frozen food as well as perishables.

Some more icing platforms:

The railroads put the ice into refers.

Photos of roundhouses, coaling towers and water towers are much more common than of icing platforms. This post motivated me to pull together the information I have on icing platforms.

Raymond Storey posted

Dennis DeBruler commented on Raymond's post
Note about half-way down the line of refers is a chute filling one of the ice bunkers.

I found Ice Plant Road on a satellite image:,-78.../data=!3m1!1e3
I assume they originally harvested ice from the part of the Juniata River that was between Cypress Island and their tracks. They could easily build a dam at the upstream side that would cut off the flow of the river and let the water freeze. The two conveyors at the top would be used to load ice blocks into the ice house.Dennis DeBruler The oldest aerial photo I could find was 1962. I wonder if they used to flood the "brown area" with water to make ice.

Bob Chaparro posted two photos with the comment:
The Railways Ice Company – Waynoka, OK
The Railways Ice Company, which was in operation in the Waynoka rail yards from about 1910 through the 1960s, was reported to be the largest ice plant in America. Santa Fe was an important shipper of produce from Central and Southern California for many years. The reefers typically were iced in California, Belen, New Mexico, and again at Waynoka on their journey to Chicago.
The plant itself was built, owned and operated by Railways Ice Company of Chicago, who had a long-term contract for icing and services with AT&SF Railway at Chicago IL, Kansas City MO, Waynoka, OK, Belen, NM, and Needles, CA.
Bob Chaparro
Railroad Citrus Industry Modeling Group


Two photos from my Swift & Company notes.
Carl Venzke posted
Reefer Icing Facilities Santa Fe Railroad Refrigerator Car
[Update: per a comment by Robert Chaparro, this example is transporting produce instead of meat.]

Mark Mcgowan posted three photos with the comment:
Prior to diesel powered refrigerated box cars, railroads used insulated cars with spaces at each end that were filled with ice to transport perishable produce that originated mostly in California. These ice facilities were dotted along the systems to ensure cool delivery to the east.
The first two photos are of the Santa Fe "Ice Deck" in Bakersfield, Ca. in 1962. The older photo is undated.
Ice facilities were gone by the early 70s.



Normand Jaquemot posted

A nice view of the two loading hatches at each end of each car. Also note the walkways and hand brake wheels.
Brian Wunderlick posted

I can't find photos of it, but I remember that C&NW had an icing platform near the southwest corner of their Proviso Yard.
1939 Aerial Photo from IHLAP

The photos that were here about the IHB icing platform have been moved to some notes about IHB icing.

(new window) JohnP provided this link and the following information in a comment:
An interesting 1950's video from the AT&SF about their Refrigerator Cars.

You can skip to 1m:57s if you want to skip the "Happy" part.

• 3:52, inside of refer car.
• 6:50, loading stations.
• 14:00, Bakersfield icing facility.
• 16:58, Needles re-icing.
• 17:30, Selling in-transit.
• 19:10, Argentine KS “Automated Classification” Yard

I've also read that the ice properties had to be customized for what was being shipped in the car. Basically, you could get higher vs lower moisture or temperature by changing the salt level of the ice, and by using varying proportions of blocked vs crushed ice. Each car had "icing instructions" that were part of the train's manifest. This is roughly equivalent to the "moisture control" on the refrigerator at home.

Too bad the railroads lost this traffic. It was quite profitable.


  1. Here is a "movie" of the AT&SF refrigerator car operation. It's one of the "Dudley" movies, so the beginning is a corny 50's Leave it to Beaver intro, but the "train stuff" starts after about a minute.

    • 3:52, inside of refer car.
    • 6:50, loading stations.
    • 14:00, Bakersfield icing facility.
    • 16:58, Needles re-icing.
    • 17:30, Selling in-transit.
    • 19:10, Argentine KS “Automated Classification” Yard