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America on the Move
Collection Exhibition Themes
Model of refrigerator car

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Model of refrigerator car
Smithsonian Institution, Photo by Richard Strauss, Negative #: 2003-19257


This object appears in the following sections:

Work and Industry
American Railroads in the 20th Century — A Railroad for Santa Cruz

Delivering the Goods: Watsonville, California, 1895
Delivering the Goods: Watsonville, California, 1895 — Growing for a Wider Market

Model of refrigerator car with doors open
Model of refrigerator car with doors open

J.M.L. Brand fruit crate label

Utility Brand fruit crate label

Appleton fruit crate label

Watsonville railroad freight yards

Model, Refrigerator Car
Catalog #: 2000.0032.01, Accession #: 2000.0032
Currently on display
From the Smithsonian Collection
This model was made by employees of the car-building and car-repair shops of the Merchant Despatch Transportation Corporation (MDT), which operated express freight cars carrying meat and perishable foods for approximately 128 years between the Northeast, Chicago, and other western states including California.
Physical Description

Model. Model of a common early 1900s railway refrigerator car. Size: 39” L x 10” W x 14 1/2” H (w/o base). Scale: 1/2 inch to 1 foot. Material: wood, metal, stone. Painted: white and brown. The roof can be removed to show ice bunkers and interior arrangement.

Date Made:
East North Central, Mountain, New England, Pacific, West North Central
Places indicates were MDT operated.
Gift of Merchants Despatch Transportation Corporation
The use of refrigerator cars with blocks of ice to preserve food began in the 1860s. From the late 1880s fast rail distribution of perishable food radically changed the American diet by allowing fresh produce to be delivered nationwide at any time of the year.
Related People, Places, and Events
Merchant Despatch Transportation Co., car shops

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