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Ice and the railroads: Pt. III–railroad ice houses


Upon delivery to the ice house, five cars each were spotted at its unloading platforms. The cars were unloaded im- mediately and as rapidly as possible. Four men were detailed to each plat- form, each one placing a cake on the conveyor chain at every fourth hold bar (cleat) on the conveyor chain. The Railway and Engineering Re-


view published an incredibly detailed article on two new Union Pacific ice houses in its March, 1902, issue.35


The


railroad supplied data, photos and drawings for its two distinct types of railroad ice houses, those with a con- tiguous ice field and those without. The railroad’s 32′×410′ ice house and icing platform on a double-ended spur at Evanston, Wyoming, sat on the Bear River. The river was dammed at three locations adjacent to the ice house to create the ponds from which the ice was harvested. Interestingly, the dams were temporary and were re- moved each spring. This costly meas- ure was justified by the purity and clarity of the ice which resulted from the temporary damming. This facility consisted of an “old


style” ice house with its long axis par- allel to the tracks, 32 feet wide and 420 feet long. The siding of these older houses was of board-and-batten con- struction. In 1901 the railroad con- structed five new ice houses, each 32 feet wide and 160 feet long and per- pendicular to the tracks. The new houses were sheathed with drop sid- ing. These new houses gave an addi- tional 160 feet of house frontage on the icing platform and an additional 27,860 tons of storage capacity. With the old house configuration the ice harvested from the river entered the house at a single location, the end nearest the river. This meant the ice needed to be moved the entire length of the interior of the building. This, of course, led to significant wastage. The new configuration featured movable galleries which could be hoisted or low- ered scaffold-like to move ice from the conveyor to each individual ice house, and the galleries could be aligned with each building’s doorway.


The vertical doors of the houses were located at the mid-point of each build- ing and were therefore 32 feet apart, so each individual house could be filled without affecting the ice in any other one. The ice house doors, very similar to refrigerator car doors, were stacked five tall and were 6′-3″ high and 4′-5¹₂″ wide. They had three refrigerator car- like hinges per door, six per opening. The general arrangement at this fa- cility was to take ice from one of the ponds on the Bear River at the rear of the house, load it into boxcars from the


76


450-foot long conveyor platform for transit to other houses or convey it to the house for storage. The conveyor platform was 9′-3″ wide and 6′-9″ above the top of the rail. This height, obviously above the car floor height, permitted the stacking of ice cakes in a boxcar approximately three layers thick without having to man-handle them up an incline. The Union Pacific’s general arrange- ment drawings for the conveyors and galleries are shown as part of this arti- cle. They clearly show an inclined “run- way” at each door level from the main house elevator. This runway disgorged its ice load onto a movable gallery sup- ported by gasoline- or electric-motor powered hoisting towers. The ice house was then filled in the same way as de- scribed for other houses. The Union Pacific’s standard icing platforms were of two types, single and double. Both had a platform at car height , 13′-4″ above the top of the rail. The double type had a “winter plat- form” 4′-0″ above the top of the rail. The total width of each platform was 7′-2″. The vertical members of the bents on the Union Pacific platforms were 6″×6″ timbers. (Many modelers tend to make such posts unprototypi- cally heavy. They are very graceful looking since they don’t have to sup- port the weight of a locomotive or loaded freight car.) Every other bent was sway braced below the level of the first platform. The Union Pacific stan- dard icing platform of either type was roofed with a half-pitch shingled roof. The platform at Evanston was the single covered type. The North Platte,


Nebraska, ice


house originally consisted of three of the old-style parallel ice houses. At ap- proximately the same time the work was being done in Evanston, Wyoming, the North Platte facility was expanded with seven new 32′×112′ ice houses set perpendicular to the tracks. These were built less deep than the Evanston houses because the property line was not as wide at North Platte. This re- striction not withstanding, the new houses added an additional 19,390 tons of ice storage capacity.


These new houses had the same ice door spacing as their sisters in Evanston, 32 feet. Since this facility was not located at its source of supply, the ice was added to the house and the refrigerator cars were iced from the same side of the building. Ice elevators were located 64 feet apart, that is, at every other door opening.


This loading and unloading of the ice on the same side of the house was not problematic as the two operations took place during very different times of the


year. In addition, the North Platte houses were equipped with the Union Pacific’s standard double icing plat- forms so that the car icing took place on the upper platform and the house loading was done from the lower (win- ter) platform and elevated into the house by the hoisting galleries as need- ed. The new total platform length was 1050 feet at North Platte. With this length of winter platform, North Platte could off-load and store 100 carloads of ice in a ten-hour period. The ice hoisting equipment for both facilities was purchased from Gifford Brothers, of Hudson, New York, while the gasoline engines used to power them were installed by Fairbanks, Morse & Co., of Chicago. The engine at Evanston was rated at 44 h.p., that at North Platte at 60 h.p. Both applied power via a clutch-equipped drive shaft. Railroad ice houses were surprising- ly common during the early part of the twentieth century, as common on most roads as a division roundhouse. At times, they were almost frantically busy, at others, nearly somnambulant. The choice of which scene to depict is the modeler’s. With a little planning, they are versatile enough to fit most any space and make a superb Front-of- the-Layout Vignette.


21 Proceedings of the American Railway Bridge & Building Association, Volume 24, 1914, “Railroad Ice


Armour, J. Ogden, The Packers, the Private Car Lines and the People, Henry Altemus Company,


Storage Houses,” page 43. 22


Wood, Harold B., “Handling Ice for Car Icing,” Ice and Refrigeration Illustrated,Volume 41, No. 1, July,


(Philadelphia), 1906, pages 210-243. 23


1911, page 15. 24


Proceedings, Volume 24, 1914, page 54. 25 A brick house in 1914 cost $4-6/ton of ice capacity


vs. $2-3/ton for a like-sized frame house. Proceed- ings of the American Railway Bridge & Building As- sociation, Volume 24, 1914, “Railroad Ice Storage


Houses,” page 51. 26


Proceedings of the American Railway Bridge & Building Association, Volume 14, 1904, Railroad Ice


Wood, Harold B., “Handling Ice at Ice Plants and Car Icing Platforms,” paper read at 2nd International Congress of Refrigeration at Vienna, 1910, page


Houses–Committee Report, page 190. 27


1033 of the English language proceedings. 28


29 Proceedings, Volume 24, op. cit., page 54.


A.M. Burt to H.E. Stevens, 4-20-1920, Chief Engi- neers Subject Files, NP Railway, File 1448, Min-


nesota Historical Society Collection. 30


Ibid, memo page 3.


Wood, Harold B. “Handling Ice for Car Icing,” Ice and Refrigeration, Volume 41, No. 1, July, 1911,


31


page 15. 32


Proceedings of the American Railway Association, November 17, 1920, Report of the Committee on


Subject II-Ice, page 715. 33


Wood, op. cit, page 16. 34 A.M. Burt, op. cit, memo pages 1 & 2. 35 “Recent Ice House Construction on the Union Pa-


cific,” The Railway and Engineering Review,Volume 42, No. 11, March 15, 1902, page 166.


JUNE 2012


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