Refrigerator cars (also called “reefers”) were developed to carry perishable food and dairy products long distances by keeping them cold. They’re similar to boxcars, but with heavy insulation (like an icebox) and special “plug” doors which form a tight seal when closed. This type of reefer used large blocks of ice to keep its cargo cool. Beginning in the 1880’s refrigerator cars made it possible to ship California-grown fruit and produce to cities in the East, where the products were soon in high demand. As a result, California agriculture boomed.
No. 8875 was built in 1911 as part of an order of 1000 cars for the Santa Fe Refrigerator Dispatch, a subsidiary of the Santa Fe Railway. Two ice bunkers inside the car held 3 tons of ice, which was replenished at icing stations every 200 to 400 miles. This car featured patented “collapsible” ice bunkers, which could be folded out of the way, allowing the car to carry more cargo when refrigeration was not needed.
No. 8875 became maintenance-of-way Tool Car No. 190522 in 1936. In 1940 it was sold to MGM Studios for use as a movie prop. It was acquired by the Museum in 1970.