Santa Fe Refrigerator Despatch

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An ice-cooled reefer of the Santa Fe Refrigerator Despatch "Bulk Fruit Express" c. 1894. There is disagreement among historians as to the color of these cars: white, ivory, light gray, or canary yellow.

The Santa Fe Refrigerator Despatch (reporting mark SFRD) was a railroad refrigerator car line established as a subsidiary of the Atchison, Topeka and Santa Fe Railway in 1884 to carry perishable commodities. Though the line started out with a mere 25 ventilated fruit cars and 8 ice-cooled refrigerator cars, by 1910 its roster had swollen to 6,055 total units (compared to the 8,100 units its largest competitor, the Pacific Fruit Express, operated).

As of 1929 the line was carrying some 43 percent of California's citrus crop, most of which travelled aboard its "Green Fruit Express" refrigerator car special; some 100,000 produce loads were shipped from the fields of Arizona and California to East Coast markets each growing season.

Santa Fe Refrigerator Despatch Roster, 1890–1970:

  1890   1900   1910   1920   1930   1940   1950   1960   1970  
  496   1,032   6,055   9,899   18,291   14,514   14,514   13,512   10,288  

Source: The Great Yellow Fleet, p. 17.


  • Bryant, Jr., Keith L. (1974). History of the Atchison, Topeka and Santa Fe Railway. Trans-Anglo Books, Glendale, CA. ISBN 0-8032-6066-0.CS1 maint: multiple names: authors list (link)
  • Duke, Donald (1997). Santa Fe: The Railroad Gateway to the American West, Volume Two. Golden West Books, San Marino, CA. ISBN 0-87095-110-6.
  • White, John H. (1986). The Great Yellow Fleet. Golden West Books, San Marino, CA. ISBN 0-87095-091-6.
  • White, John H. Jr. (1993). The American Railroad Freight Car: From the Wood-Car Era to the Coming of Steel. Baltimore: Johns Hopkins University Press. ISBN 0-8018-4404-5. OCLC 26130632.

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