Amtrak Photo Archive
an unofficial Amtrak site

the new REEFERS

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 Location & Information

 Photo Credit
   Los Angeles CA
Amtrak reefers being loaded with southern California starwberries at
Redondo Junction facility
April 20, 2002  Steve Hoskins
74001 Phildelphia PA  July 24, 2000 Rob Palmer
74001  Los Angeles CA  July 6, 2001  
  74010  ABQ  March 22, 2003  Jim Hebner
74010  ABQ
on train #4
 March 22, 2003  Jim Hebner
  74010  ABQ  March 22, 2003  Jim Hebner
 74039  Chicago IL  Dec 2005  Jim Hebner
74049  Albany-Rensselaer NY  March 30, 2002  Bill Schopp
74049  Albany-Rensselaer NY
Alex has a website
 April 16, 2002  Alex Stroshane
 74055   Fullerton CA
in the Southwest Chief
 Feb 15, 2002  Wayne Buser
 74057  Los Angeles CA  July 8, 2001  Charles White
 74076 Berea OH
in the
 August 6. 2001  Kennedy How
St. Louis MO
on the rear of train 22
in on Monday. Rumor sez there are 200 on order
 June 11, 2001 Marty Simane 
   74077  St. Louis MO
nice end view
 June 11, 2001  Marty Simane
 74077  Los Angeles CA  July 8, 2001  Charles White
 74077  Los Angeles CA  July 8, 2001  Charles White
 74077  Los Angeles CA  July 8, 2001  Charles White

 Los Angeles CA


 July 8, 2001  Charles White
 74077  Los Angeles CA  July 8, 2001  Charles White
  74080  ABQ  March 22, 2003  Jim Hebner
  74080  ABQ
on train #4
 March 22, 2003  Jim Hebner
  74080  ABQ  March 22, 2003  Jim Hebner
 74092  Fullerton CA
on train #3
 Dec 21, 2001  Wayne Buser

Trafficworld Magazine

Feb 10, 1999

While the railroads have slowly been exiting the refrigerated rail car business, Amtrak's Mail and Express business is investing in it, in an effort to become more truck competitive and expand upon last year's success.

Amtrak will offer an express four-day, cross-country service for perishable goods with the purchase of a fleet of eight reefer units. Amtrak has not determined from whom the cars will be purchased. Bids are now being finalized, an Amtrak spokesman said. Sherman Oaks, Calif.-based Sunkist Growers Inc. has signed up for five of the cars and will start testing the service in May when Amtrak expects to take delivery of the equipment.

Amtrak entered the temperature-sensitive commodities arena approximately a year ago when it purchased eight ReeferRailer refrigerated rail trailers from Wabash National Corp. Since that time, "the service has gained the overwhelming support of numerous temperature-controlled shippers who view it as offering a clear-cut advantage over trucking schedules and prices in many lanes," Amtrak said.

The new 70-ton reefer cars will be rebuilt to allow them to be used on Amtrak's high-speed passenger trains, which are approved for speeds up to 90 mph in some lanes, Amtrak said. Improvements include a high-speed truck, upgraded braking system, tight-lock couplers and state-of-the-art refrigeration units.

Due to the limited number of cars it can attach to its passenger trains, Amtrak went with refrigerated cars, which
can haul three times as much freight as refrigerated rail trailers.

Sunkist will use two passenger trains to move citrus product to the East Coast: Amtrak's Southwest Chief, operating between Los Angeles and Chicago with cars connecting to and from Philadelphia; and between Los Angeles and Jacksonville, Fla., on Amtrak's Sunset Limited.

A desire to increase its transportation options prompted Sunkist to test out the new service. "Trucks get
into seasonal shortages, and are a favorite whipping boy of legislators,"
said Sunkist transportation manager Bob Smith. "Not to mention that, even though fuel prices are low right now, they
can jump up at the blink of an eye. We ship a lot of product, so the more ways
we can move it, the better. We'll try it for a couple of months to see how it
goes," Smith said. Sunkist, one of the largest perishable products shippers in the country, moves roughly 80 percent of its freight by truck, 16 percent intermodally and the remainder by mechanical reefer car. "Some of our customers like (reefer cars) very much," Smith said, "but the average transit time is 11 to 12 days. So if we can do it in four to five days, it's obviously a big advantage for perishable product."

If all goes according to plan, Amtrak should be truck competitive with four- day transit times and five-day availability. "We figure six-day availability with intermodal, and if we make the cutoffs here in California and again in Chicago, it will frequently make it to the customer in five days. So intermodal service is pretty good too," said Smith.

The rates Sunkist will be able to get using Amtrak "remain to be seen," Smith pointed out. "Obviously the Amtrak
deal will not be as inexpensive as conventional reefer-car transit. But there's a tradeoff in the transit time too, and part of that is a function of what we're willing to accept and our customers are willing to accept. But we're pretty optimistic."

Rail and truck deregulation, along with the emergence of intermodal, changed the transportation scenario for
Sunkist and other large perishable-products shippers. "Truck deregulation got a lot more guys into business, and they thought, hey I'm in California, I better put a reefer unit on the front of the trailer and look for stuff to haul back," Smith said, noting that 20 years ago Sunkist used to ship 12,000 reefer units a year to the East Coast in seven to eight days.

But the railroads couldn't keep up with the efficiencies of truck and intermodal. Cycle time on the cars wasn't
fast enough to justify the utilization and maintenance of such equipment. "And the classic railroad mentality of the time
was, if you're not going to give us the business, we're not going to give you the service. And we said well, we're a perishable shipper and we can't wait around for you to give us the service, so we'll give it to somebody else," Smith said.

Sunkist has maintained a 500-car-a-year reefer service for a few select customers, using a daily
Burlington Northern Santa Fe train out of California's northern central valley and connecting with Conrail in Chicago. "But it's pretty limited, and that's why we don't try and do more rail business. We pretty much focus on lanes where they can give us reasonably decent, consistent service," Smith said.

Sunkist hasn't used Union Pacific Railroad since before the railroad's service meltdown in 1996. "The trends were
there with Southern Pacific. They had problems fulfilling our needs," Smith said. UP still contacts the company periodically,
"but we tell them that when they can get us to Chicago in a reasonable time, let us know. Otherwise, we're pretty happy with BNSF," he said.

A source from a large intermodal marketing company noted that it made sense for a company like Sunkist to test
the waters. "Whenever somebody comes up with an innovative new service you ought to support it at least for a while. If it doesn't get supported, it goes away. Plus, this gives them more options, and the more options you have the less leverage each one of those options has against you."

Even though the perishable commodities business is firmly in the hands of the motor carriers, it could be a
great opportunity for Amtrak, the IMC source said. "If truck lines have 99 percent of the business, they don't have much room to grow. They have to steal from each other," he said.

But will there be a comeback in the reefer car business? "There's always a market for a new premium service," he
said, and it could make sense in selected spots.

For Amtrak's part, mail and express accounted for $83 million of the $1.4 billion in revenue from the company's
passenger and freight business in fiscal 1998. So far the company is on track to increase the mail and express portion to $107 million in fiscal 1999. The goal is to be operationally self- sufficient by 2002, Amtrak says.

"Since we were made up of the revenue-losing freight businesses of the railroads, you could say that, in a
way, we were set up to fail," said spokesperson Debbie
Hare. "But we've stayed alive despite that."

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Most of the photos on this site are from original photos/slides or submissions. Some photos are from the web - I have tried to get permission to use on all of them, but a few may have slipped through. Please, let me know if that has happened.



This archive was first accessed August 1996