Conditionaire Hoppers At Barstow

Bob Chaparro

Here is a group photo of Conditionaire Hoppers at Barstow in 1978:


In 1969 the Santa Fe leased two prototype Conditionaire cars from ACF and bought 100 of the cars in 1972.  These were Class Ga-178, numbered 101400 to 101499.  These hoppers were an experiment where standard hoppers were sprayed with foam insulation, giving them an unusual appearance. Northern Pacific also had a few of these cars which later were passed on to the Burlington Northern. The NP used their cars for both bulk and seed potatoes.


These cars had an external diesel-powered climate control system to keep loads cool in hot weather and protect them from freezing in colder conditions. The heating and air circulation was on one end, the refrigeration on the other end and a 500 gallon fuel tank high between two bays. The system constantly circulated air through the load to prevent condensation buildup and avoid mold.


According to TRAINS Magazine, one of the advantages of the Conditionaire cars was their 180,000 pound capacity versus 55,000 pounds for the reefers then in common use.  These cars also could return from carrying a perishable load with a large non-perishable load.


The book, “The Great Yellow Fleet”, states the cars were used for loose potatoes, onions, carrots, and apples. Oranges could be accommodated if special wooden baffles were installed.  Orange culls also were carried in these cars.


Former Santa Fe Dispatcher Glen Icanberry recalled being told that some of the Conditionaire hoppers had been utilized for loading bulk carrots off the lower end of the Santa Fe Valley Division's old First District, Sunset District and Arvin District.  Locals and road switchers brought the loaded cars into Bakersfield to be forwarded east.


Apparently the sheer weight of the load crushed the carrots on the bottom, and that the same had happened with loads of citrus culls. Yardmasters, clerks and

switchmen reportedly called these unusual hopper cars "woolly worms."


Glen reported that some of the remaining Santa Fe Conditionaire hoppers were at the San Bernardino Shops being stripped of their outer insulation in 1982.  The cars were converted to non-temperature controlled covered hoppers and the diesel climate control units also were removed at that time.


Bob Chaparro